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.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Japan welcomes Security Council resolution against North Korea

Japan on Saturday welcomed the U.N. Security Council's unaninous adoption of a resolution against North Korea over its claimed nuclear test, expressing "the gravest concern" and calling for all U.N. members to take wide-ranging economic and diplomatic sanctions.

Japanese U.N. ambassador Kenzo Oshima, who serves as president of the council for the month of October, told the council, "The resolution is one of the most important decisions this council has taken in recent times on an issue of the gravest concern to the international community."

Woman in her 50s gives birth to own grandchild in Nagano

A woman in her 50s gave birth to her own grandchild last year in a host surrogacy on behalf of her daughter in her 30s, who had had her uterus removed for cancer and is unable to bear a child, the head of a maternity clinic in Nagano Prefecture announced Sunday.

Yahiro Netsu, director of the Suwa Maternity Clinic in Shimosuwa, Nagano Prefecture, told a news conference in Tokyo the woman gave birth in spring 2005 using an egg from her daughter and sperm from the daughter's husband, also in his 30s.

It is the first case in Japan that a woman has acted as a surrogate mother to give birth to her own grandchild. The baby was registered as a child of the surrogate mother and later adopted by the daughter and her husband, Netsu said.

The Suwa Maternity Clinic performed in vitro fertilization and implanted a fertilized egg into the woman's womb in 2004 and delivered the child in spring last year.

Netsu said the woman was given hormone injections before the implantation of the fertilized egg as she had reached menopause and had uterine atrophy.

The surrogate mother and the child, whose gender has not been released, are doing well, he said.

The woman visited the clinic about four years ago and made an offer to be a surrogate mother for her daughter, Netsu said, adding, his clinic conducted the surrogate birth after confirming that the woman had no health problems and obtaining approval from the in-house ethical committee.

Netsu said in the news conference that he also handled by the end of last year two other surrogate births, in which sisters became surrogate mothers.

He said he revealed the three cases at this time "to express anger and concerns" over the situation surrounding surrogate births in Japan after a local government in Tokyo appealed a Tokyo High Court ruling that allowed a Japanese couple to register twins born through an American surrogate mother to register as their own children.

About the benefit of grandmother acting as surrogate mother, Netsu said, "This is the most trouble-free way, I think, as we can avoid such a trouble that a surrogate mother refuses to hand over the child she delivered."

The three cases follow two other surrogate births announced by Netsu in the past, which included the nation's first such case announced in May 2001 involving a woman who gave birth to a child using the egg of her elder sister, who had had a uterus operation.

After the 2001 announcement, a council of the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare compiled a report in April 2003 suggesting a ban on surrogate births and punitive measures against violators, out of concerns that such births impose physical and mental strain on surrogate mothers and cause complications in family relationships.

The Japan Society of Obstetrics and Gynecology also stipulated in April 2003 guidelines banning surrogate births.

Japan needs to debate whether or not to go nuclear, says LDP policy chief

Japan needs to discuss whether it should go nuclear in response to North Korea's declared nuclear test, Shoichi Nakagawa, chairman of the Liberal Democratic Party's Policy Research Council, said Sunday. He said the Constitution does not rule out the option of Japan possessing nuclear arms.

While stressing that Japan should maintain its three-point nonnuclear principles of not possessing, not producing and not allowing the entry of nuclear weapons into the country, Nakagawa said, "There could be an argument that possession of nuclear weapons diminishes the likelihood of being attacked as we could fight back in such an event. We need to have thorough discussions on whether there is a need to review the nonnuclear principles."

School says teacher provoked bullying of student who hanged himself

A junior high school in Chikuzen, Fukuoka Prefecture, said Sunday its teacher provoked bullying against a second-year student, who hanged himself last week, and apologized to his parents.

According to the father of the student, 13, his homeroom teacher in his first year revealed to his classmates what his parents had consulted the teacher about. Afterwards, the teacher called the boy a "hypocrite" or "liar" in front of his classmates, eventually making the relationship between him and the classmates awkward. The student left four notes, in which he said, "I cannot live anymore because of bullying."

