Project archives


In March 2021, Japan reached the 10-year anniversary of the Fukushima nuclear accident. During this last decade, what has Japan learned from this unprecedented disaster in Japan’s post-war history? How has the “shape of the nation” changed for Japan itself? In inheriting the philosophy of the 2011 Independent Investigation Commission on the Fukushima Nuclear Accident, Asia Pacific Initiative (API) launched the “10-year Investigation Commission on the Fukushima Nuclear Accident (Second Independent Investigation Commission)” in June 2019, and published the results of the investigation in February 2021 (in Japanese first).

In an attempt to identify what the Japanese government and society have learned (or have not learned) in the last 10 years, the commission conducted a number of interviews with experts and practitioners in respective fields. The investigation covered issues that were suggested by various investigation committees, including the national diet, the government, and independent committees. These issues included: the government’s nuclear safety policy and nuclear disaster prevention, governance of power companies such as TEPCO, crisis management of the Cabinet secretariat office, communications risk management in the event of rumors or false information spreading, and cooperation with Japan’s Self Defense Forces, local police and fire departments. The investigation also examined the issues that have emerged over time, such as the decommissioning of nuclear power plants and reconstruction of the local community.

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API established “The Independent Investigation Commission on the Japanese Government’s Response to COVID-19” in July 2020 to examine how Japan responded to the COVID-19 crisis, and published a report titled “The Independent Investigation Commission on the Japanese Government’s Response to COVID-19: Report on Best Practices and Lessons Learned” in Japan on 18 October (electronic version) and 23 October (printed version). Under the guidance of the Commission, which consisted of four leading experts, the Working Group (WG) composed of 19 experts in medical, law, public policy, crisis response, health security, and international relations, conducted 101 interviews with 83 government officials and experts, including the former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, the former Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, the former Minister of Health, Labour and Welfare Katsunobu Kato, and the Minister of State for Economic and Fiscal Policy Yasutoshi Nishimura, as well as numerous other senior government officials who provided insight on the background of the events.

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Crisis management
The examination of the Fukushima disaster highlights many problems with the current system of crisis management in Japan. Personnel, physical resources, decision-making systems, information gathering, emergency communication, preparedness manuals, specialist advice―the disaster gives us plenty to ponder. And this crisis certainly will not be the last. When will Tokyo itself be struck by a major earthquake? Or, if not that, when will we have to contend with some other natural disaster, or maybe a cyber-terror attack, a military conflict, or even an energy crisis? Here, through practical real-world simulations, we identify various issues within current crisis management systems and consider how such systems could be improved to deal with the identified problems.

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Japan’s lost decades
It is imperative that we undertake a critical review of Japan’s so-called “Lost Decade(s)” in order to delineate a new picture of the future. How and why did Japan’s policies fail? What was the alternative? In light of further economic and political meltdowns likely to cloud Japan’s prospects in the coming years, such questions must be addressed head-on.

Getting to the bottom of these questions goes beyond national concerns; it goes beyond rebuilding Japan. Given Japan’s key role in the regional order, Japan’s precipitous decline would gravely destabilize the Asia-Pacific and, broadly, the world. It is crucial to shed light on this linkage.

Moreover, learning the lessons from Japan’s Lost Decade(s) is not only Japan’s concern, nor are we necessarily dealing with a uniquely Japan-specific phenomenon. Any insights gained will also be highly relevant in the present global context, particularly regarding the US and Europe, where similar challenges are now being confronted. Europe, for instance, has grappling with a whole tangle of related problems – the ongoing debt and banking crisis, population decreases and their corresponding impacts, and generational tensions caused by this demographic change, among others. Similarly, Japan’s meltdown in the early 1990s bears a canny resemblance to the US subprime crisis of 2007/2008, with the aftershocks still rumbling.

In this sense, we will approach this review from an international perspective rather than from a myopically Japan-centric one. At the same time, some problems must naturally be considered as arising out of and reflecting Japan’s distinctive political-economic structure, corporate/management style, government/regulatory issues, social norms, and culture. Ultimately, a clear articulation of the universal commonalities and context-specific differences will be a critical starting point.

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 Japan-U.S. Military Statesmen Forum

Japan’s population is in rapid decline due to an ageing society and a low fertility rate. The Special Investigation Commission on Population Issues will examine the impact that these unprecedented demographic changes will have on the structure of Japanese society and posit solutions to these challenges.

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Built Environment and Lifestyle
RJIF launched an investigation into the contemporary Japanese living environment as the first project in our “Rediscover Japan” project. While Japanese architects are highly lauded, little is known about the residential environment in which “normal” people live.

Once maligned as “rabbit hutches” by disdainful Europeans, Japanese homes deserve a reassessment. Not only has the quality of houses has improved to the point where new builds are superior in quality to the U.S. and European homes they were initially meant to emulate, thanks to a rapid construction turnover that accelerated innovation and technological refinement, but the way people use their homes has also greatly evolved.

