Section 6. The International Community and Japan


1. Japan's Image in the International Community


More than four decades have passed since the end of World War II and today Japan, as an important member of the international community, and upholding the basic principles of freedom and democracy, has joined hands with other advanced nations in creating worldwide peace and prosperity. Japan and its citizens, however, are not always correctly understood. In some cases, Japan is perceived as not fully responding to the expectations and concerns of other countries.

Opinion polls conducted overseas by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on attitudes toward Japan show that Japan is generally looked upon as a reliable and friendly nation, based on the background of the polled country's specific economic interdependence with Japan and the contributions that they feel Japan has made to the peace and prosperity of the world. Particularly in such fields as economic cooperation, high expectations are placed on Japan.

On the other hand, due to these high expectations, there is a strong opinion that Japan is not adequately fulfilling its international responsibility commensurate with its economic power. Recently, an image of Japan as an unfair trading country with a closed market has been spreading, especially among the advanced countries. These countries complain that the trade imbalances with Japan are not being corrected soon enough, and they also feel threatened by the rapid progress Japan is making in the fields of science and technology. Further, some argue that Japan's social and cultural characteristics are responsible for current economic problems. According to such arguments, not only are differing sociocultural backgrounds are at fault but also the Japanese way of thinking is blamed. Some have pointed out that "Japan is a heterogeneous society with values and rules that vary from others."

Today, when an increasing number of Japanese companies are operating overseas, Japan's image depends largely on private activities, in addition to the efforts of the government, particularly the behavior of Japanese companies and people that are in direct contact with local communities. Japanese overseas operations, especially production bases, are welcomed by the host community, in that they create employment and promote technological transfers. On the other hand, friction with the local communities seems to be increasing because Japanese tend to keep to themselves in their own closed communities, and don't pay due consideration to such matters as the way of living and the commercial practices of the local communities. Thus, it is increasingly important for Japanese living abroad to make more effort to fit in with their neighbors in the host communities, especially as the size and influence of the Japanese presence overseas grows.


2. Influence of International Community on Japan


As Japan increases its involvement in the international community and develops its position as "a Japan open to the world," the flow of people and goods into Japan has increased in parallel with the outflow of people and goods from Japan, and this exchange certainly influences the lives of all Japanese. The number of foreign visitors to Japan has more than doubled in the past decade, from 835,370 in 1978 to 1,960,320 in 1988. Similarly, the number of Japanese going abroad has risen sharply, from 3,525,110 in 1978 to 8,426,867 in 1988. This has resulted in promoting internationalization of Japanese systems and practices as well as altering the way that Japanese think. Internationalization of Japan's whole community has been enhanced not only in major cities like Tokyo but also in other regions, as shown in the creation of sections dealing with international affairs in local governments, an increase in the number of sister-city affiliations with cities abroad, an increase in the frequency of international events held in local communities, and increased activities of non-governmental organizations. These moves are important for promoting Japan's internationalization at all levels, including the grass-roots level, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has been extending assistance and cooperation to these activities.

Admittedly, however, there are some areas in which the response to internationalization is not keeping pace. For example, the influx to Japan of people from Asia has given rise to a growing number of illegal workers. In 1988 alone, various problems broke out in connection with Sri Lankan trainees in March, with Filipino entertainment promoters in June, and with Chinese students in November. Some of these incidents have developed into bilateral diplomatic problems. Some of our Asian neighbors desire that Japan provide their citizens with employment opportunities. Some governments, in fact, are sounding out the possibility of having Japan allow foreign citizens access to the Japanese labor market.

Permitting the entry of foreign workers, however, is not a simple labor issue. As such a policy would deeply affect the fabric of Japanese society, this question is being actively debated in Japan, and a solution has yet to be found.


3. What Is Expected of Japan and Japanese - Changing the Ways of Thinking


As Japan's influence in the international community increases, chances are that the Japanese political and economic policy decision-making processes will be challenged overseas more than ever. Further, as an ever increasing number of Japanese companies and businessmen operate or work in foreign countries, the question arises as to how they will behave and on what basis of values. The social structure of Japan, as well as the customs and values of its people largely remains lodged in a time warp of the past when Japan had little influence and has not sufficiently changed to cope with current realities, so that unless this gap in outmoded behavior is bridged, friction with other countries will inevitably increase.

The task required for Japan is to forge a society more receptive and tolerant to the outside world while promptly responding to the rising tide of internationalization at home. Japanese enterprises operating abroad and individual businessmen working overseas should try harder to harmonize with their respective local communities as "good corporate citizens." For example, apart from contributing financially to local charitable causes, active participation in volunteer work in, say, the PTA, and other community endeavors should be pursued. The point is that Japanese abroad should individually work hand in hand with the local community. Further, Japanese corporations should also pay due attention to promoting able local employees to managerial positions and to encourage the advancement of minorities and eliminate any discriminatory practices toward women. Only through conscientious and earnest efforts will they be then able to earn the trust of their host communities.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has been conducting various activities in this direction. At home, the "Consultation Center for Internationalism" was set up inside the Ministry in February 1986, to provide counseling service on international exchange and promotion of internationalization to local governments and non-governmental organizations. Events such as "One-Day Foreign Ministry," "Mini Foreign Ministry," and "Consultation Caravan for Internationalism" in cities throughout the country. By providing assistance to symposiums for promoting internationalism hosted by international exchange organizations, the Foreign Ministry extends support to promoting internationalism in local communities. Through publications and various lectures, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs conducts a wide range of activities to raise public awareness of Japan's position in the international community. In addition, government-private sector joint conferences and international symposiums on public relations activities are held in Tokyo on a regular basis. They are intended to cultivate an awareness on the part of the head offices of Japanese companies operating overseas of the importance of such activities for the harmonization of relations within the host communities.

Outside of Japan, events such as the "Communication and Culture Conference" are held for the purpose of promoting harmony between Japanese companies and their host communities. Additionally in cooperation with Japanese companies and local organizations, promotions like "Japan Week" and other large-scale publicity and cultural activities are held abroad to familiarize the world with the culture of Japan. 

All the above activities are intended to help develop interpersonal relations and a spirit of trust between Japanese living overseas and the local population of the host communities.

In view of the increasing presence of Japanese overseas, efforts also are being exerted in securing their safety, and to improving methods to provide for their medical care, while also taking appropriate measures for the education of their children, as well as other necessary support systems, so that they can perform their jobs effectively and be good ambassadors of Japan.



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