Super Discount Auto Rentals New Trend in Japan

A growing number of gasoline stations, used-car dealerships and auto repair shops have begun offering “super discount” car rentals to offset falling sales as car ownership declines.

Auto-related businesses can offer cheap rentals by making use of existing staff, repair facilities and, for used-car dealers, vehicle inventories to maintain a fleet of vehicles.

Discount rental operations are meeting strong demand from those who choose not to or cant afford to own a car amid declining incomes and rising fuel, insurance and maintenance costs, in addition to the threat of higher taxes.

A gas station in the western Tokyo suburb of Kunitachi is one business involved in the trend.”We managed to avert closure thanks to the rentals,” said station head Toshiaki Akuzawa, 46.

Read the rest of the story: Auto-linked firms launch super discount rentals.

Japan: Entry Ban Lifted in Parts of Evacuation Zone Near Fukushima

TAMURA/KAWAUCHI, Fukushima Pref. — An exclusion ban was lifted Sunday for parts of the city of Tamura and the village of Kawauchi in Fukushima Prefecture, allowing residents to enter freely without taking measures against radiation exposure.

But residents from these areas, which are close to the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, will not be allowed to stay overnight, although radiation levels remain relatively low.

It was the first revision to the evacuation zone banning entry to areas within 20 km of the plant since the nuclear disaster triggered by the earthquake and tsunami disaster on March 11 last year.

Read the rest of the story: Entry ban lifted in parts of hot zone.

Japan Opinions: BTW, Get Ready for a 34 Meter Tsunami

Sometimes it is better to leave the TV off.   This is how I have felt since Saturday, the day that Japan’s Cabinet Office chose to announce new predictions for earthquakes and tsunamis for which Japanese citizens “should make preparations.”  From the shocking scale of death and devastation which the predictions intimate, however, the only “preparations” that would be practical, or even possible, would be life insurance and tombstones.

At a televised news conference, the long-haired academics on the government’s Central Disaster Management Council duly presented data and graphics (above, from the Yomiuri Shimbun) predicting a tsunami of 10 meters or higher could strike 11 prefectures, including Tokyo, and an earthquake with an intensity of 7—the highest level on the Japanese seismic scale—in the event of a “simultaneous triple quake” along the Nankai Trough.  The “triple quake” refers to quakes in three sections of the trough, Tokai, Tonankai, and Nankai.  The entire trough stretches from Suruga Bay along areas off Shikoku and Kyushu.

Read the rest of the story: BTW, Get Ready for a 34 Meter Tsunami.

Japan: Family photos lost in tsunami debris are slowly reunited with survivors

In a large, bright room not far from the ocean that raged through this coastal Japanese city nearly a year ago, a handful of people with magnifying glasses pore over boxes of photographs of friends or loved ones.

The massive March 11 tsunami that leveled buildings and flattened towns along a wide swathe of northern Japan, including Ofunato, also took a more subtle toll, with hundreds of thousands of photographs lost to the churning waters.

But now these memories are slowly making their way back to their owners, thanks to the painstaking efforts of a team that cleans them of mud, dirt and oil.

Read the rest of the story: Family photos lost in Japan tsunami debris are slowly reunited with survivors.

Amid Japan Reconstruction, Generational Rift Opens

ONAGAWA, Japan — At age 39, Yoshiaki Suda, the new mayor of this town that was destroyed by last March’s tsunami, oversees a community where the votes, money and influence lie among its large population of graying residents. But for Onagawa to have a future, he must rebuild it in such a way as to make it attractive to those of his generation and younger.Connect With Us on TwitterFollow @nytimesworld for international breaking news and headlines.Twitter List: Reporters and EditorsEnlarge This Image The New York TimesA tsunami destroyed all 15 of the fishing villages that make up part of Onagawa.Readers’ CommentsShare your thoughts.Post a Comment »Read All Comments 26 »“That’s the most difficult problem,” Mr. Suda said. “For whom are we rebuilding?”The reconstruction of Onagawa and the rest of the coast where the tsunami hit is a preview of what may be the most critical test Japan will face in the decades ahead. In a country where power rests disproportionately among older people, how does Japan, which has the world’s most rapidly aging population, use its dwindling resources to build a society that looks to the future as much as to the past?

