The foremost US citizen who is a leading if not the leading Japanologist from the west for that Asian power has chosen at age 88 to become a Japanese citizen. He is not the first to fall in love with that Island Nation. Other Americans from time to time have done the same. Lafcadio Hearn for one. Senator Mike Mansfield later Ambassador to Japan another. Walter Mondale. WELL many who fought the Japanese in the Pacific War understand some of the complexity of the Japanese. Several Clint Eastwood directed movies in the last decade also give some insights. I have attended the flag raising and lowering at the US Marine Corps Memorial in Arlington many times and used to ride my bike there when young and spend time looking at and reading the incised graphics. I have read perhaps 100 books on Japan and even in the last couple of years Lady Muraski’s TALE OF GENJI and a female US citizen’s [also the only formally recognized US citizen that lived as a GEISHA) book, a novel on Lady Muraski. I found the recent book written by an American TALES OF A GEISHA and a movie, largely starring Chinese Actresses, but with Ken Wantabbe, a Japanese, as the male lead. Also a fan of the scenery in Tom Cruise’s THE LAST SAMURAI!
What does this all mean? Nothing! I also escorted and breifed perhaps a dozen groups of Japanese during my FEMA years. Mainly on legal issues. When asked about FEMA by the Japanese I always said well FEMA is about funding post disaster response not really about preparedness or mitigation the stepchildren of FEMA now and in the past. My bottom line was always well the US is a rich country and we have the money to repeat over and over our mistakes.
With that as background why this post? Because I take a quite different point of view than many current commentators on the Japanese Crisis ( not just catastrophe) because in my view Japan and its people will never be the same. Twice in its history Japan has had to react to events from outside. First the arrival of the Black Ships in the 1850’s and second WWII! This time the choices of the Japanese post WWII will also be examined by its people and leadership. Why? I am estimating that direct damages from this event will be closer to $500B than any other number. And I believe the Japanese will have to come up with at least $1 Trillion to come close to response and recovery from this event. So far it appears to me that none in Japan, the leadership or people understand the depth of their problems. And the world will not sit still for Japan. Viewed largely as a rich and developed nation and perhaps because of the past history of Japan in Asia few will be generous to that Island Nation-state. Thus just as the Japanese had to accomodate western civilization the past of ignoring or exploiting fellow Asians will not perhaps be seen as a tragic error. Thus, the Japanese will for the first time have to consider what it never wanted to consider becoming fully part of ASIA and its future. The trickle of Westerners falling in love with Japan was never a cultural threat. But now this current crisis will be providing messages understood and subliminal that the Japanese for the last two millenium have not really wanted to hear. By the end of this year the Japanese most deaf to outside cultural influences will finally understand that they are part of a larger world and cannot isolate themselves from it.
Will it take a similar crisis in the US for the polity of the US to understand their future is part of the world and we cannot isolate ourselves from that world?