Dr. James E. Auer

Director, Center for U.S.-Japan
Studies & Cooperation
Vanderbilt University

April 14, 2006


Click highlighted words and phrases below that turn red with cursor over for additional links .
Go To
Go To
Go To
Go To
Go To
Go To
Go To
Go To
Go To

Audio out-takes are available via Flash Player. Click on the icon, wait for the file to load, click the control arrow, and then listen. Most computers have the latest Flash player. If yours doesn't, click on the arrow below to download it. The player is free and won't harm your computer.

Highlighted text below is linked to other pages.

Go To

Introduction to Japan:

RCA: It’s April 14 th, 2006, and we’re on the Skype line with Dr. James E. Auer, Director of the Center for U.S.-Japan Studies and Cooperation in the Vanderbilt Institute for Public Policy Studies at Vanderbilt University. Thank you for joining us, Jim, to record an interview for the Japan Considered Project series.

JEA: My pleasure.

RCA: Let’s begin, as usual, with how you first became involved with Japan.

JEA: Well, I wonder if you’ve ever heard the old Navy recruiting slogan, “Join the Navy and See the World”? I attended Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where I did most of my growing up, on a Navy ROTC scholarship. As a result I owed the Navy four years of my life. I really thought I’d spend four years and one second in the Navy, and then go out and pursue a career in counseling, or possibly even psychiatry.

But because I was single, and because of that “Join the Navy and See the World” slogan, I volunteered, and requested assignment on a small ship, a U.S. Navy minesweeper, which at that time the U.S. had nine of home-ported in Sasebo, Japan. I got my wish and went to Sasebo from 1963 to 1965, the two years after I graduated from Marquette.

RCA: What did you do while there? [Back to Topics]

Navy Career.

JEA: Well, that was my first involvement with Japan. However, on that tour of duty, and on my second tour of duty, on a destroyer for two years home-ported in Yokosuka, outside Tokyo, I really saw little of Japan, and had little to do with Japan.

Another mistake I made in my prognostication was the belief that even if I had stayed in the Navy longer than four years, for a period of even twenty or thirty years, that I would never see a war. I just believed that with World War Two, and then the Korean Conflict under its belt, the United States just wouldn’t get involved in other wars. And other countries wouldn’t want to get involved with wars with the United States.

Well, within a year of the time I reported to Sasebo, my ship was one of the early ones involved in the Vietnam War. In fact, the USS Peacock, the small minesweeper I served on, was the third ship, after the USS Maddox and Turner Joy, to be shot at in Vietnam. But for the second year I was on that first ship, and for both of my years on the destroyer, we saw far more of Vietnam than we did of Japan. And when the ship did return to Japan for brief periods of time, the people who were married naturally wanted to spend time with their families. So I often would take their duty in Japan and they would take mine in Hong Kong and other ports of call that we would have. So, in my first four years, even though I was theoretically based in Japan, I saw very little of it.

Those were good days to be in Japan. The dollar was very strong. The yen was 360 to the dollar. So even though my salary, when I started out, was a whopping $220 per month, one could live very well in Japan as a gaijin.

RCA: Indeed. I remember it well. I first went there in 1961.

In addition to your Navy career you’ve had both an academic career and a government career. Both of which very much involved Japan, didn’t they?

JEA: Well, yes. As I said, I originally estimated that I would spend that four years in the Navy and then leave. However, I ended up spending twenty years in the Navy. I did sort of normal things that a seagoing naval officer would do in twenty years. Except that four of the five ships that I served on, two of which I commanded, were based not in the United States, but in Japan. One in Sasebo, which I mentioned, and then three in Yokosuka. I was the first American officer to attend the Japanese Navy War College, called the Maritime Staff College, in Tokyo. [Back to Topics]

Earning a PhD at Fletcher.

As a middle-range officer, I guess, the Navy sent me to the Fletcher School in Boston. Fletcher is an independent graduate school. It’s on the campus of Tufts University. But it was jointly founded by Tufts and Harvard. We had the option of taking up to 25 percent of our courses at Harvard if there was something that Fletcher didn’t have that was available at Harvard. Well, Fletcher did have a very good Asia scholar, Alan Cole. But he was a China specialist. So he told me, “Since you really want to study Japan politics it makes more sense to go down and study under Ed Reischauer, who had just come back to Harvard after serving as U.S. Ambassador in Japan.

