ONE of the many things that impress the traveler in Japan is the avidity with which the Japanese go on journeys. Any day, winter or summer, large, regimented groups of school children go on tours; parties of old men and women from country villages visit the cities and shrines, with a guide trudging along in front carrying a flag; swarms of people crowd trains and steamers.

Politicians and businessmen go in for foreign travel, and Haneda, Tokyo’s international airport, is usually jammed with people seeing travelers off or waiting to greet them on their return. Foreign travel, particularly to the U.S.A., gives considerable “face.” so that executives, and particularly politicians, try to find an excuse for such a journey. When a politician is fortunate enough to be met and entertained in the U S. A. by persons of importance, he gains much more prestige. This usually produces many votes among his constituents, since he invariably will mail thousands of post cards from each foreign stop to his followers in the remote countryside and to his poorer voters. To his more important supporters he returns bearinggifts.

This is a firmly entrenched custom in Japan. If one goes on even a small journey within the country it is necessary to bring back O-miyage (a gift from the place visited) for one’s colleagues, office workers, and servants. Where foreign travel is involved, better O-miyage are imperative.

It is also understood that every important politician who goes to a foreign country should bring back a “souvenir.” This is not a physical item or a gift to any particular person; it is rather in the nature of a successful negotiation or coup, a particular gain or concession obtained, or a settlement that will enhance the prestige and power of the individual. If he does not return bearing both O-miyage and a souvenir, his trip will be criticized and his popularity decline.

As soon as Ishibashi became Prime Minister he announced that he was ready to go to the United States. On Ishibashi’s illness and the consequent succession of Kishi, the latter said that he also was ready to go to the United States and hinted that June would be a good time for him. The State Department agreed. Kishi promptly engaged an English-language tutor and, after a preliminary jaunt through Southeast Asia as a sort of training exercise, he set off for Washington.

The Japanese are conditioned to put more trust in a personal approach, a personal meeting, a mutual understanding, than in any written contact or legalistic and impersonal communication. Many students have recognized that in Japan harmony is more important than law and that a harmonious solution of differences on a personal basis is much to be preferred to impersonal diplomatic correspondence. Thus it was only natural that Kishi should wish to meet President Eisenhower and try to arrive at a mutual understanding. But, as everyone in Japan knew, the real purpose of Kishi’s visit was to return bearing a souvenir, since Hatoyama had gone to Moscow and returned with his souvenir — the U.S.S.R. Pact.


Kishi actually wanted more than one souvenir, and in large measure he succeeded, although on his return certain sections of the press showed doubt that he had obtained anything definite. The Foreign Office and the party spokesmen naturally expressed gratification with the results of the journey, and the official announcements held that Kishi had “completely accomplished his mission.” As was to be expected, the Socialists were bitterly disapproving of the whole trip, which they considered solely designed for the aggrandizement of Kishi’s party. They claimed that Kishi had not succeeded in satisfying the demands of the people and that his gifts were dross. But despite the critics, Kishi did obtain tangible results, although not the comprehensive souvenir he desired.


On his return, Kishi plunged into the turbulent waters of party politics, still disturbed by factional disputes. He reshuffled the cabinet and embarked upon a program designed to strengthen the party control in the Diet.

The composition of the new cabinet is of considerable interest. The new Foreign Minister is Aichiro Fujiyama, a leading industrialist and capitalist who had to resign his positions as officer or director of 184 companies on taking office. His job is to promote the “economic diplomacy” of the government and particularly economic expansion toward Southeast Asia.

Minister of Justice is Toshiki Karasawa, chief of the former “thought police” in the Home Ministry. The appointment of Karasawa brought immediate criticism from the Socialists and left-wingers, and from the teachers’ and students’ groups, as did the appointment of Matsunaga as Minister for Education.

Ikeda, the Finance Minister, was replaced by Ichimada, a former Finance Minister and former governor of the Bank of Japan. He is a person of great experience and undoubted integrity. His appointment was welcomed by most conservative businessmen who felt that a strong hand was needed in the ministry.

Economically, Japan seems, on the surface, to be enjoying prosperity. The 1956 boom carried over into 1957 in large measure as internal activity continued high. But the soft spots apparent earlier in the year, particularly in the international balance of trade, soon became obvious and dangerous. Beginning in March, Japan continually lost foreign exchange, and the deficit in the balance of payments increased every month to a point where its foreign exchange holdings have fallen to a precarious level.

Efforts of the government to restrict imports, and the tightening of credit by the Bank of Japan, began to take effect in June and July, but even so, an interim loan from the U.S. was needed to tide over the government until exports could catch up with imports. It is expected that the foreign account should be in balance by the end of the fiscal year. To achieve this is Ichimada’s first and most difficult problem.


Another factor, ironically a result of Kishi’s trip, also tends to aggravate this imbalance. Kishi succeeded in negotiating the withdrawal of certain units of U.S. ground forces. However, the departure of 30,000 troops by December, 1957. may well prove a negative victory, since it is conservatively estimated that Japan will lose at least $100 million per year in procurement for and spendings by these troops and their families, and this cannot easily be replaced.

