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September 2016

Institutions and organizations visited in the second US trip for 2016 (September 11 – September 21) include:

  • Duke University
  • Japan America Society of North Carolina
  • Pew Research Center
  • Georgetown University
  • Woodrow Wilson Center
  • University of Michigan
  • University of California, Berkeley
  • Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center, Stanford University

The following are brief summaries of the talks delivered by our experts:

Setsuya Fukuda
How to Achieve Gender Equity in Japan? Trends and the Latest Policy Initiatives

The demand for further expansion of women’s participation in the workforce has become an increasingly pressing issue in 21st century Japan due to the country’s shrinking labor force and economy. How will gender relations and family behavior be affected by the expected increase in female labor force participation? How can policies effectively support these changes and help structuring Japan’s new social model? Fukuda will address the issue of gender gaps in economic opportunities and the latest policy initiatives on gender and family formation in Japan. Fukuda will also discuss how gender equity can be achieved in Japan’s gender revolution.

Naomi Uchida
Revitalization of Regional Urban Centers: Lessons from the Experiences of Japan’s Rapidly Changing/Aging Society

Problems due to the declining population are everywhere in Japan, such as a declining local economy and the shocking projection that almost 50% of municipalities will disappear within 25 years. Many of Japan’s regional urban centers are suffering from empty buildings and vacant lots as the population continues to concentrate in Tokyo despite all efforts. This presentation will focus on the following questions: how can we revitalize local cities and what makes a successful urban center? The important point is to balance government interventions and efforts by the private sectors in this difficult local economy. In her presentation, Uchida will introduce successful and failed models of revitalization in local cities to discuss the path towards successful revitalization.

January 2016

Institutions and organizations visited in the first US trip for 2016 (January 21 – January 29, 2016) include:

  • University of California, Los Angeles
  • Japan America Society of Southern California
  • Brookings Institution
  • East-West Center
  • Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies
  • Japan America Society of Chicago
  • The University of Chicago

The following are brief summaries of the talks delivered by our experts:

Masaki Mizobuchi
Debating Terrorism and Counter-Terrorism: From the Japanese Perspective

Japan and the United States share the threat of global terrorism; however, the counter-terrorism strategies of the two countries are very different. In general, counter-terrorism strategy can be divided into four plus one phases: (i) prevention and intervention, (ii) consequent management, (iii) pursuit, (iv) policy review, and (v) addressing the root causes and conditions conducive to terrorism. Needless to say “preventing beforehand” is the iron law of any counter-terrorism strategy. Since the 9/11 terrorists attack, the United State has conducted offensive “prevention and intervention” operations inside and outside the country under the banner of the “War on Terror.” On the other hand, in spite of the recent enactment of several counter-terrorism laws in Japan (e.g., “Emergency-at-Periphery” Law [1999-]; Special Anti-Terrorism Law [2001-07]; Peace and Security Legislation [2015-]), the Japan Self-Defense Forces (JSDF) still cannot play a major role in conducting counter-terrorism operations overseas. Therefore, Japan’s counter-terrorism policy has to focus on domestic/defensive dimensions, a situation in which police organizations should play the major role. Japan’s National Police Agency (Keisatsu-cho) has tried to create a suitable organizational structure to conduct the four plus one phases of counter-terrorism strategy; however, the rigorous warrant system in Japan is a major obstacle. In Japan, there is a consensus that “Japan is still a terrorist-free country,” and this shapes a strong emotional/ideological opposition toward strengthening the power of the police. Based on the above arguments, I will discuss the strategies of “terrorism” and “counter-terrorism” from the Japanese perspective and suggest some implications with regard to the U.S. counter-terrorism strategy.

Kunio Nihiskawa
Why and How Do Japanese Farmers Resist the TPP?

This talk will address the question of whether there is a way to achieve both free trade and the survival of Japanese agriculture. In addressing this question we need to understand: why and how Japanese farmers are resisting the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP)? I will look at this question from both economic and political perspectives, introducing results of my field surveys. As you will see, in the process of structural adjustment, Japanese farmers―even large farmers―feel that they have not been rewarded fully for their efforts. While economists normally assume that an increase in scale will produce economies of scale, over the last several decades Japanese farmers have seen a decline in profitability despite the increase in scale, what I will refer to as the “paradox of scale expansion.” To understand why this has happened we need to look at the political environment and the lack of budgetary support for agriculture, which is in part a result of inter-ministry rivalry between the Ministries of Agriculture and Finance. One of the common assumptions about Japanese agrarian politics is that Japanese farmers have been able to influence policy making through the Japan Agricultural Cooperatives (JA); however, in recent years this channel of influence has been greatly weakened. My research shows that the political power of the JA has weakened over the last 30 years, corresponding to the shrinkage of the scale of its agricultural business. As a result JA has been losing the strong loyalty of farmers, which was its chief source of political power. At the end of the presentation, we will discuss the policy implications.

