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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.