America-Japan Society a force behind bilateral friendship

The Yomiuri Shimbun

America-Japan Society Inc. President Ichiro Fujisaki speaks during an interview with The Yomiuri Shimbun.

By Yuki Iwashima / Yomiuri Shimbun Staff Writer Japan and the United States should stay in close contact with one another as the international situation has become very tense, said America-Japan Society Inc. (AJS) (see below) President Ichiro Fujisaki.

Promoting exchanges between Japan and the United States at the private level, AJS marked its100th anniversary on April 13.

Fujisaki, 69, a former ambassador to the United States, told The Yomiuri Shimbun what roles the society plays and how it should deal with the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump.

The organization has supported relations between Japan and the United States through its diligent efforts, even when ties were strained, Fujisaki said.

For example, trade friction in the 1980s between the two countries heightened tension in the relationship, sparking a “Japan bashing” movement in the United States, dramatized by events at which those who were out of work smashed Japanese cars with hammers.

Concerned for the bilateral relationship, AJS held the Great Space Shuttle exhibition in 1983 as part of efforts to ease tensions between the two countries, Fujisaki said. AJS brought a mock-up of a space shuttle from the United States to Japan and placed it on display in an exhibition held in Tokyo and Osaka, he said.

As the exhibition attracted many people, AJS played an important role in promoting mutual understanding, he said.

Many people in the two countries have favorable impressions of each other, according to opinion polls conducted by the Cabinet Office and others.

Fujisaki said he hopes to keep fostering friendly relations and building a relationship of trust for another 100 years at the grass-roots level.

To deepen understanding among younger people in both countries, AJS plans to hold new events such as a monthly English discussion event in Tokyo for Japanese and American young people, and a quiz game in which Japanese high school students answer questions related to the United States, according to Fujisaki.

In April, chemical weapons are suspected to have been used in Syria, which triggered an attack by the United States on areas used by Syrian President Bashar Assad’s administration. The United States has also sent the USS Carl Vinson nuclear-powered aircraft carrier to waters near the Korean Peninsula.

As such international situations have raised concern, Fujisaki said Japan and the United States need to have close contact with each other given that U.S. military actions could impact Japan. Fujisaki said he hopes Japan and the United States will further deepen their alliance.

In the first meeting of Japan-U.S. economic dialogues, Japan should do its best to realize its national interests while giving consideration to the U.S. stance, according to Fujisaki.

For instance, given that European cars have enjoyed steady popularity in Japan, the Japanese government should call for the United States to work harder at developing products that meet the demands of Japanese consumers, he said.

Japan, for its part, should continue its relationship with the United States by being good friends with the country, yet without giving in to its convictions on policy matters regarding free and multilateral trade, he said.

■ America-Japan Society Inc.

AJS was founded by key Japanese and U.S. figures living in Tokyo on April 13, 1917. Kentaro Kaneko — who had asked the United States to support Japan during the Russo-Japanese War (1904-05) — took the helm as the first president of AJS. After World War II, three former prime ministers, Shigeru Yoshida, Nobusuke Kishi and Takeo Fukuda, have assumed the presidency of the group. Former Ambassador Ichiro Fujisaki is the group’s ninth president.Speech

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