Japan In The New Imperial Era ‘Reiwa’

Giovanni Sale, SJ

 Giovanni Sale, SJ / Free Articles / Published Date:21 November 2019/Last Updated Date:27 November 2019

Japan in the new imperial era

April 30 and May 1, 2019, have become part of Japan’s modern history. They will be remembered for the abdication of Emperor Akihito (the only abdication in the last two centuries), the ascent to the Chrysanthemum Throne of his son, Naruhito, and for the beginning of a new “imperial era,” along with a new period for Japan’s traditional calendar (now beginning from year 1).

The solemn and sober abdication ceremony took place at 5 p.m. (local time) on April 30 in the Pine Hall of the Imperial Palace in Tokyo and lasted only 10 minutes. The emperor – in Japanese Tennō (celestial sovereign) – in the presence of 300 people and on live television, read a brief message addressed to the country, thanking it for “having accepted and supported him as a symbol of the nation” for so many years. He then expressed the hope “that the era that begins tomorrow will be peaceful and fruitful,” both for Japan and for the whole world.[1]

In the morning the emperor, in traditional clothing, had fulfilled his duties of worship, bowing before the Three Sacred Treasures: a sword, a jewel and a mirror. According to the Shinto religion these are the symbols of imperial dignity. They are kept as relics in Shinto sanctuaries and are displayed – actually, only delivered or shown to the emperor – only during great official ceremonies.[2] They are now the symbols of the new Emperor Naruhito, who ascended the throne in an equally simple but touching ceremony. In reality, the so-called “rite of passage” (i.e. the succession of one emperor to another) provides for a very long ritual-liturgical journey,[3] which ended on October 22 with the sumptuous Daijosai, that is, with the rite of enthronement in the presence of numerous foreign heads of state.

Akihito’s reign lasted 30 years. In this long span of time Japan has undergone extraordinary changes: it has experienced tremendous economic growth (even if the country is poor in raw materials), so as to become one of the richest and most modern countries in the world, to then meet, after the international crisis of 2008, a period of economic stagnation and, in recent years, it has experienced relative recovery in domestic production, especially on the technological front.

Akihito took the throne in 1989 after the death of his father Hirohito, the emperor involved in militarism and wars of aggression against neighboring countries (China, Korea, Indochina, the Philippines and others), initiating the Heisei era (peace everywhere). Hirohito was the last emperor to be officially recognized as a living god, as he was believed to have descended from the sun goddess Amaterasu. In fact, after the Second World War and the “nuclear holocausts” of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which paralyzed the country and put an end to the war against the Western allies, the emperor, under pressure from the American general Douglas MacArthur, renounced the divine status, which the Shinto tradition attributed to him, in exchange for the assurance that the victors would not try him for war crimes. In this way he managed to save the throne and escape the humiliation of a condemnation that would have  affected the entire nation.

The new constitution of 1947, imposed by the victors, secularized the imperial office yet recognized its importance, making it “the symbol of the state and unity of the people.” Once again, then, although only symbolically, an indissoluble unity in the name of the glorious past was created between the emperor, now deprived of political power, and the Japanese nation.

The outgoing emperor Akihito, who is 85 years old, is much loved by the Japanese because, unlike his predecessors (who usually did not appear in public), together with his wife he wanted to meet people and travel, not only for reasons of protocol. On several occasions he condemned the policy of aggression conducted by Japan against neighboring countries. He has declared himself a convinced pacifist.

During his reign he visited all 47 prefectures of the country, always hastening to be present on the occasion of the frequent natural disasters. The image of the emperor squatting on the ground together with Empress Michiko next to the displaced people of Fukushima, has travelled around the world and has impressed the Japanese people, who are generally sensitive to such gestures.[4] The Japanese are are a people that today, according to surveys, would be ready to recognize the imperial role as being of greater political importance.

