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

Government Fails to Address Contradictions Over Japan’s Nuclear FutureKikkawa Takeo

The August 2015 restart of the Sendai Nuclear Power Plant in Kyūshū ended a two-year shutdown of all nuclear reactors in Japan. As commentators debate whether this will prompt other plants around the country to come back online, the current administration appears unwilling to take responsibility for dealing with contradictions between the need to shut down aging facilities and the nation’s continued reliance on nuclear power.

Artificial Intelligence: Comeback Chance for Japanese ManufacturingMatsuo Yutaka

The cutting-edge field of artificial intelligence is attracting great attention and massive funding in Western countries and China. Japan now lags behind these leaders, but it is in a good position to use AI as a tool for revival of the manufacturing sector.

Will Lowering the Voting Age Change Japanese Politics?Sugawara Taku

In June 2015, an amendment to the Public Offices Election Act lowering the voting age from 20 to 18 was enacted by the Diet. Starting with next year’s House of Councillors contest, over 2 million new voters will be able to take part in elections. Political commentator Sugawara Taku examines the potential impact of the new voting age on the Japanese political landscape.

Rethinking Cybersecurity: Japan Pension Service Hack Forces New StrategyTsuchiya Motohiro

The Japanese government scrambled to review its approach to cybersecurity after records held by the Japan Pension Service were hacked in May. The incident occurred when a virus-infected email was opened, resulting in a massive leak of personal information. The episode has prompted the revision of a new cybersecurity strategy.

Japan on the Trailing Edge of Global Climate ActionKobayashi Hikaru

Japan has announced its national greenhouse gas reduction targets in advance of the December UN Climate Change Conference. Kobayashi Hikaru, an expert in environmental policy, examines the goals laid out by the government and the domestic social conditions that have influenced environmental policy.

Seoul’s Last-Minute Campaign to Derail Japan’s World Heritage BidKimura Kan

The dispute between Japan and South Korea regarding historical perceptions became the source of a major tussle over the bid for inclusion of the “Sites of Japan’s Meiji Industrial Revolution” in the World Heritage List. The sites were added to the list, but meanwhile Seoul won international attention for its position on Japan’s wartime conscription of Korean laborers.

Chinese Economy Veers Off CourseKe Long

The Chinese government has intervened to devalue the yuan as concerns heighten over the slowing of the economy. The dilatory pace of serious structural reforms in the state sector is dimming the outlook for China.

Takeaways from the World Heritage Listing for Sites of Japan’s Meiji Industrial RevolutionArima Manabu

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has bestowed a World Heritage designation on 23 sites that figured in Japan’s modernization and industrialization. Arima Manabu, who served on the Expert Advisory Committee for the Kyūshū-Yamaguchi World Heritage Nomination, examines the significance of that designation.

LDP Rebel Stands Firm on Addressing Vote Disparity

In July 2015, an amendment was passed to the Public Offices Election Act to reform the House of Councillors electoral system, which the Supreme Court has ruled as being in a “state of unconstitutionality” due to vote disparity. The compromise agreement still leaves significant regional disparities in the weight of one vote, however, prompting Waki Masashi to leave the LDP parliamentary group in protest. Nippon.com interviews the reform-minded upper house legislator.

The Olympic Stadium and the Anatomy of IncompetenceKatō Hideki

Prime Minister Abe Shinzō has finally pulled the plug on a controversial Olympic stadium plan that seemed to epitomize irresponsible government spending, but the uproar is far from over. Katō Hideki, a former Ministry of Finance official and a longtime critic of Japan’s bureaucratic and political culture, analyzes the roots and implications of the stadium fiasco.

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