Mr. Cecil Uyehara

Silver Spring, Maryland

August 14 , 2005


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RCA: It’s August 14, 2005. Cecil Uyehara has joined us to describe his background and long career in U.S.-Japan relations. Welcome, Cecil, and thank you for giving us the time. Could we begin with you telling us a bit about your family background, and about how you first went to Japan?

CU: That’s relatively simply explained. My Father was Japanese and my Mother was an English lady from London, a Caucasian. When they got married one didn’t have to mention that she was a Caucasian. 99.9 percent of English people were at the time Caucasian. Now you do have to make that point.

I was born in London, went to Shanghai, China, during the thirties, and then went to Japan to live. Before going permanently to Japan, we went almost every summer from Shanghai to Japan, particularly to Karatsu. Sometimes it was Beppu or Shimabara. But most of the time it was Karatsu.

That was my experience becoming acquainted with Japan. I was then – let’s see – ten to fifteen years old. I had a rudimentary knowledge of Japanese. But, I think the important thing about that summer experience was, since I was ten to fifteen, I learned the intonation. So one never said “OhSAka,” but “OHsaka.” That intonation was sort of picked up through osmosis. So I didn’t say “arigaTOU gozaimasu.” From the very beginning I understood that one said, “arigatou gozaimasu.”

That, I think, was very important. And then, Father decided in 1940 that we would go to Japan to live. But, keep in mind that World War Two had already started in Europe. We could not return to England, from whence my parents had come, after they had been married. I think my Father always wanted to go back to England. But that didn’t happen. Wars came in the way.

So, we all went to Japan and began living there, in contrast to visiting there. For my Father it was returning. For us, it was that we went there to live. My background was training in Latin to go to a university in England. I could have studied Chinese, but that was vetoed by my parents. They said “Study Latin. Remember, that’s what’s required in England.” I got the message.

So now, we go to Japan. I have only rudimentary Japanese. I was put into a school that taught Japanese on a full-time basis to children who had returned from overseas. In those days, perhaps between 100 and 150 such kids existed. Now there are over a quarter-million to a half-million.

So, that’s how I became acquainted with Japan. [Return to Topics]

Learning Japanese

RCA: At what age did you return full-time to Japan?

CU: I was fifteen, and a few months. That’s when I went to Japan. The message was very clear. You now learn Japanese. That message, of course, was very clear before we left Shanghai, where we had lived ten years, from 1930 to 1940. I suppose I was a pretty good, or malleable, cooperative teen-ager. I didn’t argue about, “Why, Dad, are you doing this to me?” But we just settled down and did what was necessary, and studied Japanese. All three of us did not know Japanese. My youngest brother knew zero Japanese. I knew a little bit, as my Mother’s so-called interpreter during the summer months. She, of course, knew no Japanese.

So, I studied like mad. And there was a reason for that. The pressure was on when I was fifteen. In three years time, you were either in university, or you were in the Japanese Army. You had a choice. The choice was stark. The choice was clear, and unmistakable. You learned Japanese quickly. And efficiently. And functionally. So that you would get into the university and avoid the lowly draft as a recruit, or conscript. So, that is how I learned Japanese.

RCA: But nonetheless, toward the end of the War, you still were conscripted, weren’t you?

CU: Ah, yes. That is true. But by then I was totally and completely bilingual. And also became knowledgeable about Japanese military language. You learn that also very quickly when you are conscripted. It is an overnight change. You learn quickly because it is a survival issue. Not survival in the fighting sense, but surviving in the barracks sense. You have to learn to address the sergeant in charge in a certain way. And you learn very quickly, sir, how to do that.

So that was my association with Japanese. I call it a very high level “functional Japanese” because it did not, and could not, come to a high level of appreciation of Japanese poetry, for instance. That would come later in my life. But at the time, it was a very high level of functional language, so I could read economics, Japanese law, and understand exactly what they were saying.

