Sept 9th, 2016


1)   Japan’s nuclear watchdog has decided to make operators of nuclear power plants and other nuclear facilities check the background of their workers to prevent terror attacks.

Following the recommendation of the International Atomic Energy Agency, the Nuclear Regulation Authority will introduce the new regulation in late September, although the actual implementation is expected to be from next year or later due to necessary procedures, such a revision of the rules regarding the handling of nuclear materials.

2)   Several hundred American service personnel who say they became sick from radiation after participating in relief operations for the 2011 tsunami that set off the Fukushima nuclear disaster are now getting high-profile support in Japan.

Junichiro Koizumi, prime minister from 2001 to 2006, told reporters Wednesday he has set up a special fund to collect private donations for the former service members, with the goal of collecting $1 million (100 million yen) by the end of next March, mainly to help with medical bills.

3)   An estimated 541,000 people between the ages of 15 and 39 in Japan avoid social contact and shut themselves in their homes, according to a government survey.

The figure compares with the previous Cabinet Office survey in 2010 that showed an estimated 696,000 such people—known as “hikikomori”—across the country. Despite the decline, the latest survey does not give an overall picture of the full extent of the phenomenon as it did not include those aged 40 or older.

But the survey does highlight a trend in which people who have withdrawn from society have done so for longer periods, as those who have shut themselves in their homes for at least seven years accounted for about 35 percent of the total.

4)   Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe pledged 45 billion yen ($440 million) on Wednesday to help Asian countries strengthen counter-terrorism measures, a government spokesman said, as the region sees a surge in large-scale attacks.

Police blamed a bombing last week in Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s home town that killed 14 people on rebels linked to Islamic State, while 22 people were killed in a July attack on a cafe in the Bangladeshi capital.

“As our first ever support for anti-terrorism and anti-extremism steps in Asia, we will carry out an aid program worth 45 billion yen for the next three years,” Japanese Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Koichi Hagiuda quoted Abe telling a meeting of leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) grouping.

5)   A British MP slammed Air China for alleged “racist” travel advice offered to clients visiting London.

The airline’s “Wings of China” magazine reportedly provides safety advice to travellers based on the race and nationality of local residents.

“London is generally a safe place to travel, however precautions are needed when entering areas mainly populated by Indians, Pakistanis and black people,” the magazine says, according to a photograph published by CNBC.

“We advise tourists not to go out alone at night, and females always to be accompanied by another person when travelling,” the magazine adds.

6)   “Pokemon Go will be the end of Japan!” screams the headline in Jitsuwa Bunka Tabuu (October). Okay, so Nintendo’s share prices briefly shot up by 80% and the 2,900 McDonald’s outlets where the cute characters could be hunted reported their year-on-year revenues up by 26.6%. Big deal.

Soon after the game’s July 22 release in Japan, throngs of people staring at their smartphones could be seen flocking to such parks as Shinjuku Gyoen and Setagaya Koen in Tokyo and Tsuruma Koen in Nagoya’s Showa Ward, to hunt “rare” Pokemon.

It goes without saying that Pokemon Go requires players to engage in the act of so-called “aruki sumaho” (walking while looking at or operating a smartphone). It’s dangerous. In a survey of actual users undertaken by Tsukuba University, 42% of mothers accompanying small children said they had the experience of bumping into someone while texting, and 47% of people over age 70 said they had been jostled by someone using a phone. The same experience was stated by 50% of wheelchair-bound individuals questioned in the survey.

7)   Scientific techniques that can wipe out invasive species or alter mosquitoes’ ability to carry disease are pushing ahead, raising concerns about the ethics of permanently changing the natural world, experts say.

This fast-moving field of science—which involves changing the biology of creatures by interfering with their DNA—is increasingly being debated not only for human health purposes, but also in conservation circles.

Perhaps the most controversial type of research is known as a “gene drive,” which ensures that a certain trait is passed down from parent to offspring. It eventually leads to genetic changes throughout the entire species.

8)   “If people aren’t marrying and aren’t dating, they must be doing something to satisfy their need for intimacy, whether they are opting for sexual and romantic alternatives such as prostitutes, romantic video games, celebrity obsessions, pornography or pets.”

Masahiro Yamada, a sociologist at Chuo University who coined the term “parasite single,” which refers to people who live with and depend on their parents well into adulthood. (The Economist)

9)   A half-Indian beauty queen with an elephant trainer’s license was crowned Miss Japan on Monday, striking a fresh blow for racial equality.

Priyanka Yoshikawa’s tearful victory comes a year after Ariana Miyamoto faced an ugly backlash for becoming the first mixed-race woman to represent Japan.

Social media lit up after Miyamoto’s trail-blazing triumph as critics complained that Miss Universe Japan should instead have been won by a “pure” Japanese rather than a “haafu”—the Japanese for “half”, a word used to describe mixed race.

10)   The director of a documentary film introducing the lives and voices of Japanese people who support whaling said Monday she has started a campaign on an international crowd-funding site so she can screen her film in the United States.

The 107-minute movie is touted as a “counter” documentary to the Oscar-winning U.S. film “The Cove,” which threw the Japanese whaling town of Taiji into the international spotlight with bloody scenes of its annual dolphin hunt.

Keiko Yagi, the director of “BEHIND THE COVE – The Quiet Japanese Speak Out!” said she believes it is important to provide the American public with “a chance to hear the other side of the debate on the whaling issue.”