Sunday, March 8, Tokyo: The fourteen-hour flight from New York (with a refueling stopover at Fairbanks, Alaska) is one of the longest flights one can make to a conference on pollution (or rather on Kogai, public nuisances, as some of my Japanese friends refer to it).
Yesterday when I was waiting for the limousine to take me from the New York Hilton to Kennedy Airport, it was also Sunday, March 8. The room in the Tokyo Prince Hotel in which I now find myself is hardly distinguishable from the room I left yesterday; if anything it is the Hilton of 1975. In contrast to the RCA television set in the New York hotel, the National set in the Tokyo room works perfectly. The soap and the deodorants advertised on the morning programs are virtually the same—however, the jerky actors of the animated cartoons have faces of Oriental cast. The panel on the side of the night table, full of buttons controlling lights and other appliances, makes me feel like the pilot of a 707.
The view from the forty-fourth-floor window in Manhattan, with the vertical, slender glass towers of skyscrapers all around, makes one feel as though one were in a forest of tall Oregon pines. Tokyo, as seen from the eleventh floor, is still horizontal, with a single tall office building rising above blocks and blocks of rooftops; to the right, a large enclosed garden with a temple in the middle, another to the left, and as varied a building landscape as one would have seen in the New York of 1925.
Tuesday, March 10: Of my fellow conference members (some fifty of them) half are Japanese, the rest from Russia, France, Canada, and Czechoslovakia, Germany, India, Switzerland, and many other countries. Five are from the United States. According to the program, we were to be taken this morning on a tour of Tokyo’s pollution spots. The climax of the excursion was to be the colossal metropolitan garbage dump.
Our first stop was the Television Tower, an old landmark of modern Tokyo. An imitation of the Eiffel Tower, it is said to be somewhat higher than the original in Paris. The view from the top was ideal for a pollution survey. The sun overhead looked the way it was when I saw it two days before during the partial eclipse in New York. Clear visibility below extended to about two miles. Beyond that small circle, all colors became varying shades of gray and all outlines less and less distinct, finally merging in a haze. How universal is the symbolism of architectural shapes! Without consulting the map, one could identify the squat, solid rectangle of ministries, the slightly higher glass boxes of office buildings, the green walled patches of affluent private residences, and at a distance, among large luxuriant trees, a light gray roof: that of the royal palace.
An automatic marker in the lower lobby of the tower was ominously crawling its way up a paper strip, indicating the increase of poisonous sulphur monoxide in the air as the traffic built up toward the climax of the noonday rush.
An excursion bus was waiting at the exit. Each of us was handed a diagram of the bus interior, each seat inscribed with the name of the person assigned to it. Our guides, speaking from the front through a microphone, were, successively, the head of the department of health, the director of the port of Tokyo, and the chief engineer of the sanitation department. To see the port we changed from the bus to a motor launch that slipped for an hour in and out through all the crannies of the gigantic port, between ships, towering cranes, dredges, barges, warehouses, elevators, etc., accompanied all the while by the appropriate statistics.
We passed a big freighter unloading at the sugar pier, and I asked where it came from. Cuba, I was told, a confirmation of the answer to a question I had asked ten months ago in Havana.
Fifteen years ago, the Bay of Tokyo supported a fishing fleet and contained several profitable oyster beds. First the oysters disappeared, then the fish, the fishing fleet, and finally even the sea gulls. Prosperity has destroyed all natural life in the bay.
Through the estuary of a river (whose Japanese name translated into English means Clear Waters) we approached the pier of the municipal sanitation department and docked. Our bus was waiting to take us through the strange, forbidding world never seen by tourists and hardly ever seen by the citizens of Tokyo: the metropolitan dump. Tokyo now generates ten thousand tons of garbage per day (in 1960 there were five thousand). About one half of it comes to the dump, which ten years from now will have no space left to expand in; the other half is incinerated, that is, released into the air.
Mile after mile we drove through mountains of refuse, plateaus and valleys of refuse, traversed by caravans of garbage trucks and provisioned by fleets of garbage barges. The only living things in the dump were swarms of crows, replaced for the night shift, we were told, by hordes of rats. The color of this fantastic landscape changes from one stretch to the next, like that of a natural desert. Red, green, blue, and yellow plastic material, deposited in winding layers and fantastic strips, reminded me of a gigantic Jackson Pollock. In other stretches there were acres of tin cans and miles of discarded building materials.
