Man drops 2-year-old son into river; then goes missing while trying to rescue him

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Police and firefighters in Nikko, Tochigi Prefecture, on Sunday morning resumed their search for a 41-year-old man who went missing on Saturday night after he jumped into a river to save for his two-year–old son whom he accidentally dropped into the river from a bridge.

According to police and witnesses, the incident occurred at Kinugawa Onsen Fureai Bridge at around 9 p.m. Fuji TV reported that Ryuji Yange was on the bridge, holding his son, watching a fireworks display. When he leaned over the bridge railing, the boy slipped from his grasp and fell about 10 meters into the river below. Yange immediately jumped into the river after his son but was apparently swept away by an undercurrent, police believe.

Witnesses called 110 and the boy was found on a riverbank about one hour later. He suffered light injuries but his life is in no danger, police said Sunday.

Police said that at the time of the incident, the river was swollen due to heavy rain during the week.

Yange, his wife and their three children had come from Chiba Prefecture and were staying at the hot spring resort for the weekend.

© Japan Today

Source  :  Japan Today

Residents of Tottori town hold drill in case N Korea fires missiles over them

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Children take shelter during an emergency drill in Kotoura, Tottori Prefecture, on Saturday.  Photo: KYODO

By Kwiyeon Ha

Residents of a town in Tottori Prefecture on the Japanese coast held evacuation drills on Saturday to prepare for any launch of North Korean missiles towards the U.S. Pacific territory of Guam, that would fly over their homes.

As sirens blared from speakers in the town of Kotoura, children playing soccer outside ran to take shelter in a school, along with their parents and their team coach.

“I’ve been concerned every day that something might fall or a missile could fall in an unexpected place due to North Korea’s missile capabilities,” said the coach, Akira Hamakawa, 38.

North Korea’s rapid progress in developing nuclear weapons and missiles has fuelled a surge in tension across the region.

U.S. President Donald Trump warned North Korea this month it would face “fire and fury” if it threatened the United States.

The North responded by threatening to fire missiles towards the U.S. Pacific island territory of Guam. Any such missiles would have to fly over western Japan.

While North Korea later said it was holding off firing towards Guam, tension remains high and annual joint military exercises by the United States and South Korea beginning on Monday are likely to enrage Pyongyang.

Nearly 130 people took part in the drill in Kotoura, which has a population of 18,000, a town official said.

For 10 minutes, people ducked down covering their heads with their arms. Many of those taking part said they were worried.

North Korea has in the past threatened to attack Japan, a staunch U.S. ally and host to U.S. military bases.

Japan is the only country in the world to be attacked with nuclear weapons.

Authorities are publishing notices in newspapers, on television and online, advising people to take shelter in robust buildings and to keep away from windows should missiles land.

Evacuation drills, however, have only been held in remote towns such as Kotoura.

A North Korean missile could reach Japan in about 10 minutes.

“A lot of people participated in the drill with a sense of emergency,” said Yosuke Suenaga, the cabinet counsellor of situation response and crisis management.

© Thomson Reuters 2017.

Source  :  Japan Today

Hiroshima marks 3rd anniversary of deadly landslides

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Hiroshima residents take part in a memorial service in Asakita Ward Sunday to commemorate the third anniversary of landslides that claimed the lives of 77 people. Photo: KYODO


A memorial service was held Sunday to commemorate the third anniversary of landslides that claimed the lives of 77 people in the western Japan city of Hiroshima.

“I don’t want anyone else to become a victim or a person feeling like us,” said 77-year-old Takako Miyamoto, one of the speakers at the event. She lost her husband after torrential rain caused a series of landslides in residential areas close to mountains in the city early on Aug 20, 2014.

“It is really painful and sad to have our lives ruined after losing everything, with our dear old houses destroyed,” said Miyamoto, who also sustained a serious injury in the landslide.

