Saturday, December 29, 2007

Homeless shoplifter lived in hotel for 2 years by cashing stolen CDs

An unemployed, homeless man who has been indicted recently for shoplifting was found to have lived at a business hotel for nearly two years with money he obtained by selling CDs and DVDs he shoplifted, police said Saturday. Tsutomu Shimizu, 44, who has no fixed address or job, shoplifted CDs and DVDs from bookstores in Saitama Prefecture since around January 2005 and sold them to secondhand goods dealers to obtain cash.
Shimizu lived in the business hotel in front of JR Kumagaya Station for 716 days until he was arrested Oct 25 this year, when he attempted to shoplift five CDs at a shop in the prefecture. He was found to have paid a total of 3.7 million yen for the accommodation, according to police. The man is believed to have stolen CDs and DVDs worth some 10 million yen, the police said.
The hotel did not find anything suspicious about Shimizu as he wore business suits when coming and going through the hotel, police added. The Kumagaya branch of the Saitama District Public Prosecutors Office has indicted Shimizu on charges of theft and attempted theft.

Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda plays catch with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao

Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda played a game of catch with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao on Saturday, in what is perhaps a symbolic move on the warming of their countries' ties, a day after agreeing to build on recent improvements in relations.
Fukuda, dressed in a white baseball uniform and a red cap, threw and caught baseballs in a gymnasium at Beijing's Diaoyutai State Guesthouse with Wen, also in a red cap and a gray baseball uniform. The event was squeezed into Fukuda's schedule after the Japanese prime minister made a request to Wen in a light moment during their talks on Friday. Wen, who wore a Ritsumeikan uniform during the game, arrived in the gymnasium first, and jogged for warm-up. The game between the two leaders — Fukuda is 71 years old, Wen is 65 — lasted about five minutes.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Fukuda tells Chinese Japan will 'look squarely' into wartime history

Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda told a Chinese audience on Friday his country will "look squarely" into its wartime militarism and pass it on to its children and grandchildren, saying he believes that is the only way to ensure mistakes are not repeated.
In a speech at Peking University, Fukuda also urged China to become his country's partner to create a peaceful and stable world, saying the two nations both face a responsibility and a major opportunity to do so.
Referring to Japan's wartime militarism as "an unfortunate period" in history, Fukuda said, "I believe it is our responsibility to squarely look at it and to pass it on to our offspring."
"I believe we can prevent mistakes in the future only if we properly look at the past, and have the courage and wisdom to repent what we must repent," he said, triggering a round of applause from the mainly Chinese audience.
The speech by Fukuda during his four-day visit to China was the first to be given in the country by a Japanese prime minister since Ryutaro Hashimoto in 1997.
It was broadcast live on China's state-run television, a rare move by China seen as symbolic of the recent warming of testy bilateral relations.
"Japan and China have become major presences" in the world, Fukuda said. "The fact that Japan and China have come to acquire the abilities to contribute to the stability and development of Asia and the world is a big chance for the two countries," he said.
Relations between Japan and China have deteriorated in the past over Japan's wartime atrocities, most recently over then Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's repeated visits to the war-linked Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo.
Yasukuni enshrines 14 Class-A war criminals along with the war dead. China has strongly protested visits to the shrine by Japanese prime ministers, saying they show that Japan does not repent from its wartime atrocities.
Bilateral ties warmed somewhat after Fukuda's predecessor, Shinzo Abe, took over from Koizumi and visited China in October 2006. Fukuda is paying a visit to China for the first time since taking office in September.
"The goal of my trip this time is to further harden the base of Japan-China relations which has been developing strongly since autumn last year, and to bolster relations to a new level," he said.
"I believe it is my duty to make it possible for us, together with those in important positions such as President Hu Jintao, as well as people from both countries... to enjoy the cherry blossoms in full bloom in the spring," he added.
As part of an effort to boost the exchange of people from the two countries, Fukuda announced a program for Peking University that features holding symposiums over the next two years.
The program also includes an invitation to 100 people from the university and 50 from an affiliated high school to visit Japan next year, Fukuda said.

89-year-old woman dies after 30 hospitals refuse to accept her in Osaka

The Osaka Municipal Fire Department said Friday that an 89-year-old woman died after 30 hospitals refused to accept her in Tondabayashi and neighboring cities in the prefecture on Christmas Day.
According to the fire department, the woman became ill at her home in Tondabayashi. Her family called an ambulance at 4:49 a.m., but 30 hospitals refused to accept her. When the ambulance finally got her to a hospital at 6:40, she died.
Some hospitals told the ambulance team that their intensive care units were full, while others said they don't accept patients whom they haven't taken care of before. The hospital which finally accepted the woman was one of the hospitals that earlier refused to admit her, saying there was a shortage of doctors on duty.
There were 13 emergency hospitals in the Osaka area, but the fire department said the ambulance didn't try them because the woman was in a stable condition. She only became critical at the last minute when her blood pressure rose.
Officials of the Osaka prefectural government and the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare said they will investigate the case to see if the cause of death can be linked to the delay in getting her to a hospital.
On Dec 23, another woman, 67, died after 14 hospitals refused to accept her in Tondabayashi. Since similar cases have been reported in other cities due to a lack of doctors nationwide, local and central governments have been discussing countermeasures.

Friday, December 21, 2007

merry X-mas Japan!

Defense Minister Ishiba troubled by legal issues if UFOs arrive

Defense Minister Shigeru Ishiba said Thursday that unidentified flying objects may exist and he would be troubled over potential legal issues if one arrives and it requires action by the Self-Defense Forces.
"There are no grounds that allow us to say definitively that they do not exist," Ishiba said regarding UFOs at a news conference, joining other top officials in talk about the subject triggered by a question from an opposition lawmaker. "Various possibilities should be considered."
"If Godzilla comes, typically it would require mobilization of SDF troops for disaster relief," the minister said, citing the monster character in the famous movie that destroys buildings and other things in sight. "It's the same with Mothra," he added, citing another character.
Ishiba indicated it would be difficult to determine on what legal grounds the SDF may be mobilized when, for instance, there is a violation of Japanese airspace but the violating subject is not hostile.
"Would that be mobilization for an act of defense? That would not be the case if they say, 'Everyone on the Earth, let us be friends,"' Ishiba said. "Or what can we do when we can't figure out what they're saying?"
Ishiba added he was only speaking his own personal views and he did not mean his ministry is working out ways to deal with UFOs.
Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda's cabinet endorsed a position Tuesday that Japan believes the existence of UFOs is unconfirmed in response to a question posed by a Democratic Party of Japan lawmaker.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Japan intercepts missile in milestone test

A Japanese navy destroyer shot down a ballistic missile on Monday in a test about 100 miles over the Pacific Monday, a first for a U.S. ally, U.S. and Japanese forces said.
The $55 million test was a "major milestone" in growing U.S.-Japanese cooperation, said Rear Adm. Katsutoshi Kawano of the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force and Lt. General Henry Obering, head of the Pentagon's Missile Defense Agency.
U.S.-Japanese missile-defense ties have grown greatly since North Korea fired a three-stage Taepo Dong 1 missile over Japan on August 31, 1998.
The interceptor was fired by JS Kongo, the first of four Japanese destroyers due to be outfitted to counter missiles that could carry chemical, biological or nuclear warheads.
By intercepting a missile similar in speed and size to those in North Korea's arsenal, "Japan has proven its capability to defend and protect their country from North Korean missiles," said Riki Ellison, a prominent missile-defense advocate who monitored the test.
The test involved a shipboard detection and tracking tool called Aegis built by Lockheed Martin Corp and the Standard Missile-3 interceptor, produced by Raytheon Co..
The medium-range target missile was launched from a U.S. range on Kauai, Hawaii. About three minutes later, the SM-3 intercepted it about 100 miles above the Pacific, a joint U.S.-Japanese announcement said.
The Kongo, armed with its SM-3 interceptors, will return to Japan to provide an "operational" antimissile capability to complement ground-based Patriot Advanced Capability-3 missiles already installed in Japan, Taylor said.


The Pentagon's Missile Defense Agency is building a multibillion-dollar, layered shield it says is designed to defeat warheads that could be fired by Iran and North Korea. Japan is the leading U.S. partner in the effort, involved in joint research and development, including for a more advanced interceptor.
In addition, the U.S. and Japanese navies have worked out common tactics, techniques and procedures for their Aegis-equipped ships to shoot down enemy missiles, the U.S. Navy's Pacific Fleet said last week.
Such cooperation has angered Beijing, which fears it could help the United States defend Taiwan if China used force to try to bring the self-governing island under mainland rule.
The Kongo "is emblematic of a complex weave of U.S. and Japanese anti-missile capabilities," said Paul Giarra, a former Pentagon senior country director for Japan who inaugurated a U.S.-Japan missile-defense working group in the early 1990s.
"Any system that can check China's growing ballistic missile clout is problematic for Beijing," he added.
The Lake Erie, a Pearl Harbor-based U.S. guided-missile cruiser, tracked the missile target and fed data on it to a command center while simulating a shootdown of its own, MDA's Taylor said in an email response to questions from Reuters.


Monday, December 17, 2007

Japan to set up 7 new diplomatic posts abroad, including 2 in Africa

The government plans to establish seven new diplomatic posts abroad, especially two embassies in Africa to underline its commitments ahead of the Tokyo International Conference on African Development next May, government officials said Sunday.
Government sources said the active Africa policy is also aimed at promoting diplomacy for natural resources and increasing the number of nations that will back Japan in its bid to become a permanent U.N. Security Council member. The embassies in Africa will be set up in Burkina Faso and Mauritania. The other five will be embassies in Latvia, Georgia and Tonga, and consulates general in Qingdao, China, and Nashville, Tennessee, in the United States.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Fire breaks out on MSDF destroyer at Yokosuka

A fire broke out on a Maritime Self-Defense Force destroyer anchored at Yokosuka base in Kanagawa Prefecture late Friday, slightly injuring two of its crewmen before it was extinguished eight hours later early Saturday. Following the fire, which started at around 10:20 p.m. near the bridge of the 5,200-ton Shirane, a 37-year-old petty officer third class and a 20-year-old leading seaman were taken to hospital for smoke inhalation, police said.

