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No.55, Society  Jan. 9, 2020

What is Needed for Konbini to Truly Become a Part of Social Infrastructure

Today, Japan’s convenience stores (konbini) can already be considered a form of so-called social infrastructure. However, in the face of Japan’s current social circumstances, with the decline in population size and the progression of population aging, konbini now find themselves standing at a crossroads, unable to cater to various changes in consumer lifestyles. In this article, we will consider the reasons behind this situation, and explore ways in which konbini can continue to function as a true part of social infrastructure in the future, based on the history of their evolution up until this point. Konbini at a crossroads Until now, konbini have been recognized/acknowledged as a part of Japan’s social infrastructure, as opposed to simply “convenient” stores at which to shop. This is due to the fact that, despite individual stores being small in scale, convenience store chains have provided not only products ... ... [Read more]

No.54, Discussions, Society  Nov. 13, 2019

Creating a “Future” Society: Iwate Prefecture’s Yahaba Town: creating a revitalization strategy with residents from forty years in the future

Residential participation: benefits and problems ——Please tell us how future design came to be introduced to Yahaba Town in Iwate Prefecture. Yoshioka Ritsuji: In recent years, how to maintain worn out water supply infrastructure has become a significant issue for the whole of Japan. Yahaba Town is no different, so we started a residents participation workshop to first learn about residents’ needs and also to communicate that the town office is aware of the issue. As a result of this, we learned that most residents take safe water for granted and want water charges to be as low as possible. But going into the future, we do not know if today’s water rates can keep providing safe water. So that they’d understand the actual situation we thought we’d expand the scope of the workshop. By the end of that, some residents said they thought ... ... [Read more]

No.54, Society  Nov. 5, 2019

IT Changes in the Employment Environment for Seniors

Cloud system supports the employment environment for seniors Japan is likely to see the arrival of the 100-year life era. If a person retires at the age of 65, the pension revenue for the remaining thirty-five years would be insufficient. Securing living expenses until the end of life and the employment of seniors are huge issues. In addition, if the experience, knowledge and skills of active and healthy seniors can be put to good use, they can be used as a new driving force in society. Based on this idea, projects for developing and manufacturing self-driving vehicles and robots have been implemented since 2011 with support from the Japan Science and Technology Agency (JST). One of those projects is Senior Cloud, our focus. Senior Cloud is a joint project between the University of Tokyo and IBM Japan Ltd, based on information technology for the ... ... [Read more]

No.53, Society  Oct. 19, 2019

For the realization of the SDGs: The characteristics of the SDGs and the practices of Japanese local governments

The application of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is being promoted in organizational management in a variety of realms. The SDGs are also being focused on as one of the essential parts of the management of local governments and cities, and practical initiatives are being conducted. This paper explains the characteristics of the SDGs and the methods of thinking behind them, introduces practical initiatives carried out by Japanese local governments and presents the points of view expected for future developments. 1. The SDGs applied as common goals Japanese companies and local governments focus on the keywords of the SDGs, and practical initiatives and applications by a wide range of actors are being promoted as common goals pursued globally. For example, Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Reports are intended to fulfill accountability for how individual companies regard their relationships with diverse stakeholders in society and what ... ... [Read more]

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, 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, 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]

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, 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]

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]