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2014年8月31日 (日)

社説:理研の改革計画 トップの責任どうした

August 29, 2014(Mainichi Japan)
Editorial: Riken reform plan fails to hold top management responsible for STAP scandal
社説:理研の改革計画 トップの責任どうした

Is the Riken research institute's proposed reorganization plan enough to revive the government-backed organization? We cannot help but doubt this.
Riken has released an action plan for reform that includes the disassembling and rebuilding its Center for Developmental Biology (CDB) -- the site of the research into so-called stimulus-triggered acquisition of pluripotency (STAP) cells. The plan, formulated following the discovery of irregularities in research papers on the cells, also calls for strengthening of Riken's organizational governance.

The research institute says that the reforms are for the sake of society, not itself, and has decided to replace the head of the CDB, Masatoshi Takeichi. However, neither Riken President Ryoji Noyori nor any of the executive directors will be removed. Rather, the only Riken research organization to be reorganized is the CDB, which certainly does not evoke an image of a reborn Riken. More extensive reorganization reaching the top management is therefore necessary.

In June, a reform committee comprised of outside experts recommended disassembling the CDB and making personnel changes. Based on this, a decision was made to change the name of the CDB and appoint a new head, to be chosen by a committee that will include foreign researchers. Half of the 40 research laboratories at the CDB are also to be transferred to new management, including other Riken research centers.

Out of consideration for researchers at the CDB who had no part in the STAP cell scandal, the reorganization will not take away jobs from any of the 450 or so CDB researchers, and many of the research labs set to have new management will remain in their current locations for some time. Riken, however, must take care to make its reorganization more than just a "new layer of paint."

Under the reorganization, the CDB will reconstruct its research programs around programs that involve young and mid-level researchers. A management committee including non-Riken members will also be created to replace the management structure that has existed until now, wherein CDB policy was decided by veteran researchers called "group directors."

Having a setup that supports young researchers is important, and we hope to see the proposed arrangements go forward smoothly. A new management structure is, additionally, a natural step. But if the new management is composed of people closely tied to the old management, this won't constitute real change. The matter of who is chosen for the new management, therefore, will be significant.

What we are ultimately unhappy with is the lack of renovation within Riken headquarters' leadership. While a new management strategy committee has been announced with over half of its members being non-Riken, and a post has been created to oversee research ethics education, none of the proposed changes pursue the management responsibilities of the president and executive directors.

President Noyori has called the current executive directors "very capable people," and wants to keep them in place while the reorganization of Riken is carried out. Who, however, can believe that meaningful reforms will occur with the same executives in place who failed to stop the spread of the STAP cell problem?

Riken had been on track to receive designation as a "specified national research and development corporation," which would have given it various benefits, before the STAP cell issue came to light and caused lawmakers to postpone debate of the relevant legislation. The Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, which presides over Riken, should decide whether or not to grant the designation after carefully considering the progress of Riken's reorganization.

Research misconduct is not a problem limited to Riken's CDB. It is important that all of Japan learn from the STAP cell issue.

毎日新聞 2014年08月29日 02時35分

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ガザ停戦合意 楽観できぬ和平実現への道

The Yomiuri Shimbun
No optimism warranted on prospects of realizing peace in Gaza Strip
ガザ停戦合意 楽観できぬ和平実現への道

It is imperative to seek ways to realize a permanent ceasefire and pursue the road to peace in the Gaza Strip.

The Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, which has effective control over the Palestinian autonomous region of Gaza, and Israel have agreed to an open-ended ceasefire after 50 days of fighting.

The death toll has topped 2,100 in Gaza, and most of the victims are civilians, including women and children. The two sides must give top priority to maintaining the ceasefire.

Since fighting started in early July, temporary ceasefires have taken effect several times through Egypt’s mediation, but none lasted for long.

The recent truce was agreed upon because Hamas developed a heightened sense of crisis after three of its military leaders were assassinated by Israel. On the other hand, Israel had been pressed to bring the conflict to an early end, in light of the fact that the popularity ratings for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s administration have plummeted due to an increase in the number of victims from the conflict.

