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No.50

The new Japonisme: From international cultural exchange to cultural diplomacy — Evaluating the influence of cultural activities on diplomacy

In my previous article I discussed the Japonisme 2018 event, but how should we evaluate this from the perspective of diplomacy? Certainly, it is true that a large-scale showcase of Japanese culture and cultural exchange in France, one of the world’s centers of culture, is a significant result among our cultural PR activities. More people will become interested in Japan through the series of events, and it will definitely be a chance for Japanese culture to permeate even deeper among French people than it has so far. But to what extent can such international cultural exchange activities as these contribute to diplomacy? We commonly speak of “cultural diplomacy,” but just how cultural activities and diplomacy are connected is not actually clear. Joseph Nye coined the phrase “soft power” following the end of the Cold War. He emphasized using attractive culture as a type of ... ... [Read more]

No.50

Asian regional integration and the One Belt One Road Initiative: China and its neighboring economies from the perspective of the global economy[1]

In today’s report, I will speak about not regarding the growth of China as the growth of just a country, but about regarding China as an East Asian emerging economy in the global economy, and about how China’s One Belt One Road Initiative is viewed from that perspective and what issues it entails. I will present my arguments with a focus on three main points. Firstly, I will think about Asian regional integration in the global economy and the mechanisms of its growth in reference to China. Next, I will consider the concepts behind the One Belt One Road Initiative and its relationship with the related countries. Lastly, I will think about the issues facing neighboring countries. This last part appears to lack freshness, but please allow me to mention it.   The growth and regional integration of the East Asian economic bloc First ... ... [Read more]

No.49

On the Birth of XiangXiang

  The birth this summer of a giant panda cub at Tokyo’s Ueno Zoo has sparked a frenzy of public interest and promises a multi-billion-yen cash injection for the capital city.   On 12 June 2017, Japan was delighted by the birth of a giant panda cub at Tokyo’s Ueno Zoo (Ueno Zoological Gardens). The moment media outlets reported this first birth in five years, local shops launched panda-themed sales campaigns and many messages of celebration could be seen on social media. The mother panda, ShinShin (11 years old at the time), had been removed from public display on May 25, and Japan — along with the father panda, RiRi (11 years old at the time) — eagerly awaited the birth of the cub. The first body measurement, conducted on June 14, revealed that the cub was 14.3 centimeters tall and weighed 147 grams. ... ... [Read more]

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No.50

A Look Back at the Summing Up on the Special Abdication Law

Speaker of the House of Representatives Oshima Tadamori (72) was first elected in 1983, and has been elected a total eleven consecutive times. He has served as both Minister of Education and Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries. He also spent a record 1,430 days as Chairman of the LDP Diet Affairs Committee. More recently, Oshima, with Vice Speaker, President and Vice President of House of Councillors, led a cross-party discussion group of party Diet Affairs Committee Heads set up to devise a bill to address the abdication of his majesty the Emperor. Making ample use of the skills he had honed during his time heading the Diet Affairs Committee, Oshima succeeded in building agreement between ruling and opposition parties. In this article, Oshima looks back at the days leading up to the creation of the bill. In August 2016, his majesty the Emperor ... ... [Read more]

No.50

Meiji 150: From Steam to MagLev

Underpinning the modernization of Japanese industry were its railways. Work started on Japan’s railways during the Meiji period (1868–1912), with the help of the British. While playing a supporting role in industrial development, the railways developed chiefly around passenger transport. These days, Japan has started to export railway technology, and is contributing to the development of railways in other countries, including the UK, the birthplace of rail travel. 24.598 billion. That’s the number of people who used railways across Japan in fiscal 2016, accounting for roughly 40% of all rail travel worldwide. With 214 operators covering a total distance of approximately 28,120 kilometers, the Japanese rail network provides support for passengers traveling around metropolitan areas, from major cities out to the suburbs, and between cities. With most of the country’s population concentrated in its cities, that is where there are most rail services, providing ... ... [Read more]

No.50

Meiji 150: The New Age of Inclusion and Pioneering Leadership

2018 marks 150 years since the Meiji Restoration. The Meiji period (1868–1912) was a turbulent time that became a major turning point, signaling the end of samurai rule, and the transition to a modern democracy and industrial modernization. Crucially, it was a time of inclusion and leadership. In October 1867, the Edo feudal government returned power to the imperial court. The Meiji government was established the following year, in January 1868. Pressure had been growing from the 1840s onwards, from western powers coming to Japan with the aim of opening up the country to the rest of the world, and from those looking to put in place a system centered around the imperial court. After a little over 260 years, this brought an end to the feudal government of the Edo period (1603–1867). Things were anything but easy for the Meiji government to start ... ... [Read more]

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No.50

The BOJ’s Difficult Path Towards an Exit from Current Easing: The BOJ should win the market over and prevent a sharp increase in interest rates

Key Points The Government and the BOJ must prevent national finances from spiraling toward collapse The BOJ cannot reduce JGB purchases to zero through the manipulation of interest rates The BOJ should spell out that it will maintain easing whilst withdrawing from large-scale asset purchases At its Monetary Policy Meeting at the end of July, the Bank of Japan (BOJ) adopted the policy of “strengthening the framework for continuous powerful monetary easing.” While pledging to keep short- and long-term rates low, the central bank said that it would allow long-term yields to move up more than before. Is the BOJ’s true intention to strengthen easing or to move a step closer to an “exit”? Since the 2008 global financial crisis, the central banks of the world’s leading economies have deployed all manner of unconventional monetary policies including large-scale asset purchases, forward guidance and negative ... ... [Read more]

No.50

The BOJ’s Difficult Path Towards an Exit from Current Easing: A difficult balancing act between the merits and demerits of easing

