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No.63
No.63, Politics  Mar. 9, 2021

The Prime Minister’s Office was astounded by the sudden school closure request: The verification and validation of COVID-19 measures in 2020

The truth and fiction about the Japan model summed up by the COVID-19 Independent Investigation Commission: Why was Japan able to keep COVID-19 deaths low? ― The reality was a series of provisional responses.   Funabashi Yoichi, Chairman, Asia Pacific Initiative   The pace of the increase in newly reported COVID-19 infections is accelerating in Europe. On the other hand, the number of infections in Japan has been at comparatively low levels, with approximately 1,700 deaths or approximately 13 deaths per million people as of the time of this writing. Considering that COVID-19 deaths in the United States and the United Kingdom are up to 50 times greater, and the deaths even in Germany are nine times greater, the COVID-19-related mortality to population ratio in Japan is clearly low compared to other advanced industrial nations. When he ended the state of emergency, the then-Prime ... ... [Read more]

No.62
No.62, Discussions, Politics  Jan. 19, 2021

Three-way conversation—Ongoing social cleavages in Japan, facing severe challenges of a super-aging society: Neither the ruling nor opposition parties are able to seize “the new dimension of political competition”

Nakanishi Hiroshi (Professor of Kyoto University), Sunahara Yosuke (Professor of Kobe University) and Imai Takako (Professor of Seikei University) The Abe Shinzo administration brought the Japanese public a sense of euphoria —The Suga administration claims to be a successor to the former administration. What are your reflections on the nearly eight years of the Abe administration? Nakanishi Hiroshi: I try to organize the characteristics of the Abe Shinzo administration based on three perspectives. Firstly, the administration had a good understanding of how the national consciousness changed from reform-minded in the early years of Heisei (1989–2019) to stability-minded. In the early Heisei period, we had the Gulf War, the collapse of the asset bubble, and a constant clamor for reform—political reform, administrative reform, economic reform—in the context of the non-LDP government that followed splits in the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP). However, after the bankruptcy of ... ... [Read more]

No.62
No.62, Politics  Jan. 14, 2021

Employment policy issues in light of Abenomics: Aims of the policy to raise the minimum wage and negative scenarios

Genda Yuji, Professor, University of Tokyo Context for the increase in the number of workers during the Abe administration In response to the end of the second Abe Shinzo administration, the longest serving cabinet in the history of constitutional government in Japan, newly appointed Prime Minister Suga Yoshihide signaled that he would continue the policies of the previous administration.   On August 28, 2020 when then Prime Minister Abe held a press conference to announce his unexpected resignation, he cited the increase in the number of workers as part of his self-assessment of the administration. In actual fact, between 2012, when Abe became prime minister for the second time, and 2019, before the spread of COVID-19, Japan as a whole recorded a substantial increase of 4.44 million workers (Labour Force Survey” by the Statistics Bureau, Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications).  Previously, the number of ... ... [Read more]

No.62
No.62, Politics  Jan. 8, 2021

Challenges Facing the New Government: Thorough Explanations Needed for Prioritizing Specific Issues

Kohno Masaru, Professor, Waseda University   Key points Abe ikkyo, the phenomenon that describes the political dominance of the former Prime Minister Abe Shinzo, was supported by a low voter turnout rate Explanation is needed for why pressuring mobile phone companies to lower fees is compatible with the principle of regulatory reform The question of how to define getting COVID-19 “under control” is difficult   The Suga Yoshihide government has been formed. At his first press conference as Prime Minister, Suga spoke frankly about his sense of responsibility to carry on the efforts of his predecessor Abe Shinzo who fell ill while leading the fight against the coronavirus, as well as his conviction and determination to strike a balance with economic revitalization even amid concern over growing infections. Suga was also praised for quickly announcing a set of concrete policy goals: lowering mobile phone ... ... [Read more]

No.61
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
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.57
No.57, Politics  Apr. 1, 2020

In Memory of Former Prime Minister Nakasone Yasuhiro: My Sworn Friend for More than Sixty Years, a Selfless and Studious Person

Endless affection and respect Mr. Nakasone Yasuhiro (1918–2019) has passed away. I had known him for more than sixty years, and on the day of his demise, I said that his death brought as much shock as when my parents died. I have endless affection and respect for him. Mr. Nakasone was eager to learn and always had policy in mind. Unlike many other politicians, he thought about the policies first, before factional affairs and management. He thought intensely about how to hone and realize these policies. He also listened to what other people said and did not cling to fixed ideas, while strongly believing in his own philosophy. Otherwise, he could not have accomplished so much as a politician. When he was young, he was a fairly right-leaning politician but he transformed. He said of himself, “I am for modified capitalism.” From afar, ... ... [Read more]

No.56
No.56, Politics  Mar. 10, 2020

Democracy Is Not Forever: The Eventual Destruction of Democracy by the Fears of the Masses

Japan Is a Global “Sub-leader” In December 2019, Japan Akademeia, of which I am the co-president, hosted the First Tokyo Conference. Japan Akademeia is an organization founded in 2012 for the purpose of being a hub through which politicians, business leaders and bureaucrats can network and the different spheres become interconnected. 2019 was a critical juncture commemorating the thirtieth anniversary of the end of the Cold War. In connection with this, we held a discussion on the theme “Changes in the Global Power Structure and the Future of Global Governance,” with the participation of Dr. Jacques Attali, a French economic scholar and thinker, and Dr. Graham Allison, an American political scientist and professor at Harvard University. It was extremely edifying to meet these intellectual giants of Europe and North America. Dr. Allison’s analysis was that newly emerging states would attempt to become the new ... ... [Read more]

No.53
No.53, Politics  Sept. 24, 2019

Upper House Election in the Year of the Pig with No Losers—Opposition parties fought well, while continuing to lend a hand to the LDP

No political parties were defeated “Voters told us to advance policies firmly based on a stable political base.” —Abe Shinzo, President of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) “We were able to achieve our goals.” —Yamaguchi Natsuo, President of Komeito “We fought desperately with no regrets.” —Matsui Ichiro, President of the Japan Innovation Party (JIP) “We made remarkable progress and were able to build a significant foundation for the next election.” —Tamaki Yuichiro, Leader of the Democratic Party for the People (DPFP) “We were able to increase our number of seats significantly.” —Edano Yukio, Leader of the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan (CDP) “On the whole, we fought a good fight.” —Shii Kazuo, Chairman of the Japanese Communist Party (JCP)   These remarks show how the leaders of the main political parties evaluated their election results on the night of the last House of Councilors ... ... [Read more]

No.51
Discussions, No.51, Politics  Mar. 31, 2019

Thirty years of clambering up and slipping back down— A comprehensive look back at the Heisei period

  What kind of period was Heisei (1989–2019) Kitaoka Shinichi: My image of the Heisei period is of a crab at the bottom of a washbowl trying to climb up but then slipping and falling right back down. Heisei began with the bubble bursting in 1991 (Heisei 3) and Japan tried to respond to it in various ways. Although there was political reform and administrative reform, the Asian currency crisis came in ’97, before these trials showed any effect, and it looked like it was all over for Japan. But in 2001, Koizumi Junichiro appeared as Prime Minister, promised to “destroy the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP),” and became hugely popular. Yet the LDP wasn’t particularly destroyed, and it’s hard to say that anything has moved forward. Then in 2008 there was the global financial crisis, and in 2011 the Great East Japan Earthquake and ... ... [Read more]