Blog Post #5 – Article 9 debate

There has been a long-standing debate in Japan, over a significant article included in the Japanese Constitution: Article 9. This clause states that the nation cannot turn to war as a means to settle international disputes, effectively and legally meaning that Japan is a pacifist state. Of course as we know, America occupied Japan for about 7 years following World War II, and in this time the US forces wrote up the new Japanese Constitution to ensure its former enemy would not be able to repeat its history of military imperialism. Essentially, America won the war and forced pacifism on its enemy to ensure Japan would never be able to threaten the US again. But now, in an increasingly hostile geopolitical scene, and after more than 70 years of seemingly unquestioned pacifism in Japan, there is a growing debate over Article 9 and its limitations on Japan’s independence.

I, like most people I’d assume, feel conflicted about the discussion. On one hand, Japan has a long history of brutal military imperialism, so a pacifist Japan feels more safe in terms of global politics. The less nations with the ability to create nuclear weapons is better for the world right now. However, I think if the constitutional article is getting in the way of the government’s ability to properly protect and defend its population, a change to the constitution is justified. It is true that geopolitics are tense all over the world right now, and becoming more uncertain every day. North Korea, for instance, is one nation that is particularly hostile right now, as they have been testing missiles around the East Asian region. The Korean-Japanese relationship is not exactly a peaceful one, and the Japanese population has the power to change the nation’s military stance if the majority ends up feeling like this is necessary.




Blog Post #4 – Post-3/11 Restructuring

The 3/11 Triple Disaster was hugely destructive to a large part of Honshu, particularly in the north east region of the island. Hundreds of thousands of buildings were destroyed, about 19,000 were killed, and hundreds of thousands of people living in affected coastal towns were relocated to government housing, where many of them still reside today. This was not a mild natural disaster – this event truly shook the nation and today, 6.5 years later, Japan is still suffering from this tragic disaster.

Japan is facing a unique challenge with its aging, decreasing population. This is something the government has to take into account when making all decisions that will affect the future, if it is wise (and I believe it is). So, in facing a devastated, abandoned post-disaster Tohoku region, the government has made a smart decision: to focus its rebuilding/restructuring efforts on urban spaces likely to grow in the future, rather than to rebuild the coastal fishing communities affected by the enormous tsunami, which were home to aging, dying populations. Before 3/11, it was extremely unrealistic to think that these regions were going to grow in population, and now, after the disaster, the possibility has essentially been annihilated.

So, the government has instead focused on rebuilding in resilient, adaptable, and strong communities – coastal urban agglomerations like Toyko that are vulnerable to future disasters like 3/11. These regions continue to grow in populations, so it makes more sense to support this natural trend, rather than to rebuild in areas which are uncertain to be re-populated. Many previous residents, particularly within the Fukushima prefecture, do not want to rebuild their lives in their past residencies for fear of nuclear radiation exposure. Others are simply fearful of another earthquake.

It can definitely appear that the government has abandoned the affected region, especially since most of the evacuees are still residing in “temporary” housing, almost 7 years later. But, it’s important to look at the big picture. The 3/11 disaster recovery is one of many complex challenges facing Japan today.

Blog Post #3 – Social injustices in Japan

Social justice issues run rampant in North America, and always have since the introduction of white settler colonialism, back in the 15th century. They are clear and easy enough to understand: black rights (slavery, the prison industrial complex), women’s rights, Indigenous land rights, the list goes on. It is fair to say that social justice is a battle being fought all over the world, taking many different shapes and meanings, but it is an inevitable symptom of the toxic system of capitalism.

However, it is much harder to define social justice issues in Japan (in comparison to North America, at least). The Japanese culture is one of the most unique in the world, and this is largely in part due to its homogeneity; it has virtually closed borders to permanent immigration, resulting in purely genetic Japanese citizens. This brings a real sense of belonging to the greater culture of the nation, something that I think nations like Canada and the US strive for but greatly lack. Historically, there have been quite little social justice movements or even discussions on the matter, clearly not being of much importance to the Japanese people.

But of course, this does not mean that social injustices do not exist in Japan. It is obvious that sexism, racism, and homophobia are backbones of the Japanese culture: sexism evident through the Japanese government’s World War II policy of “comfort women” – forced sex slaves for Japanese troops; racism evident both through Japan’s pre-war imperial expansion in East/Southeast Asia, and through racism towards Korean-Japanese citizens residing in Tokyo’s Korea Town (The Japan Times News, 2014); homophobia is evident through the fact that same-sex marriage is illegal in Japan.

One particular social justice issue is being discussed in Japan right now, and it is shocking to me. Apparently, there was a law passed in 2003 (Law 111), designed to regulate legal gender recognition, and at the time, was a huge step forward for the LGBTQ+ community. Which is great. But, part of the law is a required sterilization for those individuals who choose to apply for a gender transition: they must have non-functioning sex organs if they wish to be legally recognized as the gender they are. That is absolutely heartbreaking to me.

The law has been in place for 14 years, and clearly has been questioned very little in that time, but this year, in the past couple days in fact, this law has been brought to the public’s attention, to raise flags about the forced sterilization requirement of the law. There was one man, Takakito Usui, who was born female and wanted to legally transition so that he could marry his girlfriend, but who still wanted the freedom to have children with her. He took his case to court, and lost (Agerholm, 2017). Human Rights Watch, a global organization which conducts research and advocacy on human rights, has officially urged the Japanese government to revise Law 111, in order to make it a lot less oppressive to trans folks.

