Monday, April 11, 2005

Japanese film noir director dies

Japanese film noir director dies
Yoshitaro Nomura
Nomura was an inspiration to other Japanese directors
Japanese film director Yoshitaro Nomura, best known for the 1974 thriller Castle Of Sand, has died of pneumonia in a Tokyo hospital.

Nomura, who was 85, began working in the Japanese film industry aged 22.

He made his directorial debut in 1953 with Hato (Pigeon), and continued to make films over the next three decades.

Castle Of Sand, in which two detectives investigate the murder of a police officer, is regarded by critics as one of the best Japanese films ever made.

Yomura was renowned as a director of suspense thrillers and a pioneer of film noir in Japan, although he made samurai dramas and musicals as well during his career.

He also adapted novels by a number of authors, including Agatha Christie, for the screen.

He directed his last film in 1985, but continued to work as a producer for TV and film, as well as acting as a mentor to other Japanese directors.

In 1995, he was awarded a prestigious Order of the Rising Sun by the Japanese government."

China blames Japan for tensions

China blames Japan for tensions
Anti-Japanese protesters in Shenzhen, China
Anti-Japanese protests have been building throughout the week
Chinese authorities have said Japan must do more to heal ties after anti-Japanese demonstrations across China turned increasingly violent.

A Chinese foreign ministry spokesman said the state of relations between the two countries was not China's fault.

A Japanese government spokesman pointedly declined to respond.

The protests started over a new Japanese history textbook which allegedly glosses over wartime atrocities committed by Japan.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said that the responsibility for the current situation of Sino-Japanese relations "does not lie with China", China's official news agency Xinhua reported.

"The Japanese have to do more things conducive to enhancing mutual trust and maintaining the relations between the two countries, rather than doing the reverse," it added.

Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary, Hiroyuki Hosoda, said it would not be productive to respond to the Chinese comments.

"If I said at this moment that this is terrible and condemned it, it would not make things any better," he said.


He added that the two countries were exchanging views through diplomatic channels, and that developments were being monitored.

"We have to work hard to prevent mutual misunderstanding from growing," he added.

Meanwhile, Japanese Foreign Minister Nobutaka Machimura is expected to travel to China to discuss "a number of bilateral and international issues".

Chinese protesters set light to a Japanese flag

On Sunday, anti-Japanese protests erupted in China for the second day running, spreading from Beijing to the southern province of Guangdong.

The rallies follow a 10,000-strong march in the Chinese capital - the city's biggest protest since 1999.

At least 3,000 people demonstrated at the Japanese consulate in the southern city of Guangzhou on Sunday, shouting for a boycott of Japanese goods and burning Japanese flags.

A Japanese diplomat said some windows in the consulate were broken.

Hong Kong cable television showed protesters with Chinese flags and banners reading "down with Japanese militarism".

On Sunday, Japan summoned the Chinese ambassador to demand a formal apology, after windows at its embassy in Beijing were broken during a demonstration despite the presence of Chinese police.

The ambassador, Wang Yi, said Beijing did not condone the protests.

However, correspondents say the fact that Saturday's demonstration took place at all signals tacit acceptance, if not approval, by the authorities.

The weekend's marches are the biggest to take place in China for many years, according to the BBC correspondent in Beijing, Louisa Lim - a fact which she says indicates official approval.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Freedom of expression, assembly curtailed in LDP constitution draft

A panel of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party is aiming at restricting freedom of assembly and expression guaranteed under the Constitution in its draft proposal for a new Constitution, sources said Monday.

According to its basic concept, a subcommittee of the LDP's constitutional drafting committee says, "It should be permissible under the law to restrict or ban publication or sale of books that have a detrimental effect on young people's upbringing' — an apparent reference to obscene books or videos.

The subcommittee, led by House of Representatives member Hajime Funada, also says in the basic policy stance, "There should be restrictions on forming associations that aim at damaging the state or social order."

Further, it emphasizes the obligations citizens have to defend the country, protect their families and the environment and respect life, even at the expense of individual freedoms.

Concerning Article 20, which guarantees freedom of religion and bans religious organizations from receiving any privileges from the state and exercising political authority, the subcommittee will propose allowing the authorities to be involved in Shinto ceremonies and fund them from the public purse, "as they belong to accepted social protocol."

The proposal may also pave the way for formalizing visits by the prime minister to war-related Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo under the Constitution. Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's repeated visits there have led bilateral ties with China to deteriorate.

Meanwhile, another LDP subcommittee proposed on Monday that the charter's preamble should reflect Japanese history and the national character of the Japanese people, party lawmakers said.

