Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda's announcement that Japan would join talks on a Pacific free trade agreement (FTA) triggered a nationwide debate over whether to open Japan's market.

While this is certainly a useful discussion, the issue facing Japan is far larger. The Fukushima nuclear power plants crisis further exacerbated the problems Japan already had: an aging society, the hollowing out of manufacturing industries, a huge fiscal deficit, a widening income gap, and the sustainability of its governing system.

The fundamental question is thus not one of joining FTAs. Rather it is how we Japanese can carry forward a third "opening" and depart from our aging, dysfunctional system.