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

The Trump Presidency and Japan’s International RoleHosoya Yuichi

As the confrontation between US President Donald Trump and his country’s European allies heats up, Japan finds itself playing a more important role in international affairs. It should fight the challenges to the free trade system while taking care to maintain close ties with the United States.

The Aum Shinrikyō Executions and a Society in DenialMori Tatsuya

On July 6, former Aum Shinrikyō cult leader Asahara Shōkō (Matsumoto Chizuo) was put to death, along with six of his senior followers. Executions of the remaining six death row prisoners in the case followed on July 26. Asahara never spoke during his trial, and now that he is dead the possibility of ever learning what motivated the cult’s attack on the Tokyo subway has gone with him.

Forced Sterilizations in Japan: The Push for JusticeYonemoto Shōhei

Between the end of World War II and the 1970s, some 16,000 people with mental illnesses and disabilities were forced to undergo sterilization under Japan’s eugenics laws. Although the laws are no longer on the statute books, the government has been insensitive to the suffering of victims and slow to make recompense. Recent lawsuits to seek damages and an official apology have brought the issue into the public eye, prompting questions about the government’s commitment to social justice and human rights.

Paper Cranes Bringing Hope to the World

Origami paper cranes are found in all corners of the world these days, not just their Japanese homeland. But how did they find their way into the world’s hearts as a symbol of peace? We put the question to Sasaki Masahiro, brother of Sadako—the model for Hiroshima’s Children’s Peace Monument, who folded over a thousand cranes in hope of a miracle.

The Rot at the Heart of Japan’s Student ClubsUchida Ryō

Japanese national curriculum guidelines stipulate that student participation in extracurricular activities must be independent and voluntary. The reality, however, appears to be one of coerced “independence,” robbing students of opportunities to think for themselves. This essay considers the Nihon University American football club’s flagrant penalty in the light of the current state of junior high and high school student clubs.

Japanese Television’s Contribution to TourismUchiyama Takashi

Japanese television shows are increasingly being aired overseas, including traditional over-the-air broadcasts and online distribution services. This growth in Japanese-made programing has helped build interest in Japan in foreign countries and is playing a role in Japan’s ongoing tourism boom.

The Ill-Considered Reform of Japanese University Entrance ExamsAbe Masahiko

Following the reform of Japan’s university entrance examination system in 2020, private-sector organizations will conduct the tests of English language ability that form a key element of the exams. Speaking is one of the skills to be tested, and some assert that its inclusion will lead to improvement in Japanese people’s ability to communicate in English. But such hopes are unlikely to be met. The very idea of treating “speaking” as a skill that can be taught separately is flawed.

Japan’s Energy Basic Plan Avoids the ProblemsKawahara Yūzō

The cabinet has approved the fifth energy basic plan, a blueprint for Japan’s energy policy. Nuclear is still positioned as a significant base load power source, but the plan says nothing about replacing deteriorated nuclear power stations or constructing new ones. How long will these issues remain unaddressed?

Leaving the Iran Nuclear Deal: The Significance of Trump’s Decision for JapanSuzuki Kazuto

What are the reasons behind Donald Trump’s decision to quit the Iran nuclear deal, and what does the deal mean for Japan?

Getting Back on Track: Revitalizing Local Assemblies in JapanNakamura Ken

Many local assemblies in Japan are facing potential shortages of members. Town and village assemblies are especially finding it hard to attract young candidates, particularly women. To overcome this situation, it is essential for society to fully understand the important role that town councils serve.

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