Saturday, October 03, 2009

Rio wins bid for 2016 Olympics; Tokyo eliminated in 2nd round

Tokyo’s hopes of hosting the 2016 Olympics were shattered Friday as the Japanese capital was eliminated in the second round of voting by the International Olympic Committee.

Rio de Janeiro was named the winner of rights to stage the 2016 Games, beating Madrid in the final round of voting to become the first South American Olympic host. Rio had 66 votes to Madrid’s 32.

Chicago was eliminated in the first round of voting before Tokyo’s exit left the race down to the Rio and Madrid. Tokyo had 22 votes in the first round and 20 in the second.

Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama released a statement Saturday congratulating the Brazilian people on Rio de Janeiro’s win in a bid to host the 2016 Summer Olympics.

‘‘I want to offer my heartfelt appreciation for the citizens of Tokyo and athletes,’’ said Tokyo Gov Shintaro Ishihara. ‘‘Let’s use this precious experience, while tackling environmental issues and contribute to the development of world cities. I pray for the success of the Games in Rio de Janeiro.’’

Under host city voting procedures, the city with the fewest number of votes in each successive round of balloting is eliminated until one city has reached a majority of the valid votes cast.

It was Japan’s third consecutive failed bid to win the rights to hold the Summer Games. Nagoya lost out to Seoul for the 1988 Olympics, while Osaka was eliminated in the first round of voting for the 2008 Games, which went to Beijing.

‘‘It’s a pity. We united as a team and did everything we could,’’ said Japanese Olympic Committee chief Tsunekazu Takeda.
‘‘There is a winner and a loser and this time we couldn’t win but we have also gained something. We have to figure out how to go for the 2020 Olympics.’’

About 500 people who gathered at the Tokyo Metropolitan Government building could not help but sigh early Saturday when Tokyo was eliminated from consideration for the 2016 Olympics in the second round of voting.

When International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge announced the elimination of Tokyo in a live image displayed on a large screen, those gathered in a hall on the fifth floor of the building let out sighs of disappointment.

Vice Tokyo Gov Hiroshi Sato, Japanese Olympic Committee members and athletes, including Yuko Arimori, a marathon runner who won the silver medal in the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona, Spain, gathered there to support Tokyo’s bid for the host city of the 2016 Olympics and watch the results of the IOC voting.

Hiromi Miyake, a Japanese female weightlifter, said, ‘‘I was excited because I thought Tokyo would be selected as Chicago was eliminated in the first round of voting.’’

In an event held at Tokyo Tower to support the Japanese capital’s bid, the venue was covered by a festive mood when Tokyo moved to the second round of voting, but hopes were dashed within a few minutes as Tokyo was eliminated.

‘‘It’s very frustrating,’’ said hurdler Dai Tamesue. Fashion designer and event producer Kansai Yamamoto, who represented supporters for Tokyo’s bid, said, ‘‘It’s like going from the top to the bottom on a roller coaster.’’

But he added, ‘‘We have a chance again in four years.

Tokyo was left to rue what might have been after efforts failed to convince the IOC that it could stage ‘‘the most compact and efficient Olympic Games ever.’’

JOC Vice President Tomiaki Fukuda said he was surprised at Madrid staying alive.

‘‘I thought Madrid would be eliminated. There is a possibility that it won votes out of sympathy for (former IOC president Juan Antonio) Samaranch. It’s a real shame. I want Tokyo to bid for the Olympics one more time.’’

Samaranch had appealed for the Spanish capital, reminding IOC members that, at age 89, ‘‘I am very near the end of my time.’’

During Tokyo’s final presentation ahead of the vote Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama urged the IOC to pick Tokyo during a heartfelt speech, saying it was ‘’ well positioned to serve as a future model of public safety and environmental stability.’’

The host of Asia’s first Olympics in 1964, Tokyo won praise from the IOC in an evaluation report last month for its vision and concept to stage a compact Olympic Games and a solid financial plan.

It had planned to use several renovated venues from the 1964 Games while its Olympic Stadium would have been be the first in the world to be powered by solar energy.

Amid the global economic downturn, Tokyo had also secured a special 400 billion yen budget for the Games.

During the IOC bid evaluation committee’s visit to Tokyo in the spring, committee chairwoman Nawal El Moutawakel said the inspectors were most impressed by the concept of hosting an Olympics, in which 97 percent of the venues would be located within 8 kilometers of the Olympic Stadium.

Initial concerns, though, had been raised regarding Tokyo’s lack of public support, while low marks in the evaluation report were also given for existing venues, operations and land area for the athletes’ village.

Although there is no official IOC continental rotation policy, Tokyo faced another obstacle in trying to bring the games to Asia so soon after Beijing staged last year’s Games.


Thursday, October 01, 2009

Tension mounts, tempers fly ahead of 2016 Olympic host city vote

The International Olympic Committee is no stranger to tough decisions. It took the risk of sending the games to Beijing and said “No” to New York in the aftermath of 9/11. Yet, despite all of that accumulated experience, some IOC members are struggling with their latest conundrum: choosing the Olympic host for 2016.

Just two days ahead of the vote, many were undecided.

And that means two things—it’s still too close to call between Rio de Janeiro, Chicago, Tokyo and Madrid and, for the next couple of days, IOC members are going to feel that they are the most popular people on the planet. Everyone in Copenhagen, where they are gathered, seemingly wants to be their new best friend.

Want to meet Michelle Obama? Not a problem if you’re an IOC member who needs a little pointer on which way to vote. The first lady, beating her husband to the Danish capital, has a two-room suite in the IOC hotel, with homely white leather furniture and an interactive table that, at the touch of a hand, gives bird’s eye views of how a Chicago Olympics might look.

Mrs Obama arrived Wednesday, two days ahead of the U.S. leader, and got straight to work on impressing IOC members.

“We’re not taking anything for granted, so I’m going to go talk to some voters,” she said.

IOC members who have been through this selection process repeatedly, previously sending the games to London, Beijing, Athens and Sydney, told The Associated Press that they could not remember a tougher choice. The AP canvassed the opinions of a dozen IOC members. With all four cities seen as amply capable, technically at least, of holding the Olympics, they said much will ride on how well or badly the cities make their case in final 45-minute presentations to the IOC on Friday before the successive rounds of secret balloting.

“I have two favorites,” IOC member Nicole Hoevertsz said. “It’s going to come down to the last, last presentation. It’s going to come down to the last minute.”

As tension mounted, so did tempers. Despite fresh IOC warnings that the cities should avoid criticizing their rivals, the Spanish Olympic Committee’s vice president, Jose Maria Odriozola, told the national Efe news agency that “Rio is the worst bid.”

Rio bid organizers said the criticism was “totally unacceptable” and formally complained to the IOC.

The outcome Friday could hinge on which cities are eliminated first and, if and when their favorites are knocked out, how IOC members subsequently line up behind the other candidates. That makes predicting a winner perilous and means that even members who say they already have made their choice are still worth lobbying.