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Abe says Japan will stick to non-nuke principles; Rice says Japan doesn't need to go nuclear

Japan does not plan to possess nuclear capability despite North Korea's reported nuclear test and its earlier missile test-fires, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Tuesday. Asked if Japan will uphold its "Three Non-Nuclear Principles" even if North Korea deploys nuclear missiles, Abe said, "I am not thinking of changing the principles at all."

Meanwhile, in Washington, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice ruled out Tuesday the possibility of Japan moving to develop nuclear weapons, saying she trusts Tokyo as a security partner. "Also, I don't think there's anybody that really thinks changing the nuclear balance in northeast Asia by having Japan go nuclear would improve the security situation," Rice said.

Japan on alert over unconfirmed report of 2nd N Korean nuclear test

Japan remained on high alert Wednesday as government officials scrambled to verify "unconfirmed information" that North Korea may conduct another nuclear test on the day, following the one it claimed to have carried out Monday. "At the moment, we have no concrete signs, such as abnormality in seismic waves, and are continuing to try to confirm it," Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuhisa Shiozaki said concerning the reports of a second test.

Foreign Minister Taro Aso told a House of Councillors Budget Committee session, "We are aware of information that it may be conducted during today, but no confirmation has been obtained." The Japan Meteorological Agency said it detected no seismic waves coming from the direction of northern North Korea in the period from 5 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. Wednesday.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Nara girl's killer withdraws appeal against death sentence

A former newspaper sales agent withdrew his appeal Tuesday against his death sentence for kidnapping, sexually abusing and murdering a 7-year-old girlin Nara Prefecture in 2004, his defense counsel said. Kaoru Kobayashi, 37, took back the appeal filed with the Osaka High Court by his lawyers on his behalf immediately after the Nara District Court sentenced him to death Sept 26.

The defense counsel said they have no intention of filing an objection to Kobayashi's action, implying his death sentence will be final without trial at an appeals court. The lawyer tried to persuade Kobayashi not to withdraw his appeal, telling him he is required to explain why he committed such a crime. But he did not alter the decision.

Osaka Toyota employees arrested for falsifying sales records

Police arrested a former senior official and three current employees of Osaka Toyota Motor Corp, on Tuesday on suspicion of falsifying sales records of used passenger cars in an attempt to pad sales performances. All of them have admitted to the charges, saying it was to boost sales performances.

According to investigators, the four filed fake sales dossiers of four used passenger cars with the transport ministry's local bureau between February 2002 and April 2005. The vehicles were actually owned by Osaka Toyota but the four submitted the dossiers to make it appear that the vehicles were sold to their relatives, and to have the bureau record the false ownership data in its computer systems. Such procedures were necessary to have the false sales recognized as part of their real sales performances, police said.

Governmentt sets up education reform panel

The government established an expert panel Tuesday on education reform, a key policy of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, vowing to rebuild Japanese education to bring patriotism into the classroom. "To realize 'a beautiful country Japan,' it is indispensable to educate children and youth on whom the future of Japan's next generation will rest," Abe said.

The Education Rebuilding Council, consisting of people from the governmental, business and academic sectors, is expected to come up with specific measures in an interim report in March and a final report at the end of next year for the government to institutionalize under Abe's leadership, government officials said.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Hiroshima, Nagasaki mayors, A-bomb sufferers blast N Korea

The mayors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki on Monday attacked North Korea over its announcement that it had conducted a nuclear test. "I feel great anger over North Korea's conducting of a nuclear test, despite the fact that many cities and groups had sought its suspension," Hiroshima Mayor Tadatoshi Akiba said, urging Pyongyang to fulfill its responsibility on nuclear arms reduction.

Nagasaki Mayor Itcho Ito called the announced test an "act of violence" conducted in defiance of international calls not to carry it out. "The North Korean people are not aware of the true terror of nuclear weapons," Ito said. Antinuclear groups in Japan also expressed outrage, with Terumi Tanaka, head of the Japan Confederation of A- and H-Bomb Sufferers Organizations, known as Hidankyo, saying, "It is deplorable. We didn't think North Korea would do it, and we didn't want it to do it."

