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

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.

Sony Downsizes its AmbitionsTateishi Yasunori

Sony used to be one of the world’s most innovative electronics makers. But over the past decade its fortunes have faded. In a bid to turn things around, the company launched a new three-year plan on February 18. Will the new plan revive Sony, or is it just another step in its steady decline?

Major Makeover for the University Entrance SystemIsoda Fumio

Japan’s university entrance exam system and high school education are on the verge of undergoing a large-scale reform. Factors driving the reform include changes in the university student selection process, wrought by the declining birthrate, and awareness that the current system is not doing enough to prepare students for a global world.

Origami: From Traditional Craft to Technological Frontier

The Japanese word origami has long been part of the global lexicon, and this traditional paper-folding craft is now being applied to new uses in fields ranging from outer space to inside the human body.

After the Tsunami: Rescuing Relics of Rikuzentakata’s History and CultureKumagai Masaru

The city of Rikuzentakata lost almost a tenth of its population to the earthquake and tsunami of March 2011. The city’s lone surviving museum curator tells of the struggle to rescue the cultural properties that are a key part of the city’s identity.

The Futenma Relocation Controversy and Okinawa’s Gubernatorial ElectionMiyagi Taizō

For almost 20 years, administrations in Tokyo have struggled with the issue of relocating the US Marines Futenma air station in Okinawa. The plan to set up a replacement facility in Henoko has run into a new roadblock with the recent election of a governor opposed to the plan. Miyagi Taizō explains the background to this intractable controversy.

The End of Japan’s Sense of SecurityTakeda Tōru

Successive catastrophes in 1995 shocked Japan as the deadliest earthquake in decades was followed by unprecedented sarin gas attacks on the Tokyo subway. Media sociologist Takeda Tōru examines how Japan has lost the sense of security it had during its growth years and suggests the way forward is to consciously build a new system of trust.

Getting Serious About Fiscal Reform: Beyond Smoke and MirrorsOguro Kazumasa

Prime Minister Abe’s commitment to fiscal retrenchment has come under question since his cabinet delayed a planned tax hike and approved the biggest budget in history. While the government claims to have met its interim deficit reduction target, Oguro Kazumasa questions its accounting methods and warns that tough choices are still needed to avert a fiscal meltdown.

Video highlights

New series


  • From the editor in chief
  • From our columnists
  • In the news