Nov 19, 2009

Nov 19, 2009

This week’s required reading


Originally published on on November 2009

Tough times
  • The Japan Business Federation announced that winter bonuses at major Japanese firms would drop by a record 15.91 percent from last year, to an average of ¥747,282. That’s the lowest average bonus since 1990, and the first double-digit year-on-year drop since records began in 1959.
  • Courtesy of Nichi Bei Times

    Courtesy of Nichi Bei Times

    The Hokubei Mainichi, a 61-year-old Japanese-English daily newspaper based in San Francisco, shut down operations due to “deteriorating finances.” One month earlier, the Nichi Bei Times, another SF-based daily serving the local Japanese community, closed its doors.
  • The iconic Skylark chain of family restaurants closed its last remaining outlet, in Kawaguchi, Saitama, late last month. At the height of its popularity, Skylark—which is credited with helping to fuel the rise of Western food in Japan—operated 730 eateries in 1993. Its demise is being blamed on the rise of fast-food chains.
  • Japan’s only hovercraft service was shut down after 38 years. The waterborne taxi whisked passengers on a 29km, 30min journey from Oita City to Oita Airport, but was done in by “improved roads and the economic slowdown.”
  • Responding to a complaint from the International Labor Organization, internal affairs minister Kazuhiro Haraguchi said he is mulling whether to allow Japanese firefighters to form unions.
Nice thinking
  • Police in Kobe arrested a man for a 2003 rape thanks to a DNA match that was made possible because the victim “collected her assailant’s fluids in a cup, froze them, and then submitted them to police” following the attack.
  • In a study published by the US-based Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, two Japanese researchers answered once and for all why red wine and seafood don’t mix. It turns out that naturally occurring irons in red wine yield an “unpleasant, fishy aftertaste” when paired with seafood.
  • A professor at the Tokai University School of Marine Science and Technology is collaborating with a Shizuoka-based technology development company to raise bluefin tuna in land-based tanks.
  • It was reported that engineers in Kyoto have succeeded in building a robot that can “run and jump fast.”
Crime files
  • A 49-year-old man was arrested for groping a 15-year-old high school girl on a train and, after she got off at Shinjuku station, punching her in the stomach, dragging her 200m through the rush hour crowd, and raping her in a public toilet.
  • Two boys in Asahikawa, Hokkaido, aged 10 and 13, snatched an elderly woman’s bag as they rode by on their bicycle. The purse contained ¥100,000, which the boys used to go on a game-playing spree in Sapporo, about 130km away.
  • Cops in Kushiro, Hokkaido, are mystified by the theft of 25 rolls of sod from a local farm. The rolls weigh as much as 500kg.
  • Two brothers working as executives at a food company in Tokushima were busted for mislabeling Chinese bamboo shoots as local produce.
Gender Trouble
  • According to a survey by the Swiss-based World Economic Forum, Japan ranks 75th among all nations in terms of gender equality. Iceland came in first and Yemen last.
  • Within Asia, Japan trails the Philippines (9th overall), Sri Lanka (16), Mongolia (22), the Kyrgyz Republic (41), Kazakhstan (47), Uzbekistan (58), Thailand (59), China (60) and Vietnam (71).
  • A South Korean woman who was forced to work as a sex slave for the Japanese army during World War II asked PM Hatoyama to keep the promise he made as opposition leader and apologize for the episode.
  • The discovery of a 456-year-old letter believed to have been written by a Hiroshima-based, Sengoku-era leader named Motonari Mori is being hailed as a “precious record for research into both Motonari and the history of the region.”
  • A professor at Yamaguchi University found that 25 percent of dogs around the country are infected with the Japanese encephalitis virus, “a potentially fatal illness to humans that had long been considered contained.”
We’re Number 1!
  • Japanese tarento Ai Haruna, 37, beat out 17 other contestants to take the crown at the Miss International Queen transsexual beauty pageant in Bangkok.
  • Japanese cars placed first in nine out of the ten categories in US-based magazine Consumer Reports’ ranking of 2010 new autos.
  • A team from Tokai University won the Global Green Challenge solar car race in Australia, with an average speed of more than 100km/hr over the 3,000km course.
  • It was announced that the world’s first graduate school for students with visual and aural disabilities will open at Tsukuba University of Technology next April.
  • Sixty-nine-year-old former yokozuna Taiho because the first sumo wrestler to be named a Person of Cultural Merit by the Japanese government. A hero of the postwar era, Taiho (né Koki Naya) won 32 tournaments in his career.
  • Among the 4,086 people honored by the government for their contributions to society were a Hiroshima fireman, a traditional Japanese doll maker, and 61 foreigners.
Up, up and away
  • Researchers have confirmed that a bunch of albatrosses bred in captivity on the Izu islands have migrated to San Francisco, marking the longest distance traveled by such birds.
  • Meanwhile, it was reported that a group of crested ibises released into the wild on Sado Island in September have formed a flock “with two birds from the first batch released last autumn.”
  • Japan’s first unmanned resupply spacecraft, the H-II Transfer Vehicle, disintegrated upon reentry after successfully delivering 4.5 tons of food and scientific equipment to the International Space Station.
  • One year after becoming the official supplier of tires for the Formula 1 circuit, Bridgestone announced it was pulling out of the sport entirely at the close of the 2010 season.
  • It was reported that the National Police Agency decided to raise the speed limit to 80kph on “roads that are not used by pedestrians, bicycles or motorcycles.”
  • A 9.85-ton trawler capsized off the Chiba coast after a school of giant jellyfish got tangled in its net.

Compiled from reports by Japan Today, International Herald Tribune/The Asahi Shimbun, The Daily Yomiuri, The Japan Times, The Mainichi Daily News, The Associated Press, AFP, Reuters and Kyodo.