The May 2013 Japan Society lectures by Japanese Ambassadors on economics and international affairs, spurred recollections of the society in the late 70’s. On this occasion, however, despite the careful and detailed presentations, and the genial joking by the Ambassadors, the general sense was that Japan had indeed lost a lot of ground and will still have a considerable way to go in order to regain its former prominence.
As a foreign press member at these talks, I was struck by the fact that the press was not vocal. And the audience was about half capacity. Also, the people who had come to hear Amb. Sasae’s speech were largely young to middle-age corporate Japanese, mostly male, and only a few Americans. Amb. Nishida’s audience by contrast was almost entirely of middle-aged Americans. And although the audiences were small they were vociferous (although both speakers were very adept at politely side steeping issues.)
From my point of view, the visit of the two Japanese Ambassadors to the US and the UN reified the word “diplomatic.” Although both men were occasionally forthright on a topic which stirred them – the depredations, kidnappings and torture in the Republic of Korea, for example, which Ambassador Nishida enlarged upon in the very first page of his speech– they spoke very gingerly about the events in Japan that have terrified the rest of the world. That is to say, 3/11- the triple disasters of the earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear meltdown.