RCA: So you worked with Professor Reischauer as well.

JEA: I took his undergraduate course on modern Japanese politics for graduate credit my second year at Fletcher. I wrote my masters thesis the second semester for his graduate seminar. And then the Navy, flattered me for a moment, saying I was unusually brilliant. But I found out that two of my seagoing colleagues were found to be brilliant in the exact same words. The true situation was that the Navy had down-sized and there weren’t enough seagoing billets for officers. So the easiest thing was to allow us to stay in graduate school and complete a PhD.

I had written my masters thesis on the U.S. Navy in Japan during the Occupation. I wasn’t required to write on a military topic. But I chose that one. I got declassified the fact that during the Korean War, when the Navy found itself short of minesweepers – it had virtually retired all of them during the Korean War – it went ahead and utilized 75 Imperial Navy minesweepers, which had continued on active duty. These ships got sent to Korea to sweep mines during a time that most of the world thought Japan had no military forces at all.

When I reported that to Reischauer in the seminar, he said, “I didn’t know that. And if I didn’t know, I doubt any other Americans, or too many other Japanese, know it.”

So, when I was given this extra year, he said, “Why don’t you go over to Japan and interview those people who helped establish the new Japanese Navy. Which came out of that minesweeping force that went to Korea during the Korean War. He said, “Some day a Japanese will write the definitive study of that. But your dissertation could be an interim, stop-gap measure.”

So, with trepidation, without any Japanese language … I really didn’t study Japanese language until after that, in preparation for going to the Japanese Navy War College, I went to Japan. My dissertation research was 200 interviews with those Japanese people who had helped establish the postwar Japanese Navy. [Back to Topics]

Attending the Japanese Naval War College.

RCA: That’s incredible. You mentioned that you were the first American to attend the Japanese Navy War College. Could you tell us a bit more about that?

JEA: The Imperial Japanese Navy had a war college which was on its own model. Or, I suppose, followed pretty much on the British model. The Imperial Japanese Navy modeled itself very much on the British Navy. Of course, Japan had no military forces during the Occupation period. When this new navy was established in 1952 it was very much modeled on the U.S. Navy. So early on in its history, the Maritime Self Defense Force, the new Japanese Navy, founded a staff college very much on the model of the U.S. Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island. The Japanese had sent an officer to Newport virtually from the very beginning of its existence. But the U.S. had never sent an officer to the Japanese Naval War College.

A man by the name of Elmo Zumwalt became Chief of Naval Operations in the early 1970s. Zumwalt was particularly keen on increasing U.S. Navy contacts with Allied navies. Particularly ones that were most likely to be good allies of the United States in the Pacific. Japan was virtually the only one he saw with any potential.

So I suggested that it would be a good thing for the U.S. to send an officer to the Japanese Naval War College. And I ended up being the first lucky one to have the chance to do that.

RCA: How did you find it?

JEA: At that time, the U.S. military had a language school in Monterrey, California, and still does today. The Japanese program is a two-year program. But you don’t master Japanese to study at the graduate level in two years. And I’d had only a year. So I argued that rather than go to the Monterrey Language School, I should go to a school in Japan. The Jesuits had a school at that time in Kamakura, training priests to teach at Sophia University in Tokyo. That also was a two-year school. And again, I had only a year. Actually fourteen months. They kind of understood my situation. So they tried to accelerate me in that course.

I probably had roughly 1,200 kanji under my belt when I went to the school. And my classmates were thirty Japanese. The curriculum was quite easy for me. I had just finished my PhD studies. And I would say that this course, like its equivalent at Newport, was a masters-level course in international relations. So the curriculum was quite easy. The great albatross was the Japanese language. The students were asked to write five papers for the course. They said they’d like me to write at least three of the papers, and if possible, one of the three in Japanese.