But if you then asked me to read Heike Monogatari, Genji Monogatari, Surezure Busa, no, I couldn’t do it. I did it in theory. But that was required of me. You study a very narrow part of that Japanese literature, and you learn just like you do in the American university, to pass the exam on that subject. That’s how you do it. And when it’s done, you forget it. That’s my acquaintance with the Japanese language. It’s served me extremely well. Even though I was late in learning it, it has stayed with me, pretty much, over the years. [Return to Topics]

Life in Shanghai

RCA: How did you find living in Shanghai?

CU: Keep in mind, that we spoke only English at home, even though my Father was Japanese. That must be understood completely and thoroughly. I was living in Shanghai, China. And the place where I lived was a place called the International Settlement in Shanghai, China. That was run at the time basically under British influence.

They had what were called Council Schools. That isn’t quite right. Rather, they had schools which were managed and established by the Shanghai Municipal Council. I revise my terms for a very good reason. Because in the British context, a “Council School” is where the poor kids go to get a free education. This was not free. And it’s not in England. It’s in Shanghai.

But my Mother was English, and in her mind “Council Schools” immediately had a negative connotation. And that determined why I didn’t go to that school in the beginning. Because it was “Council.” And she insisted, “My son does not go to a “Council” school.”

So I was put in a convent school. I revolted. I said, “I’m not going to genuflect.” Apparently I didn’t like genuflecting. And that established my religious tendencies to begin with. So, my parents relented, and put me in another school.

It was a British-run school. All teachers were from England. No Chinese there, and Chinese were excluded from the school. Keep that in mind. That’s very important. There was a Chinese school established by the Council, for Chinese. Now, if they had a British passport from Hong Kong, that Chinese could go to my school. And there was one like that. But not generally.

So, you therefore learned subjects just like in an English school. English history. And what was our arithmetic? Not yuan, the Chinese currency. But pounds, shillings, pence, and farthings, half-pennies. That’s how we did arithmetic, believe it or not. What was the geography? It was about England. We were living in China. So, that’s the kind of education we got from grade school through secondary school.

In British-run secondary schools, if you want to be prepared for entrance to a university in London, one must be prepared in specific subjects. For example, if you pass the art test, you get a certificate from the Royal Society of Art, in England. And I have several. That’s because that part was part of the orientation. You learn Latin, not because you are going to live in China, but because one hopes to attend an English university where it is a requirement. That’s why you learn Latin. So that was the orientation.

Therefore, my orientation at the end of 1941, just before we went to Japan, was – as far as my parents and I were concerned – headed to Oxford or Cambridge. I didn’t learn Chinese. I never learned Chinese, except to swear. Most of the kids in my class didn’t learn Chinese either. Foreigners didn’t learn Chinese. Except American missionary kids. They did. [Return to Topics]

Aoyama Gakuen and Keimei Gakuen

So, from that, we then switch to Japan. Now, this was nationalistic Japan – a very difficult situation for us three brothers. We didn’t know what kind of a situation we were to face. But, we adjusted very quickly.

Some of the people who study Japanese language may be interested in this story. I was put in Aoyama Gakuin, in Tokyo, because that was a “missionary school,” and they might be more understanding. That was totally irrelevant. The people whose understanding mattered were my fellow students. They were the ones who counted, not the teachers.

We had to write something with a sentence that included the word “Japan.” Now, this was four or five months since I began learning Japanese. I made a terrible mistake. And those who know Japanese will understand it. I put “Nihon” backward. That became “Honjitsu.” Those who know how nationalist Japan was at the time, would understand them saying “You stupid idiot. Don’t you know how to write even the name of your country, Japan? And instead you get it backward?” Well, in front of the kids, that was a terrible thing to experience.

