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No.10
Discussions, Politics, No.10  Mar. 31, 2012

TIME FOR JAPAN TO SHOW THE WORLD HOW TO OVERCOME CHALLENGES: PRIME MINISTER NODA, BE PREPARED TO ALWAYS STAY ON THE BATTLEFIELD.

Rapid repair and strengthening of ties with the United States needed I recently enjoyed a visit from Prime Minister Noda Yoshihiko, giving me the opportunity to speak with him. The prime minister has famously described himself as a loach, setting an image for himself that is in sharp contrast with that of former prime ministers Hatoyama Yukio and Kan Naoto. Noda seems keen to get off to a good start with a modest and cautious approach to dealing with the twisted Diet. During the course of our conversation, I told him that I supported this approach and said that his administration could have staying power if Noda handles government effectively. I’m worried that Japanese politics is at risk of... [Read more]

No.9
Discussions, No.9  Dec. 4, 2011

HOPE FOR JAPAN OR U.S. CONSPIRACY?

Hosaka Masayoshi: I personally have not yet made up my mind whether to support the TPP. If I’m not mistaken, Nakano-san is basically against it and Okamoto-san is for it. Nakano Takeshi: So far, I have turned down offers to directly debate with people who support the TPP because arguments tend to get emotional and unproductive. But I don’t insist that my arguments are perfectly correct. Without trying to flatter you both, I thought that we could hold a meaningful discussion. The national government has already declared that Japan will participate in the TPP negotiations, but I don’t think we should, for two reasons. First, the advantages asserted by the government are unfounded, while the anticipated disadvantages are numerous. Second, things have proceeded before arguments have matured. Okamoto Yukio: I believe Japan should at least take part in TPP negotiations since things are decided ... ... [Read more]

No.8
Discussions, No.8  Nov. 28, 2011

DYNAMISM OF INTERNATIONAL DIVISION OF LABOR OF THE 21ST CENTURY BROUGHT ABOUT BY REGIONALISM

I feel a bit disappointed each time I am asked that simple but important question, “Is trade liberalization actually a good thing?” Theories on international trade, my area of expertise, are here for explaining the need for trade liberalization. Such a question makes me wonder what we have been doing. There are two ways to approach theories on international trade: one is from the economics standpoint where government is well-distanced from the real world economy and is capable of always implementing optimal political measures; and the other is from the political economics standpoint where political measures are formed through interactions mainly involving the economy. Following... [Read more]

No.7
Discussions, No.7  Sept. 28, 2011

NEW PRIME MINISTER NODA’S ESSAY: MY PLANS FOR GOVERNMENT – NOW IS THE TIME FOR ACHIEVING A "MIDDLE WAY" IN POLITICS

Eliminate clever schemes and rebuild Japan with the power of harmony The Great East Japan Earthquake struck Japan on March 11. This unprecedented disaster took from us a great many precious lives and irreplaceable hometowns. The Cabinet Office estimates the damage at 16.9 trillion yen; 1.8 times greater than that of the Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake. This disaster inflicted deep wounds in everyone’s heart, which cannot be expressed in numerical data, and left depleted hope not only in the devastated areas but all of Japan. The damage caused by the nuclear power plant accident continues. Indeed, Japan faces a historic national crisis. For the five months... [Read more]

No.6
Discussions, No.6  Jul. 31, 2011

CHANGING THE STRUCTURE OF OUR NATION WITH EYES TOWARD HUMAN SECURITY

The earthquake’s position in history Humans often see natural disasters of their time as a “divide” or “crossroads” in history. And history at times changes because we take such a view. Examples are the Ansei Edo earthquake and the arrival of the American fleet (1853, ’54) and the Great Kanto Earthquake and termination of the Anglo-Japanese Alliance (decided in 1921, terminated in 1923). The recent Great East Japan Earthquake will likely become another crossroads in history. It should cause a major change in the Japanese people’s sense of history. I think Japan is currently in a state where the fear of falling into a bottomless pit mixes with an almost desperate hope for recovery. Each citizen has fed off this... [Read more]

