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Empress Michiko celebrates 80th birthday

Empress Michiko celebrated her 80th birthday on Monday. In a statement distributed to media by the Imperial Household Agency, the empress said she hoped the world could find peace ahead of the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II next year.
“I believe it is important for all of us today who are enjoying the benefits of peace to continue to make every effort to nip the buds of conflict and suffering both in Japan and abroad, and to always aspire strongly towards peace in the world,” the empress said.

During the past year, the empress carried out duties in her official capacity on 314 occasions. She said it has given her joy that the emperor was able to celebrate his 80th birthday in good health last year, thanks to the thoughts and prayers of countless number of people. “In the more than 50 years that I have spent by his side, His Majesty has always remained modest and humble, and he has constantly guided me and the children, at times strictly, but always with a generous heart. This, I believe, is what has allowed me to come this far,” the empress said.

Referring to her own children, she said: “As parents, we tend to think that our children will always be with us, but as the years passed, all three of our children, each having found a partner in life, left our household, one by one. They are much different in character but all very dear to me. Though I thought I have given each my love and affection and raised them with loving care, I suppose there are probably many things I could have done more. I am grateful, however, that the children have made their own efforts to compensate for my inadequacies and grown into mature adults.”

The empress said she and the emperor had been saddened by this year’s disasters.

“This year saw much to celebrate, but we also experienced many heartbreaking events, such as torrential rainstorms and a volcanic eruption. I offer my prayers for the souls of the victims and give my thoughts to the deep sadness of those who have lost family members and the pain of those whose family members have not yet been found. And to those who have faced endless difficulties on the volcano while helping and searching for the victims, prefectural officials, members of the Self-Defense Forces, firefighters, police officers, medical personnel, and the health workers who have been constantly at the side of the families awaiting news of their loved ones, I also express my gratitude and deepest respect.”

6.3 quake off northern Japanese coast as Typhoon Vongfong hits Okinawa

A 6.3 earthquake has been registered early Saturday off Japan’s northern coast by the US Geological Survey. The quake comes as the world’s biggest super-typhoon this year, Vongfong, is striking the south of the country.

The tremor occurred at 02:36 GMT, the Japan Meteorological Agency reported. There have been no reports of damage, casualties or a tsunami alert.

The epicenter of the quake was located 154 kilometers away from the southeastern city of Hachinohe, in Japan’s southeast Aomori Prefecture, at a depth of 13 kilometers.

The epicenter of the latest earthquake is situated relatively far away, about 400 kilometers, from the Fukushima nuclear power plant, which was severely damaged by an earthquake and a tsunami in March 2011.
Officials from the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), operator of the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant, reported a week ago that the tsunami projectile height at Fukushima NPP has been raised and that now it would take a 26-meter wave to damage the facility and cause radioactive leakage.

Last time the city of Hachinohe was struck with a quake was in 2011, when a 5.2 tremor struck off the eastern coast of Japan’s Honshu Island on September 18. The epicenter of the earthquake was located at a depth of 24.1 kilometers and in about the same place, 147 kilometers east of the city of Hachinohe.

In the meantime super-typhoon Vongfong, the world’s biggest storm this year, has reached Japan’s southern Okinawa prefecture, causing a blackout in more than 17,000 households.
It is expected to head further to the north towards the Honshu Island. On Tuesday it could reach the capital, Tokyo, bringing with it pouring rain and gusts of wind exceeding 230 kilometers an hour, creating waves up to 15 meters high.

Another powerful typhoon, Phanfone, which struck Japan on Oct. 5, and a day later left six people dead and four missing. The storm left thousands of households without power, the cancelation of more than 600 flights and the planned evacuation of 1.9 million people in affected areas. 

Japan braces for strongest storm this year

Japan was bracing on Friday for its strongest storm this year, a super typhoon powering north toward the Okinawa island chain that threatens to rake a wide swathe of the nation with strong winds and torrential rain.
Vongfong, which at one point rivaled last year’s devastating typhoon Haiyan in strength, was weakening slightly as it moved north across the open ocean, but still carried winds gusting as high as 259 kph.

“There is no question that it is an extremely large, extremely powerful typhoon,” said an official at Japan’s Meteorological Agency (JMA). “It’s the strongest storm we’ve had this year, definitely, although it has lost some strength from its peak.”

The storm, which will be Japan’s second typhoon in a week, was south of Okinawa and moving north at 10 kph with sustained winds of 185 kph on Friday afternoon, the JMA said.

It is likely to be closest to Okinawa late on Saturday or early on Sunday.

It is expected to weaken as it moves north, and likely to hit land on Sunday on the westernmost main island of Kyushu, before heading northeast toward Honshu. Tokyo can expect heavy rain, at the worst.

Tropical Storm Risk, which tracks typhoons, labeled Vongfong as a Category 4 typhoon, set to weaken to Category 3 on Saturday and Category 1 before hitting Kyushu.

Television broadcast images of residents of Minami Daitojima, a remote island southeast of Okinawa, boarding up windows ahead of the storm.

There are no nuclear plants on Okinawa, but there are two on Kyushu and one on Shikoku island, which borders Kyushu and may be hit. All are currently halted in line with national policy.

The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, crippled by an earthquake and tsunami in 2011, is on the other side of the country, which is likely to see rain.

Vongfong is following the path of Phanfone, a typhoon that slammed the mainland on Monday, disrupting transport and prompting evacuation advisories for hundreds of thousands of people. Seven people were killed, including three U.S. airmen swept out to sea and a man who died while surfing.

Nansei Sekiyu KK, a refiner wholly owned by Brazil’s Petrobras, suspended marine berth operations at its 100,000 barrels-per-day Nishihara refinery in Okinawa on Thursday but crude refining operations were unaffected.

It is unusual for two powerful typhoons to hit Japan in such quick succession, the JMA official said, but added the overall number of such storms had not increased.

“It’s more coincidence than anything else, mainly due to the way the high pressure systems are located off Japan this year. “More than 1,000 rescue workers stepped up their search for the last eight missing victims of the Mount Ontake volcanic eruption, hoping to make progress before the storm hits.

Two to four typhoons make landfall in Japan each year.

Nobel winner Nakamura was salaryman who took on bosses

Japan celebrated three more Nobel prizes Wednesday, including for a scientist remembered as the salaryman who stood up to a corporation—and won.
Shuji Nakamura was one of a trio recognized for their pioneering work in the creation of the blue LED, a development that paved the way for energy-efficient lighting.

Nakamura was employed at Nichia Corp when he carried out the research that led to his invention of the blue LED in 1993, with the patent registered under the company name.

His initial bonus from the company was only 20,000 yen, despite the huge financial gains for the firm.

Nakamura later sued his employer, demanding 20 billion yen, a record at that time in a Japanese patent trial.

In a landmark ruling in 2004, the Tokyo District Court ordered the company to pay the sum demanded by Nakamura.

“Engineers have long been ignored,” Nakamura said afterwards.

Nichia appealed, but settled on a payment of 844 million yen in 2005.

