EC 320 - The Contemporary Economy of Japan

The goal of this course is to help students to appreciate the major characteristics and structural issues of Japan’s contemporary economy, and to reflect upon the role of Japan’s economy in the 21st century. Since the bubble burst of the early 1990s analogous to the American Sub-prime shock in 2008, Japan’s economy has struggled for recovery for more than two decades (which has come to be known as the “lost decades”). While Japanese economy remains the third largest in the world, the people seem to have lost faith in their economy, and to have been convinced that the economic system they were once proud of no longer functions in the way it did. On top of that, Japan had a historical disaster of earthquake and nuclear crisis on March 11, 2011. Taking into account the impact of the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear crisis, Japanese government and businesses have to change the traditional approach dramatically including rebuilding and recovery policy of Tohoku area (Eastern Japan), spending policy with government financing (tax increase), energy policy, business channel strategy (logistics & distribution), new business strategy based on consumers’ psychological aspect affected by natural disaster, etc. Those contents will be touched upon in the class lecture.

Fortunately, "Abenomics" is turning Japan into global investor target, with optimism about the current Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's economic policy exceeding that for counterparts in the U.S., Europe and China. Basics of Abenomics will be explained to students in the lecture. Later in the course, we shall turn to some brighter aspects of the future of Japanese economy and industries. Recently, there have been signs of improvement in Japan’s some industries including the “fast fashion” business (UNIQLO & H&M). Japan is still considered a world technological leader in some industries. For example, Japanese auto makers have  taken the lead in R&D activities for hybrid and fuel cell vehicles. Moreover, Japan’s pop culture industry, including game companies (Nintendo and Sony) and manga/amine production companies, has made considerable impacts not just on the Japanese youths, but on their counterparts in the U.S. and other countries as well, thereby exerting (what Dr. Joseph Nye, Harvard University has called) “Soft Power of Smart Power.” Japan’s leading status in those areas may be indicative of where their future lies ahead. Related to the brighter side of Japanese economy and industry, we will touch upon marketing and businesses strategies of Japan’s entertainment and media industry. New strategy in the music industry facing the digital age such as “360 degree” contracts (adopted by Lady Gaga, Madonna and U2) will be discussed comparing one of the largest J-pop record labels, Avex’s business model. Additionally, how Japanese traditional media companies are adjusting themselves to the changing external environment such as facing the rise of streaming services like Netflix and social media such as Instagram and twitter. Two course-related trips will complement classroom lectures/discussion.

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