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

Rainbow in the East: LGBT Rights in JapanSechiyama Kaku

A new ordinance in Tokyo’s Shibuya Ward recognizing same-sex partnerships has drawn headlines around the world and started wider discussion of LGBT issues within Japan. Sociologist Sechiyama Kaku examines the recent history of LGBT rights in Japan, including a 1990s court case that proved to be a turning point.

Tougher Laws No Answer to Money in PoliticsIwai Tomoaki

Since fall 2014 three members of the Abe cabinet have been forced to step down over financial improprieties. Why is there no end to scandals involving political funds? Iwai Tomoaki, an expert on modern Japanese politics, examines their structural causes.

Can Sharp Pull Out of Its Nose-Dive?Mori Kazuo

While other Japanese electrical goods manufacturers enjoyed an upturn in fiscal 2014, Sharp posted a loss of over ¥200 billion. Yet its new medium-term management plan fails to include the structural reform it requires.

An Imperial Princess for the Twenty-First CenturyWatanabe Midori

The public is utterly smitten with Princess Kako of Akishino, second daughter of the emperor’s second son, who came of age and assumed her official duties late last year. While her beauty doubtlessly plays a part, the real source of her appeal is the inner grace and nobility of spirit passed on to her by Empress Michiko and the other remarkable women of the imperial household.

Why Japanese Men Still Don’t Get It: Structural Roots of Sexual HarassmentMuta Kazue

What do recent stories focusing on sexual harassment in Japan say about the social conditions of Japanese women? Professor Muta Kazue argues that, despite a growing awareness of the issues, such incidents will continue until Japan overhauls the underlying systems that perpetuate workplace discrimination against women.

Pitching from the Heart: Kuroda Hiroki Reconnects with Baseball Fans in JapanKimura Masatoshi

Pitcher Kuroda Hiroki left behind his big league salary with the New York Yankees to return to his former club, Hiroshima Carp. Local supporters wasted no time in warmly embracing the hurler, who is widely admired for his candid approach to baseball and life. Behind Kuroda’s decision to return to Japanese baseball was his close relationship to Carp fans.

A First Step Toward Reform of Japan’s Agricultural Cooperative SystemYamashita Kazuhito

The government has embarked on the first overhaul of Japan’s agricultural cooperative system in around 60 years. Yamashita Kazuhito takes a look at the history of this powerful institution—whose influence stretches beyond farming to the worlds of politics and finance—and ponders its future role.

A Sober Look at “Amazing” JapanAbe Hiroyuki

TV programs featuring foreign guests who are dazzled by Japanese culture and technology are earning high viewer ratings, perhaps reflecting the country’s growing self-confidence after decades of stagnation. Media veteran Abe Hiroyuki underscores the importance of maintaining a balanced view of the world and Japan’s place in it, though, instead of allowing praise to turn Japan into a nation of self-satisfied narcissists.

The Hydrogen Revolution: Game-Changing Developments Loom for Global Energy SupplyKikkawa Takeo

With zero emissions, hydrogen has long been regarded as a highly promising green fuel. But difficulties in transporting and storing this highly volatile gas, along with slow development of the necessary infrastructure, have kept progress stalled until relatively recently. But 2014 was a big year for hydrogen energy in Japan. An expert on the topic looks to what the future may hold.

Next Up: The Wearable Era?Tsukamoto Masahiko

Amid the arrival of the Apple Watch and a new Microsoft operating system offering access to “augmented reality,” Japanese firms are envisioning new prospects for wearable electronic devices. A longtime advocate discusses these devices and explains why they may be the next big thing.

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