This is a quiet time in Japan-Russia relations without any indication of a transformative event ahead. Further contacts are arranged without drawing much attention. We need to look elsewhere for indications that conditions may be building for some sort of change. For that, I scrutinize Alexander Panov’s rejoinder, while also reflecting broadly on the evolving power structure in East Asia. Vladimir Putin is in the news a lot, indicative of a bold approach to international relations. Abe Shinzo’s assertiveness is widely noted in Japan too. Assessing the big picture in global affairs is within their scope. Japan-Russia relations need to be put in this larger context in order to appreciate their new potential.