Can Japan feed itself?

At the end of the month, in supermarkets across Japan, regular staff and a secret army of wholesalers will work the shelves through the night on a project that none of them — from national chains to local stores — are able to talk about openly.

When the food retail industry’s collective doors open on October 1, shoppers who have barely experienced inflation since the early 1990s will be hit by the most severe price shock in almost two generations.

The prices of more than 6,000 daily food items will have soared overnight; so too, say experts whose warnings have long gone unheeded, will the Japanese public’s realisation of what it means to depend upon the most vulnerable food supply system in the developed world.…  Seguir leyendo »

Sunflowers in full bloom welcome holidaymakers for the summer festival in Nogi, Tochigi in Japan. Photo by KAZUHIRO NOGI/AFP via Getty Images.

The Japanese economy stands out among G7 economies for its historically low inflation. Between 1992 and 2021, prices increased only six per cent in Japan compared to almost 80 per cent in the UK and more than 90 per cent in the US.

So far, this picture has not changed in the face of the latest global inflation surge. Many countries have recently recorded year-on-year inflation rates approaching 10 per cent, but Japanese inflation has risen by much less – from 0.1 per cent per annum in October 2021 to 2.6 per cent per annum in July 2022.

Japan has faced the same external inflationary pressures as other major economies – notably the food and energy crisis that has followed Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and the impact of supply chain bottlenecks as the global economy recovered from the COVID-19 pandemic.…  Seguir leyendo »

EL asesinato de Shinzo Abe, el pasado 8 de julio, aureola con la gloria del martirio a este ex primer ministro que, de hecho, aún ejercía el poder entre bambalinas. Abe, por supuesto, no es el primer líder político víctima de un asesinato; la lista es muy larga, desde la década de 1920. Pero estos atentados, en general, eran perpetrados por militantes de extrema derecha o de extrema izquierda. Esta vez, falta el mensaje; el asesino no tenía motivo, un signo de los tiempos: los videojuegos violentos han reemplazado a las ideologías. Sin embargo, no faltaban razones para estar resentido con Abe.…  Seguir leyendo »

A woman watches a television screen showing a news broadcast with file footage of a North Korean missile at a railway station in Seoul on Jan. 20. Jung Yeon-Je/AFP via Getty Images

A February poll found that 71 percent of South Koreans wanted their country to have nuclear weapons. Another in May found 70.2 percent supported indigenous nuclearization, with 63.6 percent in support even if that violated the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). The drivers, unsurprisingly, are North Korea’s weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and China’s growing belligerence. These factors impact the Japanese nuclearization debate too, though interest there is noticeably lower. The United States has long opposed South Korean/Japanese counter-nuclearization. But in the light of the Ukraine war, Washington should not hegemonically dictate the outcome of its allies’ WMD debates.

NATO anxiety over possible Russian WMDs in the Ukraine war illustrates potential limits on U.S.…  Seguir leyendo »

In the past 50 years, three Japanese leaders have become global leaders in their own right: Nakasone Yasuhiro (in office from 1982-87); Koizumi Junichiro (from 2001-06) and Abe Shinzo (from 2006-07 and 2012-20). Of these, history will view Abe as the most consequential. He transformed Japan’s post-war political identity, foreign policy role and strategic mission. Nowhere has this been more evident than in Abe’s response to the rise of China, whose challenge arguably became the organising principle of his prime ministership.

Abe led the creation of the concept of a “free and open Indo-Pacific”, subsequently adopted as the mantra of both the Trump and Biden administrations.…  Seguir leyendo »

Former Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe with Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) candidate Keiichiro Asao after delivering a campaign speech in Yokohama, Tokyo just two days before he was assassinated. Photo by YOSHIKAZU TSUNO/AFP via Getty Images.

While direct attacks on politicians are not unknown in postwar Japan, they are comparatively rare – it has been decades since politicians with a national standing as prominent as Abe have been the subject of such assassination attempts.

