Originally published on metropolis.co.jp on October 2009

Official business
  • During their first face-to-face meeting, PM Yukio Hatoyama and Russian prez Dmitry Medvedev vowed to solve the issue of the disputed islands in the so-called Northern Territories. The two leaders “agreed to hold another round of talks,” which we suppose counts as progress.
  • It was reported that the DPJ’s new education minister has put the kibosh on an LDP plan to build a national media arts center, a.k.a. the Anime Hall of Fame.
  • Newly installed fisheries minister Hirotaka Akamatsu toured Tsukiji market to see how things stood ahead of its planned move to Toyosu in 2014.
  • Meanwhile, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government estimates that the cost of removing polluted soil at the new site is ¥58.6 billion.
  • A council has been set up to establish a system for using Japanese-language domain names, like .日本, .京都 and .富士山.
  • In what is being described as “the first major change to the [Civil Code] in the six decades since its inception,” the DPJ is planning to allow married couples to use separate surnames. The LDP had been opposed to the measure, saying it might “lead to the collapse of family relations.”
  • Bottom Story of the Week: “Longevity of Japan’s Oldest Hippopotamus Celebrated”
Take a seat
  • A survey by toilet maker Toto revealed that 33 percent of Japanese men are sedentary micturators—that is, they pee sitting down. “Splash avoidance,” “ease of posture” and “cleaning up” were the main reasons given.
  • It was announced that a Japanese scientific agency is planning to launch “the world’s first movable platform for making observations of the seabed.”
  • Courtesy of Mazda Motor Corporation

    Courtesy of Mazda Motor Corporation

    In an effort to compete against hybrid vehicles, Mazda has unveiled a lightweight gasoline-powered car called the Kiyora that gets up to 32km to the liter.
  • An 18-year-old woman from Banda Aceh in Indonesia who lost nine of her 12 family members in the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami has enrolled at Waseda University.
The more things change…
  • It was reported that the owners of high-class restaurants known as ryotei are feeling the heat now that the penny-pinching DPJ is in power. “I hear the DPJ members hardly ever go out drinking to places other than izakaya,” bemoaned one restaurateur.
  • A few days later, reports surfaced that members of DPJ-linked political groups threw down ¥5 million at hostess bars and clubs, then reported the outlays as “political activity expenses.”
  • A Japanese pediatric group has announced plans to come up with guidelines for determining the gender of newborns who have “sex differentiation disorders.”
  • A 38-year-old instructor from Chiba who was selected for the Japanese Antarctic Research Expedition is set to become “the first elementary school teacher to teach a lesson from the Earth’s southernmost continent.”
  • A Maritime Self-Defense Force transport plane carrying 11 MSDF members overran a runway and plowed into a rice paddy in Yamaguchi Prefecture, though no one was hurt.
Likely stories
  • The two gangsters arrested for confining the ex-president of Nova English schools against his will for several days in a Tokyo hotel room claimed “they were just staying with [him].”
  • A police officer in Kyoto who serves as head of the traffic division reportedly used his official car to shuttle a group of friends to and from a professional golf tournament held in the area, though later he said, “Now that I think about it, I did something stupid.”
  • A Metropolitan Police Department survey revealed that approximately 30 percent of youths caught shoplifting said that stealing “feels like playing a game.”
  • Eleven members of mega-popular boy bands Arashi and Kat-tun sued a Tokyo-based publisher for using their photos without authorization.
Well, glad that’s settled
  • An association of Japanese banks has agreed on a set of guidelines to “deny new accounts to mobsters, yakuza-related companies and extortionists.
  • A poll by the Daily Yomiuri and the BBC found that just 16 percent of Japanese feel that “wealth is distributed fairly,” while 72 percent say it is not. Australians were the most content with the distribution of wealth, with 64 percent thinking everything’s hunky dory, while the French were the least, with 86 percent saying non.
  • A national suicide prevention center found that twice as many recovering alcoholics think about killing themselves than non-alcoholics.
  • The Japan Community Cinema Center found that, although the number of movie theaters decreased from 1,734 in 1993 to 667 in 2008, the number of screens has actually risen to 3,176, thanks to the advent of multiplexes.
  • It was reported that 13 prefectures are planning to arrange triage for influenza patients this flu season, while 26 more are planning to do so.
  • Changes in water temperature are being blamed for the worst bonito haul in 20 years. Fishermen in Miyagi Prefecture have caught only 11,876 tons of the fish this season, compared to 40,000 tons last year.
Here & there
  • Due to a surge in the number of children born with congenital defects like Down syndrome, the health ministry has launched a major study “to determine the influence of chemicals accumulated in mothers’ wombs.”
  • The Japan Council for Quality Health Care announced that there were 1,440 medical accidents nationwide in 2008, the highest since records began in 2005.
  • Environment ministry officials on Sado Island plan to release into the wild 20 more crested ibises in the hopes that they will form a flock and breed. When a previous batch of ten crested ibises was released last year, all the males stayed on Sado while the females took off for Honshu. Typical.
  • Officials in Osaka are mulling a ban on the feeding of wild macaque monkeys after the pesky critters stepped up their attacks on tourists and crops.
  • Research company Macromill polled 500 Japanese 20-somethings about whether they felt the future was “bright” or “dark,” and 82 percent chose “dark.”

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