Following the recent ceasefire accord, Israel relaxed the economic blockade it had been imposing since the Hamas seizure of Gaza in 2007, allowing humanitarian aid and materials for reconstruction work to be transported into Gaza.

The U.N. World Food Program has begun to provide food assistance to Gaza.

Bumpy road ahead

However, a rough road lies ahead for reconstruction of the autonomous region.

Gaza has suffered destruction on an unprecedented scale. Its economy has been brought to the brink of collapse, with the unemployment rate reaching 50 percent. It will be difficult for Hamas to procure the estimated reconstruction costs of $6 billion on its own. Hamas faces the challenge of finding a way to secure aid from the international community.

There is concern in the United States, Europe and Egypt that if a huge amount of assistance money is provided to Hamas, which calls for the defeat of Israel, it will be misused to beef up its military capabilities.

In actuality, Hamas has replenished its rocket artillery and other arms every time clashes with Israel came to a standstill and then resumed attacks.

For an international assistance framework to be created, it is indispensable for the Palestinian Authority, which has formed an interim government with Hamas, to serve as a channel to receive assistance, thereby ensuring transparency in the flow of aid supplies and funds. The political leadership of Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestinian Authority, is being put to the test in this regard.

It was also agreed that Israel and Hamas would enter indirect talks on a permanent ceasefire within a month, with Egypt acting as an intermediary. Starting the negotiations smoothly could be the first step toward achieving peace.

Israel wants to ensure its own national security, while Hamas has asked for a complete lifting of the Gaza blockade and the release of Palestinian prisoners held by Israel. Each of these demands has been left pending, as the two sides have stood firm on their positions. No optimism is warranted regarding the future course of talks.

International efforts—centering on those by Egypt, which has served as an intermediary in the negotiations, and the United States, which can exert influence over Israel—are essential to spur the promotion of mutual concessions by the two conflicting parties.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 29, 2014)Speech

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日本海の津波 短時間での襲来に備えたい

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Sea of Japan coastal regions must be braced for tsunami onslaught
日本海の津波 短時間での襲来に備えたい

Even after an earthquake that is not very powerful, massive tsunami waves can strike areas on the coast of the Sea of Japan.

Robust disaster preparedness measures must be taken diligently to keep people from being caught off guard by a tsunami calamity.

Of the various types of earthquakes generated at the bottom of the Sea of Japan, which kinds of tremors should be considered likely to trigger a tsunami? The government on Tuesday announced projections regarding the maximum size of tsunami that should be anticipated to strike Sea of Japan coastal regions, and the arrival time of tsunami in each region. This is the first projection of its kind to be made by central government.

According to the projections, tsunami can occur at heights ranging from four to 12 meters in populous, low-lying areas along the eastern half of the Sea of Japan coastline, from Fukui Prefecture to Hokkaido. On the western half, from the northern part of Kyushu to Kyoto Prefecture, tsunami three to four meters high are said possible. Within the Sea of Japan region, there is an area in Hokkaido that the government estimates could be subject to tsunami as massive as over 20 meters high.

All these, however, are nothing other than estimations that have been calculated based on the current progress of relevant studies. There may be tsunami generated by underwater faults that have yet to be discovered. Constant vigilance must be maintained.

The projections are in line with a law enacted in 2011 for fortifying communities against tsunami disasters, in light of the Great East Japan Earthquake that year. The law makes it obligatory for municipalities facing the coast to strengthen tsunami countermeasures.

On the Pacific coast, each municipality has been proceeding with defensive preparations against huge tsunami by considering earthquakes such as those that might focus along the Nankai Trough in the Pacific Ocean.

However, in regions along the Sea of Japan, where no confirmed extensive seismic zones exist, there has been considerable variation in approaches to anti-tsunami measures among the 16 prefectural governments concerned, including Hokkaido.

Arrival within 1 minute

This compilation of tsunami projections by the central government is of high significance in prompting local entities to devise measures to tackle tsunami hazards.

What is important in mapping out countermeasures is to take into full consideration earthquake and tsunami characteristics peculiar to the Sea of Japan coast.

