Another Gaijin Handler speaks at East-West Center: Dr. Nakayama Toshihiro, ahistorically snake-charming inter alia about how Japan’s warlike past led to Japan’s stability today (Sept. 15, 2015)


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Hi Blog.  Japan’s Gaijin Handlers (people well-versed in representing Japan overseas in ways placating USG fears about Japan’s ulterior motives) are still making the rounds of America’s foreign-policy forums. covered one in October 2013, where a deputy chairman of an Abe Administration advisory panel on Japan’s security, Dr. Kitaoka Shin’ichi, basically told policy wonks on a whistle-stop tour of the US (courtesy of the East-West Center) that Japan’s “collective self-defense” wasn’t a remilitarization of Japan that should cause any worry.

This time, brought to you by the Japanese Consulate General (see page three of questionnaire below), and hosted by the East-West Center and the Center for Japanese Studies at UH Manoa, an academic named Dr. Nakayama Toshiaki, of prestigious Aoyama Gakuin University, gave an hourlong presentation about the “Mind of Japan”, and what that “mind” thought about America.  Here’s his bio, text-searchable:

Dr. Toshihiro Nakayama
East-West Center
September 10, 2015
Dr. Toshihiro Nakayama spoke about Japan-U.S. relations especially in consideration of the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II. An insight was given into America’s roles in the Asia Pacific and beyond through the eyes of a well-known professor, author, and columnist. Dr. Nakayama also shared his personal experiences in the context of this important relationship between the two allied nations.
Dr. Nakayama is Professor of American Politics and Foreign Policy at the Faculty of Policy Management at Keio University. He is also an Adjunct Fellow at the Japan Institute of International Affairs. He received his M.A. (1993) and Ph.D. (2001) from Aoyama Gakuin University, was a CNAPS Visiting Fellow at the Brookings Institution (2005-06), and has written two books and numerous articles on American politics, foreign policy, and international relations. He appears regularly in the Japanese media and writes a monthly column for Japan News. He was the recipient of the Nakasone Yasuhiro Award (Incentive Award) in 2014.

Here’s the original flyer:


Here is his speech in its entirety:

America in the Mind of Japan: How Japan Sees America’s Role in the Asia Pacific and Beyond from East-West Center on Vimeo.

(May be slow playing on your browser.  Download the actual video to your computer from here:

I attended, but thought even beforehand, based on the title of the talk, how scientifically problematic it is for someone to represent all of Japan as a “mind” so monolithically (I would expect it from a government representative, but not a trained doctorate-holding academic).  But Dr. Nakayama, as would befit people with an agenda who are employed by the right-wing Yomiuri (moreover rewarded by the likes of far-rightist and WWII sexual slavery organizer Nakasone Yasuhiro), fulfilled his role as Gaijin Handler very professionally:

First he softened up the audience, spending several minutes (in fact, a sizable chunk of his allowed time) convincing everyone how Americanized he is (with a number of anecdotes about his time as a youth going to school in New York City and South Dakota and asking American girls out to dance), giving the audience a number of familiar warm-fuzzy touchstones in terms of economics, politics, and culture in excellent English.  Then he switched smoothly into the “We Japanese” “us” and “them” rhetoric, no longer a non-dispassionate academic, now a government representative.  He clearly felt confident enough in his knowledge of both the US and Japan to feel that he could portray Japan authoritatively in a hive-minded fashion, while painting a picture of the US as a fractious pluralistic place with people like Donald Trump.  Seriously.

But after a rather pedestrian retelling of the US-Japan Relationship after WWII, Dr. Nakayama made the following statement right at the very end.  It was indicative of what kind of snake-charming narrative Prime Minister Abe wishes to wrangle the (USG) Gaijin with.  In regards to a question about Japan’s historical relationship with its immediate neighbors:


Nakayama:  (From minute 1:02:00).  But as shown in Prime Minister Abe’s statement commemorating the [unintelligible] end of World War II that was announced on the 14th of August, there were suspicion in Korea and in China that Prime Minister Abe changed totally the understanding of how we see history.  But I think that we see if we actually read the text, I think it relates much more to [unintelligible].  He was sometimes being criticized as being a revisionist, trying to see the war in different terms.   

I don’t think that was his intention.  In Japan, the governmental historical discourse is that everything started from 1945.  Everything that happened before that is basically wrong.  That’s not how things turned out.  Yes, there was a disastrous four years.  If you include China and The Occupation, it goes beyond that.  But you have to remember that Japan was the first modern state in Asia which successed [sic] in modernizing itself, and became a player in the Great Power games.  And that’s a success case.  Yes, it ended up in a war, with the United States and China, but that doesn’t mean we have to negate everything that happened before 1945.  An attempt by Prime Minister Abe was to see history in continuation, and there were some parts [unintelligible]  that would make democracy stable after 1945, were established in the Prewar Period. So we have to see the history in continuance.  I think that was the message. 