Well, I ended up writing all five papers, and I wrote four in Japanese. I wrote them in English. I translated them into Japanese, and then had a Japanese friend translate them into understandable Japanese. They were very, very kind to me. And as I say, the curriculum wasn’t very difficult. In some lectures I felt that I understood 90% of the topic. In other lectures I felt that I understood less than one percent, depending on the instructor and the topic.

RCA: That’s a unique experience. Do you think that experience gave you special insight into official Japan?

JEA: Well, it certainly gave me a more in-depth knowledge of the Japanese Navy. And U.S.-Japan defense relations still is my topic of interest, and hopefully of some expertise today. Certainly, my studies with Reischauer and my experience in Japan meant a lot. But particularly to be able to live with those officers for a year, who were of my same age and experience. As far as understanding how the Japanese Navy thinks and operates, that was an extremely valuable experience.

RCA: Have you kept up the friendships with some of those people?

JEA: Yes, my classmates have been very, very kind. When I go to Japan we often have reunions together. All of my classmates now have retired from the Maritime Self Defense Force. Several became two- and three-star admirals. One is president of a small radio company down in Sasebo, which was my first duty station. Kyushu is a very, very nice place. It’s certainly more Japanese than Tokyo is. When I go to Japan I usually go to Tokyo. But several times I’ve been down to Sasebo to speak at the Japan-America society there. And again, wherever I go, usually my old classmates try to get together some of our classmates. And sometimes as many as possible gather in the Tokyo area. [Back to Topics]

Service in the Pentagon as Navy Officer and Civilian.

RCA: Shifting gears, quite a few people have had military experience with Japan. Not at the level you’ve had. But some military experience. But not very many have combined military experience with a high-level government career. You, I think it’s fair to say, for quite a number of years, were one of Washington’s most important people in U.S.-Japan relations. Do you want to talk about that?

JEA: The unusual thing, Bob, is that other than that year at the Japanese Naval War College, all of my time in Japan was serving on ships there. My job on the ships was managing American sailors. As I mentioned previously, most of our operations were outside of Japan, in Vietnam, or in other places.

In 1979, at which time I had fifteen years in the Navy, I was assigned to my first-ever duty in Washington, D.C. At the Pentagon. I think I liked the Navy so much, unexpectedly, was because I didn’t serve in Washington, D.C. But when I did finally go, I didn’t go to work for the Navy there behind a desk. I did work at a desk. But I worked for the Secretary of Defense, not for the Department of the Navy.

The Secretary of Defense has his own small, by military standards, staff of about one thousand people. A number of them, half or more, are civilians. Some career civilians. But the highest-ranking ones, as in all U.S. government departments, are political appointees. But the Secretary of Defense also procures a number of officers from the Army, Navy, or Air Force, who continue on active duty in that service, and are paid for by that service, but who work directly for the Secretary of Defense.

So I was the Japan policy officer. Mike Armacost was the deputy assistant secretary for East Asia. And he hired me into that job. That was at the end of the Carter Administration. When Reagan was elected, Rich Armitage came in to be the deputy assistant secretary. And I actually stayed on with him and Secretary Weinberger for six and a half years. But for my last five years in the Navy, and then another five years as a civilian, I was the Japan policy officer in the office of the Secretary of Defense.

Now, those first five years as a Navy commander, the equivalent of a lieutenant colonel in the Army or the Air Force … Lieutenant colonels in the Pentagon aren’t very much at all. Two and three-star generals and admirals in the Pentagon aren’t necessarily very much. But the most impressive thing for those of us who worked for the secretary of defense who were military officers is that we could really see that civilian control worked. We didn’t have any power. But our civilian bosses, especially depending on their personal relationship with the secretary of defense, could have significant power. And therefore, to the extent we could convince them that our policy – in my case, to Japan – ought to be such-and-such, we could have a certain amount of influence. So it was a very challenging and rewarding position that I was able to stay in unexpectedly for ten years.

RCA: For ten years! That’s remarkable.

JEA: Yes, it was my last five years in the Navy. And I fully intended to get out. When Secretary Weinberger would go to Japan, I’d usually go out ahead of him. And when the Japanese Minister of Defense would come to Washington, I would prepare the Secretary. Particularly Mr. Weinberger, who just passed away very recently, was an extremely cordial man, and friendly man. So he would say when we met, “Oh, yes, nice to see you again.” And sometimes he would say, “Jim, how are you?” But I really didn’t think … With all the people he had to deal with … He knew my boss, Rich Armitage, very, very well.

