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Toasts of the President and Prime Minister Tanaka of Japan

July 31, 1973

Mr. Prime Minister, all of our distinguished guests from Japan, all of our distinguished guests from the United States:

We have many very distinguished guests in this company tonight, but one in particular I should mention that we are always delighted to have, and that is the lady who presided with such grace over this house for 8 years, Mrs. Dwight Eisenhower.

President Eisenhower respected and loved the Japanese people, and it was President Eisenhower who gave Mrs. Nixon and me the opportunity to know the Japanese people, because in 1953, as Secretary Rogers will remember, he made a cryptic comment after a Cabinet meeting that I should take a trip.

In those days we had not heard of the kind of trips the young people take today, and I said, "Where would you suggest, Mr. President?" And he said, "You should go to Japan and to the other countries of Asia."

And so, the trip was one that acquainted both of us with Asia for the first time in a real way. For 73 days we never finished a dinner without champagne and never got out of a black tie.

But in any event, out of that trip in 1953, 20 years ago, many vivid memories stand out, but the memory that stands out among many others is particularly that of Japan. I remember the people that I saw. I remember the leaders that I met. I remember that giant of a man, Yoshida1--not giant in stature, but giant in intelligence and understanding of the world, one of the few world statesmen, in the true sense, of that period.

And when I returned and reported to President Eisenhower, I told him then that despite the pessimistic suggestions that were made by some in high places that Japan had a long way to go before it recovered, I said Japan is on the way and that it will make it, not because of American aid--because many in the world have received American aid and have failed--but Japan will succeed in a spectacular recovery because of the strength, the character of the Japanese people, and also of the character of their leadership.

A small thing, Mr. Prime Minister: One day we were riding along the road out toward a village, and as we rode along, I saw two workmen in the field, a man and a woman, plowing the field. We stopped the car, we went out, we met them. I didn't understand their language; they didn't understand ours. But as I met them and as I felt in their hands the strength and the determination that was there, I knew here were the representatives of a great people. And that is why Japan today is a great nation.

Oh, all the nice little words are said-"Because of your aid, we have come back"--and it helped, but the truth of the matter is that the nation we honor tonight and the leader we honor tonight are in a position of greatness in the world because they have within them that inner strength, that drive to greatness which will never, never be suppressed.

Now, many of you probably wonder what the Prime Minister and I talked about at dinner tonight and what we talked about in our meetings today. It would make very lively chitchat to say that, like a couple of desert rug merchants, we haggled over what is the textile quota going to be or what are we going to do about this or that or the other thing involved between our two countries. But those were not the subjects, because--and this is, I think, typical of the relationship that has developed between our two countries and of the Prime Minister's feeling and my feeling about the role he and I have to play in the brief time we are in the position of world leadership--we talked about this world in which we live.

We talked about the fact that between Japan and the United States, over 40 percent of all the goods in the world are produced. We talked about the fact that Japan and America working together, not against anybody else, but working for peace and for progress, for decency, civility, that we could make the difference as to whether the 3 billion people on this Earth will grow up in peace and in friendship, or in ugly confrontation and eventual nuclear destruction.

It is so easy these days to think in other terms, to think in the minuscule political terms that I think tempt us all from time to time and tempt those who represent the people in both countries--make a small point here, work in the murky field of political partisanship--but what really matters is this: After our short time on this great world stage is completed and we leave, what do we leave?

Do we leave the memory only of the battles we fought, of the opponents we did in, of the viciousness that we created, or do we leave possibly not only the dream but the reality of a new world, a world in which millions of the wonderful young children that I saw by the millions in Japan and that the Prime Minister will see by the millions here in America may grow up in peace and in friendship.

That is what we talked about. That is what Japanese-American friendship is about. We are competitors, and that is good, competitors in terms of saying who can do best in producing those things that peoples of the world want for peaceful purposes.

But we are not competitors, we are total friends and cooperators when it comes to developing those policies that will build a peaceful world.

And so, let others spend their time dealing with the murky, small, unimportant, vicious little things. We have spent our time and will spend our time in building a better world.

I remember that trip, Mrs. Eisenhower, that the General so graciously sent Mrs. Nixon and me on. I remember the time that you received us both up in the West Hall right afterwards, and we were both very tired, and you were so gracious.

I remember the General speaking quite eloquently about why Asia was important, what his dreams were about the future of the world, and what really mattered, because then he was plagued by some domestic controversies that most people have forgotten today.

But he knew what was important, and he saw it in perspective. And tonight, as I think of what it is appropriate to say about our distinguished guest and his colleagues and the great nation of 105 million people that he represents, I think perhaps it is best to say that here in America are 200 million people. We have our faults, just as every nation has its faults, but our total dedication at this time in our history is toward using our great material resources and our emotional resources and our intellectual resources toward really building a better world and not let ourselves be remembered only for the petty, little, indecent things that seem to obsess us at a time when the world is going by.

