If the US presidential elections were being held in Japan, Donald Trump would not have a prayer of getting into the Oval Office.
Research undertaken by the South China Morning Post shows that 88 per cent of Japanese voters would opt for Hillary Clinton, if they had a vote, with a mere 7 per cent having a positive personal impression of the Republican candidate.
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Asked to choose the attributes that most accurately describe Trump, Japanese people selected “arrogant”, “unpredictable” and “divisive”. Clinton, on the other hand, was seen as being “well-prepared”, “diplomatic” and “steady”.
“My image of Clinton is that she is clever and has experience of government,” said Kanako Hosomura, 34, a housewife from Yokohama. “But, to be honest, we have not seen much of her in the Japanese media because all the coverage has been of Trump.
“Everything I have seen tells me that he’s eccentric and egocentric,” she added. “I can’t understand some of his policies; he hates immigrants yet his wife is an immigrant and his own family originally came from overseas. How can he be so black-and-white on such an issue? Every time I see him on television, he reminds me of Kim Jong-un,” she added, comparing Trump with the North Korean dictator. “He’s that extreme, that unpredictable – and I think Japanese people find that quite scary.
“I think that if he is elected, he could do a lot of damage in a short time.”
Hosomura’s concerns are shared by many Japanese for a host of reasons, not least the future of trade and security relationships with the new US administration. Trump has vowed to scrap the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal and accused Japan of being a freeloader for relying on the 47,000 US troops who are based here for its own security whilst providing nothing in return.
As with many of Trump’s off-the-cuff proclamations, that is not quite accurate. Tokyo contributes ¥192 billion (US$1.84 billion) every year to covering the costs of US forces in Japan.
Even more alarming to the Japanese was his demand that Japan should halt its reliance on the US nuclear umbrella and develop and deploy its own nuclear capabilities.
“Trump’s kind of politics – the bombast, the arrogance, the anger – simply do not play well to a Japanese audience,” said Jun Okumura, a visiting scholar at the Meiji Institute for Global Affairs.
“From what they see of him on TV or read about what he has said in the papers, they see him as not a very pleasant person.
“That kind of personality is really offensive to Japanese people, while Clinton has a more measured and polite personality, which makes a far better impression here,” he said.
Even the Japanese government will be rooting for a Clinton victory, Okumura suggested, “which is quite an about-face as they have usually favoured Republican candidates in the past”.
The big fear for Tokyo will be a Trump presidency turning Washington from being outward-looking and having a commitment to ensuring peace and security in the Asia-Pacific region through a diplomatic and military presence, to an inward-looking nation that cares little for what goes on beyond its immediate neighbourhood.
Julian Ryall is a journalist based in Tokyo