Wow.  Imagine the international reaction if a representative of Germany (or one of their academics lecturing overseas on a government-sponsored junket) were to argue today that “Nazi Germany did some good things for Germany too, including making the country the stable democracy it is now.”  Fascinating tack (in its ahistoricality) in light of the fascist regimes that not only did their utmost to dismantle the trappings of stable democracy, but also led their countries to certain destruction (and were in fact rebuilt thanks to Postwar assistance from former enemies).  No, what happened to Japan in the Prewar Era at its own hands was ultimately destructive, not stabilizing (and not only to Japan).  What happened before 1945 WAS basically wrong; and it wasn’t “also not wrong” for the reasons he gives.  Thus, Dr. Nakayama imparts an interesting mix of uncharacteristic historical ignorance, with an undercurrent of the ancestor worship that the Abe Administration ultimately grounds its ideology within.

Further, Dr. Nakayama is a fascinating case study of how the Japanese Government recognizes the Gaijin-Handling potential in its bilingual brightest (inserting them into, in Dr. Nakayama’s case, Japan’s diplomatic missions abroad), and manages to convince them to come back home and shill for Japan’s national interest even if it defies all of their liberal-arts training and mind-expanding world experiences.  Meanwhile the USG kindly takes the lead of the Japanese Embassy to offer GOJ reps the forums they need to have maximum impact within American policymaking circles.  Very smart of the GOJ, less so the USG.  Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

Other overseas-policy-influencing pies that Dr. Nakayama has his fingers in:
See them in action:

Questionnaire given out at this EWC presentation further empowering Japanese Government presentation effectiveness in the US (click on thumbnail to expand):

GOJSurveyNakayamatalk091015 GOJSurveyNakayamatalk091015 1GOJSurveyNakayamatalk091015pg3

10 comments on “Another Gaijin Handler speaks at East-West Center: Dr. Nakayama Toshihiro, ahistorically snake-charming inter alia about how Japan’s warlike past led to Japan’s stability today (Sept. 15, 2015)

  • Well, this is typical of Japan’s present day government’s distorted right-wing view of history and the world, and typical of the US to not call it out for it’s distortions since the overall aim of Japanese right-wingers (restore their feeling of masculinity by being able to threaten international violence) is concordant with US aims in the region (use Japan to threaten China for US ends, whilst being a step removed from the ‘trouble-making’ Japanese nationalists, and therefore creating plausible deniability).

    It’s shocking that this happens under a ‘liberal’ US administration. During Abe’s first stint in 2007, ‘illiberal’ George W. Bush did not hesitate to call Abe out on his revisionist trouble-making from the very get-go (the Korean sex-slaves).

    So, what do we have here?
    An alleged ‘academic’ from a (presumably) soon to be defunct humanities faculty (after all, Abe has sent a decree out to close humanities), reinforcing all the myths about Japanese homogeneity, and ‘we Japanese’ racist BS. If I talk about Japan like that, I get called ‘racist’ by the apologists, but I guess it’s ok if the Japanese do it?
    Any how, this idea (much beloved of the Japanese right) that *Japan’s current affluence, safety, developed state, is all DUE TO, not IN SPITE OF the evils of Japanese Imperialism (which wasn’t so evil anyway, nudge nudge, wink wink)*.

    This is a logical fallacy. As is Nakayama’s claim that Japan is being asked to forget everything before 1945. No one is asking that Japan ‘forget’ anything- we are asking that Japan remember correctly!
    Nakayama’s statements tell us more about the distorted psychological projections that the right-wingers attribute to those who disagree with them, than it does about what the world is actually asking of Japan regarding it’s war accountability.
    The fact that Japanese policy-makers hold such distorted psychologically disturbed opinions about the outside world makes the ‘normalization’ of Japan’s military truly disturbing.

    I suspect that Nakayama got a nice cash handout from that Japanese government’s recently greatly increased propaganda budget, and a promise that his teaching chair won’t have it’s funding withdrawn under Abe’s anti-humanities drive. Any takers on that?

  • Along with the revisionism of Abe and his ilk, I have been noticing a push in recent years in Japan to get the revisionist message out online. There are now numerous YouTube videos of Japanese war vets claiming that Japan did no wrong and flat out denying accusations of atrocities and misdeeds.

    These videos are professionally done, feature clean-cut grandfatherly/grandmotherly type interviewees, and are obviously designed to appeal to an average middle-class audience, rather than hard-line extremists.