The abdication of Akihito, which was provided for and regulated by a law of 2016, has rekindled the debate between those who are nostalgic for the ancient national glories, for whom the emperor must limit himself to “existing in his remote and solitary world, performing there the demanding ritual duties,”[5] and those who, on the contrary, having come to appreciate Akihito’s new and modern “imperial style,” criticize the persistence of the divinizing tradition, a tradition that excludes the emperor from tasks of a political and social nature, which the Japanese, according to recent surveys, greatly appreciate. At the moment, however, it is the traditionalists – the majority in the current government – who prevail and effectively control the Chrysanthemum Throne.

On the afternoon of May 1, in the same room of the Imperial Palace where Akihito had abdicated the day before, in front of a small assembly composed only of males (women, in fact, are not admitted to this rite), the new emperor, the 59-year-old Naruhito, after having completed in the morning the customary Shinto rites for the ascent to the throne – such as the handing over of the Three Sacred Treasures and the imperial seals – promised fidelity to his subjects and undertook to always act according to the Constitution and to carry out his task responsibly. He also declared that he wanted to continue the “course followed by His Majesty the emperor emeritus” and to pray “for the happiness of the people and for world peace.”[6] It seems therefore that the new emperor, as the international press has pointed out, intends to continue the “path” inaugurated by his father, which has earned him the respect of his people, and of others too.

On the same day, the “new imperial era” of Reiwa (“order and harmony”) commenced.[7] Its name had already been “unveiled” on April 1 by the government. This name was chosen by the Executive from a shortlist of names selected by a committee of nine experts. The two characters of the word mean “order, law” (rei) and “peace, harmony” (wa). However, for the first time the name was not derived from the Chinese classics as was the case in the past, but from the oldest collection of Japanese poems, the Manyoshu, where reiwa appears in a poem that speaks of the end of winter and indicates an auspicious, good and beautiful event.[8]

This new order of “peace and harmony” also concerns Japanese Christians and Catholics, who are a minority in this country.[9] From November 23 to 27 Pope Francis will visit Japan, and on that occasion he will meet, in addition to the Catholic communities, the new Emperor Naruhito and Prime Minister Shinzō Abe. It is the second visit of a pontiff to the Land of the Rising Sun, after that of Saint John Paul II in 1981. Francis will visit the same places as his predecessor: Tokyo and the martyred cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, where he will presumably relaunch to the world his message of peace and condemnation of nuclear weapons.

Japan between economic recovery and demographic crisis

The change of the “imperial era” takes place at a very delicate time for Japan, both for internal policy issues – although the level of economic growth of the country (even if it has slowed down in recent times) is not a matter of particular concern for the government – and for thorny foreign policy issues, because of the recent clashes (alternating with fleeting promises of peace and understanding) between the belligerent North Korea and the United States, and the emergence of China as a global economic power, which in a few years has become – after the United States – the world’s second economic power, thus surpassing the country of the Rising Sun.

The Japanese Prime Minister, the Liberal Democratic Party’s Shinzō Abe,[10] who has been in power continuously since 2012 – when he launched an ambitious economic-financial project aimed at reviving Japan’s long stagnant economy[11] – in a solemn speech delivered January 22, 2019, to the Diet (parliament) stated that “it is time to create a new Japan” in view of a “new imperial era” in order to bring the country out of the “national crisis” that has gripped it for years.[12]

The Head of Government referred here to the demographic crisis, the real Achilles’ heel of Japanese society and economy, which makes Japan the country with the oldest population in the world and the lowest birth rate: a situation the country of the Rising Sun shares with developed Western countries, such as, a Italy and Germany. According to the Statistics Office of Japan, the country’s population amounted to 126.96 million in January 2018. The forecasts published by the same Office predict that it will fall to around 110 million by 2040, and that it will decrease further over the years, reaching 99.3 million by 2053. Even more worrying for politicians is the increase in the percentage of the population over 65 years of age: today it is 27.8 percent and is expected to reach 35 percent in 2040.[13] All this will have important consequences not only in social and political terms, but also in strictly economic terms.

