@A Letter from The New York Times


The New York Times is one of my favorite newspapers.

Although some of its editorials appear too much virtuous and most of the articles of Howard French about the life in Japan are no more than filthy junk, I adore the invaluable column of Thomas L. Friedman, which provides me with a framework and moral standards of how to view this complicated world.

Metropolitan Diary, a New York Region column of the NYT, is something I would love to translate into Japanese so as to share the heartwarming observations of life in the Big Apple.

A satirical piece of remark about Princess Masako's pregnancy appeared in its Sunday "Week in Review" of May 20, 2001. Sadly, it was insulting to the lady and unbearable to me as a Japanese national.

I wrote an e-mail of protest to the editor. A fairly long reply came from the chief editor of Week in Review, Ms. Susan Chira.

Let me invite my dear readers to share the correspondence between the editress and myself.
(The readership of my web magazine, mentioned below as 1300, has increased to 4000 in the meantime.)


Article in "Week in Review" on May 20, 2001

<<E x p e c t i n g
Oh, the questions flying about Japan now that it's confirmed that Crown Princess Masako is pregnant!  Will she miscarry, as she did in 1999?  Will she have a boy?  (No tests are planned.)  Will the sons-only succession law be changed?  (The new prime minister, Junichiro Koizumi, said a "female emperor" would be fine with him.)  Will birth rates increase?  Will baby-product stocks rise?  Will fertility specialist be the hot new profession?  And, finally, will Japanese obsess about this till December?  (Apparently.)
                                                   Hubert B. Herring>>

My e-mail to NYT on May 21, 2001

<<Dear Editor:

I saw in NYT Week in Review, p.2 of May 20 edition, a satirical comment of Mr. Herring on Crown Princess Masako's pregnancy.

Mr Herring's fond allusion to another miscarriage by Crown Princess Masako is grossly impolite for a lady who suffered the sad event and for a nation who deeply sympathized with Her Highness.

It is true that the Japanese are afraid of another miscarriage if it ever happens.  But the Japanese would never openly question in such frivolous manner "Will she miscarry, as she did in 1999?"

In this sense, the passage is not only of very bad taste but is a mispresentation of things Japanese.  A lady's miscarriage is not something you should be so gladly satirical on. 

Yukio Izumi>>

A reply from Ms. Susan Chira on May 23, 2001

<<Dear Mr. Izumi,

Thank you for your note, but I can assure you that no satirical comment was intended.

Unlike the Japanese press, we feel no constraints about reporting about the Crown Princess's pregnancy and considered it relevant to mention her past miscarriage. But there was no intent to satirize it, make fun of it, or even predict that she would have another.

The only purpose was to point out its importance to Japan and say straight out that there is concern about another miscarriage, since there was one in the past.

I might note that I was a correspondent in Tokyo for five years and studied Japanese history in college, so that I am aware of the respect that surrounds the Japanese Imperial house. No disrespect was intended.

Susan Chira, Editor, Week in Review >>

My reply to Susan on May 24, 2001

<<Thank you very much for your e-mail, and I understand NYT's intention. Maybe it was not an issue of whether an author was impolite or not but that the author was simply outside the influence of a certain culture of ours where people would refrain from too casual comments on delicate matters of the Imperial family in a serious media like NYT.

I own an e-mail magazine with a readership of 1,300 and I had shown the previous e-mail of mine to my readers.  I commented there that such impolite comment like Mr Herring's would not appear even in "The Red Flag", a daily of the Communist Party of Japan.

In different countries you have different sets of actions and reactions, and I understand it.  After all, NYT is a newspaper of the American nation.  (Though I still maintain that Mr Herring could have written in a more decent way as good Americans would do.)

To honor NYT, may I have your permission to show your reply e-mail to my 1,300 readers in my next issue of the web magazine? 

Thank you again for replying to my e-mail, and I hope NYT will carry more articles on various "ordinary" facts of life in Japan besides those eye-catching subjects that eager journalists would love. And I trust that you are one of those who would be of great help for it.

Best regards,
Y. Izumi>>

Susan's reply on May 24, 2001

<<Dear Mr. Izumi,

You are welcome to post my email.  Thanks again for your understanding and your concern.

Susan Chira>>

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