Underwater faults in the Sea of Japan are relatively close to coastal areas and are at shallower locations. This means that should a tsunami occur, it could become very large and could arrive at the coast within a short time. According to the projections, there could be tsunami in many areas that could reach the coast within a single minute after an earthquake. Given this, it is of paramount importance to conduct evacuations as swiftly as possible in the event of such a situation.

To alleviate damage from tsunami disasters, it is necessary for every local entity to work out a hazard map appropriate to accurate assessments of local characteristics. Local municipalities should address the tasks pragmatically in both practical and informative terms, including measures such as improvement of evacuation routes and disaster drills.

It has been pointed out in the projections that a tsunami occurring in the sea off a location between Hokkaido and Akita Prefecture could spread extensively because of the influence of undersea geological formations, possibly reaching as far as the Chugoku region.

There also are fears that a tsunami occurring in the Sea of Japan could rebound after reaching the coast of the continent, a phenomenon that would cause the tsunami to assault stricken areas in Japan repeatedly. That is to say, vigilance must be maintained even after a single tsunami has subsided.

Safety arrangements at nuclear power plants are also essential. There are many regions where nuclear power complexes have been located in a concentrated manner on the Sea of Japan coast, such as in Fukui and Niigata prefectures.

Learning from the Great East Japan Earthquake, power utilities have already made tsunami projections that are more stringent than the latest government projections, working out steps such as construction of seawalls and measures to ensure power sources in the event of immersion during a giant tsunami. Considering the menace of tsunami, the most thorough preparations for ensuring safety are essential.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 29, 2014)Speech

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ウクライナ情勢 ロシアは侵入を直ちにやめよ

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Russia must stop military incursion into Ukraine’s territory immediately
ウクライナ情勢 ロシアは侵入を直ちにやめよ

It has been revealed that more than 1,000 Russian troops have entered Ukraine’s territory.

The incursion represents a blatant intervention by Russia in Ukraine’s domestic affairs following its annexation of the Crimean Peninsula in March. Such an outrageous action, which trampled on the sovereignty of a neighboring country, should absolutely not be tolerated.

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization has released smoking-gun satellite photos of Russian self-propelled artillery units moving in a convoy formation in eastern Ukraine. The photos were reportedly taken on Aug. 21.

The U.N. Security Council held an emergency meeting at which U.S. and European representatives criticized Russia in chorus. U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power said Russia had “outright lied” about its role in Ukraine.

U.S. President Barack Obama said, “Russia is responsible for the violence in eastern Ukraine” and hinted sanctions against Moscow may be strengthened, which would be quite natural. Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said Japan “will deal with the [Ukrainian] situation appropriately in cooperation with the G-7.”

Nevertheless, Russia has continued to deny the reports on its military advance into Ukraine, saying they are “fake.”

It is imperative for the international community to cooperate in applying pressure on Russia to halt its unjust interference with Ukraine.

Moscow had argued that Russians supporting pro-Russia armed separatists in eastern Ukraine are “volunteer soldiers” who do not belong to the Russian military.

But it also came to light that Russian troops have been involved in fighting for more than two weeks.

Two-faced diplomacy

A member of Russia’s Human Rights Commission has testified that more than 100 Russian soldiers were killed in attacks by Ukrainian troops in the state of Donetsk on Aug. 13. Convoys of trucks carrying ammunition were said to have been attacked.

This means that Russian troops have been operating on a large scale in Ukraine, a fact that runs counter to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s assertion that the fighting in the eastern Ukraine is “a domestic crisis of Ukraine.”

Putin conferred with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko Tuesday and said that Moscow “will also discuss any kind of cooperation.” Russia has been expanding its military intervention steadily. At the same time, Putin shook hands with Poroshenko with a smile. Such two-faced diplomacy can never work for long.

The leak of the information about the deaths of Russian troops in Donetsk by the Human Rights Commission, which is under the direct control of the Russian presidential office, shows Moscow has become unable to control information.

The European Union was to discuss additional economic sanctions against Russia during its meeting Saturday.

