The Fabulous Orient
The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 5 Dec 1960, p. 126-139
Williams, William E., Speaker
Media Type
Item Type
A joint meeting of The Empire Club of Canada and The Canadian Club of Toronto.
A personal account of a recent trip taken by100 members of the Board of Trade of Metropolitan Toronto to Japan, Hong Kong and Honolulu. A detailed description of the trip, including impressions and data as to the government, industry, and society of each place. Interspersed are remarks comparing or relating a particular subject to the situation in Canada. Trade and business results of the trip in terms of business contacts established.
Date of Original
5 Dec 1960
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The speeches are free of charge but please note that the Empire Club of Canada retains copyright. Neither the speeches themselves nor any part of their content may be used for any purpose other than personal interest or research without the explicit permission of the Empire Club of Canada.
Empire Club of Canada
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Full Text
An Address by WILLIAM E. WILLIAMS President and General Manager, Procter and Gamble Co. of Canada, Ltd., and President of the Toronto Board of Trade
Joint Meeting with the Canadian Club of Toronto
Monday, December 5th, 1960
CHAIRMAN: The President of the Canadian Club, Mr. H. H. Wilson.

MR. WILSON introduced the guest speaker.

MR. WILLIAMS: Gentlemen, today I am going to talk to you, and briefly, about the story of the Board of Trade of Metropolitan Toronto's first travel venture outside of North America in 115 years. For a long time now we have been going up and down the St. Lawrence, visiting mines in Northern Ontario and cities in the United States.

However, since I am to be President of this wonderful organization for one time only and for one year only, and because of my own extreme enthusiasm about the Far East, an insane idea was born of taking a group of approximately 100 members of the Board to Japan, Hong Kong and Honolulu in our own chartered aircraft.

It was decided that the idea was worth investigating. A committee was formed, and with what I like to think of as typical Board of Trade efficiency, we set about finding out the degree of interest and the costs; and then we started planning an itinerary and handling all of the million-and-one details of such a trip. I won't attempt to tell you all the details, but against what seemed to be tremendous odds, it worked out so that at 8:00 p.m. on Friday, October 21st, we embarked with a capacity load of 101 persons on a CPA Britannia, and away we went for what everyone seemed to feel was the most fabulous trip of his life.

The whole group was in a real party mood. The whiskey was free and so, despite elaborate planning to avoid such an eventuality, we ran out of whiskey before we reached Vancouver. At this point, we loaded up all over again, and this time the enthusiasm was so great that we ran out of soda and ice before reaching Cold Bay on the tip of the Aleutians. Again we reloaded, but, finally, time and the whiskey began to have their effect, and most of the group slept until our arrival in Tokyo the next morning after travelling some 7,700 miles.

At Tokyo we were greeted by beautiful weather. We were also greeted by the Canadian Ambassador, Mr. Fred Bull, and many Japanese business friends and acquaintances, including a number of people whom I had met on my previous trip. Truly, the Japanese are without doubt the world's greatest meeters and "seer-off-ers" of aeroplanes I have ever seen.

At this point I want to emphasize one of the things that everyone came away from Japan feeling; namely, that the Japanese were the nicest, most hospitable, most wonderful people that they had ever met. During the entire time, there wasn't a single individual on the tour who saw one trace of insolence or unfriendliness-it was quite the contrary. The people could not have been more pleasant, and to add to it all, the food, the hospitality, the hotels, and the travel arrangements within Japan were all absolutely without comparison.

So there we were, in the "Land of Mount Fuji". Incidentally, the Japanese have a saying that "the man who has climbed Fuji once is crazy, and the man who has climbed it twice is twice as crazy".

At this moment may I urge those of you who visualize Japan, especially Tokyo, as being a rather super-neat, oriental-type Switzerland, to forget all about it and start over again. Tokyo is a big, lusty, sprawling, unbelievably huge city. It is actually the largest city in the world, both in area and in population.

Also, it has traffic that makes Rome, Paris or Caracas seem like downtown Toronto at 6 p.m. on a summer Sunday afternoon. Tokyo was completely burned out during the war-literally there were only a few hundred buildings of any kind left in the city. It was rebuilt following the war and rebuilt so hurriedly that the broad vistas of a properly-restored Rotterdam are not to be found there.

