This year, the U.S. and Japan mark the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II, a bitter time that left deep wounds. In the 1980s, Japan and U.S. were at times economic adversaries, caught up in bilateral trade disputes.
Today, most Americans say they're pleased with the state of U.S.-Japan relations. In a new survey by the Pew Research Center, more than 8 in 10 Americans said they prefer the two nations remain close or get closer. Three-quarters of Japanese surveyed around the same time — in February of this year — say they trust the United States.
Another point of agreement: The rise of China gives both Americans and Japanese some anxiety. Pew surveyed both Americans and Japanese citizens for its latest research and found only 30 percent of Americans and 7 percent of Japanese say they trust China. Sixty percent of Americans said that China's rise as a military and economic power only makes the U.S.-Japanese alliance more important.
Despite American doubts about China as a trading partner, those surveyed indicated that more young Americans think it's important to have strong economic ties with China than to have them with Japan.
Still, the study authors note, "The future of U.S.-Japan relations will, in large part, be a product of bilateral economic interaction."
Japan is currently the United States' fourth-largest trading partner. And Tokyo and Washington are in the process of negotiating deeper trade and investment bonds between the two nations, an effort that Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will be trying to shore up when he visits Washington later this month.
What We Think Of Each Other
The Pew study contains all sorts of interesting data about how much the countries know about each other.
For example, only about 10 percent of American surveyed said they know anything about tensions over "comfort women" — women from China and Korea and other Asian countries forced to provide sex to Japanese army soldiers during World War II. This issue still receives extensive coverage from where I write this post, in South Korea.
There's also the matter of what characteristics Americans associate with Japanese, and vice versa. The chart here shows you the results, which seem to align with stereotypes — Americans see the the Japanese as honest and hardworking, while Japanese overwhelmingly find Americans to be "inventive," but not particularly hardworking.
Only 19 percent of Americans associate the word "selfish" with the Japanese, while about half the Japanese surveyed see Americans as "aggressive" and "selfish."
And when it came time for free association in the survey, Americans overwhelmingly said they think of "food" or "sushi" when they think of Japan.