JPRI Critique Vol. IV No. 9: October 1997
The Chrysanthemum Club Seizes the American Embassy, Tokyo
by Chalmers Johnson

Sad Lives: A Tale of Two Princesses
by Sheila K. Johnson



The Chrysanthemum Club Seizes the American Embassy, Tokyo
by Chalmers Johnson

In September, en route to East Asia and his first visit ever to China, Treasury Secretary Robert E. Rubin said to the press that the U.S. was seeking "a better understanding of what's happening economically in Japan" (New York Times, September 19, 1997). It is hard to evaluate such remarks. Rubin has been an active participant since 1995 in the campaign to artificially lower the value of the yen thereby promoting Japanese exports. Rubin's purpose has been to keep the Japanese as suppliers of capital for the United States and to avoid the drastic increase in interest rates that would be unavoidable if the Americans had to finance their debt from their own savings. The result is a likely $65 billion U.S. trade deficit with Japan this year, a 20 percent rise over 1996.

"As an antique it might have some value, but it's hard to say whether it's of any practical use."

The signs on the movable throne say "American ambassador to Japan" and "Former Speaker of the House Foley." The sign above Prime Minister Hashimoto and Foreign Minister Ikeda says "appraisers." Asahi Shimbun, September 1, 1997, p. 2., reprinted with permission

For Japan, the chief political problem in this context is to forestall the United States from retaliating against it. One Japanese gambit has been to sign the new Japan-U.S. Defense Guidelines, even in the face of Chinese opposition, thereby subtly bringing on board the American Department of Defense as part of the Japan Lobby. The DOD is so pleased that it can keep its 42 military bases in Okinawa and its $6 billion in Japanese subsidies that it will argue forcefully within the Clinton Administration for what is called the "broader relationship," i.e., Japan's support for American military hegemony in East Asia. It seems never to have crossed the mind of an American political leader that the $6 billion Japan pays as the omoiyari yosan (sympathy budget) to keep the American military happy is chicken feed compared to the billion-dollars-a-week-and-up that American citizens pay to keep Japan and its satellites happy.

The defense agreement was just a start, however. Japan's master stroke has been to staff the top four positions in the American Embassy Tokyo with well-known members of the Chrysanthemum Club of Japan apologists. Clearly hoping no one would notice what it was doing, the Clinton Administration chose the Labor Day Weekend from the President's vacation spot in Martha's Vineyard to announce that it had chosen Thomas S. Foley as the new ambassador to Tokyo. The Japanese have long identified Foley, together with former Senator Bill Bradley, as their leading defenders in the U.S. Congress. Foley has made thirty-plus visits to Japan since being elected to the House of Representatives in 1964 and was famous as Speaker of the House for labelling anyone who questioned the Japanese-American relationship in any way as a "Japan basher." In April 1996, his Japanese friends arranged that he be given an Imperial award that had only been given before to former Secretary of State George Schultz and former ambassadors Douglas MacArthur II and Mike Mansfield. All living former Japanese prime ministers except one attended the award ceremony.

Despite some Japanese press comments that "Foley commands the respect and affection of Japanese political and industrial leaders like no other U.S. politician, save former ambassador Mike Mansfield" (Nikkei Weekly, September 8, 1997), Foley is likely to encounter some problems in Japan. The American Chamber of Commerce openly questions his ability to represent American interests, and the Japanese have a perfectly understandable tendency to take for granted people they have been cultivating for so many years. On September 1, the Asahi published a cartoon of Foley as a friendly old antique but of dubious current value.

It is the staff officers under Foley, however, that have Japan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs swooning over their "dream team." The new deputy chief of mission and de facto boss of the embassy is Christopher J. LaFleur. In 1986, as a then 38-year-old foreign service officer, he represented the U.S. Embassy in the negotiations over the FS-X fighter plane. His wife is also the daughter of former prime minister Kiichi Miyazawa, who was Finance minister during the FS-X negotiations and MITI minister when Japan first targeted aviation as a key industry. Ambassador Michael B. Smith, deputy U.S. Trade Representative at the time the U.S. transferred the technology for the FS-X to Japan, commented on that period, "Sometimes it seemed that Japan had two embassies working for them-ours and theirs" (Jeff Shear, The Keys to the Kingdom, 1994, p. 82).

