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Deutsches Institut für Japanstudien

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

Research focus since October 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.

Please refer to our Research Overview page to see how this research programme is being implemented.

Related Research Projects

History Politics in East Asia

Integrating a global workforce - Japanese approaches to global HR

Listening to the Community: Grassroots Mental Healthcare in Local Communities

Representations of Disabilities in Contemporary Japanese Literature

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

The Values of Sustainability and the Sustainability of Values in Contemporary 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

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

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

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

Relationships in motion: Doing belonging on a global stage

Sexism and career aspirations of Japanese university students

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

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

The Changing Political Economy of “Rural Revitalization”

The meaning of local community for happiness and selfhood

The political consequences of employment diversification in Japan

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

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