As the population shrinks and ages, the countryside hollows out, and people seek to reverse the environmental damage and loss of community wrought by rapid industrialization, new and diverse ways of using and adapting housing are emerging in Japan.

From eco-conscious people living in “zero energy” houses, young people cultivating vegetable gardens in the city, multi-generational communes, wooden skyscrapers and creative crashpads where “sharing” is promoted and ownership discouraged, the range of burgeoning lifestyle movements suggests the stereotype of overworked salarymen stuffed in one-room apartments no longer holds true in Japan.

We are publishing a series of articles framed around interviews with people leading such lifestyles to reveal the often overlooked innovation, creativity and flexibility in Japan’s living environment and to show how these growing movements can be relevant for other countries facing similar social, demographic and environmental pressures.

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Galapagos Cool

In an era when globalization seems to bring a monotonous homogeneity, there is more value than ever in being fresh and innovative. Japan has uniquely different experiences and values. These have already begun adding to Japan’s global appeal, but Japan has yet to fully tap this potential, and find yet more ways to make meaningful contributions to the world.
During its so-called lost decades, the term Galapagos was used to ridicule Japan as an inward-looking place so isolated from global markets and trends. We thus seek to flip the concept of Galapagos on its head, to turn it from a symptom of weakness into a source of strength. In this project, we will use this idea as a leaping point to dive more deeply into how to unlock Japan’s still latent value, and to broaden the nation’s appeal.

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Japan’s lost decades
Under the dramatic changes unfolding in the international environment, U.S.-Japan relations are now facing a set of historic challenges. Japan and the U.S. must rally to confront and solve these challenges jointly. In this way, the U.S.-Japan relationship can be revived. Through such strengthened ties, both countries will be able to deal more effectively with the common challenges at hand. Put simply, the key is to pursue a “rebalancing strategy” between Japan and the U.S. With Dr. Kurt Campbell and Dr. Michael Green as RJIF’s distinguished guest scholars, this program aims to propose new U.S.-Japan strategic visions for the future.

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Forging a Stronger Economic Alliance between the United States and Japan
The alliance between the United States and Japan has been a force for peace and prosperity around the world for nearly 60 years. Economics has been at the heart of the U.S.–Japan alliance from the outset: Article II of the Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security mandates that the two allies “seek to eliminate conflict in their international economic policies and … encourage economic collaboration between them.” Nowhere are U.S. and Japanese strategic interests more closely aligned than in the Indo-Pacific region.

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Critical Review of the DPJ Government
When the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) came to power in September 2009, Japanese citizens expected that a new era of the “two-party system” would be in place in the country soon. However the DPJ faced a variety of difficulties arising from their controversial policies and a large number of defectors from the party after the consumption tax increase bill, and went out of power with a drastic decrease of seat numbers at the 2012 Lower House election.

This project examined the DPJ administration from September 2009 to December 2012, from various perspectives such as policies, party governance, and management and legacy. Its ultimate goal is to identify the significance of the DPJ in Japan’s party politics and the reasons for its downfall, as well as to derive necessary lessons for Japan’s future party democracy.

The output, entitled “DPJ Administration: Challenges and Failures”, was published in Japan from Chuokoron-Shinsha, Inc. on September 25, 2013. And its English edition, “The Democratic Party of Japan in Power: Challenges and Failures,” was published from Routledge on September 8, 2016.

The entire version of the survey results can only be seen on this website.

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 Japan's moderate conservatism
This project aims to critically examine how political party democracy and “Moderate Conservatism” in Japan have shifted during these years. Our goal is to offer practical suggestions that will contribute to the revitalization of “Moderate Conservatism” necessary for Japan’s future.

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The Independent Investigation Commission on the Fukushima Nuclear Accident
The Independent Investigation Commission on the Fukushima Nuclear Accident has been delving into the causes of the nuclear accident at TEPCO’s Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station and the failure to contain its damage from an independent, private-sector perspective. The Commission announced its 420-page Report after six months of thoroughgoing research and analysis on February 28th, 2012. A detailed testimony by one of the workers at Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant is the prologue of the Report. It describes what the worker saw and experienced during the first hours after the plant had been stricken by the earthquakes and tsunami. The main text consists of four parts:

Part 1: The damage and accident responses at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plants
Part 2: The emergency responses taken by the government ministries, local governments and first responders; crisis management by Prime Minister’s Office; and the reality of chaotic evacuation
Part 3: The historical context and structural factors that led to the negligence of safety improvement
Part 4: Global contexts: International nuclear safety regime, nuclear security and US-Japan relations

The English version of the report was published in Asia, Europe and the United States through Routledge (UK) on March 6th, 2014.

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