1) Addressing the country on his 83rd birthday Friday, Emperor Akihito thanked the Japanese public for heeding his message earlier in the year indicating his desire to abdicate.
His annual birthday remarks followed his rare video message in which he said his advanced age could one day prevent him from fulfilling his duties as the symbol of the state. Currently, there are no provisions in law allowing an emperor to relinquish the Chrysanthemum throne.
2) “Overseas, gambling addiction has become a serious social problem,” explains a source who is familiar with casinos. “In South Korea in 2000, the Kangwon Land casino that was previously only open to foreign visitors was also opened to locals. In the area adjacent to the resort, now pawnshops can be seen all over the place, and several hundred people who had lost everything they had to gambling are said to be living on the streets.
3) Japanese police and firefighters are inspecting the scene of a massive fire in Niigata Prefecture to determine how it started and spread.
The fire broke out at a Chinese restaurant in Itoigawa City on Thursday morning and engulfed about 150 buildings including houses and shops. Six firefighters and two other people suffered injuries.
The restaurant owner claimed to have discovered the fire upon returning after a short absence.
4) Officials at Japan National Tourism Organization say an estimated 1.9 million foreign visitors came to Japan in November. That’s a record high for the month.
5) A group of people who evacuated due to the 2011 accident at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant has spoken out about the many problems they face, including recent bullying of evacuee children.
A senior official of the group, Mitsuo Sato, said what has been reported about bullying is the tip of the iceberg. He said adults also face harassment and insensitivity.
A woman who voluntarily evacuated from Fukushima Prefecture with her daughter asked people to think about why they had to leave their home. She added that the nuclear accident is far from over.
6) Japan’s cabinet ministers are to approve on Thursday a record-high budget plan for the next fiscal year.
The draft budget is expected to total about 833 billion dollars. That’s 6 billion dollars more than what was projected for the current year.
One-third of the money will be for social welfare, including ballooning spending on the needs of the country’s aging population.
7) A senior Russian government official has expressed his willingness to implement deals reached with Japan during President Vladimir Putin’s recent visit.
Russian media report that Deputy Foreign Minister Igor Morgulov attended a parliamentary committee on Thursday to report on last week’s summit talks.
Morgulov said President Putin’s visit to Japan was a breakthrough and provided a major boost to the development of bilateral ties in economic, political, humanitarian, and various other areas.