Japan minister slammed for gaffe over nuke crisis Japan's new trade minister apologized Friday for calling the now-desolate area around the tsunami-hit nuclear power plant "a town of death," a remark seen as insensitive to residents who had to evacuate because of radiation leaks. Yoshio Hachiro took office just a week ago as a new government replaced leaders seen as unable to move Japan past the triple disaster six months ago. His comment came as he described his visit a day earlier to inspect damage and cheer workers at the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant. "Sorry to say, there was not a single soul in areas around the plant," Hachiro told reporters. "Literally it was like a town of death."
10 Sep About 600 people visit Urakawa, Hokkaido, in late August each year to attend the two-day Bethel Festival, a hallucination and delusion competition for those suffering from alcoholism and other mental illnesses. The venue is two hours by bus from New Chitose Airport to Urakawa, in a fishing town situated near Cape Erimo. During the festival, alcoholics and patients with schizophrenia talk about hallucinations they have experienced, create a stir among the audience with their stories of failure, and sing self-deprecating songs. There are no doubt people who cannot laugh at such a competition and others who are reluctant to even mention the event. (Mainichi)
10 Sep Japan is a fortunetelling nation and so, to start, here is Truman Capote's famous line about fortunetellers . . . They lie. Which is not quite true. Actually, Capote said . . . They fib. And it wasn't really him. It was a character in one of his books. A book which almost no one has read, so it's only famous in the cobwebbed corners of my mind. But what is beyond doubt is that this nation is nutso over fortunetelling. First, you have your omikuji shrine drawings. Then you have your birthday and blood-type soothsayers. Then you have those who read luck into kanji strokes, star alignments and tea leaves. And last you have those eerie folks with the lanterns who unfold tables at the stations late at night and whisper over just you want to know. For a fee, of course. (Japan Times)
9 Sep Prior to her nine-pic retrospective at next month's 24th Tokyo International Film Festival, legendary actress Kyoko Kagawa earlier this week looked back at filmmaking from six decades ago and compared it to the modern era. At a press conference at The Foreign Correspondents' Club of Japan on Tuesday, the 79-year-old actress said the biggest difference is the lack of big studios making films today. "The studios supported the filmmakers with much money and time so that they could make masterpieces," said Kagawa, who started her career at now defunct studio Shin Toho in 1949. "But today it seems that everyone is an independent filmmaker and there is more freedom, for better or for worse. When I worked with the masters, it was intimidating, but now it is more casual." (Tokyo Reporter)
9 Sep After the waters unleashed by Japan's March 11 tsunami receded, Sakae Kushida toured the big mobile phone makers that buy his electronic components, pleading with them not to dump his firm as a supplier. He assured them his company Hirose Electric was preparing to shift some of its high-tech production to South Korea, after the tsunami wiped out the factories of a manufacturing partner in Kamaishi, an old steel town in the northeast, disrupting its supply chain. "I told them, along with my apologies, that the impact of the March earthquake had largely been resolved, that we would establish dual production sites, so please don't abandon Hirose," said Kushida, Hirose Electric's senior executive vice president. Hirose and companies like it may end up abandoning Kamaishi and other greying towns in Japan's manufacturing heartland, after the events of March 11 exposed the vulnerability of their intricate supply networks -- and the impact on the global supply chain, which seized up after the disaster. (Reuters)
8 Sep "Alibi-ya" is a uniquely Japanese service that skirts the boundaries of legality. Its typical function is to assist women in concealing their participation in the world's oldest profession by providing them, for a set fee, with a respectable identity. The alternate identity is mainly used to conceal knowledge of the women’s employment from their families. The alibi-ya, upon request, will provide women with spurious tax payment certificates and other documentation needed to lease apartments or secure loans. In recent years the service has also been alleged to create false identities for foreigners lacking legal status in Japan. Nikkan Gendai (Sep. 8) reports the first known incident of an alibi-ya being busted. (Tokyo Reporter)