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The range of a free and open Indo-Pacific strategy

Tanaka Akihiko, President, National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies (GRIPS)The Indo-Pacific strategy is a regional concept that emerged from the history of the long-term development of the global economy, and has never been a simple geopolitical concept for countering China. Japan is expected to conduct strong multilateral diplomacy in the wide region composed of the Indian and the Pacific Oceans.   Japanese diplomacy in 2018 is facing the major challenges of the imminent issue of North Korea and the long-term systemic issue of maintaining a liberal world order. The difficult issue of how to stop North Korea’s nuclear weapons and missiles development and make it move toward denuclearization while maintaining Northeast Asian peace is the most pressing issue for Japan’s diplomacy now. In addition, Japanese diplomacy is facing another major challenge of striving to steer the future world order in a more sound and liberal direction at a time when the US Trump ... ... [Read more]


Dialogue: Will the Day Come When China and India Coexist as Major Powers?

Horimoto Takenori, Visiting Professor, Gifu Women’s University of Japan Kawashima Shin, Professor, University of Tokyo Kawashima Shin: China is making a range of moves, both large and small, with the National Congress of the Communist Party of China imminent this fall. But we need to keep our eyes on India, in addition to observing how China will change in units of 10 years and 20 years when we think about the future of the world and the future of Asia. Horimoto Takenori: China and India combined are said to have accounted for half of the global GDP in the middle of the 18th century. The same situation is likely to emerge in the second half of the 21st century. To begin with, only two countries in the world, China and India, have populations exceeding 1 billion at the present time. The framework of the ... ... [Read more]


Dialogue: Abe Commences Double Postwar Settlement at Russo-Japanese Summit Talks
Putin Says That National Borders Can Move

Key Points of the Joint Press Conference held on December 16, 2016 The two leaders agreed to commence negotiations for a special system for carrying out joint economic activities on the four Russian-held Northern Islands. The two leaders expressed their shared willingness to conclude a peace treaty and recognized joint economic activities as a step toward its conclusion. Abe expressed the view that the road to the conclusion of a peace treaty covering the Northern Territories issue remains long and difficult. Why the Islands Were Not Discussed Yamauchi: I think many media reported that as usual, no progress was observed on the Northern Territories issue immediately after Russian President Vladimir Putin had talks with Japanese Prime Minister Abe Shinzo. Sato: To state my conclusion first, I think that the latest Russo-Japanese summit produced significant results for both countries. Yamauchi: I agree with you completely. ... ... [Read more]

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Politicians Need to Present Hard-hitting Reforms
―We have had enough of unjustifiable, policy-free elections

Sasaki Takeshi, Former President of the University of TokyoAt the beginning of the extraordinary session of the Diet at the end of September, Prime Minister Abe Shinzo decided on a dissolution of the lower house, saying that it was a “dissolution to break through national difficulties”; giving as his reasons a change in the use of tax income, and the worsening North Korea situation. Mainly due to the Moritomo/Kake Gakuen issue, Abe’s support rate has been in the doldrums since last spring, and in July the LDP suffered a heavy loss in the Tokyo Assembly elections. So, from the perspective of the opposition, this dissolution was a surprise attack. The previous dissolution in 2014 was also a surprise attack, and the opposition lost heavily, being unable to react effectively. But this time was different. Interestingly, the opposition fought back with their own surprise attack. The Tokyo governor Koike Yuriko set up a ... ... [Read more]


Restoration, Revolution or Reform?
― The Unexpected Fortune of Winners and Tenacious Efforts of Losers

Shimizu Yuichiro, Professor, Keio University Influential politicians in modern Japan such as Hara Takashi, Goto Shinpei and Hirata Tosuke rose to prominence as individuals from “rebel” parts of Japan that had opposed the new Meiji government established in 1868. The key to the Meiji government’s success was a flexible, forward-looking plan for recruiting human talent for higher positions.   How has the Japanese term “Meiji Ishin” been translated into English? For a long time, the generally accepted English translation for this phrase has been the “Meiji Restoration.” The translation appears to correspond to the idea of “a restoration of imperial rule,” but something may have been lost in translation. What about the “Meiji Revolution” as an alternative translation? There was certainly a distinction between the pro-imperial Ishin army and the pro-shogunate “rebels,” but the author is somewhat at a loss when asked whether or not the Meiji Ishin changed ... ... [Read more]