“It is difficult enough to know where the first-round votes are going to go, so trying to imagine where the swinging votes are going to go is impossible,” said Spanish IOC member Juan Antonio Samaranch Jr, whose father served as IOC president for 21 years.

“Events in the next 48 hours will decide the winner, because they will have a significant influence on the second- and third-round votes,” he said.

Samaranch said he believes nearly all the IOC’s 106 members already have a favorite. But IOC vice president Chiharu Igaya said “many” members are undecided.

Added British IOC member Craig Reedie: “This is really close. The closer it gets the more people will say, let me think about it. We all want to see the presentations. It’s what people see that will count. Decided? No, I haven’t actually. I’m getting close.”

Late, high-powered lobbying can be important—as then-Prime Minister Tony Blair and his wife, Cherie, proved when London campaigned successfully for the 2012 Olympics. Blair traveled to Singapore ahead of the vote and spent two days lobbying members, inviting them to his hotel suite for one-on-one meetings.

Chicago tore a leaf from Blair’s playbook: Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett met with him last week to solicit his advice and get tips on navigating the IOC voting process.

But for the first time, there are no IOC executive board meetings in the days leading up to the vote. That means less opportunity for schmoozing.

IOC votes can be highly unpredictable. Aside from the paramount questions of whether bidding cities’ Olympic plans are technically and financially feasible, emotion, sentiment, geography, politics, self-interest and other factors also play a role.

In Copenhagen, there’s also the star factor, with Spain’s King Juan Carlos and Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva already here to lend heavyweight backing to their cities and President Barack Obama jetting in for a few hours on Friday to bolster Chicago’s presentation.

Willi Kaltschmitt, an IOC member since 1988, said the VIP presence would reassure voters that cities’ bids are fully backed by their governments but would be only one of many factors.

Australian IOC member Kevan Gosper said after meeting with Mrs Obama, however, that she and the U.S. leader “could have an influence on marginal votes.”

IOC members used to visit candidate cities but that was stopped because of concerns about bribery. Now, they rely on IOC reports, presentations and lobbying to inform their decisions.

“Since we’re not allowed to visit the cities, it comes down to the very, very little details,” Hoevertsz said.

Ultimately, the choice may hinge on whether IOC members want to make a bold statement by sending the Olympics to South America for the first time or chose more familiar territory. The United States, Spain and Japan have all previously held the Summer Games. Chicago could also be seen as more lucrative in these tough economic times.

“One of the things that is very important to us now is the economic recession,” said IOC member Nat Indrapana, adding that when cities made their cases to the IOC in June, “Chicago made a beautiful presentation.”

The city receiving the fewest votes will be eliminated after each round until one candidate secures a majority. The vote is expected to go the maximum three rounds.

IOC member Samih Moudallal said it will be like choosing between “four sons or your brothers.”

“How do you choose between your brothers?” Moudallal said, adding that he has yet to make his selection. “You have to use your mind and your heart together.

“It’s a very difficult choice.”

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Nikkei flat after hitting 8-mth high, US rates weigh

Nikkei flat after hitting 8-mth high, US rates weigh

Japan's Nikkei average edged above 10,000 to an eight-month high on Thursday before paring gains, with worries about rising U.S. interest rates offsetting an increase in steel shares on a brokerage upgrade.

Nippon Steel Corp (5401.T) shot up nearly 6 percent after Morgan Stanley lifted its rating on the sector to "attractive" from "in-line," saying it was time to shift to an aggressive investment stance as uncertainties surrounding the sector have started to resolve.

But market analysts said rising U.S. interest rates weighed on investors confidence, limiting further gains, as they could put a damper on consumer and business spending.

On Thursday, Japanese government bond prices fell, with the 10-year yield rising to its highest level since late October.

The benchmark U.S. Treasury yield climbed to an eight-month high the previous day, sending Wall Street lower as higher yields act as a benchmark for many lending rates. [US/] [.N]

"Generally speaking, the upward trend in the stock market is continuing as economic stimulus measures taken by governments around the world are still having an impact," said Takashi Kamiya, chief economist at T&D Asset Management.

"But rising U.S. rates pose a huge concern to the stock market. Higher interest rates will dampen an economic recovery and they would make bonds more attractive to investors, compared to stocks."

The benchmark Nikkei .N225 was flat at 9,991.05, after rising as high as 10,022.23 in morning trade, its highest since October 7 and a rise of roughly 43 percent from its March bear market low.

The broader Topix inched up 0.3 percent to 939.63.

As of Wednesday's close, the Dow Jones industrial average .DJI had risen some 35 percent and the S&P 500 .SPX some 41 percent from their March lows.

The Nikkei this week climbed above its 52-week moving average, which now comes in around 9,800, but analysts say it needs to break above 10,500 to enter a bull market.

The 10,500-10,800 range has provided strong support and resistance in the past, most notably in late 2003 to 2004, and is also significant because 10,800 is a 50 percent retracement from last year's closing high of 14,489 to the March closing trough of 7,054.

Data showed Japan's economy contracted a revised 3.8 percent in the first three months of this year, better than economists' median forecast, though the market largely shrugged this off. [ID:nT193265]

The mood on the streets of Tokyo remained bleak, despite the Nikkei's brief rise above 10,000.

Yukari Tani, a 32-year-old cosmetics sales clerk, who was in Tokyo for business, shrugged off the Nikkei's spike.

"There's nothing around me that makes me feel the economy is turning around," Tani said.

"A lot of my friends are switching jobs lately and I heard many of their companies were offering early retirement."


Steel stocks held onto gains made after Morgan Stanley lifted its rating on the sector. The brokerage also raised its rating on Nippon Steel to "overweight" from "equal-weight" and hiked the company's target price to 480 yen from 270 yen.

Nippon Steel jumped 5.7 percent to 393 yen, while JFE Holdings Inc (5411.T) climbed 3.7 percent to 3,350 yen and Kobe Steel Ltd (5406.T) advanced 4.9 percent to 193 yen.

Olympus Corp (7733.T) soared 12.7 percent to 2,355 yen after Deutsche Securities doubled its target price for the maker of digital cameras and medical devices to 3,230 yen on cost cuts and brisk endoscope sales.

Shares of electronics group Toshiba (6502.T) shot up 6.2 percent to 377 yen after Nomura Securities lifted its rating on the stock to "buy" from "neutral," and raised its target price to 560 yen from 320 yen.

Nomura said that investor focus on the company will likely shift to its global growth potential.

But selling among a broad swathe of shares, including index heavyweights such as Honda Motor Corp (7267.T) and other exporters, weighed on the Nikkei average as profit-taking emerged after recent gains and amid worries about U.S. interest rates.

