From Paris, Comment on Japan’s weak public relations


I’ve left Slovenia and am now in Paris.  It’s a wonderful city.  My previous visit was in early May, but every time I come here it lifts my spirits.  It is a bit hot though, with temperatures at about 30 degrees Celsius.

My article “Challenges for Japan’s Scientific Community in the 2008 G8 Summit” is now uploaded on the site of the Association of Japanese Institutes of Strategic Studies, or JIIA. (The pdf version is here.)

The article points out how the Japanese government is not very good at public relations, both domestically and internationally, which is working to its big disadvantage. I wonder if it’s a mentality that everything is up to the government that results in weak PR.  No, because Japanese private companies and universities are bad at public relations too.  Basically, the sense of where the responsibility lies seems to be unclear. 

I wanted to show in a small way my sense of responsibility, through my March 13 posting entitled “Jeffrey Sachs and the Millennium Village Project” and one on May 29 called “Nikkei Discussion with President Yonekura of Sumitomo Chemical and Professor Jeffrey Sachs.” I want more people to learn about Japan’s activities and contributions around the world so that they will become more confident.
I understand that “be modest,” “never brag,” or “stay quiet because the truth will eventually be known” are considered Japanese virtues.  But government projects are using taxpayers’ money.  So, the government needs to better communicate its activities to the public, casually on a daily basis and with style.  Well-planned public relations is an indispensable strategy for a nation.  But the big problem is that those in responsible positions lack the sense that they are working with public money.

For a long time, the basic principle of the Japanese government was represented in a saying that goes, “You can make people follow you, but it is difficult to get them to understand the reason.”  One classic example of this mentality may be the recent problems at the Social Insurance Agency.  It really shows how lightly it takes the public.  Enough is enough.  Browsing through government websites also makes me think that the government doesn’t care to get the public to read the information and understand it.  I have always mentioned this to the people in charge of the sites, but they probably don’t have the power change them. Basically, public offices are filled with people that always give reasons why you can’t try something new.
Abraham Lincoln who is considered by many Americans to have been the greatest president of the United States delivered a speech in 1861 that goes, “Government of the People, Government by the People, and Government for the People.”  I feel that this basic principle of democracy has not taken root in Japan even today.   

What do you think?  After giving some thought to what you can do, take action.  Start doing it, even if it’s something small.