(Japanese names are presented western style, family name last, except for historical figures and bibliographic entries.)
The Manjiro Society, founded in late 1993, is the United States
counterpart of a similarly-named Japanese organization launched in
1991 at the initiative of President Bush and Prime Minister
Miyazawa. They agreed in the Tokyo Declaration "(t)o encourage
exchange programs at the regional and grassroots level." The
Japanese nonprofit Manjiro-Whitfield Commemorative Center has
conducted three major "Grassroots Summit" exchanges alternately in
the U.S. and Japan. The Japanese commitment to the concept of
exchanges between ordinary Japanese and ordinary Americans has
survived the 1993 seismic shift in Japanese political leadership.
The present chairman of the Japanese Center is The Honorable
Ichiro Ozawa, a Diet Member and prominent leader of the coalition
that took over the government of Japan in 1993. Then Prime
Minister Hosokawa participated in the homestay activities of the
1993 Japan "Summit."
Americans who have participated in the Grassroots Summits now wish
to reciprocate the Japanese commitment. In the U.S., we do not,
of course, look to the government for the funding of educational
initiatives in the private sector, no matter how worthy. We do as
the Manjiro Society has done: form a nonprofit corporation, seek
tax code protection for contributions under Section 501(c)(3), and
enter the competitive American marketplace where programs are
exchanged for private support.
The founders of the Manjiro Society have high admiration for the
activities and programs of the Japan-America societies and other
organizations which work toward the improvement of mutual
understanding between Americans and Japanese. In many cases we
are active contributors to these organizations, and it is not part
of the purposes of the Manjiro Society to detract in any way from
the vital and important work that they do. Rather, we will seek
to reinforce and supplement their work in helpful ways.
Thus, our programs and activities are designed to interest and
involve a defined categories of Americans. The Society is
established as a national membership organization seeking to
attract and retain members who: (A) have a serious, but perhaps
not professional, interest in Japan; (B) wish to visit Japan and
meet Japanese in the U.S.; and (C) may prefer to concentrate their
involvement in annual sessions of no more than ten days, keeping
in touch outside the "Summits" through Society publications.
As its first objective, the American Society, working in close
cooperation with its Japanese counterpart, will support the
continuation of the annual Grassroots Summits. The 1991 Summit
was held in Tokyo and Kyoto, 1992 in the U.S. (Montana, Wyoming
and Boston), and 1993 in Tokyo and Nagoya. Preparations for the
October, 1994 Summit in Virginia are almost complete. The 1995
Summit will be held in late fall in Kagoshima. There are several
candidates for the location of the 1996 Summit in the U.S., and
the Society's Board is putting together a policy statement to set
criteria (degree of local support, etc.) for selections among
Just a word of self introduction. I am originally from Brazil,
Indiana, but went to college in Charleston, S.C. at The Citadel
and in Boston at The Fletcher School. I spent the decade of the
1960s in the Foreign Service, learned Japanese and served in the
embassy in Tokyo and the Consulate General in Osaka. I left the
Foreign Service in 1970 to serve as executive director of the
Japan Society in New York as they built Japan House and launched
new programs. From 1974, I have been a private businessman, and
am now the president of a computer software company. I served as
the volunteer president of the Japan-America Society of
Washington, D.C. in the late 1980s. I am honored to serve the
membership in this new capacity, as we build together what I am
sure will become an important new contribution to understanding
between Americans and Japanese.
Rodney E. Armstrong, president
Mrs. Susan Allen, wife of the Honorable George Allen, Governor of
the Commonwealth of Virginia, has accepted the chair of the
Advisory Committee that will oversee the program of the Fourth
Grassroots Summit, to be held October 7 through 14 in
Williamsburg, Richmond and Hot Springs (The Homestead). Other
prominent members of the Advisory Committee are mayors McConnell
of Williamsburg and Kenny of Richmond (both of whom attended the
1993 Summit in Nagoya), and mayors Obendorf of Virginia Beach and
DuVal of Newport News. The president of the Japan Virginia
Society, Inc., Mr. Malcom McDonald (professionally he is the
president of Signet Banking Corporation) is another senior member
of the Advisory Committee. The Virginia hosts have also put
together a very clearly labeled "Working Committee," with members
in Hampton Roads, Williamsburg, Richmond, Hot Springs, and
Northern Virginia. Japanese visitors will recognize many Virginia
faces from Nagoya among the "worker bees," but they will be joined
by such welcome new volunteers as Mr. Jack Boyd, Assistant to the
President of Canon Virginia and two of the Manjiro Society's new
directors, Ambassador Robert Fritts, Ret.)., (now a Senior Fellow
at The College of William & Mary) and Mrs. Barbara Nesbitt,
executive director of the Japan Virginia Society, Inc.
Part of this interview appeared in the initial issue, November
1993, of a Japanese language newsletter, Letter from America,
published by the newly-established Manjiro Society for
International Exchange, Inc. The issue was a special one for
prospective Japanese participants in 1994 Virginia Summit.
Interviewer: Hatsue K Armstrong (Hka)
Hka: I have heard that you have been involved with the Manjiro
Society for quite some time now. Are you from Manjiro's family?
Tf: No, I have no relationship to either Manjiro's family -- now
called Nakahama -- nor to the Whitfield family.
Hka: So what got you involved with this Society?
