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No.32
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]

No.31
Discussions, Society, No.31  Mar. 22, 2016

Is Relocation to Regional Cities the Equivalent of Abandoning Old People in the Mountains to Die?Governor Masuzoe, is it possible to come to grips with the increase in the elderly population?

Masuda: In June, the Japan Policy Council published a strategy for avoiding a crisis in the elderly population in the Tokyo area. In the future, the elderly population in the Tokyo metropolitan area (Tokyo, and Saitama, Chiba and Kanagawa Prefectures) is expected to increase rapidly. I must apologize for repeating things that the governor is already well aware of, but the population aged 75 and older is expected to increase by 1.75 million in the next ten years up to 2025. This would hammer the medical and nursing care field. The shortage of facilities for medical and nursing care would assume more serious proportions, but this problem is actually not limited to the Tokyo metropolitan area because any strengthening of the medical ]]> ... [Read more]

No.28
Discussions, Society, No.28  Oct. 13, 2015

A New Era of Michi-no-eki Takes Off! – Ever-evolving community hubs for local rejuvenation –

Women create vitality and confidence in the region. Michi-no-eki, Den-en Plaza Kawaba (Kawaba Village, Gunma Prefecture)

Michi-no-eki or the roadside station system was launched in 1993, and has since expanded nationwide to a total of 1,040 locations, with annual sales reaching 210 billion yen (as of fiscal year 2012). This nationwide initiative continues evolving as a spearhead for local rejuvenation efforts promoted by the government. The following article reports on the program’s current status and outlook based on discussions held between Ishida Haruo, professor of the Department of Social Systems and Management at the University of Tsukuba, and Hashimoto Goro, Specail editorial board member at the Yomiuri shimbun. (The discussions were held at the Imperial Hotel, Tokyo.) The Michi-no-eki of the Ritsuryo period are reborn Hashimoto Goro: It has been twenty-two years since the start of the project to install Michi-no-eki, or roadside stations. These are rest areas located along standard roads. They have become very popular spots, and there ... ... [Read more]

No.27
Discussions, Culture, No.27  Jun. 3, 2015

Toward the Modernity: Images of Self & Other in East Asian Art Competitions at the Fukuoka Asian Art Museum

The Fukuoka Asian Art Museum opened in the Hakata area of Fukuoka City, Fukuoka Prefecture, in 1999. In contrast to museums in Tokyo and Japan’s western urban areas near Kyoto, Osaka and Kobe, which feature works of Western and Japanese art, this art museum in Fukuoka was founded as the first museum dedicated to modern and contemporary Asian art. It is worth noting that since it opened, the museum has held Fukuoka Asian Art Triennale that focus on contemporary Asian art in addition to activities through permanent and special exhibitions and various art exchange programs. In 2014, the Fukuoka Asian Art Museum held an interesting exhibition titled “Toward the Modernity: Images of Self & Other in East Asian Art Competitions.” The art works exhibited were also shown at the Fuchu Art Museum in Tokyo and the Hyogo Prefectural Museum of Art. This was an ... ... [Read more]

No.24
Discussions, Diplomacy, No.24  Mar. 16, 2015

Predictions for 2015 Can the Nation (N) Fill the Gap between Global (G) and Local (L)?

Yoshizaki: It is my impression that 2014 was a dull year without any kind of theme. Even though it was an Olympic year and a World Cup year, there were no cool buzzwords. Compared to 2013 when we had a lot of snappy phrases like “je-je-je” (an expression of excitement) or “baigaeshi” (double revenge), 2014 was a lean year when it seemed that the only words on everyone’s lips were “Dame yo, dame dame” (No, you mustn’t, no, no). I wonder what 2015 will be like. Sakura: My impressions are similar. It was a year when the future seemed uncertain. So far, we have more or less had some idea of what will happen next, ]]> ... [Read more]

No.24
Discussions, Science, No.24  Jan. 8, 2015

The Truth behind the STAP Cell Case Reality of research institutions, international competition, morality of researchers — Why wasn’t the fraud avoidable?

