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No.41

Japan and the European migrant crisis: Not “someone else’s problem”

The difference between the tone of Japan’s internal debate and the global debate The controversy surrounding President Trump’s anti-immigrant and anti-refugee policies has died down. However, with Trump’s plans to build a wall along the border with Mexico and his ban on travel from seven Muslim countries currently on hold, this does not mean that these policies have gone away. The migrant and refugee crisis is being hotly debated at the international level. Why is Japan’s reaction to the crisis so lacking in momentum?           Whether refugees or economic migrants, both want to live somewhere with a better environment outside their own country because the social and economic conditions in their own country are difficult. People’s “freedom of movement” is a principle of democracy.  If you call this idealism, then that is the end of it, but any country which professes to be an advanced ... ... [Read more]

No.40

Japanese “Armitage-Nye Report” Launched

With the arrival of the Trump administration came a sense of bewilderment, in the face of a new style of diplomacy unlike anything that had gone before. Nonetheless, we need to avoid doing anything that could damage the Japan-US alliance, an important public good for stability and prosperity in East Asia. A group of experts in Japanese diplomacy has come together to set out a proposal for both the Japanese and US administrations. On April 5 this year, a joint research program on intellectual exchange between Japan and the United States (Mt. Fuji Dialogue), co-organized by the Japan Center for Economic Research (JCER) and the Japan Institute of International Affairs (JIIA), launched a policy proposal report entitled “Toward a Greater Alliance,” setting out a vision for Japan-US relations in the future. The report was the result of intense deliberations by selected Japanese members of ... ... [Read more]

No.37

Post-TPP Trade Vision
―Ordeal of multilateral trade without the U.S.

“The TPP will take jobs away.” The issues of trade policy held lead to the presidency of Donald J. Trump. Will the U.S. become protectionist? If so, how should we handle disputes? We will look at the future of world trade after the collapse of the TPP.   The inauguration of the new Trump administration in the U.S. is increasing fears that the international economic order will become destabilized. By the time this paper has been published, President Trump will have ended his inauguration speech and I hope that the specific policies of the internal order will be made clear. However, his arguments at his first press conference as the president-elect held in January did not vary significantly from his arguments during the election campaign and did not reveal his specific policies for the U.S. on international trade. As a result, a sense of ... ... [Read more]

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No.41

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.38

PKO Cooperation Act with Serious Flaws Finally Improved after a Quarter Century
Issues Left for Kaketsuke-Keigo in UN Peacekeeping Operations

A task known in Japan as kaketsuke-keigo (coming to the aid of a geographically distant unit or personnel under attack) will be added to assignments for the Self-Defense Forces (SDF) unit to be sent to South Sudan in November 2016, at the earliest. Armed forces dispatched by emerging nations will perform the role of guarding the United Nations (UN) peacekeeping operations in the country. The SDF unit will be mobilized in a limited way. However, changing the procedural standard is necessary for the SDF unit to properly perform the newly assigned task of kaketsuke-keigo.   Located in the center of the African continent, South Sudan, which gained independence in 2011, is the youngest nation in the world. Japan is involved in the UN peacekeeping operations (PKOs) aimed at helping the country build and stabilize itself. In July 2016, a large-scale armed conflict broke out ... ... [Read more]

No.38

Passing Down The Significance of President Obama’s Visit to The Future

I thought that it would be the last chance. In May 2016, then U.S. President Barack Obama visited Hiroshima. Because I was convinced that a visit to Hiroshima from the president of the United States would be a historic event and the chance for such a visit would be strong while President Obama was in office, we continued to work for several years to realize the presidential visit. When it was decided that the Summit would be held in Japan in the year that President Obama leaves office, I thought that it would be the last chance for him to visit Hiroshima. Looking back, the first step was taken when former U.S. Ambassador to Japan John Roos, who took office in 2009, participated in the Peace Memorial Ceremony on August 6, 2010. We had also been advised that it would be better if a ... ... [Read more]

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No.40

Interviewing an Expert on International Trade
Efforts to Implement the TPP Fail — Exercise Leadership to maintain a high level of trade negotiations

The TPP is an agreement that was reached to create a huge value chain in the Asia-Pacific region. With its implementation becoming uncertain, what role is expected of Japan in trade negotiations? Editorial department of Wedge: Why does it make sense for Japan to ratify the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) as soon as possible, while President-elect Trump says that he will announce the United States’ withdrawal from the TPP on the day of his inauguration? Urata Shujiro: The TPP will be implemented if either the twelve nations complete the domestic procedures within two years after signing in February 2016, or if more than six nations accounting for 85% of the total GDP of the twelve nations complete them, even after two years have passed. I do not expect that Trump will change his campaign promises before the mid-term election. That said, even if the United ... ... [Read more]

No.40

Views on the Chinese economy:
Step-by-step Action on Capital Outflows
― Avoiding a hasty transition to a floating system

< Key Points > Reform state-owned enterprises to promote private sector development Strengthen the financial system to prevent international capital outflows Liberalize trade and investment to avoid friction with the United States China’s economic growth rate for 2016 was 6.7%, a persistent slowdown from the peak of 2010 (10.6%) in the post-Lehman shock period. The economy has clearly shifted from high growth to medium growth. This is due to both long-term and structural factors affecting the Chinese economy and medium-term factors triggered by domestic and overseas economic changes in the wake of the 2008 global economic crisis. Long-term and structural factors relate to China’s trend towards a lower potential growth rate. Specific factors include (1) a peak-out in the country’s working-age population (aged 15–64), (2) reduced labor movement from rural to urban areas (passing of Lewis’ turning point), (3) lower growth in public infrastructure ... ... [Read more]