Abe, Roh discuss N Korea's nuclear test; Japan, U.S. to take it to U.N.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe started talks with South Korean President Roh Moo Hyun at the presidential Blue House on Monday just hours after North Korea said it had conducted a nuclear test in defiance of international calls against such action.

Abe, on his first official overseas trip, arrived in Seoul from Beijing in the morning after meeting Chinese leaders Sunday.

"I am aware of the declaration by North Korea that it has conducted a nuclear test," Abe told reporters traveling with him in Seoul. "Japan is in contact with the United States and China for intelligence analysis...and I will discuss with the South Korean side how to respond. I have instructed the chief Cabinet secretary to gather and analyze information regarding whether a nuclear test was actually conducted," Abe said.

In Tokyo, U.S. Ambassador to Japan Thomas Schieffer told reporters after meeting with Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuhisa Shiozaki and Foreign Minister Taro Aso, "We agreed to monitor this situation and to work together to take it to the United Nations for further action."

"The United States is prepared to honor its commitment to its allies in Japan as well as Korea," he added.

While suggesting Washington has yet to confirm that North Korea conducted a nuclear test, Schieffer said, "This is a very grave situation and we all are following it with great intensity."

"Speaking on the assumption that a nuclear test is confirmed, the nuclear test will bring a serious crisis to the peace and stability not only of Northeast Asia but the world," Aso said, after earlier talking to South Korean Foreign Affairs and Trade Minister Ban Ki Moon and U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on the phone.

Asked if it is possible to issue a U.N. resolution other than the one adopted over North Korea's ballistic missiles July 5, Aso said, "There is a high possibility it will come out. Japan, for its part, wants to have one."

He suggested a Chapter 7 resolution, which would pave the way for the use of force or economic sanctions, may be in order. He was referring to Chapter 7 of the U.N. Charter.

Japan had already imposed sanctions such as blocking fund transfers to entities linked to Pyongyang's missile and weapons programs, including 12 already listed under U.S. sanctions.

Following the reported nuclear test, the Foreign Ministry said it launched an emergency task force headed by Aso at 11:30 a.m. to gather more information.

North Korea is believed to have conducted the test in the eastern part of the country, Yonhap News Agency quoted a senior Defense Ministry official as saying. A magnitude 3.58 tremor was detected in Hwadae county in the North's remote North Hamkyong Province at around 10:35 a.m.

Meanwhile, the official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said: "The field of scientific research in the DPRK successfully conducted an underground nuclear test under secure conditions on Oct 9, Juche 95 (2006). It has been confirmed that there was no such dangerous radioactive emission in the course of the nuclear test as it was carried out under a scientific consideration and careful calculation.

"The nuclear test is a historic event that brought happiness to the our military and people," KCNA added. "The nuclear test will contribute to maintaining peace and stability in the Korean peninsula and surrounding region."

In South Korea, Roh convened an emergency meeting of top officials responsible for national security to discuss the situation. Presidential spokesman Yoon Tae Young said, "North Korea's possession of nuclear weapons cannot be tolerated."

South Korea will take "stern responses" to the nuclear test in accordance with its principles," Yoon said.

Yonhap News Agency quoted a Unification Ministry official as saying the government has initially decided to suspend a scheduled shipment of 4,000 tons of concrete to the North, which was to be part of a one-time package of humanitarian aid worth some $250 million.

South Korea wants the U.N. Security Council to immediately take up the North's nuclear test and discuss how to respond, the spokesman said.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Princess Aiko takes part in kindergarten athletic meet - undoukai

Princess Aiko, the 4-year-old daughter of Crown Prince Naruhito and Crown Princess Masako, took part in an athletic meet at Gakushuin Kindergarten for the first time Sunday.
Princess Aiko took part in the "Otama Korogashi," rolling a one-meter-high white plastic ball toward the goal line. Princess Masako, wearing a headband, also took part in another ball-rolling game, while Crown Prince Naruhito recorded the athletic meet with his camcorder.

