Can we keep the Japanese on our side?

BRUCE HUTCHISON February 27 1960

Can we keep the Japanese on our side?

BRUCE HUTCHISON February 27 1960

Can we keep the Japanese on our side?


These are some of the facts Canada must grasp—and grasp soon. Fresh from the Far East, a famous Canadian reporter asks





AFTER WE HAD SAT at dinner in a Kyoto inn for three hours, cross-legged on the mat floor, Professor Toru Mori, Japan's leading art scholar, produced a brush, some black ink and a square of cardboard. Then, in half a minute and half a dozen sleek strokes he painted a catfish. Watching Professor Mori in that inn, hard by the palace of eighty emperors and two thousand shrines, 1 guessed that this man of gentle soul had painted a farewell to another age, a tiny masterpiece of nostalgia.

In his own life he had survived two revolutions. Now, rather anxiously, like all his older countrymen, he watched a third, the most profound of all, that already had tipped the whole power balance of the world in the West's favor but. going wrong, could tip it instantly the other way in major catastrophe for us and major victory for communism.

However it goes, the contemporary Japanese revolution must directly involve the future of Canada in more w'ays than we yet grasp. In fact, 1 doubt that any free foreign nation, except Britain and the United States, will affect us more deeply than Japan as the world’s gravity shifts westward from a stable Europe to a convulsive Asia where most human beings live. Whatever happens in our new and closer ties w'ith ninety-two million Japanese, we face some formidable and early decisions, impossible to escape.

I had set out to discover not the Japanese revolution— it was too big for a brief visitor—but its effects on my own country. That they would be immediate, permanent and large I already knew'. Did the few men who run the tight Japanese hierarchy suspect, on the other hand, how their affairs touched Canada’s? Did they have any real interest in us? Did they know anything about a people only fourteen hours away by propeller planes and soon to be only half that distance in a Pacific narrowed again by jets? Under the ferocious drive of the third revolution, which

almost obliterates the first of industry and the second of war, how did Canada figure, if it figured at all, in the long, ambitious plans of this indestructible race?

Behind the façade of politics, the endless procession of tourist wonders, the bronze smile of Buddhas innumerable, the relics of Gilbert, Sullivan and Madame Butterfly, the multitudinous human sea that drowns any stranger, I wanted to meet the Japanese mind. I caught up with it at the business capital of Osaka.

In this counting house and workshop about twice the size of Montreal, nearly all of it built in lofty concrete from the ruins of the war, a dozen tycoons invited me to dinner. It required several hours of steady eating, a good many eggcups of warm sake and the usual sing-songs of the geishas at their i nion wage of two dollars an hour (minimum) to break down my hosts’ reserve.

At last, as we took off our coats and toasted one another repeatedly on our knees, I realized that some of these men knew far more about Canada, and judged its future better than I did.

To them Canada offered a glittering opportunity, a strange parallel and a tantalizing paradox. For the two nations, they said, were utterly different in their contrast of natural wealth and poverty but similar in their problem of the spirit—in Japan’s case to build overnight a new society on the rubble of the old, in Canada’s case to build a new society on a raw land, and in both cases to build a society different from that of their joint protector and warm smothering friend, the United States.

Japan’s men of power regard Canada as one of their closest neighbors, an essential ally, a major market, an outlet for Japanese investment and some minor immigration, above all as a nation to be envied and perhaps overadmired by the entire world.

Precisely what benefits and problems does the newly revolutionized Japan offer to CONTINUED ON PAGE 56


Can we keep the Japanese on our side? continued from page 16

‘Tokyo’s daytime traffic makes Toronto look like a backwoods village’

Canada? I found the answers in some queer places, from the conservative prime minister’s palace to the dingy haunts of communists, from the assembly lines of glistening factories to dark rabbit warrens where men and women toil by hand.

One answer is simple. Without Japan's airfields, harbors and repair shops, the deterrent atomic power of the United States could, not exist for a day on its present line beside the coast of Asia but would be pushed back to the precarious prewar line based on Hawaii. In the judgment of the Americans who would have to attempt to hold it. it would probably soon prove insupportable, logistically, politically and financially.

