1) South Florida is bracing for a major storm surge and powerful winds even as Hurricane Irma weakened to a Category 4 storm as it races toward the U.S. mainland.
2) Japan’s agriculture ministry said Friday it is aiming to more than quadruple the country’s annual rice and rice product exports to 100,000 tons in 2019, ministry officials said Friday.
Domestic demand for rice has been decreasing by around 8 tons a year, necessitating the expansion of exports, according to the ministry.
3) The Halloween season “officially” kicks off in Japan on Friday with the festivities beginning at major theme parks Tokyo Disneyland, Tokyo DisneySea where parades and other events will be held until Oct 31.
Although many stores have been selling Halloween merchandise since late August, the “official” start of the Halloween season in Japan is usually considered to be when the theme parks start.
4) Japanese wrestler-turned-lawmaker Antonio Inoki arrived in North Korea on Thursday to possibly meet with the country’s top official in charge of foreign affairs, amid deepening tensions over its nuclear and missile programs.
5) The Japanese government on Friday approved a change to guidelines to allow local education boards to set summer holidays at different times of the year to encourage more family time in the chronically overworked country.
6) The Tokyo Metropolitan Government plans to introduce a comprehensive indoor smoking ban in public spaces in an effort to eradicate secondhand smoking.
The proposed regulation targets all cigarettes, cigars and electric cigarettes. It would ban smoking anywhere inside medical institutions, as well as elementary and junior high schools, central and local government offices, welfare facilities for the elderly, and gymnasiums.
Indoor smoking would also be prohibited at hotels, company offices and restaurants, except in designated smoking rooms.
7) Japan’s transport ministry says it is studying the possibility of charging tolls at 4 popular tourist spots to ease traffic congestion.
The ministry plans to survey traffic in the ancient capital of Kyoto; Kamakura, near Tokyo; Kobe, in western Japan, and the central resort of Karuizawa as early as next month.
Roads in the areas are busy on weekends and during tourist seasons, affecting local residents’ daily lives.
8) A survey by a French institute shows that up to 70 percent of coral reefs in Japan’s southwestern prefecture of Okinawa are dead due to warm temperatures.
9) The government of Mexico says it has given the North Korean ambassador 72 hours to leave the country.
The government on Thursday declared the ambassador, Kim Hyong Gil, persona non grata as a protest against the North’s nuclear and missile tests.
10) China’s central bank has banned the practice of raising funds with Bitcoin and other virtual money. The measure took effect earlier this week.
The People’s Bank of China announced on Monday that the bank banned “initial coin offerings,” or ICOs as a form of unauthorized and illegal public fundraising.
The bank suspended websites providing ICO services after the announcement, linking the practice to financial fraud, pyramid schemes and other criminal activities.
11) The new leadership of Japan’s main opposition Democratic Party will likely suffer damage from an alleged scandal involving one of its key lawmakers.
A weekly magazine reports that the party’s former policy research committee chair, Shiori Yamao, has been engaged in an extramarital affair with a lawyer.