WALK into the inn in the Hokkaido village of Akanko, and everything from the welcoming cry of "irasshaimase" to the taciturn old man grilling chicken on the fire seems quintessentially Japanese. Until, that is, you hear all the customers speaking Mandarin. The Chinese have flocked to this area since it provided some of the settings for a 2008 Chinese blockbuster comedy, "If You Are The One".

走进北海道阿寒湖 (Akanko)村的小酒馆,从“欢迎光临”的高声问候,到默默在火上烤鸡的老者,一切看起来都是典型的日式风格,直到你听见所有的顾客都在说着普通话时,这种印象消失了。自从2008年中国喜剧大片《非诚勿扰》在阿寒湖村进行部分场景的拍摄后,中国人便蜂拥至此。

The local Japanese were shocked when the early arrivals used the onsen, or spas, to do the unthinkable: they washed their dirty clothes in the hot tubs. There is still some tut-tutting about Chinese customs—the elbows on the table, the lack of familiarity with flushing loos—but if it were not for these visitors, the tourist trade in the area would be half-dead. Before the Chinese fly out of Sapporo, Hokkaido's capital, they splurge on items like medicines and rice cookers. Tourism officials call it the "Hokkaido boom".

在早期的游客利用温泉做一件不可思议的事——在热水池中洗自己的脏衣服时,当地日本人感到了震惊。现在仍有一些关于中国习俗的抱怨:如用餐时将手肘搭在桌上,不熟悉抽水马桶的使用,但若不是因为有这些游客,该地区的旅游业将会陷入半死不活的境地。在这些中国人飞离北海道首府札幌(Sapporo)之前,他们会疯狂采购诸如药品和饭锅之类的物品。旅游官员将此现象称为“北海道热潮”。

Japan is a country with immaculate service, good food, beautiful countryside and excellent beaches. As the domestic population shrinks and regional economies suffer, it makes sense to encourage increasingly affluent visitors from other parts of Asia. The Japan Tourism Agency (JTA) has at last understood this. It has set a goal of attracting 10m tourists this year, a big leap from last year's figure of 6.8m. To make this possible it has relaxed its stringent visa requirements, which used to allow in only the wealthiest Chinese. Figures up to September showed a 56% rise in tourist arrivals from China, a degree of success that has caught the Japanese off-guard.

日本的服务完美无瑕,食品美味可口,乡村景色秀美,沙滩出类拔萃。当其本国人口减少,而地区经济又境况糟糕时,鼓励越来越多来自亚洲其他地区的游客前来旅游实属明智之举。日本观光厅(the Japan Tourism Agency)最终明白了这一点。该部门已制定在今年吸引1000万名游客的目标,较之去年的680万,这可是一次飞跃。为了使这一目标有可能实现,该机构已放宽了严格的签证要求,以往只有最富有的中国人才被允许进入日本。截至9月份的数据显示,来自中国的游客数量增长了56%,措施之成功令日方大感意外。

However, in late September the JTA's plans went awry when the arrest of a Chinese trawlerman, fishing in what Japan considers its own waters, triggered the worst diplomatic incident between the two countries in half a decade. China loudly reasserted its rights to the disputed islands, administered by Japan, which the Japanese call the Senkaku Islands but which in China are known as the Diaoyu Islands. China cancelled diplomatic and cultural exchanges. When Japanese officials discovered that imports of rare earths from China, vital for some of Japan’s technologies, were being held up, the fisherman was abruptly sent home. But not before all but five of 61 Chinese tour groups that had booked to visit a spa near Mount Fuji had cancelled their reservations.

然而在9月下旬,一名中国拖网渔船船主在一片被日本认为属其领海范围的海域内捕鱼时被捕,此事引发了两国间5年来最严重的外交事件,这令观光厅的计划出现了问题。中国高调宣称对这些日方管辖下的有争议岛屿具有主权,这些岛屿被日方称为尖阁列岛,而在中国则被称为钓鱼岛。中国取消了外交与文化交流活动。当日本官员发现来自中国、对某些日本技术至关重要的稀土进口受阻后,这名船长便被突然遣返。不过此前在61个预订富士山温泉之旅的中国旅行团中,除5个以外,已全部取消了预订行程。

Japan still carries a lot of old diplomatic baggage in Asia. It has festering territorial disputes not only with China but also with South and North Korea, Taiwan and Russia. Japanese history books sometimes disagree with those of its neighbours, and Japan's apologies for its treatment of them during the second world war have not fully allayed their suspicions. Many in Japan seem to believe that the war started with Pearl Harbour and ended with atomic bombs being dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. But for many Chinese, hostilities started in 1931 with Japan's invasion of Manchuria, and for South Korea 100 years ago with its annexation by Japan.