Of the world's four major industrial complexes the West holds three, in America. Western Europe and Japan. Should Japan join the other side—as it can and finally will if we give it no reasonable alternative—the integration of its gigantic industry with the raw materials of China and Siberia would simply mean that the West had lost the economic struggle for the world.

Canada must learn before it is too late that it is a Pacific as well as an Atlantic nation. And across the Pacific Japan is our only strong ally.

How strong is it? Measured in economic terms it is strong almost beyond our imagining. Its recovery from war has no equal in human record, not even in West Germany.

Japan ended the war with its great cities ruined, forty-five perceyu of its industry destroyed, its economy paralyzed, its colonies all lost, its p^pE: on the edge of starvation, its civilization apparently smashed. Today it is not only the most prosperous nation that Ada has ever known but far more prosperous than it 2has ever been before. In th^e.-fourteen years, Japanese productio ■«*’

faster than that of any n-7 faster than America's or should double again in the T

But Japan’s su'p_n*rT* — DIlL iap~n 5 sllprI~'~ unique in Asia-is lation crisis. By org and scientific abortf~ it' birth rate in half sinc~ :~ng i to one of the lowest . oiId Thus, by one of the nie~ o human experience, Japan~ estab lish its East Asia Co-Pre pher~ in war hut, only `a few yea its de feat. has achieved all its iic oh jectives. and more, in peae~

An annual per capita inccffi^of $270 looks small compared with$1,500. By Asiatic standards it is ^Hy^ievable and worth at least twice itsMwchasing power in Canada. Anyone watches

the Japanese family buyingsEthe new household gadgets now strea/wng from the factories, or the hordes of ¡prosperous holidaymakers in every tourist resort can see that for these people, “.¡id no others in Asia, the more abundant life has arrived.

Observing Japa\. a Canadian is forced to admit that its economic and financial business has been better managed than ours, but how has this miracle been accomplished? What does it mean to Canada?

Tokyo gave me a partial and shattering reply.

Jn the world’s largest metropolis, or

within commuting distance of it, are as many people as in all Canada. Twice destroyed in our time — by earthquake in 1923 and by fire bombs in 1945 — Tokyo is actually an amalgam of a dozen cities and business centres, stitched together with miles of splendid streets and narrow alleys.

In its night-time glare Montreal would be unnoticed and its daytime traffic makes Toronto look like a backwoods village. Its pavements are a pedestrian’s nightmare. its huge department stores burst with customers, its theatres are larger and more lavish than any in the West, its night clubs nuder, its air noisier with piped music and the ceaseless shout of loudspeakers.

The men who walk its streets appear more active and. I would say, happier than the city men of Canada, the women on average prettier than ours and better dressed, the children more carefully scrubbed and much more obedient.

From Tokyo I drove to the pulsing seaport of Yokohama and the industrial cities of Nagoya, Osaka, Kobe and Kyoto. Always l moved through a jungle of shipyards, factories and black smoke-


Fast company Can be deceiving

In one respect----

It’s slow in leaving.


stacks joined in an unbroken main street of some five hundred miles. Always at the edge of the street the square rice paddies, swarming with umbrella-hatted peasants. Once I had driven through Germany's rebuilt Ruhr and here I saw its Asiatic counterpart. But this spectacle of industry and agriculture cheek by jowl did not explain Japan's secret.

Its explanation is to be found, first, in the business managers who. according to a diplomat of great experience, are the ablest of our time; second, in the perfection of the mass-production machinery installed since the war; third, in the skill of the Japanese worker's patient fingers and his insatiable appetite for work.

The obvious, competitive impact of these new forces on Canada struck me suddenly in a textile mill where unbleached cotton cloth, untouched by human hand, was racing through rollers and dyeing tanks at the rate of 150 yards a minute and emerging in cloth of beautiful design. As a traveling crane deposited a wooden packing case beside me I read its printed address: Medicine Hat.