There are beauty spots and there are historical spots, but the overall impression is one of a hard-working, hurrying, bustling people in a city mainly undistinguished and unbelievably dirty in parts thanks to the current building of the city's third subway. As you know from our own experience in Toronto, nothing in the world messes up a city like building a subway.

We proceeded to the New Japan Hotel, certainly one of the world's finest and built less than two years ago. Most of the members relaxed until time to go to the theatre that evening, but I reversed the procedure and was the guest of honour at a large cocktail party. After this, it was my turn to relax, having been awake almost continuously for some thirty-six hours.

The next morning we had a bus tour of Tokyo, and a number of the members visited the Tokyo Stock Exchange, which handles twenty to thirty million shares a day. The report is that their facilities for handling this volume and, indeed, their general operation are far more modern than our own. That evening we had a large cocktail party and reception given for us by the Tokyo Chamber of Commerce. After this I took three members of the group along for a geisha party which was being given for me.

Now, having mentioned geisha parties, let me clear up a real misconception. There is sex in Japan as there is in most places around the world, and the Japanese are most matter-of-fact about this. But a geisha party is not sexy, and is not intended to be. Actually, based upon my more than ten experiences thus far, it is a rather dull ritual dinner where business men relax and talk over their affairs while drinking sake and being entertained with traditional songs and dances by young geisha girls trained in the art. These young ladies, ranging from fifteen years upward, are so elaborately dressed and made up that you feel you might be watching automated statues.

Later, as the party relaxes, thanks to sake and to santory (a quite good Japanese whiskey), you play parlour games -games that would be quite entertaining to the eight-to twelve-year old level here. I hate to be disappointing you, but, so help me, that's the way I saw it. And this time, I have proof from at least six other members of the group who went with me on small parties, plus the experience of the entire 101 who attended a major geisha party in Kyoto.

We have cleared up one Japanese fact. Now let me give you a few figures and facts about Japan. 98 percent of all Japanese houses are wired for electricity; 99 percent of the people are literate--one of the highest rates in the world. This year, for the first time, Japan's rice crop and consumption will be in balance.

During the last five years, about 20 percent of all homes have acquired a television set, and the Japanese are absolutely going crazy on the subject of television despite the comparatively high costs of the sets and the fact that the average Japanese per capita income was only $290.00 in 1959, although it is worth about three times that in purchasing power. We here in Canada would average, on the same basis, about $1,500.

Gross national product is going up at a rate of 10 percent a year. Exports in 1960 are up 20 percent over 1959, and a labour shortage is developing though this can be fixed since their labour is wastefully employed by our standards. The Japanese annual budget is about $4,000,000,000 for 93,000,000 people versus $6,500,000,000 in Canada for 18,000,000 people.

Another fact--the old Japanese reputation for cheap merchandise, Christmas tree ornaments, etc, is a thing of the past and should be wiped out of your minds. New standards of quality controls, enforced by the Ministry of Trades and Industry, have pushed Japanese quality standards up to the absolute top of any country in the world. And I am referring to such complex things as cameras, television sets, radios, tubes, transistors, etc.

Another fact--for many years Canada has sold far more to Japan than she has bought from that country. But now sales seem to be falling into balance at about $130,000,000 this year thanks to the voluntary fixing of export quotas by the Japanese. This was at the strong request of the Canadian Government. Such items as textiles, radio tubes, stainless steel, flatware and many other items have had voluntary quotas fixed by the Japanese. Canada, by this means, does not violate the terms of GATT.

Half of their total imports from Canada are in the form of wheat which we have in enormous quantities. And we are building a rapidly-growing market there as the wheat is processed into noodles. We could sell far more if we were able to buy more from the Japanese.

Top wage for girls in industry is about $55.00 per month and the top wage for men is about $75.00 per month. This compares with Hong Kong at about $39.70 for far longer hours.

Tokyo has a T.V. tower 108 feet higher than the Eiffel Tower. One of the great contrasts in Japan is that the country is only 17 percent arable; and, therefore, every inch of land is used, and you can find a major manufacturing plant with a rice field right up to its very walls. These rice fields also go in terraces up the sides of the mountains, and all of them are tilled by hand.

