Timely essays by specialists, scholars, and journalists interpreting the latest developments in Japan and around the world.

Sony High-Tech Plant Prepares for the Next Big OneYasui Takayuki

As major earthquakes could take place anywhere in Japan, they are a significant risk for the country’s high-tech firms. Precision equipment in plants can be easily damaged. Following last year’s earthquakes in Kumamoto Prefecture, a Sony subsidiary is taking action to reduce the potential impact of a future disaster on production.
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Toshiba’s Continuing Struggle to Stave off BankruptcyImazawa Makoto

Electronics and machinery giant Toshiba Corp. continues to flounder after massive losses in its nuclear power business in the United States came to light in December 2016, plunging the corporation into negative net worth. Toshiba’s auditor gave only qualified approval of its business results for the fiscal year ending March 2017 due to a disagreement over how Toshiba handled the losses on its balance sheet, leading to a delay in announcing its annual earnings results and filing its annual securities report. To erase its negative net worth, the firm is in talks to sell Toshiba Memory Corp., its flash memory unit, but no agreement on a sale has been reached yet.
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Japan-ASEAN Cooperation: A Central Element of East Asia’s Regional ArchitectureŌba Mie

Japan’s ties with ASEAN over the past 40-plus years have been through various changes and have been affected by the major growth of China’s presence in the region. But Japan continues to be a key partner for the association and its members. Formerly focused on economic affairs, Japan-ASEAN cooperation now extends to the political and security spheres as well.
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Cracks in the Abe Monolith: Political Ground Shifting in Advance of Lower House ElectionTakahashi Masamitsu

Voter disaffection with the leadership style of Prime Minister Abe Shinzō and his circle has forced the prime minister to reshuffle his cabinet, retract his timetable for constitutional reform, and rethink his political strategy. Takahashi Masamitsu reviews the developments that have shattered Abe’s complacency and their implications for Japanese politics leading into the next general election.
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Tsukiji or Toyosu? Koike Opts for BothKawamoto Daigo

Last year incoming Tokyo Governor Koike put a hold on the long-planned move of the fish wholesaling hub in Tsukiji to a new home in Toyosu. This June she finally approved the move to Toyosu, but she also declared that the Tsukiji site is to be redeveloped as a food center. Will it be possible to make a success of both operations?
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Seeking the True State of Online OpinionKimura Tadamasa

Online discourse is often disproportionately represented by a repetitive stream of extremist comments. To determine what online opinion really is, it is necessary to take a closer look.
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Feline Fatale: A Look at Japan’s Growing Cat ManiaKita Yōsuke

Cats are royalty in Japan. Each month a slew of new feline-themed books, toys, and other goods hit store shelves, suggesting that the country’s obsession with the cuddly animals is here to stay. Social media has also become a lively gathering point for cat fans, including proud owners who post pictures and videos of their whiskered charges. Economist and hopeless cat lover Kita Yōsuke looks at how the mousers have taken over.
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Why Are Wages Not Rising Despite the Labor Shortage?Genda Yūji

According to standard economic theory, a shortage of workers will cause wages to rise. Why is this not happening in Japan? Is it because of insufficient capital investment, as the government suggests? Other factors may be more important, notably the weakness of companies’ on-the-job training. And given the rigidity of regular wages, greater flexibility in bonus payments seems like a better route to higher pay.
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Japan’s Animation Industry Failing to Cultivate Next Generation of Talent

With blockbusters like Shinkai Makoto’s Kimi no na wa (Your Name) making waves around the world, the Japanese animation industry would appear to be bursting with vitality. Yet behind the scenes at the nation’s animation production houses, the working conditions are little short of wretched, and the long-term future of made-in-Japan anime is anything but assured.
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Money Dreams: Foreign Students to Japan Face Growing RisksIdei Yasuhiro

Japanese language schools have been growing in number year after year, and there are now more than 600 in operation around the country. But many of their students have come to earn rather than learn, deceived by brokers touting high-paying jobs. They borrow heavily to come to Japan, where they find themselves struggling to pay off their loans while laboring for low wages at jobs shunned by Japanese.
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