‘Shinzo Abe is taking a big political risk, which has grown with Suleimani’s assassination.’ Protesters in Tokyo with placards reading: ‘Do not send Japan’s self-defence forces to the Middle East.’ Photograph: Hiroki Yamauchi/AP

Since the end of the second world war and the enactment of its pacifist constitution, Japan has deployed its forces overseas mostly on peacekeeping operations under UN auspices – and almost never to places where its troops are in harm’s way. But next month, the country will send a naval destroyer to the Middle East. On what is being described as an intelligence-gathering mission, the warship will patrol the Gulf of Oman, the northern part of the Arabian sea and a portion of the Bab el-Mandeb strait, following a series of attacks on oil tankers in the region – including one that was Japanese-operated.…  Seguir leyendo »

A community health worker administers an oral polio vaccine to a child, during a mass vaccination campaign in Manilla, Philippines, on Oct. 13. (Ezra Acayan/Getty Images)

In the aftermath of the Second World War, Japan knew that the task of rebuilding a nation would require investments not only in new infrastructure but also in human capital.

Japan made a political choice: a choice to invest in the health of its population through a universal health insurance scheme that ensured everyone was covered.

Today, Japan has the world’s longest life expectancy and the world’s third-largest economy.

In 2021, Japan will celebrate the 60th anniversary of its universal health insurance scheme. Japan’s health-care system is considered one of the best in the world — accessible, effective, efficient, available to all citizens and affordable.…  Seguir leyendo »

Geografía aparte, Japón y la Unión Europea nunca estuvieron tan cerca. Con los antiguos vínculos transatlánticos europeos bajo presión y China, que plantea tanto un desafío como una oportunidad, la UE ha buscado aliados con ideas afines en el Pacífico. No hay ninguno mejor que Japón.

El vínculo entre la UE y Japón trasciende el mero interés: es una relación basada en valores compartidos de libertad, democracia y libre mercado. Hoy, esos valores están bajo amenaza. Estados Unidos ha decidido hacer negocios con el mundo en vez de liderarlo, mientras China desafía a la democracia en su entorno y reescribe las normas internacionales diseñadas para mantener la paz y la estabilidad mundial.…  Seguir leyendo »

‘It causes intentional harm to those who suffered.’ South Korean protesters tear Japanese rising sun flags at a protest in Seoul, South Korea, September 2019. Photograph: Lee Jin-man/AP

Imagine if, at the opening ceremony of the 2028 Los Angeles Olympics, the stadium were filled to capacity with fans waving the American Confederate flag. A similarly hurtful scene could become reality at the Tokyo Games next summer, if the Japanese “rising sun” flag is on display.

Japanese athletes and fans regularly sport their national flag – a red ball centred on white. The rising sun symbol is different, however. A red ball with 16 red rays, it is sometimes used by companies in advertisements, yet it is technically a military flag: from 1870 until the end of the second world war, it was imperial Japan’s war flag.…  Seguir leyendo »

For several months, Japan and South Korea, America’s main allies in East Asia, have been going at each other. Japan stripped South Korea of trading privileges; then South Korea removed Japan from a list of favored trade partners. In late August, Seoul announced that it would cancel an agreement with Tokyo over the sharing of sensitive military intelligence, including about North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs. The tiff, some observers argue, marks a low in relations since the two countries normalized ties in 1965 after decades of friction over conflicting interpretations of Japan’s record during its occupation of the Korean Peninsula from 1910 to 1945 — forced labor, territorial claims, sexual slavery.…  Seguir leyendo »

Where the Cold War Never Ended

In a rational world, South Korea and Japan ought to be the best of friends. Their cultures and languages are closely linked. Their economies are deeply entangled. And as the only liberal democracies in East Asia (along with Taiwan), they have to contend with the threat of North Korean belligerence and Chinese domination.

But the world is not so rational, and so the two American allies have recently become engaged in a flaming economic row, ostensibly sparked by historical wrongs. Late last year, the South Korean Supreme Court ruled that Japanese companies should compensate Koreans who were forced to work in Japanese factories and mines during World War II.…  Seguir leyendo »

On Friday, Japan announced that it was revoking South Korea’s trusted status, which means that South Korean firms will have a far harder time importing goods with potential military uses. In particular, this is likely to affect the export of key chemicals to South Korea. This, in turn, has huge potential consequences for South Korea’s electronics industry, which relies on these chemicals to produce semiconductors and flat-panel screens. As the Nikkei Asian Review reports, Japan’s actions are leading to a widespread boycott of Japanese goods in South Korea. South Korea has also revoked Japan’s trusted status in retaliation.

