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

Taiwanese Voters Say No to Ma Ying-jeouOgasawara Yoshiyuki

In Taiwan’s November 2014 local elections, the ruling party suffered greater-than-expected losses, further weakening the position of President Ma Ying-jeou. Why did the Kuomintang fare so poorly, and what lies ahead for Taiwan and its relations with mainland China?

Japan’s Employment System in TransitionGenda Yūji

Japan’s employment system is in the midst of a historic upheaval. In a society once famous for lifetime employment, permanent positions are becoming increasingly hard to come by, even as long-term labor shortages loom. Genda Yūji uses historical data to analyze these changes and stresses the need for a new employment paradigm that balances stability against flexibility while tapping the potential of older workers.

The Burden of Inheritance: An Already High Tax Expands Its ReachAramaki Yoshihiro

Japanese, in anticipation of the hike in inheritance taxes taking effect on January 1, 2015, flocked to seminars given by banks and real estate firms to learn about countermeasures. Aramaki Yoshihiro, a certified public accountant, believes that the “democratization” of the inheritance tax will change how the Japanese approach asset management.

Ambivalent Mandate for the Abe CabinetTakenaka Harukata

Was the ruling coalition’s landslide in the recent general election a sweeping mandate for Prime Minister Abe’s economic policies, as the government has claimed? Political scientist Takenaka Harukata suggests otherwise, arguing that voter support for the status quo rests on disillusionment with the opposition and uncertainty about the long-term success of “Abenomics.”

President Park and the “Sankei Shimbun”: Plenty of Blame to Go AroundŌishi Yutaka

South Korea’s indictment of a Sankei Shimbun reporter on charges of defaming President Park Geun-hye has drawn sharp international criticism from the standpoint of freedom of the press. Media expert Ōishi Yutaka offers a fresh perspective on the incident, exploring the political context and raising serious questions of journalistic responsibility.

Preserving Order in Japan’s EEZ: Toward a New Paradigm of Maritime SecurityKōda Yōji

The Japanese people were shocked by the incursion of some 200 Chinese poaching vessels into protected waters around the Ogasawara (Bonin) Islands last fall, and dismayed by Japan’s limited ability to enforce the law within its own exclusive economic zone. Kōda Yōji, a retired vice admiral of the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force, explores the implications for Japanese maritime security and calls for new modes of cooperation between the Japan Coast Guard and the Maritime Self-Defense Force.

How Hello Kitty Became a Global Superstar: Talking Strategy with Ray Hatoyama

Hello Kitty may have been dreamed up in Japan 40 years ago, but today the character enjoys popularity around the globe. To find out more about what has powered this success, we sat down with Ray Hatoyama, the man who has been the driving force behind Sanrio’s overseas strategy for Hello Kitty.

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.

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