A Tokyo-based think tank sharing better ideas for Japan and the world

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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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 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, while it suffered seriously from the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami, 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 examines 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 authors, a team of academic professionals and a lawyer, will analyze the policies and events during the time of DPJ, based on the testimonies from the interviews with the DPJ core politicians and related persons who were at or close to the center of the administration. The lessons learned under the DPJ government will be drawn for the future of Japan’s political party democracy. The output, entitled “DPJ Administration: Challenges and Failures”, was published in Japan from Chuokoron-Shinsha, Inc. on September 25, 2013.

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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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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 Japan-U.S. Military Statesmen Forum

There has been no direct channel for strategic dialogue between the U.S. military and the Japan Self Defense Forces (JSDF). In the age of strategic rebalancing with the East Asia being critically volatile, the need for such channel is increasing.

In today’s globalized world, continuous and extensive strategic dialogue between the two governments is crucial in dealing of rising issues promptly and appropriately. Notably, the value of the military-to-military strategic dialogues between the U.S. and Japan is increasing more than ever before. The strategic insights, shared values and wisdom drawn from the dialogues will certainly indispensable for the security policy debates.

This forum is an assembly of former Chairmen of Joint Chiefs of Staff of the U.S. and former Chiefs of Staff of the Joint Staff of Japan, aiming at strengthening policy dialogues between the U.S. and Japan leading to stronger “bonds” (“kizuna”) between the security policy communities of both countries.   

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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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Why Japan Matters Project


Locating the areas in which Japan already contributes to the world, and where it could offer even more.


Identifying Japan’s role in the world, and its importance within the global community.


Examining both Japan’s successes and failures in achieving a global presence commensurate with its economic size.


Helping Japan to reach its full potential by proposing policy suggestions and initiatives, and to discover why Japan in fact does matter to the world today.


Informing readers by finding new and lesser known Japanese success stories.

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Japanese dreams―the next generation In order to rebuild Japan, approaches and channels in the areas of business, politics, nongovernmental and nonprofit organizations, culture, and media is required. In particular, a new generation of leaders, young people in their 30s or early 40s, go-getters with the ability and ambition to extend their range of activities beyond Japan to the greater world is required. This project aims to construct an incubation platform of “Visions and Ideas from Japan”, something on which the young and creative, the revolutionaries and the trendsetters, the faces and minds of the next generation can set their agendas and extend their global networks.