This is just one especially clear example of a broader phenomenon that we describe in our new article for International Security, Weaponized Interdependence: How Global Economic Networks Shape State Coercion.…  Seguir leyendo »

Japan’s Leader Wants to Empower Women

The main issue at stake in last Sunday’s election of the upper house of Parliament was whether the ruling coalition and its allies would win the super majority they needed to amend Japan’s pacifist Constitution. They didn’t. Less noted was another failure of the prime minister’s camp: The small number of female candidates it presented.

An old-guard male-dominant culture continues to drive the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (L.D.P.) and its partners even as a new generation of female politicians emerges.

Women won 28 of the 124 seats in contest on Sunday (the upper house has 245 seats in all), matching the record set three years ago.…  Seguir leyendo »

On July 1, Japan placed export restrictions on three chemicals critical to South Korea’s tech industry. Exporters must apply for a license each time they make a shipment, which can take up to 90 days. The Japanese government is also considering removing South Korea from its “white list” of trustworthy countries that receive preferential trade treatment.

The issue, the Japanese government claims, is that South Korea failed to control hydrogen fluoride — which can be used in weapons development — from being shipped to North Korea. South Korea has denied the accusation.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in called this a “grave challenge,” and promised to wean South Korea’s high-tech sector off its dependence on Japanese supplies.…  Seguir leyendo »

Tensions are flaring up again between South Korea and Japan. Earlier this month, Japan restricted exports of three chemicals vital to South Korea’s electronics industry, citing national security concerns. Seoul called the move “economic retaliation” and filed a complaint with the WTO. Tokyo has also threatened to remove South Korea from its “white list” of trustworthy countries for trade in sensitive materials by July 24.

To outside observers, the trade spat may seem sudden. However, the relationship has been deteriorating since last fall, when long-existing disagreements over Japan’s history with the Korean Peninsula were reignited.

South Korean court rulings precipitated the current spat.…  Seguir leyendo »

Nissan cancelled of plans to build its X-Trail SUV in its Sunderland factory. Photo: Getty Images.

Speaking to the BBC in Tokyo on 27 June, Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono warned that if Britain were to embrace a ‘hard Brexit’ by leaving the European Union without a deal, many of the 1,000 or so Japanese companies based in Britain, employing some 160,000 British workers, might feel compelled to relocate their operations to other parts of Europe.

This is not an idle threat and is particularly acute in the automobile sector where Japanese companies produce some half of the 800,000 vehicles produced annually in Britain. Already, following Honda’s decision to close its British factory by 2021, and Nissan’s cancellation of plans to build its X-Trail SUV in its Sunderland factory, the shock impact of Brexit on British jobs and manufacturing strength is being keenly felt.…  Seguir leyendo »

OSLO – Tras la abdicación del emperador Akihito, Japón anunció que su nueva era imperial se llamará Reiwa (“hermosa armonía”). Pero para que la era Reiwa le haga honor a su nombre, es necesario que el gobierno de Japón siga el ejemplo de los inversores y empresas de servicios japoneses, empiece a abandonar el carbón y se pase a las energías renovables.

La elección entre seguir malgastando capital durante las próximas décadas en el antiecológico carbón o iniciar una nueva era de energía limpia que aproveche el inmenso potencial de Japón para la generación solar y eólica tendría que ser fácil.…  Seguir leyendo »

Emperor Akihito. Photo: Getty Images.

Japan’s Emperor Akihito is the country’s first monarch in more than 200 years to abdicate, bringing an end to its Heisei era.

Akihito’s decision to abdicate represents a sharp break from royal tradition for the world’s oldest monarchy.

The last official abdication took place in 1817, and so when Akihito announced in 2016 his desire to step down due to old age and ill-health, immediate reaction in Japan was mixed.

For many of Japan’s conservative politicians, for whom Japan’s national identity is tied closely to the notion of an unbroken monarchical line stretching back to the 7th Century BC, abdication was seen as an anomaly, conflicting with the notion that the monarch should serve out his term for the length of his natural life.…  Seguir leyendo »

El Emperador del Japón, Akihito, abdicará el 30 de abril, tras ocupar el Trono del Crisantemo desde 1989. A la edad de 85, parece desear vivir en una tranquila vida retirada con la Emperatriz Michiko, su esposa durante 60 años. Le sucederá en el trono su hijo mayor, el Príncipe de la Corona Naruhito.

