No.49 - Discuss Japan

Archives : No.49

Aug-Oct 2018

Society, No.49  Oct. 11, 2018

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, Politics
Oct. 11, 2018

Institutional Foundation for the Abe Government’s Political Power—The Development of Prime Ministerial Control and Responsibility for National Policy

  The Five Years of the 2nd Abe Administration “The German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer, who put Germany on the path to recovery after it lost World War II, became Chancellor when he was 74, continued in the job until 88, and then passed away one year later. To avoid any misunderstanding, I have absolutely no intention of continuing on in this job for that long, but what I am trying to say is that if everyone around the world is able to make full use of their abilities then the world will become a more fulfilling place and everyone will be able to lead more fulfilling lives.” (Website of the Prime Minister of Japan and His Cabinet) Prime Minister Abe Shinzo made this comment when he convened the first meeting of the Council for Designing 100-Year Life Society on September 11, 2017. Prime Minister ... ... [Read more]

No.49, Politics
Oct. 11, 2018

Decoding public opinion polls to understand the Japanese people’s fickle attitudes towards the constitution: A look back at the constitutional revision debate and the “Neo 1955 system”

Ideological confrontation repeats itself For postwar Japan, the constitution issue always exists as a point of dispute (either apparent, or latent), and has characterized the form of politics. The composition of the constitutional revision debate among elites, as well as the nature of attitudes towards constitutional revision among voters that provide the background to debate, appear to typify the particular nature of the political arena at any one period. Viewing the issue from this perspective, we can now describe Japan’s politics as a “Neo 1955 System” (see column below). This doesn’t simply refer to the situation of one strong party and many weak ones that we have seen in recent national elections. A more important point is that the issue of revising article nine of the Japanese constitution has once again arisen to be a key point of debate and as the determining factor ... ... [Read more]

Diplomacy, No.49
Oct. 9, 2018

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]

Diplomacy, No.49
Oct. 8, 2018

The United States and China, Superpowers and Japan: China Emphasizes Its Asymmetrical Worldview

Key Points: l It is possible to link the setback of the United States to China’s advance l China’s advantage lies in its economic power rather than its military might l Japan should take the lead in modifying world standards and norms on a realistic basis It is said that the postwar world order is shaky. The order of the liberal camp is based on the liberal economy derived from the Bretton Woods system, the value of liberal democracy, including freedom and democracy, and the security system led by the United States. But the United States, which should have led the order, is waging trade wars and implementing a policy that does not always place importance on allies in terms of security. Advanced countries excluding the United States are attempting to maintain the existing order by concluding the Trans-Pacific Partnership 11 (TPP 11) involving ... ... [Read more]

Diplomacy, No.49
Sept. 26, 2018

The 160th Anniversary of Franco-Japanese Diplomatic Relations: How France Discovered Japonisme  

  The age of cultural diplomacy On July 14 this year (Bastille Day, or France’s national day) Foreign Minister Kono Taro traveled to France in place of Prime Minister Abe Shinzo, who had canceled his French trip due to damage from heavy rain in the Chubu region of Japan. The Foreign Ministers of both countries took part in the opening ceremony of “Japonismes 2018,” the start of eight months of events to mark the 160th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Japan and France. At the beginning of September in Paris there was a gagaku performance by the Gagaku Department of the Imperial Household Agency, which has protected its historic traditions for a thousand and several hundred years. This first overseas performance by the department in a quarter of a century was a huge success. That same month, the Crown Prince visited France and an ... ... [Read more]

Society, No.49
Sept. 25, 2018

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]

Economy, No.49
Sept. 2, 2018

Can we learn from history, or do we simply repeat history?—Trump’s trade policy from an economics perspective

When similar events occur In his book Manias, Panics, and Crashes: A History of Financial Crisis, C. P. Kindleberger, the economic historian who analyzed the history of financial crises, adopts quite a gloomy historical perspective on the interactions between economic systems and people. Bubbles occur when mania (hyper-optimism) becomes prevalent in society. However, bubbles will burst at some point, causing panic and, in the end, plunging economic systems into collapse and panic. Have we not been through these processes any number of times in the modern era? Such hyper-optimism suggests a social climate where the prevalent economic behavior is excitable, yet relaxed about reckless borrowing and lending, believing all will be well. The pattern of manias, panics, and crashes applies unchanged to the collapse of the bubble economy in Japan in the late 1980s, the United States at the time of the Lehman Brothers ... ... [Read more]

Diplomacy, No.49
Aug. 20, 2018

Celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Treaty of Peace and Friendship between Japan and the People’s Republic of China

Introduction To commemorate the year 2018, which marks the 40th anniversary of the Treaty of Peace and Friendship between Japan and the People’s Republic of China, I am tasked with reviewing the last four decades of Japan-China relations. As my field of study is the history of Japanese politics and diplomacy, I am not familiar enough with Chinese affairs or the present situations between the two countries to evaluate them. Nor am I entitled to make comments on the future of Japan-China relations. All I can do is to finish the assigned task. Having said that, I will turn my thoughts toward the future in this essay, giving a general picture of the last four decades and drawing some lessons out of it. I would like to do so in this anniversary year with two specific aims. Firstly, I would like to underline how ... ... [Read more]