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Editor's blog  Jul 30, 2015

The Illusion and Dilemma of Innovation that Permeate Japan

Kojima Akira, Member, Board of Trustees, and Adjunct Professor, National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies (GRIPS); Trustee, Chairman of the World Trade Center Tokyo

Yunogami Takashi, a consultant who has undertaken research activities for sixteen years at Hitachi, says in his book The Defeat of Japanese-Style Manufacturing (Bungeishunju, 2013), “Because Japanese people have the false perception that innovation means technological breakthrough, the more common the word ‘innovation’ becomes, the less frequently innovation occurs. Words infiltrate the brain as concepts. Ironically, it is the word ‘innovation’ that stunts Japanese innovation.” I could not agree more. In recent years, the word “innovation” has often been used as a buzzword. In a 120-page report entitled “The Revision of Japan’s Revitalization Strategy 2014,” which was published by the government in June 2014, the word “innovation” is repeated around forty times. The 170-page report “The Revitalization of ‘Rich and Active Japan,’” which was published by the Japan Business Federation in January 2015, has the English... [Read more]

Blog
Editor's blog  Jul 13, 2015

Anomaly of Japan’s Constitutional Debate about Security Policy

IWAMA Yoko, Professor of International Relations, National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies (GRIPS)

Every day in Japanese newspapers, you read arguments about whether the new security related legislation of the Abe Government is against the Japanese Constitution. It was a constitutional debate from the beginning. Prime Minister Abe wanted to change the constitutional interpretation of the Government related to the use of the right of individual self-defense. Until now, starting from the seventies, the Japanese Government had taken the view that Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution only allows for the very minimum use of the right of self-defense: that “minimum” only included the right of individual self-defense and not that of collective self-defense. From there, it was surmised that the Japanese Self-Defense Forces (JSDF) could not participate in any activities that could be seen as forming part of the “use of force” that other countries ... [Read more]

Blog
Editor's blog  May 07, 2015

Japanese Regions in the Face of Depopulation and the Trend of Compact City Development

Komine Takao, Professor, Department of Regional Development, Taisho University

The most significant long-term challenge facing Japan’s economy and society is the issue of depopulation. A continuous decrease in the number of children in Japan has resulted in a decrease in the workforce, which has stunted national growth. A relative increase in the aging population is also undermining the foundation of the social security system. In addition to these issues, regional depopulation has recently drawn significant attention. In the text below, I will present an outlook on how regional populations are changing and introduce the trend of compact city development, which has drawn keen interest as an effective measure to respond to changing regional populations.... [Read more]

Blog
Editor's blog  Feb 03, 2015

Japan’s Economic Outlook for FY2015

Komine Takao, Professor, Department of Regional Development, Taisho University

During the December–January period in Japan, it is customary for various financial institutions to release their respective economic forecasts for the coming fiscal year. Likewise, in this article, I would like to discuss Japan’s economic outlook for fiscal year 2015 (April 2015–March 2016). I would like to begin by introducing a general overview of the economic forecasting process. The Japanese economy got back on the recovery track on the strength of Abenomics, which was launched in November 2012, but it began stalling in and around the beginning of 2014. The key steps in my forecasting process usually include the following:... [Read more]

Blog
Editor's blog  Jan 23, 2015

Abe Shinzo’s Choices in 2015

IWAMA Yoko, Professor of International Relations, National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies (GRIPS)

Foreign Ministries are always busy places, but Asian foreign ministries will be extra busy this year. 2015 is the seventieth anniversary of the end of the Pacific War in 1945. There will be lots of declarations to be made, speeches to be written, and commemoration ceremonies to be planned. The memory of the grand ceremony of the seventieth anniversary of the Battle of Normandy last year is still fresh in mind. There will be no comparable ceremony in Asia. The Pacific War was quite a different war. It is remembered for a whole series of gruesome wars, fought virtually island by island. There are so many victims and not enough heroes for us to gather together on a sunny beach one afternoon and hug each other.There are already rumors circulating about different plans: about Abe Shinzo visiting Pearl Harbor, Barack Obama coming to Hiroshima, a new declaration to... [Read more]

