Gov’t to help retired SDF pilots’ transition to airlines


Japan’s transport ministry says it will help retired Self-Defense Forces pilots continue their flying careers at commercial airlines, by revising a system that costs them millions of yen before joining the companies.

The move to allow them to get a free qualification certificate comes amid predictions for a shortage of pilots by around 2030, due to increasing demand for flights and crew to operate them.

The current system requires a former SDF pilot to pay around 4.5 million yen in training costs to qualify for the certificate, allowing them to work under instrument flight rules.

Due to this cost, only one or two of some 50 SDF pilots retiring every year have pursued a career at commercial airlines.

Under the proposed changes, airlines will run training for the certificate alongside those for another qualification at their own cost, after the pilots join.

The measure is expected to help reduce the time needed before the pilots can start flying for commercial airlines.

As of January 2018, the number of pilots at Japanese airlines stood at around 6,500, of which roughly 5 percent were from the Self-Defense Forces, according to the ministry.

It has taken other steps to ease the expected pilot shortage. These include boosting the student quota at Civil Aviation College, the sole public training school for pilots in Japan, by 50 percent from the 2018 academic year.



Source : Japan Today

Tour brings foreigners to areas devastated by nuclear accident


There is growing interest among foreign tourists for a tour in English to former evacuation zones in the northeastern Japan prefecture of Fukushima where a devastating earthquake and tsunami in March 2011 triggered a nuclear disaster.

“More people are becoming interested in going on the tour that can deepen their knowledge,” explains an official at the Japan National Tourism Organization.

At 8 a.m. on a frigid morning in January, foreign tourists gathered in front of Tokyo Station and boarded a station wagon headed to Fukushima Prefecture.

“It’s surprisingly close from Tokyo.” “Are nuclear power plants in Japan active?” Questions and thoughts flew around in various languages.

When personal dosimeters used to record the level of radiation were handed out, Nerious Bartkus, a 28-year-old office worker from Lithuania, pushed the operating buttons uncertainly.

“I am interested in the Chernobyl nuclear accident during the Soviet era and I wanted to visit Fukushima,” he said.

The tourism company Knot World Co based in Tokyo designed this particular tour from a desire to encourage more people to “hear the local voices and see the area’s damage and recovery” after the nuclear accident at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant.

Since the tour’s launch in February last year, some 200 people from 23 countries have participated, according to the company.

At 11 a.m. the tourists arrived at the first stop of their tour, in the town of Namie.

“We are worried that accidents may occur at nuclear plants in China,” said a Hong Kong student accompanied by two others.

The three visited a temporary shopping district set up after the accident and ordered curry dishes that used local vegetables. “We aren’t bothered as long as inspections on radioactivity are conducted,” one smiled.

Scenes that reminded of the crisis greeted the tourists. An elementary school hit by the tsunami. A farm that continues to take care of their cows despite having been exposed to the radiation. A brand-new seawall.

The tourists paid their respects in front of a memorial commemorating the victims. As they passed through a hazardous zone in their vehicle, they could see far in the distance the nuclear plant’s exhaust pipes and cranes. The dosimeters started to make a noise when it measured more than 1 microsievert per hour, causing some people to look serious.

At dusk, they walked along a street lined with cherry trees in the town of Tomioka. “I want to go back to my town,” a woman who has evacuated the town told the tourists. “But it’s not easy.”

It was half past 8 p.m. when the tourists arrived back to Tokyo’s bright lights. “I have a better understanding of the residents’ feelings,” said Pak Hin Law, a 19-year-old student from Hong Kong.

Fukushima Prefecture says 96,000 foreign tourists stayed at hotels and inns in the prefecture in 2017, which is four times the number in 2011. In February this year, an organization that promotes the prefecture’s products and tourism launched a three-day tour with English translation in areas including Naraha, another town in the vicinity of the crippled nuclear plant, to aid recovery.

However, there are numerous issues that need to be resolved regarding tours catering to foreigners such as training tour guides and providing information in various languages.

Various thoughts are voiced in Fukushima Prefecture such as, “We would really like the tourists to come not out of casual interest but to truly learn the issue,” and, “Please also turn your attention to the fact that our lives before the accident has not returned,” local officials said.

The Fukushima Daiichi plant spewed a massive amount of radioactive materials following the magnitude 9.0 earthquake and tsunami that flooded the facility on March 11, 2011.

Following the crisis, which equaled the severity of the 1986 Chernobyl disaster, some 160,000 people were evacuated at one point and over 32,000 people remained evacuated in other prefectures as of January this year.





Source : Japan Today




Air transport to and from Tokyo disrupted by cold snap


A cold snap hit Tokyo and vicinity Saturday, causing cancellations of more than 100 flights to and from the Japanese capital despite lower-than-expected snow totals.

One centimeter of snow was observed as of noon in downtown Tokyo where temperatures fell below zero due to a cold air mass. The weather agency initially forecast an up to 5-cm snowfall but later said heavy snow was not expected in Tokyo and its adjacent prefectures of Kanagawa and Saitama.

