Media Coverage

Newspaper July 27, 2022

Unification Church’s Reach in Politics Coming Under Scrutiny

Recent media disclosures indicate that many politicians from both the ruling and opposition parties have ties with the Unification Church, which former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s assassin accused of bankrupting his mother and destroying his family. The church’s reach in politics has long been considered a taboo that few political scientists and journalists discussed publicly.

“Religious groups provide politicians with supporters who never free-ride nor betray,” Research Director Sota Kato told the Straits Times. But because “the average Japanese voter is sceptical of cult religions. . . politicians want to keep relations with religions under the table,” prompting religious groups to “disguise themselves as political groups,” such as the Japanese arm of the International Federation for Victory Over Communism.

“Japan’s politicians admit to ties with Unification Church after Abe’s death,” Straits Times

Sota Kato

Newspaper July 25, 2022

Tracking Down Big Tech’s Tax Avoidance

In an article detailing online retailing giant Amazon’s strategy to limit taxable profits in Canada, Research Director Shigeki Morinobu tells Canada’s Globe and Mail that the 2021 OECD agreement to establish a minimum corporate profit tax rate of 15% is being watered down “far from the original discussion.”

Japan’s own attempt to thwart Amazon’s profit-shifting strategy may not have been effective, he adds, since there has been no confirmation that the $119-million in back taxes ordered by the National Tax Agency in 2009 has actually been paid.

The NTA has similarly been unable to collect penalties from Google, Morinobu said, which shifted royalty payments from Japan operations to Singapore, considered a tax haven.

“Inside Amazon’s strategy to shield its profits from Canadian taxes,” The Globe and Mail

Shigeki Morinobu

Magazine July 13, 2022

Will Higher Personal Consumption Help Lift Japan Out of Its Slump?

While some economies saw growth return quickly to pre-pandemic levels, Japan remains in a slump, writes Research Director Nobuo Iizuka in the July/August issue of Japan Spotlight, with GDP in the first quarter of 2022 still 2.6% lower than in 2019.

The Gold Week string of holidays in 2022 was the first in three years without a state of emergency or quasi-state of emergency, fueling expectations of an increase in personal consumption, with the Bank of Japan’s consumption activity index improving since March. Such hopes must be tempered, Iizuka cautions, given the recent rise in energy and other prices.

“Revenge Consumption: Will It Finally Start to Move?” Japan Spotlight

Nobuo Iizuka

Magazine July 12, 2022

Greater Sharing and Utilization of Data Essential to Japan’s Education Policy

Jurisdiction over the various challenges faced by children in economically distressed households are dispersed over many different government departments. Such sectionalism, says Research Director Makiko Nakamuro in a Japan Spotlight article, interferes with the sharing of information, depriving children with multiple challenges of adequate support.

Such children are less likely to attend preschool or daycare facilities and are often not under the watch of non-family members. Information regarding health checkups, poverty levels, and school attendance needs to be better coordinated to identify children at high risk.

Greater use of digital tools should also be made, Nakamuro points out, to provide individually optimized education in keeping with the cognitive skills of each child.

“Why Data Application & Utilization Is Essential to Education Policies,” Japan Spotlight

Makiko Nakamuro

Web June 27, 2022

Japan’s Low COVID Fatalities Achieved through Voluntary Efforts, Not Draconian Measures, Shibuya Says

Various theories have been put forward for Japan’s low per-capita COVID fatalities, despite having the world’s oldest population. One theory, reports CBS News, is that the country’s pandemic resilience is due to the willingness of Japanese citizens to cooperate with antiviral measures.

“Japan’s approach to COVID response has been primarily relying on people's effort,” not on imposing mandates, Research Director Kenji Shibuya told CBS News. “These kinds of voluntary efforts, rather than top-down, draconian measures, did work.”