About 80 crew members were aboard the vessel when the fire broke out. The fire is believed to have started near the radar screen in the warship's combat information center that controls missile and machine gun firing operations. The fire destroyed the CIC, police and MSDF officials said. Police suspect the fire was caused by an electrical system glitch.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Suspect in fatal Sasebo sports club shooting found dead outside church

Police on Saturday found a man in a camouflage outfit lying dead in a pool of blood near a Catholic church in the town of Funakoshi. Police said the 37-year-old man is suspected of being the gunman in Friday's shooting rampage at a sports club in Sasebo, that left two dead and six injured.

The church is in the town of Funakoshi, about 5 kilometers southwest of the sports club, police officials said, adding that a shotgun was found near the body of the man who has been identified as Masayoshi Magome.
Magome apparently committed suicide, as the sound of a gunshot was heard around 5:44 a.m. from the church's direction, police said.
Police said Magome, who is from Funakoshi, is the owner of a white minivan in which two shotguns, one air gun and camouflage clothing were discovered after the vehicle was found early Saturday in front of the church.
According to police investigations, the suspect is said to have gone to the same junior high school as one of the two people killed in Friday's 7:10 p.m. incident in the sports club Renaissance Sasebo, identified as Yuji Fujimoto, a 36-year-old fishing gear maker.
Some kind of trouble between the suspect and either Fujimoto or the other person killed, identified as Mai Kuramoto, a 26-year-old female swimming instructor, developed into the shooting rampage.
Six other people aged 9 to 48 were injured, but their conditions were not life-threatening, police said.
The suspect was a regular user of the sports club, police said.
Police said the gunman was wearing a camouflage suit, a silver gray down-jacket and a full-face helmet. He was described as well-built and about 170-190 centimeters tall.
The gunman entered the building from the front entrance, before randomly shooting at people in the lobby and in an office room, in addition to a pool where a swimming lesson for children was being held. People near the scene told investigators they heard at least six shots.
Kuramoto was shot in the office room back of a reception counter, police said.
There were about 50 club members and 20 staffers at the time of the shooting, according to the club's Tokyo-based operator Renaissance Inc.
The site is in a residential area about 2 kilometers north of JR Sasebo Station, with a city residents' hall, a junior high school and a nursing facility nearby.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Swimming instructor shot dead, 8 wounded in shotgun attack at Sasebo sports club

A female swimming instructor died and a man was in critical condition Friday after an unidentified gunman randomly fired a shotgun inside a sports club in Sasebo, Nagasaki Prefecture, police said.

A total of eight people were taken to hospital, including the 26-year-old woman identified as Mai Kuramoto and the 30-year-old man, police said. Among the injured were two girls aged 9 and 10 who suffered light wounds to the legs. The gunman wearing a camouflage suit fled from Sports Club Renaissance Sasebo after the incident that took place at around 7:10 p.m.

European Parliament OKs sex slave resolution

The European Parliament on Thursday approved by a majority a draft resolution urging Japan to formally apologize to women forced to work as sex slaves by the Japanese military in Asia before and during World War II, following similar motions adopted earlier this year in the Untied States, the Netherlands and Canada.
The parliament, in Strasbourg, France, discussed the motion on the former sex slaves euphemistically called "comfort women" in a plenary sitting Thursday afternoon before putting it to a vote later that day. The text says the Japanese government officially commissioned the acquisition of young women for the sole purpose of sexual servitude to its armed forces and calls it "one of the largest cases of human trafficking in the 20th century." It calls on Tokyo "formally to acknowledge, apologize, and accept historical and legal responsibility, in a clear and unequivocal manner, for its Imperial Armed Forces' coercion of young women into sexual slavery...from the 1930s until the end of World War II."

No. of reported crimes in 2007 to fall below 2 mil

Police investigated 1,761,993 crimes in Japan during the 11-month period through November, down 7% from a year earlier, the National Police Agency's survey showed Thursday. The total number of crimes for the full year is expected to come to 1.91 million, marking a decline for a fifth straight year and making it likely that the number will be below the 2 million line for the first time in 10 years.
The crime-resolution ratio rose 0.7 percentage point from the year before to 32.2%. The NPA attributed the decrease in crimes to street patrols and expanding awareness of crime prevention among the public. The number of serious crimes, such as murder, robbery, arson and rape, fell 10.2% to 8,382 cases during the reporting period, with huge drops in the numbers of robbery and arson cases. There were 26 murder cases involving handguns, up 10 from a year earlier.
Thefts accounted for the largest number of crimes, but the number of cases dropped 7% to about 1.32 million, while the number of bicycle thefts increased slightly.

Police offer Y3 million reward for killer of Setagaya family of four

Police on Friday offered a 3 million yen reward for information leading to the arrest of the killer of a family of four in Setagaya. On Dec 31, 2000, Mikio Miyazawa, 44, his wife Yasuko, 41, daughter Niina, 8, and son Rei, 6, were stabbed to death in their home.
Tokyo Metropolitan Police investigators remain stumped, despite fingerprints left by the perpetrator and a wealth of other forensic evidence at the crime scene, as the killer apparently lingered in the house for several hours after committing the grisly crimes, eating ice cream and surfing the web on his victim's personal computer.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Britain to ban imitation Japanese swords after attacks

Britain is to ban the sale of imitation Japanese swords from April following an increase in their use in murders and attacks, the Home Office said Wednesday. However, the ban will not affect the purchase of genuine antique long Japanese swords, known as "katana," which were used by samurai warriors in pre-industrial Japan. Martial arts enthusiasts and sword societies in Britain can still use and keep these items.
In recent years, the government has become increasingly concerned about the ease with which imitation traditional swords can be purchased, particularly over the Internet. They are relatively cheap and are often manufactured in China. Home Office Minister Vernon Coaker said, "In the wrong hands, samurai swords are dangerous weapons. There have been a number of high-profile, serious incidents involving samurai swords in England and Wales in recent years. It is therefore crucial that we take this action to tackle the menace of violent crime."

chosen as kanji character of 2007 - NISE (fake)

"Nise" meaning fake was chosen in a poll for the Chinese character, or kanji, of 2007, reflecting a series of food mislabeling scandals as well as problems over political funds and faulty pension records, the Japan Kanji Aptitude Testing Foundation said Wednesday.

The Kyoto-based foundation said it received a total of 90,816 entries this year, of which 6,550, or 18%, selected "nise," followed by "shoku" (eating) and "uso" (lie).

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

U.N. high commissioner for human rights criticizes 3 executions

The U.N. high commissioner for human rights, Louise Arbour, has expressed concern over the execution of three Japanese prisoners that took place recently in Japan. "This practice is problematic under international law, and I call on Japan to reconsider its approach in this regard," Arbour said in a press statement released Monday.

Also of particular concern to the high commissioner was the execution of an elderly inmate as one of the three inmates was aged 74. "It is difficult to see what legitimate purpose is served by carrying out such executions of the elderly, and at the very least on humanitarian grounds, I would urge Japan to refrain from such action," she said. There are currently 104 inmates whose death sentences have been finalized.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Crown Princess Masako turns 44

Crown Princess Masako said she has been able to gradually expand the scope of her official duties in the past year as she marked her 44th birthday Sunday. "I appreciate, above all, that many people gave me a warm welcome at the places I have visited, and it has encouraged me significantly," Crown Princess Masako said in a statement issued ahead of her birthday.

"Although there were ups and downs in the health of the crown princess in the past year, she has made sincere efforts with a strong will to work hard and positively," the Imperial Household Agency said, quoting a team of doctors looking after the crown princess, who is suffering from a stress-induced illness. The doctors said that increasing her activities is "very meaningful for her treatment" as it will increase the crown princess' confidence that is needed for her recovery.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Man in wheelchair run over by express train in Nagoya

A man in a wheelchair died after falling off the platform into the path of an express train in Nagoya on Tuesday afternoon, police said Wednesday. Police said the victim, a 61-year-old man who has not yet been identified, was carrying his passport and that he lived near the station. They suspect the man, who has been disabled for about 30 years, committed suicide.
The incident happened around 4 p.m. at Shibata station. A surveillance camera captured the man moving around in his electric wheelchair for one hour on the platform, moving to the edge each time a train approached.
According to station staff, Shibata station was renovated in July to become barrier free, so disabled people can get on and off trains without help.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Fukuda calls for upper house vote on refueling bill by Dec 15

Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda called on the opposition-dominated House of Councillors committee Tuesday to vote on a bill to resume Japan's antiterrorism refueling mission in the Indian Ocean by Dec 15, the last day of the current parliamentary session, despite the slim chance of its enactment.
"The period of the session is limited but...I want the upper house to reach a conclusion through thorough deliberations," Fukuda told a session of the upper house committee on foreign affairs and defense where substantial debates on the bill started the same day.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Former Japanese soldier who served in China regrets atrocities

A former Japanese Imperial Army soldier said Monday he regrets atrocities committed by his compatriots during World War II and will continue to spread antiwar messages to Japanese people to prevent a repetition of past mistakes. Kiyoshi Sakakura, 87, who served in the army's 59th Division, made the remarks in an address to over 100 students and members of the public at a forum held at Hong Kong University to commemorate the 70th anniversary of Japan's invasion of China.

Sakakura said that while he used to think he and his fellow soldiers were fighting for a war for their emperor, he later realized they were merely invading a neighboring country. Regarding Japanese politicians who have in recent years tried to refute that Nanjing Massacre ever occurred and denied the existence of sex slaves known euphemistically as comfort women, Sakakura said such comments "cannot be forgiven." "We hope Japan will sincerely apologize and improve the Sino-Japanese relationship. I will continue to make public statements so that past mistakes will not repeat themselves," he said.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Ando tumbles to 4th at NHK Trophy

Reigning world champion Miki Ando had a meltdown in the free skate and finished in a disappointing fourth place while Italy's Carolina Kostner held her lead to win the NHK Trophy on Saturday. Kostner took her first NHK title with a total score of 164.69 while second place went to Sarah Meier of Switzerland (163.17). Ando fell on her very first jump — a triple lutz — and things snowballed from there as she was unable to concentrate. She tumbled on the ice two more times and could manage a total of just 145.81.

