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No.8
Politics, No.8  Oct. 4, 2011

HOW HAS JAPAN TREATED NUCLEAR POWER?

NAKAMURA Kiichiro (Moderator, Editor-in-Chief Diplomacy [Gaiko]): The accident at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant on March 11 has greatly impacted Japanese society. No one ever thought this sort of accident would take place. But if we carefully observe it and its consequences, it is clearly insufficient to blame it on shirking or neglect by certain concerned parties. Instead, the manner in which we have dealt with the issues of nuclear power and energy and the lifestyles Japanese society has pursued since World War II are being questioned. Nuclear power shed light on a bright future TAKEDA Toru: In the years not so long after the war, there was a naive optimism that nuclear power, or science and technology in general, would open up a bright future for Japan. I too was strongly affected by Tezuka Osamu’s cartoon... [Read more]

No.8
Politics, No.8  Oct. 1, 2011

ALLIANCE, BASES AND OKINAWA — WHY DOES JAPAN STOP THINKING?

From a social thought perspective The cost of the U.S. military bases in Japan accounts for a large percentage of the cost of the Japan-U.S. alliance. If the essence of the alliance is an asymmetric exchange of manpower and goods, or the exchange of the U.S. armed forces and bases provided by Japan, as Sakamoto Kazuya put it in The Bond of the Japan-U.S. Alliance: The Security Pact and the Search of Mutuality, Okinawa, where more than 70% of the U.S. military bases in Japan are concentrated, provides most of the few things that Japan can provide to the United States. Even if the economic effects of the U.S. bases in Okinawa are added to the... [Read more]

No.7
Politics, No.7  Sept. 29, 2011

IN NEED OF NEW RULES OF THE GAME

Introduction: The rules of the game are lost The current political situation makes us wonder if the rules of the game have been lost. Even after the unprecedented earthquake and tsunami disaster and the nuclear plant accident that can be labeled as a man-made disaster, resulting from previous flawed nuclear and electric power policies, politics and the bureaucracy continue to malfunction. It is appalling that a political consensus cannot be reached. As usual, the politicians are searching for a scapegoat. Many are now acting as if the problems could be resolved by simply dragging the prime minister down. However, the reality goes beyond the issue of a single... [Read more]

No.7
Politics, No.7  Aug. 6, 2011

MIYAGI WILL BE REVIVED WITH ITS OWN RECOVERY DISTRICT PLAN

Why did the government’s Recovery Plan Meetings fall behind? The Great East Japan Earthquake Recovery Plan Meetings were set up under direct orders from Prime Minister Kan Naoto to prompt determined restoration and recovery from this “once in a thousand years” quake and to discuss the nation’s new order. The first meeting was held with the prime minister’s Cabinet in mid-April. The expectation was obviously that the prime minister would offer his basic vision toward recovery, and I, as one of the members representing the disaster-hit areas, had also expected this. Yet he ultimately showed no such vision, almost seeming as if he was... [Read more]

No.7
Politics, No.7  Aug. 3, 2011

TOWARD UNIVERSALLY ACCEPTED AGRICULTURE (PART I): CONSOLIDATE FARMLAND, INTEGRATE WITH RESIDENTIAL LAND

The political situation remains confused, but there must not be any delay to the rebuilding after the Great East Japan Earthquake. With the problems at the nuclear power plant not yet contained and many victims continuing to live in emergency shelters, we should act quickly to secure their livelihoods for now and implement compensation to the victims in order to contain harmful rumors. At the same time, it is important to draw up plans for the future, which will likely require a fundamental review of the concept of the regional economic society. As long as arable land remains dispersed, there will be no progress in terms of efficiency. With regard to agriculture, the government has already made it clear that it is looking at building a food supply base in Tohoku by consolidating farmland in the disaster areas and developing large-scale agriculture. Also, to ... ... [Read more]