At one point, we came upon a weird muddy lake with a garbage bottom and garbage shores. At one edge, tilted on its side, was a small fishing schooner, the kind one sees at the fishing piers in Gloucester. This boat, however, was dead, its windows broken, gray paint peeling, planks missing in its decks.
Some fifteen years ago, while fishing in the south Pacific, the crew of this schooner saw a great flash of light over the horizon. They took it for an unusual thunderstorm and continued to fish. Four days later, all hands on board fell ill. Blisters broke out all over their skins. They hastened to port. The disease was diagnosed as exposure to H-bomb radiation. First the captain died and then the crew. The boat was floated to the dump and there it is, a monument to the armament race, a rotting hull on the edge of a muddy lake amid a fantastic silent world of garbage:
That evening, at a reception in a Tokyo garden restaurant, an aid from The Nihon Keizai Shimbun, “Japan Economic Journal” (the Wall Street Journal of Japan), tapped me discreetly on the shoulder. We slipped out and our chauffeur-driven car crawled inch by inch through traffic-choked streets to a squat, massive building—the corporate headquarters, housing both editorial offices and printing plant.
In a paneled room, the editors were waiting. Professor Usawa, a prominent Japanese economist (who recently had resigned his professorship at the University of Chicago to accept one at the University of Tokyo), was to interview Professor Breton, a city planner from the London School of Economics, and me about environmental disruption, economic growth, and the state of the American economy. The subject of the discussion was mainly the United States. I expressed the opinion that Mr. Nixon’s anti-pollution crusade presents a skillful and unfortunately successful attempt to divert public attention from more fundamental, albeit more conventional, social and economic issues in our country. In present American politics pollution is a middle-and upper-class issue. The man who has no station wagon to drive his family for a weekend to the seashore can hardly get excited about the pollution of beaches. And for a family living in a ghetto the quest for more food and better housing has greater urgency than the campaign for purer air.
Wednesday, March 11: This morning it was my turn to present a paper, or rather to give a brief summary of it. Its aim was to show how both the production and elimination of different pollutants or—more generally—of all “disservices” and undesirable “products” can and should be described and analyzed—in quantitative terms—as integral component parts of the economic system. The so-called input-output methodology already used by economists and business analysts in free-enterprise economies and by central planners in socialist countries can thus serve as an effective tool for describing and explaining the disruptive effects of modern economic growth as well as for designing effective action toward their mitigation and eventual elimination.
Professor Shigeto Tsuru, the chairman of our conference, and I were invited for lunch by a group of leading industrialists and bankers who ostensibly wanted to consult me on the organization of economic research, but actually wanted to hear what I could say about the attitude of the American economic and political establishment toward the rising economic power of Japan. It could have been a private luncheon room on Wall Street: white tablecloth, clear, light bouillon, small rolls, filet mignon, and a delicately seasoned green salad. The twelve gentlemen around the table, some lively, some impassive, were perfectly confident of their ability to master their own world, but uncertain of the intent of their American counterparts. Last summer I read Commodore Perry’s diaries. A hundred and twenty years ago a similar uncertainty must have been in the minds of the Commodore’s Japanese hosts who met with him only fifteen miles away.
These patrons of industry have really little to fear. They are running a tight ship manned by an excellent crew and advancing at an incredibly high speed: the gross national product of Japan rises by some 13 percent a year and the standard of living by about 11 percent, which keeps the large majority of wage earners happy and leaves handsome profits to be reinvested.
Already the third industrial power in the world, Japan is rapidly gaining on the Soviet Union and eventually will be catching up with us. Spectacular success makes a wise man nervous. My hosts around the luncheon table obviously would have liked to make the rising profile of their country look somewhat lower. (When Mr. Nixon speaks of a “low profile” I cannot help thinking that the ship having the lowest profile in an attacking fleet—the submarine—is the most dangerous.) The Japanese are concerned lest their conspicuous success lead to increased demand for economic help from underdeveloped countries and pressure by the US Government for greater contribution to the military defense of the “free world.”