So, I went home and said, “Father: I’ve had it. I’m not going back.” That’s how I got into Keimei Gakuen, which was created by the Mitsui family, one of Japan’s zaibatsu at the time, avery, very rich family. And they created it solely, in the beginning, for their two children, and others like them, because their two children couldn’t really understand Japanese either. They had lived in London, or Oxford, whichever it was. So, I began attending this special school. There I studied Japanese at my speed, which was pretty fast. That was my job. One had to pass each grade school text beginning with volume I with an 85 percent accuracy. Then you could go on to the next volume, and the next volume, at whatever speed you wanted. With 85 marks out of 100. That was the absolute minimum. So, that was my Japanese education.

Consequently, when you have that kind of an education, switching from one culture to another, other subjects, such as history, mathematics, chemistry, trigonometry, all of these, get pushed aside, because the urgency is to master Japanese. The language must come first. Now, we did have chemistry; we did have physics. But it too was sort of English study, because we didn’t understand Japanese terms for physics. In accordance with government regulations, we had to learn this. So, therefore, it was tough. But we all rose to the occasion. I finished in April of 1943, and entered Keio University after basically two years of Japanese.

Keio University

RCA: How old were you then?

CU: Well, 1943. I got into Keio in 1943. So, I was just under 18.

RCA: So you were only 17 years old when you entered Keio, with only two years of Japanese language study.

CU: Yes, that must be right.

RCA: That’s an incredible accomplishment.

CU: Yes, I entered Keio in April of 1943, as a freshman. I got there through a special program; I’m not going to brag that I did it through the regular Japanese exam system. I never could have done that. That’s very clear. I got in through a special program. I was able to pass the orals, though my Father was influential at Keio University.

But once you get in, then you are on your own. No more special treatment. It’s somewhat like America, where you can get into university, and after that you are on your own. If you can’t hack it you are in trouble. If I hadn’t hacked it, my alternative was the Japanese Army. So the incentive was pretty clear. And I did succeed.

RCA: What was your major?

CU: Political science. Perhaps that was best for me to do at the time. It was regarded as part of the law department. So, I was successful, in comparison to other Japanese students. So everybody was well pleased with my accomplishments.

So, the first year was 1943-1944, a regular year of academic studies. During 1944-1945, however, we worked in a shipyard. When that ended, I was mobilized into the Japanese Army. You talk about education. That’s it. It’s a two-cultured education.

And, by the way, I’m very unsympathetic with present-day culture shock. Yes, I suppose one could have felt culture shock. But, it was ignored. We were told, ‘Little boy, here is the situation. Do what’s necessary.” I’m always reminded that my wife Allie’s Mother spoke Swedish at home. They said, “From today onward, you are in grade one. Today onwards you speak English.” That was it; no further discussion.

RCA: And she did it.

CU: She did it. Actually, she became a poet. So, after this sort of thing, I’m unsympathetic to those complaints. You just tell the kids, “This is it, buddy. Sit down and study. I’m not asking for your comments. Just sit down and study.” That was my case. There was no discussion. No, “Father, I can’t do it.” No use bringing it up. It would have been a useless discussion. It was like here. If you don’t learn English here in the United States, you won’t get anywhere, so to speak. Same thing in Japan. So, you sit down and do it.

RCA: Then, you continued at Minnesota, didn’t you? [Return to Topics]

The University of Minnesota

CU: Yes, as a graduate student. I graduated from Keio University in the normal manner, as a Japanese student at the time. Then, fortunately, by luck, was able to get to the University of Minnesota, and I started off with a scholarship that was done through the good offices of an Occupation officer whom I met, and who also happened to be an assistant dean at the University. I had chosen Minnesota because of a very famous professor there named Harold Quigley, an expert in Japanese and Asian government. That’s why I wanted to go there. And it so happened that this same captain happened to be an assistant dean there and he was able to arrange things for me. I went there in September 1948.

RCA: So, Professor Quigley attracted you to Minnesota in the first place.

CU: Yes. Also, with this friend, an assistant dean at the University of Minnesota, the two things together provided me with an unusual opportunity. I was most fortunate in that he took me seriously, went home, and really did arrange things for me. I stayed there three years, got an MA, and then went to work.

RCA: Well, you must have brought something to the University of Minnesota, since you won a fellowship.

