Oct 29, 2009

Oct 29, 2009

This Week's Required Reading


Originally published on metropolis.co.jp on October 2009

  • Courtesy of JRA

    Courtesy of JRA

    Japan led all countries in the total amount of money bet on horse racing in 2008, with just under ¥2 trillion wagered on the ponies. Britain was second, according to a study produced for the British Horseracing Authority by the Sports Business Group at Deloitte.
  • A British man who used a computer program to win ¥16 billion betting on horse races in Japan fled the country and dodged a huge tax bill. Former colleagues told the tax authorities that the man, who was president of a data analyzing company called UPRO, is now dead.
  • Japan Times sports editor Jack Gallagher took the gloves off when writing about Tokyo’s failed bid to host the 2016 Summer Olympics. Among the comments directed at Tokyo Governor Shintaro Ishihara was this gem: “Putting a narcissist in charge of trying to secure a global event like the Olympics was nothing short of off the wall.” Ouch!
  • A survivor of the nuclear bombing of Nagasaki hit a nerve during a talk he was giving at Rome’s city hall. The lecture by 78-year-old Hiroshi Nishioka so moved his audience that they decided to name a road in the Italian capital Hiroshima Nagasaki Street.
  • Cops in Matsue were left red-faced when a patrol car was caught cruising a street that was closed to traffic. After a local man stopped the car, a traffic officer was called in to give the police vehicle a ticket.
  • A 10-year-old Sapporo girl was left in a coma after three bookshelves in a second-hand bookstore suddenly collapsed, trapping her and her sister.
  • Three teenage girls were among six people arrested for stuffing the body of a 19-year-old man in an oil drum and dumping it in the sea off the coast of Fukui Prefecture.
  • Not to be outdone, three men in their early 20s were arrested for dumping the dismembered bodies of two men in the sea in Yokohama.
  • An Osaka woman was put on trial for using a method she saw on a reality TV show to pickpocket some 150 victims on ladies-only subway cars.
  • Japan’s Supreme Court ruled that a Tokyo DVD producer was breaking copyright laws by selling Charlie Chaplin movies for ¥500 without the proper permission from, or payment to, the rights holder. Chaplin died in 1977.
  • Japanese porn star Maria Ozawa had to scrap a trip to Indonesia to film a comedy when religious groups in the predominantly Muslim country opposed her visit on moral grounds.
  • Vietnamese nurses who have learned their trade in Japan are up in arms over the seven-year limit on their work visas. They want the limit abolished, arguing that nurses from Indonesia in the same situation face no such restrictions.
  • A 66-year-old Kanagawa man was arrested for murdering his wife, who had become depressed and suicidal after the 2004 mercy killing of their terminally ill son.
  • Experiments conducted by researchers from Kyoto University’s Wildlife Research Center and Tokyo University found that chimpanzees would help out their fellow chimps by passing tools to one another to help them get at fruit juice, even though they derived no direct benefit themselves.
  • Japanese boy-band Exile was featured on a Ministry of Environment poster promoting the 60th anniversary of “Be Kind to Animals Week.
  • A traditional bullring in Niigata drew 2,000 spectators to watch 23 battles featuring angry bulls going head-to-head. The venue was reopened after being damaged in the 2004 Chuetsu Earthquake.
  • Good news for fruit bats on the Ogasawara Islands: the Environment Ministry has plans to conserve the habitat of the endangered species.
  • The Australian city of Broome held a council vote and decided to maintain its sister-city status with Japanese whaling port Taiji, which was featured in The Cove, a recent documentary on the annual slaughter of dolphins there.
  • Speaking of Taiji, officials in the Wakayama town have been testing residents’ hair samples to check the level of methyl mercury in their bodies from eating all that dolphin meat.
  • Chiba native Ko Kuroki, 27, decided to hold a feel-good exhibition at a Tokyo art gallery of sketches he has drawn of people from around the world smiling.
  • Japan’s Board of Audit uncovered more than ¥2 billion worth of improper transactions in 26 prefectures and two government ordinance cities investigated this fiscal year, with Chiba Prefecture being the worst offender. In fact, “all 40 local governments audited over the past two years were found to have engaged in deceptive bookkeeping,” said the board.
  • On a recent visit to Seoul, Japan’s First Lady Miyuki Hatoyama and Kim Yoon Ok, the wife of the South Korean leader, got together and made a little kimchi.
  • Incensed Osaka Governor Toru Hashimoto ordered the prefectural government to chastise an official for criticizing him in an email in what he called “an inappropriate manner.” It was also pointed out that the offending official “lacked common sense.”
  • US President Barack Obama is scheduled to make his first official visit to Japan on Nov 12-13. US air bases and aid to Afghanistan are on the agenda.
  • Japan’s largest supermarket chain, Aeon, posted a first-half loss of ¥14.7 billion for the six months ending in August.
  • A new sports car being produced by Toyota called the FT-86 will feature horizontal pistons in its engine, as opposed to the standard up-and-down variety.
  • Typhoon No. 18 wreaked some havoc… and also just plain reeked in some places. Decomposing weeds whipped out of Lake Biwa by the storm gave off a nasty smell, prompting the Shiga prefectural government to dispatch 220 workers to collect the offending foliage.
  • Recruiting from within, the Metropolitan Police Department will start its own baseball team and join the Japan Amateur Baseball Association so they can play in an intercity tournament.
  • Buddhist priest Endo Mitsunaga became the 13th holy man since the end of World War II allowed to wear his straw waraji sandals in the Kyoto Imperial Palace. Only priests who have completed a 1,000-day, 40,000km repeated trek around the area, which includes the 848m Mt Hiei, are allowed to leave their shoes on in the palace.
  • The East Japan Railway Co. is working on producing train cars powered by rechargeable lithium-ion batteries for use on the 2,000km of their 7,526km passenger line that is not electrified.

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.