Touching on recent natural disasters in other places in Japan including torrential rain in Kyushu last month, she said she “sincerely hopes that no one else dies in a disaster.”

About 400 houses were either washed away or damaged in the Hiroshima landslides.

“Residents are providing mutual support and the work to protect each other has progressed,” Hiroshima Mayor Kazumi Matsui said at the ceremony joined by some 600 people. “We’d like to support these efforts.”

The event was jointly hosted by the governments of Hiroshima city and prefecture in Asakita Ward, one of the hardest hit areas.

Bereaved families and residents visited the devastated sites early Sunday to offer flowers and pray for the victims. Some rubbed the names of victims listed on a monument and put their hands together in tears.

Residents of the devastated area were not informed of the landslide risk, as many of the sites were not designated as a warning zone in accordance with the law on prevention of landslide disasters.

Following the disaster, the state revised the law and obliged prefectural governments to swiftly make public the results of basic investigations of terrain and geological conditions. The revised law came into effect in January 2015.

According to the Hiroshima prefectural government, emergency work since the disaster to make 57 locations more resistant to landslides was completed in May this year.

The prefecture is expected to designate around 50,000 locations as landslide warning zones, but only about 40 percent of the areas had been so designated as of Aug 10.


Source  :  Japan Today

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.




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.


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

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.


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.



Source  :  Japan Today

Brain power: Would free university make Japan better?

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By Brandi Goode for The Journal (ACCJ)

In 2016, the number of babies born in Japan fell below 1 million for the first time since 1899. The country’s fertility rate—the average number of children a woman will have in her lifetime—was 1.44, while Japan is said to need a rate of at least 2.07 to maintain its current population level.

“We have a national crisis,” said Shinjiro Koizumi, a lawmaker from the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, speaking at an advisory meeting in June. “We have a system that supports the lives of elderly people as a society, but what we have yet to build is one that supports children and child-rearing.”

Desperate to address the issue, the government is weighing options on how best to support and promote the nation’s youth. On May 25, discussions were held by the Commission on the Constitution—a panel organized in the House of Representatives, the lower house of the Diet—regarding the potential for free access to education from preschool through university. On June 9, the government released a statement saying a decision should be made by year-end on how to secure funding for free preschool, but the debate continues on whether universities should also be tuition-free.


In the wake of World War II, Japan implemented a compulsory education system, with the Basic Act on Education guaranteeing access to nine years of schooling for all citizens regardless of their circumstances. Preschool education is paid out of pocket by most parents, and many opt to pay for private high schools, so the financial burden of education can start long before college.

Of Japan’s 776 universities, about 80 percent are private, such as Tokyo’s Waseda University. Tuition fees at these institutions average ¥500,000 to ¥1 million annually, including a one-time admission fee. National or public universities, such as the prestigious University of Tokyo (Todai), typically charge ¥500,000 or less each year. Compared with the United States, this is relatively affordable; the average cost of tuition and fees at US private universities for the 2016–17 school year was $33,480 (¥3.75 million).

Scholarships and loans are sometimes available through Japanese universities, but a major part of the cost is borne by students and their parents. According to a 2012 Cabinet survey, only 40 percent of students benefit from public loans, scholarships, or grants. This contrasts with other countries, such as the United Kingdom where on average 71 percent of students receive support.

Japan’s Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare estimates that granting free higher education for all would require about ¥5 trillion. Schemes have been proposed to fund the initiative through the issuance of more low-interest government bonds, implementation of a social insurance scheme for all pension-paying employees, or passage of a consumption tax increase.

While there are certainly pros and cons to each alternative, all three would probably result in higher national debt. Opponents of the proposal argue that the same future generations the policy aims to support would end up shouldering its cost over the course of their lifetimes.

With Japan’s balance of government debt already twice the country’s GDP, is free access to higher education worth the price?


Asked whether tuition-free university would make Japan’s talent pool more globally competitive, Kirsten M. Snipp, associate professor at Takasaki University of Commerce, said free access to higher education would not create anything meaningful, except perhaps more national debt.

