Thursday, November 30, 2006

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

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

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

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

Australian gov't declares Japanese midget sub historic shipwreck

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nagasaki to opt out of evacuation plans for nuclear attack

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

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

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

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

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

Naked woman found dead in Nagasaki hotel

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

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

Sunday, November 26, 2006

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

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

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

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Megumi Yokota film opens in Japan

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

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

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

Yokohama man admits to killing ex-classmate over money

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

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

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

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

Principal of school with extortion trouble hangs himself

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

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

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

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

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

Imperial Household Agency protests against weekly magazine article

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, November 12, 2006

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

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

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

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Editors protest state NHK order

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

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

Ceremony held for Princess Aiko's well-being

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

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

Friday, November 10, 2006

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

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

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

Police to boost patrols near schools over suicide-threatening letter

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

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

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

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

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

Policeman wanted for robbing post office

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

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

Opposition demands Abe dismiss Aso over 'nuclear Japan' remarks

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, November 06, 2006

Part-timers forced to do unpaid overtime work

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

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

Japan welcomes death sentence on Saddam

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

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

Resource center on Japan's wartime aggression opens in Saitama

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ehime school principal kills himself amid curriculum chaos

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

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

Two girls jump to death from school building in Saitama

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

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

Saturday, November 04, 2006

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, November 03, 2006

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gucci opens flagship shop in Ginza

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

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

4,067 receive gov't awards on Culture Day

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

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

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Gov't to certify food quality at Japanese restaurants abroad

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

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

Teen in Kagawa arrested for kicking to death newspaper delivery man

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

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