Originally published on metropolis.co.jp on October 2009

Your tax dollars at work
  • Lawmakers who won a seat in the recent national elections earned ¥2.3 million for working just two days in August, thanks to a law that “guarantees full monthly remuneration to Diet members even if they are in office for a single day.”
  • It was revealed that the newly launched Consumer Affairs Agency pays a monthly rent of ¥800 million for its offices in Nagatacho—¥300 million more than it would have paid at another building in Bunkyo-ku that the agency had been considering.
  • Electronics giant Sharp has teamed up with the National Institute of Informatics to develop an infrared system that will “prevent pirates from recording films at movie theaters.”
  • Concerned by the number of patients hospitalized for schizophrenia compared to other industrial nations, Japan’s health ministry has announced a plan for slashing the figure by the year 2014.
  • The Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications reported that, for the first time ever, more than a quarter of Japanese women are aged 65 or older.
Gee, ya think?
  • A spokesman for a Hiroshima-based wildlife institute suggested that a bear which attacked nine people at a bus terminal in Gifu, severely injuring three, “may have panicked.”
  • An infant toddler who wandered onto train tracks in Suzaka City, Nagano, escaped harm when she wound up in the 50cm gap between an oncoming train and the tracks. “It’s a miracle she could have survived that way,” said one rescue worker.
  • An analysis by Goldman Sachs predicted that the economy of a united Korea could surpass Japan’s in “30-40 years.”
  • In response to an increase in the number of people committing suicide by jumping in front of Yamanote line trains—there were 18 such incidents in fiscal 2008, compared to just 9 in 2006—JR East announced plans to install “emotionally soothing” blue LEDs on all station platforms by the end of the month.
  • Sentence of the Week™: “Great tits sing at a higher pitch in noisy places, a recent study has revealed.” (via Mainichi Daily News)
C’mon in!
  • New Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada announced that all members of the media, including foreigners, will be able to attend his press conferences, not just those belonging to the Foreign Ministry’s press club.
  • Meanwhile, DPJ Secretary General Ichio Ozawa said that he wants to work with the Diet on passing a law that would allow foreigners to vote in Japanese elections.
  • A leading French “cultural geographer” became the first non-Japanese to win the prestigious Fukuoka Asian Culture prize “for developing a new scientific approach to the study of Japanese culture.”
  • Thirty-year-old Kazuki Yamada of Kanagawa won the 51st International Competition for Young Conductors in France. In addition to pocketing $17,650, Yamada “now has invitations to conduct 15 orchestras in Europe, Asia and the United States.”
News from the downturn
  • In BusinessWeek’s annual “Best Global Brands” survey, Toyota slipped two spots from sixth to eighth and Honda ranked 18th. Coca-Cola, IBM and Microsoft were named the top brands.
  • Perhaps in response, Toyota announced that it would boost its presence in the US with a $1 billion marketing campaign to end the year.
  • US Senator Debbie Stabenow of Michigan sent a letter to President Barack Obama complaining that Japan was excluding American vehicles from its version of a “cash for clunkers” program.
  • Shortly after returning home from the Diet session in which her husband was elected prime minister, Miyuki Hatoyama had to deal with the family’s golden retriever dying of an illness.
  • A 28-year-old male employee of Seibu Railway Co and a 19-year-old female coworker were accused of stealing money from the lost and found office at Hon-Kawagoe station in Saitama.
  • Illustration by Phil Couzens

    Illustration by Phil Couzens

    An 18-year-old high school student in Kobe was busted for passing a counterfeit ¥1,000 note at a flea market. The suspect said he made the bill on a color copier at his home.

In the cards
    • It was reported that 140 million “smart cards” with electronic payment capabilities are in circulation in Japan.
    • Of these, 51.4 million are Edy cards, 29.6 million Suica, 10.9 million Waon and 8.9 million Nanaco.
    • Some 80 percent of Tokyoites are said to carry some type of smart card.
    • Nationwide, it’s thought that ¥1 trillion in transactions using e-money will be carried out in fiscal 2009.
    Sic transit
    • A 45-year-old Nestlé executive from New Zealand was arrested for drunk driving when he rear-ended a car on an expressway in Kobe.
    • A 58-year-old hiker from Yokohama survived on rainwater for nine days after breaking his leg in a fall in Kanagawa’s Tanzawa Mountain range.
    • Cops in Gifu raided prefectural offices as part of their investigation into the crash of a rescue helicopter that killed three crewmembers as they were attempting to save a mountain climber last month.
    • For some reason, a 51-year-old Briton and his 19-year-old son rode bicycles from western Ireland to Japan. The 15,685km trip took ten months.
    • Censors in China attacked three Kyodo journalists who were in Beijing to cover the country’s 60th anniversary celebrations. The censors allegedly barged into the journalists’ hotel room and “kicked them and hit their heads to make them kneel down” before trashing two computers.
    • A student-led research team at the University of Tokyo’s Graduate School of Science has discovered “what could be the brightest supernova ever observed.”
    • The 51-year-old vice-chairman of the Sapporo Bar Association was busted for possession of drugs after seven plastic bags containing stimulants were found at his home.
      Here & There
      • A Japanese medical society announced that there were over 42,600 reported cases of child abuse last year, a “sixfold rise from 10 years earlier.”
      • DPJ officials said that they would decide by the end of the year whether to go ahead with plans to relocate the US Futenma Air Station in Okinawa.
      • A salvage company raised the 135-ton fishing boat Daiei Maru No. 11 from its resting spot 80m below the surface the sea off of Nagasaki Prefecture. Twelve of the vessel’s 22 crewmembers went missing after the vessel sank in a storm on April 14.
      • It was announced that anime-meister Hayao Miyazaki will design a park in Asagaya on the site where the house that served as an inspiration for the film Tonari no Totoro burned down in February.

      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.