thumbnail of Asia Society presents
Hide -
If this transcript has significant errors that should be corrected, let us know, so we can add it to FIX IT+
A. This is a series of interviews with experts on Asian affairs designed to strengthen our understanding of Asian people and ideas. Your host on this transcribed series is the noted author and award winning broadcaster Graham. Here now is Mrs. Graham.
People often mention with some irony their surprise that the two countries which were defeated in World War Two. The fact that these countries have emerged as economic leaders in the world. Germany of course not perhaps as much as Japan but Japan certainly because in the free world Japan is the number one or number two producer of goods next to the United States. A small country as you know it is plus tremendously in every which way. And many of us wonder how they do it. Surely it is a miracle nation. You know more about Japan and what it plans of what we can expect of it in the 70s and how that will affect the United States and some of its neighbors in Asia. We have a guest who I think is just the man to answer many of these questions and he is. Give me Misty give me is a vice president of the Encyclopedia Brittanica in charge of its Far Eastern companies and their encyclopedia does more publishing and has more programs in the Far East than most of us are aware of. Misty give me has been an
editor and an author most of his life and a foreign correspondent and a man who's traveled wisely and has opinions based on fact. Now Mr. give me what is the Encyclopedia Brittanica Botanica means British. What is it doing in the Far East publishing there. Well Graham we have first a conventional sale of Encyclopedia Britannica and we also have a sale of a lot of language courses which we are designed to teach English to Japanese. And with this quite a few projects for translating some of those works are it's by products into the Japanese language and abridging them and annotating them. One of the interesting things about the Japanese market these days is that there is a desperate voracious urge to learn English. There's a great feeling on part of the Japanese also that they really have to be international people they do use that phrase and they're anxious to get sources of learning
information that transcend what they can find within Japan even though the Japanese encyclopedias and. Publishing works are relatively quite advanced and there's a piece that you wrote for Look magazine some months ago but it seems to be quite relevant now and quoting from it. You wrote that the viewers of a thoughtful Japanese television program were asked I want to. Can this country although it's doing well it said Are we only greedy economic animals who live only to consume. Or can we find some better wider channels for our energies. Would you say that Japan is developing a conscience along this line. So it's doing well prospering but that isn't doing anything outside its country. Yes that's true. The Japanese by nature are very idealistic people. They have for years lived in a very tight nation society of their own and
their contact with the rest of the world have not been too fortunate. Generally in the forms of invasions or on occasion being invaded they channeled all of their energies. After World War Two into business economics they felt that with the defeat all their aspirations in the political area were shattered. They felt that their philosophies were faulty and the face they lived by so to speak they no longer believed in at least superficially so they solved the problem by just concentrating everything into a pell mell rush to rebuild it to produce things to sell. And in the process they made themselves into an almost incredible economic power. They are number three behind the US in the Soviet Union and economic strength by almost any standard. With this though they have developed a corollary worry because they say as the television broadcast suggested you know is there must be something more in life than just
making money and having everyone tell us what a great economic miracle workers we are there for. Can't we help other people can't we resume our efforts at political direction at least political cooperation. What do we have to contribute to people in a cultural way as well as simply the making of transistors and television sets and new cars. However the thought that the United States has strong treaties with Japan I think has prevented Japan from emerging as the kind of political power it might want to be. Now how can this change in the 70s when Misato was reelected I think his policies will continue for a while. Yes I think that the security treaty no doubt will go on under slightly modified terms. It's true that the Japanese ever since the end of World War Two have lived under what they call the American
nuclear umbrella. And while the presence of the umbrella is very comforting to many it gets confining. They have consciously just postpone the question of. Having a defense or having a single aggressive political foreign policy again as part of this national urge to build up the economy. Now of course as they see the fruits of their labors they're developing an awful lot of national pride they feel they do have something to contribute. They they want to be heard as an equal in the political conversations of the world as well as the trade discussions. And it's understandable that after 20 years of having U.S. troops and bases on their soil they're getting out of just a mite restless. I think all these tendencies are developing right now in Japan at the same time. There is no violent wave of anti-Americanism or anything as such. The Japanese are. Actually more suited
