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Japan without ambition

by

As Japan prepares to host the Group of Seven summit this year, stasis, lethargy, and fatalism, along with a pleasant lifestyle, best describe the archipelago in 2016.

The Cabinet wants to stabilize the population from the current 125 million to 100 million. This entails accepting a loss of over 20 percent, a fate normally visited only on lands plagued by terrible wars or pandemics. Robotics may replace humans. Science could make 90 the new 60, keeping seniors on the job into their 80s. But unless these deus ex machina drop down on the stage now, the future is grim.

With the probably impossible aim of a 1.8 births/woman fertility rate, 100 million is but a waypoint on the road to oblivion. Requests by the finance ministry to cut down the number of schoolteachers as children disappear show where Japan is heading. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe wants to empower women to better utilize half of the labor force but in fact his government has done very little to make this a reality. The Cabinet is not seriously thinking about Japan’s need for massive immigration.

On the economic front, though Japanese manufacturers still supply many critical components, Japanese industry and society as a whole have been partially bypassed by the ICT revolution. Abenomics has not delivered any meaningful results.

Japanese often argue theirs is a conservative society allergic to innovation. Their own history disproves this orientalist cliche. From 1855 to 1890, Japan evolved at a faster pace than Britain, France or the United States ever did. Soviet Russia, Maoist China, and Nazi Germany, metamorphosed more rapidly, but unlike Japan theirs was a fast track to hell with no return ticket for tens of millions.

Nor is Japan wedded to gerontocracy (or at best middle-age-cracy). Many of its leaders in the 1860s and 1870s were younger than John F. Kennedy and Barack Obama were on the day they took the oath of office. As they invented a new Japan, these statesmen tossed ancient traditions into the dustbin of history, built a state nearly ex nihilo, and created a new imperial system and official religion.

Why is Japan today the polar opposite of what it was in the 19th century?

There are random factors which account for the proliferation, or lack, of genius. But elite selection is one key. Modern Japan’s Founding Fathers were conspiratorial nobles, seditious junior samurai and autodidacts. Born away from the centers of power, they quickly reached the top thanks to their drive to grab opportunities by fair and foul means. They embodied Machiavelli’s virtu with the strength to bend fortuna to their will.

In 21st century Japan, the path to the top is narrow and slow. Almost all senior positions in government, business, the media, and academia, are held by men (and rarely women) with degrees generally from a few undergraduate faculties in central Tokyo. Upon graduation, even the best and brightest toil in obscurity for decades before attaining high rank unless they set up their own firm (which is harder in Japan). Upon retirement, elderly men retain influence as members of committees, heads of associations and honorary chairmen.

From the time they start school, future Japanese decision-makers go through filters that weed out the eccentric and the impatient personalities. Once on the job, junior professionals lack autonomy. Decision-making procedures hinder managers from displaying personal initiative. In the public sector and many corporations the hours are insanely long, and vacations short, insuring a “mind-numbing” office atmosphere.

There are imaginative and iconoclastic personalities in the Japanese establishment, but their impact is limited by their small numbers and the preference given to microscopic gradualism over innovation.

“Hereditary” politicians who succeed their parents — thanks to sheepish voters — can skip the requirement to keep a low profile until they reach late middle age. Of the eight 21st-century premiers, four were sons or grandsons of prime ministers, another the son and grandson of a Cabinet minister, and one was from a local political family. If princelings are lucky to get into the Diet in their 20s or early 30s thanks to the untimely death or retirement of their parent, they can join the Cabinet at a young age. However, their quality is limited by the laws of probability: In a nation of 125 million souls most of the talent will not be concentrated in families of professional politicians. Moreover, as heirs to a dynasty, why would they overthrow a system that served them well and will benefit their offspring?

Casius’ words to Brutus apply to Japan: “Men at some time are masters of their fates /The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars /But in ourselves, that we are underlings.” Unless Japan as a nation abandons its fatalism and takes charge of its future, it’s impossible to be optimistic.

Sadly, at this point, Japan is unlikely to surprise us. The top 10 percent of Japanese society are still doing well. The alliance with America can handle external challenges. The parochialism of the ruling caste blinds it from seeing how the rest of the world is adapting. Therefore, unless a great leader(s) shows up, Japan will require a massive shock to awake from its slumber.

Robert Dujarric is director, Institute of Contemporary Asian Studies, Temple University Japan (robertdujarric@gmail.com). © 2016, The Diplomat; distributed by Tribune Content Agency

  • Paul Martin

    Japan is a great and safe society. I have lived here mostly since 2008 and never found a better place to reside for peace of mind. The younger generation will soon take the reigns of power as the older politicians retire and hopefully they will make the necessary changes to update Japan into the future, until then we all just have to accept and tolerate those who hold the diet’s reigns of power.

    • Jr. Mackeltom

      Change ? More than 80% of Japanese oppose immigration.Majority of the younger generation, whom I studied with oppose “Gajin”. Japan isn’t going to change.

      Xenophobia is embed into the Japanese people, changing it is impossible.
      I have been living here 5 years now (1 year in Tokyo, Shibuya ward & 4 years in Oita, Nakatsu) leaving this year as my visa is near expiration. I have faced many harassment, but I am quite happy to see that these people love their country, culture & traditions so much.

      LOL ! Change Japanese way ? In your nationalist fantasy that is !

    • Robert Dujarric

      Yes the younger generation will take over, but by that time it will itself be well past retirement age!

  • Paul Martin

    Japan is a great and safe society. I have lived here mostly since 2008 and never found a better place to reside for peace of mind. The younger generation will soon take the reigns of power as the older politicians retire and hopefully they will make the necessary changes to update Japan into the future, until then we all just have to accept and tolerate those who hold the diet’s reigns of power.

  • Jr. Mackeltom

    Japan is dealing with their own problem of declining population and
    falling fertility rate. Conversion from labor intensive production
    method to Capital intensive production method is the best solution.

    Immigration is not a solution in fact it is a threat. More costs, More social
    unrest, etc. Machinery is the best solution as the population declines
    machinery will keep production without shortfall and these products
    could be exported.

    Minimal Immigration itself is not required in this century as Machinery
    could more effectively produce goods at a lower costs & In a much
    more more quality state. Worried about tax payment ? [REFER TO MY OTHER
    COMMENT ON HOW THE USE OF MACHINERY IS MORE SUCCESSFUL THAN IMMIGRATION FOR AN ECONOMY IN THE 21st CENTURY].

    Japan needs more foreign labor is a joke. Japan never meant to be a country
    of 127 million if it wasn’t for the war. Now all the countries that took
    part in war is developed and is having a declining population. Japan is
    also turning back to normal, and so all the other countries that took
    part in the war. Immigration creates social unrest and might lead to a
    civil war. Civil war is different from a world war it never makes a
    nation prosperous in fact it leeches the country’s wealth.

    Japan is for Japanese not for “gajin”. I am never against races but
    immigration is not a successful and it actually failed in Europe.

    All the countries that are now developed were once homogeneous. Developing
    countries like India,Sri Lanka,China & Indonesia. Were once
    multicultural and that’s exactly why these countries never became
    prosperous nor developed.

