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No.67, Politics  Nov. 22, 2021

Pragmatic Prime Minister Suga Yoshihide’s Legacy and the Most Regrettable Fact

  Nakakita Koji, Professor, Hitotsubashi University Many policies formulated and the biggest “what if” in the history of the Suga administration Former Prime Minister Suga Yoshihide decided not to run in the Presidential election of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) in September 2021, bringing the curtain down on more than a year of the Suga government. While the main focus of the Suga administration was the fight against COVID-19, the formulation and implementation of many policies in line with the trends of the times based on popular sentiment is a highly commendable accomplishment of Suga’s government. Such policies include setting decarbonization goals, directing the realization of a digital society, lowering cell phone charges, and expanding national health insurance for fertility treatments. Lagging digitalization in particular was a major issue by anyone’s standards. The fact that Suga was able to set up the Digital Agency ... ... [Read more]

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.64, Politics  Jul. 8, 2021

Is it the Left Wing that Opposes Gender Discrimination?

The government of old-fashioned Japan is dominated by old men. The only way forward is to add more female representatives through constitutional revision.   Inada Tomomi, Member of the House of Representatives, former Minister of Defense   If you advocate for active roles for women, you are criticized as being part of the liberal left wing. When did Japan become such an intolerant society? I formed the Josei Giin Hiyaku no Kai (JGHK), a group of female Diet members of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), two years ago along with my colleagues upon success in the elections, and we called for a change in awareness, saying that we would take down the old male politicians in the LDP. We have proposed policies to the party headquarters and to the government, from the realization of tax deductions for single, unwed parents to the issue of ... ... [Read more]

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, 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, 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, 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, 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]