El reinado de Akihito comenzó tras el fallecimiento de su padre, Hirohito, cuya vida transcurrió a lo largo de décadas de conflictos locales e internacionales. Si bien Akihito creció durante los tumultuosos años de la Segunda Guerra Mundial y la Guerra Fría, para cuando asumió como emperador Japón y el mundo habían cambiado de manera importante.…  Seguir leyendo »

Japanese Emperor Akihito, left, leans in to speak with an evacuee from Futaba in Fukushima prefecture, at their makeshift shelter in Kazo, Saitama prefecture, in 2011. (Toshifumi Kitamura/AFP/Getty Images)

In the 1,400-year history of the Imperial House of Japan, no emperor has traveled as much as Emperor Akihito. In his 30-year tenure — scheduled to end when he formally abdicates on Tuesday — he has traveled to each of the 47 prefectures of Japan at least twice and has been to as many as 36 countries. Before Akihito’s ascension to the throne in 1989, only Emperor Hirohito, his father, had ever been abroad: on official visits to Europe in 1971 and to the United States in 1975.

Yet Akihito’s journey was not just about travel in its most literal sense.…  Seguir leyendo »

L’ère Heisei a été une période de crise pour le Japon, au sens littéral du terme. En effet, en plus de l’éclatement de la bulle immobilière et financière au début des années 1990, la fin de la guerre froide aura été un nouveau défi pour la diplomatie japonaise.

Après des débats sans fin à la Diète (le parlement japonais), les Forces d’autodéfense (FAD) ont été déployées au Cambodge dans le cadre de la mission menée par l’ONU en 1992. Ce fut l’avènement du grand dessein inspiré par Ichiro Ozawa − un des leaders dissidents du Parti libéral démocrate (PLD) qui a réussi à faire battre son ex-parti en 1993 et dirigera son opposition par la suite − et qui plaidait pour que le Japon redevienne un « pays normal ».…  Seguir leyendo »

Après l’éclatement de la bulle spéculative au début des années 1990, le taux de chômage au Japon a augmenté pendant dix ans pour atteindre, en 2002, 5,5 %, son niveau le plus haut depuis la fin de la seconde guerre mondiale. Ces chiffres sont peu élevés au regard des pays européens mais, pour les Japonais qui n’ont connu qu’un taux de chômage extrêmement bas de 1 à 3 % pendant cinquante ans, c’est un vrai choc. Les travailleurs, par peur du licenciement, ont accepté une diminution de leur rémunération et des primes d’heures supplémentaires.

La stagnation des salaires a conduit à celle de la consommation.…  Seguir leyendo »

Le 30 avril s’achèvera au Japon l’ère Heisei, commencée le 8 janvier 1989, qui laissera la place à l’ère Reiwa, après l’abdication de l’empereur Akihito. Dans un contexte institutionnel dans lequel celui-ci n’a qu’un pouvoir symbolique et où les ères ne sont qu’une sorte de calendrier parallèle au calendrier occidental, il ne faut pas surinterpréter ce changement d’un point de vue économique. Cependant, chaque ère du Japon moderne et contemporain – associée à un empereur – correspond à une certaine période du développement du Japon. Il est possible de faire un bilan d’Heisei tout en identifiant les perspectives pour l’économie japonaise.…  Seguir leyendo »

Tokyo skyline. Photo: Getty Images.

When I participated in the Chatham House/Daiwa Research Institute conference on the post-Brexit Japan-UK relationship in Tokyo last month, it was my first visit back to Japan since my departure from Goldman Sachs almost six years ago. Prior to this trip, I had been visiting the country regularly since 1988, so it was helpful to see things from a slightly more detached perspective.

By and large, Japan in 2019 feels relatively stable when compared to other advanced economies. A decade from now, I would not be surprised if it continues to show the highest real (inflation-adjusted) per capita GDP growth rate in the G7.…  Seguir leyendo »

Figura 1. La nueva Sociedad 5.0


Japón ha desarrollado un potente concepto, Sociedad 5.0, como estado ideal hacia el que debe avanzar el país para sacar todo el provecho posible de las transformaciones tecnológicas en curso, de modo a beneficiar al conjunto de los ciudadanos, sin que nadie se quede atrás, y resolver problemas que plantea la evolución de aquel cuerpo social.


En los últimos años, Japón ha ido desarrollando un concepto para resolver sus propios problemas (envejecimiento, natalidad y competitividad) y aprovechar los avances tecnológicos para construir un país y un mundo mejor: el de Sociedad 5.0, en la que nadie se quede atrás.…  Seguir leyendo »