Sunday, December 31, 2006

Gifu firms illegally hired Brazilian immigrants' children

Two temporary-job placement agencies in Gifu Prefecture had hired 12 children of Brazilian immigrants of Japanese origin for factory work in violation of Japan's labor regulations, officials of the labor ministry's Gifu bureau said Friday.

The detection highlights the problem that many children among an increasing number of immigrant workers in Japan choose to work, rather than attend school, due to language problems and hardships in their families' livelihoods, experts say.

A local labor standards inspection office has already told the two firms to stop the violation and the children are no longer at work, according to the officials of the Gifu Prefecture Labor Bureau.

The two firms hired a total of 12 boys and girls aged 13 to 15 from around February at an hourly wage of 850 yen at the lowest, and sent them to factories of several companies in Gifu, including parts manufacturers, with which it has such service contracts, they said.

The Labor Standards Act bans employment of any children aged up to 15, regardless of their nationality, from the viewpoint of child protection.

Receiving a tip about the child labor, the Gifu labor standards inspection office checked the firms and detected the practice in November, the officials said.

The children were supposed to attend junior high school but were not going, saying they wanted to supplement family income rather than go to school as classes given in Japanese are difficult to understand and boring.

The firms involved have said they knew the ages of the children but hired them at the request of their parents who were struggling to make a living, they said.

Japan in 1990 began accepting immigrant workers of Japanese descent, mostly Brazilians, who had swelled to around 350,000 as of the end of 2005, many of whom are working at factories in manufacturing-oriented regions such as in central Japan.

There are about 20,000 foreign children of elementary, junior high and senior high school age who need to be provided with Japanese lessons, the Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry said.

But many of the children do not go to school because of language problems. International school, meanwhile, is expensive to attend, costing tens of thousands of yen a month, according to the experts.

Nearly 20% of children of immigrant workers are believed to stay away from school, aside from enrolled children who have stopped going to school, said an official of Yokkaichi, Mie Prefecture, which is an organizer of a meeting of local governments with large immigrant populations.

There are worries that illegal employment of immigrants' children might increase if the school attendance problem remains unaddressed, the official said.

Many immigrants used to go back to their home countries after working in Japan for a certain period, but have begun to settle in the country although it is generally still closed to immigration.

Record 44 sentenced to death in Japan in 2006

A record 44 people were sentenced to death in Japan this year, while capital punishment on 21 defendants was finalized, bringing the number of death row inmates to 94, also a record high, according to the Supreme Court and other sources.

The 21 defendants include Aum Shinrikyo cult founder Shoko Asahara, whose real name is Chizuo Matsumoto, 51, who was convicted of masterminding the 1995 sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway system and other charges, and Kaoru Kobayashi, 38, who murdered a 7-year-old girl in Nara Prefecture in 2004.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Watanabe eyes tougher 'amakudari' rules by end of Jan

Newly appointed administrative reform minister Yoshimi Watanabe said Friday he intends to formulate the framework of a bill to toughen rules on "amakudari," or the hiring of retired government officials by companies, possibly by the end of January.

"I will make a report to the Council on Fiscal and Economic Policy by the end of January or in early February at the latest," Watanabe told reporters after taking part in a TV talk show. Watanabe referred to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's initiative to eradicate a form of amakudari in which government entities give favors such as awarding contracts to effectively force companies to hire retired senior government officials.

Japanese man given death sentence in China for drug smuggling

A Japanese man has been sentenced to death by a court in Dalian, northeastern China, on charges of trying to smuggle 1.5 kilograms of stimulant drugs to Japan in 2003, Japanese officials said Friday. The man, only identified as a person in his 40s, pleaded not guilty and plans to appeal the ruling, according to the officials of the Dalian Branch Office of the Japanese Consulate General in Shenyang.

The defendant was detained at Dalian airport in July 2003 over alleged possession of the drugs when he was about to board a flight to Osaka, they said. He was quoted as saying somebody asked him to carry them and that he did not know they were stimulant drugs.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Gov't protests weekly's report on 'abduction attempt'

The government protested Monday at a report by the major weekly Shukan Gendai that said Kaoru Hasuike, one of the Japanese who were abducted by North Korea in 1978, had secretly come back to Japan and tried in 1986 to take a school teacher to North Korea. "The report was totally groundless and is utterly deplorable," the government's special task force on the abduction issue said in a statement addressed to the weekly's publisher Kodansha Ltd.

Hasuike denied the allegations and sent a statement of protest, saying the article was a "preposterous and fabricated story." The article in the weekly's latest edition, which hit the stands Monday, was based on an interview with a former school teacher in Aichi Prefecture who said that a man resembling Hasuike appeared on the school premises on March 18, 1986, and tried to persuade him to go to North Korea.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Foreign intern sues over alleged sex assaults

A foreign woman who visited Japan to take part in a program to acquire farming skills filed suit with the Tokyo District Court on Monday, saying she was given only menial assignments at her host company and repeatedly sexually assaulted by an executive.

The woman is seeking a total of 37 million yen from several parties, including the executive and the Japan International Training Cooperation Organization, under whose internship program she came to Japan in November 2004.

The woman, 35, came to the country to acquire farm techniques and was subsequently sent to a construction company in eastern Japan as a technical intern through a sales cooperative of farm products, her primary host, according to the suit. Her lawyers asked to withhold her name and nationality.

After eight days of language training, however, the woman received no further training and was only assigned household work at the company executive's home, cleaning at the company and other menial jobs, the suit claims.

The woman's passport and bank account book were taken away from her, her wages were withheld, and she was given two days off a month — sometimes even none — the suit says.

The woman was forced to live alone at a house owned by the executive and subjected to sexual assaults by the executive, who had kept the key to the premises, over 60 times between March last year and June this year, according to the suit.

The woman finally ran away and was sheltered by the Tokyo Regional Immigration Bureau in July.

The woman has argued that the firm and the sales cooperative used the system in a legal loophole by using it as a cover for abusing workers at substandard wages.

"I had hopes that I could study and work, but only the irremediable pain has remained. I made a mistake by coming to Japan," she said.

The training organization said it cannot comment on the case because it will become a litigious matter.

4 death row inmates hanged; two in their 70s

Four death row inmates in Japan were hanged Monday, the first executions since September last year, informed sources said. They are Yoshimitsu Akiyama, 77, and Yoshio Fujinami, 75, who were both held at the Tokyo Detention House, Michio Fukuoka, 64, who was held at the Osaka Detention House, and Hiroaki Hidaka, 44, incarcerated at the Hiroshima Detention House.

The executions are the first under Justice Minister Jinen Nagase, who assumed the post when Prime Minister Shinzo Abe launched his Cabinet in September. Nagase's predecessor, Seiken Sugiura, did not give the go-ahead for any executions during his 11 months in office.

Amnesty International Japan released a statement to protest the executions. "The latest executions were carried out when the Diet is adjourned and without advance notice to the inmates themselves or their families," the statement said.

"The death penalty is a punishment that is cruel, inhumane and hurts dignity...We hope Japan will take the first step in the near future to abolish the death penalty," it said.

Japan resumed executions in March 1993 following a moratorium of some 40 months. Since then, hangings have been carried out every year, and the latest four brings to 51 the number of hangings since the resumption.

According to Amnesty, 128 countries around the world have abolished, or virtually terminated, capital punishment, while 69 countries still maintain the death penalty.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Another boy found murdered in Shizuoka

Police on Saturday found the body of a 15-year-old boy who had been missing from home in Yaizu, Shizuoka Prefecture, where his mother and younger brother were found murdered Friday, they said.

The bodies of Misaki Sonia Aparecida Ferreira Sampaio, a 41-year-old Japanese-Brazilian, and her 10-year-old son Hiroyuki were found Friday evening inside an apartment they lived in, apparently strangled, police said earlier.

Police had been searching for the older son, Hiroaki, who had been missing since around Tuesday, and found his body inside an apartment, some 800 meters away from his home, they said. The boy was also apparently strangled, they added.

Police are searching for a man in his 30s or 40s, who is Sampaio's acquaintance, believing that he knows something about the death of the three as he lived in the apartment where the 15-year-old was found.

But the man is believed to have left Japan on Tuesday, flying out to Brazil from Narita airport, police said.

The woman was found lying on the living room floor and the boy in the lower level of a bunker bed in a bedroom around 7:30 p.m. Saturday, police said.

The three were apparently strangled as there were marks on their necks and ropes had been found inside a room, police said, adding they believe the three had been murdered several days ago.

The apartment did not appear to be ransacked and the front door was locked when the bodies were found, police said.

The city office had asked the police to check in on the 10-year-old student as he had been absent from school without notice since Tuesday.

The mother worked for a seafood processing plant in the city. The company said she had been missing from work since Tuesday.

Police said the woman's husband, who lived separately, has been interviewed.

The site is in a residential area about 2 kilometers south of JR Yaizu Station.

Abe wants int'l community to keep pressure on N Korea

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Friday the international community is likely to increase pressure on North Korea if it does not respond to demands for it to take steps toward abandoning its nuclear programs.

Abe told reporters as the six-party talks on Pyongyang's nuclear programs ended in Beijing without progress that it is important for the international community to unite in implementing the U.N. sanctions resolution to prompt North Korea to take specific actions toward denuclearization. "If North Korea wants the international sanctions to be lifted, they must respond to our demands or they will not be able to resolve their problems," Abe said.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Revised education law to enhance patriotism goes into effect

Japan adopted a revised basic education law Friday aimed at instilling patriotism in classrooms as the amendments were promulgated in the government gazette. The first revision to the Fundamental Law of Education, which came into effect in 1947 in an effort to realize the ideals of Japan's postwar pacifist Constitution through education, was enacted by the Diet on Dec 15.

The 18-article education law introduces the idea of respect for the public spirit in its preamble and calls for developing "an attitude which respects tradition and culture and loves the nation and homeland that have fostered them" as a goal of education. Revising the law was the centerpiece of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's policy agenda which has stirred criticism that it could lead to the control of children's thoughts and excessive state intervention in education.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Abe should tone down nationalist rhetoric on constitution: LA Times

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe — and his right-wing supporters — should tone down the nationalist rhetoric and unambiguously apologize for imperial aggression during World War II in their bid to amend Japan's pacifist constitution, a major U.S. newspaper said in its editorial published Wednesday.

