No.66 - Discuss Japan

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No.66
No.66, Discussions, Politics  Oct. 6, 2021

Continuing to Say to the Government What Needs to be Said

Ever since the novel coronavirus COVID-19 first appeared in Japan, Dr. Omi Shigeru has been leading the battle against this infectious disease. At times he has received criticism such as, “scientists are too forward-leaning with their comments,” and he’s given advice to the government that is painful to hear. We asked Dr. Omi about tribulations so far and prospects for the future. (Interview 20 February with subsequent revision.)   Omi Shigeru, Chairman of the New Coronavirus Infectious Diseases Control Subcommittee Interviewed by Makihara Izuru, Professor, Research Center for Advanced Science and Technology (RCAST), University of Tokyo   Pressing on with a forward-leaning attitude Professor Makihara Izuru: It is now about one year since the first state of emergency declaration was issued (April 7, 2020). Looking back over this period, what are your thoughts?   Dr. Omi Shigeru: When the first state of emergency was ... ... [Read more]

No.66, Politics
Oct. 5, 2021

The Future of Island Areas: Autonomy and Administration in Island Areas

Kuroishi Keita, Research Fellow, Japan Municipal Research Center   Like peninsulas and mountainous areas, islands are not subject of any institutions or policies that make up a framework that is uniform for Japan as a whole. I would like to discuss the future autonomy and administration of island municipalities by dividing them into four types. Introduction Japan, as an “island country,” has more than 6,800 islands, of which about 400 are inhabited. These inhabited islands are sites of “autonomy” that supports the lives of the residents living there. Moreover, to these residents, the municipalities are the closest administrative body. In this paper, I define municipalities with inhabited islands within the relevant geographical area as “island municipalities,” to which I would like to draw attention. The environment surrounding island municipalities today is not necessarily so calm. It goes without saying that the arrival of the ... ... [Read more]

No.66, Politics
Oct. 3, 2021

An Empirical Analysis of Political Regimes in the COVID-19 Pandemic: Is democracy inferior to authoritarianism?

Annaka Susumu, Assistant Professor, Waseda Institute for Advanced Study, Waseda University   COVID-19 is raging across the world. With the development and dissemination of vaccines, there are some signs that the spread of the virus is being contained in countries with advanced vaccination programs, but there is still no prospect of a complete exit. In this unprecedented crisis, some are pessimistic that democracies are unable to respond to a large-scale pandemic in an active and functional way, and that a large number of deaths is inevitable. Indeed, a number of experts assert that authoritarian countries are better at dealing with COVID-19 than democratic countries because they can coercively restrict private rights swiftly. However, there remain deep-rooted doubts about the credibility of data on the number of positive cases and number of deaths published by governments of authoritarian countries. China in particular, believed to be ... ... [Read more]

No.66, Culture
Oct. 1, 2021

Enigmatic Picture Scrolls of Frolicking Animals and Humans

Hashimoto Mari, Vice-chairperson of Eisei Bunko   About a one hour bus journey from Kyoto station, where the mountains that extend across the Tanba Highlands adjoin the Kiyotaki river and form valleys, in an area known for its autumn leaves and beautiful valleys, stands the ancient temple of Kosanji. It is thought to have been built around the 8th century as a Buddhist monastery called the Toganoo, but by the end of the Heian period (794–1185) when it became the branch temple of the Jingoji temple over the mountain, it had so fallen into ruin as to be unrecognizable. Jingoji also fell into ruin and a priest named Mongaku (1139–1203) busied himself with its restoration. Mongaku repaired Toganoo and arranged for it to become an independent temple for the monk who was expected to be his successor, Myoe (1173–1232). In this way, when in ... ... [Read more]

No.66, Diplomacy
Sept. 27, 2021

Modern Economic Security: Definition and Arguments

“Economic security” has emerged as a key aspect of national strategy to ensure the safety of citizens and preserve the value of the nation. But the complete domestication of strategically important industries is not realistic. Being accepted as an essential part of global supply chains on the technical side is important.   Suzuki Kazuto, Professor, University of Tokyo   Economic security is a concept that continues to be a pivotal part of modern economic and industrial policies. It is even reflected in the government’s “Growth Strategy” and “Basic Policy on Economic and Fiscal Management and Structural Reform 2021 (the 2021 Basic Policy),” in response to the proposal “Towards ‘Formulating Economic Security Strategy” prepared by the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP)’s Strategic Headquarters on the Creation of a New International Order and unveiled in December 2020. In each of these documents, economic security is defined in ... ... [Read more]

