American movie director Michael Moore came to Japan for the first time Monday to plug his new movie “Capitalism: A Love Story” and to urge the country not to follow the path taken by the United States, where he says the gap between rich and poor is extreme.
“As much as I love America, quit being like us,” Moore said at a news conference at the Tokyo Stock Exchange. “Be Japan. Be the Japan that has been creative since 1945. Be the Japan that never throws people out of work.”
Moore’s movie, which opens Saturday in Japan, is a sharply satirical documentary about capitalism, focusing on the wealth gap in the U.S. Its promotion flier says corporate executives get paid 400 times as much as employees while ordinary people suffer a housing foreclosure every 7 1/2 seconds and 14,000 people lose their jobs every day in the U.S.
Moore, whose works include “Fahrenheit 9/11″ and “Sicko,” first praised Japan for being much more democratic than the U.S. in the sense that Japanese society is structured to save the poor, referring to the medical care system.
The biggest cause of personal bankruptcy in the U.S. is medical bills, but no Japanese lose their homes because they cannot afford medical bills, he said.
While admitting that Japan is much better than his country in establishing a safety net for the poor, he warned that Japan has been becoming more like America.
“(In the) last 20 years, you (Japan) decided to change through a series of conservative prime ministers, including (an) Elvis impersonator (Junichiro Koizumi),” he said. “Now you are starting to get some of the problems we have. More crimes, unemployment.
“Your conservative government started to cut off (the) safety net, cut off money from health care, education, throw people out of work, make it harder for Japanese who don’t make as much money, punish them for being poor,” he said.
Moore also expressed regret that Japan agreed to deploy the Self-Defense Forces to Iraq and the Persian Gulf.
“You gave him (former U.S. President George W. Bush) legitimacy,” he said, explaining that Bush may not have been able to start the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq if Japan, Britain and other countries hadn’t supported him.
Nevertheless, Moore voiced admiration for Japan in general. He also expressed hope that the Democratic Party of Japan-led government shifts away from the American way.
“My humble plea is to come off the (American way) road with the new prime minister and get back on the road to the country I admire,” he said.
He also expressed gratitude that the TSE let him hold his news conference, something the New York Stock Exchange wouldn’t permit.