The Japanese leaders have accepted the reality of demographic decline and have realistically set themselves the goal, for the next few years, to contain decline, to a figure of no less than 100 million inhabitants. This decline, which has already been underway for years, will nevertheless have a considerable impact on the Japanese economy, which, although not in recession, has lost the momentum of the last decades of the 20th century, when it was the second largest economic power in the world.

In fact, it is expected that a considerable number of citizens currently active in the labor market will depend in the future on the generous national welfare system (which currently exceeds 20 percent of GDP, but which, according to estimates, could exceed 35 percent in 2035), but with fewer taxpayers. With a smaller workforce to fuel growth, the current government has recently committed to ensuring the country’s access to new markets, for example, by entering into an economic partnership with the EU and also with other rich countries in the Pacific.[14]

Due to the declining population, Japan today has a strong need for foreign manpower, mainly, but not only, the unskilled. Although current legislation does not encourage immigration, there are about three million foreigners residing in the country, while there are almost 1,300,000 immigrant workers, mostly from China.[15]

For an ethnically and culturally homogeneous society like Japan, which is reluctant to facilitate the settlement of people from other countries, the presence of immigrants is difficult to accept. Although the government endeavors to “circulate” the immigration of foreign labor, the indigenous people have difficulty integrating them: for them this is a challenge to be faced in order to maintain the current level of economic development.

In 2015, when the Middle East was in turmoil because of war and millions of people (as in Syria) were leaving their country, rich Japan granted refugee status to only 27 people, and the following year to 600 North Korean refugees. In 2018, out of 10,493 applications from asylum seekers, only 42 were granted. The refugees are locked up in “reception centers” (or rather, detention centers), waiting to obtain – by depositing a payment of 1,000-2,000 dollars in advance – a temporary permit.[16]

It should also be remembered that the majority of immigrants are engaged in work that the average Japanese does not usually want to do – the so-called “work of the three Ks” (kitsu, kitanai, kiken) – because they are considered “difficult, dirty and dangerous.”[17] These jobs are generally poorly paid and subject to irregular hours. The shortage of local labor has forced government authorities to widen the (hitherto very narrow) space for temporary immigration. In any case, the overall level of employment in Japan is among the highest in the world; the unemployed do not exceed 3 percent.[18] In this respect, economists speak of “full employment.” This does not mean, however, that the Japanese labor market does not suffer from internal imbalances and that in the future it will confront certain critical issues.

The demographic crisis has also had an impact on another sector that Prime Minister Abe considers vital for the country and its future as a great power: the military sector. In fact, there is a continuous decrease in the number of recruits in the armed forces. According to some experts, this is due to political reasons and inadequate legislation in this area. According to others, “the main reasons are the choked labor market, full employment for graduates and the high wages in the private sector.”[19] It follows that in the coming years it will be difficult to recruit young people for military service, making it increasingly difficult for Japan to ensure the security of its borders, as well as the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands in the East China Sea.

The disaffection of young people with military careers (which in the past was considered a matter of great prestige, even in the highest ranks of society) has a considerable impact on the political level: in fact, it opposes the direction taken by the government in office on the subject of military reform. This tendency, present above all in the new generations, tends to dampen nationalism and the political project – repeatedly expressed by Prime Minister Abe – of a full reform of Article 9 of the Constitution, which places strong limits on Japanese rearmament.

The guaranteed jobs and the high salaries guaranteed to the middle class act as a powerful deterrent against the populism and nationalism that the current government would like to promote. Stephen Nagy writes: “It is difficult for a population that enjoys a certain prosperity to change a Constitution that seals such a quality of life.”[20]

The ‘panoramic perspective’ of Japanese geopolitics

The management of the so-called “national crisis” of the new Japan will have an important impact also in the geopolitical field. In this regard, Prime Minister Abe often uses the metaphor of the “panoramic perspective” (or “bird’s eye view”) with which to analyze this aspect, in order to orient the foreign policy of modern Japan.[21]

The first issue that worries the Japanese government is the relationship with the United States: a privileged and – according to many – irreplaceable relationship, which, however, with the Trump presidency and with the decisions he has recently taken both in foreign policy and in the economic field has become a matter of great concern.

