JPRI Occasional Paper No. 28 (December 2002)
Japan and the U.S.: Sidelining the Heterodox
by Ivan P. Hall

(The following is an excerpt from Ivan P. Hall’s recently published book, Bamboozled! How America Loses the Intellectual Game with Japan and Its Implications for Our Future in Asia, Armonk, N.Y.: M.E. Sharpe, 2002.)

The United States has repeatedly allowed itself to be misled intellectually and psychologically by Japan. As such, I am more concerned about the American mind than about the Japanese. I am concerned about the illusion, the collusion, and the self-delusion we have permitted to degrade and bedevil the intellectual relationship with our premier political partner in Asia and our greatest economic rival in the world:

1. The illusion of preferred images that Japan would like us to hold of it. Bamboozled!
2. The collusion of Americans and Japanese in sustaining Tokyo’s intellectual and psychological gamesmanship toward the United States. Co-bamboozled!
3. The self-delusion, anchoring the other two, that all too often takes command of the American mind when we turn our unsteady gaze toward Japan. Auto-bamboozled!

“But wait a minute!” today’s American reader may well interject. “What’s all this Japan bashing and paranoia about? Didn’t that go out of fashion after the 1980s? Isn’t Japan flat on its back, out of the running, desperate to remodel itself American-style?”

Alas, no. And hence, in part, my motivation for writing another book. Indeed, there has been something bizarre and deeply disturbing for a U.S. citizen living in Japan at the turn of the millennium in having to watch his fellow Americans get another country—a nation so important for our own future—so dreadfully wrong.

Yet it is not the particulars of our misreading of Japan (once again) that have been so unnerving. It is, rather, the sheer breathtaking scale of the national nonchalance and naïveté in which it has been taking place—that broader intellectual context of the U.S.-Japan relationship. If we can’t “get Japan right” despite our far greater ties and leverage with that country, what does that portend for our understanding of the other emerging non-Western great powers such as China, India, or Russia? This is especially problematical in a shrinking and suddenly dangerous new world where we will have to lean less on armed might than on diplomacy, intelligence, and psychological sophistication to bring and keep peoples and states that are culturally and politically very different from us on our side in a protracted war on international terrorism and in laying the foundations for a peaceful world order beyond that.

From 1999 to 2001 it was clear to anyone with their feet on the ground in Tokyo that Japan was swinging to the right, digging in its heelsagainst American economic prescriptions, and developing its own visions for post–Cold War Asia—that is to say, moving further and further away from, not toward, the United States in all but the narrow area of military cooperation. Yet all these trends remained counterintuitive to America’s financial, governmental, and media elites back home, who continued to view Japan from the stratosphere of our reigning economic triumphalism. Wall Street, the Washington Beltway, and our national punditocracy showed no letup in their orthodox doctrine that Japan is slowly but surely falling into line as a U.S.-style free trader and liberal democracy eager to play the American proconsul in Asia.

Americans who care about foreign affairs seem to have entered the twenty-first century thoroughly convinced that Japan is washed up and no longer worthy of our serious economic and political concern or attention. What a relief it would be if that were true—if Japan could indeed be safely relegated to its ancient niche in the American mind as a wisp of quaint exotica! Indeed, an alarming number of Americans have become too tired, squeamish, or otherwise reluctant to think of Japan as either powerful or problematical, let alone both. The first would be bad news, the second too much of a mental effort.

America’s misunderstanding of Japan can be partly blamed on what I call the binational “Mutual Understanding Industry.” These are the writers, pundits, think-tanks, diplomats, and others who are paid by Japan in various ways to disseminate Japan’s preferred self-image. When all argumentation and co-optation fail, the binational Mutual Understanding Industry moves into mura-hachibu mode—the traditional Japanese method of containing hard-core dissent not by intellectual counteroffensive but by expulsion from the discourse. Mura-hachibu—in premodern times, literally "banishment from the village" and a sentence tantamount to death—still serves as the most feared informal weapon of consensus control in any of Japan’s closely knit social groups today.