Tf: In the early 60s, an older American woman, Miss Emily
Warinner, came to my father, who owned a publishing company, and
asked him if her book about Manjiro could be published in
Hka: Tell me about Miss Warinner.
Tf: She was then an editor for an Hawaiian newspaper, The Friend,
which often ran stories about Manjiro and his American host
families, one of which, the Damons, were an early missionary
family in Hawaii when it was an independent kingdom. She was
fascinated by the Manjiro tale and started her own research.
Hka: She had already written a book about Manjiro, then?
Tf: Yes, it was called Voyager to Destiny, and it was already
published in the United States.
Hka: What was Miss Warinner's sales pitch to your father regarding
Tf: She told my father how important his role was when Commodore
Perry came to Japan; she argued that all of the Tokugawa
Shogunate's initial knowledge of the western world and its
American representatives knocking on the door came from Manjiro.
She wanted the Japanese people to know about him.
Hka: How long did it take before your father agreed that he would
publish her work?
Tf: About two years. In the meantime, I got involved; staying at
Miss Warinner's home while I attended the University of Hawaii.
Hka: Being with Miss Warinner, were you fascinated by Manjiro's
Tf: As a matter of fact, no. I was young, and I couldn't have
cared less. I was to hear almost every day about Manjiro --
sometimes about one of this wonderful old lady's new findings, but
often just some old, familiar story. I said to myself "not
again!" many times. Nevertheless; I can answer anything --
absolutely anything -- I'm asked about Manjiro.
Hka: So eventually Miss Warinner's research was published in
Japan. What was the reason your Father changed his mind?
Tf: I asked him the same question. He said, "every time Miss
Warinner talked about Manjiro -- this lady in her seventies -- her
eyes sparkled like those of a young woman; she conquered me with
her sparkling eyes...."
Hka: Did you also help Miss Warinner in Japan?
Tf: Yes, I once accompanied her to Tosashimizu in Shikoku, where
Manjiro was born, for a ceremony to unveil a statue of Manjiro.
Mr. Damon's descendant from Hawaii also attended.
Hka: Have you been involved with the Manjiro exchange movement from its
start in 1990?
Tf: No, one day in 1991, when I was working at the American
embassy, Mr. Takahashi walked in and asked for "Floyd-san." As
you know, "san" does not have a gender; I was in the lobby, and I
answered "that's me!" Actually, he was asking for my husband to
issue an invitation to the opening of the Manjiro Society, picking
up on Walter's visit to Tosa.
Hka: Who is Mr. Takahashi?
Tf: He is the executive director of the John Manjiro/Whitfield
Commemorative Center for International Exchange in Japan. After
this chance introduction, I started as a volunteer in Japan during
my spare time.
Hka: You just can not get away from Manjiro?
Tf: That's right,
Hka: Is your Father still alive?
Tf: No, he passed away, and so has Miss Warinner. I wish they
were alive. Miss Warinner was given some recognition, including
an imperial decoration, during her lifetime. She would have been
very happy to know that we now have Japanese and American
organizations commemorating Manjiro and Captain Whitfield's
friendship, although I suspect that she would have not been in the
least bit surprised that the world eventually came around to her
opinion about Manjiro's importance. My father too, would have
been delighted to see his small contribution to the Japan-US
relationship recognized. Even if sometimes only by chance and
coincidence, I seem to be following in their footsteps. I want
you to know that I am more serious now than when I was a young
girl in Hawaii....
Hka: Thank you, Taeko, for this fascinating background.
Manjiro's story starts 150 years ago. As a fisherman's son, his
beginnings were humble, but his unique destiny brought him
remarkable achievements. Assisted by great good luck in
everything but politics, he was a genuine hero of the turbulent
final days of the Tokugawa Shogunate.
1841 At fourteen, Manjiro set out to sea with four other
fishermen. Like all non-samurai (and American slaves of that
time), he had no family name. In rough weather, he was cast away
on a tiny, uninhabited island, east of Japan. Six months passed
before he and his four companions were rescued by an American
whaling vessel, the John Howland. Young Manjiro impressed Captain
William Whitfield by his eagerness to learn and his bright
intelligence. Calling at Honolulu, the castaways' fate was
discussed. No one thought they could return safely to Japan;
common knowledge was that returned castaways were severely
punished, or worse, killed. At this time Japan was a frozen,
feudalistic society, and its doors were closed to all foreigners,
with the exception of a few Dutch traders at Nagasaki.
1843 On the long whaling voyage, Manjiro took the name John Mung,
and accepted Captain Whitfield's invitation to come with him on
the return voyage to Fairhaven, Massachusetts (south of Boston,
near New Bedford). The Whitfields brought Manjiro into their
daily family life. In the report by the Shogunate authorities of
their interrogation of Manjiro after his return, he is quoted as
saying of his experience in America: "Man and wife are very loving
and families are peaceful and affectionate. The happiness of
their homes is not matched in other countries." (translated by
Miss Warinner in an appendix to her book). Manjiro went to the
country schools of the area, and did well. He continued his
education with surveying and navigation at Bartlett's Academy.
While the Captain was away at sea, an aunt took him in, and there
he learned something about farming. A friendly neighbor was
Captain Delano, a part owner of the John Howland. Captain Delano's
grandson was President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who often
mentioned his grandfather's affection for the young Manjiro.