Just two days on from the tragic shooting of Japan’s former prime minister, the country’s Upper House elections delivered a decisive victory for the governing Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) which, together with its coalition partner Komeito, now has 146 seats in the 245 seat House of Councillors.

Together with two smaller conservative parties – the Japan Innovation Party and Democratic Party for the People (DPF) – the government has more than two-thirds of the seats required for constitutional revision, a policy priority long-favoured by Abe, although it is too early to know whether this result represents a public endorsement of his approach.…  Seguir leyendo »

Santuario de Yasukuni en Tokio. Sean Pavone/Alamy

Nuestra reacción al conocer la noticia del atentado contra el exprimer ministro japonés Shinzo Abe fue de conmoción e incredulidad a partes iguales. Lo que siguió fue un frenesí al intentar reconstruir las noticias y los rumores para dar sentido a los acontecimientos, hasta que se anunció su muerte unas horas más tarde.

A primera vista, el magnicidio de Abe nos traslada a las décadas de 1920 y 1930, cuando los asesinatos de primeros ministros y exprimeros ministros (Hara Kei, Hamaguchi Osachi, Inukai Tsuyoshi, Takahashi Korekiyo, Saitō Makoto) eran una característica de la política japonesa. No asociamos fácilmente el asesinato político y la violencia con el Japón democrático y pacifista de la posguerra mundial.…  Seguir leyendo »

Japón está en estado de shock tras el asesinato de Shinzo Abe. En un país en el que la posesión de armas de fuego está fuertemente controlada, su uso para cometer cualquier tipo de crimen es una rareza. El asesinato de Abe seguramente no haga sino cimentar el legado del primer ministro más longevo en la historia de Japón.

Abe sirvió como primer ministro entre 2006 y 2007 y de nuevo entre 2012 y 2020. Durante su segundo mandato, impulsó tres políticas de gran calado para entender el presente y el futuro de Japón.

En primer lugar, Abe lanzó Abenomics, una estrategia para impulsar el crecimiento económico basado en las llamadas tres flechas: expansión monetaria, estímulo fiscal y reformas estructurales.…  Seguir leyendo »

The Postwar Japan That Shinzo Abe Built

In January 2007, only a few months after he was elected, at 52, as Japan’s youngest prime minister of the postwar era, Shinzo Abe delivered a speech outlining his policy priorities after the opening ceremony of the 166th session of Japan’s Diet, the country’s parliamentary body.

Most of the speech was a mundane laundry list of proposals, but one line proved especially revealing about the character of the man. “My mission is none other than to draw a new vision of a nation that can withstand the raging waves for the next 50 to 100 years”, Mr. Abe said.

I have regularly returned to this line — over the course of my writing about the former prime minister and as I reflected on his assassination on Friday — because it provided insight into what animated Mr.…  Seguir leyendo »

Friday was a day of shock, sadness and anger in Japan and around the world following the assassination of former prime minister Shinzo Abe. But when the grieving has subsided and the history books are written, Abe will be remembered above all for his early and crucial contribution to the world’s long-term response to the challenges posed by China’s rise.

The condolences pouring in from world leaders reflect the international respect Abe earned during his long political and diplomatic career, which included two stints as prime minister, a post he held longer than anyone in Japan’s history. Many of these testimonials recognized Abe’s commitment to bolstering the international order that had provided for regional peace, prosperity and security in East Asia since the end of World War II.…  Seguir leyendo »

Shinzo Abe, exprimer ministro de Japón.

Tradicionalista, nacionalista, militarista, populista, conservador. Todos estos adjetivos se pueden aplicar al político más importante, el que más tiempo gobernó, del país del Sol Naciente desde la Segunda Guerra Mundial.