But during that last year I was in the Navy, I got a call from Mr. Weinberger’s secretary. She said, “When you have time, Secretary Weinberger would like to see you.”

I said, “In that case, I can be down there in about 70 seconds.” To which she replied, “Well, in that case, why don’t you come down next Tuesday at 10 o’clock.”

When I met him again he was so cordial. He said, “The President,” who was Reagan, whom I had never met, and never met afterwards, “The President and I are very distressed that you are retiring from the Navy and leaving the service. We would be honored if you would serve our Administration as a political appointee.”

Then he added, “Don’t answer me now, if you are interested in doing this. Go home and talk with your wife. If you decide to do it, come back and let me know.”

I immediately went to Rich Armitage’s office and told him, “You really didn’t have to do this.” To which he responded, “No, Weinberger really wanted to do it.”

So that was my introduction to civilian life. But my job really didn’t change at all. I continued in that job. And because I did find it so challenging and psychologically rewarding, I decided to stay on for another five years.

RCA: A mutual old friend told me recently that nobody knows more about military relations, or defense relations, between Japan and the United States than Jim Auer.

JEA: “Oseji, arigato gozaimasu.” [Thanks for the flattering words.] That’s again, very flattering. I don’t think it’s completely accurate. But the one thing that comes to mind when you say that is my dissertation. Again, Reischauer had suggested it when I got this extra year. It is a history of the Japan Maritime Self Defense Force. It was published in English by Praeger as Postwar Rearmament of Japanese Maratime Forces, 1945-1971. Then it was translated into Japanese and published by Jiji Tsushin. And it actually sold fairly well in Japanese. The Mainichi Daily News did a review of it. I don’t recall the author of the review. But it was a fairly positive review. It said “This book has some interesting facts, and very, very detailed facts that we can’t imagine that anyone would possibly be interested in, other than Lieutenant Commander James E. Auer.”

So, when you say he’s the most knowledgeable person, I think that’s because nobody else is interested in it. Fortunate now there are many more people interested in it. And some very good people too, these days. [Back to Topics]

Assessment of Current U.S.-Japan Defense Relations.

RCA: Do you have any thoughts on current U.S.-Japan defense relations, or on how things in that area have changed?

JEA: Overall, I think the U.S.-Japan alliance, which now, unbelievably has lasted more than fifty years, has exceeded the expectations of either Washington or Tokyo in 1952. The U.S. has other good allies in the Pacific as well. But Japan still is the only one that really has any kind of significant capability.

Now, if you are getting up into the age that you and I are now, Bob, and look back, it looks like Japan has made a tremendous amount of progress. First of all, the Japanese made a tremendous contribution that they don’t get enough credit for during the last decade of the Cold War. The Soviets had one hundred submarines in their Pacific Fleet alone, based in Vladivostok. A great number of them were nuclear-powered. A certain number of them carried nuclear ballistic missiles. And one hundred submarines in that one area was a particular problem for us that we were able to deal with extremely well only because the Japanese, of course, with strong encouragement from the United States, built one hundred high-quality anti-submarine warfare aircraft: P3Cs. And they had more than forty destroyers. That allowed the Seventh Fleet, the U.S. fleet in that area, to keep only twenty-five P3Cs in that area.

But virtually every single Soviet submarine that came out of Vladivostok was detected by either a Japanese P3 or an American P3. And those submarines knew that they were detected. And we wanted them to know that they had been detected, and to report it. Because that told Moscow that had the Cold War been hot, those multiple submarines they had could have been eliminated, virtually immediately. Because we and the Japanese both had the weapons necessary to do that. So that was a tremendous contribution. [2740]

Right now, the Japanese have 700 soldiers in Iraq. Ever since December of 2001, they’ve had a Navy tanker out in the Indian Ocean, refueling us, the British, the Australians, and others, at Japanese taxpayers’ expense. That’s a tremendously useful contribution. [Back to Topics]

Evolution of Japan’s Defense Policies.