But the Japan Meteorological Agency still warned about icy road conditions as low temperatures will continue at least through Sunday morning.

Japan Airlines Co and All Nippon Airways Co canceled more than 100 flights as of noon Saturday into and out of Haneda and Narita airports servicing Tokyo.

At Narita airport in Chiba Prefecture, east of Tokyo, the operator repeatedly closed one of its runways to clear it of snow. Snowfall of up to 2 cm was observed in parts of Chiba.

Cold weather continued to hit Hokkaido, the country’s northernmost main island, on Saturday with the mercury dropping below minus 20 C at many locations, including Rikubetsu, where the temperature was recorded at minus 31.8 C, according to the agency.


Source : Japan Today

Abe orders safety checks in all child abuse reports


Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Friday the government will confirm within a month the safety of all children suspected to have been abused in Japan after a lack of communication among authorities was highlighted in the recent tragic death of a girl.

Abe convened a meeting of ministers to strengthen cooperation between related organizations after early investigations into the death of a 10-year-old girl near Tokyo last month uncovered how a child welfare center, her school and other local authorities failed to respond promptly to her repeated calls for help.

“I would like (ministers) to make all-out efforts to eradicate child abuse with strong determination to take every possible measure, giving top priority to protecting the lives of children,” Abe said at the meeting.

The tragic case of Mia Kurihara has drawn international attention, with a member of the U.N. Committee on the Rights of the Child pointing out the case demonstrated a crucial lack of responsibility by the adults involved.

Mia’s parents have since been arrested on suspicion of assaulting their daughter, after allegedly maltreating her and depriving her of food and sleep.

Following Abe’s order, officials are expected to confirm the safety of possible child abuse victims in cases handled by child consultation centers and recognized by public elementary and junior high schools as well as local education boards. Their number is believed to reach into the tens of thousands.

If parents of suspected abuse victims refuse to get in touch with public entities including the police, the government has called on those organizations to immediately take the children into protective custody.

The central government has also decided to bring forward an increase in the number of child welfare officers who work at child consultation centers. Last July it said it would expand the figure by around 2,000 by fiscal 2022. It now says 1,070 of those will be brought in during fiscal 2019 from April.

As Mia’s father was found to have coerced a local education board into handing over a copy of the girl’s report of his abuse, the ministerial meeting adopted Friday a new rule banning the disclosure of informants and the showing of related documents to suspected perpetrators in abuse cases.

The government also recommended relevant public organizations to jointly respond to “coercive” demands by parents. The handover of the copy is thought to have aggravated the father’s abuse of the girl.

In a fresh revelation, officials of Mia’s school in the city of Noda, Chiba Prefecture, said they had not been aware of the letter which the father made her write in his favor for submission to a child welfare center in February 2018.

The father, Yuichiro Kurihara, ordered the girl, who was residing with a relative at that time, to write a letter stating he did not hit her and that she wanted to live with her family. The daughter had been taken into protective custody for seven weeks through late December 2017.

He showed the letter to the child welfare center on Feb 26 last year, and the center allowed her to return home two days later.

In March that year, the girl told a child welfare center official at her school that her father had actually forced her to write the letter, but no school officials were present on the occasion.

The school’s principal told Kyodo News, “If we had learned of the letter, we might have responded to the matter with the recognition that the father was the person capable of doing such a thing.”



Source : Japan Today

Nissan to freeze payments of unstated remuneration to Ghosn


Nissan Motor Co plans to freeze remuneration payments to its former Chairman Carlos Ghosn totaling 9 billion yen ($82 million) which the automaker alleges are illegal, a source close to the matter said Tuesday.

Tokyo prosecutors have already indicted Ghosn of understating his remuneration by that amount in Nissan’s securities reports over the eight years through last March. Nissan as a company has also been indicted on the charge.

The Japanese automaker plans to book 9 billion yen in additional pay to Ghosn in its earnings report to be released next Tuesday without actually disbursing it, the source said, though Ghosn has told investigators the unstated pay has not been finalized and did not need to be shown in the securities reports.

Nissan is also considering filing a damages suit against the former boss for separate financial misdeeds including purchases of luxury homes, the source said.

Nissan dismissed Ghosn as chairman shortly after he was arrested on Nov 19 and as its own internal investigation, triggered by a whistleblower report, found the former boss to be engaged in financial misconduct.

The company said Tuesday it will hold an extraordinary shareholders’ meeting on April 8 to seek approval to dismiss Ghosn and his close aide as directors and appoint alliance partner Renault SA’s chairman as a new board member.

Nissan’s board decided to nominate Renault Chairman Jean-Dominique Senard as its new member, while removing Ghosn and Greg Kelly, who was also arrested for alleged conspiracy in the financial misdeeds at Nissan.

Ghosn and Kelly have been stripped of their roles as chairman and representative director, respectively, but remain board members.


Source : Japan Today

Japan-EU free trade pact enters into force


Japan’s economic partnership agreement with the European Union entered into force on Friday, creating a free trade area covering about a third of the world’s economy.

