1) A major Japanese IT firm says it will launch a driverless bus service at a park near Tokyo next month.
DeNA got help on the project from a French venture company that develops self-driving technology.
2) A Russian Soyuz spacecraft with three astronauts including Japanese Takuya Onishi on board has been successfully launched from Kazakhstan for a mission to the International Space Station.
The Soyuz was launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome at 1:36 Thursday UTC.
9 minutes later, the spacecraft detached from the rocket and entered Earth’s orbit as scheduled at an altitude of around 200 kilometers.
3) Much of Japan sweltered on Thursday. Temperatures above those of the human body were recorded in some places in central Japan.
A high-pressure system covering the country brought clear skies and a blazing sun to a wide area from east to west.
Koshu City in Yamanashi Prefecture recorded a high of 38.8 degrees Celsius. Kawane-hon-cho in Shizuoka Prefecture had 38.6 degrees, and Tokyo’s Nerima Ward was at 37.7 degrees. Normal human body temperatures are below 37 degrees Celsius.
4) Tens of thousands of people in a western Japanese city enjoyed a night view of a river lit up by LEDs to mark the traditional star festival called Tanabata on July 7th.
Legend has it that 2 deities who are in love with each other are separated by the Milky Way and allowed to meet only once a year on that date. People in Japan celebrate the day by making wishes.
5) A Japanese district court has given a former prefectural lawmaker a suspended prison term for fraud involving misuse of taxpayers’ money.
The Kobe District Court on Wednesday sentenced former Hyogo Prefectural assembly member Ryutaro Nonomura to 3 years in prison, suspended for 4 years.
Nonomura was accused of misusing more than 9 million yen, or about 89,000 dollars, over 3 years until his resignation in July 2014. Prosecutors said he claimed expenses for 344 fictitious day trips.
6) A Japanese man on a 10 meter yacht has completed the first half of a round-trip solo voyage across the Pacific Ocean.
66-year-old Shinkichi Shoji who runs a billboard business, left Japan almost 2 months ago, from the port of Sakai in Tottori Prefecture. He was bound for San Francisco in the United States.
His local yacht club said on its website that he completed the journey of about 12,000 kilometers on Tuesday.
7) The number of scrambles by Japanese Air Self-Defense Force fighter jets against Chinese aircraft surged between April and June.
The Defense Ministry says Japanese fighters made 281 emergency takeoffs to intercept unidentified jets in the 3-month period.
Of those, 199 scrambles were against Chinese aircraft. That’s up 70 percent from a year ago.
Ministry officials say Chinese military planes are increasing activities near the Japanese side of areas between the 2 countries.
8) Liberal Democratic Party lawmaker Yuriko Koike has announced she will run for Tokyo governor without her party’s recommendation.
Koike is a former defense minister. She met on Tuesday with Economic Revitalization Minister Nobuteru Ishihara, who heads the ruling party’s Tokyo chapter.
She sought the party’s recommendation and asked the chapter to quickly decide its position.
Ishihara said the chapter will make its decision after the Upper House election on Sunday.
9) Bank of Japan Governor Haruhiko Kuroda has once again said he will pump more money into the financial markets if it is necessary to support the economy.
Kuroda told the chiefs of the central bank’s 32 regional bureaus on Thursday that exports and production are sluggish due to slowdowns in emerging economies.
10) Britain’s central bank has taken steps to support the economy, whose outlook has worsened since the vote to leave the European Union.
Bank of England Governor Mark Carney said on Tuesday that the UK has entered a period of uncertainty and significant economic adjustment.
He announced that the bank had lowered the amount of capital that lenders must hold in reserve.