1846 Now nineteen years old, Manjiro went back to sea, on a whaler
named Franklin, this time without Captain Whitfield. In Honolulu,
he met his old castaway friends, and also began a lifelong
friendship with the Reverend Samuel Damon, the editor of a
newspaper called The Friend. On this whaling expedition, Manjiro
had his first experience with rough-and-ready American democracy.
The captain became insane; the crew held an election to replace
him. To his surprise, Manjiro came in second, and was suddenly
elevated to first mate.
1850 Manjiro did not miss the California gold rush. He managed
to come away with $600 in savings -- perhaps $12,000 or more in
today's dollars. Manjiro then went to Honolulu, where he picked
up two of his three surviving friends.
1851 Generously, Manjiro used his Gold Rush savings to buy passage
on an American whaler willing to put them off on a small island in
the Ryukyus. They were sent to Nagasaki for ten months of
imprisonment and interrogation. Manjiro's comments on American
family life have been noted above, but he passed on all sorts of
information about grassroots American culture. In response to a
query about Americans' toilet habits, Manjiro is reported by the
Satsuma authorities to have replied: "Toilets are placed over
holes in the ground. It is customary to read books in them."
(translated in Miss Warinner's book).
At last, the travelers returned to their village in the feudal
domain of Tosa on Shikoku. Unbelieving, and yet curious, people
wanted to hear Manjiro's stories. The Lord of Tosa was so impressed
that he gave Manjiro a sword and promoted him to samurai status.
The Kano school painter, Kawada Shoryo, copied the world map
Manjiro brought back. Later he wrote a book, based on Manjiro's
experience and knowledge, which included information on the
American system of democratic government. It was influential with
many Tosa Samurai.
To be continued in the next issue.
The above is based on: Emily Warinner, Voyager to Destiny
(Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, 1956) and the Japanese version,
Emily Warinner [translated by Tanaka Itaru] Shin John Manjiro Den
(Tokyo: Shuppan Kyodosha, 1968). Also useful were: Hirao Michio,
Sakamoto Ryoma, Kaientai Shimatsuki (Tokyo: Chuo Koronsha, 1976)
and Sir Ernest Satow, A Diplomat in Japan (various publishers).
There is a new English-language biography of Manjiro which was not
available to us at the time of writing, by the late Donald R.
Barnard, The Life and Times of John Manjiro (New York: McGraw
The Nagoya Keynote Address
The Importance of the U.S./Japan Relationship to Japan's
by The Honorable Hisahiko Okazaki, Ambassador of Japan, Rtd.
The grandson of a prominent prewar politician, Ambassador Okazaki
served in many important posts in the Japanese Foreign Ministry
having to do with U.S./Japan relations, including one tour of duty
as counselor in the Japanese Embassy in Washington. He retired in
1992 after assignments as Japanese ambassador to Saudi Arabia and
Thailand, and is currently a senior adviser to Hakuhodo,
Incorporated, the advertising and public relations firm.
Ambassador Okazaki has published many books and articles in
English and Japanese. This summary of his address has been made
from the simultaneous translator's tape and the original
Perhaps you will say that I am not "grassroots." But I retired
from the Foreign Ministry a year and a half ago, and am now in
"limbo." I think I deserve to be called "grassroots."
I have been involved in Japanese-American relations for four
decades, and I have always held firmly to the view that the
Japan/U.S. relationship is the most important relationship in
If I may, I would like to give you some personal background. At
the end of the war, I was about 15. Since my family had been in
politics, many old cronies came around the house to talk, and I
listened. Much like the situation I found on a recent trip to
Russia, the old value system had been destroyed, and there was
chaos. There was a lot of confused babble: "It will take twenty
years to build ourselves up so we can lick the Anglo-Saxons!" Or:
"No, they are too strong for us, we should never confront them
again!" Even at 15, it seemed to me that the last point of view
made the most sense.
As Japan stabilized, something of a national consensus on
democratic values was achieved. When I began work in the Foreign
Ministry, I found that the importance of the Japanese relationship
with the leading "Anglo-Saxon" power, the United States, was well
appreciated by both my contemporaries and my seniors.
Still, there have always been Japanese critics of a policy of
giving first priority to the successive great democratic leaders,
England and the U.S.. When Imperial Russia expanded to East Asia,
there were those, Prince Ito Hirobumi among them, who felt that
Japan should ally with Russia. There were no doubt cold war
balance-of-power and economic reasons why we allied instead with
England, as urged by then Foreign Minister Komura Jutaro. Not the
least of these were access to the great English commercial system
and market and England's special relationship to the rising giant,
In the postwar period, there have been those who wanted again to
bow to the rising power of Russia as the Soviet Union or who have
argued that an alliance with the U.S. raises tensions with China.
In the 1960s and 1970s, as a young section chief in the Foreign
Ministry, I wrote in an annual "white paper" that the Japan/U.S.
relationship was the most important bilateral relationship for
Japan. Unspoken was the fact that this relationship included an
alliance, but even this vague phrasing drew much criticism. I was
called a ghost from the old days of the Japan-British Alliance.
Of course, the Japan/U.S. relationship can be justified in terms of
pure power politics. But when Soviet power threatened us so
closely, were we all that confident of the power and willingness
of the U.S. to defend us? Something more is needed to explain the
quality of our relationship past and present. I confess that I am
really not prepared to define precisely what it is.