The relationship between Japan and the United States developed during the years of the Cold War: from irreducible enemies (so much so that at the end of the Second World War nuclear weapons were used, with enormous destruction and loss of life) the Japanese became, within a few years (and more decisively at the outbreak of the Korean War, in 1950), the most convinced allies and supporters of the United States. In fact, in order to limit the expansion of both Russian and Chinese communism, the U.S. supported the reconstruction and economic recovery of the former Axis Powers, i.e. Germany, Italy and Japan.[22]

The “panoramic perspective,” in both the economic and geopolitical spheres, affirms itsanchorage to the United States, even though in recent decades some nationalists, nostalgic for the imperial past of the Land of the Rising Sun, have criticized this as questionable “servility.” In any case, the so-called “realists” consider the privileged link with the United States indispensable in the face of the advance of Chinese power and the deterioration of the geopolitical picture in East Asia.

In fact, the escalation of the North Korean crisis in the summer of 2017 highlighted the danger of a nuclear and missile program adopted by Pyongyang. It should not be forgotten that some ballistic tests carried out by the North Korean Government concerned Japanese national territory. For years, the Japanese government has been discussing the effectiveness or otherwise of U.S. protection – it houses in its territory (Okinawa) an important U.S. military base with an anti-Chinese function – and about Washington’s willingness to “die for Tokyo” in the event of an armed conflict between Japan and its powerful Asian adversaries.

In fact, many Japanese political observers doubt this willingness. They propose to promote a policy of rearmament and to abandon the “forced pacifism” imposed by the never amended 1947 Constitution, and therefore, in some way, to leave “the security umbrella of the United States,”[23] or at least to ease their dependence. This direction has become more consistent and convinced with the rise of Trump to the presidency of the United States and because of the choices he has made in economic matters, such as the U.S. withdrawal from the Transpacific Partnership or his continuing threats to implement protectionist policies, which in recent times have forced many Japanese companies to move some production to the U.S. to circumvent customs duties.[24]

But what is most worrying for Japan’s leaders is Trump’s transformational policy toward North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un. In this regard, the Washington agencies oscillate between those who are willing to live with the North Korean nuclear threat, those who would like to punish Kim with a “limited” but effective attack, thus exposing Japan (and neighboring South Korea) to enemy retaliation, and those who think they can annihilate the threat that comes from that “rogue state” with a forceful action despite unpredictable consequences. All these options would be harmful and disastrous for Japan and other surrounding countries. In short, both Tokyo and Seoul “are not willing to act as sacrificial victims in a possible nuclear conflict of any kind between Washington and Pyongyang.”[25]

As far as relations between Japan and South Korea are concerned, although they are officially peaceful, they are affected by events of the past. From 1905 until 1945 Japanese forces colonized Korea south of the 38th parallel. In those years they controlled most of the territories bordering Japan and some important regions of China. There are also territorial tensions between Tokyo and Seoul, such as the question of the Takeshima Islands (Dokdo in Korean). Relations between the two countries have deteriorated considerably in recent months, for both ideological and commercial reasons. Recently, Japan imposed limits on exports of technological equipment and removed Seoul from its list of reliable trading partners, causing similar retaliatory measures by South Korea.[26] It was also with some annoyance that Tokyo saw the athletes of the two Koreas parade together, for mere propaganda reasons, at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang. This was seen as a hostile act by Seoul’s supposedly friendly government.

