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No.35
Society, No.35  Oct. 30, 2016

The Tenno Emperor—A Constant and Time-Honored Symbol

Yamazaki Masakazu, playwright, critic

Posterity and the Power of the Monarch It seems absurd, but where do you think the largest monarchy in the world is found today? It is in China. Of course, there is no individual monarch or royal family in China today, but the Chinese Communist Party organization has become a monarchy. The Communist Party in China is one in a repeated line of rising and falling dynasties that can be traced back to ancient times. The party is an extremely ancient form of dynasty with power and authority rolled into one. The monarchies in Europe and Japan do not have any powers, only authority grounded in the respect and affection of the people. The Chinese Communist Party, on the other hand, rules and governs the people by means of both military and financial power. Today, the party also rules in its capacity as an ... ... [Read more]

No.34
Society, No.34  Oct. 7, 2016

Information Triage: Prioritization of The Social Media Society Following Major Disasters —Three months after the Kumamoto Earthquake

Social media, which has drawn attention as an important information infrastructure at the time of natural disasters, may stop functioning properly. In the Great East Japan Earthquake, the information vacuum created problems, while in the Kumamoto Earthquake, an information explosion occurred, hindering the needed rescue and support work. Information from disaster areas was amplified by users in the Tokyo metropolitan area due to their concerns or goodwill, causing logistical problems and an embarrassing situation with celebrities who provided support. Let us consider the role of disaster reports in the age of an information explosion.   Number of tweets increases by a factor of more than 20. From an information vacuum to an information explosion. A significant paradigm shift is taking place, from an information vacuum to an information explosion. According to a report in the Mainichi Shimbun, tweets about the Kumamoto Earthquake totaled 26,100,000 one ... ... [Read more]

No.32
Discussions, Society, No.32  Jun. 5, 2016

What does the future hold for funerals in Japan?

Interest in “death in the first person” Shimada Hiromi: In January this year, I published Zero-so: Assari shinu (Zero funeral: How to die a simple death). It advocates “zero funerals,” whereby the crematorium disposes of the deceased’s remains in their entirety, leaving nothing for the bereaved family to collect. This means that there is no need for the family to pay for a grave either. In actual fact, the funeral urns that bereaved families go to collect in western Japan only contain around one third of the deceased’s total remains. The remainder is disposed of elsewhere, by the crematorium for instance. From a logical standpoint, it would make sense to get the crematorium to dispose of everything. I have been known to criticize modern funerals in the past, saying that they are an unnecessary and expensive formality, but the reaction to this book has ... ... [Read more]

No.31
Society, No.31  Jun. 4, 2016

Shock of a “Nation of 50 Million People”

The Rebuild Japan Initiative Foundation (RJIF) hosted a symposium in October examining the impact of a declining population on society and businesses. In 2014, the Japan Policy Council, a private think tank, published a simulation showing the disappearance of regional cities by 2040. In “Population Evaporation, a ‘Nation of 50 million People’: Shock in Japan — Special Investigation Commission on Population Issues, Research and Report,” the Rebuild Japan Initiative Foundation (RJIF) took a more in-depth look. RJIF, a private think tank, was established by former Asahi Shimbun Editor-in-Chief Funabashi Yoichi in 2011 to examine the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant from the perspective of the private sector. The report was published in June 2015. It analyzes the progress of demographics affecting the various aspects of the social structure in Japan from the viewpoints of the Tokyo Metropolitan area, lifeline infrastructure and ... ... [Read more]

No.33
Society, No.33  May. 31, 2016

Primatology (ape studies) and DNA research unlock the answers…Where Do Human Beings Come from, and Where Are We Heading?

Watching gorillas gives us insight into the future of human society
Fukuoka: Professor Yamagiwa, you were recently appointed president of Kyoto University. I myself too started my gene research at Kyoto University’s Faculty of Agriculture as a junior of yours, but later transferred to Aoyama Gakuin University, and now live life as a researcher in New York. I’m what you might call a kind of stray monkey wandering from troop to troop. I guess that makes you the boss monkey, doesn’t it (laughs)?
Yamagiwa: When you say “boss monkey” I think you’re probably picturing something like a Japanese macaque or other monkey, but actually I’m a gorilla (laughs). ]]> ... [Read more]

No.31
Society, No.31  Apr. 19, 2016

Japan as a Society Dependent on Convenience Stores What Attracts Me to Japan’s “Konbini”

