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No.41
No.41 ,Science ,Discussions  Nov 13, 2017

Dialogue: The fundamental bases for the Japanese people
To the fundamental bases for the Japanese people
― The possibility of initiatives for integrating archaeology with anthropology

  Editorial staff: This special feature discusses research on the lives of ancient people beyond the boundaries of study areas, with a focus on the time from the Jomon period to the Kofun (ancient tomb) period. Please tell us what you think of the time from the Jomon period to the Kofun period. Shinoda Kenichi: Genome information shows that the genetic structure of modern-day Japanese was more strongly influenced by the immigrant Yayoi people who came to Japan from Korea and China than by the Jomon people, who constituted the fundamental bases for the Japanese people. It seems that because the people from the Korean and Chinese continents were agricultural people, they had a strong ability to increase the population. Anthropological studies on the Jomon and Yayoi periods have revealed that modern-day Japanese living on the main island of Japan have many genes derived ... ... [Read more]

No.41
No.41 ,Politics ,Discussions  Oct 27, 2017

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]

No.41
No.41 ,Society ,Discussions  Sep 19, 2017

Dialogue: Is Artificial Intelligence Versus Humans Reflected in Shogi as Well as Everyday Life?
AI Raises Again the Question of How Humans Should Live

    Sakai Kuniyoshi Habu Yoshiharu AI Cuts a Path for New Shogi Moves Habu Yoshiharu: AI (artificial intelligence) has been a popular conversation topic over the last few years. I think the long-awaited appearance of AI in visible forms, such as humanoid robots and automated driving, has been a large turning point for this trend. AI has also achieved developments in the world of board games, including chess, shogi and go. Recently, the fields which implement AI have expanded. What was once a fantasy has begun to show potential for successful real world application. People are pinning their hope on such potential for AI. However, they also seem to fear the possibility that AI will surpass them, otherwise known as the singularity. Sakai Kuniyoshi: I’m a scientist who specializes in the language function of the brain. Thinking about AI leads to thoughts about ... ... [Read more]

No.36
No.36 ,Science ,Discussions  Dec 26, 2016

Interview: Artificial Intelligence

  Professor Sakura Osamu (left) had an interview with Professor Nishigaki Toru about the artificial intelligence (AI) on September 2, 2016, at the Office of the Dean of the University of Tokyo Interfaculty Initiative in Information Studies.   Professor Sakura (hereinafter “Sakura”): First, I would like you to give a brief self-introduction. I have just read your book entitled Big Data and Artificial Intelligence: Gain Insights into Their Possibilities and Traps, which you published in July 2016 through Chuokoron-Shinsha Inc. In this book, you discuss the cultural and social background behind artificial intelligence (AI), with relation to recent big data and singularity. I found it very interesting. I am remembering the excellent impression I got from reading your book for general readers entitled AI: The Concepts Behind Artificial Intelligence, which you first published in 1988 through Kodansha Ltd. Big Data and Artificial Intelligence came ... ... [Read more]

No.35
No.35 ,Society ,Discussions  Oct 31, 2016

“Abdication” Is Not Easy

HARA Takeshi (HT): I was literally astonished at the news “Emperor Intends to Abdicate.” When the news was aired on NHK at 7pm on July 13, I happened to have the TV on and, as I was watching it dumbfounded, I started receiving phone call after phone call from the press asking for comments.
KAWANISHI Hideya (KH): I can no longer stand to watch TV. (Laughing)
HT: That’s just not possible any more. The reason I was surprised is that Article 2 of the Japanese Constitution states that “The Imperial Throne shall be dynastic,” and Article 4 of the Imperial House Law, which prescribes matters such as the method of succession, states that “Upon the demise of the Emperor, the Imperial Heir shall immediately accede to the Throne.” I have construed this to mean that the government cannot allow abdication. So if abdication is realized, this is a huge change in policy. ... [Read more]