在亚洲,日本仍然背负着许多外交方面的历史包袱。与日本存在严重领土争端的不只是中国,韩国、朝鲜、台湾以及俄罗斯同样如此。日本历史教科书时而会与邻国教材内容相左,而日本在关于二战期间对待邻国做法方面的道歉,也没有完全打消这些国家的疑虑。日本国内许多人士似乎相信战争开始于珍珠港,终止于落在广岛和长崎的原子弹。不过对于许多中国人而言,当1931年日本侵入满洲地区时,战事便已拉开了序幕,而对韩国来说,则更是始于100年前被日本合并之时。

Uncle Sam's umbrella
山姆大叔的保护伞

Japan was able to turn its back on Asia for most of the post-war period because of a strong security alliance with America that has now been going for 50 years. In its neighbours' eyes, that helped avert the risk of resurgent Japanese militarism. It also meant that Japan was able to keep its defence spending at less than 1% of GDP, enabling it to concentrate more resources on becoming an industrial power. But Asia's rise since the end of the cold war has complicated Japan's external relations.

由于日美之间迄今为止已持续存在50年的强大安全同盟,日本得以在战后大部分时期无需涉足亚洲事务。在其邻国看来,这有助于避免日本军国主义死灰复燃的危险。它也意味着日本可以将国防开支维持在GDP的1%以下,令其可以集中更多资源成为工业大国。不过,亚洲在冷战结束后的崛起已使日本的对外关系趋于复杂。

When the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) swept to power in 2009, ending 54 years of virtual one-party rule, one of its most controversial policy platforms was to establish a friendship with China that balanced the close post-war relationship with America—one of the hallmarks of the Liberal Democratic Party's rule. The DPJ's leaders dispatched hundreds of its MPs to pay court to Beijing. In a sign of its economic ambitions, the government later appointed a former captain of industry as its ambassador to China.

当日本民主党于2009年以横扫千军之势夺取政权,终结54年来实质上的一党统治时,该党最具争议的政策纲领中便有一条是与中国建立友好关系,以制衡战后密切的日美关系,而这种密切的关系也是自民党统治的特征之一。日本民主党派遣党内数百名议员前往北京示好。而作为其经济抱负的表现之一,民主党政府随后任命一位原产业界领袖担任驻华大使。

But the strategy was quickly blown off course, initially by a row with America. This was caused by a rash promise made by the DPJ's first prime minister, Yukio Hatoyama, to the people of the island of Okinawa to scrap an agreement to move America's Futenma marine base from a crowded town to a more remote part of the island. Many locals resent the American bases, so they welcomed Mr Hatoyama's pledge to reduce the burden on the island. But he failed to find a better alternative, so when last May he was forced to proceed with the move more or less as planned, it cost him his job. All this meant that foreign policy in the DPJ's first year in office focused mainly on the strained relationship with America. Pro-American countries in Asia, such as South Korea, reacted nervously to the potential threat to a security alliance that has helped preserve peace in the region for decades and acts as a counterweight to a strong China.

不过,最初因为一场日美纷争,这种战略很快就偏离了轨道。这场纷争的起因是日本民主党第一任首相鸠山由纪夫(Yukio Hatoyama)许下的轻率诺言,鸠山曾向冲绳岛居民承诺,将废止一项关于将美国普天间(Futenma)海军陆战队基地从拥挤的城镇搬迁至冲绳岛更为偏远地区的协定。许多当地居民对美军基地心存厌恶,因此他们欢迎鸠山为冲绳岛减负的承诺。但是鸠山却未能找到更好的可选方案,因此当今年5月,他被迫基本按照原计划执行搬迁时,失去了首相职位。所有这一切都意味着民主党执政第一年的外交政策,其主要焦点在于日美之间的紧张关系。像韩国这类亚洲亲美国家,对于安全同盟所面临的潜在威胁反应紧张,该同盟已在数十年间帮助该地区保持和平,且具有制衡强大中国之功效。

Naoto Kan's government has reaffirmed its support for the alliance with America. But the Senkaku incident renewed fears within the Japanese government that China's rise—and especially its massive military spending—is a threat to Japan. DPJ politicians in the party's "realist" faction think that China must be made to understand that it cannot rattle its sabre with impunity. Others in the DPJ firmly believe in Japan's pacifist constitution. Others still insist that Japan can become increasingly independent of America's security umbrella, perhaps by building up its own forces, but at the same time remain doveish towards China.