    One organization making these videos is the cult Happy Science (幸福の科学). Here is a link to one of their videos. This video features 91-year-old war vet Takayuki Kuraishi. In it he is asked if the comfort women were mistreated, to which he replies something along the lines of “I never heard anything of the sort… There is no way that could have happened. That talk (of their mistreatment) is something that was made up recently” (Japanese follows).

    Q: 韓国では慰安婦は虐げられたと聞くが?
    A: そういう話は全然聞かなかったね。… 有り得ないことをね。現在作った話ですよ。

    Here is the link to that particular video:

  • Loverilakkuma says:

    >In Japan, the governmental historical discourse is that everything started from 1945.

    I wonder if this is the majority of opinion among scholars in Japan and abroad. What does he suppose to mean by “everything started”? Is he saying that there’s nothing we can see and learn in the history before 1945–simply because it doesn’t reflect contemporary socio-political culture of nation??? Perhaps not, since he urges us “to see the history in continuance.” Japan’s democratic foundation began in the late 19th century when the nation witnessed a dramatic shift to western-style modernization. So in that respect, he has a point in emphasizing the sequence of history.

    What I find troubling, however, is his description of “the past.” I understand different people have their own criteria in defining and interpreting the past. But I just don’t feel comfortable with the way he anchors the landmark year to divide post-periods that should be emphasized and pre-period that should be de-emphasized–if not expunged, by giving a very narrow definition and limited scope.

    Personally, I see the merit in re-thinking the role of Japan in the Great Far-East Asian War era for the practice of criticism. Learning what kind of people they are as arguers is actually very meaningful study. But framing the past in the very limited period to de-value its historical/rhetorical context (for whatever argument he might want to make) is very problematic. Putting an emphasis on specific war-time but ignoring the process of “monarchy” to “nationalism” that led to the militarism is exactly what many conservatives and historical revisionists employ as their arsenals. It’s like talking selective events of war (like the Battle of Bunker Hill) against Britain but dismissing socio-cultural context of slavery system and hostility against Native Americans in the Revolution.

    I understand many people like to talk about wartime in specific period, and Dr. Nakayama is no exception. But that alone does not–and should not— become a sole factor to judge the significance of national history. And, certainly not in a way to anchor a specific year on historical table in an attempt to value/de-value the periods between the seam, as shown in his speech. If this kind of emphasizing/de-emphasizing is going to be a trend among scholars in Japan studies today, I have to say Japanese history is in serious trouble by losing its aesthetic value and deep appreciation.

  • History will judge Obama poorly on Japan-US relations. He basically derailed Hatoyama (a Pro Pan Asian)’s plans to re evaluate the Okinawa bases-part of his electoral mandate-so basically undermined the first real democratically elected alternative to LDP since 1955.

    How he is letting Abe do what he wants. Obama and co. couldnt care less about NJ rights in Japan.

    A Japanese friend warned of this before Obama was elected- yes, he seems progressive in domestic US politics, i.e. Obamacare, but basically seems less interested in foreign policy, so tends to just do the least work, or follow the path of least resistance that doesn’t rock the boat. Thus no direct intervention in Syria, Libya etc. Thus, Hatoyama’s ideas seemed too much trouble, whereas Abe has gaijin handlers to convince the Obama administration that the US Japan military relationship will be preserved.

  • @ Jim, perhaps “Liberal” for Obama means letting foreign allies do what they want domestically, even if it goes against human rights? Thus “illiberal” George Bush called out Abe in 2007.

  • Just get a load of this from TV Asahi.

    Has anyone managed to watch this farce that they call “non-fiction drama about the Kamikaze pilot who took his wife on his plane, on the Kamikaze attack against the Soviet army in 1945?

    The synopsis goes like this: Manchuria under Japan was thriving vibrant country full of different Asian ethnics and nationals under the wise guise of Japan’s Asia Co-sphere Empire. But Japan at that time was waging a war against the cruel war criminals from China and Russia who illegally attacked Manchuria under Japan’s benevolent rule. However the Japanese military many times beat back the cowardly Chinese inflicting mass casualties forcing them to runaway. However in 1945 Japan surrendered to the Allies, causing a mass retreat of Japanese army and civilian from Manchuria. Many Japanese in Manchuria were massacred by the encroaching enemies of Chinese and Russians who killed and raped thousands of retreating Japanese. Our brave Kamikaze main character sees what is happening and he is so enraged that he disobeys the Japanese high command’s orders to stand down. He takes his plane, as a renegade pilot, and with him on the plane is his love of his life, his young wife. Together they decide to dive bomb and end their lives to revenge the deaths of the innocent Japanese people in Manchuria.

