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Robotics and the Digital Transformation of Japan
In this Japan Zoominar @ UC San Diego, hear from Alberto Moel, long-time Japan observer, tech industry analyst and robotics specialist, on how to assess Japan’s strengths and weaknesses in the looming DX.

Ruth Benedict and the Study of Japan
In this Japan Zoominar, cultural anthropologist, Dr. Amy Borovoy, joins us to discuss Ruth Bene

Japan’s “2040 Energy Mix” Policy Program
This fall the Japanese government begins deliberations for its new “2040 Energy Mix” program. Watch this Japan Zoominar for a discussion on the obstacles & opportunities Japan faces, & what's at stake.

Past Zoominars

Japan Outlook 2021-22 : The Power of Suganomics

Jan. 12, 2021: What will 2021 bring for Japanese politics, business, and society, and for Japan and Asia? Jesper Koll, consistently ranked as one of the top Japan strategists and economists, will assess the new power dynamics, Japan’s economic health, and the factors that will come into play in shaping this year and beyond. What are the signs to watch, the power brokers to follow, and the market signals to pay attention to? What matters for an evaluation of Japan’s competitive strengths today?

Immigration Policies in Japan

Dec. 8, 2020: While immigration to Japan has grown steadily in recent years, Japan is still characterized by a restrictive immigration policies and a political discourse that rejects immigration. Meanwhile, on the ground immigration is definitely happened, as more and more immigrants claim Japan as their home. Join Gracia Liu-Farrer, author of “Immigrant Japan: Mobility and Belonging in and Ethno-nationalist Society”, and Michael Strausz, author of “Help (Not) Wanted: Immigration Politics in Japan”, for a discussion of the political and social forces that shape immigration in Japan, immigrants’ rights and roles in society, and an assessment of Japanese immigration in comparative perspective.

Softbank, NTT, KDDI: Japan's Telecom/IT Companies in the DX

Dec. 1, 2020: Japan’s telecommunication companies and leading IT companies are gearing up to compete in the digital transformation. While the media spotlight is often on Softbank, there is much more going on in Japan in this area than we typically hear about. And in spite of the global scrutiny, few fully understand what Softbank is up to in terms of its long-term strategic vision. Marc Einstein is a preeminent industry analyst of Japan’s IT sector and will lay out the strengths and weaknesses, as well as strategies to compete in the DX, by Japan’s leading IT players.

Japan-China Business Relations after the U.S. Election

Nov. 24, 2020: In spite of tumultuous history and a strained political situation, when it comes to business, Japan and China have so far been in a fairly symbiotic relationship: given their differences in resources, assets, market size, and stage of industrialization, both countries have something the other one dearly needs. But this relationship, too, is highly dynamic, and embedded in the shifting global business developments, including the U.S. decoupling policies. What kind of business ties will China and Japan forge going forward, will their dependencies be upheld even with a reduction in globalization of supply chains, and where do those developments leave the U.S. in Asia? Join political scientists Hiroki Takeuchi (Southern Methodist University) and Victor Shih (UC San Diego) for a discussion of the future of East Asian commerce and business relations.

Japanese Movies: Japonisme and the Birth of Cinema

Nov. 17, 2020: What is the history and evolution of Japanese film? And how does Japanese cinema connect to other film cultures? Join Daisuke Miyao, a leading scholar of cinema in Japan and author of “Japonisme and the Birth of Cinema” (2020) for an introduction to Japanese cinema, and in particular the early connections between French Orientalism and Japanese aesthetics.

JFIT Roundtable: U.S.-Japan Relations after the Election

Nov. 10, 2020: UC San Diego faculty discussed what the outcome of the U.S. election means for U.S.-Japan relations, in terms of politics, business and economy, foreign policy and security, and any potential shifts in the U.S.-Japan military alliance and the power balance in Asia. Panelists each presented three scenarios and bring their crystal balls to offer a glimpse into the future.

Shinzo Abe – The Iconoclast

Oct. 27, 2020: Now that the Abe administration is completed, it is time to assess the global impact of this outstanding Japanese statesman. Meet Tobias Harris, author of the current best-selling biography on Shinzo Abe, to discuss the larger meaning of the Abe Years. What kind of person is Shinzo Abe, how did he come to power, and what explains his remarkable “second take”, after the unsuccessful first Abe administration? How could he so deftly manage the LDP power structures, as well as the bureaucracies? What is the impact of his foreign and security policy shift? Will his various policy direction changes stick, and – last but not the least – what will it take to fill his shoes?