to using the fruits of American technical know how or what not than other people's and they have much less cultural resistance to it than say the Europeans. They do want to be their own man. They feel of course that the American efforts and in Vietnam has certainly been far from a sensational success. They are nervous since they are so physically powerful Really now. That. Any further US foreign policy ventures will inevitably involve Japan that they're under the umbrella too much that they're tied to our apron strings that they're forced to let Washington decide their foreign policy not Tokyo. And I think all the Japanese left right and center are getting just a little bit concerned. The fact that they were defeated and we're going to turn out to be a blessing in disguise in many ways in spite of the hardships they suffered because up to that point they
had not really a marriage in their thinking even as a world power although militarily they had been quite strong. What if would you say that the defeat brought upon them in other ways that they politically do they now after the result of what you gain political power will be individual in a way they never had it before. Well I don't think they tended to be too individualistic. They talk a lot about individual as a yeah but they're still a very collective minded people. I think that they did develop a healthier feeling for democracy. They've always had always had it along before the occupation you had Japanese democratic movements and reasonably working workable parliamentary system. But it is true that the military dominance in the 30s tended to blunt the normal healthy development of Japanese parliamentary institutions. Japanese the Japanese free press and lots of other things that are part of a of a modern working nation.
And after the war these institutions start to come back. The Japanese really start to worry about democracy they worried about elections they began to expect to worry about this suppression of the individual. Will the suppression of the individual speaking out that they had had under the military and in part This led to a lot of license people confuse democracy and Marxism people confused stumps responsible parliamentary citizenship with simply the act of going out and starting a demonstration and yelling a lot in the street. This was inevitable. But in the end I think the Japanese have put their politics their social political life on a much sounder basis than it was before the war or even during the occupation. I think the postwar period been very good for Japanese culture. It's unfortunate that because of their language. So little
good Japanese literature gets out and what does get how can only be translated. But you could say that the Japanese are probably writing some of the most interesting novels memoirs plays of it. On the world scene right now in this decadent will probably be writing more. Would you go back to why they have prospered so you point out that there are certain characteristics of their behavior individually and nationally which make for the success they have. For example they have labor demonstrations but they don't have strikes. That's right what goes on there is no work stoppage. The students may protest and they have a certain sympathy and people have a certain sympathy for them. And you pointed out that companies will even hire student protesters saying that's the kind of a boy I'd like in my organization he has initiative. Whereupon the student protests were put on his gray flannel suit go to work and that's the end of his protesting that very free will a seems to be a reasonable attitude among the Japanese which must be very helpful.
Well they're they're very they're as I say a group minded and they start out with the premise that here we are living in a narrow island in a very tight heavily populated society. But one can't offend too much of their natural born compromisers. They have a great feeling of solidarity for the family for the group they happen to be with. The company a Japanese company is a very paternalistic outfit and paternalism is not at all a bad word. They have been more successful than we have in America or in Europe I think in keeping their business organizations people oriented. They worry about the comforts of the workers is their welfare their education. The company tends to wrap the employee in a kind of cradle to grave embrace. In fact there's hardly any firing in Japanese business. Well that's why I asked you about. They have political expression now as individuals
with World War 2 brought that about and did it bring it about to a great extent. Really the question should be do the Japanese people really care about being individuals as much as they care about belonging to a good group and creating solidarity and getting along well. Well they can their kids are certainly capable of thinking individually they have some very effective commentators spokesman statesman. But they're happier in some sort of group activity. The Japanese voter can get very indignant. That's why Tokyo for example has a mayor who was elected with the support of the socialist and the communist. He happened to be a professor and he happened to have been quite popular and he was put into office after a series of scandals involving the Conservative Party legislature of Tokyo City. So the Japanese voter will act he can he can be moved and an election in Japan as the last one
is a very strenuous testing time they the candidates really have to work at it. They have their out of the sound trucks all day they're pushing pamphlets they're writing articles they're appearing on television discussion shows and the Japanese voter does a lot of weighing and thinking. Generally though he's voting in the side of the established order. His pocket book Times are very very good. And premier saddos victory wasn't really at all surprising the point seems to be that we so often in this country have expected through all our achievements we have expected other people to ask us for advice and information and to follow our ways. But now we come to a country like Japan where they do things in a very superior way themselves. And so it shouldn't be beneath us to see what do they do. Which would be beneficial to us how could we learn from them. Well I think one thing we can learn is this idea of the company as a social enterprise not just a profit making corporation.
