Nov 5, 2009

Nov 5, 2009

This week’s required reading


Originally published on on November 2009

Thanks but no thanks
  • After hearing that Hiroshima and Nagasaki planned to make a bid for the 2020 Olympics, Governor Shintaro Ishihara—fresh off of Tokyo’s defeat for the 2016 games—said, “I’m ready to give them as much advice as I can.”
  • It was reported that a Tokyo University professor has begun an emu farm in Hokkaido.
  • The National Institute of Technology and Evaluation reports that more and more accidents are happening due to “improper bicycle riding and poor maintenance,” like umbrellas getting caught in wheels and plastic shopping bags becoming entangled in spokes.
  • Headline of the Week™: “Unneeded Artificial Rectum Sparks Suit” (via The Japan Times)
  • The Metropolitan Police Department announced that the vast majority of crimes that take place at internet cafes occur at establishments that don’t require ID to enter.
Drink up!
  • A 42-year-old man in Shizuoka was arrested for skipping out on a ¥370,000 tab at a local hostess bar. Staff say that when they warned the man about the charge he was racking up, which included two bottles of Dom Perignon champagne, he replied, “No problem.”
  • Finance ministry statistics reveal that, although imports of foreign beer dropped from 38,000kl to 33,000kl during the past five years, imports of beer from Belgium rose from 1,000kl to 2,200kl.
  • A survey by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) found that Japan’s poverty rate increased from 14.9 percent in 2003 to 15.7 percent in 2006—the eighth worst among the 30 OECD nations.
  • Also, Japan ranked just 20th on the list of the OECD’s lowest carbon dioxide emitters.
  • Illustration by Phil Couzens

    Illustration by Phil Couzens

    It was reported that although the number of foreigners living in Japan is steadily increasing, the number of medical interpreters available to help them out in emergencies is decreasing.

Whatever floats your boat
  • Fifty-three students at the Takanawa Kindergarten in Minato-ku performed a dance that “encourages children to thoroughly wash their hands to help prevent infectious diseases such as the new swine influenza.”
  • A 26-year-old policeman in Kobe was being held for supposedly “stealing undergarments from a 14-year-old girl while visiting her house to question her about a crime she had witnessed.”
  • Sentence of the Week: “The carcass of a firefly brought to Japan from Central America about 150 years ago has been found among the property of a ranking government diplomatic mission official of the Tokugawa shogunate who visited the United States in 1860, the Yokosuka City Museum announced earlier this month.” (via The Yomiuri Shimbun)
  • Police found the bodies of three men who went missing while jet skiing on a lake in Fukushima. Curiously, the three were all wearing life preservers when they drowned.
  • In response to a hoped-for increase in long-haul flights from Europe and the US, as well as direct flights to the UAE, Narita Airport unveiled a new 2,500m-long runway.
The big dig
  • The company building the 610m-tall Tokyo Sky Tree in Sumida-ku will add another 24m to the top of the structure after learning that a tower in Guangzhou, China, is to be the same height.
  • It was reported that the first major renovation project at Himeji Castle in over 50 years will involve recoating some 7,000m2 of plaster and replacing approximately 80,000 roof tiles.
  • A 23m-tall, 60-ton pile driver that became unmoored on muddy ground toppled over and crashed into a two-story house in Yachiyo, Chiba Prefecture. The 76-year-old resident was unhurt.
  • In adding Kyoto’s machiya townhouses to its list of properties that are “at risk of disappearing,” the World Monuments Fund said that “denser construction is diminishing the architectural and cultural history of the… cityscape and traditional way of life.”
  • Bottom Story of the Week: “Thrifty Housewives Snapping up Storm-damaged Apples by the Sackload” (The Manichi Daily News)
Here & There
  • A 43-year-old instructor at a reform school in Hiroshima was arrested for “repeated acts of violence against youths at the facility.” In one incident, the man allegedly thrust a bottle of detergent in a 16-year-old’s face and said “Drink this and die!”
  • Twenty-year-old Yuta Iyama from Osaka became the youngest-ever go champion when he defeated titleholder Cho U at a competition in Shizuoka.
  • After North Korea expressed “flexibility” in restarting six-party talks to help resolve issues pertaining to its nuclear program, the Japanese government decided to shelve a bill allowing customs authorities to inspect all ships and airplanes from the country.
  • It was reported that the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department has established Japan’s first cold case squad.
  • A man who stabbed two young women—one fatally—at a bookstore in Hachioji last summer was sentenced to life in prison.
  • The National Institute of Infectious Diseases reported that the number of flu cases surged from 330,000 during the week of October 2-9 to 640,000 the following week.
  • It was announced that 20 percent of middle schools around the country have suspended classes because of swine flu.
Business as usual
  • A 70-year-old former governor of Fukushima Prefecture was handed a two-year prison sentence for receiving kickbacks from a contractor in return for helping the company win a construction project.
  • National broadcaster NHK decided to reinstate retirement benefits to two disgraced ex-presidents, one of whom resigned following an embezzlement scandal in 2005 and the other last year.
  • The DPJ announced plans to introduce a bill that would “lift the current ban on door-to-door canvassing during election campaigns.”
  • Officials at the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism said their projected 2010 budget would be 10-15 percent lower than in 2009—the largest such cut in history.
  • At the same time, new budgetary requests by the government as a whole total ¥90 trillion—the highest ever.
  • A good part of that amount—¥763.4 billion—will be funneled to the tourism ministry, which hopes to attract 20 million foreign visitors to the country each year by 2016.
  • In another sign that Japan’s tourism industry is hurting, a town in Niigata is planning to start an alpaca farm with three animals from the US in the hopes that the move will “help revitalize the devastated local community.”

Compiled from reports by the BBC, Japan Today, The Japan Times, International Herald Tribune/The Asahi Shimbun, The Mainichi Daily News, Tokyo Reporter, The Daily Yomiuri, AP and Kyodo