Many people interviewed by The Japan Times on the streets of Tokyo on Wednesday were stunned after learning America had chosen Donald Trump as the next president, voicing concern over the future of the Japan-U.S. alliance.
Throughout the campaign, the real estate mogul maintained a stance that U.S. allies, including Japan, must dole out more cash if they want to continue to be protected by the U.S. military, threatening to withdraw its troops otherwise.
At Ueno Park in Tokyo’s Taito Ward, Shigeru Saito, 67, a cram school English teacher, said he was disappointed with America’s decision.
“I’m really disappointed. America is a great power, so the result will inevitably have a tremendous effect (on the world),” Saito said.
“Japan-U.S. relations, I believe, won’t change immediately . .. But he doesn’t know anything about diplomacy, and he is also an amateur in politics. I’m worried about the future.”
He said Trump said Japan was not paying the U.S. for defending the country, but that Japan has been paying a significant sum to support the U.S. troops here.
Saito said he wasn’t fond of either Trump or Hillary Clinton, but hoped Clinton would be chosen as the next U.S. president as he thought she was “better than Trump.”
“He has made racially discriminatory remarks in the past and I’m concerned about them as well,” he said.
Miho Watanabe, 32, who was visiting the park with her two small children, was anxious about what the future holds for them.
“I’m surprised to hear the result. Trump said the U.S. may withdraw (its troops from Japan). I’m worried about that,” she said. “Seeing Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s right-leaning stance and Trump’s victory, I’m worried about the direction the world is heading in.”
Meanwhile, Yoichi Oshima, 62, said there could be more positive sides to Trump that large media outlets have not reported.
“Really? Did Trump win? I’m very surprised. All the large-scale media outlets predicted Hillary Clinton’s win,” said Oshima.
“From what I’ve read and heard, there is nothing positive about this guy. So, based on what has been reported it’s worrisome.
“But, maybe all that information was biased in support of Clinton. I guess we’d better see his actions without any prejudice from now on.”
Oshima said if Trump truly was “crazy,” as many media outlets had reported, he surely couldn’t be elected president of the U.S.
“After all, the majority of Americans supported him and that means something. Maybe there is more to him than all those negative reports,” he said.
At JR Yurakucho Station, 42 year-old office worker Azuma, who declined to provide his first name, said he was surprised and became nervous when he learned that Trump, who is often criticized for his controversial attitudes and remarks, was set to become the next U.S. president.
“He just doesn’t have a good image, though I could say that of both candidates,” said Azuma, adding that he felt a similar surprise in June, when the U.K. voted to leave the European Union.
Having seen many news reports on Trump, Azuma said he feared the negative effects Trump could have on Japan, as well as on Japanese living in the U.S.
“I’m afraid that Japanese car companies such as Toyota could be kicked out from the U.S.,” he said.
A 49 year-old office worker, Masumoto, who only provided his last name, also said he felt the situation was similar to Brexit.
However, he said Trump becoming the U.S. president was predictable.
“The U.S. was looking for a strong leader. Clinton was strong in urban areas, but there were many Trump supporters in rural areas,” said Masumoto. He also said how the election was debated online in the U.S. was quite different from what was reported on Japanese TV.
He also said that since Trump has no political background, he is likely to make bigger changes to the U.S. compared to Clinton.
“I don’t know if it will be good or bad, but I think Trump is capable of trying new things. Since he was a businessman, how he sees and does things must be different from ordinary politicians,” he said.
When asked about Trump’s possible influence on Japan, he said: “Talking about defense, I think it’s time for Japan to seek its own measures to protect the country.”
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is ready for that, he said.
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