Originally published on metropolis.co.jp on February 2013

Miwa Kaneoya


  • Six months after the environment ministry declared the Japanese river otter extinct, officials in Ehime are planning “a full-fledged search” for the creature in response to reports of recent sightings.
  • JR Central began operation of the new N700A shinkansen—the first bullet train that can run on autopilot.
  • A group of Japanese and French scholars claims that Echigo-ya—a kimono shop that grew to become Mitsukoshi department store—was the “world’s first large-scale retailer and the biggest store throughout the 18th century.”
  • Tokyo Station and New York’s Grand Central Terminal are set to become “sister stations” at a ceremony in the US this month.
  • A 73-year-old Ibaraki restaurateur discovered 31 photographic plates depicting the attempted coup d’état in 1936 known as the “February 26 incident.”


  • An American sailor stationed on the USS George Washington was busted for “touching a 20-year-old woman and a 53-year-old woman walking separately on the streets of Yokosuka.”
  • Officials at the Japan Tourism Agency say leisure trips to northeast Japan are back to 77 percent of pre-March 11 levels.
  • A Japanese man was killed in Egypt when the car carrying him and three other tourists “overturned after its tires burst.”
  • After launching a pair of satellites aboard an H-2A rocket last month, officials at JAXA say they can now “observe any point on the ground at least once a day.”


  • Officials at the Higashiyama Zoo and Botanical Gardens in Nagoya announced the birth of a female Asian elephant—just the sixth ever born in Japan.
  • An 18-year-old high schooler from Ishikawa placed third at the Prix de Lausanne ballet competition for junior dancers.
  • The National Institute of Information and Communications Technology says it will construct a pair of “solar flare monitoring antennas.” The structures will be the first parabolic antennas built in Japan in 20 years.
  • The National Diet Library and bookstore chain Kinokuniya have collaborated on a web service that offers a selection of the library’s books for free.


  • A shopping association in Kofu was forced to remove a Hello Kitty statue that had been placed in a local shrine after a complaint from Sanrio, which owns the rights to the Hello Kitty brand.
  • In its annual report on international press freedoms, Reporters Without Borders slammed the Japanese government for having “almost zero respect for access to information on subjects directly or indirectly related to Fukushima.”
  • Officials at the NPA say 458 police officers were “reprimanded or more severely punished” last year—the first time in eight years the number topped 400.
  • What’s more, a record 93 cops were arrested in 2012.


  • The internal affairs ministry said that all but 11 prefectures around the country saw their population decline in 2012.
  • Tokyo, however, had a net population inflow for the 17th straight year, with more than 67,000 people moving in.
  • Officials at METI said they’ll use ¥50 billion in government funds to promote “reasonably priced Japanese restaurants in Thailand” and “Harajuku fashion in Taiwan.”
  • Headline of the Week: “Tokyo Gov’t Employees Confused over Governor’s Demands to use Twitter” (via Mainichi Japan)

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