The subcommittee, headed by former Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone, also agreed that the new preamble should be written in 500 to 600 characters to be memorized by students as part of their compulsory education, the lawmakers said.

The interim report also calls for specifying Japan's vision as a country, stipulating principles of pacifism and international cooperation, they said.

The subcommittee plans to compile a draft of the new preamble by early March.

The current Constitution, which took effect in May 1947, was drafted by the U.S.-led Allied occupation forces in hopes of democratizing Japan and ensuring that it would not revive as a militarist state after the end of World War II.

The LDP drafting panel includes 10 subcommittees, including those concerned with the preamble, the imperial system and national security.

The panel will compile an LDP draft of the Constitution revision bill by the end of April based on reports from the subcommittees. (Kyodo News)

Friday, February 11, 2005

Soba champ eats 201 bowls in 5 minutes

HANAMAKI, Iwate — A soba-eating contest was held Friday in Hanamaki, Iwate Prefecture, with 140 hungry participants taking part in five categories.

Contestants had to eat as many miso soup-sized bowls of the buckwheat noodles as they could in five minutes. The overall winner, a 37-year-old man from Miyagi, downed 201 bowls, 20 short of the record of 222 set by a housewife last year.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Japan eyes deporting Kurdish refugee family of five to 3rd country

TOKYO — Japan may deport a Kurdish family of five to a third country after it deported two other family members back to Turkey last week despite their U.N.-recognized status as refugees, Justice Minister Chieko Nono said Tuesday.

"It is natural we consider their departure," Nono told reporters, alluding to the possibility that the Justice Ministry will deport them to a third country after discussing the matter with the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees. (Kyodo News)

Monday, January 24, 2005

Opposition members walk out of Diet, citing Koizumi's responses

Japan Today - News - Opposition members walk out of Diet, citing Koizumi's responses

TOKYO — Opposition lawmakers walked out of a Diet interpellation session Monday afternoon due to their dissatisfaction with Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's answers to questions posed by opposition leader Katsuya Okada over his postal privatization drive.

"I have clearly answered all the questions," Koizumi said in a House of Representatives plenary session after listing the nine issues that Okada, head of the Democratic Party of Japan, raised. Most DPJ members and other opposition members walked out after Koizumi, taking the rostrum again, said, "I understand you are dissatisfied with my answers, but I have answered all the questions (DPJ) President Okada raised." (Kyodo News)

Japan to dissolve fund to compensate 'comfort women' in 2007

Japan to dissolve fund to compensate 'comfort women' in 2007

TOKYO — A Japanese fund established to compensate women in Asian countries who were forced to provide sex for Japanese soldiers during World War II will be dissolved in March 2007, an official of the fund operator announced Monday.

The Asian Women's Fund was established in 1995 in accordance with a decision by the Japanese government "to convey Japanese people's gesture of atonement" to "comfort women." The fund's president is former Prime Minister Tomiichiro Murayama. The fund collected about 565 million yen in donations since its establishment and paid 2 million yen each to about 280 women. (Kyodo News)

Sunday, January 23, 2005

Two die after 7 women collapse at meditation hall in Nara

Two die after 7 women collapse at meditation hall in Nara

NARA — Two women died Saturday after being found collapsed on the floor at a meditation hall in the town of Tawaramoto, Nara Prefecture, with four other women and a female Buddhist priest, police said.

Shigeko Okawa, 80, and Sumie Fujii, 78, were among six women aged between 75 and 87 who were visiting the 88-year-old priest at the hall and who were found by a relative of one of the women. When firefighters arrived at the scene, the seven women were no longer conscious in the hall where a charcoal brazier was burning and another heater was turned on. (Kyodo News)

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Gov't considering easier-to-understand signs for foreigners

Japan Today - News - Gov't considering easier-to-understand signs for foreigners
TOKYO — A government tourism panel suggested Wednesday making information boards and signposts easier for foreign travelers to understand. Foreign languages should be used for key signposts, said an interim report given by the panel at the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport.

The report also said that names of places and facilities should be standardized as much as possible. Panel members noted that some such boards on roads and at railway stations and lodging facilities tend to have excessive information, while others are difficult to find. (Kyodo News)

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

High court awards damages to conscripted WWII Korean laborers

TOKYO — The Hiroshima High Court on Wednesday ordered the state to pay damages to South Koreans forced to work as conscript laborers in Hiroshima during World War II, reversing a lower court ruling.

Forty South Koreans had demanded 11 million yen each from the state and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd for being forced to work at a Mitsubishi factory in the city of Hiroshima and for being exposed to radiation from the atomic bomb dropped by the United States on Aug 6, 1945.

