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

Japan’s Ig Nobel Prize Winners Show Path of Scientific Progress Is Not Always StraightShimizu Masatoshi

By highlighting humorous scientific research, the Ig Nobel Prize aims to make people laugh and then to make them think. Japanese scientists are regularly among the winners. Where do their ideas come from, and what is the point of their seemingly useless research?

Societywide Effort Needed to Address School BullyingArai Hajime

Bullying at schools in Japan has become harder to identify as students are often harassed through social-networking sites like Line. The author looks at the approaches necessary to protect children and students from becoming victims.

A New Shopping Center for a Tsunami-Struck TownKikuchi Masanori

The Miyagi Prefecture town of Minamisanriku was devastated by the March 11, 2011, tsunami. Nearly six years on, a permanent shopping center is finally in place, and hopes are high that this will accelerate the community’s recovery. But considerable challenges remain.

From Tomb to Museum: Transferring and Reconstructing the Kitora Burial Mound MuralsHayakawa Noriko

A new museum displays murals from an ancient burial mound in Nara Prefecture that were painted some 1,300 years ago. Safely removing the murals from the tomb and reconstructing them was a complicated process that took 12 years.

Taking Stock of Suicide in JapanTakahashi Yoshitomo

While the number of Japanese who take their own lives continues to fall, suicide remains a serious social problem. A mental health expert looks at the factors behind Japan’s high suicide rate and considers the measures needed to drastically reduce the chronically high figure.

Fukushima Daiichi Today: Successes and SetbacksTakahashi Hideki

On the eve of the sixth anniversary of the Fukushima Daiichi accident, nuclear energy reporter Takahashi Hideki visited the plant once again to cover recent efforts to locate molten fuel debris and correct misperceptions spread by irresponsible reporting.

Nintendo Switch: A Tried-and-True Approach to a New ConsoleHirabayashi Hisakazu

Nintendo took its characteristic approach in developing the firm’s newest game console, the Nintendo Switch, relying on mature technology to offer an alternative playing experience. The gaming giant is betting that the platform’s features, including an infrared motion tracking camera, will open the way to fresh, innovative ways of gaming.

New Law Aims to Expand Japan’s Space BusinessAoki Setsuko

The Space Activities Act, enacted last November, establishes procedures for licensing and supervision of rocket and satellite launches by private-sector companies. It also provides for government compensation to augment liability insurance coverage against accidents. The aim is to promote broad private-sector participation in space business.

Preying on the Vulnerable: Japan’s “Schoolgirl Escort” IndustryIshikawa Yūki

For some high school girls, smartphones seem to open the doors to a world of lucrative part-time jobs providing a range of services to older male customers. Many girls are tempted by the promise of good money for easy work. But what is the truth about these shady businesses that have grown up to exploit the demand for schoolgirl escort services?

Smartphones and Teens: Consumed by ConnectednessIshikawa Yūki

Japanese teenagers have grown ever more reliant on smartphones to cement the social relationships so important to their sense of self-worth. But for some, constant connectedness can morph into an onerous burden or even a consuming addiction. Ishikawa Yūki draws on her journalistic experience to shed light on such hazards.

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