Morita Book May Hinder U.S. Japanese Relations

By Flanigan, James | THE JOURNAL RECORD, October 19, 1989 | Go to article overview

Morita Book May Hinder U.S. Japanese Relations


Flanigan, James, THE JOURNAL RECORD


Akio Morita, the renowned founder and chairman of Sony Corp., has made an error in judgment. He has co-authored a book, with a prominent Japanese politician, titled ``The Japan That Can Say `No.' '' The book advises Japan to say ``No'' to U.S. demands on trade and investment and also on defense.

``The time has come for Japan to tell the U.S. that we do not need American protection. Japan will protect itself with its own power and wisdom,'' writes the politician, Shintaro Ishihara, a ranking member of Japan's ruling party who finished third in the recent balloting for prime minister.

``Technology can be the basis for Japan's defense,'' continues Ishihara, crediting the thought to Minoru Genda, one of the commanders of Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor.

``If, for example, Japan sold (semiconductor) chips to the Soviet Union and stopped selling them to the U.S.,'' writes Ishihara, ``this would upset the entire military balance.''

That's not true, of course, but it's characteristic of this strange book. Ishihara frequently gets carried away with dislike for America - ``such a shifty country'' - and Americans, whom he accuses of racial prejudice in dropping the atomic bomb on Japan.

However, Ishihara is not the problem. Every country has jingoistic politicians, and Ishihara's writings would not have received notice outside Japan - especially as the book has not been formally translated - if Morita were not involved.

But the fact that Japan's best known businessman contributed every other chapter has given the book wide notice. A partial translation has been distributed to members of the U.S. Congress; copies circulate in U.S. business circles and in the Hollywood entertainment community, where Sony has become a prominent force through its purchase of CBS Records and pending acquisition of Columbia Pictures.

The question is, what does Morita have to do with Ishihara?

When asked, Sony's American subsidiary gave out its chairman's answers at an Oct. 2 press conference in Tokyo.

``I now regret my association with this project,'' said Morita, ``because it has caused so much confusion. I don't feel U.S. readers understand that my opinions are separate from Ishihara's. My `essays' express my opinions and his `essays' express his opinions.''

Morita's own chapters mostly criticize American industry for laxity in manufacturing and shortsightedness in investment - themes he has sounded in the past. However, in this book, Morita goes further, telling his Japanese readers, ``America has a great many defects of its own, to which we must continuously direct its attention. …

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