Shinzo Abe (o Abe Shinzo, como se le conocía en su país, donde el apellido precede al nombre siguiendo la tradición oriental) no sólo relanzó Japón para recobrar su poderío económico mundial, como aseguran sus defensores. También utilizó todos los recursos a sus alcance para restituir el honor perdido tras la humillante derrota ante Estados Unidos. Incluso negando las evidencias históricas.

La vocación política le viene a Abe de familia. Su abuelo materno era conocido como el rey económico de la China ocupada, ejerció como viceministro y acabó encarcelado como criminal de guerra.…  Seguir leyendo »

Global inflation: Japan faces a moment of truth

In the summer of 1998, the Japanese currency slid to its lowest level against the dollar since the calamitous burst of the economic bubble seven years earlier. A senior finance ministry official, Haruhiko Kuroda, cautioned that an excessive fall in the yen was negative for the Japanese economy.

Nearly one-quarter of a century later, Kuroda is the governor of the Bank of Japan and sounding a familiar refrain as the yen continues its descent through a 24-year low, again breaking the level of ¥137 against the dollar and leaving traders uncertain when the slide will stop.

“The recent rapid acceleration of the yen’s decline is not desirable”, Kuroda said last month, following discussions with Prime Minister Fumio Kishida.…  Seguir leyendo »

La invasión de Rusia a Ucrania no solo pisotea los cimientos del orden internacional, sino también ha provocado el alza del precio de la energía y de los alimentos, lo que está afectando seriamente a la economía mundial y a la vida de las personas. La cumbre de la OTAN en Madrid es una cita primordial para prever la siguiente etapa de la era post Guerra Fría.

La crisis en Ucrania nos ha hecho tomar conciencia de nuevo de que la seguridad de Europa y de la región del Indo-Pacífico es indivisible. Con la gran preocupación de que la situación de Ucrania de hoy pueda ser la de Asia oriental de mañana; Japón ha decidido dar un giro en su política hacia Rusia y estamos imponiendo fuertes sanciones y brindando apoyo a Ucrania, en coordinación con los países socios.…  Seguir leyendo »

South Korean President Yoon Suk-Yeol and Japanese Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi in Seoul, May 2022. Chung Sung-Jun / Reuters

Ties between Japan and South Korea have sunk to historic lows in recent years. Although Japan’s colonial legacy and its behavior during World War II have long been a source of tension, relations began deteriorating markedly in 2018. That year, South Korean President Moon Jae-in closed a foundation established in 2015 to support the victims of Japanese wartime sexual slavery, and the South Korean Supreme Court ordered Japanese firms to compensate Korean plaintiffs who were subjected to forced labor during the war. The Japanese government, for its part, protested Moon’s decision and rejected the court ruling as inconsistent with the two countries’ 1965 normalization treaty.…  Seguir leyendo »

A Ukrainian woman bowing to Japanese officials after arriving at Haneda airport, Tokyo, April 2022. Kim Kyung-Hoon / Reuters

At 6 p.m. on March 23, when Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky appeared before the Japanese parliament via video link from Kyiv, broadcasters across Japan interrupted their evening programming to carry Zelensky’s address live. Millions of ordinary Japanese citizens watched in real time as Zelensky praised Japan’s courage as the first Asian nation to stand up for Ukrainian democracy, expressed grave concerns about the security of nuclear power plants and the potential use of nuclear weapons—subjects that have particular resonance in Japan—and received a standing ovation from the hundreds of senior Japanese officials and lawmakers who had crowded a meeting room in the lower house of the Japanese Diet for the historic virtual meeting with Zelensky.…  Seguir leyendo »

El mundo debe aprender a vivir con el coronavirus. Y Japón puede enseñarnos algo

Todo comenzó con el brote de coronavirus en un crucero Diamond Princess en febrero de 2020.

