Japan hit by a series of aftershocks following strong quake

A series of powerful aftershocks shook the eastern coast of Japan early Thursday, briefly triggering a tsunami alert, in the wake of a strong earthquake that hit a day earlier.

There were no immediate reports of injuries or damage from the quakes.

The country’s meteorological agency said Thursday’s temblors were likely aftershocks from a 7.3 magnitude earthquake that hit in the same area Wednesday, shaking buildings hundreds of miles (kilometers) away in Tokyo and triggering a small tsunami.

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Japan hauling pirates to Tokyo to face trail

Japan plans to transfer to Tokyo four pirates who attacked an oil tanker off Oman and were captured by US and Turkish forces, so that they can face trial, media reports have said.

The Japanese-owned oil tanker the Guanabara was attacked on Saturday in the Indian Ocean about 400 nautical miles east of Oman, according to Mitsui O.S.K. Lines, the operator of the tanker registered in the Bahamas.

The pirates were seized by US and Turkish naval units Sunday. None of the 24 crew, all of whom are non-Japanese, was injured and there was no oil or petroleum product leak from the 57,462-ton ship, the company said.

The crew of the tanker, which was en route from Ukraine to China, included 18 Filipinos and two nationals each from Croatia, Montenegro and Romania.

Japan now plans to bring in the suspects to face trial, the first time it would make use of a 2009 anti-piracy law, Jiji Press and other media reported.

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Japan’s Asahi to focus on digital formats

Japan’s Asahi Shimbun daily said Monday it would cease the English-language print supplement it has published in the International Herald Tribune and instead focus on providing digital content.

In a message to its IHT edition readers, the newspaper said it would expand English-language content now available on electronic readers and smartphones such as Amazon’s Kindle, Apple’s iPad and iPhone and the Sony Reader.

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Kyoto sex-club guide spots go underground

Recent local legislation in Kyoto is causing sex-club recommendation centers to emerge in highly unlikely places, reports weekly tabloid Shukan Jitsuwa (Mar. 10).

Following the enactment last November of a law that prohibits the existence of fuzoku navigational shops, the operations have gone underground in the Gion and Kiyamachi districts of Japan’s former capital.

(For non-regular readers of Shukan Jitsuwa — shame on you — such places will typically offer computer terminals, area brochures, and guidebooks featuring local clubs that potential customers may use to seek their desired form of debauchery.)

The new variation has taken shape inside usually mundane shops.

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Thai investigation concludes army did not kill Japanese cameraman

Thailand’s Department of Special Investigation (DSI) has concluded the army did not kill a Japanese cameraman shot last year during clashes between troops and protesters, the agency chief said on Sunday.

Hiroyuki Muramoto, who worked for Reuters news agency, was shot in the chest by an unknown gunman while covering the political unrest involving soldiers and anti-government "Red Shirt" demonstrators in April.

The DSI initially suggested that security forces may have been involved in his death, but further investigation has contradicted this, DSI head Tharit Pengdit said.

"The forensic reports from a respected doctor found that the AK-47 caused the death of the Japanese cameraman," Tharit told AFP. "The Thai army does not use this kind of weapon.

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‘Morning after pill’ approved in Japan

The health ministry approved Japan’s first emergency contraceptive more than a decade after the so-called morning after drug debuted in Europe.

NorLevo will be sold in Japan beginning in May after it was approved by the ministry, the pill’s maker, Sosei Group Corp., said Wednesday.

The drug, used to prevent unwanted pregnancy, will be marketed by Aska Pharmaceutical Co., Sosei said. Its active ingredient, levonorgestrel, is listed as an essential medicine by the World Health Organization, the drugmaker said.

Access to the tablet may help reduce the abortion rate.

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Grave robbers – Philippine remains ‘sold as Japan war dead’

Grave robbers have dug up the remains of Philippine tribesmen and passed them off as the bodies of Japanese soldiers for return to Japan, tribal leaders said Wednesday.

The skeletons of hundreds of Mangyan and Ifugao tribesmen have been shipped to Japan since 2008 after being unearthed by looters paid by a Japanese group called Kuentai that purports to find remains of the country’s World War II dead, they claimed.

Aniw Lubag, a Mangyan leader, told a news conference his tribe briefly detained three people in 2008 as they stole bones from a burial cave on the central island of Mindoro.

"They said they were hired by non-Mangyans. We heard other Filipinos ordered (the digging up of bones) and then gave them to Kuentai," said Lubag.

Caesar Dulnuan, a head of the Ifugao tribal group, said skeletons had vanished from the northern mountain community after the Japanese group began searching for the remains of war dead in the area.

"We don’t know who received the bones. There were a lot of people and they paid them 500 pesos (11.40 dollars)" per skeleton, he said.

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Japan says two Chinese ships seen near disputed islands

Two Chinese ships were spotted near islands at the centre of a dispute between Beijing and Tokyo, Japan’s coast guard said, as diplomats try to mend ties after a bitter row.

A Japanese patrol aircraft saw an advanced Chinese fisheries patrol ship in waters near the island chain in the East China Sea around 8:25 am (2325 GMT) on Saturday, a coast guard spokeswoman said, before finding a second vessel 20 minutes later.

Japanese patrol ships repeatedly told the vessels not to enter Japan’s territorial waters, she said.

The coast guard later said the Chinese ships were cruising around the disputed islands, responding to the radio messages by saying they were on a "justifiable mission".

Both countries claim the potentially resource-rich islets, known as the Diaoyus in China and Senkakus in Japan, along with the nearby seas.

The latest dispute broke out in September and has brought ties between the Asian rivals to their lowest point in years, fuelling nationalist anger in both nations. Leaders are now gradually trying to mend relations.

Saturday’s maritime encounter came after a helicopter-equipped advanced fisheries vessel left Guangzhou in China for the East China Sea on a mission that could last 20 days, according to a report Tuesday by the state Xinhua news agency.

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No. 2 man at Japan’s largest crime syndicate arrested in Kyoto

A gangster ranked second-in-command to the imprisoned boss of Japan’s largest crime syndicate, the Yamaguchi-gumi, was arrested Thursday for allegedly extorting some 40 million yen from a man in Kyoto from the end of 2005 to 2006, Kyoto prefectural police said.

The arrest of Kiyoshi Takayama, a 63-year-old resident of Kobe, came amid an enhanced clampdown by Japanese police forces against the Kodokai gang, a dominant force in the Yamaguchi-gumi led by Takayama, before the release next spring of syndicate boss Kenichi Shinoda.

Takayama ranks next to Shinoda, known in the underworld as Shinobu, who became the sixth boss of the Yamaguchi-gumi in July 2005 and was jailed in December that year in Osaka for violating the gun control law. Shinoda hails from the Nagoya-based Kodokai.

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