Hiroshi Yamauchi, who turned Nintendo into a Video Game Powerhouse, Dies at 85

Hiroshi Yamauchi, who transformed his great-grandfather’s playing-card company, Nintendo, into a global video game powerhouse, died on Thursday in Kyoto, Japan. He was 85.

The cause was complications of pneumonia, the company said.

Mr. Yamauchi, who led Nintendo from 1949 to 2002, was Japan’s most unlikely high-tech success story. Named president of the family business at 22, he steered Nintendo into board games, light-emitting toy guns and baseball pitching machines – fruitless forays that he later attributed to a “lack of imagination” – before the company arrived at arcade games.

Its Donkey Kong and the original Mario Bros. became hits and gave rise to Nintendo’s wildly successful home video game business.

The Nintendo Entertainment System, a console first released in Japan in 1983 as “Famicom,” unseated early leaders in the video game industry, selling more than 60 million units thanks to shrewd marketing, close attention to product quality and a crop of games based on unlikely yet endearing characters that soon became household names.

Read the rest of the story: Hiroshi Yamauchi, Who Steered Nintendo to Dominance, Dies at 85


Japan to be without Nuclear Power

Japan will be fully without nuclear power on Sunday as Kansai Electric Power Co.’s Oi No. 4 reactor is shut down for regular safety inspections, officials said.

This will be the first time Japan is without nuclear power since July 2012, The Japan Times reported.

Inspections of nuclear reactors normally take four to six weeks.

“Safety is important, but if you waste time, that too has an effect on safety. The Fukui nuclear power plant sites have a long history and respond to risks. My position is therefore different from other prefectural governors,” said Fukui Gov. Issei Nishikawa, who has said he would like to see the inspection be completed as soon as possible.

Japan relies on nuclear power for about 32 percent of its electricity prior to the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami.



Starting in September Street Solicitation is Banned in Tokyo’s Shinjuku Ward

Shinjuku Ward in Tokyo, home to one of the country’s largest nightlife districts, is set to ban any kind of soliciting in the street not only for sex clubs but also karaoke parlors, pubs and bars from September.

The move comes in the wake of growing incidents involving trouble with touts in the ward, particularly in the Kabukicho area, ward officials said.

A metropolitan ordinance already bans aggressive solicitation such as pulling at the clothing of passersby, but the ward’s new ordinance, set to be enforced Sept. 1, will ban any kind of street solicitation.

Although the ordinance carries no penalty, with violators to be given “direction” from neighborhood wardens, it is only the first step and the ward will “consider adding a punitive clause if it proves to have no effect,” a ward official said.


Read the rest of the story: Street solicitation to be banned in Tokyo’s Shinjuku Ward from September.

Japan Sees Tighter Scrutiny as Its Economy Recovers

Mainstream media outside Japan has focused on the Fukushima Dai-ichi radioactive leakage. According to Tokyo Electric Power Co, which manages the facility, radiation “levels as high as 100 millisieverts per hour were detected near the tank.” Government regulators’ suggest workers should only be exposed to this amount of radiation in a span of 5 years. Citizens and anti-nuclear energy backers are concerned it could endanger drinking supplies and local environmental life.  Water inside the reactors’ cooling system, however, flow into basements and trenches that have been leaking since the 2011 earthquake disaster. Highly contaminated excess is pumped out and stored in steel tanks on elevated ground away from the reactors, eliminating possible widespread contamination. Local officials have said they will closely monitor the situation, providing help should it be required.

Shinzo Abe, the current Japanese prime minister, nonetheless, has witnessed good economic news out of Japan: exports have risen the most since 2010 impart to stronger demand from Europe and U.S and a weaker Yen (1 € = 132円 and $1 = 99 円, respectively). The exchange rate between U.S and Japan has fluctuated amid recent U.S home sales dipping in July and the Federal Government’s tapering of bond purchasing starting in September: the Fed would bring down its pace from $85 billion per month on bond purchases to $60-65 billion per month.

The Ministry of finance in Tokyo said that exports increased 12.2 percent from a year earlier after a 7.4 percent rise in June. Imports climbed 19.6 percent, leaving a trade deficit of 1.02 trillion yen ($10.5 billion). Exports to China, Japan’s biggest trading partner, rose by 9.5% from a year earlier. The news is advantageous for the economy but it may not translate to employers. Current hope is that a weaker yen will boost exports and profits for Japanese companies, thereby, increasing cash revenue for businesses and employee salaries. Anti-Abeconomics, Shinzo Abe non-backers, criticize this policy because it caters to large companies that can potentially make the Japanese markets reliant on foreign investors who could sell the currency at lower value, thus, making buying imports costly for Japan.

