“It’s because there aren’t many customers; the touts feel desperate and become aggressive”
—Koichi Teratani, member of a shop-owners’ association in Kabukicho, on the impact of the stagnant economy on the nightlife district
YOU MUST BE JOKING
- In what’s being described as an unprecedented move, the U.S.-based World Clown Association granted a commendation to the head of the Japan Hospital Clown Association.
- Authorities at the foreign ministry say they want Japan’s passports to be “more representative of Japanese culture,” whatever that means. So they’re planning a redesign in time for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
- It was reported that an increasing number of colleges are offering ¥100 breakfasts to help “students stay healthy and keep their daily rhythm of life.”
- The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, hosted a ceremony to mark the reopening of its Japanese-style garden following a yearlong renovation.
- Officials in Ibaraki were embarrassed to realize they’ve been celebrating Prefectural Residents’ Day on the wrong date. The prefecture was legally established on Nov 14, 1871, but the holiday is held each year on Nov 13.
- The Supreme Court ruled that the parents of a boy who accidentally kicked a soccer ball onto a roadway, which caused an elderly man to crash his motorcycle, are not liable for the pensioner’s death.
- Authorities at the NPA say they received a record number of reports last year about illegal online activity, including child pornography and ads for unlawful drugs.
- Police in Tokyo and Chiba say a man suspected in 80 area burglaries was part of a group that met online “for the sole purpose of stealing.”
RED STORM RISING
- Last month’s unified local elections resulted in the Japanese Communist Party being represented in all 47 prefectural assemblies for the first time in its history.
- Education Minister Hakubun Shimomura urged universities to follow the lead of elementary and secondary schools in raising the Hinomaru flag and singing the national anthem during entrance and graduation ceremonies.
- He also suggested that Turkish authorities address their shortage of engineers by adopting Japan’s five-year technical college system, known as koto senmon gakko.
- Authorities at the NPA say they filed criminal charges against 10,689 foreigners last year. That’s an eight-percent rise from 2013.
- 100,000: Estimated number of fish—mostly gizzard shad and gobies—found dead this month in a canal in Nagoya
- ¥1 billion: Money in the TMG’s fiscal 2015 budget allocated to “counter the effects of secondhand smoking”
- ¥8.17 billion: Exports of wagyu last year, a 42 percent jump from 2013
NEW FROM THE LAB
- A study by the National Center for Global Health and Medicine found that people who drink three or four cups of coffee a day have “a 24 percent lower risk of death” than people who don’t have any joe.
- Researchers at the Japan National Institute of Radiological Sciences have sent a batch of fertilized mouse eggs to the International Space Station. They want to study whether cosmic radiation will affect astronauts during missions to Mars.
- Execs at camera maker Nikon say they’ve embarked on a collaboration with a Swiss drug company to develop cells for regenerative medicine.
- A Kanto-based NPO has set up a school for children in Niger, where the literacy rate is around 20 percent.
RISING UP, RISING DOWN
- Food, crafts, and other specialties from every single prefecture in Japan are on display until the end of the month at the 202m-high observation deck of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building.
- An industry association says Japanese computer makers shipped 9,187,000 PCs around the country last year—the first time in five years the number has slipped below 10 million.
- Nintendo is teaming up with Universal Studios to develop character-themed rides for the Hollywood giant’s amusement parks,
- Bottom Story of the Week: “Abe-Planted Cherry Blossom Tree Blooms in Moscow” (via Jiji)
Compiled from reports by AP, Japan Today, The Japan Times, Jiji, The Tokyo Reporter, The Mainichi, The Japan News, AFP, Reuters and Kyodo