"A constitution that bars Japan from military action seems quaint in the face of North Korea's nuclear threat," the Los Angeles Times said. "But right-wingers should tone down the rhetoric."

North Korean leader Kim Jong Il's nuclear ambitions have not won him any admirers in China or any concessions from the United States, but they are turning Japan into a more implacable — and militarily more independent — foe, the Times observed, the paper said.

"Though Tokyo has long been edging away from its traditionally pacifist stance, the move has been accelerated by provocations such as Pyongyang's missile tests and its first test of a nuclear weapon in October.

"Hence the election of a new prime minister, the Liberal Democratic Party's Shinzo Abe, who promises to revise Japan's pacifist constitution, and a parliamentary victory last week for hawkish Japanese nationalists," the Times said.

"The constitution hasn't stopped Japan from building one of the world's most advanced militaries. The hope now is that the world's second-largest economy can shed its ghosts to help more with international peacekeeping operations...A less restrictive constitution for Japan would also enhance U.S. security.

"Although the debate is welcome and a new constitution would pay dividends for this country, the discussion has been tainted by the stance of Japanese conservatives and the nation's unwillingness to atone as fully as Germany has for its World War II behavior.

"Many in Japan downplay or deny imperial atrocities in Asia. Victims richly deserving of reparations have been turned away by Japanese courts, while the insistence of national leaders to bow before war criminals at the infamous Yasukuni Shrine justifiably infuriates Chinese and Koreans.

"Also worrisome was last week's approval in parliament's upper house of a bill calling on schools to teach respect for tradition and love of the homeland. Such changes in education are a key goal of nationalists that until now have been rejected by the mainstream.

"Abe and his right-wing supporters could make them a lot more palatable by toning down the nationalist rhetoric, unambiguously apologizing for imperial aggression and keeping propaganda out of the schools." the Times said.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

21 nations protest over Japan whaling

The governments of at least 21 anti-whaling nations have undertaken the largest single diplomatic protest yet against Japan's lethal scientific whaling program, according to statements released this week by the governments of New Zealand and Australia.

New Zealand's Conservation Minister Chris Carter said in a statement that 27 countries took part in a march at the Japanese Foreign Ministry in Tokyo last Friday, while a further protest was planned for this week at the Japanese Fisheries Agency. Australian Environment Minister Ian Campbell said in a separate statement that far from benefiting the scientific community, "Japan's whaling will undermine international efforts to conserve and protect whales."

Abe aiming to realize Constitution revision

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Tuesday he is aiming to realize the revision of Japan's pacifist Constitution during his term as premier and to have legislation for a national referendum on the issue passed during next year's parliamentary session. "I understand this will be a historical and huge task," Abe told a news conference after the first extraordinary parliament session under his administration adjourned earlier in the day.

"Over the past 60 years, the security situation surrounding Japan has changed significantly," said the premier, seen by many as a conservative hawk. "Bearing the responsibility to protect the lives and property of our people, I have to consider what policies will be best for our national security."

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

U.S. punishes BTM UFJ over lax anti-money-laundering measures

U.S. financial regulators said Monday they have issued separate but coordinated enforcement actions against the Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ and some of its U.S. operations for their failure to adequately implement anti-money-laundering compliance programs.

The regulators are the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp, the Federal Reserve Board and the New York State Banking Department. Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ Trust Co, without admitting or denying the allegations, consented to the issuance of the order, they said, adding the order determined that Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ Trust failed to implement adequate Bank Secrecy Act and anti-money-laundering compliance programs.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Gov't ordered to compensate 61 war-displaced Japanese

The Kobe District Court ordered the government Friday to pay 468.6 million yen in compensation to 61 of 65 war-displaced Japanese who filed a lawsuit over their delayed homecoming from China and poor offers of support in Japan compared with victims of North Korean abduction.

It is the first ruling to admit state responsibility in a series of lawsuits filed by people repatriated from China after World War II, often referred to as "war orphans" in Japanese, following a dismissal by the Osaka District Court in July 2005.

Recognizing the government has neglected its obligation to support them to live independently in Japanese society and comparing its support measures with those for repatriated Japanese victims of North Korean abduction, the judge said, "The support for war orphans to be self-reliant has been quite poor."

The court dismissed four plaintiffs' demands due to a difference in the timing of their return to Japan, saying the 20-year statute of limitations allowing them to claim compensation had expired.

State ordered to pay damages to family of inmate killed by guards

The Kyoto District Court ordered the state Thursday to pay about 39 million yen in damages to the family of an inmate who died as a result of abuse by guards at Nagoya Prison in Aichi Prefecture in December 2001.

According to the ruling, three guards sprayed water using a fire-fighting hose into the rectum of the 43-year-old inmate, inflicting severe injuries which caused him to die from bacterial shock. The three guards have been found guilty by the Nagoya District Court of violent acts by special public officials resulting in death. Two of them have appealed.

Three found dead in Fukuoka apartment

Three people were found dead in a second-floor condominium unit in Kitakyushu, Fukuoka Prefecture, on Thursday, police said. Investigators found two bodies almost reduced to skeletons on futons in different rooms and the third body — that of a woman — in the kitchen, after a condo resident alerted the police that a female resident had been missing for two to three months and an odor was coming from her unit.

The two bodies were so decomposed that their age and sex were unidentifiable, police said, adding that autopsies will be performed Friday. The door was locked when the police arrived and there were no traces of the condo having been burgled, they said.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

14-year-old Saitama girl found dead in apparent suicide

A 14-year-old girl died Wednesday night in Koshigaya, Saitama Prefecture, in an apparent suicide by jumping from the apartment building where she lived, police said. She was found lying on the ground of the apartment's premise.

Police found what appears to be a suicide note at her apartment. She was quoted as saying in the note, "I am tired of life." Police said, however, she made no reference to her school life or bullying.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Gov't spent Y67,000 per head on Naha town meeting

The government disbursed some 16 million yen in total, or about 67,000 yen per participant, for a so-called 'town meeting dialogue with voters in Naha, Okinawa Prefecture in October last year to discuss reform of Japan's judicial system, government documents showed Tuesday.

The documents compiled by the Cabinet Office also show that the government spent another 12 million yen, or 56,000 yen per participant, for a similar session on judicial reform in the city of Miyazaki last March. A total of 242 citizens joined the Naha dialogue while 212 took part in the Miyazaki session. In both sessions, the government deployed an excessive number of staffers and used larger halls — with seating capacity of some 500 people — than required for the number of participants, the documents show.

Australian gov't declares Japanese midget sub historic shipwreck

The Australian government on Monday declared a World War II era Japanese midget submarine recently discovered off Sydney to be an "historic shipwreck" and began investigating the vessel and the fate of its two-man crew.

On the night of May 31 to June 1, 1942, the M24 entered Sydney Harbor, along with two other midget submarines, and fired torpedoes that missed the American cruiser Chicago but exploded beneath the barracks ship HMAS Kuttabul, killing 19 Australian naval personnel and two British sailors.

Of the other two submarines, one became entangled in a defensive boom net and its two-man crew blew it up, while the other was sunk in a depth charge attack before firing any torpedoes.

"It was a very brave, a brazen, incursion right into the heart of one of the biggest harbours in the world. For the secret and the sub to have been lost for over 50 years is quite phenomenal," Environment Minister Ian Campbell told reporters.

The wreck was yet to be officially identified, but Australian navy divers were inspecting the site on Monday and navy heritage chief Shane Moore was convinced the M24 had at last been found.

The Japanese government, Campbell said, had been informed and the wreck would stay in place pending a decision on whether the sub would be raised or stay where it was as a war grave.

"I think we have to respect the sensitivities of the families of those who've been lost," he said.

A Japanese embassy spokesman said the mission was awaiting official confirmation.

One of the wreck's discoverers, diver Alan Simon, said a wreath had been placed over the site as a mark of respect to the missing Japanese sailors.

Nagasaki to opt out of evacuation plans for nuclear attack

Nagasaki Mayor Itcho Ito said Monday his city will not establish plans for evacuation or other measures to be taken in the event of a nuclear attack, calling such plans unrealistic, and instead urged the state to try to eradicate nuclear weapons.

The mayor said the extent of damage from a nuclear attack predicted by the central government and the measures to be taken under its basic plan are vague and that trying to evacuate people in the event of such an attack is unrealistic.

Mie man held for beating boy, forcing him to sleep on top of dog house

A 45-year-old man was arrested for child abuse in Kumano, Mie Prefecture, on Monday. The man, identified as Yuji Matsui, beat the 9-year-old son of the woman with whom he lives, with a cutting board and injured him with a pen over a two-week period. The boy was also forced to sleep on top of a dog house and to use the bathroom at a train station a few hundred meters away from home because he could not keep it clean, Matsui told police.

Matsui has been living with the woman and her son since November last year. Matsui was quoted by police as saying: "I did it to discipline him, but I went too far."

Naked woman found dead in Nagasaki hotel

A naked woman was found dead in a hotel room in Nagasaki on Monday night, police said Tuesday. Police said the woman, in her early 20s, was found lying on the bed at the hotel in Higashimachi around 11:45 p.m. She had suffered head injuries and lost a lot of blood, they said.

Police said they are searching for a young man who the victim was last seen checking into the hotel with.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Ex-navy officer admits to vivisection of war prisoners in Philippines

A former officer of the Imperial Japanese Navy medical corps in Osaka Prefecture has admitted to having carried out vivisection on about 30 prisoners of war, including women and children, in the Philippines during World War II. Akira Makino, 84, the former medical corps officer from Hirakata, Osaka Prefecture, made the revelations, despite opposition from wartime friends.

After keeping it to himself for nearly 61 years, he said in a recent interview: "The souls of those who died would not be soothed if the story remained buried." Makino belonged to the medical corps of the navy's No. 33 patrol unit and was assigned to Zamboanga air base on Mindanao Island in August 1944. The experiments on live prisoners began in December that year, according to Makino. He was then 22.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Megumi Yokota film opens in Japan

A critically acclaimed documentary telling the story of a Japanese girl kidnapped by North Korean agents who became a symbol of one of Japan's most thorny diplomatic issues, hit screens across Japan Saturday. "Abduction: The Megumi Yokota Story" was released in 37 movie theaters in 18 prefectures, including Hokkaido, Tokyo, Kanagawa, Osaka, Hiroshima and Fukuoka. It will be shown in 20 other prefectures as well by the mid-February.

