No.52 - Discuss Japan

Archives : No.52

Jul 2019

No.52, Society  Jul. 22, 2019

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, Economy
Jul. 18, 2019

Shibusawa Eiichi and the Principles of Modern Banking

As institutions prepare for the release of new banknotes in 2024, the principles and ideas of Shibusawa Eiichi, the pioneer of modern banking in Japan some 150 years before, ring as true as ever. When the Bank of Japan reissues its banknotes in 2024, the 10,000-yen note will feature a portrait of Shibusawa Eiichi (1840–1931), “the father of modern Japanese capitalism.” In locations with deep associations to Shibusawa, such as his birthplace of Fukaya City in Saitama Prefecture, everyone is delighted. The Shibusawa Memorial Museum meanwhile is receiving many visitors. According to Inoue Jun, director of the Museum, many inquiries have also been received from media and other organizations. “It is a very good opportunity for people to find out who Shibusawa is,” Inoue says. “People will learn that he is very much alive in this paradigm shifting era.” (The Shibusawa Memorial Museum will ... ... [Read more]

No.52, Economy
Jul. 18, 2019

Uniting the Minds of Merchants: Shibusawa Eiichi and the Tokyo Chamber of Commerce

Today, the Tokyo Chamber of Commerce and Industry (TCCI) undertakes a variety of activities as a private sector economic organization. Its forerunner, the Tokyo Chamber of Commerce (Tokyo Shoho Kaigisho), is closely linked to Shibusawa Eiichi, who was the first chairman and a central figure within the organization. Eiichi also chaired successive forms of the Tokyo Chamber of Commerce, namely the Tokyo Shokokai and the Tokyo Shogyo Kaigisho, and through his work was instrumental in “uniting the minds of merchants.”  Establishment of the Tokyo Chamber of Commerce Chambers of commerce are economic and capitalist organizations established by merchants and industrialists in a given locale to express their intentions and protect their interests. The first such organization is said to have been founded in Marseille, France, in the sixteenth century. Since then, chambers have been established throughout Europe and around the world. The first in ... ... [Read more]

No.52, Economy
Jul. 18, 2019

Shibusawa Eiichi’s Starting Point

Shibusawa Eiichi was born in 1840 in Chiaraijima-mura, Hanzawa-gum, Musashi-no-kuni (now Chiaraijima in the city of Fukaya, Saitama Prefecture). While tax was usually paid in rice during the Edo period (1603–1867), a system to pay in cash was already adopted in Chiaraijima. The money economy was disseminated early in this typical farming village because farmland yielding stable crops was scarce in the area, and people were unable to make a living without taking part in commerce in addition to farming. Many in the area were engaged in business that involved purchasing indigo leaves, processing them into a raw material for dye called aidama (indigo balls) and selling them in Shinshu (now Nagano Prefecture), Joshu (now Gunma Prefecture) and other regions. Eiichi’s father started the business in full scale, which brought them tremendous wealth, developing into one of the richest farming families in the village. ... ... [Read more]

No.52, Society
Jul. 17, 2019

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]

Discussions, No.52, Diplomacy
Jul. 11, 2019

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.52, Economy
Jul. 11, 2019

Shibusawa Eiichi’s principle of “The Analects and the Abacus” will save the Japanese economy ― Hopefully, the will of the “father of Japanese capitalism” will be passed on in the new era

The new era of Reiwa has begun. The ideal path that the country should take and a hope for national peace were always put into the names of previous Japanese eras. I feel that Reiwa also has meanings suitable for all Japanese people to welcome the new era with one heart in the reign of a new emperor. What struck me particularly strongly was the interpretation of “beautiful harmony,” which is defined as the official English translation of Reiwa by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. This is because the phrase “beautiful harmony” has some associations with the teachings of Shibusawa Eiichi (1840–1931), the first Chairman of the Tokyo Chamber of Commerce and Industry. Shibusawa was reported to have been selected for the portrait on the obverse of the new 10,000-yen note that will be issued by 2024. Shibusawa, born in the closing days of ... ... [Read more]

No.52, Economy
Jul. 5, 2019

Corporate IT giants and competition policy: Speeding up the regulation of the digital market

  Key points Customer Enclosure is a possibility for a platform operator to take advantage of asymmetric information Current enforcement structure of the Antimonopoly Act remains effective Break down silos, and create sectoral units inside the competition authority Platform functionality that gathers massive amounts of data in one place in a user-friendly format is extremely useful. For example, an online retail platform allows us to easily find the product we want at the lowest price without having to physically go around different stores. On the other hand, stores can significantly shorten the distance between themselves and the consumer. This is a particularly great advantage for Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) with limited capital and regional companies located away from the consuming area, since it enables them to promote their products to consumers themselves without incurring advertising expenses. Platforms unconstrained by geographical space that match ... ... [Read more]

No.52, Culture
Jul. 4, 2019

A painter with two home countries, Foujita Tsuguharu

  Takashina Shuji, Director of the Ohara Museum of Art and President of the Western Art Foundation   During the unprecedentedly hot and uncomfortable summer of 2018, an exhibition titled “Foujita: A Retrospective ― Commemorating the 50th Anniversary of his Death” was held at the Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum in Tokyo’s Ueno Park. The retrospective featured works right from the beginning of Foujita’s career, dating from before he went to France and around the time he started to study oil painting at the Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music (now Tokyo University of the Arts) to his late years when he poured his energies into the construction of the chapel of Our Lady Queen of Peace (Chapelle Foujita), which he designed himself in Reims, in the French region of Champagne. The retrospective was well worth seeing, including over 120 key pieces from ... ... [Read more]

No.52, Culture
Jul. 2, 2019

Coping with Over-Tourism: Protecting the “culture city” of Kyoto from tourism pollution

  Issues facing the city of Kyoto Moderator, Kiyono Yumi: Attention is focused on tourism as a promising twenty-first century industry. But at the same time, its tendency to threaten the daily life of residents has become evident, such as crowding and the poor manners of tourists in stations and well-known tourist spots. Today, I’d like to hear what our speakers consider are the problems affecting Japan’s most popular city for travelers, how they are being addressed, and what solutions might be possible. Alex Kerr: First of all, I’d like to make something clear. The title of the book I released with Kiyono Yumi in March 2019 is “Destroying the Nation with Tourism.” But I have no wish for the nation to be destroyed. Personally, I foresaw tourism’s promise in the 1980s, rented out individual machiya (townhouses) in Kyoto, and established a long-stay accommodation ... ... [Read more]

No.52, Diplomacy
Jul. 1, 2019

Japan-US-China Relations in the Indo-Pacific Region

  An interview with Sasae Kenichiro, President and Director General of the Japan Institute of International Affairs (JIIA) Conflict between the United States and China is becoming a contest regarding the international order. What should Japan, the US, and China do in order to engage in regional confidence building? In short, strenuous efforts based on Japan’s diplomatic principles are needed.   ―― What does “Free and Open Indo-Pacific (FOIP)” mean for Japanese diplomacy?   Sasae Kenichiro: Different people in different positions and with different views will think of it in different ways: as an initiative, a design or a strategy. But I am of the opinion that it is the principle of Japanese diplomacy, a standing to which Japanese diplomacy should always return. Needless to say, “Free and Open” is the value that constituted the basis that enabled Japan to restart from its defeat ... ... [Read more]