firmly on the Japanese islands. He is fullrnof pointed lessons, some of which underscorernthe fact that Japan owes muchrnof its success to America. The Datsunrnautomobile, he reminds us, was originallyrndesigned by an expatriate Americanrnengineer, William Gorham. DouglasrnMacArthur gave the Japanese a constitutionrnthat freed them from the burdensrnof self-defense, eventually freeing vastrnsums of capital for other purposes. ThernBank of America essentially revivedrnJapan’s postwar economy—an act ofrngenerosity that was remembered 40 yearsrnlater, when a consortium of Japanese investorsrnbailed the San Francisco institutionrnout of a near-failure. And the UnitedrnStates continues to dominate muchrnof the world’s manufacturing and informationalrntechnologies.rnStill, Japan stands as our formidablerneconomic rival. Its practice of dumpingrnsteel on the American market, to namernone instance, can only bring furtherrndamage to a weakened national industry;rna steel town in western Pennsylvania wasrnso devastated by the unfair competitionrnthat its McDonald’s restaurant was thernonly one in the chain’s history ever tornclose. Japan finances one-third of ourrnnational debt, meaning that billions andrneven trillions of dollars in interest willrnflow across the ocean in the years torncome.rnBut there is no evil cabal at work,rnWinchester—disputing Karcl vanrnWolferen—tells us; no latter-day yellowrnperil. Japan is a modern success and willrnshape the future economy of the world,rnincluding those of other Asian nations,rnbecause its people work hard, becausernthey are willing to sacrifice, because itsrnelectorate is well-educated and forwardlooking.rnTwo salient facts speak to allrnthese points: even in the face of recession,rnJapanese salaried workers save 16rnpercent of their take-home pay, againstrnan American’s 4 percent. And Japanrngraduates ten engineers for every lawyer;rnthe ratio is exactly the reverse in thernUnited States. Call it the Pacific century.rnCall it the Decline of the West. Therngame has moved to another court, and itrnwill take something a little short of arnmiracle for the Occident to reclaim therntitle in our time.rnBruce Feilcr is decidedly upbeat aboutrnJapan: his Learning to Bow, an account ofrnhis year as a high school teacher in arnJapanese provincial school, takes the spiritrnof Goodbye, Mr. Chips againsj- PierrernBoulle’s and David Lean’s Bridge on thernRiver Kwai. Yet it, too, is a useful correctivernof popular misapprehensions.rnFeilcr may have come to the storied islandsrnof Japan wide-eyed and mouthrnagape, as he cheerfully admits, but hisrnmonths of living in the countryside (hernlater became a reporter for a Tokyo newsrnagency) brought him to earth:rnBefore coming to Japan, I had oftenrnheard that Japan is the wealthiestrncountry in the world. I hadrnread stories about toilets that talkrnand robots that answer the phone.rn. . . I half expected to find an islandrnparadise overflowing with expensivernears, spiral escalators, andrnextravagant buildings that thernJapanese already owned. But inrnSano I found a world quite differentrnfrom the polish and poshnessrnof Tokyo and far closer to the disheveledrntinroof towns I rememberedrnfrom my childhood in thernAmerican South. .. . My apartmentrnhad no heating, no insulation,rnno hot water running in thernsink, and no overhead lighting.rnMy toilet had no seat. Still, myrnJapanese friends told me that Irnhad the nicest apartment they hadrnseen in town.rnFeilcr spent his days alternately tryingrnto teach overrcgimented youngrnJapanese in the freestyle manner of anrnAmerican and trying to penetrate thernminds of his colleagues and supervisors,rnwho, at least by Feiler’s lights, daily sentrnout mixed signals, hi the end he couldrnnot, he admits, understand how thernJapanese could make rigid distinctionsrnbetween work and home, between colleaguernand friend; how a woman whornhad been rude to him the night beforerncould be charming the next, how menrnwho had soaked with him in a communalrntub could be coldly rigid, clad inrnsuits and seated behind their desks. Irnsuspect that the author, however talentedrnhe may be (and Learning to Bow is arnthoroughly well-written book), mightrnhave been less naive had he spent time inrnthe American business world beforerngoing to Japan. It is axiomatic that thernJapanese run every aspect of their societyrnas a business, but men and women inrngray flannel suits are not confined to faroffrnislands.rnFeiler’s may be a Japan of baseball andrnBeatles, of muddy lanes and tin roofs,rnbut in the end it is also a Japan that aimsrnto win. All of his students graduatedrnfrom high school—nationwide the graduationrnrate is 95 percent, 30 points higherrnthan America’s. Their teachers openrneach day with a faculty meeting thatrnends with the entreaty oneigaishimasu:rn”Please do me the favor of working hardrntoday.” All of them, students and teachersrnalike, had made a pledge to their nation.rnNo one dared break it. Few everrnhad, and their names are damned fromrnmemory.rnNicholas Bouvicr is little known tornAmerican readers, but in his nativernSwitzerland he is highly regarded as arntravel writer. He is also knowledgeable inrnthe workings of Japanese culture, a quickrnstudy who has lived in the country onrnand off over the last three decades. Hisrnideal Japanese, it would seem, is Basho,rnthe great 16th-century haiku poet whoserntrampings up and down the islands’rnrocky spines are celebrated in The NarrowrnRoad to the Far North. Bouvier takesrnthe hobo road a little less often, but hisrnaccounts of wandering to places like arnbrothel in Tokyo’s Shinjuku district andrnremote Shinto temples along the southernrncoast of Hokkaido take on the meditativernair of a monk errant:rnWhat can a person do in a park?rnParks don’t seem real to me. I amrnbored stiff, and then I rememberrnthe adage of Lao-Tzu: “The journeyrnof a thousand miles beginsrnwith a single step.” I start to jotrndown notes (thoughts without coherence,rnat the tip of a brush), thernway the Japanese so willingly do—rnthey have never believed in rigorousrnsequences nor in demonstrationsrnto prove.. . .rnBouvier is especially good on revealingrnobscure elements of Japanese folk life; forrninstance, he explains that peaches arernconsidered lucky in Japan because therncreator god chased away monsters byrnhuding the fruit at them. (This small bitrnof information makes the second act ofrnAkira Kurosawa’s Dreams comprehensible.)rnHe gathers proverbs, traditionalrnremedies of the aboriginal Ainu, the occultrnchoreography of the Noh theater,rnand folksongs, weaving them into an impressionistic,rnerratically organized narrativernthat reflects, in its own small way,rnthe chaos that Japan presents to the foreigner.rnKarcl van Wolferen is probablyrnno fan, but other readers should take inrnBouvier’s book, both for its good naturern32/CHRONICLESrnrnrn