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No.52
No.52, Society  Jul. 22, 2019

The reality of 1 million “middle-aged and elderly hikikomori” ― The aging of hikikomori is a major issue for all of society

  At the end of March, the Cabinet Office announced the results of their first survey of “middle-aged and elderly hikikomori.” They visited a random sample of 5,000 men and women aged 40–64 from all over Japan. As 47 persons (1.45%) out of 3,248 respondents (65.0%) qualified as hikikomori, the estimated number became 613,000 out of the entire population. Of these, 76.6% were men. Divided by age, it was 38.3% in their 40s, 36.2% in their 50s, and 25.5% aged 60–64. About half had been hikikomori for at least five years. Some 29.7% had been hikikomori for more than ten years. Professor Saito at the University of Tsukuba (Social Psychiatry and Mental Health) had worked with issues of school refusal and hikikomori as a psychiatrist for thirty years. He has written a number of titles, starting with Social Hikikomori: The Never-ending Puberty in 1998. ... ... [Read more]

No.52
No.52, Society  Jul. 17, 2019

Ultra-aging Japan’s “issue of the 24th year of Reiwa” ― Department stores and banks will close down and local governments will reduce by half

A new emperor has ascended the Chrysanthemum Throne, marking the beginning of the Reiwa era. The whole of Japan is caught up in the celebratory mood. However, given the situation in which Japanese society currently finds itself, we cannot afford to be in high spirits. In April 2019, the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications released population projections as of October 1, 2018. The total population decreased by about 263,000 from the previous year to 126,443,000, a decline for the eighth year in a row. The total population includes foreigners. Because the number of foreigners increased by about 165,000, the Japanese population alone decreased by as many as 430,000. Both the decrease in the population and the rate of decline were the largest ever since the comparable year of 1950. In addition, the population of people aged 70 or older exceeded 20% in comparison ... ... [Read more]

No.51
No.51, Society  Mar. 31, 2019

The True Home of Japan Studies Is Not Japan: Academic rivals are skilled at reading cursive script and transliterating classical Chinese into Japanese

  Who really “owns” Japan studies? In the list of academic fields eligible for Grant-in-Aid for Scientific Research by the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science, no such field as “Japan Studies” exists. If one searches the list for the keyword “regional studies,” there is “East Asia,” “South East Asia,” “South Asia,” “West and Central Asia,” etc., but there is no “Japan.” Although there are research and education organizations with Japan studies in their title (I also conduct joint research with them), I think that they take an extra effort when applying for research funds. It is not my intention in this article to criticize how, within Japan, Japan studies are treated as if they do not exist in that grant scheme. Yet, if it is true that the readers of this article (including specialist researchers) assume that Japan studies are mostly undertaken ... ... [Read more]

No.51
Discussions, No.51, Society  Jan. 9, 2019

Future Design

  Discussion between Professor Sakura Osamu and Professor Saijo Tatsuyoshi   There are various matters, such as climate change, energy issues, social security, and government debt, which need to be dealt with using a long-term perspective. At the core of these issues is conflict between the interests of different generations. There is potential for the short-sighted response and decision-making of the present generation to significantly disadvantage future generations. These future generations are not yet born so cannot make their voices heard nor negotiate with the present generation. Yet, it’s not strange at all for the present generation to make decisions according to their own interests. The “market” and other social systems are not necessarily equipped with any function for distributing resources to future generations. In order to create a sustainable society for future generations, humans need to get past their natural short-sightedness, while mechanisms ... ... [Read more]

No.50
No.50, Society  Nov. 29, 2018

Regeneration after The Damage Caused by The Nuclear Disaster — Reconstruction policies that help victims regain their dignity

Evacuation orders are being lifted, but what is actually happening on the ground? Just the return of evacuees is not enough to rebuild lives. We need reconstruction policies that help individuals regain their dignity. The suffering of the victims of the nuclear disaster Often, disasters can remove their victims’ dignity. These victims lose their lives within the region up to that time, their role as members of society and as workers, their role within their family and its daily life, and many other things they have built up over time. And it is not just individuals who lose their dignity, but regions do so in the same way. Regions might lose that which makes their community have value, such as the richness of nature and daily life, or the brand on which the region prides itself. In February 2017, the second survey into the ... ... [Read more]

No.49
Society, No.49  Oct. 11, 2018

The Miracle of Ogal that was Achieved Through Cooperation Between the Public and Private Sectors