On the other hand, Japan still today, has an unusual restriction – self-imposed, really above the Constitution. Even though Japan has the right of collective self-defense, the Japanese government, since 1972, has decided that Japan is not allowed to exercise collective self-defense.

What means is that, according to their policy, if those 700 soldiers in Samawa, Iraq, or that tanker and its accompanying destroyers out in the Indian Ocean, are attacked, they can immediately defend themselves. But if that area becomes unstable, rather than fighting, they’re supposed to leave the area and return to Japan. If they are there with, for example, U.S. ships, or I guess more likely, in Iraq, with U.S. or allied soldiers, and the allied soldiers come under attack, the Japanese can do nothing. They are not allowed to fight back. And, again, they are supposed to evacuate the area.

That is a very unusual situation. I think the situation is changing. But if it doesn’t change, in a future crisis – especially if one happened in the Taiwan Strait or on the Korean Peninsula – that could really shake the U.S.-Japan alliance to its foundation, I believe.

RCA: What do you think the chances are of it changing?

JEA: It is changing. Koizumi became prime minister in April 2001, on a Thursday. On the Sunday previous to that, NHK interviewed him and Hashimoto, and the other two candidates for prime minister. And one of the things Koizumi said on that program was specifically that case. He said, “The U.S. forces in Japan are here to protect Japan, both in this local area, and in more distant areas. But we, the Japanese, are not allowed to help them. Even if they are acting on our behalf. This seems strange to me, and we ought to study this.” That didn’t make him prime minister four days later. But the interesting thing was that it didn’t prevent him from becoming prime minister.

The U.S. and Japan have agreed already on joint development of a missile defense system. This also is requiring Japan to compromise that collective self-defense doctrine. If they didn’t they would virtually have to wait, for example, if a missile were shot from North Korea, to make sure that missile was intended for Japan rather than for the United States – for Alaska or someplace. They would have to wait until the missile were coming down on Tokyo, or Nagoya, or wherever. Well, obviously, that’s too late. If you shoot down the missile over Tokyo it still does its damage. If you’re going to get that missile you have to get it shortly after it has blasted off. So they have really already carved out a niche to change that doctrine with regard to missile defense. And I think they’ll broaden it, as they almost have to. Young people in Japan who don’t understand the Constitution can’t understand why Japan has this military that it can’t use.

RCA: That looks like it may be changing.

JEA: I believe it will change. If they change the Constitution I think that will be one of the things that will be specifically clarified. But it would be possible to change that collective self-defense policy without even changing the Constitution. As I said, that didn’t come in with the Constitution in 1947. From 1947 until 1972 the Japanese capability was so low that nobody ever even considered that. But the Opposition, that didn’t have any power in those years, would always nickel-and-dime the LDP about the Self Defense Forces being unconstitutional. And in 1972 the LDP, kind of out of frustration, trying to get the Opposition to come back for a budget debate, had the Cabinet Legislative Office make this incomprehensible statement that even though Japan, through the San Francisco Peace Treaty, and the U.N. Charter, has the right of collective defense, that Japan cannot utilize that right.

RCA: It’s a Cabinet Order, isn’t it?

JEA: It’s a statement of Cabinet Policy, of the Naikaku Hosei-Kyoku. Which is not a law, is not in the Constitution. But until it’s changed it has the force of government policy. The three non-nuclear principles. A lot of people mistakenly think that is somehow in the Constitution, or in a law. But it’s a statement of Cabinet policy. And, theoretically, the prime minister, for whom the Cabinet Legislative Office works, could order them to make a new statement of policy in a very short period of time. [Back to Topics]

Move to Vanderbilt and Activities of the Center for U.S.-Japan Studies

RCA: That’s useful background. In addition, can you tell us something about the activities of your Center?

JEA: Another thing, on the personal level, that Japan did to change my life was that as a thirty-three year old bachelor, I was executive officer of a destroyer in Yokosuka. And at a Christmas party in Japan, thirty-two years ago this December, 2006, I met a native of Nashville, graduate of Vanderbilt University, who was the high school guidance counselor at the U.S. Navy High School in Yokosuka, the Nile C. Kinnick High School.

