I’ve been fascinated with Japanese culture since I was young, so when I found out that representatives from the Japanese Conservative Union — the Japanese counterpart to the American Conservative Union — would be at CPAC, I knew I wanted to conduct an interview.
On Saturday, I had the honor of speaking with Jay H. Aeba, Chairman of the JCU, about what conservatism looks like in Japan and how American conservatives can partner with their counterparts across the world.
In addition to his chairmanship at JCU, which he founded in 2015, Aeba has served as an advisor to the Republican National Committee and written best-selling books. He even coined the phrase “Trump Revolution!”
Aeba explained to me that the first priorities of the JCU are to gain the true independence of the country of Japan and spread prosperity. The JCU also seeks to spread that prosperity throughout Asia and to the whole world. Japanese conservatives seek to build a movement that expands prosperity in much the same way that American conservatives do.
I asked Aeba about the biggest challenge that conservatives in Japan face, and he told me that the JCU and other Japanese conservatives are fighting Chinese hegemony and working to stop expansionism.
Aeba explained to me that what makes a conservative in Japan unique is patriotism, love of country, and the desire to present a positive national image. The three issues that resonate the most with Japanese conservatives are liberty, self-responsibility, and property.
Those issues are values that Japanese conservatives and American conservatives hold in common, along with the value of family. Japan’s self-defense is weak, Aeba admitted, but he said that they want, “self-defense for Japanese society by strength, and the ability to defend our country by our own service.”
The biggest differences between conservatives in Japan and the United States are history and tradition. Aeba reminded me that the U.S. is a relatively young country with its own momentum and tradition. Japan has a 3,000-year history and a set of traditions that have shaped its unique culture. Those different histories and traditions play a role in how conservatives in both countries approach the issues.
I asked Aeba how American conservatives can help Japanese conservatives, and he pointed out that the U.S. is Japan’s sole ally in spreading freedom, and American conservatives can help in that fight. American conservatives can also help Japanese conservatives to break through barriers of insularity by highlighting that alliance and supporting Japan.
“For example, Donald Trump said, ‘America First,’ and conservative leaders can also recommend ‘Japan First,’” Aeba said. “American support teaches liberty and self-responsibility, and that’s an important message to send.”
I asked Aeba what other messages he wanted to send to American conservatives and Americans in general, and he had some encouraging and challenging messages.
“Americans have had a long relationship with us, an organic relationship,” he said. “ACU knows that conservatives need to keep their eyes open to the world.”
Aeba admitted that American conservatives can stay “enclosed in domestic tendencies,” but he challenges American conservatives to recognize the status that the U.S. has in the world.
“The U.S. has a huge influence in the world,” he said. “Please acknowledge that figure that you have in the world and include those alliances that you have throughout the world.”
Aeba has been onstage at CPAC for seven years now, and he takes plenty of encouragement from the friendships he has made.
“The many conservative friends and allies all over the world make me happy, as they expand more and more,” he said. I hope he considers me one of those friends.
Special thanks to Michi Watanabe for translating and for helping arrange the video.