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In the News

Metro Tokyo ordinance on sexually explicit manga walks fine line on freedom of speech
The Mainichi Daily News, 12/13/2010
SDP head criticizes Kan's possible dispatch of SDF to Korean Peninsula
The Japan Times, 12/13/2010
2 Japanese local assembly members visit one of Senkaku Islands
Associated Press, 12/13/2010
Why Japan is ready for anything Pyongyang might want to throw at it
Guardian, 03/01/2010
Japan disputes racism allegations at U.N. panel
Kyodo, 02/26/2010

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Save Energy and Earn Points - Kyoto Eco-Action Points Program Starts

Eco Action Points

The model Kyoto Eco-Action Points program started in October 2008. As part of this project, Kyoto Carbon Dioxide Reduction Bank (committee for environmentally friendly activities in Kyoto) issues Eco-Action Points based on the amount of CO2 reduced in the central elements of domestic energy consumption, such as the use of electricity and gas. These points can be used as shopping credits at participating stores. This is the first such system in Japan, and it aims to drastically reduce energy consumption and CO2 emissions in the domestic sector.

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Japan for Sustainability • Monday March 9, 2009 • Add Comment

How to Write a North Korean News Headline

North Korean Propaganda Poster

The Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), the state news agency of North Korea (DPRK), has a fascinating way to present news about the countries that it sees as its main enemies: South Korea, Japan and the USA. In my imagination there is a huge poster on the wall that instructs KCNA’s English writers how to write headlines:

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• Friday March 6, 2009 • Add Comment [2]

Japan Considers Ending Four-Decade Policy to Cut Rice Planting

Japanese Farmer Planting Rice

Japan, the world’s largest grain importer, may end a four-decade program to cut rice sowing as it plans to revive agricultural production and create jobs amid a deepening recession.

The nation may end compulsory rice planting cuts and instead provide income support for farmers who voluntarily curb output, said a government official, who declined to be identified as the plan is opposed by some ruling-party politicians.

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Bloomberg • Saturday February 28, 2009 • Add Comment

Masks Attack Japanese Cities

Japanese Flu Masks

These white strips of cloth obscuring your fellow commuters’ faces have long been a common way to ward off influenza and hay fever, but their popularity is soaring higher than ever this winter because of frequent reports about an outbreak of a new type of flu.

“The media have been repeatedly giving a warning of a new type of influenza outbreak, so people may have thought they should store some masks and use a mask more often,” said Yukihiro Hosoe, manager of the advertising and marketing strategy department at Kowa Co., Japan’s leading health care product company.

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The Japan Times • Friday February 27, 2009 • Add Comment

The Gender Gap in the Japanese Labor Market

Japanese Woman Showing Peace Sign

Among the labor economists who pay careful attention to international comparisons of labor market outcomes, the gender wage gap of Japan, as well as that of Korea, is known to be the largest among OECD countries.

The hourly wage in Japan of permanent and regular female workers relative to male workers, which is not adjusted for the observed characteristics of workers, was 59.1 in 1990, while the corresponding figure for 2000 was 66.0; this indicates that there has been only a 6.9 percentage point gender wage convergence in this 10-year period. This wage convergence, however, may have been caused by the convergence of the characteristics of workers across genders. Indeed, Akira Kawaguchi reports that 60% of unadjusted wage convergence between 1990 and 2000 is explained by the convergence of the observed characteristics of workers across genders, based on a large sample from the Basic Survey of Wage Structure. He pointed out that in particular the convergence of years of job tenure explained the gender wage convergence.

With this persistent gender wage gap as a background, the Japan Labor Review, published by The Japan Institute for Labour Policy and Training, has published a special issue aiming to explain the mechanisms behind the gender wage gap in Japan. It contains five papers that are largely classified into two categories. In the first category are two papers that attempt to explain the gender wage gap by occupational segregation. The second category consists of three papers that examine the relationship between female employment and the performance of firms.

The link below lets you download the pdf file (1.9MB) of this special issue.

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The Japan Institute for Labour Policy and Training • Thursday February 26, 2009 • Add Comment

Japan on the Brink of the Abyss?

Japanese Homeless Protesting

The economic outlook in Japan is very grim, as brief overviews indicate. Right now, Japan has the worst growth outlook in Asia. That is a surprising fact, if one recalls that this is a country presumably dusting itself off from the collapse of its own bubble nearly two decades ago.

After such a long period of economic crisis, Japan should be renovated and ready to thrive. Instead, it may be in worse shape than even the United States (though clearly not Iceland and much of Eastern Europe). Exports plunged a record 35% annually in December, while the industrial production figures for November revealed a record 8.9% month-over-month drop.

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Asia Times • Wednesday February 25, 2009 • Add Comment

Dispatched Workers in the Manufacturing Sector

Unemployed Worker in Japan

Up until last September, we thought the U.S. financial and economic crisis was just “fire on the other side of the Pacific.” Now we know otherwise: this America originated crisis is striking Japanese corporations directly. The Japanese manufacturing sector had been leading the Japanese economy; but exports, particularly those related to autos, having played a key role, have dropped drastically and corporations are slamming the door on production. Large numbers of temporary and seasonal workers that are being fired or simply not being hired are becoming an object of grave public concern. In particular, the focus of controversy is the problem of regulating dispatched workers in the manufacturing sector. I’d like to present some ideas on how to handle the regulation of dispatched workers in the manufacturing industry.

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Hiromasa Suzuki • Wednesday February 25, 2009 • Add Comment