In addition to LaFleur, Washington is sending Jim Foster as political minister and has already sent Kent Calder to replace Ed Lincoln as the ambassador's economic adviser. Both have unblemished records as apologists for Japan. Calder has also recently contributed to the American-inspired war scare in East Asia by writing that "Even the ice cream profits from the Baskin-Robbins 31 Flavors Beijing branch reportedly flow into the People's Liberation Army budget" (Asia's Deadly Triangle, 1997, p. 3). Such acute observations will doubtless guarantee him a position at the Pentagon even if the State Department should tire of him.

With the Foley team and the new Defense Guidelines in place, Japan should find it much easier to finance its way back to economic health through the American market. Given the retrenchment in Southeast Asian economies because of currency instability and the persistent weakness of domestic demand in Japan, Hiroshi Mitsuzuka, Japan's Finance Minister, told Rubin "There's no place else that still has strong demand for Japanese goods except the United States." It is possible that over the next few years the U.S.'s trade deficits with East Asia (including $50 billion plus to China) will balloon to the $250-to-$300 billion range. But Thomas Foley will no doubt explain to us why this is good for the U.S. economy.



Sad Lives: A Tale of Two Princesses
by Sheila K. Johnson

Now that the initial shock and grief over Princess Diana's death have somewhat dissipated, it may be appropriate to ask what lessons various royal households are drawing from this tragedy and its aftermath.

The House of Windsor seems to have been shocked by the public outpouring of love for Princess Diana-a display that was also intended (at least in England) as a pointed criticism of 'the Royals' and their chilly, upperclass ways. Most commentators have concluded that the British monarchy must do more to endear itself to the public or it will become truly irrelevant, even as a symbol of state.

In Japan, Emperor Hirohito was forced to change his image by the Occupation after the devastating defeat of his country. Forced to renounce his claim to divinity, he was urged to undertake trips around the countryside where ordinary people could see him. Postwar publicity depicted him as the elderly, benign marine biologist of Sagami Bay. These efforts to reshape his image were so successful that questions concerning his role as a decision-maker during World War II were largely buried.

Efforts to modernize the current emperor's image were even more successful. He was taught English during the Occupation by a Quaker lady; met his future wife, a 'commoner' (although, like Diana, not too common), on the tennis courts of Karuizawa; and has travelled widely with his wife both before and since becoming Emperor.

But the Japanese Imperial family remains much more distant from the vagaries of modern life than the Windsors, at least outwardly. Abdication and divorce seem unthinkable for them. A photographer, Toshiaki Nakayama, was banned from ever photographing the imperial household again for having taken and published one of the few charming, candid photos ever seen of the Japanese royals. (The picture shows the new bride of Prince Akishino brushing a lock of hair out of his eyes just before the formal portrait is to be taken. For a personal account of this affair, see Nakayama Toshiaki, Kikohi no migite: 'okaminaoshi' shashin jiken (Princess Kiko's Right Hand: The 'Hair-fixing' Photograph Incident) (Tokyo: Joho Senta Shuppan-kyoku, 1992). The book has the photo on the cover, but the dust-jacket is a plain wrapper, as if the book were pornographic.)

Rumors abounded about Crown Princess Michiko before Hirohito died that she was coldly treated by her father-in-law, and that she had a nervous breakdown and an abortion partly to spite him. Now that she is Empress, she has evidently vowed that her daughter-in-law Masako will be protected from similar harassment.

But the Imperial Household Agency (Kunaicho)-the bureaucracy that guards and guides the Japanese royals-has its own view of what protecting the royals entails. It is safe to predict that Diana's tragedy-ranging from her divorce from Charles to her very public profile afterward, ending with her highly publicized death-will only reconfirm the Kunaicho in its most retrograde impulses.

Already Princess Masako, once a lively, intelligent young woman has been cowed into silence and is seldom seen. The blame for failing to conceive an heir, no matter whose fault it actually turns out to be, will surely be placed on her. And what if the problem actually lies with the future emperor of Japan? Kitty Kelly, in her new book about the Windsors, contends that Queen Mary (the current 'Queen Mum') conceived both Elizabeth and Margaret through artificial insemination. Should this prove necessary in Masako's case, one may be sure that writers suggesting this will be permanently banned from Japan or driven into silence by rightwing fanatics.

And if nothing works, what then? In the old days, a concubine would have been called in to provide a male heir to the Chrysanthemum throne. Perhaps this will still be attempted. Since Masako is so seldom seen in public, who is ultimately to say whether she is truly pregnant or not? But whatever her current and future status as a wife, mother, and empress, one cannot envy her shadowy existence. Hemmed in by protocol, her possibly long but stultifying life may be much sadder than the brief one of the much-mourned Diana.

SHEILA K. JOHNSON is an anthropologist interested in popular culture and the editor for JPRI.


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