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Deutsches Institut für Japanstudien

Risks and Opportunities in Japan - Challenges in the Face of an Increasingly Uncertain Future

Research Programme since 2014

An interdisciplinary and comparative research programme

The sustainability of our societies depends upon how we deal with the threats and opportunities inherent in an uncertain future. Much of our behaviour, strategies and policies as well as our social, economic and political institutions directly or indirectly reflect how we confront uncertainty or – more generally – how we cope with knowing that we don’t know. With regard to risks and opportunities in the context of increasing uncertainties, Japan is a case in point. Like many other industrialized nations, Japan faces various social, economic and political challenges. These include:
  • a hyper-aging and now also declining population,
  • growing income inequalities within the context of increasingly diversified employment relations, and rising numbers of relative poor,
  • a record high fiscal debt built up in a long lasting deflationary environment,
  • energy policy choices revolving around the restart of nuclear reactors, costly imports of fossil fuels and the rapid expansion of renewables,
  • political tensions with close neighbours caused by nationalistic tendencies posing a threat to historical reconciliation and economic integration,
  • global competition and technological change requiring structural adjustment and strategic re-positioning as well as new and intensified efforts in such fields as education, research and development.
In the Japanese case these challenges are especially demanding, as they are not only intertwined, but have also evolved faster than in many other OECD countries. How Japan as the second largest economy in the developed world confronts the implied risks and opportunities, bears strong relevance beyond its borders for the wider Asian region as well as the world as a whole. Our research programme comprises a broad range of topics, from genuine risk-research fields like the study of individual risk attitudes, private and social insurance, corporate risk management and entrepreneurship to more general topics such as welfare and energy policy, health and food safety, employment and international relations. The risk and opportunity perspective is also applied to analyse the impact of far-reaching transformation processes like globalization and demographic change or the erosion of traditional social structures. We explore the various research questions with concepts and theoretical approaches rooted in different disciplines of the social sciences and humanities. Methods applied range from large-scale surveys, in-depth interviews, case studies, ethnographies, to text and discourse analyses or laboratory experiments. Where appropriate, the findings gained through different discipline-based research methodologies are reflected upon from interdisciplinary perspectives. Such interdisciplinary discourses may reveal commonalities and complementarities, thus confirming and enhancing what we know, or they may point to contradictions stimulating further research. International research collaborations allow us to put Japan into a broader context and to conduct comparative analyses gaining new insights about other societies, too. Our research programme aims at contributing to a better understanding of how Japan embraces the risks and opportunities inherent in an increasingly uncertain future. We expect the various projects to yield new insights into important aspects of Japanese culture, society, economy, and politics. The multi- and interdisciplinary approaches and comparative analyses provide new grounds for theory building and advance our general understanding of the nature and implications of risks and opportunities in an increasingly complex and dynamic world. The research programme is being implemented through two institute-wide projects studying the future of local communities and digital transformation in Japan and through various individual projects.

Related Research Projects

COVID-19 and its effects on singles in Japan:
Personal relationships and practices of intimacy in the time of ‘social distancing’ and ‘self-discipline’

Economic Discourses of Monetary Policy – The Case of the Bank of Japan

History Politics in East Asia

Integrating a global workforce - Japanese approaches to global HR

Japan’s “blue economies”? Japanese firms in the restructuring of the global seafood trade

Listening to the Community: Grassroots Mental Healthcare in Local Communities

Parental well-being in the rural periphery of Germany and Japan: Choices, challenges, and considerations

Start-ups in Asia – the role of agglomerations and international linkages

Technical Innovation and Research Collaboration / Clusters: Biomedical Engineering in Japan

The meaning of local community for happiness and selfhood

The Risks and Opportunities of the ‘Hyper-Solo-Society’. (Re)Mapping Intimacy – Spatial Perspectives on Personal Relationships in Contemporary Japan

What is the "local"? - Rethinking the politics of subnational spaces in Japan

Completed Projects

Effective Multinational Teamwork in the Japanese Context (EMTJ Study)

Gleichstellungspolitik für mehr Diversität in Arbeitsmarkt und Gesellschaft?

Harvesting State Support – Endogenous Institutional Change and the Role of the “Local” in Japan’s Agricultural Support and Protection Regime

Industrial Trainees from China and Vietnam in Japan: An Entry Point into the Key Issues of International Labour Migration and Skill Transfer

Privatisation and diversification in the Japanese welfare state: Toward a new safety net through regulation?

Sexism and career aspirations of Japanese university students

Temporäre internationale Arbeitsmigration und lokaler Arbeitsmarkt in Japan am Beispiel des Technical Intern Training Program

The Changing Political Economy of “Rural Revitalization”

The political consequences of employment diversification in Japan

The political regulation of minimum wages in Germany, Japan and the United Kingdom

“Eine bewusst weit gefasste Agenda”: Im Gespräch mit Franz Waldenberger
In: Wissen in Verbindung


May 18, 2016
DIJ Forum
Health Care in Japan: How Sustainable is the System?

February 18, 2016
DIJ Forum
Meeting the Challenge of Globalization – Comparing Korean and Japanese Global Human Resource Management

December 11, 2015
DIJ Forum
Atomenergie – warum hört Deutschland auf, warum macht Japan weiter?
原子力 – なぜドイツは止めるか、なぜ日本は続けるか

October 8, 2015
DIJ Forum
Trust and Risks in Changing Societies

September 17, 2015
Symposia and Conferences
100 Years of “Risikopolitik” and Risk Paradoxa. Joint Conference of the Japan Risk Management Society (日本リスクマネジメント学会JARMS) and the German Institute for Japanese Studies Tokyo (DIJ), Tokyo, Japan

September 16, 2015
DIJ Forum
The truth about the Fukushima nuclear disaster

September 10, 2015
DIJ Social Science Study Group
Nuclear Power in Japan after 3/11: An Inconspicuous Transformation

August 6, 2015
Symposia and Conferences
The Politics of Energy Transition Post-Fukushima: Anthropological Lessons from Europe and North America

May 27, 2015
DIJ Business & Economics Study Group
What is the Problem with Economic Stagnation?

May 14, 2015
DIJ Forum
Transforming Japan Into an Energy Rich Country - What Needs to be Done?

April 9, 2015
DIJ Forum
Japan’s Corporate Governance Code - Driver of Change?

February 4, 2015
DIJ Social Science Study Group
How to Analyze the Distribution of Risks? Social Inequality Theory Re-Visited

December 2, 2014
DIJ Forum
Risk and Opportunity – Japan Confronting Uncertain Futures