No.40

Is U.S.-Japan Trade Friction Avoidable?
Stay Resilient with Fair Arguments against Unfair Criticism
―Japan must not accept import obligations

< Key Points > Free trade and investment promotion should be addressed through economic dialogues Japan must accelerate structural reforms in agriculture, which is heavily protected by high tariffs Japan is compelled to accept the invitation to the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) negotiations with the United States It has been a little over one month since the inauguration of Donald Trump as the President of the United States. His political style remains unpredictable without a clear logical approach, leaving the entire world guessing with serious uncertainties. The US government is faced with quite a few lingering risk factors, particularly with respect to its international trade policies. I am deeply concerned about the Trump administration’s attitude, which looks as though it is prepared to disregard the principles of non-discrimination or the international tariff agreements that have been embraced by the World Trade Organization (WTO) over ... ... [Read more]

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No.42

A Collection of Modern French Paintings on a Return Visit to Europe
— Masterpieces from the Bridgestone Museum of Art Ishibashi Foundation —

Professor, Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, The University of TokyoIt is well known that there are outstanding works of fine art in Japan, this island nation in the Far East, but only a few experts know that there are actually several collections of Western art in addition to Japanese art. Nevertheless, several Japanese art museums with collections of magnificent works of modern French paintings have recently started to show the paintings in Europe — no doubt as a reminder of their existence. The Masterpieces from the Bridgestone Museum of Art exhibition held at the Musée de l’Orangerie in Paris this year (April 5 to August 21, 2017) attracted a lot of attention. The exhibition introduced the most important works in the collection of mainly modern Western art acquired by Ishibashi Shojiro (1889–1976), the founder of the Bridgestone Corporation. It must be said that the choice of the Musée de l’Orangerie, famous for its ... ... [Read more]

No.40

Remembering Ooka Makoto The Poet from Mount Fuji

I didn’t want to come from Mount Fuji,” Ooka Makoto once recollected matter-of-factly. But even as he said the words, he didn’t look particularly unhappy at the idea. Ooka Makoto was born in Mishima, a city in Shizuoka Prefecture at the base of the Izu Peninsula. In other words, he could see that sacred mountain from his home, and as a baby he was bathed in the water that flowed into the Kakita river from Fuji via underground tributaries. Many people have places of beauty as their hometown, but for a contemporary poet it’s no small matter. From ancient times to the present day, Mount Fuji has held a sacred place in the hearts of Japanese people, something you might describe as “special.” For Yamabe Akahito, Katsushika Hokusai, and Lafcadio Hearn among others, Fuji has been an expressive motif that symbolizes Japan itself. And ... ... [Read more]

No.40

Why are foreign chefs captivated by Japanese kitchen knives?

The decline in Japanese influence in the international community is often pointed out, but it is not always the case in the cooking industry. Japanese chefs are in tremendous demand all over the world. There are an increasing number of people who come to Japan from abroad to learn how to cook. This situation was inconceivable years ago. Of course, because prices are different, one cannot make a simple comparison. Amid the pessimism over Japanese products not selling well, including home appliances, according to trade statistics compiled by the Japanese Ministry of Finance, Japanese kitchen knife exports have continued to grow steadily since 2004 (excluding 2008 when the Lehman Shock struck the world). A while ago, when chefs from a foreign star-restaurant came to Japan, they would often buy many Japanese kitchen knives and take them home. But today everyone buys Japanese kitchen knives ... ... [Read more]

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No.42

What Impresses Foreign Tourists When They Come to Japan?
― Explaining Japanese society and culture to foreign tourists

As an tour guide-interpreter, Hagimura Masayo sometimes spends as long as two weeks traveling around the whole of Japan with foreign visitors, so no-one has more first-hand knowledge of exactly what interests, attracts and impresses tourists. In this article, she taps her rich professional experience to discuss some tourism resources of which Japanese people might not be aware. Introduction When the Japanese government launched its Visit Japan campaign back in 2003, the number of foreign tourists visiting Japan each year was only 5.24 million. Ten years later the figure had reached 10 million, and over time it gradually increased. From January to October 2016, more than 20 million people visited Japan. (The exact figure was a record 20,113,000 people, compared to 16,316,000 for the same period in 2015). As this happens, the amount of work we tour guide-interpreters are asked to do is growing. ... ... [Read more]

No.42

Inbound Tourism and Japanese People
― Issues related to the increase in tourists visiting Japan from abroad

The influx of foreign tourists into Japan reminds one sociologist of American soldiers stationed in Japan immediately after the Second World War. What does he think of the current tourism boom? In this essay, Professor Miyajima’s essay covers several perspectives that are critical to thinking about this issue. Early Memories of the Post-War Period Perhaps it is just a fancy of mine, but for someone who spent their childhood and youth in post-war Yokohama, the current influx of foreign tourists to Japan reminds me of the officers and soldiers of the American occupation. Looking back, it seems like a storm that blew fiercely, then passed; seven or eight years during which there were several American bases and barracks in the city. Of course, Okinawa has been experiencing the same thing continually since the war, but elsewhere there has never before, or after, been so ... ... [Read more]

No.41

The Topic of Japan Viewed from Oxford

How do people at universities overseas view Japan? What do those universities teach students about Japan? I would like to answer these questions in this special feature of Chuokoron based on my own experiences over the last nine years I spent as a professor at the University of Oxford, one of the oldest and top-ranked universities in the UK. In addition to answering these questions, I would like to examine the problems involved in the topic (that is, what is taught about Japan overseas), which interests people in Japan to the point of urging Discuss Japan editors to come up with a special feature like this. I would like to do so because this second theme brings problems in Japanese society and Japanese education to the forefront. Report on the State of Japanese Studies Overseas Before touching on interest in Japan and research and ... ... [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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