Up to now the governmental statisticians vied with one another in computing the highest possible figures of per capita national income for their countries. With the egalitarian yardstick now being increasing applied, not only in domestic politics but internationally as well, the same statisticians will soon be vying with one another to revise their figures downward as a rich man tries to reduce his taxable income by subtracting storm damage to his house. The United States, the Soviet Union, and Japan will claim legitimate write-downs on their gross national product for polluted beaches in Santa Barbara, contaminated waters of Lake Baikal, and noxious air in Tokyo.
Back at the symposium, as the presentation and discussion of one paper followed another, the contrast between two different points of view became clearer and clearer.
The medical men, the sanitary engineers, and most of the economists spoke of sulphur monoxide released into the air, of oil sludge and chemical wastes discharged into the water, of asthma and respiratory diseases, and of various methods of eliminating or at least mitigating the effects of these and of other specific undesirable by-products of modern technology and economic growth. The political scientists, sociologists, and city planners spoke of human destiny and of the dark forces threatening man’s high cultural attainments with destruction. To discover and to thwart the ultimate causes of evil, some of them suggested that we explore the deeper meaning of such words as pollution and environmental destruction. Their speeches tended to be long and full of moral passion.
Thursday, March 12: At this morning’s session, the social scientists continued to denounce pollution. It was a great relief to have the more and more elaborately orchestrated variations of the same theme interrupted by Japanese and American legal experts who reported on their successes and failures in bringing action against polluters.
At lunch I was entertained by several younger Japanese economists with whom I have been working over a number of years on problems of common interest. Just three months ago, the first working meeting of the so-called joint Japan-American Input-Output Project was held in the United States; now we were able to bring information on the progress of both cooperating groups up to date.
At five o’clock the formal meetings came to an end with the adoption of a two-page resolution—an appeal to all inhabitants of this earth to unite in the fight against pollution. The wording of this statement—to be known as the Tokyo Resolution—runs, in part, as follows:
…Environmental disruption is increasingly being recognized as one of the major issues of our time. Man’s environment is global in character, and any disruption of it becomes a cause not only of physical disruption but also of social disorganization, psychological suffering and cultural derangement and has consequently a direct bearing on the welfare of people in all societies.
Environmental disruption is the direct outcome, in the developed as well as in the developing countries, of the twin processes of industrialization and urbanization with the attendant progress in technology.
It is, however, not a necessary outcome of such processes: modern societies with command of science and technology have the means of countering, containing and redressing the worsening trends of environmental disruption, although this may require substantial social, economic and institutional adjustments….
Above all, it is important that we urge the adoption in law of the principle that every person is entitled by right to the environment free of elements which infringe human health and well-being and the nature’s endowment, including its beauty, which shall be the heritage of the present to the future generations….
Thus the social scientists face a moral and intellectual challenge. It is their duty, in cooperation with natural scientists and technologists, to work first of all toward constructing adequate analytical frameworks for the studies mentioned above; and more specifically as immediate and practical actions….
Press photographers waiting in the hall from early morning poured in and marked the occasion with a blinding burst of flash bulbs.
On my previous visits to Japan, I always set aside an evening to see Bunraku, the ancient puppet plays, or the Noh plays, equally ancient dramas. This was the only evening I had free; it developed into a real theater party. I had invited John Nathan, a Junior Fellow in the Society of Fellows at Harvard spending this year in Tokyo, who translates modern Japanese fiction and drama, to join me. John said Kensaburo Oe—a new star rising on the literary horizon from the left—would be with us.
Oe was pacing up and down in the lobby. Of slight build, his hair short cut, with dark-rimmed glasses and a neat business suit, he could have passed for an assistant manager of the hotel. As soon as introductions were over, he began to talk; the driving passion of a lively mind took over. Oe’s English is basic and not grammatical but understandable and, when it has to be, even subtle. He is fighting at present for the freedom and independence of Okinawa or rather of the Okinawans. He explained that up to the time of the Meiji restoration, one part of the island, whose cultural tradition predates even Japan’s, was governed by the Chinese, the other by the Shogun of Kyushu (the southern-most Japanese province). It became a Japanese colony after the New Empire won its first war of conquest against China. And thus began for the Okinawans a period of continuous exploitation. Their great national hero is a schoolteacher who led the opposition to the Japanese oppressor, was imprisoned, and died in a madhouse.
