Japan in Their Own Words (JITOW)/日本からの意見

Five Decades of Japan-U.S. Relationship: Another Narrative
CHINO Keiko  / Journalist

March 19, 2010
The controversy on the relocation of the Marine Corps Air Station Futenma is reaching its final stages, and the parties in power now find themselves caught in a trap of their own making.

50 years ago, controversy also raged, on the revision of the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty. At that time, sharply confronting the government, the Japan Socialist Party, then in opposition, resorted to resisting the revision by staging a sit-in in the Diet. This time, the same party, now called the Social Democratic Party and a part of the governing coalition, is again playing the role of the spoiler. This is a bad example of not learning from the lessons of history. When, if at all, can we step forward to shape the future of the Japan-U.S. alliance for the next five decades?

Let me step back to June 1961, one year after the coming into effect of the new Japan-U.S. Security Treaty. The Japan-U.S. summit meeting took place in Washington, D.C., between Hayato Ikeda, the Japanese Prime Minister who espoused "politics of patience and reconciliation", and John F. Kennedy, the youngest U.S. President in history.

Their Joint Statement revealed the urgency and high motivation with which both sides sought ways to repair the damages inflicted on the Japan-U.S. relationship by the Security Treaty turmoil. To strengthen the partnership and broaden the scope of cooperation between the two countries, the two leaders agreed to establish three joint Japan-United States committees - on trade and economic affairs, cultural and educational cooperation, and scientific cooperation. With respect to Okinawa (referred to as the Ryukyus in the Joint Statement) then still under United States administration, the President affirmed that the United States would make further efforts to enhance the welfare and well-being of the inhabitants and the Prime Minister affirmed that Japan would continue to cooperate with the United States to this end. Further, avoiding the term "alliance", which has become common usage today, the Joint Statement used the term "partnership".

It was probably the United States that felt more acutely the need to repair the relationship. The anti-Security Treaty fever quickly cooled down after Prime Minister Nobusuke Kishi's resignation, and Japan pushed forward with its quest for rapid economic growth. The United States, for its part, was shocked by the strength of anti-American feelings in the Japanese society.
It was indicative of this U.S. concern that Edwin O. Reischauer, a non-governmental expert on Japan newly appointed as Ambassador, started actively engaging in dialogue with the opposition parties and labor unions soon after his arrival.

Earlier this month, I took part in a dialogue forum between Japanese and American experts on performing and visual arts at the Japan Foundation in Tokyo, held by the Arts and Culture Subcommittee of CULCON. CULCON is the acronym for the Japan-U.S. Conference on Cultural and Educational Interchange, which was one of the three joint committees envisioned in the Ikeda-Kennedy Joint Statement. This joint committee was officially established in 1968 by an Exchange of Notes between the two governments as a bi-national advisory body aimed at strengthening the foundation of Japan-U.S. relations.

Since then, it has not always been smooth sailing for CULCON. At one point, there was even talk of sorting it out of existence, somewhat in the vein of the "program review" now popular in Japan. However, in 2008, the 150th anniversary year of the Japan-U.S. Treaty of Amity and Commerce, it was felt that CULCON’s mission of deepening Japan-U.S. exchanges and furthering mutual understanding was far from over, and efforts got under way to revitalize it. Following the recommendations made at that time, the Arts and Culture Subcommittee was launched and started its work together with the Subcommittees on intellectual exchange, education, grassroots exchange and business respectively.

The recent dialogue forum revealed two interesting points:
(1) There is a difference in temperature, or enthusiasm, regarding the exhibition of works of ancient Japanese art such as statues of Buddha and picture scrolls. To put it simply, the U.S. side is keen to introduce more of these wonderful works of art, whereas the Japanese side cannot easily lend them out because these works are very fragile and more than 50% are owned by temples and shrines. Each side has its own reasons. But it is discomforting to hear that, in contrast to the American public's heightening interest in not just Chinese and Korean arts but also Indian, Vietnamese, Pakistani and other Asian arts in general, they may be losing their interest in Japanese ancient art, if things are left as they are. Japan's absolute advantage is becoming shakier in this field as well.
(2) Though a small meeting with its focus limited to ancient and performing arts, it was a microcosmic reflection of the issues and challenges facing Japan and the United States today. A Japanese professor specializing in contemporary American theater lamented the lack of interest on the part of his students. The fact is that there has been a notable decrease in the number of Japanese youths wishing to study in the United States as well as American youths wishing to study in Japan. More broadly, the interest in learning more about each other is on the decline. This is a serious cause for concern for Japan and the United States.

The difference in national characteristics manifested itself between the Americans, who were positively proposing plans to break out of this bind, and the Japanese, who tended to be pessimistic. It was also interesting to see that women, both Japanese and American, were on the whole optimistic.

The Futenma relocation issue will come to a conclusion at some point. However, even if some kind of soft-landing were worked out, there would be no denying the considerable damage done to the Japan-U.S. relationship. In a way, it might be more serious than at the time of the Security Treaty turmoil 50 years ago. This is because various pieces of circumstantial evidence have given rise to the uneasy suspicion that, this time, what is at issue may be the anti-American feelings on the part not of the public, but of the government in power.

Where would we be today if Prime Minister Hatoyama had echoed President Obama's message in his speech in Tokyo last November, firmly placing the United States as a nation of the Pacific and describing himself as America's first Pacific President? Japan and the United States, once at war as they vied for hegemony in the Pacific, could have resoundingly reaffirmed their common bond as Pacific nations. That would have been an event of incomparable symbolic significance to the deepening of the alliance.

Futenma is no longer a matter for Okinawa or for Japan and the United States alone. It is a matter of concern to the whole of Asia-Pacific. Over the past five decades, the Japan-U. S. Security Treaty has evolved from a bilateral treaty to an international public good, like a fish that is called by different names as it grows.

Ms. Chino is Columnist at the Sankei Shimbun newspaper and a member of the Japan CULCON Panel. This article first appeared in the March 13 edition of the Sankei Shimbun.
The English-Speaking Union of Japan

千野 境子 / ジャーナリスト

2010年 3月 19日









第1は仏像や絵巻など日本の古美術をめぐる日米の温度差だ。ありていに言えば、米国側は素晴らしい作品をもっと紹介したい。日本側は古美術の脆弱(ぜいじゃく)性や持ち主の50%以上が寺社といった事情から安易には貸し出せない。 双方もっともな主張だが、米国ではいま中韓に加えてインド、ベトナム、パキスタンなどアジア美術全般への関心が高く、このままでは米国民の日本古美術への関心が失(う)せると聞けば、心穏やかではない。日本の絶対優位はここでも揺らぎつつあるのである。






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English Speaking Union of Japan > Japan in Their Own Words (JITOW) > Five Decades of Japan-U.S. Relationship: Another Narrative