Next day I stood in a glistening factory filled with light, fresh air and soft music while a square of plastic started down the assembly line, passed through the skilled hands of girls in gray smocks and reappeared as a complete television set. its photographic image clearer than ours in America. Half a million sets come annually from this single plant.

There is more to it. though, than management. machinery and skill. When the factory ended an eight-hour day the workers gathered in separate groups,

stood at stiff attention and sang their daily hymn of praise to their employer, Konosuke Matsushita, who, with his wife, founded his nation-wide empire in a back room forty years ago. making a few electric light sockets by hand. Now he makes every kind of gadget from bicycles to refrigerators and also has made himself the father-image of twenty thousand men and women on his payroll.

After saluting him. the factory workers went home to the company's modern houses, clubs and swimming pools. They seemed well satisfied with wages of about $55 a month, plus large fringe benefits, worth at least twice that amount in Canadian purchasing power.

This old hierarchical instinct in the new industries is only one side of an industrial system which can usually out-compete any on earth. The other side is a cottage industry of innumerable little workshops where crude lathes, primitive forges and millions of hands turn out components to be assembled in the big factories.

To gauge the competition of Japan in our domestic and foreign markets we Canadians should understand at once what we are up against. The Japanese revolution has not been accomplished, as we generally suppose and as the Japanese like to pretend, by a system of private enterprise like our own. Certainly there is private enterprise of the most ruthlessly competitive sort in the Japanese market, but it is broadly managed in foreign commerce by the state.

As one of the ablest experts of the civil service explained it to me, "Our wars on the mainland were really an attempt to export our industrial system, to make it a continental economy. Well, we failed and today we have no trade with China because it won’t trade with our anti-communist government. So we've reoriented our economy from Asia to the West, lock, stock and barrel. Instead of an island living mainly on mainland trade, an appendage to the continent, we've built a purely maritime nation— the Britain of the Pacific, if you like."

Since roughly a third of Japan's exports are sold in the United States, a third in Asia, outside China, and a third throughout the world, the economic commitment to the West is decisive. The loss of Western markets, or even their serious reduction, would devastate the opulent but brittle structure built since 1945.

These forces arc not within Canada's control but Canada can inlluence them substantially and certainly cannot escape them. Japan is building its long-run plans (how long, patient and shrewd they are!) on a massive trade with Canada, a market capable of indefinite growth as our population grows. Already Japan is selling us goods worth about a hundred million annually and selling more every year. Hence the cry that Japanese imports are throttling some Canadian industries.

But observe the opposite side of the coin. Canada is currently selling goods worth about $130 million annually to Japan, now our third largest foreign market, and one of the few markets where we earn a net surplus to counter-weigh our enormous deficit in the United States.

Many thousands of Canadians are living on the Japanese market, and if cheap Japanese imports disturb some

Canadian industries the consumer's savings can be spent on other Canadian goods. At a time when Canada is desperate for new overseas markets, to retrieve some of its eggs from the single American basket, Japan is our best bet— but only if we buy more of its goods as it buys more of ours.

Contrary to general belief here, Japan is not pressing its goods on the Canadian market nearly as hard as it could. It is actually withholding them by three clear policies.

In the first place, it has changed its prewar practice by refusing to sell abroad any goods of inferior quality.

Next, Japan restrains the volume of its exports to the amount that it estimates its customers can absorb without real damage to their native industries. Terrified of protectionist retaliation, Japan even enforces where necessary a littleknown "check price” and forbids exporters to sell below it, though many of them consider it ridiculously high.

"Japan," Prime Minister Nobusuke Kishi told me, "intends to exercise utmost care in her exports to Canada so as not to cause any damage to Canadian industry through a sudden Hooding of the Canadian market. I believe that any unwarranted import restrictions on Japanese goods will not serve the best interests of either^ Japan or Canada, since there is room for a much more expanded and mutually beneficial trade between our two countries."

Shortsighted Japanese trading methods, he added, would only injure Japan and it "intends to guard against such unfair competition."

