In the aftermath of the so-called “Lost Decade” and the combined tsunami and nuclear disaster at Fukashima, it’s become fashionable to declare Japan trapped in a tailspin. NSSR Sociology grad student David P. Janes argues that this narrative is premature in a blog post on the Council on Foreign Relations Asia Unbound blog.
Although Janes does not deny that Japan has suffered an economic slump of late, he convincingly claims that its civil society is still strong and provides a model that many Americans want to learn from. As he says, “If Japan is so much in decline, why then do Americans interested in clean energy technology see Japan as offering promising insights, why do architects and city planners in New York City attempting to deal with the need for compact apartments and homes see value in Japanese architectural design, why do so many U.S. educators want to travel to Japan to learn about its history, culture, and social structure, why do numerous think-tanks aim to work with Japanese intellectuals to solve Northeast Asian security issues, and why are numerous documentary film-makers making films about Japan?”
In particular, Non-Governmental Organizations that have arisen since the March 11th disaster show Janes that Japan is not the stagnant society many make it out to be. “In a society that is often painted as having a weak civil society, here we see a new, but well thought out, NGO that has quickly developed contacts with the non-profit and philanthropic world in the United States and in Japan,” Janes says. Despite the hardship of recent years, Janes is sure Japan will still be a model the whole world will want to follow.
In addition to being a grad student, David Janes is Director of Foundation Grants and Assistant to the President at the United States-Japan Foundation, where he leads the Foundation’s grant-making programs and represents the Foundation to potential and current grantees in the United States and Japan. The United States-Japan Foundation is the only private American grant-making foundation dedicated to enhancing U.S.-Japan relations, and its funding portfolios include Education, U.S.-Japan Policy Studies, and Communications/Public Opinion projects in both countries.