The case was widely watched for its potential to set a precedent for how Japanese companies treat inventors on their payroll, who generally get a pittance in exchange for sometimes revolutionary and hugely profitable inventions.

After the Nobel Prize was announced on Tuesday, Nakamura said he had been driven to great heights of scientific achievement by anger at the way he was always treated like an outsider.

Nakamura, currently a professor at University of California, Santa Barbara, never lived in Tokyo and was not from an elite university or a giant well-known firm.

He once said students looked down on him when he was studying in the United States—where he had been sent by the company—as he did not have a PhD.

“My desire to get back at them led to the invention of the (blue) LED,” he earlier said, according to the Nikkei business daily.

The outspoken scientist, who is now an American citizen, was recognised along with Isamu Akasaki and Hiroshi Amano.

Japanese media effusively welcomed news of the triple win, with newspapers issuing special editions and television stations flashing the news.

Headlines ranged from “Miracle of Blue, Crystalisation of Passion” in the usually sober Nikkei to “Passion Invites Revolution” in the mass circulation Asahi daily.

Tokyo film festival to focus on anime, Asia and Middle East

Animated features will be in focus at the Tokyo International Film Festival when it kicks off next month, organisers said Tuesday, along with the cinema of Asia and the Middle East.
The 27th TIFF, which will run from October 23 through 31, “will have great animation films… and we hope to help promote Japanese animations around the world,” festival programming director Yoshihiko Yatabe told a press conference.

“A film made in Azerbaijan is one of features this year, a country where the fascinating cinema scene is being influenced by the thriving film industry in neighboring Turkey,” he said.

This year, the collected works of Hideaki Anno—who is seen as the next Hayao Miyazaki, the famed Japanese animation and manga master who retired last year—will be seen together for the first time, the event secretariat said.

Anno is best known for his popular science fiction anime series “Neon Genesis Evangelion,” which became a sensation in Japan in the 1990s.

Other programs include 3D short movies directed by Shigeru Miyamoto, senior managing director of game company Nintendo and renowned game producer for “Sumer Mario Bros.” and “Donkey Kong.”

TIFF’s principal attraction, the competition section, screens 15 feature films from around the world that were selected from some 1,300 entries.

The core events also include a competition for young directors in Asia and the Middle East, the secretariat said.

Side events will also include the screening of Chinese and South Korean films, as well as those about Spain and Latin America.

Gov't says volcanic eruption will have no impact on nuclear restarts

The Japanese government said the sudden deadly eruption of a volcano in central Japan won’t derail its push to restart two reactors located near active volcanoes, even though the public remains opposed to nuclear power after the Fukushima crisis.
The government on Monday said the latest eruption in one of the world’s most volcanically active countries was hard to predict, but critics were quick to note that the same was said about the tsunami and earthquake that caused the Fukushima nuclear disaster in 2011.

Thousands of people gathered in Kagoshima after the eruption of Mount Ontake, about 800 kilometers away, to protest against plans to restart two reactors at Kyushu Electric Power Co’s nearby Sendai nuclear plant, according to one of the organizers.

The Sendai plant is located about 50 kilometers from Mount Sakurajima, an active volcano that erupts frequently. Five giant calderas, crater-like depressions formed by past eruptions, are also in the region, the closest one 40 km from the Sendai plant.

“No one knows when natural disasters, including earthquakes and tsunamis will strike. The fact that they could not predict the Mt Ontake eruption highlights that,” said Yoshitaka Mukohara, a candidate in the 2012 elections for the governorship of Kagoshima who helped organise Sunday’s demonstration.

“There were plumes above Sakurajima yesterday and today. We have no idea when something might happen,” he said.

Japan lies on the “Ring of Fire” - a horseshoe-shaped band of fault lines and volcanoes around the edges of the Pacific Ocean - and is home to more than 100 active volcanoes.

Mount Ontake with 10 confirmed dead and more presumed to have perished as hikers near the summit were caught by belching ash and steam.

“This was a steam-driven (eruption) and it has been said it was extremely difficult to predict,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a news conference.

Asked whether the eruption would require careful assessment of the restart at Sendai, Suga said: “I don’t think so.”

Japan’s nuclear regulator on Sept 10 said the Sendai nuclear power station met its new safety standards, the first step to reopening an industry that was idled by the Fukushima disaster.

The plant still needs to pass operational safety checks as well as gain the approval of local authorities and may not restart till next year.

Before giving its initial greenlight in July, the Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) said the chance of a major volcanic activity during the lifespan of the Sendai nuclear plant was negligible.

Critics of the restarts, including some scientists consulted by the NRA, said regulators are turning a blind eye to the kind of unlikely but potentially devastating chain of events that led to three meltdowns at the Fukushima Daiichi plant north of Tokyo after an earthquake and tsunami in March 2011.

The NRA has also formed another panel of experts to look further into mitigating the risk from volcanoes.

The issue of volcanoes was repeatedly raised by members of the public during a consultation phase after the NRA’s initial assessment.

Most Japanese remain opposed to nuclear power more than three years after the Fukushima disaster even though the shutdown of the country’s reactors has forced utilities to import expensive fossil fuels, pushing electricity bills higher.

More than 10,000 people gathered in Tokyo last Tuesday to protest the plans to restart the Sendai reactors, according to local media.

Toyota recalls 690,000 pickups in U.S. over fire risk

Toyota on Monday said it was recalling about 690,000 Tacoma pickup trucks in the United States to fix a suspension system flaw that could result in vehicle fires.

The safety recall covers model years 2005-2011 Tacoma 4x4 and Tacoma PreRunner pickup trucks, the U.S. unit of Toyota Motor Corporation said.
The trucks’ rear suspension system contains springs that could fracture due to stress and corrosion, it warned.

If the broken spring moves out of position and contacts the fuel tank repeatedly, it could puncture the tank, causing a fuel leak that increases the risk of a vehicle fire.

Toyota, the world’s largest automaker, said it was not aware of any fires, crashes, injuries or fatalities associated with the condition.

A Toyota spokeswoman told AFP that the company also was recalling about 100,000 of the Tacoma trucks outside the US.

It was the third safety recall issued by Toyota USA this month, bringing the total to 840,000 vehicles.

On September 18, the Japanese automaker recalled 20,000 cars due to bad welding on a fuel delivery pipe in the engine compartment that could cause a fuel leak and subsequent fire.

That recall affected 2015 model year Lexus RX, the company’s luxury brand, and four 2014 model year brands: Avalon, Camry, Highlander and Sienna.

Toyota had said it knew of no fires, crashes, injuries or fatalities linked to the problem.

A September 11 recall affected 130,000 of 2014 model year Tundra pickup trucks to fix a structure that could interfere with side air-bag deployment in the case of a crash. No crashes, injuries or deaths were reported.

Japan's volcanoes: Could Fuji be next?

The sudden eruption of Mount Ontake over the weekend, which is believed to have killed at least 31 people, was a reminder of Japan’s vulnerability to its many active volcanoes.
Gas continued to pour from the ruptured crater Monday, as emergency workers tried to reach the bodies of hikers trapped on the peak when it spat into life.