No.34
No.34 ,Culture ,Discussions  Sep 30, 2016

No future for places that fail to attract talent

Cutting a Topknot That Had Been Tied for Twenty-four Years. Meij: You have just had your retirement ceremony and had your topknot cut. Have you gotten used to your new hair style? Nishiiwa: Not yet, because I had a topknot for twenty-four years (laughs). Meij: I’ve read your autobiography (Tatakiage). True to the title, you really are a self-made man. What surprised me most is that you had surgery an astonishing nine times. I don’t know anyone else who’s had so many operations. Nishiiwa: Me neither, other than me. Meij: You won nineteen consecutive tournaments at the three highest ranks below yokozuna. That is amazing. Unlike ozeki, there is no kadoban for these three ranks. So, you will be demoted if you lose many more than you win, or even stay away from the ring for a tournament.... [Read more]

No.32
No.32 ,Society ,Discussions  Jun 05, 2016

What does the future hold for funerals in Japan?

Shimada Hiromi: In January this year, I published Zero-so: Assari shinu (Zero funeral: How to die a simple death). It advocates “zero funerals,” whereby the crematorium disposes of the deceased’s remains in their entirety, leaving nothing for the bereaved family to collect. This means that there is no need for the family to pay for a grave either. In actual fact, the funeral urns that bereaved families go to collect in western Japan only contain around one third of the deceased’s total remains. The remainder is disposed of elsewhere, by the crematorium for instance. From a logical standpoint, it would make sense to get the crematorium to dispose of everything. I have been known to criticize modern funerals in the past, saying that they are an unnecessary and expensive formality, but the reaction to this book has been incredible. People seem... [Read more]

No.32
No.32 ,Culture ,Discussions  Apr 20, 2016

The Unification of the Written Word in Modern-era Japan

Dr. MIURA Atsushi: Today, I will be speaking with Dr. Campbell, who emphasizes the importance of documents and materials written in scripts such as kuzushiji (cursive-style Japanese script) and hentaigana (obsolete or nonstandard variants of Japanese phonetic hiragana characters); writing styles that could be referred to as a kind of Japanese writing heritage from before the Meiji period, and which to most ordinary Japanese people are now unreadable.
Dr. Robert CAMPBELL: For example, when most ordinary Japanese people go into a soba noodle shop and see the word kisoba written in kuzushiji-style hiragana, most of them can read it, right? But that’s because it’s a soba shop. As another example, poems and such are often scribbled onto ... [Read more]

No.31
No.31 ,Society ,Discussions  Mar 22, 2016

Is Relocation to Regional Cities the Equivalent of Abandoning Old People in the Mountains to Die?
Governor Masuzoe, is it possible to come to grips with the increase in the elderly population?

The Demise of the Regions and the Elderly Population Crisis in Tokyo Is One and the Same Problem
Masuda: In June, the Japan Policy Council published a strategy for avoiding a crisis in the elderly population in the Tokyo area. In the future, the elderly population in the Tokyo metropolitan area (Tokyo, and Saitama, Chiba and Kanagawa Prefectures) is expected to increase rapidly. I must apologize for repeating things that the governor is already well aware of, but the population aged 75 and older is expected to increase by 1.75 million in the next ten years up to 2025. This would hammer the medical and nursing care field. The shortage of facilities for medical and nursing care would assume more serious proportions, but this problem is actually not limited to the Tokyo metropolitan area because any strengthening of the medical ... [Read more]

No.28
No.28 ,Society ,Discussions  Oct 13, 2015

A New Era of Michi-no-eki Takes Off!
– Ever-evolving community hubs for local rejuvenation –

Women create vitality and confidence in the region. Michi-no-eki, Den-en Plaza Kawaba (Kawaba Village, Gunma Prefecture)

Michi-no-eki or the roadside station system was launched in 1993, and has since expanded nationwide to a total of 1,040 locations, with annual sales reaching 210 billion yen (as of fiscal year 2012). This nationwide initiative continues evolving as a spearhead for local rejuvenation efforts promoted by the government. The following article reports on the program’s current status and outlook based on discussions held between Ishida Haruo, professor of the Department of Social Systems and Management at the University of Tsukuba, and Hashimoto Goro, Specail editorial board member at the Yomiuri shimbun. (The discussions were held at the Imperial Hotel, Tokyo.)... [Read more]

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