On the geopolitical level, according to some Japanese scholars, the “strategists” of this country are divided into two opposing fronts: on the one hand, there are those who support the formula Japan First; on the other, those who opt for a Global Japan.[27] The former believe that Japan should focus only on political issues relating to the archipelago or, at the very most, the neighboring seas. In this case, the alliance with the U.S. is of vital importance for the security of the country, and in any case preferable to other solutions. On the other hand, the so-called “globalists” (or imperialists) – led by Prime Minister Abe – advocate that, while maintaining the alliance with the United States, it is appropriate to forge relations with other powers to prevent East Asia and the Western Pacific from being swallowed up by the supremacy (in the economic and military spheres) of the Chinese superpower. With this perspective, countries such as India, Australia and Indonesia are the main focus of attention. According to Abe, Japan and India have a vital common interest in “opening maritime routes, put at risk by the growth of Chinese influence with many Indo-Pacific countries.”[28] The agreement between the two countries was recently broken by India’s support for Xi Jinping’s ambitious project to open a “new silk route.”

It should also be remembered that relations between Japan and China are ambivalent: on the one hand, Beijing is Tokyo’s first trading partner[29]; on the other, China is in open competition with Japan for economic control of the region. This is perceived by the Tokyo leadership as a threat also in the political and military spheres. In fact, the People’s Republic of China continues to increase its military budget year on year at a surprising rate (from 5 to 7 percent), reaching a total of 150 billion dollars, which is three times the funds allocated by the Tokyo government for security.

The Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands (which are part of the Ryukyu archipelago) in the East China Sea are another reason for dispute between the two countries. They are controlled by Japan, but claimed by China. In addition, these islands are strategically important for the Land of the Rising Sun, because any hostile power must pass in front of them to reach Japanese territory. It seems their territorial waters, which are also very extensive, contain important reserves of natural gas and oil.[30] In 2012, the Japanese government and the municipality of Tokyo purchased three of the five islands that make up the small archipelago to counter Beijing’s claims on that area. For its part, China reacted with a hostile declaration, with which it extended its air control area to include the disputed islands. In order to avoid a clash, in September 2015 the U.S. Administration invited both powers to the negotiating table. These negotiations are still ongoing, and it does not seem that the issue is easy to resolve, not least because in the meantime China has tried to militarize the surrounding area, even creating some artificial islands for defensive purposes.

In addition to China and South Korea, Japan has a territorial dispute with Russia over the Kuril Islands.[31] For Tokyo, these territories are of considerable strategic importance for ensuring the security of the northernmost part of the country. However, Moscow claims the islands are illegally occupied by the Japanese. Recently, in the negotiations initiated by the two sides, it seems that a solution is being reached, all the more so as this area does not have any particular strategic value for Russia. A compromise on this issue between Abe and Putin would be good for both sides. In a possible memorandum of understanding, Japan would gain new supplies of Siberian gas, including the construction of a mega-pipeline; Russia, in addition to advantageous economic agreements, would receive a promise not to militarize the disputed area, so as to prevent the U.S. from installing military bases there. This would be a major diplomatic victory for Putin.

Nor should we forget the so-called “resource diplomacy,” scrupulously followed in the geopolitical field by Japan. It was one of the pillars of the post-conflict strategy adopted by the Japanese governments and consisted in giving priority to diplomatic relations with oil-producing countries, such as Saudi Arabia and Iran. This sometimes required a rapprochement with states that were not allies with the U.S. and did not share Western political and ideological systems. This approach is still followed today by Tokyo, which is always ready to “close both eyes to the political actions of its partner, in order to ensure access to vital energy resources.”[32]

Globalism and militarism in Japanese politics

According to some analysts, Shinzō Abe’s globalism is extremely ambitious, even considering the “size” of his country compared to other world powers. In fact, the territory of Japan is slightly larger than Italy’s (although it has twice as many inhabitants). In order to be at the level of the great powers, it would be necessary for the Japanese government to limit the social and economic damage caused by the current demographic crisis, and at the same time to strengthen its military defense system. Prime Minister Abe is very sensitive on this last point. Following the electoral success of October 2017, the ruling Liberal Democratic Party and their coalition partners have been working to overcome the post-war “pacifism” imposed by the 1947 Constitution and to develop a leading role in the security and defense sector in East Asia.