Perhaps we can go back to the life and times of the late 19th
century Foreign Minister Mutsu Munemitsu for a hint. Mutsu was
imprisoned at one point for his political activities and he used
the time to read widely in world history. He then wrote a number
of books to give his conclusions to his countrymen. As is so often
the case in the Japanese culture, around 1880 he distilled his
thinking into a poem:
Six continents, at war and at peace,
at home and abroad,
This was written, of course, at a time when the U.S. was
introverted and isolationist. But it conveys why the U.S. was
important in Mutsu's thinking, and why America retains a special
place in the Japanese mind today. Power politics offers a
realistic basis for the alliance, but there is something more --
the American experience -- that draws all of us who are Japanese
friends of America.
For over three thousand years, powers rise and fall,
There is no just war in this universe.
The way the strong feed on the weak
resembles a slaughterhouse.
Even so, tears well up in one's eyes,
reading one chapter -- American Independence!
Here is a grassroots story from a 1992 article in Chuo Koron by one
of my juniors in the Foreign Ministry. While doing his graduate
training in the U.S., he was called over by an American and
suddenly quizzed: "Young man, do you Japanese still respect your
elders?" The unhatched diplomat assured him that the Japanese
still practice their Confucian filial piety. The American said,
"Good! Good!" and went on to other things.
What was the reaction of my young friend? He thought (and wrote
in his article) that a country where people knew and admired
aspects of his culture of which he was proud should never have its
expectations betrayed. A puzzling reaction? No, in my opinion a
valuable grassroots exchange.
I admit that I had not realized Manjiro's achievements until the
Yomiuri newspaper ran a year-long series on his life last year.
His life and work are a wonderful symbol and model for the work of
This is not an era of great power struggles like some that I have
mentioned today. Despite the occasional trade friction, we are
blessed with the peace and security to exchange our views and
thinking at the personal level. I know that you all will learn
much in homestays. I wish you and your organization a rich and
It was our honor and pleasure to have our "homestay" at the 3rd
Grassroots Summit last November with an unusual host family --
Prime Minister Morihiro Hosokawa and his wife and three children,
Morimitsu, Satoko, and Yuko. The relationship began some ten years
ago, when we were introduced by Mike Mansfield, the former American
ambassador to Japan and, like us, a Montanan. Prime Minister
Hosokawa was then Governor of Kumamoto Prefecture, with which
Montana has a sister state relationship.
Starting in 1988, the eldest of the Hosokawa children, son "Mori,"
came to our home in West Yellowstone, Montana, to live with us for
one year. He was followed by his youngest sister, Yuko, and
eventually by his other sister, Satoko. All the children helped
entertain us in Tokyo.
Some of our "homestay" entertainment was perhaps on a bit higher
level than that of our fellow Grassroots Summit delegates. We were
taken to the Imperial Palace and Gardens. But the family functions
were informal and pure fun.
The political whirlwind that was going on throughout the weekend
was astounding. Prime Minister Hosokawa leads a complex reform
coalition that was just beginning that weekend the final
negotiations on the most important package of political reform
measures in the postwar history of Japan. The talks went on late
at night, and the Japanese media was fighting for news tidbits
from the PM's circle on a 24-hour basis.
One night we had a family dinner in the kitchen of the Prime
Minister's Official Residence for the simple reason that the
dining room was the site of an important political meeting. The
press, had been curious from the start about the comings and
goings of two gaijin, but with our presence in the Official
Residence, the interest grew rabid. Mrs. Hosokawa took the
liberty of telling several members of the press that we were
official members of the Prime Minister's "Kitchen Cabinet." The
poor, confused reporters could not know, of course, that we had
not been in the political powwow, but literally in the kitchen.
These are wonderful memories. We feel that we have been
privileged observers at a key moment in Japan's modern history.
Lewis & Linda Robinson
(Mr. Lewis Robinson is a director of the Manjiro Society for
International Exchange, Inc.)
During my visit last November for the Nagoya Summit, the cab
drivers treated me like a fragile piece of porcelain. Gone were
the petulant faces I remembered. My destination was confirmed in
a civilized voice, and this courtesy was followed by friendly
conversation. At the height of the "bubble economy," cab drivers
who worked their full 45-hour weeks (15 hours on alternate days)
grossed upwards of Y500,000 monthly. In the belief that
comradely drinking after work was a key element for successful
sales and work unit bonding, companies authorized almost unlimited
After midnight, cabs were the only way home. With such captive
demand, drivers preferred long distance fares. To be honored with
an open door, local passengers had to hold up fingers to signal
their willingness to double or triple the meter.
The "bubble" shattered in 1991, and stock market and real estate
prices dropped at least 50 percent. Japanese are feeling the
squeeze in every way. The recession brought severe limits for
company entertainment budgets. In the once crowded entertainment
district of Ginza, cabs stand empty, waiting for customers.
One of my drivers had a secure white collar job until only a year
ago. Shortly after the bust, he was told to choose either early
retirement or a position in a small subsidiary in Kyushu. He
chose retirement, mainly because his two children were happily in
school in Tokyo. Retirement came with a small annuity and a lump
sum equivalent to several months salary. Now he drives a cab and
grosses Y300,000 a month. Cab prices have gone up by 28%, but
driver income, paid as a percentage of daily gross, is down by
40%. (Of course, the exchange rate for the Yen has shot up since
the bubble, but Tokyo cab drivers have very little interest in
Even though his wife works for the first time as a part-timer,
this driver said he hardly makes ends meet. Employment
opportunities are scarce for middle-aged men like him, and the
numbers of cab drivers are increasing.
