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

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.
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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 Some of these are dilapidated and dangerous structures, but outdated laws make it more advantageous for owners to leave them standing than to knock them down.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.
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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.
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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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Abe’s Enforcer: Suga Yoshihide’s Stabilizing Influence on the CabinetMakihara Izuru

Chief Cabinet Secretary Suga Yoshihide has played a key role in the second Abe Shinzō administration, picking the right senior bureaucrats to support the administration’s policies, keeping cabinet members in line, and preventing gaffes from escalating into PR fiascos. As a self-made man—quite rare in national politics today—Suga has managed to work his way up, but challenges remain.
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Japan’s Labor Shortages in PerspectiveTsunemi Yōhei

Labor shortages have become a hot topic in the Japanese media. While the nation’s inexorably shrinking working-age population has grabbed most of the headlines, the author believes Japanese business and the government can do far more to expand the labor pool and match job seekers to the available jobs.
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Abe Shores Up Power with Cabinet ReshuffleKakizaki Meiji

On September 3, Prime Minister Abe Shinzō reshuffled his cabinet and leadership of the Liberal Democratic Party for the first time since assuming office in 2012. Political journalist Kakizaki Meiji considers the motivations behind Abe’s choices and the effects they will have on the balance of the administration and his party.
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Issues and Expectations for Indonesia’s Incoming PresidentShiraishi Takashi

Joko Widodo, a politician who worked his way up from a common background, is about to take office as president of Indonesia. Shiraishi Takashi considers the significance of Widodo’s election and the prospects for the new president.
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MOOCs: A Professor’s Reflections on Online Education

Massive open online courses have been on the rise in recent years, and in 2013 the University of Tokyo started its own MOOCs. These courses aim to provide widespread access to higher education via the Internet, but how effective are they in practice? We spoke to the university's Professor Fujiwara Kiichi to find out.
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Reforming Corporate Tax by Expanding the Tax BaseMorinobu Shigeki

One pillar of Prime Minister Abe’s growth strategy is lowering the corporate tax rate. Tax expert and former Ministry of Finance official Morinobu Shigeki contends that a shortfall in corporate tax revenue can be offset by expanding the tax base and calls for further reforms in Japan’s corporate taxes.
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