The Precarious Future

384 pages

18 figures and 5 tables

December, 2015

ISBN: 9781479851454



Also available in



Part of the Possible Futures series


Frank Baldwin was Japan Representative of the Social Science Research Council (1996–2011) and has written extensively on East Asia. His translations include Haruki Wada’s The Korean War: An International History, Saburo Ienaga’s The Pacific War, and Shintaro Ishihara’s The Japan That Can Say No.

All books by Frank Baldwin

Anne Allison is Professor of Cultural Anthropology and Women’s Studies at Duke University. Her publications include Millennial Monsters: Japanese Toys and the Global Imagination (2006) and Precarious Japan (2013).

All books by Anne Allison

On March 11, 2011, a 9.0 earthquake off Japan’s northeast coast triggered a tsunami that killed more than 20,000 people, displaced 600,000, and caused billions of dollars in damage as well as a nuclear meltdown of three reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. Japan, the world’s third largest economy, was already grappling with recovery from both its own economic recession of the 1990s and the global recession following the US-driven financial crisis of 2008 when the disaster hit, changing its fortunes yet again. This small, populous Asian nation—once thought to be a contender for the role of the world’s number one power—now faces a world of uncertainty. Japan’s economy has shrunk, China has challenged its borders, and it faces perilous demographic adjustments from decreased fertility and an aging populace, with the country’s population expected to drop to less than 100 million by 2048. 
In Japan: The Precarious Future, a group of distinguished scholars of Japanese economics, politics, law, and society examine the various roads that might lie ahead. Will Japan face a continued erosion of global economic and political power, particularly as China’s outlook improves exponentially? Or will it find a way to protect its status as an important player in global affairs? Contributors explore issues such as national security, political leadership, manufacturing prowess, diplomacy, population decline, and gender equality in politics and the workforce, all in an effort to chart the possible futures for Japan. Both a roadmap for change and a look at how Japan arrived at its present situation, this collection of thought-provoking analyses will be essential for understanding the current landscape and future prospects of this world power. 


  • “The overall message that emerges is both hopeful and unsettling: Japan’s problems are far from insurmountable – but big changes are needed, and time is running out.”

    The Japan Times

  • “This collection of lucid essays by leading experts takes stock in Japan’s many problems…”

    Foreign Affairs

  • “As an invariably thoughtful overview...of issues facing recent and contemporary Japan, Japan’s Precarious Future is superb. Indeed, I plan to use it as the required text for my upcoming course on Japanese politics. My Student always seem more concerned with the future than the past, and I look forward to sharing this remarkable volume with them.”

    Journal of Japanese Studies

  • “This volume has value in now providing food for thought to reassess Japan’s lost decades as an alternative to a populist uprising.”

    Social Science Japan Journal

  • “A must-read for anyone interested in Japan’s recent past and possible future. The authors manage to be both balanced and hard hitting in their analyses. The overall tone is one of guarded pessimism—with a dash of guarded optimism. Such a stance toward Japan’s future both at home and in the region and world is well justified.”

    —Andrew Gordon, author of Fabricating Consumers: The Sewing Machine in Modern Japan

  • “By bringing together cutting edge interdisciplinary scholarship produced by an international group of researchers, this book provides an illuminating window into how the world’s third largest economy and nation with an unresolved colonial past is trying to come to terms with its fluid present and searching for ways to deal with its uncertain future.”

    —Sayuri Guthrie Shimzu, author of Transpacific Field of Dreams

  • “This book, inspired by the ordinary people who survived the catastrophic 3/11 disaster in the Tohoku region, is an excellent interdisciplinary collection of essays by leading scholars that offers an insightful and thought-provoking inquiry into the outlook for Japan’s near future. A major contribution to our understanding of the economic, political, social, international challenges that Japan faces today.”

    —Takashi Yoshida, author of The Making of the "Rape of Nanking": History and Memory in Japan, China, and the US