For my ride to the Waseda neighborhood from Tokyo station, my
downwardly mobile driver went by the back streets and used an
amazingly efficient route. It was my most pleasant cab ride in
twenty years -- but what an upheaval it took to provide my luxury!
Hatsue K. Armstrong
Our records show more than 1,500 people participated in the 3rd
Grassroots Summit Symposium in Nagoya on November 13th, 1993.
Participants from the United States who landed November 9th had
lots of activities during their stay other than the formal
Symposium: welcome parties, sightseeing, study tours, and home
stays. In spite of jet lag, they managed to take part in
everything the Summit had to offer and survive happily through to
the end in Kyoto.
Now, back in the office, for us, the American volunteer
coordinators, it is time to read the thank you notes and comments
participants sent. The responses are varied, interesting and
useful. We appreciated them all very much. First timers or
non-first timers in Japan, it sounds as if it was a memorable
gathering for all. We were exhausted, but it was an event we will
I was unfamiliar with your association and program, but responded
with interest when I saw it mentioned in Ann Pepper's column in
The Japan Times. So I went into this with an entirely open mind.
I attended the special panel called "Towards Cross-Cultural
Understanding -- Shinto." I felt it was a very worth-while
discussion from which I learned a lot. I was amazed to find a
professional and highly skilled translator present to facilitate
communication. The highlight of the afternoon for me was having
an opportunity to view the excellent videotape produced and
presented by Peter Grilli. I found it to be a most vivid and
moving portrayal, not only of Shinto, but of various aspects of
My only regret was that I was unable to participate in more than
one of the excursions. I now have a lifetime regret -- not having
joined the Ise Jingu tour and had the unique opportunity to tour
the interior of the still-standing but no longer sacred building
there. That was a once-in-a life-time opportunity, and I missed
Rebecca Ann Marck, Shinshu University, Nagano, Japan
November 13 last year was a beautiful, unseasonably warm day in
Nagoya. The huge Congress Center, with its several acres of
atrium space, was filled with more than a thousand Summit
participants. We were a hardy band of four American volunteers
from the McLean Office, working with dozens of volunteers (from
several regional committees) on the Japanese side. We really had
no "heavy lifting" to do. The Japanese volunteers' arrangements
We did bring along a Japanese-language newsletter about Virginia,
site of the next Summit. We thought it was pretty good, with
in-depth articles on Virginia history, episodes of the Civil War
(War between the States, if you prefer), the Commonwealth's
economy and trade relationships with Japan, and the hot springs
our 1994 Japanese visitors will soak in. While we would have
liked to give the newsletter away in reciprocation for all the
hospitality we were receiving, our expenses in putting it together
exceeded our humble budget, and so we decided to peddle our
publication on the Congress Center floor.
We sold our newsletter at Y200 a copy (about $1.90). There were
some complaints about our pricing, but we urged the unique value
of a Japanese-language publication printed in the US. It was a
lot of fun in the festival atmosphere to try our hands at plain,
old-fashioned hawking. Walle Hargreaves was the hands-down
champion. We declared a victory after selling about 200 copies.
One of the ingredients of the wonderful atmosphere was the
contribution of the Nagoya Folk Dance Society. The Society either
concentrates on American square dances, or has a large section of
the membership who do. Making full use of the central area of the
vast atrium, the Nagoya dancers, all togged out in American
western wear (a real export opportunity for bolo ties), pulled
everyone into the fun. One sight to behold was Minister Blackburn
of the US Embassy in Tokyo trying to dredge up his "do-si-do"
memories from what was obviously a long time ago.
Yoko A. Wiles has written about American culture in: Shirarezaru
Amerika Seikatsu (Tokyo: Nichijo Shuppansha, 1988) and Hibi no
Amerika (Tokyo: Asahi Shimbun Shuppankyoku, 1990).
The postal exchange panel was very professional and a true learning
experience. The similarities of our systems were apparent, and I
wish we had had more time to explore our differences.
To me this was the summit! It provided a once in a lifetime
opportunity to share on a very professional and personal level our
many likenesses. You learn very quickly that you do not need an
interpreter when it comes to the expressions of respect and love.
Donald T. Coats, U.S. Postal Service, Virginia Beach, VA
Fall, 1995, Kagoshima Prefecture, Japan
According to Japanese mythology, Kagoshima prefecture is the place
the first Japanese descended from heaven. With year-round nice
weather, clear skies, and hot springs to soak in, it is certainly
the perfect place to be. Kagoshima Prefecture is situated at the
southernmost tip of the island of Kyushu, one of the four main
islands of the Japanese archipelago. Kagoshima itself includes
lots of islands, and stretches for 600 kilometers (360 miles) of
land and sea from South to North. "It is beautiful and pleasing
country, and has an abundance of trees and scented flowers.",
wrote a Portuguese merchant and sea-captain, Jorge Alvares, who
visited Kagoshima in 1547. The first Europeans to set foot in
Japan were three Portuguese "adventurers" who in 1543 landed on
Tanegashima island in Kagoshima peddling firearms. This was the
first time Japanese saw the arquebus, a matchlock musket -- or,
indeed, any firearm at all. Apparently the Portuguese gave (or
sold) the locals two arquebuses. The Japanese promptly copied
them and went on to make improvements. Some 60,000 firearms were
used in the great battle of Sekigahara in 1660. At this time the
King of France had the largest army in Europe, but he only had ten
thousand firearms. Why and how the Japanese gave up their mastery
of the technology and returned to the sword is an instructive
story (told by Noel Perrin in the book listed below in the
St. Francis Xavier, the Jesuit priest, met Jorge Alvares in
Malacca. Xavier arrived in Kagoshima in 1547, and got full
permission from the feudal Lord of Satsuma to preach: the first
converts were 150 Kagoshima people. Even during Japan's long
isolation from the 17th to the mid-19th century, Kagoshima, the
domain of Satsuma, had been engaged in secret trade with foreign
countries through Okinawa. This made the people of Kagoshima
aware of western civilization.