In those days, people in their mid-thirties getting married were fairly unusual. Most people did it earlier than that. Her parents and my parents had given up. We would never get married. So, when we decided at age 35, for me, and 34 for my wife, that we really were going to get married, we decided to give our parents evidence by going back to my wife’s hometown, Nashville, to get married. Which we did. We were there less than two weeks, and then went back to Japan. That was just before I entered the Japanese Naval War College.

But my wife, her sister, brother, and brother-in-law, all were graduates of Vanderbilt. I had this PhD courtesy of the Navy from the Fletcher School. But it was the thing furthest from either of our minds that some day I would be at Vanderbilt. My wife really didn’t pressure me on that. But we used to visit here over the Christmas holidays.

The Japanese started investing in the South, as you know, during that time. And one of the businessmen who was on the Vanderbilt Board started asking the Chancellor why Vanderbilt wasn’t doing any more in the Japan or U.S.-Japan field. The Chancellor asked the Political Science Department and the History Department. Each said they had somebody teaching Asia, so that’s enough. Vanderbilt has this Public Policy Institute, which was a fairly new part of the University, which had just started in the mid-seventies, I guess. The Director, Cliff Russell, had just come from Washington, D.C. He was an environmental economist. He said, “Oh, we’d love to have that at the Public Policy Institute.”

So, I was contacted and asked if I was interested in trying to set up some kind of a new U.S.-Japan program at Vanderbilt. And here’s I’ve been, now, for seventeen and a half years. It’s surprising. Almost as long as I was in the Navy.

RCA: What kinds of programming do you do there?

JEA: Well, I do various things. I am not a tenured professor here. I don’t have an appointment in the College of Arts and Science. I am the administrator, researcher, and fundraiser of this small U.S.-Japan Center. I had imagined that when I came here I would have to concentrate on economic and trade issues. You remember the late eighties, when Japan was public enemy number one. But defense issues started to become more and more popular at that time. So the conferences I got invited to continued to be the things I had done the previous ten years in the Pentagon – defense-related. That, of course, was easy for me. I was always on the policy side, rather than on the technology side. But you might remember the quite sensitive issue of a new airplane Japan was procuring, the FSX.

During the ten years I was at the Pentagon I wrote lots of Congressional testimony for Secretary Weinberger, for Rich Armitage, for Jim Kelly, and for other officials I worked for. But I never gave testimony myself. I testified as a Vanderbilt professor twice about the FSX. That was early in the first Bush Administration. They kind of ran for cover when Jesse Helms, Clyde Prestowitz, and others raised that issue. So, I went from Nashville to Washington, D.C. to defend the Administration’s position on selling this airplane to Japan.

In fact, your friend and mine, Greg Rubenstein, and I were attacked in one book as having given away the keys to the kingdom of the United States aviation technology, and that the U.S. would lose the lead in aviation, the way we had lost the lead in automobiles and electronics. But one of the things I did in response to that that, together with an old friend, Jerry Sullivan, who was a civilian DoD career employee, who was in charge of international technology cooperation. Jerry and I got to know each other much better during this whole controversy over the FSX.

We agreed that there were at least some contacts between the U.S. and Japanese governments on technology cooperation. But if technology cooperation ever was to work, it would be necessary to get the people who owned that technology, the private sectors of the U.S. and Japan, to have more contact.

So, I still host every year here – we’ll be doing it next month for the sixteenth time – a U.S.-Japan technology forum, which brings together Japanese and American businessmen to talk about what they’re doing, and to look for potential opportunities for cooperation. Despite the fact the U.S. defense budget is huge. And by relative standards, Japan’s defense budget is bigger than many, many countries’. There still has not been as much cooperation as there could be.

So we put together this forum. The first year, in 1990, we had ten Americans and ten Japanese participants. This year we’re expecting a little more than fifty total participants. And we’re almost the victim of success. We have to turn people away from it because if the program gets too big it’s just too difficult to have a good conversation.

RCA: That’s right. That’s an impressive accomplishment.