    Japan also rejected 99.7% of refugee applicants this year. This is a
    flag that shows Japan is never willing to accept a large influx of
    foreigners.

    Japan also have started to replace the workforce with robots showing
    “NEVER” sign for more immigrants and maintaining the current immigrant
    community with a controlled inbound and outbound system along with
    strict screening and monitoring the procedures for foreigners entering
    Japan (Which is fixed to be toughened this year even more) .

    Japan is not a country that forgets this important fact ;

    -Native population comes first before foreigners/outsiders-

  • Jr. Mackeltom

    Japan is dealing with their own problem of declining population and
    falling fertility rate. Conversion from labor intensive production
    method to Capital intensive production method is the best solution.

    Immigration is not a solution in fact it is a threat. More costs, More social
    unrest, etc. Machinery is the best solution as the population declines
    machinery will keep production without shortfall and these products
    could be exported.

    Minimal Immigration itself is not required in this century as Machinery
    could more effectively produce goods at a lower costs & In a much
    more more quality state. Worried about tax payment ? [REFER TO MY OTHER
    COMMENT ON HOW THE USE OF MACHINERY IS MORE SUCCESSFUL THAN IMMIGRATION FOR AN ECONOMY IN THE 21st CENTURY].

    Japan needs more foreign labor is a joke. Japan never meant to be a country
    of 127 million if it wasn’t for the war. Now all the countries that took
    part in war is developed and is having a declining population. Japan is
    also turning back to normal, and so all the other countries that took
    part in the war. Immigration creates social unrest and might lead to a
    civil war. Civil war is different from a world war it never makes a
    nation prosperous in fact it leeches the country’s wealth.

    Japan is for Japanese not for “gajin”. I am never against races but
    immigration is not a successful and it actually failed in Europe.

    All the countries that are now developed were once homogeneous. Developing
    countries like India,Sri Lanka,China & Indonesia. Were once
    multicultural and that’s exactly why these countries never became
    prosperous nor developed.

    Japan also rejected 99.7% of refugee applicants this year. This is a
    flag that shows Japan is never willing to accept a large influx of
    foreigners.

    Japan also have started to replace the workforce with robots showing
    “NEVER” sign for more immigrants and maintaining the current immigrant
    community with a controlled inbound and outbound system along with
    strict screening and monitoring the procedures for foreigners entering
    Japan (Which is fixed to be toughened this year even more) .

    Japan is not a country that forgets this important fact ;

    -Native population comes first before foreigners/outsiders-

  • Hyung-Sung Kim

    >Upon graduation, even the best and brightest toil in obscurity for decades before attaining high rank unless they set up their own firm (which is harder in Japan)

    It is not hard at all to set up firm in Japan. I was able to do it without any difficulty.

    Certainly Japan has its problems, but having lived in the U.S. as well, I’d much prefer to live in Japan where there is universal health care and where we don’t have to worry about mass shootings in shopping malls & schools.

    The author of this article is an American, but guess where he lives. If he feels so pessimistic about Japan, why not move back to the U.S.? Nobody is stopping him.

    • Jr. Mackeltom

      It is hard but that’s good. I don’t know about you but it is certainly harder than setting up a firm in U.S.

      Japan is already inventing robots (Pepper) & other machinery to cope up with labor shortages. Japan isn’t encouraging foreign firms or immigration to boost their population. I was trying for the same thing you did but failed.

      Japan is a great country. Why ? Japan loves Japanese that’s why..

      • Hyung-Sung Kim

        I’m glad your visa is expiring soon since it is not healthy to stay in the country where you feel unhappy. Good luck in the U.S. or wherever you’re headed to.

      • Jr. Mackeltom

        It’s not that I am unhappy……. In fact I love living in Japan.
        Japan expect us to come here work for 3 to 4 years and leave. In my case I am a student. My collage sponsorship is ending soon.

        Japan is for Japanese. I am from Daegu. You must be a Korean too. You know for sure how the Japanese react when you say “Watashi Soru kara kimashita”. LOL

        Setting up a business in Japan is easier in your delusional world.

      • Hyung-Sung Kim

        >You know for sure how the Japanese react when you say “Watashi Soru kara kimashita”

        I’ve never experienced discrimination in Japan.

        >Setting up a business in Japan is easier in your delusional world.

        Why? I’ve done it without any problem.

        If you’re a Korean, you shouldn’t pretend to be someone else by using a name like “Jr. Mackeltom.” You only tarnish Korean reputation by being a coward.

        Too many Koreans use names like ‘Jackman’ & ‘Mackeltom’ and bash Japan here unfortunately.

        By the way, my grandparents grew up in Daegu.

      • Jr. Mackeltom

        You never experienced discrimination ? Wow now that’s news for me ! I got bullied the other day ! LOL

        Setting up a business is hard. I don’t about you (Only you) who had easy procedures in setting up a business IN JAPAN.

        I wonder how you got the permits being a “GAJIN”.

        Don’t talk ill about Daegu. I go by this name because I like this name. Respect your motherland dork.

        Japan is the worlds best country……… Japan loves Japan that’s how a country should be.

        Anyway where were you born ?

      • Jr. Mackeltom

        You never experienced discrimination ? Wow now that’s news for me ! I got bullied the other day ! LOL

        Setting up a business is hard. I don’t about you (Only you) who had easy procedures in setting up a business IN JAPAN.

        I wonder how you got the permits being a “GAJIN”.

        Don’t talk ill about Daegu. I go by this name because I like this name. Respect your motherland dork.

        Japan is the worlds best country……… Japan loves Japan that’s how a country should be.

        Anyway where were you born ?

      • Hyung-Sung Kim

        >You know for sure how the Japanese react when you say “Watashi Soru kara kimashita”

        I’ve never experienced discrimination in Japan.

        >Setting up a business in Japan is easier in your delusional world.

        Why? I’ve done it without any problem.

        If you’re a Korean, you shouldn’t pretend to be someone else by using a name like “Jr. Mackeltom.” You only tarnish Korean reputation by being a coward.

        Too many Koreans use names like ‘Jackman’ & ‘Mackeltom’ and bash Japan here unfortunately.

        By the way, my grandparents grew up in Daegu.

      • Hyung-Sung Kim

        >You know for sure how the Japanese react when you say “Watashi Soru kara kimashita”

        I’ve never experienced discrimination in Japan.

        >Setting up a business in Japan is easier in your delusional world.

        Why? I’ve done it without any problem.

        If you’re a Korean, you shouldn’t pretend to be someone else by using a name like “Jr. Mackeltom.” You only tarnish Korean reputation by being a coward.

        Too many Koreans use names like ‘Jackman’ & ‘Mackeltom’ and bash Japan here unfortunately.

        By the way, my grandparents grew up in Daegu.

      • Hyung-Sung Kim

        >You know for sure how the Japanese react when you say “Watashi Soru kara kimashita”

        I’ve never experienced discrimination in Japan.

        >Setting up a business in Japan is easier in your delusional world.

        Why? I’ve done it without any problem.