Admittedly, unlike the West, the ideologically syncretistic Japanese throughout their history have seldom inflicted inquisitions, purges, or martyrdoms on the unorthodox simply because of their deviant religious or philosophical beliefs per se. Buddhist sectarians in the medieval age, Christian converts in the seventeenth century, and Marxists in the early twentieth century were hounded or put to death for more pragmatic reasons—because of their perceived challenge to the established holders or systems of power.

During the Tokugawa era (1600–1867), too, contention among different schools of Confucian thought, or between the Confucianists and the exponents of Shinto studies or the later Western learning, could become nasty whenever they began to impinge on political interests or controversy. The typical strategy, however, was neither to best one’s intellectual opponents in argument nor to burn them at the stake. Rather, it was to drive them (either as individuals or as schools gathered around a master figure) into isolation and silence through conspiratorial power plays aimed at cutting them off from their sources of political patronage and public esteem. These intellectual coups were known as kuzure (crumblings, ruinations), a term applied as late as the 1930s and 1960s to the collapse of leftist intellectual groups.

What concerns me here is the transfer of these Japanese bully-boy tactics of ostracizing the heterodox to American soil. The exclusion of dissident voices from the public debate on matters of national importance to the United States goes against the entire grain of American political values. The Japanese may be excused on grounds of their own social habits, but the willingness of so many of their American supporters to play along is a deeply disturbing matter.

Intellectual skeptics about Japan in the United States have been sidelined by targeting their writings, their reputations, or their pocketbooks. Their literary product in some cases has been subjected to coordinated broadsides; in others it is systematically ignored. Quiet campaigns of personal defamation have been conducted against some of the heterodox; others have simply been dropped from the binational conference invitation lists. Where their unflattering analyses are still prospective, they have found themselves passed over for research grants or academic positions. In short, the Mutual Understanding Industry works to render them salonunfähig—that marvelous German word meaning “unfit for the front parlor.” The velvet glove moves softly and subtly for the most part, but it proves brutally effective in the end, since it cuts all ties to the human web so essential for American scholars, journalists, and businesspeople whose work requires dealing with the Japanese on either side of the Pacific.


First, as to the gagging of inconvenient writers: In my earlier study, Cartels of the Mind (New York: W.W. Norton, 1998), I described Tokyo’s failed attempts to cow the widely read journalist-authors James Fallows and Karel van Wolferen, who were writing at the peak of Japan’s economic performance in the late 1980s. A decade later—with Japan in recession and a “third opening” of the country supposedly just around the corner—similar efforts to silence or discredit critical writers, far from abating, were only picking up steam.

The classic example, of course, has been the all-out attack on Chinese-American author Iris Chang and her 1997 best-selling The Rape of Nanking: The Forgotten Holocaust of World War II (New York: Basic Books, 1997) by New Old Right revisionist historians and the entire Japanese diplomatic establishment in the United States. Chang’s greatest achievement with her book (and the reason for Tokyo’s frantic reaction to it) was that, in addition to outlining the horrors of the Nanking Massacre of 1937–38, it had rekindled American awareness of the reluctance of the Japanese to come to grips generally with their wartime behavior—and it did so just as they were calculating that, with the turn of the century, they could simply sweep the whole thing under the rug once and for all. Japanese investigative journalist Katsuichi Honda had penned a searing Japanese- language indictment with his Nankin e no Michi (The road to Nanking) in 1987, but it took an English-language bombshell from an Asian-American woman author to touch the U.S. psyche and provoke sufficient foreign attention—a bit of literary gaiatsu (outside pressure)—to get the Japanese to refocus their minds on this issue.

Honda still travels today disguised in a wig and dark glasses and keeps his whereabouts secret—much as did Salman Rushdie—for fear of a right-wing attempt on his life. When heterodoxy is intra-Japanese, the fist of lead or steel can dispense with the velvet glove. But in fact Iris Chang’s silencing in Japan has been all the more effective because it has cut her message off from the Japanese reading public altogether. The revisionist historians were not content to organize a peripatetic committee of right-wing scholars to condemn her book with repeated appearances at the Foreign Correspondents Club in Tokyo and throughout Japan. In the end they prevailed on Kashiwa Shobo, the Japanese publisher contracted by Ms. Chang to produce the translation, to insist on incorporating directly into her text “corrections” they wanted made, to delete photographs and alter maps, and to bring out their own rebuttal in a companion volume. That went against the contract, to say nothing of accepted publishing ethics, and led Chang to withdraw her book. As a result, the Japanese have been deprived of her timely reality check and given only the revisionists’ 288-page refutation to read, published by Yodensha in 1999 as “Za Reepu obu Nankin” no Kenkyu (A study of The Rape of Nanking) by Nobukatsu Fujioka and Shudo Higashinakano.

