that is say

The Japan That Can Say No

"The Japan That Can Say No" (Japanese title: 『「NO」と言える日本』 no to ieru nihon) is a 1989 essay co-written by Sony co-founder and chairman, Akio Morita and current governor of Tokyo, Shintaro Ishihara in the climate of Japan's economic rise. It was famous for taking a critical look at the United States business practices, and advocating for Japan to take a more independent stance on many things, from business to foreign affairs. The title refers to the authors' vision (Ishihara's in particular) of a Japanese government that is more than a mere "yes man" to the United States. Many unauthorized translations were made and circulated in the United States. The authorized 1991 Simon & Schuster translation by Frank Baldwin (out of print) did not include the essays by Morita. The book inspired the title of China Can Say No, a collection of Chinese nationalist essays published in 1996.

Points asserted

The work alternates between essays written by Ishihara and Morita. The essays were based on various speeches given in the past. In general, Ishihara's essays argue that Japan is a world power to be respected, and that Japanese need to assert themselves more when dealing with the U.S. Morita's essays focus more on the tragic flaws of U.S. companies that will eventually lead to America's decline, and what Japan can do to improve its image and position.

Here is a sampling of points they make:

Ishihara' assertions

Japanese superiority

  • The world has come to depend on Japanese technology, especially in semiconductor production.
  • Japan must use its technological superiority as a negotiating weapon. It should even threaten to trade secrets with the Soviet Union as a bargaining tool against the US and refuse to sell components that go into US missiles.
  • The quality of American goods is low because the level of the workers is low, while the superior education of Japanese workers is a big advantage.
  • The Japanese character is innately superior to the character of Americans.


  • Japanese diplomats are not effective in dealing with westerners, so businessmen accustomed to dealing with foreigners should also take part in trade negotiations.
  • Japan should end the U.S.-Japan security pact and defend itself, because this would cost less and end reliance on the U.S.


Morita's Assertions

It is not unusual that Morita, who lived in New York for some time and was one of the most successful and famous businessmen in Japanese history, would have many opinions on U.S. business culture.

American business

  • American business focuses too much on money games like mergers and acquisitions, and not enough on creating real goods and manufacturing power.
  • American business focuses too much on short term profits while sacrificing long term overall livelihood, such as moving manufacturing overseas.
  • American company executives receive too much income, which hurts their companies.
  • Employees in Japanese companies form a tight community, so overall results are better.
  • The trade surplus with the U.S. is caused by the lack of desirable products made in the U.S.
  • U.S. businesses are strong in basic research, but not in product development and marketing
  • It is natural for the Japanese government to protect Japanese businesses, as it relies on their tax revenue.

Japan's image and position

  • It is popular to bash Japan, and this is largely the fault of Japanese businessmen overseas who don't socialize with locals and become part of the local community.
  • Japanese need to do more to adapt to Western culture and language when dealing with Americans in order to be understood (pointing out that foreigners from other countries have successfully integrated into U.S. society).
  • The U.S.'s failure to recognize Japan's importance will hurt the U.S. and the world economy.
  • Japan must be conscious of its role as a world leader, and do its part to support the world economy.
  • Japan must help build up Asia to strengthen its position as a regional economic leader
  • Japan must give more foreign aid if it wants to be a true world leader. He equates this with doing local community service.

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