Earlier in men's action, Daisuke Takahashi made a faulty start in defense of his title, placing second after the short program. Takahashi touched his hand on the ice on a triple axel and faltered with a wobbly spin to finish behind Tomas Verner of the Czech Republic with a score of 77.89 points. Isabelle Delobel and Olivier Schoenfelder of France won the ice dance competition.

Taxi fares increase in Tokyo, Kanagawa for first time in 10 years

Taxi fares were increased Monday in Tokyo and Kanagawa Prefecture. The first price increase since April 1997 raised the flag-down fare for the first 2 kilometers to 710 yen from the current 660 yen. With fares staying flat for some 10 years since the consumption tax rate was raised to 5% from the previous 3%, taxi drivers have been forced to settle for lower wages and poorer work conditions amid a prolonged recession that came to an end only around 2002.
Deregulation that encouraged more firms to enter the taxi industry played a role in lowering the living standard of taxi drivers. As a result of the revised fare tariff, the nighttime charges between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. will become 20% higher than regular rates while the surcharge is now 30% for hours between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m.
Adjusted for charges for travel distances over and above 2 km, which vary from one area to another, the rate of fare increase translate into 7.2% in Tokyo's central area, or the capital's 23 wards, 7.9% in the Tama area in western Tokyo and 7.7% in the Keihin area encompassing such major cities as Yokohama and Kawasaki.
Fare increases in other areas of Japan are expected to be endorsed by the end of the year.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Former Vice Defense Minister Moriya arrested for taking bribes

Prosecutors arrested former Vice Defense Minister Takemasa Moriya on Wednesday on suspicion of taking bribes from a defense equipment trader while he was still the top defense bureaucrat. Moriya, 63, was frequently wined and dined by Motonobu Miyazaki, 69, a former executive of defense equipment trading house Yamada Corp and a founder of another trader Nihon Mirise Corp, and played golf with him at Miyazaki's expense, investigative sources said.
Moriya denied doing special favors for the two companies in his recent parliamentary testimonies, but the special investigation squad at the Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office has determined that Miyazaki entertained Moriya expecting favorable business treatment from the top defense bureaucrat, according to investigative sources.

Canada urges Japan to apologize to WWII sex slaves

Canada's lower house unanimously approved a draft motion Wednesday that urges the Japanese government to make a "formal and sincere apology" to women who were forced by the Japanese military to provide sex for soldiers during World War II.
The text of the motion said the Canadian government should call on the Japanese government "to take full responsibility for the involvement of the Japanese Imperial Forces in the system of forced prostitution, including through a formal and sincere apology expressed in the Diet to all of those who were victims; and to continue to address with those affected in a spirit of reconciliation."
It also said, "Some Japanese public officials have recently expressed a regrettable desire to dilute or rescind the 1993 statement by Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono on the 'comfort women,' which expressed the (Japanese) Government's sincere apologies and remorse for their ordeal."
The motion, though nonbinding, also said the Canadian government should call on Japan to abandon any statement which devalues the expression of regret from the Kono statement and to clearly and publicly refute any claims that the sexual enslavement and trafficking of the "comfort women" for the Imperial Japanese Army never occurred.
"The Canada-Japan alliance continues to be based on shared vital interests and values in the Asia-Pacific region, including the preservation and promotion of political and economic freedoms, support for human rights and democratic institutions, and the securing of prosperity for the people of both countries and the international community," the text said.
Similar motions were adopted in July by the U.S. House of Representatives and earlier this month by the Netherlands' lower house.
Tokyo had asked Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper not to have such a motion passed, according to the Japanese Embassy in Canada, but Canada's four major parties have already agreed to approve it.
An all-party special hearing was held Tuesday at a lower house plenary session to hear from some former sex slaves, euphemistically called "comfort women" in Japan, from South Korea and the Philippines.
The resolution would include a request that school textbooks in Japan describe the sexual enslavement of young women as a war crime committed by the Japanese military, according to the reports.
Opposition New Democrat MP Olivia Chow, who spearheaded the initiative, said: "For me, this isn't crimes against 200,000 women. It's crimes against humanity and all of the world's citizens have a responsibility to speak out against it."
Hundreds of thousands of women from Korea, China, the Philippines, Indonesia and other countries were kidnapped and forced to work in military brothels during World War II.
Japan has euphemistically referred to them as "comfort women."
While the scale of the practice is still debated in Japan, it remains an irritant between Tokyo and its neighbors.
Former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe reopened the wounds earlier this year by saying there was "no evidence" of the practice.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Former Vice Defense Minister Moriya arrested for taking bribes

Prosecutors arrested former Vice Defense Minister Takemasa Moriya on Wednesday on suspicion of taking bribes from recently arrested defense equipment trader Motonobu Miyazaki while he was still the top defense bureaucrat. Moriya, 63, has admitted to being frequently wined and dined by Miyazaki, 69, a former executive of defense equipment trading house Yamada Corp and former president of another trader Nihon Mirise Corp, and playing golf with him in violation of an in-house ethical code of conduct.

But in parliamentary testimonies last month and this month, Moriya flatly denied doing special favors for the two firms. Investigative sources said the prosecutors suspect Moriya gave special favors to Yamada and Nihon Mirise, both based in Tokyo, on matters including procurement of General Electric Co's engines for the Air Self-Defense Force's next-generation CX aircraft in 2005 and later. Moriya is also alleged to have been involved in Yamada's padding of bills for U.S. radar-jamming equipment for helicopters.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Ishiba concerned over French support for lifting China arms embargo

Defense Minister Shigeru Ishiba voiced concern Tuesday over French President Nicolas Sarkozy's support for a proposal to lift a European arms export embargo against China, stressing it may lead to collapsing a regional military balance. "Neither Japan nor the United States wishes for a situation in which the military balance in the region could rapidly collapse," Ishiba told a press conference.
"I hope relevant countries will be mindful of the military balance when exporting" weapons to China, Ishiba said. Sarkozy expressed his support for lifting a European Union ban on arms exports to China during talks with Chinese President Hu Jintao on Monday in Beijing, according to a Chinese government spokesman.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Upper house lawmakers inspect execution chamber

A group of lawmakers from the House of Councillors' legal affairs committee inspected an execution chamber at Tokyo Detention House on Thursday.
It was the first such inspection by lawmakers other than the justice minister in about four years. Members of the House of Representatives' legal affairs committee also plan to inspect it on Monday.
According to committee chairman Kiyohiko Toyama, 11 members inspected the execution facility where inmates are hanged and the site where detention officials push the buttons to operate the facility.
"I had the impression that the Justice Ministry is reluctant to disclose information about executions, including the execution chamber," Toyama told reporters, stressing the need to debate the issue of capital punishment.
Toyama said he is against capital punishment and that it should be abolished and replaced by life imprisonment.
Other members of the committee said, "We should consider whether hanging is appropriate," and "The psychological burden on detention officials involved in executions may be huge," according to Toyama.
The Justice Ministry turned down requests from media organizations to accompany the lawmakers, saying, "It is a place where the heaviest and most severe penalty is executed, and is not suitable to be publicized."

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Five foreigners refused entry on first day of fingerprinting

The Justice Ministry said Wednesday that five foreign nationals had been refused entry to Japan on Tuesday, the first day of the government's policy of taking fingerprints and photographs of foreign nationals aged 16 or older upon their entry at its 27 airports and 126 seaports nationwide.

Ministry officials said the fingerprints of the five were identical to those of five people who had been deported from Japan before. Of the five, three people are believed to have used forged passports, the officials said.

Meanwhile, there were no foreign nationals who faced the refusal of entry because they resisted having their fingerprints and photographs taken, the officials said.

They also said the ministry failed to read fingerprints of a total of 21 foreigners at Obihiro, Narita, Central Japan and Fukuoka airports as well as Hakata seaport through scanners, apparently due to their advanced ages which make their fingerprints unclear.

The 21 were all allowed to enter Japan after undergoing oral immigration examinations under a ministry ordinance and other rules, the officials said.

Many visitors expressed understanding of the measure's necessity for antiterrorism security but were displeased with the long waiting time.

The measure excludes ethnic Koreans and other permanent residents with special status, those under 16, those visiting Japan for diplomatic or official purposes, and those invited by the Japanese government.

However, Choi Sung Shik of the Korean Residents Union in Japan said in a protest rally in front of Tokyo's Justice Ministry building Tuesday that many Korean permanent residents without special status will now be subjected to the measure.

Also joining the rally organized by Amnesty International-Japan and other human rights organizations, Choi Sun Ae, a third-generation Korean resident, also expressed strong concerns about the impact that the measure is likely to have on the Korean community in Japan.
Choi Sun Ae said she once refused to get fingerprinted and was accordingly stripped of her permanent status due to violation of an Alien Registration Law regulation, although she later regained it after the regulation was abolished in April 2000.

"Under the revised immigration law, Korean residents with general permanent statuses would face a similar situation to mine if they reject the fingerprinting," she said.

Also among some 50 protesters was Renate Tamamushi, 68, who has been married to a Japanese man and lived in Japan for 46 years. She voiced opposition to the fingerprinting, saying, "Japan is my second home country and I don't want to be treated like a terrorist."

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Elderly woman donates Y1 bil in cash to hometown

woman donated 1 billion yen in cash Friday to her hometown of Minamiashigara, Kanagawa Prefecture, on the occasion of her 88th birthday to promote education and sports.

Chizuko Yokomizo, a resident of the seaside resort town of Oiso in the same prefecture, said she decided more than 40 years ago to donate 1 billion yen when she turned 88 and continued to save money to achieve that goal.

The cash — 100 bundles of banknotes each containing 10 million yen — were piled up in a pyramid form in a conference room on the third floor of the city hall. They weighed about 100 kilograms.

The amount, which is equal to 6.7% of the city government's general-account budget for fiscal 2006, is equivalent to about 53 percent of its education expenses.

"It is the greatest happiness in my life to be able to do this favor for my hometown," Yokomizo said. "I'd like to continue my efforts for children's education as long as I live."

The city government plans to establish a Yokomizo memorial fund aimed at promoting children's sports and cultural activities, helping child raising and assisting in educational studies, officials said.