Key Points Concerns over side effects of interest rate manipulation and ETF purchases The new version of Forward guidance is extremely weak The longer price stagnation persists, the stronger the side effects of the measures The BOJ’s monetary policy has entered a difficult phase. Despite the current buoyancy in the economy and the job market in particular, inflation remains low, and there is no prospect of achieving the inflation target. An exit is still a long way off. At the same time, the BOJ is now finally running out of options for additional easing, having already adopted a panoply of easing tools over the past two decades. Thus, BOJ policymakers are absolutely stuck, failing to move in either direction. Worse still, there has been no progress among academics in economic theories on the central bank’s response in the event that achievement of the monetary ... ... [Read more]

No.50

The Harmful Effects of U.S. Trade Restrictions (II): A chain of retaliation and global chaos

The United States is accelerating its restrictions on imports. On March 23, 2018, the Donald Trump administration imposed a 25% tariff on steel imports and a 10% tariff on aluminum imports. On the same day, it announced its policy to slap a 25% tariff on the more than 1,300 imports from China in response to China’s alleged violation of intellectual property rights and mandatory technology transfer. The restrictions on steel and aluminum imports are based on Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act, which claims that the decline in the steel and aluminum industries as a result of increased imports could threaten national security, and thus such imports should be restricted. Initially, it was announced that the restriction would apply to imports from all countries but eventually Canada, Mexico, South Korea, the European Union (EU), Brazil, Australia, and Argentina were temporarily exempted. Steel imports ... ... [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.49

The Miracle of Ogal that was Achieved Through Cooperation Between the Public and Private Sectors

   “The most expensive snow disposal yard in Japan” A large empty space in front of a station was reborn into a town that attracts 950,000 visitors annually. It is Shiwa, Iwate Prefecture, which is a 30-minute drive from Morioka. The town has a population of 33,000. The Ogal Project[1], a major project implemented in cooperation between the town government and the private sector, was introduced to the town. It is evaluated nationwide as a money-making infrastructure that does not depend on subsidies. The project was reported as a successful example of local revitalization and attracted a flood of visitors. One of these was Koizumi Shinjiro, a House of Representatives member. At the Diet, Koizumi stressed, “The project is a great local revitalization project that embodies the spirit of local revitalization,” and admired it as “the spirit of ogal.” The word “ogal” is a ... ... [Read more]

No.49

Why Were Young People Drawn to Asahara Shoko? Questions posed by the Aum incidents—How even academic researchers were deceived by the founder’s fakery

The fraudulent group that seemed like the real thing On July 6, 2018, the founder of Aum Shinrikyo, Asahara Shoko (real name Matsumoto Chizuo), and six former members of the cult leadership were executed. Six other leaders of the group were executed on July 26, 2018. These executions were punishment for the perpetration of awful acts that shocked not only Japan but also the world. They included the killing of lawyer Sakamoto Tsutsumi and his family in 1989, the Matsumoto sarin attack of 1994 and the Tokyo subway sarin attacks of 1995. Although the trial took a long time, once the punishment is determined it is natural that it will be carried out. I feel no particular emotion regarding this. I would like to emphasize that the lesson we learn from this case is that “the Aum Shinrikyo cult group was the first to ... ... [Read more]

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]

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No.50

New Developments in Albatross Conservation—Using biologging to elucidate behavior in the ocean

Watanuki Yutaka, Professor, School of Fisheries Science, Hokkaido UniversityThe albatross is a group of birds at high risk of extinction. The reasons for this are thought to include a decreased survival rate of parent birds due to bycatching during fishing. To date, the research of incidental by-catch risk and the evaluation of the efficiency of by-catch mitigation techniques relied on observations from boats. Data obtained in this way however contains bias. Biologging can be used to collect useful data for albatross conservation, such as an overlap of the distribution of albatross and fishing grounds, the fishing boat following behavior of albatross, and the dynamics of wintering areas. 1.Use of biologging The study of seabird behavior on the ocean has advanced rapidly thanks to biologging: field research techniques to collect information of the location and behavior of individual animals by attaching a small data recording device known as a “data logger.” Some devices ... ... [Read more]

No.50

The Conservation of Endangered Albatross Species

At one time, Short-tailed Albatrosses formed large breeding colonies on Torishima in the Izu Islands and in the Ogasawara Islands, in the Daito Islands, the Senkaku Islands, and other islands near Tai-wan. Due to the collection of feathers, for which there was high foreign demand, from the mid-Meiji period (1868–1912) these albatrosses were overhunted, and in 1949 it was reported that they were extinct. In 1951, however, they were rediscovered when around ten birds were found to have survived on Torishima. Following this, in 1954 Japan established a national Wildlife Protection Area that covered the whole of Torishima (453 ha); in 1958, the short-tailed albatross was designated a national Natural Monument; and in 1962, it was promoted to a Special Natural Monument. Additionally, in 1965 the whole of Torishima was designated a Natural Monument (Natural Protected Area) in its capacity as a breeding site, ... ... [Read more]

No.50

The Question of Plutonium Management (II): Protect Energy Choices—It is essential to develop fast breeder reactors (FBR)

Key Points Japanese plutonium is difficult to convert into atomic bombs It is urgently necessary to build a system that makes full use of plutonium as fuel China and Russia are being proactive regarding fast breeder reactors to secure resources There is an activity that involves collecting gold and rare metals from used mobile phones. A variety of metals and semiconductors are used for mobile phones and include a small quantity of toxic substances. They are simply rubbish if they are thrown away as they are. But if you extract gold from them in order to classify them into metals and plastics, you can reduce the quantity of rubbish. This is called urban mining. In Japan, the gold extracted will be utilized for the medals for the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games in 2020. The fuel that has generated a large quantity of electricity ... ... [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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