        If you’re a Korean, you shouldn’t pretend to be someone else by using a name like “Jr. Mackeltom.” You only tarnish Korean reputation by being a coward.

        Too many Koreans use names like ‘Jackman’ & ‘Mackeltom’ and bash Japan here unfortunately.

        By the way, my grandparents grew up in Daegu.

      • Hyung-Sung Kim

        >You know for sure how the Japanese react when you say “Watashi Soru kara kimashita”

        I’ve never experienced discrimination in Japan.

        >Setting up a business in Japan is easier in your delusional world.

        Why? I’ve done it without any problem.

        If you’re a Korean, you shouldn’t pretend to be someone else by using a name like “Jr. Mackeltom.” You only tarnish Korean reputation by being a coward.

        Too many Koreans use names like ‘Jackman’ & ‘Mackeltom’ and bash Japan here unfortunately.

        By the way, my grandparents grew up in Daegu.

      • Hyung-Sung Kim

        I’m glad your visa is expiring soon since it is not healthy to stay in the country where you feel unhappy. Good luck in the U.S. or wherever you’re headed to.

    • Steve Jackman

      “why not move back to the U.S.?”. One of my favorite bloggers about Japan, Ken Seeroi, recently wrote a very interesting post titled, “Japan’s a Scam” in his blog called, “Japanese Rule of 7”.

      In it, he very accurately writes, “Everyone who can leave Japan eventually does—it’s a constant, like the speed of light.” He goes on to write, “Okay, so Japan’s a scam, but that’s probably obvious. The internet image of a nation with a low crime rate, concern for others, politeness, sexy women, harmony with nature, respect for the elderly—-it’s all a stupendous fiction. News organizations recirculate the same rumors over and again, based on observations from the Meiji era. Oooo, a country on the other side of the earth where everything’s perfect, how delightful. There’s only one reason anybody’d believe it: because Japanese people are massive liars convinced of their own hype, and because it’s so easy to mistake difference for exoticism.”

      I recommend you read the entire post and the accompanying comments on his blog before you go too far in comparing the U.S and Japan.

      • Hyung-Sung Kim

        Why would I want to listen to what Ken Seeroi has to say? He has lived in Japan for 8 years. I’ve lived here much longer. And why would I want to listen to you? All you ever do is bash Japan.

        I have lived in the U.S., Japan & South Korea, and Japan is by far the best country for me. And that’s all that matters.

      • Jeffrey

        “Everyone who can leave Japan eventually does—”

        Except the Japanese themselves. They are home bodies to a fault. Interestingly enough, though, many of those who do leave and then return regret doing so.

    • Tokyogreen

      Sorry, but this is a silly (but common type of) response. If the author didn’t enjoy living in Japan and care about the country, then he wouldn’t bother enough to write about the problems it is facing.

      • Hyung-Sung Kim

        My point is: leave it to the younger generation. It will figure out what it needs to do without Mr. Dujarric’s advice when it feels a sense of urgency. Right now Japan is too comfortable.

        Japan operates in 80 year cycle. 1865 – 1945, so the next bottom will be around 2025. Japan will resurrect itself in 2030’s & 2040’s and by 2070’s it will be complacent again.

        By the way, this 80 year cycle theory holds true for individual families, too. A genius entrepreneur founds a company, and by the third generation (his grandson’s generation) the company becomes lethargic. Then it takes two more generations to resurrect itself. This was one of the topics of research in business school.

      • Tokyogreen

        I would accept that very broadly speaking the 80 year cycle could hold true for very successful families (but less so in Japan than elsewhere because of Japan’s succession culture), but don’t see any reason to accept that this is true for Japan as a country. Certainly the post-war generation had to work very hard to rebuild Japan after WW2, and the 2nd generation after that has become rather complacent and less hard-working, but I don’t see that as a continuously repeating cycle in Japan’s history.
        Germany worked extremely hard to rebuild after 1918 and again after 1945, but no-one would say that it has a 27 year cycle. Japan’s situation in 1945 can’t be compared with any other in its history; it was completely devastated and was forced to rebuild. If your thinking is correct about the 80 year cycle (you also mention 1865, so you clearly see it repeating), it would have had to rebuild in 1945 anyway, regardless of WW2. Additionally, I see no reason to think that it will reach a bottom in 2025 and start to resurrect itself. Do you have any justification for that other than a notional figure of 80 years?

      • Hyung-Sung Kim

        This theory is based on human nature. People strive hard when they are poor and become complacent when they are prosperous.

        In 1865 after 260 years of isolation, the Japanese realized they were behind in technology and poorer compared to the West. So they worked very hard for 40 years and reached the pinnacle in 1905 when they defeated the Russians. Then they became complacent and gradually declined for the next 40 years. The wrong choices they made to get into wars were the result of this complacency.

        In 1945 they were left with nothing, so they work very hard for 40 years again and reached the so-called bubble peak in 1985. This was when Japan was hailed as “Japan as No. 1.” With unimaginable prosperity, the Japanese became complacent again and has gradually declined since.

        By 2025, 40 years of stagnation will make them realize that they have to work hard once again to catch up with the world.

        Anyway this is my 80 year cycle theory, and if you don’t agree with me, that’s fine.

      • Tokyogreen

        Well, actually I don’t agree! Rather than being decline, the Japanese economy was booming in the pre-war years. For example, Japan had a growth rate of 5.8 per cent per year from 1930 to 1938. According to your 80 year theory, even without the war, Japan was on the decline and would have had to rebuild its economy anyway. I don’t see it that way. But, as you say, that’s fine! It’s always interesting to see different perspectives. I have to say that I am not optimistic about Japan’s recovery, unless it opens its borders to widespread immigration, which is going to be hugely unpopular.

      • Hyung-Sung Kim

        You need to learn history. Japanese economy was not booming at all in the pre-war years. People would’ve opposed the war if the economy was booming.

        First of all, the great earthquake in 1923 ruined everything, and then in 1927 Japan had a financial crisis. Starting from 1930, the Great Depression affected Japan as well and became Showa Depression. Public dissatisfaction resulted in two military coups (May 15, 1932 & February 26 1936) and Machurian Invasion in 1931.

        Japan faced serious deflation. The wholesale prices went down by 17.7% in 1930 and 15.4% in 1931. The nominal numbers began to look better in the late 1930’s due to unprecedented quantitative easing by Korekiyo Takahashi and massive spending on war effort. It wasn’t that Japan was growing (or booming), Japan was incurring huge debt by spending & spending. Countries usually don’t get into wars if the economy was booming. It is the opposite. For example, the U.S. baited Japan into the war because its New Deal policy totally failed by the late 1930’s and the war was the only way out of the depression.
        I didn’t know you were this ignorant. I wish I wouldn’t have spent my valuable time with you. End of our conversation!