Under the American occupation, Okinawans had two layers of masters; and what Prime Minister Sato and President Nixon are quarreling about is who should have the sole right to exploit them. Oe is leading a one-man fight for the true liberation and independence of the island against both the Americans and the Japanese. He has written many articles and is about to publish a book on the subject.
Friday, March 13: Early in the morning our bags were loaded onto a bus and we began an unusual tour of outstanding “environmental destruction” sites. Not surprisingly, they turned out to be the sites of spectacular industrial developments. The journey started innocently enough along the smooth, modern elevated highway that led through the industrial suburbs. Innumerable modern factories with the usual shapes of windowless, low square boxes, lawns in front, parking lots behind, bear the familiar signs of Sony, Panasonic, Toshiba, and other electronics trademarks. In fact, some of these firms also build giant turbines and heavy generators that successfully compete in world markets with the similar products of General Electric and Westinghouse.
We traversed one of the largest expanses of level land in Japan. The ascendancy of Edo, now Tokyo, is in part explained by the abundance of agricultural produce grown on this fertile plain. The road entered the hills, with terraces covered by hedgelike bushes of tea and orange groves, here and there a bent female figure with a hoe or a man guiding a small garden tractor. An Indian colleague sitting next to me asked where the water buffaloes were. These had vanished long ago. The thatched or many-tiered tile roofs of villages among clumps of pine trees made the whole landscape a color print by Hiroshige. As a matter of fact, we were more or less following the course of the famous Tokaido road that in ancient times connected Tokyo with Kyoto, and its inns and lively traffic were the favorite subject of that famous nineteenth-century artist.
The uniformed stewardess sitting in front next to the driver reached for the microphone (all Japan seems to be wired for sound) and burst into a Maika song.
Beyond the hills there is a stretch from which one should be able to see the white cone of Fujiama. However, the bus turned off to the left and descended toward the sea. Below, covered by a pall of smoke, was our first exhibit—the industrialized Fuji city. We stopped at a service station to pick up the leader of the local anti-pollution campaign. A librarian, he organized this protest several years before. After distributing a mimeographed anti-Kogai manifesto, he told us, as the bus rolled along, his sad tale.
During the last war US bombers flattened the munitions plant located near the town and burned the residential sections. After the war, the reconstructed Fuji city, with its proximity to Tokyo, its pleasant shore location, and the two streams of crystal-clear water coming down from the mountains, proved to be irresistibly attractive to industry, particularly to paper mills and chemical plants. We were about to see the result of this invasion.
As the bus entered the outskirts of the town, the atmosphere darkened visibly, a smell of sulphur penetrated even the closed windows of the bus, and some of us began to cough. Practically all vegetation had disappeared and the ground was bare and stony. Along the shore, where only fifteen years ago a famous pine grove stood, were tree trunks as bare as after a forest fire. Streams, rivers, and canals ran white or brown, metal blue or yellow, depending on what plants happened to discharge their waste into them. Thick foam dumped by the paper mills accumulated on the shores of rivers and floated in large chunks down the middle.
Thousands, even millions of tons of industrial debris were dumped, without any preliminary treatment, on this once verdant city. The teeming fishing grounds became almost devoid of life. The few specimens that survived were undersized and deformed. To reach their catch, the local fishermen had to sail for many miles along the shore or way out into the sea. Innumerable chimneys and a few gigantic smokestacks belch white, yellow, brown, and black smoke. Orange groves located on the downwind side of the surrounding hills are languishing or have died. The per capita income of this city of some 180 thousand inhabitants is very high, but its mortality rate is nearly twice as high as that of the surrounding country.
We stopped for a brief rest in front of a school on high ground at the edge of the city. Several other buses and taxis pulled up from behind and parked alongside; the organizers of the anti-pollution movement had brought some members and followers to give us an opportunity to hear what they had to say. Rings of people five or six layers deep formed around us. An impromptu interview or rather a bilateral dialogue—with the ever-present microphones—ensued.
“Where do the managers of all these plants and their families live?”
“Oh, their houses are high up or behind those distant hills.”
“Why don’t you and your families move out as well?”
“Because we can’t possibly afford commuting.”
“How many people have formally joined the anti-pollution movement?”
