[The 90’s raw: Japan – Woronoff, Igasaki]

Raw footage for the award-winning series The 90's. Interview with Jon Woronoff (1938-) about Japan, and some of the negative sides to economic, social and political issues that aren't usually talked about. Then an interview with Paul Igasaki, who mainly discusses the perspectives and concerns of Japanese Americans.

00:00Copy video clip URL The camera first examines the books that Jon Woronoff has written, and then looks at Woronoff sitting on a flowered couch. He talks about the Japanese market being closed, and the difficulties of trading with Japan. He says he is thought a “maverick” because he criticizes what other people think highly of: Japanese education, for instance. He discusses problems with universities, and a lack of graduate education. “Their system has emphasized too much primary and secondary education.” He talks about the tests at the end of high school, and the stress placed on this. He describes some of the misconceptions about Japanese jobs and “lifetime employment,” which is provided for only the “Japanese aristocracy.” Women and blue collar workers do not enjoy lifetime employment, and are in fact hurt by the minority of the population that does, Woronoff says. He explains that this was the reason for writing on of his books.

10:48Copy video clip URL Becker asks Woronoff a question inaudibly, and Woronoff talks about difficulties of studying Japan, and specifically those of journalists who travel there, and says that it takes a great deal of time to really get to the heart of Japan. He has been paid for interviews in Japan, and people in academia are paid for attending seminars. “The amount of money which is available for people who say the right things, and do the right things, is incredible… They buy public relations, they buy good will.”

18:49Copy video clip URL Woronoff gives examples of the messages pushed by the Japanese through this system, for instance that Japanese investing is good for America. Woronoff makes clear that he thinks the Japanese are not wrong, but says, “What I dislike is only showing one side of the picture.” Woronoff dispels misconceptions about his colleagues that criticize Japan, and recent allegations that they are racist (when in fact they are commonly married to someone Japanese). He also recounts stories about being denied book deals and jobs based on his opinions.

23:51Copy video clip URL Becker asks about a conspiracy theory concerning the Japanese unity over this issue, and Woronoff says there is no conspiracy, and that the only thing that all Japanese unite around is that Japan should look good to the rest of the world. “Every country has an establishment and a counter establishment… I try to show the views of not only the establishment but of other sectors,” including issues of the poor, women, and other people on the margin. Woronoff then explains his own living experience in Japan, and vividly describes their commuting system.

29:46Copy video clip URL The tape cuts, and Woronoff gives an introduction to his views. The audio is fuzzy here. He talks about arriving in Japan, and his beliefs about Japan being gradually dispelled. “Behind this absolutely beautiful image of Japan… there’s a second level, and this second level is not so attractive. In many ways it’s ugly… it’s mean.” He talks about the Japanese perception of this, and the Japanese words for appearances and illusions versus reality and truth.

34:20Copy video clip URL Becker asks a question, and Woronoff describes his experience with his Japanese friends, and his difficulties in eliciting truths from them. He talks about the issue of unemployment as an example of this. Woronoff does not want people to believe him an enemy to Japan. When he points out that there is more unemployment than commonly believed, he is trying to help more Japanese get jobs. He also talks about welfare. “You’ve got to show what is wrong, and you’ve got to encourage the Japanese to improve on it.”

39:29Copy video clip URL Woronoff talks about the future, and makes predictions about the ’90s. “The trouble with Japan is that the money they receive isn’t worth all that much,” because the cost of living in Japan is huge. This is due to a lack of the competition between companies in Japan. “The worst lack is housing… for the average person it is a rabbit hutch.” The great distance of commuting and long hours are harming families in Japan, as the father is separate from the mother and the children. “The worst problem of course, is welfare… the ’90s will be very harsh on the older people.”

46:11Copy video clip URL Woronoff says the Japanese are aware of this, as evidenced by their high savings rates. Becker asks what drives them, and Woronoff says there is great pressure because of lifetime employment. They do a second take of this. “Your fate depends entirely on the company.” Therefore, the employment of the worker is dependent on the success of the company. Woronoff explains at length the internal hierarchy of Japanese companies. Becker asks about the Japanese system being applied in the US, and Woronoff says that Japanese management, as it exists, would not work. “It’s a different culture, different laws.” Instead, they are trying to impose a sort of idealized Japanese system in the US.

53:42Copy video clip URL The tape cuts, and Woronoff talks about solutions to the problems of Japan. “If the Japanese would stop trying so hard, and relax a little bit, they could have an absolutely wonderful 21st century.”

56:07Copy video clip URL Cuts to Paul Igasaki sitting at a desk in the Japanese American Citizens League, as Becker explains what he wants Igasaki to speak about. Igasaki begins on the subject of Japanese-Americans, “Japan-bashing,” and their conflicting feelings as exemplified as the sentiments during WWII. A phone rings and the interview is interrupted.

59:26Copy video clip URL Back to the interview, Igasaki talks about antagonism toward the Japanese becoming racial during WWII, and the subsequent placement of Japanese in concentration camps. He says their organization is not advocating any particular positions on the issues of Japan, “our concern is that the rhetoric has become very racial.” Someone comes in to have something signed.

01:04:22Copy video clip URL Becker asks if Japan can be compared to Germany being haunted by WWII, and Igasaki says that Japanese Americans have suffered more because they are able to be picked out on the street. Igasaki mentioned images in the media that are racist and similar to images used during the war. He shows Becker one image, a political cartoon. (Shot of the cartoon at 01:08:05) He also shows an advertisement in a newspaper that uses typically Japanese pictures of samurai to push for a certain view of the Japanese (Becker zooms in at 01:09:30). Igasaki gets another phone call.

01:11:45Copy video clip URL Back to the interview, and Becker asks about the extent of these images in the media, and Igasaki cites more negative imagery that emphasizes the racial difference and brings out fears of the Japanese as a “sinister race.” He talks about militaristic versus economic competition, and says that Japan only participates in the latter. He goes on to discuss how Japanese-Americans do not speak Japanese typically, and are not very tied to Japanese culture.

01:17:10Copy video clip URL Becker asks about the economic issue, and Igasaki says that organization does not have a position on the issue, and goes on to talk about the role of the US and competition. He sees nothing wrong with being part of a competitiveness, and Japanese Americans adding to the American competitive edge. He says that the Japanese are easily targeted as foreign investors, compared to Europeans. “It’s not that any one country is inherently our enemy,” he says, and says he disapproves of the rhetoric, especially epithets.

01:22:55Copy video clip URL Igasaki talks about his own job, explaining that he is a JACL lobbyist for the rights of citizens. “We’re here to advance a positive legislative agenda.” He then mentions how he liked WTTW and Image Union.

01:25:03Copy video clip URL End of tape.



You can be the first one to leave a comment.

Leave a Comment