Japan may not be such an easy pushover on nuclear deal with India

Author: David Brewster, ANU

In recent weeks we have seen the ‘bromance’ between India and Japan reach new heights. Earlier this month, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited Tokyo amid media hype of a special relationship, and even a de facto alliance, between the two countries. There is talk of a special ‘personal chemistry’ between Modi and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and much was made of the claim that Modi was one of only three people that Abe follows on Twitter. Read more…

The ghost of historical revisionism in contemporary Japan

Japanese lawmakers visit the Yasukuni Shrine on the day of the 69th anniversary of the end of World War II, Tokyo, 15 August 2014. At least two Japanese Cabinet ministers paid respects at the Tokyo shrine that honours the war dead including convicted criminals, a move that may outrage China and South Korea. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Koichi Nakano, Sophia University

The politics of historical memory is a key factor shaping the international relations of East Asia today. Controversy surrounding the Yasukuni Shrine and the ‘comfort women’ (sex slaves) issue has had far-reaching foreign policy implications for Japan’s relations with its East Asian neighbours. Read more…

The fragile happiness of Japan’s ‘insular’ youth

Ready to take on the world: college students at a ceremony in Tokyo to mark the start of the annual hunt for jobs. A recent survey into the attitudes of school students showed that the number who considered themselves to be very happy had doubled in the past three decades. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Noritoshi Furuichi, University of Tokyo

The youth of Japan appear to face a bleak future — a catastrophic budget deficit, ageing population and collapsing social security system. Despite this, according to data released last year, Japan’s youth are astonishingly positive in their outlook. In the government-run Public Opinion Survey Concerning People’s Lifestyles, levels of youth life satisfaction reached 78.4 per cent — the highest they had been since 1967 and higher than during Japan’s booming ‘bubble economy’ period. Read more…

Childcare not the only cost for working women in Japan

A mother and child cycle past an electronic stock board of a securities firm in Tokyo, 21 January 2013. With the aim of increasing the female labour force participation rate, the Japanese government has begun to allocate significant resources to tackling longstanding childcare shortages. (Photo: AAP)

Author: Mark Fabian, ANU

Japan has recently moved to increase its female labour force participation rate, with the government allocating significant resources to tackling Japan’s longstanding shortage of child care places. Alongside this expansion in child care services, immigration laws are to be relaxed to allow for the recruitment of more foreign nannies. Read more…

A chance to mend China–Japan relations

The respective leaders of China and Japan should not let issues like the Diaoyu/Senkaku Island dispute get in the way of building a stronger bilateral relationship. (Photo: AAP).

Authors: Yves Tiberghien, University of British Columbia, and Yong Wang, Peking University

Over the last two years, China–Japan relations have been trapped in a downward spiral. The inescapable reality of an ongoing great power transition makes this situation particularly tense: the size of China’s economy relative to Japan’s jumped from a mere 25 per cent in 2000 to 99 per cent in 2009 and then to 188 per cent in 2013. Yet an alternative policy course is slowly developing. Read more…

India and Japan boost cooperation, but no nuclear power deal

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is welcomed by his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe upon his arrival at the State Guest House in Kyoto, on 30 August 2014. Modi flew into Japan for a five-day official visit as their governments seek to boost security ties and counter a increasingly assertive China. (Photo: AAP).

Authors: Pravakar Sahoo and Abhirup Bhunia, IEG

Modi’s visit to Japan from 31 August to 3 September was dubbed a success. But what has been achieved? And what do these achievements mean for both countries?

Modi’s visit assumed far greater significance than any previous visits by Indian prime ministers. This is because Modi has a powerful mandate and, of course, because of the reported bonhomie between Modi and Abe. When Modi was Gujarat’s chief minister, Japanese firms participating in the Vibrant Gujarat Summit invested between US$2–3 billion in various manufacturing and infrastructure projects in that state, in response to its investor friendly environment. Modi shares this business friendly attitude with Abe. Read more…

Can Nishikawa resolve Japan’s TPP agricultural impasse?

Newly appointed Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Koya Nishikawa speaks during a press conference at the official residence of the Japanese prime minister in Tokyo, 3 September 2014. (Photo: AAP)

Author: Aurelia George Mulgan, UNSW Canberra

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s appointment of Koya Nishikawa as the new Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF) is a big plus for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Nishikawa is an executive of the so-called ‘agricultural tribe’ (norin zoku) in the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP). Read more…

Latin America lures Asia’s big powers

Chinese president Xi Jinping reviews the guard of honour upon his arrival at Planalto Palace in Brasilia, Brazil at the start of his tour of Latin America, 17 July 2014 in Brasilia. (Photo: AAP)

Author: Juan J. Palacios, University of Guadalajara

Considered for most of the twentieth century as the United States’ backyard, Latin America is today a place where other major powers seek to exercise a growing influence and find a steady supply of energy and natural resources as well as markets and investment outlets. Read more…

