Saturday, September 30, 2006

Abe launches gov't task force on abductions

TOKYO — Prime Minister Shinzo Abe set up on Friday a full governmental task force to deal with the issue of North Korean abductions of Japanese and pledged "utmost" efforts for an early settlement to abductees' kin.

"I'll do my utmost" to deal with the long-pending issue, Abe said at a meeting with the abductees' relatives and their supporters, also joined by government officials including Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuhisa Shiozaki who also serves as minister in charge of the issue.

6 teens arrested over extortion of Y14 mil from 87-year-old man

TOKYO — Police said Friday they have arrested six teenagers on suspicion of getting a total of 14.3 million yen from an 87-year-old man in Tokyo by extortion on 97 occasions over a period of one year beginning in April last year, police said Friday.

Of the six aged 15 to 17 and arrested between June 30 and Sept 18, a 16-year-old unemployed girl from Machida was the mastermind of the group, police said. According to investigators, on one occasion on March 16, the six teenagers brandished a kitchen knife near the man at his home and said they would stab him unless he immediately handed over money, and they had him withdraw 1.4 million yen from a bank.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Japanese Coke machines to accept cellphone payment

U.S. soft-drink giant Coca-Cola said it will equip all its vending machines in Japan to accept payment through mobile telephones, an increasingly popular money option in the country.

Coca-Cola Japan said that all of its 200,000 machines by the end of 2008 will accept Felicia, contactless credit cards on mobile phones developed by cellular industry leader NTT DoCoMo and electronics giant Sony. "

19-year-old Imperial Guard officer commits suicide in compound

TOKYO — An Imperial Guard officer was found with a gunshot wound to his head Thursday in the imperial compound in Akasaka. He was later confirmed dead at a hospital in an apparent suicide, Imperial Guard officials said.

The 19-year-old officer, who was assigned duty at the imperial guard station on the Akasaka Estate, where Emperor Akihito's eldest son Crown Prince Naruhito and other imperial family members live, was found inside a restroom at a standby area for on-duty officers around noon Thursday, the officials said. No suicide note has been found. The officer was assigned to the station after completing his training program at the Imperial Guard academy in February, according to the officials"

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8 boys arrested for threatening to beat up Akihabara 'otaku' in extortion plot

Eight boys have been arrested for allegedly extorting and attempting to extort money from people on the streets of Tokyo's Akihabara electric store district, police said Thursday. The boys, ranging from age 14 to 18, have told police they targeted 'otaku' — people with a devotion to animation, comics and video games who often come to the area for shopping — because the boys thought those people have money and are powerless.

The eight are suspected of surrounding a 22-year-old man, a part-time worker at a toy store, on a street in the district on the evening of Aug 30 and demanding money after threatening to assault him. They are also believed to have worked in three separate groups to take 500 yen to 3,000 yen from junior high school students who came to Akihabara to see animation character figures during their summer vacations, according to the police."

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

14-year-old girl stabbed at school in Kumamoto

KUMAMOTO — A 14-year-old girl was stabbed by a male pupil at a junior high school in Yamato, Kumamoto Prefecture, on Tuesday. Education board officials said she was stabbed in the head, shoulder and other parts of her body but is not in critical condition. The boy suspected of stabbing her was in the same grade as the girl, the prefectural school board said.

Police said the two students were talking to each other on the third floor of the school building and appeared to have some dispute. The girl was wearing a gym uniform soaked with blood when she arrived at the staffroom for help, they said. A teacher rushed to the third floor and found the male student about to attempt to jump from the veranda but saved him, they said. The boy was in a state of shock and was also taken to hospital, though he had no external injuries, they said."

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Kyoto University student gets 5 1/2 years for raping 2 women

A former student at Kyoto University was sentenced to 5 1/2 years in prison Tuesday for raping two women, and two schoolmates got suspended prison terms for gang raping one of the two women in Kyoto last December. Ryo Ikeguchi, 24, was charged with raping the two female students. Jumpei Shirai, 23, was sentenced to three years in prison, suspended for five years, and Masahiro Kido, 22, was sentenced to 2 1/2 years in prison, suspended for five years.

