Volcanic eruption in Kyushu spreads ash in 4 cities, towns

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A volcano in southwestern Japan is erupting for the first time in six years, spewing ash over nearby farms, cities and towns.

Japanese broadcaster TBS showed elementary school students wearing helmets and masks Thursdayon the way to their school at the foot of the Shinmoedake volcano. Residents also described hearing rumbles from the volcano and ash fell in at least four cities and towns in Miyazaki prefecture.

Street cleaners swept ash from city streets, and farmers used leaf blowers to clear the growing piles of ash from the tops of their plastic greenhouses.

The volcano on the border of Kagoshima and Miyazaki prefectures started erupting Wednesday for the first time in six years.

On Thursday, an ash plume rose 2,000 meters (6,560 feet) from the crater, the Japan Meteorological Agency said.

The agency has raised the volcanic alert level from 2 to 3 on a scale of 5. Level 3 warns people to not approach the volcano.

It said pyroclastic flow, which is an emission of hot gases and volcanic matter at high speed, is possible within 2 kilometers of the crater. Emissions of ash and volcanic rocks were forecast through Friday for a wider area, but the locations at risk would depend on wind conditions and altitude.

The seismically active area around the Pacific known as the “Ring of Fire” includes active volcanoes in Japan as well as two causing mass evacuations in Indonesia and Vanuatu in recent weeks.

© Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Source  :  Japan Today

Kobe Steel reports wider fudging of metals data since 2011

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By Elaine Kurtenbach

Steel maker Kobe Steel apologized Thursday after finding wider problems, dating back to 2011, with faked inspections data for metals used in many products, including cars, bullet trains, aircraft and appliances.

Kobe Steel’s president, Hiroya Kawasaki, bowed deeply in a formal apology, lamenting that “Trust in our company has dropped to zero.”

He promised a senior trade ministry official that the company, Japan’s third-largest steelmaker, would provide results of safety inspections within two weeks and a report on the cause of the problem within a month.

Akihiro Tada, director of the ministry’s Manufacturing Industries Bureau, urged the company to move quickly in resolving the problems, which are thought to have affected many of the country’s largest manufacturers.

The company, Japan’s third-largest steel maker, said in a statement late Wednesday that it had uncovered manipulation of data on steel powder used in metallurgy and also on high-tech materials used to create films used in computer chips. The government has urged Kobe Steel to clarify the extent of the misconduct.

The latest discovery was of falsification of data on 140 tons of steel powder supplied to one customer in fiscal 2016, between April 2016 and March 2017.

Another case involved 6,611 items of sputtering target materials shipped to 70 customers beginning in November 2011. Kobe Steel said it had failed to carry out tests it had agreed to conduct, and improperly “rewrote” inspection data.

But it said most of those materials, used to deposit thin films from various materials onto components such as computer chips, were re-inspected and are thought to have met customers’ specifications.

Earlier the company said that in the year up to Aug. 31 it had sold materials such as aluminum flat-rolled products, aluminum extrusions, copper strips, copper tubes and aluminum castings and forgings using falsified data on such things as the products’ strength.

The government has asked the company to provide more information about the products supplied to more than 200 Kobe Steel customers, reportedly including some of the country’s biggest manufacturers, including defense contractor Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and a number of automakers.

It was unclear if the total of 40,900 tons of products involved included shipments to other countries.

“We have confirmed that aluminum from Kobe Steel is used in the hoods and doors of some of our vehicles,” Nissan said in an email. “As hoods are related to pedestrian safety, we are working to quickly assess any potential impact on vehicle functionality.”

Toyota also confirmed that the material has been used in hoods and rear doors of some of its vehicles.

“Putting the utmost priority on the safety of our customers, we are rapidly working to identify which vehicle models might be subject to this situation and what components were used, as well as what effect there might be on individual vehicles,” Toyota said in a statement. “At the same time, we are considering what measures need to be put in place going forward.”

Aircraft maker Boeing said it, too, is looking into the problem but had no reason to believe it was a safety concern. .

“Boeing has been working closely and continuously with our suppliers since being notified of the issue to ensure timely and appropriate action, including comprehensive inspections and analysis throughout our supply chain,” the company said in an email.

Kobe Steel said it discovered the violations during internal inspections and “emergency quality audits.”

Product quality scandals have posed a challenge to the image of top Japan’s manufacturers in recent years. In one of the largest, auto parts maker Takata Corp. has paid $1 billion in penalties for concealing an air bag defect blamed for at least 19 deaths worldwide. Major automakers are also engaged in massive recalls and facing criticism for allegedly continuing to use the defective air bags despite knowing of the problem.