CU: The first year I had a tuition-only scholarship. I had to buy my books and pay my room and board from a job that they also took care to give me. That also was part of the deal when I went to Minnesota. The foreign student adviser was able to find me a job in the University library, putting call numbers on books. That I could do between courses, whereas most jobs you couldn’t do that. But I could go to the library for one hour, and then go to the next class. That was a very, very convenient way to arrange all of this. So that’s how I did it.

Then, after I was there for one year, the second and the third year I was promoted, so to speak, to a fellowship, receiving a Shevlin Fellowship. That was a prestigious fellowship. How I got it, I do not know. I didn’t ask questions. I just said “Thank you, sir.” That gave me tuition and books and supplies. And you also got your name in the University Directory, or something like that, because it was a Shevlin Fellowship. Then after that I graduated and joined the workforce.

RCA: Were you happy with your political science education at Minnesota?

CU: Yes. An excellent experience, in political science, economics, and the School of Journalism.

RCA: Did you work primarily with Professor Quigley?

CU: No, he was just one professor. Since I was a graduate student he was my principal adviser. But I took many other courses. One had to, and pass them with a B. That was a problem in the beginning, because I wasn’t used to the American system. I had to catch on quickly.

RCA: You’d never been in the United States, had you?

CU: Never in the U.S. before. Furthermore, you have to keep in mind the kind of education that my generation had at Keio, or any other university in Japan. It was a truncated, unusual, and in a way short-changed university education. Because we had one year in academic studies. The second year was working in the shipyard, or elsewhere. The war then came to an end and we came back.

Well, with the chaos of the American Occupation, saying they wanted to do this; they wanted to do that. They wanted to teach this; don’t teach this; don’t teach that. So, it became chaotic. So the University, I think, felt that my group should graduate and start afresh. And consequently, I don’t think the level of academic work was as good as it should have been at the University. When I compare it with what my Father told me about his day, in economics, for example; it was not as good.

So, going to the University of Minnesota, or any other place, for that matter, you find yourself in a tight fix because you’re not used to the American system. There would be an adjustment no matter what you had done, how you were educated. But I wasn’t quite academically prepared to do what they wanted to do. However, I had adjusted quickly in Japan. I adjusted quickly in the U.S., and got the Shevlin Fellowship for two out of three years. So, from my point of view, it wasn’t bad at all. So, either I smiled properly at the professors, or whatever. I don’t know. [Return to Topics]

Initial Impressions of American Society

So, in any case, that set the stage basically for forming my attitudes about the U.S. That experience. Very, very important. For instance, one thing I’ll never forget. One fine day I received a telephone call from the Dean of the School of Journalism. Mind you, that was my minor. He said, “Cecil, we are having a breakfast tomorrow. Can you attend?” I replied, “Of course, sir. I shall be there, sir.” And I went. It was the initiation for the select students of the School of Journalism into the honorary society of Journalism, Kappa Tau Alpha. I was selected, and I didn’t know anything about it.

I think it was two years after I arrived. I thought, here was a foreign student, with a thick British accent, who came initially … I was there on a British passport, and I was invited to join that select group. I thought, “Why, these are very broad-minded people.”

So, that sort of created the image of the United States, as I progressed, until certain things changed, and I saw more of the United States, and that changed my evaluation. [Return to Topics]

Entering Government Service

RCA. Let’s move now to your decision to enter government service. How is it that you ended up in the U.S. federal government rather than in an academic job of some kind?

CU: First off, when I left Minnesota, the Library of Congress gave me a very special job. I think some of you have even used the results of that special project. It’s called the Checklist of the Archives in the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs: 1868 to 1945. Perhaps you yourself have used it. After that, a short stint as a local employee of the Japanese Embassy.

Then I got a substantial grant from the Ford Foundation, together with George Totten and Allan B. Cole of Fletcher. Cole was a full professor. George Totten and myself were mere graduate students who had just received their M.A.s. We studied the Japan Socialist Party, then a very influential party in Japan.