Honda lost 1.4 percent to 2,845 yen, while TDK Corp (6762.T) fell 1.4 percent to 4,380 yen and Sony Corp (6758.T) shed 0.7 percent to 2,680 yen.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

NKorea bans ships off port from Wednesday

North Korea is warning ships to stay out of waters off its eastern port of Wonsan for three weeks from Wednesday, the Japan Coast Guard said, raising concerns Pyongyang is planning more missile tests.

North Korea is alerting vessels by radio not to enter an area that measures 100 by 263 kilometres (60 by 165 miles) at its widest points from June 10 to 30 between 8:00 am and 8:00 pm, a coast guard spokesman said Monday.

"We have acknowledged the information and soon afterward issued the same warning to those who may travel in this region," the spokesman said.

The news came amid increasing speculation that North Korea is preparing to test-fire several medium-range missiles from its southeast coast.

At least three missiles are apparently being prepared for launch from a missile base in Anbyon County, near Wonsan, a port city about 100 kilometres northeast of Seoul, South Korea's Yonhap news agency reported Tuesday.

The report said that several vehicles mounted with mobile launch pads were spotted at the base.

The Japan Coast Guard picked up a similar warning in May, only days before Pyongyang conducted its second nuclear test and also launched a series of short-range missiles.

"We can't deny the possibility that North Korea is moving toward launching missiles, including ballistic missiles, in response to developments related to a UN Security Council resolution," said Chief Cabinet Secretary Takeo Kawamura.

"We are doing everything to secure the peace and security of Japan and its people, while collecting and analysing information."

South Korean and US forces on the peninsula are on heightened alert after the North threatened a possible attack in response to Seoul's decision to join a US-led initiative to halt the trade in weapons of mass destruction.

The North has also warned of "self-defence measures" in response to any tougher international sanctions.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Relatives of Aso mine's British laborers demand apology and compensation

Campaigners are calling on Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso to apologize and offer compensation to the families of British men who were forced to work at a mine owned by Aso’s father during World War II. They are also urging the prime minister to resign because they feel he failed to acknowledge for several years his family firm’s role in the use of slave labor, despite evidence to the contrary in the United States.

James McAnulty, from Glasgow, Scotland, was shocked when he learned a few months ago that the mine in which his father toiled was owned by Aso Mining Co.

McAnulty’s father, who passed away in 1971, spent long hours at the Fukuoka Prefecture mine shoveling up coal and pushing wagons.

He was there between June and September 1945 when he was liberated. The former POW told his son many tales about his time at the mine and the nearby camp where they lived.

McAnulty said his father received beatings by the guards for being unable to correctly recite his prisoner number in Japanese and also witnessed one Australian POW ‘‘disappear’’ after getting the upper hand over the guards who would practice their judo throws on the POWs, according to his son.

McAnulty, 62, told Kyodo News, ‘‘He (my father) said there was a lack of food and the sleeping quarters were terrible, but sleep was welcome because it was like he was forgetting the pain.’’

In January, Aso effectively admitted his family firm used forced labor during World War II after government documents emerged in Japan in December which confirmed earlier material from the United States.

When those U.S. media reports first surfaced in 2006—confirming the link between forced labor and the mine—it is understood that Aso, then foreign minister, ordered his officials to publicly rubbish the news.

The Japanese government documents revealed in December show that 300 Allied POWs—101 Britons, two Dutch and 197 Australians—were based at camp No. 26 which was assigned to the Aso mine. Around 150 of the men worked at the mine, with the rest working on farmland.

On Aso, McAnulty said, ‘‘I would love him to admit the truth and apologize to the survivors or their relatives. They were not paid and were not looked after well and were treated with disdain. If he has any conscience, he would apologize.’’

He recognizes that Aso was a child when these events took place and therefore cannot be held directly responsible. However, McAnulty feels that a man in his position should take the lead and do the honorable thing.

Since the discovery, McAnulty has decided to write to the prime minister’s office, although he is not optimistic about getting a reply.

‘‘I definitely think that the Aso company should compensate the survivors or their relatives. But I definitely know that it isn’t going to happen.’’

He continued, ‘‘They made immense profits and part of that was off my father’s back. My father should be paid for the years he worked there, and compensated for the cruelty imposed on him and the psychological damage.’’

McAnulty’s father, also called James, was an engine stoker on board HMS Exeter which was sunk by Japanese ships in the Java Sea in 1942.

He was moved to Camp No. 26 in Keisen, Fukuoka, from where prisoners were forced to work each day at the Yoshikuma pit belonging to Aso Mining Co., now the Aso Group. The prime minister headed the company between 1973 and 1979 before entering politics.

Aso’s spokesman said it is difficult to comment at this stage because no letter had yet been received.

Thomas Jowett, who has researched the history of HMS Exeter and its personnel, said that of the 101 British men, 88 were either from HMS Exeter or HMS Encounter, which was also sunk at the same time.

As far as he is aware there is only one Exeter survivor who worked in the mine and is still alive.

Jowett said, ‘‘It is very disconcerting that it has taken the publication of Japanese government records for Prime Minister Aso to accept that slave labor took place at this family-run mine.

‘‘The Japanese government—through Aso—should issue a more fulsome and sincere apology for the atrocities committed by Japan both before and during World War II.

‘‘I doubt that compensation will be offered by Aso and, in any event, it is too late because there are very few survivors. This, I believe, is due to the ill-treatment and malnourishment suffered by the POWs.’’

Yukihisa Fujita, an opposition parliamentarian in Japan who has been instrumental in bringing this issue to the attention of the public, told Kyodo News Aso should apologize to the British relatives ‘‘for having kept, for so long, denying’’ the family firm’s use of slave labor.

Fujita says the men should have been paid for their work at the mine and is now demanding that the firm make a ‘‘consolation’’ payment to the families.

The Japanese government has consistently expressed regret for the inhumane treatment inflicted upon POWs during World War II, but some claim that the apology did not go far enough and should have been more sincere.

Tokyo has always said that it settled all compensation claims with Allied POWs when it made payments to them through the San Francisco Peace Treaty in 1951. Critics claim this was a derisory sum and the Allied powers should not have settled for such a measly figure. This treaty has meant that any subsequent private lawsuits have been unsuccessful.

Although such treatment of POWs contravened the 1929 Geneva Convention, Japan had not ratified the convention at the time.

Friday, May 08, 2009

Aso says having children an 'obligation,' but later retracts remark

Gaffe-prone Prime Minister Taro Aso said Thursday that he has fulfilled an ‘‘obligation’’ because he has two children, but he later retracted the remark made during a parliamentary debate about Japan’s declining birthrate.

‘‘I may well have fulfilled an obligation because I have had two children since getting married at 43,’’ Aso told the House of Representatives Budget Committee in a debate with Chinami Nishimura, a lawmaker of the main opposition Democratic Party of Japan.

‘‘I do not hear people say in this country that it is good to have a child or it is fun (to have child). I keep hearing that it (having a child) is tough,’’ Aso said, noting he enjoys seeing his children, who are 20 and 23.