Of the 40 plaintiffs, 25 have died, with relatives carrying on the court battle.

The Hiroshima District Court rejected the suit in March 1999. At that time, the 40 plus six others were plaintiffs. The six did not appeal to the high court.

The high court ruling has been a focus of interest as this year marks the 60th anniversary of the end of the war.

Also behind the interest are ongoing issues concerning measures for overseas A-bomb survivors after the war and whether to provide unpaid wages to forced laborers given the argument that the right to compensation lapsed with an agreement between Japan and South Korea.

Forced laborers from the Korean Peninsula, which Japan ruled as a colony, have not been successful in Japanese courts compared with forced laborers from China.

The Hiroshima District Court acknowledged that conscripted labor was conducted using state authority during the war but said, "The state does not have a responsibility to pay compensation for events committed under the prewar Constitution even if an individual suffers damage as a result of the actions of the state."

Regarding the suit against Mitsubishi, the district court said the rights for compensation "had lapsed by the statute of limitations."

According to the ruling, the South Koreans were forcibly taken from Korea to Hiroshima in 1944 and forced to work for Mitsubishi. They returned to South Korea on their own after the end of the war.

The suit was originally filed by six people in December 1995 and 40 more joined in August 1996.

About 2,800 people from South Korea were forced to work in Hiroshima, many of them suffering from the A-bomb. (Kyodo News)

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Former chief of Hawks Town pleads guilty to molesting 8 women

Japan Today - News - Former chief of Hawks Town pleads guilty to molesting 8 women - Japan's Leading International News Network
FUKUOKA — Former Hawks Town Co President Takeshi Kotsuka, 57, pleaded guilty Monday to charges of molesting eight women. "I deeply regret what I did. I apologize to the victims from the bottom of my heart," Kotsuka told the Fukuoka District Court.

Kotsuka is charged with molesting seven of his subordinates and one fashion model from February 2001 to June 2004 in such places as hotel rooms and restaurants. He told prosecutors he believed embracing female employees would encourage them to better their business performance. Hawks Town operates the Fukuoka Dome baseball stadium and the adjacent Sea Hawk Hotel & Resort. (Kyodo News)

Monday, January 17, 2005

Baby's head found in parking lot in Tochigi

UTSUNOMIYA — The head of a newborn baby was found Monday morning in a parking lot of a metal-processing factory in the city of Oyama, Tochigi Prefecture, police said.

An employee of the factory found the part and reported it to the police at around 8:30 a.m. The police are yet to determine if head is that of a male or female child. (Kyodo News)

Friday, January 14, 2005

15-year-old girl becomes youngest 'karuta' champion

 OTSU — A 15-year-old junior high school student became the youngest-ever "Queen" in the annual tournament of the Japanese card game "karuta" Saturday.

Saki Kusunoki from Nakatsu, Oita Prefecture, won the championship in the women's division at the tournament held in Otsu, Shiga Prefecture, by beating defending champion Yuri Arakawa for the Queen title. (Kyodo News)

Monday, January 10, 2005

With their heavy-handed and exclusionary attitude, the Japanese can't see foreigners as partners in a community.

With their heavy-handed and exclusionary attitude, the Japanese can't see foreigners as partners in a community.
Song Chong Chi, a second-generation Korean and director of an Osaka-based NPO that aims to support multiracial communities in Japan. (Yomiuri Shimbun)"

18-year-old mother arrested for beating baby daughter into coma

18-year-old mother arrested for beating baby daughter into coma : "An 18-year-old mother was arrested Saturday on suspicion of beating her 7-month-old daughter, which caused her to fall into a coma, police said.

She was quoted as telling the police she is innocent, but the police said they suspect the mother may have been routinely physically abusing the child because they found old bruises all over her body. "
According to the police, she is suspected of beating the child at her home in Kariya, Aichi Prefecture, on Friday.

Her 20-year-old husband made an emergency call Friday night after returning home from work and finding the baby vomiting.

The child was taken to a hospital, which informed the police of the suspected abuse.

The couple also have an 18-month-old son. There were no signs of physical abuse involving the boy, the police said. (Kyodo News)

Defense system will intercept only missiles targeting Japan

Defense system will intercept only missiles targeting Japan "Japan has decided to use its missile defense system solely to intercept ballistic missiles targeting Japan, not missiles that pass over Japan and target other countries including the United States, government sources said Saturday.

The government has decided to limit the scope of interception by the missile defense system, to be deployed in fiscal 2007, because intercepting missiles that are targeted at other countries would be construed as collective self-defense. (Kyodo News)"