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

Clouds on the Horizon for Solar Power in JapanKikkawa Takeo

Feed-in tariffs were introduced in 2012 to promote renewable energy in the wake of the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station in March 2011. But numerous issues have arisen in the two years since. How can solar power and other forms of renewable energy production be promoted sustainably?

Fifty Years On, Japan’s High Court Yet to Act on Vote DisparityTsuchiya Hideo

A recent ruling by Japan’s Supreme Court declaring yet another national election was carried out in a state of unconstitutionality has once more brought the issue of vote disparity to the fore. This article looks at the background of the perennial issue of malapportionment and considers why effective reform has not been achieved.

Japan’s Volcanic Research in Distress: Ontake Eruption Exposes the Dire State of Volcano SurveillanceShozawa Shin’ichirō

The deadly eruption of Mount Ontake shed light on the dearth of volcanologists in Japan. Underlying this state of affairs is a host of structural problems, including the tendency to disregard the geosciences, the incorporation of national universities, and the shortage of employment for researchers.

Recruit Goes Public: What Next for the Staffing and Media Conglomerate?Tsunemi Yōhei

Having survived an epic scandal in the 1980s and cleared away a massive debt load, Recruit is continuing to grow in Japan and expand overseas, and its shares were recently listed on the Tokyo exchange. What kind of company is it, and where is it headed?

Kōmeitō Turns Fifty: A History of Political Twists and CompromisesHarano Jōji

The Kōmeitō has spent the last 15 years in partnership with the Liberal Democratic Party. Taking the occasion of the party’s semicentennial, we look back on its checkered history and the challenges it now faces.

Hong Kong’s Pro-Democracy Protests Strike a Global ChordKurata Tōru

The world has been closely watching developments in Hong Kong, where pro-democracy forces have protested Beijing’s proposed election reform for the city. Chinese authorities have stood firm in the face of the protests, raising the possibility of a long-term stand-off between the two sides. Kurata Tōru, a professor at Rikkyō University, examines the protests, which he views as occupying the front line of a new “cold war.”

Japan’s Humanoid Robots Nearly Ready for Primetime?

After a stagnant period, Japan’s robot industry is getting a second wind. One researcher at the forefront of R&D in this field is Shimizu Masaharu of the Chiba Institute of Technology. Here he shares his views on the current state of robotic technology and the outlook for the future.

Empty Homes: A Growing Problem for a Shrinking NationYoneyama Hidetaka

The number of unoccupied homes in Japan is rising. Some of these are dilapidated and dangerous structures, but outdated laws make it more advantageous for owners to leave them standing than to knock them down. Housing expert Yoneyama Hidetaka explores the issue and potential solutions for a country with a shrinking population.

Japan’s Foreign Policy Options Following Asahi’s “Comfort Women” RetractionTōgō Kazuhiko

What can the Japanese government do to resolve the comfort women issue? Blaming fabricated media reports will do little to change international opinion. Its only choice is to achieve reconciliation with former comfort women while they are still alive.

The Long Road to Disability Rights in JapanShirasawa Mayumi

In January 2014, Japan became the 140th country to ratify the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. What are the implications for Japanese society and its efforts to eliminate discrimination?

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