But he later retracted the remark, saying there are various reasons for not having a child.

‘‘I think that the word ‘obligation’ was inappropriate,’’ Aso said. ‘‘There are people who cannot have a child even though they want to, and there are people who are unable to give birth for physical reasons. There are various reasons.’’

The 68-year-old premier, who took office last September, has seen a decline in the support rate for his cabinet in the past following a series of verbal gaffes on political, financial and social issues.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Miyako Odori 2009

This dance is performed by the maiko and geiko of Gion Kobu. The first performance in 1872 was promoted as part of the Exhibition for the Promotion of Domestic Industry, as a measure to promote prosperity in Kyoto after the city's decline as a result of the capital having been moved to Tokyo in 1869. Infusion of new ideas into this annual event has made it very popular. It is now one of the main events in Kyoto.
Miyako odori

Thursday, April 23, 2009

5,000 elementary students planted to welcome IOC evaluation team

More than 5,000 public elementary school students in Tokyo’s Koto Ward were assembled at a park when an evaluation team from the International Olympic Committee visited last week without being told that the team would go there, officials of the Koto Ward said Wednesday.

The ward explained that the students “happened to” go to the Yumenoshima (Dream Island) park for a field trip on the same day of the IOC visit, but a group against Tokyo’s bid to host the 2016 Summer Olympics said the move was apparently aimed at “mobilizing” students to use them as plants to welcome the IOC.

’’Worried about being criticized, the ward probably insisted that it was a field trip and did not explain (about the IOC team visit) to the students,’’ a member of the group said.

On Friday’s visit to the park, which would be used for archery under Tokyo’s Olympics venue plan, the IOC team was seen to be welcomed by the students and Tokyo’s Bid Committee told a press conference that the team was ‘‘welcomed by smiling children and people at the places they went.’’


Saturday, April 04, 2009

Gov't apologizes for mistakenly reporting launch of N Korean rocket

The Japanese government provided erroneous information that North Korea had launched a rocket Saturday, mostly because the Air Self-Defense Force was confused about radar information, a Defense Ministry official said.

‘‘We caused a great deal of trouble to the Japanese people. This was a mistake in the transmission of information by the Defense Ministry and the Self-Defense Forces,’’ Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada told reporters. ‘‘I want to apologize to the people from my heart.’’

The government released information that ‘‘North Korea appears to have launched a projectile’’ at 12:16 p.m. via its email-based Em-Net emergency information system, but retracted it five minutes later, saying it was a ‘‘detection failure.’’

By then, media organizations at home and abroad had reported the rocket launch as breaking news based on the false information.

The confusion occurred after the North’s official Korean Central News Agency reported earlier in the day that the rocket ‘‘will be launched soon.’’ North Korea has said the launch is for a communications satellite but Japan, South Korea and the United States suspect the launch is a cover for a long-range ballistic missile test.

According to the Defense Ministry, the ground-based FPS-5 radar at the ministry’s Iioka research and development site in Asahi, Chiba Prefecture, picked up a trace over the Sea of Japan on the radar screen.

The information was immediately conveyed to the ASDF’s Air Defense Command in the suburbs of Tokyo, but the person who received it mistook the information for satellite early warning information provided by the U.S. military.

The satellite early warning information is based on data sent by the U.S. Air Force’s Defense Support Program satellite orbiting the Earth. Equipped with an infrared telescope, it is normally the quickest means to detect ballistic missile launches.

The erroneous information then got passed onto the SDF’s Central Command Post at the Defense Ministry headquarters, from which it was conveyed to the crisis management center at the prime minister’s office, according to the ministry.

The prime minister’s office sent an emergency e-mail message to local governments across the country and media organizations based on the false information.

One minute after the Central Command Post received the launch information, it was notified that the trace had disappeared from the radar screen and that no satellite early warning information had actually been received, the ministry said.

‘‘They should have confirmed on computer terminals that satellite early warning information had been received. The mistake could have been avoided if they had done so,’’ a ministry official said.

The official said he does not know why the airman at the Air Defense Command mixed up the radar and satellite early warning information.

A misstep was also reported at the local level in Japan’s northern areas, over which part of the rocket is set to pass if it flies according to the plan announced by North Korea.

Before the central government’s false report, the Akita prefectural government issued an erroneous report to all municipal governments in the prefecture that North Korea had ‘‘fired a missile,’’ and one of the municipal offices communicated the report to all households through a radio transmission for disaster management.

According to prefectural officials, a SDF member at the prefectural government’s disaster preparedness headquarters received a communication from the Defense Ministry that the rocket was ‘‘launched at 10:48 a.m.’’

The SDF member verbally communicated the message to a prefectural government official, who then passed on the information to relevant officials of all the municipalities through mobile phone text messages six minutes later, the officials said.

Sixteen of the 25 municipalities in the prefecture conveyed the central government-issued information to their residents via a community wireless system and other means, and corrected the information later.

Tottori Prefecture, also on the Sea of Japan, issued faxes to its municipalities soon after the central government issued the wrong information and had to hastily correct the content.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

South Korea’s Kim Wins Short Program at Figure Skating Championships

When her score popped up on the monitor at the world figure skating championships on Friday, Kim Yu-na could hardly believe it.
She buried her face in her hands. Her jaw dropped. Her coach, the two-time Olympic medalist Brian Orser, grabbed and shook her.
In front of a crowd filled with South Korean fans waving South Korean flags, South Korea’s Kim dominated the short program here Friday, winning by more than 8 points. Her score was 76.12, the best ever for a woman. It easily eclipsed her previous best score of 72.24.
Joannie Rochette of Canada finished second, with 67.90. Mao Asada of Japan, the defending world champion and Kim’s longtime rival, was third, with 66.06.
I was very comfortable when I was skating,” Kim said of her reaction to the audience, many of the fans from the sizable Korean community here. “I felt that I was able to do well because of all the people cheering me on in the stadium.
Kim, 18, had come into worlds expecting her biggest competition to be Asada, but she had no competition at all. Her performance put her in perfect position to win her first world title on Saturday, less than a year from the 2010 Vancouver Olympics.
Skating in a black outfit that sparkled in the lights, she landed each of her jumps, but her moves in between were what mesmerized the crowd. She effortlessly floated from one element to another, often with a smile, always with grace.
It’s one of those moments in skating people will always remember,” Orser said.
The United States team had a night to forget, with its hopes of earning three spots at the Olympics likely slipping away.
The Americans must finish at least a combined 13th for the team to be awarded three Olympic entries. After the short program, the Americans are in 21st, combined. The last time the team brought only two women skaters to the Olympics was in 1994.
Alissa Czisny, the national champion, fell twice and is 14th going into the long program. She had 53.28 points.
Today was disappointing because that’s not the way I’ve been practicing,” she said, devoid of emotion. “I have higher expectations of myself, and it just didn’t happen.”
Rachael Flatt, who finished seventh, stepped out of a triple flip and flubbed her first combination jump. But it did not ruin her night. Flatt, 16, said she was excited, not nervous, for her first senior-level world championships. She scored 59.30 points.
I was hopping around out back, saying, ‘Oh my gosh, this is so cool,’ ” said Flatt, who has been studying for her A.P. chemistry test and writing an English paper on “The Great Gatsby” during her down time.
The United States men could rest easy. They secured their three spots for Vancouver on Thursday. Evan Lysacek’s gold medal certainly helped the cause. At 23, he will go into the Olympic year as the gold-medal favorite.
Lysacek skated brilliantly to George Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue,” landing eight triple jumps as the crowd roared. He became the first American man in 13 years to hold the world title.
To perform it just how I imagined it hundreds of times and visualized it,” he said, “I couldn’t have asked for anything more.

