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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.35
No.35 ,Society  Oct 30, 2016

The Tenno Emperor—A Constant and Time-Honored Symbol

Yamazaki Masakazu, playwright, critic

It seems absurd, but where do you think the largest monarchy in the world is found today? It is in China. Of course, there is no individual monarch or royal family in China today, but the Chinese Communist Party organization has become a monarchy. The Communist Party in China is one in a repeated line of rising and falling dynasties that can be traced back to ancient times. The party is an extremely ancient form of dynasty with power and authority rolled into one. The monarchies in Europe and Japan do not have any powers, only authority grounded in the respect and affection of the people. The Chinese Communist Party, on the other hand, rules and governs the people by means of both military and financial power. Today, the party also rules in its capacity as an authority, but is this not quite a difficult balancing act for a regime ... [Read more]

No.34
No.34 ,Society  Oct 07, 2016

Information Triage: Prioritization of The Social Media Society Following Major Disasters
—Three months after the Kumamoto Earthquake

Social media, which has drawn attention as an important information infrastructure at the time of natural disasters, may stop functioning properly. In the Great East Japan Earthquake, the information vacuum created problems, while in the Kumamoto Earthquake, an information explosion occurred, hindering the needed rescue and support work. Information from disaster areas was amplified by users in the Tokyo metropolitan area due to their concerns or goodwill, causing logistical problems and an embarrassing situation with celebrities who provided support. Let us consider the role of disaster reports in the age of an information explosion.... [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.31
No.31 ,Society  Jun 04, 2016

Shock of a “Nation of 50 Million People

The Rebuild Japan Initiative Foundation (RJIF) hosted a symposium in October examining the impact of a declining population on society and businesses.... [Read more]

No.33
No.33 ,Society  May 31, 2016

Primatology (ape studies) and DNA research unlock the answers…
Where Do Human Beings Come from, and Where Are We Heading?

Racial discrimination, sex, the aging population…
Watching gorillas gives us insight into the future of human society
Fukuoka: Professor Yamagiwa, you were recently appointed president of Kyoto University. I myself too started my gene research at Kyoto University’s Faculty of Agriculture as a junior of yours, but later transferred to Aoyama Gakuin University, and now live life as a researcher in New York. I’m what you might call a kind of stray monkey wandering from troop to troop. I guess that makes you the boss monkey, doesn’t it (laughs)?
Yamagiwa: When you say “boss monkey” I think you’re probably picturing something like a Japanese macaque or other monkey, but actually I’m a gorilla (laughs). ... [Read more]

No.31
No.31 ,Society  Apr 19, 2016

Japan as a Society Dependent on Convenience Stores
What Attracts Me to Japan’s “Konbini”

Gavin H. Whitelaw, Sr. Associate Professor, International Christian University

I am a cultural anthropologist and my research focuses on convenience stores (konbini) in Japan. When people ask me what I study and I say, “konbini,” I often get odd looks. It is not the kind of topic that people expect an anthropologist to take interest in. But konbini are an engaging place to think about Japan and the dynamics of culture. As research site, they are infinitely fascinating. I was born and raised in a small coastal community in Massachusetts. The convenience stores in my hometown are, as is common in American, really gas stations. Growing up, I wasn’t interested in these stores and they played relatively little role in my day-to-day life. In college, my major was Soviet Studies. From August 1991, I spent my junior year studying Moscow. One thing that initially struck me about life in Moscow was shopping and, in particular, ... [Read more]

No.31
No.31 ,Society  Apr 07, 2016

When Idols Shone Brightly
Development of Japan, the Idol Nation, and the Trajectory of Idols

SAKAI Masayoshi, Visiting Researcher, Center for Global Communications, International University of Japan

Japan, the Nation of the Idol
In 2013, the NHK morning drama Amachan and the TBS drama Hanzawa Naoki both proved hugely popular. People said that the programs symbolized the resurgence of the television drama. The Internet was instrumental in winning both dramas a lot of fans and both stories have proved durable with spin-off programs and events still in the pipeline. Amachan is the story of three generations of girls who want to be idols. Amano Natsu was something of a local idol during the period of rapid economic growth and a fan of Hashi Yukio, one of the very early idols. Amano Haruko moved to Tokyo in the 1980s to try to make it as an idol. Amano Aki ends up in Tokyo after a strange turn of events and tries to make... [Read more]

No.30
No.30 ,Society  Mar 31, 2016

Internationalization at Universities – True or False
The Emptiness of “Global HR Development”

YOSHIDA Aya, Professor at the Faculty of Education and Integrated Arts and Sciences, Waseda University

“Global human resources”—It’s now become a household phrase, but it wasn’t until the latter half of the 2000s that this term started to circulate frequently in society. Amidst the advancing flow of Japanese companies relocating their operations abroad, it was originally a phrase that pointed to employees who could work in locations overseas. But gradually, the “development” of these human resources came to be an issue, and attention focused on the “universities” as the place for that to happen. Then, in the blink of an eye, many Japanese universities started to raise the development of these global human resources as their mission.The role played by the Japanese government in this process cannot be overlooked. What started it all off was the Industry-Academia Partnership for Human Resource Development, ... [Read more]

No.31
No.31 ,Society  Mar 24, 2016

New Plan for Reforming the Japanese Archipelago
Plan for Remodeling a Shuttered Shopping Street

YAMAMOTO Kazumune, chief producer of News Division at Yomiuri Telecasting Corporation

Shuttered shopping streets have become known as a symbol of a declining regional economy. During the period of high growth, these shopping districts were regarded as the centers of the respective cities or towns, where a plethora of lively activities took place. Now, they are seeing customer and visitor numbers gradually fall due to the trends of the times such as the opening of large-scale commercial malls, changes in lifestyles and business customs, and the aging population along with the low birthrate, as well as the burst of the bubble economy. It is not just a local phenomenon that is occurring in some shopping streets, but an ongoing issue that may result in the real decline of municipalities. According to a survey on the actual situations of shopping streets conducted nationwide by the Small and Medium Enterprise Agency in 2012, ... [Read more]

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