Reporter's Notebook - November 4, 1999
By Martin Kaste
A CONFESSION OF SORTS:
We're riding a bus. That is, we in the Minnesota
media are on a hired bus that follows the Governor's bus around Tokyo. The
state of Minnesota made these arrangements (although our companies reimbursed
the state -- handsomely -- for the privilege). The fact of the matter is,
we're all so lost in this teeming city of non-English speakers (and
non-English-speaking street signs), that we're willing to suppress our usual
anti-establishmentarian instincts and accept the transportation offered us by
the person we're supposed to be covering.
The reason I bring this up is that it might help explain the civility of our
relationship with the governor, so far. We're just as lost as he is. The
playing field, as he likes to put it, has been leveled. That hasn't always
been the case. When he was first elected, he was the outsider; we, the
capitol press corps, were the insiders, ready with a polished sense of how
the System works, and what pitfalls the state Capitol had hidden for this
outsider. When he fell, we knew it almost ahead of time.
In Tokyo, we're just as lost as he was during those first few weeks in the
Capitol, and, like him, we're doing our best not to show it. But he's on
to us. This morning at a news conference at the Embassy, one of us admitted
we didn't know the difference between a Prefecture and a Province. He
admitted the same. We all laughed -- and he said something about sticking
together. For a fleeting moment, we were.
Then he had to go and spoil the warm feelings. In his speech at the Foreign
Correspondents Club, he exposed our insecurities in front of our reporter
colleagues by saying about us, "We've really found a truce here in Japan. We
needed to get to a neutral area to where it was foreign to them, probably
where I had a little advantage, having been here four times before -- they're
now leaning a little bit on me, because they're having to justify all the
expense they spent to get here!"
Just for that, tomorrow I'm skipping state-organized trip to the fish market.