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.