菅直人(Naoto Kan)政府已经重申了其对日美同盟的支持。不过尖阁列岛事件在日本政府内部重新激起了关于中国崛起,特别是该国庞大的军费开支对于日本是一大威胁的担忧。日本民主党内“现实主义派”的政治家认为,必须令中国明白炫耀武力并非不用付出代价;民主党内其他力量则坚定信奉日本的和平宪法。其余人士则依然坚称,日本或许可以通过建立本国的武装力量,逐步脱离美国的安全保护伞,不过与此同时继续对中国奉行鸽派政策。

Seiji Maehara, the new foreign minister in Mr Kan's government, is on the party's realist wing. He is convinced that if economic relations between the two countries were to cool it would be bad for both of them. But he adds: "I'm neither a shallow-minded rightist nor a nationalist. I'm a realist who believes in a win-win relationship with China."

菅直人政府的新任外务大臣前原诚司(Seiji Maehara)隶属民主党现实主义派。前原坚信如果日中经济关系趋冷,双方都将成为受害者。不过他补充道:“我既不是一个思想浅薄的右翼分子,也不是一个民族主义者。我是一个相信日中双赢关系的现实主义者。”

That is where the relationship with America comes in. There was relief in Tokyo when Hillary Clinton, the secretary of state, affirmed that the Senkaku Islands were covered by America's security treaty with Japan. Yet the Kan administration may not be able to hold up its side of the Futenma bargain with America. Okinawans still staunchly oppose relocation.

正是在这一方面,日美关系发挥着作用。当美国国务卿希拉里·克林顿申明尖阁列岛适用日美安保条约后,东京方面松了一口气。然而,菅直人政府或许无力履行日美普天间协议。冲绳居民仍在坚决反对搬迁计划。

Japan, in a volatile neighbourhood, is trying to hedge its bets. Yet it is not fully secure in its relationship with either east or west. It needs America's security backing, but its industrial future increasingly depends on East Asia. In theory, the region should provide it with boundless opportunities to offset the decline in its population. METI estimates that within five years there will be more high earners living in other parts of Asia than in Japan itself. China is so big that just the increase in the number of cars sold there last year was roughly the same as the entire Japanese car market.

身处不稳定环境中的日本正在试图两边下注,降低风险。目前,该国尚未完全确立与东方或西方的关系。日本需要美国的安全支持,但它的工业前景却日益依赖于东亚。从理论上说,东亚地区应该会向日本提供无限的机遇,以抵消该国人口数量下降的影响。日本经济产业省(METI)预测,5年之内,生活在亚洲其他地区的高收入者数量将超过日本本国数量。中国是如此庞大,以至于该国去年汽车销售的增长量几乎等同于日本全国汽车市场总量。

The business case
商业问题

But if the opportunities are huge, so are the challenges, and they are not just diplomatic. According to METI's statistics, Japan's sales of intermediate goods to China have tripled in the past decade, but South Korea's have increased by a factor of 11. Over the same period Japan's exports of finished goods to America and Europe have risen by a mere 10%, whereas South Korea's have increased 6.5 times and China's 5.9 times. Japan still has a large trade surplus with South Korea, partly because it sells specialist high-tech components for companies such as Samsung to put into its own devices. South Korea is so bothered by this that its officials keep trying to lure the component-makers away with promises of lower tax rates.

