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.