It was after that that I found a job in the U.S. government. The first job, however, did not have anything to do with Japanese affairs. And my entire federal government service of almost 25 years had nothing – repeat, nothing – to do with Japanese affairs. So I never spoke a word of Japanese, nor did I read a piece of paper in Japanese, in the U.S. government, or do anything concerning Japan, for those 25 years.

How did I find it? As all jobs, by accident. I was looking all over the place for a job. Couldn’t find one. By accident I came across this one. You wouldn’t believe it, Bob. It was as a historian at the U.S. Air Force Wright-Patterson Airforce Base in Dayton, Ohio. They had three units there: the Strategic Air Command; the Logistics Command; and the R & D branch. I was in the R & D branch. I was a representative out of the Historic Office, at Andrews Air Force Base. That’s where the R& D Command was at the time. I operated by myself as a “historian,” which I had never been trained to be.

And so, there I was, out in Dayton, Ohio, a super-Republican, very conservative place. But I enjoyed the stay. You asked how I got the job. By accident, as most jobs are found. I was there for a while, and that’s how I came to join the U.S. Federal Government.

RCA: What did you do there?

CU: After about a year, I became a geopolitical analyst in the Long Range Planning Group. I was the only non-engineer in a planning group called, “Future U.S. Aircraft and Associated Missiles.” I was there to provide the geo-political-military context for those future U.S. aircraft. A new program was being created by the National Institute for Public Affairs establishing fellowships for deserving civil servants from the entire U.S. government. There were about 30, I think, of these fellowships. I was nominated for one. I was chosen, and I went to Harvard for one year at the expense of the U.S. Air Force. As a NIPA [National Institute of Public Affairs] Fellow.

I spent the academic year at Harvard, at the Kennedy School. The Kennedy School then did not exist, of course. It was called the Littauer Center. I did not get a degree. I already had one M.A. from Minnesota and I didn’t think I needed another, even from Harvard University. However, from my point of view, I was able to get something more important than an M.A. from Harvard. I wrote a long paper on the use of scientific advice in the testimony before the U.S. Senate on the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, then being considered for ratification by the Senate. That ultimately, to my utter surprise, was published. Some time after I had left and had gone back to the government, I got a call saying “We’d like to publish it. Is that okay with you?” I thought it was a wonderful idea. And the other people who were contributing essays at the time were such people as McGeorge Bundy, who was then the National Security Adviser in the Kennedy Administration. All of this took place during the Kennedy Administration. [Return to Topics]

Service in the Bureau of the Budget

I was at Harvard when Kennedy was assassinated. That was a memorable experience. I returned to Washington. I had left Washington for a while and gone to Japan, had gone to Dayton, Ohio. I returned, not to the U.S. Air Force, but to the Executive Office of the President, Bureau of the Budget.

That also was accidental, like all things. I was asked because one of the guys from OMB, then BoB, was at Harvard with me, under the same program. He said, “Why don’t you come and join us.” Bureaucratically, that was a very fortunate experience to have on one’s vita. Getting a job like that in BoB was a feather in any bureaucrat’s cap. So, I went there and enjoyed it immensely.

In the OMB, or BoB, I was able to exert more influence than I ever could when I went to Afghanistan at a higher rank. That was because of the bureaucratic location of the BoB, in the Executive Office of the President. So, I worked with another person in the National Security Council on military assistance policy. We took on Defense and the State Department, and we won our case. Not “case” in the sense of a court. It was a bureaucratic struggle. We won our case. We could do that only because I was in the OMB and he was on the NSC.

RCA: What years were you at BoB?

