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No.53

The Centenarian Companies that are Saving Japan―Tsumura, Konoike Transport and Seiren. Why did these companies survive?

Japanese companies continue to face tough battles in the face of waves of globalization and digitalization. In particular, Japan is said to trail the pack in AI-related technology. When Japanese companies are compared to others around the world, a miserable situation is often recorded. Turning our attention to within Japan however, today there are actually 34,394 “historic companies” that were founded 100 or more years ago (according to a 2017 study by Tokyo Shoko Research). Some researchers put the number at over ten thousand — notably more than in other countries around the world. In 2019, famous examples were Nintendo (over 130 years old), Morinaga (over 120 years), Olympus and NGK Insulators (both over 100 years). The oldest company in the world is an Osaka shrine and temple construction firm called Kongo Gumi. It was founded in 578 during the Asuka period. The oldest ... ... [Read more]

No.53

Challenges Facing the Abe Administration after the Upper House Election: Social Security Reforms Should Be a Multi-Partisan Discussion

Key points Economic policy should return to an orthodox type from an emergency type The government should aim to increase worker productivity The opposition parties should also make responsible proposals regarding the consumption tax and pension   The Upper House election is over. The result of the election does not directly place the Abe administration under pressure to make revisions to its economic policy. On this occasion, however, I would like to point out three basic directions required for the economic policy in the years to come based on challenges taken on before the election and discussions held by the political parties during the election. The first direction is to return the experimental and venturous economic policy, enacted in an emergency, to an orthodox policy for normal times. For about thirty years following the burst of the bubble, the Japanese economy faced uncharted challenges ... ... [Read more]

No.53

An assessment in the seventh year of Abenomics: Labor reforms should be implemented immediately, ahead of monetary and fiscal measures

  Key Points Set a permissible range of 1% over or under the 2% inflation rate target Take measures for banks when deepening the degree of negative interest rates It is necessary to improve labor mobility and raise wages for young workers Six and a half years have now passed since the second Abe administration was established in December 2012. Continued economic expansion has led to a remarkable improvement in the employment situation. Although people reportedly do not have feel that their income has increased, the overall growth rate is above 1% despite the decreasing working-age population and the aging society. The effect of the radical quantitative and qualitative easing has kept the average inflation rate positive, at slightly under 1%. Some are critical, however. To put it plainly, Abenomics, which entered its seventh year with continued strong market conditions, has led to a ... ... [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.53

For the realization of the SDGs: The characteristics of the SDGs and the practices of Japanese local governments

The application of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is being promoted in organizational management in a variety of realms. The SDGs are also being focused on as one of the essential parts of the management of local governments and cities, and practical initiatives are being conducted. This paper explains the characteristics of the SDGs and the methods of thinking behind them, introduces practical initiatives carried out by Japanese local governments and presents the points of view expected for future developments. 1. The SDGs applied as common goals Japanese companies and local governments focus on the keywords of the SDGs, and practical initiatives and applications by a wide range of actors are being promoted as common goals pursued globally. For example, Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Reports are intended to fulfill accountability for how individual companies regard their relationships with diverse stakeholders in society and what ... ... [Read more]

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]

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No.53

Development cooperation that respects ownership

Japan is a non-Western country, which has modernized earliest among others, and Japan’s own experiences of modernization serve as a good model of development for developing countries. “Japanese style” development cooperation implemented in Africa can propose a new idea of development. —— In August, the Seventh Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD7) will be held in Yokohama for the first time in three years. Kitaoka Shinichi: The previous TICAD VI (2016) in Nairobi, Kenya, was significant to have it for the first time in Africa. It was also my first time participating in the conference. When I look back on the three years’ progress since then, I feel that more business-minded leaders are advancing their ambitious reforms for the sake of their countries’ development without relying on natural resources and single products. Today, we can find more countries are doing their best, regardless ... ... [Read more]

No.53

G20 Osaka Summit: Progress in “Digital Economy” and “Society 5.0”

Japan hosted the G20 Summit for the first time from 28 to 29 June. Leaders of nineteen countries and the EU along with other invited leaders and heads of international organizations convened in Osaka to discuss a wide range of issues. As the host, Prime Minister of Japan Abe Shinzo put a special emphasis on the Digital Economy and Society 5.0, leading to outcomes which will contribute to economic growth and sustainable development.   In June 1997 the Group of 7 (G7) major industrial democracies met in Denver to discuss the challenges faced in economic, financial and other areas at a time when international financial markets were becoming increasingly global and complex. In July that same year, the Asian Financial Crisis struck, prompting the engagement at the ministerial level of major emerging economies including China, Russia and India. In 1999, at the Finance Ministers ... ... [Read more]

No.53

Yokohama: The “Closest City to Africa” in Japan

The City of Yokohama is putting the finishing touches on preparations to host TICAD7. The white-finned roof of Pacifico Yokohama, the main venue for the conference, has been scrubbed clean and now the surrounding greenery is getting a trim. Festive TICAD bunting is fluttering along the Grand Mall promenade as the city looks forward to celebrating its exceptionally close ties with Africa. Yokohama hosted the last two TICAD conferences to be held in Japan, TICADs IV and V, in 2008 and 2013, respectively. (TICAD VI was held in Nairobi, Kenya). TICAD V attracted more than 4,500 participants, making it the largest international conference in Japan and, as such, no small organizational feat. As TICAD host, however, Yokohama has not merely provided the venue and hospitality for the conference. More significantly, the City has worked to engage with African countries year-round using the opportunities TICAD ... ... [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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