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No.47

Interview: Foreign Minister KONO Taro
Japan’s Diplomatic Landscape in 2018
Pushing North Korea toward Denuclearization by Applying Continued Pressure

―― Since you became Foreign Minister, your highly motivated strategic communications in Japan and abroad, as well as your active visits to foreign countries, have attracted attention. Kono Taro: Since assuming office in August 2017, I have visited numerous locations around the world, taking 13 foreign trips and visiting 25 countries (30 countries if revisits are included), as well as going to Hiroshima, Nagasaki and Okinawa in Japan. I have held more than 70 Foreign Ministers’ meetings in Japan and abroad, and have held more than 160 meetings in total, including other multilateral meetings, etc. In the process of meeting with the Foreign Ministers of other countries, I have strongly recognized that building personal relationships is very important in diplomacy. I will continue to make efforts to achieve concrete diplomatic results by solidifying personal relationships of trust and networks. ―― What kinds of diplomatic ... ... [Read more]

No.45

Trends in Selective Globalism

EU-style economic unification with its simultaneous cross-border flows of goods, money and people is on trial. But rather than considering this a reversal of globalism, we should seize this opportunity to rethink what kind of globalism we want.   In 2016, there were a number of political changes that exerted a significant influence on the world economy, including Brexit in the EU and Donald Trump’s victory in the US presidential election. Although the US and UK situations are different, this still feels like the domestic issues of income inequality and unemployment have met disillusionment with the political establishment and criticism towards globalism to create a powerful groundswell. To an extent, this may be a shared phenomenon among advanced democracies, including countries of the EU that have been rocked by the refugee issue. Political change, however, does not determine economic trends. The media often talk ... ... [Read more]

No.44

The North Korea Crisis Enters a New Stage
Can the International Community Align its Strategy?

Hiraiwa Shunji, Professor, Nanzan UniversityA string of missile test launches and a sixth nuclear test suggest North Korea is on the verge of becoming a true nuclear power. With differing views on how to deal with a nation insistent on maintaining its domestic regime, the international community is at an impasse. How should we look for a breakthrough?   On September 3, 2017, North Korea went ahead with its sixth nuclear test. The test was immediately followed up by state-run media reporting that the country had “conducted a fully-successful test of a hydrogen bomb designed to be loaded onto an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM).” It is fair to say that North Korea went ahead with the nuclear test after determining that the United States would be unable to launch any military action against it. The test also succeeded in reminding the international community that North Korea was making ... ... [Read more]

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No.48

Surviving Tumultuous Times with the Power of History
The Onin War × World War I: Confronting the Chaos in Times without a Hero

Goza Yuichi vs. Hosoya Yuichi Why is the Onin War Important Today? Hosoya Yuichi: I heard that Onin no ran: Sengoku jidai wo unda tairan (The Onin War: The Civil War that Produced the Warring States Period) sold more than 200,000 copies in four months after it was published. Now that books are not selling well, this is a remarkable achievement. Why are so many people paying attention to a book about a war that began 550 years ago that is notorious, but whose cause and results are unclear? What do you think about the readers’ reaction? Goza Yuichi: I might be the most surprised. There are many history buffs in Japan, but I think they basically love tales of heroes, such as Oda Nobunaga, Toyotomi Hideyoshi, Tokugawa Ieyasu and Sakamoto Ryoma. When you go to a bookstore, you will see books or magazines ... ... [Read more]

No.46

An Inside View from the Advisory Council on Easing the Burden of the Official Duties and Public Activities of His Majesty the Emperor ― Looking back at seven months that decided the Emperor’s future

In April 2017, the Advisory Council on Easing the Burden of the Official Duties and Public Activities of His Majesty the Emperor (hereafter, Advisory Council) put together its final report and concluded its work. In my role as acting chairman of the Advisory Council I was also its spokesman, so some readers may have seen me at post-meeting press conferences and other events. There was absolutely no precedent for these discussions on Imperial abdication, so it was inevitable that there would be some trial and error involved in seven months of deliberation. Nevertheless, right now I feel that we produced the best report we could. But just what was this Advisory Council that captured the interest of the Japanese people? As our deliberations have now achieved their initial aim, I’d like to explain as much as I can. On 21 April 2017 the Advisory ... ... [Read more]

No.44

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]

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No.47

The Durability of Abenomics: Seeds of Present Gains Sown in First Abe Administration

Professor Doi Takero of Keio University speaks with Ito Takatoshi, former Vice Minister of Finance for International Affairs and Private Sector Member of the Council on Economic and Fiscal Policy. View of Current Situation Doi Takero: Five years have passed since the second Abe Cabinet initiated “Abenomics.” A diversity of views have been offered about whether any benefits have resulted from this policy package, but I wonder if you could tell us succinctly how this set of fiscal and monetary policies that go under the general name of Abenomics came into being in the first place, including what they imply for today? Ito Takatoshi: I see. I’ll try to be concise. Doi: No need to say that [laughs]. So, the key posts at the Bank of Japan have been determined, and the decision has been made for Governor Kuroda Haruhiko to continue serving. So ... ... [Read more]

