BETWEEN FOUR WORLDS: CHINA, RUSSIA, JAPAN AND AUSTRALIA;
BETWEEN FOUR CAREERS: DIPLOMAT, ECONOMIST, JOURNALIST AND JAPANOLOGIST;
BETWEEN FOUR LANGUAGES: ENGLISH, CHINESE, RUSSIAN AND JAPANESE
BOOK AFTERMATH (1978 onwards)
1. Welcomed by the Lecture Circuit in Japan
2. Blacklisted by the Australian Embassy in Tokyo
When I put out my Japan is a Tribe book, I had assumed that the only material returns would be the royalties from the publisher, Simul.
So I tried to get a formula that would help maximise those royalties, mainly if the English language version of the book managed to sell well.
In the process I created some friction with Simul.
But if I had known about Japan's lucrative lecture I would never even have bothered about royalties. Indeed, I should have paid Simul to publish the book for me.
The circuit was to be a source of seemingly endless returns.
1. The Japanese Lecture Circuit
Japan's lecture circuit is gargantuan.
Most major organizations in Japan - banks and securities companies especially - have branches all around Japan.
And in the pre-bubble and bubble days, just about every major branch had to be supplied, often monthly, with lecturers for the regular briefing or entertainment of their clients.
As well, there were the anniversary parties, annual general meetings and other ceremonies all requiring lecturers. They were even more lucrative.
Lecturers were chosen mainly for name-value. And name value was something I was rapidly acquiring, thanks to all those TV appearances.
I also had what in those days was seen as a very attractive CV -, able to talk about economics, foreign policy, education and Japanese attitudes (Nihonjinron), Sophia professor, fluency in Chinese, Russian and Japanese, son of Colin Clark (well-known in Japan), Oxford graduate, ex-diplomat.
The invitations to give lectures soon became a deluge.
Learning to Lecture
My first effort was both memorable, and forgettable.
I had been asked by the Kyodo news agency to talk to an audience of several hundred in Nagasaki.
(Together with Jiji, the other main domestic news-agency, Kyodo was to be a major source of lecture requests for a while).
(Jiji has a network of shibu, or small study branches, scattered all over Japan, in the hundreds. Visiting just a proportion of them keeps you busy for quite a few years.)
(Kyodo works through the local newspapers to which it has ties. That means you get fewer invites, but you get to have your speech in the local newspaper the next day.)
I am not a gifted speaker (though years on the lecture circuit have improved things somewhat). Nor was my Japanese very brilliant in those early days.
The Nagasaki audience was tolerant enough as I stumbled through some badly-prepared notes. I was trying to explain the complicated thinking behind my 'tribe' theory, and it was pretty clear they had no idea of what I was talking about.
Despite the Nagasaki disaster, there were more requests to give lectures. Eventually they were to come in almost daily, sometimes two or even three a day.
Life degenerated into a whirlwind of dates, times and places. On average, I was giving three to four lectures a week.
Sometimes it was as many as six, if I included interviews.
Almost every morning it seemed I would have to leave the family hearth to head off to Haneda or Tokyo Station to catch a plane or train to yet another distant lecture site.
A day I remember well began in Hokkaido with a morning session for local businessmen, then by plane to Osaka to talk to a group of foreign investors in Kyoto and then to Tokyo by bullet train for yet another talk in the evening, this time to an international school.
When you get on the lecture circuit, you feel you are propelled by an uncontrolled force which exhausts itself only after you seem to have visited every town and village in the nation.
An average sized city like Sendai I was to visit at least twenty times over the next 25 years. In Osaka I must have given close to one hundred lectures, in Fukuoka and Sapporo around fifty, and so on.
The topics were varied - the state of the economy, the politics, the education system, Japan's internationalisation efforts (a favorite topic at the time), how we foreigners see Japan (another favorite), and of course the subject of the book - the origins of Japanese uniqueness.
Usually I could rely on my 'tribe' theory for background. It explains a lot about Japan - the strength of the economy, the weakness of the foreign policy, the confusion in the education system, and so on.
Audiences seemed to like it too. It was different from the usual boilerplate served up to them at these talkfests.
Years later I kept running into people who were almost proud of the number of times they had heard ‘the lecture.'
As with kabuki, Japanese audiences do not seem to mind repetition. They get their pleasure from slight differences in the performance each time.
In my case there was also the talking dog factor.
