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

2015 Japan Expo in Paris: Japan Slow to Cash In on Being “Cool”Abe Hiroyuki

The 2015 Japan Expo will be held in Paris from July 2 to 5. The annual event has become a gathering spot for cosplayers and other young fans of Japanese pop culture from around Europe. Despite this intense interest among Europeans, Japan still lacks a proper structure for reaping the financial benefits of the Cool Japan boom.

Japan Brews Up a Rich Coffee CultureTakai Naoyuki

Finding a “cup of joe” in Japan has never been easier—from the ubiquitous Starbucks to fresh coffee for ¥100 at convenience stores. Here we take a look at recent coffee trends, including some unique mom-and-pop cafés off the beaten track. 

Kawasaki Youth’s Murder Exposes Japan’s Social and Policy Failings in Coping with ImmigrationSugiyama Haru

The brutal murder of a junior high school student in Kawasaki stunned Japan. As more information came to light about the victim and his alleged assailants, it revealed profound rifts in the fabric of Japanese society. This incident has cast a glaring light on shortcomings in Japan’s capacity for adequately dealing with the issues of single-parent households, poverty, and immigration.

Japan Should Consider Joining China’s New Development BankŌba Mie

Though it decided not to become a founding member of the Chinese-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, Japan, as a responsible major country, should consider joining the new institution to foster its operation as a regional development institution.

The Need for a Flexible Japanese Approach to the Asian Infrastructure Investment BankTsuiki Saori

The Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, promoted by China, has garnered much interest around the world as a symbol of increasing Chinese influence. Whether Japan ultimately joins the bank or not, its experience in working with the long-established Asian Development Bank ensures it will continue to play a major role in boosting development in the region.

Abe’s Groundbreaking US VisitNakayama Toshihiro

While many pundits have pronounced Prime Minister Abe’s recent visit to the United States a qualified success, Nakayama Toshihiro argues that it broke new ground—not through the kind of personal rapport prized by previous Japanese prime ministers in their dealings with US presidents but through a shared commitment to the kind of frameworks needed to build a new global partnership.

Rainbow in the East: LGBT Rights in JapanSechiyama Kaku

A new ordinance in Tokyo’s Shibuya Ward recognizing same-sex partnerships has drawn headlines around the world and started wider discussion of LGBT issues within Japan. Sociologist Sechiyama Kaku examines the recent history of LGBT rights in Japan, including a 1990s court case that proved to be a turning point.

Tougher Laws No Answer to Money in PoliticsIwai Tomoaki

Since fall 2014 three members of the Abe cabinet have been forced to step down over financial improprieties. Why is there no end to scandals involving political funds? Iwai Tomoaki, an expert on modern Japanese politics, examines their structural causes.

Can Sharp Pull Out of Its Nose-Dive?Mori Kazuo

While other Japanese electrical goods manufacturers enjoyed an upturn in fiscal 2014, Sharp posted a loss of over ¥200 billion. Yet its new medium-term management plan fails to include the structural reform it requires.

An Imperial Princess for the Twenty-First CenturyWatanabe Midori

The public is utterly smitten with Princess Kako of Akishino, second daughter of the emperor’s second son, who came of age and assumed her official duties late last year. While her beauty doubtlessly plays a part, the real source of her appeal is the inner grace and nobility of spirit passed on to her by Empress Michiko and the other remarkable women of the imperial household.

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