LDP lawmaker wants tougher sanctions against N Korea

Japan should impose tougher sanctions against North Korea, including maritime inspection, if Pyongyang conducts a nuclear test as earlier announced, a senior ruling Liberal Democratic Party member said Sunday.

"From now on, we need to step up the level of pressure such as conducting inspections at sea or stopping exports and imports," Shoichi Nakagawa, chairman of the LDP's Policy Research Council, said on a television program. Nakagawa also noted the possibility that Japan will solely impose sanctions on North Korea before the international society does so. He said he will call for the Diet to pass a resolution on North Korean issues.

Shinzo Abe and Hu make 'new start' in Sino-Japan relations

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe met top Chinese leaders Sunday in talks that Chinese President Hu Jintao described as a "new start" and "turning point" for chilled bilateral relations as the Japanese leader arrived in Beijing on his first overseas trip as premier that will also take him to South Korea.

Abe told Hu at the outset of their 80-minute summit that he chose China as his first overseas summit to show he attaches "extreme importance to good Japan-China relations" and thanked China for welcoming him.

Ahead of the talks with Hu, the first bilateral summit in 18 months, Abe also met with Premier Wen Jiabao at the Great Hall of the People for about 90 minutes.

"An agreement was reached recently to promote friendly relations by overcoming political difficulties through mutual efforts," Wen said at the outset in explaining a reason for hosting the summit.

"Developing friendly ties conforms to the interests of the people of both countries," Wen said.

Wen, with a full smile, greeted Abe in a welcoming ceremony upon his arrival with 19 canon shots, the protocol for welcoming a visiting prime minister and last performed for a Japanese premier in 1999 during an official visit by Keizo Obuchi.

Details of the summits have not been released, but Abe was expected to propose to Chinese leaders that Japan and China build a "strategic relationship of mutual interest," a senior Japanese official said earlier. It will be the first time for the two countries to seek a "strategic" partnership.

Abe, who will visit Seoul on Monday to meet with South Korean President Roh Moo Hyun, said before leaving Tokyo he is eyeing frank discussions with his counterparts on North Korea's nuclear test plan and to "send a message that North Korea will be isolated in the international community unless it gives up (its plan of) conducting nuclear tests."

The summits came amid rising international tensions after North Korea announced last Tuesday it will conduct a nuclear test "in the future" and on Friday the U.N. Security Council warned action will be taken if Pyongyang conducts such a test.

Visiting the two nearby countries in less than two weeks after assuming office Sept 26 shows Abe's eagerness to court the countries and mend relations with them which deteriorated under his predecessor Junichiro Koizumi.

Abe hopes that under the new relationship, Japan and China can join hands in resolving international issues of common interest and to achieve benefits for both sides, the Japanese official said in briefing reporters aboard the government plane on its way to the Chinese capital.

In addition to dealing with North Korea, other common interests and benefits include resolving bilateral disputes over national resources in the East China Sea, cooperating in United Nations reforms, joint efforts in the fields of energy and the environment, and strengthening the business environment for mutual investments.

The 52-year-old premier will also urge the development of strong ties both politically and economically, and wishes to build personal trust with the Chinese leaders.

On Sunday morning, Abe touched on the issue of history perception, a factor that has stalled relations with the neighboring countries, saying, "We will act after humbly considering the past. On that basis, I would like to hold talks with leaders of both countries about the future."

Regarding prime ministerial visits to the war-linked Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo, Abe said, "I would like to explain that many prime ministers in the past have paid homage there to mourn those people who lost their lives for the country and to pray for peace."

While Beijing has said the two sides have agreed to "overcome the political obstacle" in the bilateral relationship, Abe has denied he made any compromises and insisted he will not say whether he will go to Yasukuni as premier.

In addition to the talks with Hu and Wen, Abe is also scheduled to hold a half-hour meeting with Wu Bangguo, chairman of the National People's Congress Standing Committee.