CU: 1964 through 1966. Then I decided that I had gone as far as I could at OMB and went in search of another job. From my point of view, the next logical job would be in the area of the State Department. So I went over and met with AID people. I discovered a fellow who was the assistant administrator for Asia, or possibly Vietnam. He was, at one time, the UPI News Service representative in Tokyo in 1946-47. When I was living in Tokyo as a Keio University student, I was doing part-time work for the correspondents of the Chicago Daily News and Columbia Radio News. I met Rutherford Poats of UPI in Tokyo, but never expected our paths to cross again. But, lo and behold, there he was! He said he was looking for someone to do a particular job and asked me if I could handle it. I, of course, told him I could. He said it would mean a promotion, and asked me when I could report for duty.

So, I reported for duty with a promotion, just like that. So, again, it was accidental and who you knew. I don’t know what happened to Mr. Poats after that. He stayed around for a while, and I think then quit. But that’s how I went up the line in the bureaucracy. [Return to Topics]

Involvement in Vietnam Affairs

So, then I was involved in Vietnam affairs. I went to Vietnam for two-and-a-half weeks on a hospital team. I ‘m a great expert on hospital administration, of course [smiling]. We’ve all known that for a long time. So, I went there. We were supposed to say that the Vietnamese needed more hospitals, all over the place. We were not obliging. We came back and said they didn’t need any more hospitals because they couldn’t handle them. They couldn’t handle the hospitals they already had. And you can’t build a hospital without doctors and nurses, and they don’t have the doctors and nurses. So there’s no use building hospitals.

Well, that did not get us brownie points. And I was never invited to go to Vietnam again. You know, if you are regarded as too frank or too outspoken you are not appreciated.

I don’t know if you remember the Tet Offensive of February 1968. I was in the Vietnam Bureau at the time. I said to myself, “Now, wait a minute. If the enemy can go through all our defenses and surround the U.S. Embassy in Saigon, there’s something fundamentally wrong with our presence in Vietnam. If our defenses are so weak, so porous, that we can’t even defend our own Embassy there, I’d better get out of the Vietnam Bureau.” Why? Because already there were too many … We had 500,000 troops there. 500,000! People were beginning to say, “Oh yes, you are from the Vietnam Bureau, aren’t you.” One got stigmatized in the bureaucracy. So, I was becoming stigmatized and labeled as “one of those guys from the Vietnam Bureau.” So, I left and went to Afghanistan. Believe it or not, it was another promotion, this time to FSR-2. I was most fortunate.

RCA: What year was that? [Return to Topics]

The AID Mission in Afghanistan

CU: 1969. January 1, 1969. I was the third-ranking member of the AID Mission. That was separate from, but under the jurisdiction of, the Ambassador. It was part of the Embassy. But just like AID in Washington, it was separate from the State Department. But under the overall foreign policy direction of the Secretary of State. That is what you call bureaucratic broadmindedness that allowed us to do what we wanted to do without interference from the State Department. Three of us attended the Country Team Meeting.

Again I had the audacity to tell the hierarchy that what they were proposing would not work in Afghanistan. They replied, “We have decided that it will, and you are transferred back to Washington.” And I was summarily transferred back to Washington after three and a half years in Afghanistan. Two years later, I was told that the whole thing had collapsed. The whole program that I said would not work, did collapse. But, bureaucratically, that doesn’t help. I returned not to the Near East Bureau, but to the Latin American Bureau, where I stayed until I retired in 1980. [Return to Topics]

Retirement from Government and Involvement in U.S.-Japan Affairs

RCA: You retired from government service in 1980.

CU: Yes, 1980. So I have now been retired from government service for 25 years.

RCA: You may have retired from government, but you certainly didn’t retire from U.S.-Japan relations.

CU: No. But remember. This is very interesting. Because I started out in U.S.-Japanese affairs with that big study on the Japan Social Democratic Party and several other things everybody knew me as the SDP expert. But then I faded away for twenty-five years, and had absolutely – absolutely – nothing to do with academia or anything Japanese while I was in the U.S. Government. I never wrote a paper on anything concerning Japan. It always was about something else. Nothing to do with Japan.

