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Arctic Yearbook 2012
Japan’s Arctic Policy: The Sum of Many Parts
administration; it is vertically fragmented and Japanese industries often exert a strong influence in the
creation of policy.
In the Japanese administration, the civil service holds the policymaking initiative and ministries are
the key organizational units. This is because the Japanese bureaucratic system has maintained its
function since its initiation even after the American Occupation after WWII, strengthening its
position relative to politicians and business (Shinoda, 2000: 5). Initiatives tend to emerge from the
bottom-up within the ministries and each ministry holds strong power over specific issues.
Competition between ministries is fierce and their employees tend to be loyal to a single ministry,
therefore it is not unusual for horizontal cooperation to be absent across ministries (vertical
The Japanese policymaking process has been characterized as an ‘iron triangle’ (Drifte, 1996: 16) that
consists of three major actors: the civil service, politicians and business actors. Particularly in foreign
policy, Japanese business actors play an informal yet substantial role through lobbying. The civil
service and business actors are interdependent. The civil service is dependent on business actors to
gather political information of interest as well as on their intelligence capacities. The business actors
rely on the government for support and guidance on trade-related issues
(Hagström, 2000)
Actors Related to the Arctic
In terms of ministerial bodies related to the Arctic, at present there is no cross-ministerial, unified
organization to deal with Arctic or Polar issues. Most likely due to the Japanese administration’s
characteristic of dividing labour horizontally among several ministries, issues related to the Arctic are
delegated across several ministries:
Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) deals with scientific
Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) deals with Arctic diplomacy; and
Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism (MLIT) is in charge of overall ocean
policy and has a close link to the shipping industry.
Currently there are 10 Japanese universities or research institutes conducting Arctic research
. They include:
The National Institute of Polar Research (NIPR): the hub for Japan’s Arctic research. Under
the Centre for Arctic Research, it runs observatories on Svalbard, Norway, and conducts
several comparative research projects on the Arctic and Antarctica.