No.61 - Discuss Japan

Archives : No.61

No.61, Culture  Oct. 27, 2020

In Memoriam: Yamazaki Masakazu – The Modern State and Charlie Brown

Karube Tadashi, Professor, University of Tokyo     It was a day not long after the US Al-Qaeda terror attacks of September 11, 2001. People who spoke of the attacks still bore strained expressions, so less than a week afterwards, I think. And it was around that time that I first had the pleasure of meeting Yamazaki Masakazu at a seminar run by The Suntory Foundation. This was the “Modern State and Ethics” seminar led by the late Sakamoto Takao. That day the seminar was held in Osaka and, after the discussion finished we went to eat out, where I encountered Yamazaki as we all chatted. Of course the talk was of the terrible events in New York and focused on how the international situation might develop. Most people there seemed anxious as they talked but Yamazaki alone was quiet, in fact slightly cheerful. ... ... [Read more]

No.61, Society
Oct. 27, 2020

Infectious Disease and Civilization in the Twenty-first Century: Invisible Calamities Attack Modernity and the Spirit of Civil Virtue Developed by the Japanese People

Yamazaki Masakazu, Playwright and Critic   Editor’s note: Professor Yamazaki Masakazu passed away on August 19, 2020. This article, written in early May 2020, is published in translation here with the permission of the bereaved family and the original publisher. Going back to a previous time in world history The current spread of COVID-19 can be considered a “historic” event in two senses. Firstly, of course, it is an epoch-making tragedy and turning point in contemporary history, because the epidemic is likely to have a lasting influence on future civilization. Secondly, and of greater significance, the tragedy pours cold water on the hidden arrogance of modern people, and we can imagine it encouraging a return to the human civilization of the past: a time when urban civilization arose. The epoch that we call the “modern age” has had a number of stages—and as humanity ... ... [Read more]

No.61, Politics
Oct. 22, 2020

Chief Cabinet Secretary Suga Yoshihide’s “Plan for the New Administration”: The COVID-19 National Crisis: A Political Vacuum Is Impermissible

Suga Yoshihide, Cabinet Chief Secretary (currently Prime Minister of Japan)   Editor’s note: Following the sudden resignation of Prime Minister Abe, Chief Cabinet Secretary Suga Yoshihide (now prime minister) outlined his “Plan for the New Administration” in this article published in the run-up to the LDP presidential election held to replace Abe.     As Japan is currently facing a national crisis in the fight against COVID-19 and leadership is needed to deal with the challenge of the compatibility between preventing the spread of infections and socio-economic activities, Prime Minister Abe Shinzo suddenly announced his resignation for health reasons. I can only imagine what regret the prime minister must be feeling as he steps down from the great mission of commanding the troops. Right up until Prime Minister Abe announced his resignation, I was saying that “I’m not thinking about running.” The question was ... ... [Read more]

No.61, Economy
Oct. 19, 2020

What to Do with the Public Finances: Revising the Budget Compilation to an Ad Hoc Approach

Iwamoto Yasushi, Professor, University of Tokyo   Key points Correct inconsistencies between targets and predictions for better fiscal soundness Difficulties to compile budget by end of 2021 as planned Initial budget reduction followed by revisions every quarter   The Emergency Economic Measures for Response to COVID-19, which was formulated in April, includes two stages: an “Emergency Support Phase” until the COVID-19 situation is resolved and a “V-shaped Recovery Phase” after it has been resolved. Supplementary budgets of unprecedented scale was put together to realize this, so much that the state’s general account expenditure included large-scale public spending corresponding to about 1.5 times the FY2019 figures. The “Basic Policy on Economic and Fiscal Management and Reform 2020,” created in preparation for the FY2021 budget compilation, and the “Economic and Fiscal Projections for Medium to Long Term Analysis,” which showed economic and public finance projections until ... ... [Read more]

No.61, Economy
Oct. 16, 2020

Challenges to Power Source Optimization (I): Ensuring that a Broad Range of Choices, Including Nuclear Power, Are Available

Kashiwagi Takao, Distinguished Professor at the Tokyo Institute of Technology   Key points Stable supply is the most important energy policy Play a leading role in the development of innovative technologies to promote decarbonization Choosing either renewable energy or atomic energy is not a solution   The basic policy for phasing out inefficient coal-fired power plants presented on July 3 by Kajiyama Hiroshi, the Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry, was shocking. Japan’s energy policy is based on the “3Es+S” concept which holds that efforts should be made from the perspectives of the 3Es, energy security, the economy, and environmental conservation, based on the assumption of the maintained safety of atomic energy. The demand for electricity, while showing a temporary decrease due to COVID-19, has been increasing consistently by 2.6–3.5% globally since 1980. Global electricity demand grew to 2.7 times the 10 trillion kWh ... ... [Read more]

No.61, Society
Oct. 15, 2020

The Way Forward Is “Shorter, Cheaper, and Closer to Home”: The Tourism Industry Will Recover Even Without Inbound Tourism!