Ontake is one of 110 live volcanoes dotted throughout the seismically-active country, including Mount Fuji, the country’s tallest mountain and a UNESCO World Heritage Site that welcomes some 300,000 walkers each year.

Fuji’s location just 100 kilometers from Tokyo adds an extra element of concern to its inclusion on the list of 47 volcanoes believed to be at risk of eruption in the coming century.

While Japanese authorities watch them closely for signs of activity, rare and unpredictable events such as the sudden eruption of Ontake, which had been largely quiescent for 35 years, bring home the impossibility of out-guessing Mother Nature.

“What happened on Saturday was beyond our current prediction methods,” said Toshitsugu Fujii, head of the Japan Meteorological Agency.

Before it began spewing a deadly blanket of ash, rocks and steam, Mount Ontake had a Level One warning attached, the lowest on a five-point risk scale.

A Level Five warning requires the evacuation of nearby towns, but Level One—currently held by Mount Fuji—means no particular restrictions for hikers.

Mount Ontake has now been raised to Level Three, and people have been advised not to approach.

According to a government study published in June, 80% of inhabited areas threatened by the effects of a potential nearby volcanic eruption have no evacuation plan.

Shizuoka Prefecture is preparing for the possible rude awakening of its star attraction with an emergency procedure for local residents posted online.

It has also created an interactive website that simulates various paths red-hot lava might take in an eruption.

“For now we see no particular signs of activity, but a big eruption would result in more serious consequences and damage than other volcanoes, affecting many regions including Tokyo and its surrounding prefectures,” warns the 60-page evacuation plan produced by Shizuoka Prefecture in February.

In addition to the danger to those living nearby, Fuji’s eruption could cut off the main rail and road routes between Tokyo and Osaka, resulting in huge disruption to the national economy.

Earthquakes in Japan, which sits at the meeting place of four of the Earth’s tectonic plates, can trigger the eruption of volatile summits like Ontake, said Fujii.

“A very strong earthquake like that seen on 11 March 2011 (which caused a catastrophic tsunami) can heighten the risk of volcanic eruptions in the region due to an accumulation of magma,” he said in 2012.

And that’s just what happened the last time Fuji blew its top.

On Dec 12, 1707, just 49 days after a violent quake of magnitude 8.6 hit southern Japan, an explosive eruption of a vehemence rarely seen in history occurred there.

That eruption of Mount Fuji flung ash and smoke as high as 23 kilometers into the air, scientists have calculated.

This ash cloud blocked out sunlight as far away as Edo (now Tokyo) and formed a large new crater on the mountainside.

No deaths were reported from the eruption itself, which had no lava flow, but the ash covered farmland in the surrounding area, resulting in localised starvation.

Currently, four of the 47 volcanoes under surveillance are at alert level three, five at level two (danger near the crater), with the rest at level one or classed as without risk.

Of particular worry to vulcanologists at the Japan Meteorological Agency are the islands of Miyakejima, Iwoto and Nishinoshima.

VisitBritain, JNTO to promote tourism between UK, Japan

The Japan National Tourism Organization (JNTO) and VisitBritain have signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) in Tokyo, committing both countries to the mutual exchange of experience and information in the field of tourism.
In anticipation of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games, JNTO will execute the effective promotion of Japan to overseas visitors with the help of first-hand information and experiences shared by VisitBritain, the national tourism agency that succeeded in promoting inbound tourism to Britain through hosting the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. The MoU sees JNTO and VisitBritain build a cooperative system, with the ultimate aim of increasing the number of visitors travelling between the two countries.

In 2013, the number of foreign tourists visiting Japan reached 10 million for the first time in history. In the same year, Tokyo won the bid to host the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games. 2014 marks the start of Japan’s campaign to reach the even higher goal of attracting 20 million foreign tourists. Hosting the Games will present Japan with a golden opportunity to achieve this.

The first project is a Japan-UK tourism symposium, “Growth Strategy for Tourism, Making the Best Use of the Olympic and Paralympic Games” which will be held in London on Oct 2 at the Embassy of Japan.

JNTO President Ryoichi Matsuyama said “In 2013, Japan welcomed 10 million overseas visitors for the first time and we have started our working towards 2020. We are delighted to sign this MoU with successful Olympics host VisitBritain, and value the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games as an opportunity to transform Japan into a more tourism oriented country.”

Christopher Rodrigues, Chairman of VisitBritain, said: “2013 was a record year for British tourism and contrary to popular belief, we didn’t experience a drop in Olympic year either. This agreement - with our friends at JNTO - will enable us to pass on invaluable knowledge and help deliver a lasting tourism legacy for Japanese tourism.”

METI orders Benesse to improve data protection

The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) on Friday reprimanded educational services firm Benesse over a data leak that affected more than 20 million people this year.
The ministry ordered Benesse to improve its data protection systems and strengthen oversight and submit a report by Oct 24.

Masaomi Matsuzaki, a systems engineer, was arrested in July for allegedly stealing massive amounts of personal data—including names, addresses, phone numbers and birthdays—multiple times, which he then sold for about 2.5 million yen.

The magnitude of the leak prompted angry calls for an explanation from Benesse, one of the country’s best-known companies.

The firm, whose holdings include the Berlitz language education brand, offers services ranging from teaching babies how to use toys to English instruction.

Benesse confirmed the leak of personal data of at least 7.6 million people, but said the problem could ultimately affect more than 20 million.

However, other details such as credit card numbers, banking data and student performance evaluations were safe, it said.

Matsuzaki was a systems engineer at Benesse affiliate Synform Co when he allegedly copied personal details of customers who had supplied the information to the educational services company, according to police. They said a minimum of 10 million were affected.

The stolen data was sold to at least 10 list brokers, including JustSystems Corp which used it to send ads to Benesse customers.

The theft was discovered when people started receiving phone calls and advertising letters from Benesse rivals that should not have had the information, authorities said.

Volcano erupts in central Japan; 7 unconscious, 250 stranded

A volcano erupted in central Japan on Saturday, spewing ash and small rocks into the air and leaving seven people unconscious, eight seriously injured and more than 250 stranded on the mountain, officials and media said.
A thick, rolling, grey cloud of ash rose into the sky above 3,067-meter Mount Ontake close to where TV footage showed hikers taking pictures. Trekkers and residents were warned of falling rock and ash within a radius of four kilometers.

“It was like thunder,” a woman told broadcaster NHK of the first eruption at the volcano in seven years. “I heard boom, boom, then everything went dark.”

The Meteorological Agency said the volcano, which straddles Nagano and Gifu prefectures 200 km west of Tokyo, erupted just before midday and sent ash pouring down the mountain’s south slope for more than three kilometers.

There was no sign of lava from the TV footage.

The eruption forced aircraft to divert their routes, but officials at Tokyo’s Haneda airport and Japan Airlines said there were no disruptions to flights in and out of Tokyo.

NHK quoted a Nagano prefectural official as telling a government meeting that seven people were unconscious and eight people were seriously wounded.