“Very few: workers and employees of these plants don’t dare to join because this could result in loss of jobs and persecution.”
I understand that these exchanges were reported next day in the Osaka papers. Whatever the scientific results of our symposium might be, this tour will certainly bolster the local fight against pollution. After the interview the schoolteacher asked me to be photographed with a group of anti-Kogai activists in front of the statue of a local benefactor, the founder of one of the large chemical plants. They called my attention to the fact that the front of his bronze coat was badly corroded by sulphur-bearing vapors. Before we entered the bus, our host attached white arm bands to our sleeves bearing anti-pollution slogans. Good luck to them.
We were spending the night in Yokkaichi city, a site of large oil refineries and modern petrochemical plants, another prime example of industrial prosperity and environmental degradation. The governor of Mie province, in which this city is located, honored us with a banquet. At the end of a long, four-course dinner, each of us received a beautifully wrapped present; a replica of a string of small bells that a wise man who lived here some 500 years ago had had rung for him when his lids felt heavy after dinner, thus extending his working, or at least his waking, hours.
Before turning in, I went for a brief stroll through the adjoining shopping center, a covered arcade or rather a network of arcades, gaily lighted and festooned with plastic flowers, crammed with shops and eating places that displayed in their windows, in usual Japanese fashion, meticulously realistic plastic replicas of all the items listed on the menu. A few blocks further, muffled sounds of jazz, soul music, and French chansons came from behind the doors of the innumerable night clubs and bistros. With their narrow passages, darkish neon lights, and furtive-looking figures, these quarters offered an ideal setting for an exotic detective story. On the way back to the hotel I bought two miniature racing cars in a small toy shop for my grandsons back home. In my room I noticed they were stamped “Made in England.” A country that can sell small toys to the Japanese should not be written off prematurely.
Saturday, March 14: This morning we drove to what is euphemistically called the “rehabilitated” shore area of Yokkaichi city. The rehabilitation consisted of the erection of a gigantic petrochemical complex that is saturating the air in and around this city of several hundred thousand with noxious fumes and is poisoning the waters of the bay with sludge discharged by oil refineries and chemical plants.
We—the pollution experts—first were to inspect a large modern power station. The management obviously anticipated the visit with some apprehension and took all possible precautions. The parking space, the yards, the corridors and shops through which we passed, the immense hall where great dynamos whirled noiselessly in their streamlined shells, even the several acres of the concrete roof from which at the end of our visit we were invited to survey the surrounding country were spic and span; not even a scrap of paper, piece of string, or shred of oily rag was to be seen anywhere. It could have been the first-class deck of the Queen Mary on its maiden voyage just before the captain’s inspection.
The top management was on hand, as if for a stockholders’ meeting. We were first shown a technical film explaining the newest method of extracting sulphur and solid particles from the smoke produced by the thousands of tons of oil burned daily under the boilers. The picture was indeed impressive, for not only was the dangerous chemical removed by a catalytic process, but it was also refined and transformed into commercial fertilizer.
As we were told by an insider, the film demonstration was purposefully long, leaving little time for asking and answering embarrassing questions. Nevertheless, the questions were asked and, however reluctantly, answered. At the present stage of its development, the new method of purification, if applied to all smoke generated by this plant, would increase the cost of steam by 15 percent and the price of electric power by about 10 percent. When asked what part of all the smoke released into the atmosphere was now actually purified, the representative of the management, after some hedging, admitted that it was only one-twelfth. Moreover, if the treatment were extended to all the smoke generated by this gigantic plant, the fertilizer market would collapse. No wonder the legitimate fertilizer industry is fighting back. In view of the financial and political power of the chemical industry, further comments on this situation are hardly necessary.
The neighboring synthetic rubber plant established only a few years ago now provides over 50 percent of all Japanese exports of this material and is still expanding. The sludge produced by it is still being pumped out into the sea. This company’s only contribution to the drive against air pollution is the construction of a new smokestack 150 feet high. Consisting of three separate gigantic tubes gently converging as they rise into the sky, this elegant structure lifts the poisonous exhausts above the immediate environment and sends them toward the center and the residential neighborhoods of Yokkaichi city, and even further toward the orange groves and tea plantations in the surrounding hills.