The three Chinese leaders have arranged to meet with Abe despite their engagements on the opening day of a key domestic political event — a meeting of the Chinese Communist Party's Central Committee — in an apparent sign of Beijing wanting to improve relations with Japan under a new administration.

Abe has repeatedly said he would like to build "forward-looking" relations with Beijing and Seoul. He was also expected to propose joint history research with China.

Abe, Japan's first premier to be born after World War II, is the first postwar Japanese prime minister to choose China as the destination of his first official overseas trip and the first since 2001 to hold a full summit in China.

Relations have soured chiefly due to Koizumi's repeated visits to Yasukuni in defiance of protests from China and South Korea, which see the shrine as a symbol of Japan's past militarism because it enshrines World War II Class-A war criminals along with the war dead.

The two countries have since 2001 had occasional top-level meetings in third countries but only on the sidelines of other events. The last bilateral summit was held in April last year in Jakarta.

Abe's wife Akie, who is traveling with the prime minister and making her overseas debut as Japan's new first lady, is also in the spotlight. She visited a junior high school and a welfare facility for the handicapped in Beijing on Sunday.

Expectations are high both in and outside Japan that Akie, a fan of South Korean heartthrob Bae Yong Joon, can play a role in softening her husband's hawkish image in the two neighboring countries. Japan has not had a first lady for five and a half years as Abe's predecessor Koizumi is a divorced single.

Postal worker confesses to stabbing Osaka taxi driver; police find body

OSAKA — A postal worker, who is in police custody in a robbery case, has confessed to stabbing an Osaka taxi driver last month and police said Sunday they found a dead body based on the man's confessions. Police identified the suspect as Takeshi Hiratani, 35, who works at the Suita Senri Post Office in Osaka Prefecture. Hiratani told police that he stabbed Kaname Maekubo, a 59-year-old taxi driver in Takatsuki.
Police said they are trying to identify the body which was found in a vacant lot in Takatsuki after the suspect confessed to stabbing the taxi driver. Maekubo went missing Sept 17 after witnesses saw him quarreling with another man in front of a company condominium in Takatsuki, according to investigators.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Abe says World War II leaders tried by allies cannot be considered war criminals

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said in the Diet on Friday that Japanese World War II leaders tried and convicted by the U.S. and its allies cannot be considered war criminals.

Referring to the 14 Japanese convicted as Class-A war criminals by the tribunal's justices from 11 nations and who are now enshrined at Tokyo's Yasukuni Shrine, Abe said they had stood trial for crimes against peace and humanity "but it was a concept established at that time, and based on the principle that crimes and penalties must be defined by law it is ridiculous to call them criminals. That also was the case for my relative."

Abe, 52, is the grandson of Nobusuke Kishi, who served in the wartime cabinet and helped supervise the industrialization of Manchukuo, the puppet state Japan set up in northeastern China.

Kishi was jailed by U.S. forces as a top war criminal after the war, although he was not tried by the Tokyo tribunal. He later served as prime minister from 1957 to 1960.

Abe said that war criminals should have been freed when Japan signed the 1951 San Francisco Peace Treaty, which ended the U.S. occupation of Japan.

"Japan was not in a position to lodge objections over its relations with other countries when signing the treaty," he noted. "These people were not tried under Japanese laws, and I, as prime minister, must not decide whether they are war criminals or not."

All 47 prefectural labor offices found to have engaged in dubious accounting

TOKYO — All 47 prefectural labor bureaus under the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare are found to have engaged in some form of irregular accounting practices such as logging expenses for staff travel never made, investigations by the government's Board of Audit showed Saturday.

The bureaus misappropriated a total of more than 7 billion yen in the six years through fiscal 2004, they showed. Of the total amount of misappropriated funds, about 300 million yen was determined to be the result of falsifying accounts by way of appropriating overtime work benefits when no such work was done or pretending to hire part-time workers, the board said.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Yasukuni Shrine to review war museum's claims about U.S.

