Originally published on metropolis.co.jp on February 2014


Photo: Wikicommons


  • Officials in Saitama have announced plans to open an international bonsai academy to take advantage of the “growing popularity” of the miniature trees around the world. No, really.
  • Researchers in Nara are hoping that the discovery of 11 grains of brown rice dating to the Yayoi period (300 BC to 300 AD) will offer insight into the cultivation methods of the time.
  • Among the 28 Meiji-era industrial sites that the government is promoting for UNESCO World Heritage status are shipyards, coal mines and “smelting facilities.”
  • To mark the centenary of the death of Empress Shoken (1850-1914)—wife of the Emperor Meiji—the Imperial Household Agency will publish previously unreleased biographical records.



  • Prime Minister Shinzo welcomed Major League baseball players Koji Uehara and Junichi Tazawa to a reception in Tokyo, telling them, “I took the mound with the bases loaded and no out. Under such circumstances, you have no choice but to throw your best pitch right down the middle.”
  • Uehara presented the PM with a Red Sox jersey that had “ABE” written on the back.
  • Officials at a zoo in Oita say that an escaped monkey named Bentsu (for “Mercedes-Benz,” an allusion to the animal’s “dignified” appearance) has been declared dead.
  • Headline of the Week: “Japan to Promote Use of Women in Revised Growth Strategy” (via Jiji)



  • The former head of an international cooperative union based in Ibaraki was arrested for skimming “several million yen” from the wages of his Cambodian interns.
  • Cops in Aichi busted a Filipino man for stealing ¥400,000 from the bank account of a Kanagawa woman, then wiring the money to an account in Russia. It’s believed to be the first case in Japan involving a so-called money mule.
  • Here we go again: Transportation authorities in the US have launched an investigation into Toyota’s Camry sedan after receiving 59 complaints about braking problems.
  • Officials at the labor ministry estimate that the number of workers in Japan will fall from the 62.7 million toiling today to just 54.5 million by 2030.



  • Researchers with the Japan Coast Guard and other agencies say they’ve discovered “the largest known protrusion of the Earth’s mantle,” located about 700km south of Japan’s southernmost island of Okinotorishima.
  • The Air Self-Defense Force scrambled fighter jets after a pair of Russian Tu-95 bombers—which are capable of carrying nuclear missiles—conducted on a training flight over waters off the Japanese archipelago.
  • A martial artist in Katsushika-ku found two programs that had been printed for the 1940 Tokyo Olympics. The event was canceled on the eve of World War II.
  • A 3-year-old Niigata boy suffering from an ailment called restrictive cardiomyopathy has returned to Japan after receiving a heart transplant at a hospital in New York last June.



  • Tokyo Metro officials have set up tablet computers at Ueno station to help travelers find their way around the subway. Route info is available in Japanese, English, Chinese and Korean.
  • Officials at the Kyoto University of Foreign Studies announced a plan to translate 300 testimonial videos of A-bomb survivors into five languages, including English and German.
  • The company that runs Tokyo Monorail will fete its 50th anniversary by festooning train carriages with the railway’s original color scheme.
  • Bottom Story of the Week: “Kyoto Candlemaker Harmonizes Traditional Craft With Love of Music” (via The Asahi Shimbun)

Compiled from reports by AP, Japan Today, The Japan Times, Jiji, The Tokyo Reporter, The Mainichi, The Japan News, AFP, Reuters and Kyodo