The town of Uchinada earlier learned this lesson. It clamored for the removal of U.S. troops, but when they departed the townspeople soon realized that the prosperity the town had enjoyed was based solely on the purchases by the troops and their families. After a short experience of little business and less profit, the town petitioned the government to send the troops back to Uchinada.

If most U.S. military establishments pull out, some austerity might well be necessary, since it will be impossible to replace the $400 million the U.S. forces currently spend per year in Japan. The Japanese hope to make up these deficits by increased trade with Southeast Asia, Red China, and the U.S.S.R.


There are large sections of the people — particularly among the intelligentsia — who are frankly antiAmerican, and while only a small number admit to being Communists, a very large percentage are admitted Marxists. One authority reports that at least 60 per cent of the professors and scholars of economics and the humanities are Marxists, and there are almost as many in the scientific and other fields of study. These people are anti-American because, they say, America is capitalist and that per se is bad. They are inclined to swallow Red Chinese and Soviet propaganda rather than to believe the factual and often inept “information” of the Western democracies.

The teachers’ unions, which claim 500,000 members, are perhaps the groups most dangerous to democratic ideals, since much of their membership is Communist, extreme leftist, or Marxist. The teachers greatly affect the thinking of the 140,000 university graduates turned out each year, as well as the huge number of students in the technical schools, high schools, and lower schools.

These young people are fed on Marxism and Leninism, told that America is imperialist, American aid has strings attached, capitalism is doomed, and so on. Then they are turned out upon the highly competitive Japanese market where there are not enough jobs for them. These students, the proletariat of the educated, become easy prey for Communist agitators. The Students’ Union, the Zengakuren, is officered largely by Communists, and competent observers say that the Soviet places more hope in the Teachers’ and Students’ Unions than in the Japanese Communist Party itself.


The publication of the record of the U.S. Senate Subcommittee’s interrogation of Professor Tsuru and the subsequent suicide of the Canadian Ambassador to Egypt, Herbert Norman, provided ammunition for the anti-Americans.

As an aftermath of the Tsuru incident, the leading magazines carried articles condemning U.S. McCarthyism, American fascism, American “thought police,” and so on. But it is noteworthy that none of the writers criticized the U.S.S.R. at the time of Hungary’s struggle. Rather, they made excuses of “foreign reactionaries at work,” and took the general line that the U.S.S.R. was justified.

Other events, individually unimportant, have been found and fanatically aggravated into acrimonious issues. The vexed problem of the extension of the airstrip at Sunakawa Air Field, which resulted in violence and riot, and the case of the soldier Girard have played directly into the hands of the Communist agitators and have jeopardized the sober and sincere efforts of the diplomats, officials, and men of good wall on both sides.


The Communists, after recovering from the blow of the Hungarian uprisings, have embarked upon a cultural offensive. According to the Zen-ei, the party magazine, a cultural program for the “defense and development of Japanese culture” is to be developed. This is obviously an attempt to regain the support of those intellectuals who defected because of Soviet actions in Hungary.

The program condemns the “cultural influence of U.S. imperialism,” the “cultural networks of U.S. imperialism now under the control of the U.S. embassy,” the dispatch of Japanese professors and students to the U.S.A., Fulbright, Ford, and Rockefeller scholarships, and even 4-H clubs. Despite the rabid hatred and vilification of “U.S. culture,” the program thereafter sounds almost reasonable and will undoubtedly take in many of the muddleheaded.


Kishi, who actively fostered and supported certain of Japan’s prewar and wartime impulses, may have a partial answer to the problem. Some time ago he announced his desire to change the Constitution to make the Emperor “Head of the State,” rather than “Symbol of the State,” as it now reads.

This revision would appear to be laudable only so long as the Prime Minister is able to restrict the extreme nationalists and the jingoists who still exist and who could once again use the name and position of the Emperor as their excuse for almost any form of fascist extravagances. The long history of revolt, assassination, capture of the government, and conquest and regimentation of the people in the name of the Emperor should not be easily forgotten.

But certainly some focus for the national affections of the people and for the idealistic aspirations of youth is needed. The revision of the status of the Emperor may provide that focus.

When Kishi returned from the U.S.A., he stated that Japan had entered into a new era. He has asserted Japan’s sovereignty and gained some victories. But there is not complete harmony either abroad or at home. In Southeast Asia, the idea of the Asian Development Fund, a means of using American dollars to promote Japanese exports to these areas, has not been accepted wholeheartedly. To many Asiatics it smells a little of a second Greater East Asia Co-prosperity Sphere and hence is suspect. The dissension between Japan and the Republic of Korea has not been healed, nor are relations completely harmonious with Indonesia, Vietnam, or the Philippines.

At home Kishi faces continual party factionalism and, while he holds a good majority in the Diet, Socialist opposition is aggressively obstructionist. Labor is restless, youth rebellious, and the economy precarious. He promised to eliminate corruption, poverty, and violence. If he even partially succeeds, the New Era will indeed be new.