TOKYO — Yasukuni Shrine plans to change or delete claims in its war museum that the United States forced Japan to fight World War II, following U.S. government complaints, sources close to the shrine said Friday.
The descriptions at the Yushukan museum claims the U.S. government under the administration of President Franklin D Roosevelt forced Japan to open fire by imposing economic embargos, and that the United States recovered from depression as a result. U.S. government officials and Japanese historians have requested that the shrine reconsider the claims and representatives of the shrine's membership also questioned their accuracy, the sources said.

Abe acknowledges responsibility of grandfather Kishi, other wartime leaders

TOKYO — Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Thursday acknowledged the war responsibility of his grandfather, the late former Prime Minister Nobusuke Kishi, and Japan's other wartime leaders ahead of his fence-mending talks with the leaders of China and South Korea.

Abe, known for his conservative views on history, also committed himself to accept two official statements in the 1990s in which Tokyo apologized for Japanese colonial rule and aggression and the use of Asian women as sex slaves for Japanese soldiers before and during World War II.

Abe, who took office on Sept 26 as Japan's youngest postwar premier, clarified his official stand on the country's past militarism during a House of Representatives Budget Committee session Thursday.

"As a result of starting war, many Japanese lost their lives and families, and we left many scars on the people of Asia," the 52-year-old Abe said.

"Particularly, those people in the position of leader at the time, including my grandfather, had great responsibility. Since politicians have to take responsibility for any outcomes, that decision certainly must have been wrong," he said.

Abe made the comment in response to a question by opposition Democratic Party of Japan heavyweight Naoto Kan about his view on Kishi's signing of the rescript for starting the war in the Pacific in 1941 as a member of the Cabinet of Prime Minister Hideki Tojo.

Kishi, Abe's maternal grandfather who was then the commerce and industry minister, was detained as a Class-A war criminal suspect after the end of World War II but was released soon after Tojo and six others were hung in 1948. He served as Japan's prime minister from 1957 to 1960.

As for a landmark 1995 statement, in which then Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama apologized and expressed remorse for Japan's colonial rule and atrocities before and during World War II, Abe said, "It is valid for my cabinet."

When asked his personal view, Abe said it is "natural" for him to accept the statement as prime minister, including its descriptions of the country's colonial rule and aggression as "has been a statement adopted by the cabinet."

On a 1993 statement by then Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono, in which the government officially acknowledged that the Imperial Japanese Army forcibly held Asian women in sexual servitude for its soldiers, Abe said, "Including myself, the current government has taken it over."

When asked his view in Monday's lower house plenary session, Abe refrained from admitting the responsibility of the wartime leaders charged as Class-A war criminals at the 1946-1948 International Military Tribunal for the Far East, also known as the Tokyo Tribunal.

Abe in 1995 abstained from approving a parliamentary resolution carrying a similar message to the Murayama statement. In 1997, he formed a group with fellow lawmakers with revisionist views on history, including the issue of sex slaves, and criticized Kono's statement.

But since taking office, Abe has vowed to strive to mend the strained ties with China and South Korea angered at former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's visits to Yasukuni Shrine, which some regard as symbolic of Japan's militarist past.

He is slated to hold summit talks with Chinese President Hu Jintao on Sunday and with South Korean President Roh Moo Hyun on Monday.

Three found dead with nails stuck in their heads in Nagano home

NAGANO — Three members of a family were found dead early Friday morning with 20-cm-long nails hammered into their heads, police said. The bodies were discovered around two hours after a car was found abandoned on a bridge in Karuizawa. A note on the steering wheel said: "I am sorry for not turning myself in."

Police traced the car to Hideshi Kojima, 48, a company employee living in Miyota, Nagano Prefecture. When they visited his house, they discovered the bodies, believed to be Kojima, his 78-year-old mother-in-law, and his 18-year-old daughter. Kojima's 45-year-old wife is missing, police said, adding they found another note in the wife's handwriting.