      • Tokyogreen

        Well, I was trying to have a civilised discussion with you, but it seems you are not able to do that without resorting to insult. I suggest you read up on the subject, for example, “The Japanese Economy during the Interwar Period:Instability in the Financial System and the Impact of the World Depression” from the Bank of Japan Review in May 2009. One of the conclusions is as follows: “a combination of macroeconomic stimulus policies provided an effective way to deal with the world depression of the 1930s. Currency depreciation, fiscal stimulus, and easy monetary conditions helped Japan recover early from the Great Depression. We can note here that the shift in expectation from deflation to inflation was chiefly the result of the currency depreciation, not the BOJ underwriting of government bonds. The mechanism by which the expectation was formed in Japan was what we would expect in a small, open economy run under a fixed exchange rate system.”
        The problem seems to be that you start with a conclusion (the 80 year cycle) and then have to justify it ex post facto! And you still haven’t given any explanation at all as to why you expect the situation to reach rock-bottom in 2025, and then start improving (other than the fact that that happens to be 80 years from the end of WW2).

      • Ken Kitagawa

        B o J source you provided doesn’t say Japanese economy was booming in 1930’s. Common sense tells me no economy in the world was booming in 1930’s.

      • Tokyogreen

        Well, boom might be a bit of a strong word to describe the economy as a whole, but there was certainly a boom in exports. As explained by Professor Richard Smethurst: “The concomitant drop in the value of the yen led to a boom in Japanese exports even while the rest of the world’s trade contracted. In fact, the mid-1930s was one of the few times in the pre-war modern era when Japan had a favorable trade balance. In the summer of 1932, Takahashi also introduced a countercyclical fiscal policy. He increased government spending and made up the difference not by raising taxes, but by deficit financing – and deficit financing through selling low-interest government bonds directly to the Bank of Japan rather than on the open market. He thus avoided the potential problem of ‘crowding out’. The government’s spending increased money in circulation and stimulated demand. Growing domestic demand together with expanding exports encouraged production and reemployment – more people had more money to spend – and Japan began to recover from the depression. Japan had a growth rate of 5.8 per cent per year from 1930 to 1938.”

      • Ken Kitagawa

        You should admit your statement was wrong. Bad economy was clearly the reason why Japan started the war in 1931.

      • Tokyogreen

        What statement? In any case I’m not talking about the war in 1931. I’m talking about the years immediately prior to WW2. Finally, if you read the exchanges, you will see that my point here is that there is no reason to believe that Japan is following (and will continue to follow) an 80 year cycle. Or maybe you think that it does?

      • Ken Kitagawa

        “Japan was booming”

        80 year cycle theory is well known in Japan, and I agree with it.

        I don’t enjoy talking with someone who never admits he is wrong. Exactly the type of person we don’t need in Japan. Good bye.

      • Tokyogreen

        If you can demonstrate the point on which you say I was wrong, I will be happy to discuss it. I have provided academic support for what I have said. You clearly think that is wrong, but of course that is your prerogative.

      • Yumi Yoshida

        80 year cycle theory is well accepted by many scholars in Japan, and there are books available. For example,

        http://www.fastpic.jp/images.php?file=2689651306.gif

        http://www.amazon.co.jp/%E6%97%A5%E6%9C%AC%E3%81%AF80%E5%B9%B4%E5%91%A8%E6%9C%9F%E3%81%A7%E7%A0%B4%E6%BB%85%E3%81%99%E3%82%8B-%E5%8C%97%E8%A6%8B-%E6%98%8C%E6%9C%97/dp/4062170418

        Japan recovered from the depression in the 1930’s better than other countries, but I wouldn’t say the Japanese economy was booming. Anyway that’s not the point. Even if Japan recovered momentarily in the 1930’s, when you look at the entire span of 40 years from 1905 to 1945, Japan was definitely on a declining trend. Your point that Japan wouldn’t have declined if not for WWII is a silly one. The Russo Japan war triumph in 1905 made the Japanese overconfident and complacent, which led Japan into WWII. The point of the cycle theory is the Japanese become overconfident and complacent at the top and make wrong decisions, but they always climb back up when they are at the bottom. So saying “if Japan didn’t enter WWII” proves you don’t understand what this theory is about. Also for you to say Japan will continue to decline even when it hits the bottom proves you don’t understand the nature of us Japanese.

        If you read the comments made by Hyung-Sung Kim, he actually made very good points. You ridiculed him, but as a Japanese person I can say that he understands the theory and the nature of us Japanese a lot better than you do.

        As for declining population, it would certainly be better if it wasn’t, But over 100 women getting harassed by immigrants and refuges in Germany or 14 people getting killed by muslim shooters in San Bernadino, California makes you wonder if it is worth it. I think we should concentrate more on maintaining or improving GDP per capita rather than the total GDP.

        Yes, it is a bit hard to imagine that Japan will recover by observing the current Japanese youths, but they will not stay lazy when they hit the bottom. (By the way whether or not Japan hits the bottom exactly in 2025 isn’t important, either. It could happen in 2024 or 2029, who knows) Right now Japan is too comfortable a place for our young people. Even before 1865 the Japanese had proven time and time again that they climbed back up when they were in trouble. If you don’t have confidence in us doing so, you might as well pack up and leave. Why stay in the country where you’re convinced that it will continue to decline.

      • Tokyogreen

        If you can demonstrate the point on which you say I was wrong, I will be happy to discuss it. I have provided academic support for what I have said. You clearly think that is wrong, but of course that is your prerogative.

      • KenjiAd

        Interesting theory.

    • Jeffrey

      Actually, Dujarric was born and raised in France, though he has worked in the U.S. as well.

      His pessimism about Japan is well-founded as it is with anyone who has been involved with the nation for more than a few years. Japan is in trouble demographically, economically and spiritually. It is a nation in decline and completely unwilling to take the necessary steps to even slow the decline. As things are now, there will be no soft landing.

  • Hyung-Sung Kim

    >Upon graduation, even the best and brightest toil in obscurity for decades before attaining high rank unless they set up their own firm (which is harder in Japan)

    It is not hard at all to set up firm in Japan. I was able to do it without any difficulty.

    Certainly Japan has its problems, but having lived in the U.S. as well, I’d much prefer to live in Japan where there is universal health care and where we don’t have to worry about mass shootings in shopping malls & schools.

    The author of this article is an American, but guess where he lives. If he feels so pessimistic about Japan, why not move back to the U.S.? Nobody is stopping him.

  • Hyung-Sung Kim

    >Upon graduation, even the best and brightest toil in obscurity for decades before attaining high rank unless they set up their own firm (which is harder in Japan)

    It is not hard at all to set up firm in Japan. I was able to do it without any difficulty.

    Certainly Japan has its problems, but having lived in the U.S. as well, I’d much prefer to live in Japan where there is universal health care and where we don’t have to worry about mass shootings in shopping malls & schools.

    The author of this article is an American, but guess where he lives. If he feels so pessimistic about Japan, why not move back to the U.S.? Nobody is stopping him.