Hiromi Saito
The Paradoxes of Japanese Health Insurance: Can Too Much of a Good Thing Block Medical Innovation

The Japanese universal health insurance system is usually regarded as a great success, achieving high levels of health at low cost. However, the current system is often incompatible with medical innovation. This paradox arises from conflict between providing innovative treatment and commitment to equality of access. To deal with this conflict, the government uses two policies that impact medical innovation. First, approval of new drugs for use is directly linked to coverage by the health insurance system; and second, if a patient chooses to use unapproved drugs, they must pay all costs out of pocket―for both approved and unapproved treatments. Since the Japanese system is based on the principle that all patients should have equal access to treatment, if the health insurance system cannot cover the costs of a new drug for all patients, the new drug is not approved. Thus there are often long delays in the approval of drugs that are already in use in the US and EU. The second policy places the payment burden for all treatment―including both approved and unapproved drugs―on the patient who chooses to use unapproved drugs. Japan needs to find an exit from this trap if it wants to play a larger role in global medical innovation. As a first step, it should remove the ban on so-called “mixed treatments” involving approved and unapproved drugs, and as a second step delink safety approval from approval for coverage under the insurance system.

September 2015

Institutions and organizations visited in the second US trip for 2015 (September 10 – September 19, 2015) include:

  • The Baker Institute
  • Rice University
  • University of St. Thomas
  • British Petroleum
  • Japan America Society of Houston
  • Southern Methodist University
  • Texas Christian University
  • East-West Center
  • Pew Research Center
  • Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
  • Edwin O. Reischauer Center for East Asian Studies

The following are brief summaries of the talks delivered by our experts:

Takako Wakiyama
Climate and Energy Crisis: Renewable Energy as a way to Achieve Energy Security and Carbon Emission Reductions

This presentation focuses on the potential in Japan for use of renewable energy and its economic benefits. My analysis suggests that Japan needs to increase investment in renewable energy, and that to increase such investment it will need to make changes in both policy and regulatory systems, including undertaking a review of the potential sources of renewable energy, installed capacities and technologies. As one of the ways forward, the government has decided to reform the electricity system and deregulate the electricity market, with implementation scheduled for 2016. As part of this reform the government should reconsider the potentials of the renewable energy option. Renewable energy potentials can be increased by: 1) enhancing the framework of deregulation of the electricity market to favor renewable energy; 2) accelerating the discussion on power grid system reform, considering long term cost benefits; 3) reviewing the national budget allocation and expenditure; and 4) conducting corporate tax reform and putting a higher price on carbon. In addition, technological innovation and development, and increasing public awareness of climate risks and potentials of renewable energy can increase renewable energy capacity in Japan.

Tomoko Wakui
How should we balance formal and informal care? Japanese Approaches to long-term care

Developing a long-term care system for the elderly is a pressing problem in Japan as a result of the rapid aging of the population and a sharp decline in the birthrate. My presentation will talk about the dilemma of balancing formal and informal care that Japan is facing. First, I will describe current conditions with regard to long-term care in Japan and the US. This discussion will analyze predicted population structures in both countries over the next several decades, and then will explain social changes in Japan that have resulted in changes in the care system. Traditionally, women bore most of the caregiving responsibility in Japan; however, in recent decades the rise in women’s participation in work outside the home, an increase in the number of people choosing not to marry, and the shrinking birth rate have led to greater diversity in types of caregiving, including an increase in male participation in caregiving. At the same time, following the introduction of the Long Term Care Insurance system, the preferences of the elderly are also changing, with fewer desiring to live with their children. The LTCI has enabled support for diverse types of caregiving, but too much of a good thing in public long-term care services may affect family relationships and be detrimental to the original mutual assistance features of the family. My presentation will discuss trends in care giving since the introduction the LTCI system and its impact on family and society.

Taro Ohno
Fiscal deficit and fiscal reforms in Japan

The fiscal deficit of the Japanese central government has been increasing since 1990. The rise in the deficit was brought on by social and economic changes including a rapidly aging population, falling birth rate and declining economic growth following the bursting of the “economic bubble” in 1990. Those changes have led to increasing expenditure especially for benefits of social insurance and decreasing tax revenue. What policies should Japan adopt? First, Japan needs to find ways to reduce government expenditures, especially the rising costs of social security system benefits. Increases in these benefits are the major contributor to the fiscal deficit. However, even with a curbing of the levels of benefits, the government will need to increase revenue, and thus taxes will have to be raised. I believe that a further consumption tax raise is a feasible approach. There are some merits to the consumption tax including inter-generational equity, stability of tax revenue, and less effect on economic growth than other taxes. We need to pay special attention to inter-generational equity. In the past, a relatively smaller number of elderly were supported by many young people through the social insurance system. Since an increase in the consumption tax will spread the burden not only on the young, but also on the older generations, it is a more equitable way to acquire increased tax revenue.