No.47

Asia’s Growth and Japan I: Turning the world’s factory into a center for technological innovation

East Asia has achieved sustainable economic growth by forming Factory Asia, linked through supply chains across nations. The growth of East Asia also brought significant benefits to Japan by generating demand. Over the past quarter-century, real income per capita increased 3.2-fold in East Asia, and exports from Japan to East Asia expanded 3.7 times. In recent years, nearly 10% of Japan’s income has been attributable to exports to East Asia. However, the Asian growth has slowed down lately. China’s real economic growth declined from around 10% in the 2000s to below 8% in the 2010s. Emerging economies in East Asia—such as Malaysia, Thailand, and Indonesia—have been growing at an annual rate of 3% to 5% in recent years, stopping short of serving as a robust growth engine for the region. With rapid population aging expected to occur in many countries in the region, it ... ... [Read more]

No.47

Asia’s Growth and Japan II: Large Cities Enjoy the Benefits of the Demographic Bonus

Key Points: Shanghai’s per capita GDP is equal to those of high-income countries. The percentage of young people in large cities is higher than at the country level. There are concerns about the acceleration of population aging in the regional areas and agricultural villages in the near future. The future of the economies of East Asia (China, Asian Newly Industrializing Economies (NIEs) and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)) depends on the cities. Back in 1950, the percentage of urbanization (the rate of the urban population to the total population) in East Asia was just 17%, well below the global average of 30%. At that time, cities were exceptional areas in East Asia. The percentage of urbanization subsequently rose rapidly, however; it surpassed 50% in 2010 and hit 57% in 2015, exceeding the global average of 54%. East Asia shifted from a rural ... ... [Read more]

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No.48

Shinkokinshu: An Anthology for Our Times

  Most Japanese newspapers carry a weekly column of waka (poems in 31 syllables) and haiku (poems in 17 syllables) submitted by readers. This journalistic feature indicates to what extent poetry permeates the everyday lives of the Japanese. Similarly, at the beginning of each year the Emperor holds a competition for waka composed on a topic of his choice, and the people of Japan submit their poems. These modern poetic practices have their roots in the long tradition of court waka. Superior poems produced at the Japanese court over the centuries were collected in a series of anthologies compiled by imperial command. One of these, the Shin Kokin Waka Shu (New Collection of Ancient and Modern Poetry, usually abbreviated to Shinkokinshu), is considered by many to represent the summit of the art, and has the unusual distinction of having been edited personally by the ... ... [Read more]

No.48

The World of the Japanese Newspaper Poetry Column

  Newspaper poetry columns called shimbun kadan have given numerous popular poets their start. They publish verse that is erotic and that is cute, that is about love, and that is about everyday life. Just don’t say that only the people who submit poems read them. The poetry in question is tanka, a short form of poetry having 31 (5-7-5-7-7) syllabets which dates from the Meiji period (1868–1912) and differs from the traditional form of poetry called waka as showcased in the eighth-century Man’yoshu and other such poetry anthologies commissioned by the Emperor. Newspaper tanka are the avant-garde   “That’s a funny place for a mole,” so you said. And so it started.” Yagimoto Motomoto, Tokyo   Is the above really a tanka too? Many people these days might say, “Yes. So what?” It uses colloquial speech and quotation marks; and it ignores the ... ... [Read more]

No.42

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]

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No.46

Diversity Opens the Path to Innovation

Introduction I joined IBM Research-Tokyo in 1985 as the only visually impaired researcher at a time when there were very few female researchers at the lab. Since then, I have brought a diversity perspective to my work in accessibility research, one of the fields in Human Computer Interaction (HCI). Aiming to optimize Braille book creation and sharing, I participated in the research and development of digital Braille editing system, Braille dictionary system, and Braille information sharing network system after joining the lab. I could move the research forward because of my visual impairment which allowed me to understand the value of digitizing Braille. Starting in the mid-1990s, I worked on a talking web browser for the Internet. This idea also emerged from the needs of the visually impaired, and since then it has spread in ways I never expected. Today, I am working on ... ... [Read more]

No.44

Prevent Japan from bankruptcy due to the shortage of workers
Hold discussions on coexistence with foreigners
Shortage of workers equal to the period of the bubble economy

Isoyama Tomoyuki, Business Journalist  The effective opening-to-application ratio in March 2017 was 1.45, a high value for the first time in 26 years and 4 months since November 1990. If the present situation continues, Japan may fall into bankruptcy due to the shortage of workers. The time has come when we should seriously consider the role of foreigners as people who support Japanese economic society and local communities.   The Kinosaki Hot Spring is located close to the spot where the Maruyama River flows into the Sea of Japan in Toyooka City, Hyogo Prefecture. The hot spring resort, which is known for the novel Kinosaki ni te by Shiga Naoya, features lines of wooden hot spring inns along the Otani River, which has willow trees lining its banks. The area exudes a unique atmosphere. In the last few years there has been an increase in the number ... ... [Read more]

No.43

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]

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No.

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]

No.9

INFORMATION SECURITY MEASURES UNDER PRESSURE OF REVISION

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]

No.8

GREENERY CHANGES CITIES… AND CHANGES HOW WE LIVE

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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