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Archives : No.40

May-Aug 2017

No.40
No.40 ,Diplomacy  Aug 02, 2017

Japanese “Armitage-Nye Report” Launched

With the arrival of the Trump administration came a sense of bewilderment, in the face of a new style of diplomacy unlike anything that had gone before. Nonetheless, we need to avoid doing anything that could damage the Japan-US alliance, an important public good for stability and prosperity in East Asia. A group of experts in Japanese diplomacy has come together to set out a proposal for both the Japanese and US administrations. On April 5 this year, a joint research program on intellectual exchange between Japan and the United States (Mt. Fuji Dialogue), co-organized by the Japan Center for Economic Research (JCER) and the Japan Institute of International Affairs (JIIA), launched a policy proposal report entitled “Toward a Greater Alliance,” setting out a vision for Japan-US relations in the future. The report was the result of intense deliberations by selected Japanese members of ... ... [Read more]

No.40 ,Culture
Jul 31, 2017

Remembering Ooka Makoto The Poet from Mount Fuji

I didn’t want to come from Mount Fuji,” Ooka Makoto once recollected matter-of-factly. But even as he said the words, he didn’t look particularly unhappy at the idea. Ooka Makoto was born in Mishima, a city in Shizuoka Prefecture at the base of the Izu Peninsula. In other words, he could see that sacred mountain from his home, and as a baby he was bathed in the water that flowed into the Kakita river from Fuji via underground tributaries. Many people have places of beauty as their hometown, but for a contemporary poet it’s no small matter. From ancient times to the present day, Mount Fuji has held a sacred place in the hearts of Japanese people, something you might describe as “special.” For Yamabe Akahito, Katsushika Hokusai, and Lafcadio Hearn among others, Fuji has been an expressive motif that symbolizes Japan itself. And ... ... [Read more]

No.40 ,Society
Jun 19, 2017

Cats and Japanese People

This, they say, is the age of cats. Each year, the number of pet cats in Japan increases and is now approaching 10 million. On the other hand, the number of pets dogs has dropped from a one-time peak of over 13 million to less than 10 million.* As Yamane Akihiro, an assistant professor of animal ecology at Seinan Gakuin University explains: “I think that behind this affection for cats is the way that present-day Japanese society makes people feel trapped. People are controlled by a results-driven system, and companies are restructured. People can’t live their lives freely and as they wish. Perhaps that is why they are so attracted to free-living cats.” Cats are attractive for their suppleness, beauty and distinctive behavior, side-products of their nature as hunters, able to strike down their prey with a single blow. “Their large beautiful eyes evolved ... ... [Read more]

No.40 ,Society
Jun 19, 2017

Natsume Soseki’s Cat

You might say that the blossoming of modern Japanese literature began with Natsume Soseki’s pet cat. During the summer of 1904, a cat wandered into Soseki’s home in Tokyo’s Sendagi district. Although Soseki’s wife Kyoko disliked cats and immediately threw it out numerous times, when she wasn’t looking the cat would come back, curl up on a wooden rice tub, and go to sleep. One day, Soseki finally noticed the cat and said, “Since it keeps coming back, why don’t you let it be?” Having thus received the seal of approval from the master of the house, the cat became the official Soseki pet. Another stroke of luck for the cat was something said by an elderly masseuse who came regularly to visit Soseki’s wife. The old lady stared at the cat, which had stripy black grey fur from head to tail, and muttered ... ... [Read more]

No.40 ,Culture
Jun 18, 2017

Why are foreign chefs captivated by Japanese kitchen knives?

The decline in Japanese influence in the international community is often pointed out, but it is not always the case in the cooking industry. Japanese chefs are in tremendous demand all over the world. There are an increasing number of people who come to Japan from abroad to learn how to cook. This situation was inconceivable years ago. Of course, because prices are different, one cannot make a simple comparison. Amid the pessimism over Japanese products not selling well, including home appliances, according to trade statistics compiled by the Japanese Ministry of Finance, Japanese kitchen knife exports have continued to grow steadily since 2004 (excluding 2008 when the Lehman Shock struck the world). A while ago, when chefs from a foreign star-restaurant came to Japan, they would often buy many Japanese kitchen knives and take them home. But today everyone buys Japanese kitchen knives ... ... [Read more]

No.40 ,Economy
May 08, 2017

Interviewing an Expert on International Trade
Efforts to Implement the TPP Fail — Exercise Leadership to maintain a high level of trade negotiations

The TPP is an agreement that was reached to create a huge value chain in the Asia-Pacific region. With its implementation becoming uncertain, what role is expected of Japan in trade negotiations? Editorial department of Wedge: Why does it make sense for Japan to ratify the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) as soon as possible, while President-elect Trump says that he will announce the United States’ withdrawal from the TPP on the day of his inauguration? Urata Shujiro: The TPP will be implemented if either the twelve nations complete the domestic procedures within two years after signing in February 2016, or if more than six nations accounting for 85% of the total GDP of the twelve nations complete them, even after two years have passed. I do not expect that Trump will change his campaign promises before the mid-term election. That said, even if the United ... ... [Read more]

No.40 ,Economy
May 03, 2017

Views on the Chinese economy:
Step-by-step Action on Capital Outflows
― Avoiding a hasty transition to a floating system

< Key Points > Reform state-owned enterprises to promote private sector development Strengthen the financial system to prevent international capital outflows Liberalize trade and investment to avoid friction with the United States China’s economic growth rate for 2016 was 6.7%, a persistent slowdown from the peak of 2010 (10.6%) in the post-Lehman shock period. The economy has clearly shifted from high growth to medium growth. This is due to both long-term and structural factors affecting the Chinese economy and medium-term factors triggered by domestic and overseas economic changes in the wake of the 2008 global economic crisis. Long-term and structural factors relate to China’s trend towards a lower potential growth rate. Specific factors include (1) a peak-out in the country’s working-age population (aged 15–64), (2) reduced labor movement from rural to urban areas (passing of Lewis’ turning point), (3) lower growth in public infrastructure ... ... [Read more]

No.40 ,Economy
May 02, 2017

Is U.S.-Japan Trade Friction Avoidable?
Stay Resilient with Fair Arguments against Unfair Criticism
―Japan must not accept import obligations

< Key Points > Free trade and investment promotion should be addressed through economic dialogues Japan must accelerate structural reforms in agriculture, which is heavily protected by high tariffs Japan is compelled to accept the invitation to the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) negotiations with the United States It has been a little over one month since the inauguration of Donald Trump as the President of the United States. His political style remains unpredictable without a clear logical approach, leaving the entire world guessing with serious uncertainties. The US government is faced with quite a few lingering risk factors, particularly with respect to its international trade policies. I am deeply concerned about the Trump administration’s attitude, which looks as though it is prepared to disregard the principles of non-discrimination or the international tariff agreements that have been embraced by the World Trade Organization (WTO) over ... ... [Read more]

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