So, I quit and got involved with U.S.-Japan science and technology matters. Now that, you might say, is an extension of what I did at Harvard, and what I did at Dayton. Yes, but, it all was accidental. The Executive Director of the Japan-America Society in Washington, Art Dornheim, asked me, “Can you organize a science and technology seminar for the U.S. and Japan?” I agreed to do it, and did. I found where both sides stood on the matter, and it was very disappointing. But the seminar itself was successful – in 1981.

The next thing I did was manage big and successful exhibition of Japanese calligraphy at the Library of Congress. Why calligraphy? Many people had known already that I was a practicing Japanese calligrapher. So, Yomiuri and the Japan Foundation wanted to put it on in Washington. But they didn’t know where, and they asked me, and I didn’t know. But I agreed to do it. And I found that the Librarian of Congress, Daniel Borstein, was most pro-Japanese. And he agreed to hold it there. Then in 1986, five years later, we held the second Japanese-U.S. Science and Technology Symposium. And that also was a success.

In 1984 there were the first hearings, believe it or not, on the availability of Japanese scientific and technological information in the United States, held by the U.S. Congress. This was made possible because I had organized it for the Science & Technology Sub-Committee Chairman, Congressman Doug Walgren.

He was the one who chaired it. But he had to be convinced. He wouldn’t be convinced by me. He had to get Congressman Mineta’s approval, and Congressman Jim Scheuer of New York. Once they said yes, it was okay. But it was the first time that anything like this had been done in the U.S. Congress. It is amazing. We were criticizing the Japanese at the time for their science and technology. They were being secretive, they didn’t want to let us see anything. That was never true. They were hiding it, was the idea. “Those sneaky Japanese.” Well, actually they weren’t hiding anything. One, if you could just read the stuff in Japanese, you could find out. Two, if you’d only go over there and ask them, they’d tell you.

That leads to the major thing I did for ten years. That was as senior adviser to the Japanese Technology Evaluation Center. This was created by the National Science Foundation at Loyola College in Baltimore. We would organize American experts on a sliver of technology, and we’d send them to Japan where they’d meet with the Japanese experts. So I was sort of the grand coordinator of these trips. I made many, many of these trips to Japan.

The Japanese were far more open, according to our American experts on our team, than American corporations were to them, the U.S. experts. They were talking Americans to Americans. They said their exchanges with the Japanese were more fruitful than talking with their own people. This went on for ten years, and then I quit and I’m now not doing anything on a paid basis. [Return to Topics]

The Book on Negotiating the U.S.-Japan Science and Technology Agreement

RCA: What was the title of the book you published on science and technology?

CU: You are talking about something different. For the two symposia, proceedings were published, in 1981 and in 1986. It’s called U.S.-Japan Science and Technology Agreement: A Drama in Five Acts. That was published a long time ago, now. That was the story of the negotiations between the United States and Japan on creating a new science and technology agreement in the Reagan years. And it is a rather sad story, more for the United States side than for the Japanese side. It was quite a revealing story, for me. I doubt that anybody’s read it, or paid any attention to it at any time orsince. But it’s a fascinating story about how the two sides talked about it, first, amongst themselves, and two, how they talked about it with each other.

In all aspects, I think it is a very sad story. Especially on the United States side. Because I negotiated for the U.S. government with the Afghan government when I was in Afghanistan. Then to read about how we looked upon each other with mutual suspicion and distrust, at a very high level of the U.S. government, concerning U.S. attitudes toward Japan. It was an enormous eye-opener.

RCA: Haven’t you been involved in the U.S.-Japan Student Conference over the years? I can imagine that institution has had significant influence on the bilateral relationship.

CU: Yes, I have. To some extent, it was influential. Who knows? You can't tell what impact it had. For the people who went before the War, I understand, it had a great impact on many of their lives, politically, socially, and professionally. Some even married each other. One Japanese Prime Minister even met his future wife there. After they attended the 1940 conference together. I think it was in the United States. And they got married. One of the American students I knew got involved with one of the Japanese student. The chairman of the American side, married one of the Japanese delegates. He's now in the US Foreign Service. There were a fair number of cases where they’d meet and later get married. They're not supposed to do that sort of thing, you know. But, you can't control it. That's my experience. [Return to Topics]

Current Writing Projects

RCA: Let's turn now, before your patience is completely exhausted, to your current writing projects.

