Originally published on metropolis.co.jp on February 2014

ELECTRIC AVENUE

  • For the first time since the March 11 disaster, the Diet building has resumed nighttime illumination.
  • Researchers from Kyushu University and a group of private companies are developing a passenger plane that will be powered by the same technology used in electric cars.
  • The aircraft, which would seat five or six people, will be mainly used “for connecting prefectural capitals with each other.
  • Headline of the Week: “Students Create Fax Machines With Empty Cans at University in Tokyo” (via Mainichi Japan)

 

PLATE TECTONICS

  • In response to a spate of food-labeling scandals, officials at the Consumer Affairs Agency will dispatch 200 investigators to check the ingredients listed on menus at restaurants around the country.
  • There’s just one catch: the agency doesn’t have qualified staff to carry out the job, so it will conscript “food-display investigators and rice-distribution surveillance officers” from the agriculture ministry.
  • Government authorities announced that they will exempt alcoholic drinks from their new “mandatory” nutritional labeling program.
  • Other goods that will be able to skip the requirement include bottled water, tea leaves and “food products that are too small to put labels on their packages.”

 

DIGGING DEEP

  • Archeologists in Hokkaido have discovered—for the first time ever in Japan—an intact skeleton of an animal that lived during the late Cretaceous period some 70 million years ago.
  • The bones belong to an eight-meter-long, seven-ton beast called a hadrosaurus.
  • Meanwhile, researchers in Kansai have uncovered the bones of a Mie elephant, aka “the largest terrestrial mammal ever to live in Japan.”
  • Coast Guard officials say that an island formed by an undersea volcanic eruption late last year in the Ogasawara chain has grown so large that it “may expand Japan’s exclusive economic zone.”

Illustration by Christi Rochin

NEWS FROM THE STICKS

  • Officials from cities that are renowned for their ume (plum) trees held a summit in Tokyo to figure out what to do about a disease called plum pox virus, which has become an “epidemic.”
  • Researchers at Kinki University and a maker of men’s hair-care products have found that “broccoli sprouts help hair growth.”
  • A research firm says sales of skin-whitening products dropped just 0.7 percent last year, despite revelations that cosmetics manufactured by Kanebo Corp. caused 10,000 women to suffer blotching on their skin.
  • Authorities in Hiroshima announced a plan to earthquake-proof the city’s iconic Atomic Bomb Dome.

 

AND FINALLY…

  • For the second time in three years, a Japanese ballerina has won Switzerland’s prestigious Prix de Lausanne, which is awarded to promising young dancers.
  • Scientists from JAXA and the central government are developing a radar system that, it is hoped, will detect space debris before it poses a threat to satellites.
  • An executive at a US information security firm claimed that the Chinese military has “a cyber attack unit that specializes in targeting Japan.”
  • Bottom Story of the Week: “Cherry Blossoms Likely to Bloom at Usual Time” (via The Japan News)

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