Even more disturbing was the way the Japanese government orchestrated its diplomats to get on the anti-Chang bandwagon. Ambassador Kunihiko Saito in Washington went public to criticize her book as “erroneous” and “one-sided,” while Consul General Gotaro Ogawa descended on the editorial office of the Honolulu Star-Bulletin the day before Chang’s lecture at the University of Hawaii on 24 November 1998 to protest their advance article on the event and deliver a pile of documents topped by historian Ikuhiko Hata’s study characterizing Chang’s book as a “preposterous fabrication.” (See Honolulu Star-Bulletin, November 25, 1998).

Seated before a scholarly looking bank of bookshelves for The News Hour with Jim Lehrer on December 1, 1998, Ambassador Saito averred that the Japanese felt remorse for the past actions of their military and that he had just that day leafed through a dozen school textbooks mentioning Nanking. Asked by Lehrer if she heard an apology there, Iris Chang, posed against the Golden Gate Bridge, shot back that it was precisely the inadequacy of those references and the lack of apology that continued to infuriate the Chinese today—as the segment faded off the screen with Saito overvoicing his continued remonstrations.

Normally in free societies knowledgeable peers rebut controversial books postpublication in review articles, not by diplomatic interventions or by rushing into print with a countervolume while denying readers access to the original work. Obsessed with the precise number of victims rather than the manner in which unarmed persons were wantonly slaughtered over a period of several weeks, the revisionists were missing the moral forest for the statistical trees in harping on their estimate of 40,000 as against the official Chinese figure accepted by Chang of 300,000 (or Honda’s admitted guess of 100,000 to 200,000). Having agreed to revise the handful of minor factual points actually proved wrong, Chang challenged her detractors to explain away the thousands of pages of diaries, intelligence reports, personal testimonials, and other primary-source materials on which she had built her case (“It’s History, Not a ‘Lie,’” Newsweek, July 20, 1998).

Yet in 1999, when an English translation of Katsuichi Honda’s study finally did emerge twelve years late from a U.S. publisher in response to Chang’s impassioned breakthrough, certain American tut-tutters from the Mutual Understanding Industry used their praise of Honda to put down Chang gratuitously on the old score of her alleged inaccuracies and polemical style. In fact, it would be hard to find a sharper polemic than Honda’s fine book. And it may be thanks to Iris Chang that Honda’s book found as many American readers as it did. (Katsuichi Honda, The Nanjing Massacre: A Japanese Journalist Confronts Japan’s National Shame, trans. Karen Sandness, ed. Frank Gibney. Armonk, N.Y.: M.E. Sharpe, 1999.) The main text is taken from Nankin e no Michi, with excerpts in the appendix from some of Honda’s more recent writings on the subject.

Less well known, but directed at a more influential and permanent source of anxiety for Japan’s spin masters, was the ongoing attack in the late 1990s on the New York Times’ reporting out of its Tokyo bureau—a humorless, nitpicking assault that simply did not understand the ethos of independent journalism or its breezy conventions with respect to human-interest stories and investigative reporting. There were a number of observers in Tokyo, myself included, who felt that political coverage by the Times was not best served by posting to Japan the prize-winning China-hand husband-and-wife team of Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, with their concentration on cultural and economic reporting. We were appalled, however, by the barrage launched against bureau chief Kristof and WuDunn when at New York’s behest they produced a series of stories running from 1995 to 1998 on some of the less well known, idiosyncratic, and richly human aspects of Japanese life.

