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.