The America Basher


By Shintaro Ishihara

Simon & Schuster -- 158 pp -- $18.95

Those who couldn't get hold of last year's bootleg translation of Shintaro Ishihara and Akio Morita's notorious The Japan That Can Say No can now read Ishihara's portion. (Sony Corp. Chairman Morita, to distance himself from Ishihara's extremism, refused involvement in this authorized English edition.) Here you can feast on descriptions of Americans as "virulent" racists, the U. S. military as a "mad dog," Lee A. Iacocca as "unethical," the U. S. semiconductor industry as incapable of making memory chips essential to America's defense, and Japan as boasting a "superior cultural ethos." All this from a personally charming, celebrated novelist and conservative member of the Japanese Diet who ran third in the ruling party's 1989 contest for Prime Minister.

Ishihara just can't resist being outrageous. He recently told Playboy that Japan's alleged involvement in 1937's infamous rape of Nanking, in which well over 100,000 Chinese civilians were killed by Japanese troops, was a lie concocted by China. Japan's mass media reported China's angry response, but saw no need to question Ishihara's statement.

That's what worries U. S. analysts about Ishihara. While most Japanese don't consciously share such extreme thoughts, few openly challenge them. Observers worry Ishihara could arouse latent ultranationalist tendencies.

This edition of The Japan That Can Say No is two books in one. The first half is a new translation of Ishihara's chapters from the original. The second comprises translations of several articles on similar themes, which makes for a repetitious, sometimes contradictory hodgepodge. The new material is less vitriolic than the old: It faults the Japanese government for various sins and acknowledges the validity of some American criticisms of Japan. Ishihara's bottom line is the need for a strong but recast U. S.-Japan relationship. To forge that mature link, he says, Japan must act like, and be treated as, an equal to its erstwhile bigger brother.