The countercharge began with an ostensibly spontaneous group of offended young Japanese women writers in Manhattan who produced a bilingual book entitled Japan Made in U.S.A./Warawareru Nihonjin: Nyuyoku taimuzu ga egaku fukashigi na Nihon (The Japanese ridiculed: Mysterious Japan as depicted by the New York Times). Edited and published from New York in 1998 by Zipangu, the name adopted by the group, this volume reached a new high in Japanese victimization mongering. Leading off with “The Ten Worst NYT Stories on Japan,” the editors tore into Kristof and WuDunn for their takes on everything from Japanese animism to the marketing of Barbie dolls, Lolita complexes, groping of women on the subway, and wartime memories of the older generation. These were followed by a number of corrective cameo pieces from American Japanologists and journalists saying how much they loved Japan, leaving the reader with the impression that ignorance and prejudice make the Times’ Tokyo bureau totally unfit to cover that country. In neither the Japanese nor the English half of this book, however, were the Times’ original stories reproduced—only (as with Iris Chang) their refutations. And there was not a word from the editors about the long-standing parallel world of ethnocentric distortion in the Japanese press’ reporting on the United States.

Kristof, who left Japan in 1999, shrugged it off with good grace, but the attack was subsequently picked up and elevated to the national level by the Japanese magazine press and media pundits. Like the Chang book, the presumptuousness here lies in trying to micromanage foreign news coverage toward favorable images of Japan. Unfortunately, we have probably not heard the last of this, for it has been a great favorite of the Mutual Understanding Industry for decades now to fund intrusive conferences and studies promoting “balanced” reporting (in both directions)—thereby sustaining the fancy that good journalism should serve the purposes of sweetness and light.

The Japanese translation of my own Cartels of the Mind by Chikara Suzuki may well have been caught up in this broader backlash against Iris Chang and the New York Times. It was brought out by Mainichi Shuppansha in April 1998 under the title Chi no Sakoku: Gaikokujin o Haijo suru Nihon no Chishikijin Sangyo (Closed country of the mind: Japan’s foreigner-excluding intellectual industries). Selling in Japan for well under half the price of the English original, it was printed in an initial run of thirty thousand copies in hardback, sold very quickly with aggressive advertising up to the twenty thousand mark, then suddenly came to a halt. My editors told me that the great national newspapers—the largest of them with daily circulations of eight million to ten million—had decided not to review my book, a consensus that even Mainichi was not willing to break, but one that probably cost us the sale of a few more tens of thousands of copies. The pressure to blacklist came not from the government but from the media industry itself, since I had been too tough on their exclusive kisha kurabu (reporters’ club) system. Too tough, I was told, because I had mentioned too many names—not so much those of individuals or even of papers as, repeatedly, that of the Japan Newspaper Publishers and Editors Association (Nihon Shinbun Kyokai). To Japan’s media industry, it was as if I had taken the name of God himself in vain.

It was an instance of mokusatsu, of “killing by silence”—the literary version of mura hachibu. Indeed, a sympathetic Japanese free-lancer who interviewed me on my book for the limited-viewer English-study program of NHK-TV’s educational channel told me before we began that part of our twenty-minute segment might be edited out before the January 2000 telecast because it was the policy of the quasi-governmental NHK not to carry any criticism of Japanese organizations. And when my Japanese publishers in 1999 were offered the first scholarly book-length study ever of the kisha club system, they turned down this work by a young American professor from a major U.S. university press on the grounds (so they told me) that they would only translate books that were nihonjin-muki, that is to say, “oriented” toward the taste and interest of Japanese readers. The fix, quite obviously, is in. (The book was Laurie Freeman’s Closing the Shop: Information Cartels and Japan’s Mass Media (Princeton University Press, 2000.)

Attempts to insulate the Japanese public from unwanted outside views or protest crop up in other modes of communication, too. In a paper entitled “Silencing the Voices of Dissent in Japanese Newsweek” (presented to the annual Ph.D. Kenkyukai conference at the International House of Japan, Tokyo, on October 2, 2000), Professor Christopher Barnard of Teikyo University analyzed the consistent differences in authorial stances in articles lifted from the original English-language Newsweek for its Japanese-language edition. Barnard concluded that the silencing or muting of protest, inquiry, and criticism in the process of translation had produced “two different archives of public knowledge.”

