Anti-smoking bill leaves scope of ban-exempted restaurants undecided

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A sign sticker reading “Smoking allowed” is displayed outside an “izakaya” pub in Tokyo.  Photo: REUTERS

The government has drafted legislation for regulating passive smoking that would ban smoking basically at all frequently used public spaces, but left undecided how small restaurants should be to be the exception to the rule, sources close to the matter say.

The government had originally planned to submit a relevant bill to revise the Health Promotion Law to the previous ordinary Diet session that ended in June but failed to do so due to discord between the health ministry and the ruling Liberal Democratic Party over how strictly an indoor smoking ban should be applied to restaurants.

The government and the LDP have come under heavy pressure from the tobacco and restaurant industries, which have expressed reservations about stronger anti-smoking measures.

The Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare has insisted that indoor smoking at restaurants should basically be banned at all restaurants, excluding small bars and other establishments with a floor space of up to 30 square meters, while the LDP preferred looser regulation.

The LDP, led by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, supports legislation that would allow indoor smoking at restaurants with a floor space of up to 150 square meters as long as they put up a sign that smoking is allowed inside the restaurants or that smoking is allowed only at a separate area within the establishments.

The recently compiled draft bill to revise the law does not stipulate the size of restaurants within which indoor smoking would be allowed as an exception, as the government plans to stipulate the matter in a future government ordinance.

The envisioned revision to the Health Promotion Law is expected to take effect within two years after promulgation, and the government intends to settle the matter by then.

The government is seeking to introduce such anti-passive smoking legislation before the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics as the International Olympic Committee and the World Health Organization are seeking smoke-free Olympic Games.

Recent host countries of the Olympics have restricted indoor smoking at restaurants and other public spaces under law or ordinance that comes with a penalty in case of breaking it.

The WHO has regarded Japan’s anti-passive smoking measures as being at one of the worst levels in the world.

The draft legislation would ban smoking basically at all frequently used public spaces. It would prohibit facility managers from placing ash trays and require them to make a good-faith effort to stop smoking within their facilities.

Those who violate the law would receive an advisory from a prefectural governor to obey the rule and if they keep breaking the law, they would be fined.

Under the envisioned legislation, medical facilities and elementary and higher-level schools will be smoke-free within their entire premises, while universities, nursing care facilities for the elderly, gymnasiums and government offices will be subject to a ban on indoor smoking.

Guest rooms at hotels and inns, and homes occupied by individuals would not be subject to the smoking ban.

The draft legislation calls for a review of the proposed smoking ban within five years after the law revision takes effect.

© KYODO

 

 

Source  :  Japan Today

Abe sends ritual offering to Yasukuni Shrine for war dead

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A man dressed as a Japanese imperial army soldier stands at Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo on Tuesday to mark the 72nd anniversary of Japan’s surrender in World War Two.  Photo: REUTERS/Issei Kato

By Teppei Kasai and Chehui Peh

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe sent a ritual offering to Yasukuni Shrine for war dead on Tuesday to mark the anniversary of Japan’s World War Two surrender, but did not visit in person, an apparent effort to avoid upsetting China and South Korea.

Past visits by Japanese leaders to Yasukuni have outraged Beijing and Seoul because it honours 14 Japanese leaders convicted by an Allied tribunal as war criminals, along with other war dead.

Masahiko Shibayama, a lawmaker from Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party, told reporters at the shrine that he had made an offering on Abe’s behalf to express condolences to those who sacrificed their lives in the war and pray for peace.

Asked for specific words from Abe, Shibayama added: “He said he was sorry he couldn’t go himself and asked me to go express these feelings in his place”.

Abe has only visited the shrine in person once since taking office in 2012, an action that prompted criticism from key ally the United States as well as from Asian nations, but has sent offerings on August 15 and during Yasukuni’s twice yearly festivals.

Dozens of Japanese lawmakers visited the shrine on the emotive anniversary of the end of World War Two, a move that frequently provokes criticism from other Asian nations.