Police said more than 250 hikers were stranded on the mountain, which is 3,067 metres high and last erupted in 2007.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who returned from the United States on Saturday, said he had issued instructions to mobilise the military to help in the rescue effort.

“Nearly 200 people are in the process of descending the mountain, but we are still trying to figure out details. I instructed to do all we can to rescue the people affected and secure the safety of the trekkers,” Abe told reporters.

Nagano police sent a team of 80 to the mountain to assist the climbers who were making their way down, while Kiso Prefectural Hospital, near the mountain, said it had dispatched a medical emergency team.

“We expect a lot of injured people so we are now getting ready for their arrival,” said an official at the hospital.

More than five hours after the initial eruption, the thick ash cloud showed no signs of abating, NHK TV showed.

“It’s all white outside, looks like it has snowed. There is very bad visibility and we can’t see the top of the mountain,” Mari Tezuka, who works at a mountain hut for trekkers, told Reuters.

“All we can do now is shut up the hut and then we are planning on coming down… This is a busy season because of the changing autumn leaves. It’s one of our busiest seasons.”

Fujifilm unveils face-tracking camera for self-portrait photos

Fujifilm Corp has developed a digital camera that automatically tracks a person and takes his/her pictures. A prototype of the camera, “New Concept Camera,” was exhibited last week at photokina 2014, one of the world’s largest trade shows on cameras, in Cologne, Germany.

“We aimed to make a personal photographer,” a developer of the camera said. “I wanted to make a camera that takes videos and pictures of me actively moving as if they were taken by a person.”

Taking a picture of oneself has become popular and is now known as a “Selfie.” However, because people take images of themselves while holding a camera, their compositions are fixed. Also, it is difficult to take images while the user is moving. Though Sony developed the “Party Shot” digital camera platform, which automatically searches for people and takes their pictures, the purpose of the platform was to randomly take pictures of many subjects.

The new camera developed by Fujifilm takes images of a subject after being placed somewhere. Its camera unit tracks the user and continuously takes his/her pictures. As a result, it is possible to capture, for example, natural facial expressions of the user playing sports. It tracks the subject with a face recognition function, etc and keeps it in the frame by moving the camera unit with a built-in motor.

At this point, the camera detects only the face of the user. Therefore, when the subject turns its back, it can no longer be tracked. But this problem can be solved by using the “moving object tracking technology,” which has already been commercialized for digital cameras. The technology estimates the subject’s direction of movement based on its trajectory.

A subject is selected by using a tablet computer that is connected to the camera via wireless LAN. Also, it is possible to perform zooming, panning and tilting with the tablet.

Fujifilm said that the exhibited camera is a prototype. And the company will consider commercializing it after seeing the reactions of visitors to the show.

Maglev train reaches 500 km/hour during first public test

Central Japan Railway Co (JR Tokai) on Monday conducted the first public test of its new ultra-high speed magnetic levitation (maglev) train in Tsuru, Yamanashi Prefecture.
Specially invited members of the public and press were able to walk through newly designed ticket gates, and ride aboard the train as it briefly rocketed along the 42.8-kilometer test track at a speed of 500 km/hour, NTV reported.

The driverless maglev train utilizes a high-tech propulsion system called the “L-Zero” system that first brings the train to a speed of 160 km/hour. Upon reaching 160 km/hour, the train initiates the maglev system and slowly accelerates to 500 km/hour, JR Tokai said.

The current fastest train in Japan is the Hayabusa shinkansen which travels at 320 kph. JR plans on offering official test-rides to the broader public in November.

The maglev train, which will run between Tokyo and Nagoya, is expected to be operational by 2027. JR Tokai said there will be four stations on the 286-kilometer route between Shinagawa and Nagoya. The Shinagawa and Nagoya stations will be about 40 meters underground, Sankei Shimbun reported. The first station after Shinagawa will be Sagamihara in Kanagawa Prefecture (also underground). The next three stops will be above ground in Kofu, Yamanashi Prefecture, Iida, Nagano Prefecture and in Nakatsugawa, Gifu Prefecture.

First ever exhibition dedicated to Oasis coming to Tokyo

Tokyo will host “Chasing The Sun: Oasis 1993 – 1997,” an exhibition of rare and iconic photographs, artifacts and memorabilia from the early years of Oasis, one of the most significant bands to emerge from the UK in the past two decades.

“Chasing The Sun” chronicles the band’s supercharged journey from a Manchester rehearsal studio to international rock stardom, via three landmark albums – “Definitely Maybe”, “(What’s The Story) Morning Glory”, and “Be Here Now” - and many legendary gigs, from London’s 100 Club to Glastonbury Festival to their era-defining two night stand at Knebworth House.

The exhibition, which is coming to Japan in October, includes previously unseen images from the photographers who had fly-on-the-wall access to the band. The exhibition will also display some of the iconic instruments played on the early albums (lent by the band members themselves), vintage merchandise, artifacts from the album sleeves. As special content for Japanese exhibition, there will be photos taken by Mitch Ikeda who accompanied the band from the very first Japan tour, plus rarely seen live performance footage of the 1994 Shibuya Club Quattro show. All photography and limited edition Oasis merchandise will be available for purchase.

Opening 20 years to the day since the release of their debut single “Supersonic” (released April 11, 1994), “Chasing The Sun: Oasis 1993 - 1997” is the first ever exhibition dedicated entirely to Oasis.

The exhibition is happening in conjunction with the new “Chasing The Sun” album reissues, which rolled out with the release of “Definitely Maybe” on May 14, followed by “(What’s The Story) Morning Glory?” on Sept 24. Both titles are available on standard CD & digital download, Special Edition 3 x CD & digital download, 12” vinyl LP (with digital download bundle of all bonus CD content), & Deluxe Box Set (including LP, Deluxe CD, exclusive 7” & merchandise).

Japanese scientists among Ig Nobel spoof award winners

Researchers who measured the slipperiness of banana peels, the ability of pork strips to stop nosebleeds, and the reactions of reindeer to humans in polar bear suits were among the winners of this year’s Ig Nobel prizes for comical scientific achievements.
The annual prizes, meant to entertain and encourage global research and innovation, are awarded by the Annals of Improbable Research as a whimsical counterpart to the Nobel Prizes which will be announced next month.

Among the 10 awards, four went to researchers that took a peculiar interest in food. A team of Japanese scientists earned the Ig Nobel Physics Prize, for example, for detailing the hazards of stepping on a banana peel in their paper titled “Frictional Coefficient under Banana Skin.”

Other teams earned prizes for studying what happens in the brains of people who see the face of Jesus in their toast, how infant poop can be used in the production of fermented sausages, and how pork strips can be stuffed into peoples’ nostrils to stop severe nosebleeds.

Ig Nobel prizes this year also went to researchers who measured the relative pain people suffer while looking at an ugly painting, investigated whether cat ownership can be mentally hazardous, and studied how people who routinely stay up late can be more psychopathic.

Former winners of real Nobels handed out the spoof awards at a ceremony at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, on Thursday. The ceremony included a three-act mini-opera about people who stop eating food and instead nourish themselves entirely with pills, inspired by the pill-heavy diet of Google engineering director Ray Kurzweil.