  • Jr. Mackeltom

    Why Capital Intensive method is better than labor Intensive method for Japan
    —————————————————————————————————

    Why does Japan need human resources when robots can do work more
    efficiently and at a lower cost than a normal person do ? Ok to be more
    accurate look at the calculations(THIS IS JUST AN EXAMPLE) lets assume
    that just one Japanese person is the only EMPLOYEE / WORKER in a
    manufacturing company with a contract for five years with a minimum or
    starter wage of ¥80000 for a month with free transport (Worth ¥4,000
    per/month) & other non-monetary benefits that would an economist
    normally charge as cost but not an accountant. Lets assume that the
    Japanese person pays around ¥5,000 of income tax + other taxes= that
    totals ¥15,000. Now the company in which the Japanese person works have a
    net profit (before tax) of (Just figures) ¥1,500,000 and pays the
    government 25% from profits (before tax) as corporate income tax. the
    company would have a profit (after taxation) of about ¥1,125,000 =
    ¥1,500,000 (¥1,500,000 * 25%). Taxes are mainly used for the welfare of
    the Citizens of a country example:- Unemployment benefits lets assume
    that Japanese government pays ¥1,000,000,000/1000 unemployed people.

    Note:
    In Japan the population is declining which means that more jobs are
    available thus Employment increases (Not decreasing). EXCESS OF JOBS
    AVAILABLE

    Now due to Machinery incentives promoted by the
    government of Japan the company decides to use technology and machinery
    (robots) in the manufacturing process replacing the labour-intensive
    production method with capital-intensive production method. The Japanese
    person may loose the job however he will not get affected badly as
    there is an EXCESS OF JOBS AVAILABLE. Now the cost of ¥84,000 + other
    non-monetary benefits, are saved by the company but in return the
    company should incur costs monthly for the new capital intensive
    production method (Lets cut to the case, ignoring the setup cost etc).
    The costs for the “ROBOTS” for manufacturing goods (monthly) is ¥20,000
    (No non-monetary benefits included) & and the efficiency is greater
    than when the company was still manufacturing using the labour intensive
    method, which results more goods to be sold within the month so the
    profit before tax should increase significantly lets calculate-

    Note:
    Unlike a person, a robot or machinery is an asset of a company which is
    owned by them the responsibility of the asset is with the company not
    anyone else.

    The new profit (before tax) of the company is
    ¥2,064,000 = ¥1,500,000 + (¥84,000 – ¥20,000) + (more profits due to
    efficiency) ¥500,000. Now assuming nothing else changed the tax paid to
    the government by the former Japanese worker of the manufacturing
    company cuts off (might be paying a higher or lower tax depending on the
    next job of the former Japanese worker in the manufacturing company).

    Now
    the company should pay ¥516,000 worth of tax = ¥2,064,000 * 25% which
    give the company of ¥1,548,000 profit (after tax) an increase of over
    ¥423,000 more profits for the buisness after taxation & the
    government earns 141,000 more income tax from the company, lets deduct
    the tax that the government gained from the former worker ¥141,000 –
    ¥15,000= ¥126,000 still the government & the manufacturing company
    both earns more profits and taxes due to the change from labour
    intensive method to capital intensive method.

    Also Japan is a
    developed country, Ignoring Fukushima there is nothing to be developed
    so taxes are not needed to be used for these but to maintain their
    standards and health. Another is that even though Japan would be earning
    a higher tax (AS I SHOWED ABOVE) after changing to the capital
    intensive method, the government would not be paying more and more for
    Unemployment benefits (500,000,000/500 people [DECLINED POPULATION])
    etc, this is because Population is in decline. The only cost the
    government of Japan to incur is for the operations and promotions
    carried out in order to increase the fertility rate of the Japanese,
    various methods will carried out for instant Tax relief for families
    with more than 3 children etc & incentives that are targeted in
    order bring women and retired people back to the work force to fill the
    rest.

    And during this time Japan would increase the fertility rate
    1.8 (still below the replacement level) by next 20 years or so &
    stabilize the Japanese population at 100 million and then work towards
    the target of 2.10 fertility rate which would again increase the
    Japanese people. However after 18- 20 years after the fertility rate
    topped and surpassed the cap of 2.10 Japanese government should take
    measures to encourage companies to bring in the work force (or labour)
    back to the work force which should be targeted in switching back the
    capital intensive method to labour-intensive method.

    However
    robots actually generate more taxes for the government as this reduces
    the costs incurred by the companies and increases efficiency resulting
    more profit before taxes that would let or make the company pay a higher
    amount of tax than when people who used to work their previously.

    Note:
    This calculations dose not include Reliability of money,Changes and
    some other small factors that would have a little or no change at all to
    the given calculations. Also REMEMBER my calculations does say words
    like “ASSUME, EXAMPLE, FIGURES , etc” learn the meaning of these words
    if any of you folks who wants to comment back at me.

    Also the
    direction Japanese government is taking not increasing the immigrant
    population but replacing the labour shortage with technology, Women
    & Retired people is a very successful system unlike the path Europe
    took by opening doors to more immigrants that now results in a genocidal
    situation, which is a major “FAILURE”. The path Japanese took will
    ensure their own citizens security, preservation of Japanese cultural
    and traditional elements, & a country that they actually can say
    theirs.

  • Jr. Mackeltom

    Why Capital Intensive method is better than labor Intensive method for Japan
    —————————————————————————————————

    Why does Japan need human resources when robots can do work more
    efficiently and at a lower cost than a normal person do ? Ok to be more
    accurate look at the calculations(THIS IS JUST AN EXAMPLE) lets assume
    that just one Japanese person is the only EMPLOYEE / WORKER in a
    manufacturing company with a contract for five years with a minimum or
    starter wage of ¥80000 for a month with free transport (Worth ¥4,000
    per/month) & other non-monetary benefits that would an economist
    normally charge as cost but not an accountant. Lets assume that the
    Japanese person pays around ¥5,000 of income tax + other taxes= that
    totals ¥15,000. Now the company in which the Japanese person works have a
    net profit (before tax) of (Just figures) ¥1,500,000 and pays the
    government 25% from profits (before tax) as corporate income tax. the
    company would have a profit (after taxation) of about ¥1,125,000 =
    ¥1,500,000 (¥1,500,000 * 25%). Taxes are mainly used for the welfare of
    the Citizens of a country example:- Unemployment benefits lets assume
    that Japanese government pays ¥1,000,000,000/1000 unemployed people.

    Note:
    In Japan the population is declining which means that more jobs are
    available thus Employment increases (Not decreasing). EXCESS OF JOBS
    AVAILABLE

    Now due to Machinery incentives promoted by the
    government of Japan the company decides to use technology and machinery
    (robots) in the manufacturing process replacing the labour-intensive
    production method with capital-intensive production method. The Japanese
    person may loose the job however he will not get affected badly as
    there is an EXCESS OF JOBS AVAILABLE. Now the cost of ¥84,000 + other
    non-monetary benefits, are saved by the company but in return the
    company should incur costs monthly for the new capital intensive
    production method (Lets cut to the case, ignoring the setup cost etc).
    The costs for the “ROBOTS” for manufacturing goods (monthly) is ¥20,000
    (No non-monetary benefits included) & and the efficiency is greater
    than when the company was still manufacturing using the labour intensive
    method, which results more goods to be sold within the month so the
    profit before tax should increase significantly lets calculate-

    Note:
    Unlike a person, a robot or machinery is an asset of a company which is
    owned by them the responsibility of the asset is with the company not
    anyone else.

