Pirates wielding rocket-propelled grenades and AK-47s have prompted Japan to ease a samurai-era ban on civilians carrying guns, allowing guards on locally registered oil tankers to be armed for the first time.
Shipping companies will be able to place security personnel with guns on the tankers when sailing through specified areas of the Indian Ocean and in and around the Gulf of Aden, where pirates have collected hundreds of millions of dollars by hijacking ships. The change in the law, which became effective Nov. 30 and only applies to oil vessels, marks the first time Japan has authorized civilians to carry automatic weapons.
Japan got just a little bit bigger this week, as a volcano created a brand new island about 600 miles (970 kilometers) south of Tokyo.
The island is about 660 feet (200 meters) in diameter, according to the Japanese coast guard. It sits off the coast of Nishinoshima, itself a small, uninhabited island in a group of about 30 islands known as the Bonin Islands, or the Ogasawara chain.
Asked by the media if the new island will soon get a name, Japanese government spokesperson Yoshihide Suga replied that officials will first wait to see how long it sticks around, since new islands have a tendency to disappear back below the waves in a short time.
A team from the International Atomic Energy Agency said Monday the Japanese government should communicate well to the public that the country’s goal to reduce annual individual radiation exposure to 1 millisievert in areas contaminated by the 2011 Fukushima nuclear crisis cannot be achieved in a short time.
“The government should strengthen its efforts to explain to the public that an additional individual dose of 1 millisievert per year is a long-term goal,” the team said in a preliminary report released after its weeklong mission on decontamination efforts in Japan, adding such a strategy would allow resources to be reallocated to the recovery of essential infrastructure in disaster-hit areas.
The report also said that Japanese institutions are encouraged to increase efforts to communicate that a dose in the range of 1 to 20 millisieverts per year is “acceptable” and “in line with the international standards.”
Following the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant disaster that resulted in the release of massive amounts of radioactive substances outside the plant, the Japanese government is aiming to scale down areas where over 20 millisieverts of annual exposure is measured to help evacuees return to their homes.
As for areas with doses of less than 20 millisieverts, the government has said it will seek to bring down the figure to 1 millisievert or below as a long-term goal.
But according to Environment Ministry officials, some people are concerned about returning to areas that have not achieved the long-term goal.
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.
The Japanese government plans to recommend that a group of 28 sites related to the country’s industrial revolution in the Meiji era be included in the UNESCO World Heritage list, informed sources said Saturday.
The 28 sites, located in eight prefectures mainly in the Kyushu southwestern Japan region, include coal mines, steelworks, shipyards and other facilities that led the country’s industrialization in the late 19th century to the early 20th century. The sites include facilities in operation.
The government plans to submit a recommendation for “Sites of Japan Meiji Industrial Revolution” to UNESCO later this month, the sources said. The World Heritage Committee is expected to consider the recommendation in 2015.
The government can recommend one candidate for registration on the World Heritage list each year. A recommendation for rival sites, “Churches and Christian Sites in Nagasaki,” is expected to be filed next year or later, the sources said.
The Japan Meteorological Agency launched a special emergency warning system on Friday that provides more information than existing warnings and advisories of imminent disaster risks.
When issuing the heightened warnings, the agency will warn residents in areas that are forecast to be affected to evacuate or take protective measures immediately.
The agency developed the system by drawing on lessons learned from a monster typhoon that hit the Kii Peninsula, western Japan, in September 2011 and torrential rain in the northern Kyushu region, southwestern Japan, in July last year, both of which caused deaths.
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.
In Eastern countries such as China and Japan, the month of August is one to celebrate. The “Hungry Ghost Festival” is known all around the world which is celebrated on the 15th day of the 7th lunar month. In celebration of ghosts, here are the most haunted places to visit in Japan.
1. Amidaji (Temple of Amida)
Located in Dan-no-ura in the Shimonoseki Strait, Amidaji is a legendary haunted place. A dead samurai is known to haunt the area. The story is quite famous and it has been adapted into a movie, Masaki Kobayashi’s film “Kwaidan.”
Aokigahara is best known in Japan as the “Suicide Forest.” Located at the bottom of Mt Fuji, the area is frequently visited as a spot for suicide. This has caused a widespread belief that the place is haunted. In 2010, a record of 54 people were said to have committed suicide at Aokigahara.
3. Hashima Island
Also known as Gunkanjima which translates to “Battleship Island”, Hashima is a 60,000 square meter cluster of concrete ruins off the coast of Nagasaki. It has been abandoned since 1974 when the coal mines on the island were shut down. The island was closed to visits until Hashima was re-opened to the public in 2009.
4. Himuro Mansion
The famous game “Fatal Frame” was allegedly based on the true events that conspired at the Himuro Mansion. According to legend, the mansion was a site of a brutal family murder and sacrifice. Onlookers claim to have seen bloody hand prints on the well, a wandering girl in a kimono and sprays of blood appearing out of nowhere.
