Originally published on metropolis.co.jp on February 2013

ONLY IN JAPAN

Healthy diet. Photo by patries71 (Flickr)

  • In an annual ritual meant to “foster spiritual strength,” 100 SDF troops in Hokkaido engaged in a tug of war with a tank.
  • Zookeepers in Fukuoka have discovered that feeding chimpanzees three leeks a day helps them ward off colds.
  • A 114-year-old Osaka resident took the title of world’s oldest woman after the previous record-holder, a 115-year-old who lived in Kawasaki, died last month.
  • Sentence of the Week: “A man suspected in a series of computer hacking cases has been linked by a security camera to a man who suspiciously approached a cat, which was later found to have a memory device attached to its collar, investigative sources said.” (via Mainichi Japan)

TAKING THE PISTE

  • The Tokyo Metropolitan Government has banned the sale of brakeless two-wheelers known as piste bikes.
  • Officials with the Yomiuri Giants say they’ll “permanently preserve” a training room used by recently retired slugger Hideki Matsui. Matsui was apparently so adamant about perfecting his swing that “he wore down the room’s tatami mats.”
  • The government announced plans for an ¥80 billion facility in Fukushima that will serve as a global hub for studying radiation.
  • Scientists at the lab will be tasked with developing “remote-controlled robots for use at disaster sites and in space.”

YEAH, THAT’LL HAPPEN

  • Former PM Yoshiro Mori weighed in on the Northern Territories issue, saying that “one option” for resolving the diplomatic row would be for Russia to return three out of the four disputed islands to Japan.
  • Natsuo Sekikawa, the author of a new book on aging, has coined the term “late middle age” for people who are 65-74 years old.
  • Sekikawa proposes that people in that age group should work part-time jobs for a wage of ¥1,000 per hour, half of which would “[go] into a fund to be distributed to young people.”
  • Welfare ministry officials say the nonpayment rate for loans issued under a program to help jobless people make ends meet after the “Lehman shock” is about 60 percent.

THE CRIME FILES

  • The National Police Agency said that, for the first time since 1980, fewer than 1.4 million crimes were committed in Japan last year.
  • The agency recorded a total of 1,382,154 criminal acts, which represents a 6.7 percent drop from 2011 and is the 10th consecutive annual decline.
  • The NPA noted that the number of attempts “to steal cash from vending machines” plunged by nearly 90 percent last year.
  • On the other hand, the number of so-called moral offenses—molestation, public indecency and the like—surged 9.4 percent.

THE RULING CLASS

  • As if Prime Minister Shinzo Abe weren’t busy enough, he’s now agreed to serve as “supreme advisor” to the Tokyo 2020 Olympics Bid Committee.
  • The LDP is proposing a law that would lift restrictions on online political campaigning, but the use of Facebook, Twitter and email would still be verboten.
  • Meanwhile, the Japan Online Counseling Association says an increasing number of SNS users are having trouble with their bosses at work. The problem has been dubbed “social media harassment.”
  • The government is establishing a loan program that will use unclaimed money from bank-transfer scams to help the children of crime victims.

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