A personal favorite of Marc Abrahams, editor of the Annals and architect of the Ig Nobels, was a study by a team of Norwegian and German researchers who tested how reindeer react to seeing humans wearing polar bear costumes.

“I’ve never in my life met anyone who disguised himself as a polar bear to frighten a reindeer,” Abrahams said.

Thursday’s winners also included scientists from the Czech Republic, Germany and Zambia who determined that dogs prefer to align their body axis with the Earth’s north-south geomagnetic field lines while defecating, and the Italian government’s National Institute of Statistics for increasing the official size of the economy by including revenues from prostitution, drugs dealing, smuggling and other crimes.

Abe to visit New York from Monday for U.N. General Assembly

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will visit New York for five days starting next Monday to attend the U.N. General Assembly, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said Tuesday.
Abe is scheduled to speak during general debate at the assembly’s 69th session and at the U.N. climate summit, and to hold meetings with other world leaders, Suga said.

Abe’s attendance at the General Assembly will be “a great opportunity for him to share Japan’s visions and stances toward issues facing the international community and to deepen trust with other leaders,” Suga said.

Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida will also go to New York on Sunday to discuss issues such as climate change and the war against terrorism at U.N. General Assembly meetings, he told reporters.

Asked if there will be any contact with his North Korean counterpart during the trip, Kishida said, “Nothing has been decided.”

North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Su Yong plans to attend the General Assembly meetings in what would be the first visit to the United States by a North Korean foreign minister in 15 years, South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency reported at the end of August.

Tokyo is waiting for the first report by Pyongyang on its new round of investigations into Japanese abductees, following an agreement in late May. The abduction issue has prevented the two countries from establishing diplomatic ties.

Japan’s 10 Best Places to Live - Magazine Survey

The idea of living in a high-rise condo in downtown Tokyo makes for a nice daydream. Between the high cost of housing and the inescapable hustle and bustle of Japan’s capital, though, when it comes time to actually pick a home, many people decide they’d rather live in one of Japan’s other cities, or one of Tokyo’s suburbs at least.
Underlining this trend are the results of a survey by newly formed magazine Aene which asked Japanese housewives which town they’d be happiest living in. Central Tokyo failed to crack the top 10, although the No. 1 pick isn’t too far away from the capital.

As part of the survey, Aene created a set of parameters it dubbed Happy Quality, which evaluated the towns based on their family-friendliness, economic factors, food and health conditions, access to entertainment, and overall convenience of daily life.

Perhaps as a result of focusing on the opinions of people who don’t work outside the home, only five of the top 10 were rated as having local economic conditions above the survey average. On the other hand, all of the highest-rated towns performed extremely well in the other four categories, with study participants showing a particular fondness for areas with parks or other natural environments, good schools, and historical significance.

When asked what specifically was indicative of a convenient place to live, the second-most common response was proximity to a train or subway station, which was given by 28.9% of the women in the study. Far surpassing this, though, was the 47.8% who answered that what they really wanted was a large mall, supermarket, or shopping street.

The reason behind this is a little more complex than just “Women shop a lot,” as shopping is often connected to several of the parameters in Aene’s Happy Quality index. Toshio Noguchi, a professor of marketing at Japan’s prestigious Waseda University, points out that how and when Japanese consumers shop has changed, giving the activity a different role in family dynamics. “Until recently, it was the norm for housewives to do shopping each day at local retailers. Now, though, we’re seeing more families going shopping together at larger centers on the weekend, buying in bulk. Necessary shopping itself has become a form of leisure, and malls are becoming a place where communication within the family happens.”

So, which towns in Japan ranked the highest in the survey? Let’s start with number 10.

10. Hiroshima City (Hiroshima Prefecture)

Respondents were impressed by the kind and friendly attitude of Hiroshima’s citizens. Being the prefectural capital means it’s a developed city, but not nearly as crowded as Tokyo.

9. Nihama (Ehime Prefecture)

The first of two towns on the island of Shikoku to make the list, Nihama offers both job opportunities with local industry and proximity to the Inland Sea and its delicious seafood.

8. Moriya (Ibaraki Prefecture)

Moriya’s Happy Quality was balanced across the five criteria, with special mention given to its modern shopping facilities.

7. Ikoma (Nara Prefecture)

Ikoma is essentially a suburb of Nara City, being just 30 minutes away by train. Its high ranking was due in no small part to its proximity to the many culturally and historically important temples of Japan’s former capital.

6. Fukuoka City (Fukuoka)

One of the most populous cities in the top 10, Fukuoka got a boost from its local food scene which includes delicacies such as spicy cod roe, hot-pot, and pork stock ramen.

5. Matsuyama (Ehime Prefecture)

Back in Ehime again, living in the relatively cozy prefectural capital still provides for a laid-back lifestyle, plus proximity to some of Japan’s best citrus fruit and one of its oldest hot springs, Dogo Onsen.

4. Mitaka City (Tokyo)

Technically still part of Tokyo, Mitaka lies outside the metropolis’ 23 main wards. Easy access to central Tokyo, the lush greenery of Inokashira Park, and the nearby Ghibli Museum all contribute to Mitaka’s elegant and sophisticated vibe.

3. Nishinomiya (Hyogo Prefecture)

Situated between the much larger cities of Kobe and Osaka, Nishinomiya lets residents enjoy the fantastic food of each, including Kobe beef, takoyaki, kushi katsu, and the wonders of Kobe’s Chinatown. It’s also the home of Koshien, Japan’s most storied baseball stadium that hosts both Osaka’s professional team, the Hanshin Tigers, and the country’s twice-annual high school tournament championships. It’s also become a bit of a shopper’s paradise due to its numerous malls.

2. Inagi City (Tokyo)

Lying just outside the 23 wards, Inagi has a shocking amount of greenery if your only image of Tokyo is the Shibuya Scramble intersection. It isn’t limited to parks, either, as the town is also where you’ll find the Otsuka Farm. Life in Inagi isn’t completely bucolic, though, as the town also has its own branches of Costco and Ikea.

1. Fujisawa (Kanagawa Prefecture)

Taking home the top spot is Fujisawa, the coastal city in Kanagawa which includes Enoshima Island. Fujisawa combines the relaxed atmosphere you’d expect from a beach town with extremely convenient public transportation, as a train ride from Enoshima Station to Shinjuku, in the heart of Tokyo, will take you less than 30 minutes. Add in centuries-old temples, colorful local legends about fearsome dragons falling in love with beautiful princesses, and breathtaking sunset views of Mount Fuji, and it’s easy to see why Fujisawa is loved not just by housewives, but by anyone who can appreciate nature, history, or just the relaxing sound of the waves.

Green Power Blooms as Japan Unveils Hydrangea Solar Cell

A solar cell that resembles a flower is offering a new take on green energy in Japan, where one scientist is searching for renewables that look good. 
In a country badly scarred by the tsunami-sparked nuclear disaster at Fukushima three years ago, the hydrangea-inspired solar offering is small beer alongside one of the world’s biggest offshore wind power farms now floating off the country’s east coast.

