Japan and COVID-19 | Discuss Japan

Infectious Disease Response — to see the forest, not just the trees: What differentiated Japan from the Western countries?

OSHITANI Hitoshi, Professor, Department of Virology, Tohoku University Graduate School of Medicine

Interview: Grand challenges posed to humanity by a viral disease

OMI Shigeru, Vice Chair, Novel Coronavirus Expert Meeting at the Prime Minister’s Office, interviewed by Takase Fumihito, editor, Gaiko (Diplomacy)

Building International Cooperation in Infection Control Measures: The Role of Japanese Diplomacy as We Enter the Post-Coronavirus World

SAKABE-MORI Aki, Assistant Professor, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, University of Tsukuba

Dialogue on the Gender Gap Index: Reasons why Japan is currently 121st in the world ― the growing popularity of feminism and the unchangeability of journalism

Hayashi Kaori (Professor, University of Tokyo) and Kojima Keiko (Essayist) Goodbye to “membership system” feminism ― In 2017, the two of you created a group called MeDi, the Media and Diversity Forum, and since then, you have been involved in a wide range of activities, including holding symposiums and publishing. Kojima Keiko: To date, media criticism by townspeople has often been considered unimportant. Women’s voices rarely draw attention. In discussing the whole concept of the media, both academic viewpoints and the actual feelings of the people working in the media are important. However, there are not very many points of contact. Accordingly, MeDi created opportunities for discussion. We feel this has resulted in a greater number of people being interested in issues that surround the media.   Hayashi Kaori: I have been investigating and discussing journalism and media as a researcher. But my results ... [Read more]

From Inbound Tourism to Domestic Tourism and Workations—Can Japanese Tourism Recover?

Azuma Toru, Professor, Rikkyo University The effect of the COVID-19 pandemic Tourism has been dealt a serious blow by the COVID-19 pandemic. Not only has inbound tourism suddenly decreased since COVID-19 infections started growing last February, travel overseas has shrunk because travelers have nowhere to go. What’s more, even within Japan travel demand for tourism, business travel, and vacation trips to hometowns has greatly decreased. It’s a situation of “lost inbound” in which inbound tourism since last April continues to be down more than 99% month-on-month vs. the previous year. Bearing in mind that the amount spent by inbound travelers in 2019 was 4.8 trillion yen, that has mostly gone and the economic loss is extremely large. In particular, areas with a high ratio of expenditure by inbound tourists, such as Osaka (46.2%) and Tokyo at (44.8%) have been very greatly affected compared to ... [Read more]

Current Status and Challenges of the Japanese Economy

Yoshikawa Hiroshi, President, Rissho University The Current COVID-19 Pandemic The current state of the Japanese economy is at a postwar low point not just in Japan but across the world due to the spread of COVID-19 since early 2020, and this is our biggest problem at present. On top of the normal influenza in winter, the spread of a third wave is feared in Japan. What will happen to the Japanese economy amid that? The second quarter of April through June, 2020 showed -28.1 points (second preliminary estimate), the lowest in the postwar period. This was a dramatic drop even in comparison to the Lehman Shock. A major factor here is the drop in consumption. About 60% of Japan’s GDP of some 500 trillion yen is consumption. At the very heart of the economy lies household and personal consumption. Consumption is stable compared to ... [Read more]

The Whereabouts of Household Financial Assets: The COVID-19 Pandemic Transforms Retirement Plans

Iwaisako Tokuo, Professor, Hitotsubashi University   Key points Both household savings and current account balances are gradually moving into the red The rates of return on assets are not expected to rise after the COVID-19 pandemic Economic policy focuses on measures to improve the productivity of workers   From a macroeconomic perspective, there has been surprisingly little change in the circumstances surrounding Japanese household financial assets in the past quarter-century. To start with, household savings rates dropped sharply at the beginning of twenty-first century. This prompted an outcry among economists about the arrival of the “zero-saving society”, backed by the simulation studies predicting negative household savings and the current account deficit (= negative national savings). But by the mid-2000s, saving rates had stabilized at a low level and the situation has remained nearly unchanged since then. In economics, annual savings is a flow variable, ... [Read more]

The Path to Overcoming Crisis: Finding Overall Optimum Solutions for a Heap of Challenges

Fujimoto Takahiro, Professor, Graduate School of Economics and Manufacturing Management Research Center, University of Tokyo   Key points Issues include sustainability, digitalization and internationalization The discourse around the decline in the Japanese manufacturing industry and the praise for EVs is superficial The challenges are intertwined in complicated ways and Japanese industry is evolving   What kind of age will the 2020s be in the evolution of industry? The decade began with the global COVID-19 pandemic, the effects of which are certain to be prolonged, but the long-term industrial phenomena include measures to counter global warming, a series of floods and earthquakes, digitalization, US-China friction, and a shrinking real economy at a time of infections. To complicate matters, these issues are interlinked in complex ways. We live in complicated times in the true sense. These issues can be summed up as S for sustainability=crisis, D ... [Read more]

New Phase of International Trade Policy III: No conflict with RCEP, TPP

Oba Mie, Professor, Kanagawa University   Key points Needs to center around formulation of shared rules for investment, intellectual property Important that China accepts restrictive provisions Needs to have shared rules aimed at sustainable development   In November 2020, the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) was signed by 15 countries, comprising the members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) as well as Japan, China, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand. This created a huge economic zone that accounts for around 30% of the world’s GDP, trade and population. The start of negotiations by 16 countries, including India, was announced in November 2012. Aligning the complicated interests of each country was not easy, and the deadline for negotiations was postponed many times. After many twists and turns, a negotiated agreement was reached. India ultimately decided not to join. Through the 2010s, the future ... [Read more]