Sep 3, 2009

Sep 3, 2009

This Week's Required Reading


Originally published on on September 2009

  • Japan’s first death from the so-called swine flu was confirmed in Okinawa when a 57-year-old man passed away from septic shock brought on by the disease. Shortly thereafter, the second and third deaths were reported. In each case, the victims had been suffering from other diseases as well.
  • Five members of the Nippon Ham Fighters baseball club were diagnosed with swine flu, including American slugger Terrmel Sledge. No, we’re not making any of that up.
  • At the national high school baseball tournament at Koshien, five members of the Rissho University Shonan HS team from Shimane Prefecture were also confirmed to have swine flu.
  • In more pleasant news from Koshien, cheerleaders from the Tokyo University of Agriculture and Second High School performed a dance in which students wielded Japanese radishes.
  • John Roos, the United States’ new ambassador to Japan, arrived in Tokyo with his wife and two kids, pledging “There’s nothing the United States and Japan cannot accomplish through cooperation.” I don’t know about that… can they help the Maple Leafs win the Stanley Cup?
  • The computer geeks out at Tsukuba University set a world record by expanding pi to more than 2.5 trillion digits. It took 73½ hours and yes, they have applied to Guinness to have the record recognized.
  • Model Sayuri Koda was arrested after she used another model’s credit card to pay for a laser therapy session at a Shibuya cosmetic surgery clinic. Koda apparently pinched the credit card at a photo shoot the two models were on together.
  • Actor and television host Shingo Yamashiro, who starred in the popular ’60s children’s drama Hakuba Doji, died from pneumonia at the age of 70. Later in his career, Yamashiro specialized in yakuza-themed films.
  • It was reported that a restaurant with branches in Tokyo and Saitama created a fish-chicken-egg rice bowl concoction that the proprietors hoped would help raise voter turnout in the recent general election.
  • Kanako Otsuji, a former Osaka Prefectural Assembly member and the first openly lesbian candidate for national office in Japan, presented a same-sex marriage seminar at the Swedish Embassy in Tokyo called, “Is Everyone Normal Now?”
  • Courtesy of TV Aichi

    Courtesy of TV Aichi

    For the first time since the event began in 2003, Japan took top prize at the World Cosplay Summit, which was held last month in Nagoya. Kinda makes those two World Baseball Classic titles seem insignificant now.

  • The Japanese government plans to recommend that the Ogasawara islands, made up of roughly 130 islands about 1,000km south of Tokyo, be deemed a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Several varieties of plants and animals are unique to the area.
  • Seven suspects were arrested for abducting a man in Shibuya, beating him to get his bank account info, then injecting him with drugs and leaving him to die on a mountain in Saitama.
  • A 41-year-old mom and her daughter were among eight people arrested for gang-raping the woman’s other daughter, a 16-year-old high school girl, in Fukuoka. “I didn’t like her attitude,” said one of the attackers.
  • Several yakuza types affiliated with the Yamaguchi-gumi were spotted sitting ringside at the Nagoya sumo tournament. The seats were reserved for patrons who had made donations to the Japan Sumo Association.
  • While former Japanese prime ministers Junichiro Koizumi and Shinzo Abe visited the controversial Yasukuni Shrine to mark the 64th anniversary of the end of World War II, current PM Taro Aso decided not to go “out of consideration for the impact such a visit would have on relations with China and other Asian neighbors.”
  • Aso’s absence didn’t sit well with one 39-year-old right-wing nationalist, who stabbed himself in the stomach with a sword in front of Japan’s parliament building in protest.
  • After South Korean police cracked down on the local sex-for-hire industry this spring, hundreds of Korean women have apparently come to Japan to work as prostitutes, many in the Kawasaki area.
  • The Real Estate Economic Institute Company revealed that 3,230 new condos went on the market in metropolitan Tokyo in July, a 9.1 percent decrease from July 2008.
  • Saying he “felt lucky to be alive,” Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Hiroki Kuroda was released from hospital in Phoenix after getting hit in the head with a line drive. In 2002, another Japanese pitcher on the Dodgers, Kaz Ishii, suffered a fractured skull on a similar play.
  • From the “You Gotta Be Kidding” File: a 19-year-old Osaka Institute of Technology engineering student drowned when a concrete canoe he was testing in the Yodogawa River flipped over.
  • A 43-year-old woman was killed during the 6.5-magnitude earthquake in Shizuoka when she was buried under a pile of roughly 1,000 books that toppled onto her.
  • Four workers were swept away in Naha when heavy rains caused a flash flood in a waterway they were inspecting. A fifth man was found with minor injuries after being washed 1km downstream.
  • A 75-year-old woman in Kobe just couldn’t take it any more after last month’s Typhoon Etau caused damage to her home. She hanged herself in a shed.
  • The owner of a real estate company in Ibaraki Prefecture was stabbed to death by a client, who then dumped her body in a forest in Fukushima and withdrew ¥1.6 million from her bank account.
  • It was announced that the Mexican director of the film Babel, Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, will chair the competition jury at the Tokyo International Film Festival, to be held October 17-26 (see “Movie News”).
  • Two Japanese men were arrested for distributing pirated films and DVDs—the latest Harry Potter movie, Watchmen and Crows Zero 2—over the internet using the file-sharing program Share.
  • It was reported that a nonprofit group called Sodateage Net has been collecting old business suits from donors and giving them to young job-seekers.
  • A Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry survey found that while more than 90 percent of working women with young kids took childcare leave in 2008, just over 1 percent of eligible men did the same.
  • Naoko Imoto, who competed for Japan in swimming in the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, has found a higher calling. These days, the 33-year-old spends her time helping build temporary classrooms through UNICEF at refugee camps in war-torn Sri Lanka.
  • At the tender age of 101, Saitama native Shizue Ikehata was the oldest person to attend the national memorial service held at Nippon Budokan to mark the end of World War II. Her husband Masao was killed in a submarine torpedo attack in 1944.
  • By contrast, the youngest person to attend the war memorial service at the Budokan was 3-year-old Kaio Miyagi, whose great grandfather Tokusei Miyagi was killed in the Battle of Okinawa.
  • In other war-related news, a card show was held in Kobe that recounted the life-and-death experiences of nurse Toyoko Morita, now 85, who served in Nanjing, China in 1943.
  • Hiroshi Yanagira, who was falsely accused of rape and attempted rape in 2002, has put out a book that critiques police methods in cases like his. The snappy title, roughly translated, is If Sorry Is Enough, We Don’t Need Police: Who is the Real Culprit in the Case of the Falsely Accused?
  • A record low—since 1970, at least—118 people were killed in car accidents during this year’s Obon holiday period from Aug 8-17. That’s 23 fewer than last year, according to the National Police Agency. Obon is held annually to honor the dead.

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.