But Hiroshi Segawa, a professor at University of Tokyo’s Research Center for Advanced Science and Technology, is hoping his dye-sensitised solar cell, which meshes floral beauty with cutting-edge technology, will brighten the scene.

Segawa’s Annabelle, named after a type of white hydrangea, is made up of flowery stained glass-like solar cells built into a latticed wood box modelled on traditional Japanese doors.

While the 20-centimeter-wide box might make a pretty addition to a sunroom, it can also store enough energy to charge your smartphone twice.

The leaves generate electricity, which is stored in the flower. As the device charges up the petals turn increasingly blue. But as Annabelle discharges, those blue petals turn white, just like the real-life hydrangea.

“People do not have a very good image about things related to energy, such as nuclear power,” Segawa told AFP.

“Thermal power generation conjures up images of blistering hot dirty coal while solar panels take up a lot of space.

“Even wind power generation has problems with bird strikes and noise, but (Annabelle) doesn’t harm the environment.”

While Segawa is not expecting to topple the dominant silicon-based solar panels, he is hoping the fast-growing sector has room for “enjoyable energy” that adds a splash of color to an otherwise drab industry.

Since the Fukushima nuclear disaster in 2011, Japan has been pushing to boost the use of alternative energy.

The country’s solar power generation is rapidly growing, but it still only represents a small share of the overall power mix.

In Japan, the share of power generated from renewable sources, excluding hydropower, lags other developed economies at 4.7% of the total, far less than 10.4% in Britain or 20.1% in Germany, according to data from the International Energy Agency.

All of Japan’s nuclear plants were shuttered after the 2011 atomic accident—yanking away a power source that once supplied more than one quarter of the nation’s energy.

Despite Tokyo’s efforts to develop the solar sector, the weather—- particularly a lack of reliable sunlight—is among the factors holding back wider use.

But Segawa says Annabelle works even in weak indoor light.

It also has a myriad of design possibilities. Segawa has already experimented with a cell that looks like French President Francois Hollande and one of the computer-generated Japanese pop star Hatsune Miku.

“You can make solar cells out of animated characters, portraits of real people and lots of other stuff,” he said.

CLUB CHIC Summer 2014 at Grand Hyatt Tokyo

Grand Hyatt Tokyo’s popular disco event CLUB CHIC returns this sultry summer season on Friday Aug 29 for the 21st time, with an evening filled with music and dancing to the greatest ‘70s hits and classics.

Enjoy music spinned by renowned DJs Ai Emori and K-CO, along with a special dance lesson by Michael Tsuruoka. The Grand Ballroom will turn into a glitzy disco venue with mirror balls and disco lights filled with over 1500 guests lavishly dressed, for the ultimate dance party atmosphere.

Tickets will be available for ¥15,000 per person with free-flowing beverages while VIP tickets will be on sale for ¥25,000 per person, which come with VIP seating and free-flowing premium beverages including Henri Giraud.

With a purchase of Club Chic tickets, a special price of ¥26,000 for a stay in a Grand Room on the evening of the event will be offered, for guests to stay overnight in a luxurious hotel guestroom. Dance the night away at this dynamic event at Grand Hyatt Tokyo and enjoy a soulful evening.

Date: Friday Aug 29
Time: 8 p.m. to 12 midnight (last admission 11:30 p.m.)
Tickets: ¥15,000 (VIP tickets: ¥25,000). Prices include free-flowing beverages. VIP ticket includes free-flowing premium beverage including Henri Giraud.
Dress Code: Semi-formal; denim clothing and sneakers are not permitted
Age: Minimum 20

Reservation number: 03-4333-8838 (Events Department from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.
—Tickets will be sent after confirmation of wire transfer
—Please note that refunds will not be made for cancellations.

Sony PS4 Sales Surge Past Record 10 Million Mark

Sony said Wednesday that global sales of its newest PlayStation have surged past the 10 million mark in less than a year, a record for the Japanese electronics giant.

The PlayStation 4 console, released in November, has been a bright spot for the struggling firm, which launched a sweeping restructuring in a bid to claw its way back to profitability.

The release of the PS4 in the United States and other markets has helped to improve Sony’s fortunes after a disappointing response to the console’s predecessor, the PS3.

Nintendo’s Wii U, launched in late 2012, took more than a year to sell just under six million units.

“The responses we have received for the PS4 system’s unique gameplay experiences… along with its vast game portfolio, has been phenomenal,” Andrew House, president and group CEO of Sony Computer Entertainment, said in a statement.

The PS4 is locked in a battle for dominance of the digital home entertainment market with Microsoft’s Xbox One and the Wii U at a time when consoles are under intense pressure to prove their worth in a world where many now play downloadable games on smartphones and tablets.

Sony launched the console in Japan in February, about four months after it debuted in the United States and well behind many other markets.

The company said it had wanted to give developers more time to exploit the potential of the console in the Japanese gaming market, where top-selling titles are often markedly different from popular offerings in the U.S. and Europe.

Software sales for the console have also been strong, with more than 30 million copies sold in retail stores globally and through digital downloads as of this week, the company said.

It added that there were plans to release a slate of major titles, including “Final Fantasy XV” and “Bloodborne,” while it was also adding new system features to expand players’ gaming experience.

Among the new functions was “Share Play”, which would allow users to play games with their friends as if they are in the same room, such as letting a player remotely take over another person’s controls to help them through tricky sections of a game.

Last month, Sony posted a quarterly profit that it attributed largely to strong demand for the PS4 and a sharp decline in the value of the yen.

Sony’s gaming division has emerged as a potential savior for the company, which is struggling to reinvent itself in the digital age, having been left in the dust by nimbler rivals including South Korea’s Samsung.

Save upto 80% on Japanese Fashion Shopping Festival - Three Day Specialty Store Sale in Tokyo, Ginza

The Japan Shopping Tourism Organization (JSTO) would like to invite Japan Today readers to save on some of the best clothing brands at the last major sale of the summer season held in Ginza, Tokyo. 
Save up to 80% from six leading Japanese specialty stores:


If you show the "special coupon screen" to the staff you will get the 10%off and the more!
Check the campaign site right now, The last Special sale of this summer in Japan take the japanize fashion "Cool & cute" back to the home! 

August 22 (Friday) 11:00 to 21:00 (Last entry at 20:00)
August 23 (Saturday) 11:00 to 20:00 (Last entry at 19:30)
August 24(Sun) 11:00 to 17:00 (Last entry at 16:30)

Location:12th floor Cattleya Salon Diamond Hall Yurakucho Tokyo Kotsu Kaikan

Access:JR Yamanote Line, Keihin Tohoku Line: Yurakucho Station (Kyobashi opening and central opening - Ginza side) 1 minute walk.

For more details Contact :

Customers Note:

· Admission will be closed 30 minutes before shops close. (one hour before on 8/22 (Fri)).
· There is a case to be handed out numbered tickets or entry restrictions due to store situation.
· Please use the public transport for visiting.
· Please note that we can not accept repayment, returned goods, the exchange of the sale product.