“Scientists probe Japan’s remarkable COVID success in hunt for new vaccine to protect some of the most vulnerable,” CBS News

Profile of Research Director Kenji Shibuya

Kenji Shibuya

Newspaper June 27, 2022

LDP Unlikely to Lose Upper House Majority, Kato Tells Straits Times, But Poor Results Could Weaken Kishida’s Base

Campaigning for the July 10 House of Councillors election has begun, and media polls show that Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and his Liberal Democratic Party enjoy stable public support on the strength of his response to the Ukraine crisis and with COVID-19 under control.

But Research Director Sota Kato told the Straits Times that while it was “next to impossible” for the ruling coalition to lose its majority, the election will have great significance for the fate of the cabinet.

“The Kishida administration has by no means a strong internal base, and he has had to rely on support from other factions,” Kato said, pointing to the fact Kishida’s faction is only the fourth-largest within the LDP.

In a separate Straits Times article on the biggest issues for the July 10 Upper House vote, Kato noted, “Political parties tend to campaign on pork-barrel politics and . . . will try to score votes by pledging hefty subsidies or even a reduction of the consumption tax,” rather than focus on “big-picture fiscal and monetary policy debates.”

“Campaigning kicks off in Japan for July 10 Upper House election,” Straits Times

“Inflation, weakening yen set to be top issues in Japan Upper House election,” Straits Times

Sota Kato

Web June 23, 2022

Japan’s Low COVID Death Rate Likely to Continue, Shibuya Tells Bloomberg

Japan’s COVID-19 death rate is the lowest among the members of the OECD, reports Bloomberg News, a feat the country has managed without mandates and with few restrictions. The population has nonetheless continued to adhere to basic infection control measures, including mask wearing and avoiding poorly ventilated venues, and Japan’s measures have been bolstered by a robust vaccination program.

Research Director Kenji Shibuya is quoted as saying, “Thanks to the protection Japanese people gained through vaccination and natural infection, I don’t expect Japan’s hospitalization or deaths to increase dramatically any time soon.”

“How Japan Achieved One of The World’s Lowest Covid Death Rates,”

Kenji Shibuya

Magazine January 12, 2022

Are Government Forecasts Too Optimistic?

The tendency for the government economic outlook to be rosier than those announced by the Bank of Japan and private forecasters has grown stronger since 2013, when Abenomics was launched.

In an article in the January/February 2022 issue of Japan Spotlight, Research Director Nobuo Iizuka compares the various projections over the past several years and notes that the trend is likely to continue for the outlook in 2022.

He points out, though, that CPI forecasts by the government are for all items, while the BOJ and private-sector projections exclude fresh foods.

“Comparing the Japanese Economic Outlooks of the Government, Bank of Japan & Private Sector,” Japan Spotlight

Nobuo Iizuka

Web December 8, 2021

Medical Attention Can Be Elusive for COVID Patients, Shibuya Tells Bloomberg

A dysfunctional healthcare system in Japan, with many hospitals refusing to admit COVID patients despite the availability of beds, is forcing those infected to stay at hotels that have been converted into makeshift health centers.

In other countries, “when you are tested positive for Covid-19, you get medical attention right away,” Research Director Kenji Shibuya told Bloomberg News. “In Japan, public health center workers are making medical decisions until patients are severely ill and taken to hospitals. It’s a political failure that the nation can’t prepare hospital beds for them.”

“Covid Patients in Japan Are Recovering in Robot-Staffed Hotels,” Bloomberg

Kenji Shibuya

Web December 2, 2021

Shibuya Says Border Controls to Prevent Omicron “Just Buy Time”

The Japan government has announced the closure of its borders to new foreign arrivals, and its own citizens must isolate on arrival from countries where the omicron variant has been found.

In an article published by Bloomberg News, Research Director Kenji Shibuya notes that “Border controls just buy us time,” adding that Japan “should do whatever it takes to prevent the spread of the variant.”

“Japan to Halt Entry by New Foreigners on Omicron Fears,” Bloomberg News

Kenji Shibuya