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Authorities Scramble to Emphasize Japan's Safety after Earthquake

Kjeld Duits, Tuesday, July 31, 2007 Posted: 12:00 PM JST

The earthquake that hit Niigata earlier this month sent shock-waves around the world because of the damage at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa Nuclear Power Plant. I noticed this myself as I ended up doing more radio reports on the nuclear power plant than I ever did before on a single story. Even more than I did on the 2004 tsunami and the 2005 earthquake in Pakistan, which killed hundreds of thousands of people. The Niigata prefectural government and the Foreign Ministry now worry that inaccurate reporting could cause more trouble than the earthquake itself.


DPJ Wins Big

Kjeld Duits, Monday, July 30, 2007 Posted: 02:30 AM JST

Not all the results are in, but the DPJ has clearly won big in Sunday's elections for the Upper House. As of 2:00 AM Monday morning the LDP has 37 seats. It used to have 64 in the half of the Upper House that was up for election. The DPJ has 60 seats, up from 32. These numbers may still change over the next few hours, but it looks like this will be the second worst defeat in the Upper House that the LDP has experienced in its 52 year history.

In spite of the huge loss, Prime Minister Abe said last night that he will not step down. "My policies," he said in a TV interview, "are not mistaken, so there is no reason to flee."

The big surprise was Ozawa's absence at the DPJ headquarters. Explanations were far from sufficient. He was tired and had been told by his doctor to rest. He also had a cold, the assembled press was told. Naoto Kan, who gave the press meeting instead of Ozawa, did not even relay a comment from Ozawa. Was Ozawa's condition so bad that he was unable to pass on a message, we wondered. Ozawa had an operation for a heart condition about 15 years ago. Did his heart condition act up? The DPJ vowed to now fight for a change in government. If the party manages to win, will Ozawa be healthy enough to lead Japan as prime minister?

Before we even get that far, Sunday's results promise to create a lot of political confusion over the next few months with probable gridlock, because of the LDP majority in the Lower House and the opposition's new majority in the Upper House.

Keywords: national_news political_news

Japanese Opposition Employs Rice Strategy

Kjeld Duits, Sunday, July 29, 2007 Posted: 07:44 PM JST

Tokyo is the face of Japan. A city full of skyscrapers, large crowds and streets full of cars. Enormous neon signs shout the names of famous Japanese brands that compete all over the world. But for the Upper House elections that are taking place in Japan today, the opposition pays more attention to the empty countryside. It hopes to win a massive victory with a rice strategy.


"The Last Chance for Japanese Democracy"

Kjeld Duits, Sunday, July 29, 2007 Posted: 06:30 PM JST

Japanese politics are predictable. The Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) wins, the opposition loses. Since the seventies the end of the LDP has been predicted. Yet, the Japanese people always end up putting the party back in power. For more than half a century now the party has almost continuously been in power. But today's elections for Japan's Upper House promise a political earthquake.


How Americans View Japan Today

Kjeld Duits, Saturday, July 21, 2007 Posted: 07:36 AM JST

The Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs has released its annual report of how Americans view Japan. Some figures we have heard before: 83% of respondents believe that Japan shares common values with the US (the UK scores 85%, Germany 79% and France only 62%). Some 95% describe Japan as "a country that has great tradition and culture", while only 51% think it is a democratic country. Other figures surprise:


Japanese Inflation 2% Lower than Reported

Kjeld Duits, Wednesday, July 18, 2007 Posted: 01:58 PM JST

New research suggests that actual Japanese inflation is almost 2% below the reported figures, according to highly respected financial analyst Richard Jerram of Macquarie Securities. "Measuring inflation accurately is a remarkably complicated exercise where the process used can distort the results. New academic research suggests the calculation used in Japan results in inflation being overstated by 0.8%, compared to the results from using the more sophisticated US process."


Japanese Nuclear Reactor Leaks Radio-Active Material into Air

Kjeld Duits, Tuesday, July 17, 2007 Posted: 09:14 PM JST

NHK reports that the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant, which was jolted by a 6.8 earthquake yesterday, has released radio-active material into the air. This comes on top of the announcement yesterday that radio-active material was leaked into the Japan Sea. TEPCO, who runs the plant, says that the material released into the air was one ten thousandth of what is harmful to man, and that it poses no danger.