Police said an autopsy is planned to determine the cause of death, since they suspect the trio may already have been dead when the nails were hammered in.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Police officer steals a shoe for stress relief

OSAKA — An Osaka police officer was arrested Wednesday for stealing a shoe from an elementary school. The 24-year-old police officer, identified as Norifusa Nakanishi, was arrested for trespassing into an elementary school in Shijounawate, and stealing a shoe belonging to a 10-year-old boy around 1:10 p.m. on Sept 30.

"I was stressed out, and smelling a shoe is my way to release stress," Nakanishi was quoted by police as saying.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Top court turns down appeal against keeping news source secret

The Supreme Court on Tuesday rejected an appeal filed by a U.S. health food maker against a lower court decision allowing a reporter to keep a news source secret over a 1997 report that the firm's Japan unit underreported income to save tax payments.

The appeal was filed after the Tokyo High Court in March accepted refusal of the reporter for Japan Broadcasting Corp (NHK) to reveal the news source, saying news-gathering activities serve as a foundation for the freedom of the press that satisfies the public's right to know. NHK, along with other Japanese media, reported in October 1997 that Japanese and U.S. tax authorities found that the U.S. firm's Japanese subsidiary had underreported about 7.7 billion yen in taxable income.

Driver who killed 4 children in Saitama caused accident in May due to same reason

A 38-year-old man arrested for ramming his car into a group of children, killing four of them, in Kawaguchi, Saitama, last week, caused an accident in May due to careless driving for the same reason, police said Wednesday.

The driver, identified as Hideyuki Izawa, has told police that he lost control of his car while he was switching the cassette tapes in a boom box placed on the passenger seat. In the May accident, Izawa rear-ended a mini-vehicle stopped at a red light in Sugito-machi, Saitama. There were no injuriese. Izawa said that he was distracted while changing tapes at the time of that accident, as well.

Japan warns N Korea of stern int'l response if it conducts nuclear test

Japan again urged North Korea on Wednesday to abolish its nuclear programs and warned Pyongyang of a stern international response should the North go ahead with a nuclear test it declared Tuesday.

"A nuclear test will be unacceptable and Japan strongly demands that North Korea observe the U.N. Security Council resolution" reached in July, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said in a parliamentary session. Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Hakubun Shimomura described North Korea's actions as "deplorable." He added that if a nuclear test is carried out, it would be an "unacceptable" and "serious threat" to the peace and safety of Japan and the rest of the world.

'Peeping' economist indicted for groping student on train

TOKYO — Prosecutors on Wednesday indicted economist Kazuhide Uekusa, once a well-known TV commentator, for allegedly molesting a female high school student on a train in Tokyo in September.Uekusa, 45, was convicted in March last year of public indecency by trying to look up a 17-year-old girl's skirt at a Tokyo railway station in 2004, using a mirror, and did not appeal. He was a professor at Waseda University at that time.

In the latest case, Uekusa allegedly put his hand up the student's skirt and touched her body at around 10:10 p.m. on Sept 13 on an express commuter train between Shinagawa and Keikyu Kamata stations on the Keihin Kyuko Line.

On the train, the girl, a second-year high school student from Kanagawa Prefecture, said, "Stop it," and she and other passengers seized Uekusa and handed him over to policemen.

After he was arrested, he was discharged from the Nagoya University of Commerce & Business where he was serving as visiting professor at its graduate school.

In the 2004 case, he pleaded not guilty during the trial, but the court convicted him and fined him 500,000 yen. His mirror was confiscated as part of the punishment.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Aso indicates support for Ban as next U.N. chief

TOKYO — Japan on Tuesday welcomed South Korean Foreign Affairs and Trade Minister Ban Ki Moon's good showing in a straw poll at the U.N. Security Council on Monday which virtually assures Ban of succeeding Kofi Annan as secretary general of the United Nations."We have been saying that we want someone from Asia, so the fact that it is South Korean Foreign Affairs and Trade Minister Ban is good," Foreign Minister Taro Aso said in a news conference, hinting that Japan will support Ban in his bid to be the next U.N. chief.