While we were being served lunch back at the hotel, the chief of the health department spoke about his problems and answered questions. Reports of monitoring stations distributed throughout the area indicate that in the last three years the pollutant content of air and water has been falling gradually. Its present level still greatly exceeds minimum health standards. “Stink, which often stimulates the inhabitants” (I quote from the printed English version of the Governor’s report) “is still one of the results of air pollution.” Improvement is due in part to voluntary action of industry and in part to direct government intervention. Illness attributable to pollution is treated free of charge. The province has one doctor per 1000 inhabitants; the corresponding figure in the US is one doctor per 1200 or 1300, and in the Soviet Union—according to a US expert taking part in our conference—one doctor per 600 inhabitants.
Sunday, March 15: This was the day of our visit to Expo 1970. Inaugurated by the Emperor yesterday, it is now open to the public. After a drive of forty minutes along an elevated superhighway, our bus stopped in one of the vast parking grounds. Later, leaving the fairgrounds in the evening, I noticed its setting in a semicircle of hills, but now my full attention was naturally held by the curious and unexpected shapes and colors of the fair buildings. The trend toward technical and sculptural forms already discernible in Montreal’s Expo ’68 dominates in Osaka. At times the walk through the fairgrounds seems to be a continuation of yesterday’s inspection trip through modern industrial installations. The central building looks like a colossal jungle gym with all kinds of auxiliary exercise equipment suspended from above and protruding from the sides. The French pavilion, near which my companions and I spent an inordinate amount of time waiting for admission to the restaurant, is an array of golf balls of cyclopean dimensions fused to each other.
Circulation through the fairgrounds is remarkably easy. Canals and natural bodies of water in large exhibition areas often lengthen the walking distance between buildings. Here pools of water are introduced so as not to obstruct any of the traffic. A monorail encircles the entire grounds and a convenient elevated “moving walk” traverses it across the middle.
The fair rivalry between the US and the Soviet Union, of course, continues. The spirit and contents of the American pavilion reminded me of an exhibit prepared for parents’ visiting day by the sixth grade of a progressive, but not too progressive, private school. In contrast to Montreal, where the entire scene was dominated by Buckminster Fuller’s soaring sphere, our present striving toward a “low profile” is symbolized in Osaka even by the building, the largest part of which is hidden underground. From close range, the part above the surface looks like the sloping embankment of a small dam or a suburban water reservoir. From above—and since it is one of the lowest buildings on the grounds, this is how one mostly sees it—the US pavilion looks like a public swimming pool covered by a grayish-yellow plastic tarpaulin for the winter.
The collection of hats, caps, and other types of head gear shown in Montreal is here; a collection of old weather vanes has been added. Navaho rugs and Pennsylvania quilts are displayed again. I remember having seen in Montreal the furnishings of a Pennsylvania Dutch household. The marvelous rag dolls have been banished, however, and with them the humor, at least of a conscious kind. The exhibition of paintings runs all the way from Gilbert Stuart to Andrew Wyeth. A fifteen-foot-tall ice bag by Oldenburg supplies the modern touch; powered from inside it heaves up and down as if it itself were suffering from a headache. The high points of the exhibit are a moon rock, mounted like a jewel, the space vehicle in which we landed the first man on the moon, the baseball suits of Babe Ruth and, if I remember correctly, Lou Gehrig.
The designers of the American exhibit apparently intended to counteract, or at least to mitigate, the image of a noisy, restless, technology-dominated United States by presenting a picture of a gentle community looking wistfully at its bucolic past, one that in some unexplained fashion succeeded recently in sending a man to the moon. The spectacular cinematic display of Babe Ruth’s home run hits is possibly intended to interpret our landing on the moon as a kind of cosmic fly ball. The feat would appear to be the more baffling in view of the fact that under the “area of 9,290 square meters of the largest and lightest clear-span air-supported roof ever built” one can’t see a single serious book or printed page.
In New York or in Montreal, to which most visitors came after having lived in or at least passed through the United States, the juxtaposition of the gentle image of a rural Jeffersonian democracy with the fast-moving, occasionally truly exciting, but also overwhelmingly materialistic America of today might be justified; transported ten thousand miles away and presented to people who never saw the United States, the bucolic picture makes no sense.
