Originally published on metropolis.co.jp on March 2013

Miwa Kaneoya

YOUR TAX DOLLARS AT WORK

  • According to financial disclosure statements, deputy prime minister Taro Aso is the proud owner of houses in Shibuya and Karuizawa; 360,398 shares of stock in 16 companies; and eight golf club memberships.
  • The government’s Council for Ainu Policy Promotion says it hopes to conduct Japan’s first-ever census of indigenous peoples.
  • Officials at the newly launched Nuclear Regulation Authority say they’ll digitize and publish online 900,000 pages of documents pertaining to the Fukushima disaster.
  • The NPA announced a plan to force “malicious cyclists”—i.e., those who have been busted for more than one traffic violation—to attend lectures on safe cycling.
  • A Cabinet Office survey has found that a plurality of Japanese “oppose revising the Civil Code to allow married couples to use separate surnames.”

PASS THE TISSUES

  • Officials from the Japan Weather Association say the amount of pollen in the air this spring is likely to be seven times greater than it was last year.
  • It was reported that Japan has 119 conflict-resolution groups dedicated to settling arguments related to “consumer and medical problems, and sport and pet-related disputes.”
  • Four people were injured in a series of pileups involving 70 cars on the delightfully named Aizu Longitudinal North Expressway in Fukushima.
  • Researchers from the Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology have helped to develop “an autonomous device that can dive up to 4,000 meters below the surface of the ocean to monitor temperature and salt levels.”

CLOSE TO HOME

  • Officials at the education ministry say the number of Japanese students participating in study-abroad programs has fallen for six consecutive years.
  • The top destination for exchange students is the US, followed by China and the UK.
  • The ministry also announced that the number of foreign students coming to Japan has basically returned to pre-3/11 levels.
  • US President Barack Obama awarded the Presidential Citizens Medal—the country’s second-highest honor—to 90-year-old Terry Shima, an Army veteran who was born in Hawaii to Okinawan parents.
  • A survey by the Japan Post Insurance Co. found that residents of Hokkaido are the most satisfied with their “natural environment,” while those in Kinki are the least.

RANK DIFFERENCES

  • A recent news-organization poll suggests that, for the first time since 2009, a majority of Japanese people consider Japan-U.S. relations to be “good” or “very good.”
  • The same poll found that 85 percent of Japanese believe relations with China to be “poor” or “very poor.”
  • Restaurants in Tokyo took the top two spots in a new ranking of Asia’s 50 best dining destinations released by the prestigious Restaurant magazine.
  • JR Kyushu was forced to suspend service on the Nagasaki line after an “unexploded bomb” was discovered at a bicycle parking lot construction site.

THIS JUST IN…

  • The world’s largest sail ship arrived for a stopover in Nagasaki, with 160 crewmembers and trainees aboard. The Sedov was launched in Germany in 1921 and is now owned by Russia.
  • The labor ministry says that, for the third straight year, average monthly salaries rose in Japan. The typical full-timer earned ¥297,700 in 2012.
  • Of course, this being Japan, the average male worker gets ¥329,000 and the average woman just ¥233,100.
  • Bottom Story of the Week: “Couple Holds Wedding Ceremony Aboard Vintage Train in Gunma Pref” (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