No.32 - Discuss Japan

Archives : No.32

Apr-May 2016

Economy, No.32  Jun. 13, 2016

Why Japanese-style Employment Systems Hamper the Success of Women

Yamaguchi Kazuo, Ralph Lewis Professor of Sociology, University of Chicago

At the initiative of the Abe administration, a draft “Act on the Promotion of Success in the Working Careers of Women” (provisional title) will be submitted to the National Diet. While the viability of the bill is uncertain, its intent is sound, and the fact that the administration decided to set numerical targets against protests from Japan’s Keidanren is also commendable. Having each company set figures based on actual circumstances is an unavoidable measure because an insufficient number of female human resources have been cultivated to date, and because setting a quota is not a rational economic move. Instead, we need to visualize the numerical targets and possible outcomes, have each company establish the targets they plan to attain, and make their achievements transparent. The problem, however, is that the main reason the contributions of women in Japanese economic activity have not advanced lies ... ... [Read more]

Economy, No.32
Jun. 9, 2016

The Rapid Increase of Elderly Single Households and the Declining Marriage Rate ― Social System Rebuild Inevitable

FUJIMORI Katsuhiko, Chief Research Associate, Mizuho Information & Research Institute, Inc.

Single-person households are on the rise. Living alone is no longer a phenomenon peculiar to young people. The numbers of elderly people living alone after losing their spouses or unmarried senior males living on their own have been growing rapidly. The dramatic rise in the number of single-person households is perceived as an astonishing phenomenon in Japanese society, where a married couple living together with their family has long been seen as “standard.” Astonishing as it may seem, the growing number of people living alone also reflects a shift towards more diversity in the lifestyles of individual people and the way a family functions. Historically, Japan’s care system has been based on the idea of family involvement, in which the caregiver is a family member. The benefits of mutual encouragement within a family have traditionally played an important role. In light of these historical ... ... [Read more]

Economy, No.32
Jun. 5, 2016

The Making of an Intellectual Property-based Nation

Japan’s latest Intellectual Property Promotion Plan spells out the government’s determination to promote the utilization of regional intellectual property to support SMEs and to reduce and more efficiently resolve rights disputes. In July 2002, the Japanese government drew up an Intellectual Property Policy Outline with a view to making Japan an “intellectual property-based nation.” The policy placed a strategic emphasis on innovation and “the creation of valuable information” such as technology, design and content. The following July, the newly established Intellectual Property Strategy Headquarters announced the first Strategic Program for the Creation, Protect ion and Exploitation of Intellectual Property, explaining the background to the Program as follows: There are various factors behind the significant decline recently in the international competitiveness of Japanese industry, which had held the top rank in the world until the beginning of the 1990s. One of these factors is that ... ... [Read more]

Economy, No.32
Jun. 5, 2016

Will Japan’s Labor Shortage Worsen?Overstaffing May Resurface If Problems Are Left Unaddressed

An examination of the causes of Japan’s current labor shortage reveals that it is too early to conclude that a society with a shrinking population directly causes the problem to worsen. The shrinking population has been identified as an underlying factor to Japan’s rising labor shortage in recent years. However, Japan’s labor force population (the combined population of employed and unemployed people aged 15 or older actively seeking full-time work) reached its peak nearly fifteen years ago. This fact indicates that even though the labor supply is shrinking, a surplus of personnel was considered to be a problem up until a little more than a year ago. The quick turn in the labor situation is a direct result of changes in economic conditions. Until recently, the Japanese economy was still stagnant, the drop in the demand]]> ... [Read more]

Economy, No.32
Jun. 5, 2016

Investing in Japan

Incentivized by the economic policies of the Abe administration, the weaker yen and a sharp increase in the number of inbound tourists, investment in the Japanese real estate market is on the rise. A marked increase in investment in the Japanese real estate market first became apparent in the months following the election of Abe Shinzo as prime minister in December 2012. The Bank of Japan’s large-scale monetary easing in April 2013 arrested the steep rise of the previous months, as did the hike in the consumption tax in April 2014, but the general rising trend has continued through further monetary easing in October 2014 and the ruling coalition’s victory in the Lower House election of December last year. According to one private company, the turnover value of office building transactions by listed corporations and the Tokyo Stock Exchange (TSE) listed J-REITs (Japan Real ... ... [Read more]

Discussions, Society, No.32
Jun. 5, 2016

What does the future hold for funerals in Japan?