The quake's death toll now stands at 9, more than 1,000 people needed medical care and some 12,000 sought refuge in evacuation centers. Over 400 houses were completely destroyed and the main highway connection will remain closed off for the next few weeks because of heavy damage.

Keywords: national_news

Laughter Dictionary Published

Kjeld Duits, Tuesday, July 17, 2007 Posted: 06:34 PM JST

The 'Society to Think About Kansai,' sponsored by Meiji Yasuda Life Insurance Co., has published 'Laughter Dictionary - Kansai's Laughter and Japan's Laughter.' It compiles all aspects of laughter, including the characteristics and root of laughter in Kansai, laughter in literature and arts, and the origin and onomatopoeia of laughter.


Radio-Active Material Leaked into Japan Sea

Kjeld Duits, Tuesday, July 17, 2007 Posted: 12:00 AM JST

NHK and Kyodo report that radio-active material was leaked into the Japan Sea after a nuclear reactor was hit by a heavy earthquake in Japan's Niigata prefecture today. The plant operator has said that the radioactivity level was below safely levels and posed no danger to the environment.

Keywords: national_news 2007 Niigata-Chuetsu Earthquake

Did the Japan Institute of International Affairs Buckle Under Right-Wing Pressure?

Kjeld Duits, Monday, July 16, 2007 Posted: 11:41 PM JST

(by David McNeill and Fred Varcoe) - No, says Ambassador Satoh Yukio. Yes, say his critics.

Japan can be a very uncomfortable place when the right starts sharpening its rhetorical spears. The Japan Institute of International Affairs (JIIA) discovered this to its cost last year when it wandered into the debate over prime ministerial visits to Yasukuni Shrine: a key issue for Japanese conservatives.


Food and Water Finally Trickling into Disaster Area

Kjeld Duits, Monday, July 16, 2007 Posted: 10:38 PM JST

At 9:30 PM, emergency food and water supplies are finally starting to reach some areas hit by a series of heavy earthquakes in Niigata prefecture. However, a large number of people are still without water, and food. There is also great need of lavatories, power generators, mattresses and fuel for the generators.

Keywords: national_news 2007 Niigata-Chuetsu Earthquake

Fire at Nuclear Reactor in Disaster Area

Kjeld Duits, Monday, July 16, 2007 Posted: 10:34 PM JST

Shortly after the earthquake hit the Niigata coast in Japan this morning, a fire was discovered at one of the area's seven nuclear reactors. The fire was reported to the local firefighting department 14 minutes after the quake occurred. Firefighters arrived only 1 hour later, but then were able to quickly extinguish the fire.

NHK reports that the fire was caused by insulation oil, but Japanese government officials have not yet been able to confirm this.

It is the first time that a fire has occurred at a Japanese nuclear power station and government officials were clearly shocked and confused.

Keywords: national_news 2007 Niigata-Chuetsu Earthquake

Japan Earthquake Death Toll Rises to 7

Kjeld Duits, Monday, July 16, 2007 Posted: 10:26 PM JST

The death toll for today's earthquake has risen to 7, 1 person has been reported missing. More than 800 people have been treated at hospitals. More than 300 houses have collapsed and over 1,700 have sustained damage. It is already past 9:00 PM in Japan and people are readying themselves for a long and scary night. Many of them at hastily arranged evacuation centers.

The exact number of people who have evacuated is not yet known, but Kashiwazaki City has ordered 10,000 meals. Many people also plan to spend the night outside. However, heavy rain of 2-3 centimeters per hour has been forecast for the area for tonight and tomorrow. This may cause landslides now that the earth has been become unsettled by today's repeated quakes, many of them measuring 4 to 6 on the Richter Scale. Over 70 aftershocks were strong enough to be felt.

One Shinkansen (bullet train) connection has still not been restored, while another regular train connection can't be restored because a landslide has swept away the tracks and partly covered a station. At least one expressway has been closed due to heavy damage and countless roads are unusable. The damaged roads and rail connections is complicating the transportation of water. At least 50 water trucks have not been able to reach their designated areas yet. The Japanese naval forces today sent out supplies by sea from Kyoto's Maizuru. These supplies are expected to reach the affected areas by late tomorrow afternoon.

