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

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.

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.

Japanese Companies Looking Outside the Fold for Executive TalentMori Kazuo

Recent moves by high-profile Japanese corporations to bring in outsiders to serve as chief executive are being hailed as a major shift from the longstanding Japanese tradition of promoting corporate executives from within. What is driving these unconventional appointments, and what are their chances for long-term success in Japan’s deeply entrenched business culture?

The Sunflower Movement and the Emergence of a “New Mass” in TaiwanWakabayashi Masahiro

When students occupied Taiwan’s parliament building this spring, they won backing from a broad mass of citizens. What is the nature of this new mass, and what are the prospects for the new civic movement resisting President Ma Ying-jeou’s tilt toward China?

Shaking Up Japan’s Mobile Phone MarketIshikawa Tsutsumu

As the iPhone sweeps Japan’s smartphone market, NTT Docomo has shifted the competitive focus to calling plans with its new unlimited-talk arrangement. Meanwhile, pending changes in telecommunications regulations promise either to strengthen the position of the former NTT monopoly or to blow the mobile market wide open. Ishikawa Tsutsumu reports.

The Future of Japan’s Dwindling Imperial FamilyTakahashi Kōichirō

The upcoming wedding of Princess Noriko, the second daughter of Prince Takamado, may be welcome news, but the imperial family still faces dire prospects related to its decreasing numbers. No solution is in sight for averting the impending crisis.

How NHK Lost Its WayHayashi Kaori

The political independence of NHK, Japan’s public broadcasting behemoth, has come under sharp scrutiny in the wake of controversial comments by its newly appointed president, an Abe appointee. Media scholar Hayashi Kaori explores the ideals that long guided public broadcasting in Japan and the forces that seem to have driven it off course.

Are Pay Hikes the Way to Revive Japan’s Economy?Harada Yutaka

In the spring 2014 round of labor-management negotiations, most major firms agreed to raise their employees’ base pay for the first time in many years. Was this in response to the highly visible pressure from the Abe administration? And what implications do the hikes have for the Japanese economy? Harada Yutaka, Waseda University professor and Tokyo Foundation senior fellow, explains.

A Nascent Democratic Axis for AsiaBrahma Chellaney

Narendra Modi, who recently became prime minister of India, is scheduled to visit Japan later this summer. Geostrategist Brahma Chellaney revisits the Indo-Japanese relationship and finds it thriving on both the economic and security fronts. What is the strategic outlook for these partners moving forward?

Bye-Bye Blue Train: Japan’s Iconic Sleepers Give Way to “Cruise Trains”Tsuchiya Takeyuki

Japan’s iconic blue sleeper trains once crisscrossed the country, serving as a popular mode of transportation. But now only a handful are still running. In their place, “cruise trains” like the luxurious Nanatsuboshi in Kyūshū have begun to appear on the scene. Train buff Tsuchiya Takeyuki takes a look at the dramatic transformation of Japan’s sleeper trains, which mirrors the earlier change in the role of ocean liners.

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