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COLUMN ONE : In Japan, Scorn for America : Some see a nation that has fallen from grace. Others express open contempt. Gut-level dislike of the U.S. is now common enough that the Japanese have coined a word for it.

October 25, 1991|LESLIE HELM | TIMES STAFF WRITER

When Americans pushed Japan to liberalize its financial markets more quickly, Ministry of Finance officials quickly responded that America was in no position to give advice, considering the way it handled its savings and loan debacle. When America pushes Japan to develop product liability laws, commentators warn that Japanese courts will be tied up in nonsense lawsuits of the sort that U.S. courts must endure.

Ultimately, much of Japan's ill will toward the United States grows out of a sense that Americans have never made a sufficient effort to understand this nation's complex culture. An American visitor sitting at a sushi bar recently was taken aback when the sushi chef thrust a large chunk of blood-red meat in front of his face.

"Take some of this--it's whale meat," the chef said in a challenging tone. "You know why the whales have disappeared? It's because Americans used up all the whales for dog food."

When the American visitor ordered the whale and downed a plate of it, the chef's hostility eased somewhat. "We have to get you Americans to eat this sort of thing," he said patronizingly. "Then you'll understand."

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