According to the ruling, the three defendants, members of the American football team, invited three women to a party at Kido's apartment in Kyoto's Sakyo Ward on Dec 22 and forced them to drink liquor until they became drunk. The three then raped one woman and Ikeguchi raped another after the third had left the apartment, it said."

Man sentenced to death for killing 7-year-old girl in Nara

The Nara District Court on Tuesday sentenced a man to death for kidnapping a 7-year-old girl for the purpose of molestation and killing her in Nara Prefecture in 2004. Kaoru Kobayashi 'molested the girl in order to fulfill his abnormal sexual desire and killed her when she resisted, fearing the assault would be exposed,' Judge Tetsuya Okuda said.

According to the ruling, Kobayashi, 37, kidnapped Kaede Ariyama on Nov 17, 2004, and took her to his apartment in Sango, Nara Prefecture. After molestating her, he killed her and dumped her body in a gutter on a farm road in Heguri in the prefecture. He also took a photo of her body and sent it to her mother via mobile phone, and blackmailed the mother about a month later, saying he would target the girl's younger sister as well."

Shinzo Abe becomes prime minister; Shiozaki appointed chief cabinet secretary, Foreign Minister Aso remains

Shinzo Abe was elected Japan's youngest postwar prime minister in a parliamentary vote Tuesday. Abe, a 52-year-old conservative hawk who won an overwhelming victory in the Liberal Democratic Party presidential election last week, was voted prime minister in both houses of the Diet. He garnered 339 of the 476 votes cast in the House of Representatives vote, while main opposition Democratic Party of Japan President Ichiro Ozawa took 115 votes.

Later in the afternoon, Abe released the lineup of his 17-member cabinet, appointing economy-savvy Liberal Democratic Party lawmaker Yasuhisa Shiozaki as chief cabinet secretary and keeping Foreign Minister Taro Aso.

Shiozaki concurrently serves as minister in charge of the issue of North Korea's abductions of Japanese nationals.

Bunmei Ibuki, who heads a 32-member faction of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, was named education minister, and Jinen Nagase became the new justice minister. Abe also named LDP veteran Koji Omi as finance minister and former LDP General Council chief Fumio Kyuma, as chief of the Defense Agency.

Yuji Yamamoto, Abe's ardent follower in the LDP, took the post of financial services minister, the country's top bank regulator, while LDP veteran Akira Amari became minister of economy, trade and industry.

Tetsuzo Fuyushiba, a heavyweight of the New Komeito party, became minister of land, infrastructure and transport to take the only post given to the LDP's junior partner in the ruling coalition.

Former Cabinet Office bureaucrat Hiroko Ota, one of two women in the new cabinet, was appointed as minister in charge of economic and fiscal policy. The other female cabinet member is Sanae Takaichi, minister in charge of Okinawa and Northern Territories issues.

LDP lawmaker Masatoshi Wakabayashi was appointed environment minister and Toshikatsu Matsuoka was given agriculture, forestry and fisheries, while Hakuo Yanagisawa was appointed health, welfare and labor minister.

Genichiro Sata, a six-term member of the House of Representatives from the Liberal Democratic Party, gained his first cabinet post as state minister in charge of deregulation. Yoshihide Suga was appointed minister of internal affairs and communications.

2-year-old boy dies in apparent fall from 11th floor of Tokyo condo

A 2-year-old boy died after apparently falling from the 11th floor of a condominium in Tokyo on Monday, police said Tuesday. Yuto Masaki was found lying and bleeding from the head on the ground near an entrance of the condominium in Nerima Ward at around 11:30 p.m.

Yuto was taken to hospital but died on arrival. Police believe the boy fell from the building accidentally."