Women in Japan: Similar Challenges, Different Solutions

Oct. 20, 2020: A lot has been made of Womenomics, Abe’s program to improve the work situation for women in Japan. And although many challenges remain, statistically it has worked and Japan is now average in several measures of women workforce participation and advancement. But how does Japan’s workplace reality compare, including also with Europe? Clearly, Japan’s business environment continues to be different from the West, with tighter social norms, more rigid hierarchies, and entrenched habits. Although Japanese women face similar workplace challenges as women everywhere, they have to find different ways to change their work settings and remove obstacles of social expectations and subconscious bias. Join Karen Shire, Director of the Center for Gender Research at UDE in Germany, and Saki Tomita, Manager at TEPCO Ventures in Tokyo, to discuss what is changing, how Japan compares, and what working women in Japan do to “lean in” and change their work environments.

Reluctant Warriors: The Role of Japan and Germany in the International Military Order

Oct. 13, 2020: As the international liberal order is breaking down, calls are getting louder for Japan and Germany to revise their roles and military responsibilities. Thanks to their size and economic importance, these two countries are the most important allies for the U.S. in Asia and Europe, respectively. The U.S. is increasingly frustrated with what it sees as a reluctance to share more of the defense burden, even as both countries still operate under those Constitutions and have strong sub-cultures of "anti-militarism. Join Ellis Krauss, co-author of "Reluctant Warriors: Germany, Japan, and Their U.S. Alliance Dilemma," and Ulrike Schaede for a discussion of what is at stake for the future of global security.

Japan, China, Korea – Shifting Strategic Relations in Turbulent Times

Oct. 6, 2020: The muscle-flexing of China, the rising ambivalence of the U.S. toward its Asian alliances, and ongoing concerns on the Korean Peninsula – where does all this leave Japan in the Asian geopolitical situation? How should one view the evolution of Asia's security architecture and new strategic narratives that incorporate the broader Indo-Pacific region? Join Andrew Yeo, author of “Asia’s Regional Architecture”, for an in-depth discussion.

Japan’s Business Reforms after Abenomics

Sept. 29, 2020: Prime Minister Abe was a great supporter of business reforms – be that by empowering reformers, rewriting rules and laws, or taking more control over bureaucratic appointments. Over the past decade, markets have become more attractive, companies more proactive, and innovation more salient. But will this stay after Abenomics? Join Kazuhiko Toyama, one of the leaders of Japan’s business reinvention processes who was deeply involved in guiding the turnarounds at JAL, Kanebo and many other companies, for a conversation of what’s at stake for the trajectory of Japan’s business organization.

How Japanese Companies Compete Globally

Sept. 22, 2020: The globalization of commerce, the breakout of supply chains across multiple countries, and the need of open innovation have required Japanese companies to change their business mindset. The previous, largely ethnocentric approach of exporting “Made in Japan” goods no longer works, and needs to be carefully blended with more global – aka Western – management approaches of multi-country growth and profitability strategies. How are Japan’s largest companies positioned to compete in this new global setting, and what are the changes needed in general business mindset towards truly global approaches? Listen to long-term Japan business insider David “Chet” Chetwynd and Ulrike Schaede, as they discuss the global visions for Japan’s large businesses.

Japanese Literature After Murakami, In the Midst of COVID-19, and Before What’s Coming Next

Sept. 15, 2020: Japanese literature since Murakami has earned an international reputation for its quirkiness, but what is not read in the English-speaking world can be very different. How have recent catastrophes, both natural and man-made, changed what the Japanese themselves now seek from their writers? Join John Treat, author of “The Rise and Fall of Japanese Literature”, among many others, and Ulrike Schaede for a discussion and overview of contemporary Japanese literature.

Japan’s Geoeconomic Strategy in the Asia-Pacific

Sept. 8, 2020: Japan has a pivotal role to play in the geoeconomic balance of Asia, and thus in 21st century commerce. When Japan’s domestic economy began to transform at the turn of the century, its economic foreign policy strategies also started to shift, away from bilateralism and informal rules toward new approaches of regional institution-building that would assure Japanese leadership. As China and the U.S. wrestle over economic advantage, Japan is positioning, more or less quietly, to orchestrate the newly emerging trade dependencies and agreements in Asia. Saori N. Katada will introduce her new book, "Japan’s New Regional Reality," to show how this new foreign economic policy has been articulated and implemented.