About Payment

○ Credit card, VISA · MASTER · JCB · DINERS · AMEX are available.
○ UnionPay card is also available.
○ Gold notes (except for some), such as gift card and certificates, electronic money of Suica · Edy, etc., and debit cards are not available.
○ Payment by the points of each shop is not available.
○ I am sorry it cannot use the tax-free.  

Typhoon Halong Leaves Upto 10 Dead and Many Injured

As many as 10 people died and many were injured as Typhoon Halong slammed into the Japanese archipelago over the weekend, reports said Monday, with heavy rain still lashing the country’s north.
The storm was moving over the Sea of Japan (East Sea) Monday afternoon, after making landfall on Honshu at the weekend, the Japan Meteorological Agency said.

The outer bands of the storm were continuing to lash northern Japan with heavy rain as officials warned of landslides, floods and possible tornadoes in the area.

The agency downgraded the typhoon to a tropical storm at 9 a.m. Monday as it headed toward the far eastern coast of Russia.

The storm, as well as heavy rain last week, killed two people and injured 86 across the country, public broadcaster NHK reported.

But the Nikkei newspaper said as many as 10 deaths were linked to the storm.

Among the victims, the body of an Iranian man was found in Ibaraki, northeast of Tokyo, while two Japanese women died in the country’s west, the Nikkei said.

The National Police Agency declined to confirm the number of deaths from the storm, saying it had yet to compile a nationwide total.

The coast guard on Monday resumed searching for a man who went missing apparently while surfing during the storm, off Wakayama in western Japan.

“Police and the coast guard dispatched one rescue boat and two helicopters but we have not found any sign of him,” a police spokesman said.

Local officials on Monday scrambled to clean up in the aftermath of the storm.

In Osaka, Halong forced the cancellation of a major fireworks event on Saturday after the storm washed away 21 launching boats, about half of them carrying unused pyrotechnics, a spokesman for the show told AFP.

He declined to elaborate. But NHK reported that the boats, which were later found stuck down river, were carrying thousands of fireworks.

The Osaka city disaster prevention bureau said four workers also drifted away on the runaway boats, but they were later confirmed to be safe.

On Sunday, violent winds destroyed more than 460 buildings in Tochigi Prefecture, north of Tokyo, injuring at least two, NHK said.

Weather agency officials were investigating if those winds were actually generated by a tornado.

On Saturday the weather agency had issued its highest warning meaning a threat to life and the risk of massive damage for Mie Prefecture.

The warning, which was lifted Sunday afternoon, said there could be “unprecedented” torrential rain that might trigger massive landslides and floods.

Local authorities issued evacuation advisories to more than 1.6 million people in total, NHK said.

Airline services largely returned to normal on Monday with just a handful of flights cancelled after more than 700 flights were called off during the weekend, just as Japan began its annual “Obon” summer holiday.

Supermoon seen behind Ferris Wheel in Tokyo

A supermoon is seen behind a ferris wheel in Tokyo on Sunday night. The astronomical event occurs when the moon is closest to the Earth in its orbit, making it appear much larger and brighter than usual. 

Tropical Storm Halong Drenches Japan - 1 dead, 52 injured

A tropical storm was moving out into the Sea of Japan on Sunday night after lashing the country with rain and wind, leaving one person dead, more than 50 injured and prompting evacuation alerts for about 1.2 million residents near swollen rivers.

Tropical Storm Halong disrupted land and air traffic as Japan began its annual “Obon” Buddhist holiday week.

Originally a typhoon, Halong was downgraded to a tropical storm as it approached the southwest coast and made two landfalls - over Shikoku and Hyogo Prefecture in western Japan. It was on track to exit into the Sea of Japan from the northern coast near Kyoto late Sunday, and further lose strength in the next 12 hours.

Japan’s Meteorological Agency issued the highest alert for heavy rain in Mie Prefecture in central Japan, prompting two towns to order about 570,000 residents to move away from swollen rivers. Another 600,000 people were advised to evacuate across the country. Some of the evacuation advisories in western Japan were later lifted as the storm moved farther north.

In Iwate Prefecture in northern Japan, a 78-year-old man was found dead late Saturday after plunging into a swollen irrigation canal at his farm.

Japan’s public television NHK said 52 people were injured in the storm.

More than 200 flights were canceled, stranding thousands of holidaymakers at airports around the country. The rainstorm also flooded about 330 homes and damaged 70 others in western Japan.

The storm, packing winds of up to 100 kilometers per hour, was expected to dump 30 centimeters of rain in central Japan by Monday morning. The meteorological agency warned of landslides and floods, and predicted heavy rain and strong wind in Tokyo and northern Japan through Monday.

Japan Stocks Nikkei Drops to Two-Month Low

Japanese stocks dropped to a two-month low Friday, leading most Asian markets lower, after U.S. President Barack Obama authorized airstrikes in Iraq, casting a pall on equity sentiment and the dollar.

The Nikkei Stock Average fell 3.0% to 14778.37 for its worst daily decline in almost four months. South Korea's Kospi lost 1.1%, Australia's ASX200 closed 1.3% lower, Singapore's Straits Times Index lost 0.8% and India's Sensex was down 1.1%. The Shanghai Composite and Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index managed modest gains, however.

"It may not necessarily be the reintroduction of geopolitical risk per se that has investors rattled, since jitters over Russia and Ukraine and the chance of more military involvement by the U.S. in Iraq have been simmering for some time," said Chris McGuire, chief executive of hedge fund Phalanx Capital Management. "But markets globally don't seem to be able to handle increasing risk well at all lately, and this is perhaps a reaction to seeing U.S. markets show such resilience for so long until very recently."

The dollar fell sharply after Mr. Obama authorized targeted strikes in Iraq to protect the Yazidi minority and U.S. personnel there. At the close in Tokyo, the greenback was changing hands at ¥101.74, against ¥102.37 Thursday. A falling dollar hurts Japanese and other Asian exporters who need to repatriate earnings.

Gold prices rose, while U.S. 10-year Treasury yields dropped to around 2.42% as investors moved to safer assets.

At the end of its two-day policy board meeting, the Bank of Japan cut its views on exports and industrial production, boosting expectations of further easing from the central bank in coming months. But the announcement had far less impact than corporate earnings-related news, much of which triggered adverse share price reactions amid the overall market negativity.

Sumitomo Metal Mining, Mitsubishi Materials, and Nippon Electric Glass all fell at least 6.8% after posting disappointing results after Thursday's close. Shares of heavily weighted Nikon lost 9.4% after the company made a 19% downward revision to its fiscal year consolidated net profit.

Hiroshima Marks Anniversary of Atomic Bombing

Tens of thousands of people were gathering for peace ceremonies in Hiroshima on Wednesday, marking the 69th anniversary of the US atomic bombing of the city, as anti-nuclear sentiment runs high in Japan.

