Japan Studies Newsletters

Autumn 2006 Newsletter

From the Chair

Japan is in much better shape this year than it has been for a long time. Its economy is growing at a healthy
rate, deflation appears to have ended, employment opportunities are expanding, and firms have become more profitable. Still, Japan has a long way to go before it is economically vibrant. The biggest problem is its high national debt—officially over 160% of GnP and unofficially (including a lot of hidden debt) at probably some 200% of GnP. This is unprecedented for an advanced industrialized nation and, as interest rates rise, the cost of financing this debt will become a huge proportion of Japan’s national budget. Japan’s population also started to decline this year. Together with the aging of its population, this demographic trend will only exacerbate the pain of heavy national debt, requiring the government to raise the consumption tax significantly in the future.

Relations with China remained contentious as Koizumi continued to insist on visiting Yasukuni Shrine. Koizumi’s actions also angered South Korea, and he had not met with top leaders of China or South Korea for several years. The big news is the election of Shinzo abe as Prime Minister in September 2006. a couple of weeks after taking over the position, abe visited top Chinese and South Korean leaders, emphasizing that repairing the rift between Japan and these two nations is a top priority. north Korea’s test of a nuclear bomb while abe was in Beijing gave even greater urgency to boosting ties. While most are confident that abe will continue to receive strong public support, we will see what happens to the LdP in the summer 2007 upper House election. There is also concern that there could be a major backlash against him if he raises the consumption tax.

In news at the university of Washington (see page 3), the Japan Studies Program was honored to have Toyoo Gyohten as speaker for the Tateuchi Lecture Series last april, and we thank Mr. and Mrs. Tateuchi and the Tateuchi Foundation for their support. another major highlight of our year was an event honoring Griffith and Patricia Way and the creation of an endowed lecture series in their names.

Our faculty has been very productive this year (see page 2), with new books published by Paul atkins, Robert Pekkanen, Kenneth Pyle, and myself. The faculty are often invited to speak at other universities and in 2006 also coordinated special programs for students studying Japanese architecture and art history. We are pleased that the department of History has begun the search process for an assistant professor in premodern Japanese history.

The Japan Colloquia series started the 2006-7 academic year with a variety of speakers, and more events are planned for Winter and Spring Quarters. These are listed on page 4, and details will be posted to the Japan Studies website as they become available: http://depts.washington.edu/japan/events.shtml. and the weekly series of Japanese films on the uW campus continues this year; information on subscribing to the mailing list for announcements of upcoming films is available at: http://mailman1.u.washington.edu/mailman/listinfo/uweiga.

We appreciate your ongoing support of our activities.

Marie Anchordoguy, Chair, Japan Studies Program