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No.40

Japanese “Armitage-Nye Report” Launched

With the arrival of the Trump administration came a sense of bewilderment, in the face of a new style of diplomacy unlike anything that had gone before. Nonetheless, we need to avoid doing anything that could damage the Japan-US alliance, an important public good for stability and prosperity in East Asia. A group of experts in Japanese diplomacy has come together to set out a proposal for both the Japanese and US administrations. On April 5 this year, a joint research program on intellectual exchange between Japan and the United States (Mt. Fuji Dialogue), co-organized by the Japan Center for Economic Research (JCER) and the Japan Institute of International Affairs (JIIA), launched a policy proposal report entitled “Toward a Greater Alliance,” setting out a vision for Japan-US relations in the future. The report was the result of intense deliberations by selected Japanese members of ... ... [Read more]

No.37

Post-TPP Trade Vision
―Ordeal of multilateral trade without the U.S.

“The TPP will take jobs away.” The issues of trade policy held lead to the presidency of Donald J. Trump. Will the U.S. become protectionist? If so, how should we handle disputes? We will look at the future of world trade after the collapse of the TPP.   The inauguration of the new Trump administration in the U.S. is increasing fears that the international economic order will become destabilized. By the time this paper has been published, President Trump will have ended his inauguration speech and I hope that the specific policies of the internal order will be made clear. However, his arguments at his first press conference as the president-elect held in January did not vary significantly from his arguments during the election campaign and did not reveal his specific policies for the U.S. on international trade. As a result, a sense of ... ... [Read more]

No.37

Japan and the United States Confront the Past

We must never repeat the horrors of war again,” said Japanese Prime Minister Abe Shinzo at Pearl Harbor, echoing U.S. President Barack Obama several months earlier at his historic visit to Hiroshima. These visits were celebrated on both sides, and mark a noticeable change in Japan-US relations. Indeed, for decades after World War II, the United States and Japan forged a remarkable reconciliation but avoided discussing the war. But in these recent bilateral visits, the two governments have begun to address the past. The visits provide a model of historical reconciliation for former enemies that are committed to cooperation. The needs of the present above the needs of the past Remembering war is a fraught enterprise because former enemies often have a vast gap in their perceptions. Countries do not see themselves as an aggressor in the war, but rather view their own actions ... ... [Read more]

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No.38

PKO Cooperation Act with Serious Flaws Finally Improved after a Quarter Century
Issues Left for Kaketsuke-Keigo in UN Peacekeeping Operations

A task known in Japan as kaketsuke-keigo (coming to the aid of a geographically distant unit or personnel under attack) will be added to assignments for the Self-Defense Forces (SDF) unit to be sent to South Sudan in November 2016, at the earliest. Armed forces dispatched by emerging nations will perform the role of guarding the United Nations (UN) peacekeeping operations in the country. The SDF unit will be mobilized in a limited way. However, changing the procedural standard is necessary for the SDF unit to properly perform the newly assigned task of kaketsuke-keigo.   Located in the center of the African continent, South Sudan, which gained independence in 2011, is the youngest nation in the world. Japan is involved in the UN peacekeeping operations (PKOs) aimed at helping the country build and stabilize itself. In July 2016, a large-scale armed conflict broke out ... ... [Read more]

No.38

Passing Down The Significance of President Obama’s Visit to The Future

I thought that it would be the last chance. In May 2016, then U.S. President Barack Obama visited Hiroshima. Because I was convinced that a visit to Hiroshima from the president of the United States would be a historic event and the chance for such a visit would be strong while President Obama was in office, we continued to work for several years to realize the presidential visit. When it was decided that the Summit would be held in Japan in the year that President Obama leaves office, I thought that it would be the last chance for him to visit Hiroshima. Looking back, the first step was taken when former U.S. Ambassador to Japan John Roos, who took office in 2009, participated in the Peace Memorial Ceremony on August 6, 2010. We had also been advised that it would be better if a ... ... [Read more]

No.34

Interpreting the Upper House Elections: Two concerns about maintaining the status quo
― Sustaining social security and Japan’s policy towards China

Tanaka Naoki, President, Center for International Public Policy StudiesThe Upper House elections saw a fourth consecutive national election victory for Prime Minister Abe Shinzo. On the domestic front, one of the reasons behind voters’ decision was down to expectations of the Japanese market broadening its horizons, as a result of current economic policy and progress with the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement. In particular, domestic restrictions standing in the way of the TPP would have remained unresolved under any administration other than Abe. Another reason why voters chose to retain the current administration was down to fundamental concerns regarding Japan’s involvement in the international community. Amidst growing friction with the likes of China and South Korea, there has inevitably been a degree of reluctance to criticize the government at home. ... [Read more]