As already mentioned, the Prime Minister intends to amend Article 9 of the Constitution, which condemns all acts of aggression and the renunciation of the creation of an autonomous army.[33] In 2015, Abe managed to get the Diet to approve a measure that reinterpreted this constitutional provision and authorized the Japanese armed forces – which, although numerically limited, are very advanced from the technological point of view – to participate in “collective self-defense actions.” That is, it opened the possibility of resorting to force if Japan was attacked by an enemy power, as well as going to the aid of a “friendly state,” if it was attacked or unjustly invaded and this represented a threat to the security and freedom of the country. A provision of the 1992 Diet (after the first Gulf War) authorized the government to send military personnel within the ambit of international multilateral missions, although with very precise rules of engagement.[34]

Already after the 2017 elections Abe could have asked Parliament to reform Article 9, but he preferred to wait once more to gain the support of public opinion to the nationalist cause.[35] Things got complicated, however, when the elections of July 20, 2019, called for the election of about half of the seats in the Senate. The coalition led by the Japanese Prime Minister has retained, as expected, a majority, but the result was lower than expected, and now precludes the Prime Minister from easily having the constitutional reform approved.[36] Despite this, Abe declared that the Japanese have once again rewarded stability: “We have obtained,” he said, “a new mandate to continue our policies, and now we hope that the other parliamentary forces will want to discuss a subject as vital as that of the reform of the Constitution.”[37] The latest surveys, however, show that the Japanese population is not very committed to this issue. Instead, they seem more interested in economic and social issues, such as pension reform and the controversial increase in the consumption tax (VAT).

The new sovereign and the beginning of a “new imperial era,” as well as the Olympics to be held in Tokyo in 2020, are important opportunities that could help Japan to revive itself internationally as a power of the first magnitude.

According to nationalists and conservatives, Prime Minister Abe is effectively leading Japan toward “the recovery of its pride and national identity, also making use of the Shinto lobbies to which he is closely linked.”[38] However, the recent elections in 2019 showed that a significant proportion of the Japanese people do not like this direction of government. In one way or another, the Prime Minister and the coalition that supports him will have to take this into account if they want to keep the nation united on economic and social issues that are becoming increasingly pressing.

[1]. www.repubblica.it/esteri/2019/04/30/news/giappone_imperatore_ akihito_al_via_riti_abdicazione-225143489

[2]. See G. Santevecchi, “Il penultimo imperatore” in Corriere della Sera, April 30,  2019, 14.

[3]. Some of these rites were held in the presence of the country’s institutional and political authorities and the many heads of state and government who were invited to take part. The government has earmarked 200 million euros for these ceremonies.

[4]. Cf. P. D’Emilia, “Giappone non sa più chi è” in L’Espresso, April 28, 2019, 58.

[5].  “La rivoluzione giapponese” in Limes, No. 2, 2018, 11.

[6]. www.repubblica.it/esteri/2019/05/01news/giappone_al_via_ascensione_trono_imperatore_naruhito-225210768

[7]. In the imperial Japanese calendar the Gregorian year of 2018 corresponded to the 30th year of Heisei, but from May 1, 2019, that is the accession to the throne of Emperor Naruhito, the Japanese have entered the 1st year of the Reiwa era.

[8]. Cf. “L’era indecifrabile” in Internazionale, April 5, 2019, 33; G. Santevecchi, “Il Giappone entra nell’Era Reiwa. Significa ‘ordine, armonia e pace’” in Corriere della Sera, April 2, 2019.

