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

More Than Just a Weather Service: Japan’s Multifunctional Meteorological AgencyFurukawa Takehiko

The Japan Meteorological Agency is playing an increasingly prominent role as extreme weather events continue to strike the Japanese archipelago. More than just a weather service, JMA also monitors volcanic and seismic activity on land and waves and currents at sea, and it helps protect lives by issuing various types of warnings.

“My Number”: Portal to a Digital SocietyMorinobu Shigeki

Under Japan’s new My Number national identification system, set to go into effect next January, each registered resident is being assigned a unique lifetime ID number to facilitate integrated management of taxpayer information and prevent tax and welfare fraud. The author, an expert in national ID systems worldwide, urges the Japanese to overcome their suspicions and tap into the system’s vast potential for high-tech convenience and efficiency.

A Welcome Revision of the Worker Dispatch ActHamaguchi Keiichirō

The recent revision of the Worker Dispatch Act has been criticized as promoting ongoing use of agency-dispatched workers. But one expert argues that it marks a welcome shift toward compliance with international norms.

Time to Stop Nursing the Nuclear Power IndustryYoshioka Hitoshi

The resumption of commercial operations at a nuclear power plant in Kagoshima Prefecture last September might seem to bode well for the comeback of nuclear energy in Japan after the nationwide shutdown precipitated by the 2011 Fukushima meltdown. But the author argues that the government’s policy of “long-term nursing care” for an unsustainable industry is merely delaying the inevitable while exposing the nation to unacceptable risks.

Japan’s Restless Volcanoes

Japan is home to 10% of the world's active volcanoes, and a surge in small-scale volcanic activity has had the nation on edge in the wake of the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake. We talked to Nakada Setsuya, one of Japan’s leading volcanologists, about the recent spate of eruptions and its implications.

The Sloppy and Unconstitutional Revision of the Public Offices Election LawKatayama Yoshihiro

The Diet recently revised the Public Offices Election Law to reduce the vote disparity in upper house districts, merging two pairs of prefectures into single districts. Katayama Yoshihiro, former governor of Tottori, one of the affected prefectures, calls the revision rough and heavy-handed and suggests that it may be unconstitutional.

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.

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