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A group of lawmakers including Japan’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) lawmaker Hidehisa Otsuji (2nd R) are led by a Shinto priest as they sip sake as a ritual after offering prayers for the war dead at Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo, Tuesday, to mark the 72nd anniversary of Japan’s surrender in World War Two.  Photo: REUTERS/Issei Kato
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Shinjiro Koizumi, a lawmaker from the ruling Liberal Democratic Party and son of former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, arrives to visit Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo on Tuesday.  Photo: REUTERS/Issei Kato

The shrine was crowded from early morning with ordinary Japanese on an unusually cool and cloudy day for August.

“I came here to pay respects to some of my ancestors who fought in the war and are honoured here,” said Takahashi Hajime, an office worker from Tokyo.

“I come here every year with my son and my wife, it is a family event for us.”

Tensions in the region, with North Korea and the United States both threatening military action over Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons programme, weighed on the minds of many at the shrine.

“We come here to pray for peace,” said Koto Nakano, an 18-year-old student who came with members of his kickboxing gym.

“We do feel worried about the North Korean threats but merely feeling fear for the unknown is not enough, we need to also work towards sending the message of peace.”

© (c) Copyright Thomson Reuters 2017.

Source  :  Japan Today

Japan marks 72nd anniversary of its surrender in WWII

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Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko bow before the main altar decorated with chrysanthemums during a memorial service at Nippon Budokan in Tokyo, Tuesday, to mark the 72nd anniversary of Japan’s World War II surrender.  Photo: AP/Shizuo Kambayashi

Japan marked the 72nd anniversary of its surrender in World War II on Tuesday, with the emperor and empress, the prime minister, and about 5,000 relatives of the war dead attending a ceremony at Nippon Budokan to mourn those killed.

In his speech, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe vowed not to repeat the devastations of war and to “humbly” face history in working toward world peace and prosperity, but did not mention Japan’s wartime aggression in Asia or the pledge not to engage in war.

Abe has not referred to Japan’s wartime conduct in his speech at previous five ceremonies, including Tuesday’s, although Japanese premiers have touched on the country’s past aggression at the annual event since 1994, when Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama expressed remorse for the country’s wartime brutality in Asia.

“We will contribute to world peace and prosperity by sincerely tackling various challenges, including the issue of poverty, which could become a hotbed of conflicts,” Abe said.

The ceremony comes amid growing threats posed by North Korea’s nuclear and missile development programs and as Abe looks to revise the nation’s war-renouncing Constitution.

Japan’s new security laws, which took effect in 2016, allow its troops to fight abroad even when Japan itself is not attacked.

The ceremony was attended by Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko. The royal couple are believed to have only a few occasions left to attend the annual memorial, as the abdication of the emperor could come as early as the end of 2018.

“Reflecting on our past and bearing in mind the feelings of deep remorse, I earnestly hope that the ravages of war will never be repeated,” the emperor said.

“Together with all of our people, I now pay my heartfelt tribute to all those who lost their lives in the war, both on the battlefields and elsewhere, and pray for world peace and for the continuing development of our country,” the emperor said.

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Attendees observe a moment of silence for the war dead during a memorial ceremony marking the 72nd anniversary of Japan’s surrender in World War II, at Nippon Budokan Hall in Tokyo on Tuesday.  Photo: REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon

The participants observed a moment of silence from noon for the about 2.3 million military personnel and 800,000 civilians who perished in the war, including those who were killed in the U.S. atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki as well as in the battle in Okinawa and other air raids.

Representing the bereaved families, Hajime Watanabe, 83, from Fukuoka Prefecture, said, “We will convey the misery of war and the preciousness of peace to the next generations and work toward building Japan and an international community that will never go to war again.”

The oldest relative at the ceremony at the Nippon Budokan in Tokyo was 101 and the youngest was 6 years old. The number of widows was the lowest ever at six, and relatives born after World War II accounted for one-fourth of the participants.

© KYODO

 

Source  :  Japan Today