Directed by Canadian journalists Chris Sheridan and his wife, Patty Kim, the film details what Megumi's parents, Shigeru and Sakie, have been through since their 13-year-old daughter's 1977 abduction and their struggle to enlist Japanese government help in rescuing her and other abductees. The parents made speeches Saturday morning at a theater in Tokyo's Shibuya area, where the 200 seats were full from the day's first showing.

The 85-minute film won Best Documentary at the San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival and the Audience Awards at the Slamdance Film Festival in Utah, among others, earlier this year.

Yokohama man admits to killing ex-classmate over money

A Yokohama man admitted Saturday to killing a former school classmate earlier this week after having some money trouble with him, police said. Atsushi Yamaguchi, 20, was arrested on suspicion of abandoning the murdered body of Tomu Negishi, 20, which was found early Wednesday in a forest in Hadano, Kanagawa Prefecture.

Police said Yamaguchi told them he went out with Negishi in a car Tuesday night, killed him in the passenger seat using a kitchen knife around midnight and abandoned the body in a forest. Yamaguchi was arrested after calling the police Friday night to say he killed Negishi.

Couple arrested for abusing 14-year-old boy in Osaka

The mother of a 14-year-old boy and a 34-year-old man, who lives with them in Nose, Osaka Prefecture, were arrested Saturday on suspicion of inflicting bodily harm to the boy, police said.

Katsumi Uda, a convenience store employee from Kyoto, frequented the boy's home from about three years ago after acquainting himself with the 39-year-old mother, Suzuyo Kita, a worker at a supermarket, according to investigations.

The second-year student of a junior high school lived until recently at his home with the mother, his 10-year-old sister and his grandparents. Uda had been of late living with them off and on.

Citing the need for supervision, Uda began abusing the boy at one point. At least from late August to early September, he repeatedly beat the boy, forced him to sit on the floor with his legs folded and limited his intake of food. Uda also restricted the boy by a collar sometimes, police said.

Since February last year, a local child consultation center received reports about the abuse from the boy's school and concerned people.

The boy was found to have lost about 5 kilograms when he was taken into protective custody in September, but he has since recovered and has begun attending school, police said.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Japan can legally be allowed to possess nuclear arms, gov't says

Japan can legally be allowed to possess nuclear arms as long as they are at a "necessary minimum" level for its self-defense, the government said Tuesday. The cabinet made public the view in a position paper in response to a written question by House of Representatives member Muneo Suzuki.

From a purely legal standpoint, the paper said the war-renouncing Constitution "does not necessarily ban the country from possessing any weapons, even though they are nuclear ones, if they are the necessary minimum for self-defense." But the paper also says that Japan will never possess nuclear weapons, noting that the country maintains the decades-long three-point nonnuclear policy that bans Japan from possessing and producing nuclear weapons as well as from allowing such arms to be brought into its territory.

Principal of school with extortion trouble hangs himself

A 56-year-old elementary school principal in the city of Kitakyushu, Fukuoka Prefecture, was found hanged in a forest Sunday afternoon in an apparent suicide, police said.

During the past year at the school, eight fifth-graders had extorted some 100,000 yen from a female classmate, and the principal, Kenji Nagata, was criticized for having reported the incident to the city education board merely as "financial trouble." His family asked the police to search for him earlier Sunday.

12-year-old girl apparently jumps to her death in Osaka; leaves suicide note

A 12-year-old girl was found dead in the compound of a public housing building in Tondabayashi, Osaka Prefecture, on Sunday morning after apparently jumping to her death. Police said they believe the first-year student in junior high school jumped from her room on the eighth floor of the building.

She left a note, saying, "I will commit suicide. Goodbye," according to police. While she did not refer to bullying in the note, some of her classmates said she had been teased about her body shape when she was a sixth-grader in elementary school, police said. The school she was attending said it cannot yet confirm if she had faced bullying and that it will investigate her suicide through questioning students.

Imperial Household Agency protests against weekly magazine article

The Imperial Household Agency lodged a protest against the editorial department of a weekly magazine Monday for publishing an article that said Crown Prince Naruhito and Crown Princess Masako considered abdication. The agency said it demanded that Shukan Asahi publish an apology because the article was "groundless."

The article, featured in Shukan Asahi's Nov 17 edition, introduces "Princess Masako: Prisoner of the Chrysanthemum Throne," a book written by Australian journalist Ben Hills, and includes an interview with the writer. The article says Crown Prince Naruhito at one point considered leaving the imperial family due to concern over Crown Princess Masako's stress-related illness. The agency sent a written protest to Shukan Asahi, saying that it was irresponsible for the magazine to translate the book's contents and write a sensational article without verification and that the article has "profoundly damaged the honor" of the couple as well as the imperial household.

14-year-old boy found dead in Nara in apparent suicide

A 14-year-old boy was found dead in an apparent suicide at his home in Nara City on Monday evening, the local fire department said.

The boy, a third-year student at a local junior high school, was found hanged around 6 p.m. His heart and lungs already ceased functioning when rescue workers arrived, officials said. He was later pronounced dead at a hospital. The principal of the junior high school said he was "not aware of any evidence of bullying, and both the parents and the school have no clue."

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Japan eyes larger civilian presence in U.N. peacekeeping operations

The government plans to expand the currently limited participation of Japanese civilians in U.N. peacekeeping operations in the hope of enhancing the country's image as a contributor to the international community, government sources said Saturday.

Also planned is an increase in the number of election monitors to be dispatched in line with the country's PKO cooperation law, the sources said. Officials plan to seek nearly 200 million yen in appropriations from next fiscal year's budget to fund training courses for people taking part in peacekeeping, they said. Japanese officials are hoping the plans for expanded civilian presence — in addition to participation by Japanese Self-Defense Forces troops — would help prepare the country for a more active role in the commission, they added.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Editors protest state NHK order

News editors, publishers and media experts lodged protests against the government's action Friday to order Japan Broadcasting Corp, or NHK, to focus more on reporting North Korea's abductions of Japanese nationals in its international radio service, saying the move threatens media freedom.

The Japan Newspaper Publishers and Editors Association, an independent organization of Japan's mass media including NHK, said in a statement, "Although it was based on the Broadcast Law, it cannot be overlooked from the perspective of the freedom of reporting."

Ceremony held for Princess Aiko's well-being

A traditional ceremony to wish good health and well-being for Princess Aiko was held Saturday, with the 4-year-old daughter of Crown Prince Naruhito and Crown Princess Masako dressed in traditional attire. After the "Chakko-no-Gi" ceremony at the Togu Palace in the morning, Princess Aiko visited Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko, wearing a "mo," a kind of long skirt her grandfather gave her at the time of her birth.

Chakko-no-Gi is a ceremony passed down in the imperial family from Japan's Heian period (794-1185) to celebrate the passage from infancy to childhood, according to the Imperial Household Agency.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Gov't to give NHK unprecedented order to focus on abductions

An advisory panel for the telecom minister on Wednesday endorsed his proposal to issue an unprecedented and controversial order for Japan's public broadcaster NHK to focus on the issue of North Korea's abductions of Japanese nationals in its international shortwave radio broadcasts, panel members said.

Internal Affairs and Communications Minister Yoshihide Suga is expected to issue the order within this week at the earliest amid criticism by media and experts that the move represents state interference in media freedom.

Police to boost patrols near schools over suicide-threatening letter

Three police stations in Tokyo's Toshima Ward have decided to boost patrols near schools, as a letter the education minister received Monday from a student threatening to commit suicide over bullying bears signs that it was sent from the ward, officials said Friday.

The Ikebukuro, Mejiro and Sugamo police stations will carry out patrols near elementary, junior high and high schools in their jurisdictions on Saturday, the day on which the sender of the letter threatened to commit suicide inside a school because of bullying. Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Minister Bummei Ibuki got the letter which appears to have been written by a boy in elementary or junior high school. The envelope had a postmark indicating Toshima Ward.

Japan comes back to top 10 in U.N. standard of living survey

Japan ranked seventh in the 2006 standard of living survey conducted by the U.N. Development Program, recovering from 11th last year when it had fallen out of the top 10 for the first time since the survey began, according to the survey released Thursday. Japan's highest mark was set in the 1999 survey, in which it came to fourth.

The survey, began in 1990, studied 177 countries and regions, measuring average life expectancy, education, literacy, the gross domestic product per capita and other factors, to calculate the Human Development Index. Norway topped the list for the sixth consecutive year. Iceland came second, followed by Australia, Ireland, Sweden, Canada, Japan, the United States, Switzerland and the Netherlands.

Policeman wanted for robbing post office

nvestigators are searching for a policeman wanted on suspicion of robbing a post office in Gunma Prefecture on Wednesday and making away with about 135,000 yen in cash. Police on Thursday obtained an arrest warrant for Takao Osari, 44, an officer of the Saitama prefectural police force, and placed him on a wanted list.

Osari allegedly demanded money while threatening a female clerk with a knife at the Serata post office in the city of Ota, Gunma Prefecture, at around 4:40 p.m. Wednesday, police said. Osari, a resident of Isesaki, was hired as a policeman by the Saitama prefectural police in 1981. He has been a patrolman at the Kazo Police Station in Kazo, Saitama Prefecture, since March 2002, police said.

Opposition demands Abe dismiss Aso over 'nuclear Japan' remarks

Four opposition parties jointly demanded Thursday that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe dismiss Foreign Minister Taro Aso for his repeated calls for a debate regarding the possibility of Japan going nuclear, saying his remarks have fueled international doubts about the country's commitment to its nonnuclear policy.

"Foreign Minister Aso's remarks have transgressed the Cabinet's basic stance in light of the fact that Prime Minister Abe has expressed his determination to stick to the three-point nonnuclear principle," the Democratic Party of Japan and three smaller opposition parties said in a joint statement. But Abe refuted the criticism and said Aso will not be fired. "We have a consensus regarding upholding the three nonnuclear principles, so I see no problem at all," Abe told reporters Thursday evening.

17-year-old girl jumps to death from junior high school building

A 17-year-old girl who graduated from a junior high school in Kitakyushu, Fukuoka Prefecture, died at the school on Thursday in an apparent suicide by jumping from a building, police and local officials said.