Monday, September 25, 2006

Abe hands Nakagawa No. 2 LDP post despite scandals

Former Chief Cabinet Secretary Hidenao Nakagawa was appointed Monday as secretary general of the governing Liberal Democratic Party, the No. 2 party post in the leadership of newly-elected LDP President Shinzo Abe, despite scandals still haunting him years after his cabinet expulsion.

Nakagawa, who assumed the post of chief cabinet secretary in July 2000 under then Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori, resigned that October after coming under criticism over scandals involving the extramarital affair and having links with a senior member of a right-wing group, an issue also mentioned by the magazine, Focus. Abe also named former health and welfare minister Yuya Niwa as chairman of the party's decision-making General Council and farm minister Shoichi Nakagawa as chairman of the Policy Research Council."

Asahara's lawyers face punishment for delaying court procedures

The Tokyo High Court on Monday urged the Japan Federation of Bar Associations to penalize two lawyers for Aum Shinrikyo cult founder Shoko Asahara for delaying court procedures by missing the deadline for submitting an appeal document, court officials said.

Takeshi Matsui and Akio Matsushita were appointed as defense lawyers of Asahara, 51, whose real name is Chizuo Matsumoto, for the trial at the Tokyo High Court, after he was sentenced to death by the Tokyo District Court in February 2004. The lawyers demanded trials be suspended and did not submit a statement of reasons for an appeal by the August 2005 deadline, arguing that Asahara lacked the ability to undergo a trial as he could not communicate with them."

2 children killed as car rams into group of nursery school children in Saitama

SAITAMA — Two girls aged 3 and 4 were killed Monday when a car rammed into a group of kindergartners on their way to a park in Kawaguchi, Saitama Prefecture, police said. Thirty-three children and five members of staff of the Kobato nursery school were walking in a line along the side of the street when the car crashed into them at around 10 a.m.

More than a dozen of them were injured, and two are in critical condition, police said. Hideyuki Izawa, the 37-year-old driver, was arrested for professional negligence. According to a witness, Izawa was driving at high speed and one of the children was knocked several meters by the vehicle."

Sunday, September 24, 2006

SDF officer arrested for drunk driving after fleeing police

SAITAMA — A Maritime Self-Defense Force officer was arrested Sunday in Saitama Prefecture for drunk driving after his car hit a roadside electricity pole as he attempted to flee from police.

A patrol car came across Jun Egawa, a 23-year-old seaman from the Yokosuka Base in Kanagawa Prefecture, driving in zigzag fashion along a road in Kuki in the prefecture around 1:10 a.m.

When the patrol car attempted to stop the vehicle, Egawa drove off and crashed into an electricity pole 10 minutes later at a point 5 kilometers from where the patrol car first made contact, the police said.

A 23-year-old company employee was a passenger in the car, the police said.

According to police investigations, Egawa was driving the man to his home in Kuki after the pair had been drinking together at a bar in the city.

'I had a medium-sized mug of beer and five to six glasses of 'chuhai,'' Egawa was quoted as telling the police. Chuhai is a distilled liquor mixed with soda water.

Police plan to investigate the passenger for allegedly encouraging Egawa to drink in the knowledge that he would drive home later."

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Court rules that teachers don't have to sing national anthem

The Tokyo District Court ruled Thursday that teachers and librarians are not obliged to sing the Kimigayo national anthem at school events despite Tokyo authorities' instruction to do so. Judge Koichi Namba said the Tokyo metropolitan government and its education board's notice to force teachers to sing Kimigayo in front of the Japanese flag infringes on freedom of thought and is against the basic education law.

'I can't believe we got such a great ruling from the court. I am really glad that I fought through the adversity,' said Ayako Kawaguchi, 48, a teacher who says her colleagues were reprimanded for refusing to sing Kimigayo at their school. The suit was filed by 401 incumbent and former teachers and librarians against the metropolitan government and its education board after they issued a notice in October 2003 demanding that public school employees stand and sing the national anthem in front of the Japanese flag during entrance and graduation ceremonies at schools."