February-March 2015

Institutions and organizations visited in the first US trip for 2015 (February 27 – March 8, 2015) include:

  • Japan-America Society of Washington State and Associates in Cultural Exchange
  • Johns Hopkins University SAIS
  • George Washington University
  • Congressional Research Service
  • American Enterprise Institute
  • East-West Center
  • Brookings Institution
  • Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS)
  • University of Pennsylvania East Asian Law Review
  • Columbia Center on Japanese Economy and Business

The following are brief summaries of the talks delivered by our experts:

Jun Makita    
A Change of Japanese Industry Structure and Objects of Japan Association of New Economy (JANE)

Japan Association of New Economy (JANE) is a new economic organization founded in 2012. Its members include representatives of the new economy including IT service companies. In the postwar period, manufacturing was the center of the Japanese economy, but in in recent years there has been a dramatic change with the increased importance of service industries represented by IT companies. However, in Japan there are still many obstacles, like the Principle of “Face-to-Face Communication” and “Paper-based Documents”, which hinder free business activities of this new economy. While the new economy companies have many complaints about regulations designed for the older manufacturing-centered economy, it is difficult for them to convey their requests to the policy makers because they have not been able to effectively develop relations with the government and the Diet. JANE’s mission is the gathering of such opinions from representatives of the new economy, converting them into the policy proposals, and conveying them to the policy makers. There are some differences between JANE and Keidanren, which is biggest economic organization in Japan and the representative of more traditional manufacturing industry: those differences include characteristics of the members, the methods for approaching the public sector, and attitudes to policies, which distinguish JANE as the representative of the interests of the Japanese new economy.

Aki Sakabe-Mori
Competition or a Strategic Choice: International Politics over China-led New Investment Bank

China is moving forward from a position as a rising power in the existing order to a proactive institutional builder striving to create a system favorable to its own interests. The key pillars of Xi Jinping’s evolving new Chinese foreign policy—including the Silk Road Economic Belt, the Maritime Silk Road, and the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB)—are important examples of this new posture. We can understand Chinese motivations for creating the AIIB. There is massive demand for infrastructure construction across Asia, a demand that the existing international financial institutions cannot meet. The US congress and the government of Japan have been reluctant to reform voting rights, which reflect financial contributions at the IMF and ADB, despite an increase in contributions from China and other emerging nations. In response to this reluctance, China decided to go its own way, and created the new investment bank. The Chinese government began to invite developed countries to join the AIIB in 2014. This presentation will address the following questions: (1) Why China seeks support from the developed countries for the AIIB; (2) Reactions from the US, Japan, Australia and South Korea; and (3) Current discussion in the Japanese government with regard to the AIIB. In conclusion, I will argue that key members of the existing financial institutions will more easily exercise leverage if they participate in the AIIB. Participation will lead to better governance, transparency, and economic sustainability of the AIIB.

Shin Tomotsugu
From Hiroshima to Fukushima: Evolution of Japan’s Nuclear Policy

This talk will focus on the history and current situation of Japan’s policy on nuclear energy, and the impact of the severe accident at Fukushima on nuclear non-proliferation policy. Japan is the only the non-nuclear armed country to be allowed by the United States to use sensitive technologies in the field of civilian nuclear energy. These technologies include the reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel to get plutonium for recycling, a process which is related to the latent capability of producing a nuclear weapon. When we look over Japan’s comprehensive nuclear policy, we can see that Japan has taken advantage of the technological nexus between military-civilian uses in the nuclear field. Even dovish Japanese politicians often send political messages to neighboring states, warning them not to drive Japan into a situation in which Tokyo would determine that it had no choice but to go nuclear. The Fukushima nuclear crisis changed the situation. With the shutdown of all of Japan’s nuclear power plants (NPP) for safety inspections, the plutonium from the spent nuclear fuel has no place to go. If the plutonium accumulates for too long without being used as fuel in the NPP, the gap between real nuclear weaponization and potential capability could be so narrowed as to cause international tension. That is why the Abe Cabinet today tries to restart the operation of nuclear power plants, in spite of public opposition. The United States, meanwhile, is waiting to see if Japan can restart its nuclear power plants, while procrastinating in the negotiations with South Korea, which has requested the same privilege for forty years. The Japanese government has also vowed to continue exporting nuclear plants, although only 24% of the public supports this policy. This is because the government believes that the exports are important for the Japanese economy.