Hugh Cortazzi


Hugh Cortazzi
Hugh Cortazzi was posted to British Commonwealth Air Forces in Japan in 1946, and he joined the British Foreign (later diplomatic) service in 1949. After retiring, he worked in the city of London and was an adviser to a number of Japanese companies. He was chairman of the council of the Japan Society from 1985-1995. Since 1983 he has researched and written a number of books about Japanese culture and history and has edited and compiled a series of books on personalities active in Anglo-Japanese relations.
For Hugh Cortazzi's latest contributions to The Japan Times, see below:
Mar 5, 2001
Are falling prices that bad?
LONDON -- Economists like limited inflation. They reckon it helps growth. Perhaps it may in some circumstances. It also benefits those who have borrowed against assets, which rise in value in an inflationary environment. But even limited inflation can be damaging, especially to those on fixed incomes, such as annuities, without provision for increases linked to inflation. Falling prices can be beneficial, and may indeed be necessary after a period of asset-price inflation, such as has been the case in Japan.
Feb 25, 2001
Breaking the yakuza's grip
LONDON -- The sad case of the murder of Lucy Blackman, the young British woman who was a hostess in a Roppongi bar, inevitably attracted the attention of the British media.
Feb 14, 2001
The 'freeter' phenomenon
LONDON -- An article in the Jan. 31 issue of the Nihon Keizai Shimbun began with these words (my translation): "It was afternoon when he woke up. There was nothing he had to do. To avoid meeting his parents he got up without making any noise and went out of the house. It was the same thing for him every day. . . . He was 27 and a 'freeter.' He had been enrolled at Waseda University for eight years and had graduated last spring. He said: 'I went to university but there is no job I want to do,' Last spring he had become a company employee, but had left after three months. Now, apart from a bit of part-time work, he did nothing. His father, who was over 60, was annoyed with him and told him to get a job and leave home, but he could not take the decision to live on his own."
Feb 6, 2001
Civil servants are not serfs
The "shunju" (spring and autumn) column on the first page of the Nihon Keizai Shimbun often contains comments that are right on target. The Jan. 27 column commented on the sometimes arrogant and unwarranted demands made by Japanese politicians on Japanese diplomats in missions abroad.
Jan 24, 2001
Time for Japan to root out corruption
LONDON -- Fifty years ago this year, the San Francisco Peace Treaty was signed and the Japanese government began preparing to resume full sovereignty. Then-Prime Minister Shigeru Yoshida was a shrewd politician. He knew that the peace treaty, despite the difficulties some of the clauses would cause for Japan, was essentially a generous one for a nation that had waged all-out war in the Pacific and whose forces had caused so much devastation throughout Asia. He was also a realist who recognized that Japan could and would revive.
Jan 16, 2001
Best politics money can buy
Under a new law, which will come into force shortly in Britain, all political donations of more than 5,000 British pounds (some 800,000 yen) will have to be reported and foreign donations will be disallowed. The rules have been brought in to deal with suspicions that large donations to party funds may tempt recipients to make decisions on policy in line with the wishes of the donors. The present government came under fire shortly after the last election when it was reported that the Labor Party had received a gift of 1 million British pounds from Bernie Ecclestone, a rich entrepreneur who has managed to monopolize Formula One motor racing. The government had decided to exempt, at least for a time, Formula One from the proposed ban on tobacco advertising. The exemption was "justified" on the grounds that without it Formula One would not be viable. In the end, Labor was forced to repay the gift.
Dec 31, 2000
Flaws are part and parcel of democracy
LONDON -- How democratic are the world's so-called democratic countries? Can there be totally fair elections?
Dec 22, 2000
The EU gets ready to grow
LONDON -- The recent European Union summit at Nice seems to have been bad tempered and acrimonious. Yet it eventually, even if only after days of wrangling, ended in an agreement of sorts and the way is now open to the admission of new members from Eastern Europe and the Mediterranean, leading in due course, to the creation of a Union of 27 states.
Dec 10, 2000
Conservation and clean energy
LONDON -- The global-warming conference in the Netherlands last month ended without agreement. Some scientists are still debating how real global warming is and how serious its effects are likely to be. Others are still inclined to argue that climates evolve naturally with warm and cold periods alternating. They note that in medieval times there were as many vineyards in Britain as there are now, but a period that began in the late 17th century was cold enough to make the Thames freeze solid.
Nov 25, 2000
Can the system be salvaged?
LONDON -- Reading the accounts in the Nihon Keizai Shimbun and the Financial Times of the shenanigans inside and outside the Japanese House of Representatives over the no-confidence motion against the Mori government, I could not help laughing, but I also felt despair about the future of parliamentary institutions in Japan. If this sort of nonsense continues, I thought, surely the Japanese people will become increasingly disillusioned with party politics.
