Sep 24, 2009

Sep 24, 2009

This Week's Required Reading


Originally published on on September 2009

Money troubles
  • Police in Osaka and Kobe are warning cashiers to be on guard against con men who claim to be collectors of rare Japanese bank-notes, but who then use sleight of hand to make off with wads of cash. Cops say that ¥1.22 million has been stolen in such ruses.
  • The driver of a cash transport vehicle in Fukuoka told a fellow worker to get out of the truck because there was a mechanical problem, and then drove off with an estimated ¥72 million.
  • Sentence of the Week™: “A 60-year-old woman has been swindled out of ¥1.98 million by a man who pretended to be her flu-stricken son and asked her to pay off his debts because he was too unwell to move, the police said.” (via The Daily Yomiuri)
  • A Panasonic factory in Shiga Prefecture was busted for employing some three dozen illegal Chinese laborers.
  • A Kanagawa-based alcoholism research center found that 60 percent of homeless people around Ikebukuro station are suffering from some kind of mental disorder.
  • It was reported that the Yamaguchi-gumi crime syndicate is forcing members to take an exam on the ins and outs of the revised Anti-Organized Crime Law, out of fear that non-compliance will lead to costly lawsuits.
  • Japan’s oldest koala—a 21-year-old male named Haku—died of natural causes at a zoo in Osaka.
  • JR West’s smoking ban in Kansai was completed, with 204 stations in Osaka, Kyoto and Kobe giving smokers the boot.
  • A Peruvian couple and a 30-year-old Japanese man were arrested for falsely registering the couple’s boy as the Japanese man’s child.
Masked men
  • An industry association announced that Japanese makers of protective masks would produce some 3.6 billion units this year, nearly double the number from last year.
  • One manufacturer is marketing a mask that “adheres to the user’s face without the need for ear straps.”
  • Headline of the Week: “Hatoyama’s Wife Says her Man is no Alien, but he Loves Foot Massages and Prawn Crackers” (via The Mainichi Daily News)
  • An 11-year-old fifth-grade student in Kobe who was forced to shoplift by his divorced parents told authorities that he was “afraid of being hit by his father” if he didn’t comply.
  • A group of researchers led by Kumamoto University professor Yuichi Oike announced that they had identified a protein thought to cause obesity.
  • Some 45,000 commuters were inconvenienced after a Narita Express train hit a railway track maintenance vehicle earlier this month.
Likely stories
  • Cops in Shibuya arrested 26-year-old actor Tsuneyuki Nakayama for providing drugs to a friend, but Nakayama claims that he “handed over a syringe and a pack of powder to the acquaintance without knowing it contained stimulants.”
  • A 70-year-old Chiba man who was arrested for murdering his 63-year-old sister claims that the woman begged him to kill her because she was distraught at caring for their infirm mother.
  • The industry ministry’s Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency ruled that Japan’s oldest nuclear reactor—the Tsuruga Power Station in Fukui Prefecture—can continue operations for another ten years.
  • Major League Baseball trademarks and copyrights are used with permission of Major League Baseball Properties, Inc. Final product may be different than that shown

    Major League Baseball trademarks and copyrights are used with permission of Major League Baseball Properties, Inc. Final product may be different than that shown

    In honor of Ichiro Suzuki becoming the first player in major league history to reach the 200-hit mark in nine consecutive seasons, Japan Post Network announced that it would release a set of ten ¥80 stamps, nine postcards and a stamp holder.
Local color
  • To mark 140 years of diplomatic relations between Japan and Austria, a park in Vienna’s Floridsdorf district will be named after iconic Japanese film character Tora-san.
  • Another Vienna park unveiled a peace memorial “featuring a flagstone that was exposed to radiation in the 1945 US atomic bombing of Hiroshima.”
  • It was reported that officials in the town of Kinokawa, Wakayama Prefecture, are struggling to handle the influx of tourists who visit to catch a glimpse of Tama, the cat that was made honorary stationmaster in 2007.
  • Thirty-year-old filmmaker Yoju Matsubayashi has completed work on a documentary called Hana to Heitai (“Flowers and Soldiers”), which details the lives of six Japanese who remained in Thailand after the end of World War II.
  • The Thai government decided to issue travel papers to a stateless 12-year-old boy living in Chiang Mai so that he could travel to Japan for the 4th All Japan Origami Airplane Competition.
Official business
  • A JR West executive was thrown out of a meeting for victims and families of the 2005 train derailment in Hyogo that killed 107 people after he was caught dozing off. The exec agreed to forfeit 10 percent of his salary over the next three months to make up for the gaffe.
  • A 60-year-old male professor at Nippon Sport Science University was arrested for scaling a fence at an onsen in Gunma Prefecture so that he could peek inside a women’s bath. See “Japanomatopoeia” on page 7.
  • A 66-year-old assemblyman from Chiba was arrested for trying to extort money from a local real estate company by claiming he had ties to a yakuza gang. The man allegedly told the company’s president that the shacho had failed to “[pay] his respects to the area.”
  • It was announced that the transport ministry had launched an “international railway strategy office” to promote the sales of Japan-built shinkansen.
  • Thanks to its success cleaning up the Yodogawa river—which had been contaminated with industrial waste since the ’70s—Osaka’s water purification bureau is considering marketing its services overseas.
  • Two major Ainu organizations announced the formation of a new group aimed at urging the government to “improve their lives and promote their culture.”
  • Less than a week after it was launched, Japan’s Consumer Affairs Agency was “beset by many problems,” including “a larger-than-expected number of requests for consultations and information from the public.”
The tech frontier
  • It was announced that users of Japan’s five major mobile service providers will soon be able to send text messages using their telephone numbers instead of email addresses.
  • For the first time in four years, Sony’s Walkman outsold iPods to claim the top spot among sales of digital music players. Experts say that part of the reason is iPhones eating into iPod sales.
  • Docomo said it was set to enter the US market next year “to capitalize on the growth in smartphone and mobile web usage.”
  • It was reported that solar cells capable of generating a total of 83,260 kilowatts were delivered nationwide between April and June, a record high.

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