Comment on Japanese Aversion to Open Debate
Takahiro MIYAO (Professor, GLOCOM)
This commentary originally appeared in the "Japan-U.S. Discussion Fourm" (http://lists.nbr.org/japanforum) on January 28, 2003: posted here with the author's permission.
In a recent series of discussions in the Japan-U.S. Discussion Forum (http://lists.nbr.org/japanforum), a number of western observers of Japanese behavior have argued that the Japanese seem unwilling to have public debate on important issues such as "Japan's place in the world."
In the latest posting on this issue in the Forum, Mr. Jean Pierre Lehmann wrote, "in all the debates currently going on around the world, in every forum I have been to, in every forum I have heard of, the Japanese are either physically conspicuous by their absence, or, in the words of Funabashi Yoichi (a very exceptionally and globally oriented fellow) ‘silent, smiling and sleeping'".
In response to these comments, I just would like to point out that there have recently been some serious attempts to encourage open debate in English (!) among the Japanese on important issues relating to Japan, such as "Japan's place in the world," in order to correct the misconception that the Japanese would not like to discuss key questions about themselves openly, but rather be "silent, smiling and sleeping."
For example, see the opinion and debate pages of the GLOCOM Platform: http://www.glocom.org/