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

New LDP chief Abe vows patriotic education, bigger international role

New LDP chief Abe vows patriotic education, bigger international role Chief Cabinet Secretary Shinzo Abe, who eyes a larger role for Japan on the world stage, won a landslide victory in the ruling party's leadership election Wednesday, paving the way for him to be picked as Japan's youngest postwar premier next week in parliament.

Abe vowed in his first news conference as Liberal Democratic Party president to place priority in the upcoming parliament session to extend a special law enabling Japanese troops to support U.S.-led antiterrorism operations in the Indian Ocean and pass a bill to drastically reform education to instill patriotism in Japanese classrooms.

'I declare that I will, as the first party president to be born after World War II, take over the flame of reform,' Abe told a gathering of LDP lawmakers after the results were announced. 'I vow to devote myself in working with you all toward creating a new and beautiful nation.'

Abe said he will decide on the party leadership lineup Monday and his new cabinet on Tuesday, when the Diet will pick him as Japan's new premier to succeed Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi. A focus of attention is whether Abe will bow to party politics and distribute posts among factions, a traditional practice that Koizumi broke.

Winning 464 of 703 votes from party lawmakers and members, the 51-year-old Abe defeated Finance Minister Sadakazu Tanigaki and Foreign Minister Taro Aso to become the LDP president. Aso scored 136 votes and Tanigaki got 102. One of the 403 lawmaker ballots was invalid.

But while he won with an overwhelming victory with two-thirds of all votes, it was short of his camp's target of getting more than 500 ballots.

With a three-year term to September 2009, Abe will be faced with the daunting tasks of repairing Japan's soured relations with China and South Korea, and raising taxes to rebuild debt-ridden state finances and fund social welfare. The LDP is also expected to face a"

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

The succession of Japan'simperial throne

Princess Kiko, the wife of the emperor's younger son, gave birth
to a boy on Wednesday morning, securing the succession of Japan's
imperial throne for another generation.

In an event that had been anticipated for months, the princess gave
birth by Caesarean section to a boy weighing 2.5 kilograms - or 5
pounds, 10 ounces - and measuring 49 centimeters, or 19.2 inches, at
8:27 a.m., the Imperial Household Agency reported. Newspapers here
scrambled to print extra editions to mark the birth of the
still-unnamed child, the first male born in the royal family in 41

The birth of a male heir will shelve for the foreseeable future a
politically explosive debate over whether women should be allowed to
ascend to the throne. It has solved for now a succession crisis that
had taken its most direct human toll on Crown Princess Masako, 42, the
Harvard-educated former diplomat whose inability to bear a boy
contributed to her depression and withdrawal from the public.

Under the current succession system, only men in a direct line to the
emperor can inherit the throne. So Kiko's child will become third in
line to the throne, after Crown Prince Naruhito, 46, and the child's
own father, Prince Akishino.

The crown prince and crown princess have a daughter, Aiko, 4; Prince
Akishino, 40, and Kiko, 39, have two daughters, Mako, 14, and Kako,
11. But none are eligible to ascend the throne.

Last year, with seemingly no resolution to the succession crisis,
Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi convened a panel of experts that
recommended that a woman and her offspring be allowed to ascend to the
throne. The change would have allowed Aiko, as well as her first-born,
regardless of sex, to inherit the throne.

Before the bill could be introduced in Parliament, however, news of
Kiko's pregnancy in February led Koizumi to put the proposal on the
back burner.

Shinzo Abe, the nationalist chief cabinet secretary who is almost
certain to succeed Koizumi later this month as prime minister and is
known to have opposed the proposed bill.

It stirred unexpectedly fierce opposition from Japan's conservatives,
who argued that the male-only succession is the Chrysanthemum Throne's
defining characteristic. Japan has had eight empresses in the past,
but they did not have offspring who succeeded them.