Russia releases fishing boat skipper

NEMURO — A Japanese skipper taken into Russian custody for intruding into and poaching in Russian-administered territorial waters off Nemuro, Hokkaido, left for home Tuesday morning for the first time in almost seven weeks, the Foreign Ministry said.
Noboru Sakashita, 59, was handed over to the Japanese side after accepting a South Kuril District Court ruling Sept 21 in Yuzhno-Kurilsk on Russian-administered Kunashiri Island that he pay a 500,000-ruble (about $12,700 or 2.2 million yen) fine.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Rightist arrested for intimidating Korean residents' group

A Japanese ultranationalist was arrested Monday on suspicion of trying to intimidate members of a North Korea-affiliated association of Korean residents in Japan by sending through the mail a package containing a severed finger and a threatening letter, the police said.

Yoshitaka Fukumoto, 27, an executive member of the right-wing group, sent the package with a postmark in Kagaoshima Prefecture to So Man Sul, chairman of Chongryun, the General Association of Korean Residents in Japan, on Sept 16, according to investigations. The Metropolitan Police Department determined the sender was Fukumoto from fingerprints on the envelope, the police said.

Chinese man sentenced to death for killing landlord, wife in Tokyo

TOKYO — The Tokyo District Court sentenced a 29-year-old Chinese man to death Monday for killing and robbing his landlord and the landlord's wife in Tokyo in 2002. Xie Yidi, a Chinese national, had told the court he accidentally stabbed the couple — Isamu Hayakawa, 64, and Yoko Hayakawa, 57 — and denied he intended to kill them.

According to the prosecution's closing argument, Xie broke into the Hayakawas' Shinagawa Ward home sometime between midnight Aug 30, 2002, and 2 a.m. the next day, stabbed them to death and robbed them of jewelry and around 47,000 yen in cash. Hayakawa, Xie's landlord, owned a noodle-making shop.

Shinzo Abe square off in Diet over Yasukuni, nationalism

TOKYO — Prime Minister Shinzo Abe squared off with opposition lawmakers Monday in the Diet's first lower house session since his policy address last Friday, with opposition Democratic Party of Japan's Yukio Hatoyama criticizing Abe's "beautiful country, Japan" concept as having a nationalistic and authoritarian undertone.

Hatoyama, the DPJ's secretary general, also touched on history issues and asked Abe to clarify his views on the responsibility of Class-A war criminals as leaders of the nation during World War II. Hatoyama demanded that Abe pledge not to visit the war-linked Yasukuni Shrine.

Abe, who took office last Tuesday and is known for his conservative view on history, said he will in principle follow the government's view of Japan's wartime history expressed in a landmark 1995 statement, in which then Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama apologized and expressed remorse for Japan's colonial rule and atrocities before and during World War II.

But Abe stressed that he believes there are various opinions in the debate as to the responsibilities of wartime leaders and that it is "inappropriate for the government to make a specific judgment regarding the responsibilities of Class-A war criminals as leaders."

Abe, who supported his predecessor Junichiro Koizumi's visits to Yasukuni and is a regular worshipper himself, reiterated that he will not make public whether or not he will go to the shrine and whether or not he had gone there as premier.

"It's a country where nationalism and authoritarianism hold sway and politics is pushed away from life," Hatoyama told the plenary session of the House of Representatives.

Hatoyama said social and economic gaps have been widening among citizens under Koizumi's administration and Abe should be held responsible collectively because he held key posts in the governing Liberal Democratic Party and also in the cabinet when Koizumi was in power.

Standing in for DPJ President Ichiro Ozawa, hospitalized for a medical checkup, Hatoyama proposed that Abe, who is the LDP president, hold weekly debates with the DPJ leader.

Hatoyama also criticized Koizumi's administration for "having completely failed" in diplomacy with North Korea, given Pyongyang's missile firings in July.

The DPJ executive challenged Abe to reconfirm his basic policy for not normalizing relations with North Korea unless all Japanese abductees return home.

On the economic front, Hatoyama questioned if Abe is intent on hiking the consumption tax after an upper house election next July.

Abe dodged the question by only saying, "Detailed deliberations will be held from autumn next year."