What it Means to Take Japan Seriously
Can there be another country with so many annual government white papers? I can claim some minor responsibility. In a lifetime of writing agitated ‘letters to the editor’ and advocacy articles, the only evidence I have of ever having had the least scintilla of influence on any government’s behaviour was when a manifesto drafted with some Japanese friends on the then chaotic nature of Japanese government publications got to the Ishibashi cabinet in 1956 and led to the setting up of the present government publications system. We offered as a model the British Stationery Office on whose exemplary finances at the time I did some research. Now, of course, the British Stationery Office is cruelly privatized and unfriendly to all but money-spinning users, while its Japanese equivalent, with its 72 branch shops all over Japan, goes from strength to strength. * From Preface to new edition of City Life in Japan, Curzon Press, 1999, p. xiii, à propos the Japanese White Paper on the Nation’s Livelihood (Kokumin seikatsu hakusho). 235
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