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

The Northern Territories Dispute: Is a Breakthrough in the Offing?Satō Masaru

A day before his September 2 summit with President Putin, Prime Minister Abe set up a new ministerial post to handle economic ties with Russia. Japan hopes that deeper economic ties will pave the way for a resolution of the bilateral dispute over four Russia-held islands off Hokkaidō. Russian expert Satō Masaru examines the likelihood of a breakthrough in negotiations in the lead-up to the December Japan-Russia summit in Yamaguchi Prefecture.

Kim Jong-un’s Sword of DamoclesShigemura Toshimitsu

In the wake of multiple missile launches and a fifth nuclear test by North Korea, Pyongyang watcher Shigemura Toshimitsu offers insights into Kim Jong-un’s motivations while calling for a dramatic escalation of international sanctions.

SMAP: How a Boy Band Became a National InstitutionUno Koremasa

After 28 years of activity, the popular group SMAP is to break up at the end of this year. They have played a unique role in the Japanese entertainment industry, becoming national icons along the way.

TICAD VI and Japan’s New Foreign Policy StrategyEndō Mitsugi

The sixth Tokyo International Conference on African Development was the first to be held in Africa, taking place in Nairobi, Kenya, on August 27–28. Seeking to raise Japan’s profile on the continent and to achieve new foreign policy objectives, Prime Minister Abe unveiled a $30 billion package of public and private investment in Africa.

What Makes Pokémon Go? Roots and Ramifications of the Global Gaming CrazeHirabayashi Hisakazu

A veteran video game analyst and consultant discusses the creative processes that paved the way for Pokémon Go fever and explores the app's implications for the future of video gaming.

Abdication and the Japanese Emperor as a Pacifist SymbolIwai Katsumi

Following Emperor Akihito’s expressed desire to abdicate, long-time royal watcher Iwai Katsumi examines the emperor’s role as a symbol of a pacifist country.

“Voluntary” After-School Duties Mean Japanese Teachers Are Busiest in the WorldUchida Ryō

Japanese teachers have the longest working hours in the world. One reason is the effectively mandatory responsibility to oversee students’ extracurricular activities.

Abdication: The Emperor’s Wish and Prospects for Its RealizationTokoro Isao

It has recently been reported that Emperor Akihito, now 82, wishes to abdicate within the next few years. The government is expected to soon start seriously deliberating this issue with a view to realizing the emperor’s wish.

Will Japan Move to Amend the Constitution?Takahashi Masamitsu

The ruling coalition’s upper house election victory gives Prime Minister Abe the numbers he needs to initiate a constitutional referendum. Political journalist Takahashi Masamitsu examines the hurdles the administration must clear to achieve a constitutional amendment.

Is the Unconventional Effective?Namikawa Osamu

Three years have passed since the Bank of Japan instituted monetary easing of a “different dimension” and six months since it adopted a negative interest rate. The BOJ has yet to achieve its inflation target, raising questions about the effectiveness of its monetary policies. The author argues that a negative interest rate is disrupting the real economy and that a comprehensive review of monetary policies is needed.

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