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Toshihiro Nakayama: Japan’s Soul Searching

by Guest Blogger for Sheila A. Smith
Buildings are silhouetted against the setting sun in front of Mount Fuji in Tokyo December 2, 2009 Buildings are silhouetted against the setting sun in front of Mount Fuji in Tokyo December 2, 2009 (Gary Hershorn/Courtesy Reuters).

This blog post is part of a series entitled Is Japan in Decline?, in which leading experts analyze Japan’s economy, politics, and society and give their assessment of Japan’s future.

Being cynical just to be cynical is the worst frame of mind. Unfortunately, however, you can’t avoid being cynical when talking about my country these days.

A couple of years ago, many of us in Japan complained that there was a tendency to overlook Japan in Washington. But today, Japan experts sit in almost all of the major think tanks there. Yes, Americans seem to be worried about us. You are worried that your major ally in the Asia-Pacific is in a constant flux. You are worried that we are drifting into a “tier-two status” in global relations, as one major report suggested. Read more »

Jeffrey W. Hornung: Japan, a Consequential Power

by Guest Blogger for Sheila A. Smith
Buildings are silhouetted against the setting sun in front of Mount Fuji in Tokyo December 2, 2009 Buildings are silhouetted against the setting sun in front of Mount Fuji in Tokyo December 2, 2009 (Gary Hershorn/Courtesy Reuters).

This blog post is part of a series entitled Is Japan in Decline?, in which leading experts analyze Japan’s economy, politics, and society and give their assessment of Japan’s future.

The debate over Japan’s decline overlooks Japan’s long-term strengths and global contributions, focusing instead on current, high visibility factors like GDP growth and military power. In particular, it misses Japan’s continuing strategic importance in both security and diplomatic spheres. While Japan may not be a great military power or no longer the second largest economic power, it is a consequential power. Read more »

Glenn Hoetker: Leveraging Japan’s “Old Economy”

by Guest Blogger for Sheila A. Smith
Buildings are silhouetted against the setting sun in front of Mount Fuji in Tokyo December 2, 2009 Buildings are silhouetted against the setting sun in front of Mount Fuji in Tokyo December 2, 2009 (Gary Hershorn/Courtesy Reuters).

This blog post is part of a series entitled Is Japan in Decline?, in which leading experts analyze Japan’s economy, politics, and society and give their assessment of Japan’s future.

Those predicting Japan’s decline overlook one of its greatest resources: its large, established firms and the model that produced them. With the tribulations of Panasonic, Sony, and others in the headlines, this claim may seem to be dubious and to run counter to the many efforts underway to increase the role of start-up firms and entrepreneurs in the Japanese economy. Read more »

Keiko Iizuka: Abe’s Challenge

by Guest Blogger for Sheila A. Smith
Buildings are silhouetted against the setting sun in front of Mount Fuji in Tokyo December 2, 2009 Buildings are silhouetted against the setting sun in front of Mount Fuji in Tokyo December 2, 2009 (Gary Hershorn/Courtesy Reuters).

This blog post is part of a series entitled Is Japan in Decline?, in which leading experts analyze Japan’s economy, politics, and society and give their assessment of Japan’s future.

On December 26, 2012, Japan chose its seventh prime minister in seven years, a new record for the annual turnover in leadership that has plagued the country since Junichiro Koizumi stepped down in 2006. For a second time, Shinzo Abe has stepped up to the plate. A coalition government, comprised of the conservative Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and the New Komei Party, has returned in the wake of over three years of reformist rule by the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ). Read more »

The Conversation on Japan’s Decline Concludes

by Sheila A. Smith
Buildings are silhouetted against the setting sun in front of Mount Fuji in Tokyo December 2, 2009 Buildings are silhouetted against the setting sun in front of Mount Fuji in Tokyo December 2, 2009 (Gary Hershorn/Courtesy Reuters).

This blog post is part of a series entitled Is Japan in Decline?, in which leading experts analyze Japan’s economy, politics, and society and give their assessment of Japan’s future.

Last year, as Japanese were getting ready to vote in the Lower House election, I hosted a broad conversation on the question of whether Japan was in “decline.” The result was a two-week conversation on the subject that began with America’s foremost Japan politics specialist, Columbia University’s Gerald Curtis. Our experts included the chairman of Japan’s leading business executives forum, American social scientists, a distinguished Japanese scholar of China, non-profit foundation executives, a successful global entrepreneur from Japan, and concluded with the thoughts of two smart Japanese twenty-somethings. Read more »

Japan’s Twenty Somethings Speak Out

by Guest Blogger for Sheila A. Smith
Buildings are silhouetted against the setting sun in front of Mount Fuji in Tokyo December 2, 2009 Buildings are silhouetted against the setting sun in front of Mount Fuji in Tokyo December 2, 2009 (Gary Hershorn/Courtesy Reuters).