Why did people pay to come to hear the talking dog? Answer: Not because of anything that the dog had to say, but because the dog could talk.
A foreigner talking about Japan, in Japanese, was, in those days, something of a rarity.
In the years since the book was published I must have given well over 2,500 lectures.
On top of that were any number of print media interviews and TV appearances.
The Upward Spiral
Japan's lecture circuit is cumulative.
The more you talk the more you become known; the more you become known the more you talk.
Eventually one’s name and profile begin to appear in the lists of speakers held by the various agents seeking commissions by introducing lecturers (the inviter, not the invitee, pays the commission.)
(I never used an agent; the requests came in directly, often from someone else’s agent.)
It can seem like a never-ending upward spiral.
It can also spill abroad.
In those ‘Japan As Number One’ days, the outside world was keen to know more about Japan
In my own case that involved several trips to Hongkong and Singapore, which I enjoyed.
The Overseas Chinese had an intelligent interest in knowing more about the nation that had done so much harm to their country in the past, which had then been attacked and occupied by the US, and which was clearly prospering regardless.
(One Singapore excursion was to talk to a group of investors from the West Indies. I was amazed. The audience was entirely black or colored. But they were relaxed, and confident in their views. They showed none of the complexes one usually associates with black people from the US.)
(Clearly they were as they because they lived in a non-discriminatory environment. It was a lesson in the way environment can shape attitudes.)
A lecture tour of Southeast Asia organised by the Japan Foundation back in the days when it saw me as a good gaijin was interesting enough too, mainly because it confirmed the weakness of the Japanese presence in that area.
That was followed by an all-nation tour of the US organised by the Japan-American Society. That taught me a lot about the US - both its attractive vitality and its ignorance of the outside world.
I even managed to get back to Australia once, care of Quadrant’s Robert Manne
Organising the Lecture
Another unique aspect of the Japanese lecture circuit is the extraordinary effort put into preparation.
When a Japanese organisation decides to invite you to give a lecture, and you say yes, a sudden transformation occurs.
You have now become a Very Important Person. You have done them the highest honor imaginable by accepting to give the lecture.
At least, that is so for the period of time that the lecture commitment exists (there is rarely much follow-up afterwards, apart from occasional requests to check the verbatim record that some like to use for publication.)
First move is for them to send a delegation to your office for an uchiawase — a discussion of the details of your planned lecture and the various logistic arrangements.
Even if the lecture is to be at the other end of Japan, sometimes they will send people all the way to Tokyo, just for that uchiawase.
Only one of them will do the talking. The others will just sit there taking careful notes.
Often I try to suggest that we decide all this over the phone, ideally with my secretary.
But no. They have to have that face-to-face meeting with the sensei before they can feel assured that everything will happen correctly.
Being reassured is very important for these people.
But for me it means that the schedule commitment is doubled. Not only does one have to be at the lecture site at a fixed time on a fixed day, but one also has to be in one’s office similarly, just for a fairly meaningless uchiawase.
This uchiawase is then followed by innumerable phone calls to your secretary seeking confirmation of all those details, more materials, more reassurances, CVs, photos, resumes.
A brochure or flyer will then be prepared giving details of the important speech you have promised to give. That too may be sent to you for clearance.
First class tickets to the town, village or city where the lecture is to be held are provided. Sometimes they will even send someone to Tokyo again, to make sure you catch that train or plane on time.
Eventually you arrive at the scene of the great event.
You will of course be met at the airport or train station by a luxury car and bevy of attentive staff whose job it is to make sure to get into the car safely, and get to the lecture site safely, often as much as an hour in advance so everyone can be reassured that you will not be late.
There you will be met by another bevy of more senior but equally attentive staff. They will take you to a waiting room especially hired for your comfort.
As you sip green tea and make mild conversation, the top dignitaries involved with the occasion will file in politely to meet you. Cards will be exchanged.
After more green tea and conversation, a large flowery symbol of status, with your name attached, will be pinned on your person.
Eventually you are ushered to the podium. There you will be introduced in equally flowery language by an attractive MC, especially hired for the occasion. She will call for applause.
Then an hour or so later when you have finished saying what you have to say, you will often receive, in addition to more applause, a bouquet of flowers and a little speech of appreciation from one of the organisers.
Usually there are no questions; they are seen as too much of an imposition on the esteemed lecturer who is in a hurry anyway to move on to other important engagements.