If the EU shows a weak-kneed stance toward Russia, on which it relies for supplies of natural gas and other energy sources, this will make Moscow more arrogant and assertive. A resolute stance is called for from the EU.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 30, 2014)Speech

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概算要求 「選択と集中」で歳出の抑制を

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Use ‘selection and focus’ strategy to control growth of govt spending
概算要求 「選択と集中」で歳出の抑制を

Japan’s national debt already tops ¥1 quadrillion. Given the severe financial situation buffeting the nation, it is imperative to put the brakes on swelling state expenditures.

Total budget requests for fiscal 2015 have exceeded ¥100 trillion, the first time this line has been breached. The figure is significantly higher than the ¥96 trillion allocated for the initial fiscal 2014 budget.

The government’s goal of achie-ving a primary balance surplus for central and local governments in fiscal 2020 appears difficult to reach, even when revenue accrued from the hike in the consumption tax rate and other factors are taken into account. Given these circumstances, the Finance Ministry must screen budget requests even more strictly to weed out wasteful expenditures.

The government set a rule of capping requests for discretionary policy spending, such as public works projects, at 10 percent below the level of the fiscal 2014 budget.

Meanwhile, a “special spending quota” to be shared among priority policies of the administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, such as promoting his economic growth strategy, have been allo-cated about ¥4 trillion. Requests to tap into this quota came in at the upper limit, pushing up the total budget requests.

Some requests for money from the special quota were conspicuously old-fashioned, such as for road construction on the pretext of helping to revive regional economies. Such requests need to be vigorously whittled down.

In some cases, different ministries and the Cabinet Office have made budget requests for similar policies. The Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry and the Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Ministry have both sought money for a project to establish regional core cities where hospitals, commercial complexes and other facilities would be concentrated.

The Finance Ministry will need to try to eliminate overlaps through its assessment of budget requests, and urge coordination between each ministry and headquarters set up for specific policy issues.

Ax dubious projects

Some projects of dubious value appear to have snuck into the requests to use the special spending quota.

The Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry has asked to establish a system that would provide subsidies of about ¥200,000 to companies that draw up plans to make better use of their female employees’ skills and experience. We wonder what sort of meaningful effect this scheme of lavishing money so widely and in such small amounts could have.

A closer look at budget requests by category reveals a considerable jump in public works projects.

Of course, we have no argument with investing money to protect the lives and assets of the people of Japan through repairs to aging roads and bridges and disaster-prevention measures to prepare for earthquakes, tsunami and landslide disasters.

However, the costs of public works projects are increasing due to skyrocketing material expenses and higher personnel costs needed to attract workers amid a labor shortage. Slashing nonessential and nonurgent projects through a policy of “selection and focus” has become even more important.

Snowballing social welfare costs show no sign of being reined in. The welfare ministry requested almost ¥32 trillion, which includes a natural increase of almost ¥1 trillion required to meet expenses inherent in a graying society.

Social welfare costs soak up almost one-third of government spending. Whether these expenses can be capped holds the key to restoring the nation’s fiscal health.

In addition to simple efforts such as expanding the use of relatively cheap generic drugs, the government will need to undertake major reforms that will not be pain-free, such as trimming medical and pension benefits. The Council for the Promotion of Social Security System Reform and other entities involved in this issue should speed up talks on such matters.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 30, 2014)Speech

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2014年8月29日 (金)



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社説:日本海側の津波 避難と減災に本腰を

August 28, 2014(Mainichi Japan)
Editorial: Step up efforts to take countermeasures against Sea of Japan tsunami
社説:日本海側の津波 避難と減災に本腰を

A panel of experts set up by the Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Ministry has announced estimates on the height of tsunami generated by major earthquakes that could occur in faults below the Sea of Japan.

Up to 23-meter-high tsunami are expected to hit Setana, Hokkaido, while five- to 12-meter-high tsunami are estimated in areas along the eastern to northeastern Sea of Japan coast from Hokkaido to Fukui Prefecture. Some three- to four-meter-high tsunami could hit areas along the western Sea of Japan coast from Kyoto Prefecture to Kyushu.

