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

Work Style Reform: Addressing the Challenges AheadTsunemi Yōhei

One key issue for the government of Prime Minister Abe Shinzō is to reform the ways people work in Japan. Will the government be able to effectively tackle the problem of long working hours that has plagued Japan for decades?

Sexual Minorities in Japan: The Myth of ToleranceNagayasu Shibun

Last year a graduate student at Hitotsubashi University killed himself after he was outed as gay. His family has taken the university and the student who exposed him to court. Despite superficial acceptance in popular entertainment, deep-rooted prejudices and discrimination against sexual minorities remain strong in Japan.

Assessing Abenomics as Formerly Japan-Specific Issues Spread to Other Developed EconomiesAkinari Horii

While acknowledging the partial success of Abenomics, former Bank of Japan Assistant Governor Akinari Horii warns of the possible dangers of BOJ debt monetization. Financial uncertainty in Japan could also have wider global ramifications.

Uncertainty Grows over Tsukiji Market RelocationKawamoto Daigo

Following newly elected Tokyo Governor Koike Yuriko’s decision to halt the long-planned relocation of the Tsukiji Market to Toyosu, it was discovered that a planned layer of clean soil was never added to the new facility and that groundwater at the site contains toxins beyond accepted levels. Businesses dependent on Tsukiji are in limbo as to if and when the relocation will take place.

Apple Shifts Focus to Japan with Launch of iPhone 7Ishikawa Tsutsumu

The recently launched iPhone 7 in Japan supports Sony’s FeliCa contactless technology, allowing users to make payments with their phones via Suica and other mobile payment methods. Apple, looking to raise its profile in Japan, teamed up with JR East to bring Suica to the iPhone, while Sony hopes the move will help turn its technology into a global standard.

South Korea, Japan’s Unenviable NeighborShigemura Toshimitsu

Tokyo and Seoul have agreed to put the issue of the wartime “comfort women” behind them, with the Japanese government contributing ¥1 billion to a fund supporting the women. But it is uncertain whether the trend toward improved bilateral ties can be sustained in the face of China’s rise and the Korean culture of “black and white” thinking.

The Northern Territories Dispute: Is a Breakthrough in the Offing?Satō Masaru

A day before his September 2 summit with President Putin, Prime Minister Abe set up a new ministerial post to handle economic ties with Russia. Japan hopes that deeper economic ties will pave the way for a resolution of the bilateral dispute over four Russia-held islands off Hokkaidō. Russian expert Satō Masaru examines the likelihood of a breakthrough in negotiations in the lead-up to the December Japan-Russia summit in Yamaguchi Prefecture.

Kim Jong-un’s Sword of DamoclesShigemura Toshimitsu

In the wake of multiple missile launches and a fifth nuclear test by North Korea, Pyongyang watcher Shigemura Toshimitsu offers insights into Kim Jong-un’s motivations while calling for a dramatic escalation of international sanctions.

SMAP: How a Boy Band Became a National InstitutionUno Koremasa

After 28 years of activity, the popular group SMAP is to break up at the end of this year. They have played a unique role in the Japanese entertainment industry, becoming national icons along the way.

TICAD VI and Japan’s New Foreign Policy StrategyEndō Mitsugi

The sixth Tokyo International Conference on African Development was the first to be held in Africa, taking place in Nairobi, Kenya, on August 27–28. Seeking to raise Japan’s profile on the continent and to achieve new foreign policy objectives, Prime Minister Abe unveiled a $30 billion package of public and private investment in Africa.

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