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Support smaller think tanks in Japan

19 2 0
09.12.2019

KOBE – For all the talk about the importance of think tanks and the expansion of civil society as an alternative to the official bureaucracy in Japan over the past two and a half decades, Japan’s think tanks leave much to be desired. Indeed, they are dead in the water.

According to the Global Go To Think Tank Index Report, published annually by the Think Tanks and Civil Societies Project, only one Japanese think tank was among the “Best Independent Think Tanks” worldwide, and this for a country that until less than a decade ago had the second largest economy in the world. Other categories in the most recent survey were equally dismal.

While there may be some biases and other issues in the report produced in the United States, it does not excuse the lack of Japanese representation, a problem that is homegrown to Japan.

Sadly, even the big think tanks that are widely known domestically, well-funded, and seemingly respected do not perform well when competing internationally or even regionally here within Asia.

Put more frankly, while there is of course some good work coming out of Japan’s few major think tanks, overall they are a great disappointment at many levels.

All are based in Tokyo, where they feed off of government and corporate headquarters (much like U.S. think tanks that are concentrated in Washington and New York). Yet, despite the concentration of power and wealth, and a monopoly of contacts and information, they are still doing poorly when compared globally.

Most are headed by former officials or ambassadors, who have “descended from heaven (amakudari)” or by individuals — professors, former newspapermen, business leaders — specifically chosen to head these organizations as unlikely to shake things up too much. Cautious by nature (how else would they have gotten to the senior-most position in their respective careers?), they may be good at........

© The Japan Times