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Where Is Asia in the US Presidential Debates?Jeffrey Hornung

To the average voter, the US presidential campaign is a cacophony of claims, boasts, assertions, and inaccuracies—virtually all of it focused on domestic issues. What is missing from the contenders still on the campaign trail is any informed discussion of the most important region of the world—the Asia-Pacific—and how their administrations would approach the region to promote US interests. The …

Will Lowering the Voting Age Change Japanese Politics?Sugawara Taku

In June 2015, an amendment to the Public Offices Election Act lowering the voting age from 20 to 18 was enacted by the Diet. Starting with next year’s House of Councillors contest, over 2 million new voters will be able to take part in elections. Political commentator Sugawara Taku examines the potential impact of the new voting age on the Japanese political landscape.

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…

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 …

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.

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…

“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…

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 …

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.

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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