[9].  Japanese Catholics today number about 450,000, or 0.5 percent of the population; many of them are also foreign immigrants. Considering that in 1919 they were just 174,000, it can be said that in a century they have increased considerably. Cf. G. Cardinale, “Il viaggio del Papa in Thailandia e Giappone” in www.avvenire.it/papa-francesco-inthailandia-e-giappone-in-novembre/; F. Gnagni, “Come sono i rapporti tra Vaticano e Giappone” in www.formiche.net/2017/10/quale-lo-stato-e-la-storia-dei-rapporti-tra-santa-sede-e-giappone

[10]. Shinzō Abe, born in 1954, was elected prime minister several times: in 2006 (in office for only one year), then in 2012, and most recently after the general elections of 2018. He is a member of the most conservative and nationalist current of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), which aspires to restore the ancient Shinto traditions and to make Japan the most powerful country in the Pacific. Among its main political objectives is that of changing the Constitution of the nation (in particular, Art. 9), imposed on Japan by the victorious powers after the end of the Second World War. After the victory of his party in the general election of October 22, 2017 (when it won two thirds of the seats in the Diet), in the wake of fears caused by the crisis with North Korea, Abe was reconfirmed at the head of the liberal-democratic party. Since in Japan the prime minister is the leader of the ruling party, it is therefore a question of his reconfirmation in that role as well. If he stays in office for another three years, he will become the political leader who has held officefor the longest time in Japan. See www.ilpost.it/2018/shinzo-abe-liberal-democratici

[11].  Following the electoral victory of 2012, the new Prime Minister Abe launched an ambitious political-economic project called Abenomics, concerning monetary, fiscal and structural fields: the so-called “three arrows” to restart the country after years of socio-economic crisis. From a monetary point of view, the premier’s objective was to maintain the inflation rate at 2 percent percent. Japan’s debt, although the highest among those of the industrialized countries, remains somehow manageable, due to the fact that 90 percent of it is internal to the country. The “third arrow,” that of structural reforms, has encountered greater difficulties in recent years and is struggling to take off. The government intends to dismantle part of the imposing and complicated Japanese bureaucratic system, which curbs economic growth and promotes corruption, which is widespread at various levels (cf. www.investireoggi.it/economia/abenomics-ovvero-la-disperata-lotta-per-la-sopravvivenza-del-giappone/; Atlante geografico Treccani 2018, Rome, Istituto dell’Enciclopedia Italiana, 2018, 419). This, however, is far from being implemented. The effects of the much-publicized Abenomics began to be seen only in 2015, when the economy recorded a slight recovery of 1 percent, which has remained, with slight decimal increases, until now. It should be remembered that before the international crisis of 2008, Japan’s level of growth was around 5/6 percent percent. Today Tokyo is focusing heavily on the 2020 Olympics which, according to experts, would be an opportunity to channel significant investment inthe country from abroad and increase domestic consumption.

[12]. “La rivoluzione giapponese” op. cit., 12.

[13]. Cf.  S. R. R. Nagy, “La crisi demografica e una nuova restaurazione Meiji” in Limes, No. 2, 2018, 73.

[14]Ibid., 74.

[15]. Cf.  “La rivoluzione giapponese” op. cit., 12.

[16]. Cf. S. Mesimaki, “La disperazione dei migranti in Giappone”  in Internazionale, September 6, 2019, 33.

[17].  S. R. R. Nagy, “La crisi demografica e una nuova restaurazione Meiji” op. cit., 75.

[18]. Cf. E. González, “Se in Giappone sono in tre ad agitare il Martini” in la Repubblica, June 10, 2019.