I will be following this case in the days to come, as I find it very interesting for Japan. I believe the nation has a very far way to go, to become as socially equal as maybe some of the population believes it is now.




Agerholm, H. (2017, December 1). Japan urged to scrap law forcing transgender people to be sterilized before they can transition. The Independent. Retrieved from

The Japan Times News (2014, April 7). Battling social injustice in Japan. Retrieved from

Geog 481 Blog Post #2: Tokyo 2020 Olympics

From researching intensively on the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, my general conception of the event is that it will likely do more damage to Tokyo (and Japan as a whole) than overall good. I believe this for several reasons.

As we know, Japan has been in a long recession since the burst of its bubble economy in the late 80’s/early 90’s. Obviously, the government feels the pressure to get its nation out of the recession, and the 2020 Olympics are part of the plan to achieve this. However, I’m doubtful that the Olympic Games will actually help to bring long-term stability to Japan’s economy; I think there is a good chance of another inflation and bubble-burst scenario.

As I discussed in my first blog post, Japan is facing a shrinking population, a challenge unfamiliar to most developed nations. So, it seems that if the hosting of the Olympics are done strategically, the event could definitely provide a solution to this problem: there will be a huge influx of people into Japan for the Games, and if Japan were to seriously expand its immigration policies, this event could provide the reason for a huge increase in immigrants and therefore a larger workforce.

However, it does not seem to me that the government or population in general are keen to open its borders, before or after the Games. This is concerning to me because in my opinion, the only way the Olympics will provide lasting positive economic effects, is if the Games are simply used as a tool to represent Japan’s changing global attitude, with real, long-lasting changes being made to the immigration policies. The Olympics after all have always been used as a political tool to try to grow the host city/nation’s economies, and those Olympics most commonly viewed as “successful” were those that represented a positive political statement and underlying real growth, such as Vancouver 2010, in which the changes to the city for the Olympics helped to grow the city for years after the Games.

Hosting the Olympics can facilitate lasting changes to a region. If Japan doesn’t take full advantage of hosting, I think the Games could end up being more of a distraction than a solution to the very serious problem.

Blog Post #1 – Japan’s shrinking population

I think Japan is facing one of the most unique challenges of any well-developed nation: its shrinking population. A simple idea of economics is that with a larger working-age population, comes the possibility of economic growth, which it seems every developed nation is and has been striving for, for centuries. And yet, Japan, the nation with the third-largest economy in the world, is facing a rapidly declining work force, and the government has no plans in place to mitigate this economic danger.

The interactive population pyramid, moving into the future (to 2065), showed the severity of the problem for the nation’s economy. The workforce is going to drastically decrease, while the elderly (and therefore dependent) population will increase, as the currently middle-aged population bulge moves through the years. This poses the problem of who will take care of these elderly people, and how, with a severe labour shortage?

For most developed nations, I’d think the answer would be pretty simple: to find help from elsewhere. Opening the borders to more immigration would certainly be a quick and relatively easy solution to the problem. The increase in immigrants would not pose a problem of infrastructure or urban development, as Japan is already very well developed, with many large cities, already connected through one of the best transit systems in the world. So, what would be the problem?

Japan has a long history of xenophobia, with a strong stance on national pride. As I learned in the textbook, Japan has a relatively peaceful national culture, which the Japanese people believe is because of the homogeneity of the people themselves, being Japanese and nothing else. There is a general fear that opening its borders will allow the chaos of the world to disrupt the long-standing peaceful culture, and I don’t really blame them. However, this attitude does not help with the aging population problem.

In my opinion, I think if the Japanese consider easing up on their immigration policies (and more than the recent expansions in preparation for the 2020 Olympics – which I thought were weak expansions), they can find a balance between maintaining the national culture, and balancing their demographics in order to not completely lose their footing in the world economy.

Lab 2 reflection

When dealing with misaligned and improperly referenced spatial data, fixing this problem takes a few steps. First, you need to determine the projected coordinate system of the data frame, by looking at the properties of the data frame. Once this information is known, we then have to look through the properties of each individual layer that we are adding to our map, to ensure that the projected coordinate system is the same amongst all of the layers. If a layer does not have properly referenced spatial data, the projected coordinate system will appear as ‘unknown’. We then know that we must choose the projected coordinate system for this layer that matches that of the others.  Projecting-on-the-fly is something ArcMap can do for us that is mostly useful for displaying our maps. It does not alter the data itself, but tries to line up the layers as well as possible so the map looks decent. This is helpful when we don’t know the proper projected coordinate system to use. Manually changing the projection of a layer using the ArcToolbox is a lot better for manipulating data in GIS because the data will actually be changed so that it all aligns and is able to transform the way in which you need it to.

There are many advantages to using remotely sensed Landsat data for geographic analysis. These are images taken from above the Earth’s surface, and every area on earth’s surface gets a new photo every 16 days. This is a pretty well-updated data source in which we can look at the change in land cover between two time periods, and use historical context to explain the difference in appearance between the two images. This is useful for looking at land use change due to natural and anthropocentric disturbances. We can use this analysis to determine large-scale patterns in land use change.