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No.40

Interviewing an Expert on International Trade
Efforts to Implement the TPP Fail — Exercise Leadership to maintain a high level of trade negotiations

The TPP is an agreement that was reached to create a huge value chain in the Asia-Pacific region. With its implementation becoming uncertain, what role is expected of Japan in trade negotiations? Editorial department of Wedge: Why does it make sense for Japan to ratify the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) as soon as possible, while President-elect Trump says that he will announce the United States’ withdrawal from the TPP on the day of his inauguration? Urata Shujiro: The TPP will be implemented if either the twelve nations complete the domestic procedures within two years after signing in February 2016, or if more than six nations accounting for 85% of the total GDP of the twelve nations complete them, even after two years have passed. I do not expect that Trump will change his campaign promises before the mid-term election. That said, even if the United ... ... [Read more]

No.40

Views on the Chinese economy:
Step-by-step Action on Capital Outflows
― Avoiding a hasty transition to a floating system

< Key Points > Reform state-owned enterprises to promote private sector development Strengthen the financial system to prevent international capital outflows Liberalize trade and investment to avoid friction with the United States China’s economic growth rate for 2016 was 6.7%, a persistent slowdown from the peak of 2010 (10.6%) in the post-Lehman shock period. The economy has clearly shifted from high growth to medium growth. This is due to both long-term and structural factors affecting the Chinese economy and medium-term factors triggered by domestic and overseas economic changes in the wake of the 2008 global economic crisis. Long-term and structural factors relate to China’s trend towards a lower potential growth rate. Specific factors include (1) a peak-out in the country’s working-age population (aged 15–64), (2) reduced labor movement from rural to urban areas (passing of Lewis’ turning point), (3) lower growth in public infrastructure ... ... [Read more]

No.40

Is U.S.-Japan Trade Friction Avoidable?
Stay Resilient with Fair Arguments against Unfair Criticism
―Japan must not accept import obligations

< Key Points > Free trade and investment promotion should be addressed through economic dialogues Japan must accelerate structural reforms in agriculture, which is heavily protected by high tariffs Japan is compelled to accept the invitation to the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) negotiations with the United States It has been a little over one month since the inauguration of Donald Trump as the President of the United States. His political style remains unpredictable without a clear logical approach, leaving the entire world guessing with serious uncertainties. The US government is faced with quite a few lingering risk factors, particularly with respect to its international trade policies. I am deeply concerned about the Trump administration’s attitude, which looks as though it is prepared to disregard the principles of non-discrimination or the international tariff agreements that have been embraced by the World Trade Organization (WTO) over ... ... [Read more]

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No.40

Remembering Ooka Makoto The Poet from Mount Fuji

I didn’t want to come from Mount Fuji,” Ooka Makoto once recollected matter-of-factly. But even as he said the words, he didn’t look particularly unhappy at the idea. Ooka Makoto was born in Mishima, a city in Shizuoka Prefecture at the base of the Izu Peninsula. In other words, he could see that sacred mountain from his home, and as a baby he was bathed in the water that flowed into the Kakita river from Fuji via underground tributaries. Many people have places of beauty as their hometown, but for a contemporary poet it’s no small matter. From ancient times to the present day, Mount Fuji has held a sacred place in the hearts of Japanese people, something you might describe as “special.” For Yamabe Akahito, Katsushika Hokusai, and Lafcadio Hearn among others, Fuji has been an expressive motif that symbolizes Japan itself. And ... ... [Read more]

No.40

Why are foreign chefs captivated by Japanese kitchen knives?

The decline in Japanese influence in the international community is often pointed out, but it is not always the case in the cooking industry. Japanese chefs are in tremendous demand all over the world. There are an increasing number of people who come to Japan from abroad to learn how to cook. This situation was inconceivable years ago. Of course, because prices are different, one cannot make a simple comparison. Amid the pessimism over Japanese products not selling well, including home appliances, according to trade statistics compiled by the Japanese Ministry of Finance, Japanese kitchen knife exports have continued to grow steadily since 2004 (excluding 2008 when the Lehman Shock struck the world). A while ago, when chefs from a foreign star-restaurant came to Japan, they would often buy many Japanese kitchen knives and take them home. But today everyone buys Japanese kitchen knives ... ... [Read more]

No.39

Haiku: “Sharing Makes Peace”

On 26 January 2017, the representatives of four haiku organizations and local governments held a press conference at the Japan National Press Club in Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo, and announced that they would launch a Promotion Council on April 24 targeting the designation of haiku on UNESCO’s list of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. Among the presenters were Arima Akito (president of the Haiku International Association), Takaha Shugyo (president of the Association of Haiku Poets), Inahata Teiko (president of the Association of Japanese Classical Haiku), Miyasaka Shizuo (president of the Gendai Haiku Association) and Mayor Okamoto Sakae of Iga, Mie Prefecture, the birthplace of Matsuo Basho. The group has been working on the project since July 2016.   “Haiku is the world’s shortest fixed form of poetry composed of syllables arranged in a five-seven-five pattern. Haiku is a form of literature that expresses human beings ... ... [Read more]