Snipp, whose focus is on English education at the tertiary level, also indicated that, during her 25-plus years teaching in Japan, she has rarely encountered a situation where finances were the primary cause of “failed education.”

Bern Mulvey, former dean of Miyazaki International College, agrees. “National and prefectural universities are already quite cheap in Japan. It would be hard to imagine a family here that could not afford the tuition at such institutions,” he said.

Mulvey notes that entrance to such institutions, however, is very competitive, with only about 50 percent of applicants being accepted. Those rejected from public universities can opt for costlier private schools or consider vocational schools known as senmon gakko.


It is yet unclear whether the government plans to include senmon gakko in its free-education plan. Germany, which has a GDP similar to that of Japan, is the largest country in the world to have made higher education completely free, as of 2015. Crucial to its ability to cover tuition fees is the establishment of a dual education system, which positions vocational schools as a strong alternative to university education.

Vocational students in Germany undergo simultaneous classroom instruction and practical work experience through apprenticeships at companies. The German government strictly regulates the schools and companies involved to ensure students receive both the theoretical and hands-on skills needed to succeed in their chosen vocation. In this way, the country’s private sector is held responsible for sharing in the education of its people.

Chris Grant, director of human resources, Office Support & Healthcare Lifescience Recruitment Teams at Michael Page International (Japan) K.K., said, “A quality vocational education is critical and will play an increasingly important role in Japan.” Speaking to The Journal, he explained how technology and business-level English are skills that are in extremely high demand, yet candidates with the requisite knowledge are in short supply. Both subjects are common areas of study at senmon gakko, where graduates obtain specialist degrees or skill certifications. It is not uncommon for university students to supplement their studies with courses at such schools to gain workplace advantage.

Grant also said that university education is still the preferred path in Japan, due to its perceived prestige. “This would need to change if there was to be a greater interest in vocational places.”

Ken Takai, managing partner at icareer partners LLC, believes universities, the public sector, and the private sector should all be held responsible for the talent mismatch in Japan between candidates and employers, which persists despite the country’s well-educated population.

According to Education at a Glance: OECD Indicators, a book published annually by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, some 47 percent of Japanese had received tertiary education as of 2012. Japan consistently ranks among the world’s top 10 countries for level of schooling received by its people. Nevertheless, Takai explained, even the country’s highest-ranked institutions churn out generalists rather than specialists, which does little to address the needs of today’s employers.

“It is an irony that the better universities prepare their students as generalists, the worse off their students are in terms of possessing specialist skills, which are strongly demanded in the real world. I agree with the education experts talking about the value of introducing quality vocational schools. However, that is not enough. All employers in Japan must change their hiring practices, changing the hiring focus from generalist to specialist,” he said.

In Japan, the practice of sogo shoku, a type of general career track rotation, persists among large corporate employers. Thus, even those entering the workforce with specialist skills are often forced to work in roles they are unprepared for or have no desire to fill.

The German dual education model, in this case, could serve a greater purpose in Japan. German companies save time and resources in on-the-job training for vocational graduates, who start work with the skills needed to hit the ground running.


In addition to aspiring vocational school students, other groups may benefit from access to higher education.

“Line workers and junior managers in need of updating their skills or acquiring new skills due to the changing environment of their jobs would benefit. Those people who are transitioning in their lives—such as senior citizens, housewives wishing to return to work, or specialists in aging industries reaching the end of their life cycle—would have the most to gain,” Takai said.

While nearly 60 percent of Japan’s younger generation have received tertiary education, less than 35 percent of the country’s older generation have. For older workers with a desire to update their skills but who lack the resources to do so, free access to higher education could boost their job prospects.

At first glance, it sounds like a winning idea, but its implementation—as well as source of funding—would require careful consideration.

Custom Media publishes The Journal for the American Chamber of Commerce in Japan.


Source  :  Japan Today