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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]

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]

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]

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]

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]

Society, No.42  Dec. 8, 2017

What Impresses Foreign Tourists When They Come to Japan? ― Explaining Japanese society and culture to foreign tourists

As an tour guide-interpreter, Hagimura Masayo sometimes spends as long as two weeks traveling around the whole of Japan with foreign visitors, so no-one has more first-hand knowledge of exactly what interests, attracts and impresses tourists. In this article, she taps her rich professional experience to discuss some tourism resources of which Japanese people might not be aware. Introduction When the Japanese government launched its Visit Japan campaign back in 2003, the number of foreign tourists visiting Japan each year was only 5.24 million. Ten years later the figure had reached 10 million, and over time it gradually increased. From January to October 2016, more than 20 million people visited Japan. (The exact figure was a record 20,113,000 people, compared to 16,316,000 for the same period in 2015). As this happens, the amount of work we tour guide-interpreters are asked to do is growing. ... ... [Read more]

Society, No.42  Nov. 30, 2017

Inbound Tourism and Japanese People ― Issues related to the increase in tourists visiting Japan from abroad

The influx of foreign tourists into Japan reminds one sociologist of American soldiers stationed in Japan immediately after the Second World War. What does he think of the current tourism boom? In this essay, Professor Miyajima’s essay covers several perspectives that are critical to thinking about this issue. Early Memories of the Post-War Period Perhaps it is just a fancy of mine, but for someone who spent their childhood and youth in post-war Yokohama, the current influx of foreign tourists to Japan reminds me of the officers and soldiers of the American occupation. Looking back, it seems like a storm that blew fiercely, then passed; seven or eight years during which there were several American bases and barracks in the city. Of course, Okinawa has been experiencing the same thing continually since the war, but elsewhere there has never before, or after, been so ... ... [Read more]