Interest in “death in the first person” Shimada Hiromi: In January this year, I published Zero-so: Assari shinu (Zero funeral: How to die a simple death). It advocates “zero funerals,” whereby the crematorium disposes of the deceased’s remains in their entirety, leaving nothing for the bereaved family to collect. This means that there is no need for the family to pay for a grave either. In actual fact, the funeral urns that bereaved families go to collect in western Japan only contain around one third of the deceased’s total remains. The remainder is disposed of elsewhere, by the crematorium for instance. From a logical standpoint, it would make sense to get the crematorium to dispose of everything. I have been known to criticize modern funerals in the past, saying that they are an unnecessary and expensive formality, but the reaction to this book has ... ... [Read more]

Diplomacy, No.32
May. 22, 2016

Japan Is Set for A New Dimension of International Cooperation― A perspective for future international cooperation

Future course for Japan to take Yamazaki Masakazu: On the domestic front today, things surrounding our society seem to be remaining stable at a level that has never been experienced before. This observation does not take the form of a commonly shared view in the media, however. Japan was engaged in a war when I was at elementary school. Compared with those gloomy days that I had to spend as a child during the war, our current era is so much better. It is true that our economy is struggling to take off in one way or another, with growing concern among us regarding our future amid the progress of an aging population with a declining birthrate. But if you look at the bright side, you will find that the jobless rate for young adults remains low and our public safety standards are by ... ... [Read more]

Culture, No.32
May. 16, 2016

Shogi and Artificial Intelligence

The waves of the third artificial intelligence (AI) boom are now sweeping across Japan in the same way as earlier fads did in the 1950s and the 1980s. Referring to the ongoing craze in the country, leading Japanese economic magazine Shukan toyo keizai wrote in its 5 December 2015 issue, “not a single day passes by without hearing about AI.” Many companies in Japan are making AI-related announcements one after another. Seminars on AI are held in Tokyo almost every day. But the question we must ask is this: Is the development of AI good news for mankind? From early on, many people in the world outside Japan forecast a dystopian future if AI were to surpass human intelligence. To cite an early example, Bill Joy, a U.S. computer scientist dubbed the Thomas Edison of the Internet, cautioned that robots with higher intelligence may ... ... [Read more]

Economy, No.32
May. 3, 2016

Mr. Governor, when will we finally be free from deflation? An 80-minute exclusive where we discuss everything from Abenomics to the his bazookas and his reading history

Mr. Kuroda, it was 20 March 2013 when you were appointed as the 31st Governor of the Bank of Japan (BOJ). Almost three whole years have passed since then. Today I’d like to have you reflect back over your time as governor since your appointment, and to hear about your outlook for the future. Firstly, could you please tell us about the way in which Prime Minister Abe Shinzo approached you with regard to your appointment to the role of Governor? Kuroda: At the time, I was working as president of the Asian Development Bank (ADB). I received a direct call from Prime Minister Abe at the ADB headquarters in Manila, in the Philippines. I’d prefer not to elaborate on the details of exactly what was said to me; but if I tell you my own feelings, it’s a fact that I was extremely ... ... [Read more]

Discussions, Culture, No.32
Apr. 20, 2016

The Unification of the Written Word in Modern-era Japan

Dr. MIURA Atsushi: Today, I will be speaking with Dr. Campbell, who emphasizes the importance of documents and materials written in scripts such as kuzushiji (cursive-style Japanese script) and hentaigana (obsolete or nonstandard variants of Japanese phonetic hiragana characters); writing styles that could be referred to as a kind of Japanese writing heritage from before the Meiji period, and which to most ordinary Japanese people are now unreadable.
Dr. Robert CAMPBELL: For example, when most ordinary Japanese people go into a soba noodle shop and see the word kisoba written in kuzushiji-style hiragana, most of them can read it, right? But that’s because it’s a soba shop. As another example, poems and such are often scribbled onto ]]> ... [Read more]