Nevertheless, analysts have predicted that Shinzo Abe’s direction will help revive domestic demand while stimulating economic growth. Next on the agenda for the prime minister is to abate the shrinking labor force by encouraging more women to return to work. He plans to encourage maternity leave and expand child care centers, which could add as many as 8 million workers, bringing the employment rate of women up to that of men. Abe is tackling many issues and next on the agenda for him is the TPP (Trans Pacific Partnership).

4 Million IDs stolen from major internet service provider in Japan

A major Japanese Internet service provider says 4 million sets of members’ IDs and passwords have been stolen.

NTT Communications, the operator of provider service OCN, said on Wednesday that it found OCN’s servers were illegally accessed on Tuesday and malware was inserted to take IDs and passwords.

Its engineers deactivated the malicious program, but it suspects the IDs and passwords were already hacked.

NTT Communications officials say there is no immediate threat of using the IDs as the passwords are encrypted. But they are urging users to change their passwords.

On Thursday of last week a website in Japan, which offers various information on the Internet, was hacked. The owner of the site said more than 1.6 million member IDs could have been compromised.

Read the rest of the story: 4 mil. IDs stolen from major provider in Japan.


Changes Happening in Japan with LDP Victory

Japanese voters handed a landslide victory to the governing Liberal Democratic Party in parliamentary elections on Sunday, opening the possibility of dramatic changes in the long-paralyzed country, even as it returned Japan to effective one-party rule that seemed to thwart recent hopes for a more competitive democracy.

By securing control of both houses of Parliament for up to three years, the win offers Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, an outspoken nationalist who promises to revitalize Japan’s stagnant economy and strengthen its military, the chance to be the most transformative leader in a decade. It also offered an opportunity to end the nation’s series of short-lived and ineffective prime ministers.

Read the rest of the story: Election Win by Ruling Party Signals Change in Japan.

Japan Central Bank Says Economy Recovering

Three months into Japan’s bid to reinflate its economy after years of falling prices, the country’s central bank said on Thursday that economic conditions were starting to recover, signaling its confidence that the world’s third-largest economy was on the cusp of a long-awaited turnaround.

It was the first time since January 2011, before Japan’s natural and nuclear disasters in March that year, that the Bank of Japan had ventured to use the word “recover.” The bank’s message was underpinned by a rebound in Japan’s mainstay exports, helped by a weaker yen, and some signs of a broader recovery in consumer spending.

Reflecting its optimism, the central bank’s policy-setting board left its monetary policy unchanged and stuck to its goal of hitting 2 percent inflation in two years. To get money flowing again in the Japanese economy, the bank, led by its governor, Haruhiko Kuroda, has pledged to pump 60 trillion to 70 trillion yen, or about $600 billion to $700 billion, into the economy annually.

Read the rest of the story: Japan’s Economy on Road to Recovery, Central Bank Says.

Japan health ministry subpanel OKs first iPS cell clinical trial

A subcommittee of the health ministry’s Health Sciences Council approved plans Friday for what would be the world’s first clinical trial using induced pluripotent stem cells.

The health minister is expected shortly to give the final approval for the iPS cell clinical trial on eye disease patients planned by a team from the state-affiliated research institute Riken’s Center for Developmental Biology in Kobe.

The Riken project has already been approved by a screening panel under the subcommittee, as well as by the ethics board of the research institute.

Friday’s meeting of the subcommittee was open to the public. It was the first open screening session for the clinical research application.


Read the rest of the story: Japan health ministry subpanel OKs iPS cell clinical trial.

Japan Broadcasters refuse to run ads for new Panasonic TVs

Japan’s broadcasters have been refusing to advertise Panasonic Corp.’s new TV sets because the new product line, Panasonic’s Smart Viera series, displays websites and online video clips at the same time as TV programs.

The TV networks are demanding Panasonic change the way the online information is shown on the TV.

Do you think Panasonic will listen?

People want more online content in their living rooms and companies are doing all they can to control the space. Microsoft has been trying to do it for over a decade with their media center and now the newest version of x-box, which tries to be an all-in-one entertainment behemoth.

Japan’s $1 trillion pension fund in Abe’s crosshairs

Visitors to Japan’s public pension fund can’t miss signs of the low-cost, low-return culture that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe seems determined to change with a review of its operations that kicked off on Monday.

There is no receptionist at the dimly lit, 40-year-old Tokyo building where the headquarters of the Government Pension Investment Fund, the world’s largest pension, occupies the second floor.

The waiting area consists of two mismatched couches. Behind a single closed door, over $1 trillion – equivalent to the annual economic output of South Korea – is run almost on autopilot and invested largely in government bonds issued across the street by Japan’s Finance Ministry.

Read the rest of the story: Abe reforms take aim at Japan’s $1 trillion pension fund.