Robotics and the Digital Transformation of Japan

Sept. 1, 2020: Although Japan has long been known for a strength in industrial robotics, system engineering and world-class manufacturing processes, Japanese companies are also often chastised for a lack in end-user software capabilities and easy IT solutions. And now one also often hears that Japan will not be a player in the digital transformation, i.e., big data, AI and the cloud – a market widely assumed to belong to the U.S. and China. But is that really true? Quietly, some Japanese firms are building top-of-the-class competencies in edge computing and digital manufacturing that will form the basis of the so-called “industry 4.0”, as well as the infrastructure requirements of the “internet-of-things”. Hear from Alberto Moel, long-time Japan observer, tech industry analyst and robotics specialist, on how to assess Japan’s strengths and weaknesses in the looming DX.

Ruth Benedict and the Study of Japanese Culture

Aug. 25, 2020: Ruth Benedict, an American anthropologist famous for her work on patterns of culture, keenly observed Japanese behavior during and after World War II, from afar, and in 1946 published "The Chrysanthemum and the Sword." This book re-framed what Americans had construed as “fanatical” behavior during wartime through a cultural prism, and introduced concepts of debt, duty and shame. During the apex of U.S.-Japan trade relations in the 1980s, applications of “culture” to Japan became much more simplistic and overdrawn. In a backlash, rational choice theories won the day. But over the past 20 years, social psychology research has brought new insights into culture as a set of “learned” (not innate) behavioral norms, and how certain choice options and settings affect behavior. To this day, Japanese social institutions, including schools and companies, continue to invest in shaping the “right” behavior. Indeed, this investment in socialization was one of Benedict’s important insights. The rebirth of culture not as a cause or outcome, but an incentive structure, offers new possibilities for research on Japan. Join us for a zoom with Amy Borovoy, cultural anthropologist and East Asian Studies professor at Princeton University.

Japan's "2040 Energy Mix" Policy Program

Aug. 18, 2020: This fall, the Japanese government will begin deliberations for its new “2040 Energy Mix” program. The previous one, which was crafted in 2015 to project energy policies until 2030, foresaw a fairly balanced reliance, of around 24% each, on nuclear energy, renewables, coal and LNG, with only 3% from oil. This did not happen, as Japan remains dependent mostly on LNG (40%) and coal (29%). That said, renewables (16%) are edging up, and a lot of efforts are under way – in the government, the power companies, and private sector research labs – to further these trends and change how much and what kind of energy sources Japan relies on. Reducing emissions and increasing efficiencies in production and transmission are also part of this story. Join us for a discussion of the obstacles and opportunities Japan faces, and what is at stake with this next energy mix policy plan.

Peak Japan – Is this as good as it gets?

Aug. 11, 2020: Has Japan peaked, or can it reinvent and relaunch? Over the past two decades, Japan has let a lot of good crises go to waste, argues Brad Glosserman, author of “Peak Japan” and co-author of “The Japan-South Korea Identity Clash". Come zoom with us to learn what he thinks needs to happen for Japan to turn itself around and assume and maintain a leading position in the region and the world.

The Carlos Ghosn Saga: What We Can Learn About Japan’s Legal System and Corporate Governance

Aug. 4, 2020: On Dec. 31, 2019, the Carlos Ghosn saga took a movie-like turn when Nissan’s former CEO arranged to have himself smuggled out of Japan in a musical instrument box. Initially celebrated as a savior and new type manager that showed how Japanese companies could be turned around, Ghosn had begun to ruffle feathers in Japan with his exuberant style as much as his empire-building intentions. Within Nissan, many referred to him as a “dictator”, and he was said to have wielded full control over senior executives and the board of directors. In November 2018, he was pulled out of his private airplane at Haneda airport and held in custody in circumstances that looked harsh in international comparison. The official allegations included under-reporting of earnings and misuse of company assets, although the true depth and breadth of his machinations remain unclear. Join Bruce Aronson and Ulrike Schaede in a conversation of how to make sense of all this – Japan’s legal system, white collar crime, and corporate oversight and governance.