Instead, the throne always reverted to a male relative who was related
on his father's side to a previous emperor. That, conservatives
argued, had always guaranteed the purity of the male bloodline - or,
in more modern terms, the male Y chromosome.

According to this logic, conservatives did not oppose changing the law
to allow Aiko to ascend to the throne but refused to countenance a
revision that would allow her offspring to do so. (The Japanese public
overwhelmingly supported Aiko's ascension, according to polls, but
grew more ambivalent about a matrilineal line.)

Japanese emperors have not had political authority since Emperor
Hirohito renounced his divinity after World War II.

Among possible solutions to the succession crisis, conservatives
proposed that other branches of the imperial family, abolished during
the post-World War II American occupation, be resurrected to find a
relative of the emperor with the right Y chromosome. Prince Tomohito
of Mikasa, 60, a cousin of the current emperor, argued for the revival
of the concubine system, which in the past had made plenty of
child-bearing women available to the emperor.

The birth may also end the psychological drama surrounding the royal
family, especially Masako. When she gave up a career in diplomacy to
marry the crown prince in 1993, she was heralded as a modern Japanese
woman who could perhaps even modernize the imperial institution. But
the princess was soon confronted with the reality that she was now
expected to do only one thing: bear a male heir.

When the couple finally had a child, it was a girl, Aiko. The Imperial
Household Agency, the powerful bureaucracy that oversees the royal
family, kept up the pressure to have another child, and Masako
eventually slipped into a depression.

Her plight led the crown prince to hold an extraordinary news
conference two years ago, in which he stated that he would not let his
wife be sacrificed for the greater good of the monarchy. "There has
been a move," the prince said, "to deny Masako's career and

Akishino, who had always lived in his older brother's shadow,
criticized his brother and sister-in-law by saying that they must put
their public duties above all. Around the same time, the Imperial
Household Agency publicly exhorted Akishino and Kiko - who had last
had a child a dozen years ago - to try for another baby.

Kiko, the daughter of a university professor who never had a career
before getting married, has become the darling of the Japanese media.

By contrast, Masako has increasingly become a target, routinely
criticized by the conservative media for her supposed selfishness and
lack of common sense.

Ordinary Japanese welcomed the rare piece of good news about the royal
family, though they were split as to whether the birth should affect
the debate over female succession.

"I'm glad it's a boy," said Ryoji Inoue, 33, a salaryman interviewed
at a subway station here. "I want the male succession to be
maintained. That's because Japanese society is still led by men. I
hope a couple of more boys will be born. The imperial law can be
changed when we don't have any choice in the future."

But Nanase Fujiwara, a 23-year-old housewife pushing her 6-month-old
daughter in a stroller, supported the idea of matrilineal succession.
"There's no problem with a female throne," she said. "But I think
people around the imperial family tend to have old ideas and are stuck
on male succession."

Japan imposes additional sanctions on N Korea over missile launches

Japan imposed financial sanctions Tuesday on North Korea by prohibiting remittances to 15 entities and one individual linked to the North's missile and weapons programs, in line with a U.N. Security Council resolution condemning missile launches by Pyongyang in early July.

'By implementing these measures, we will demonstrate the resolve of the international community, as well as Japan, in line with the U.N. Security Council resolution,' Chief Cabinet Secretary Shinzo Abe said. 'Japan takes this occasion to once again urge North Korea to accept the resolution, halt its missile-related activities and observe the missile launch moratorium, as well as immediately return to six-way nuclear talks without preconditions.'"

Man slashes 13-year-old girl with knife in Aichi

KASUGAI — A knife-wielding man attacked a 13-year-old girl in the parking lot of an apartment block in Kasugai, Aichi Prefecture, on Tuesday morning. Police said the girl was slashed three times on her left arm around 7:10 a.m., but described her injuries as minor.

The assailant, who fled the scene, was described as being in his 50s and with silver-gray hair. He wore a face mask. Police said there is a distinct possibility that the perpetrator is the same man who slashed another high school student in May in the same town. In that incident, the attacker used a pair of scissors."

