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2008

Two years ago, the Tokyo Foundation undertook a sweeping overhaul of the structure and content of its programs. We conducted a bottom-up review of our fellows and programs in the areas of policy research and leadership development- -the foundation's twin missions- -from the standpoint of how best to contribute to Japan and the world in the twenty-first century. You might say we reconstituted the foundation from the ground up.

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Progress in the life sciences is moving at an astonishing rate, and today it has become possible to reproduce part of the human brain in a test tube. The brain is a key organ controlling human activity, and there is a need to think seriously about how far we should allow such research to proceed.

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Tracing the history of how Japan's farmland system has been administered back to 1952, when the Agricultural Land Law was enacted, is a means of shedding fresh light on the problems afflicting Japanese agriculture. It also serves to reveal the policies needed to secure the farmland that is essential to Japan's food security and to identify new actors willing and able to work this land.

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What can we learn from the global financial and economic crisis? A prominent Japanese economist explains how it reflects the inherent instability of capitalism and reveals the failure of the neoclassical experiment.

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Japan’s farming population is declining as the current generation of farmers ages amid a dearth of potential successors. With more and more farmers abandoning production, the country is losing agricultural resources that are vital to its food security. The entry of private enterprises into the farming sector has the potential to revive Japan’s crisis-hit agricultural sector by identifying successors other than the children of farmers and creating jobs.

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The last two sessions of the symposium discussed ways to improve parliamentary deliberation and the relationships between parliamentary houses and political parties. The symposium as a whole was a great opportunity for the British and Japanese participants to exchange information and opinions on their political systems.

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How should the government respond to public anxiety about the safety of food? The process by which the British Food Standards Agency explained the risks of BSE to the British people and obtained their understanding and confidence gives some important ideas for risk communication.

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Renowned Japanese novelist Soseki Natsume, who witnessed Japan's rapid modernization starting in the late nineteenth century, depicted the lives of intelligentsia in this period. His masterpiece Kokoro (1914) has had a profound impact on intellectual giants in Europe and the U.S., including Friedrich Hayek, Nobel laureate in economics.

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The first two sessions of the symposium discussed the relationship between legislators and bureaucrats and party governance issues. Panelists including the British ambassador to Japan, members of the Japanese and British parliaments, and academics exchanged views on ways to improve their political systems.

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In Japan's parliamentary cabinet system, the expected relationship between the ruling political parties and the cabinet is distorted, as are the roles played by politicians and bureaucrats, and the parliament itself is nearly dysfunctional. This analysis of Japanese government today includes recommendations to improve the tenor of the nation's politics and politicians.

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