Dr. David McNeill, an Irish research scholar at Tokyo University who also runs a Japanese-language radio program with his Japanese wife on FM Sagamihara, tells of a more direct encounter in the year 2000. In one of their regular on-air replies to faxed responses from listeners, Keiko McNeill, who had lived in China with her husband, deplored the attempt by certain Japanese to deny the truth of the Nanking Massacre and suggested they should go visit the site to see for themselves. Her recommendation was addressed specifically to Tokyo governor Shintaro Ishihara, the steadily growing right-wing groups, the yakuza (gangsters), and the hot-rodding bosozoku. A young right-wing trucker happened to be tuned in to the broadcast, and within thirty minutes three enraged representatives of a right-wing association presented themselves at the radio station. Two days later, bowing to his Japanese manager’s fear that the association would retaliate by harassing corporate sponsors, David McNeill settled the uproar with a “deep apology” for having insulted the right-wingers by mentioning them in the same breath as gangsters.

Subtler is the damper on critical views occasionally exercised by overzealous moderators of transpacific Internet discussion groups and other electronic or printed outlets for the public exchange of ideas on Japan-related issues. It hardly advances the dialogue when critical observers sense an unspoken imperative to draw in their rhetorical horns, genuflect toward all counterpositions before making their point, and strain to assume the pose of an all-knowing judiciousness normally reserved for the Almighty.

More disturbing still—and flying in the face of its longstanding reputation as the examplar in Japan of the West’s traditional freedom of the press—has been the recent blocking by the Foreign Correspondents Club of Japan (FCCJ) of appearances by two foreign authors whose path-breaking books until the mid-1990s would have been dished up for a literary luncheon or dinner not only with enthusiasm but as a matter of course. Recommended to the FCCJ in September 2000 by one of its distinguished former presidents—and then followed through repeatedly over a four-month period by the author herself (and finally by me) without receiving the courtesy of a single reply—was the serious, scholarly study of Japan’s controversial and foreigner-excluding kisha (reporters’) club system by Professor Laurie Anne Freeman of the political science department at the University of California/Santa Barbara.

Five years earlier the veteran Irish economic journalist Eamonn Fingleton ran into a firewall of dodges and excuses at the FCCJ to keep him from reaching an international press audience and overseas readership for his new book, Blindside: Why Japan Is Still on Track to Overtake the U.S. by the Year 2000 (Houghton Mifflin, 1995). The book controversially argued that the Japanese economic “slump” was a media hoax and that the Japanese establishment was exaggerating the country’s economic difficulties and understating its strengths in an effort to stay below Washington’s radar on trade. (Japan’s “unstoppable juggernaut” image in the 1980s had greatly fanned American anger about U.S.-Japan trade imbalances during that decade.)

Fingleton had just survived an attempt in 1994 by the then FCCJ leadership to have him demoted from the rank of regular member to the nonvoting “professional associate” category on the grounds that, as a full-time author, he was no longer a “journalist!” This, despite the fact that the Club’s articles of association explicitly recognized bona fide professional authors as journalists. Finding his requests to speak systematically stymied the length of 1995 by technical quibbles and dilatory tactics on the part of the Western journalist in charge of such Club events, Fingleton wondered what had become of the old celebratory spirit and customary privilege whereby FCCJ authors were given a press luncheon to publicize their new books. A year after the publication of Blindside, a new Club president finally overruled the self-appointed book-banner to give Fingleton his say, but by then it was too late to benefit the book’s launch promotion.

Both Freeman and Fingleton, with their respective analyses of the Japanese press and economy, were strung out for so long and so elaborately despite their formally submitted interest as to throw the burden of proof, I think, on the FCCJ gatekeepers to show that these exclusions were not deliberate—and that they were not more concerned (as some of the Irish writer’s friends surmised) about possibly offending the Club’s greatly expanded (and budget-underwriting) Japanese media and corporate membership than about helping explain Japan to itself and to the world at large.

