Originally published on metropolis.co.jp on March 2013

HUH?

The mysterious Queen Himiko: a “hot archeological topic.” © Non-commercial "fair use" for educational purposes

  • Osaka’s last remaining streetcar company introduced a tram line whose color scheme is meant to evoke “traditional Japanese aesthetic philosophy.”
  • Lawmakers have enacted measures to combat a fraud scheme known as oshigai, which involves bullying unsuspecting people into selling “precious metal jewelry and other items for unreasonably low prices.”
  • Police in Fukuoka say an employee at a work center for people with mental disabilities put a disabled man in a chair, placed a cardboard target above his head, and “threw an awl from about three meters away like he was playing darts.”
  • Headline of the Week: “Researchers Find Chemical in Male Mouse Urine that Attracts Females” (via Mainichi Japan)

UH-OH

  • A research team in Hokkaido announced that the Sea of Japan coast tends to get hit by a “major” tsunami about once every 1,000 years.
  • The team also noted, drily, that “no earthquake has occurred in the region… for nearly 1,000 years.”
  • After a string of accidents involving children being hit by cars while walking to school, the education ministry came up with a plan to hire 280 road safety experts… only to be told by the Japan Society of Civil Engineers that only 78 such specialists are working in the country.
  • Media executives estimate that as many as 160,000 households in Kanto may suffer fuzzy TV reception in May after broadcast signals are switched from Tokyo Tower to Tokyo Skytree.

OFFICIAL BUSINESS

  • Well, at least there’s one thing the LDP and DPJ can agree on: lifting the ban on the use of Facebook and Twitter during political campaigns. Excellent work, fellas.
  • 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.
  • Officials in Suginami-ku allocated ¥3.145 billion in their fiscal 2013 budget to purchase the mansion of former Prime Minister Fumimaro Konoe (1891-1945).
  • 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.

PLAYING GOD

  • Scientists at Hokkaido University say they’ve “successfully converted an unhatched chicken embryo that would have developed into a female chicken into one that would become a male.”
  • Meanwhile, a research team led by a professor at the University of Tokyo’s Institute of Medical Science says it has managed to grow pancreases in lab animals that had been “genetically modified to be unable to grow their own.”
  • A court in Okayama sentenced an Osaka man to death for killing a 27-year-old woman in September 2011. It’s believed to be the first death sentence ever handed down for “the murder of a single victim by a defendant with no prior criminal record.”

LOOK WHAT WE FOUND!

  • After the Imperial Household Agency allowed researchers to poke around the Hashihaka tomb in Nara, evidence has emerged that the site may hold the remains of legendary Queen Himiko, whose resting place is “a hot archeological topic in Japan.”
  • The Japanese government is ponying up $478,000 to help officials in the US remove a 180-ton dock that washed up in Washington state after being swept away by the March 11 tsunami.
  • A survey by ad agency Hakuhodo found that 50.2 percent of Japanese men aged 40-60 would “marry the same partner if they were born again.”
  • The same survey found that just 38.4 percent of women would do so.

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