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Prime Minister Abe’s Trip to the United States: The Official and the UnofficialGlen S. Fukushima

Prime Minister Abe Shinzō’s eight-day trip to the United States from the end of April to early May was, officially speaking, a success. He was welcomed warmly in the four stops he made―in Boston/Harvard University, Washington DC, San Francisco/Stanford University, and Los Angeles―by his American hosts, most of whom viewed him as a reformer on economic issues and an advocate of strong US-Japan secu…
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Local Election Roundup: Strong Showing for Ruling Parties amid Weak Turnout

On Sunday, April 12, ballots were counted in the first wave of this year’s “unified local elections,” a nationwide set including 10 gubernatorial contests. (The second wave is scheduled for April 26.) Yesterday’s voting also selected mayors for five major cities, city assemblies for 17 cities, and prefectural assembly members for 41 of Japan’s 47 prefectures. Two gubernatorial elections, those …
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Naruto’s Limits: What Soft Power Can Actually AchieveDavid Leheny

“Soft power” receives much attention in Japan as a means to project national influence on the global stage. But does soft power truly impact other nations in the way that leaders expect it to? Political scientist David Leheny argues that only diffuse forms of soft power at the popular level count in the end.
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Lower House Election Provides Little Drama as LDP Stays in Power

The forty-seventh House of Representatives election on December 14, 2014, saw the ruling coalition of the Liberal Democratic Party and Kōmeitō retain their two-thirds majority in the lower house by combining to capture 326 seats, an unchanged number. The much-expected gains of the LDP failed to materialize as the party lost four seats, slipping from 295 to 291. Coalition partner Kōmeitō managed to…
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“Word of the Year” Contest Tracks Popular History of JapanRichard Medhurst

For three decades now, an annual ritual has seen the year’s most popular Japanese buzzwords compiled into a list by the publisher Jiyū Kokumin Sha. The long list for 2014 was announced last week. Looking back over the complete 30-year history reveals the preoccupations of the period, offering a scenic route through the changing zeitgeist for newcomers to Japan and nostalgia to anyone with long-ter…
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Abe Cabinet Rocked by Double Resignation

The administration of Prime Minister Abe Shinzō was hit by the resignations of two high-profile women ministers on October 20. On Monday morning, Obuchi Yūko offered her resignation as minister of economy, trade, and industry in connection with accusations of improper use of funds from her political support groups and campaign donors. That afternoon Matsushima Midori, minister of justice, stepped …
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Abe’s Enforcer: Suga Yoshihide’s Stabilizing Influence on the CabinetMakihara Izuru

Chief Cabinet Secretary Suga Yoshihide has played a key role in the second Abe Shinzō administration, picking the right senior bureaucrats to support the administration’s policies, keeping cabinet members in line, and preventing gaffes from escalating into PR fiascos. As a self-made man—quite rare in national politics today—Suga has managed to work his way up, but challenges remain.
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Issues and Expectations for Indonesia’s Incoming PresidentShiraishi Takashi

Joko Widodo, a politician who worked his way up from a common background, is about to take office as president of Indonesia. Shiraishi Takashi considers the significance of Widodo’s election and the prospects for the new president.
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A First Reshuffle for Second Abe Cabinet (September 2014)

On September 3, Prime Minister Abe Shinzō announced the results of his first cabinet reshuffle since assuming office for the second time in December 2012. Six senior ministers retained their positions, including Deputy Prime Minister Asō Tarō, Chief Cabinet Secretary Suga Yoshihide, and Minister for Foreign Affairs Kishida Fumio. Former Liberal Democratic Party Secretary General Ishiba Shigeru took the newly created post of minister in charge of reviving local economies.
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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?
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