    The new profit (before tax) of the company is
    ¥2,064,000 = ¥1,500,000 + (¥84,000 – ¥20,000) + (more profits due to
    efficiency) ¥500,000. Now assuming nothing else changed the tax paid to
    the government by the former Japanese worker of the manufacturing
    company cuts off (might be paying a higher or lower tax depending on the
    next job of the former Japanese worker in the manufacturing company).

    Now
    the company should pay ¥516,000 worth of tax = ¥2,064,000 * 25% which
    give the company of ¥1,548,000 profit (after tax) an increase of over
    ¥423,000 more profits for the buisness after taxation & the
    government earns 141,000 more income tax from the company, lets deduct
    the tax that the government gained from the former worker ¥141,000 –
    ¥15,000= ¥126,000 still the government & the manufacturing company
    both earns more profits and taxes due to the change from labour
    intensive method to capital intensive method.

    Also Japan is a
    developed country, Ignoring Fukushima there is nothing to be developed
    so taxes are not needed to be used for these but to maintain their
    standards and health. Another is that even though Japan would be earning
    a higher tax (AS I SHOWED ABOVE) after changing to the capital
    intensive method, the government would not be paying more and more for
    Unemployment benefits (500,000,000/500 people [DECLINED POPULATION])
    etc, this is because Population is in decline. The only cost the
    government of Japan to incur is for the operations and promotions
    carried out in order to increase the fertility rate of the Japanese,
    various methods will carried out for instant Tax relief for families
    with more than 3 children etc & incentives that are targeted in
    order bring women and retired people back to the work force to fill the
    rest.

    And during this time Japan would increase the fertility rate
    1.8 (still below the replacement level) by next 20 years or so &
    stabilize the Japanese population at 100 million and then work towards
    the target of 2.10 fertility rate which would again increase the
    Japanese people. However after 18- 20 years after the fertility rate
    topped and surpassed the cap of 2.10 Japanese government should take
    measures to encourage companies to bring in the work force (or labour)
    back to the work force which should be targeted in switching back the
    capital intensive method to labour-intensive method.

    However
    robots actually generate more taxes for the government as this reduces
    the costs incurred by the companies and increases efficiency resulting
    more profit before taxes that would let or make the company pay a higher
    amount of tax than when people who used to work their previously.

    Note:
    This calculations dose not include Reliability of money,Changes and
    some other small factors that would have a little or no change at all to
    the given calculations. Also REMEMBER my calculations does say words
    like “ASSUME, EXAMPLE, FIGURES , etc” learn the meaning of these words
    if any of you folks who wants to comment back at me.

    Also the
    direction Japanese government is taking not increasing the immigrant
    population but replacing the labour shortage with technology, Women
    & Retired people is a very successful system unlike the path Europe
    took by opening doors to more immigrants that now results in a genocidal
    situation, which is a major “FAILURE”. The path Japanese took will
    ensure their own citizens security, preservation of Japanese cultural
    and traditional elements, & a country that they actually can say
    theirs.

  • Jr. Mackeltom

    Why Capital Intensive method is better than labor Intensive method for Japan
    —————————————————————————————————

    Why does Japan need human resources when robots can do work more
    efficiently and at a lower cost than a normal person do ? Ok to be more
    accurate look at the calculations(THIS IS JUST AN EXAMPLE) lets assume
    that just one Japanese person is the only EMPLOYEE / WORKER in a
    manufacturing company with a contract for five years with a minimum or
    starter wage of ¥80000 for a month with free transport (Worth ¥4,000
    per/month) & other non-monetary benefits that would an economist
    normally charge as cost but not an accountant. Lets assume that the
    Japanese person pays around ¥5,000 of income tax + other taxes= that
    totals ¥15,000. Now the company in which the Japanese person works have a
    net profit (before tax) of (Just figures) ¥1,500,000 and pays the
    government 25% from profits (before tax) as corporate income tax. the
    company would have a profit (after taxation) of about ¥1,125,000 =
    ¥1,500,000 (¥1,500,000 * 25%). Taxes are mainly used for the welfare of
    the Citizens of a country example:- Unemployment benefits lets assume
    that Japanese government pays ¥1,000,000,000/1000 unemployed people.

    Note:
    In Japan the population is declining which means that more jobs are
    available thus Employment increases (Not decreasing). EXCESS OF JOBS
    AVAILABLE

    Now due to Machinery incentives promoted by the
    government of Japan the company decides to use technology and machinery
    (robots) in the manufacturing process replacing the labour-intensive
    production method with capital-intensive production method. The Japanese
    person may loose the job however he will not get affected badly as
    there is an EXCESS OF JOBS AVAILABLE. Now the cost of ¥84,000 + other
    non-monetary benefits, are saved by the company but in return the
    company should incur costs monthly for the new capital intensive
    production method (Lets cut to the case, ignoring the setup cost etc).
    The costs for the “ROBOTS” for manufacturing goods (monthly) is ¥20,000
    (No non-monetary benefits included) & and the efficiency is greater
    than when the company was still manufacturing using the labour intensive
    method, which results more goods to be sold within the month so the
    profit before tax should increase significantly lets calculate-

    Note:
    Unlike a person, a robot or machinery is an asset of a company which is
    owned by them the responsibility of the asset is with the company not
    anyone else.

    The new profit (before tax) of the company is
    ¥2,064,000 = ¥1,500,000 + (¥84,000 – ¥20,000) + (more profits due to
    efficiency) ¥500,000. Now assuming nothing else changed the tax paid to
    the government by the former Japanese worker of the manufacturing
    company cuts off (might be paying a higher or lower tax depending on the
    next job of the former Japanese worker in the manufacturing company).

    Now
    the company should pay ¥516,000 worth of tax = ¥2,064,000 * 25% which
    give the company of ¥1,548,000 profit (after tax) an increase of over
    ¥423,000 more profits for the buisness after taxation & the
    government earns 141,000 more income tax from the company, lets deduct
    the tax that the government gained from the former worker ¥141,000 –
    ¥15,000= ¥126,000 still the government & the manufacturing company
    both earns more profits and taxes due to the change from labour
    intensive method to capital intensive method.

    Also Japan is a
    developed country, Ignoring Fukushima there is nothing to be developed
    so taxes are not needed to be used for these but to maintain their
    standards and health. Another is that even though Japan would be earning
    a higher tax (AS I SHOWED ABOVE) after changing to the capital
    intensive method, the government would not be paying more and more for
    Unemployment benefits (500,000,000/500 people [DECLINED POPULATION])
    etc, this is because Population is in decline. The only cost the
    government of Japan to incur is for the operations and promotions
    carried out in order to increase the fertility rate of the Japanese,
    various methods will carried out for instant Tax relief for families
    with more than 3 children etc & incentives that are targeted in
    order bring women and retired people back to the work force to fill the
    rest.

