Japanese Journalist Speaks
Says Emphasis on Confrontation Harms U.S. Strength
Japanese journalist Yukio Matsuyama criticized Japanese democracy as "feudalistic" in a dinner speech last night at the Faculty Club. But Matsuyama also said that American democracy's emphasis on confrontation has destroyed part of the U.S. government's strength as well.
Matsuyama, former editorial board chair of the influential Japanese newspaper Asahi Shimbun, gave a speech entitled "Democracy in Japan, Democracy in America" as the honored guest at the annual Harvard Program on U.S.-Japan Relations' Distinguished Visitor's Dinner.
Commenting on different styles of democracy in the two countries, Matsuyama called voters in Japan "as docile as sheep."
Japanese voters' obedience has resulted in the election to Japan's House of Representatives a high proportion of second generation politicians, Matsuyama said.
"If you want to be a politician or a powerful bureaucrat, become Japanese," Matsuyama said. "The Japanese are obedient and a cinch to deal with."
A growing trend in Japanese society, Matsuyama said, is the increased conservatism of the younger generations, sprouted from the strong economic situation and ignorance of World War II history.
"[Younger Japanese] suffer from historic amnesia. They are getting more and more arrogant," said Matsuyama. "It is a very dangerous situation because they are satisfied with the status quo."
The collusion of Japanese politics and society is dramatically different from the confrontational manner of American politicians, Matsuyama said.
Decrying today's argumentative television shows, Matsuyama said the old classic American movies showed the value of "self-restraint, the spirit of self-sacrifice which once moved us all greatly but is now disdained in the law schools and business schools."
Another essential difference between Japan and America, Matsuyama said, is that there is too much cooperation in Japanese politics and not enough between those in America.
Japan's society runs on a "powerful bureaucracy" that takes advantage of Japan's long history of ruling sovereigns, he said.
The Japanese equivalent of America's "old-boy network" and the growing corruption fueled by "Yenocracy" taint Japanese politics, Matsuyama said.
However, Matsuyama expressed hope that Japanese and American politics were slowly integrating and learning to adapt to each other's extreme forms of democracy.
While American politics must regain its lost "intellectuality", some of Japan's "peculiar aspects" in government can learn from U.S. policy, he said.
Matsuyama, who was described by faculty members last night as Japan's most prominent journalist, took jabs at the American mass media, which he said sometimes exercises its power improperly.
"The quality of the [American] statesman has gone down," Matsuyama said. "I'm afraid the mass media is partly to blame."
He criticized American press for taking partisan stances in supporting the presidential candidates and for feeding scandalous, irrelevant facts to the public.