1) The number of Japanese people with dementia reported missing hit yet another record high in 2016, figures released Thursday showed, indicating the issue of elderly care is becoming more complex due to Japan’s aging society.
The National Police Agency said 15,432 people with dementia or who are suspected to be suffering the condition were reported missing to police in 2016, up 26.4 percent from the previous year.
2) Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was under mounting pressure Friday over allegations that he used his influence to help a friend in a business deal after two official reports appeared to back up the claims.
3) A prominent anti-U.S. base activist in Okinawa said Thursday at a U.N. Human Rights Council meeting that the Japanese government has committed “clear human rights violations” against opponents of the relocation of a U.S. air base within the southern island Japan prefecture.
4) The death toll in an apartment building fire in west London is likely to rise significantly. Police says they have confirmed at least 30 people died from the fire that engulfed a 24-story building on Wednesday.
5) A beer garden located higher than any of its competitors in Tokyo attracted a large number of people at its yearly opening.
The summer open-air restaurant is located halfway up the 600-meter Mount Takao in western Tokyo.
On Friday, hikers in groups dropped by for beer on their way down the mountain. They enjoyed a view of skyscrapers in the center of Tokyo in the far distance and a rainbow that appeared in the sky.
6) Japan’s Foreign Ministry has lodged a strong protest over a South Korean military drill on the Takeshima Islands of Shimane Prefecture.
Foreign Ministry officials said they confirmed that the exercise started on Thursday morning.
South Korea controls the islands. Japan claims them.
7) A group of Japanese writers is condemning the enactment of anti-terror legislation as an outrage.
The head of the Japan PEN Club, Jiro Asada, released a statement on Thursday, following passage of the bill which criminalizes the act of preparing terror attacks and other organized crimes.
Asada, a novelist, said the new law could seriously threaten freedom of speech and expression by effectively introducing the crime of conspiracy.
8) Local assemblies in Japan are having hard time in getting citizens to show interest in their activities.
The assembly of Tomakomai City, northern Japan, has started offering 50 yen, or about 45 cents, in community points to citizens who attend its sessions.
Thursday was the first day of the offer. At reception, citizens scanned their community money point cards to get 50 points, worth about 45 cents.
9) Sources say struggling Japanese auto parts maker Takata is taking final steps to file for bankruptcy as early as this month. The company is one of the world’s top 3 airbag producers but has been involved in a worldwide recall since 2013.
10) A Japanese convenience store chain is turning to artificial intelligence to reduce its employee workload. The industry is currently struggling with a serious labor shortage.
FamilyMart, free messaging application provider LINE and trading firm Itochu have reached basic agreement on the tie-up. The say their new convenience stores will employ AI technology now being developed by LINE.
They say the system will use sales data to predict customer demand and place the appropriate orders.
They will also try to persuade the approximately 68 million LINE users in Japan to use their smartphones to make payments.
The three firms will study the practical aspects of the tie-up projects and try to open a model store by the end of 2018.
Lawson, another convenience store chain, has been developing an automated checkout system in a tie-up with a major electronics maker.
11) An expert panel set up by Japan’s Cabinet Office says the economy has likely been expanding since December 2012. That’s more than 4 and a half years, making it the third-longest period of postwar growth.
The panel says the pace of growth did slow between April 2014, when the consumption tax was raised to 8 percent — and early 2016.
But experts have agreed that this period was not a recession.
The current run is longer than the period of growth in the bubble years, which started in 1986 and lasted 4 years and 3 months.
12) Russian President Vladimir Putin has reiterated that discussing issues arising from the Japan-US Security Treaty is unavoidable to make progress in negotiations on a territorial dispute with Japan.
Putin spoke to reporters in Moscow on Thursday after a televised question-and-answer session with ordinary citizens.
Putin talked about joint economic activity with Japan on a disputed island chain. On-site surveys are set to start late this month.