Although experts do not think there is a seismic source in the Sea of Japan that could trigger a huge temblor, like the Nankai Trough in the Pacific Ocean south of the Japanese archipelago, earthquakes whose focal points are situated on the bottom of the Sea of Japan are estimated to cause higher tsunami despite their smaller seismic scales.

National and local governments are slow to work out countermeasures against Sea of Japan earthquakes as compared with responses to possible temblors in the Pacific Ocean. This is the first time that the national government has estimated the height of tsunami in each municipality along the Sea of Japan coast. By fully utilizing the estimates, the national government and local bodies concerned should take all possible measures to protect residents and their neighborhoods along the Sea of Japan coast from tsunami.

Massive tsunami that caused casualties have hit areas along the Sea of Japan coast in the past. The magnitude-7.7 central Sea of Japan earthquake in 1983 caused a tsunami that killed about 100 people, while a tsunami generated by a temblor with a magnitude of 7.8 in the southwest off Hokkaido in 1993 left 230 people dead or missing.

However, there are far fewer records of earthquakes in the Sea of Japan than those in the Pacific Ocean and little progress has been made on a geological survey on the seabed of the Sea of Japan. Legislation aimed at encouraging local bodies to step up countermeasures against tsunami, which came into effect following the March 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami, requires prefectural governments to estimate the areas that are likely to be submerged by tsunami. However, prefectural governments have previously struggled to make estimates due to a lack of specific assessments of earthquake and tsunami on the Sea of Japan coast. As such, the panel of experts recently conducted analyses.

Based on data on past earthquakes and the crustal structure, the panel reportedly examined 60 underwater faults from Hokkaido to Nagasaki, assumed that these faults could trigger magnitude-6.8 to 7.9 temblors and then estimated the height of tsunami that could be generated by such quakes.

Experts say such relatively small earthquakes could trigger higher tsunami because these faults below the seabed of the Sea of Japan are relatively shallow. Since the faults are close to the archipelago, tsunami generated by earthquakes occurring in these faults could reach the archipelago in a short period of time. The panel estimates that tsunami waves could hit some areas within a minute after a quake, and that at least 30-centimeter-high waves, which could sweep away people, might hit 82 municipalities within 10 minutes.

Based on these estimates, prefectural and municipal governments in areas along the Sea of Japan coast are required to review their disaster-prevention plans. Top priority should be placed on safely evacuating local residents.

A panel of experts within the government's Central Disaster Management Council recommended in September 2011 that all regions be rebuilt to make sure that residents can walk to safe locations within about five minutes after tsunami hit.

The panel made the recommendation on the assumption that a huge earthquake could hit areas along the Pacific coast. However, similar countermeasures should be taken in areas along the Sea of Japan coast. Both national and local governments along the Sea of Japan coast should designate evacuation routes and regularly conduct evacuation drills in preparation for deadly tsunami, while implementing all possible measures to lessen damage caused by such disasters.

The panel also announced its estimates of the height of tsunami that could hit 11 nuclear power stations along the Sea of Japan coast, but the estimated figures were below those by the plant operators.

Still, there is a possibility that the estimates could change as seismological research progresses. As such, it is only natural that authorities should strictly examine the safety of each nuclear plant.

毎日新聞 2014年08月28日 02時40分

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道徳の教科化 思いやりの心を培う授業に

The Yomiuri Shimbun
New subject of moral training should nurture children’s thoughtfulness
道徳の教科化 思いやりの心を培う授業に

It is important to ensure that the proposed idea of introducing moral training as a school subject will result in substantial improvement in the quality of our nation’s ethical education.

An subcommittee of experts at the education ministry’s Central Council for Education has basically adopted a report proposing that the current “moral training hour” at primary and middle schools be upgraded to a “special subject.” The new subject would use education ministry-authorized textbooks but not grade students numerically.

The Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry hopes to introduce the new subject in fiscal 2018 at the earliest, after revising its official teaching guidelines and laying down criteria for screening moral education textbooks.

