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No.52

Shibusawa Eiichi and the Principles of Modern Banking

As institutions prepare for the release of new banknotes in 2024, the principles and ideas of Shibusawa Eiichi, the pioneer of modern banking in Japan some 150 years before, ring as true as ever. When the Bank of Japan reissues its banknotes in 2024, the 10,000-yen note will feature a portrait of Shibusawa Eiichi (1840–1931), “the father of modern Japanese capitalism.” In locations with deep associations to Shibusawa, such as his birthplace of Fukaya City in Saitama Prefecture, everyone is delighted. The Shibusawa Memorial Museum meanwhile is receiving many visitors. According to Inoue Jun, director of the Museum, many inquiries have also been received from media and other organizations. “It is a very good opportunity for people to find out who Shibusawa is,” Inoue says. “People will learn that he is very much alive in this paradigm shifting era.” (The Shibusawa Memorial Museum will ... ... [Read more]

No.52

Uniting the Minds of Merchants: Shibusawa Eiichi and the Tokyo Chamber of Commerce

Today, the Tokyo Chamber of Commerce and Industry (TCCI) undertakes a variety of activities as a private sector economic organization. Its forerunner, the Tokyo Chamber of Commerce (Tokyo Shoho Kaigisho), is closely linked to Shibusawa Eiichi, who was the first chairman and a central figure within the organization. Eiichi also chaired successive forms of the Tokyo Chamber of Commerce, namely the Tokyo Shokokai and the Tokyo Shogyo Kaigisho, and through his work was instrumental in “uniting the minds of merchants.”  Establishment of the Tokyo Chamber of Commerce Chambers of commerce are economic and capitalist organizations established by merchants and industrialists in a given locale to express their intentions and protect their interests. The first such organization is said to have been founded in Marseille, France, in the sixteenth century. Since then, chambers have been established throughout Europe and around the world. The first in ... ... [Read more]

No.52

Shibusawa Eiichi’s Starting Point

Shibusawa Eiichi was born in 1840 in Chiaraijima-mura, Hanzawa-gum, Musashi-no-kuni (now Chiaraijima in the city of Fukaya, Saitama Prefecture). While tax was usually paid in rice during the Edo period (1603–1867), a system to pay in cash was already adopted in Chiaraijima. The money economy was disseminated early in this typical farming village because farmland yielding stable crops was scarce in the area, and people were unable to make a living without taking part in commerce in addition to farming. Many in the area were engaged in business that involved purchasing indigo leaves, processing them into a raw material for dye called aidama (indigo balls) and selling them in Shinshu (now Nagano Prefecture), Joshu (now Gunma Prefecture) and other regions. Eiichi’s father started the business in full scale, which brought them tremendous wealth, developing into one of the richest farming families in the village. ... ... [Read more]

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No.51

Can Japanese Diplomacy Talk about Universality?—Rebuilding public diplomacy strategy

Amidst the flux of the liberal international order, Japan’s public diplomacy, which relies solely on its cultural uniqueness, is inadequate. The author proposes new principles for an age where the diplomatic sphere is expanding from negotiation tactics to agenda setting and norm setting. In the fall of 2017 when there was a succession of major events—the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China and US President Donald Trump’s visit to China—I visited Peking University and had an opportunity to exchange opinions with many experts and specialists. What impressed me in particular was that the Chinese side emphasized the negative aspect of democracy and used it in justification of the Communist Party’s monopoly on power. The Chinese experts and specialists said the following: Democracy could just consider short-term profits like companies operating under a capitalist system. The only interest of politicians and political ... ... [Read more]

No.51

Thirty years of clambering up and slipping back down— A comprehensive look back at the Heisei period

  What kind of period was Heisei (1989–2019) Kitaoka Shinichi: My image of the Heisei period is of a crab at the bottom of a washbowl trying to climb up but then slipping and falling right back down. Heisei began with the bubble bursting in 1991 (Heisei 3) and Japan tried to respond to it in various ways. Although there was political reform and administrative reform, the Asian currency crisis came in ’97, before these trials showed any effect, and it looked like it was all over for Japan. But in 2001, Koizumi Junichiro appeared as Prime Minister, promised to “destroy the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP),” and became hugely popular. Yet the LDP wasn’t particularly destroyed, and it’s hard to say that anything has moved forward. Then in 2008 there was the global financial crisis, and in 2011 the Great East Japan Earthquake and ... ... [Read more]

No.51

The True Home of Japan Studies Is Not Japan: Academic rivals are skilled at reading cursive script and transliterating classical Chinese into Japanese

  Who really “owns” Japan studies? In the list of academic fields eligible for Grant-in-Aid for Scientific Research by the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science, no such field as “Japan Studies” exists. If one searches the list for the keyword “regional studies,” there is “East Asia,” “South East Asia,” “South Asia,” “West and Central Asia,” etc., but there is no “Japan.” Although there are research and education organizations with Japan studies in their title (I also conduct joint research with them), I think that they take an extra effort when applying for research funds. It is not my intention in this article to criticize how, within Japan, Japan studies are treated as if they do not exist in that grant scheme. Yet, if it is true that the readers of this article (including specialist researchers) assume that Japan studies are mostly undertaken ... ... [Read more]