Born in 1919, Yokomizo was raised by her parents who were teachers, and became a high school teacher herself.

After World War II, Yokomizo and her late husband established a kitchen equipment business venture that resulted in great success.

In 1999, she donated 500 million yen to the Oiso municipal government which used the money to build a welfare facility for handicapped people.

Minamiashigara, with a population of 44,000, is located in the mountains some 80 kilometers southwest of central Tokyo.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Fukuda arrives in U.S. for summit talks with Bush

Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda arrived Thursday in the United States where he is expected to explain to U.S. President George W Bush the following day about Japan's efforts to resume its refueling mission in the Indian Ocean and seek cooperation in dealing with North Korea.
An advocate of active Asian diplomacy, Fukuda will seek understanding from Bush that his policies are in the common interests of Japan and the United States, according to Japanese officials. The prime minister also hopes to reaffirm the Japan-U.S. alliance. He and Bush will hold summit talks in Washington for about an hour, make brief remarks to the press and then continue talks at a luncheon hosted by Bush, the officials said.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Immigration fingerprinting, photographing device unveiled at Narita

The Immigration Bureau put a new fingerprinting and photographing device on public display at Narita International Airport on Wednesday, a week before a new law requiring the fingerprinting and photographing of foreigners entering Japan comes into force. The law is aimed at preventing terrorism but officials say fingerprints and other biometric data will be stored in a database to be checked against foreigners who have been deported from Japan and those wanted by the Japanese police.

The law excludes ethnic Koreans and other permanent residents with special status, foreigners aged under 16, visitors to Japan using diplomatic or official passports and state guests.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

N Korea removal from blacklist may hurt Japan-U.S. ties: Machimura

Chief Cabinet Secretary Nobutaka Machimura said Monday that Japan-U.S. ties could be adversely affected if the United States decides to remove North Korea from its list of terrorist-sponsoring nations despite Tokyo's request not to do so due to lack of progress in the issue of Pyongyang's abduction of Japanese.
While Machimura denied that one problem might totally damage bilateral relations, which he described as "multilayered," he said delisting North Korea "certainly would not have a good influence on the Japan-U.S. relationship." Machimura said that Japan-U.S. ties include the economy, culture, diplomacy and person-to-person relationships, but emphasized that the abduction issue carries "a different weight" compared with other bilateral themes as it involves the feelings and emotions of Japanese people.

Fukuda to meet Bush on Friday

Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda will visit the United States on Friday for talks with U.S. President George W Bush and then travel to Singapore next week to attend annual regional summit meetings, Chief Cabinet Secretary Nobutaka Machimura said Monday.

The top government spokesman said that in his talks with Bush, Fukuda is expected to reaffirm the Japan-U.S. alliance and his wish to further enhance it, as well as to express his intention of making the alliance and Japan's Asian diplomacy resonate with each other. Fukuda is expected to express his determination to resume at an early date Japan's refueling operations in support of U.S.-led antiterrorism operations in and around Afghanistan, according to sources close to the matter

Monday, November 12, 2007

Top court eyes letting lay judges decide whether to accept confessions

The Supreme Court's Legal Training and Research Institute is set to propose letting lay judges determine whether to accept confessions as evidence when Japan introduces a lay judge system for criminal trials by May 2009, according to an outline of its study report. The outline gives high credit to the recent adoption of videotaped interrogations as an "effective method" of ensuring the credibility of confessions, making it likely to encourage its full introduction.

In Japan, "voluntary confessions" that are accepted by courts in convicting suspects but later turn out to have been forced by investigators have become a major problem due to such recent cases as that of a man found to be innocent after serving two-year prison terms for rape and attempted rape in Toyama Prefecture. In the outline, the institute calls for not using confessions as evidence unless lay judges decide to adopt them in cases where the voluntariness of the confessions is a disputed point.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Ozawa retracts resignation offer

Democratic Party of Japan President Ichiro Ozawa expressed his intention Tuesday to retract his earlier offer to step down and remain in his post as head of the largest opposition party, DPJ Secretary General Yukio Hatoyama said.
Hatoyama told reporters after meeting with Ozawa for a second day to try to convince him to stay in his post that the DPJ leader told him, "I feel as if I've embarrassed myself somewhat, but I would like to give it one more go." The development came just after Ozawa's aides said no conclusion had been reached following the talks between him and Hatoyama as well as acting presidents Naoto Kan and Azuma Koshiishi.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Shiga man, 69, arrested for threatening to bomb bullet train

Shiga Prefectural Police on Monday arrested temp-staff worker Takahiro Murakami, a 69-year-old resident of Omi-Hachiman, for allegedly threatening to bomb a West Japan Railway Co shinkansen. According to police, Murakami called JR West's customer center from his home on July 21, and threatened "Do you want me to blow up the shinkansen?" As a result, JR West conducted a search for any unusual objects between Shin-Kobe and Hakata stations.
Initially, Murakami called JR West to complain about its handling of a derailment accident on the Fukuchiyama Line in April 2005 that left 107 dead and more than 500 people injured. But, frustrated with the railway's response, he began to say he would blow up the shinkansen, according to police.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Book author ordered to compensate Nanjing Massacre victim for libel

The Tokyo District Court on Friday ordered the author of a book examining the Japanese military's atrocities in Nanjing in 1937 and its publisher to pay a combined 4 million yen in damages to a woman for discrediting her by giving readers the impression that she is not a witness to the incident despite her claiming to be so.

In handing down the ruling to Asia University Professor Shudo Higashinakano and publisher Tendensha, Presiding Judge Michiyo Miyokawa said that the book's description left a strong impression that the plaintiff, Xia Shuqin, only pretends to be a survivor of the Nanjing Massacre.

Miyokawa continued, "Its interpretation of materials is inappropriate, bringing about no valuable academic results, and the court cannot recognize any truth in the book or any reasons that can be believed as truth."

After receiving the decision, Higashinakano said, "It is extremely disappointing. I am planning to appeal the ruling."

About 13,000 copies of the book have been sold in Japan, and English and Chinese translations have been published.

According to the ruling, Xia claims to be the 8-year-old girl whose family was killed during wartime atrocities by the Japanese military referred to in a document written by an American priest and she is well-known for relating her experience.

However, the book argued that Xia was not the girl referred to.

In August last year, a Chinese court ordered Higashinakano and another Japanese author, and their publisher Tendensha to pay a total of 1.6 million yuan (23 million yen) in damages to Xia.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Fukuda orders legal review to ensure safety of food, others

Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda told his cabinet ministers Friday to implement a thorough review of Japan's laws and policies to ensure people's safety following a series of falsification incidents of food and other products, Chief Cabinet Secretary Nobutaka Machimura said.
The ministers are urged to report soon after any review and if inadequacies are found, the government will consider legal revisions in the next Diet session, which convenes in January. If any areas require urgent attention, the government will work out concrete steps to handle them by the year's end under the direction of State Minister Fumio Kishida, who is in charge of quality-of-life policy affairs, Machimura said.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Nova to decide on support by next week; shows president's luxury office to media

OSAKA — Nova Corp, the collapsed largest foreign language school chain in Japan, wants to make a decision by next week on the selection of a supporter for its rehabilitation, a court-appointed Nova administrator said Tuesday. The administrator, Toshiaki Higashibata, said Nova has started negotiations with companies willing to support it, although he did not disclose their names.

Nova held talks in Tokyo with a company on Monday and in Osaka with two companies on Tuesday, Higashibata said at a news conference, adding there are some other firms that have offered support or showed willingness to take over part of Nova's operations.

Higashibata also said former Nova President Nozomu Sahashi, 56, sold all his shares in two firms under his effective control to one person around the time Nova filed for protection from creditors.

One of the two companies is an Osaka-based firm from which Nova purchased language school materials for sale to students, Higashibata said.

He said the Osaka company sold such materials to Nova at prices far higher than their original procurement prices. Nova had paid a total 8.2 billion yen to the Osaka company in the five years since 2002, he added.

"We understand there was a scheme to funnel money" to the Osaka company, Higashibata said.

He said there is a possibility that criminal charges could be brought against Sahashi for aggravated breach of trust.

The whereabouts of Sahashi, dismissed from the Nova board last Thursday, remains unknown.

Higashibata also allowed the media inside the Nova president's room at the company's administrative headquarters in Osaka. "We show this as an example of his (Sahashi) calling the company his own," he said.

At the back of the red-carpeted reception room of the 330-square-meter executive suit on the 20th floor of the building is a luxury private space including a dining room with a large-screen TV, a bathroom with a sauna, a Japanese-style tea room and a room with a double bed.

The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry ordered Nova in June to suspend some of its operations as it judged the school's TV commercials were exaggerated.

Since then, Nova's student enrollment, which peaked at 480,000 in fiscal 2005, has declined rapidly and the company has delayed payments to employees.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Motorist arrested for throwing hot coffee over woman on street in Ibaraki

Police on Wednesday arrested a man for throwing hot coffee over a woman pedestrian from his car. According to police, Kenichi Hosoi, 30, is suspected to have thrown coffee from his car over the woman on the street around 7 a.m. on Oct 17. The woman was not injured. Hosoi has admitted to the allegation, saying, "I've been stressed out because of work."
About 10 similar cases, in which juice and urine were thrown over women from a car, have been reported since the beginning of October. Police are investigating Hosoi's involvement in those cases, as well. He was picked up for the Oct 17 incident after the victim gave the police a description of his car and license plate number.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Defense Ministry admits to mishandling of oil data error

The Defense Ministry admitted Monday to having mishandled an error in underreporting the amount of oil Japan provided to the United States in a 2003 refueling mission in the Indian Ocean — a fiasco that angered cabinet ministers as it had led them to make false public statements.

In a report submitted to both ruling and opposition parties, the ministry said it will set up a committee headed by Defense Minister Shigeru Ishiba later Monday to deal with the problem and consider reprimanding relevant people, describing the matter as "a very serious problem concerning civilian control." The report said Maritime Self-Defense Force officers were aware on May 9, 2003 of the data input error regarding the controversial Feb 25, 2003 refueling mission, but failed to immediately report it to their superiors.
The amount of oil the MSDF supply ship Tokiwa gave to a U.S. oil tanker was first recorded in an MSDF document as 200,000 U.S. gallons. Top officials of the MSDF and the Defense Agency prepared statements on the refueling missions based on that figure.