The pact will eliminate tariffs on most reciprocal trade, which covers markets of over 600 million people, encourage business investment and ensure the protection of intellectual property rights, as Japan and the European Union hope to provide a strong counter to creeping protectionism amid a U.S.-China tariff war.

Under the pact signed in July and ratified in December after five years of negotiations, consumers will gain access to cheaper imported food items, while the elimination of duties on industrial products will help curb costs for exporters.

In all, Japan will scrap tariffs on around 94 percent of agricultural and industrial products and the European Union will end duties on around 99 percent of imports.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has pinned his hopes on the pact along with an 11-member trans-Pacific free trade agreement that took effect in December, as a growth driver for the world’s third-largest economy.

Preparing for the immediate removal of a 15 percent tariff once the deal takes effect, Japanese retailers Aeon Co and Seven & I Holdings Co have already promised to cut prices on imported wines from the European Union, home to major wine producing countries like France, Italy and Spain.

The elimination of tariffs promises to be good news for winemakers in the 28-member union. Years of competition with Chile has increased the South American nation’s market share in Japan, with its affordable wines gaining a foothold thanks to a Japan-Chile free trade pact.

The Japanese cheese market is also poised to see an influx of cheaper products from the European Union, a headwind for domestic natural cheesemakers but an opportunity to enhance global competitiveness.

The existing 29.8 percent tariff imposed by Japan on hard cheeses like gouda and cheddar will be reduced to zero in stages over a 16-year period. For soft cheeses like mozzarella, Japan will set a quota and the tariff will be removed completely over the same time span.

Japanese automakers, which exported over 640,000 vehicles in 2017 to the European Union, are likely to reap benefits from the pact as the current 10 percent import tariff will be reduced to zero over 8 years.

Intellectual property rights protection is another key feature of the agreement.

Japan and the European Union will each protect product names associated with their origin called “geographical indications” such as Kobe beef and Japanese sake.

According to a Japanese government estimate, the trade initiative will give a roughly 5 trillion yen ($45.7 billion) boost to the economy and lift Japan’s real gross domestic product by nearly 1 percent. When combined with the revised Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement, the economic impact is estimated at around 13 trillion yen.

Still, Japanese farmers are worried that they will be threatened by inflows of cheaper products, even though some key agricultural products such as rice will be protected.

Japan and the European Union — together accounting for about 30 percent of the world’s GDP and about 40 percent of global trade — are separately planning to start negotiations with the United States as President Donald Trump pushes for bilateral deals to fix what he considers are imbalanced trade relationships.

While Japan scrambled to salvage the original TPP following an abrupt departure by the United States in 2017, it also stepped up negotiations with the European Union to conclude their own free trade agreement.

The entry into force of the trade deal is a major achievement for Japan and the European Union as they strive to promote free trade, but Britain’s planned exit from the bloc is casting a shadow of uncertainty over the future, trade experts say.

Britain, where many Japanese companies operate, is seen as willing to take part in the revised TPP, formally called the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership.

The current members have said the CPTPP is open to all economies that can meet its high standards while setting procedures for more countries to join.



Source : Japan Today

Japan to survey 200 mil gadgets for cyber security

Flag of Japan.svg

By Behrouz Mehri

Japan is preparing a national sweep of some 200 million network-connected gadgets for cyber-security lapses ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games, an official said on Tuesday.

The government-backed National Institute of Information and Communications Technology will start the survey from February to check potential vulnerabilities in items such as routers, webcams and web-connected home appliances.

Tokyo is rushing to beef up cyber security as the nation prepares to host major global events, such as the Rugby World Cup this year, the Group of 20 meetings and the summer Olympic Games.

Cyber security has become increasingly important as sporting events introduce new technologies for everything from broadcasting to ticketing.

For the study, researchers will take common but unsafe IDs and passwords often exploited by malware — like “abcd”, “1234” or “admin” — to see if devices are readily accessible by hackers, said institute spokesman Tsutomu Yoshida.

The researchers will survey gadgets with the consent of internet service providers and will mostly examine products that use physical cables to access the internet, he said.

The institute will not conduct expensive and complex operations necessary to check individual mobile gadgets like smartphones, but the survey may examine routers at cafes, for example, that provide free connectivity for mobile users, Yoshida said.

“Too often, we see webcams, for example, that are already being hacked because security settings are too simple and their images are being seen by outsiders. Sometimes they are put on public websites without the owners being aware,” Yoshida told AFP.

“We will see, of roughly 200 million products to be surveyed, how many are being exposed” to risks, Yoshida said. The survey will notify ISPs about vulnerable users without breaking into individual gadgets to view data stored inside, he added.

Major global sporting events like the soccerWorld Cup and the Olympics face a growing threat from cyber attacks.

At the PyeongChang Winter Olympic Games last year for example, internal internet and wifi systems went down just as the opening ceremonies began. PyeongChang officials acknowledged they had been the victim of a cyber attack, without elaborating further.

© 2019 AFP

Source : Japan Today