The domain of Satsuma was ruled by Shimazu family, which dates back
to 1197 and is still one of Japan's great aristocratic families.
The present head of the family, the 31st generation, is Shimazu
Tadahide, and resides in Tokyo. The heir apparent lives in
Kagoshima. (The Emperor's sister is married to a Shimazu, who is
from a cadet branch). When Manjiro returned to Japan, The Lord of
Satsuma was Shimazu Nariakira, a bright and unique personality,
with a great yearning for western knowledge (Manjiro could not
have been luckier in his contacts with daimyo: the then Lord of
Tosa was also a lively and intelligent man).
Lord Shimazu was eager to meet Manjiro, and absorbed what Manjiro
said about the country called America. Within 45 days Manjiro,
with a help of a local craftsmen, presented Lord Nariakira a model
of an American whaling ship.
An unpleasant contact between Kagoshima and foreigners came in
1863, when a small British fleet bombarded Kagoshima in
retaliation for the "Namamugi (village) Incident." Four
Englishmen, not accustomed to traditional Japanese manners, were
assaulted and one of them was killed. Then at the height of its
empire, Britain levied swift (and disproportionate) punishment.
The Satsuma Domain was compelled to pay an indemnity of ¥25,000.
Soon after this experience, Kagoshma set up a Domain naval
training school, appointed Manjiro as an instructor, and sent 14
men to England to study, thus laying the foundations for the
Imperial Navy and a later alliance with the British. Kagoshima
people played a very important role in building modern Japan.
The prefectural seat is Kagoshima-City, population 536,000, facing
Kinko Bay. Only four miles away from the city in the middle of the
bay is a real, live representative of the "Ring of Fire," an active
volcano, Mt. Sakurajima. Its circumference is 31 miles, with a
great lava field. Its last major eruption was in 1914. This is
Kagoshma's beloved landmark.
Kagoshima's topography resembles Hawaii, and was used as a training
ground for the air attack on Pearl Harbor. Not knowing what was
going on, Kagoshima people complained about the noise. But the
fighter pilots themselves did not know the real purpose for their
training. Nearby is a sad place, Chiran, the base for young
Kamikaze pilots in the last stages of the war.
The biggest recent news from Kagoshima was last February's launch
of Japan's first world class rocket using purely Japanese
technology, the H-2, from the Tanegashima Space Center on
Tanegashima Island 69 miles off Kagoshima City. The launching
cost $181 million. Unfortunately, the market for commercial
launches using the H-2 appears slim and grim: ten long years of
development and a strong yen made its cost enormous. Moreover, an
agreement with the local fishermen limits launch site operations
to 45-day periods twice a year. Still, the Japanese are proud of
their own national rocket (which the London Economist called "a
turbo-charged boy-racer of a rocket"). For the fiscal year
beginning the first of April, 1994, the Japanese Diet has approved
a budget of over $2 billion for space related projects. (the
corresponding US budget is over $14 billion for USFY 1994).
In addition to launching rockets, the Tanegashima islanders mark
each September the anniversary of the 1885 shipwreck of the
Cashmere, an American freighter from Medford, Massachusetts. The
Cashmere's 15 crewmen were rescued by villagers. Pleased by this
news, President Cleveland sent gold medals to the rescue party,
and later Congress awarded them $5,000 -- a very large sum for
those days. The surprised islanders used this for the maintenance
of the local school and an educational trust fund. The centennial
in 1985 was observed with a visit from some present-day citizens
Down at the real grassroots, sweet potatoes, called "Satsuma"
potatoes, are the number one agricultural product. These are the
potatoes, grilled on charcoal carts, that are sold by street
vendors in Tokyo and the big cities ("Yakimoooo..."). Pigs and
chicken are also grown widely. The favorite alcoholic drink is
shochu. This potent drink is distilled like brandy -- mainly from
potatoes, though rice or sugarcane are sometimes also used. It
has been a big yuppie drink throughout Japan.
This fall, Kagoshima representatives are coming to the Virginia
Summit to show us a little bit of Kagoshima culture. Their long
history has taught them how to welcome foreigners and relate to
things foreign. You will only understand when you visit why the
first Japanese picked Kagoshima for their descent from heaven.
- Noel Perrin, Giving up the Gun: Japan's Reversion to the Sword,
1543-1879, (Boston: Godine, 1979)
- Endo Shusaku, Silence; [Tr. by Van C. Gessel] (Tokyo: Kodansha
- Sakaiya Taichi, What is Japan?
