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

The Roots and Realities of Japan’s Cyber-NationalismFuruya Tsunehira

The prevalence of anti-Korean and anti-Chinese hate speech on Japanese websites has raised concerns about the spread of a virulent strain of right-wing cyber-nationalism in Japan. Furuya Tsunehira traces the rise of Japan’s “Internet right-wingers” and dispels some myths about their identity and potential impact.

AKB48 at its Tenth Anniversary Faces New ChallengesRick Masuzawa

2015 marks the tenth anniversary of the idol group AKB48. The group has maintained its popularity by staying ahead of trends. But the rapidly changing music industry could make the upcoming years more challenging.

Second Chance at Venus Orbit for Wandering Akatsuki ProbeNakano Fujio /Tamazawa Harufumi

On December 7, 2015, the Akatsuki probe entered into orbit around Venus, five years after its first, failed attempt. The probe was launched by JAXA, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, in 2010, a year when the successful return of Hayabusa from its mission to gather asteroid dust changed the attitude of the Japanese public toward space exploration.

Maintaining Peace in the South China SeaBonnie S. Glaser

China’s terraforming activities and territorial claims in the South China Sea have unnerved its neighbors in the region. The United States has made freedom of navigation operations near the Spratly Islands part of its strategy to address Chinese actions; they must be combined with diplomacy, as well as cooperation among America and its partners, to be truly effective.

Reading Between the Lines of Abenomics 2.0Hayakawa Hideo

Prime Minister Abe’s announcement of three new arrows to guide stage two of Abenomics took the nation by surprise. It signals a recognition that the first three arrows are not working, writes former BOJ Executive Director Hayakawa Hideo, and forebodes a major shift in monetary policy.

Flushed with Ambition: Sanitation Initiatives for Health and Well-BeingKatō Atsushi

Japan has become known as the land of high-tech toilets, but the country has also been making efforts to improve its “toilet environment” as a way of boosting health and well-being. Here a long-time advocate of improvements takes a look at the array of sanitation-related activities now underway.

Professional Baseball at the Crossroads: A Decade After Its First Players StrikeTamaki Masayuki

More than a decade has passed since plans to merge the Osaka Kintetsu Buffalos and Orix Bluewave were unveiled, a move that threw Japanese professional baseball into turmoil by instigating the sport’s first-ever players strike. The author considers how far efforts at reform have come since then.

Yamaguchi-gumi Split Signals Changes in the Yakuza WorldIno Kenji

A large faction of the Yamaguchi-gumi, Japan’s largest yakuza crime syndicate, moved in August to establish a rival syndicate, triggering concerns of a possible bloodbath. Ino Kenji, a journalist who has covered the Yamaguchi-gumi extensively, looks back on the history of the organization and argues that such concerns are unfounded.

The Eddie Jones Effect: Japanese Rugby Success Built on Coach’s Local KnowledgeIkushima Jun

Japan defied expectations at the 2015 Rugby World Cup in England with a strong performance that provides a firm foundation for when it hosts the next tournament in 2019. Eddie Jones, the team’s Australian coach, applied his knowledge of Japanese rugby to bringing the best out of the players.

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.

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