The girl was found lying on the schoolyard of the municipal junior high school in Kokurakita Ward at around 9:15 p.m. Police believe she apparently jumped to her death from a window on the building's fourth floor. No suicide note was found. Police said she arrived at the school at around 8 p.m. by taxi.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Part-timers forced to do unpaid overtime work

One-third of female, unmarried part-timers work overtime without compensation, a survey by a labor union federation showed Monday. The average amount of unpaid overtime worked by such employees came to some 10 hours a month, according to the Japanese Federation of Textile, Chemical, Food, Commercial, Service and General Workers' Unions.

The survey outcome indicates part-timers, most of whom work under the hourly wage system, engage in unpaid overtime as regular employees do, the federation officials said. The survey was conducted between February and April this year, and some 3,600 female part-time workers responded. Of the respondents, some 80% are in distribution and services industries.

Japan welcomes death sentence on Saddam

Japan on Monday welcomed a death sentence on former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, with Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuhisa Shiozaki saying, "We appreciate the verdict was handed down under the new Iraqi laws. We will keep paying close attention to the development of the trial."

The government spokesman also said, "While we realize that security in Iraq is still in a severe state, we will maintain commitment to the Iraqi issues in cooperation with the international society."

Resource center on Japan's wartime aggression opens in Saitama

A resource center focusing on Japan's wartime aggression in China and other Asian countries has opened in Saitama Prefecture, exhibiting documents in which some 300 Japanese veterans confess to wartime crimes.

Most of the confessions, to crimes such as the murder of civilians and rape, were made as part of the activities of a peace group called Chukiren, formed in 1957 by about 1,100 repatriated Japanese who had been imprisoned in China after the end of World War II as war criminals.

"This center will be the most powerful weapon to show the truth of the war," Fumiko Niki, 80, head of the Chukiren peace memorial museum in the city of Kawagoe and longtime supporter of the group, said at its recent opening ceremony.

Chukiren, a Japanese abbreviation for a phrase meaning network of repatriates from China, was dissolved in 2002 because of the ageing of its members. But its activities were taken over by a new group headed by Niki, which launched the center. The younger generation, of people in their 20s and 30s, has joined her.

The center, located in a 180-square-meter space converted from a warehouse, houses about 23,000 books along with video footage and photos related to war, peace and other issues, according to center officials.

The books were mainly donated from Chukiren members and the late Masami Yamazumi, a former president of Tokyo Metropolitan University and critic of Japan's education system.

The launch of the center comes at a time when Chukiren members are increasingly concerned over Japan's current situation, such as moves to revise the pacifist Constitution and the basic postwar education law with the aim of instilling patriotism in the classroom.

"Mainly 1,000 Chukiren members were talking in public about the reality of the aggression. And we have to admit that raising the Japanese people's awareness as victimizers even more than 60 years after the war has not been enough," Tetsuro Takahashi, 85, former Chukiren secretary general, said.

Chukiren's unique activity of "testifying to the acts of aggression" can be traced back to the members' experience of being detained in China's Fushun and Taiyuan prisons, the former from 1950.

Surprisingly treated with leniency by Chinese prison staff, such as being provided with medical treatment and Japanese meals, about 1,100 former Japanese Imperial Army soldiers and officers of Japan's puppet regime in Manchuria, northern China, underwent a reeducation process, confessing to their "sinful acts" and reflecting on them.

Only 45 were indicted and convicted in 1956 at military tribunals held in China, none of whom was sentenced to death. All, including those convicted, were able to return to Japan by 1964.

More than 5,000 pages of copies of handwritten testimonies by the convicted prisoners are also presented at the newly opened center, provided through the Chinese Embassy in Japan, Niki said.

Tsuyoshi Ebato, a former soldier held in Fushun, said the process of confession he underwent in the prison was "a miracle" which made him realize the graveness of his crime. He recalled how he had ordered new recruits to bayonet captured Chinese tied to stakes as part of training, including a boy who clutched Ebato's knees and begged for life.

Ebato, 93, has talked about his experiences on about 10 occasions this year at the invitation of college students, civic groups and teachers' unions. This is double the number of such opportunities he had the previous year. They "probably thought I don't have much time left," he said.

As the number of Chukiren members still alive, believed to be about 100, is rapidly decreasing, the group headed by Niki has stepped up efforts to find war veterans who will cooperate in talking about their experiences to preserve the memories of war.

Hisao Kubotera, 86, from Hadano, Kanagawa Prefecture, was one of the Chukiren members who responded to the group's call and gave a lecture in October.

Health problems, such as an ulcer, had made him reluctant to go out to speak until several years ago, but recent moves by the government which he fears are leading Japan to make the same mistakes as it did in the prewar days have spurred him to talk about his experiences in detail.

"I thought a terrible thing is going to happen when I saw the government moving toward revising the Constitution and eyeing passing an amendment to the Fundamental Law of Education in the ongoing Diet session," Kubotera said.

"I believe these moves will be a large obstacle in facing Asian countries which suffered greatly in the war," he added.

Kubotera was born the first of 10 children in a farming family and joined the war in China in 1942. He said he is still haunted by the memory of shooting a boy, around 14 or 15, who was hiding with his mother in a hollow area, at the order of his squad leader in Shandong Province.

"I pulled the trigger immediately, like a machine...We were taught that the superior's order was the same as that of the emperor. I didn't even hesitate." he said. "But I felt as if I was killing my little brother. My heart was thumping, and I was surprised that I even had to do such a thing in war."

"Other soldiers kind of sneered at me and said, 'Oh, my, Kubotera killed a child!' But they also killed others, even though it may not have been a child," he said.

As the days passed, the memories of killing the boy faded, until he was imprisoned in Fushun. Kubotera said it still took a few years until he was able to confess the incident in prison.

"All people who went to the war, directly or indirectly, took part in a massacre...Japanese people talk about the sufferings of atomic bomb attacks and air raids, but we need to understand them from the context of Japan's war of aggression," he added.

Welcoming the opening of the new center, Kubotera expressed his willingness to keep on relating his experiences of war.

"In my local area, there are few people willing to listen to what I say, labeling me a Communist. I'm also sad that many who have been to the war remain silent," he said. "But I should keep on talking...I think this will be our long, long fight to preserve peace."

Ehime school principal kills himself amid curriculum chaos

The 60-year-old principal of a high school in Niihama, Ehime Prefecture, was found hanged at his home in the city Monday, leaving a note apparently asking the prefectural education board for instructions over a curriculum problem, authorities said.

The incident is the second known case of suicide of a schoolmaster over a widespread scandal about high schools found providing insufficient education curricula following one by the 58-year-old head of a high school in Ibaraki Prefecture who was found hanged Oct 30. Recently, numerous schools have been found to have evaded curriculum requirements to focus on better preparing students for more specific university entrance exams.

Two girls jump to death from school building in Saitama

Two female students at Nihon Pharmaceutical University in Ina, Saitama Prefecture, were found dead Monday morning after apparently jumping from a school building, police said. The two were identified as a 20-year-old and a 19-year-old, both medical pharmacy majors.

A 12th-floor window in the college's research lab building had been removed and a suicide note signed by the two students was found nearby, police said.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Nara killer's letter of apology rejected by victim's parents

Kaoru Kobayashi, a former newspaper delivery man sentenced to death for kidnapping and killing a 7-year-old girl, has written a letter of apology but the girl's parents refused to accept it, his lawyer said Saturday. "If there really is what is called the world of spirits and I can meet your daughter, I would like to offer an apology from the bottom of my heart," Kobayashi, 37, wrote, according to the lawyer.

The Nara District Court sentenced him to death in September for kidnapping and killing the girl in November 2004. According to the ruling, he took her to his apartment in Nara Prefecture, and killed her after molesting her. He then mutilated her body and dumped it in a gutter on a farm road. Kobayashi tried to send the letter to the parents through a police division dealing with crime victims. But the parents refused to accept it, said the lawyer.

N Korea says Japan should not take part in 6-way talks as it is just 'a state of U.S.'

North Korea said Saturday that Japan should not participate in upcoming six-way talks on the North's nuclear program, while criticizing Japanese leaders for their refusal to accept Pyongyang as a nuclear power.

"It would be much better for Japan to refrain from participating in the six-party talks and less attendants would be not bad for making the talks fruitful," North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency reported, quoting a spokesman for the North Korean Foreign Ministry. "It is the view of the DPRK that since the U.S. attends the six-party talks, there is no need for Japan to participate in them as a local delegate because it is no more than a state of the U.S. and it is enough for Tokyo just to be informed of the results of the talks by Washington."

Friday, November 03, 2006

Gov't to require firms to report employment of foreign workers

The government plans to require all companies in Japan to report details about citizens of foreign countries when employing or dismissing them to prevent an increase in their illegal employment, officials said Thursday. The details will include the names, nationalities, and visa statuses and durations.

Employers who fail to make such reports or files false reports may be fined up to 300,000 yen, the officials said.

The Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare intends to draft an employment promotion law amendment to this effect for submission to parliament during the ordinary session in the first half of next year, they said.

Currently all companies with 50 or more employees voluntarily submit annual reports on their employment of foreign workers to public employment security offices.

Of some 155,000 companies asked to present such reports in the year to March 2006, about 94,000 firms submitted them, specifying numbers of employed foreign workers and their breakdown by sex, the officials said.

They said the planned reports would cover personal employment information, contributing to preventing the illegal employment or disappearance of people from other countries, they said.

Foreign nationals subject to such employment reporting requirements will exclude permanent residents of Korean ethnicity.

Gucci opens flagship shop in Ginza

Italian luxury brand Gucci opened a flagship store in Tokyo's fashionable Ginza district on Friday, devoting the entire eight-story, glass-covered building to handbags, clothing, shoes and other high-end goods. About 120 people queued in front of the building, waiting for its 11 a.m. opening. Japanese fashion model Ai Tominaga and others attended the opening ceremony.

It is Gucci's first building entirely devoted to its goods in the world. Sales in Japan account for more than 20% of Gucci's overall sales. The new building brought the number of Gucci stores in Japan to 54.

4,067 receive gov't awards on Culture Day

The government issued decorations on Friday to 4,028 Japanese and 39 foreign nationals, including financial leaders, lawmakers, academics and artists, for their contributions to the nation and public. Gaishi Hiraiwa, 92, the former head of the Japan Business Federation, or Nippon Keidanren, was given the Grand Cordon of the Order of the Paulownia Flowers, the highest honor in this fall's commemoration.

