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Archives : No.25

May 2015

No.25
No.25 ,Politics  May 27, 2015

Dull Bull/ Philosopher Prime Minster and Intellectuals Looking at the Prime Minster Ohira Policy Research Council

UNO Shigeki, Professor, Institute of Social Science, the University of Tokyo

The first Ohira Masayoshi Cabinet was established in December 1978. At the beginning of his policy address to the Diet on 25 January 25 1979, Prime Minister Ohira made the following statement:
In the more than 30 years that have passed since the end of World War II, Japan has focused single-mindedly on achieving economic affluence, and as a nation we have produced remarkable results. This represents the positive outcome of efforts that have continued for the 100 years since the Meiji period to modernize and model our country after Western nations. (Snip) However, we cannot really say that we have given our full attention to the harmony between man and nature, the balance between freedom and responsibility, and the purpose of life deeply rooted in our spirit. Today,... [Read more]

No.25 ,Science
May 23, 2015

The Robot & AI Revolution I
Robots will Change Work & Industry

It has two eyes on its flat head. It cannot walk with two legs, but it has two triple-jointed arms—with shoulders, elbows and wrists—that it can move freely… The external appearance of NEXTAGE, a robot developed by Kawada Industries, is totally different from that of the clunky-looking industrial robots that have seen popular widespread use in Japan until now. The difference is not only in its appearance. In contrast to conventional industrial robots, which pride themselves on speed and power, and operate under the assumption that human beings will not go near them, NEXTAGE aims to coexist with humans. It’s not merely a piece of ‘equipment,’ but a ‘partner.’ But Kawada Industries didn’t develop NEXTAGE simply to give it a friendly appearance and try to create a nicer atmosphere on the production floor. There is a genuine business opportunity behind it. ... [Read more]

No.25 ,Science
May 23, 2015

The Robot & AI Revolution

SAKURA Osamu, PhD., Dean and Professor at the Interfaculty Initiative in Information Studies, University of Tokyo ©AOKI Noboru

Robot research is one of Japan’s areas of specialty. With 310,000 units, Japan lead’s the world for the number of industrial robots in operation (2013). The level of research and development of robots at universities and research institutes is also high. People point to influences such as the popular Japanese anime Astroboy, with its robot protagonist, as the backdrop to this. Based on these circumstances, the Abe administration has positioned the robot industry as one of the growth strategies in its economic strategy ‘Abenomics.’ In light of Japan’s declining birth rate and aging population, there are high hopes in particular for the foray of robots in the field of nursing care. On the other hand, however, common problems from other fields of Japanese industry can also be seen in ... [Read more]

No.25 ,Culture
May 22, 2015

The Changing Flavors — and Drinkers — of Sake

The sake industry is booming — at least in one sense. Many of the varieties produced by small and medium-sized breweries have become hard to obtain. And what is notable is that sales of sake produced by the smaller breweries are being driven not just by middle-aged and elderly men, the traditional market for the sake industry, but also by women and young adult consumers. This fact was conspicuous at the annual Wakate-no-Yoake (“Dawn of the younger generation”) sake-tasting event in Tokyo’s Shibuya Ward October 2014, when more than 2,000 people gathered to sample the wares of thirty-one up-and-coming breweries, many of those visitors being women and young adults. “We are seeing more and more young people and women attend these events every year,” says Watanabe Koei, president of the exhibiting Ippaku Suisei brewery, ... [Read more]

No.25 ,Economy
May 14, 2015

Abenomics Walks a Tightrope as Difficulties Lie Ahead

Few prime ministers who have been elected from the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) have won general elections two times in a row. When speaking of prime ministers who demonstrated shrewdness in elections, some people may make mention of Koizumi Junichiro. However, although Koizumi won a landslide victory in the 2005 election following a dissolution of the Diet staged under the name of postal-services reform, his re-election at the previous poll in 2003 was much less convincing for the LDP, the result not something to boast about. Likewise in 1986, Prime Minister Nakasone Yasuhiro brought victory to the LDP — winning more than 300 seats for the only time ever in the era of the multi-seat constituency electoral system. ... [Read more]

No.25 ,Economy
May 12, 2015

Control of social security expenses should be expedited.
Ensuring Escape from the Deflationary Spiral and to Again Increase Consumption Tax
― Outlook of the primary balance of the central and local governments
― Case where consumption tax rate was raised to 10% as originally planned

< Key Points >
・The move to escape from the deflationary spiral also contributed to the improvement of the primary balance.
・The reduction of the deficit by half in fiscal 2015 is challenging, but the focus is on the next step.
・The rapid rise in social security expenses is more serious than the postponement of the tax hike.
With the postponement of the consumption tax hike and the dissolution of the House of Representatives, economic policy entered a new phase. Discussions have commenced on the evaluation of Abenomics in the past two years and the new outlook following the election. I wish to tidy up the points under... [Read more]

No.25 ,Economy
May 12, 2015

Medium-term economic forecast — Japan Center for Economic Research
Establish Social Security that will Support the Future Generation
— Allocate 13 trillion yen to childcare support. Stop investing public funds in medical insurance and seek independence.

< Key Points >
・Action on the declining birthrate will revive the birthrate, bolstering the growth rate.
・Raise medical and nursing care insurance premium rates and patients’ self-pay rates.
・Encourage nationwide discussions by showing choices for painful reforms.
Following the Lower House election that was held in December 2014, it has been determined that the next consumption tax hike will be put off for eighteen months, and the roadmap for fiscal reconstruction has become increasingly uncertain. Meanwhile, the number of births fell in 2014 to a level that almost dropped below the benchmark of 1 million. The government has set a ... [Read more]

No.25 ,Economy
May 07, 2015

Tightening Job Market Begins to Drag Down the Economy
— Challenges Confronting the Second Stage of Abenomics

Since the spring of 2014, a labor shortage in Japan has emerged as a sudden challenge to its economy. Until just before this shortage became apparent, our normal discussions on the economy primarily focused on possible countermeasures that could be taken to address unemployment issues, which were for the most part intended to provide for employment opportunities in response to such questions as “How do we put an end to the rising unemployment rate?” or “How do we improve the employment of young adults?” and “How do we ensure employment for the elderly by the time they start receiving pension?” But after the spring of 2014, Japan was suddenly confronted with a labor shortage, which must have been a huge surprise to the general public at the time.... [Read more]

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