Honda Opens New China Factory

Honda Opens New China Factory to Keep Ahead of Toyota

By Kelvin Wong and Tian Ying

Honda Motor Co., Japan's third- largest automaker, opened a new factory in China, as it seeks to maintain its lead over Toyota Motor Corp. and Nissan Motor Co. in the world's fastest growing major vehicle market.

The new factory, located in the southeastern city of Guangzhou, will have a capacity of 120,000 vehicles a year, the company said in a statement. Guangzhou Honda Automobile Co., Honda's venture with Guangzhou Automobile Group Co., invested 2.2 billion yuan ($277 million) in the factory, which will make Accord models.

Honda, the first Japanese carmaker to set up a venture in China, is opening the plant after capacity shortages stunted its sales growth in the first half. The factory may enable Honda to maintain its lead over Toyota and Nissan, which are also investing in the world's third-largest vehicle market.

Honda set up its first venture in China in 1998, five years ahead of Toyota and Nissan. The company had about 5.7 percent of China's passenger car sales in the first half, compared with Toyota's 4.5 percent and Nissan's 4.1 percent, according to the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers. Market leader Volkswagen AG had a share of 17.1 percent, the carmaker said.

Honda sold 143,519 vehicles in the first six months of the year, less than half its full-year target of 350,000 units, because of capacity shortages, it said in July. The company's sales were 22 percent higher than a year earlier.

The new factory will give Guangzhou Honda a total capacity of 360,000 units a year.

Toyota's Growth

Toyota expects its sales in China to rise 52 percent this year from last year to 278,000 units, Executive Vice President Yoshimi Inaba said in July. The world's biggest automaker by market value has invested 215 billion yen ($1.8 billion) in China and it is aiming to boost i"

Gov't to impose stricter regulations on cash bank deposits in crackdown on laundering - MSN-Mainichi Daily News

Gov't to impose stricter regulations on cash bank deposits in crackdown on laundering - MSN-Mainichi Daily News: "Gov't to impose stricter regulations on cash bank deposits in crackdown on laundering

People who try to make deposits in person of more than 100,000 yen in cash at financial institutions will be required under a law to show identity that proves they are the holders of the accounts, according to revised regulations.

The Cabinet on Tuesday adopted revised regulations designed to lower the limit of accepting cash payments at institutions without identification in a bid to block money laundering and fund transfers to terrorist organizations.

Currently, those who deposit more than 2 million yen in person at counters have to prove their identity.

After the revised regulations take effect on Jan. 4 next year, people who try to deposit more than 100,000 yen in cash will not be able to do so at automatic teller machines (ATMs). Instead they have to prove their identity by showing identity cards such as driver's licenses over the counter at financial institutions.

Account holders won't need to show identification to transfer money from account to account as they would have already proved their identity when setting up the accounts. (Mainichi)"

Monday, September 18, 2006

Yoshinoya serves up 1 million U.S. beef bowls; one man lines up from Sunday night

Yoshinoya serves up 1 million U.S. beef bowls; one man lines up from Sunday night

Monday, September 18, 2006 at 13:56 EDT
Customers eat U.S. beef at a Yoshinoya restaurant in Yurakucho on

TOKYO — Fast-food restaurant chain Yoshinoya D&C Co resumed sales of 'gyudon' beef-on-rice dishes Monday, about two years and seven months after removing the mainstay dish from its menu due to Japan's ban on U.S. beef imports over fear of mad cow disease. Yoshinoya prepared some 1 million gyudon bowls at about 1,000 shops across Japan for Monday's sales resumption. It will continue to sell gyudon bowls Tuesday and after on a limited basis for the time being as U.S. beef imports remain slack since Japan lifted its ban on the imports in late July.

'I was waiting for this moment,' said Takanori Umeki, 24, a University of Tokyo graduate student who was first in line at Yoshinoya's Yurakucho shop in central Tokyo. He said he had been waiting outside the restaurant since 11 p.m. Sunday night.