This blog post is part of a series entitled Is Japan in Decline? Today, by invitation we are featuring two essays by former interns of the Japan program, Miyuki Naiki and Go Katayama, who share their perspectives on Japan’s future.

Choosing Japan’s Future by Miyuki Naiki

Japan today is struggling to keep up with a rapidly globalizing world and has been experiencing a long period of economic stagnation and political gridlock. Having been raised in post-bubble Japan, I became accustomed to hearing about my country’s economic collapse and predictions of a bleak future. I did not feel the negative effects of this decline, however, and so came to the conclusion that this “decline” would be a gradual process rather than a rapid plunge. Read more »

David Boling: What Is Japan’s Clout?

by Guest Blogger for Sheila A. Smith
Buildings are silhouetted against the setting sun in front of Mount Fuji in Tokyo December 2, 2009 Buildings are silhouetted against the setting sun in front of Mount Fuji in Tokyo December 2, 2009 (Gary Hershorn/Courtesy Reuters).

This blog post is part of a series entitled Is Japan in Decline?, in which leading experts analyze Japan’s economy, politics, and society and give their assessment of Japan’s future.

Lady Gaga’s Klout score is 93 out of 100. Many readers of Asia Unbound are probably familiar with Klout. For those who aren’t, Klout is a webpage that measures a person’s social media “clout” and assigns a numerical value to it. One can check one’s Klout score to see whether it has decreased or increased within the last seven days, thirty days, or ninety days.

My Klout score, on the other hand, is merely 49. I was told by a social media expert that a minimum score of 50 is required to be considered an “influencer”. I tried not to take it personally. Read more »

Alexandra Harney: Rural Japan

by Guest Blogger for Sheila A. Smith
Buildings are silhouetted against the setting sun in front of Mount Fuji in Tokyo December 2, 2009 Buildings are silhouetted against the setting sun in front of Mount Fuji in Tokyo December 2, 2009 (Gary Hershorn/Courtesy Reuters).

This blog post is part of a series entitled Is Japan in Decline?, in which leading experts analyze Japan’s economy, politics, and society and give their assessment of Japan’s future.

If there is anywhere in Japan that appears to be in decline today, it is the countryside. Rural areas have been depopulating since the 1950s, when young men, sometimes with their families in tow, migrated to the cities to find work in the urban factories that propelled Japan’s postwar industrialization.

The blows to rural communities kept coming. The relaxation of timber imports in the 1960s hurt towns dependent on forestry. The decision to shift to oil-fired power plants in the early 1970s pummeled coal mining regions. Globalization, the centralization of universities and economic activity in urban centers, particularly Tokyo, and the rise of overseas tourism drew more jobs (and people) out of the countryside. Read more »

Hiroshi Mikitani: The Answer Is in English

by Guest Blogger for Sheila A. Smith
Buildings are silhouetted against the setting sun in front of Mount Fuji in Tokyo December 2, 2009 Buildings are silhouetted against the setting sun in front of Mount Fuji in Tokyo December 2, 2009 (Gary Hershorn/Courtesy Reuters).

This blog post is part of a series entitled Is Japan in Decline?, in which leading experts analyze Japan’s economy, politics, and society and give their assessment of Japan’s future.

“Soon, our company meetings will be conducted in English.” I first started telling my staff this in early 2010, when my idea to make English the official language of Rakuten began to take shape. The initial reaction to my idea was not warm. “There goes Mikitani with some nonsense again.” Many were skeptical. A few even commented that I would forget about the idea in time.

But I didn’t. I remain fully committed to the process I’ve come to call Englishnization—making English the language in which we do business. I do this because I am convinced it is the best thing I can do both for Rakuten and for Japan. Read more »

Akio Takahara: Undervaluing Ourselves

by Guest Blogger for Sheila A. Smith
Buildings are silhouetted against the setting sun in front of Mount Fuji in Tokyo December 2, 2009 Buildings are silhouetted against the setting sun in front of Mount Fuji in Tokyo December 2, 2009 (Gary Hershorn/Courtesy Reuters).

This blog post is part of a series entitled Is Japan in Decline?, in which leading experts analyze Japan’s economy, politics, and society and give their assessment of Japan’s future.

When I was president of the Japan Association for Asian Studies last year, I was approached by the German Association for Asian Studies to hold a joint workshop on contemporary China. This initiative bore fruit as the International Symposium on China’s Role in Asia: Research Approaches in Germany and Japan, which was held at the International House of Japan in Tokyo in July this year. Several German scholars came over and seemed generally impressed by the quality of China studies in Japan, and the German side has recently invited us to their biennial convention to be held next year in Berlin. Read more »