Last year, Mitsubishi Motors Corp. acknowledged it had systematically falsified mileage data on some of its vehicles. That company’s reputation was hammered earlier by a massive, systematic and decades-long cover-up of defects that surfaced in the early 2000s.

In another major case, materials and chemicals maker Asahi Kasei Corp. found data had been manipulated in 360 projects out of 3,052, casting doubts on the strength of construction pilings.

A report on its investigation into the problem cited a slew of abuses, including outright swapping and falsification of data.

Kobe Steel said it was contacting its customers and working to verify the safety of the products it supplied. It has set up a committee headed by its president to investigate quality issues and hired an outside law firm to conduct a probe into the misconduct.

“Verification and inspection to date have not recognized specific problems casting doubts on the safety of the nonconforming products,” it said.

© Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Source  :  Japan Today

Japanese media surveys show Abe heading for big win in Oct 22 election

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By Linda Sieg

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s snap election gamble looked like paying off after media forecasts showed his ruling bloc heading for a surprisingly big win, possibly enough to re-energise his push to revise Japan’s post-World War Two pacifist constitution.

A hefty victory in the Oct 22 poll would raise the likelihood that his Liberal-Democratic Party (LDP) will retain Abe as its head for a third term next September, and increase the hawkish leader’s chances of going on to become Japan’s longest-serving premier.

With 10 days still to go, political sources warned there was still room for a slip up, as about half the voters surveyed remained undecided.

For now though, projections by the Nikkei business daily, Yomiuri newspaper and Kyodo news agency showed Abe’s conservative LDP-led coalition on track to win close to 300 or more seats in the 465-member lower house, improving the super-majority that it held in the last parliament.

The LDP alone could win about 288 seats, or about the same as before dissolution, Kyodo forecast.

“The scramble gamble paid off for Abe,” said Jesper Koll, head of equity fund WisdomTree Japan. “If the LDP gets 250-280 seats, he’s safe.”

With no election needed until late next year, some analysts had predicted Abe might regret his early bid for a fresh mandate.

But his main challenger, Tokyo Gov Yuriko Koike’s fledgling conservative Party of Hope, appeared to be struggling, despite calls for popular policies such as an exit from nuclear power and a sales tax hike freeze.

The month-old Hope party appeared set to win about 69 seats, with a range of 46-110, the Nikkei said.

Abe called the snap election amid disarray in the opposition camp and after an uptick in his ratings, which had been hurt earlier this year by scandals over suspected cronyism.

He has called his “Abenomics” recipe of hyper-easy monetary policy, fiscal spending and promised structural reforms a success. And on Thursday the stock market welcomed expectations that his reflationary policies would continue, with Nikkei index hitting its highest level since December 1996.

Pitched as a conservative, reformist alternative to the equally conservative LDP, Koike’s party aims to woo voters unhappy with Abe over the suspected cronyism scandals and a perception he’d grown arrogant.

Koike’s party absorbed many candidates from the failed main opposition Democratic Party (DP). Other more liberal DP lawmakers formed the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, which media projections showed capturing more than 40 seats.

Competition among the fragmented opposition means the anti-LDP vote could be split, giving Abe an advantage.

“Even if Abe wins handsomely, that won’t be because of his own surging support, but because of the last-minute destruction of the opposition,” said Sophia University professor Koichi Nakano.

Abe has led the LDP to four landslide wins since he took the helm of the party in 2012, but turnout has been low and the LDP has typically won with about 25 percent of eligible votes. The others either stayed home or backed opposition parties.

Still, a solid victory would likely encourage Abe to push ahead with his proposal to revise the post-war constitution to clarify the status of Japan’s military, his long-held goal.

Pro-revision parties including the LDP and the Party of Hope were on track to win more than two-thirds of the seats, the Nikkei said. Amending the constitution requires a two-thirds majority in both chambers and a majority in a public referendum.

Agreeing on what to amend would still be difficult, and revising the charter’s pacifist Article 9 remains contentious. The LDP’s dovish coalition partner, the Komeito, is cautious.

But Abe could well claim a mandate for his proposal, even though his own support ratings are below 40 percent in recent polls.

“If the LDP comes back with 260-280 seats, they will claim that is a mandate for constitutional reform,” Koll said.

© Thomson Reuters 2017.


Source  :  Japan Today

Part of human skull discovered at Jindai-ji temple in Tokyo

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Police in Chofu, Tokyo, said Tuesday that part of a human skull was discovered on the premises of Jindai-ji temple last week.

According to police, a worker at the temple located in Motomachi, made the startling discovery at around 11:50 a.m. on Sept 28. The man was pulling out weeds on the temple’s grounds when he found the skull fragment and immediately notified the police, Fuji Tv reported.