Bells tolled as ageing survivors, relatives, government officials and foreign delegates observed a moment of silence in the rain at 8:15 am local time (2315 GMT), when the detonation turned the western Japanese city into an inferno.
Hiroshima Mayor Kazumi Matsui urged people to listen to the voice of survivors as he delivered a speech at a ceremony also attended by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and US ambassador to Japan Caroline Kennedy
“‘Water, please.’ Voices from the brink of death are still lodged in the memory of a boy who was 15 and a junior high student,” the mayor, referring to the memories of a survivor.
“The pleas were from younger students,” he said, adding the survivor’s grisly description of what he saw: “Their badly burned, grotesquely swollen faces, eyebrows and eyelashes singed off, school uniforms in ragged tatters.”
The mayor noted that many survivors feel profound guilt over living through the attack.
But “people who rarely talked about the past because of their ghastly experiences are now, in old age, starting to open up,” he said.
An American B-29 bomber named Enola Gay dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima on August 6, 1945, in one of the final chapters of World War II. It had killed an estimated 140,000 by December that year.
On August 9, the port city of Nagasaki was also bombed, killing an estimated 70,000 people.
Japan surrendered days later—on August 15, 1945—bringing the war to a close.
Historians have long been at odds over whether the twin attacks brought a speedier end to the war by forcing Japan’s surrender and preventing many more casualties in a planned land invasion.
The bombed cities have spearheaded anti-nuclear movements, calling atomic bombs “the absolute evil”.
Last week, US media reported the death of Theodore Van Kirk, the last surviving crewman of the Enola Gay, who passed away aged 93.
A funeral was reportedly scheduled for August 5 in his hometown of Northumberland, Pennsylvania, which would coincide with the Hiroshima anniversary in Japan.
Anti-nuclear sentiment flared in Japan after an earthquake-sparked tsunami left some 19,000 dead or missing and knocked out cooling systems at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant in 2011.
None of those deaths were directly attributed to the nuclear crisis. But the reactor meltdowns spread radiation over a large area and forced thousands to leave their homes in the worst atomic disaster since Chernobyl in 1986.
Despite strong public opposition, Japan’s nuclear watchdog last month said that two atomic reactors were safe enough to switch back on.
The decision marked a big step towards restarting the country’s nuclear plants, which were shut after the disaster, and sparked accusations that the regulator was a puppet of the powerful atomic industry.

NSK Demonstrates Walking Support Robot for Visually Impaired People

NSK Ltd recently demonstrated a prototype of a robot that guides a person through obstacles at the “Robotics Demo Corner” of Techno-Frontier 2014 in Tokyo.
The robot, “Lighbot,” helps visually impaired people move in, for example, hospitals and commercial facilities. When the user walks while holding the handle of the robot, it recognizes walls and obstacles around it and guides the user to the destination through obstacles. In a sense, it is a wise autonomous car for the elderly.

A four-axis optical force sensor developed by NSK is embedded in the handle. When the user tilts the handle to the desired direction, the robot starts to move in the direction.

The lower half of the robot’s body incorporates a laser range sensor that recognizes walls around it and a range image sensor that detects obstacles located as high as the user’s eye level. When the robot is about to hit a wall or obstacle, it automatically changes its direction of movement. For the range image sensor, ASUSTeK Computer Inc’s “Xtion Pro Live” motion capture device for personal computers is used.

On the front of the robot’s undersurface, there is an infrared range sensor. Therefore, the robot can detect a large height difference in its direction of movement such as a step and avoid it.
Moreover, the robot has a navigation function. It estimates its location based on the traveled distance and a registered map. When the user selects a destination from pre-registered locations by pressing buttons, the robot automatically calculates a route from the current location to the destination and guides the user to the destination with voice.

The robot has one front wheel and two rear wheels, which are driving wheels independent from each other. It measures 360 (W) x 450 (D) x 1,050 (H) and weighs 15kg. NSK has been testing the robot at Kanagawa Rehabilitation Center since January 2014 and will continue the test.

Panasonic to Build Big Battery Plant for Tesla

American electric car maker Tesla Motors Inc. is teaming up with Japanese electronics company Panasonic Corp. to build a battery manufacturing plant in the U.S. expected to create 6,500 jobs.

The companies announced the deal Thursday, but they did not say where in the U.S. the so-called “gigafactory,” or large-scale plant, will be built. Tesla has said that Nevada, Arizona, Texas, New Mexico and California are in the running.

Financial terms weren’t disclosed for the $5 billion plant.

The plant will produce cells, modules and packs for Tesla’s electric vehicles and for the stationary energy storage market, employing 6,500 people by 2020.

Under the agreement, Tesla, based in Palo Alto, California, will prepare, provide and manage the land and buildings, while Osaka-based Panasonic will manufacture and supply the lithium-ion battery cells and invest in equipment.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk has said the factory will help Tesla reduce its battery costs by 30 percent. Tesla needs cheaper batteries in order to produce its mass-market Model 3, an electric car it’s developing that would cost around $30,000. Tesla hopes to have the Model 3 on the road by 2017. The company’s only current vehicle, the Model S sedan, starts at $70,000.

“The Gigafactory represents a fundamental change in the way large-scale battery production can be realized,” said Tesla Chief Technical Officer and co-founder JB Straubel, referring to the cost reductions.

Sales of zero-emission electric vehicles account for less than 1 percent of the global auto market. But worries about global warming and more stringent emissions regulations in many countries are expected to boost sales of electric and other green vehicles.

Yoshihiko Yamada, executive vice president of Panasonic, said the planned factory will help the electric vehicle market grow.

Panasonic, which has ceded much of its strength in consumer electronics to competitors, is putting more focus on businesses that serve other industries, including batteries.

It remains powerful in Japan and some overseas markets in consumer products such as refrigerators, washing machines and batteries for gadgets.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Airbus cancels contract with Japan Skymark Airlines

Airbus has cancelled its contract with Japan's Skymark Airlines for the purchase of six A380 aircraft.
Airbus said it had been in discussions with the airline about the contract signed in 2011, but did not give a specific reason for cancelling it.

Skymark suggested it wanted to revise the contract terms, but was being charged "overpriced" fees to do so.

Shares in the airline slumped 13% after it revealed it was in talks with Airbus over revisions to the deal.

The Japanese carrier told reporters in Tokyo it had tried to reduce the number of aircraft in the deal, or buy smaller jets.

"Airbus said it would charge overpriced breakup fees for cancelling the purchase of A380s if our company decides to cancel," Skymark president Shinichi Nishikubo said.

The airline said it had received notification of the deal's cancellation by fax on Sunday, according to the Reuters news agency.

"Following discussions with Skymark Airlines and in light of the airline's expressed intentions in respect of the A380, Airbus has notified Skymark Airlines that the purchase order for the six A380s signed in 2011 has been terminated," Airbus said.

Reports suggest the plane maker had concerns about Skymark's ability to pay for the aircraft, particularly in light of the weak yen.

The aircraft manufacturing market in Japan is currently dominated by Boeing. Airbus was seeking to break that dominance with the Skymark deal.

Internationally, Airbus has been struggling to win orders for its super jumbo.

The A380 is the world's largest passenger aircraft. It stands at more than 24m (79ft) tall and has a wing span of almost 80m (262ft) and can carry more than 500 passengers.