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No.52

The reality of 1 million “middle-aged and elderly hikikomori” ― The aging of hikikomori is a major issue for all of society

  At the end of March, the Cabinet Office announced the results of their first survey of “middle-aged and elderly hikikomori.” They visited a random sample of 5,000 men and women aged 40–64 from all over Japan. As 47 persons (1.45%) out of 3,248 respondents (65.0%) qualified as hikikomori, the estimated number became 613,000 out of the entire population. Of these, 76.6% were men. Divided by age, it was 38.3% in their 40s, 36.2% in their 50s, and 25.5% aged 60–64. About half had been hikikomori for at least five years. Some 29.7% had been hikikomori for more than ten years. Professor Saito at the University of Tsukuba (Social Psychiatry and Mental Health) had worked with issues of school refusal and hikikomori as a psychiatrist for thirty years. He has written a number of titles, starting with Social Hikikomori: The Never-ending Puberty in 1998. ... ... [Read more]

No.52

Ultra-aging Japan’s “issue of the 24th year of Reiwa” ― Department stores and banks will close down and local governments will reduce by half

A new emperor has ascended the Chrysanthemum Throne, marking the beginning of the Reiwa era. The whole of Japan is caught up in the celebratory mood. However, given the situation in which Japanese society currently finds itself, we cannot afford to be in high spirits. In April 2019, the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications released population projections as of October 1, 2018. The total population decreased by about 263,000 from the previous year to 126,443,000, a decline for the eighth year in a row. The total population includes foreigners. Because the number of foreigners increased by about 165,000, the Japanese population alone decreased by as many as 430,000. Both the decrease in the population and the rate of decline were the largest ever since the comparable year of 1950. In addition, the population of people aged 70 or older exceeded 20% in comparison ... ... [Read more]

No.51

The True Home of Japan Studies Is Not Japan: Academic rivals are skilled at reading cursive script and transliterating classical Chinese into Japanese

  Who really “owns” Japan studies? In the list of academic fields eligible for Grant-in-Aid for Scientific Research by the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science, no such field as “Japan Studies” exists. If one searches the list for the keyword “regional studies,” there is “East Asia,” “South East Asia,” “South Asia,” “West and Central Asia,” etc., but there is no “Japan.” Although there are research and education organizations with Japan studies in their title (I also conduct joint research with them), I think that they take an extra effort when applying for research funds. It is not my intention in this article to criticize how, within Japan, Japan studies are treated as if they do not exist in that grant scheme. Yet, if it is true that the readers of this article (including specialist researchers) assume that Japan studies are mostly undertaken ... ... [Read more]

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No.52

Dialogue: The lessons from Western politics straying out off course ― Welcoming the storms of the international community with a philosophy of inclusion

European politics in confusion Aida Hirotsugu (Hiro Aida): Three years have passed since the 2016 Brexit referendum, in which the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union (EU), closely followed by Donald Trump being elected president of the United States. Turmoil persists in the United Kingdom and the United States, populism is rampant in other European countries, and formerly sound governments based on the ideals of parliamentary democracy have struggled to function. In Italy, the leftist Five Star Movement and the far-right Lega formed a coalition government in 2018, which saw the establishment of an anti-EU administration heavily influenced by populism. In France as well, the Yellow Vest movement broke out in November 2018 and still shows no sign of dying down. Initially, the movement started from demonstrations against the Macron administration’s fuel and car tax hikes. But in the confused state of ... ... [Read more]

No.52

Japan-US-China Relations in the Indo-Pacific Region

  An interview with Sasae Kenichiro, President and Director General of the Japan Institute of International Affairs (JIIA) Conflict between the United States and China is becoming a contest regarding the international order. What should Japan, the US, and China do in order to engage in regional confidence building? In short, strenuous efforts based on Japan’s diplomatic principles are needed.   ―― What does “Free and Open Indo-Pacific (FOIP)” mean for Japanese diplomacy?   Sasae Kenichiro: Different people in different positions and with different views will think of it in different ways: as an initiative, a design or a strategy. But I am of the opinion that it is the principle of Japanese diplomacy, a standing to which Japanese diplomacy should always return. Needless to say, “Free and Open” is the value that constituted the basis that enabled Japan to restart from its defeat ... ... [Read more]

No.51

Can Japanese Diplomacy Talk about Universality?—Rebuilding public diplomacy strategy

Amidst the flux of the liberal international order, Japan’s public diplomacy, which relies solely on its cultural uniqueness, is inadequate. The author proposes new principles for an age where the diplomatic sphere is expanding from negotiation tactics to agenda setting and norm setting. In the fall of 2017 when there was a succession of major events—the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China and US President Donald Trump’s visit to China—I visited Peking University and had an opportunity to exchange opinions with many experts and specialists. What impressed me in particular was that the Chinese side emphasized the negative aspect of democracy and used it in justification of the Communist Party’s monopoly on power. The Chinese experts and specialists said the following: Democracy could just consider short-term profits like companies operating under a capitalist system. The only interest of politicians and political ... ... [Read more]