JEA: It’s a closed meeting. But we publish a report every year on that. I also started out with one or two, but it’s grown now to six or seven, usually Japanese research fellows that I have here for a year. Usually from the government. The Ministry of Economy Trade and Industry has been my biggest supplier. They usually send two people here for a year. And every two years send one person here for a two-year masters program, which is not, therefore, under me. Usually studying economics. But I look after them.

I’ve had about ten fellows, one at a time, from the Japanese National Police Agency. I had no contact with them before. But they are very, very talented people. Todai and other university graduates. I’ve had a couple of reporters. Two from Sankei that I write for quite a bit myself. And one, amazingly, from the Asahi Shimbun. These fellows usually take my undergraduate course in current U.S.-Japan relations.

I wouldn’t have to do this in Japan, I think. But in the United States I give daily quizzes in my class. Because if I don’t the students, particularly the American students, won’t read the assignment. They’ll wait until the midterm or the final to read the assignments. So I have these daily quizzes, just ten multiple-guess questions. But I always put an essay at the end to give them a little chance to think through them. The Asahi fellow always would write such reasonable answers on the essays, that I would frequently jokingly comment, “Your answer is extremely reasonable. But you might be in trouble with the Asahi if you write this way.”

You may have seen the Japanese wedding picture I sent you. That was taken in January of this year. The groom is a National Police Agency officer. And the bride is from the Japanese Small and Medium Enterprise Corporation. She also was a fellow here. Many of our fellows have gotten married after they have returned to Japan. And I’ve spoken at a number of weddings. But this was the first-ever marriage made in Nashville. They met here.

And I’ve had several private-sector people. I just had for two and a half years a PhD candidate from Doshisha University who is writing his PhD dissertation on the home-porting of the USS Midway. The Midway was the first carrier that the United States ever home-based outside Japan. I had quite a bit to do with that, while I was in the Navy, and in the Secretary of Defense’s office. So his professor, who you probably know, Koji Murata, suggested that he come here and study with me. That’s been a first. But that was particularly enjoyable to have him as well.

RCA: Vanderbilt’s lucky to have you. So many of our universities and colleges have given up, it seems, on Japan area studies. It’s a shame. Also, it’s awfully nice to have Vanderbilt in Nashville. Nashville’s a better introduction to America, I think, than the cities of many of the other centers. Now, it’s not South Carolina, of course … But ….

JEA: I have a son in Charleston, at the Citadel, Bob. My wife and I have come to really love Charleston. We’re so thankful we’ve had opportunities to visit there. I very much agree with you. Most of these METI people, before coming here, would go to Harvard, or MIT, or some place in San Francisco, or Los Angeles. I tell them, “Those are all nice places, and very good schools, obviously. But particularly Washington and New York, I don’t think are America. Nashville, Tennessee is America.

RCA: Like Tokyo and Japan.

JEA: That’s right. I really do encourage them, not only to see Tennessee, but to travel around the country as much as possible in the year or two years they are here. They all have taken that to heart, have done it, and have enjoyed it. I don’t know how much their ministries think they are getting out of this. But the individuals who have come here all seem to find it a valuable experience for themselves.

RCA: I think it is an important part of the longer-term effort to sustain the bilateral relationship.

Before I wear out my welcome completely here, have you got any additional points that you would like to cover? [Back to Topics]

Concern Over Decline of Japanese Studies in the United States.

JEA: I do share your concern about training in Japanese studies in the U.S. You know, there are still great people, such as yourself, out there. But here at Vanderbilt, and I don’t think it’s unique at all. But the Political Science Department doesn’t seem to be interested in area studies at all. I think the students really suffer from that. They take political science thinking they are going to have that opportunity. We have no one teaching any kind of Asian politics here at Vanderbilt right now. A few years ago, Derek Waller retired. You might have known Derek. Well, we have Chinese language and Japanese language, four years each, for people who want it. But nothing really in what should be …

RCA: We’re in about the same shape. I don’t know what we can do about it. But fortunately there still are programs like yours that bring people together and force them to think about really important ideas.

JEA: I certainly have enjoyed the opportunity. And I never would have dreamed that this ever would have happened. So I count my blessings.

RCA: Thanks again, Jim, for your comments and assessments. I appreciate your time.

JEA: I enjoyed talking with you. [Back to Topics]