Finally, and most sadly of all, I must mention those foreigners who for one reason or another have upon returning home abandoned book-length materials recording various forms of xenophobic treatment they encountered during their stays in Japan—insights forever lost now to our further understanding of that country. I recall here in particular three chroniclers. One was the voraciously note-taking American Ph.D—a grandmother in her late sixties supporting an ailing elderly husband—who returned to the U.S. in sheer exhaustion after losing a protracted court battle to fill out the promised term of her private university post. Another was the young mainland Chinese engineer who took off in disgust (with a hard-won severance package) leaving behind a 100-page account in English of the spiritual “darkness,” as he repeatedly put it, of the human relations and anti-foreign discrimination he had encountered in his Japanese company. And, finally, the Western business consultant who fled Japan under perceived threats to his own life as he set out to pen a book-length exposé of his globally feted, “internationalizing,” former Japanese corporate boss—as something very different indeed.

Staining Reputations

Second, on the poison of personal defamation: The stain here spreads osmotically through the webbing of the Mutual Understanding Industry and then out into the larger world of American intellectual and public affairs. At its least toxic have been the subjectivized imputations—experienced by many of the revisionist writers—of racism, personal grudges, or psychological maladjustment to life in Japan.

Steven C. Clemons—the Executive Vice President of the New America Foundation, a centrist think tank in Washington, D.C., and a former senior aide to Senator Jeff Bingaman (D-New Mexico)—told me in early 2002 how “sick and tired” he was of the “games being played by Japan’s gatekeepers” who were taking it upon themselves to determine which Americans were or were not “politically correct” enough to participate in bilateral Japan-U.S. study groups. Mentioning a number of Japanese gatekeepers like Tadashi Yamamoto of the Japan Center for International Exchange, Clemons was particularly incensed at the “Americans and Canadians” who were “badmouthing” him and others as unfit for the binational discourse.

On the eve of his January 2002 speechmaking trip to Tokyo, Clemons learned that a long-time Japan-hand journalist turned Asia Foundation (Japan) director had been labeling him as a “real Japan basher” who would have to be “balanced” by others if he were to take part in the Pacific Council on International Policy’s Japan Task Force, a project which Clemons and the New America Foundation had strongly supported. Having also helped the Asia Foundation—a “private” American organization almost wholly funded by the U.S. government—from losing its annual $5 million budget from Congress, Clemons wrote in high dudgeon to the Asia Foundation’s headquarters in San Francisco and received an apology in writing. It was a rare instance where the victim had sufficient personal courage and political clout to confront his detractors and force them to back down.

In my own case, I had written two articles in the summer 1992 and winter 1994–95 issues of The National Interest, the first analyzing Japan’s continued reluctance to open up its markets and society, the second emphasizing its ambivalent attitudes toward Asia. Eventually word got back to me that it was being politely whispered at Washington dinner parties and bruited about our own embassy in Tokyo that my views were not to be taken seriously because they had been motivated by my legal confrontation with a Japanese university over the renewal of my teaching contract in 1993. But I had been exposing the closed nature of Japan’s academic system in the Japanese and American press ever since 1986, so that was putting the cart before the horse.

Far more destructive and totally inexcusable has been the deliberate rumor-manufacturing directed in desperation at foreign critics who will not give in. These allegations of marital infidelity, sexual misconduct, or other grave transgressions without foundation have been a standard weapon of the mura-hachibu game among the Japanese themselves. Since they are libelous in nature, I will go no further with them here except to say that they are the devil’s doing. Their victims are damned by their silence if they refuse to respond, and they are damned by their protestation if they do rise to the bait and speak out in their own defense, thereby amplifying the gratuitous gossip and squandering their own time and mental energies—in short, falling smack into the trap that Tokyo has set for them.