India draws Japan closer as Modi embraces Abe

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi talks with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe during a signing ceremony at Akasaka State Guesthouse in Tokyo on 1 September 2014. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Purnendra Jain, University of Adelaide

The unprecedented warm hug between India’s new prime minister Narendra Modi and Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe when they met in Japan’s ancient capital Kyoto sent strong diplomatic signals across the region and beyond. This was Modi’s first stop in Japan on a five-day official visit beginning 30 August. In a rather unusual move, Abe went to meet Modi in Kyoto and together they visited a temple before their summit meeting in Tokyo. Read more…

Japan’s elderly in Malaysia, like shooting stars in the twilight

Japanese expatriate artist Masami Teraoka, age 78, smiles. Japanese elderly are leaving Japan to enjoy new lives overseas and countries such as Malaysia are offering a special visa to do so. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Shiori Shakuto-Neoh, ANU

With a quarter of the population above 65 years old, Japan has become a ‘super-aged society’. The now retiring members of the baby-boomer generation have enjoyed rapid economic growth in their working lives. They were appreciated as the workforce behind Japan’s internationally acclaimed ‘miracle’ economy. Today, they have retired into a completely different society: Japan is facing a burgeoning deficit as well as the fallout — humanitarian, economic and political — of the 3/11 triple disaster. Read more…

Why Japan’s collective self-defence is so politicised

Women hold banners during a rally opposing the plans of the Japanese government to change Article 9 of the constitution in Tokyo, 17 June 2014. (Photo: AAP).

Author: T J Pempel, Berkley

On 1 July, the Abe Cabinet issued a reinterpretation of Japan’s longstanding self-imposed ban on the right of collective self-defence. It was justified as a minimalist countermeasure to the increasingly severe security environment posed by a rising China and an unpredictable, nuclearised North Korea. But the reinterpretation fell well short of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s long-cherished goal of formally amending the constitution and eradicating what he and others criticise as the Japan’s over-reliance on US security guarantees as well as its collective naiveté ‘about the minimum necessary measures for our self-defence’. Read more…

Uncomfortable compromises in Russia­–Japan territory dispute

Russian president Vladimir Putin and Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe shake hands at their meeting in the Bocharov Ruchei residence in Sochi, Russia, 8 February 2014. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Owen Lindsay, University of South Australia

On 12 August, Russia held military manoeuvres on two of the four disputed islands that lie north-east of Hokkaido. The island chain, known as the South Kurils in Russia and the Northern Territories in Japan, has been the major sticking point in Japan–Russia relations during the post-war period.

The Soviet Union, and then Russia, has exercised de facto administration over the entire island chain since 1945 — Russian citizens and soldiers currently live on all four of the disputed islands. Read more…

Can North Korea abduction issue progress improve Abe’s approval rating?

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe speaks during a news conference in Tokyo, Japan, 9 December 2013. The approval rating for the Abe cabinet has fallen 10 points to 47 per cent, according to a poll released 9 December by the Kyodo News agency. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Takao Toshikawa, Oriental Economist Report

Public backlash to the Abe government’s cabinet decision to recognise the right to collective self-defence, as well as the decision to restart nuclear power, has seen the cabinet’s approval rating to drop below 50 per cent. According to one Democratic Party of Japan Diet member, Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party’s (LDP) loss at the Shiga Prefecture gubernatorial election in early July ‘turns the November Okinawa gubernatorial election into a decisive battle. If the LDP candidate loses, the politics of “Abe always wins” will be at an end’. Read more…

Why the US struggles against Japan in TPP negotiations

US Trade Representative Michael Froman speaks to reporters while Japanese Economy Minister Akira Amari looks on during a press conference at the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Ministerial Meeting in Singapore, 20 May 2014. Trade ministers from 12 nations completed a two-day Ministerial meeting in Singapore targeted at creating a 12-nation trade pact in the Asian-Pacific region. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Aurelia George Mulgan, UNSW Canberra

Real progress in Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations has stalled until Japan and the United States reach some kind of basic trade agreement — which is still elusive even after numerous rounds of talks. The United States has been pressuring Japan to make concessions in key areas such as agriculture.

It is well known that current TPP negotiations are running on two separate tracks: the plurilateral track in which all 12 countries are participating and the bilateral track which amounts to a series of bilateral deals being negotiated on the side. Read more…

Supreme Court of Japan rules against welfare for foreigners

A young man sits alone on a sofa in Tokyo, 29 July 2014. Tough economic conditions have presented serious problems for both Japanese nationals and foreign residents in Japan. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Trevor Ryan, University of Canberra

Last month, the Supreme Court of Japan ruled that persons without Japanese nationality (that is foreigners) have no legal claim to benefits under the Public Assistance Act. The case is an affront to the second and third generations of ethnic Chinese and Koreans in Japan who have chosen for practical and identity reasons not to renounce their nationality and naturalise as Japanese. For these and other tax-paying permanent residents, the case simply affirms the legality of a discriminatory statute.

But, while it is a ‘stunning’ decision for some, a few points about the decision should be clarified. Read more…