Innovation, Entrepreneurship and Change Management in Japan

July 28, 2020: What is the current situation of innovation, entrepreneurship, venture capital and corporate renewal in Japan? Why is it so difficult for large Japanese companies to adjust to technology shifts, and why are companies such as Sony or Panasonic struggling to remain globally competitive? Gen Isayama is one of Japan’s foremost venture capitalist, innovation leader and large company change consultant. He works with many startups as well as large-firm CEOs in Japan and Silicon Valley, and will share his insights of what it takes to manage innovation and change in Japanese companies.

The Politics of Abenomics

July 21, 2020: “Abenomics” – the 10-year economic reform program launched by Prime Minister Shinzō Abe – is typically assessed in economic terms, from the efficacy of quantitative easing to structural reforms. But Abenomics is just as much about political and policy change, as it is bringing about new governance structures, a realignment of power relations within the government, and new policy orientation from security and secrecy to social policy. Join the experts and authors on these issues for a behind-the-scenes look at what Abenomics means for Japanese politics.

Tokyo Olympics Postponed: How Japanese Society Responds

July 14, 2020: Originally scheduled to begin on July 24, 2020, the Tokyo Olympics have been postponed to July 2021. This is a dilemma: The Olympics were supposed to present a brand-new Japan to the world, a leader in sustainability, diversity, inclusion, and a slew of other admirable goals. But almost overnight, Tokyo’s buzz of Olympic logos, countdown clocks and construction hustle have come to an eerie standstill: What now?We joined sociologist Barbara Holthus, editor of Japan Through the Lens of the Tokyo Olympics and Ulrike Schaede in a discussion of how the postponement has affected the various stakeholders in society: athletes with crushed aspirations, para-Olympians with broken dreams, disappointed volunteers, empty-handed ticket holders, devastated inn- and shopkeepers, jubilant anti-Olympic movement participants, among Tokyoites and in the periphery.

Japan’s Energy and Sustainability Policy: The Post-Fukushima / Post-Corona Dilemma

July 7, 2020: Japanese policy makers are in a bind: Japan needs affordable and reliable electric power, yet the country is still struggling to adjust to the end of its nuclear energy program. Today, Japan is a leading global emitter of greenhouse gasses. Its fleet of near-zero carbon electric generators are sitting idle, and renewable energy sources are not harnessed at levels seen elsewhere. Can Japan maintain global competitiveness and decarbonize at the same time? And what new threats and opportunities does the COVID pandemic introduce? We joined two eminent experts on Japanese energy policy to learn more about the current policy discourse and outlook for Japan.

Corporate Governance: How Countries Differ: A Conversation with Peter Gourevitch and Ulrike Schaede

June 30, 2020: Companies have become controversial items. They make, sell, enable, provide, hire and pay. But they are also increasingly accused of many ills: inequality, pollution, climate, medical costs and monopolies. An important way of understanding how companies operate is to look at “corporate governance” — their internal power structure. Who owns it, who directs it, who monitors senior executives? What is the role of large shareholders, and should they even have a say? Important changes have been taking place in Japan, yet Japan’s system continues to be vastly different from the U.S. What do such differences in global corporate governance systems mean, and what can we learn from them?

Culture and Crisis: How Social Norms Explain Differences in COVID-19 Responses around the World

June 23, 2020: “Culture” used to be a complicated concept in Japan Studies, but over the past 20 years new research and insights from social psychology have helped us revise our understanding of the role of social norms in structuring patterns of behavior. This has changed research approaches in fields from behavioral economics and political science to international business. We joined a conversation with Michele Gelfand, creator of the “tight-loose” framework and author of "Rule Makers, Rule Breakers," on how tight and loose cultures differ, and how these differences translate into how countries cope with COVID-19.

Japanese Religion in Times of Crisis

June 16, 2020: How do practitioners of Shinto, Buddhism and Japan’s various new religions reflect on and offer structure in times of crisis, such as the current pandemic? We joined two eminent scholars of Japanese religion for a conversation on the role of religious institutions and individuals, and priests and laity, in providing a sense of cohesion and a social support system in hard times.