source: via

Himeji-jo - the castle of Himeji

Himeji Castle (姫路城 ,Himeji-jō) is a flatland-mountain Japanese castle complex located in Himeji in Hyōgo Prefecture and comprising 83 wooden buildings. It is occasionally known as Hakurojō or Shirasagijō ("White Heron Castle") because of its brilliant white exterior.

It was registered as the first Japanese National Cultural Treasure by UNESCO World Heritage Site and a Japanese National Cultural Treasure in December, 1993. Along with Matsumoto Castle and Kumamoto Castle, it is one of Japan's "Three Famous Castles", and is the most visited castle in Japan.

Himeji serves as an excellent example of the prototypical Japanese castle, containing many of the defensive and architectural features most associated with Japanese castles. The tall stone foundations, whitewash walls, and organization of the buildings within the complex are standard elements of any Japanese castle, and the site also features many other examples of typical castle design, including gun emplacements and stone-dropping holes.

One of Himeji's most important defensive elements, and perhaps its most famous, is the confusing maze of paths leading to the main keep. The gates, baileys, and outer walls of the complex are organized so as to cause an approaching force to travel in a spiral pattern around the castle on their way into the keep, facing many dead ends. This allowed the intruders to be watched and fired upon from the keep during their entire approach. However, Himeji was never attacked in this manner, and so the system remains untested.

Himeji Castle was built in ?. At this time, it was called Himeyama Castle. In 1331, Akamatsu Sadanori planned a castle at the base of Mount Himeji, where Akamatsu Norimura had constructed the temple of Shomyoji. After Akamatsu fell during the Kakitsu War, Yamana clan briefly took over planning of the castle; the Akamatsu family took over again following the Ōnin War.
A drawing of the layout of Himeji Castle, with an intricate complex of paths and walls that would prove difficult for besiegers to penetrate and take over.

In 1580, Toyotomi Hideyoshi took control of the badly damaged castle, and Kuroda Yoshitaka built a three-story tower. Following the Battle of Sekigahara in 1600, Tokugawa Ieyasu granted Himeji Castle to Ikeda Terumasa who embarked on a nine-year expansion project that brought the castle roughly to its current form. "Only the east gate of one section of the second bailey" survive from the earlier period. The current keep dates from 1601, and the last major addition, the Western Circle, was completed in 1618.

Himeji was one of the last holdouts of the tozama daimyō at the end of the Edo period. It was held by the descendants of Sakai Tadasumi until the Meiji Restoration. In 1868, the new Japanese government sent the Okayama army, under the command of a descendant of Ikeda Terumasa, to shell the castle with blank cartridges and drive its occupiers out.

When the han system was abolished in 1871, Himeji Castle was sold at auction. Its final price was 23 yen (in those days) and in public funds. Himeji was bombed twice in 1945, at the end of World War II. Although most of the surrounding area was burned to the ground, the castle survived almost entirely unscathed. Castle restoration efforts began in 1956.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

North Korea places Taepodong-2 missile on launch pad

North Korea has positioned what is believed to be a Taepodong-2 long-range ballistic missile on the launch pad at a facility in Musudanri, sources close to Japan-U.S. relations said Wednesday night. North Korea has said it plans to send a satellite into orbit from the facility between April 4 and 8. But Japan, the United States and South Korea suspect the planned launch may actually be a test-firing of a ballistic missile.

NBC television, quoting U.S. officials, said in its online edition Wednesday that while two stages of the missile can be seen on the launch pad, the top is covered with a shroud supported by a crane. But now that the missile is on the pad, the launch itself could come within a matter of days, NBC said.

North Korea has informed the International Maritime Organization of the plan and warned that the first stage of the rocket will fall into the Sea of Japan while the second stage will fall into the northern Pacific Ocean. The Japanese government also received the information from Pyongyang.

Japan is expected to issue an order for the destruction of debris from the missile in case its planned launch fails.

North Korea launched a Taepodong-1 missile in August 1998, part of which flew over Japan and into the Pacific Ocean.

A Taepodong-2 missile is believed to have a range of more than 6,000 kilometers. Its test launch in July 2006 apparently ended in failure.

Monday, March 23, 2009

FedEx plane crashes on landing at Narita airport; pilot, co-pilot reported dead

A FedEx cargo aircraft crash landed and burst into flames early Monday morning at Narita International Airport, east of Tokyo, according to airport and police officials. The pilot and copilot were taken to a hospital, and a local TV station reported they were both confirmed dead.

The MD-11 aircraft, Flight 80 from Guangzhou, China, was apparently whipped back up by strong winds when it landed at around 6:50 a.m., according to the Chiba prefectural police.

Local firefighters were seen trying to extinguish the flames.

A local observatory said winds of up to 72 kilometers per hour were blowing in areas around the airport at the time of the accident.

Video footage obtained by NHK showed the plane touching down on its rear wheels and its head hitting the runway as if slammed onto the ground.

The plane bounced and its left wing hit the ground. The plane then flopped over and veered off from the runway with flames bursting from the center of the fuselage.

The cargo plane touched down on Runway A, the longer of the airport’s two runways. The runway, used for accommodating large aircraft, is currently closed, according to the airport office.

Monday, March 09, 2009

maiko performance video in Kyoto

Maiko performance in Kyoto. At Kyoto Kokusai Hotel you can enjoy a maiko performance at 7 pm.
Hotel location: Horikawadori Nijojomae,Nakagyo-ku, Kyoto 604-8502

京都国際ホテルは旧福井藩邸跡にあり、二条城や古都の佇まいが一望できます。白鳥が泳ぐ日本庭園…。その池の上にしつらえた特設舞台では舞妓さんが京舞を 披露、華やぎの世界を演出いたします。ロビーでのおしゃべりや記念撮影など舞妓さんとのふれあいもお楽しみいただけます。

Friday, March 06, 2009

Video of Geishas dancing at live-house?