Read the rest of the story: Amid Japan Reconstruction, Generational Rift Opens.

Keeping it cozy, poor lives in wealthy Japan

Question: What am I doing outside my home at 6 a.m. with a gas can, a pump, and stalactites under my nose?

Answer: Im swearing.I know, this is only half the answer, but at zero degrees Celsius my brain has the tendency to freeze up. Give me a minute to thaw out and Ill elaborate later . . .

According to some people, Japan is already living in the future. I beg to differ. While Japan is a technological giant and our rabbit-hutch houses are bursting with the latest electronic gadgets, the quality of life in this country could be much better if we enjoyed the same basic services people take for granted in the West. Even in Italy — where I come from — the seemingly never-ending recession rarely prevents many people from enjoying rather high living standards. After all, the average Italian lives in a well-built house, with plenty of space to stretch out and relax, and plenty of free time to actually enjoy it.

Read the rest of the story: A winters tale: cold homes, poor lives in wealthy Japan.

Japan sees record 2.05 million welfare recipients

A record 2.05 million people were living on welfare benefits in Japan in July, beating the previous record set 60 years ago in the aftermath of World War II, the government said Wednesday.

The report released by the Health, Labour and Welfare Ministry said 2,050,495 people received benefits during the month, breaking the previous highest monthly average of 2,046,646 marked in 1951 when Japan started recording the data.

A ministry official said that the latest numbers reflected Japan’s economic doldrums and a rapidly greying society.

Read the rest of the story: Japan sees record number of welfare recipients.

Japan school still serving as shelter six months after disaster

Children with backpacks full of books and pencils still walk across the playground each morning at Watanoha Elementary School.

But 5 1/2 months after their homes were destroyed by a horrific tsunami, the half-dozen kids are living in the school with their families rather than studying or playing there.

Principal Yoshiki Takahashi, who remains in charge of the facility, said the students are bused to two other schools in the battered fishing town while officials decide what to do with the elementary school turned shelter.

In the weeks following the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, the school was struggling to feed about 1,200 residents who were staying there when top U.S. military officials and U.S. Ambassador to Japan John Roos visited. As of last week, there were still 99 men, women and children living in classrooms and the school gymnasium while they waited for temporary housing.

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Misplaced and Missing Pets – A Lingering Legacy of Japans Disasters

Taeko Nose says she may never forget the image of her two dogs – "her children" as she calls them – tied up on a leash as she was forced to leave her home during Japans nuclear crisis. Certainly three months afterwards, its still etched in her mind."I was told to get into a bus and leave my children behind," said Taeko Nose, 62, remembering the mandatory evacuation during the nuclear crisis that followed the deadly March 11 earthquake and tsunami that struck northern Japan, killing 15,000 people."I had no choice but to leave them on a leash in a garage. Their faces still traumatize me today," she said in a telephone interview, referring to her dogs Maron and Seri.

Read the rest of the story: Missing pets a lingering legacy of Japans disasters.

Japan’s TEPCO to pay $1B to nuclear plant evacuees

The owner of Japan’s tsunami-damaged nuclear plant will pay an estimated $1 billion (88 billion yen) to thousands of residents who evacuated homes near the radiation-leaking plant and don’t yet know when they can return.

Compensation Tokyo Electric Power Co. ultimately may pay for the world’s second-worst nuclear disaster is expected to be trillions of yen.

Japan’s Cabinet last week approved a bill to help TEPCO meet the massive costs, and parliamentary approval is pending. It would establish a fund from public money and contributions from utilities and special government bonds.

Read the rest of the story: Japan utility paying $1B to nuclear plant evacuees.