Becalmed, adrift or slowly sinking? Life aboard the listing Japanese ship of state

Compared with some other industrialized countries, Japan can seem like a pleasant place to live these days. No crazed ideological political leaders determined to rip the nation apart. . . no noisy culture wars or climate change denial and relatively little racist violence. We have a low crime rate, low housing prices, and rock-bottom interest rates. Most of life’s necessities can be obtained at the hundred-yen shop.

   Yes, it’s quiet in Japan. . . perhaps too quiet. While other nations rage against the dying of the light, Japan seems resigned to drift quietly into mediocrity. International per-capita GDP rankings show Japan down at the fringe of the top 30, near Czechia, Slovenia and Lithuania, and far behind the USA. One form of crime — fraud — is steadily on the rise. Government loudspeaker vans tour suburban neighborhoods, warning people not to give money to some stranger pretending to be their son. As the population ages, and more and more very old people find themselves living alone, the fraudsters gather at the door. The government has failed to address the demographic crisis, and by now it is too late. Encouraging immigration is literally the only option, yet our leaders still strive to preserve the myth of racial homogeneity while grudgingly admitting a few more foreigners with a series of half-measures.

    Many of the problems that Japan faces are common to other mature democracies. But along with refusal to countenance immigration, endemic sexism is another Japan-specific issue. On every measure – the gender pay gap, female parliamentarians, women in the boardrooms of major corporations – Japan is always bottom among the G7 nations.

   This, then, is the challenge of our Call for Papers. Is it true that Japan is slowly drifting down the river towards mediocrity? AJJ prides itself on fieldwork-based research, on seeing things with our own eyes. We invite participants to take a look around the subjects of their fieldwork, and ask themselves if the lives they see match the pessimistic view outlined above. Or is there perhaps a brighter future, in which lower population can be combined with improved technology to offer a quieter, less pressurized lifestyle? Please, tell us what you see. And tell us what you see coming.

Paper title/abstract submissions (250 word limit) are due November 3, 2023 and can be submitted to Prof. Tom Gill (replace ‘at’ with @)

gill at

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