Farewell to “Japan Missing”
Fretting about an economic giant unable to transmit information to the world

January 29, 2009 Kiyoshi Kurokawa

As we enter 2009, what kind of change will Japan undergo?

I would like to consider this question for a while, especially in terms of information transmission via the media.

The world has begun to regard us as an unresponsive nation

Looking back at the end of the high-growth era: the 1980s, Japan faced a storm of bashing. However, this “Japan bashing” turned into so-called “Japan passing” in the 1990s, then into “nothing” around the turn of the millennium.

In the last few years, a situation called “Japan Missing” has been taken for granted amid the international power balance.

Foreign governments and overseas enterprises have already learned that whenever they seek comments or make proposals from/to Japan, they will receive only perfunctory replies such as “Let me try to work it out”instead of Japan’s own opinions or any other substantial responses.

As a result, foreigners are thoroughly accustomed to that attitude and even regard Japan as a “missing nation,” rather than just “nothing.”

Even more serious is that most Japanese themselves are unaware of the above-mentioned situation.

I suppose we Japanese should know how we are perceived from overseas. On the other hand, in the midst of rapid economic change, the world is eager to know the contents of “unintelligible Japan.”

Therefore, we should “open” our country again and have a shared window with other nations.

Nobody can sell Japan to the world

Currently, domestic TV programs are almost completely monopolized by entertainers and food presenters.

Worse, these programs are broadcast in Japanese only. In an environment like this, the Japanese nation could learn nothing about the world, and other nations in turn could learn nothing meaningful about Japan.

This is the negative effect of an information imbalance. A similar situation is to be seen in the domestic usage of the Internet, where most fairly highly-educated people seem to be checking information through the sole language medium of Japanese.

Thus, nobody seems to dare to transmit the information about “Japan” to the world. We must find a way to rectify this situation.

I have always been advocating the importance and need for transmitting the latest information in both English and Japanese on the Internet and for sharing it worldwide, while discussing the possibility of such information transmission with a couple of universities and institutions of various countries.

Recently, a proposal was presented to me regarding the launch of a website: “English-Japanese Dual Information Site” from Japan Business Press. Upon learning that an information medium required by both Japan and the rest of the world now is just about to emerge, I was extremely pleased and ready to join it.

To grasp the world’s perception of Japan, let’s start by knowing ourselves!

On the front page of the January 3rd issue of The Yomiuri Shimbun, Prof. Paul Krugman of Princeton University, the winner of the 2009 Nobel Prize for Economics, clearly refers to Japan as “the top of the second rank of nations.”

I think it was a very courageous decision for the Yomiuri to publish such comment. In 2009 the year of “Change,” it seems to be essential for us to try to share an international perception by utilizing the two languages: English and Japanese, so that we can face the reality about how Japan appears to the world -? however bitter that “pill” may be.

Yuito YAMADA (editorial assistant)