Japanese prices on their goods are not only determined by cheap labour, but also by the fact that in many cases they have the finest possible machinery available in the world and their people work. Believe me, gentlemen, how they do work. Prices are reasonably stable, and labour is beginning to be short, as I said.

Actually, they have been in a boom period since the war, 1959 being the greatest year that they have ever had. As you know, they are the world's largest shipbuilders and have been for some time.

To stem the burgeoning population, birth control information is available throughout Japan, with the net result that their population growth is down to eight-tenths of 1 percent and they have legalized abortion. To visualize just how many people there are, imagine Alberta as over 80 percent mountainous, and with a population of 95,000,000. The morning of our third day, there was a tour of an optical and camera plant. We left at noon for Kamakura, where we visited the big Buddha built about 1200 and then moved on to Miyanoshita, which is a famous hot springs resort, and were put up in the Fujiya Hotel, which was absolutely first class.

We never did see Mount Fuji, but left Atami the next afternoon on one of the most modern electric trains in the world. Here the boys whiled away a five-hour trip primarily in the bar.

Then we arrived in Kyoto. In case any of you fellows are proud of your heritage--where you came from, your country--think how the Japanese feel about looking back upon the fact that Kyoto was the capital of Japan for more than a thousand years. Then the capital was moved to Tokyo more than a hundred years ago.

Kyoto was not bombed during the war so it is there in the original with the old Imperial Palace, the Hall of a Thousand Buddhas, the Shogun's Palace, and so on. Here also is located the Gold Pavilion, which burned down accidentally but which has been replaced in accurate detail.

That night we had the whole group at a geisha party with much whooping, shouting, and general cutting-up later. The following day, the group visited Nara to see another giant bronze image of Buddha, an enormous Chinese bell more than two thousand years old, and hundreds of tame deer. Incidentally, Nara was the capital of Japan prior to Kyoto.

Then we went by bus to Osaka for a two-hour sightseeing tour of this city of 3,000,000 people. We stayed at the Osaka Grand Hotel, and grand indeed it is, having been completed just two years ago. That evening we were the guests of the Osaka Chamber of Commerce, the Japanese Trade Association, the Japanese-Canadian Society, and the Japanese Export Trade Association. It was there that we found that we were the largest single group from any one North American city to ever visit this industrialized area. It was also there that I took my courage in hand and gave an extemporaneous speech in Japanese for about six and one-half minutes. If anyone is interested in how a man who knows not ten words of Japanese can make a speech in it, I will be happy to answer any questions later on. The next morning, the group split into two parts-one to view a shipbuilding yard and the other to visit three of the plants of an old friend of mine, Konosuke Matsushita, who started in 1919 with a capital of $150.00. When I was there in 1957, his volume was $125,000,000 in small electrical goods produced in twenty-seven plants. This year, he will do $285,000,000 worth of business, with 34,000 employees in forty-three plants-quite a growth recorder 40 percent a year for the last three years alone.

We went back to Tokyo, and to Nikko the following day to see its world-famous Toshogu Shrine, where the original three monkeys of "see no evil, speak no evil, hear no evil" are located.

The next day, I had the pleasure of taking four members of the party by to renew acquaintances with the Honourable Douglas MacArthur II, the nephew of the General. We were supposed to have the usual protocol-type twenty-minute meeting. Instead, this went on for almost an hour and one-half as MacArthur briefed us on the political situation in Japan in relation to the Communists, etc. I can't speak of everything that he told us, quite obviously, but suffice it to say that he feels that Japan is still strongly on the side of the West and even if the present government were to change twice more, it would still be that way. He said that the recent assassination of Anasuma would have little effect on the election which Ikeda would win, and he was exactly right.

He felt one thing very strongly; namely, that the Conservative element in Japan, which is all but one or two million of the people, had been more or less in the position of ignoring the tactics of this small group of extreme Left-Wingers. These Conservative people were shocked and brought to their senses by the actions which virtually denied President Eisenhower the right to visit their country. He feels that there has been a sharp reversal in attitude since that time, and he thinks that this is going to continue.

Let me say that between Bull, who gave a cocktail party for us, and MacArthur the North American continent is well represented in this key and focal point of the world. And for this, we can be most thankful.

