Takako Doi, chairman of Japan's Socialist Party, is leading a mission to the United States to show that ``the Japanese people are not monolithic, that Japanese society does not have just a single set of values.'' Miss Doi, the first woman to head a major Japanese party, plans to visit Washington Sept. 13 for talks with government officials and congressmen.
Doi gives credit to Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone for making Japan better known abroad, particularly in the US. But she is eager to correct the impression that his is the only authentic voice of Japan.
``It's precisely because we are not a monolithic society that there is hope of solving the trade dispute with the US,'' she says. Her recipe is to make Japan a more open society, more welcoming of goods from abroad. ``Our manufacturers may not like that approach, but if our consumers feel it's a good thing for them, then there's room for trying to work out the necessary adjustments. The ruling party's approach isn't the only way.''
Doi is a lively speaker. A professor of constitutional law before she became a member of the Diet (parliament), she was brought up in a tomboyish manner and even today fits anything but the usual Western image of a demure, petite Japanese lady.
She heads a party that only recently seems to have become interested in taking political power. As her party colleague Sukio Iwadare puts it: ``For many years we were proud just to be the No. 1 opposition party.'' Marxist in its origins and with a left wing still heavily influenced by Marx, the party espouses unarmed neutrality. It wishes to replace Japan's security treaty with the US with a US-Japan friendship treaty ``by the end of this century,'' Mr. Iwadare says. It has been in power just once since its founding in 1945, in a short-lived coalition.
Doi agrees that, unlike West European socialists or American liberals, Japan's Socialists do not regard the Soviet Union as a military threat to Japan. ``I honestly don't think most Japanese consider the Soviet Union a threat, either,'' she says. ``Even though, if you ask people, `Do you like the Soviet Union,' a majority would probably answer no. Our geographic position is different from that of the Europeans. Our history, too.''
She recognizes that on this point, many Americans will disagree with with her party. ``But after all,'' she says, ``our Constitution ... renounces armed forces and the right to go to war. And when we passed that provision [in 1946] you Americans raised your hands in rejoicing.''
The Socialists say Japan's armed forces, the so-called Self-Defense Forces, are unconstitutional and want to do away with them eventually.
But whereas ``we used to close our eyes to their very existence,'' Iwadare says, ``now we admit they exist, that the security treaty with the US also exists, and that we must go through quite a process to do away with them. In the meantime, we believe it would be appropriate to spend up to 1 percent of gross national product on defense. [Last year annual defense spending exceeded 1 percent.] In short, we have become more realistic.''
The point Doi wants to make in the US, she said, is that a Japan playing a nonmilitary role, a Japan whose chief contribution to the world would be economic, not military, would not be at all detrimental to US interests.
In fact, Iwadare says, a Japan taking the military road to power, for instance a Japan determined to build its own next generation of fighter planes (the so-called FSX project) could become a positive danger to the US. ``Aerospace is the last area in which the United States enjoys a clear superiority over Japan,'' he points out.
Do Americans want to encourage defense consciousness to such an extent that the Japanese would rush into military aerospace, Iwadare wants to know. Perhaps the Japanese are not monolithic, but they are very prone to being swept away by the mood of the moment. ``Pluralistic thinking is still weak in this country,'' he says.
That might sound like a flat contradiction of Doi's statement that the Japanese are not monolithic. But, well, the Socialists are a ``broad party, with a wide range of opinions,'' Doi says.
How will Doi's message play in the US? ``Well, we're not the government,'' she says. ``We're not going there to negotiate. But we do think US-Japan relations are extremely important, not just for our two countries, but for the world. We want Americans to know that there are Japanese with a viewpoint different from that of the government.''