No.66, Science
Sept. 27, 2021

How We Deal with Science: The Increasing Role of and Involvement of Ordinary People

Sakura Osamu, Professor, University of Tokyo Key Points Cultivating relationships of trust between politicians and expert groups The shift of science and technology patrons from the state to the private sector How ideas from ordinary people can make up for the limitations of experts The spread of COVID-19 has brought a major issue to the fore: what is the right relationship between political judgment and scientific knowledge, or between politicians and experts? We are often finding the opinions of experts grounded in scientific knowledge to be at odds with the decision-making of politicians. This issue is not limited to Japan; it is causing great confusion around the world, including in European countries. It is also not something that sprung up overnight. In Japan’s case, after the accident at Tokyo Electric Power Company’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant (the “NPP accident”) caused by the Great ... ... [Read more]

No.66, Economy
Sept. 17, 2021

Solar and Wind Power Generation with a Lowered Cost Compared to Thermal Power Generation: The Impacts of 46% Decarbonization—Why Has Japan Missed the Mark?

Maeda Yudai, Executive Editor-in-Chief of EnergyShift The Skyrocketing Greenhouse Gas Reduction Target The global wave of “decarbonization” has already descended upon Japan, and this has led to a great change in that direction. On April 22–23, the Leaders Summit on Climate hosted by the United States was held online after President Biden called for the summit, and there, Prime Minister Suga declared that Japan aims to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 46% in fiscal year 2030 from its fiscal year 2013 levels. The original goal was for a 26% reduction, so this number was close to double the original goal. FY 2013 levels are used as reference for these reduction goals, and Japan is already progressing well with energy conservation compared to the rest of the world. I get the sense that energy conservation is quite strict among the population, and industry may ... ... [Read more]

No.66, Economy
Sept. 16, 2021

Protect Workers rather than Zombie Firms: How Do We Rejuvenate the Economy?

Takeo Hoshi, Professor, University of Tokyo   Key points Staying afloat with support despite no hope for performance recovery Hurting the profitability of healthy firms and the economy as a whole Urgent need for policy shift to protect employment rather than firms   When the main character Barbara and her brother visit their father’s grave in the cemetery, an unknown man approaches them with clumsy steps from afar. This is the first scene where a zombie appears in the Night of the Living Dead (1968), which is credited with inventing the zombie movie genre. There are firms that perform badly and have little hope of recovery but that are kept afloat with support from creditors and the government, negatively affecting other firms and stagnating the economy. Likening this to zombie movies, Ricardo J. Caballero, Professor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Anil K. Kashyap, ... ... [Read more]

No.66, Discussions, Diplomacy
Sept. 14, 2021

Roundtable talk: How to Face the “Invisible Threat”: Thinking about the International Order of Norms, Technology, and Institutions

Parallel with the COVID-19 pandemic, the world is facing a variety of challenges. Will the Biden administration be able to regain the “normative power” of the United States? What is the problem with the emergence of Chinese companies in telecommunications space? Of importance here should be that we calmly interpret the actuality of these “threats” as well as the revival and restoration of liberal society itself.   Oba Mie (Professor at Kanagawa University), Kohno Kenji (Chief Commentator at NHK), Suzuki Kazuto (Professor at University of Tokyo), moderated by Hosoya Yuichi (Professor at Keio University)     Hosoya Yuichi: This is a roundtable talk to get an outlook on 2021, but we have to start with a dark topic. Right at the beginning of the year on January 6, Trump supporters invaded the United States Capitol and occupied it temporarily, leading to five deaths.   ... ... [Read more]

No.66, Discussions, Diplomacy
Sept. 11, 2021

The Quad: Effectiveness of “Cooperation in Peacetime Situations”

The Quad—officially the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, a forum joining Japan, Australia, India and the United States—has recently attracted attention, but how much does it actually affect order building in reality. The four countries will need to rid themselves of overestimation, advance functional cooperation, and gradually accumulate steady outcomes.   Ito Toru (Professor of National Defense Academy), Satake Tomohiko (Senior research fellow of Japan’s National Institute for Defense Studies) and Mori Satoru (Professor of Hosei University FOIP for Japanese diplomacy ――The “Free and Open Indo‐Pacific” (FOIP) has become a foreign relations concept shared by Japan and many other countries. In particular, the cooperative relationship of Japan, Australia, India and the United States, the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (the Quad), is drawing attention.   Satake Tomohiko: The concept of a “free and open international order” that FOIP touts is not necessarily new. Since the Cold War era, ... ... [Read more]