A Long-Lived, Unamended Constitution

As the debate in Japan over constitutional revision becomes heated, two researchers from the University of Tokyo make comparisons with other nations and discuss the unique features of Japan’s constitution and the constitutional revision debate. Kenneth Mori McElwain is an associate professor specializing in comparative political institutions and party politics, while Makihara Izuru is a professor specializing in oral history, political studies, and the study of public administration. Makihara Izuru (MI): I know that you are researching issues connected with the constitution of Japan (COD) and its revision. Please could you first tell us a little about the background to that research. Kenneth Mori McElwain (KM): My original study theme wasn’t constitutional law but comparative political institutions and party politics. Like my parents, I was very interested in politics, and just as I finished high school in 1994 the Japanese electoral system was revised. ... ... [Read more]

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Declining Birthrate and Aging Population in Asia
― Educational Support to Low-Income Households Improves Quality of Labor Force and Productivity

< Keypoints > Birthrates and average life expectancy in Asia now on a par with developed countries Estimates suggest that consumption tax needs to rise by 8% or more in Thailand Policies providing subsidy on child-rearing such as child allowances is not recommended. Policies providing subsidy on children’s educational cost, which can sustain the long-term development, should be the priority in developing countries. Population aging has become a global concern. With a rapidly increasing proportion of old people in the population, governments are forced to increase expenditure on social security, thus causing pressure on public finances. The shrinking of working-age population indicates less labor force and fewer taxpayers to share the fiscal burden.  Add to that the low birthrate,  which has been lower than the replacement rate required to maintain the size of the population as it is now in developed countries, further increases ... ... [Read more]


20th Anniversary: Countries Affected by the Asian Financial Crisis Are Confronted with Common Issues Accompanied by Growth
― Japan Must Be a Successful Example of Tackling the Income Gap and Aging Population

Key Points Criticism of East Asia’s unsuccessful development model misses the point. Economic growth requires robust initiatives in both the private and public sectors. Leapfrogging may be possible for latecomer countries in the field of information technology. The Asian financial crisis started in July 1997, wreaking havoc on economies in the region throughout the following year. It had a devastating impact on countries like Thailand, South Korea and Indonesia, which had previously enjoyed strong economic growth, causing significant currency devaluation and a collapse in domestic demand. The debacle could be characterized as a new type of crisis caused by the massive short-term capital flows into countries where international capital transactions had become liberalized. What was the impact of the financial turmoil in the Asian region which has had a long history of economic development? Following the crisis, significant social changes occurred in the most ... ... [Read more]


Is the Bank of Japan Technically Insolvent?
Dangers Involved in Long-Term
Deterioration of BoJ Financial Position

Increasing interest is focusing on the Bank of Japan’s exit strategy, or its strategy for ending its ongoing ultra-easy monetary policy. On April 19 [2017], the Liberal Democratic Party Administrative Reform Promotion Headquarters ([formerly] chaired by House of Councilors member Kono Taro) advised the government to study the risks associated with the Bank of Japan’s exit strategy. World central banks in charge of monetary policy are steadily moving to normalize monetary policy. On June 14 [2017], the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System in the United States unveiled a new exit strategy. The Fed will gradually reduce reinvestment of bond principal payments on securities holdings acquired in the course of its conduct of monetary policy with a view to reducing its total assets. It will begin reductions within the year if all goes well. Following its Governing Council meeting of June 8 ... ... [Read more]

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The “Johnny’s” Entertainers Omnipresent on Japanese TV: Postwar Media and the Postwar Family