Survivors, still traumatized by the 2004 quake, repeatedly tell reporters that this quake was much worse than the 2004 one.

Keywords: national_news 2007 Niigata-Chuetsu Earthquake

Large Earthquake Hits Japan Sea Coast

Kjeld Duits, Monday, July 16, 2007 Posted: 03:38 PM JST

An earthquake with a magnitude of 6.8 hit Niigata and Nagano prefectures at 10:43 this morning. In one of the worst hit areas, the city of Kashiwazaki with a population of 95,000, many hundreds of houses have been destroyed or damaged. At least one train derailed and more than 35,000 households are without water and gas. As of 3 PM Japanese time, two dead and more than 320 wounded have been reported.

NHK reported that smoke was seen rising from Kashiwazaki's nuclear reactor, the world's largest. The Japanese government said that several helicopters had been detached to check for radiation leaks and that none had been found. At least 3 of Niigata's 7 nuclear reactors have been shut down.

Shinkansen (Bullet Train) and other rail connections were halted, but most have now been restored.

Prime Minister Abe, who was in Nagasaki to campaign for this month's parliamentary elections, immediately returned to Tokyo. The central government has set up an emergency response center.

The earthquake comes two years after the same area was hit by the Chuetsu Earthquake, with a magnitude of 6.6. The Chuetsu Earthquake claimed 67 lives.

UPDATE 16:50 JST: The death toll now stands at 5.

Keywords: national_news

Peruvian Ex-President Asked to be "Last Samurai"

Kjeld Duits, Thursday, July 12, 2007 Posted: 10:43 PM JST

To the surprise of many, a Chilean judge decided today not to extradite former President Alberto Fujimori to Peru. Peru had requested the extradition of its former leader for corruption, kidnapping and murder during his 10-year presidency. In a twist that would befit a Hollywood movie, the accused former president will now run in elections in Japan.


First Female Branch Managers at Leading Banking Institution

Kjeld Duits, Monday, July 2, 2007 Posted: 03:24 PM JST

Resona Bank, Ltd., opening recruitment to the public, has decided to hire three women as branch managers. Of some 70 applications, some 30 percent came from women.

The three recruits have work experience in megabanks or securities companies, and Resona expects them to play important roles immediately. In early autumn and later this year, the newly hired managers will be sent to branches specializing in retail customers in Tokyo, Osaka and other cities.

Traditionally, branch managers are appointed from within banks, so this is the first time for a leading banking institution to recruit candidates from outside.

Keywords: national_news

More Single Mothers in Japan

Kjeld Duits, Monday, July 2, 2007 Posted: 03:22 PM JST

The number of single mothers receiving government assistance reached a record high of 987,450 last February. The figure has increased for the past nine years, a result of the high number of divorces in Japan, which now stands at an annual rate of 250,000.

Life is not easy for these single mothers. According the White Paper on Single-Mother Families, made public by the government on June 1, the average income of female-headed households in 2005 totaled JPY 2.334 million (USD 18,971), or JPY 831,000 (USD 6,754) per household member. In these households, 83.0 percent of mothers were employed. However, only 39.2 percent of them had regular jobs, while 49.0 percent were employed at temporary or part-time jobs.

Keywords: national_news

An Intimate View of a Japanese Political Campaign

Kjeld Duits, Monday, July 2, 2007 Posted: 10:16 AM JST

After many years in New York as correspondent for Japan's national broadcaster NHK, documentary filmmaker Kazuhiro Soda returned to Japan to film his former classmate Kazuhiko Yamauchi as he ran for a seat on the Kawasaki city council. The resulting film, Campaign (Senkyo), paints a riotously funny, but also disturbing portrait of the mechanisms behind party politics in Japan, and particularly the workings of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), which has ruled Japan for decades almost without interruption. Jason Gray interviews Kazuhiro Soda at Midnight Eye.

Keywords: arts_entertainment people_focus political_news

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The now legendary Sir Ernest Mason Satow (1843-1929) was a member of the British legation in Tokyo for twenty-one years. This classic book is based on the author's detailed diary, personal encounters, and keen memory. In it, Satow records the history of the critical years of social and political upheaval that accompanied Japan's first encounters with the West around the time of the Meiji Restoration. Fascinating.
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