A few years ago, Japan’s Mitsubishi Bank established a Trust Museum in Tokyo, as well as in other countries around the world. I was honored to open this museum with the president of the bank, about four years ago. After over 20,000 visitors, the materials in the museum are currently revised and updated.
The trust museum offers an opportunity to demonstrate by pictures and other technical means, the history and projected future of a flourishing society based on trust, as well as a suffering society where trust is missing. This is not preaching. It is proving. Visitors listen to centuries-old stories as well as a children’s stories, such as the story of Peter Rabbit. Displayed in Tokyo near the Mitsubishi Bank’s headquarters, visitors come by the thousands.
The museum has three sections: (1) a guide to the museum’s theater; (2) a section dedicated to the emergence and history of trust; and (3) an interactive center that relates stories about trust and shows movies about the concept. In this third section, guests even have the opportunity take a picture with Peter Rabbit.
It may well be that a museum of this kind, devoted to this subject, is not merely a good idea, but an educational tool about a subject that is crucial to the United States. Understanding trust might reduce some of the misunderstandings that this country and others have to their disadvantage.
Why would thousands of people visit a trust museum, of all places? It seems that many visitors are young people, who not only get to hear the story of Peter Rabbit—provided they stand still for a few seconds, they receive a picture showing themselves with Peter Rabbit! It shows the proud participant of such a picture! In addition, the museum tells so many interesting stories over centuries of various events and leaders dealing with trustworthiness. The stories are short and accompanied by pictures. They capture the imagination and are convincing and entertaining. However, they do not preach. They can be offered with a “take it or leave it” attitude: “You, are the listener and viewer; or you are the judge.”
There are various information sources that become habitual and grow stronger over time It seems, although it may be early to establish with certainty, that the Mitsubishi Trust Museum in Tokyo is one of these sources. The first visit becomes the first of many visits. It has become and probably will continue to be, a learning tool that is not a preaching tool. That seems to be an important distinction, and one in which culture grows and develops, especially when it relies on resonance with younger people.
Why should lawyers be interested in such a museum? After all, some, if not all of their income is derived from court cases and wrongful acts. Like physicians, who benefit from a rising number of sick people, lawyers could benefit from mistrust and conflicts of interest, especially if the lawyers know how to choose the winners. If conflicts are like illnesses, lawyers would benefit from curing them. At the same time, however, the law and public policy supports the creation of socially enriching activities rather than merely the resolution of destructive conflicts. Doctors can bring not only health to the sick but better medicines to avoid sickness. Lawyers can help prevent conflicts rather than help one party win in court after being defrauded. To be sure, nothing will be perfect. But we might try, if the stakes are high. And in this case they are. That is why trust museums may be a much cheaper alternative to repeatedly litigating fraud in the court system.
This is an example of a long-term effort to reduce the cost of mistrust and breach of trust. American banks and other institutions, such as schools, can create similar educational museums of their own in the US and add to the history of trust and to an explanation of its crucial role in America’s economy and culture.