But what is a Geisha nowadays?
There remains some confusion, even within Japan, about the nature of the geisha profession. Geisha are portrayed as prostitutes in much Western popular culture. However, geisha do not engage in paid sex with clients. Their purpose being to entertain their customer, be it by dancing, reciting verse, playing musical instruments, or engaging in light conversation. Geisha engagements may include flirting with men and playful innuendos; however, clients know that nothing more can be expected. In a social style that is common in Japan, men are amused by the illusion of that which is never to be.Geisha have been confused with the high-class courtesans of the Edo period known as oiran, from whom they evolved. Like geisha, oiran wore elaborate hairstyles and white makeup, but oiran tied their obi in the front not, as is commonly thought, for easy removal but, according to anthropologist Liza Dalby, because that was the practice of married women at the time.
During the Edo period, prostitution was legal. Prostitutes such as the oiran worked within walled-in districts licensed by the government. In the seventeenth century, the oiran sometimes employed men called "geisha" to perform at their parties. Therefore, the first geisha were men. In the late eighteenth century, dancing women called "odoriko" and newly popular female "geisha" began entertaining men at banquets in unlicensed districts. Some were apprehended for illegal prostitution and sent to the licensed quarters, where there was a strict distinction between geisha and prostitutes, and the former were forbidden to sell sex. In contrast, "machi geisha", who worked outside the licensed districts, often engaged in illegal prostitution

In 1872, shortly after the Meiji Restoration, the new government passed a law liberating "prostitutes and geisha." The wording of this statute was the subject of controversy. Some officials thought that prostitutes and geisha worked at different ends of the same profession – selling sex – and that all prostitutes should henceforth be called "geisha". In the end, the government decided to maintain a line between the two groups, arguing that "geisha" were more refined and should not be soiled by association with prostitutes.
Also, geisha working in onsen towns such as Atami are dubbed onsen geisha. Onsen geisha have been given a bad reputation due to the prevalence of prostitutes in such towns who market themselves as 'geisha', as well as sordid rumors of dance routines like 'Shallow River' (which involves the 'dancers' lifting the skirts of their kimono higher and higher). In contrast to these 'one-night geisha', the true onsen geisha are in fact competent dancers and musicians. However, the autobiography of Sayo Masuda, an onsen geisha who worked in Nagano Prefecture in the 1930s, reveals that in the past such women were often under intense pressure to sell sex.

"Geisha girls", also known as "panpan girls", were Japanese women who worked as prostitutes during the period of the Allied Occupation of Japan. They almost exclusively serviced American GIs stationed in the country. The term is a mispronunciation of the word geisha. The mispronunciation persists among some westerners.

Adding to the confusion is the fact that these women dressed in kimono and imitated the look of geisha. Americans unfamiliar with the culture of Japan did not know the difference between these costumed prostitutes and actual geisha. Shortly after their arrival in 1945, occupying American GIs are said to have congregated on the Ginza and shouted in unison "We want geesha girls!"

Eventually, the term "geisha girl" became a general word for any female Japanese prostitute or worker in the mizu shobai, and included bar hostesses and streetwalkers.

Geisha girls are speculated by researchers to be largely responsible for the continuing misconception in the West that geisha are prostitutes!

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Japan end long wait for Nordic world title

Japan’s men were the shock winners of the Nordic combined team title at the world championships here on Thursday.
The Japanese claimed gold after finishing fifth in the ski jump and winning the cross-country skiing 4×5km relay by the smallest of margins.
Germany finished second with the much-fancied Norwegians third.
In a tight race to the line in the relay, Japan’s team of Yusuke Minato, Taihei Kato, Akito Watabe and Norihoto Kobayashi pipped the Germans by just 0.1 seconds, while Norway finished 3.6 seconds off the pace to take bronze.
Pre-competition favourites Finland suffered the late withdrawal of World Cup leader Anssi Koivuranta and finished eighth, while the United States finished outside the top ten after Bill Demong lost his bib number and was unable to take part in the ski jump.
It was Japan’s first team world championship success since 1995, when the inspirational Kenji Ogiwara was behind his country’s ascent to the pinnacle of the sport.
The Nagano native won Olympic team titles in 1992 and 1994 and world team titles in 1993 and 1995.
An individual world champion in 1993 and 1997, Ogiwara dominated the World Cup between 1993 and 1995 before succumbing to the rise of the Finns and the Norwegians and retiring in 2002.
Since then Japan’s Nordic skiers have acquired a reputation for being accomplished ski jumpers but unreliable cross-country skiers.
“The Japanese team has been revived by young skiers who, like me when I was 12 years old, followed the exploits of Ogiwara, Masashi Abe and Takanori Kono. I dreamed about emulating them,” said Kobayashi, the highest ranked Japanese competitor in the world rankings at 22nd.
“We’ve rediscovered how to win. It’s a surprise for us as well, but we made the right choices in terms of tactics and the waxing of our equipment.”


Thursday, February 26, 2009

Newborn girl dies after being left in bicycle basket in Tokyo

A newborn girl died on Monday after being left in the front basket of a bicycle parked outside a home in Itabashi Ward, police said Tuesday. A nearby resident noticed the infant around 6.30 a.m. and called police. The baby girl, wrapped in a towel, was rushed to hospital and resumed breathing at one point, but was pronounced dead Monday evening.

news dal Giappone

Police said that the autopsy determined the cause of death to be extremely low body temperature. Police added that the outside temperature in the neighborhood dropped to about 4 degrees Monday morning, and it was raining.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

China says Asian countries will support Tokyo’s 2016 Olympic bid

Asian countries will unfortunately support Tokyo’s bid to host the 2016 Summer Olympic Games, Chinese State Sports General Administration Director Liu Peng told Foreign Minister Hirofumi Nakasone on Monday, according to Japan’s Foreign Ministry. In response to Nakasone’s request to support the bid, China’s state sports director said Japan is capable of hosting a successful Olympic Games.
Since Japan has several Human rights issues still open it should put efforts on that before having international events. Japan is still not a foreign-friendly country and foreigners are viewed with suspicion.
Liu was also quoted as saying that he felt that the Japanese government and people are determined to host the Olympics, after seeing the sites that would be used for the event. The Chinese official expressed the hope of promoting sports exchanges with Japan.

Link to this post if you are against Death Penalty


Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Finance Minister Nakagawa to step down over G-7 behavior

Finance Minister Shoichi Nakagawa said Tuesday he has decided to step down in the face of criticism over his unusual behavior at a weekend press conference in Rome, delivering another blow to struggling Prime Minister Taro Aso.

The 55-year-old close ally of the premier said that he would resign after the fiscal 2009 budget and related bills clear the Diet, which is expected in March or April.

‘‘I was told by Prime Minister Aso to do my best until the passage (of the bills),’’ he told a hastily called press conference in Tokyo after he visited a doctor for a medical check.

‘‘My doctor said to me that I am suffering from a cold and fatigue,’’ he said, adding, he had ‘‘apologized for having caused a great deal of trouble to the prime minister and other people concerned’’ by not taking good enough care of his health.

