March 23rd, 2017

1)   The head of a Japanese nationalist school at the heart of a swirling political scandal said in sworn testimony in parliament on Thursday that he received a donation of 1 million yen from Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s wife in her husband’s name.

2)   Fewer Japanese are taking their own lives, a positive sign in a country with one of the world’s highest suicide rates.

Experts say it’s difficult to pinpoint a reason for the decline, attributing it to a combination of factors. The government has made a determined effort to tackle the issue, starting with national legislation in 2006. Consumer loan laws have been revised to try to keep people from taking on too much debt.

“Now we can talk about suicides,” said Yasuyuki Shimuzu, founder of Lifelink, a nonprofit that lobbies for suicide-prevention measures. “I believe the change in environment has made it easier for the needy to seek help.”

3)   British police arrested seven people in armed raids Thursday linked to the deadly attacks the day before on the symbol of the country’s democracy.

Britain’s top anti-terror officer Mark Rowley also said police have revised down the number of victims from Wednesday’s rampage to three from four. Some 40 people were wounded.

4)   The Tokyo Metropolitan Government has unveiled an outline of a facility designed to boost young people’s communication skills in the English language.

The Tokyo government is planning to open the educational facility called English Village in September next year, in the lead-up to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics. The project is part of Tokyo’s efforts to foster globally-minded talent.

The facility will be named Tokyo Global Gateway and located in Koto ward. It is expected to be operated by a private company. Courses will be offered for fifth-grade students through high-school seniors with priority given to applications from schools.

5)   Writers and film directors in Japan have voiced opposition to a proposed bill to criminalize preparing to carry out terrorism and other organized crimes.

The Japan PEN Club, a group of writers and poets, said in a statement that the legislation would violate freedom of thought and beliefs guaranteed by the Constitution.

The group criticized the government’s argument that the legislation is necessary to host the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics. The group says the existing organized crime law is sufficient for taking anti-terrorism measures.
6)   A government survey says abuse of elderly people by family members and others reached 16,384 cases in Japan during the year ending March 2016. That’s a 2 percent increase from the previous year.

7)   An internet-based bank in Japan plans to soon start allowing customers to withdraw cash from ATMs using only smartphones.

Jibun Bank account holders will be able to use the service at more than 23,000 ATMs owned by Seven Bank. The machines are located around the country, mainly in Seven-Eleven convenience stores.

Customers must first enter the withdrawal amount on a smartphone app. The ATM will display a QR code to be scanned with a smartphone camera. The app will then show a number for the transaction.

Once users enter the number and an account password, they’ll be able to get their money.