“Honestly speaking, I cannot say it’s possible. But I also do not wish to say it’s impossible.”
—Naohiro Masuda, TEPCO’s decommissioning chief, on whether work to remove spent nuclear fuel at Fukushima Daiichi can begin in 2020, as the government insists it should 


  • A research institute in California asked people in six countries to name a famous Japanese person. The most popular responses were Emperor Hirohito (U.S., U.K., France) and Shinzo Abe (China, South Korea, Thailand).
  • More interesting were the second-place choices: Ichiro Suzuki (U.S.), Yoko Ono (UK..); Hayao Miyazaki (France); ’70s pop star Momoe Yamaguchi (China); Hirobumi Ito, Japan’s first prime minister (South Korea); and porn star Sora Aoi (Thailand).
  • The curator of the Shunkaen Bonsai Museum in Edogawa-ku says about 70 percent of its 10,000 annual visitors are from abroad.
  • Officials at the National Police Agency say last year was the first in which more gang members were arrested for scams like bank fraud than for “direct thefts” like robbery. 


  • Officials at the justice ministry announced that a record 5,000 foreigners applied for refugee status last year, but that just 11 had their applications approved.
  • Another 110 asylum seekers were allowed to stay in Japan for “humanitarian reasons.”
  • In denying citizenship to 15 Filipinos of Japanese descent, the Supreme Court upheld a law stipulating that “a child born overseas to a Japanese parent will lose its right to Japanese citizenship unless the parents apply to retain it within three months.”
  • It was reported that a 27-year-old Tokyoite is serving as the only physical therapist in southern Tanzania.


  • The head of a panel tasked with crafting Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s statement on the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II says he wants the PM to admit that Japan waged “a war of invasion.”
  • Government officials say they plan to boost the flagging birthrate by “promoting matchmaking” and “increasing men’s participation in childcare.”
  • A medical association in Toshima-ku has begun offering physicians courses on how to use social media.
  • Headline of the Week: “Roundworms May Help Test for Cancer Through Urine Samples” (via Mainichi Japan) 


  • A geology professor at Tohoku University says earthquakes in northeast Japan are occurring 100 times more frequently than they did before the March 11 disaster.
  • Officials at the farm ministry say Japan’s food self-sufficiency ratio—the share of calories produced out of total calories consumed—was 73 percent in 1965 but is now just 39 percent.
  • In response, authorities have lowered their self-sufficiency targets to 45 percent from 50 percent.
  • Researchers at Chiba University believe a someiyoshino cherry tree planted 100 years ago in Ueno park may be the progenitor of all such trees in Japan.


  • Educational publishers are making a bid to broaden the appeal of their textbooks by adding depictions of Yuzuru Hanyu, the 2014 Olympic figure skating champion, and Ayumu Hirano, who took silver medal in halfpipe snowboarding.
  • Meanwhile, all social studies textbooks that passed the education ministry’s latest screenings contain references to the disputed Senkaku and Takeshima islands.
  • Popular eyeglass chain JINS opened its first U.S. location, at Union Square in San Francisco.
  • Honda will unveil its first-ever passenger jet this weekend at Sendai Airport. 


39,000: Number of unidentified photographs gathered after the March 11 tsunami that a preservation center in Miyagi was forced to discard when the facility shut down last month

29: Percentage drop in sales at McDonald’s restaurants in Japan in March, compared to the same month last year

14: Number of months that McDonald’s Japan has reported falling sales

Compiled from reports by AP, Japan Today, The Japan Times, Jiji, The Tokyo Reporter, The Mainichi, The Japan News, AFP, Reuters and Kyodo