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:
Jul 13, 2000
Japan's new Cabinet avoids hard choices
Foreign reaction to the election results and the formation of Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori's new government can be summed up in one word: "disappointing." Once again it seemed that Japan was missing an opportunity to move forward on the reforms so urgently needed in government and the economy.
Jun 25, 2000
Is elitism such a bad thing?
LONDON -- Gordon Brown, the British chancellor of the Exchequer, has been stirring up media attention by attacking the way in which Oxford and other British universities recruit students. He launched his diatribe against the universities by condemning Magdalen College Oxford (where Prince Chichibu and Prince Tomohito of Mikasa studied) for not accepting an able pupil from a state school to study medicine. The college pointed out that there were many more applicants than places available and others had equally good grades. They noted that the girl in question, lacking self-confidence, did not do well in the final interview. Other able pupils from state schools were admitted to the college.
Jun 17, 2000
The case for more world trade
The entry of China into the World Trade Organization is of major significance for both the WTO and China.
May 29, 2000
Mori does Japan no favors
LONDON -- When I read the brief report in the Nihon Keizai Shimbun about Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori's remarks at the meeting of the Shinto Association of Diet Members, I was surprised not to see any reports of reactions to his reported statement. I wondered whether he had been correctly quoted and whether I should ask the Japanese Embassy in London to confirm that the report was accurate. If it was, there should surely be a furor in Japan.
May 20, 2000
Bigger isn't always better
The failure of the proposed merger between Deutsche Bank and Dresdner Bank ought to have signaled the end of the merger mania among the world's major banks and to have cautioned banks and other enterprises that big does not mean best. But the message does not seem to have seeped through to some people at the top of the banking world.
May 1, 2000
Racism and human rights
LONDON -- Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara's recent remarks suggesting that many foreigners in Japan are criminals and could cause trouble in a time of crisis have inevitably aroused fears abroad that Japanese rightwing politicians are continuing to pander to popular prejudice and have their eyes on re-election rather than the long-term national interest. Of course, Ishihara may have been misreported or his remarks taken out of context, but to foreign observers his comments are the sort of remarks to be expected from Japanese nationalists of the old school who have failed to understand the lessons of the history of the last century or to appreciate the problems facing Japan's aging society in the 21st century.
Apr 12, 2000
No sympathy for politicians
I have sometimes said to my wife about a prominent politician, "Poor old so and so! He must be exhausted keeping to such a hard schedule. It's a tough life being a peripatetic politician." My wife's invariable response has been, "Don't waste your sympathy on politicians. They didn't have to accept their posts (of prime minister, foreign secretary etc.). They are not acting out of a sense of duty, but simply because they enjoy power. If the heat is too much for them, they can always retire to bed or to their families."
Mar 29, 2000
Cut red tape to boost business
LONDON -- Consumers everywhere are demanding deregulation. Most competitive businesses also want red tape and unnecessary regulation eliminated. Only the inefficient and uncompetitive, who believe that they are protected by rules restricting competition, are against the deregulation of their businesses.
Mar 15, 2000
The task of policing the police
Sections of the Japanese police force have recently been sharply and justifiably criticized, as have police in other countries from time to time. The maintenance of high ethical standards in police forces worldwide should be a high priority for all governments. Yet it is not an easy thing to achieve.
Mar 7, 2000
E-nough of this e-mania
E-commerce fever has spread from the United States to Europe and Japan. New e-commerce companies are mushrooming everywhere and new issues are snapped up even if there is no prospect of profits for years. Young men and women with a bright e-commerce idea become millionaires overnight. The feverish demand for e-commerce shares seems to some observers to be another "South Sea Bubble." (In 1720, there was a mania of speculation in London when "the South Sea Company" proposed to take over three-fifths of the national debt. The company failed and many investors were ruined as a result).
Feb 10, 2000
Democracy under attack
When I first read that the Japanese coalition government had decided to force through a bill to reduce the number of seats elected by proportional representation, my first thought was, since they had a majority of votes in both Houses for this measure and as democracy generally implies majority rules, the government was behaving democratically. But further consideration has increased my doubts about the democratic nature of the government's behavior.
Jan 24, 2000
Homage to a mass murderer
I was shocked to see a photograph in The Japan Times last month of former Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama and former Chief Cabinet Secretary Hiromu Nonaka laying a wreath at the statue of the late North Korean leader Kim Il Sung in Pyongyang. They looked rather sheepish. They should, in fact, have looked ashamed of themselves. Kim was responsible for many thousands of deaths and untold misery while he was dictator of North Korea. Kim's list of crimes was not as long as that of some other dictators, but that was merely because the population of North Korea was relatively small compared with other countries ruled by communist or fascist dictators.
Nov 17, 1999
Japan on the verge of change?
LONDON -- A three-week visit to Japan in October left me somewhat more optimistic about the Japanese scene than I was six months or a year ago. Why? There seemed to be a greater recognition that Japan had to change if its economy were not only to deliver continued prosperity to the Japanese people but also to contribute effectively to the world economy. There was not yet a consensus on the nature and extent of the changes required, but it seemed to be recognized that changes would need to be deep and fairly radical.
Oct 6, 1999
The world as policeman
LONDON -- U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan has rightly drawn attention to the "need for timely intervention by the international community when death and suffering are being inflicted on large numbers of people, and when the state nominally in charge is unable or unwilling to stop it." He has pointed out that in Kosovo, Rwanda and East Timor "the international community stands accused of doing too little, too late." Intervention, he has asserted, "must be based on legitimate and universal principles." He added that "state sovereignty, in its most basic sense, is being redefined. . . . At the same time individual sovereignty -- by which I mean the fundamental freedom of each individual, enshrined in the charter of the United Nations and subsequent international treaties -- has been enhanced by a renewed and spreading consciousness of human rights." And he has called for a redefinition of national interests "which would induce states to find greater unity in the pursuit of common goals and values."
Sep 15, 1999
A growing appetite for safety
LONDON -- Genetic biologists -- especially those working for big U.S. companies such as Monsanto -- and U.S. trade negotiators are furious with Europeans because they are not prepared to accept that hormone-injected beef and gene-modified soybeans, rape-seed oil and other genetically modified crops are safe just because some, or even a majority, of scientists say they are.
Aug 30, 1999
The social safety net tightens
LONDON -- The moral obligation to help the poor and ensure that they have adequate food and shelter is recognized and promoted by the main religions of the world. The obligation has been assumed by civilized governments worldwide, but implementation varies hugely and there are no easy answers to the dilemmas and contradictions that inevitably arise.
Aug 21, 1999
Mr. Robertson's agenda
LONDON -- The appointment of George Robertson, formerly the British secretary of state for defense, as secretary general of NATO has rekindled discussion on a number of important defense issues facing Europe. Robertson should be able to influence the outcome, but decisions will largely rest with the governments of NATO countries.
Jul 26, 1999
Bureaucrats block education
The first of two parts. The second part will appear on Wednesday's Opinion Page.
Mar 21, 1999
Consensus or confrontation?
LONDON -- The popular image in Japan is that Britain is a society governed by confrontation and that this has been the source of British failures. Japan, on the other hand, is a society where consensus prevails, and this has led to harmony and to economic success. The popular image is at best a caricature and many increasingly acknowledge this, but the Japanese belief that consensus is always better than confrontation needs to be questioned.
Mar 2, 1999
A world bereft of leaders?
LONDON -- Hardly a day goes by without someone deploring the lack of political and economic leadership in our world. Commentators bemoan that with the departure of politicians like former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and German Chancellor Helmut Kohl the world is bereft of political leadership.


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