In that connection, I have been very encouraged by my talks with the Prime Minister. He, like myself, came from a humble beginning. We have one difference-he has never lost an election.

But on the other hand, we have one thing in which we have totally in common-we are dedicated not only to Japanese-American friendship but we are dedicated to the proposition that for the time we are in positions of political influence, that influence will be used and used primarily and only to build a better world and not be dissipated in those things that don't matter.

And with the great people of Japan and what we believe are equally the great people of America, we are proud to represent them both.

It is customary, of course, to toast the honored guest, but not customary when he is a Prime Minister, and so under these circumstances, with the permission of the Prime Minister, I know that you will permit me to ask you to rise and join me in a toast to His Imperial Majesty, the Emperor of Japan.

The Emperor.

1 Shigeru Yoshida, Prime Minister of Japan ( 1948-53 ).

Note: The President spoke at 9:51 p.m. in the State Dining Room at the White House. See also Item 222.

Prime Minister Tanaka responded to the President's toast in Japanese. His remarks were translated by an interpreter as follows:

Mr. President and Mrs. Nixon:

I wish to thank you most sincerely, Mr. President, for your kind words and cordial welcome. I also wish to express my heartfelt appreciation for the kindness and consideration which you have shown to me and the members of my party.

And, it is also a very great pleasure for me to have been given the opportunity of meeting Mrs. Eisenhower, the wife of the late President Eisenhower--whom we wished we could have welcomed in Japan, but we did not have the chance whom all of us in Japan know as a great statesman who contributed to bringing about peace to the whole world and who is long remembered in the minds of the Japanese people.

It has been a good many years since Japanese and Americans started the process of getting to know and understand each other. We note that the mutual understanding between the two peoples still leaves much to be desired, because of the differences in history, culture, and language. It has, however, come a very long way indeed, compared, for example, to a decade ago.

As you know, the first Japanese delegation came to the United States under the Administration of President Buchanan, the 15th President of the United States, barely more than 100 years ago. It consisted of feudal retainers with their Samurai swords and topknot hairdos.

It must have been a strange sight to the Americans of these days. More than that, the United States of those days must have been a traumatic eye-opening experience to the Samurais.

I once heard a charming story about a delegation of Japanese businessmen who visited America early this century and then, on their return, tried to expound on the American customs to their friends in Tokyo.

Their listeners had a little trouble in understanding the intricately advanced systems of the American economy, but they were actually, utterly baffled by the social systems of Americans.

One excerpt illustrates the extent of their bafflement. One of the Japanese tried to explain to his friends that life in America consisted of a very complex system of ceremonies which was so complicated that they were utterly mystifying to a foreigner.

He gave as an example what he called The Ceremony, inverted commas, which takes place when two American businessmen meet. First, he explained, the Americans would make a lot of noise and shout at one another. Then they would slap each other on the back and poke one another in the ribs.

Then, at a given moment, though no apparent signal had been given, the ceremony required that each American reach in his pocket and pull out a cigar, offering it to the other.

Both men, said the Japanese, would then laugh and refuse, but finally the man of lesser rank would accept the cigar of the man of higher rank, and this, reported the Japanese visitor, completed the intricate and baffling American ceremony of greeting.

This sounds remote and charming to us in Japan today. Fortunately, we have come a long way toward deeper mutual understanding. Above all, American culture has affected our country to a profound degree over the past century, especially in the 20-odd years since the end of the war.

At the same time, as the word "Zen" has become a part of the English vocabulary, so has Japanese culture gradually filtered through to the United States. The number of travelers between the two countries has been increasing rapidly every year. Last year, for example, 280,000 Americans visited Japan, and 420,000 Japanese visited the United States. I believe firmly that further promotion of American studies in Japan and Japanese studies in the United States help greatly to deepen the mutual understanding fostered thus far.

Today, more than a century after the first Samurai visit, we are here as warm and sincere friends of the United States, the friends of America and Americans. Friendship is not a casual word for us Japanese, but once we have established friendship, we hold onto it firmly and forever, and for the Japanese, there is no higher virtue than loyalty to one's friends and allies.

I assure you, Mr. President, that the wealth of the United States does not lie only in its rich prairies and its modernized industries and great cities, nor does the wealth of Japan lie only in its vigorous productive capacity.

The strong bond of friendship of old friends who weathered together many a storm and blizzard is the real precious wealth that Japan and the United States share.

We look forward to extending this ring of friendship to encompass all the countries in the world and thereby to create a world in which all the peoples prosper together.

And so, tonight, on behalf of the people of Japan, I wish to propose a toast to the continued health of the President and Mrs. Nixon and to our true and close friends, the people of the United States of America.

Richard Nixon, Toasts of the President and Prime Minister Tanaka of Japan Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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