And now, gentlemen, if I may be serious for just a few minutes, I want to tell you and sell you just as hard as I can on the advantages of the Western world retaining Japan on our side. It is, in my opinion and the opinion of far more experienced observers than I, that the world today has a number of major assets, some of which it cannot afford to lose.

One of these is the Middle Eastern oil; and in Lebanon, the United States proved that she was willing to go to war to protect that.

To my way of thinking, Japan is a far more valuable asset. To me, it is the key to the whole Asiatic situation and the key to controlling world Communism somewhere within its present limits. Japan has gone democratic and has gone that way with a bang. Certainly they still revere their Emperor, but the democratic way is sold and sold solidly to the majority of the people. There have been some changes in the rather too rapid governmental framework imposed in the immediate post-war years, but these changes, which are still going on, are structural and mechanical rather than changes of the spirit, inexperience with majority rule--minorities cannot fully realize they must conform. The Japanese like what they have. They admire the North American way of doing things, and they will cling to it and to us as long as we will let them.

Now, you say, what do I mean? I mean simply and literally that, unless we people in North America and the world let Japan sell enough of her merchandise to us, then Japan cannot survive and feed herself. It is certain that 93,000,000 people are not going to starve to death on a matter of principle. They have only one other place to go, and that is back to North Korea and to Red China, where steel, coal, limestone, and an unlimited consumer goods market await them. True, it would mean Communism, but Communism, I assume, is better than starvation.

Gentlemen, those were the exact same words that I said on December 5th, 1957. And I was interested and pleased to see an almost verbatim repetition by Bruce Hutchison in the articles which he did for the Victoria Star in 1960. I am glad to have the corroboration of a far more experienced observer than I.

Believe me, should it happen that Japan and Red China unite, it would be a catastrophe which would make the thirteenth-century invasion of Europe by Genghis Khan seem a simple Boston Tea Party in comparison. You see, to add the Japanese manufacturing, resources, and equipment, their skillful, inventive and hard-working population to the enormous number of people in Red China, would make the combination, in my personal opinion, the most formidable force in the world.

I do not think that this is going to happen if we show even the faintest vestige of intelligence. All we have to do to save this valuable resource for the free world is to simply allow the Japanese to sell--and notice that I say "sell", not "give"--enough of their goods to balance the trade between Japan and Canada, and Japan and the United States. This is the very strong feeling of everyone to whom I have talked, including both of the Ambassadors that I have mentioned.

Here are two relevant thoughts and two bits of advice for the Japanese. They must use care not to completely devastate one area of business such as textiles or radio tubes, but rather they must spread these exports on a more equitable and broader base, thus avoiding the obvious violent reaction of a group of companies who are seeing their long-established businesses ruined. A second point is that where Japanese prices are 30 percent, 40 percent, or 50 percent below equivalent prices in importing countries, the Japanese should raise these prices to only 10 percent or 15 percent below. They would perhaps ship less total tonnage, but they would make as much or more money. The differential could be used over the years to defray the rapidly-rising Japanese labour costs and to put in more efficient machinery.

I might point out that in a full-page ad run in The Financial Post, Japan notes that in 1959 she bought 2.7 percent of all the goods exported from Canada, or $140,000,000 worth. Japan sold us 1.8 percent of all the goods imported by Canada, or $103,000,000 worth. True, our goods have a low labour content; whereas hers have a high labour content. But that is the only way she can live since she has no raw material resources of her own. We sell them lumber, wheat, some manufactured goods, and a great deal of other raw materials. I would like to point out that what has been happening in Japan is the same thing that has been happening in Canada. We, too, are buying more than we sell, but Canada has been fortunate in that an influx of investment money keeps pouring in, keeping our economy solvent. Without that, we could find ourselves in worse shape than the Japanese now are.

Therefore, we are brothers under the economic skin and should be sympathetic with their position.

It is true that the Japanese expansion has been great, and the post-war years have been known as Jimmu-kiekithat is, the biggest boom since the Emperor Jimmu, who legendarily founded Japan 2,000 years ago. The Japanese have doubled their gross national product over the past ten years, and, as I have mentioned, they are still earning an average income of only $290.00 a year.

