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Re-rising Japan

Its Strategic Power in International Relations


Edited By Hidekazu Sakai and Yoichiro Sato

"The lost two decades" of Japan’s economic power since the early 1990s have generated the image among scholars in the discipline of international relations (IR) that Japan is no longer a significant player. Hence, today’s IR literature focuses on the rise of China. Re-rising Japan: Its Strategic Power in International Relations challenges this trend by showing up-to-date evidence that Japan is still a major power in today’s international relations where the interests and power of the United States and China have increasingly clashed over many issues.

Indeed, since the Abe cabinet re-emerged in December 2012, there has been growing academic interest in Japan’s bold monetary/financial/social policies (Abenomics) and relatively assertive security policy. Where is Japan heading, and what path has it taken since the 2000s? This book responds to these questions.

Re-rising Japan assembles the latest studies on Japan written by today’s young and energetic scholars. It consists of three parts: (1) Geopolitics, (2) Domestic Political-Social Norms and Values, and (3) Asian Regional Integration and Institutionalizations. The individual chapters reveal what power assets Japan has and their strength and weakness in today’s international relations. Readers will attain a complete picture of Japan and its evolving new strategy in the decaying U.S. unipolar system where China has been behaving as a revisionist state.

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Chapter Five: Japan’s Civil Society: A Source of Strength (Philip Streich)


chapter five

Japan’s Civil Society

A Source of Strength

Philip Streich


The discussion over Japan’s decline overlooks one aspect in which Japan excels over its neighbors in Asia: the growing strength of its civil society. A country’s well-being should not be measured by GDP alone—the health of a country’s political system and the freedoms enjoyed by its people are also positive indicators of a country’s well-being, and a strong, vibrant civil society sector helps to ensure these factors. With increasing interest and actions from its citizens and new laws facilitating the creation of NGOs, Japan’s civil society is strong and growing stronger, especially when compared to that of its neighbors in East Asia.

Yet Japan’s civil society has been maligned when compared to South Korea’s. While commentators note South Korea’s history of protests and Korean civil society’s role in the 1980s democratization movement and the frequency of protests over issues related to labor and American beef imports, among others,1 Japan’s civil society is criticized for its lack of political activism.2 But Japan also has a long history of social movements and protests. In the postwar era, Japan has experienced the Anpo movement against the 1960 U.S.-Japan Security Treaty, protests over the construction of Narita Airport in a farmland community in Chiba Prefecture, an ongoing social movement in Okinawa against U.S. military bases, protests against the resumption of nuclear power following the 2011 meltdown at Fukushima,...

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