Fashion designer Jun Ashida, 76, Emmy Award-winning makeup artist Kaori Nara Turner, 72, singer Yuriko Futaba, 75, cartoonist Sampei Sato, 77, and actor Kunie Tanaka, 73, were also among those honored. The foreign recipients of the order include Carol Bellamy, 64, former executive director of the U.N. Children's Fund, and Enrique Iglesias, 76, a former president of the Inter-American Development Bank. Two former Australian prime ministers, Gough Whitlam, 90, and Malcolm Fraser, 76, were also chosen for the same decoration this year when Japan and Australia celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Basic Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation signed in 1976.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Gov't to certify food quality at Japanese restaurants abroad

The agriculture ministry said Thursday it will introduce in fiscal 2007 a system to certify the quality of food served at Japanese restaurants abroad.

The initiative is designed to promote "authentic Japanese food culture" abroad as many restaurants in foreign countries claiming to serve Japanese food are actually offering dishes quite different from traditional Japanese cuisine, the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries said.

Teen in Kagawa arrested for kicking to death newspaper delivery man

TAKAMATSU — Police in Kagawa Prefecture arrested an 18-year-old man in Kagawa Prefecture on Friday on suspicion of killing a newspaper delivery man Wednesday. The teenager, a restaurant worker in the city of Sakaide, admitted kicking and stomping the face of Shozo Akiyama, 64, they said.

According to police, the teenager killed Akiyama around 5 a.m. Wednesday in a building in the city of Marugame and took 42,000 yen from him. He said he kicked the newspaper delivery man because he was upset that Akiyama did not apologize to him after his bicycle bumped the teenager as they passed each other.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Deliberation on education law revisions resumes with emphasis on patriotism

A lower house committee resumed deliberations Monday on a government-sponsored bill to revise Japan's basic postwar education law, which features instilling patriotism in the classroom. The House of Representatives Special Committee on Basic Law on Education will also take up a counterproposal submitted by the main opposition Democratic Party of Japan.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told the committee, "I hope the government proposal will gain approval so we can raise citizens with vision and create a graceful nation."

Survivors, kin to sue state over 1945 U.S. air raid on Tokyo

More than 100 survivors and victims' relatives plan to file a lawsuit next year demanding the Japanese government compensate them and apologize over a major U.S. air raid on Tokyo in 1945, some of the would-be plaintiffs said Sunday. An estimated 100,000 people were killed when U.S. B-29s bombed vast areas of the capital in a predawn raid on March 10, 1945, about five months before Japan surrendered in World War II.

The would-be plaintiffs plan to argue that the Japanese government has offered war compensation merely to veterans and their relatives in violation of the principle of equality guaranteed under the postwar Constitution. They will also condemn a delayed decision by the Japanese government to end the war, saying it led to the destruction caused by the raids.

Abe tells MSDF fleet Japan will improve its security preparedness

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Sunday his government will try to better prepare Japan to deal with security threats in the wake of North Korea's recent nuclear test while attending a Maritime Self-Defense Force fleet review in Sagami Bay off Kanagawa Prefecture.

"In light of drastic changes in circumstances, it has become a pressing task to further reinforce our crisis management," Abe said aboard the 5,200-ton destroyer Kurama in an address, referring to efforts being made by the government that include upgrading the Defense Agency into a ministry. Calling the North's July 5 missile launches and Oct 9 nuclear test "grave and serious threats" to Japan, Abe said, "We will do our utmost to ensure the safety of the nation and the people in close coordination with the United States and other countries concerned."

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Abductees' relatives for New York to seek U.N. cooperation

Family members of Japanese citizens abducted by North Korea left for New York on Sunday for a one-week trip to seek cooperation from the United Nations on the rescue of abduction victims. "International society does not necessarily unite against North Korea," Shigeo Iizuka, whose younger sister Yaeko Taguchi was taken to North Korea in 1978 when she was 22, said at a news conference before leaving for New York.

"Taking this as a good opportunity to resolve the abduction issue, we will ask each country to act jointly," said the 68-year-old Iizuka, deputy representative of a group set up by the families of Japanese victims of abduction by North Korea. Also traveling with Iizuka is Teruaki Masumoto, 51, whose sister Rumiko was abducted by North Korea. He heads the secretariat of the family group.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Internet hotline gets 14,400 reports of potentially illegal content

The Internet Hotline Center, working in tandem with the National Police Agency, received around 14,400 reports from the public about child pornography and other potentially illegal and harmful content in the first four months after the center's launch June 1, a center official said Saturday.

The center said content included pornographic images, ads for sales of drugs, trading of guns, solicitation of murder contracts and encouragement of suicides. The center alerted the National Police Agency and requested deletions by Internet service providers or site operators over 438 reports.

U.S. to return part of airspace near Haneda

The United States agreed Friday to return to Japan around 40% of the airspace adjacent to Haneda airport that has been under the control of the U.S. Air Force's Yokota base in suburban Tokyo, Japanese government officials said Friday.

The agreement, reached at the civil aviation subcommittee of the Japan-U.S. Joint Committee, could pave the way for west-bound departure flights from Haneda airport to climb more moderately and shorten flight times. It would also allow Japan's civil aviation authorities to establish double-track departure flight routes and increase the number of flights from Haneda airport by 130 departures a day, the officials said.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Car rams into children on Utsunomiya street, injuring 2; driver jumps out and tries to stab passerby

A car rammed into a group of primary-school children on their way to school Friday morning on a street in Utsunomiya, Tochigi Prefecture, injuring two of them, police said. The driver, armed with a large knife, got out of the car and chased a female passerby in an apparent attempt to stab her but was subsequently restrained by several men passing by. One of the men was hit in the head by the knife and suffered injuries, according to police.

The man was arrested on suspicion of attempted murder and violating the law controlling the possession of swords and firearms. He was identified as Nanao Fujita, a 64-year-old resident in the city.

Ppolice said they also found a loaded pistol they believe belongs to the man.

Fujita was quoted as telling the police, "My daughter who was living with me until earlier this month was being bullied." The girl had been going to the same school as the students hit by the car until moving to another school in the middle of this month, according to the school.

Police said they are looking into the possibility the man deliberately targeted the children, who live in the same area. The Utsunomiyaminami police said the man visited them seven times from 2003 through 2005 to complain that he was not on good terms with his neighbors.

The incident took place just after 7:30 a.m. after the man left home in his car. An 8-year-old boy had his left leg broken, while a 9-year-old girl sustained minor injuries, the police said.

After ramming into the children, the car went backwards and forwards several times, hitting a home and other places before stopping.

170 high schools offer insufficient curriculum

The number of high schools that have not provided students with all compulsory subjects has reached about 170 in 29 prefectures, affecting thousands of students, a Kyodo News poll showed Thursday. Mostly elite high schools with many graduates going to high-ranking universities, the schools have reportedly claimed they omitted some items deemed unnecessary to focus on subjects required for college entrance examinations.

While the education ministry's curriculum guideline requires that high school students take world history plus either a Japanese history or a geography course, only one of the three subjects is necessary to sit for the national university entrance examination, which most public universities use as a preliminary test.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Knife-wielding man stabs 3 policemen in Tokyo

A knife-wielding man stabbed three policemen in Tokyo's Nerima Ward shortly after noon Thursday before being subdued, police said.

Police said one of the policemen was stabbed in the neck and listed in serious condition. The two other policemen suffered cuts to the abdomen and face. The man was seized on the scene, police said, adding he is about 30 years old.

'Kono Statement' on comfort women should be reviewed: Shimomura

Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Hakubun Shimomura said Wednesday it is necessary to review the relevance of history-related facts that led the government to issue a statement in 1993 to apologize for the sufferings of the "comfort women." In the 1993 statement, then Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono officially acknowledged that the Imperial Japanese Army forced Asian women into sexual servitude for its soldiers.

Shimomura said in a speech in Tokyo the Kono statement should be reconsidered "by studying more about the facts after collecting objective and scientific knowledge." While Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said he accepts the statement, the remark by Shimomura, a political follower who he appointed to the government post, is likely to draw fire from the opposition camp.

Man arrested for kidnapping 12-year-old girl

A Tokyo man was arrested Wednesday on suspicion of kidnapping a 12-year-old girl from Nagano Prefecture when he appeared with her at a police station earlier that day after she had been reported missing on Saturday.

Hironori Aoki, 31, who came to know the girl via a website, is suspected of luring her into his car in front of JR Komoro station, Nagano Prefecture, at around 10 a.m. Saturday by proposing they go for a drive, and then keeping her with him until early Wednesday.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Tokaido bullet train services halted after fatal accident in Shizuoka

NAGOYA — All bullet train services on Japan Railway's Tokaido Line were suspended between Tokyo and Shin-Osaka stations Wednesday morning after a train hit and killed a person as it passed Shizuoka Station, JR and police said.

Shizuoka police said the Nozomi No. 61, bound for Hiroshima from Tokyo, hit a man at around 8:30 a.m. Police said they have unconfirmed information that he fell from the platform seconds before the train approached. The Nozomi, the fastest train in the JR network, boasts a top speed of 300 kilometers per hour and links Tokyo and Osaka in about 2 1/2 hours.

Education ministry establishes task force to tackle bullying

The education ministry on Tuesday set up a task force tackling bullying at schools in the wake of children's suicides stirred by bullying, its officials said.

At its first meeting, Yasuko Ikenobo, senior vice minister of education, culture, sports, science and technology who heads the task force, said, "I hope we could face the bullying issue by examining our past measures against it." The task force is expected to map out concrete measures to develop cooperative systems among local communities, schools and administrative bodies, according to the officials.

China warns Japan not to hurt protestors heading for disputed isles

China on Tuesday warned Japan not to take any action that would result in injuries of activists from Hong Kong who have begun a voyage toward a group of Japan-held islets also claimed by China.

China hopes Japan would "deal with the issue in an appropriate and responsible manner and not take any action that would result in injuries," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao told a regular press briefing. The comments came after Japan's top government spokesman Yasuhisa Shiozaki said Monday that Japan will "definitely not allow" the activist protest group to land on the islands in the East China Sea, known as Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China.

Japan cited as child porn host in British report

Around 5% of the child pornography websites discovered by a British Internet watchdog over a 10-year period were hosted in Japan, investigators said Tuesday. The Internet Watch Foundation said it had found more than 31,000 websites worldwide containing illegal images of child abuse. Around 51% were hosted in the United States and 20% in Russia.