I would like to make one other point, and that is that these intensely proud people look back upon their historical heritage and their ancient lineage with a pride that even those of us of British ancestry find hard to match. Partly for this reason, they are intensely sensitive to slight. They expect their enormous politeness to be returned in kind. I don't believe that we should deviate from a policy of being fair, equitable, and even generous. After all, these people have a population of 93,000,000 jammed in an area smaller than California; and, as I mentioned, very little of this land area is arable.

I have a strong belief that Japan is not asking for financial aid, dollar grants, Colombo Plans, sympathy, or charity. Her position is simply that here is a teeming, growing population of frugal industrial workers who must eat to live, who must import raw materials, fabricate, and then export their production in order to earn money to buy food. Lacking this opportunity--and God forbid that--Japan has no other choice except to swing to the Communist side. Therefore, may I urge you, if you take nothing else away from this talk, to view with tolerance the Japanese effort to live through export.

Finally, we were off to Hong Kong and arrived there the following morning in absolutely perfect weather. The troops, if I may refer to them as that, immediately pulled out their wallets and started spending money exactly as if they thought it were going out of style the following day. By now, the mass of luggage had grown sharply; but in Hong Kong it seemed to double, and everyone was running around with a cheap $2.00 suitcase loaded down with brocades, pearls, jewels, art objects, and carved ivory. Even some of the sillier of us shipped home large Chinese lacquered screens, six-by-six, which will undoubtedly delight our respective wives when they arrive.

The most obvious thing about Hong Kong is that the city is living on borrowed time. The lease which the U.K. has with China does not expire for some thirty-seven years, but there is always the possibility that the landlord may foreclose on the lease at any moment which happens to suit him.

If anyone in Hong Kong is particularly worried about this prospect, he refuses to show it, believing instead that Red China finds it far too valuable a spot in its status as a listening post, a source of Western goods, and an earner of hard dollars from the sale of all manner of goods, including about 45 percent of the fruits and vegetables consumed there. The general feeling is that things are going to stay exactly the way they are.

We called on government officials and the President of the local Board of Trade as a matter of courtesy and received a great deal of valuable briefing. The population, which was down during the war to about half a million, is now up to three million. The wage rate is about $39.70 for a 70-hour week, and the building, which was frenzied when I was there before, is now actually insane-simply enormous buildings are going up every place you look. They are all complete with steel, marble, air conditioning, and it is clear that the people in Hong Kong are building for permanency.

In Hong Kong there are wonderful hotels--the food is spectacular in any type of cuisine you want. The girls are beautiful and add to their charm by wearing a chong-sam, a sheath-like dress slit far above the knee. Add to all this the fact that prices are almost unbelievably low because everything in the world is available there in that duty-free port at prices far below home country costs. This is due not only to the lack of duty but also to the shrewd Chinese merchants selling as hard as they know how.

If you think you work, let me tell you one small incident. One of our members decided he had to have a black silk dinner jacket at noon the day before our departure at seven o'clock in the morning. He ordered the suit at noon and went back for a first fitting at dinner time. The tailor came by at 3:15 a.m., woke him up for a second fitting, and then delivered the suit at 6:30 in time for the luggage pick-up at seven.

The refugee problem is almost impossible. Last year, Hong Kong opened up a new school every two weeks with a capacity of 2,000 students each and this is still far behind the demand. Light industry is booming-much of it done with the finest of modern equipment. Their exports are soaring and will have to continue going this way if they are to support the load they have. Thanks to British training and indoctrination, the water, sanitation, traffic handling, etc., are all top-flight.

On a sentimental note, while we were there, the group, headed by Colonel Gordon Weir, placed a wreath on the monument to the 300 Canadians who rest there--the first Canadian casualties of the war. One piece of advice: when you travel, save your money for Hong Kong.

Several of our members, while crossing from Victoria to Kowloon by the ferry which carries 300,000 to 400,000 people a day, mentioned with some obvious pride the fact that a 1,000-foot U.S. aircraft carrier with all of its escort vessels was parked in the tremendous harbour. It was part of the Seventh Fleet. It was out there supporting the free world at the cost of the American taxpayer, and this comment seemed to draw quite a bit of favourable attention, particularly when it is considered that Canada spends some 20 percent of her income on defence; whereas the United States (with an annual budget almost fourteen times larger) is spending 52 percent of her budget. The Japanese spend 1.5 percent of their budget on defence.