Blog
Editor's blog  Jan 20, 2015

The Washington Consensus vs. The Beijing Consensus

Kojima Akira, Member, Board of Trustees, and Adjunct Professor, National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies (GRIPS); Trustee, Chairman of the World Trade Center Tokyo

The year 2015 marks the seventieth anniversary of the end of World War Two, and it will most likely be a year concerning the governance of the world economy. While the U.S.-led Bretton Woods system, centered around the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, has long driven the operation and ideals of finance and economy in the post-war world, China and other countries who seek to expand their influence are attempting to revise the means for governing the global economy by establishing systems of their own. One particularly noteworthy development is the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) proposed by China that is expected to be established during 2015. China proposed the concept for this bank in October 2013. By October 2014, it had signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) on establishing the bank with twenty nations interested in the concept, with Indonesia announcing ... ... [Read more]

Blog
Editor's blog  Oct 30, 2014

Abenomics Has Entered the Second Stage

Komine Takao, Professor, Department of Regional Development, Taisho University

Innovation is often understood to mean “technical innovation” and as a result the dynamism of Japan’s economy and industry, that is to say its ability to be profitable, is largely overlooked. Certainly innovation is connected to technology but it is not limited to technological change. It includes the idea of new technologies and new ideas being introduced to the market place, and their acceptance by consumers, enterprises gaining profit, and society being able to accept new values. If innovation is seen just as technical change there is a danger of isolation, and isolated development separate from a social context, without technology responding enough to society’s needs. If technicians get into technical development drawn just by their own interest in technology, there is a danger they may ignore the needs of society.... [Read more]

Blog
Editor's blog  Sep 19, 2014

The term “innovation” should not be limited to technical innovation: A misunderstanding has seen downgraded from “gain a profit.”

Kojima Akira, Member, Board of Trustees, and Adjunct Professor, National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies (GRIPS); Trustee, Chairman of the World Trade Center Tokyo

Innovation is often understood to mean “technical innovation” and as a result the dynamism of Japan’s economy and industry, that is to say its ability to be profitable, is largely overlooked. Certainly innovation is connected to technology but it is not limited to technological change. It includes the idea of new technologies and new ideas being introduced to the market place, and their acceptance by consumers, enterprises gaining profit, and society being able to accept new values. If innovation is seen just as technical change there is a danger of isolation, and isolated development separate from a social context, without technology responding enough to society’s needs. If technicians get into technical development drawn just by their own interest in technology, there is a danger they may ignore the needs of society.  In the discussion ... [Read more]

Blog
Editor's blog  Sep 07, 2014

The Labor Shortage in Japan’s Economy

Komine Takao, Professor, Department of Regional Development, Taisho University

The labor shortage that has rapidly emerged is not a simple business issue but a significant challenge for Japan’s economy to address for years to come. Tightening job market The areas affected by the labor shortage appear to be increasing. We often see reports stating, “A construction company went out of business because it could not get enough workers,” “Public spending is delayed because of labor shortages,” “The operations of a restaurant chain, which had relied on part-time workers to expand its business, had to be cancelled,” and “Payment conditions for workers such as contract employees and part-timers are improving.” Let us confirm the data. The job market has improved rapidly amid the continued economic expansion since November 2011. The ratio of job openings to applications, which stood at 0.82 in November 2011,... [Read more]

Blog
Editor's blog  Aug 22, 2014

Japan and the Centenary of the First World War

IWAMA Yoko, Professor of International Relations, National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies (GRIPS)

Historical events have a strange habit of occurring on particular dates. For example, November 9 has been the date of several important events in German history. On that date in 1918, Emperor Kaiser Wilhelm II abdicated and fled to exile in the Netherlands. The night of 9 November 1938 is known as “Kristallnacht,” the beginning of the darkest period of anti-Semitism in modern times. The same date in 1989 is the night the Berlin Wall came down after separating West Berlin from East Berlin and East Germany for twenty-eight years. In just two decades, Japan rose from a quaint oriental archipelago that hardly anybody could identify to become one of the smaller major powers. Of the three wars it fought in this period, the First World War is somehow the strangely forgotten war. Numerous articles and special issues commemorating the centenary... [Read more]

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