Police said top of the skull and lower jaw were missing, An autopsy showed that the skull came from a person around 30 years of age, but the gender remains unknown. While no additional bones have been found in the surrounding area, forensics revealed that two years have elapsed since the individual’s death.

© Japan Today

Source  :  Japan Today

Driver admits sleeping as commuter train travels at 120 kmh

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A 31-year-old male driver briefly fell asleep at the controls of a commuter train traveling at 120 kilometers per hour in the Tokyo metropolitan area in September, the railway operator said Tuesday.

Keikyu Corp. said the case came to light after a female passenger told the company by email that the driver appeared to be dozing on the train.

According to Keikyu, the driver briefly slept while operating the limited express on the main line between Keikyu Kawasaki and Kanazawa-bunko stations, on Sept 24.

The driver admitted to falling asleep on duty, saying he felt sleepy several times while running the train on the section for 23 minutes.

Keikyu said it plans to punish the driver.


Source  :  Japan Today

Koike says she will ‘100%’ not run in Oct 22 election

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By Takashi Umekawa and Kiyoshi Takenaka


Tokyo Gov Yuriko Koike, whose new party is challenging Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s ruling bloc in the Oct 22 national election, said she would “100%” not run in the poll, the latest twist in a drama giving voters whiplash.

Speculation has persisted that Koike, a former LDP member and defense minister, would resign to run for a seat in parliament needed to make a bid for the premiership.

“I have been saying I will not run for the election from the beginning,” Koike said in an interview with the Yomiuri newspaper reported on Tuesday. “I’m 100% not running for the election.”

If Koike does not personally contest this election, then analysts believe she would hope her party positions itself to win the next national poll, and that she gains a voter boost from the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

Abe announced the snap election last week in hopes his Liberal Democratic Party-led coalition would keep its majority in parliament’s lower house, where it held a two-thirds “super majority” before the chamber was dissolved.

But Koike’s new “Party of Hope – launched just last week as a “reformist, conservative” alternative to Abe’s equally conservative LDP – has clouded the outlook amid signs voters are disillusioned with Abe after nearly five years in power.

Koike’s dilemma was whether to run for a seat now and face a backlash from voters for quitting as governor little more than a year since she defied the LDP to run successfully for the post, or risk letting a shot at the top job slip through her fingers.

Some analysts saw her decision not to seek a seat now as a sign Koike thinks her party’s momentum was fading.

“She must have thought it would not be worthwhile abandoning the post of Tokyo governor to become a head of an opposition,” said Tetsuro Kato, a professor emeritus at Hitotsubashi University.

Koike has been getting negative media coverage for saying she would “exclude” candidates who do not agree with her party’s policies – a stance seen as barring liberal members of the failed main opposition Democratic Party from joining.

Leaders of the Democratic Party – a fractious mix of conservatives and liberals – decided last week it would not run candidates of its own but let members run from Koike’s party.

Koike’s comment was applauded by some as an effort to ensure policy consistency but by others as a dictatorial manoeuvre.

“She’s branding a very new party and has to make clear what it stands for, but the danger is that while Abe owned the’arrogance of power’ space, she is now vying for some of that,” said Jeffrey Kingston, director of Asian studies at Temple University Japan.

Abe’s support rates fell earlier this year due to suspected cronyism scandals and many voters’ perception that he had grown complacent and arrogant after nearly five years in office.

His rating later rebounded but dropped again to 37 percent in the latest poll by public broadcaster NHK.

Koike’s party is insisting those who want to run on its ticket sign a policy pledge, including revising the pacifist constitution and exercising the right of collective self-defence, or militarily aiding allies under attack-defence, a document seen by Reuters showed.

Many liberals balk at those policies.

Further complicating the outlook, liberals from the Democratic Party launched a Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan. The CSDP could split the opposition vote and help Abe’s bloc keep its majority, but by how much is tough to predict.

“Koike is tough, she’s resilient and she can tap into the fact that Abe’s negative ratings are pretty high and a lot of people out there are unhappy with him,” Kingston said.

© (c) Copyright Thomson Reuters 2017.

Source  :  Japan Today

Woman arrested after bodies of husband, mother found in home

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Police in Kobe, Hyogo Prefecture, said Saturday they have arrested a 69-year-old woman on suspicion of abandoning the bodies of her 64-year-old husband and her mother, who was in her 80s, at their apartment.

According to police, the suspect, Kazuko Yamamoto, has admitted to the charge and said the two had been dead since mid-September but she had not told anyone what happened. Fuji TV reported that the two bodies were discovered at around 4 p.m. Friday after the manager of the municipal apartment complex called 110, saying there was a foul odor coming from Yamamoto’s apartment.

Police said the bodies had no external wounds and that an autopsy will be conducted to determine the cause of death.

© Japan Today

Source  :  Japan Today