TOKYO—Japan’s population is shrinking. For the first time since the government started keeping track more than a century ago, there were fewer than 1 million births last year, as the country’s population fell by more than 300,000 people. The blame has long been put on Japan’s young people, who are accused of not having enough sex, and on women, who, the narrative goes, put their careers before thoughts of getting married and having a family.
But there’s another, simpler explanation for the country’s low birth rate, one that has implications for the U.S.: Japan’s birth rate may be falling because there are fewer good opportunities for young people, and especially men, in the country’s economy. In a country where men are still widely expected to be breadwinners and support families, a lack of good jobs may be creating a class of men who don’t marry and have children because they—and their potential partners—know they can’t afford to.
Japan has been shocked by reports that a handful of Japanese women have been detained in Iraq, apparently after travelling to the region to marry fighters for the so-called “Islamic State” (IS) – although there seems to be little sympathy for their plight.
Media reports from Iraq specify that more than 1,330 foreign women and children are currently being held at a camp for displaced people in northern Iraq. The foreign nationals, who according to the Associated Press were families of “IS” fighters, surrendered to Kurdish forces in late August after the “IS” stronghold in Tal Afar near Mosul was captured. The foreign nationals are believed to be from 14 countries, with Japan’s Shukan Bunshun news magazine reporting that five are Japanese citizens.
The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald, damaged by colliding with a Philippine-flagged merchant vessel, is seen at the U.S. naval base in Yokosuka, Japan June 18, 2017. REUTERS/Toru Hanai
Japanese media said all seven of the sailors who had been reported missing were found dead.
A devil’s advocate is a precious commodity. That has to be one of the takeaways from revisiting the Battle of Midway seventy-five years on, and it should be etched on the internal workings of any martial institution that wants to survive and thrive amid the rigors, danger, and sheer orneriness of combat. Despite Japanese mariners’ tactical brilliance and élan, the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) leadership was prone to such ills as groupthink and strategic doublethink. Worse, the IJN fleet was cursed to be led by Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto—a leader of such stature and mystique that subordinates deferred to him out of habit. Never mind whether his ideas concerning operations and strategy made sense.
At around 2:50 pm on 23 May, three men ages 18 to 22 broke into a home in Utsunomiya, Tochigi. They then began assaulting the two 75-year-old women who resided there causing injuries. When violent invasion was all finished they ran off, taking with them a safe full of approximately 6.6 million yen (US$59,000) in jewelry.
Afterward, the trio were found by law enforcement in a car in Nikko City, about 50 kilometers (31 miles) from the scene of the crime. Tochigi Police gave pursuit in a helicopter as the fugitives tried to escape along the highway. In order to shake the chopper, they then ditched the car inside a tunnel on the highway and ran into the mountain forest.
And that’s when things went really bad for them.
As they ran through the woods the three men came face-to-face with a bear. And although they were tough stuff when it came to beating up elderly women, these thugs felt outmatched by the beast and quickly turned back the way they came.
However, in doing so they then came face-to-face with the 20 officers who followed them into the forest. Now trapped in a classic squeeze play, the trio realized that the choice between getting arrested and getting mauled to death wasn’t really a choice at all, and went with the police.
No longer, in the latest discomforting milestone for a country facing a steep population decline. Last year, the number of births in Japan dropped below one million for the first time, the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare said on Friday.
The shrinking of the country’s population — deaths have outpaced births for several years — is already affecting the economy in areas including the job and housing markets, consumer spending and long-term investment plans at businesses.
Japan has for centuries been a closed community. They have shunned both immigration and emigration under what they call “sakoku”. It is a ‘Japan for Japanese’ policy that is centuries old and is the reason that there are few minority groups with a population anywhere close to 1%. In fact, all of the minority groups together make up less than 1.5% of their population.
It is easy to criticise this isolationism in a modern world where national boundaries are increasingly being eroded especially if you are a left-wing, global village adherent. However, Japan has the advantage of being, perhaps the only sizable population that has not experienced any terrorism, including Islamic based attacks.
Hundreds of people, mostly students, took to the streets of Tokyo to protest Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo’s intention to amend Japan’s pacifist constitution, local media reported.
Earlier in May, Abe announced plans to revise Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution, which forbids the state from engaging in wars as a means of settling international conflicts. It came into effect in 1947 after World War II.
It has been a decade since Liliane last saw her little girl. She fled Africa in fear for her life, leaving behind everything she knew and loved in the hope of a fresh start in Japan.
Today, she scrapes a living from dead-end jobs, and what Japanese she knows has been snatched from television shows. There is little government help for people like her: free language courses are limited, social housing is hard to find, discrimination is rife.
Yet Liliane is regarded as one of the lucky ones – she was granted refugee status in Japan, a country which refuses more than 99 percent of cases.
“It has not been easy,” she tells AFP, speaking under a pseudonym.
She adds: “Here they do not pay for your studies, they do not help you to get bank loans, or give you social housing… we are left to ourselves, we have to fight alone.”
Japan may soon take new measures to arm itself with offensive weapons for the first time since World War II on the recommendation of a policy research group, Bloomberg reported.
According to a Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) member, who wished to remain anonymous, the group also suggested that Japan increase their capacity to intercept incoming missiles by considering technology such as Terminal High Altitude Area Defence – known as THAAD – just as neighbours, South Korea, have done.
It was not immediately clear the exact type of missile fired; Pyongyang has staged a series of missile test-launches of various ranges in recent months, including a new intermediate-range missile in February. The ramped-up tests come as leader Kim Jong Un pushes for a nuclear and missile program that can deter what he calls U.S. and South Korean hostility toward the North.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Monday’s firing shows that North Korea has become “a new kind of threat.” Japanese officials said three of the four missiles landed in the 200-nautical-mile offshore area where Tokyo has sovereign rights for exploring and exploiting resources.
Some of the missiles landed in waters as close as 300 km from Japan’s northwest coast, Japan’s Defence Minister Tomomi Inada said in Tokyo.
International treaties require nations to respect one another’s dignity, and Japan says South Korea isn’t holding up its end of the bargain. The Japanese government this week temporarily withdrew two of its envoys from South Korea after the latter failed to remove a “comfort woman” statue erected by a civic group in Busan.
TOKYO—China is escalating a campaign of military maritime coercion against Japan’s Senkaku Islands, according to Japanese intelligence data disclosed as part of a joint Pentagon-Japan research program.
Additionally, China is doubling the size of its coast guard forces over the next five years to prevent the disruption of oil supplies that travel from the Middle East through the Indian Ocean and South China Sea, according to Pentagon-sponsored reports about the joint U.S.-Japan collaboration. Two reports produced by a contractor for the Pentagon’s Office of Net Assessment, a secretive research group, provide a rare glimpse of Japanese intelligence assessments of Chinese military activities in the East China Sea and South China Sea.