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No.37
No.37 ,Society  Mar 31, 2017

Time to Think About the Emperor System
How to Apply the Traditions of the Imperial Household to Modern Japan ― Analyzing the Implications of the “Emperor as Symbol” Statement

On August 8 last year, the Imperial Household Agency published a video and text on its website titled (in Japanese) “A message from His Majesty the Emperor on the Serving as a Symbol.” In his message, the Emperor implicitly expressed a desire to abdicate and, judging by polls conducted by various media afterwards, he already has the strong support of the majority of the Japanese people to do so. In response to this statement, the Cabinet Office set up a panel of experts to discuss how to reduce the burden of duties on the Emperor and other issues. Its members were decided on September 23 and it commenced work. The origin of calls to pass a one-off special law This current panel of experts has been tasked with freely discussing how the system might deal with a future abdication. At the time of writing, ... ... [Read more]

No.37
No.37 ,Society  Mar 29, 2017

What next for social security…?
Changing the world of dementia.
Changing the world with dementia.
Restoring confidence in the system as we head towards a “longterm care society”

Originally set up in 1980, what has the Alzheimer’s Association Japan (AAJ) actually been doing since then? What are its views? And what does it want now? Let us explore those questions as we take a look at the future of social security. Changing the world of dementia The history of AAJ also tells the story of changing the world of dementia. The beginnings of AAJ in Kyoto Towards the end of the 1970s, a group led by Dr. Hayakawa Kazuteru at Horikawa Hospital in Kyoto began to hold get-togethers for the families caring for persons with dementia (PWD). In November 1979, AAJ President Takami Kunio shared his impressions of taking part in those get-togethers for the first time. “There were around 12 families in attendance. One after another, they spoke about the condition of the senile people in their lives, the dedication of ... ... [Read more]

No.36
No.36 ,Society  Feb 28, 2017

2016 Kumamoto Earthquake
Interview: Tomorrow’s Temporary Housing

Ban Shigeru, Architect, Representative for the VAN (Voluntary Architects’ Network) NPO, a group of architects engaged in disaster relief activities with an Editorial staff of Kagaku Extending Readiness to All Japan. Repeated Problems. Kagaku: You donated paper tube partition systems to evacuation centers for the Kumamoto earthquake. That was an extension of similar things you have done in the past, wasn’t it? Ban Shigeru: Our work on the paper tube partition system (figure 1) started after the 2004 Chuestu earthquake in Niigata. A large number of systems were installed in North East Japan after the Great East Japan Earthquake, and we also donated systems after the recent Kumamoto earthquake. But our journey to this point was very hard; specifically, officials did not accept our ideas. They said it was because these things had not been done before. In the end, we built 1,800 units ... ... [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.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]

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