5. Akasaka Mansion
Located in Tokyo, Akasaka is a well-known tourist spot. Tourists sleeping at the mansion claim to have been stroked on the face. Some have even been violently ripped from their beds.
Project Phoenix announced earlier this week of their plans to set up a Kickstarter, a Japanese role-playing game (JRPG). The big difference with this project is that it’ll be combined with Real Time Strategy (RTS). The future of gaming is set to be changed with the founder of Creative Intelligence Arts, Hiroaki Yura in the head of the game development.
Uniting top game developers from the West and the East, Project Phoenix takes on the JRPG genre with art direction from Kiyoshi Arai, best known for Final Fantasy XII and XIV. Music is set to be headed by Nobou Uematsu, the legendary composer of the Final Fantasy series. This is the first independent game project Uematsu will be commited to.
“For 25 years, I’ve been working on a lot of video game music like the Final Fantasy series. This is the first time I’ve worked on an independent game,” says Uematsu, Project Phoenix’s lead composer, adding, “Although it’s fun to create a game within a large company, I’ve always been interested in being able to work in a small, passionate independent games team. I’m really looking forward to it.”
The team members in charge of development have quite the impressive credits of which include Halo 4, Final Fantasy series, World of Warcraft, Star Craft II, Diablo III, L.A. Noire, Soulcalibur V, Steins Gate and the Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya.
A few other members are yet to be announced of which includes a secret designer from one of Japanese leading anime mecha title who had changed pop culture influence in the world. Project Phoenix Kickstarter seelks $100,000 in funding for programming and artistic development of the game. Check out Project Phoenix for more information on the game set to change the history of Japanese role playing game.
there is an expression in Japanese, `ato no matsuri`(after the festival)…but what happens before the festival?
This year I wanted to get to the summer festival early.
I recently found out that the festival is a time when the gods are let out to play and that is why they are paraded about on the o-mikoshi , or portable shrines. I was curious to see how it started, and feel the anticipation of those moments just before the gods are set free…
All the years I saw the summer festivals in the past, I never thought much of that beginning point. I enjoyed watching the elaborate portable shrines that are carried by a team of men in hapi coats with matsuri (festival) motifs or patterns…shouting heave, ho, and other expressive grunts that give the festival its lively air to the sound of taiko drums. It was always fun to hear the vendors along the sidelines shout out Welcome and announce their wares. From tako yaki to ringo ame to all things grilled on skewers or fried, the festival smells, colored streamers and tanabata decorations make it a joyful time.
Why this year did I feel called to watch the `start`? I am not really sure, but it was a new feeling to be there before the festival. I stood in the middle of the shrine grounds while the majority of those around me were busily getting ready . Young men and women in white hapi coats, older men in purple and young men in red, priests in silk robes, and kagura performers holding their masks, all clearly each with a specific `purpose` for the festivities. It was like watching behind the scenes at a grand spectacle as the cast of characters were taking their places and getting ready to perform their roles. I wasn`t thinking about the omikoshi or when it would be brought out, rather I just felt the energy around me and watched and listened to the anticipation in the air.
I stayed in one place as the movement all around me seemed to take more and more of a `shape`, and at one point I could just feel it… the gods were being let out!
I got so excited, almost like a childlike feeling to see that all the energy mounted into the moment where it was happening, the portable shrine was being taken from the main shrine! I turned to where the `action` was…the omikoshi being brought forth into the shrine grounds—carried by the team of men who were not yet screaming their shouts, but ceremoniously performing the sacred act of bringing out the gods!
I hope you enjoy watching the scene in the video below and feel the meditative quality of those moments …the sense of not knowing what was to happen next…in the entrancing energy of the first moments before the festival!
Now that I had seen and felt these first moments, I was ready to dance through the still empty streets while the vendors were setting up their stalls!
Dance? You may ask!
Yes, this is a year for me of dance walking through Japan!
I was sitting in front of a mask-vendor`s stall, thinking about whether to buy an anime mask to get into the matsuri mood.
But the festive price of 1000yen made me stall. My video collaborator and I sat in a shady spot waiting for the right moment,when a friend passed by and offered me a cape.
That was the signal! I put it on and was ready to dive into the empty streets, to greet the moments before the festival. To get a hit of intoxication from the gods who were just starting their wild three days of being let loose in these streets!
**There is a Japanese expression, `Ato no matsuri` which means `After the festival`, or `too late!`. You can find a related post on BB here
`Mae no matsuri` could be a new expression to describe this feeling of anticipation `before the matsuri`. We could coin it here.
There`s still time.
Don`t be late!** Zehi (by all means!) get to your summer festival early!
presented by Joanne G. Yoshida
filmed by Utsu-shin
location: Nagahama Shrine, Oita, Japan