Tirrell Payton Political Science 1330

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Tirrell Payton

Political Science 1330
Tom McInnis

Towards a Better Understanding

US-Japan Relations
Center For the Study of Foreign Affairs

The United States and Japan are very firm allies. On the security side, the United States and Japan are linked by a mutual security treaty. Despite all the attention in the press and negative attitudes toward Japan in Washington, particularly among government agencies that have to face the frustrations of Japans competitiveness, many American businessmen are doing very good business in Japan. The figures demonstrate this. Japan is Americas most important overseas trading partner, its most important agricultural consumer, and now a major investor in the United States( State, 4). Our interests require that we not just look at Japan but also at the economic vitality of all East Asia. Its economic growth and stability is based on free market principles and participation in the international market. The US government is trying to institutionalize and strengthen is dialogue with the Japanese government and to enhance the dialogue between the two private sectors. There are many institutions involved in the governmental side of the dialogue, and just about every aspect of the economic relationship is covered. A key problem today is the false thinking that the Japanese market is a closed one. Many Americans seem to feel that if the Japanese market is not like the US market, then it must be unfair. The Japanese have clearly perceived their national interest in trade terms and have organized themselves and disciplined themselves to do something about it.(State, 7) There are strengths and weaknesses in both the American and the Japanese social system

The Emperor of Japan descends from an Imperial House that has been more or less in direct succession for 1500 years. When the Portuguese, the Dutch, the Spanish and the British went out around the world creating colonies, Japan was hardly touched. We need to keep in mind also some simple facts. Japan is the most densely populated country in the world. It has the most educated population known to human history. The Japans are extremely orderly. Crime rates, for example, generally run about one tenth or ours and one half those in Europe.(State, 10) At the same time, when we Americans think of the Japanese as a cultural people, we are in danger of thinking they are cultural robots. The Japanese see Americans as very friendly and open, but we are impatient by their standards. We Americans tend to think out loud, and the Japanese believe in following the proper order of things. The Japanese do not operate under the assumption that truth lies in words, and the Japanese find us literal and legalistic. Finally, the Japans see us as a rather poorly educated, in some cases childlike or unsocialized.(State, 11) Many problems in the Us relationship with Japan have a cross cultural dimension. The cultural influences under which the two societies developed were about as distinct as any the world. It is not surprising, therefore, that Americans and Japanese apply rather strikingly different value systems as they attempt to cope with the world. The Japanese have maintained a very homogeneous society, ad for the most part a Japanese in his daily activities had little reason to think about the influences of the world beyond Japan. During the 19th and the earliest part of the 20th century, Western colonialism virtually extinguished independent countries from the scene in Asia and Africa. Japan was an exception. The United States has a very different view of its role in the world, thus, while Americans tend to look on their interests and innovations as part of a developing universal culture pattern; many other nations do not. Many Japanese view Americans as unconsciously ethnocentric, and given the differences between the 2 social and political, systems, there has been a tendency for Americans to overestimate the unity of Japans policymakers.(State, 15) The substantial difference in the history, background and structure of the English and Japanese language compounds the difficulties of understanding between the two nations. Americans also suffer in their dealings with Japanese because English has long been a major world language. Some linguists suggest that Japanese differs markedly from English in its logical structure. Both English and Japanese make wide use of terms borrowed from other languages, and Japanese has borrowed a great deal of its modern vocabulary from English. Often there are important concepts in English or Japanese that have almost no equivalent in the other language, and example is the Japanese concept of haragei, there is also the danger that, when Americans deal with Japanese who speak rather fluent English, they will not realize that in the mind of the person to whom they are speaking each English word has a meaning that is somewhat different than it would be to a person who spoke English as a first language. The danger runs both ways. The differing ways in which the Americans and Japanese conceive the role of the individual vis a vis the group strongly influence interactions. Closely related to its concern for consensus in decision making, Japanese culture stresses the value of harmony in all human activity Some of the misperceptions involved in US Japanese relations originate in differences between institutions in the two countries.(State, 20)

The distinctive management style in Japan is called the ringisho system, a term now well known to Western businessmen in Japan. There are 4 steps in the ringsho system. In the last two years, there have been several very articulate dissenters from the previously accepted view, namely that familialism and the ringsho system characterize Japanese style management. This book maintains that the doctrine of familialism was able to assert itself over other theories, even thought the other theories might have taken into account more of the facts. The collective decision making process, according to the state department, is as much a matter of perspective and emphasis as it is a reality. One theory is that Japans decision making style varies with and depends upon the nature of Japanese top management. In other words, different companies have different decision making styles, which is no great revelation to Americans or anyone else.(State, 29) As already noted, the difference in the decision making structure in Japan leads to a greater influence of group considerations, and individual personalities do not play as strong a role. The way that a society is structured in Japan is markedly different from that of the United States. Very often Americans conclude that the Japanese with whom they are dealing seem much more interested in the form rather than the substance of any relationship or action. Although there are enormous differences between Japanese and American culture and these do lead to certain rather predictable types of misunderstandings, the United States and Japan have grown to understand each other much better with the passing years.

Given the differences between the two cultures, it is easy to see that when Americans sit down to negotiate with Japanese, certain very specific types of problems are likely to arise. When the Americans state their position, the Japanese tendency is to listen quite carefully, to ask for additional details, and to say nothing at all committal.(State, 56) Japanese negotiators are often puzzled by the complexity of a negotiating team fielded by the United States. The responses of the American negotiating team are likely to seem very unpredictable, even erratic, to the Japanese.(State, 57) The Japanese negotiating team is more likely to operate as a group; their cultural attitudes stress the importance of orderly activity within groups. The style of personal contact and the way that relationships between individuals are expressed vary sharply between Japan and the United States. The Japanese consider an individuals personal space to be somewhat larger than what Americans view it. The degree to which family members are brought into contact with the work environment also differs sharply between the two cultures.

In considering the future of our relations, I would put at the head of any list of our differences the cultural factors. Japanese are hospitable to a fault, but they are usually very difficult to know in any depth. Cultural difficulties are not all on one side. I have noticed that members of Congress and other political candidates, when they are discussing us economic problems with Japan, tend to use adjectives and colorful prose that they would not use about the European countries. (this quote was given by a specific member of the foreign service when asked of how Americans view the japanese. State, 60)On the political side, there are many advantages for both the United States and Japan to maintain good relations. The things that we and the Japanese have going for us are probably in the end much more important than the things we have going against our good relations.

I believe most of what is said in this book because it was written by those who have experienced it first hand, it was written without bias, and this book was not written for profit. Being that this book was written by American businessmen and others that have worked in Japan, it shows both sides of the story, not just the side they want you to see, because there are difficulties on both sides.

I think this book was written without bias, in my opinion, because there was no reason for them to put any kind of Americanized spin in order to try to appeal to any kind of audience, because this book was more content based than entertainment based.

The third reason I believed what was written in this book is because it was not written for profit. I could tell by the drab color of the cover that this book was going to be the best thing that I have ever read in my life as far as factual books are concerned. That coupled with the fact that it was written by the United States government made me say, “I gots ta have it!!!”

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