Nov 12, 2000
Don't be fooled by N. Korea
LONDON -- I watched with dismay the recent pictures of U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright hobnobbing with Kim Jong Il, the communist dictator of North Korea. I admire Albright and guess that she was unhappy at having to be seen in such company. She was only doing her job and no doubt justified her actions to herself at least by arguing that it would all be worthwhile if her actions helped to wean North Korea from its nuclear and missile activities.
Nov 4, 2000
Getting beyond gridlock
LONDON -- The recent rail crash near Hatfield, north of London, that resulted in the deaths of four people was caused by a cracked rail. The crash occurred almost a year after the even more serious crash near London's Paddington Station. These accidents have once again highlighted the need for higher levels of investment in rail track, signaling and rail coaches.
Oct 18, 2000
Charting a course for Europe
LONDON -- Three major speeches have been made recently by European leaders about the future of the European Union. The first was by Joschka Fischer, the German foreign minister, the second by French President Jacques Chirac and the third by Tony Blair, the British prime minister.
Oct 5, 2000
Today's Luddites go global
LONDON -- The Seattle protesters who fought the World Trade Organization and those in Prague who demonstrated recently against the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank are a mixed crew: anarchists, anticapitalist thugs and groups anxious to help the poorer people of the world. None of them seem to have thought through their protests or assessed objectively what they are trying to achieve. They never gave a thought to the damage they were doing to the causes they claimed to be upholding. They remind me of the mobs that destroyed machinery in the early days of the industrial revolution in Britain in the mistaken belief that machines destroyed jobs. In fact, like information technology today, the machines created work opportunities and contributed to prosperity.
Sep 16, 2000
Public TV in the digital era
LONDON -- The British Broadcasting Corporation was a pioneer of public-service broadcasting when it was established in the 1920s. It built up a strong reputation in its early years under its first director, General Lord Reith, although it also earned the nick-name of "Auntie" because it was regarded as prim and proper. During the war years, its news bulletins and its broadcasts of drama, music and discussion provided reassurance and relief in troubled times. To listen to the 9 o'clock news was for many a ritual that would only be missed if called away on duty. As Big Ben sounded the hour, listeners at home would put down their books, their needlework or their knitting and listen intently for news of the fighting around the world or of the damage caused by bombing at home in Britain. The BBC brought us Prime Minister Winston Churchill's speeches; it also gave us news of our friends in America, particularly through Alistair Cooke's "Letter from America," which became and remains an institution.
Sep 6, 2000
A haphazard path to recovery
LONDON -- Reports from Tokyo suggest that Japanese government and business leaders have not properly thought through economic policies designed to ensure recovery. Each problem seems to be treated in isolation, and decisions appear to be taken on the basis of what is most likely to satisfy the various pressure groups that fund the Liberal Democratic Party.
Aug 26, 2000
Is the Bank of Japan right?
LONDON -- The governor of the Bank of Japan, Masaru Hayami, and the majority of the BOJ's policy council have drawn criticism from the Japanese government and leaders of Japanese industry for the decision to end the BOJ's zero-interest-rate policy. These criticisms have been echoed in the British press. The Financial Times headed its main leader on Aug. 12 "Folly of Japan's true believers." A major article in the same paper, headed "Japan's gesture," declared that the decision bore "little relation to economic necessity and may hurt the world economy." The BOJ's arguments in support of its change of direction on monetary policy have been declared flimsy and unconvincing.
Aug 23, 2000
The summer 'silly season' everywhere
Europe is on holiday. Go to Paris and you will find half the restaurants shut. Many industries close down for weeks, and their workers flock to holiday resorts. Britain is not much different from the rest of Europe in this respect -- although British firms tend to stagger holidays more than in other European countries -- and in financial services and senior positions in industry, very long hours are being worked. British resorts are less crowded, partly because of sterling prices but mainly because Britain's summer this year has been predominantly cool, cloudy and unsettled.
Jul 30, 2000
Summit's worth questionable
LONDON — The Japanese government spent huge amounts of money in an attempt to ensure that the Okinawa summit and related events in Fukuoka and Miyazaki was a success, but was the money well spent and did the summit increase Japan's prestige in the world? The answer to both questions that I as a generally sympathetic foreign observer have to give must be "no."
Jul 26, 2000
Ethics for a turbulent age
There is much justifiable concern in Japan and Britain about rising levels of crime and bad behavior, especially among young people. The responses have been varied, including the usual calls for heavier punishments combined with "zero tolerance" policing. Yet few have much idea how this is to be enforced without a reversion to old-fashioned and now generally unacceptable measures.


Historically, kabuki was considered the entertainment of the merchant and peasant classes, a far cry from how it is regarded today.
For Japan's oldest kabuki theater, the show must go on