    You gotta see it to believe it.

    But that’s basically what the drama’s storyline is. No mention of Japanese massacres of innocent people, no mention of the illegal attack and occupation of Manchuria, no mention of Japan creating a phoney pretense to cause an international incident to excuse the invasion, no mention of Japan attacking Chinese at Nanjing. Nothing. The whole synopsis is around the main theme that this show likes to push: that Japan was the sole victim of WWII.

    The whole mood of Japan on history regarding WWII, just about sums up with this show.
    The theories that the rightwing Japanese used to push, is now going full blast mainstream in Japan.

    It’s so sickening to see what’s happening, yet there are so many useful tools in the West who excuse this type of inexcusable historic revisionism and/or minimize what Japan is doing only because “Japan is the only good country in Asia” as they would put it.





    【堀北真希 コメント】








    【成宮寛貴 コメント】







  • Loverilakkuma says:


    It’s not so much as US president but the US State Department and an ambassador that matter most in discerning Japan-US relations. US made years of investment in Okinawa ever since its occupation in June 1945. The San Francisco Peace Treaty(1952) enabled them to solidify colonial politics, establishing air bases and military camps elsewhere to the detriment of harming local environment and destroying numerous houses and properties of local family. Their re-construction policy was filled with so much corruption. Too many soldiers committing heinous crimes against local civilians were acquitted based on the distorted use of SOFA, under the Ryukyu administration. The return of Okinawa to Japan in 1972 provided nothing more than political caricature and saccharine media soap opera(e.g., rigged reversion agreement turning into a phony extra-marital affair between Mainichi news writer and an ex-MOFA staff).

    Twenty seven years are long enough to change the entire landscape of Okinawa–culture-wise and/or economic-wise, as it gave the US significant amount of time and political ammunition to establish, solidify, and sanctify their colonial discourse of the land. It’s extremely difficult for American diplomatists and national leaders to change their vision regarding the way the US created the legacy–especially hard-earned land is too close to their former enemies (North Korean and Big Red Dragon). I hold Edwin O. Reischauer (a.k.a. the father of Japan studies, an ex-US Ambassador to Japan) responsible for deeply involving in the endorsement of controversial nuclear stockpiles at military bases and sanctifying the colonial discourse of Okinawa even after the reversion in 1972.

  • Miki – this has been happening for years.
    A very successful, older Japanese businessman recently told me:
    – Japan occupied Korea. Some Koreans did not want Japan to rule, but most Koreans welcomed Japan.
    – There was no (government/military) mistreatment of Koreans. Anything bad was done by Koreans to Koreans.
    – Comfort women were hired by Korean recruiters, with no government participation.
    – Koreans were very poor before Japan occupied them, so they welcomed Japan as their rulers.
    – Many leaders in Korea cooperated with Japan (during occupation). Their children now have to pretend to be anti-Japanese to make up for cooperating willingly with Japan during the war…

    – Japan paid to resolve the comfort women issue. All those women have been paid. (…so Japan paid, even though they did nothing wrong…?)
    – The “war criminals” at Yasukuni Shrine are not war criminals. Japan committed no crimes. This was victors justice. The U.S. won the war, and executed a few Japanese heroes. It is the price Japan paid for losing its noble war for freedom (…?).
    – moving the bones of the “war criminals” at Yasukuni would not change anything. Korea and China hate Japan, and use this issue to weaken Japan’s negotiating position regarding the two disputed islands.

    My favorite:
    – All claims by China & Korea that Japan did bad things are recent lies. No one was talking about this 60 or even 50 years ago. This all started because Korea & China want control of the islands in dispute. So they made this up as a way to weaken Japan’s position regarding the islands.

    So denial is in full swing. I think many Japanese people believe Japan is the innocent victim. As Japan’s “victimhood” mentality grows, and it expands its military in the face of “perceived” threats, I see the possibility for a truly odd coincidence:

    The Berlin olympics were decided while the nazis were relatively weak. By the time of the olympics in 1936, Hitler was much stronger. Hitler tried to use the olympics to show German superiority to the world…

    5 years until the next Tokyo olympics. Nationalists are getting stronger, textbooks are being edited to erase all mention of bad activities by Japan… What facade will Japan present to the world in 2020?

  • Edward J. Cunningham says:


    “The Berlin olympics were decided while the nazis were relatively weak. By the time of the olympics in 1936, Hitler was much stronger. Hitler tried to use the olympics to show German superiority to the world…”

    Your post implies that the IOC awarded the 1936 Games to Berlin when the Nazis were in power, but relatively weak. The Games were awarded to Berlin in 1931 when Germany was still under the Weimar Republic. Hitler took power in 1933.


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