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

Japan’s Media: Facing Public Indifference More than DistrustHayashi Kaori

The term “fake news” has gained global currency, and distrust in both the conventional media and online news sources is on the rise. But in Japan, unlike elsewhere, media organs generally avoid controversy and partisanship, making the major concern not public distrust but public indifference.

Japan’s Troubling Shortage of New Scientific ResearchersNakano Tōru

Scientific research programs at Japanese universities are losing momentum, and the number of graduate students pursuing doctorates is declining. Most postdoctoral researchers end up in poorly compensated nontenured posts at university laboratories. The government’s moves to promote innovation, including its tenure track system for young scientists, have little chance of succeeding unless universities reform themselves radically.

A View from the School Health Center: Supporting Japanese Children’s Physical and Mental Well-BeingAkiyama Chika

Japan’s yōgo (health education) teachers combine the roles of nurse and counselor, providing medical and psychological care for children in elementary and junior high schools across Japan. This article presents a day in the life of a yōgo teacher at an elementary school health center.

Family Matters: Promoting Special Adoptions in Japan for the Good of ChildrenMiura Naomi

The Japanese government is looking to address rising incidents of child abuse by increasing use of the so-called special adoption system for young children. A new law to go into effect in April 2018 will promote adoptions and closer regulation of private adoption services. Authorities and experts are discussing changes to existing laws concerning adoption but it is essential to bolster social work for the system to function in the best way possible.

Stripped-Down Funerals and Untended Graves: Dealing with Death in Aging JapanKotani Midori

Japanese people are dying later in life and it is no longer as easy to rely on family members to deal with funeral preparations. Researcher Kotani Midori surveys the growing issue and considers how society can take some of the burden away from individuals and families.

Nuclear Power Facing a Tsunami of LitigationShizume Saiji

In March 2011, a magnitude-9 earthquake triggered a giant tsunami that crippled the cooling system at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station, leading to a catastrophic accident that continues to reverberate seven years later. Science reporter Shizume Saiji surveys the legal fallout from the meltdown, from claims against the government and the operator to a raft of actions aimed at permanently shutting down the nation’s nuclear power industry.

Recovery and Change: Sanriku Fisheries Shifting Focus Seven Years After 3/11Kikuchi Masanori

Fisheries along the southern Sanriku coast in Japan’s Tōhoku region were devastated by tsunami in 2011. Seven years since the disaster, many have rebuilt port and other basic facilities and have used recovery efforts to improve and streamline operations. Catches have largely rebounded, but communities continue to struggle to attract young people to local fishing industries. Journalist Kikuchi Masanori returns to the towns of Ishinomaki, Minamisanriku, and Onagawa in Miyagi Prefecture for an update on the progress of the area’s fisheries.

Rakuten Takes On Japan’s Big Three Mobile Phone OperatorsMachida Tetsu

Rakuten, which operates the budget mobile phone company Rakuten Mobile, has announced plans to transition from a mobile virtual network operator to a mobile network operator. How successful will President Mikitani Hiroshi be in taking on the cooperative oligopoly of the “big three” operators? The author examines Rakuten’s potentially rocky path forward in entering the MNO market.

When New Towns Grow Old: The Solitary Seniors of Japan’s Bedroom CommunitiesHirayama Yōsuke

Dozens of suburban “new towns” sprang up around major metropolises during the period of high growth in Japan to accommodate the influx of workers from outlying areas. Many of the current residents of these bedroom communities—once touted as “dream homes”—are those who first moved in more than half a century ago. They often live alone, as their children have moved out and spouses have passed away. Measures are needed to ease the social seclusion of these solitary seniors.

Putting Japan–Korea Relations into Perspective: Lessons from the Pyeongchang OlympicsAsaba Yūki

As the North Korean delegation returns triumphant from its “charm offensive” in Pyeongchang, Tokyo and Seoul should be thinking about stepping up their own public-diplomacy game with the goal of uniting to counter the growing North Korean threat.

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