The Yurakucho shop prepared 1,000 gyudon dishes, with the regular bowl priced at 380 yen, up 100 yen from February 2004, when Yoshinoya was forced to remove gyudon from its menu due to the U.S. beef import ban. Despite light rain, about 50 people formed a line before the shop began gyudon sales from 11 a.m.

As shop staff announced the start of the sales, people eagerly rushed into the shop with smiles on their faces.

'I have almost forgotten the taste of gyudon. I want to remember its taste today. I'm not absolutely sure about the safety of U.S. beef but I am not too worried,' said Umeki, adding the price hike of about 100 yen is unavoidable.

Tadao Kato, the 33-year-old chief of the Yurakucho shop, said, 'We are confident that the beef is safe because it has been fully checked. Now, we have to win customer trus"

Defense Agency to open Washington office

TOKYO — The Defense Agency has decided to open a liaison office in charge of military data in Washington to strengthen ties with U.S. intelligence agencies, a Japanese daily reported Sunday. The Mainichi Shimbun said the agency will send a senior defense policy bureau official to Washington later this year to open the office early next year.

The office will operate independently from the Japanese Embassy in Washington to better coordinate with the U.S. intelligence community, particularly with the Defense Intelligence Agency and the National Security Agency, the report said."

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Japan mulls dispatch of GSDF to Lebanon

Japan mulls dispatch of GSDF to Lebanon:
U.N. mission hinges on fragile ceasefire

The government is thinking of dispatching Ground Self-Defense Force troops to Lebanon to offer logistics support to the U.N. Interim Force there monitoring a ceasefire between Israel and Hezbollah militants, government sources have said.

A ceasefire between Hezbollah and Israeli troops in southern Lebanon went into effect Aug. 14 following the passage of an earlier U.N. resolution urging an end to the hostilities.

It remains uncertain, though, whether Japan will give the go-ahead for the deployment, given strong concerns in the government that fighting may erupt again in southern Lebanon.

The final say is expected to be left to the new Japanese government that will be formed later this month after Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi steps down, the sources said.

The fighting erupted July 12 when Hezbollah militants abducted two Israeli soldiers and killed three others in a cross-border raid.

The U.N. Security Council adopted a resolution Aug. 11 that calls for a 'full cessation of hostilities' between Hezbollah and Israel -- specifically demanding that Hezbollah end its attacks. It also says Israel should cease its 'offensive military operations.'

The ceasefire came into effect a few days later, and both parties basically accepted the resolution.

With the establishment of a ceasefire and other conditions under the five-point principle Japan stipulates for engaging in peacekeeping missions, the government has begun considering a GSDF deployment in view of the 1992 Japanese law governing participation in U.N.-led peacekeeping operations.

Japan has sent missions under the U.N. peacekeeping framework to areas including Cambodia, Mozambique and East Timor, and Japanese troops are currently providing logistic support in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights in southern Syria.

The Foreign Ministry,"

Saturday, September 16, 2006

3 Japan banks to refrain from deals with Iran in line with U.S. sanctions

TOKYO — The Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ, Mizuho Corporate Bank and Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corp will refrain from doing business with Iran's state-run Bank Saderat Iran in line with U.S. financial sanctions, officials at the three Japanese banks said Saturday.

The United States has imposed a ban on U.S. bank transactions with Bank Saderat Iran, insisting that Iran is channeling funds to Hezbollah in Lebanon through the export bank."

Economist magazine praises Koizumi

LONDON — The forthcoming leadership election of Japan's Liberal Democratic Party on Sept 20 has sparked interest on an international level, not least because it will mark the beginning of the end of Junichiro Koizumi's reign as a 'remarkable' prime minister, according to the British weekly magazine the Economist.