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No.23

Feature Article on Scientific Advice: Paradigm Shift in Scientific Advice Responsible Innovation, Post-Normal Science, and Ecosystemic Approach

Growing expectations and skepticism about “scientific advice” “Scientific advice,” which provides the government, corporations and individuals with useful technical information, knowledge and judgments on the policy issues related to science and technology, such as “risk” issues in food safety, emerging infectious diseases, climate change, earthquakes, nuclear power and cyber security, and as promotion of science, technology and innovation, is expected to play an increasingly vital role in contemporary society. Scientific advice in Japan has hitherto been undertaken by various deliberative bodies and organizations, including councils and committees attached to government ministries and agencies, regulatory bodies such as the Food Safety Commission, and, regarding comprehensive policies for the promotion and regulation of science, technology and innovation, the Cabinet Office’s Council for Science, Technology and Innovation (CSTI) and academic organizations such as the Science Council of Japan (SCJ). In addition, since the Great East Japan Earthquake ... ... [Read more]

No.23

Feature Article on Scientific Advice: Between Science and Administration The Politics of Scientific Advice

(1) Is It Reactionism?  Members of the Subcommittee that deliberated on the draft of the Basic Energy Plan were replaced following a government changeover. In a blatant selection of personnel, the LDP almost exclusively appointed new experts who advocate maintaining or promoting nuclear power generation. The Agency of Natural Resources and Energy has already sent officials to an LDP working group meeting for explaining the draft of the Basic Energy Plan, wherein LDP-affiliated Diet members raised questions about the draft, which positions nuclear power as an important base power source and spells out steady promotion of the nuclear fuel cycle.The Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant accident on 11 March 2011 has been taken as an opportunity to question the ideal form of giving scientific and expert advice to administrative authorities. A variety of criticism has been heard and many proposals made concerning this question, ... ... [Read more]

No.23

The Choice of Collective Self-Defense—Getting Out of the Galapagos Security Perspective Winning a Mandate in the House of Representatives Election — We Will Continue to Consult with New Komeito

Ishiba Shigeru, Liberal Democratic Party Secretary-General (currently, Minister in charge of Overcoming Population Decline and Vitalizing Local Economy in Japan, Minister of State for the National Strategic Special Zones) Japan Cannot Operate Only with a Right to Individual Self-Defense The use of the right to collective self-defense has long been discussed in the context of Japan’s national security. Why do you think Japan should shift its defense policy and decide to endorse the use of the right to collective self-defense now? Ishiba Shigeru: The biggest reason is that the security situation surrounding the post-Cold War Asia-Pacific region is very unstable. The balance of power between the United States and the former Soviet Union was stable during the Cold War. In that situation, the seeds of conflict, such as religion, race, territory and political structure, did not surface. We see China rising and increasing its ... ... [Read more]

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No.52

Dialogue: The lessons from Western politics straying out off course ― Welcoming the storms of the international community with a philosophy of inclusion

European politics in confusion Aida Hirotsugu (Hiro Aida): Three years have passed since the 2016 Brexit referendum, in which the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union (EU), closely followed by Donald Trump being elected president of the United States. Turmoil persists in the United Kingdom and the United States, populism is rampant in other European countries, and formerly sound governments based on the ideals of parliamentary democracy have struggled to function. In Italy, the leftist Five Star Movement and the far-right Lega formed a coalition government in 2018, which saw the establishment of an anti-EU administration heavily influenced by populism. In France as well, the Yellow Vest movement broke out in November 2018 and still shows no sign of dying down. Initially, the movement started from demonstrations against the Macron administration’s fuel and car tax hikes. But in the confused state of ... ... [Read more]

No.51

Thirty years of clambering up and slipping back down— A comprehensive look back at the Heisei period

  What kind of period was Heisei (1989–2019) Kitaoka Shinichi: My image of the Heisei period is of a crab at the bottom of a washbowl trying to climb up but then slipping and falling right back down. Heisei began with the bubble bursting in 1991 (Heisei 3) and Japan tried to respond to it in various ways. Although there was political reform and administrative reform, the Asian currency crisis came in ’97, before these trials showed any effect, and it looked like it was all over for Japan. But in 2001, Koizumi Junichiro appeared as Prime Minister, promised to “destroy the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP),” and became hugely popular. Yet the LDP wasn’t particularly destroyed, and it’s hard to say that anything has moved forward. Then in 2008 there was the global financial crisis, and in 2011 the Great East Japan Earthquake and ... ... [Read more]

No.51

Future Design

  Discussion between Professor Sakura Osamu and Professor Saijo Tatsuyoshi   There are various matters, such as climate change, energy issues, social security, and government debt, which need to be dealt with using a long-term perspective. At the core of these issues is conflict between the interests of different generations. There is potential for the short-sighted response and decision-making of the present generation to significantly disadvantage future generations. These future generations are not yet born so cannot make their voices heard nor negotiate with the present generation. Yet, it’s not strange at all for the present generation to make decisions according to their own interests. The “market” and other social systems are not necessarily equipped with any function for distributing resources to future generations. In order to create a sustainable society for future generations, humans need to get past their natural short-sightedness, while mechanisms ... ... [Read more]

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