May 2, 2012
This week’s required reading
By: Reg Dunlap | May 2, 2012 | Issue: 945 | No Comments | 1,999 views

Mobile Suit Gundam tofu mould. Flickr: toyohara

The high seas

  • Talk about a bad day: two men from Kanagawa were cruising up the coast to Aomori on a yakatabune when the vessel began taking on water. So they did the smart thing and headed for the nearest spot of land… which turned out to be in the no-entry zone around the Fukushima Daichi nuclear plant.
  • The US Coast Guard sank a “ghost ship” that was set adrift from its mooring in Hokkaido following the March 11 earthquake. The 50-meter Ryou-Un Maru had approached within 150 miles of the coast of Alaska.
  • Officials in Kochi are considering setting up underground evacuation shelters for local residents in the event of a tsunami. The structures would employ “submarine technology” and be large enough to house 200 people each.
  • Police in Kanagawa were forced to issue a public apology after a drunk 73-year-old man hopped into an idling patrol car and took it for a spin.

Local heroes

  • A box containing 40 toys, including several Star Wars figures, was left by an anonymous donor at a children’s welfare facility in Yokohama.
  • A motorcycle-riding thief who snatched a woman’s purse on a street in Fukuoka was arrested after being chased down by a 19-year-old pizza delivery dude on a bicycle.
  • The Pakistani military airlifted 77 Japanese tourists from the northern city of Gilgit after they became trapped due to clashes between rival Muslim groups.
  • A new brand of tofu whose shape resembles the giant robot in Mobile Suit Gundam has become such a hit that the manufacturer can’t keep up with demand.

Killer weed

  • A 71-year-old fisherman and his 42-year-old son died in Hokkaido after eating a highly toxic plant called aconite, which they consumed after thinking it was an edible wild vegetable.
  • The health ministry and National Police Agency said they will crack down on shops that sell quasi-legal drugs that contain “the same ingredients as those in illegal drugs like marijuana and stimulants.”
  • About 2,200 people were forced to evacuate the grounds of Utsunomiya University after a bomb threat was delivered on the morning of the school’s opening ceremony earlier this month.
  • Two workers at a hot-air balloon rally in Fukuoka were injured after getting tangled in mooring lines and being swept into the air by strong winds. The two wound up crashing to earth from a height of 5 meters.
  • 50 Number of people in Tokyo hospitalized with alcohol poisoning following hanami parties during the first week of April, according to the fire department
  • ¥91,300 Average monthly allowance given to Tokyo-area college students by their parents, according to an industry survey
  • 82 Age of Shigemasa Igawa, Japan’s oldest mayor, who was elected to a fourth term in Kudamatsu, Yamaguchi Prefecture, earlier this month
  • 40,000 Tons of debris from the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami expected to reach the west coast of North America by February 2013, according to the environment ministry
—Daisuke Miyachi, managing director of Miyachi Iron Works in Tokyo, on the impact of higher electricity charges recently imposed by TEPCO

Foreign intrigue

  • A Japanese man mysteriously identified as “a treasure hunter” was shot dead at his home on the island of Cebu, allegedly by a Filipino man who used to work for him.
  • This one’s good for a chuckle: Feckless former PM Yukio Hatoyama and nuke-obsessed Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad announced that they have “agreed to make efforts to realize a world free of nuclear weapons.”
  • A survey by the Japan Youth Research Institute revealed that only 57.2 percent of Japanese high school students are interested in studying abroad, compared to 70.7 percent of South Koreans, 69.5 percent of Chinese, and 64.6 percent of Americans.
  • The Financial Services Agency says it is studying the best way “to protect yen-dominated deposits” at foreign banks in the event those banks fail.

The fairer sex

  • Renowned journalist Yoshiko Sakurai told a government panel studying the Imperial household system that only people with penises should be allowed to succeed to the throne.
  • Police say a 75-year-old woman in Kushiro, Hokkaido, murdered an acquaintance by hitting her “several dozen times in the face and head with a pickax and other objects.” Yup, that’ll get the job done.
  • A woman from Niigata is suspected of using forged credit cards to rack up more than ¥5 million dollars in duty-free purchases on airplane flights. Officials say the fraudstress took advantage of the fact that “credit card information cannot be confirmed once a plane is in the air.”
  • Officials in Koganei have absolved themselves of blame in the case of an elderly resident whose death was concealed for two years by the man’s daughters.

Here & there

  • A recent survey found that the portion of smartphone users in Japan has skyrocketed from 8.9 to 19.5 percent of the total mobile market during the past year. At the same time, the percentage of users of traditional keitai plunged from 85.9 to 75.4.
  • Police in Osaka arrested a junior high school teacher who had claimed that a “foreign couple” stole his luggage at Kansai Airport last summer. The man’s insurance company reimbursed him more than ¥235,000 before video evidence came to light contradicting the claim.
  • Officials at Narita Airport say they are planning to build a new terminal specifically for budget airlines. They anticipating that it will eventually serve 7.5 million passengers per year.
  • The government says it will send ¥1 billion of aid to ethnic minorities in Myanmar.

What? Still?

  • A professor emeritus at the Tokyo Institute of Technology said Japan should be on alert for aftershocks from the March 11 earthquake that “measure around magnitude 8.”
  • The communications ministry is finally letting political candidates post their profiles online.
  • A newspaper survey revealed that the percentage of Japanese voters with no party preference has reached an all-time high of 56 percent.
  • Researchers at the delightfully named Japanese Society of Snow and Ice have determined that bodies of ice in the Tateyama mountain range in Toyama Prefecture “satisfy the definition of glaciers.” This is apparently the first time that glaciers have been found south of the Kamchatka Peninsula in Russia.

Compiled from reports by AP, Japan Today, The Japan Times, The Asahi Shimbun, The Tokyo Reporter, Japan Probe, The Mainichi Daily News, Daily Yomiuri, AFP, Reuters and Kyodo.



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