Japan Digest #358

1.       Japan’s Population Continues To Decline


Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications announced on April 12 that Japan’s population as of October 1 last year declined by 556,000 from a year ago to 124,947,000.

It is the straight 12th year of declination

The share of senior people (65 years old and above) is 29%, which is the highest ever, while that of juniors (14 years old and below) is 11.6%, which is the lowest ever.

All the 47 prefectures except for Tokyo, recognized a decrease of population.

Although the number of foreigners resident in Japan has been growing, it’s not sufficient to fill the gap caused by the natural decrease of Japanese people.


2.   Restoration Party Made A Rapid Progress Out Of Nationwide Local Elections


This year is the year of the nationwide local elections for prefectural governors, mayors and local representatives.   

Roughly half of them were elected on April 9, and the elections found Nippon Ishin-no-kai (Restoration Association) making a big breakthrough expanding its representation in the country.

Originally, the party was founded to reform Osaka’s politics by trying to combine Osaka Prefecture and Osaka City into Osaka Metropolitan Government just like Tokyo.   

New party leader Mr. Baba made his vision clear that the party should be recognized to serve national political needs instead of the Osaka region by wining this year’s local elections and aim at the leading opposition party position through the next lower house election by defeating the current opposition leader Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan. 

There is one other nationwide local elections scheduled for April 23 to elect the remaining half of local leaders and representatives.


3.  Mystery Of Blackhawk Down


The Japan Ground Self Defense Force’s UH60JA utility helicopter and 10 people including the commander of its 8th Division are missing. 

It took off from the Miyako Island’s sub-camp at 3:46 pm on April 6 and was cruising toward the Shimoji Island airport.    

When an air traffic controller asked the aircraft at 3:54 pm to switch the radio frequency to its airport’s frequency, the captain answered “Roger”, but two minutes later, the blink on the tower’s radar screen disappeared.

Since then, both Self Defense Forces and Coast Guard have been intensively searching the crew and passengers as well as the aircraft, but nothing has been found yet except for its fuel tank, cabin doors and some other pieces. 

There is no sign of explosion or getting a hit of bird strikes or any attack.

No flight recorder is found yet.   

The weather was fine and no emergency call or no input of the transponder for abnormality was made.  

JGSDF formed an accident investigation committee to find the cause, while downing 40 other Blackhawks that it operates for the time being.


4.  ChatGPt Making A Buzz


ChatGPT's value, effectiveness, and risks are widely discussed in Japan these days.

METI Minister Nishimura recently mentioned the possibility of using this generative AI to generate answers to questions from upper and lower house members during the Diet sessions.

He cited the benefit of offloading the heavy burden of bureaucrats who normally prepare those answers through the midnight before the Diet sessions.

However, some government officials are pointing out that the quality of answers that are generated by ChatGPT is not reliable enough to present as “answers”, so bureaucrats need to doublecheck the contents, which would not necessarily offload their burden. 

Japan is hosting G7 gatherings this year as a chair nation, and the government is holding a G7 Digital and Technology Conference in Takasaki of Gunma Pref. on April 29 and 30.

Taking this opportunity, Japan is offering some framework to unify rules to control and operate generative AI tools like ChatGPT, which so far vary country by country and region by region.


5.  First Commercial Landing On The Moon


ispace, a Japanese space business venture announced on April 12 that its spaceship would land the moon at 1:40 am on April 26 JST. 

Although the United States, former Soviet Union and China landed on the moon before, ispace is making a first commercial landing in the world.  

ispace’s  landing ship was launched to the space by an American rocket in December last year and has been tracing a special orbit to reach the moon with the lowest possible amount of fuel. 

The landing ship carries an exploration robot, which is developed by a toy maker Takara Tommy and UAE’s exploration vehicle as well as five other payloads. 

It will also collect sands of the moon surface for NASA.