Kishi's promise was quietly redeemed a year ago when Finance Minister Fleming flew to Tokyo and protested against a sudden flood of Japanese textiles into Canada.

Did the Japanese government reply, as it was entitled to do, that it had observed all the GATT tariff rules? No, it apologized because, for once, some smalltime textile mills had found an unnoticed loophole in the export regulations and used the Canadian market to make a fast buck.

Finally. Japan is reorienting its business not only in geographic but physical terms. Now a mature economy, it plans to make more of its complex, durable or semidurable products — big things like ships, machine tools and automobiles or small, difficult things like transistors— and proportionately less of its simple products like the cruder textiles, because it cannot long compete in this field with the new low-wage industries of nations like India. It must act as a big-time operator, concentrating on its specialties, and it hopes the mature Western economies will do the same while giving the newcomers a chance to export their more primitive goods.

To take an amateur's look at our largest single prospect in the Japanese market I spent an afternoon in a huge Yokohama flour mill and there I found our Canadian wheat penning through a tower of machinery. The mill manager pinched this stream with experienced fingers and assured me that it could be made only from Canadian wheat, "the best there is anywhere."

It is mainly the palate and stomach of the Japanese child that gives Canada its second largest wheat market, worth about sixty million dollars a year so far, and the built-in guarantee of still larger markets not long hence.

Ten million Japanese children receive a free lunch at school every day and every lunch includes a big chunk of bread, from Canadian flour. As this generation takes over the households of

Japan it will still eat bread and feed bread to its children.

We can and are selling many other things to Japan, including iron ore and scrap, copper, asbestos, aluminum, coal, pulp and whisky, but our new economic partnership does not have to end there. We can, if we wish, attract capital from Japan. Investment plans already under way pose an immediate problem of utmost delicacy in Canadian politics. Turned down in its offer to exploit a remote Yukon mine with Japanese labor, admitted for a fixed period of years, Japan now proposes as a pilot experiment to establish a certain mechanical industry in Canada. The manufacturers feel they must employ a few of their own Japanese executives and a handful of trained technicians, while employing large numbers of Canadian workers.

Will Canada admit even these essential experts? The Canadian government had not made up its mind at this writing. Apart from infrequent cases of compassion, Canadian immigration policy forbids any Japanese at all. This naked discrimination against an ally rankles with the Japanese.

After approaching Japan’s relations with Canada by the avenues of military power and peaceful commerce I tried to explore the darker region of politics, now in wild confusion.

The most alarming and least surprising thing about the new Japan is its failure to erect a sound political system on the foundation of its economic and social revolution — alarming because the revolution will never be safe until it is firmly governed, but not surprising because Japan had no real democratic experience until the United States conquered and liberated it. Long before its victory the United States had written a model and perhaps over-perfect constitution for the vanquished. The result was a constitutional monarchy based not on the American but the British system, headed by an emperor no longer a god, buttressed by a cabinet responsible to a legislature of two elective houses and protected by a Bill of Rights more comprehensive than the American original.

Since the war a naturally conservative people have repeatedly elected a rightwing government now calling itself the Liberal-Democratic Party and controlling the Diet by a two-to-one majority. In truth Japan has failed to erect any national party as we know it.

The Liberal-Democrats are a mixed lot, hardly even a coalition, of rival groups and personalities all outwardly hungry for power and inwardly a tame modern version of the old feudalism with its nobles and their faithful samurai. At least half a dozen political chieftains are followed by clans of supporters out of personal loyalty and little concern for policy. Over this instable combination presides the prime minister, the most skilful tightrope walker of the democratic world, the peerless master of survival.

Kishi controls the government not so much because he is prime minister but because he controls the inner hierarchy of the Liberal - Democratic party. His party’s socialist opposition has only one elected communist member but is deeply penetrated, on its left wing, by a cryptocommunism, a bitter anti-Americanism and an almost humorous naïveté.

