No.28 - Discuss Japan

Archives : No.28

Jul-Nov 2015

Culture, No.28  Nov. 2, 2015

Edo and Tokyo as Viewed by Kobayashi Kiyochika, the “Last Ukiyo-e Artist”

Sketchbooks1878 to 1913/ privately ownedThese books contain the accumulated sketches of Kobayashi. Ten of them remain today. The sketches include many watercolor designs from which Kobayashi produced his kosenga, such as Kudanzaka Satsukiyo (Night in May at Kudan Hill), which is introduced below.

  Kobayashi Kiyochika is often referred to as the last ukiyo-e artist. Kobayashi goes by this name because he stuck to colored woodblock prints known as nishiki-e and kept pinning his hope on their potential until the end, despite the diversification and development of printing techniques in modern times. He must have had the pride of a defeated person because he was a vassal of the shogun born in Edo (present-day Tokyo). However, the innovativeness of Kobayashi and his importance as a modern artist stand out when we take away such frameworks associated with Kobayashi’s profile as an ukiyo-e artist. Kobayashi as a vassal of the Shogun tossed about by the Great Transformation from Edo to Tokyo We can learn how the young Kobayashi lived through the turbulent times from the end of the Edo period to the Meiji period in Kiyochika jigaden (Self-portrait ... ... [Read more]

Science, No.28
Nov. 1, 2015

Electricity Reform Is the Best Performer for the Growth Strategy

ITOH Motoshige, Professor at the Graduate School of Economics of University of Tokyo

  The Great Earthquake and Tsunami Disaster that stopped nuclear power generation revealed the vulnerability of Japan’s electricity system ABE Junichi (AJ): The Government decided in a cabinet meeting and submitted to the Diet the Bill for Partial Revision of the Electricity Act in March to achieve electricity system reform. Professor Itoh, you had, in the capacity of the chairman of the “Electricity System Reform Expert Committee,” compiled a report in February 2013 proposing the full liberalization of electricity retail sales and the separation of power generation and power transmission. The report became the pillar of electricity system reform. Why should the electricity system be reformed now? ITOH Motoshige (IM): I think that there are a couple of factors. Experts, and even the Government, have been keenly aware of the need for electricity reform for more than ten years. However, there are some difficult ... ... [Read more]

Discussions, Society, No.28
Oct. 13, 2015

A New Era of Michi-no-eki Takes Off! – Ever-evolving community hubs for local rejuvenation –

Women create vitality and confidence in the region. Michi-no-eki, Den-en Plaza Kawaba (Kawaba Village, Gunma Prefecture)

Michi-no-eki or the roadside station system was launched in 1993, and has since expanded nationwide to a total of 1,040 locations, with annual sales reaching 210 billion yen (as of fiscal year 2012). This nationwide initiative continues evolving as a spearhead for local rejuvenation efforts promoted by the government. The following article reports on the program’s current status and outlook based on discussions held between Ishida Haruo, professor of the Department of Social Systems and Management at the University of Tsukuba, and Hashimoto Goro, Specail editorial board member at the Yomiuri shimbun. (The discussions were held at the Imperial Hotel, Tokyo.) The Michi-no-eki of the Ritsuryo period are reborn Hashimoto Goro: It has been twenty-two years since the start of the project to install Michi-no-eki, or roadside stations. These are rest areas located along standard roads. They have become very popular spots, and there ... ... [Read more]

Politics, No.28
Sept. 16, 2015

Evaluating the Statement made by Prime Minister Abe Shinzo

I read the statement made by Prime Minister Abe Shinzo on August 14 ( with a lot of sympathy. That is because Abe was successful in making a renewed appeal to the international community that Japan has adopted a completely different approach after World War II from that which it pursued before and during the war, and in taking the opportunity to establish future-oriented policies while making it clear that Japan is not turning its back on the past. To fully understand the Statement, it helps to know that it is based on the three speeches Prime Minister Abe has made since the summer of 2014; namely, the speech he made at the Australian Parliament on July 8, 2014 (; the speech he made at the Asian-African Summit 2015, a summit meeting held in Jakarta to commemorate the 60th Anniversary of the Asian-African Conference ... ... [Read more]

Politics, No.28
Sept. 10, 2015

“Security” or “Constitution” – Don’t Fall Between Two Stools

The former ambassador for Thailand, Okazaki Hisahiko[1], who passed away last fall, always used to give his “Assessment of the Current International Affairs” at a forum held by the Okazaki Institute every spring. In spring 2013, after the start of the second Abe administration, he said something like this. “Conservatives in Japan have two causes. One is to amend the historical perception of the Japanese. The other is to establish a better security policy. They cannot do both at the same time. If we had to choose between them, security policy must surely be given greater priority at the moment.” In other words, if we focus on the problem of historical perceptions, such as the issue of Prime Minister’s official visits to Yasukuni Shrine, we will alienate public opinion in the United States. And if that happens, we will no longer be able to ... ... [Read more]

Society, No.28
Aug. 4, 2015

Postman’s Persistence Reunites a Japanese Teacher with Students from Eighty Years Ago

A letter was sent from Japan to an address in Taichung, in the middle of Taiwan, that did not exist anymore. The letter was sent by a 106-year-old Japanese woman who used to be a teacher at an elementary school there during the period of Japanese rule. A young Taiwanese mailman searched for clues to find the “student” to whom the letter from his Japanese teacher was addressed. The mailman’s persistence has reunited the friendship between the Japanese woman and her students, who are around 90 now. The letter was sent by Ms. Takagi Namie, who lives in Tamana City, Kumamoto Prefecture. Her father was a police officer when she was an elementary school pupil in the Taisho period (1912–1926). Her family moved to live in Taiwan when her father was transferred there and they lived in Taiwan for about thirty years. For the ... ... [Read more]

Politics, No.28
Jul. 20, 2015

Paper Commemorating Receipt of the 30th Seiron Prize Comfort Women in the Battle over History The battle over history started by South Korea and China continues to get worse. Is there any prospect of Japan mounting a counterattack?

The “Narrow Road to the Interior”[1] in Japan-South Korea relations seems, all of a sudden, to have turned into a frozen road. Some have apparently observed that the two countries have entered an ice age. At any rate, given that the South Korean President has gone so far as to publicly declare that “The dynamic of (Japan) being the aggressor and (Korea) being the victim will never change, even after the passage of a thousand years,” it stands to reason that there is also no prospect of the ice melting, right? Although the matter should have been left as it was since there are no vital interests at stake, the Abe Administration has invited President Park Geun-hye to an unconditional summit, but she refuses to budge. As recently as the second half of 2014, Tokyo Governor Masuzoe Yoichi, former Prime Minister Mori Yoshiro and ... ... [Read more]