Contradictions and Transformations [Translated by Steven Karpa]
(Tokyo: Kodansha International, 1993)
- Nakasuga Tetsuro, Lawrence Oliphant, William Willis, Eikoku
koshikanin no ishinsenso kenbunki (Tokyo: Azakura Shobo, 1974)
"How the West Was Dumb" said the Washington Post headline on a
March 24, 1994 story by T. R. Reid out of Tokyo. The headline
itself was enough to attract attention. But when the story went
on to describe the research on American and Japanese media being
done by the Mansfield Center for Pacific Affairs of the University
of Montana, we enjoyed some of that feeling of shared pride when
a friend gets favorable newspaper coverage. The Mansfield Center
people were great hosts during the 1992 Summit, and Thea McKinney
of the Center also joined us during the 1993 Nagoya Summit.
The Washington Post article was a popularization of the Center's
work -- in 1993 on the press and in early March of this year a
Tokyo seminar on television coverage. It made all the easy
points: that there is a "yawning information gap" between the two
countries, with the "the Japanese people saturated with news about
the United States, (while) Americans -- at least those who depend
on TV for their news -- get almost none about Japan."
To somewhat modify the picture of the American side as total
ostriches, the Post did quote Professor Ellis Krauss of the
University of Pittsburgh, one of the American participants, as
noting that the earlier Mansfield Center study of press coverage
had shown that: "there is less of an information gap in the print
media, but still a formula problem. Japan tends to land back on
the business page."
The Japanese participants in the March Tokyo seminar seem to have
spent considerable time on the lack of basic information about
Japan by ordinary Americans. It is very easy to show that
Americans -- particularly young Americans -- have little factual
knowledge of Japan in comparison with the facts about America
possessed by Japanese. But this is like shooting fish in a
barrel: the entire "salaryman" population of Japan has been
heavily dependent on the American export market. Japanese
students are studying for fact-based examinations that establish
their entire personal futures.
The actual Mansfield Center studies are more nuanced and useful
than the Post article reports. In studying television coverage in
the two countries, the period September 1992 through May 1993 was
chosen. The evening news on five American and five Japanese
networks was surveyed, and each story was coded for content
analysis by ten Japanese and ten American graduate students who
were trained to estimate such factors as the category of coverage
(political, cultural, etc.), whether the visual images matched the
substantive story (they did -- on both sides), whether the story
was critical of the policies of either government, whether the
story was likely to contribute to a positive or negative image of
the other country, etc.. The entire process was done with the
guidance of a statistical expert (although the Japanese side
apparently did not perform some of the control checks
Dr. Stanley Budner summarized the results of the massive content
analysis as follows (Page 11 of Creating Images: American and
Japanese Television News Coverage of the Other (Missoula: The
Mansfield Center for Pacific Affairs, 1994):
Dr. Budner's summary leaves out some interesting underlying data:
Japanese departures from objectivity almost never include criticism
of the Japanese Government, whereas a very high proportion of the
greater number of American departures are in the direction of
criticizing their own government. Indeed, overwhelmingly,
Japanese officials are the sole sources cited for Japanese stories
- American and Japanese television differ from each other in
their general coverage of international news -- Japanese
television tending to concentrate upon coverage of the United
States and Asia, and American television tending to cover more
areas of the world. Further, while American coverage tends to
emphasize conflicts between nations, Japanese coverage tends to
focus upon scandal, crime and violence within other nations.
- American and Japanese television also differ in their coverage
of each other's country, not only in extent but also in the issues
emphasized. Further, they differ in their approach to balance and
objectivity, with American television more likely to depart from
absolute balance and objectivity than Japanese television but
Japanese television far more likely to show a negative bias when
it departs from either balance (or) objectivity. And these
characteristics appear to be characteristic of the print as well
as electronic media of the two countries.
- Lastly, they appear to differ markedly in terms of the elements
of their coverage which communicate positive or negative images of
the other country, these differences quite possibly reflecting
differences between the two societies.
Certainly the quantitative gap shown by the Center study -- 4,500
stories on Japanese TV about the U.S. and only 2,706 stories about
Japan on American TV -- is striking. But the study points out that
a high percentage of the Japanese reports were short, factual
pieces, whereas the American reports tended to be longer.
The fact that Japan came in behind Great Britain, Germany and
France in terms of total number of stories shows the perils for
the media scholar of relatively short period of analysis. Great
Britain is not normally a major subject of American TV coverage,
but this was the period the House of Windsor chose to come apart.
In France, this was a period of highly telegenic turmoil and the
election that threw the Socialists out of power. In Germany,
there was tragically visual anti-foreigner rioting and burning of
Turkish immigrant housing. The participants in the Mansfield
Center study give a number of good reasons why they believe that
there will always be a quantitative imbalance in mutual TV
reporting between the U.S. and Japan. It seems likely, however,
that over the long run Japan will at least be given quantitatively
greater coverage than Great Britain or France. Russia and China
would seem more likely as leaders in the battle for American
The period did cover the tragic shooting of young Japanese exchange
student Masaichi Hattori in Baton Rouge, Louisiana and his family's
heroic struggle against the American gun culture to secure justice
and meaning for their son's death. Setting aside scholarly
analysis, the American media unquestionably played an important
role in showing the American people the ghastly image America has
for those abroad who live in nonviolent societies such as Japan.
There is little doubt that the coverage had an important and even
historic role in breaking the political logjam on gun control
legislation. Horribly, we now have the March, 1994 Los Angeles
murders of two more young Japanese students. All Americans must
hope that their deaths will also be given some meaning by
further American efforts to reduce violence by handguns.
