The U.S. media has paid a good deal of attention recently to the burial of Emperor Hirohito—known posthumously as Emperor Showa, recorded as history’s longest-reigning Japanese sovereign. Star reporter Diane Buerger did her part (Feb. 27) by bringing to light some of the current issues surrounding the U.S.-Japan relationship. In quoting me, however, some misperceptions were conveyed which should be clarified. First, Japan, while not a threat, is a challenge. The vitality of the economic partnership cannot be taken for granted. Both countries are adjusting to new realities which demand global leadership from the Japanese. Second, Japan (not the U.S.) is the free world’s leading creditor nation, making us and other countries dependent upon her financial strength. Finally, to elaborate on the cost of living and living standards in both countries, what we consider staple or essential consumer products are often purchased as luxury items in Japan. Real estate, homes, and autos in Japan are so expensive that most consumers can’t afford them. The money they have, therefore, is devoted to conspicuous consumption of clothes, food, entertainment, and travel. This leads many to view every Japanese as wealthy, even though per capital income is only slightly higher than in the U.S.
Theodore F. Welch, Ph.D.
professor and director of libraries