Several years ago a number of high-level Japanese politicians and government leaders, including the prime minister, visited the United States for a series of discussions with their American counterparts. After the serious meetings concluded, the participants all joined an informal party with their hosts.

At the party, it was reported, the Americans asked the Japanese to sing some traditional music. Perhaps the Americans were expecting an austere rendition of a noh chant or some traditional poetry, as is seen often times in the movies, when aristocratic Japanese suddenly break out into traditional song and dance at a gathering or when faced by some truly difficult situation.

The Japanese politicians were baffled at the request, however. The best they could come up with was some badly sung enka popular songs or rehashed versions of early 20th-century American songs they had learned at school. Whatever it was, they could not muster a very impressive performance for their hosts and ended up embarrassed.