Or else they will say people can ask you questions directly at the expensive reception that usually follows these talkfests, and which you are free to attend if you want.
Needless to say, if you do attend you become the guest of honor, plied with food and drinks by charming hostesses
Then as you leave the premises, the dignitaries line up to thank you once again. You receive a nice souvenir (often a quite expensive piece of local art) plus two presents — one to take back to your secretary with whom the organisers have now become firm telephone friends, and another to take back to your family as compensation for their sacrifice in allowing you to depart from the family hearth for so long.
Meanwhile the attentive staff are still hovering around, determined to get to your train or plane on time. Usually they arrange it so you arrive at the station or airport around thirty minutes too early, just so they and you can be reassured that you will not miss that plane or train.
The thirty minutes is spent in more desultory conversation.
The attention is staggering. I often think that if some of the Japan-watchers had the same experience that would understand (a) why Japanese manufacturing is so strong (attention to detail) and (b) diplomacy is so weak (attention to detail distracting from attention to sensible overview).
Sometimes you will be invited to bring an assistant to carry your bags etc. — all expenses paid.
But it is the financial reward that really staggers the imagination.
At first I could not believe it — large ornate envelopes handed over immediately after the lecture, and stuffed with ten thousand yen notes.
Translated into US or Australian dollars, it was an amount far greater than anything I had seen or hoped for in any of my previous existences.
Even the total royalties from a well-written book could easily come to less than the reward for simply standing on a podium for an hour or so and enjoying the rapturous attention of a large audience.
In Australia the reward from giving a lecture would normally be zero, or close to it.
Often you would have to pay for your own transport and accommodation. As for being met at airports and train stations, or receiving presents, forget it.
If anything, the people inviting you feel they are doing you an honor by letting you onto their podium, not vice versa. The audience would often share their feelings.
Meanwhile, in Japan, the thick envelopes were piling up day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year. It added up to a lot of money.
In effect, I was being paid to discover the nation which I liked and in which I had a deep interest.
I was being paid to get to places around Japan I would never normally get to, to meet people I would never normally get to meet, for opportunities to improve my Japanese, and to refine my original 'Japan is a tribe' theory.
In just a few years I had gone from riding very low in my home country Australia, to riding very high in my adopted country, Japan.
No longer was I dependent on the goodwill of others for employment. I was now free to organise my life, just as I wanted to.
Provided I got to those lecture appointments on time!
2. Embassy Blacklisting
But while I was being feted by Japan Inc, I was being black-listed by that bastion of Australia’s feeble presence in Japan - the Embassy of Australia located in out-of-the-way Mita, Tokyo.
My former mentor and boss in the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet (PMC), John Menadue, had become ambassador there - an exercise in which I had played a small role a year or so earlier back in Canberra.
When he arrived in Tokyo, our families resumed our previous good relationships. Back in Canberra we had often dined and gone on hiking trips together.
While still in Canberra, Yasuko had even begun coaching their eldest child, Susan, in Japanese. One of Menadue's first moves on arriving in Tokyo was to lean on me to get Susan into Sophia University’s International Department.
But all these friendly connections very quickly went out the window the moment the Newsweek article about my book and the decoding affair appeared.
Personal and family relations with Menadue and his family ceased abruptly. I was excluded, ostentatiously, from his Embassy functions and activities.
I was forced to realize that the Menadue was someone who could be quite personable to others, but only if they did nothing to upset the smooth pattern of his own highly disciplined existence.
And it was clear I had badly upset his existence as a new-fledged ambassador in Japan.
Canberra too went ballistic.
It cannot handle anything that seems to compromise its many secret military and intelligence activities with the United States. The Echelon operation, together with the Pine Gap communications base, lies at the very top of its hush-hush priorities.
Decoding Japanese material was a key part of Canberra’s contribution to Echelon.
(Note to readers: Be very leery of any Australian communications technician in Tokyo who says he is employed by any Japanese communications outfit.)
So overnight I was persona non grata, not just with Menadue and his family, but also with the Embassy itself.
Staff were ordered to report and file records of every conversation and every contact they had with that dangerous personality, Clark.
It was a less than charming throwback to my Moscow days, where we had been required to do the same in contacts with Soviet nationals.
Spies at Work
To be honest, the Embassy black-ball did not worry me too much.