    And during this time Japan would increase the fertility rate
    1.8 (still below the replacement level) by next 20 years or so &
    stabilize the Japanese population at 100 million and then work towards
    the target of 2.10 fertility rate which would again increase the
    Japanese people. However after 18- 20 years after the fertility rate
    topped and surpassed the cap of 2.10 Japanese government should take
    measures to encourage companies to bring in the work force (or labour)
    back to the work force which should be targeted in switching back the
    capital intensive method to labour-intensive method.

    However
    robots actually generate more taxes for the government as this reduces
    the costs incurred by the companies and increases efficiency resulting
    more profit before taxes that would let or make the company pay a higher
    amount of tax than when people who used to work their previously.

    Note:
    This calculations dose not include Reliability of money,Changes and
    some other small factors that would have a little or no change at all to
    the given calculations. Also REMEMBER my calculations does say words
    like “ASSUME, EXAMPLE, FIGURES , etc” learn the meaning of these words
    if any of you folks who wants to comment back at me.

    Also the
    direction Japanese government is taking not increasing the immigrant
    population but replacing the labour shortage with technology, Women
    & Retired people is a very successful system unlike the path Europe
    took by opening doors to more immigrants that now results in a genocidal
    situation, which is a major “FAILURE”. The path Japanese took will
    ensure their own citizens security, preservation of Japanese cultural
    and traditional elements, & a country that they actually can say
    theirs.

  • Tangerine 18

    An entirely accurate, if extremely depressing article. It’s very difficult to see anything positive in the near future for this country, unfortunately.

  • Christina Tsuchida

    We moved to Japan more than 30 years ago, but it seems to me arriving here, one only BEGINS the journey toward living here. Language proficiency, entailing cultural wisdom or at least savvy, is required to really settle in. Those who read only in English, for example, remain very much outsiders.
    Dujarric’s opinion article is unlikely to propagate his opinions as he gives scarcely a reason for any point and hardly arranges his thoughts better than a fundamentalist religionist preaching to the converted. May I give just one example?
    On population, he cites figures without context, as if his readers were better statisticians than he. Despite his setting the figure of 100 million persons in the context of the current 125 million, the Cabinet’s alleged aiming at a population of 100 million means UPPING the current birthrate (or Japan will soon be 90 million, says a recent JT article). Dujarric does mention a desired rate of 1.8 births, without supplying the context that current births are about 1.26 or so (I guess these rates are per person). Then, however, he condemns Abenomics for not moving faster to stuff women into leadership positions, completely ignoring the fertility reduction effect of both female education and female career opportunities. This sort of consideration is also available on the website of The Diplomat from which this article is said to be taken!
    From this bungling alone, we can see that Dujarric is not really interested in Japan and its issues (no pun intended). Whatever his other motives for being physically present here, he does seem to have debarked yet.

    • Jeffrey

      “Then, however, he condemns Abenomics for not moving faster to stuff women into leadership positions, completely ignoring the fertility reduction effect of both female education and female career opportunities.”

      This is a conundrum. If women in Japan were involved, meaningfully, in the work force at the levels typical of Western Europe, Scandinavia and N. American, much of Japan’s perceived lack of workers would disappear. At the same time, lacking adequate childcare options makes it impossible for more women to enter the workforce even part time . And since the government is disinclined to do more to promote more childcare options, anything Abe claims to be working for is nonsense. Sadly, this same discussion has been going on now for about 30 years.

      • Christina Tsuchida

        Greater Tokyo is a place where childcare facilities ARE being developed more and more by the government.

  • There is no reason to do anything about a low birthrate in a country that is already overpopulated. It is a self-correcting problem, and, indeed, Japan’s current low birthrate is exactly that self-correction mechanism, and should not be interfered with. Eventually the population will stabilize at a lower level, with a GDP that remains more or less stable, resulting in a much higher per capita GDP and higher standard of living. That is a win-win situation for everyone. Why mess with something that is working so well? Japan is already headed in the right direction and as long as nobody messes things up it has a bright future ahead for it.

    • Jonathan Fields

      You don’t really understand economics do you?

  • Sam Gilman

    It’s rather surprising that the author treats the country in such a monolithic fashion. “Japan” is not an explanatory variable, nor is it a conscious being. Anthropomorphising a country like this doesn’t add to understanding the reasons for whatever indicators he worries about. I’m sure Dujarric is capable of more sophisticated writing, but this kind of article does come across like a fuddled late night moan.

  • Firas Kraïem

    I hope I’m not the only one who cringed at “these deus ex machina”.

    • CptNerd

      My Latin teacher would have done more than cringe, she would have flunked him out of the class.

  • Janses

    Japan has a lack of things and others to be fixed … for example… isn ´t correct Norikai happen every single night of a week ( twice a week is a good number) … and we need a better medical support for depression an others mental illnesses … increase the salaries is important too … and this problems even were not mentionned in the text …

  • Kazuhiro Shino

    There are so many bright uniqe talented people but existing conservative obsolete tradition exclude them before tested Japanese company executives almost all are bottoms up eccentric talented people are eliminated earlier their career stark contrast from UK Japanese education is cause of oblivion all schools must have at least a few foreign teachers which can provides new idea

  • A.J. Sutter

    I agree this is an especially rambling piece, not the author’s best work. To pick up on two very questionable assumptions:

    “Japan’s need for massive immigration” — “need” in order to accomplish what, exactly? To maintain GDP growth? That begs the question of whether GDP growth is necessary for Japan, when it’s population is declining. To serve as an unskilled labor force? As others have mentioned, advances in robotics might pick up some of the slack. The “massive” also entirely ignores the question of what would be the consequences of having economic immigrants in Japan who have no political loyalty to the country, no concern for its future. It’s a perfect neoliberal vision: invite in tens or hundreds of thousands (or even greater numbers) of people so that they can exploit Japan for their own needs. In the long run, this can’t be win-win: you should only bring people into a country who feel they have a stake in *that* country’s future, rather than their home countries’. Japan could be doing a better job at welcoming people, but this isn’t solely a matter of policy decisions made by elected officials and bureaucrats (as the European backlash against political refugees is showing). To regard policy-makers as stupid because they hesitate to allow a “massive” flow is really misguided.

    Second is the assertion that it’s “sheepish voters” who are the reason for political dynasties in Japan. No, it’s a lot of other things, such as: the election law that requires independents to cough up ¥3,000,000 to throw their hat into the ring (more expensive than in any other so-called democracy); the culture of party officials who are more comfortable sponsoring political offspring than newcomers; the DIY system of political finance centered on supporter groups, which also works against newcomers; the electoral system that allows a coalition to get a two-thirds majority of seats even though 60% of votes are cast against it; the parliamentary system that allows a PM to call an election as often as he wants to, at taxpayer expense, thereby making it harder for an opposition to crystallise (again, unique in the OECD); and a Supreme Court that allows unconstitutional elections to stand, to name a few. As Aristotle pointed out 2,000+ years ago, in elections you only get to vote from among people someone else has chosen; and in Japan, the incumbents make all the rules. Dr. Dujarric is blaming the victim.

    • Sam Gilman

      I absolutely agree with your approach that we should look at structural issues rather than appeals to the character of the population (or the leadership) for clearer understanding.

