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Home > Special Topics > Activity Report Last Updated: 15:10 03/09/2007
Activity Report #44: July 7, 2004

Los Angeles Seminar Report: Tokyo Governor Shintaro Ishihara on Japan in the World

Takahiro MIYAO (Professor, GLOCOM, and Head, Japanese Institute of Global Communications)



Seminar Report
Charity Lecture Presentation:
Date/Time:June 30 (Wed), 19:15 21:00
Place:The Japan America Theater, Los Angeles, California, USA
Program: 19:15 19:30
(Introductory Addresses)
19:30 21:00
Speaker: Shintaro Ishihara (Governor of Tokyo)
Topic: Japan in the World
Language: Japanese
Sponsor:UTB in Los Angeles

A charity lecture presentation by Tokyo Governor Shintaro Ishihara was given at the Japan America Theater in Little Tokyo Los Angeles on June 30, 2004. Governor Ishihara was invited by a local TV station, UTB, to contribute to their charity activity to support Keiro Senior Healthcare in Los Angeles. The following is a summary of his lecture.

We Japanese need to compare ourselves with others to recognize our own strengths. For example, we have special sensitivity and creativity as exemplified by Haiku and Waka, where our macrocosmic views are expressed in microcosmic terms. This can also apply to science and technology, especially in the fields of IT, nuclear physics, etc. Until we know our strengths and present them to others, we will not be seriously taken by others. The U.S. will not listen to our advice regarding the Iraqi war, for example.

In the economic field, the U.S. will continue influencing and even directing Japan's monetary policy, where we are supporting the dollar by purchasing U.S. government bonds in a massive amount. We should make it clear to the U.S. that we do have an important card because we could sell at our discretion and at any time the U.S. government bonds that we are holding. In that way we can speak out and will be heard in the real world. We need not be afraid of the U.S., China or any other country for that matter.

On the other hand, we have a formidable problem within; that is, Japanese bureaucracy, especially in the central government. Some say that it has not been changed much since the foundation of this country, and that Japan represents the most successful "socialism" in the history of mankind. In fact, recent movements toward decentralization have been blocked by the Ministry of Finance because the Ministry does not want to transfer their taxing power to local governments. Bureaucrats lack a sense of interest rates and time costs, so the nation or even a local government cannot be run effectively without overcoming these bureaucratic tendencies.

Despite these internal problems, Japan has tremendous power and potential, especially in various technological fields. In fact, the Pentagon has reported that the U.S. won the Gulf war by relying largely on Japanese technologies, and carefully studied Japan's strengths in high tech fields to make sure that the U.S. would not lose its supremacy in military technologies. We need to know this fact and should make use of it to get even with the U.S. and other countries.

China seems to be attracting much attention away from Japan these days. However, we must be careful about the numbers and statistics that they are giving out. In reality, China is still dependent on abnormally low wage labor with a widening gap between rich and poor groups of people. In order to diffuse people's frustration, China is using Japan as a scapegoat by fabricating the number of people killed by the Japanese military in Nanking during the war, for example. In any case, China's current situation is unsustainable and the country is bound to be divided into several separate nations in the future.

In examining other countries, we Japanese can recognize our relative strengths, and we should also learn from our own history. When Commodore Perry arrived in Japan, he was startled by the fact that Japan was such a well-organized country with brave people and shrewd diplomacy, compared to other countries in the Asia-Pacific region that he had visited. In Japan, Shogun Hideyoshi Toyotomi built Osaka Castle, which was the largest and probably most gorgeous castle in the world at that time, according to the reports written by Portuguese missionaries. Mathematician Takakazu Seki found and used the method of differentiation and integration long before Libnitz and Newton did in the West. In a sense, Japan's seclusion policy was a success, leading to modernization after the Meiji Restoration.

In conclusion, in today's world of rapid diversification and polarization we cannot rely on bureaucrats or politicians who are so dependent on bureaucracy. We must know ourselves better by learning from our history.

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