The magazine, in its latest issue published Friday, says that while the premier may be stepping down from his office, his legacy as a reformer of policy and his country will reverberate around both Japan and the world long after his successor has filled his considerable shoes. 'During his tenure Japan's governing apparatus has been transformed, its economy has emerged from long years of degenerative decline, and its dealings with the world have been energized and emboldened. For all that, Junichiro Koizumi remains an enigma,' the magazine says."

U.S. honors SDF's Adm Saito for helping beef up alliance

— The United States awarded the Legion of Merit with a degree of commander Friday to Adm Takashi Saito, chief of staff of Japan's Self-Defense Forces, for his contributions to strengthening the bilateral security alliance and defense cooperation.

U.S. Naval Operations Chief Adm Michael Mullen handed the award to Saito at a ceremony at the U.S. Defense Department. 'Admiral Saito displayed strong leadership and exceptional vision in guiding the MSDF's policies of strong cooperation, close operational coordination, robust interoperability with the U.S. Navy in support of the U.S.-Japan alliance,' the citation said."

Friday, September 15, 2006

Supreme Court rejects appeal by Aum founder Asahara, finalizing death sentence

Supreme Court rejects appeal by Aum founder Asahara, finalizing death sentence

Friday, September 15, 2006

The Supreme Court rejected a special appeal filed by the defense counsel for Aum Shinrikyo cult founder Shoko Asahara on Friday, finalizing the death sentence against him over his involvement in the 1995 sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway system and other charges.

The move came after the defense lawyers had missed the Aug 31, 2005, deadline for submitting a statement to the Tokyo High Court to give the reason for their appeal against the capital punishment handed down to Asahara, 51, at a lower court in February 2004."

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Thursday, September 14, 2006

Subway Station in Japan

Subway station in Japan

Tochigi teacher faces charges for fondling schoolgirls

Tochigi teacher faces charges for fondling schoolgirls: "Tochigi teacher faces charges for fondling schoolgirls

Wednesday, September 13, 2006 at 19:02 EDT

SANO — A 33-year-old male elementary school teacher in Sano, Tochigi, is facing criminal charges after being accused of fondling all the girls in his class. According to the Tochigi Board of Education, the teacher has made all the girls sit on his lap during recess since April.

The case surfaced when the parents of some girls filed a complaint with the school, saying that their daughters didn't like being touched by the teacher. The teacher admits to the complaint. 'I did it because the girls are adorable. I wanted to build a close relationship with them, in which they would not hesitate to tell me everything,' he was quoted by investigators as saying."

baraki man pinched for stealing women's underwear

Ibaraki man pinched for stealing women's underwear: "Ibaraki man pinched for stealing women's underwear

Wednesday, September 13, 2006 at 18:49 EDT
[Some of the 405 items of underwear confiscated from a man in Ibaraki.]
Some of the 405 items of underwear confiscated from a man in Ibar

HITACHI — Police on Wednesday arrested a 25-year-old man for stealing women's underwear in Hitachi, Ibaraki. The man, identified as Yuichi Honda, was caught in the act after trespassing onto the balcony of an apartment and attempting to steal women's underwear.

Police later confiscated a total of 405 items of women's underwear from his apartment and car. Honda told police he had stolen underwear on 60 occasions since June and said he had been doing it as a 'hobby.'"

Chiba cop arrested for molesting schoolgirl in public toilet

Chiba cop arrested for molesting schoolgirl in public toilet: "NARITA — An off duty police officer was arrested Wednesday for molesting a 17-year-old schoolgirl in the women's toilet at Narita station in Chiba. The police sergeant, identified as Takeshi Notoya, 35, was arrested after attacking the girl around 9 p.m. on Tuesday night.

According to investigators, Notoya said he had been drinking with colleagues. He told police he climbed over the cubicle wall and approached the girl. Police said he put his hand over the girl's mouth to stop her from screaming. But she broke free and yelled out for help. Some passersby grabbed Notoya when he came out of the toilet, while others called for police. Notoya has admited to the allegations."