As wealthy Japanese firms buy more and more American property, particularly well-known names or landmarks, there is a predictable backlash from many Americans about Japan "buying up the country." That's mostly an exaggeration and the rhetoric ought not to be carried too far.
For example, Interior Secretary Manuel Lujan appears to be engaged in unnecessary Japan-bashing in order to get the best deal he can in his campaign to have a Japanese conglomerate give up concessionaire rights it holds in Yosemite National Park. In fact, it looks suspiciously like Lujan might be engaging in anti-Japan language in an effort to get something for nothing.A Japanese firm, Matsushita Electric Industrial Co., recently bought MCA Inc., an American entertainment giant, for $7.5 billion. Along with all the various MCA enterprises, the Japanese acquired Yosemite Park & Curry Co., a subsidiary that operates hotels, grocery stores, campgrounds and restaurants as a concessionaire in California's Yosemite National Park.
Lujan promptly raised a cry about American landmarks passing into Japanese hands, a stance that has proved popular with many of his countrymen.
Matsushita is sensitive to that charge and said it will put Curry Co. in escrow for 12 months while an American buyer is found. In the meantime, any Curry Co. profits will be donated to the National Park Foundation, a private, non-profit group that gives money to parks.
One could hardly ask for more. Yet Lujan continues to make waves, charging that the Interior Department must approve all changes of ownership for a park concessionaire. He is pushing for the Japanese firm to donate the property in Yosemite to the National Park Service.
That hardly makes sense for the Japanese, since the properties may be worth more than $100 million. Let Matsushita sell to an American buyer - as it already has said it will do - and there won't be any Japanese holdings in Yosemite.
It may be that the Japanese just make handy targets for another battle Lujan is fighting, namely reforming the arrangements with park concessionaries all across the country in order to get more revenue for the federal government out of the deals.
But trying to assume control of the entire private holdings in Yosemite by crying "Japanese invasion" is neither fair nor accurate.