Premiere of 'Rising Sun' in Japan is postponed

Japanese moviegoers will have to wait a while before dawn breaks for the controversial movie "Rising Sun."

The long-planned October release of the movie made from the Michael Crichton thriller has been postponed until at least February, possibly later. The delay came after picketing by Asian-American groups at the U.S. opening of the movie and after charges it engages in "Japan bashing" received widespread publicity.


A spokesman in Tokyo for 20th Century Fox Far East says the company needed time to rework the trailers and ads for the film. The ads now show stars Sean Connery and Wesley Snipes in front of a Los Angeles skyline framed by a Rising Sun flag. The movie depicts a murder mystery set in the milieu of Japanese businessmen operating in the United States.

"We decided to push this movie forward as a suspense mystery," says Toshio Furusawa, publicity director for 20th Century's office in Japan. The company, which is not one of the two major U.S. film companies owned by Japanese corporations, plans to develop four new trailers and posters for test marketing before releasing the film.


The research could delay the opening until April, Mr. Furusawa says. And in an odd twist for a commercial blockbuster, the company plans to enter "Rising Sun" in the Tokyo Film Festival in October to test critical reaction.

The theater chain that usually screens 20th Century Fox films in Japan raised the possibility that the movie, which grossed $15 million in its first week in the United States, won't appear at all.

"Rising Sun" the movie is being treated in much the same way as "Rising Sun" the novel when it was published last year. The Japanese version, slightly altered to delete references to Japanese outcasts, was uniformly panned by reviewers and sold a scant 100,000 copies.

The reviews attacked not only Mr. Crichton but an entire body of recent scholarship on Japan-U.S. relations that informed the novel's background. In a rarity for an author of a fictional work, Mr. Crichton had appended a bibliography of works he consulted before writing the book.

The academics, journalists, business people and former trade officials -- many with decades of experience in Japan whom Mr. Crichton cited have been called "revisionists" by their supporters and "Japan bashers" by the Japanese corporate and government elite.

The more prominent members of the group include Clyde Prestowitz, the former deputy U.S. trade representative who negotiated the 1986 U.S-Japan semiconductor agreement and wrote "Trading Places"; Chalmers Johnson, a University of California professor with 40 years' experience in Japan studies who wrote the seminal expose of Japanese industrial policy "MITI and the Japanese Miracle"; Karel van Wolferen, a Dutch journalist who wrote "The Enigma of Japanese Power" after spending 17 years in Japan; and James Fallows, an Atlantic magazine journalist who spent three years in Japan in the late 1980s and popularized many of the revisionists' key concepts.

The core of their arguments suggests that Japanese capitalism is different from that practiced in the West, marked by close cooperation between business and government in pursuit of domination of global markets.

These experts warn that America should wake up to the competitive challenge posed by Japan, a position advocated by Mr. Crichton in an unusual afterword to the novel.


The novel's reviewers in Japan skipped over the scholarly reasoning in those works and attacked the book in mostly vitriolic terms.

"Crichton seems to have settled for sitting at home reading a pile of Japan-bashing books written by Americans who can't speak Japanese, have never been there for more than 72 hours at a stretch and don't have any Japanese friends," wrote a reviewer in the Nikkei Weekly.

The Mainichi Shimbun reviewer offered: "In the world of mystery and spy novels where the influence of communist villains has been on the wane since the collapse of the U.S.S.R., the alternative villain has become Japan -- a monopoly power only interested in money, material and technology."

The controversy became so intense here that organizations usually considered friendly to Japan rose to Mr. Crichton's defense.

"The concept of Japan-bashing has been manipulated to invalidate those Americans who have run against the politically correct concept of Japan: the view that Japan is America's constant friend, constant ally and that economic issues are secondary to the primacy of the relationship," wrote Steven Clemons, executive director of the Japan America Society of Southern California.

"To set the record straight, Michael Crichton's message in 'Rising Sun' is that a healthy, long-term U.S.-Japan relationship is impossible if the U.S. is perpetually weak and dependent on Japan," he wrote in the Nikkei Weekly.


If or when the movie opens, it probably will face similar criticism, even though -- or perhaps because -- most of the business zTC critique in the novel reportedly has been left out of the film.

"This is a kind of renewal of Fu Man Chu or Ming the Merciless -- the Oriental villains who plotted to take over the world," says Yumiko Murikami, author of the recently released "Yellow Face -- How Hollywood Has Depicted Asians in Film."

"But the movie will probably be a hit because it's by the same author as 'Jurassic Park.' "