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No.40

Cats and Japanese People

This, they say, is the age of cats. Each year, the number of pet cats in Japan increases and is now approaching 10 million. On the other hand, the number of pets dogs has dropped from a one-time peak of over 13 million to less than 10 million.* As Yamane Akihiro, an assistant professor of animal ecology at Seinan Gakuin University explains: “I think that behind this affection for cats is the way that present-day Japanese society makes people feel trapped. People are controlled by a results-driven system, and companies are restructured. People can’t live their lives freely and as they wish. Perhaps that is why they are so attracted to free-living cats.” Cats are attractive for their suppleness, beauty and distinctive behavior, side-products of their nature as hunters, able to strike down their prey with a single blow. “Their large beautiful eyes evolved ... ... [Read more]

No.40

Natsume Soseki’s Cat

You might say that the blossoming of modern Japanese literature began with Natsume Soseki’s pet cat. During the summer of 1904, a cat wandered into Soseki’s home in Tokyo’s Sendagi district. Although Soseki’s wife Kyoko disliked cats and immediately threw it out numerous times, when she wasn’t looking the cat would come back, curl up on a wooden rice tub, and go to sleep. One day, Soseki finally noticed the cat and said, “Since it keeps coming back, why don’t you let it be?” Having thus received the seal of approval from the master of the house, the cat became the official Soseki pet. Another stroke of luck for the cat was something said by an elderly masseuse who came regularly to visit Soseki’s wife. The old lady stared at the cat, which had stripy black grey fur from head to tail, and muttered ... ... [Read more]

No.39

Visiting the Offices of Large Companies Where the Retirement Age Has Been Extended
― Will the New Way of Working Bring Happiness to Companies and Employees?

It is about a 10-minute drive north from the center of Shizuoka City to the Chiyoda branch of the Gusto chain of family restaurants. The branch faces a main road, but its location is not particularly good. This restaurant has achieved top results among some 3,000 Gusto, Jonathan’s, Aiya and other chain restaurants operated by Skylark Co., Ltd. nationwide, and it has received awards from the company again and again. Mochizuki Isuzu, 63, began working at this family restaurant as a part-timer 36 years ago. Mochizuki has been the manager of this Gusto branch since 2009, when she became a permanent employee of Skylark. “I tell our young staff members to phone me day or night if anything happens, because our store is open around the clock,” says Mochizuki. “They actually call me quite often. I don’t get angry, even if the reason for ... ... [Read more]

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No.

Opinion Poll: Is Japan Tilting to Right?

Intellectuals Concerned About “Tilt to the Right” The survey, to which 282 people including intellectuals and experts responded, asked people in Japan for their opinions on whether Japan is “tilting to the right” as some foreign media have suggested. The ratio of respondents who “feel Japan is ’tilting to the right”‘ as foreign media claim was 23.4%. However, when combining an answer that they do not think so as of now but it is possible later, which was given by 13.1%, nearly 40% of the respondents are concerned about Japan’s drift to the right. Also, 28.4% said Japan is “not tilting to the right but reactions of overseas media over Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s comments and actions are understandable,” suggesting that they think it is inevitable that foreign media look the current situation like... [Read more]

No.9

INFORMATION SECURITY MEASURES UNDER PRESSURE OF REVISION

Photo : Takakura HirokiWhat on earth is happening? Is Japan taking information security measures seriously?” This year, one after another of the networks of public organizations and corporations, including major heavy industries, have been at the receiving end of cyber attacks, resulting in disclosure of important information in some instances. The damage is gradually becoming clear as the investigations move forward, but in most cases, we cannot expect to understand the full particulars. In many of the attacks, the attackers penetrated protected computers that were only accessible to a limited number of people at the companies to steal information. A great variety of information was targeted including... [Read more]

No.8

GREENERY CHANGES CITIES… AND CHANGES HOW WE LIVE

Moderator: This summer, with calls to save energy and reduce electricity consumption, we are seeing the emergence of a movement to use greenery as a way to beat the heat, with “green curtains” becoming the focus of a great deal of attention, for example. Today we are going to hear from two experts about the future of the relationship between cities and greenery. We’ll start by asking your opinions on the current state of the kind of greenery that everyone is familiar with, such as roadside trees. FUJII Eijiro: Unfortunately for the last twenty years or so in Japan, there are more and more trees that have been terribly over-pruned. Even in parks there are a lot of trees that have been pruned unnecessarily. For trees such as Platanus Orientalis (plane trees), for example, if they are in parks then there is no need ... ... [Read more]

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