SAKURA Osamu KATASE Kumiko YASHIRO Yoshimi What Happened, and What Came to Light Sakura Osamu: Obokata Haruko, Unit Leader at RIKEN, announced in late January this year (2014) that she had established a method of producing STAP cells (acronym for Stimulus-Triggered Acquisition of Pluripotency; cells that have the capacity to become any type of cell that forms the body when stimulated), and the media reported it as “the discovery of the century.” But circumstances have changed significantly in a mere two months, and STAP cells are now the subject of numerous doubts. I would first like to ask the two of you about your basic understanding of this case. First, do you think that two Nature papers, principally authored by Obokata, were falsified in a critical manner? And second, should we consider that STAP cells are not yet verified, or are they? Professor Yashiro, ... ... [Read more]

No.23
Discussions, Economy, No.23  Oct. 30, 2014

No Need to Fear a Fall in Population

HATTA Tatsuo – President, Asian Growth Research Institute SAITO Shiro – Executive Research Director at the Japan Center for Economic Research Population decline is beginning to cast a dark shadow across Japanese economy. It is considered to reduce the growth rate threatening the sustainability our social security system. But Hatta Tatsuo, President of the Asian Growth Research Institute, who is also chairman of the Government Working Group to Design National Strategic Economic Zones, has a different view. He says there is no need to fear a fall in population. So what is the basis for that? Saito Shiro, executive research director at the Japan Center for Economic Research, asked him. Population growth and development unrelated Saito: We hear it said a lot that one of the greatest problems facing the Japanese economy is the decreasing birthrate and aging population, and population decline. I also ... ... [Read more]

No.22
Discussions, Economy, No.22  Jul. 10, 2014

Discussion on the Future of the Abe Economy:Will there be a Knowledge Industrial Revolution?— In-depth discussion on innovations and the future of Japan

    NONAKA Ikujiro Professor Emeritus at Hitotsubashi University ASAHIOKA Eishun President of the Social Infrastructure Research Center Data unleashing human potential Nonaka Ikujiro: The biggest topic for the Japanese industries this year is the conversion of knowledge into data. For example, behavioral patterns of customers, which were not visible in the past, are made available for analysis and reflected to corporate strategies utilizing so-called “big data” (large volume digital data). Another example is Google’s development of self-driving cars, as well as the acquisition of several robot-related companies at the end of last year; these are also the efforts to convert as much knowledge as possible into the form of data. In this context, it seems the role of knowledge in society is facing a major change.  Asahioka Eishun: As a representative of a private sector think tank, I have been conducting research on ... ... [Read more]

No.21
Discussions, Society, No.21  Apr. 13, 2014

The Modern-Day Family Without Tora-san

From Otoko wa Tsurai yo (It’s tough being a man) to his latest Chiisai Ouchi (The little house), movie director Yamada Yoji has continued to portray the Japanese family for more than half a century. What has the Japanese family in the Heisei period lost from Showa?   BAISHO Chieko: I heard that with your latest, Chiisai Ouchi (The Little House), it’s already been fifty years since Shitamachi no Taiyo (The Sunshine Girl, 1963), which we worked on together. We’ve come a long way, haven’t we?    YAMADA Yoji: The movie Otoko wa Tsurai yo was started in 1969. Baisho: Torajiro Kurenai no Hana, which was the last of the Otoko wa Tsurai yo series was released in 1995, so it lasted twenty-six years. Yamada: Looking back, the Kurumas in that series was a collapsed family. I mean, Tora-san (main character of the series), ... ... [Read more]

No.20
Discussions, Culture, No.20  Apr. 11, 2014

The First Three-Way Conversation Coinciding with the Thirtieth Anniversary of Studio Ghibli Miya-san, why don’t you make another movie?

Miyazaki Hayao (left), Suzuki Toshio (center) and Takahata Isao Photo by Nicolas Guérin

The release of The Wind Rises, The Tale of Princess Kaguya, and then, Miyazaki Hayao’s announcement of his retirement: 2013 was truly the year of Ghibli. Read about their works and this country in an in-depth conversation that lasted for three hours by two master directors and a famous producer.   Suzuki: This is the first three-way conversation consisting of these members. And this might be the last. [Laughter] The year 2014 marks the thirtieth anniversary of the founding of Ghibli. Last year was a busy one, with the releases of The Wind Rises by Director Miyazaki Hayao, The Tale of The Princess Kaguya by Director Takahata Isao, and in addition, Miya-san [Editor’s note: Miyazaki] announced his retirement. So the aim was to have the three people get together and talk.  [Facing toward the direction of the editing team] Do you have anything you ... ... [Read more]