Woman arrested for dropping 10-month-old son from 6th-floor apartment in Shiga

Police said Monday they have arrested a 32-year-old woman on a charge of attempted murder after she dropped her 10-month-old son from the 6th floor corridor outside their apartment Sunday night. Neighbors found the baby, Jinichi, lying near the building and called an ambulance. The baby survived the fall but remains unconscious with a broken neck in hospital.
The woman, identified as Kaoru Otani, was quoted as telling police: "I was stressed out from looking after him."
According to police, Otani lives with her husband and Jinichi. She told police that after the family returned home from an outing on Sunday, she had a sudden impulse to throw the baby off the 6th floor. She accompanied Jinichi to hospital, where police took her into custody.

Sunday, October 21, 2007


Saturday, October 20, 2007

4 U.S. Marines suspected in gang rape of Hiroshima woman

Japanese police have started investigating four U.S. Marines from the Iwakuni base in Yamaguchi Prefecture on suspicion of gang raping a 19-year-old Japanese woman in Hiroshima earlier this month, police said Friday.

The four are suspected of assaulting the woman in a parked car early Sunday in the city's Naka Ward after they met her at an event hall in the same ward and took her out by the car, the Hiroshima prefectural police said.

The four had taken part in a dancing event at the hall late Saturday that had attracted about 300 to 400 people, according to the hall.

Hiroshima police are planning to request that the four men be transferred into their custody from the U.S. military, based on the provisions of a bilateral agreement that governs matters related to the U.S. military including its personnel.

Iwakuni Mayor Katsusuke Ihara said, "It is very regrettable if it is true. We will protest after confirming the facts."

The incident is likely to stiffen the opposition of Iwakuni residents to the Iwakuni base, although Ihara, who had been opposed to a relocation plan for U.S. carrier-based aircraft to Iwakuni air station, proposed to the government on Tuesday starting discussions on an agreement.

Defense Minister Shigeru Ishiba told a news conference Friday, "Investigations are under way, but if it is true it is extremely regrettable."

The Iwakuni base released a statement saying it is aware of the allegations, is conducting its own investigation, and will fully cooperate with the relevant local authorities.

The U.S. Embassy in Japan issued a statement saying, "The U.S. Embassy and the U.S. forces in Japan are cooperating fully with Japanese authorities on this case."

"The U.S. forces in Japan and the U.S. government are committed to maintaining the highest standards of discipline for U.S. military personnel in Japan. We take reports of this nature very seriously," the statement said.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Koizumi fell to his knees before Bush at 2002 summit, book says

Former Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi fell to his knees and prostrated himself before U.S. President George W Bush in a playful show of customary Japanese bowing during the 2002 summit of the Group of Eight major powers, a French photographer has written in a recently published book. Pascal Rostain relates this anecdote in the tell-all book "Scoop," which he co-authored with another renowned French photographer, Bruno Mouron.
The book, which gives the inside story of their news coverage, says Jacques Chirac, a well-known Japanophile, spoke of the different ways of bowing in Japan depending on who one is facing. Koizumi then came up in front of Bush and said the way to bow before you is this, and fell down on both his knees and prostrated himself. Rostain took a photograph of that moment but is not making it public saying it could shock the Japanese public.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Doctor questions initial police actions over sumo wrestler's death

A forensic doctor who performed an autopsy on a teenage sumo wrestler who died in June apparently from hazing questioned Sunday initial police actions for failing to suspect foul play.

Aichi prefectural police "returned the body without conducting an autopsy after accepting without question what the stablemaster and others had to say," said Koji Dewa, an associate professor at Niigata University who performed an autopsy at the request of the family of the wrestler, 17-year-old Takashi Saito. "I suspect they failed to miss some basics of investigations," said Dewa, who specializes in forensic medicine.

Saito, who had the ring name of Tokitaizan, was hospitalized in critical condition on June 26 after training at the Tokitsukaze stable in Inuyama, Aichi Prefecture, and was declared dead the same day.

The hospital determined that he died of heart failure, and police returned the body to the stable apparently without suspecting foul play or the possibility that fellow wrestlers and others at the stable may have been involved in the death.

The family of the dead wrestler, dissatisfied with the stable's explanations that bruises on the body stemmed from "regular training," asked the university to conduct an autopsy, and it was carried out June 28.

The autopsy raised suspicions over the death and the police are now working to build a criminal case against the stablemaster and some senior wrestlers of the stable on suspicion they were involved in the deadly hazing.

Dewa said, "Even if the clinical doctor who confirmed the death had not taken notice, a medical examiner from the prefectural police should have immediately noticed the suspicious nature of the death when they had a chance to see the bruises."

The autopsy found extensive internal bleeding in the shoulders, hips and other parts of Saito. The cause of his death was determined to be multiple traumatic shocks.

Dewa said a lack of doctors and investigators may have also contributed to what he calls the failure by police. "What with a lack of forensic medicine experts or complex procedures, a clinical physician may conclude a person has died of natural causes and the authorities tend to accept that view."

LDP's Nakatani calls opponents of refueling mission 'terrorists'

Gen Nakatani, who heads the ruling Liberal Democratic Party's security policy panel, enraged the opposition camp Sunday by calling opponents of Japan's antiterrorism refueling mission "terrorists" in criticizing the camp dissenting against the mission.
"Only terrorists would oppose this," Nakatani, chairman of the LDP Research Commission on Security, said on a Fuji TV talk show, emphasizing a view that it is significant for Japan to continue refueling ships of countries taking part in the U.S.-led antiterrorism operations in and around Afghanistan.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Commuters get free access after glitches hit ticket gates at over 400 train stations

Automated ticket gates at more than 400 railway and subway stations in the Tokyo area failed to work Friday morning, forcing operators to give commuters free access at major stations, the operators said. It was the first major glitch involving more than one rail system since the Pasmo rechargeable IC fare cards debuted and became interchangeable with the Suica card of East Japan Railway Co in March.

Since service at the gates was restored by severing them from the computer servers for Suica and Pasmo, the glitch is seen as stemming from a networking problem. Though the gates failed to operate after the power was turned on at the start of the day's service, no train services were disrupted. All gates were restored on the Tokyo Metro subway at around 9:20 a.m. and JR East stations at around 10 a.m. JR East said the trouble occurred at about 150 JR stations in the Tokyo metropolitan area, including Omiya in Saitama Prefecture, Yokohama in Kanagawa Prefecture and Utsunomiya in Tochigi Prefecture.

About 100 stations in the subway system run by the Tokyo metropolitan government and 48 stations of Tokyo Metro Co were affected, as well as some of the stations operated by Tokyu Corp, Seibu Railway Co, Tobu Railway Co, Keisei Electric Railway Co and Tokyo Monorail Co., they said.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Sexual experience among girls on the rise, but abortions decline

Amid a flood of biased information about sex, an epidemic of sexually transmitted diseases and increases in sex crimes, the Japan Society of Adolescentology is tackling the problem of teenage sex and how to protect their health.

In a survey about the sexual behavior of young people conducted by the Japanese Association for Sex Education since 1974, Kazuo Katase, a professor at Tohoku Gakuin University, said, "Since the 1990s, girls have been more sexually active, narrowing the gap between men and women."

"This is chiefly because of social influences such as the popularization of the Internet and mobile phones," he said at a recent meeting of the society at Jikei University in Tokyo.

The association has been conducting surveys of 5,000 junior and senior high school and university students across the country every six years, and the most recent survey was conducted in 2005.

The rate of sexual experiences among senior high school and university students has increased from 1974 to 1999, with the rate among boys higher than among girls. But the rate among male university students, which stood at 63% in 1999, declined to 61% in 2005, and the rate among male senior high school students was 27% in both years.

On the other hand, the rate among female university students went up from 51% in 1999 to 61 percent in 2005, and among female senior high school students from 24% to 30%.

The 2005 survey also found that the increased use of cell phone emails has led to more sexual activity.

Yukihiro Murase, a lecturer at Hitotsubashi University, said, "The pattern that boys are active and girls are passive in sexual behavior remains unchanged. The importance is the changes in the consciousness of boys, who are likely to get biased information about sex from adult videos and other sources."

Shoichi Onodera, a professor at Jikei University, reported on the conditions of sexually transmitted diseases and said, "There are many asymptomatic people who do not visit medical institutions."

In a survey of about 5,000 senior high school students, 13% of girls and 7% of boys were infected with asymptomatic Chlamydia.

According to a survey by a research team at the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare, there were requests such as "I want to check at home," "I don't want my parents to know" and "I want a consultation by mobile phone."

Onodera said, "It is necessary to have medical institutions in each area that young people can easily visit for checkups, and a contact point, where they can consult about checkup methods, including consultations by email."

Meanwhile, the abortion rate among teenagers appears to be decreasing. Since the peak year of 1955, when there were about 1.17 million cases of abortion domestically, abortion has been decreasing.

But abortion among teenagers began to increase sharply in the mid-1990s. In 1995, the rate of abortion among girls aged 15 to 19 was 6.2 per 1,000, but it more than doubled to 13.0 in 2001. However, since 2002 the rate has been decreasing and was 9.6 in 2005.

Kunio Kitamura, director of the Japan Family Planning Association Clinic, and others carried out a survey of about 800 obstetrics and gynecological facilities across the country in January this year, and 72% of them replied that the rate of abortion has decreased among women under 20 years old.

The decrease was attributed to the popularization of emergency contraception, popularly known as the morning-after pill which can be taken within 72 hours of sexual intercourse to avoid pregnancy, and the "effects of sex education."

Kitamura said, "To decrease the rate of overall abortion not limited to teenagers, the popularization of low-dose birth control pills, or oral contraceptives, and emergency contraception is necessary." (Kyodo News)

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Man sprays tear gas on train from Tokyo after fight; several injured

A man became involved in a fight with another passenger on a Japan Railway train to a Tokyo suburb Wednesday evening and used what is thought to be a tear gas spray before fleeing when the train stopped, leaving several passengers in need of hospital treatment for sore eyes and throats, police said.