Gavin H. Whitelaw, Sr. Associate Professor, International Christian University

Thinking about American Culture from an Outside Perspective I am a cultural anthropologist and my research focuses on convenience stores (konbini) in Japan. When people ask me what I study and I say, “konbini,” I often get odd looks. It is not the kind of topic that people expect an anthropologist to take interest in. But konbini are an engaging place to think about Japan and the dynamics of culture. As research site, they are infinitely fascinating. I was born and raised in a small coastal community in Massachusetts. The convenience stores in my hometown are, as is common in American, really gas stations. Growing up, I wasn’t interested in these stores and they played relatively little role in my day-to-day life. In college, my major was Soviet Studies. From August 1991, I spent my junior year studying Moscow. One thing that initially struck ... ... [Read more]

No.31
Society, No.31  Apr. 7, 2016

When Idols Shone BrightlyDevelopment of Japan, the Idol Nation, and the Trajectory of Idols

In 2013, the NHK morning drama Amachan and the TBS drama Hanzawa Naoki both proved hugely popular. People said that the programs symbolized the resurgence of the television drama. The Internet was instrumental in winning both dramas a lot of fans and both stories have proved durable with spin-off programs and events still in the pipeline. Amachan is the story of three generations of girls who want to be idols. Amano Natsu was something of a local idol during the period of rapid economic growth and a fan of Hashi Yukio, one of the very early idols. Amano Haruko moved to Tokyo in the 1980s to try to make it as an idol. Amano Aki ends up in Tokyo after a strange turn of events and tries to make]]> ... [Read more]

No.30
Society, No.30  Mar. 31, 2016

Internationalization at Universities – True or FalseThe Emptiness of “Global HR Development”

YOSHIDA Aya, Professor at the Faculty of Education and Integrated Arts and Sciences, Waseda University

The Advancing “All Japan” Initiative “Global human resources”—It’s now become a household phrase, but it wasn’t until the latter half of the 2000s that this term started to circulate frequently in society. Amidst the advancing flow of Japanese companies relocating their operations abroad, it was originally a phrase that pointed to employees who could work in locations overseas. But gradually, the “development” of these human resources came to be an issue, and attention focused on the “universities” as the place for that to happen. Then, in the blink of an eye, many Japanese universities started to raise the development of these global human resources as their mission. The role played by the Japanese government in this process cannot be overlooked. What started it all off was the Industry-Academia Partnership for Human Resource Development, initiated by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) in ... ... [Read more]

No.31
Society, No.31  Mar. 24, 2016

New Plan for Reforming the Japanese ArchipelagoPlan for Remodeling a Shuttered Shopping Street

YAMAMOTO Kazumune, chief producer of News Division at Yomiuri Telecasting Corporation

Shuttered shopping streets have become known as a symbol of a declining regional economy. During the period of high growth, these shopping districts were regarded as the centers of the respective cities or towns, where a plethora of lively activities took place. Now, they are seeing customer and visitor numbers gradually fall due to the trends of the times such as the opening of large-scale commercial malls, changes in lifestyles and business customs, and the aging population along with the low birthrate, as well as the burst of the bubble economy. It is not just a local phenomenon that is occurring in some shopping streets, but an ongoing issue that may result in the real decline of municipalities. According to a survey on the actual situations of shopping streets conducted nationwide by the Small and Medium Enterprise Agency in 2012, shopping districts that responded ... ... [Read more]

No.31
Society, No.31  Mar. 23, 2016

Symbolic Phenomenon of a Declining Regional Economy of JapanThe Issue of “Shuttered Shopping Streets”

YOSHIZAKI Tatsuhiko, Chief Economist, Sojitz Research Institute, Ltd.

The issue of “shuttered shopping streets” is a symbolic phenomenon of a declining regional economy, one of the greatest challenges for Japan, which is suffering from a shrinking population. It refers to a situation in which a shopping district that had previously been prospering changes into a depopulated area where the shutters are kept pulled down even during the daytime, as the number of closing shops increases due to customer situations or aging shop owners. These towns will become desolate if nothing is done. However, people have started to take on efforts to revitalize them in many parts of Japan. In this volume, No. 30, the significant achievements of such efforts are featured in “New Plan for Reforming the Japanese Archipelago/Plan for Remodeling a Shuttered Shopping Street” by Yamamoto Kazumune, chief producer at Yomiuri Telecasting Corporation. Translated from an original article in Japanese written ... ... [Read more]