      On the other hand, I disagree with your rather negative characterisation of immigrants’ probable attitudes to their new countries. People who choose to emigrate and make a new home for themselves and their families are often very determined to build a stake in the society. “Economic migrant” suggests some kind of cold, mercenary approach; it’s a term to be wary of. “Coming to a country because it gives you the chance to build a better life” is technically the same as economic migrant, but it probably fits much better with the experiences and thinking of most migrants.

      • A.J. Sutter

        Thanks for your reply, but I’m not talking about the attitudes of immigrants in general. (I’m a grandchild of immigrants to the US, and am an immigrant to Japan myself.) In the Japan context, the discussion of immigration is typically couched in terms of economic instrumentality, and that’s certainly the context in the Dujarric piece. Moreover, the most likely sources of immigrants here are China, Korea and Southeast Asian countries, all of whom have conflicted histories with Japan.

        To be clear, I’m not saying that every immigrant from those countries will hate Japan — simply that a lot of them are more likely to feel loyalty to their home country than to Japan. Nor am I necessarily blaming the immigrants: neither the Japanese government nor perhaps some Japanese people will be so welcoming. But I think it is politically dangerous to invite in “massive” (Mr Dujarric’s word) numbers of people who, for whatever reasons, will not feel that they have a stake in seeing that Japan has a rosy future.

        Germany’s case with Turkish “guest workers” might be seen as a counterexample: notwithstanding the economic instrumentality of inviting their parents, the next generation became more integrated into German society. But that was pre-Schengen and also in a German generation consciously atoning for the excesses of the 1930s-1940s. As current events suggest, large portions of the general public in Germany and Europe generally today have a very different attitude.

        Another aspect of the discourse is the foolish tendency of Western pundits, especially those with an economics background (including an MBA, like Mr Dujarric’s), to urge Japan to take that instrumentalist attitude on a “massive” scale, while being oblivious to the political repercussions. I should have been more explicit in my original comment that this tendency was my target.

      • Jeffrey

        “. . . we should look at structural issues rather than appeals to the character of the population (or the leadership) for clearer understanding.”

        However, most of Japan’s structural problems are the result of leadership and cultural shortcomings – obstacles to change and innovation. Ever try to sell something into the Japanese market, especially if it was a good or service that would compete with domestically made goods or domestically provided services? To this day, barriers to entry in the Japanese market remain daunting as does a willingness to adapt to changed circumstances.

    • Jeffrey

      “That begs the question of whether GDP growth is necessary for Japan, when it’s population is declining.”

      Goodness! Of course growth in GDP is always desirable and equally important whether your population is rising or falling. In fact, if Japan could magically boost its GDP at this time, it might suggest that government and industry had finally found a way to lick it’s historic inefficiency.

      • A.J. Sutter

        Thanks for the comment. There is a vast literature, in many languages and published over five decades, that explains why GDP growth might not be appropriate as a goal of public policy. (This critique has some points in common with, but is conceptually different from, critiques of whether GDP is an adequate measure of well-being.) For a Japan-specific analysis of this point, please see my book “Keizai Seichou Shinnwa no Owari” (Kodansha Gendai Shinsho 2012). More generally, see the literature on the subject known in French as “décroissance” (also “a-croissance” and works by those calling themselves “objecteurs de croissance”), in English as “degrowth,” in Italian as “decrescita,” in Spanish as “decrescimiento,” and in German as “Postwachstum” or “Wachstumsrücknahme.” The Francophone literature is the largest. In Japanese, I use the neologism “genseichou,” and there is also some relevant literature on “datsuseichou,” though this latter term does not always carry the connotation of “degrowth” in the Western discourse. In English some authors you might read include Tim Jackson, Peter Victor, Juliet Schor, and translated works by André Gorz and Serge Latouche, among others. This thread is unfortunately not the best place to debate the point, both due to the huge size of the topic and its incidental importance to the Dujarric piece (and to my comment thereon).

      • A.J. Sutter

        Thanks for the comment. There is a vast literature, in many languages and published over five decades, that explains why GDP growth might not be appropriate as a goal of public policy. (This critique has some points in common with, but is conceptually different from, critiques of whether GDP is an adequate measure of well-being.) For a Japan-specific analysis of this point, please see my book “Keizai Seichou Shinnwa no Owari” (Kodansha Gendai Shinsho 2012). More generally, see the literature on the subject known in French as “décroissance” (also “a-croissance” and works by those calling themselves “objecteurs de croissance”), in English as “degrowth,” in Italian as “decrescita,” in Spanish as “decrescimiento,” and in German as “Postwachstum” or “Wachstumsrücknahme.” The Francophone literature is the largest. In Japanese, I use the neologism “genseichou,” and there is also some relevant literature on “datsuseichou,” though this latter term does not always carry the connotation of “degrowth” in the Western discourse. In English some authors you might read include Tim Jackson, Peter Victor, Juliet Schor, and translated works by André Gorz and Serge Latouche, among others. This thread is unfortunately not the best place to debate the point, both due to the huge size of the topic and its incidental importance to the Dujarric piece (and to my comment thereon).

      • A.J. Sutter

        Thanks for the comment. There is a vast literature, in many languages and published over five decades, that explains why GDP growth might not be appropriate as a goal of public policy. (This critique has some points in common with, but is conceptually different from, critiques of whether GDP is an adequate measure of well-being.) For a Japan-specific analysis of this point, please see my book “Keizai Seichou Shinnwa no Owari” (Kodansha Gendai Shinsho 2012). More generally, see the literature on the subject known in French as “décroissance” (also “a-croissance” and works by those calling themselves “objecteurs de croissance”), in English as “degrowth,” in Italian as “decrescita,” in Spanish as “decrescimiento,” and in German as “Postwachstum” or “Wachstumsrücknahme.” The Francophone literature is the largest. In Japanese, I use the neologism “genseichou,” and there is also some relevant literature on “datsuseichou,” though this latter term does not always carry the connotation of “degrowth” in the Western discourse. In English some authors you might read include Tim Jackson, Peter Victor, Juliet Schor, and translated works by André Gorz and Serge Latouche, among others. This thread is unfortunately not the best place to debate the point, both due to the huge size of the topic and its incidental importance to the Dujarric piece (and to my comment thereon).

  • Lior Freilich

    While Mr. Dujarric makes several well made points I feel like this op-ed is meant as nothing more than fear-mongering doom & gloom. Is the current situation bad? probably, can it get worse? yes, is the Japanese government doing enough? no, does all of this mean Japan is doomed beyond any hope of recovery? most certainly not. This op-ed essentially confirms what we all – or at least those who keep track of Japan’s situation – already know, I think it would have been better to offer some new ideas or suggestions rather than just rehashing the same old news we’ve been hearing about Japan’s decline evern since the 1990s. For all its problems Japan is still the 3rd largest economy in the world and that is with a population that is increasingly geriatric, has a negative growth rate and that is one sixteenth the size of its neighbour China. Could things be better? yes, are they as bad this article make them seem? no.