Democratic leaders around the globe are finding it increasingly difficult to exercise strong leadership and maintain public support. Nowhere has this proven to be as challenging as in Japan, which has seen its head of government change more in the past 25 years than any other advanced democracy—between 1990 and 2014, a total of 16 prime ministers cycled through office. This political instability has been reflected in Japan’s policymaking, and is made all the more worrying by the immense domestic and international challenges that Japan is facing. At home, skillful leadership is required to deal with the an increasingly dangerous regional neighborhood, the world’s most rapidly aging population, the largest debt overhang of any major economy, and the greatest natural disaster to strike an advanced country. The election of Shinzo Abe in 2012 and his subsequent successes have offered a respite for Japanese voters who had grown weary of rapid prime ministerial turnover. However, the question remains whether his ability to exercise strong leadership and stay in office for a sustained period signifies that Japan has broken out of the patterns of the recent past? Or is he an anomaly, and will Japan return to the trend of weak political leadership? In order to better understand this phenomenon, JCIE convened a team of emerging leaders—individuals with a scholarly grounding but also real world experience in national politics and policymaking—to explore the future trajectory of political leadership and its implications for foreign policy, especially US–Japan relations. This team of politicians, policy advisors, and up-and-coming scholars, has carried out a multi-year exploration of why Japanese prime ministers have found it so difficult to project strong leadership and what this means for foreign policy thinkers around the world.

JAMES GANNON, Executive Director, JCIE/USA

YUICHI HOSOYA, Professor, Keio University

SATORU MORI, Professor, Hosei University

TAKAO OCHI, Member, House of Representatives

RYO SAHASHI, Research Fellow, JCIE; Associate Professor, Kanagawa University

JUN SAITO, CEO, Logos Education; former Member, House of Representatives

HARUKATA TAKENAKA, Professor, National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies

YUKA UCHIDA, former political secretary to the Foreign Minister of Japan; Senior Policy Advisor, Fleishman Hillard Japan

May 2, 2013JCIE/Council on Foreign Relations joint seminar on “Japan’s Political Change and the US-Japan Alliance”
April 30–May 3, 2013Washington DC study trip
April 29–April 30, 2013New York City study trip
February 7, 2013Paperwriters Workshop
November 22, 2012Roundtable with Satoshi Machidori (Professor, Kyoto University)
September 26, 2012JCIE/Council on Foreign Relations joint roundtable
September 25, 2012JCIE/US Association of Former Members of Congress joint seminar for congressional staff
September 25–27, 2012Washington DC study trip
August 30, 2012Paperwriters Workshop
August 30, 2012Roundtable with Hitoshi Tanaka (Senior Fellow, JCIE; Chairman, Japan Research Institute; former Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs)
July 27, 2012Seminar with Katsuyuki Yakushiji (Professor, Toyo University; former chief political news editor, Asahi Shimbun)
June 14, 2012Study team workshop on domestic politics
May 21, 2012Seminar with Shinichi Kitaoka (Professor, National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies; former Deputy Permanent Representative of Japan to the United Nations)
April 25, 2012Seminar with Gerald Curtis (Burgess Professor of Political Science, Columbia University
February 29, 2012Study team workshop


US-Japan Parliamentary Exchange | 2013 Diet Delegation to the US

The 2013 US-Japan Parliamentary Exchange Program brought the 26th delegation of Japanese Diet members, accompanied by four of Japan’s most promising younger policy experts, to the United States, where they met and engaged in discussions with government officials, political analysts, and foreign policy experts.

The Vacuum of Political Leadership in Japan and its Future Trajectory | Congressional Staff Seminar

As part of a JCIE research project on Japanese political leadership, on September 25, 2012, JCIE and the US Association of Former Members of Congress’s Japan Study Group co-hosted a panel discussion for US Congressional staffers and others on the frequent turmoil that has characterized Japanese politics in recent years and made it difficult for Japanese prime ministers to project strong leadership.