Despite being one of the safest countries in the world, Japan lags behind many other economies when it comes to security and safety measures to protect the country against major threats such as terrorism, cyber-attacks or geopolitical tensions. With the Rugby World Cup and the Summer Olympics around the corner, Japan needs to reflect on its awareness of security, especially if it aims to become a top tourist destination globally. Beyond the implementation of new technologies, education of the population is a key element to ensure the long-term success of such a policy.
Forward by Blackpeak
A popular pastime among pundits and the international media over the last two and a half decades has been to propound the notion that Japan is the “sick man of Asia.” Deflation. A rapidly aging demographic. A moribund country being eclipsed by China economically and geopolitically. Intermittent corporate scandals. The list goes on. Yet for all of its challenges, Japan remains relevant economically and geopolitically, both within the Asia-Pacific region and globally.
Both the World Bank and International Monetary Fund list Japan as the world’s third largest economy with a GDP of nearly USD 5 trillion. Tokyo, the country’s capital, has the highest concentration of Fortune Global 500 corporate headquarters of any city in the world. According to the Japan National Tourism Organization, Japan attracted 24.03 million visitors in 2016, a record for the country. The Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Report 2017, published by the World Economic Forum, ranked Japan the 4th best tourist destination out of 141 countries overall (and the best in Asia). This ranking was based primarily on its high scores in almost all aspects, including health and hygiene, safety and security, and infrastructure.
Japan, whilst being bound by a constitution that technically prohibits it from maintaining land, sea and air forces, still is able to maintain Asia’s most advanced military, including the world’s third largest navy. The country is also the United States’ most important strategic ally in Asia. It is host to approximately 50,000 US military personnel (and approximately 40,000 dependents) and 5,500 US Department of Defense civilian personnel, constituting the largest overseas deployment of US forces anywhere in the world. The US Seventh Fleet, the largest of forward-deployed US naval fleets, is headquartered at United States Fleet Activities Yokosuka, the US’s largest naval base outside of the US. Far from being irrelevant geopolitically, Japan is the Asian axis of the liberal world order championed by the United States since the end of WWII.
The Japanese government projects that it will welcome more than 40 million visitors per year by the time it hosts the Rugby World Cup 2019 and the Summer Olympics in 2020, which would catapult Japan into the top 5 tourist destinations globally, in terms of the number of arrivals. Japan would therefore appear to be regaining some of its international sheen, last witnessed during the country’s asset bubble economy of the 1980s.
Unfortunately, the world is a very different place from the 1980s, or from the time Japan successfully hosted the 1998 Winter Olympics and later the FIFA World Cup 2002 along with co-hosts South Korea. Organized crime, cyber-attacks, terrorism and geopolitical tensions stoked by North Korea, will all be major concerns for Japan leading up to and beyond the aforementioned international events in 2019 and 2020. All eyes, not all of them salutary, will be on Japan.