A thoughtful reader of the Post article and the Center study would
have to ask: how is it that the American people have allowed
Japanese trade surpluses to persist for so long if they are so
poorly informed? How is it that Japan and the Japanese come out
so well in American public opinion polls? Polls show that
Americans seem to have a clear-eyed sense that the Japanese are
their greatest economic competitors and think that they are
"unfair" traders. But Japan is at or near the top of the polls
with respect to "countries vital to U.S. interest," and polls of
Americans' "personal feeling" always give very positive readings.
Our same thoughtful reader would have to ask how it is that
American culture so dominates Japan, if one-third of the Japanese
media reports about the U.S. focus on "scandal, crime, and
violence" and are heavily critical. Japanese aficionados of all
forms of American high and low culture vote with massive purchases
of movie and performing arts tickets, translations of American
books, American records, and American travel and education.
On the American side, the answer seems to be mediation by American
media and political elites and favorable, personal, grassroots
experiences with Japanese and Japanese products. On the policy
issue of most concern to the Japanese -- liberal and open trade --
there is also the well-established view among economists that
Japanese mercantilism hurts Japan more than it does the U.S. As
a result of these balancing factors, "bashing" of the Japanese can
sometimes bring startling opposition. President Clinton and trade
ambassador Kantor's recent protectionist moves have drawn powerful
reactions from editors, from unexpected political quarters such as
Senator Bradley (D-New Jersey) and even, arguably, from the
American stock market.
For the Japanese, reality seems to be that their media reports
provide interesting raw material for their ongoing evaluation of
the U.S., but that they also compare media reports to their actual
experiences with Americans and American products and policies.
Japanese media interpretations often seem not to convince their
Japanese readers and viewers. Japanese consumers and voters make
their own decisions.
We have something new to worry about. American television is
changing rapidly. The network news component of American media is
being downgraded, as cable television and new technologies for the
delivery of news and commentary fragment the American attention
span. For example, it was possible to receive over C-SPAN during
last year's Japanese elections full coverage of the principal
party spokespersons' full length policy speeches as delivered on
street corners. The coverage was complete with English
simultaneous translation and intelligent commentary by
experienced, Japanese-speaking American analysts. Unfortunately,
a busy American simply does not have the hours to spend on this
kind of programming unless he or she is a Japan specialist.
In a Washington Post commentary of April 3, 1994, the American
anchor Ted Koppel of "Nightline" predicts that in the new era of
500-channel cable television, educated viewers will pursue their
own interests (as with the C-SPAN program above). National
network news, he predicts, will descend to "lowest common
denominator" reports on sex, scandal and violence."
Will fragmentation of the American audience mean the loss of the
reasonably balanced national coverage that has produced a favorable
American consensus about Japan? That coverage may not have taught
enough facts to satisfy Japanese analysts, but it has produced a
livable and satisfactory "bottom line" for all of us who wish the
relationship well. The Mansfield Center should keep its team
together and continue its mission -- so well begun -- of informing
us about this vital area of concern.
-- Rodney E. Armstrong conducted studies of postwar American media
coverage of Japan for a joint Keio University/Fletcher School
project in the mid 1970s.
On May 4, 1994, the Manjiro Society will join with the
Japan-America Society of Washington, D.C. in co-sponsoring a
luncheon meeting at the National Press Club in honor of the visit
of the Honorable Sadao Hirano, Member of the House of Councillors.
Mr. Hirano is from Manjiro's home town of Tosashimizu, has long
had an interest in his famous fellow "clansman," and had a great
deal to do with the formation of the Manjiro/Whitfield Center in
Tokyo. In relationship to more current concerns, Mr. Hirano is a
founder of the Japan Renewal Party, and a leader in the coalition
that took power from the Liberal Democrats in 1993. He will speak
on the current Japanese political situation, and answer questions
from the audience. Mr. Hirano is also speaking at the
Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and at the College of
William and Mary (an event hosted by Manjiro Society director
Ambassador Robert Fritts).
The Manjiro Society for International Exchange, Inc. is a
not-for-profit educational and cultural exchange organization
incorporated under the laws of the State of Virginia.
President: Mr. Rodney E. Armstrong
Executive Director: Mrs. Taeko F. Floyd
Mr. Rodney E. Armstrong
President, hibernation software, Inc
Mr. Izumi Asano
Japanese Practice Director
Arthur Andersen & Co, SC
Mrs. Taeko F. Floyd
The Hon. Robert E. Fritts
U.S. Ambassador (ret.)
Senior Fellow in Foreign Policy
The College of William & Mary
Mr. Junji Kitadai
Tokyo Broadcasting System International, Inc
New York, NY
Mr. George Knox
Vice President, Corporate Public Affairs
Philip Morris Companies, Inc.
New York, NY
Peter L. Malkin, Esquire
Wien, Malkin & Bettex
New York, NY
Mrs. Barbara Nesbitt
The Japan-Virginia Society
Mr. Lewis S. Robinson, III
Chairman, International Grizzly Fund, Inc.
West Yellowstone, MT
Norihiro Takeuchi, Esquire
Squire, Sanders & Dempsey
As of April 2, 1994.
Affiliations are listed for purposes of
Editor: Mrs. Hatsue K. Armstrong
(c) 1994 by Manjiro Society for International Exchange, Inc.
All rights reserved.