As circumstances stand today, classes for moral training are not part of the ministry’s regular curriculum. Some schools tend to pay little heed to the importance of offering moral training, as shown by their practice of switching such lessons to Japanese language, arithmetic and mathematics classes. The idea of making moral training a subject is intended to rectify this situation.

It is very meaningful for children to be encouraged to learn social rules and develop a sense of thoughtfulness toward others, as they are certain to play a leading role in shaping our country’s future. Some critics have said that making moral training a subject is tantamount to forcing certain values on students. Such criticism must be dismissed as pointless.

The latest report cited “the frailties of people” and “the courage to confront difficulties” as examples of topics to be taken up in the new subject, reflecting the fact that school bullying is becoming even worse nowadays. It also proposed addressing contemporary issues such as the morals to be observed when using information on the Internet.

The question is what should be done to improve the quality of moral training lessons. Teachers will not gain a favorable response from children if they only read out from a textbook.

Imaginative ideas needed

One of the proposals put forward in the report focused on school bullying and other problems involving students. The report suggested encouraging students to think about what to do by having them role-play such scenarios. It also proposed getting children to debate a single issue to the fullest. We find it reasonable for the proposal to emphasize the need to come up with imaginative ideas about how to give moral training lessons.

The introduction of the new subject is certain to test teachers in terms of their instructional skills. However, the status quo is hardly promising. In the teacher training courses offered by colleges and universities, there are only a few lectures on moral education. Therefore, many teachers remain unsure about their teaching methods.

Moral training lessons would be conducted by homeroom teachers as they are well acquainted with students. Such teachers should not be left to their own devices or become complacent about how to conduct moral education. With this in mind, the principle of each school should take responsible steps to ensure this does not occur.

One focus of attention is examining what kinds of standards should be set for screening textbooks, as well as how to assess the achievements accomplished by each student.

Full rein must be given to the originality and ingenuity of private-sector textbook publishers, to ensure that the contents of their textbooks are worth reading. At the same time, however, it is necessary to lay down screening criteria conducive to securing the ideological neutrality of the contents and attaining a proper balance in other aspects of the details.

In conducting moral training lessons, it is not appropriate to use scores to grade students’ achievements.
Moral education differs from other subjects in which students are assessed through tests and other scores. Classes for moral training are intended to improve their mental attitude.

Given this, the latest report is correct in saying that teachers should describe in writing the attitude of each student toward the lessons and his or her accomplishments.

We hope the education ministry will set specific guidelines for that purpose, to provide teachers with some illuminating information.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 28, 2014)

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原発政策 「重要電源」支える工夫が要る

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Means must be worked out to revive nuclear power generation
原発政策 「重要電源」支える工夫が要る

The establishment of a stable power supply system through medium- and long-term utilization of nuclear energy is being sought.

An Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry panel of experts is now discussing the nation’s nuclear power policy. Its main theme is setting the usage ratio of nuclear power to all energy sources.

In a basic energy plan adopted by the Cabinet in April, the government called nuclear power “a fundamental and important base energy source.”

On the other hand, the government has also presented a policy of minimizing the ratio—which stood at 30 percent of the overall energy mix before the nuclear crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant in 2011—while determining how much nuclear energy must be secured in the future.

Yet the government’s current stance on the use of nuclear power is too vague in its content. The fuel costs of nuclear power generation are lower than those of other energy sources, and nuclear power generation also creates no carbon dioxide emissions. It is an essential energy source for maintaining stability in the people’s lives and ensuring economic growth.

The government needs to set a realistic target for an energy mix comprising nuclear, thermal and renewable sources, while taking into account the economy and the stability of nuclear power use—on the assumption that safety is assured—and the impact on the global environment.

The problem is that there is no prospect of nuclear power plants being restarted, due to a delay in safety examinations by the Nuclear Regulation Authority.

It is difficult to draw up any numerical targets for the energy mix as long as there is no estimate of approximately how many nuclear reactors can resume operation, at least for the time being, under the new regulatory standards for safety.

Safety examinations by the NRA must proceed without delay and those nuclear power plants whose safety has been confirmed must smoothly return to operation. The government has a responsibility to explain in detail to local governments and communities hosting nuclear plants the safety and the necessity of restarting plants.