The incident took place at around 9:15 p.m. when the JR Tokaido Line train from Tokyo was traveling on a section between Kawasaki and Yokohama stations, both in Kanagawa Prefecture, police said. (Kyodo News)

All opposition parties to vote for Ozawa in PM election

Japan's four opposition parties agreed Thursday to vote for Democratic Party of Japan President Ichiro Ozawa to become the country's next prime minister, when a runoff election is held next Tuesday in the House of Councillors.

But the opposition move is not expected to threaten the chances of the new Liberal Democratic Party president succeeding Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and forming a new cabinet on Tuesday, as the LDP holds a comfortable majority in the House of Representatives. In the event that the choice of the two houses differs, a joint committee of will be held — for the first time since 1998 — and if no agreement is reached, the choice of the lower house will prevail under Japan's Constitution. (Kyodo News)

Monday, September 17, 2007

Fukuda, Aso campaign in Osaka, with emphasis on resolving abduction issue

Two candidates seeking to succeed Prime Minister Shinzo Abe took to the streets in Osaka Monday to kick start their campaign in local cities for the Sept 23 Liberal Democratic Party presidential election, with both Yasuo Fukuda and Taro Aso stressing their will to resolve the issue of North Korea's past abductions of Japanese nationals.

Former Chief Cabinet Secretary Fukuda, known for his dovish stance on diplomacy, reiterated his call for a flexible approach in resolving the issue, while the more hawkish LDP Secretary General Aso defended the pressure-oriented approach as the correct way and that it has achieved results.

Referring to the 2002 landmark summit between Japan and North Korea that resulted in the return of five abductees to Japan, Fukuda said the issue has been deadlocked ever since and he is willing to make further progress in negotiating with North Korea.

"Five of the abducted people have returned, but, unfortunately, we have seen no progress since then," he said.

"I am willing to resolve the issue with my full determination. We will be able to normalize diplomatic relations with North Korea when all of the abducted people have returned and North Korea's nuclear and missile issues have been resolved," he said.

Meanwhile, Aso said the past and current pressure-oriented approach has worked, referring to the U.N. Security Council sanctions resolution after North Korea conducted its nuclear test in October 2006 and the subsequent resumption of the six-party nuclear talks and the launch of a Japan-North Korea working group on normalizing ties.

"The abducted people still remain in North Korea but the situation is not seeing any setbacks," he said.

"We hear the need for a "dialogue" all the time, but we've never arrived at negotiations without a certain amount of pressure. We have to learn from the experience."

In the wake of North Korea's missile firings and nuclear experiment last year, Japan has issued economic sanctions banning the entry of North Korean ships into Japan. (Kyodo News)

Fukuda, Aso give campaign speeches; public reaction varies

Two candidates seeking to succeed Prime Minister Shinzo Abe took to the streets Sunday for the first time ahead of the Sept 23 Liberal Democratic Party presidential election, with Yasuo Fukuda stressing the need to regain public trust in politics and Taro Aso calling for the importance of helping ailing regional economies.

More than 10,000 people gathered in front of JR Shibuya Station in Tokyo to catch a glimpse of the two, with some preferring former Chief Cabinet Secretary Fukuda due to his "mature" image amid hopes for more "stable" politics, and others supporting LDP Secretary General Aso because he has presented "more realistic policies."

Earlier in the day, the two candidates presented their platforms to fellow LDP lawmakers and local chapter representatives, whose votes will decide the winner.

Fukuda, known for his dovish stance on diplomacy, reiterated his call for amiable relations with other countries, while the more hawkish Aso emphasized the need to continue a tough stance on North Korea and that he is "determined in not giving up" on pressing the North to come clean with its past abductions of Japanese nationals.

Fukuda, the front-runner who has gained support from most of the LDP factions, also said, "If I'm given the opportunity to be party president, I'll devise and implement firm policies" from the people's viewpoint, stressing that reforms cannot be implemented without public confidence.

During a TV program in the morning, the 71-year-old Fukuda also indicated that if elected, he will not make major changes to the cabinet lineup that Abe reshuffled just last month.

The 66-year-old Aso, while emphasizing priority on drawing forth the potentials of local economies, also called for support by saying, "Never before has Japan been in such a crisis and in need of a strong leader. What we need is a strong and dependable leader, not simply a stable leader."

The cutting remark was apparently aimed at his opponent, who has admitted he decided to run in the election only because others asked him to.

But hearing the two candidates present their future visions in a stump speech in Shibuya, many said they were expecting "stability" in politics after seeing Abe's administration crumble in less than a year mired with scandals and gaffes of his key cabinet ministers.

Tsuneharu Teramachi, a 60-year-old LDP supporter who came from Tokyo's Shinagawa to listen to the street campaign with his wife, said, "Mr Aso sounded more convincing with his speech, but I think after all Mr Fukuda is better because he will offer more stability."

"What we need is someone who can stay in office for a longer term," he said.

A 65-year-old housewife who came shopping to Shibuya said she supports Fukuda because she no longer expects a populist politician but a leader who is "low-key and can do work steadily."

She also said she felt Aso has damaged his own image because he was working closely with Abe and failed to stop Abe from abruptly announcing his resignation on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, some expressed support for Aso. Naohiro Sawa, a 26-year-old company employee living in Tokyo, said, "I think Mr Aso has been showing his policies more in detail, compared with Mr Fukuda."

A 57-year-old woman also said Aso showed more "realistic" views in pension and other issues, and added she was attracted to Aso's "passion" in seeking the prime minister's post.

She also said she felt the "old-LDP characteristic of backroom dealing" emerging, when most of the factions flocked to give their backing to Fukuda while Finance Minister Fukushiro Nukaga, who initially expressed his intention to run in the election, eventually decided not to do so.

Meanwhile, others said they still hope Abe's predecessor Junichiro Koizumi will become prime minister again.

"Mr Koizumi had the image to keep going on even when he was cornered. He was not the type of prime minister seen in the past," said Yuji Hirano, a 20-year-old university student.

Voting will begin at 2 p.m. Sept 23, with the 387 eligible LDP lawmakers each given one ballot and the 47 prefectural chapters given three each to reflect the choices of rank-and-file members.

The winner of the LDP presidential election is assured the post of premiership given the party's control of the House of Representatives, which has the final say in choosing the prime minister. (Kyodo News)

Thursday, September 13, 2007

LDP vote set for Sept 23 as Aso, Fukuda, Nukaga vie for PM's job

The ruling Liberal Democratic Party decided Thursday to choose a successor on Sept 23 to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who abruptly announced his resignation the previous day, while party members scrambled to field candidates.

While LDP Secretary General Taro Aso, 66, has already been deemed by many as a major contender in the run-up to the party's official acceptance of candidates Saturday, former Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuo Fukuda, 71, decided Thursday afternoon to run in the party presidential election and asked his colleagues to support his bid, party sources said.

Finance Minister Fukushiro Nukaga, 63, has also expressed his intention to run in the race, while former Finance Minister Sadakazu Tanigaki, 62, who ran in last year's LDP presidential race along with Abe and Aso, is also said to be considering joining the battle.

Among those figures, Fukuda and Tanigaki have stressed the importance of promoting amicable relations with Asian neighbors.

Aso, a former foreign minister known as a manga enthusiast, is expected to announce his candidacy Friday.

Executives of 13 of the LDP's 47 prefectural chapters prefer Aso as the successor to Abe, a Kyodo News poll showed Thursday.

Executives of 32 chapters, however, did not offer any specific name as an appropriate successor, saying a lineup of candidates has not yet been officially set.

LDP Diet members and the local chapters will be allocated votes in the Sept 23 party election.

Despite the trend, some LDP members are willing to support a candidate who would counter Aso.

Former LDP Secretary General Makoto Koga said he would support Fukuda, citing that Aso should "inevitably hold responsibility for the Abe administration." Aso was until recently foreign minister under Abe.

The LDP will announce Friday the formalities of the leadership election, according to a decision made Thursday afternoon by its General Council.

Other names being floated as potential candidates include former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and Foreign Minister Nobutaka Machimura, but Koizumi has ruled out seeking the premiership again.

Key issues in the LDP presidential election are likely to include ways to ensure refueling support by Japanese defense vessels for U.S.-led antiterrorism operations in and around Afghanistan and measures to shore up the party base after the devastating setback in the July 29 House of Councillors election, in which the ruling coalition lost its majority in the upper house.

Fielding a candidate for the LDP presidential election requires endorsement by at least 20 LDP members in the Diet. The LDP president will effectively be prime minister as the party controls the House of Representatives, which can override upper house decisions.

While a vote to choose the party's next leader was initially envisaged for Wednesday, the schedule was revised as some members called for more time.

Senior members of three LDP party factions urged Fukuda by phone earlier in the day to run in the election and Fukuda had confirmed his intention to do so, the party sources said.

A group of junior party lawmakers decided Thursday morning to hand a petition to Koizumi requesting that he assume the leadership again, but he was quoted as telling a young lawmaker, "I will not run. Look for another person."

Koizumi was also quoted as telling former Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori that his not running in the election is "100%" certain, a party lawmaker said.

Mori, who is a senior member of the LDP's largest faction led by Machimura, indicated during the faction's meeting Thursday that Machimura should not file his candidacy.

"I think we should not field a candidate from the outset, but only when we have a request from other factions," he said.

Nukaga said in a meeting of his own faction that he wants to "fight to make a new Japan" and informed Mikio Aoki, a party heavyweight and former chairman of the LDP caucus in the House of Councillors, by telephone earlier in the day about his intention to run.

But Aoki did not give him a clear response, saying he needs to assess the situation in the party, party sources said. (Kyodo News)

LDP to hold presidential election Sept 19 to choose Abe's successor

The ruling Liberal Democratic Party is arranging for a presidential election on Sept 19 to choose the successor to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who announced his resignation Wednesday, a senior LDP member said.

Abe said he was resigning to take responsibility for causing political uncertainty, saying it would be difficult for him to regain public trust and secure an extension of Japan's refueling mission in the Indian Ocean.

"I determined today to step down," a visibly weary Abe said at a hastily arranged press conference. "I reshuffled the cabinet in order to push forward with reforms but under the current situation it has become difficult for me to secure the people's support and trust to vigorously implement policies."