No.5
Discussions, No.5  Feb. 5, 2011

DESIGN BEYOND FORM: THE ART OF YOSHIOKA TOKUJIN

KŌNO MICHIKAZU I understand this office is a converted rice warehouse that you had moved here from Shimane Prefecture back when you first opened your own design studio in 2000, and furthermore that you were personally responsible for everything from the architectural and interior design to the hiring and supervising of contractors. YOSHIOKA TOKUJIN I wanted to do something completely new but within my resources, which were limited. Since many of my clients are from overseas, I wanted to build a studio that would appeal to them and to present something uniquely Japanese to the world. My idea was to incorporate both Japanese tradition and futuristic elements. So I decided to create contemporary architecture out of a 150-year-old structure. Traditional Japanese houses typically use local materials, like timber and clay. I wanted to use the local materials of contemporary Tokyo,... [Read more]

No.4
Discussions, No.4  Jan. 31, 2011

REVIVING THE SPIRIT OF THE XINHAI REVOLUTION

Speaking to a Chinese diplomat at a symposium on Japan-China relations about six months ago, I remarked on the fact that 2011 was the centennial of the Xinhai Revolution that toppled the Qing dynasty. “Yes, that’s right,” he replied. “But I don’t suppose that has much to do with Japan.” Astonished, I spoke of the many Japanese who had cooperated and participated in the revolution, in some cases at the cost of their lives. I mentioned Kita Ikki, who traveled to China and ate, slept, and fought alongside Song Jiaoren, founder of the Kuomintang (Nationalist Party), as well as such figures as Miyazaki Tōten, Inukai Tsuyoshi, Tōyama Mitsuru, the brothers Yamada Yoshimasa and Junzaburō, and Umeya Shōkichi. Now it was the diplomat’s turn to be astonished. “I had no idea,” he confessed. Pulling out a memo pad, he asked me to write down the ... ... [Read more]

No.3
Discussions, No.3  Oct. 4, 2010

FROM THE CODEX TO THE KINDLE: RISING TO THE CHALLENGES OF DIGITAL PUBLISHING

KŌNO MICHIKAZU People have taken to describing this year as the beginning of a new era of digital publishing. Amazon released its Kindle DX digital reader last fall, and when the Apple iPad went on sale in Japan at the end of May this year, I was one of many who rushed out to buy one. The launch of so many high-profile devices one after another like this makes it feel as though the digital age really is upon us at last. Recent developments have sent shock waves through the publishing world, and people are worried that publishing companies and bookstores may have outlived their usefulness. Some have even compared the upheaval caused by the arrival of these latest products from the United States to the coming of Commodore Perry’s “black ships” to open up Japan in the 1850s. There has been talk about ... ... [Read more]

No.2
Discussions, No.2  Sept. 30, 2010

THE SYSTEM BEHIND JAPAN'S HIGH-SPEED RAIL NETWORK

If the railroad industry were likened to a living organism, the perfect analogue would be plants. Tracks are firmly rooted to the ground, with train lines covering a fixed span of territory. When neighborhoods prosper, so does the industry, with more trains running through them; when they decline, the line also falls into disuse. Train service cannot move to new locales when the number of passengers declines; it continues to live and grow with the community it serves. Rootedness is a common trait of the industry in countries around the world. When the social environment changes, the industry must adapt to the changes or face extinction. Inasmuch as railroad lines cannot “migrate” to greener pastures like animals, they must develop thoroughgoing strategies for adapting to change. The single most outstanding feature of rail transport in Japan is its capacity to adjust the entire system ... ... [Read more]

No.1
Discussions, No.1  Jul. 31, 2010

POLICY INITIATIVES TOWARD AN EAST ASIAN COMMUNITY

In a January 2002 speech given in Singapore, Prime Minister Koizumi Jun’ichirō proposed an economic partnership between Japan and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) as the first step toward the creation of an East Asian community. Ever since then, this concept has remained at the core of Japan’s Asia policy. It was reconfirmed again in Prime Minister Kan Naoto’s policy speech delivered on June 11 this year, in which he stated that “Japan is a maritime nation bordering the Pacific Ocean and is at the same time an Asian nation.” Based on this duality, he went on, he intended to maintain Japan’s alliance with the United States as “the cornerstone of our diplomacy” even as he moved to “reinforce our partnerships with Asian countries.”... [Read more]