Scholarly Funding

Third, as to the crimping of academic grants: As a stunning recent example of this, the Center for Global Partnership (CGP) in the 1999–2000 rules of competition for its Abe Fellowships for scholarly research ruled out any application “designed or intended to advocate a particular political position or issue area” (from the web site for the Social Science Research Council June 23, 1999). All too obviously intended to discourage studies of a critical or controversial nature, this is a recipe not for intellectual encounter but for mental disengagement. Indeed, this restriction was seen by some in Washington, D.C., as a panicked reaction by the CGP to an earlier Abe-funded study of the Japanese steel cartel by an intrepid American scholar that managed to slip out of the academic backwaters and find its way up onto Capitol Hill at the very time Congress was debating Japanese steel dumping in the United States. (Mark Tilton, Restrained Trade: Cartels in Japan’s Basic Materials Industries, Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1996). This was a devastating breach of the rhetorical ramparts for the Japanese, who with one voice had been denying the very existence of such a cartel.

In a self-imposed extension of this new “apolitical” constraint to scholars residing in Japan and East Asia, the Tokyo regional committee of the U.S.-based Association for Asian Studies (AAS) turned down a roundtable on human rights in Japanese legal proceedings that had been proposed for the Asian Studies Conference Japan held in June 2002 by Professor Michael H. Fox, an American sociologist and specialist in conflict resolution at Hyogo College in the Kobe area. Focusing on the twin issues of forced confessions (including two recent convictions for murder now on appeal) and of media bias toward the criminally accused, Fox’s presenters would have included Osamu Watanabe, a criminal law scholar par excellence; Kenichi Asano, author of over ten books mostly on the abuse of media power; and Charles McJilton, the head of a support group for a Filipina accused of murder in Tokyo. In rejecting Fox’s proposal the conference organizer, Professor Linda Grove, an American Sinologist at Tokyo’s Sophia (Jochi) University, wrote to him that “we believe that our conference is designed for academic study and debate, rather than for advocacy.”

Here—with an ivory-towered primness that would have drawn snorts of contempt in a U.S. or European university setting—was the supine surrender of American values both scholarly and political in the pursuit of truth in a free marketplace of ideas. In a subsequent conversation Grove explained to me that her committee had received twice as many proposals as there were time slots, and that Fox’s panel would be reconsidered at a future date if he came back with a more “balanced” membership, not only those intent on exposing the wrongs of the Japanese criminal justice system. (Be that as it may, as a longstanding dues-paying member of the AAS, I want my money back!)

Aborting unwanted research before it even gets going is, of course, the most effective means of suppression. I still recall from my years as the associate director of the Japan-U.S. Friendship Commission the American film ethnologist from Alaska who had won a U.S. government-funded grant from the commission and the National Endowment for the Arts with his proposal to study and film the so-called buraku community. These are the people, racially indistinguishable from other Japanese, who for centuries were the outcastes of society, although legally equal from the Meiji Period on. In the end our grantee was forced to shift his project to the Caucasoid Ainu communities on the northern island of Hokkaido when his original proposal was blocked by the Cultural Affairs Agency, his mandatory sponsor in Japan. This official guardian of Japan’s cultural chastity explained to me at the time (rather disingenuously and irrelevantly) that the target people were not an ethnic entity but a political social pressure group. More honestly, they admitted that they simply did not want to see such a film made. And—in a psychological inversion marking these victims as full participants in Japan’s shame culture—they themselves might well have resisted even a sympathetic foreign exposure of their uncompleted quest for integration with the mainstream population.

There is evidence, finally, that the Abe Fund’s taboos may be spilling over into American-sponsored academic fellowships as well. In 1999–2000 I met a talented young American anthropologist in Tokyo who was financing his own Japan-based doctoral research on the now virtually extinct protest movement against the expansion of Narita Airport. He had decided to go out on his own, no holds barred, after an American member of the Fulbright screening committee in New York told him informally that he had been rejected for this federally funded grant program because his project was “too controversial.” In the Fulbright program, that old bellwether of American cultural diplomacy, for goodness’ sake!

Whatever the precise forms of ostracism, they have all become possible thanks to the overwhelming Japan tilt in the practical resources—money, organizations, and people—that are available to the Mutual Understanding Industry in dominating the Japan-U.S. dialogue within the United States today.

IVAN P. HALL is the author of several scholarly books about Japan, including Mori Arinori (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1973) and Cartels of the Mind (New York: W. W. Norton, 1997). He is also a member of the board of advisers of JPRI.

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