CU: Well, there's nothing much I can give you. There are three projects. One is a long-standing one. I'm writing a history of my family. The history, in this sense is two generations. Basically, my father and mother. That was an unusual union in the 1920s, in England, for a Caucasian woman then to marry a Japanese was indeed unusual. And then, my own case, coming over here and doing what I did, is a little bit unusual. So that's what I'm working on. The other one is an academic study. The history one is non-footnoted. Therefore, it must be nonacademic.

The other one is fully footnoted, and thus, by definition, academic. It's on the Habouhou, the Subversive Activities Prevention Law. Why is this so interesting, yet nobody has ever written on it? That's because it was the major piece of legislation at the end of the Occupation that created enormous demonstrations in Japan against the law. That's one reason. It was a revival of the Peace Preservation Law, postwar edition. And three, because it is an example of what happens in an occupation.

In September of 1945, the Americans genuinely gave the orders. Did the Japanese always carry them out? That's another question. But they thought they were giving the orders. And this particular piece of legislation, which was an extremely sensitive piece of legislation, concerned internal security. The new law for postwar Japan. What were the Americans in the Occupation going to do? What kind of a role would they play? That is all documented, and quite well, I think. It came during the twilight of the Occupation. What could they really do when they knew the date of the end of the Occupation was pretty close. And after while, you know the exact date, even. At which point, you are like a lame-duck president. You're a lame-duck Occupation.

And what happens? Well, in this particular case, we all went through the formalities. The Japanese were very polite, very circumspect. They go to tell the Occupation senior officials "We have done this, sir, we have done that, sir." Except, judging from their record, it was never quite everything that the Japanese were doing. Little pieces were missing, here and there. And, the Americans went through the same little exercise. Meeting with the Japanese, saying “I think it would be nice if you could do this, or that.” And the Japanese politely say, "Yes sir, let us think about it, sir. And I'm sure we will be able to do it, sir." And they'd go home.

Both sides knew exactly what they were doing. Because if the Japanese didn't really like what the Americans were saying, they’d just sit on the haunches and wait for them all to go home, on April 28, 1952, and they’d do exactly as they damn well pleased.

Well, everybody was polite and courteous. Actually, the drafter of the bill, Mr. Seki, now passed away at 97. And he established a very good relationship with the American Army officer, a major, who was an artillery major, who was given the job of looking after the Subversive Activities Prevention Law for the Occupation forces. I think he was very pleased to get the job because he was en route to Korea in 1951. And I think it was preferable to stay in Tokyo rather than go to the Korean front. So, he stayed in Tokyo, and they established a very, apparently, quite nice working relationship. The book is 85% written. The last 15% is very difficult to write.

The third project is a Japanese stamp study. One aspect of Japanese stamps. It's about furusato stamps [prefectural issues]. Are you acquainted with them?

RCA: No, not at all.

CU: You should be. You should tell your in-laws to get you some. It's a special group of Japanese stamps, extremely popular in Japan; unknown to the rest of the world. I'm doing the study slowly. There are 700-plus stamps in the series.

So, those of the three projects I'm doing. The family history is not intended to be published. The academic study is intended to be published. By whom? I don’t know. If it isn't, that's all right with me too. And the stamps study, that too will be published, when and if I get to it, and finish it -- if I live that long.

RCA: You’re not intending to publish your family history?

CU: No. It was never written for publication. It was written just for the record. My mother wrote hers in English. My father wrote his, at great length, in Japanese -- 2200 Japanese manuscript pages. So, I'm boiling it all down into English. It’s not being translated, that’s for sure! I read my father's autobiography and created an account through the lens of my eyes. That's enough. I never have intended to translate his work.

RCA: Thank you.

CU: Thank you, and good luck. [Return to Topics]