I was already making my own independent way in Japan.
Unlike many other Australians in Tokyo, I could survive without Embassy backing or support - though reportage from Japan into Australian media remained one of my side-jobs, and reporters usually need some kind of Embassy contact for that kind of work.
Nor did I have to feel I had exposed some national interest secret. I had simply retailed the original Toohey story, and the spies can only blame themselves for that story having been leaked to Toohey.
Most assume that spy decoding activities, however grubby, do at least enhance the national interest. Exposing them or even talking about them harms one’s country.
But for the most part, what one sees in the material decoded and stamped top secret can be found a day or so later in one or other of the better media.
Besides, in today's world only third world countries fail to use safe codes for important materials. Finding out what these people think is usually not all that important.
My Moscow experience had told me that anyone using one-time pads (ransu hyo in Japanese) for coding their messages is totally safe from decoding (unless someone gets hold of the pads).
Even the most powerful computers cannot break that code.
In the wake of my Newsweek 'expose' I was assured by a reliable Gaimusho contact that for important messages Japan did in fact use ransu hyo.
This meant that most of the material Australia was decoding was minor diplomatic and business chatter.
Our spies may have wanted to tell themselves and others what a wonderful job they were doing out there seeking to protect the nation from nefarious Japanese plots.
In fact I suspect they were doing little more than finding out what John Menadue had been telling his good mate, Eric Walsh, who would then pass this on to the Japanese Embassy in Canberra (with whom he had an information-supplying contract) which would then pass this on to Tokyo in low-grade, simple, easy-to-use codes which the Echelon spies with their advanced decoding techniques could easily handle.
Most communications spying activity today is aimed at individuals and companies which have yet to realize the technological advances that allow their communications to be tapped into and decoded so easily.
Many insurgents around the world have died as a result.
Maybe that is good for someone. But others suffer.
At home the decoders certainly can do a lot more harm than good.
And as mentioned earlier, the spies find it easy to use their decoded materials, even low-level stuff, to gain direct access to the policy makers.
They then use that access to claim the right to decide who else gets to see the decoded material, and who does not.
This inevitably this favors the hawks and hard-liners in the establishment.
Moderates and progressives are gradually squeezed out.
My NARA experience had been a classic example of the damage done by this hawkish bias in choosing who can receive top secret materials and who cannot.
The spies had earlier decoded enough low-grade Japanese material to gain the confidence of Whitlam and his advisers.
This made it easy for them to pass on as fact the fevered anti-NARA fantasies of their Tokyo representative.
This in turn meant that the views of people such as myself who realised the foolishness of their anti-NARA moves would be ignored since we were not privy to the alleged secret material that was supposed to be revealing Japan's sinister plots over NARA.
One up for the spies.
But one down also.
For in the process of gaining confidence of Whitlam and his inner circle, the spies had also made it easy for trusted journalists close to the Whitlam camp to get wind of their operations.
I have reason to believe that that is how Toohey got his story.
Which is how I managed to get my story.
In short, I had a lot of reasons for not feeling very guilty over causing trouble for Canberra, and its Tokyo embassy, by passing on the Toohey story.
Ironically, if during my spell in Canberra I had not been excluded from the information network, it would have been much harder for me to talk about decoding while in Japan.
I would have come close to breaching the Official Secrets Act.
Canberra could only blame itself for the fuss I was to cause, though I doubt whether its closed minds ever got round to thinking that far.
True, the Newsweek article had come at a time when Menadue was trying hard to get himself established on the diplomatic circuit.
In his calls on the Gaimusho (Foreign Ministry) and others, I imagine one of the first questions had often been something along the lines of how many of cables have you decoded today.
I could imagine his distress. And to the extent that I had been beholden to him in the past, I had to feel for his distress.
But I too had had to make my way in the world. What was I supposed to do? Roll over and play dead simply so that he could find it easier to make his mark with the Tokyo diplomatic set?
He was doing his job and I was doing mine. I was under no obligation to help him, just as he had seen no obligation to help me after Whitlam's fall from power.
Menadue shared that curious version of the mateship ethic I had found in many other ALP people.
This says you judge people by the degree of their unwavering tribal loyalty to the cause (whatever that happens to be at the time) regardless of circumstances. Principles and integrity are irrelevant.
The moment you show any sign of 'disloyalty' you are an outsider. You are in the camp of the enemy. You are even more of a non-person than LCP political opponents.