Hoshino Yoshiharu, CEO, Hoshino Resorts   One of the industries most severely hit by the COVID-19 pandemic has been the tourism industry. Some small and medium-sized traditional inns have even gone bankrupt, so what can be done to revive the tourism industry? Bungeishunju asked HoshinoYoshiharu, CEO of Hoshino Resorts, who is the manager of luxury traditional inns and hotels.   The declaration of a state of emergency was lifted and travel across prefectural borders was once again permitted starting on June 19, so people are gradually returning to the tourist attractions. The tourism industry lost a major market in the so-called Golden Week due to the COVID-19 outbreak, so it’s positive that this development started speeding up ahead of the important summer season. It felt like there was a glimmer of hope. The number of reservations for the facilities we run in Japan are ... ... [Read more]

No.61, Society
Oct. 5, 2020

Three Researchers Entrusted with the Nation’s Fate: Document Novel Coronavirus “Expert Meeting”― Four Months of Struggling Against the People and the Government

Hirono Shinji, nonfiction writer   He has a quick pace. Oshitani Hitoshi (61), Professor at the Tohoku University Graduate School of Medicine and the man who has contin ued to work these four months focused on Japan’s COVID-19 measures, is said to have gone mountain climbing 100 days a year while as a student and member of the alpine club, and even today is said to do so 50 days a year. He is a good walker. I finally caught him on May 21 at the Central Government Building No. 8, located diagonally across from the Prime Minister’s Official Residence. Oshitani, who had just come out of the meeting room right after a meeting of the Advisory Committee on the Basic Action Policy that had finished the government’s policy on the lifting of the state of emergency for 42 prefectures, stuck to his position ... ... [Read more]

No.61, Society
Sept. 30, 2020

“Rebooting Memories”: Creating “Flow” and Inheriting Memories from Colorized Photographs

Niwata Anju and Watanave Hidenori   When visualizing the colors that photographs should have had, the impressions of “freezing” in black-and-white photographs are “rebooted,” and viewers can more easily imagine the events depicted. This bridges the psychological gap between past events and modern daily life, sparking conversations.     The “reality”[i] of past events, such as wars and disasters, are multifaceted, holding the viewpoints of different people. Digital archives, which include different types of accurate materials, are an important basis for conveying these “realities.” However, it has been verified that these digital archives are still not being fully utilized[ii]. To address this issue, we must draw public attention to the value of these archived materials and create motivation for their use. Modern society discovered the value of “flow” creation through appropriate information design and sparking communication, in addition to the “stocked” data itself[iii]. Therefore, ... ... [Read more]

No.61, Politics
Sept. 29, 2020

Challenges Exposed by COVID-19: Forward-Leaning Experts and Recoiling Politics

Makihara Izuru, Professor, Research Center for Advanced Science and Technology (RCAST), University of Tokyo People’s Anger without an Outlet Amid rapidly rising numbers of people infected with coronavirus disease (COVID-19), the declaration of a state of emergency was issued in seven prefectures on April 7 and then applied nationwide on April 16. Yet the infectious spread did not stop and the declaration was extended until May 31 on May 4. The following day, on May 5, I was met with a bizarre sight at a drug store on the outskirts of Tokyo that I happened to visit. The shelves were almost completely empty of face masks, antiseptics, toilet paper, tissue paper, and even soap. In that crowded space, people’s eyes appeared somehow filled with desperation and gone was the carefree atmosphere that usually exists. The declaration of a state of emergency was subsequently lifted ... ... [Read more]

No.61, Diplomacy
Sept. 25, 2020

The Notes of a Commanding Officer on Site: A Complete 15-Day Record of the Wuhan “Evacuation of Japanese Citizens”: Operating Throughout the Nights, No Time to Be Afraid

Ueno Atsushi, Director-General / Assistant Minister, International Cooperation Bureau, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan (Former Deputy Chief of Mission of Japanese Embassy in China)   Starting in late January, the Japanese government had a total of five chartered airplanes fly to Wuhan City in Hubei Province, China to bring home 828 Japanese citizens living in Hubei Province as well as their families, including Chinese nationals. I was responsible for the “field team” (known as Team A) that assisted in operating flights 1 through 4. This article is a record of those activities. I had been involved in operations to evacuate Japanese citizens from Beijing during the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests and responding to SARS in 2003. It is not that I attract emergencies, but the reality is that these kinds of emergencies can happen anywhere at any time. This is why it is ... ... [Read more]

No.61, Society
Sept. 25, 2020

The History of Infectious Disease in Japan: Origins of the World’s Best Hygiene Awareness — The Mysterious Relationship between the Japanese and the God of Pestilence

Isoda Michifumi, Associate Professor, International Research Center for Japanese Studies   The authority of the Emperor of Japan as well as the rituals at Ise Jingu shrine have their beginnings in infectious disease. Today, people in Japan have a high awareness of hygiene. This advantage has contributed much to overcoming the current wave of COVID-19. How did this amazing public health competency develop among the people of Japan? To consider this question, we need to look back at history. The story starts 1,700 years ago. Emperor Sujin (97–30 BCE) is thought to be the tenth in the imperial line after Emperor Jimmu (660–585 BCE), the first emperor who may actually have existed. This is what Inoue Mitsusada (1917–83), an authority on the ancient history of Japan at the University of Tokyo who compiled the postwar history textbooks, says in Nihon no rekishi 1: Shinwa ... ... [Read more]