Altered States: The United States and Japan since the Occupation

By Michael Schaller | Go to book overview

PROLOGUE

Alexander Portnoy, the narcissistic narrator of Philip Roth 1969 novel, Portnoy's Complaint, reveled in telling the story of Miltie, stationed with American forces in Japan. "Mamma," Miltie tells his mother excitedly in a phone call from Yokohama, "I have good news. I found a wonderful Japanese girl and we were married today. As soon as I get my discharge, I want to bring her home, Mamma, for you to meet each other." "So," Mamma replies, "bring her home." "Wonderful," shouts Miltie, "But Mamma, in such a little apartment, where will Ming Toy and I sleep?" "Where?", says mother, "Why in the bed. Where else would you sleep with your bride?" "But then where will you sleep, if we sleep in the bed? Are you sure there's room? Miltie, darling, please," says the mother, "everything is fine, don't you worry, there will be all the room you want: as soon as I hang up, I'm killing myself." To a considerable degree, this exchange mirrored the ambivalence many Americans felt toward Japan since the Occupation.

Since the United States restored Japan's sovereignty in 1952, relations between the two nations have evolved in mostly unforeseen ways. For more than a decade after the signing of the San Francisco peace treaty, American policymakers worried that Japan's feeble economy required massive foreign assistance to prevent Tokyo from reaching an accommodation with China or the Soviet Union. The underlying concern, as John Foster Dulles, peace treaty negotiator and, later, secretary of state, often remarked, was that "unless Japan worked for us . . . it will work for the other side." Unfortunately, Dulles believed, Japanese products had "little future . . . in the United States" since they were just "cheap imitations of our own goods." Survival as a member of the free world required that

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