You are, as they say in Japan (an even more tribalistic society) mura hachibu – a traditional term meaning you are almost totally excluded from the village and its activities.
At a party of ALP loyalists soon after my National Times criticism of Whitlam had appeared in early 1976, a well-known ALP groupie lady, VB, had approached me sneeringly as 'Mr Integrity,'
That told me a lot about ALP tribalism.
Disloyalty to the ALP tribe is one sin. Another is to be seen as a trouble-maker.
Something that had always amazed me about Menadue at PMC had been his dislike, hatred even, of Brian Toohey.
Toohey's crystalline, principled commitment to exposing the wrongs and mistakes of the spies and the LCP uglies should have been obvious. He was doing far more for the ALP cause in this area than any other Australian journalist.
But at times he had also exposed a few wrongs and mistakes on the ALP side.
Automatically his credentials as a friend of the ALP were cancelled. He was branded as a trouble-maker - one of the stronger words in the ALP 'tribal' vocabulary.
(Interestingly it has its direct equivalent in the Japan's equally 'tribal' vocabulary - meiwaku o kakeru. To cause meiwaku, or inconvenience to one’s associates, is the ultimate sin in the Japanese value system.)
(The principled reasons for why you may have had to cause that meiwaku are irrelevant.)
Meanwhile Toohey was also under attack from the spies. His very ability to operate as a journalist was suffering as a result. (In later years he seems to have felt he had no choice but to turn himself into a commentator on economic affairs.)
Again, and like Japan, Australia finds it hard to understand the motives of individualists who want to operate without attachments to one camp or another.
True, I had to be grateful to Menadue for that year in the PMC. It had allowed me to escape neatly from journalism and the Murdoch empire, just when I needed a change.
It had brought me back to Australia, just when I needed a recharge.
But as I related earlier, the year in PMC while interesting had hardly been enjoyable.
I had tried hard to do what I was supposed to do to promote the Australian and the administration interest. All I got in return was obstruction and even humiliation – NARA, Vietnam Cables, East Timor - and a host of setbacks on economic issues.
Menadue had been perfectly happy to see me out the PMC door once there had been a change in government, even while he himself was maneuvering to remain firmly inside that door.
But for my good luck in getting reestablished in Japan, I would have been thrown on Australia's large scrap-heap of former ALP supporters who have ceased to be useful. He wouldn't have cared much.
One way and another, I had a lot of reasons to be less than upset if Austemba Tokyo and its ambassador felt upset over my activities in Japan.
At a more personal level, however, the falling out with Menadue and his family was unpleasant.
I had looked forward to keeping a good personal relationship with him in Tokyo. That had clearly ended.
My family were also victims. Yasuko was deprived of all contact with her former student, Susan (it was only to be revived some twenty years later when we discovered she had become the very attractive, self-possessed wife of a successful Korean pachinko businessman in Tottori prefecture and mother of four).
After a few years I began to realise also the loss to my children.
The Embassy was the focus for most Australian social activity in Tokyo. Being black-listed there meant my children could not meet and play with Australian children at precisely the moment when I was trying desperately to raise them bi-culturally and give them some kind of Australian identity.
Being black-listed also did quite a lot of harm to relations with other Australians in Tokyo. Most were highly sensitive to Embassy likes and dislikes.
Australia's 'one of our mob' value system means that attitudes can change enormously when you cease to be seen as a member of the 'mob' (another point in common with Japan).
Fortunately the children’s problem could be partly overcome by sending them to one or other of Tokyo's several international schools when they were of age. But there was still some damage.
For me also, being denied all but the most superficial contact with the Embassy for many years (for most of my Tokyo career in fact) was unpleasant.
No one likes to feel black-listed by one's own compatriots in a foreign country, especially when they include people you have known and worked with in the past, of which there were several, and not just Menadue.
But professionally the lack of contact may have done me some good.
I was forced to strike out on my own. I could have wasted a lot of time getting involved with that rather impotent Embassy and its cloying clutches.
(As for why that Embassy had become so impotent, this is part of a larger story involving the decline of the Australian public service in general.)
I was able to concentrate on my new career as guru for the Japanese Tribe – as lecturer, writer and academic.
Even more satisfyingly, I was able to become a pioneer explorer of the rich Japanese countryside just outside Tokyo, in the Boso Peninsula.