Sarah Robertson, IWF press officer, said that several Japanese networks were found to be unwittingly hosting noncommercial websites containing child porn. "The main problem is people sharing and swapping images via message boards. They are not necessarily Japanese children in the pictures, or Japanese people submitting the material," she said.

Gov't to order NHK radio to feature more on abductions

The government will ask a state panel on radio broadcasting to discuss next month whether to order Japan Broadcasting Corp (NHK) to feature North Korea's abductions of Japanese nationals in its overseas shortwave radio broadcasts. The move, announced by Internal Affairs and Communications Minister Yoshihide Suga on Tuesday, raises concerns even among ruling bloc lawmakers that such an order would violate the freedom of press and is likely to ignite further heated debate.

Article 33 of the Broadcast Law stipulates that the minister may order NHK to conduct international broadcasting by designating broadcast matters, but critics say ordering the broadcast of specific subjects, such as the abductions, could infringe upon NHK's editorial rights. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, known for his harsh stance on North Korea and who recently instructed his Cabinet members to take measures to resolve the abduction issue, defended the plan by saying, "We have to take appropriate action as we think about what can be done for the sake of the victims who are waiting in North Korea for us to rescue them."

"Paris syndrome" leaves Japanese tourists in shock

Around a dozen Japanese tourists a year need psychological treatment after visiting Paris as the reality of unfriendly locals and scruffy streets clashes with their expectations, a newspaper reported Sunday.
"A third of patients get better immediately, a third suffer relapses and the rest have psychoses," Yousef Mahmoudia, a psychologist at the Hotel-Dieu hospital, next to Notre Dame cathedral, told the newspaper Journal du Dimanche.

Already this year, Japan's embassy in Paris has had to repatriate at least four visitors -- including two women who believed their hotel room was being bugged and there was a plot against them.

Previous cases include a man convinced he was the French "Sun King," Louis XIV, and a woman who believed she was being attacked with microwaves, the paper cited Japanese embassy official Yoshikatsu Aoyagi as saying.

"Fragile travelers can lose their bearings. When the idea they have of the country meets the reality of what they discover it can provoke a crisis," psychologist Herve Benhamou told the paper.

The phenomenon, which the newspaper dubbed "Paris syndrome," was first detailed in the psychiatric journal Nervure in 2004.

Bernard Delage of Jeunes Japon, an association who helps Japanese families settle in France, said: "In Japanese shops, the customer is king, whereas here assistants hardly look at them...People using public transport all look stern, and handbag snatchers increase the ill feeling."

A Japanese woman, Aimi, told the paper: "For us, Paris is a dream city. All the French are beautiful and elegant...And then, when they arrive, the Japanese find the French character is the complete opposite of their own."

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Panel of intellectuals to make Japan 'Asian Gateway'

The government is planning to set up a panel of intellectuals possibly in November to come up with proposals for translating Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's "Asian Gateway Vision" into action, government officials said Monday. The vision calls for making Japan a conduit between Asia and the rest of the world in terms of the flow of people, goods, money, culture, and information.

The Asia Gateway Vision envisages disseminating information on Japan's culture and trends to the world. Implementation of the vision has been described as a key policy of the Abe administration. Much of the panel's deliberations are expected to revolve around measures to expedite the dissemination of information on Japanese animation, movies, music and fashion, they said.

Hokkaido panel annuls reprimand of teacher over 'Kimigayo' tape

SAPPORO — The Personnel Committee of the Hokkaido prefectural government has annulled a disciplinary action against a 49-year-old junior high school teacher who took away a recording tape of the "Kimigayo" national anthem during the graduation ceremony at his school in the town of Kucchan in 2001, prefectural officials said Monday.

The committee has determined the teacher removed the tape from a tape player as the school principal decided to play it without consent from other teachers and that the prefectural board of education "transgressed its discretion" by reprimanding him for the action. The committee has also said the principal erred in exercising the authority and that playing the Kimigayo tape without hearing what students had to say was against the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child, the officials said.

Abe says N Korea should mind its own business

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Monday that North Korea should mind its own business rather than criticizing his attitude over whether to visit the war-related Yasukuni Shrine.

"Rather than criticizing others, North Korea itself should address international concerns or otherwise it will gradually be put into a corner. They will have to face that reality," he told reporters at his office in Tokyo.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Land minister annoyed by Aso's remark on nuke possession

Land, Infrastructure and Transport Minister Tetsuzo Fuyushiba on Friday said he was bothered by Foreign Minister Taro Aso's remark that discussion on possible nuclear arms possession by Japan should not be excluded.

"Nuclear weapons, or satanic weapons, should not be used again," Fuyushiba said at a press conference after a Cabinet meeting. "I have faith in the three antinuclear principles of not possessing nuclear arms, not making them and not allowing their entry into Japan."

Over 70% of hospitals fail to perform autopsy in infant death cases

The health ministry said Monday in a survey that 74% of hospitals in Japan have ignored a ministry guideline requiring them to perform an autopsy on babies when concluding their deaths were caused by sudden infant death syndrome, or SIDS. The guideline was compiled and disclosed by the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry in April 2005 to prevent doctors from overlooking abuse or suffocation in babies' sudden deaths.

The guideline stipulates that if an autopsy is not performed, the cause of death must be filed as "unknown." But a majority of the hospitals surveyed have continued to diagnose deaths as caused by SIDS without autopsies. Some parents who lost their children at nursery schools and hospitals argue that the syndrome has been used to hide inadequate nursing or care provided at the facilities.

Abe orders security adviser Koike to work on Iran nuclear issue

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has ordered Yuriko Koike, the premier's special adviser on national security, to be in charge of the issue of Iran's nuclear development, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuhisa Shiozaki said Friday.

Abe instructed Koike "to give her knowledge on the Iran issue" since she "is well versed in Middle Eastern affairs," Shiozaki said at a morning news conference. Koike is a graduate of Cairo University. Government sources earlier said that preparations are under way to send Koike to the United States and Iran soon. Shiozaki, however, said, "Nothing concrete has been decided" about that.

Couple arrested over death of 3-year-old boy in Kyoto

The father of a 3-year-old boy and a woman living with them in Nagaokakyo, Kyoto Prefecture, were arrested Monday over the death of the boy from suspected abuse, police said.

Takamasa Sasaki, 28, who works in the trucking business, and Tomoko Nishimura, 39, allegedly caused the death of Sasaki's son Takumu through neglect. The two have admitted to the allegations, investigation sources said.

Takumu was rushed to hospital on Sunday with multiple bruises on his face but died later. Police said the boy weighed only 7 kilograms, roughly half the average, and that an autopsy showed he starved to death.

During questioning on Sunday before her arrest, Nishimura admitted to having hit the boy since mid-September, police said. They quoted her as saying, "I did it to discipline him because he was still in diapers despite being 3 years old."

She also said the boy had hardly been fed since late September and that his father knew of it, according to police.

The father was aware of the abuse, police said.

In March, a neighbor found the boy's 6-year-old sister roaming outside their home after midnight, the police said, adding that they found bruises on her body and reported the case to a public juvenile counseling office.

The boy, his sister and his father had been living with the woman for about two and a half years, the police said.

protest group formed to assert Chinese sovereignty over a group of Japan-held islets

A protest group formed to assert Chinese sovereignty over a group of Japan-held islets in the East China Sea set out Sunday afternoon from Hong Kong, bound for the disputed territory.
David Ko, chairman of the Action Committee for Defending the Diaoyu Islands, which are known as the Senkaku Islands in Japan, said the 30-meter fishing vessel Baodiao 2, carrying 26 activists, departed at 3:10 p.m. from Tsim Sha Tsui pier in Kowloon, Hong Kong and was expected to arrive in the vicinity of the islets early Wednesday.

The group plans to try to land activists on the islets to plant a five-star Chinese flag and spread a banner bearing the signatures of people who want to assert Chinese sovereignty over them.

The group's Taiwan counterpart plans to send at least one vessel to meet up with the Hong Kong vessel near the islets.

Located 170 km northeast of Taipei and 410 km west of Okinawa Island, the islets have been at the center of a sovereignty dispute involving China, Taiwan and Japan.

This year's trip marks the 10th anniversary of the death of Hong Kong activist David Chan, who drowned after he jumped into the sea in an attempt to land on the islets in September 1996.

On Oct. 7, 1996, Hong Kong resident Chan Yu-nam made it to one of the islets with two Taiwanese, planting Chinese and Taiwan flags.

Five members of a protest group departed Taiwan on a boat in August and sailed close to the disputed isles, only to be intercepted and turned away by Japan Coast Guard vessels.

The Hong Kong group had planned to send its vessel Aug. 12, but the journey was deferred because the vessel it planned to use was stuck in China for maintenance.

The committee says it raised 1.8 million Hong Kong dollars last year and bought two 30-meter vessels for HK$ 1.3 million.

from: Japantimes

Sunday, October 22, 2006

24-year-old man arrested for abandoning woman's body in Nagano

Police said Sunday they have arrested a 24-year-old man on suspicion of abandoning the corpse of a 42-year-old woman in idle farmland in Nagano Prefecture. Daisuke Kaneko, a dispatch worker from Ueda in the prefecture, had been on a wanted list an dturned himself in Saturday night.

The woman, Harumi Yamabe, also from Ueda, was found dead last Sunday on the farmland, after having sought police help the previous day as her daughter was having trouble with a male friend. She had several stab wounds in her chest and other parts of her body and the cause of her death was determined to be loss of blood.

3-year-old boy dies from suspected abuse in Kyoto

A 3-year-old boy in Nagaokakyo, Kyoto Prefecture, was taken to a hospital on Sunday with multiple bruises on his face but later confirmed dead, local police said.

Police said the boy, identified as Takumu Sasaki, weighed only seven kilograms, roughly half the average. A 39-year-old woman who lives with him in a home in the city had called for an ambulance at around 11 a.m., saying, "The child looks limp and doesn't move."

Investigators are questioning the woman and the boy's father, a 28-year-old man who works in the trucking business, on suspicion of inflicting bodily injuries resulting in death and negligence as guardians resulting in death.

During questioning, the woman admitted to having hit the boy since mid-September, the police said, quoting her as saying, "I did it to discipline him because he was still on diapers in spite of being 3 years old."

She also said the boy had hardly been fed since late September and his father knew about it, according to police.

