April 15th, 2017


1)   The southwestern Japanese prefecture of Kumamoto has held a ceremony to remember the people killed in the earthquakes one year ago.

The quakes killed 225 people. 169 of the deaths have been recognized as related to the quakes, such as falling ill at evacuation shelters. About 200,000 houses were completely or partially destroyed. About 47,000 people are still living in temporary housing.

2)   Orders for commemorative stamps featuring popular figure skater Mao Asada shot up after she announced her retirement from competition. The set of stamps is paired with a small doll dressed in the skater’s costume.

Japan Post last month began accepting orders for the set. The doll is dressed in the dark blue costume Asada wore at the free style in the 2014 Sochi Olympic Games.

3)   Japan’s Board of Audit has found that nearly half of the firms that were granted state subsidies in exchange for making inroads into areas hit by the 2011 disaster have given up their efforts.

The Japanese government earmarked up to nearly 46 million dollars in subsidies to companies that will be building factories and other facilities in the prefectures of Iwate, Miyagi, and Fukushima.

Officials say in many cases, the firms were unable to secure land or a workforce due to the slow pace of recovery.

4)   The US military says it struck a stronghold of the Islamic State militant group in Afghanistan with the largest non-nuclear bomb it has ever used in combat.

It said the GBU-43B Massive Ordnance Air Blast, known as “the mother of all bombs,” was used in an air strike in the eastern province of Nangarhar on Thursday.

5)   US President Donald Trump has given assurances that he held constructive talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping over North Korean provocations.

Trump on Wednesday tweeted he “had a very good call last night with the President of China concerning the menace of North Korea.”

6)   Police said Thursday they have obtained arrest warrants for two Chinese women after Meiji Shrine in central Tokyo was vandalized earlier this month with an oily liquid.

The Tokyo Metropolitan Police said Piao Jinyu and Piao Shanai, both 49, are suspected of vandalizing the shrine in Shibuya Ward on the morning of April 3 and were identified from surveillance camera footage.

The police said the two women, who have already left Japan, have been put on a wanted list as they are likely to return to the country.

7)   France and Japan want to recover pieces of a Martian Moon and bring them back to Earth, the head of France’s National Centre for Space Studies (CNES) said Thursday.

The Martian Moons Exploration project would launch a probe in 2024 destined for Phobos, the largest and closest of two moons circling the Red Planet.

8)   The United Fiasco could have happened to (most) any airline and it was a matter of time. The problem is not just with the airlines, but with the decline American customer service levels.

9/11 hurt our country in a number of ways, and its effects are still felt. What was once an industry based on pleasure has become more of a military installation. Airlines have embraced the powers afforded them through 9/11 and instead of treating passengers as customers, they often act as if they are doing the passenger a favor by transporting them.

9)   A misdirected airstrike by the U.S.-led coalition earlier this week killed 18 allied fighters battling the Islamic State group in northern Syria, the U.S. military said Thursday.

U.S. Central Command said coalition aircraft were given the wrong coordinates by their partner forces, the predominantly-Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces.

10)    Japan has a well-deserved reputation as a country with stimulating night life. Every major city has at least one “neon-gai” (entertainment zone), and Tokyo has dozens.

But according to J-Cast News (April 2), the varieties of so-called “fuzoku” (adult entertainment) businesses are showing signs of rapid decline.

11)   Miyako Taxi, which mainly operates in the Kyoto area, has designated a number of cars in its fleet as Silence Taxis. A notice written on the back of the passenger seat headrest informs customers that aside from offering a greeting when they get in and confirming their desired route, the driver will not speak to them unless he is spoken to (excepting, of course, emergency situations where communication is critical).