Nakagawa slurred his words and sometimes closed his eyes at a news conference that followed a Group of Seven financial leaders’ meeting in the Italian capital. Footage showing what appeared to be drunken behavior was aired around the world.

The minister said he believes his wobbly performance was caused mainly by jet lag and the intake of too much cold medicine, brushing aside speculation that he was under the influence of alcohol at that time.

But Nakagawa admitted Monday that he sipped wine at a luncheon before attending the news conference. His fondness for drink is well-known in Japanese political circles.

Earlier Tuesday, Nakagawa had said that he would remain in his post. He said he would ‘‘make a final decision (on whether to step down) after hearing various opinions and the premier’s judgment.’’

Nakagawa’s announcement comes just after the main opposition Democratic Party of Japan decided to submit a censure motion against him to the House of Councillors.

He apparently made the decision to step down in a bid to keep to the minimum the repercussions of the scandal on the Aso administration and avert a further decline in the premier’s support ratings.

Nariaki Nakayama was forced to step down as transport minister soon after Aso formed his abinet last September, following a series of verbal gaffes.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Tokyo gets funding boost in 2016 Olympic bid

Tokyo’s bid to host the 2016 Olympics has received a boost, with the city government saying it will allocate an additional $1.1 billion for the Games in its 2009 budget.

Tokyo’s organizers say the decision by the Tokyo metropolitan government adds to the claim that their bid is the most financially secure of the 2016 applications at a time of global economic uncertainty.

The fresh cash injection of $1.1 billion increases Tokyo’s contingency fund for the Games to $4.4 billion.

“Financial stability is one of our strengths,” Tokyo’s 2016 bid communications manager Masanori Takaya said Saturday. “Even amid the worldwide economic downturn we already have more than $4.4 billion. There will be no budget concerns for the Games.”

The Japanese capital, which hosted the Olympics in 1964, is competing with Chicago, Madrid and Rio de Janeiro to host the 2016 Summer Games.

Tokyo’s bid topped the International Olympic Committee’s technical evaluation in June, but Barack Obama’s victory in the U.S. presidential election was seen to boost the hopes of his adopted city of Chicago.

However, Tokyo organizers say the financial stability of their bid and a promise to stage a compact Games makes it an attractive choice.

“The 2009 budget is further confirmation of our financial strength and security which we believe is important to the IOC in these difficult economic times,” bid chairman Ichiro Kono said in a statement.

The IOC will vote on the host city on Oct 2, 2009.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Doyadoya 2009 - video どやどや

Doya doya is a dynamic event on the final day of Shushoe. Young men wearing headbands and clad in loincloth struggle for possession of Go Hoin, a cow god amulet. With their brave shouts of doya doya, so-called strength water poured on them evaporates quickly from their bodies due to heat and energy. 大阪・四天王寺で寒さ吹き飛ばす「どやどや」 2009.1.14

Thursday, January 08, 2009

20th anniversary of death of Emperor Hirohito marked

Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko commemorated the 20th anniversary of the death of Emperor Hirohito at his tomb in Tokyo on Wednesday. About 80 people, including Prince Akishino and his wife Princess Kiko, as well as Prime Minister Taro Aso, attended the ceremony at the Musashino Mausoleum.

Crown Prince Naruhito and Crown Princess Masako took part in another ceremony at the Imperial Palace with traditional costumes, representing the emperor and the empress, according to the Imperial Household Agency. The late emperor, posthumously known as Emperor Showa, died on Jan 7, 1989.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Japan to ask Tokyo Gov Ishihara to make key speech for 2016 bid

Japanese Olympic Committee President Tsunekazu Takeda plans to ask outspoken Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara to make a presentation in Lausanne, Switzerland, in June for the Japanese capital’s bid to host the 2016 Summer Olympics. ‘‘We need Governor Ishihara, who is also the bid committee chief, to make an appeal,’’ Takeda said Monday, referring to the occasion when the four finalist cities will be granted the opportunity to speak before International Olympic Committee members.

The IOC will name the host city of the 2016 Olympics from among Tokyo, Chicago, Madrid and Rio de Janeiro at its general assembly meeting in Copenhagen in October 2009. ‘‘I believe the governor knows he is the one. He is a charismatic person known even to the media overseas,’’ said Mitsuru Arakawa, a senior official of the 2016 Tokyo Olympics campaign.
Tokyo is bidding for the 2016 Olympic Games but Japan should look at basic Human Rights Issues and only then after international events!

Amnesty International argues that the Japanese justice system tends to place great reliance on confessions and it has been claimed that these may be obtained under duress. According to a 2005 Amnesty International report:

“Most have been sentenced to death on the basis of confessions extracted under duress. The potential for miscarriages of justice is built into the system: confessions are typically extracted while suspects are held in daiyo kangoku, or “substitute prisons”, for interrogation before they are charged. In practice these are police cells, where detainees can be held for up to 23 days after arrest, with no state-funded legal representation. They are typically interrogated for 12 hours a day: no lawyers can be present, no recordings are made, and they are put under constant pressure to confess. Once convicted, it is very difficult to obtain a re-trial and prisoners can remain under sentence of death for many years.”

Amnesty International also reports of allegations of abuse of suspects during these interrogations. There are reports of physical abuse, sleep deprivation and denial of food, water and use of a toilet. It also criticises the fact that inmates usually remain for years, sometimes decades, on death row, knowing that executions come with little warning and each day may potentially be their last. According to Amnesty International, the intense and prolonged stress means many inmates on death row have poor mental health, suffering from the so called Death row phenomenon. The failure to give advanced notice of executions has been stated by the United Nations Human Rights Committee to be incompatible with articles 2, 7, 10 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Link to this post if you are against Death Penalty


Japan to launch project to enhance competitiveness of Olympians

A national project to enhance the competitiveness of Japan’s Olympic athletes is poised to kick off in April with the aim of boosting the country’s medal count toward the 2016 Summer Games, which Tokyo is bidding to host.

The project, the first of its kind sponsored by the sports ministry, is designed to provide intensive support for athletes considered to be Olympic medal contenders. Its first goal is to double the medal count that Japan achieved at last year’s Beijing Olympics at the next Games.

The Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology has earmarked 600 million yen for the project in its fiscal 2009 draft budget, in addition to the money distributed to individual sports federations for their programs to develop athletes.

Under the ministry’s project, eight teams of experts, including doctors, counselors, physical trainers and scouting staff, will be created with each doling out support for top-level athletes, particularly those capable of winning gold medals.

National coaches will also be named for around 17 sporting events in which Japan is believed to have strong medal chances. People familiar with the project said the list would likely include judo and swimming, Japan’s traditional sources of medals, as well as canoeing, in which the country missed out on its first-ever Olympic medal in the sport in Beijing.

‘‘As a national strategy, we are looking to increase the number of medals our athletes win,’’ a senior ministry official said.

Japan won 25 medals in Beijing, including nine golds. The number does not include a bronze due to be awarded to hammer thrower Koji Murofushi after two Belarusian medalists tested positive for banned drugs.