Japan’s Trade Policies in 2020

June 9, 2020: Ongoing decoupling and new policy measures intended to change the flow of supply chains, as well as global moves toward protectionism, are posing great challenges to global trade. How do we need to reassess and rethink Japan’s role in global trade, and what do these developments mean for Japan’s policy stance toward existing structures such as the WTO, APEC or TPP? We joined a conversation with two of the leading scholars on Japanese trade.

The Business Reinvention of Japan: A Conversation with Stephan Haggard and Ulrike Schaede

June 2, 2020: How has Japanese business responded to the rise of China? In response to the globalization of supply chains, Japanese companies have moved upstream to become providers not of consumer end products, but of critical input parts, components and advanced materials that anchor global supply chains. This has created a new trade symbiosis in Northeast Asia. We joined Professors Stephan Haggard and Ulrike Schaede for a conversation of Ulrike Schaede’s brand-new book on this topic, and what Japan’s emerging “aggregate niche strategy” means for economic recovery in Asia after COVID-19 and the business relations between Korea, China and Japan. Cosponsored with the Korea-Pacific Program.

How to Sustain Entrepreneurship and Innovation under COVID-19

May 26, 2020: As global financial markets plummeted and the world economy went into lockdown, many startup companies and corporate entrepreneurship programs are also facing the threat of falling down a steep cliff. Even if eventually innovative activities will rebound, how can companies weather this storm and prepare for the post-COVID business world? We heard from Japanese corporate CVC in Silicon Valley and initiatives by the Tech Coast Angels in San Diego to support startups and corporate innovative activity today.

COVID-19 in Japan: The Economy

May 19, 2020: In our fourth webinar, we discussed the economic fallout. How can we even assess the economic damage, and what forecasts should we believe? Which parts of Japan’s economy will be hit the hardest, and what are the long-term implications of the likely economic crisis, and Japan’s role in Northeast Asian competition? Can Japan avoid the mass unemployment and corporate bankruptcies that are now befalling the U.S., and if so, what can we learn from any differences in trajectory? Learn from leading economists and practitioners from the field.

Managing the COVID-19 Pandemic: Japan's Mitigation Strategy

May 15, 2020: Consul General of Japan in Los Angeles MUTO Akira discussed initiatives proactively undertaken by the Government of Japan to respond to the spread of the novel coronavirus. Consul General Muto focused on Japan’s measures to contain infection with minimum socio-economic impacts, highlighting the fact that Japan has preferred to start from soft measures without being excessively intrusive. Counter-cluster measures have been working to suppress local outbreaks in the country. The Government of Japan is shifting, however, to harder measures, but not draconian measures nor lockdown, with the understanding of Japanese people. Since the State of Emergency was declared in mid-April, Japan has successfully managed to reduce close contact within the population and has kept deaths and infections per 10,000 people at a significantly low number. 

COVID-19 in Japan: The Changing Workplace and HR Management

May 12, 2020: In our third webinar, we looked at how the orders to work from home is affecting Japanese HR practices, and whether the current situation will bring long-term changes to the way Japanese work. Japan’s traditional work style relies heavily on in-person presence. How are HR practices changing now, including employee assessment and promotion? And, will the crisis further undermine Japan’s system of lifetime employment? Hear from HR managers and senior executives on how Japanese companies are viewing the labor situation.

COVID-19 in Japan: Public Health and Medical Systems

May 5, 2020: How is Japan responding to the COVID crisis? Until late March 2020, Japan reported only few cases and pursued what was called a “cluster buster” strategy, namely to strictly contain clustered outbreaks only. Since then, however, there has been a sharp increase in cases and a state of emergency has been declared. What is the situation of Japan’s health care system now, and what is the public health situation more generally? Are the hospitals ready for this crisis? Are healthcare workers in jeopardy? Listen to Professor Ulrike Schaede and her guests, who are medical doctors and a public health policy expert on how Japan is tackling the health crisis.

COVID-19 in Japan: Politics and Society

April 28, 2020: What is the COVID-19 situation in Japan, and how is Japan responding to the crisis? Throughout February and March 2020, Japan reported so few cases that it was rarely mentioned in the news. Since then, however, there has been a sharp increase, and a special emergency situation has been declared. What is the political situation now, and how are people in Japan assessing the crisis? Get an update from leading Japan professors in political science and public policy on how Japanese politics and society are bracing for crisis.