Too many American businessmen whether they're in Japan or the U.S. Just think of think of a company as a as a device for making profits. How do you keep expanding production increasing profits and. Watch the lines a little graph go up in the Japan they tend to think of a company as a family organization there. It's something that exist primarily to keep going. Not just to make profits. Now in the process they make pretty handsome profits because they get everybody pulling together. They have a healthy interaction in their economic policymaking between the government and the banks. The bureaucracy and the top businessmen here in the U.S. we tend to do things I think to a fault by what you might call the adversary system the government and business are opposed to each other the banks have their own point of view there's a
cost we run things we like to run things by our system of checks and balances. Now the Japanese think that a system of checks and balances is apt to be wasteful. They'd rather get together from the beginning and decide something make their compromises and settle it instead of having a face to face confrontations which seems so beautifully civilized. Well it really is much more suited to modern living I think than ours. After all in modern living as we face the 21st century we can't really afford very much waste anywhere not any of our societies. The way of life we have is so highly mechanized that violence is becoming a luxury you almost have to come from Mars it might do well to recognize that. Yes I mean the energy that's wasted in dissent and protest which I guess is democratic but all of that energy wasted on the part of very intelligent people could be put to some of them are productive. Another thing that the Japanese do is that they
have a sense of thrift I understand they don't spend a great deal of money they know that they must save a certain amount. Now why is that a good idea since we've been told that the more money that spend more money that's in circulation the better for the economy. Well it's an interesting point. The Japanese do say phenomenally there the percentage of what they put into savings accounts is amazing and they are frugal. However they will spend especially for. Obvious items of creature comfort and prestige enhancement for example the Japanese will put as much money into color television sets as the American public will the Japanese like to spend a lot of money on cars. They'll spend money on washing machines they'll spend money on new refrigerator would you say that's the prestige to overcome thing. Well both but the prestige element might balk a little larger than it does here because at the same time that they spend a lot of money for these big big items they
are apt to behave very frugally there the Japanese housewife will always save every piece of string around the house. Very little is thrown away. I think a big difference now must be what you said that the Japanese housewife the American housewife quite different from one another. Yes I think that's true. Maybe that's what accounts for their savings on the part of the Japanese husband which the American husband just can't manage. Yes the Japanese housewife is much thriftier person than her American counterpart I think. The Japanese breadwinner of the family business men. Some ways it is something more of a spendthrift and we spend a lot of money on the expense account for entertaining and fancy restaurants and cabarets But again this is part of the Japanese way of life the extraordinary amount of money you create as a town that is good business creates business and is done here. Q But would you say the Japanese government is more tolerant of it. It made us less Japanese government is more tolerant of this sort of thing. Again
when the when some Japanese who have their tax returns examined it's not in the spirit of well are you a criminal are you. Have you done something really bad and immoral under reporting your income. The negative with your deductions or whatever. It's rather well now. Have you done this correctly. And if you haven't let's get to the bottom of it and perhaps we'll work out some compromise solution. Yes often he one is accused from the start that you are guilty till you believe yourself. That's very much the case and I'm speaking only of the IRS. That's right that's right. And in Japan that isn't the feeling at all. What do we have in common though Americans and Japanese We must have certain things in common because we've both been enormously successful. Well we were both very energetic peoples. We're both addicted to modern modernity.