Besides doubling the number of medals at the 2012 London Games, the project envisions lifting Japan from 11th at Beijing to fifth or higher in the total medals standings.

Tokyo is bidding for the 2016 Games and the host city will be named by the International Olympic Committee on Oct. 2 from among the Japanese capital, Chicago, Madrid and Rio de Janeiro.

Monday, January 05, 2009

What is bushido?

Bushidō (武士道, Bushidō), meaning "Way of the Warrior", is a Japanese code of conduct and a way of the samurai life, loosely analogous to the concept of chivalry. It originates from the samurai moral code and stresses frugality, loyalty, martial arts mastery, and honor until death. Born of two main influences, the violent existence of the samurai was tempered by the wisdom and serenity of Confucianism and Buddhism. Bushidō developed between the 9th to 12th centuries and numerous translated documents dating from the 12th to 16th centuries demonstrate its wide influence across the whole of Japan.

According to the Japanese dictionary Shogakukan Kokugo Daijiten, "Bushidō is defined as a unique philosophy (ronri) that spread through the warrior class from the Muromachi (chusei) period." In Bushido: The Soul of Japan (1899), author Nitobe Inazō wrote: "...Bushidō, then, is the code of moral principles which the samurai were required or instructed to observe... More frequently it is a code unuttered and unwritten... It was an organic growth of decades and centuries of military career."

Nitobe was really not the first person to document Japanese chivalry in this way. In his text Feudal and Modern Japan (1896) Historian Arthur May Knapp wrote:

"The samurai of thirty years ago had behind him a thousand years of training in the law of honor, obedience, duty, and self-sacrifice..... It was not needed to create or establish them. As a child he had but to be instructed, as indeed he was from his earliest years, in the etiquette of self-immolation. The fine instinct of honor demanding it was in the very blood..."

Under the Tokugawa Shogunate, aspects of Bushidō became formalized into Japanese Feudal Law.

Translation of documents related to Bushidō began in the 1970s with Dr. Carl Steenstrup who performed a lifetime of research into the ethical codes of famous Samurai clans including Hojo Soun and Imagawa Ryoshun. Steenstrup's 1977 dissertation at Harvard University was entitled "Hôjô Shigetoki (1198–1261) and his Role in the History of Political and Ethical Ideas in Japan".

According to the editors of Monumenta Nipponica, "Tens of thousands of documents survive from the medieval period... Only a few have been translated into English, or are likely ever to appear in translation." One of the oldest English-language academic journals in the field of Asian studies, much of Dr. Steenstrup's significant findings were written for MN.

Primary research into Bushidō was later conducted by William Scott Wilson in his 1982 text "Ideals of the Samurai: Writings of Japanese Warriors" . The writings span hundreds of years, family lineage, geography, social class and writing style--yet share a common set of values. Wilson's work also examined the earliest Japanese writings in the 8th century: the Kojiki (712 AD), Shoku Nihongi (797 AD), the Kokin Wakashū (early 10th century), Konjaku Monogatari (CA 1106 AD) and the Heike Monogatari (1371), as well as the Chinese Classics (the Analects, the Great Learning, the Doctrine of the Mean, and the Mencius (CA 500 BC)).

In May, 2008, Thomas Cleary translated a collection of 22 writings on bushido "by warriors, scholars, political advisors, and educators". The comprehensive collection provides a historically rich view of samurai life and philosophy. The book gives an insider's view of the samurai world: "the moral and psychological development of the warrior, the ethical standards they were meant to uphold, their training in both martial arts and strategy, and the enormous role that the traditions of Shintoism, Buddhism, Confucianism, and Taoism had in influencing samurai ideals." The translations, in 22 chapters, span nearly 500 years from the 14th to the 19th centuries.
Some people in Japan as well as other countries follow the same virtues listed above under the philosophical term modern bushidō. The idea was derived from the fact that the Japanese male should be able to adapt his beliefs and philosophies to a changing world.

In an excerpt of James Williams' article "Virtue of the sword", a fairly simple explanation of modern bushidō can be found:

The warrior protects and defends because he realizes the value of others. He knows that they are essential to society and, in his gift of service, recognizes and values theirs... take the extra moment in dark parking lots at night to make sure that a woman gets into her car safely before leaving yourself. Daily involvement in acts such as these are as much a part of training as time spent in the dojo, and indeed should be the reason for that time spent training... When faced with a woman or child in a situation in which they are vulnerable, there are two types of men: those who would offer succor and aid, and those who would prey upon them.

It has been thought that the code of Bushidō is dead as expressed by many swordsman. This is still being debated today. Many argue that it has passed away in this new era with the arrival of new cold and heartless guns and weapons. But there are those who think not. As it was famously put by Ali Armani the previous second strongest in the world.

"A swordsman's path shall never end, nor will the code of Bushidō. As long as there's someone to protect, as long as there is someone to carry on the code of Bushidō, it will not die. There will always be injustice and suffering, and one swordsman can't change the world, no matter how strong he or she is. But I can always protect those in my sight. I will always protect the weak and helpless, for that is the true code of Bushidō and I shall achieve this without taking a single human life. There will always be someone who will carry on my will and hold the sword which I hold, and carry on the code for it is something that needs to be pure and true, not altered by greed or evil. So if one billion people follow it wrongfully, or just a handful follow it righteously, it is the handful that are the true and strongest of all."

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Ex-lawmaker Nagata jumps to death in Fukuoka

Former House of Representatives member Hisayasu Nagata, who resigned as a parliamentarian in April 2006 after using a fake email message to grill a ruling party lawmaker, jumped to his death from an apartment building in an apparent suicide in Kitakyushu, Fukuoka Prefecture, on Saturday. Nagata, 39, had left a note to his family and an empty 1.8-liter pack of ‘‘shochu’’ distilled spirit on a staircase landing between the 10th and 11th floors of the building, according to local police.

A resident called police at around 6:30 p.m. Saturday after finding Nagata collapsed in the apartment’s parking lot, and his death was confirmed shortly past 7 p.m. at a hospital where he was taken. Nagata had recently been released from a hospital after a suicide attempt in November.

In February 2006, Nagata, who was then a lawmaker of the main opposition Democratic Party of Japan, claimed on the basis of the email message that Takafumi Horie, founder of Internet firm Livedoor Co, had ordered a subordinate to pay 30 million yen to ruling Liberal Democratic Party heavyweight Tsutomu Takebe’s son before the 2005 general election, in which Horie ran unsuccessfully.

But the message was later found to have been fabricated, and Nagata submitted his resignation in April 2006 to take responsibility for disrupting parliamentary business by using the fake message to attack Takebe during a lower house Budget Committee session.

Nagata attempted to commit suicide in November last year while convalescing in Munakata, Fukuoka Prefecture.

A University of Tokyo graduate and former Finance Ministry bureaucrat, he had been elected three times to the lower house since 2000.