TIME has put its archives online for free, including decent-resolution shots of every magazine cover, and OCR’ed versions of every article. From the March 2, 1970 issue comes an in-depth overview of Cold War-era Japan, entitled “Toward the Japanese Century.” The article was written just before the Expo in Osaka (held quite close to where my very first host family lived), at a time when nobody was really sure where Japan was headed besides way up.
On life in Tokyo in the late 60’s:
The price of Japan’s reach for that sizable slice of world trade has been years of national self-denial. “We have sold everything, including the kitchen sink,” laments Economist Kiichi Miyazawa, head of the influential Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI). “We have left nothing for ourselves.” There are shortages of roads, railways, parks, hospitals, sewers and schools. “There is much to be done,” says Premier Eisaku Sato, singling out two problems in particular. “The housing shortage is extreme, and pollution is serious.”
…Prosperity has only worsened Tokyo’s housing shortage, its snarled traffic, and the soot that boils in across the brown Sumida River from the blast furnaces of Kawasaki, which has 3,000 industrial plants and a population of 940,000. Two-thirds of Tokyo is still without sewers; residents are served by “honeybucket” men, trucks and a “night-soil fleet” of disposal ships, some as big as 1,000 tons, that make daily dumping trips offshore. “Don’t worry,” a crewman smiles, “the Black Current will take it all toward the U.S.”
When the wind blows in from Tokyo Bay, the downtown area is enveloped in the aroma from “Dream Island,” an ironically named landfill project that grows by 7,800 tons of waste a day. The city is trying to reduce its overhanging pall of smog by persuading homeowners and industrialists to switch from coal to fuel oil (at a cost of increased carbon monoxide). But a 15th century samurai’s poem boasting that the city “commands a view of soaring Fuji” is now a wry joke.
Thank God they cleaned that up. Hopefully China will do the same.
On the student radical movement:
Westerners accustomed to the atmosphere of improvisation at U.S. or French demonstrations are apt to find the Japanese protest scene quite different. Clashes between helmeted students and shield-carrying riot cops seem as stylized—and puzzling—as a No play. Moreover, the rioters, often led by members of the radical Zengakuren (a student federation), are usually higher on doctrine than drugs (pot has yet to spread far in Japan). Before long, however, Japanese dissent may be taking on a Western character.
Thousands of students and hippie-style dropouts are being drawn to a Viet Nam protest movement called Be-heiren, which often draws 5,000 “folksong guerrillas” to monthly protest meetings in Tokyo’s swinging Shinjuku area. When the cops come, the kids give them flowers and songs instead of staves and curses.
On social custom (this has to be one of the best brief explanations I’ve ever read):
Except for small children and old people, the Japanese lives constantly in a state of near-total control or near-total release. A man may be a perfectly decorous office worker at 4:55 p.m., but by 5:05, after one drink at the bar around the corner, he may be a giggling buffoon. Extremely rigid codes define proper behavior in virtually every social situation, but there are no codes at all to cover many modern contingencies. That is why so much body-checking and elbowing go on in a Tokyo subway or department store. As Author-Translator Edward Seidensticker puts it in his recent Japan: “They are extremely ceremonious toward those whom they know, and highly unceremonious toward others. Few urban Japanese bother to say ‘Excuse me’ after stepping on a person’s toes or knocking a book out of his hand—provided the person is a stranger. If he is known, it is very common to apologize for offenses that have not been committed.”
One U.S. diplomat in Asia suggests that Japan may be the first nation to score a breakthrough—a superpower without superweapons. Almost certainly, however, a nuclear-armed China will eventually persuade Japan to exorcise its post-Hiroshima trauma and begin building its own nukes. Unlike Peking, Tokyo has a head start toward a delivery system; two weeks ago, the Japanese became the fourth member of the exclusive space club (others: the U.S., the Soviet Union and France) by putting a 20-lb satellite into orbit from a launch pad on Kyushu Island.