“Tap dance accepts anyone and any language”
—Sendai native Kazunori Kumagai, who became the first Japanese person to win the prestigious Flo-Bert tap dancing prize, awarded annually in New York
- For just the second time in her life, Empress Michiko made an overseas trip without her husband. She attended the state funeral of Belgium’s Queen Fabiola.
- The government slapped economic sanctions on 26 individuals and 14 groups for fomenting unrest in eastern Ukraine.
- Officials at the justice ministry are considering a new rule that would offer residency status to asylum seekers while their cases are being heard.
- Headline of the Week: “Tohoku Ice Hockey Team to Return Medals After Players Toss Them in Trash Following Loss” (via Mainichi Japan)
- Just 3.4 percent of Japanese Twitter users posted election-related tweets during campaigning for the Diet elections last month.
- Meanwhile, political operatives say the low rate of internet use in rural areas caused them to abandon online campaigns targeting the regions.
- High school administrators say they’re trying to get “largely apathetic young people” interested in politics by holding mock elections and using newspapers as teaching tools.
- A news organization survey has found that 49 percent of voters oppose the government’s new secrecy law and 51 percent are against the idea of Japan exercising the right to collective defense.
UPWARD & ONWARD
- Finance Minister Taro Aso issued an apology after telling an audience in Hokkaido that Japan’s growing social security expenditures can be blamed on “young people not having children.”
- In response to census figures that indicate more than half of Japanese women will be over 50 by the year 2019, cosmetics companies are fast-tracking the development of products aimed at senior citizens.
- Police in Shinagawa arrested a member of the Japanese men’s national volleyball team for stealing ¥140,000 from a wallet at a pachinko parlor.
THE FRIENDLY SKIES
- A U.S. business traveler became the 900 millionth passenger to pass through Narita Airport since the facility opened in 1978.
- Meanwhile, officials at Haneda Airport say they welcomed more than 70 million passengers last year.
- In a move designed to prod officials in Okinawa to relocate a U.S. military base, the central government is mulling a plan to reduce the budget for development in the prefecture.
- Investigators from the Transport Safety Board rushed to Kitakyushu Airport after a private plane careened off the runway and slammed into a concrete wall. The two people aboard were injured but survived.
- Authorities at the NPA say the number of kidnapping cases involving preteens has risen by 15 percent during the past year.
- Most of the abductions take place between 2pm and 6pm—the hours that kids are likely to be heading home from school.
- Officials in charge of the government’s pension investment fund say a financial crisis similar to the one in 2008 could trigger annual losses of ¥30 trillion.
- It was reported that celebrated actor Ken Takakura completed a memoir just four days before his death in November.
Compiled from reports by AP, Japan Today, The Japan Times, Jiji, The Tokyo Reporter, The Mainichi, The Japan News, AFP, Reuters and Kyodo