No.7
Politics, No.7  Aug. 1, 2011

CREATING A SOLAR BELT IN EAST JAPAN

Cell phone networks collapsedI was shocked by the Great East Japan Earthquake. These days I carry a Geiger counter wherever I go and I was surprised when I went to the Kansai area last week and the device registered double digits like I had seen in Tokyo. Radiation now spreads beyond Tohoku and Kanto to the west as well. One thing that I, as an operator of a cell phone business, was reminded from this earthquake and tsunami is that although cell phones are wireless, stations are wired with optical fiber cables, and when these are broken or power fails, cell phones do not work at all. When we lose electricity and the network is crippled, cell phones are completely out of service. SoftBank phones also lacked sufficient functioning for receiving earthquake early warnings, so I have decided to equip nearly every phone in ... ... [Read more]

No.6
Politics, No.6  Jun. 2, 2011

3/11 AND 9/11–THOUGHTS OF DISCONTINUITY AND A DESIRE FOR PERMANENCE

Major incidents named after a date The day that the Great East Japan Earthquake struck has come to be called 3/11. I don’t know who first started referring to the incident in this way. Is it an association with 9/11? If so, what is the association? I can still see the cover of the September 13 issue of The Economist, published in London, which was issued immediately after the September 11 attacks. The phrase “The day the world changed” appears on a photo of The World Trade Center in New York, which is issuing columns of smoke. That definition of September 11 by the magazine, which is widely read by intellectuals around the world, has entered into common use. Influenced by the discussion of those who read The Economist, people have come to share an awareness that the world did indeed change on that ... ... [Read more]

No.6
Politics, No.6  Jun. 1, 2011

THE GRAND COALITION AND QUALIFICATIONS OF A PRIME MINISTER

SHINOHARA Fumiya: I volunteered to distribute meals in areas affected by the Great East Japan Earthquake in mid-April. I saw devastation in areas including Ishinomaki and Onagawa and understood that a tragedy beyond imagining had occurred. FUKUDA Yasuo: The tsunami reached further inland than expected in those areas. The unexpected will happen. We must understand that. I recalled the Iwate-Miyagi Nairiku Earthquake on June 14, 2008, when you were prime minister. The earthquake was designated as a major disaster, although the scale is different from that of the Great East Japan Earthquake. What did you think then? I thought only about minimizing the number of casualties. I had... [Read more]

No.5
Politics, No.5  Mar. 28, 2011

JAPAN'S DIVIDED LEGISLATURE: THE VIEW FROM THE UPPER HOUSE

Ever since the Social Democratic Party withdrew from the ruling coalition in May 2010, Japan’s National Diet has been split, with the ruling Democratic Party of Japan and People’s New Party holding a majority in the House of Representatives but not in the upper house, the House of Councillors. And the July 2010 election for the upper house further reduced the DPJ’s strength in the chamber. So securing passage of legislation through the House of Councillors has become a major issue, and attention has come to focus on this house’s role. Nishioka Takeo, who was elected president of the House of Councillors following the July 2010 election, has been commenting more openly than previous holders of this post about current political affairs. We asked him to be interviewed for Japan Echo Web, and he agreed. In this interview, I asked President Nishioka for his ... ... [Read more]

No.4
Politics, No.4  Jan. 30, 2011

OVERCOMING JAPAN'S CRISIS WITH POLITICAL REFORM

Japan is in a very difficult position, both domestically and internationally. On the external front we have seen a string of recent developments, notably the confrontation with China over the Senkaku Islands, the visit by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev to Kunashiri (one of the islands in the Northern Territories claimed by Japan), and the shelling of South Korea’s Yeonpyeong Island by North Korea, along with the March 2010 sinking of the South Korean corvette Cheonan, all representing profound challenges to Japan’s foreign policy and national security. Domestically, we have accumulated a huge national debt, and taxes now account for only about 40% of the government’s total general revenues. Social security expenditures are rising by ¥1 trillion a year. To make ends meet, the government has been cutting back on spending in areas like science, culture, and education–money invested in... [Read more]