In March, a neighbor found the boy's 6-year-old sister roaming outside their home after midnight, the police said, adding that they found bruises on her body then and reported the case to a public juvenile counseling office.

The boy, his sister and father have lived with the woman for about two and a half years, they said.

Japan eyes new U.N. resolution if North Korea conducts another nuke test

The Japanese government is eying introducing another resolution to the U.N. Security Council that features a complete ban on imports of North Korean products if Pyongyang detonates another nuclear device or launches missiles, government sources said Saturday.

Japan would seek a resolution that would not limit the range of sanctions based on the U.N. Charter's Chapter 7 that stipulates "action with respect to threats to peace, breaches of the peace and acts of aggression," the sources said.

Towns, villages to get missile, disaster alert devices

The Fire and Disaster Management Agency is planning to provide every city, town and village in Japan with devices to receive a dedicated signal transmitted via a satellite that warns of a ballistic missile attack by another country as well as natural calamities such as earthquakes and tsunami, agency sources said Saturday.

The agency is planning to start running the J-ALERT nationwide instantaneous warning system next fiscal year, which begins April 1, after local governments ready themselves to receive signals amid growing concern over North Korea's missile launches and nuclear test. The agency is planning to provide the device — a satellite modem that can receive signals transmitted by the agency — to around 1,400 cities, towns and villages equipped with wireless communications systems for disaster preparedness over two years from next fiscal year, the sources said.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Fire breaks out in compound of U.S. Navy ammunition depot in Nagasaki

A fire broke out at about 4 p.m. Saturday within the premises of the U.S. Navy's Maehata ammunition depot in Sasebo, Nagasaki Prefecture, a local Japanese fire department and police said. A woodworking facility facing Sasebo port is burning but the location is far from where ammunition is stored, the police said.

The U.S. military is fighting the fire and no request for help has been made to the Sasebo fire department or Sasebo police department, they said. The local fire department, however, dispatched fire engines.

No. of abortions less than 300,000 in 2005

The number of abortions across Japan was 289,127 in fiscal 2005, falling below the 300,000 mark for the first time since the data were first compiled in 1955 and thus hitting the fewest on record, the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry said Friday.

The ministry in a report attributed the decline to a fall in the number of women of childbearing age, economic recovery that has allowed women to give birth to babies easier and local governments' efforts to help educate teenagers on preventing unwanted pregnancy.

Junior high school students apologize to father for bullying his deceased son

Male students of a junior high school in Chikuzen, Fukuoka Prefecture, have apologized to the father of a 13-year-old boy who committed suicide last week over being bullied, the father said early Saturday. The second-year student left notes, in which he said, "I cannot live anymore because of the bullying."

The father quoted one of the students who visited him as saying, "I may have said something wrong to him. I want to apologize." Another student said, "Me, too. I may have done something wrong," according to the 40-year-old father. "Those students appear to have been troubled in their minds and visited me," the father said. "I don't know how to explain my feelings about them."

North Korea raps U.S., Japan in public rally marking nuke test

North Korea criticized the United States and Japan over a U.N. Security Council resolution adopted against the country's nuclear test, holding a massive rally to celebrate the Oct 9 experiment, North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency reported.

"The nuclear test was a great deed as it greatly contributed to defending peace and stability not only on the Korean Peninsula but in the rest of Northeast Asia," Choe Thae Bok, secretary of the Central Committee of the ruling Workers' Party of Korea, was quoted as saying. Kim Jong Gak, vice minister of the People's Armed Forces, meanwhile, said: "The Japanese militarists and other forces favoring the U.S. imperialists' moves should stop running amok, well aware that they will never escape a stern punishment by the revolutionary armed forces of the DPRK should they go reckless under the signboard of the U.N. Security Council 'resolution."'

Friday, October 20, 2006

Japan to continue negotiations with Russia

Foreign Minister Taro Aso sent a message Thursday to his Russian counterpart saying Japan will continue "serious" negotiations with Russia over the longstanding bilateral territorial dispute, Senior Vice Foreign Minister Katsuhito Asano said.

The message was conveyed to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in commemoration of the 50th anniversary Thursday of the signing of the Japan-Soviet Joint Declaration, Asano told a press conference.

Empress celebrates 72nd birthday

Empress Michiko, on the occasion of her 72nd birthday on Friday, expressed her wish that the imperial family's new heir to the throne, Prince Hisahito, would receive loving care and lead a healthy life.

"All I wish for is that he be kept safe in the loving care of his parents, his older sisters and other people around him, and that he grows up strong and healthy," the empress said in a written reply to questions from the Imperial Household Agency press corps. The empress was reticent about her views on the positions she expects young female imperial family members to assume. She said she would rather not comment because various discussions are taking place on what to do with the Imperial House Law, which bars women from the throne.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

18-year-old gets 12 years for stabbing Osaka teacher to death

The Osaka District Court on Thursday sentenced an 18-year-old youth to 12 years in prison for killing an elementary school teacher and injuring two other school staff members with a knife in February last year, rather than sending him back to family court.

The focus of the trial was on how the court would handle a minor who was diagnosed in mental examinations as having a type of pervasive developmental disorder, also known as autism spectrum disorder, which makes it difficult for him to communicate with others. The court acknowledged the influence of the disorder on him in committing the crime and said there is a need for rehabilitation to help him better adapt to life in society after serving his time by, for instance, assigning an instructor with specialized knowledge on his disorder.

African-American wins Y350,000 in damages for being denied entry into Osaka shop

The Osaka High Court ordered an Osaka optical shop owner to pay 350,000 yen in damages to an African-American living in Kyoto Prefecture for denying him entry to the shop in 2004, altering a lower court ruling in January which rejected the plaintiff's damages claim.

Presiding Judge Sota Tanaka recognized the owner told Steve McGowan, 42, a designer living in the town of Seika, to go away when he was in front of the shop, and acknowledged damages for McGowan's emotional pain, saying the entry denial "is a one-sided and outrageous act beyond common sense."

However, the remark "is not enough to be recognized as racially discriminatory," he said. McGowan had demanded 5.5 million yen.

According to the ruling, the owner told McGowan to go away to the other side of the road in a strong language several times when he was about to enter the shop with an acquaintance in September 2004.

The plaintiff had claimed the owner said, "Go away. I hate black people," but the ruling dismissed the claim, as the possibility that he misheard the owner cannot be eliminated.

A plaintiff attorney said, "It's unreasonable that discrimination was not recognized, but the court ordered a relatively large amount of damages payment for just demanding the plaintiff leave the shop. It seems that the court shows some understanding."

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Japan welcomes Iceland's decision to resume commercial whaling

Japan on Wednesday welcomed Iceland's decision to resume commercial whale hunting as the two countries have long protested the International Whaling Commission moratorium on the activity. A Fisheries Agency official said Reykjavik's decision constitutes "a step aimed at ensuring sustainable use" of marine resources, a goal Japan has said it shares.

Tokyo plans to convene an international meeting next February to discuss how to "normalize" the IWC as a whale stock management body, officials said. Japan hopes to buttress its stance, claiming its scientific findings indicate lifting the moratorium would lead to no depletion in whale populations. Currently, Japan and Iceland hunt minke whales for what they call "scientific research," exploiting what opponents call a loophole in the IWC charter.

84 lawmakers, including 8 cabinet members, visit Yasukuni Shrine

A total of 84 lawmakers, including eight cabinet members, visited the war-related Yasukuni Shrine on Wednesday for its annual fall festival amid efforts by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to mend ties with China and South Korea over history issues. Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuhisa Shiozaki said the visits, which included those by two senior vice ministers, were "a matter of each person's beliefs on how to deal with the war dead."

Among the 84 lawmakers, 75 were from the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, including Tsutomu Takebe, former party secretary general, and one was from the main opposition Democratic Party of Japan. Eriko Yamatani, a special adviser to Abe, and seven others were from the cabinet.

Nagoya man stabs himself, then calls police claiming he was attacked

A 41-year-old man called police from the public restroom at Fujigaoka station on the Higashiyama line in Nagoya, claiming that he had been stabbed, but it was revealed later that he had stabbed himself, police said Wednesday. "I have been having trouble at work and at home," the man told police. He faces a charge of violating the Minor Offenses Act.

According to the investigation, the man stabbed himself in the stomach in a restroom by the ticket gate, but could not bear the pain. First, he called for an ambulance on his cell phone. Then he summoned the police. When asked if he had been attacked, the man lied and said yes, but later retracted his statement, police said.

Japanese man arrested for having sex with 15-year-old girl in Cambodia

A Japanese man from Fukuoka Prefecture was arrested Wednesday for having sex with a 15-year-old Cambodian girl in a brothel in Phnom Penh in December 2003 and paying $100, a joint investigation team of the Hyogo and Fukuoka prefectural police said.

Issei Hara, a 28-year-old employee of a personal computer training school, has admitted to the allegations, police said. He is suspected of violating the law banning child prostitution and pornography, they added. Police said Hara had sex with the girl on Dec 24, 2003, photographed her with a digital camera, and later burned the photos onto a CD-ROM in Thailand before bringing it into Japan and uploading them on the website.

The probe into the case started after an investigator with the Hyogo police found in October last year that pornographic photos of the girl apparently taken at the brothel were on a now-defunct website run by Hara.

Rice, Aso to push for swift implementation of sanctions on North Kirea

Japan and the United States will work together for swift and effective implementation of a U.N. Security Council resolution calling for sanctions on North Korea, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Wednesday. Rice said at a press conference after meeting Foreign Minister Taro Aso that she reaffirmed to her Japanese counterpart "the firm commitment of the United States to the defense of Japan."

Aso said that he and Rice agreed to call on other countries for implementation of the resolution. The two also agreed to urge North Korea to return unconditionally to the stalled six-party talks on its nuclear development, the Japanese foreign minister said.

North Korea should accept U.N. resolution

Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuhisa Shiozaki said Tuesday that North Korea should accept a U.N. Security Council resolution condemning its reported nuclear test.

Shiozaki made the comment after the North Korean Foreign Ministry released a statement the same day rejecting the resolution as "a declaration of war."

The resolution, which calls for sanctions to be imposed on North Korea for its alleged nuclear test, was adopted unanimously Saturday. It demands that North Korea abandon all nuclear programs.

