Originally published on metropolis.co.jp on July 2012

Alex Derr (alex1derr), via Flickr

TECHNOLOGY & ITS DISCONTENTS

  • A Japanese man who claims he’s being defamed by Google’s autocomplete function filed suit against the US-based tech giant in Tokyo. The suit says that entering the man’s name into a search bar leads to a display of candidate words “evoking criminal acts.”
  • A Tokyo man who’s upset at DoCoMo’s decision to end its mova 2G service was arrested for placing 964 phonecalls to one of the carrier’s shops in Chiyoda-ku between December and February. The man also visited the store, “yelling angrily and begging for continuation of the service.”
  • A huge dock that was set loose by the March 11 tsunami washed up on the coast of Oregon—along with “hundreds of millions of individual organisms, including a tiny species of crab, a species of algae, and a little starfish, all native to Japan.” US scientists are describing the potentially invasive species as a “very clear threat.”
  • Proving that a fondness for bureaucratic regulation runs deep in Japanese culture, archaeologists in Fukuoka unearthed strips of wood dating from the 7th century that are believed to be the earliest known evidence of a family registry system.

KIDS THESE DAYS

  • NTV aired a report claiming that more than 90 percent of Japanese elementary school students have had their first kiss.
  • The same program revealed that the top three career choices for young girls are pastry chef, nursery school teacher and “entertainer/celebrity.” The top three jobs for boys are baseball player, soccer player and doctor.
  • A woman in Kyoto was busted for ordering her 11-year-old son to steal ¥30,000 from her ex-husband’s new girlfriend.
  • A group of former Nova students lost their bid to recover ¥21 million in prepaid lesson fees and other expenses from the failed eikaiwa giant.

YOUR TAX DOLLARS AT WORK

  • Researchers at the Japan Science and Technology Agency found that “babies approaching their first birthday enjoy looking at their mother’s face slightly more than that of a stranger.”
  • The research team also said toddlers who were shown a photograph combining the features of their moms and a stranger felt “weird.”
  • Members of a Diet study group were forced to apologize after declaring that developmental disorders are “preventable through traditional child-rearing methods.”
  • Researchers at the National Institute of Agrobiological Sciences have succeeded—if that’s the word—in breeding pigs without a thymus. That means the animals lack immunity from disease, which makes them highly prized for medical experiments.
  • Scientists at the aptly named Biomedical Research and Innovation Hospital in Kobe have come up with a way of using white blood cells from a patient’s bone-marrow fluid to help alleviate the aftereffects of a stroke.

RED SCARE

  • The TMG denied a request by officials from the Japan Communist Party to send a radiation team to decontaminate a park in Katsushika-ku. Apparently, the radiation level of 0.99 microsieverts per hour recorded at the park fell below the 1 microsievert-per-hour threshold.
  • A law that bans the serving of raw beef liver at restaurants around the country went into effect on July 1.
  • Japanese astronomers using telescopes on the summit of Mauna Kea in Hawaii say they’ve spotted a galaxy that was formed 12.9 billion light-years ago—the oldest ever recorded.
  • The Diet has passed a law allowing doctors to perform autopsies without the consent of the deceased person’s relatives. It’s hoped that the new standards will help authorities more effectively investigate suspicious deaths.

FLYJIN BY THE NUMBERS

  • The justice ministry says the number of foreigners living in Japan dropped by 56,000 in 2011. The number now stands at 2,079,000.
  • Tokyo saw the biggest exodus of foreign residents—14,000. Even so, there are 406,000 foreigners living in the city.
  • In all, 44 out of Japan’s 47 prefectures saw a drop in the number of foreigners. Only Miyazaki, Kagoshima and Okinawa logged increases.
  • The foreign population of quake-hit Fukushima, Miyagi and Iwate prefectures sank by a whopping 14.3 percent.
  • A ministry spokesman said this drop appears to be the result of the March 11 disaster. To which we say: No shit, Sherlock.

IN THE HOT ZONE

  • Talk about depressing: the government estimates that 18 percent of evacuees from areas near the Fukushima nuclear plant will not be able to return home within ten years.
  • As if that weren’t bad enough, only 7 percent of the public housing being built for evacuees will be completed by the end of fiscal 2013.
  • Meanwhile, prefectural officials say there have been at least 25 cases of cars colliding with cows near the Fukushima nuclear plant. In one incident, “a police car with its red light on [was] surrounded by cattle and attacked by bulls with horns.”
  • In all, officials estimate that there are 200 cattle roaming free near the plant.

THICK AS THIEVES

  • Thaksin Shinawatra, the fugitive ex-prime minister of Thailand, visited Tokyo to unveil the snappily named Japan-Thailand Economic Partnership Promotion Organization.
  • This probably isn’t the kind of partnership promotion he had in mind: a member of the Sixth Yamaguchi-gumi crime group was arrested while on the lam in Bangkok after allegedly defrauding a Japanese company out of $1.6 million.
  • Toyota’s hybrid Prius is popular not just with consumers—it’s been the bestselling car in Japan for three consecutive years—but with thieves as well. The National Police Agency recorded 514 thefts of the car last year, compared to just 27 in 2009.
  • The government approved a spending package worth ¥1.6 billion to pay for 16 diesel generators to help Myanmar overcome chronic power shortages.

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