If there's something new under the sun. Americans want to get it first and so Japanese. That's why for example in Japan business men are. Terribly excited about computers. Just as with American businessmen at least recent till recently they may not know what a computer or actually do but they want to have it up to in the office because it's new because it's the first thing they're not wedded to old techniques just because they're comfortable the way so many Europeans are. Isn't that interesting because they are wedded to many of the old traditions. That's right old tradition. Culturally culturally the Japanese are very secure are they. They live within this culture that has been maturing on these islands for two millennia. They make a definite distinction between physical technological importation and cultural change. The technological importation they do very
readily. Cultural change is a very very slow process in Japan. Isn't that amazing. Because if the technological improvements in many countries around the world are supposed to result in this distortion of culture or this that's really a nation that people feel and it doesn't seem to happen in Japan. Well that's because the Japanese cultural core is such a strong one. After all you have the sense of this hundred million people who've been living in a closed society for so many years. Whatever their dealings with the outside world that they have built up. Great confidence in their values. A great system of shared values it's really it really is like a national society you can call a Japanese state a family society as much as anything else. Misty give me some time ago you wrote a book about Poland called the frozen you have the ocean and you were quite prophetic in that book things you said in that book have come to pass in a way since. Would you make venture a few predictions about the Japan of the 70s
yes was great like to suggest a few things that may happen. I think economically speaking the prosperity will probably go on. I see that this cooperation between industry and government and finance will certainly continue and they will have one big challenge. The challenge is will they be able to innovate sufficiently to keep up the momentum they've got they've got a lot of momentum partly innovation partly on very clever judicious borrowing adaptation which of course they're famous. Many Japanese ask themselves now well can we innovate sufficiently. After all we're the front runner now we're not just an also ran. The second thing I see is perhaps a general drift to the right politically rather than to the left the Japanese left has been very foolish of the Socialist Party. It was quite uncritically allied with Mao Tse tung and the Chinese Cultural Revolution and they advocated a very naive sort of an armed neutrality and they ignored obvious
problems. And for this they suffered. And thirdly I think some of these obvious problems the Japanese have put up with for a long time are coming to a head. There are things like traffic tie ups transportation sewage disposal housing most Japanese live and wretched accommodations which few Americans would even consider in spite of the prosperity in spite of the prosperity that so much of the prosperity has gone into capital goods. It's as if a whole country volunteered to do what most people's won't will only do when government like a communist or socialist government forces them to do which is let's think let's sink all our money into capital improvement go easy. Creature comforts. If the United States should follow Great Britain in withdrawing gradually from the Far East we had just a moment to add to this. Do you see Japan then taking over the role of the leader of the Far East. Yes I think Japan is the logical inheritor of that tradition. I think the Japanese would like to. I think there are many problems in the way. But I rather feel the next 10 years will see a great
political and social resurgence there. Anyway we all have an opportunity if we have the time and the money to go this year to the great International Exposition in Japan and that would be something to see later in the year. Our guest on this program knows a great deal about Japan as you can hear us Frank give me this to give me is a vice president of the Encyclopedia Brittanica in charge of its Far Eastern affairs. I thank you very much and goodbye. That concludes tonight's edition of the Asia Society presents with league Graham. This series comes to you through the cooperation of the Asia Society. If you would like to comment on tonight's program or would like further information about the society and how you can participate in its many interesting activities please write to Mrs. Graham at WNYC New York City 100 0 7 and make a note to join us again next week at this time for another edition of the Asia Society presents.
Please note: This content is only available at GBH and the Library of Congress, either due to copyright restrictions or because this content has not yet been reviewed for copyright or privacy issues. For information about on location research, click here.
Asia Society presents
Producing Organization
Contributing Organization
University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
If you have more information about this item than what is given here, or if you have concerns about this record, we want to know! Contact us, indicating the AAPB ID (cpb-aacip/500-cc0tvj02).
Other Description
Asia Society presents is a series of programs from WNYC and The Asia Society. Through interviews with experts on Asian affairs, the series attempts to strengthen listeners understanding of Asian people and ideas. Episodes focus on specific countries and political, cultural, and historical topics.
Talk Show
Global Affairs
Race and Ethnicity
Media type
Host: Graham, Leigh
Producing Organization: WNYC
AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 69-6-45 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:27:04
If you have a copy of this asset and would like us to add it to our catalog, please contact us.
Chicago: “Asia Society presents,” University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed August 9, 2022,
MLA: “Asia Society presents.” University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. August 9, 2022. <>.
APA: Asia Society presents. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from