Nueve trabajadores de la salud y oficiales de cuarentena que estaban respondiendo al brote en el barco en Japón se infectaron. Un informe oficial sugirió que lo más probable es que se hubieran infectado por contacto con gotas infecciosas y superficies contaminadas. Sin embargo, como experto en investigación de infecciones respiratorias, tenía mis dudas. Se trataba de personas con experiencia en procedimientos de control y prevención de infecciones y era difícil creer que ni uno ni dos, sino nueve de ellos no se lavaron las manos correctamente.…  Seguir leyendo »

What Japan Got Right About Covid-19

It all began with the coronavirus outbreak on a Diamond Princess cruise ship back in February 2020.

Nine health care workers and quarantine officers who were responding to the outbreak on the ship in Japan became infected. An official report suggested that they had most likely been infected through contact with infectious droplets and contaminated surfaces. But as an expert investigating respiratory infections, I had my doubts. These were people experienced in infection control and prevention procedures, and it was difficult to believe that not one, not two, but nine of them failed to wash their hands properly. While this was still in the very earliest days of the pandemic, it seemed possible that the coronavirus was spreading in some other way than through large droplets.…  Seguir leyendo »

F-35A survolant la Corée du Sud. 2014. — © Keystone

L’Asie-Pacifique se militarise à une vitesse foudroyante depuis plusieurs années, et la tendance s’accélère. Le Japon transforme actuellement deux porte-hélicoptères en porte-avions pouvant transporter des F-35B américains, et son nouveau premier ministre envisage de doubler le budget de la défense; la Corée du Sud prévoit de déployer son propre porte-avions en 2033 et a testé son premier missile mer-sol balistique stratégique, lancé d’un sous-marin, en septembre dernier; l’Australie a décidé mi-décembre de renouveler sa flotte d’hélicoptères et, quelques jours plus tard, signe un contrat d’armement de plus de 700 millions de dollars avec… la Corée du Sud.

Sans surprise, la Chine et la Corée du Nord sont pointées du doigt comme sources principales de cette militarisation régionale: Pékin continue de moderniser ses forces armées, entretient des conflits territoriaux avec une dizaine de pays, dont le Japon et la Corée du Sud, et étend son influence dans le Pacifique Ouest, aux portes de l’Australie; Pyongyang persiste dans le développement d’armes nucléaires et de missiles balistiques, menaçant Séoul et Tokyo.…  Seguir leyendo »

Campaign booklets featuring a picture of Japan's Prime Minister Fumio Kishida on the front cover are stored in a box ahead of a Liberal Democratic Party campaign rally, 30 October 2021 in Tokyo, Japan. Photo by Carl Court/Getty Images.

With victory in Sunday’s general election, Fumio Kishida has solidified his role as prime minister of Japan. While he can finally emerge from the shadows cast by the criticized COVID-19 response of his predecessor, Suga Yoshihide, he is also burdened with an ambitious mandate. His challenge will be to balance domestic economic reform with a foreign policy agenda for increased geopolitical influence in the Indo-Pacific as he aims to achieve the twin goals of peace and prosperity.

A ‘new capitalism’

Kishida’s pre-election announcement of a redistributive domestic economic policy that aims to close wealth disparities, grow the middle class and focus on small business, showed a different side of a man often portrayed as a solid, mild-mannered and pragmatic presence.…  Seguir leyendo »

Newly elected Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, center in first row, with his Cabinet members at the prime minister’s official residence in Tokyo on Oct. 4. (David Mareuil/Pool/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock)

On Monday, Japan’s House of Representatives elected Fumio Kishida as the country’s 100th prime minister. Kishida has pledged a “regenerated” Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), which has ruled Japan for all but four years since 1955.

One of the ironies of Japanese politics, however, is that “generational change” in the LDP often means the sons, grandsons and other relatives of outgoing politicians step in to replace them. Kishida is a prime example — his father and grandfather were also lawmakers.

Why do dynasties like the Kishida family dominate political leadership in Japan?

Politics is often a family affair

Kishida’s ascension to the premiership follows his victory in the LDP’s presidential contest on Sept.…  Seguir leyendo »