不过若是存在重大机遇的话,同样也有着巨大的挑战,而且这些挑战不全是外交层面的。根据日本经济产业省的统计,过去10年间,日本销往中国的中间商品增长了3倍,但韩国增长了11倍;同一时期,日本对欧美的制成品出口仅仅增长了10%,而韩国和中国却分别增长了6.5倍和5.9倍。日本在日韩贸易中仍然保持大幅顺差,不过其原因部分在于,日本向诸如三星这样的公司出售专业高技术部件,后者则将这些部件装入自己的设备之中。韩国对此颇为不快,该国官员一直试图以较低税率的承诺将这些部件生产商吸引到韩国。

Japanese firms that have expanded into China have sometimes failed to grasp how different it is. They have a lot to offer their neighbour, including an emphasis on quality, trusted products and a strong service culture. They were among the earliest investors in China after the two countries normalised their relations in 1972. Shanghai-based Yasuo Onishi of JETRO, Japan's export-promotion agency, notes that Japanese carmakers, for example, enjoy strong brand recognition, even though some of their cars are too expensive for middle-class Chinese. (The Prius, however, is considered not fancy enough for China's rich.)

已进军中国的日本企业有时未能把握中国的独特性。日本企业能为这个邻邦提供很多,其中包括对质量的强调,可以信赖的产品以及强烈的服务文化。在中日两国于1972年将双边关系正常化之后,最早在华投资者中便有这些日本企业的身影。在上海工作的日本出口促进机构——日本贸易振兴机构(JETRO)的大西康雄(Yasuo Onishi)指出,例如日本的汽车制造商便享有很高的品牌识别度,即便它们的某些车辆对于中国中产阶级而言还过于昂贵。(不过,普锐斯则被认为对中国富裕人士来说还不够花哨)。

Chinese executives complain that Japanese businessmen too often come to lecture them rather than to listen, and that they tend not to promote Chinese managers. There are some honorable exceptions. After a series of strikes this year at companies supplying goods to Toyota and Honda, Komatsu, a maker of heavy machinery, pledged to replace all the Japanese managers at its 16 sites in China with Chinese bosses by 2012.

中方主管抱怨日本商人总是前来说教,而不是听取看法,而且后者往往不会提拔中方经理。但是也有一些值得尊敬的例外情况:在向丰田和本田供货的公司于今年发生一系列罢工之后,重型机械制造商小松(Komatsu)公司承诺到2012年时,将该公司在中国16个分部的经理全部由日本人换成中国人。

Shiseido, a cosmetics-maker, has enjoyed a sevenfold increase in sales to China since 2000, says Shinzo Maeda, its chief executive. It has created brands exclusively for the Chinese market and promotes local talent, albeit with strict Japanese rules on how to serve customers.

化妆品制造商资生堂(Shiseido)的社长前田新造(Shinzo Maeda)表示,自2000年以来,该公司对华销售增长了7倍。该公司已创造出专供中国市场的品牌,并对当地人才进行提拔,不过在如何为顾客提供服务方面,资生堂仍然实行着严格的日本规定。

Such companies have a long history in China and are likely to stay the course. But they are still vulnerable to strains in the relationship. After Junichiro Koizumi, prime minister from 2001 to 2006, enraged the Chinese by making repeated visits to Tokyo's Yasukuni shrine, which honours some war criminals along with fallen soldiers, it was the business lobby that helped persuade his successor, Shinzo Abe, to break bread with the leaders in Beijing.

这类公司在华时日已久,并可能会继续经营下去。不过面对关系紧张局面,它们仍显脆弱。在2001年至2006年担任首相的小泉纯一郎(Junichiro Koizumi)因屡次参拜供奉阵亡士兵及部分战犯牌位的东京靖国神社而激怒中国人之后,正是商业游说团体帮助说服其继任者安倍晋三(Shinzo Abe)与中国领导人重归于好。

More tourism within the region may help ease some of the misgivings. Culture also plays a role: many young people in Asia were brought up on Japan's J-pop music scene and manga comics. The Japanese, for their part, are wowed by South Korea's girl bands and soap operas.

区域内更多的旅游或将有助于消解部分疑虑,文化同样也发挥着作用:亚洲许多年轻人听着日本流行音乐、看着日本漫画长大;而日本人则同样热衷于韩国的女子乐队和电视剧。更多信息请访问:http://www.24en.com/ 

But there is another thing that some of these Asian countries have in common. South Korea is already getting older fast, and even China's working-age population is forecast to start declining from 2015. If Japan can find a way of dealing with an ageing and falling population, its neighbours will be all ears.

不过,上述部分亚洲国家还有一个共同点。韩国已在加速老龄化,甚至中国的劳动年龄人口据预测都将从2015年开始减少。如果日本能够找到应对日趋老化且不断减少的人口问题之道的话,其邻国将会乐于听取经验。