What do Japanese People REALLY Think of America?

After the Great Eastern Japan Earthquake in March, no country offered as much help as the USA. I don’t think any nation gave as much in terms of money, resources, or expertise. I don’t mean to belittle the 100+ other countries whose help was of course very much appreciated, but America deserves all the credit they get, and more. That’s because it wasn’t only how much they gave, it was also the fact that they gave so quickly and so readily. So let’s now look at what effect this has had on their relationship, and the Japanese public’s opinion on the USA.

Being quick on their feet, the U.S. bases stationed throughout Japan dispatched people to assist the Tohoku victims within the early days of the crisis. With about 50,000 American troops spread out in Japan, they had about 20,000 of them help Japan with what was called “Operation Tomodachi” – a name that only sounds cheesy when translated into English (“Operation Friends”).

Pew Research published the results of their survey in June, finding that 57% of Japanese considered the amount of assistance provided to Japan to be a “great deal,” as opposed to 32% a fair amount, 7% not very much, and 1% nothing at all. This contrasts with the numbers for “great deal” to be 17% for the EU, 15% for the UN, and 12% for China. To be clear, these numbers don’t indicate the actual amount of aid, but the perceived amount of aid. But clearly, America is getting some respect.

In fact, the numbers are encouraging. An survey published at the end of 2011 from the Japan’s Cabinet Office found that only 16% of respondents reported not having a friendly attitude towards the U.S. This annual poll on attitudes towards foreign countries began in 1978, and these results mark the best year for the U.S. yet.

Now, obviously 84% is a great number, but let’s keep things in perspective.

It’s not as though there was a dramatic change from earlier years, as the U.S. was always quite high in that poll. And stereotypes of Americans as well as opinions of famous figures won’t be so easily changed. The Japanese popular culture continues to reinforce stereotypes, and the younger and less politically-aware generations aren’t particularly cognizant of America’s efforts. Also, while almost everyone appreciated the help from the U.S. troops, many people are still not persuaded that they should even be stationed in Japan at all. This is, after all, a heated issues that has locals protesting and trying to have them removed. But at least we can say that the results show that Japan has never felt more highly of America as a whole.

I think Japan’s Minister of DefenceToshimi Kitazawa, expressed the public’s opinion aptly, on the day he received this banner from his American military friends:

“I have never been more encouraged by and proud of the fact that the United States is our ally.”

 

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