The combination of a vast department store, aggressive travel agency, and large public library that fills the soaring Russian pavilion presents a rich and highly informative, albeit incomplete picture of the USSR today. True, among the innumerable portraits and films of past and present literary figures, one does not see Solzhenitsyn’s mournful face, nor does one find among the books displayed on endless shelves the underground publications of the “Samizdat” as one does not see in the American pavilion photographs of the 300 thousand young Americans milling around the Washington Monument in protest against the war in Vietnam, or of the slums of Brownsville, or of the conspiracy trial in Chicago.
Monday, March 16: At 2:40 p.m. I was waiting on the platform for the “super-train” to start my journey home. I missed without too much regret a tour of the memorable pollution spots of Osaka organized for this morning, but I was sorry not to be able to attend the farewell reception scheduled to take place in the afternoon; the governor of the province was expected to announce that, after Expo had run its course, the site with all its buildings and equipment would be offered to the United Nations for use as a permanent home for an International Institute on Environmental Disruption.
The train pulled in at exactly 12:45 and the automatic door of the car designated on my ticket opened opposite the yellow arrow indicating the precise spot where one should wait.
It was the third time I had been on this train. The gentle sway, the silence, the varied landscape outside, instead of the blue void or endless snow fields of clouds seen from a jet, make this the most agreeable form of transportation with the possible exception of an Indian canoe. After a light box lunch in my seat and a cup of coffee at the bar, I was called by the stewardess to the phone (a list of passengers with their seat numbers must be carried on the train): all my commissions for last-minute purchases were carried out and a car would be waiting at the station to take me to the airport. Without appreciable slowdown or speed-up at exactly five minutes past three we pulled in at the platform in Tokyo. The car door opened opposite the yellow arrow.
Incidentally, the hopes of those who look forward to traveling on similar super-trains between Washington, New York, and Boston most likely will be dashed. I understand that cost benefit computations performed for the Department of Transportation seem to show that the construction of the new, smooth roadbed required for such a train would be more costly than the construction of additional airports and the development of new vertical-takeoff all-weather planes. I wonder whether the jerky movement and deafening noise of the vertical-takeoff aircraft, familiar to anyone who has flown a helicopter, were given proper weight in these computations. Could it be that the so-called national security considerations are tipping the scales in favor of the aircraft manufacturers and against the public interest?
Concluding Observations: The curve of the Japanese national income is heading up like jetliners leaving the runway. Unlike the planes, however, it does not show signs of leveling off. In the last two years Japan overtook Great Britain and the Soviet Union and in the next five or at most ten years it can be expected to catch up with and pass Germany and France. In total rather than per capita output, that is, in absolute economic might, Japan has already surpassed all European countries and only lags behind Russia and the United States. It reinvests one-third of its gross national product while the United States reinvests less than 10 percent.
Nobody, including the Japanese themselves, seems able to offer a definitive explanation of this phenomenon. Traditional paternalistic organization of labor and relentless competition among individual firms, combined with all-embracing Government control and planning, certainly play a great role. The effectiveness of such planning depends on a readiness to confront issues squarely and pay the cost in solving them. The very fact that the week Expo opened its gates our hosts took a group of foreign experts on an elaborate tour of polluted regions demonstrates a readiness to face problems.
This very success, however, exposes Japan to a serious threat. The fast-growing Japanese industry can easily be converted into a formidable war machine. Foreign policy makers in Washington know this; but instead of doing what they can to prevent a revival of Japanese militarism, they actually foster it. On the day of my departure an English language paper in Tokyo reported a speech by an American admiral to the faculty and students of a Japanese paramilitary school. The time had come, he said, for your country to accept greater responsibilities in preparation for the defense of Western values and ideals that you share with us. Translated into ordinary language this means, of course, the time has come for you to rearm.
A large part of Japanese public opinion opposes the acceptance of this ominous counsel, but there are many who would gladly follow it. To judge by photographs published in the press, the companies of the so-called self-defense corps (according to the Japanese constitution Japan cannot maintain regular armed forces) look very fit indeed, and no industrial complex has been known to resist the profitable opportunity to add a military component. A substantial part of the supplies feeding our expeditionary forces in Vietnam and other parts of the Far East comes from Japan. In case this demand should slacken, will it not be attractive to some Japanese to provide an alternative large and preferably growing domestic market for these goods?
June 4, 1970