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

Letter to a former British diplomat at the end of 2016
NUMATA Sadaaki / Chairman, The English-Speaking Union of Japan

December 22, 2016
50 years have passed since you and I started our diplomatic careers, you in London and I in Tokyo. The world has changed quite a bit since then. Recently, I was telling a group of Japanese high school students that a crucial moment in my motivation to become a diplomat was when I heard President Kennedy in the White House in July 1961, when I was 18. He encouraged some 1800 American Field Service students from around the world including myself to “serve in the interest of peace as a bridge between the best parts of my country and your people”. I had the uneasy feeling that it might sound like a tale from the Stone Age to the young people of today, but hoped that it might stimulate their aspirations for the future.

The year 2016 has had its share of drama. Brexit challenged my notion of Britain as a diverse, multicultural, vibrant society open to Europe and to the rest of the world.

That is the image of Britain that I nurtured as I observed its evolution through my tour there from 1966 to 1970, when Britain was yet to join the European Common Market, and from 1994 to 1998, when Britain, as a member of the European Union, was serving as a gateway to Europe for Japanese businesses. Having been away from Britain for nearly twenty years, I have not yet fully fathomed the reasons why the rallying call for the Leave campaign “Take back Control” had such massive resonance. I earnestly hope that my image of Britain as a diverse and open society will not be shattered. I also would like to believe that Britain has the flexibility and shrewdness to find a modus operandi with Europe, which will also help sustain the mutually beneficial relations between Japan and Britain.

It was disappointing to see the US presidential debate degenerate into a slugfest. As Chairman of the English-Speaking Union of Japan, which promotes parliamentary debate as a means of fostering global communicators, I keep emphasizing that debate is an exercise in the civilized art of persuasion, not a gladiatorial combat. I am concerned that if the presidential election presaged the proliferation of the so-called “post-truth”(announced by the Oxford Dictionary in November as its “word of the year”) politics whereby emotional allegations prevail as if they were truths, we could face a dangerous situation in which foreign policy and national security decisions would be taken as a result solely of emotional debate disconnected from facts. In contrast, President Obama’s visit to Hiroshima last May and Prime Minister Abe’s visit to Pearl Harbor next week marks the culmination of arduous efforts on both the American and Japanese sides to bring closure to the long festering issues related to the atomic bombing. I am sure that, as a professional diplomat, you believe, as I do, that deliberate, thoughtful decision making based on facts is essential to the management of relations among nations.

In Japan, there is a debate on whether to enable His Majesty the Emperor to step down. You recall how we worked hard together in the period between the outpouring of grievances from the former British POWs in the lead-up to the 50th anniversary of the VJ Day in August 1995 and the Emperor’s visit to Britain in May 1998, by which time you were Ambassador to Japan. When the Emperor’s visit took place successfully, I felt with satisfaction that you and I and our colleagues on the Japanese and British sides had played a significant part in tackling the delicate building-block work of postwar reconciliation between our two countries. Then, when I accompanied the Emperor on his trip to Canada as his official spokesman in July 2009, I saw at first hand how seriously the Emperor, together with the Empress, took his role as the “symbol” of Japan and how close they had come to the people through their selfless devotion to the well-being and happiness of the people, and their compassion and sincerity to the weak and the vulnerable such as the elderly and the victims of natural disasters. The people of Canada also felt heartened to see this “human face” of the Emperor and the Empress. Performing this role takes a heavy toll on the octogenarian Emperor. I do hope that ways will be found to relieve him of all this by passing on the role to his heir.

May the year 2017 bring to us happiness and, as for drama, as little as possible of the negative kind.


The writer is former Japanese Ambassador to Canada and Minister Plenipotentiary at the Japanese Embassy in London.
The English-Speaking Union of Japan

沼田 貞昭 / 日本英語交流連盟会長

2016年 12月 22日


2016年はそれなりにドラマに富む年でした。Brexit(英国のEU離脱国民投票)は、 多様で、多文化で、活気にあふれており、ヨーロッパをはじめとする世界に対して開かれた国との私の英国に対するイメージに疑問を投げかけました。私は、英国が欧州共同市場に未加盟だった1966−1970年、そして英国がEUのメンバー国として日本企業の欧州に対する門戸の役割を活発に果たしていた1994−1998年の2度の英国在勤の間に変遷を遂げた英国の姿を見て、このような印象を抱いていたのです。その後20年近く英国を離れていましたので、国民投票の際に離脱派の「(EUから)コントロールを取り戻せ」とのスローガンが何故あれほど共感を得たのか未だに理解しきれていません。私個人としては、多様で開かれた英国社会という英国のイメージが壊されないよう切に願っています。また、英国が、日英間の互恵的関係の維持にも資するようなEUとの共存の方途を見出す柔軟性と機敏さを持っているものと期待しています。


大統領選挙が、感情的主張があたかも事実のように幅を利かせる「ポスト真実(post-truth)」(オックスフォード大学出版局辞典部門が11月にWord of the Yearとして発表)の政治の到来を告げるものであったとするならば、外交および国家安全保障に関わる政策決定が事実とは懸け離れた感情的な議論のみに基づいて行われる危険な状況に我々が直面することになるのではないかと懸念します。思えば、今年5月のオバマ大統領の広島訪問と来週の安倍総理の真珠湾訪問は、原爆投下に伴い長年くすぶってきた懸案に終止符を打つために日米双方が払って来た根気強い努力によってもたらされたものです。私は、職業外交官としてあなたが私と同様に、国家間の関係を処理するに当たっては事実に基づき思慮深く熟考された政策決定が肝要であると考えているものと確信しています。



一般社団法人 日本英語交流連盟

English Speaking Union of Japan > Japan in Their Own Words (JITOW) > Letter to a former British diplomat at the end of 2016