Courtesy Reuters

The View from Japan

After more than a quarter-century of formally close contact, the real relationship of the American and the Japanese peoples is like that of two men observing each other through the flawed glass and distorting mirrors of a fun-house. Their perspectives are strikingly, sometimes absurdly different Our dealings of the last 25 years-one war, a successful occupation, unnumbered seminars, government conferences, student exchanges and an $11 billion yearly trade relationship-seem not to have clarified the view.

This would be tolerable in the cases of many nations less closely involved with one another, or in times less troubled. But Japan is not only the principal U.S. trading partner and a pledged political ally; it is the one great world power-outside the West European complex-which shares with the United States common social aspirations, a strikingly similar urban- technological way of life and an intelligent devotion to the democratic principle. The failure, more plainly, of Americans to see Japan and its people as they really are is coming to affect us badly.

For Japanese-American relations are backing into a crisis, in large part because neither party can perceive the other's position. Trade confrontations have escalated into virtual economic warfare. And politically, on the heels of Okinawa revisionism and vexing questions about Japanese "rearmament," came the July announcement of President Nixon's invitation to Peking. The 180-degree turn in the American attitude toward China, made conspicuously without advice from Tokyo and without informing Tokyo in advance, has dramatized the distorted perspectives as nothing else could.

Where and how do they differ? The View from There, i.e. the United States as the average Japanese sees it, is at least a three-dimensional study. He sees a people whose achievements and energies spell competence. His regard for American technological skill and the essential modernity of things American verges on the superstitious. American politics, as copiously reported in the Japanese press, may seem an unpredictable blend of toughness and indecision, but even among the far Left there is a certain respect

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