An American View on Japan

Political scientist John Campbell was kind and considered to say “Yes” to my interview proposal as it was one of the necessities of the course I was taking. I was lucky enough to have a close friend studying in Japan and she set her best lecturer for me; John Campbell. He has done researches about decision making and public policy in Japan and recently, with a colleague of his, he was focused on healthcare policy of Japan. For the last ten or twelve years since Japan has been acting  long term care for older people he has been working on that policy. That’s not the whole story of his. He has published books, edited books, monographs, peer-reviewed articles, book reviews and many other things that have been published involving researches and studies about Japan and other nations. Recently, he has been working in a paper on his own involving six nations such as Japan, Germany, Italy, USA, England and Sweden.  He is a well-known political scientist in Japan.Image

                How he ended up in Japan is a little bit coincidental when we hear about the story. John Campbell has a PhD from Columbia University on Japanese politics mainly and he graduated in 1973. His journey begins to Japan as he decided to quit school and join the army. Mr. Campbell states that “I didn’t have any particular interest in Japan but when I was, after my freshman year at college I didn’t do so well and so I decided to leave school for a while, I went to the army and I was hoping to be posted to Europe but in fact, I was posted to Japan, actually Okinawa. It was in 1960”. After being posted to Japan, his perspective on Japan changed and he decided to study Japanese language when he went back to USA. Near Japanese language, he studied the history, politics, sociology and even literature. Then, before seven years ago he moved to Japan and he says that he is happy to live in Japan.

When I asked him how he feels to live in Japan as an American when we consider the history between them, his answer was quite interesting. He didn’t mention much about the effects of World War II, on the contrary he mentioned how Japan is influenced from American culture. He states that “American culture has always been important in Japan. They watch a lot of American movies, they listen to American music for example rock and roll, certainly enormous and rap, punk, whatever. America has enormous influence in Japan but people still make… Japanese music has been influenced by American music. Jazz is a great big thing in Japan. They are Japanese jazz players but they are more likely American jazz fans. That’s all culturally”. That was surprising to hear for me because personally, I found their culture very different from each other.

As I said, he is a political scientist specialist therefore he knows everything. I asked him Japan’s position in its region and worldwide.  He states that “Japan’s economy was wonderful in 70s and 80s. They grew so fast. Their products were so popular. This popularity made people think that Japan is a rising power”. However, after 1990 things changed due to the economic bust in Japan. Therefore, he thinks that nowadays people don’t see Japan as a huge power but Japanese economy is very important to world. The fact is when we consider Japan in Asia, Japan used to be by far the most powerful actor and now, in many ways it is still the most powerful one but China has made a serious development in Asia, as well. He says that “Over the decades, Asia’s influence increased around the world so if Japan could be aggressive in politics as China, they would have a more strong place in political and economic relations”.

When I asked him about his life in Japan, he said he is very happy to live in Japan but he travels a lot to other places and to his country, USA a lot. I asked if there are any major problems in Japan for citizens, he made a little comparison between Turkey because of the fact that, I’m Turkish. He said that, they don’t have problems like headscarf, Kurds, religion etc. but he said that there will be a huge consumption tax raise because of the debt Japan has. That will affect the citizens clearly. Rather than that, Japan has good standards to live in.Image

At the end of the interview, he told me about his wife who travels a lot to USA and grandchildren that live in America. In fact, one of them is in a rock band and also learning Turkish to go to Turkey. That was a nice coincidence for me to hear. I hope his grandson will do well with his band. Then I thanked him for his time and his answers. He said that it was nice to talk to me, too. I had a good time talking to him as well. I learned lots of things about Japan, Asia and their politics. Then, we hung up but he was very polite and told me that I can contact him whenever I want and right after the interview, he sent me his CV and schedule to help me. It was so nice to meet Mr. John Campbell.





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