Meanwhile, Chief Cabinet Secretary Kaoru Yosano said at a news conference later that Abe's health was also a reason behind his resignation, saying the premier has been distressed trying to balance his duties and his physical condition.

LDP Secretary General Taro Aso told party executives that the new leader must be chosen "urgently to avoid creating a political vacuum."

Wednesday's announcement, made after Abe abruptly canceled a question-and-answer session in parliament with opposition lawmakers, came as a surprise as Abe had just reiterated his determination to pursue his duties and political goals in a policy address Monday when the extraordinary Diet session convened.

The timing of his decision also puzzled many in both the ruling and opposition camps, given the fact that Abe had until now refused to resign on various other occasions despite strong pressure, such as the ruling coalition's heavy defeat in the House of Councillors election in July, a spate of resignations of Cabinet ministers, and endless money scandals involving key members of his administration.

Abe, who took office only a year ago, said it is better if he steps down and a new prime minister pursues a new law for the extension as well as other policy matters, adding he hopes that with his resignation the ruling LDP can generate new energy to deal with the political gridlock with the opposition.

"I think that having a new prime minister attend the upcoming U.N. General Assembly will perhaps bring about change," he said, referring to the gathering of world leaders in New York later this month.

Abe also cited a rejection by opposition Democratic Party of Japan President Ichiro Ozawa to hold a meeting on the extension issue. Ozawa has repeatedly said he is against an extension and the opposition plans to block the bill in the upper house where it holds a majority.

"I made up my mind that I must bring change to the current situation by stepping down, because unfortunately today a meeting with the opposition leader could not be realized," the premier said, pausing three times along the way as he spoke.

"With this, I decided that I cannot fulfill my promises and that perhaps my being prime minister has become an obstacle" to winning an extension in parliament, he said.

Meanwhile, Ozawa stressed at a separate news conference that the DPJ's opposition to the extension remains unchanged, saying, "There is no way that our thinking will change because of a change in the Liberal Democratic Party."

Abe's decision to resign comes after he indicated over the weekend that he was ready to step down if he failed to get the Diet to extend the Maritime Self-Defense Force's refueling mission to support U.S.-led antiterrorism operations in and near Afghanistan beyond the Nov 1 deadline.

Meanwhile, Yosano, the top government spokesman, declined to discuss the specifics of Abe's health problem but said the premier's condition had deteriorated, especially after his three-nation Asia visit in late August. But Yosano noted that it was not a psychological issue.

"I have spoken with the premier many times since Monday and I felt that he wanted to convey something to me. But as we always focused on how to get the antiterrorism special measures law passed, I wasn't able to catch the subtle signals," Yosano said. "I remember all the scenes and now that I think about it, those were indeed the signals."

Asked to elaborate, Yosano cited one episode when he proposed to Abe how to proceed with extending the antiterrorism support mission, and the premier replied, "But even so, the circumstances are extremely difficult."

The LDP's Aso said that Abe told him Monday of his intention to step down but that he encouraged him then to stay on.

Since the July election defeat when the ruling bloc lost its majority in the upper house, Abe had refused to step down and clung to power. He eventually reshuffled his scandal-tainted cabinet and LDP leadership on Aug. 27 and vowed to "start anew."

But he continued to face difficulties with more scandals surfacing immediately after the reshuffle, notably one involving the misuse of farm subsidies that led to the resignation of the newly named agriculture minister.

Other scandals involving ministers' political funds also came to light, providing fuel for the opposition camp to pursue Abe's responsibility and to plan a censure motion against Abe at the just-convened parliament session.

Abe took office on Sept 26 last year with his major political goals being to revise the pacifist Constitution and revamp the education system to instill more patriotism into children under his slogan of freeing Japan from its "postwar regime."

Within weeks of becoming prime minister, Abe succeeded in mending fences with China and South Korea by visiting both countries, warming ties that had chilled for years under his predecessor Junichiro Koizumi.

However, money scandals and various gaffes soon plagued his administration, with the first minister resigning in December. Another committed suicide in May, and three others have resigned since then.

Abe faced strong criticism for his handling of the government's massive record-keeping blunder with public pension accounts and the lack of concrete policies to revitalize local economies and improve social disparities.

His administration's failure to attend to the public's concerns over daily livelihoods instead of political ideals was seen as a major factor in the July election, in which the LDP suffered a historic defeat. (Kyodo News)

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Imperial Household Agency reprimands staffer for altering Wikipedia entry

The Imperial Household Agency has reprimanded an employee for deleting a line in an entry in the Wikipedia online encyclopedia critical of the agency, a senior agency official said Monday. Noriyuki Kazaoka, vice grand steward of the government agency overseeing official duties and other matters of the imperial family, said the employee, whose name was withheld, has been warned verbally. Kazaoka said the deletion concerned the Japanese-language entry on imperial tombs that referred to restrictions on access to, and excavating, them by researchers. The employee accessed the website using a computer of the agency and struck out a line that said, "There is a view that the Imperial Household Agency may be afraid that historical facts may be discovered that could shake the foundation of the imperial system," according to Kazaoka. He said: "The use of personal computers for purposes other than administrative clerical work is banned."

Sunday, September 09, 2007

2 doctors perform surgery on wrong side of woman's head

Two doctors at a hospital in Shimane Prefecture mistakenly performed surgery on the wrong side of the head of a female patient who was suffering from an acute subdural hematoma, leading to a 40-minute delay in the removal of a blood tumor, the hospital said Sunday in a report on the incident.

The woman in her 80s, who was taken to the Matsue Red Cross Hospital in an unconscious state in May, had a blood tumor on the left side of her head, but the two doctors mainly involved in the surgery mistakenly thought they had to operate on the right side, the report said.

The neurosurgeon in charge of the craniotrypesis surgery noticed the mistake only after he failed to find the tumor on the right side of the patient's head.

The woman has been making good progress since the operation, but in its investigative report, the hospital's council, consisting of outside experts, did not rule out the possibility that a delay in removing a blood tumor could affect the human body.

The hospital has apologized both to the woman, who is still hospitalized, and her family.

Kohei Hata, the director of the hospital, told Kyodo News, "We deeply apologize. We will make sure confirmation is received and try to prevent a recurrence."

The hospital said in its incident report that the woman fell as she was getting out of a car at around 4 p.m. on May 23. She was taken to the hospital and diagnosed as suffering from a brain contusion and acute subdural hematoma on the left side of her head following a scan using computerized tomography.

But the doctor at the emergency department mistakenly shaved the right side of the woman's head and the doctor in charge of the surgery did not notice the mistake and started to operate without confirming the results of the CT scan.

Once the mistake was discovered, the doctor explained what had happened to the patient's family and reattached the mistakenly removed skull fragment from the right side of the head. The doctor then conducted the operation on the left side of the woman's head.

The operation ended shortly after 10 p.m. the same day.

Following the incident, the hospital has produced a new set of guidelines to prevent doctors from repeating such mistakes which include requiring doctors to announce the location of surgery before the commencement of an operation.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

2 ministers admit errors in financial reports; Abe downplays them

Two ministers, who took office in Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's cabinet reshuffle last week, acknowledged Wednesday errors in their asset disclosure reports, but Abe downplayed the incident, in an attempt to ward off more resignations.

Environment Minister Ichiro Kamoshita admitted that he had failed to report outstanding loans to his own political fund management organization, followed by similar errors reported the same day by Yoko Kamikawa, minister in charge of declining population.

Kamoshita also said his fund management body reported erroneous sums about the loans and apologized, saying he would correct all the reports.

Following Monday's resignations by Takehiko Endo as farm minister and Yukiko Sakamoto as parliamentary foreign secretary over "money and politics" scandals, coupled with Tuesday's resignation by Abe's party colleague Yutaka Kobayashi as parliamentarian over an alleged election violation, a sense of crisis on the fate of the administration is spreading within the ruling coalition.

The string of problems prompted main opposition Democratic Party of Japan policy chief Masayuki Naoshima to call for Abe's resignation and his cabinet to resign en masse.

But when asked by reporters if Kamoshita should leave the cabinet over the issue, Abe said, "That would not be the case if it is an error in recording."

Admitting that his political funds administration was sloppy in the past, Kamoshita, 58, said, "I apologize for the mistakes and will immediately correct them," but he did not show any intention of stepping down. "I would like to continue working as environment minister," he added.

According to Kamoshita, he extended a 2 million yen loan to his fund management organization in 1996, 10 million yen in 1997 and 3 million yen in 1998, but he failed to report them in his asset disclosure reports.

As none of the loans has been repaid, the organization should also have reported for these loans an outstanding debt of 12 million yen in 1997 and 15 million yen in 1998. However, its annual political funds reports said the amount of borrowed money stood at 2 million yen in 1996, 10 million yen in 1997 and has totaled 23 million yen since 1998.

The errors came to light as the organization's 2003-2005 political funds reports submitted to the authorities showed it borrowed 10 million yen from Kamoshita on Aug 10, 1996, while its 1996 report says it borrowed only 2 million yen from him.

Asked if the 8 million yen in difference was not a murky expenditure that he wants to remain unaccounted for, Kamoshita denied the possibility, saying he is confident the sum he extended in 1996 was 2 million yen based on consistency with cash flows described in the report.

First elected to the House of Representatives in 1993, he said he was at the time using his own money earned as a medical doctor to make up for political fund shortages due to a lack of political donations.

"I should have separated the accounting more strictly, and I regret that," he told reporters.

Also attributing the faults to changes in his accountant each year, Kamoshita said in a statement, "I myself will check the reports from now on and be careful not to repeat such mistakes."

Later on Wednesday, Kamikawa filed corrections for three of her asset disclosure reports, saying she had failed to report 9.68 million yen in loans to her funds management organization in the December 2000 report, 11.18 million yen in April 2004 and 7.98 million yen in February 2006.

Her office attributed the faults to internal miscommunications.

Commenting on Kamoshita's case, Chief Cabinet Secretary Kaoru Yosano said in his press conference, "It is absolutely not the fact that he made mistakes intentionally or presented erroneous figures in order to intentionally cover up something," while urging lawmakers to "strive to reduce" such errors.

