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

Even as Evacuation Orders are Lifted, Recovery Remains Distant Prospect for Many Fukushima ResidentsSuzuki Hiroshi

Six years after the disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station, the government has lifted evacuation orders on four municipalities around the plant, allowing residents to return home for the first time since the meltdowns. The author, who has been involved in reconstruction planning since the evacuation orders were first given, calls for a multiple-track plan to meet the complicated needs of those who return and evacuees who continue to live elsewhere as evacuees.

Parcel Overload: Japan’s Delivery Crisis and How to Tackle ItOgawa Kōsuke

The online commerce boom has brought crisis to Japan’s delivery companies, which cannot handle the increased volume. Drivers are working unreasonable hours and the industry is struggling to simply deliver parcels. Looking overseas and to other sectors in the service industry provides some hints for tackling these issues.

Ending “Amakudari” Descent from Heaven at Last?Yokota Yumiko

After it was revealed earlier in 2017 that the Ministry of Education was still systematically helping find new jobs for its retiring bureaucrats, the long-forbidden practice of amakudari (descent from heaven) for government officials is back in the headlines for the first time in years. At a time when more and more people are staying on the jobs until 65 instead of retiring at 60 as before, what options should there be for bureaucrats who want to keep working after leaving officialdom?

Can the Japan-US Alliance Survive the Trump Presidency?Nakayama Toshihiro

US President Donald Trump managed to assuage Japanese security anxieties during Prime Minister Abe Shinzō’s visit last February. But political scientist Nakayama Toshihiro cautions that Trump’s America-first approach could undermine the foundations on which Japan and the United States have built their bilateral security partnership.

Restructuring at National Universities: Implications for the Future of Higher LearningMatsuura Yoshimitsu

National universities are seeing a restructuring boom for the first time in decades, with many faculties being newly launched and others being reorganized. Two key concepts behind many of these moves—combining the humanities and sciences and contributing to the community—are responses to priorities set forth by the Ministry of Education. But could these changes jeopardize national universities’ presence as Japan’s highest institutions of learning? Matsuura Yoshimitsu, an expert in higher education, discusses the university reforms now underway and their implications.

Misguided Neomercantilism Threatens Japan-US RelationsTani Sadafumi

After two decades of relative tranquility in Japan-US economic relations, President Donald Trump seems determined to embark on a politically motivated trade crusade. Recalling the “Japan bashing” of the late 1980s and early 1990s, veteran economic journalist Tani Sadafumi questions the efficacy of this hardline bilateral approach and warns of its dangers.

Japan Moves to Use Dormant Bank Accounts for Socially Beneficial ActivitiesUo Masataka

The Diet passed the Dormant Deposit Utilization Act in December 2016, opening the way for funds in bank accounts that have been inactive for 10 or more years to be utilized to finance social welfare activities. Tens of billions of yen are consequently expected to be put to effective use each year in the public interest.

Anime “Pilgrimages” Create New Tourist DestinationsSakai Tohru

After the huge success of the film Your Name, fans were eager to visit the places that inspired its settings. This brought the phenomenon of “anime pilgrimages” into the mainstream. Many other locations around Japan are now benefiting from the increased tourism of an associated anime hit.

South Korea: Under Pressure from Washington and Beijing and Sharply Divided as Its Presidential Election ApproachesSumida Takushi

As North Korea pushes ahead with its nuclear and missile development programs, the new administration in Washington is taking a hard line, suggesting that even a military strike is among the options. South Korean President Park Geun-hye was removed from office in March, and the campaign to choose her successor in the upcoming May 9 election has heated up. Public opinion is sharply split with regard to defense and foreign policy. Meanwhile, the government in Seoul is effectively paralyzed.

Park Leaves Challenging Legacy for Next South Korean PresidentKimura Kan

South Korea is in political turmoil after the impeachment and arrest of former President Park Geun-hye. Whoever is elected in the May 9 presidential vote will face a tough international environment and will have to work hard to regain the global community’s trust.

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