Between Friends

In this valuable book, three senior officials in Japan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs-all of whom have spent considerable time in the United States-provide an unusually candid and personal view of U.S.-Japan relations. The diplomats point out that both Japan and the U.S. are insular, inward-looking countries. The media in both countries emphasize the negative aspects of the relationship. There is insufficient cultural and educational exchange; not enough Japanese studies in the U.S. or American studies in Japan. Many Americans feel that Japan alone is benefiting from the relationship, while many Japanese feel that Japan is doing the U.S. a favor by allowing it to station its forces in Japan. Hiroshi Kitamura points out that Japan's prewar rulers underestimated America. Once again, he cautions, as a result of American economic decline and the preoccupation of the Japanese press with crime and decadence in the U.S., the Japanese may come to seriously underestimate America and to see its diversity as weakness. This could lead to future miscalculations. The diplomats provide some concrete suggestions for overcoming the communications gap, and they provide the crucial context for understanding the relationship, the context that is so often lacking in the media, the white paper and at the conference table. This volume deserves a careful reading by American politicians and opinion-makers. The original Japanese version has already generated much interest and public discussion in Japan.

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