[19]. It should be noted that in Japan less than a third of the youth workforce has an open-ended contract; wages have not increased for years, and young people often feel insecure and disoriented. Cf. I. Ugboaja, “Missing Manpower” in Harvard International Review 17 (2017) 4. Moreover, the so-called “evaporated” (kodokushi), i.e. those who disappear without leaving any trace, and others, especially young people, who cease to have relations with the outside world (hikikomori) are on the rise. Many elderly people, also abandoned by institutions, let themselves die in their apartments. Cf. P. D’Emilia, “Il Giappone non sa più chi è” op. cit., 59; A. McKirdy, “Prigione dentro” in Internazionale, June 28, 2018, 44.

[20].  S. R. R. Nagy, “La crisi demografica e una nuova restaurazione Meiji” op. cit., 76.

[21]. Cf. “La rivoluzione giapponese” op. cit., 16.

[22]. Cf. T. Marshall, Le 10 mappe che spiegano il mondo, Milan, Garzanti, 2018, 246.

[23]. P. Orchard, “Japan, a Pacifist in Name Only” in Geopolitical Futures 29 (2017) 12.

[24].  “La rivoluzione giapponese” op. cit., 16.

[25]. Ibid. 17.

[26]. Seoul threatened to withdraw from the intelligence cooperation agreement with Tokyo. If it did, “the stalemate would frustrate the deterrent effects of the U.S.-Japan-South Korea triangle, which has so far effectively held” (S. Maslow – P. O’Shea, “I rapporti difficili tra Tokyo e Seul” in Internazionale, August 30, 2019, 32).

[27]. Cf.  M. Tsuruoka, “Japan First versus Global Japan” in The National Interest 14 (2018) 1.

[28]. “La rivoluzione giapponese” op. cit., 20.

[29]. In 2017, the main partners for Japanese exports were the United States (20 percent), China (18 percent) and South Korea (7 percent). As far as imports are concerned, Japan is dependent on foreign countries for very important sectors, such as energy. In fact, only 5 percent of the energy used is produced in the country. Japan is the world’s third largest consumer of oil (after China and the U.S.) and the largest of liquefied gas and coal. As far as imports are concerned, most of the goods come from China (25 percent) and the U.S. (11 percent). Cf. T. Marshall, Le 10 mappe che spiegano il mondo, op. cit., 245.

[30]. Ibid., 248.

[31]. Cf. A. Shimbun, “Japon-Russie: les Kouriles, les îles qui bloquent la paix” in Courrier international, September 4, 2019, 27.

[32]. S.R.R. Nagy, “Il Giappone vuole tornare potenza dei mari” in Limes, No. 7, 2019, 156.

[33]. Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution reads: “Sincerely aspiring to an international peace based on justice and order, the Japanese people forever renounce war as the sovereign right of the nation, and the threat or use of force as a means of resolving international disputes. In order to achieve the objective proclaimed in the previous paragraph, no forces of land, sea or other means of war shall be maintained. The right of the state to belligerence will not be recognized” (www.printfriendly.com/p/g/xajbhz).

[34]. Cf. Atlante geografico Treccani 2018, op. cit., 426.

[35]. Japan is formally a constitutional monarchy, where, however, the emperor plays only cultural and representative roles. The executive power is entrusted to the government, led by the prime minister. The institutional system has a bicameral structure: the Diet, composed of the House of Representatives (“Lower House”) and the Chamber of Advisers (“Upper House”). The first, which has more powers (it votes onthe confidence of the governments in office), is composed of 465 members and is renewable every four years. The second consists of 242 members, elected every six years, half of whom are renewable every three years. Cf. ibid., 420.

[36]. In fact, the conservative alliance remains far from the threshold of two-thirds of the votes required in both chambers for the revision of the Constitutional Charter, a reform that will then have to be submitted to a popular referendum. Cf. www.erepubblica.it/esteri/2019/07/21/news/giappone_elezioni_abe-231713636/ The Liberal Democrats, together with the Allied Party (Komeito), obtained only 66 of the 124 seats available in the Upper House.

[37]. Ibid.

[38]. N. Puorto, “Abe punta al cielo con l’aiuto della lobby scintoista” in Limes,  March 12,  2018, 82.