Over four weeks, Jérôme Monod, Honorary Chairman of the Fondation pour l’innovation politique, crisscrossed Japan, exploring this melting pot of tradition and modernity. As was the case with previous study trips to China, the United States, and Russia made by the Fondation’s representatives, the goal of this journey was to explore the ways in which globalization is changing national identities. This document therefore invites readers to start “Rediscovering Japan”. In this travelogue, Jérôme Monod focused upon the paths which Japan is taking to attain modernity by relying upon tradition which strengthens it internally and creates a national consensus. It affirming its unique status in the world. Aspects of this tradition include a genuine commitment to customer service in dealing with people of all ages or type of clientele, a concern for sustainable development, respect for the precautionary principle and a strong interest in culture and the arts. While these traits are advantageous to Japan, they do not shield it from the difficulties arising from globalization. Despite its status as one of the planet’s foremost trading and financial powers, this country is only gradually opening up to imports. Japan has adopted a “controlled liberalism” which is stimulating its trade and progressively placing its partners on a level of greater equality.
The Japanese still have significant handicaps to overcome, such as their tendency not to speak any foreign languages, to be reluctant to deal with other countries, to remain haunted by “the imperial imperative” and to appear relatively unapproachable to their closest neighbours. If Japan wants to have a significant impact upon its geographical area’s economic balance, it will need to draw closer to China, find a solution to the threat posed by North Korea’s nuclear weapons, and fully participate in today’s race for raw materials and energy. However, “national traditions which have been the breeding ground and root of civilizations are not about to disappear” in a globalization that does not seem very appealing to the Japanese: that of an unavoidable yet unstable universe, devoid of ethics and whose environment is threatened by behaviours that smack of hastiness and greed.