Soji Okada, official spokesman of the Socialist Party, is regarded by the conservatives as a dangerous revolutionary but he looks even milder than Kishi. This red-faced, roly-poly, bubbling little man blandly outlined a social revolution of Marxian design achieved by constitution-

al methods, denounced Japan’s alliance with the United States and proposed an accommodation with the harmless Chinese government. The Japanese government he described as the corrupt tool of big business, certain to produce a disastrous depression, but he confessed that his ow'n party, newly split, w'as quite a distance from power.

After my talks with practicing politicians 1 took tea with Japan's greatest modern figure, Shigeru Yoshida. now in retirement. The gigantic character who had been trained as a diplomat and persecuted by the wartime dictatorship before he collaborated with MacArthur to establish a democratic state, met me in a garden of waterfalls, goldfish and dogs. He was wearing a black kimono, sandals, a bantering air and the inevitable Churchillian cigar, chewed to a damp stub. The square rather Anglo-Saxon face concealed under its genial grin an energy, and sometimes a fury, which organized postwar Japan and finally destroyed Yoshida's political career in a famous fit of temper.

“I am,” said the lively octogenarian, seating me beside a polar bear skin, the gift of his friend, Louis St. Laurent, “an optimist." He was happy to be out of politics but the democratic process w'as safely installed because the Japanese people had seen the old alternative of military rule.' Unlike the peoples of Europe, however, they had not seen the new alternative of communism, but they were learning. “Prosperity,” he added, “will kill communism.”

The great need of Japanese politics, Yoshida affirmed over his lavish tea table, was a responsible opposition and a working two-party system. The fact that such an opposition would be socialist didn't worry the old private enterpriser. Apparently if the opposition were responsible and coherent he would not be alarmed by its ultimate election. The irresponsibility and complete incoherence of the opposition disturbed every thoughtful man I met in Japan. A distinguished political scientist entertaining me to breakfast, said, "The great mistake you foreigners make is to think we can go on the way we are indefinitely, that we've plenty of time to learn the parliamentary system and educate an electorate that expects impossibilities overnight. But we haven't. Within a few years, almost any day, we'll stumble on a real crisis, a full test of our new institutions. We’re not ready for it. You can't just impose a

parliamentary system as if you were ordering a new hat. The Americans gave us the hat all right but not the head to fit it.”

How much time did Japan have to learn political democracy? That, he said, would depend primarily upon the nation's economy and it depended entirely on the world market. “If we have an economic crisis.” he warned, “there'll be a swing to extremes as before, but this time it'll be in the opposition direction — to the extreme left. There’s nowhere else for us to go.”

A very different sort of man, probably the nation's biggest industrialist—a daunting figure whose face was roughly carved of teak, his body shaped like a bronze Buddha — had grave doubts about the West. Japanese society, he said, had been liberated but corrupted by the wellmeaning Americans, all discipline had been destroyed, all manners perverted, all the finest traditions of the race undermined by an excess of freedom.

"No. not freedom," he exclaimed, “but license! The Americans were so anxious to give us freedom that they gave us laws that they wouldn't tolerate at home. Are communists allowed to lead big labor unions in the States? Well, they dominate some of our biggest unions here because the constitution forbids us to touch them. Why, the Americans made us abolish licensed prostitution and what do we have now? Venereal disease. Oh. they see their mistake in Washington now, but it's too late."

All these men convinced me only of an old platitude — the Japanese mind is forever incomprehensible to foreigners. Canada is dealing with a force as unknown as it is inescapable. Under all superficial change the Japanese character remains a curious mixture of hard realism and wild romanticism, of pride, humility, envy and ambition, but always behind these contradictions is a worship of Japan deeper, more passionate and mystical by far than our Canadian patriotism.

I remember the words of an ordinary, rather dull, businessman. Kneeling at my side he had offered a sake toast to Canada and then, suddenly, he had said: “Don't make any mistake about us, my friend. We have no inferiority complex. Right or wrong, we think we re the equal of any people anywhere. You Canadians can help us. we can help you, and for Cod's sake let's do it. But you can never stop us. or dominate us or humiliate us. We're Japanese!” ★