As to reports that Pyongyang is preparing for a second nuclear test, Shiozaki urged the communist country to show restraint, saying that it should avoid isolating itself further.

Commenting on inspections made by China, a North Korean ally, of trucks crossing its border with the reclusive nation, Shiozaki said the move comes as no surprise, as China, like all U.N. member countries, is expected to implement the terms of the Security Council resolution. (Jiji Press)

Former Livedoor exec says founder Horie knew accounts were window-dressed

Former Livedoor Co. board member Fumito Kumagai told a court Tuesday that the company's founder, Takafumi Horie, knew that the firm's accounts had been window-dressed.

"I told him it's been pointed out that the accounts have been falsified. He then simply replied, 'Try hard,'" Kumagai told the Tokyo District Court as a witness.

"'Try hard' meant that I should overcome the problem. Mr. Horie knew they were fictitious," Kumagai told Horie's hearing.

Horie has categorically denied he was aware that Livedoor's consolidated mid-term accounts, that were closed in September 2004, had been window-dressed, while the four others standing trial have testified that Horie knew that they were falsified.

A certified public accountant warned that it is inappropriate that the sales figures of two of Livedoor's affiliates had been padded by over 1.5 billion yen when Livedoor settled its consolidated accounts in September 2004.

The five former executives of Livedoor Co. including Horie and Kumagai are under indictment on charges of violating the Securities and Exchange Law.

China urges Japan not to develop nuclear weapons

China hopes Japan takes a responsible attitude over the issue of developing nuclear weapons following North Korea's own nuclear test, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said Tuesday.

Spokesman Liu Jianchao said, "We hope Japan is able to strictly carry out its treaty obligations and appropriately defend the three-point nuclear principle." To safeguard regional peace and stability Japan should "adopt a responsible attitude," he added.

Pregnant woman refused by 18 hospitals for treatment, later dies

A pregnant woman who had lost consciousness during delivery died after 18 hospitals refused to accept her as their beds were full, an official of a Nara Prefecture hospital said Tuesday.

Mika Takasaki, 32, fell into a coma early on Aug 8 while delivering at a town-run hospital in Oyodo, Nara. The hospital asked several other hospitals to accept her as it could not deal with the situation, but its request was rejected by 18 hospitals.

It took some six hours for the patient to be finally accepted by a state-run hospital in Osaka, where she underwent an emergency operation for bleeding in her brain and Caesarean section.

While successfully giving birth to a boy, Takasaki died Aug 16 without having recovered consciousness.

Her husband Shinsuke Takasaki, 24, held a press conference in Nara Prefecture on Tuesday to call for an improvement in the system of transferring pregnant women.

"I think pregnant women are worried about such insufficiencies of hospitals," he said as he wiped his tears. "I want hospitals to ensure safe delivery."

According to the Nara prefectural government, about 30% of pregnant women who need emergency or high-quality treatment are transferred to hospitals outside the prefecture.

The doctor in charge of Takasaki at the initial hospital diagnosed her condition as having convulsion during delivery, which cannot be treated there, and asked the prefectural-run Nara Medical University Hospital to accept her. But the hospital refused, saying all its beds were full.

The Nara Medical University Hospital looked for other hospitals and Takasaki was finally accepted by the National Cardiovascular Center in Suita, Osaka Prefecture, at around 6 a.m. on Aug 8.

The doctor at the Oyodo hospital did not conduct a computer tomography even though another doctor referred to the possibility of abnormality in Takasaki's brain while they were looking for another hospital to transfer her, according to the hospital official.

The official has admitted that the hospital "made a mistake in judging her condition as a result."

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Chiba teacher kills himself after suspected harassment by headmaster

A 50-year-old teacher at a junior high school in Chiba committed suicide last month after suspected harassment from the headmaster, the education board said Tuesday. The 58-year-old headmaster was witnessed yelling at and castigating the male teacher, who was in a managerial position, the board has found out from inquiries with his colleagues.

The board will question teachers and other people related to the matter and determine whether the headmaster's actions resulted in the suicide. The teacher was found dead after diving off a bridge over an expressway in Chiba's Midori Ward on Sept. 6. No suicide note was found. The headmaster had taken sick leave since mid-September.

Bush says China worried about Japan, arms race over N Korea

U.S. President George W. Bush said Monday that China is worried about an arms race in the Far East, especially involving Japan, to deal with a nuclear North Korea. Bush made the comments in an interview with Fox News in expressing confidence in Beijing's commitment to implementing the U.N. sanctions resolutions on North Korea and pressing the reclusive country to abandon its nuclear arms and programs.

"I know they're concerned about the statement that came out of Japan...that said Japan is rethinking," Bush said, apparently referring to comments Sunday by Japan's top ruling party policymaker, who called for discussion on whether Japan should go nuclear in response to the North Korean nuclear test.

Gangster's wife, younger son sentenced to death for four murders

The Fukuoka District Court sentenced a woman and her younger son to death Tuesday for killing four people in a scheme to rob them in 2004 in Omuta, Fukuoka Prefecture, about 70 kilometers south of central Fukuoka. The court handed down the sentences against Mami Kitamura, 47, and her son Takahiro, 22, as demanded by prosecutors.

The two were found guilty of killing acquaintance Sayoko Takami, 58, her elder son Tatsuyuki, 18, and his friend Junichi Hara, 17, on Sept 18, 2004, and also of abandoning their bodies in a minivehicle in a river. The son was also found guilty of an additional charge of killing Takami's younger son Joji, 15, and of abandoning his body in a river.

Woman, who made 9-year-old stepdaughter eat rubbish off floor, arrested

A woman who forced her 9-year-old stepdaughter to eat rubbish was arrested Tuesday on suspicion of assaulting the girl in the city of Wakayama, police said.

Noriko Takemura, 36, allegedly beat the girl and her two other step daughters on daily basis while her husband, 31, who is a biological father of the three, was out.

She has admitted to abusing the three continually.

Police allege Takemura hit the girl's face several times at home on Sept 16, causing her to fall down and injure her forehead, after the girl bought something different at the store from what she was ordered to buy.

Police also alleged she sometimes ordered the 9-year-old girl to clean their house and eat rubbish off the floor.

The headmaster of the elementary school the girl attends noticed the injury on her forehead on Sept 22, and called a child consulting center.

The three girls told center officials that they were abused when their father was not around, and then the officials reported the case to the police.

The three also said their father had been aware of the abuse but told them not to say anything at school, police said.

Takemura's husband runs a newspaper distributing shop, and she helps the husband's business.

Shiozaki says Japan won't possess nuclear weapons

Japan does not plan to change its three-point principle of not possessing nuclear weapons, making them or allowing them on its territory, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuhisa Shiozaki said Monday, commenting on a call by a senior ruling party lawmaker for discussions on possessing nuclear weapons.

"Our policy of maintaining the three nonnuclear principles, the principle of not possessing nuclear weapons, remains unchanged," Shiozaki said in reference to the comment Sunday by Shoichi Nakagawa, chairman of the Liberal Democratic Party's Policy Research Council. Japan "will possess no nuclear weapons in accordance with the atomic energy basic law and the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty," Shiozaki said at a regular press conference.

Japan admits overfishing southern bluefin tuna; quota for 2007 halved

Japan's annual fishing quota for the southern bluefin tuna will be halved to 3,000 tons for five years beginning in 2007, from 6,065 tons in 2006, the Fisheries Agency said Monday.

Japan accepted the reduction after admitting overfishing during a four-day meeting of the Commission for the Conservation of Southern Bluefin Tuna that ended Friday in Miyazaki, Miyazaki Prefecture, the agency said.

Australia on Monday praised Japan for admitting it has been over-catching southern bluefin tuna and for agreeing to halve its quota. "The new Japanese government has done the right thing and has agreed to take this cut," Fisheries Minister Eric Abetz told ABC Radio. "That is indicative of a country that is willing to acknowledge that things went wrong."

Most of the southern bluefin tuna caught around the world are sold to the Japanese markets. Japan annually imports roughly 10,000 tons of the fish, mostly for use in sushi or sashimi dishes.

The bluefin tuna and the southern bluefin tuna are highly popular in Japan for use in making expensive fatty tuna dishes known as "toro," but stocks of both fish have been rapidly shrinking due to heavy fishing.

Representatives from Australia, Japan, New Zealand, the Philippines, South Korea, Taiwan and the European Commission gathered for the meeting of the southern bluefin tuna commission and decided on the new quotas. Of them, Japan, Australia, South Korea and New Zealand are members of the body.

According to the agency, the participants agreed to cut combined catches of the southern bluefin tuna by nearly 20% to 11,530 tons for 2007 from 14,030 tons for 2006 because of concern about its depletion.

Australia will maintain its quota of 5,265 tons, while South Korea and Taiwan will see their quotas fall 12% to 1,000 tons, respectively.

The new quotas will be effective for five years for Japan but for three years for other countries.

It is the first time for the Canberra-headquartered commission to reach an accord on quota reduction since its inception in 1994.

The conservation group WWF welcomed Japan's acceptance of the sharp reduction in its catch, but called the agreement insufficient to help rebuild the southern bluefin tuna stock because Australia's quota was left unchanged.

"Considering the fact that almost all of Australia's catch will be exported to Japan, Japanese consumers need to seriously think about the issue of how to manage the tuna stock," said WWF member Arata Izawa.

At present, Japan's and Australia's quotas account for 80% of the total catch and the two countries have criticized each other for overstepping the limits.

Only Japan was slapped with a substantial quota reduction for longer years as the measure was partly intended as a punishment for overfishing the type of tuna, which came to light earlier this year and drew flak from many countries, some meeting participants said.

During the meeting, the Japanese delegation admitted that the country caught the southern bluefin tuna by some 1,800 tons more than its 6,065-ton quota in 2005.

According to fishing industry officials, the annual catch of the southern bluefin tuna started to soar around 1950 in line with growing demand in Japan and reached some 80,000 tons in the early 1960s.

The southern bluefin tuna accounts for 3% of some 580,000 tons of tuna supplied to the Japanese markets every year.

There are five international bodies in charge of tuna stock management.

The International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas is slated to discuss reducing fishing quotas for the bluefin tuna during its annual meeting in November.

The moves by the conservation bodies are expected to send tuna prices higher at a time when the fish is becoming more popular in some countries other than Japan and its prices are being boosted by rising fuel costs to run fishing boats due to growing oil prices, the industry officials said.