   “The most expensive snow disposal yard in Japan” A large empty space in front of a station was reborn into a town that attracts 950,000 visitors annually. It is Shiwa, Iwate Prefecture, which is a 30-minute drive from Morioka. The town has a population of 33,000. The Ogal Project[1], a major project implemented in cooperation between the town government and the private sector, was introduced to the town. It is evaluated nationwide as a money-making infrastructure that does not depend on subsidies. The project was reported as a successful example of local revitalization and attracted a flood of visitors. One of these was Koizumi Shinjiro, a House of Representatives member. At the Diet, Koizumi stressed, “The project is a great local revitalization project that embodies the spirit of local revitalization,” and admired it as “the spirit of ogal.” The word “ogal” is a ... ... [Read more]

No.49
Society, No.49  Sept. 25, 2018

Why Were Young People Drawn to Asahara Shoko? Questions posed by the Aum incidents—How even academic researchers were deceived by the founder’s fakery

The fraudulent group that seemed like the real thing On July 6, 2018, the founder of Aum Shinrikyo, Asahara Shoko (real name Matsumoto Chizuo), and six former members of the cult leadership were executed. Six other leaders of the group were executed on July 26, 2018. These executions were punishment for the perpetration of awful acts that shocked not only Japan but also the world. They included the killing of lawyer Sakamoto Tsutsumi and his family in 1989, the Matsumoto sarin attack of 1994 and the Tokyo subway sarin attacks of 1995. Although the trial took a long time, once the punishment is determined it is natural that it will be carried out. I feel no particular emotion regarding this. I would like to emphasize that the lesson we learn from this case is that “the Aum Shinrikyo cult group was the first to ... ... [Read more]

No.46
Society, No.46  May. 18, 2018

Diversity Opens the Path to Innovation

Introduction I joined IBM Research-Tokyo in 1985 as the only visually impaired researcher at a time when there were very few female researchers at the lab. Since then, I have brought a diversity perspective to my work in accessibility research, one of the fields in Human Computer Interaction (HCI). Aiming to optimize Braille book creation and sharing, I participated in the research and development of digital Braille editing system, Braille dictionary system, and Braille information sharing network system after joining the lab. I could move the research forward because of my visual impairment which allowed me to understand the value of digitizing Braille. Starting in the mid-1990s, I worked on a talking web browser for the Internet. This idea also emerged from the needs of the visually impaired, and since then it has spread in ways I never expected. Today, I am working on ... ... [Read more]

No.44
Society, No.44  Mar. 21, 2018

Prevent Japan from bankruptcy due to the shortage of workers Hold discussions on coexistence with foreigners Shortage of workers equal to the period of the bubble economy

  The effective opening-to-application ratio in March 2017 was 1.45, a high value for the first time in 26 years and 4 months since November 1990. If the present situation continues, Japan may fall into bankruptcy due to the shortage of workers. The time has come when we should seriously consider the role of foreigners as people who support Japanese economic society and local communities.   The Kinosaki Hot Spring is located close to the spot where the Maruyama River flows into the Sea of Japan in Toyooka City, Hyogo Prefecture. The hot spring resort, which is known for the novel Kinosaki ni te by Shiga Naoya, features lines of wooden hot spring inns along the Otani River, which has willow trees lining its banks. The area exudes a unique atmosphere. In the last few years there has been an increase in the number ... ... [Read more]

No.43
Discussions, Society, No.43  Jan. 23, 2018

Dialogue: Challenge by Tottori, the Least Populous Prefecture in Japan There is a Right Size for Democracy

Motani Kosuke, Chief Senior Economist, The Japan Research Institute, Ltd. vs Hirai Shinji, Governor, Tottori Prefecture Tottori, a Unique Countryside Motani Kosuke: I read your book, Chiisakutemo Kateru (You Can Win Even if You Are Small). I think this book is like the novel, Shitamachi Roketto (Rockets of an Old Commercial District) by Mr. Ikeido Jun. It’s the story of a young man who grew up in Tokyo and migrated to Tottori. In the story, the protagonist leaves a large company, finds a job at a second-tier company and achieves success as a hired business manager with his strenuous efforts. Hirai Shinji: Thank you, Mr. Motani. I’ve asked you for help in many ways, including a visit to a symposium held in our prefecture and guidance with our prefectural employees, because I really wanted to try what you called the capitalism of the satoyama ... ... [Read more]