Introduction What do Japanese people think of when they hear the name Johnnies? Perhaps pop groups such as SMAP or Arashi that belong to the Johnny & Associates talent agency? Or perhaps the title of specific TV programs or movies? If they are not that interested, perhaps they will be reminded of the words “beautiful young boys” or “scandal”? On the other hand, if they are well-informed about the topic perhaps jargon terms such as “oriki,” “doutan,” or “shinmechu” are second nature? In this way the word “Johnnies” (the casual name given to groups managed by Johnny & Associates) is likely to evoke all sorts of images. But one thing is sure: almost no Japanese person would reply that they hadn’t heard the name. If a person lives within Japanese society and they watch television even just a little, whether they like it or ... ... [Read more]


A Collection of Modern French Paintings on a Return Visit to Europe
— Masterpieces from the Bridgestone Museum of Art Ishibashi Foundation —

Professor, Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, The University of TokyoIt is well known that there are outstanding works of fine art in Japan, this island nation in the Far East, but only a few experts know that there are actually several collections of Western art in addition to Japanese art. Nevertheless, several Japanese art museums with collections of magnificent works of modern French paintings have recently started to show the paintings in Europe — no doubt as a reminder of their existence. The Masterpieces from the Bridgestone Museum of Art exhibition held at the Musée de l’Orangerie in Paris this year (April 5 to August 21, 2017) attracted a lot of attention. The exhibition introduced the most important works in the collection of mainly modern Western art acquired by Ishibashi Shojiro (1889–1976), the founder of the Bridgestone Corporation. It must be said that the choice of the Musée de l’Orangerie, famous for its ... ... [Read more]


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]

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Dialogue: Challenge by Tottori, the Least Populous Prefecture in Japan
There is a Right Size for Democracy

Motani Kosuke, Chief Senior Economist, The Japan Research Institute, Ltd. vs Hirai Shinji, Governor, Tottori Prefecture Tottori, a Unique Countryside Motani Kosuke: I read your book, Chiisakutemo Kateru (You Can Win Even if You Are Small). I think this book is like the novel, Shitamachi Roketto (Rockets of an Old Commercial District) by Mr. Ikeido Jun. It’s the story of a young man who grew up in Tokyo and migrated to Tottori. In the story, the protagonist leaves a large company, finds a job at a second-tier company and achieves success as a hired business manager with his strenuous efforts. Hirai Shinji: Thank you, Mr. Motani. I’ve asked you for help in many ways, including a visit to a symposium held in our prefecture and guidance with our prefectural employees, because I really wanted to try what you called the capitalism of the satoyama ... ... [Read more]


What Impresses Foreign Tourists When They Come to Japan?
― Explaining Japanese society and culture to foreign tourists

As an tour guide-interpreter, Hagimura Masayo sometimes spends as long as two weeks traveling around the whole of Japan with foreign visitors, so no-one has more first-hand knowledge of exactly what interests, attracts and impresses tourists. In this article, she taps her rich professional experience to discuss some tourism resources of which Japanese people might not be aware. Introduction When the Japanese government launched its Visit Japan campaign back in 2003, the number of foreign tourists visiting Japan each year was only 5.24 million. Ten years later the figure had reached 10 million, and over time it gradually increased. From January to October 2016, more than 20 million people visited Japan. (The exact figure was a record 20,113,000 people, compared to 16,316,000 for the same period in 2015). As this happens, the amount of work we tour guide-interpreters are asked to do is growing. ... ... [Read more]


Inbound Tourism and Japanese People
― Issues related to the increase in tourists visiting Japan from abroad

The influx of foreign tourists into Japan reminds one sociologist of American soldiers stationed in Japan immediately after the Second World War. What does he think of the current tourism boom? In this essay, Professor Miyajima’s essay covers several perspectives that are critical to thinking about this issue. Early Memories of the Post-War Period Perhaps it is just a fancy of mine, but for someone who spent their childhood and youth in post-war Yokohama, the current influx of foreign tourists to Japan reminds me of the officers and soldiers of the American occupation. Looking back, it seems like a storm that blew fiercely, then passed; seven or eight years during which there were several American bases and barracks in the city. Of course, Okinawa has been experiencing the same thing continually since the war, but elsewhere there has never before, or after, been so ... ... [Read more]

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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]



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]



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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