Tokyo: The View from My Window


Home of US Ambassador to Japan.JPG
For a few more hours, this is generally my view from the Intercontinental ANA Hotel in Tokyo.
The white house there in the middle is the home of Obama California campaign finance chair and now US Ambassador to Japan John Roos, who I had the privilege to meet and chat with the evening before last. Roos is impressively approachable and knowledgeable and has been active in Democratic party politics for a long time. A person close to him tells me he has a photo of former Senator Bill Bradley, for whom he was a late in the campaign debate coach, saying something along the lines “If we had started together earlier on this stuff, we’d both be in different places.”
The Hotel Okura is just behind the Ambassador’s residence.
Roos, who now has a lot of Japan experience, but hadn’t been to Japan before he traveled here for the first time as U.S. Ambassador also has a knack for remembering details — and the names of authors of things he has read, like this piece.
When I met him at the home of Deputy Chief of Mission Jim Zumwalt, Ambassador Roos was saying hi to folks — and I eagerly said hi as knowing the US Ambassador over here is still a cool thing. But he moved his head right down to my name tag and said, “hmm…I think I just read something of yours. What was it?” he asked. “Maybe something on the resignation of Hatoyama,” I responded. “That’s right — the Prime Minister President Obama ‘took out’. I don’t quite agree with that. . .”
It was an interesting moment — and to his credit, Ambassador Roos wasn’t brittle about the piece at all and talked about the issues involved and who played what role with informed ease.
And then later in the reception, James Fallows, with whom I am on this trip along with others as guests of the Department of State to speak before and have exchanges with about 140 college students from all over Japan about various dimensions of US-Japan relations, asked one of the close advisers to Ambassador Roos how they were going to deal with the impression that the Obama administration undermined Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama.
With me standing there, this person said, “Well, there is just beginning to appear in the press other rationales for why Hatoyama resigned than the issue of Futenma and American pressure. There was some early writing and press on this that we have been trying to deal with.” Jim Fallows then pointed at me laughingly and said, “have you met Steve Clemons? He started it. . .”
One of the really impressive things about this trip sponsored by the Embassy and Department of State was that there was zero — absolutely no pressure to promote a line or particular view on the US-Japan security relationship. The Ambassador, the DCM, their advisers and public policy teams were completely comfortable talking about the Futenma controversy and the broader issue of where US-Japan relations needed to go. I tend to be a critic of the tight Futenma-hugging that the US did but am very impressed with Obama’s National Security Strategy, which I talked a lot about during the two days of meetings.
And the Embassy staff were of diverse minds on all of this as well. The students, whose views were reasoned and impressively articulate, were also diverse — on everything from immigration questions, to the depth and importance of the US-Japan security relationship and what the fall of Hatoyama was caused by.
I’m going to write more soon on some votes that the Japanese students took on five interesting questions — but for the time being, I wanted to post this and thank the Embassy, Ambassador Roos and his team, Aoyama Gakuin University, and Sophia University for an impressive experience here.
Now I’m off to Naha in Okinawa. And yes, that is where Futenma US Marine Air Station is. I can’t believe the timing of this trip — which was planned months ago…
— Steve Clemons


10 comments on “Tokyo: The View from My Window

  1. Mariko says:

    Hello Mr.Steve Clemons,
    Thank you for coming to Japan to attend the sympodium on the 50th anniversary of the U.S.-Japan alliance. I was one of the panel members from Aoyamagakuin University.(BTW: I was a girl with short hair) As I have never participated in a symposium, it was an exciting and intellectually-stimulating experience. It was interesting to know that President Obama’s icy treatment over the relocation of Futenma wilted our ex-prime minister Hatoyama. I’ve been thinking that Mr.Hatoyama had to resign because the people no longer trusted him. He broke his campaign promises and lacked decisiveness over many issues.
    I hope you had a good time in Futenma too.


  2. WigWag says:

    It was good to see this post on Steve’s trip to Japan. With all Steve’s posts on Israel, it’s clear that Steve believes in the old adage that it’s not only important to provide a forum where everything is said, but also to provide a forum where everything that can be said about Israel is said by everyone. In fact, he is anxious to not only repeat himself over and over again, but he kindly provides a forum where his loyal readers can repeat themselves over and over again.
    It’s good to see a post where those not perseverating on the venality of Israel can talk about something else, even if it


  3. Dan says:

    Thanks for the interesting photo of the Ambassador’s residence.
    That cat should be belled. We should have a serious discussion
    in this country about why we still have bases in Japan and whether
    we can do without them.
    The German response to being broke is their announcement last
    week that they will cut their army by 100,000 personnel. We can’t
    even shut down a base that is a leftover from a war that ended
    sixty-five years ago and just antagonizes the local islanders. It’s


  4. Don Bacon says:

    So what’s the deal about the US military moving to Guam, about three times as far from China as Okinawa? And why should Marines be there at all when the US is dead broke? (oops, already been asked)


  5. YY says:

    Perhaps you’ll see for yourself how inappropriate a place Futenma is for a base, and despite the dugongs, Henoko is not a bad choice. They could even create a two level base where the current base is, sort of a land based aircraft carrier if they are out of space. But if physical space were the only problem, then Kansai International Airport is probably the best spot. It can be returned to civilian use when demand justifies again. (Osaka mayor should think this one through given his statements about volunteering help)
    I think the real question is whether or not the marines should be there at all, but who’s gonna bell this cat? Have a good trip.


  6. Don Bacon says:

    At the summit meeting of the leaders of Japan, China and South Korea held last weekend in Jeju, South Korea there was discussion of the possibility of a free trade agreement between the three countries. This was the third such meeting, with a joint study to be completed in 2012.
    In any such Free Trade Agreement there must be cooperation on matters such as labeling and safety standards, and of course any standards the three arrive at would have a profound effect on world trade, and the US, as would the shear size of the trade in a rather confined geographical area (East Asia). These countries ranked by GDP (CIA Factbook) are numbers 2, 3 and 15 in the world.
    While Taiwan (#26) has not been part of the talks it might conceivably be included in a new Far East FTA. The new economic pact between Taiwan and China, known as the economic cooperation framework agreement (ECFA), is expected to boost the island’s $390 billion export-led economy. The ECFA would boost about $100 billion in annual two-way trade by reducing tariffs on 300 items.
    The vision statement for this FTA being considered includes mention of a common market:


  7. steve clemons says:

    POA — i can tell you are in one of your moods. there are going to be some very cool young people reading this — try to be a little bit respectful of some young folks who care about us-japan relations reading this…
    you’ll have opportunities for rants on the posts that are relevant to your favorite concerns.
    all best — and pat jake on the head for me.


  8. PissedOffAmerican says:

    “POA — permission for posting the picture of his house? it’s one of the very well known landmarks in Tokyo…. all best, steve”
    And Roos feels safe with that???
    Gee, maybe he knows something we don’t regarding the boogie men being used as an excuse for looting the coffers and engaging in eternal war.
    Could it be that Israel is the only enemy we have that is currently engaged in acts of state sponsored terorism against American citizens?


  9. steve clemons says:

    POA — permission for posting the picture of his house? it’s one of
    the very well known landmarks in Tokyo…. all best, steve


  10. PissedOffAmerican says:

    I hope you got Roos’ permission for that, Steve.
    I’m not sure that posting pictures of Obama operative’s homes on the web is a very safe practice, these days.


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