We shopped and shopped and shopped, and finally we took off with so much luggage that they had to weigh each one of us individually, including everything we were carrying in our hands, plus all of the luggage. At this point they took 5,900 gallons of kerosene out of our Britannia. We made two stops, one at Wake and one at Guam, on the way to Honolulu. For those of you who want confidence in the management of an airline, take a look at the map of the Pacific and locate Wake Island. It is a little horseshoe about three miles long and two miles wide, with nothing around it suitable for a landing spot. When you hit this, you are really convinced that you are in good hands.

Honolulu is in the midst of an incredible boom-so much so that it has gained 25 percent in population in three years, and the number of tourists has shot up like a rocket, from about 25,000 people a year ten years ago to an estimated 240,000 this year. Quite naturally, jet planes are making Hawaii more and more accessible, and since it is at the crossroads of the Pacific, people are really flocking in. New hotels are going up all over the place, and a twenty-six-storey office building is being constructed. Some of the more seasoned travellers now say that you have to go to the outer islands-that is, away from Oahu-in order to find the old island atmosphere.

There was another tour the next morning. Although I must confess that there were a very large number of the group on the beach at Waikiki admiring the bikinis and their contents, the bars and excellent restaurants seemed also to be well patronized. Everyone by this time had broken out in a uniform consisting of shorts, knobby knees, and violently-coloured pineapples on sport shirts. But they were still having real fun. Quite a number of the group had been to Honolulu before, but only four out of the total 101 had been to the Far East. Consequently, many were on familiar ground in Honolulu.

It is said that the Hawaiian Islands represent the finest blending of races in the history of the world. Apparently this is true, for even though there are still minor discriminations, the melting pot seems to have worked wonderfully well.

And so we finally took off at 11:45 that night, with the strong waters still flowing freely and everyone in an unbelievably good humour and excited as a small boy at a circus. You might think that some of them would have begun to tire by this time, but if they did, it was not readily apparent. Over Vancouver the next morning, we found the city completely socked in and had to go to Abbotsford, about forty miles to the northeast, where we were greeted by two immigration men and two of the most overworked customs men I have ever seen. By this time, the mass of luggage was unbelievable. However, they were quick, obliging, and, thanks to their handling, we took off only one hour late. We arrived in Toronto at precisely 10:00 o'clock, or only one hour and ten minutes off our schedule.

This then completed what in my mind was a major miracle. We started out with 101 people. We came home with 101 people. We had had no major illnesses. No one had been robbed or rolled in a dark alley. We had taken our own doctor with us to solve the small medical problems that occurred; and we lost no baggage.

In closing, I would like to emphasize that we were not a trade mission, although every assistance was given to those who wanted to set up business contacts.

Thus far this has resulted in the following:
Import of Japanese and Hong Kong products14 Members
Export to Japan and Hong Kong4 Members
Imports replacing present U.S. imports4 Members
Two-way trade, both import and export4 Members
Revitalizing long standing trading contacts 5 Members
Total: 31 Members

Thus, we returned physically tired but mentally stimulated and with a far broader knowledge of some of the other peoples of the world, their problems, and the possible solutions to these problems than we might otherwise have.

All of this was at less than half the cost of a similar trip handled independently. There will be more such trips, and I warmly invite you now to go with us to sunny South America, magnificent Mexico, expanding Europe, stunning Scandinavia, or the superb South Pacific, for as surely as, I stand here today, these trips will come about.

THANKS OF THE MEETING were expressed by Mr. Alexander Stark, Q.C.

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The Fabulous Orient

A joint meeting of The Empire Club of Canada and The Canadian Club of Toronto.
A personal account of a recent trip taken by100 members of the Board of Trade of Metropolitan Toronto to Japan, Hong Kong and Honolulu. A detailed description of the trip, including impressions and data as to the government, industry, and society of each place. Interspersed are remarks comparing or relating a particular subject to the situation in Canada. Trade and business results of the trip in terms of business contacts established.