Kamoshita, a member of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party serving his fifth term in the lower chamber, was appointed environment minister in the Aug 27 cabinet reshuffle, by which Abe attempted to reinvigorate his embattled administration.

Abe made it clear at the inauguration of the new cabinet that any minister who is unable to explain himself fully in the case of a scandal will have to resign.

Endo resigned Monday as agriculture, forestry and fisheries minister only a week after taking office, after a farmers' mutual aid organization he was heading was found to have improperly received state subsidies by padding the number of members.

Sakamoto stepped down from her post Monday after reports from a campaign office in Shizuoka that showed she had inflated political expenditures, and former farm minister Tokuichiro Tamazawa left the LDP the same day, also over accounting irregularities concerning political funds reports.

On Tuesday, Kobayashi resigned as a House of Councillors member to take responsibility for the indictment of his staff over an alleged election violation in the campaigning for the July 29 upper house election.

Concerns that Abe may be forced to call a snap House of Representatives election later this year have begun to spread in the LDP with Kobayashi's resignation, but Wednesday's development prompted worries that are being voiced open even within the cabinet.

"If problems continue to surface one after another, the handling of the government will become extremely difficult," Health, Labor and Welfare Minister Yoichi Masuzoe said.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Japan stresses abduction issue at APEC

Foreign Minister Nobutaka Machimura on Tuesday stressed the importance of resolving the issue of North Korea's abductions of Japanese nationals when he met his counterparts and senior officials from 11 Asia-Pacific nations over dinner in Sydney, Japanese officials said.
Representatives from many of the countries, in response, expressed high hopes that Japan-North Korea relations will move forward, including the pending abduction issue, toward normalizing diplomatic ties, the officials said.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

5 cases of hospitals refusing pregnant women reported in Sapporo

Sapporo hospitals refused four pregnant women last year, though the women were taken to them in emergency condition, the city government said Tuesday. None of the women suffered miscarriages, but one in her teens was rejected 11 times and it took her 90 minutes to reach a hospital after calling an ambulance.

A fifth woman, who was pregnant, was also rejected in the reporting year, the local authority said. The announcement came after a pregnant woman suffered a miscarriage last week after nine hospitals refused to admit her and an ambulance carrying her collided with a minivan in Osaka while on its way to yet another hospital. It took her three hours to finally reach the 10th hospital.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Shiozaki's office staffer embezzled Y6.3 mil

A staff member at Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuhisa Shiozaki's parliamentary office has embezzled about 6.3 million yen in political funds and double booked expenses in funding reports in 2005 as a coverup, the lawmaker's office said Monday.

"I myself am very shocked and find it regrettable that something like this has happened," Shiozaki said in a statement. "I will deeply reflect on my responsibilities to manage and supervise, and will make utmost efforts to investigate the situation and prevent a recurrence." Shiozaki's office said the staff member embezzled political funds of the LDP branch in Ehime Prefecture's No. 1 constituency, which Shiozaki heads, for private use. In order to conceal the embezzlement, the staff member double booked 6.27 million yen of expenses registered in the office's election campaign expenditure report in 2005 into the LDP branch's political funding report the same year, the office said.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

DPJ takes control of upper house

The main opposition Democratic Party of Japan took control of the House of Councillors for the first time Tuesday with senior DPJ lawmaker Satsuki Eda elected president of the chamber, marking the start of political gridlock between the ruling and opposition camps. As parliament convened for a short post-election extraordinary session, Eda, 66, became the first person from outside the Liberal Democratic Party to assume the post since 1956.

The DPJ secured the presidency as the largest party in the upper house after the ruling LDP and its coalition ally, the New Komeito party, lost their majority in the upper chamber in the election on July 29. "We are faced with an unprecedented political situation and the public's expectations regarding the House of Councillors are extremely high," Eda said in his inaugural speech. "I will work for the smooth operation of parliament based on the principles of fairness and impartiality." For vice president, the upper chamber picked Akiko Santo of the LDP, now the second-largest party in the house. In line with parliamentary practice, both Eda and Santo left their parties in assuming their posts.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

U.N. nuclear inspectors to check quake-hit Japanese power station

An inspection team of the International Atomic Energy Agency is planning to make a five-day visit from Monday to check a Japanese nuclear power station that was hit hard by an earthquake last month, government sources said Thursday. The team is expected to comprise two anti-quake measures specialists from the Vienna-based organization's Nuclear Safety and Security Department and three experts from the United States and Europe, the sources said.

The team is expected to produce a report on its findings on Tokyo Electric Power Co's Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power station in Kashiwazaki, Niigata Prefecture, which reported minor radiation leaks after the magnitude 6.8 quake. According to the agency, the U.N. nuclear watchdog proposed to Japan on July 19 that it participate in Japanese investigations with a view to sharing information, although it is aware that Japan is capable of conducting investigations on its own.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Gov't calls U.S. resolution on apology to sex slaves 'regrettable'

The Japanese government on Tuesday described as "regrettable" the U.S. House of Representatives' approval of a resolution calling on Japan to apologize for its wartime sexual enslavement, but Prime Minister Shinzo Abe neither apologized nor protested.

"Regarding this issue, I explained during my visit to the United States in April my views as well as the response the Japanese government has taken so far. The approval of the resolution was regrettable," Abe said in response to reporters' questions. Asked if Japan would comply with an apology to the victims, known euphemistically in Japan as "comfort women," Abe only said, "The 20th century was an era during which human rights were violated. What is important is to make the 21st century a bright one for the world where there will be no human rights violations."

U.S. gov't hopes to continue working with Abe

The United States hopes to continue working with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe despite his ruling coalition's humiliating defeat in Sunday's House of Councillors election, a State Department spokesman said Monday.

"The United States has a strong relationship with Japan that goes back many years. We expect we'll be continuing to work with the prime minister and his government as things move forward," Tom Casey said at a news briefing. "In terms of what this election means or signifies for the Japanese political system, I'll leave that to the politicians and the analysts in Japan," he added.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Abe promises to reshuffle cabinet, leadership after LDP lets him stay PM

Gaining his ruling coalition's go-head to stay in office despite a historic election defeat, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe vowed Monday to reshuffle his cabinet and his party's executive posts at "an appropriate time," and ruled out an early dissolution of the House of Representatives for a general election.

Earlier in the day, Abe's Liberal Democratic Party decided at a top executive meeting to allow him to remain as prime minister and the party's president, and the LDP and its coalition partner, the New Komeito party, reaffirmed that they will maintain their partnership and support the Abe administration.

"I will keep promoting reforms. I expect senior LDP officials to tackle the issue of money and politics more vigorously," Abe told the executive meeting, held a day after the LDP's crushing defeat in the Sunday's House of Councillors election.

The LDP also decided to discuss with the opposition bloc about convening an extraordinary Diet session for four days from Aug 7 after new members of the upper house were elected.

Speaking later at a press conference at LDP headquarters in Tokyo, Abe said, "It is the people's wish to have us reflect on the things we should reflect on and to refresh our minds. I would like to have a cabinet reshuffle and appoint new party executives at an appropriate time."

Asked whether he intends to dissolve the more powerful lower house, he said, "Two years are left in the House of Representatives' term and it is important to achieve things...but, of course, I'm thinking of holding a House of Representatives election at an appropriate time and go to the people."

The Abe administration is expected to face strong pressure to dissolve the lower house from the opposition Democratic Party of Japan, which topped the LDP to become a party with the largest number of upper house seats.

While the LDP-led coalition lost its majority in the upper chamber for the first time since 1998 in Sunday's election, it still has a comfortable majority in the lower house, which has greater legislative power and the final say on the state budget and the election of a prime minister.

Also brushing aside possible political confusion over legislative procedures and other matters in the Diet, Abe said he wants to seek cooperation with the DPJ by listening to its views on legislative issues.

Abe attributed the defeat to pension-related problems and scandals over political funds which involved cabinet ministers.

The prime minister admitted the election showed "the public does not feel enough" about the revision of the Political Funds Control Law that was passed in the last Diet session in addressing problems linking politics and money.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

2,000 tons of water flowed into reactor building after quake

About 2,000 tons of water flowed into the building housing one of the seven reactors at the world's largest nuclear power station in Niigata Prefecture operated by Tokyo Electric Power Co. after it was hit by the earthquake last week, company officials said Tuesday.

The officials said no radioactive substances have been detected in the leaked water and that there is no danger of radioactive leakage from the building, which is kept pressurized. The magnitude-6.8 earthquake on July 16 damaged underground water pipes for firefighting just outside the building housing the 1,100 megawatt No. 1 reactor at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power station. The plant is located in the city of Kashiwazaki and the village of Kariwa along the Sea of Japan coast.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

4 people found dead in Osaka, murder-suicide suspected

A resident of a condominium unit was found collapsed in front of the condominium building in Osaka's Higashiyodogawa Ward on Friday afternoon and later confirmed dead, while a woman and two children were later found dead in the condo, police said. A custodian of the building found the man just after 1 p.m. and called for an ambulance, the police said. The man was identified as Nobuyuki Hirota, a 34-year-old electrical engineer who lived on the third floor of the nine-story building.

In a room of the condominium unit, the police later found the bodies of Hirota's pregnant wife Kazue and their two children Sora, 5, and Nanami, 2. All three showed signs of having been strangled and were lying side by side with both hands placed on their chests, the police said. A mobile phone found near Kazue's body contained an unsent text message that said, "I've decided to die after consultation with my wife. I can no longer take it. I am sorry for the children." Kazue was expected to give birth in September. The police suspect the man killed the three before committing suicide by jumping from the top floor of the condominium building. Hirota had a debt of several million yen, the police said.

Friday, July 20, 2007

11-year-old girl stabbed by man in school in Miyagi Pref.

An 11-year-old girl was seriously injured after being stabbed in the abdomen by a man in an elementary school in Osato, Miyagi Prefecture, Friday morning, police said.
The sixth grader is conscious and her life is not in danger, the police said.
The man, who is in his 50s, has been detained and is being questioned, they said.
A closing ceremony for the first semester was due to be held at the school Friday.

News about Japan in Italian Language can be found at