N-plant could disappear

Should the principle of decommissioning nuclear reactors after 40 years of operation be applied strictly while no new nuclear plants or reactors are being constructed, there will be no nuclear power plants operating in this country in 2049. Renewal of aged nuclear plants and reactors is an important task.

Electric power companies have also been faced with the growing burden of additional safety measures. The key to a stable power supply lies in enabling utilities to continue operating their nuclear power businesses in the long term.

The government has proposed to the expert panel its idea of establishing a system under which a standard price is set on electricity generated at nuclear plants, which would guarantee a certain level of revenue to power companies.

Under the system, utilities would be assured of a stable revenue source even if the rate-cutting competition among rivals intensifies due to the liberalization of electricity charges or other factors. Guaranteed revenues are expected to help make it possible for power firms to recoup the costs of building new nuclear reactors, which are expected to come with a price tag of ¥400 billion each. There are also such ideas as having the costs of decommissioning reactors and disposing of spent nuclear fuel covered by revenue generated through the standard pricing system.

The government is said to have come up with the ideas by referring to the framework in which a guaranteed price for electricity was adopted last year in Britain. If realized, it should also prove effective in helping utilities renovate nuclear plants and build new reactors or plants.

In the United States, there is a system under which the government guarantees up to 80 percent of the debt that utility companies incur for nuclear plant construction. It is important for the government to study in detail both the possible merits and challenges presented by these cases abroad and adopt a system suited for Japan.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 28, 2014)

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2014年8月28日 (木)

社説:避難者自殺判決 東電の責任厳しく指摘

August 27, 2014(Mainichi Japan)
Editorial: Ruling on nuclear evacuee suicide holds TEPCO accountable
社説:避難者自殺判決 東電の責任厳しく指摘

The Fukushima District Court ordered Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) to pay some 49 million yen in damages to the family of a 58-year-old woman who killed herself after she was forced to evacuate due to the Fukushima nuclear disaster, dealing a hard blow to the utility.

It is not uncommon for accountability for suicide to be contested in the courts. Corporations have faced tough rulings in recent years for suicides induced by overwork. And it is amid such a climate that a Fukushima court tackled head-on and recognized a causal link between the stress of evacuation and suicide.

While the ruling applies to an individual case, it is bound to have a significant impact on other lawsuits and settlement talks regarding the nuclear disaster.

The deceased woman, who had been evacuated from the Fukushima Prefecture town of Kawamata, was at her home for a temporary visit in July 2011 when she killed herself. Her husband and three children brought the damages suit against TEPCO.

The nuclear disaster had forced the woman to leave the town where she'd grown up and live in evacuation facilities. She had to live away from her children, and became unemployed when the chicken farm where she'd worked was shut down. The close ties she had with her neighbors, with whom she used to share vegetables, was also lost. The court ruled that these stressors, which arose in quick succession in a short period of time, had caused the woman's depressive state.

The woman had suffered from insomnia and had been receiving outpatient treatment for psychosomatic disorder since before the disaster. TEPCO cited this fact as an indication of "the individual's fragility," denying responsibility for the woman's suicide.

The court, taking the woman's pre-existing condition into consideration, recognized that 80 percent of her suicide was due to stress caused by the nuclear disaster and calculated the compensation amount accordingly.

The presiding judge also said that TEPCO should have been able to foresee that if radioactive materials spread across a wide area, residents would be forced to evacuate, and that such displaced residents could develop depression or commit suicide from the stress.

Among evacuees, there are those who are susceptible to stress and those who are less so. It is unacceptable to write victims off as "fragile." Understandably, the ruling has shown consideration for those who are especially vulnerable in disasters.

An alternative to lawsuits in resolving conflicts surrounding the nuclear disaster is the dispute resolution process through the government's Nuclear Damage Compensation Dispute Resolution Center.

The center pursues TEPCO's accountability not only for suicides but various other cases.

There is a wide range of thinking on what constitutes the appropriate range of compensation for the claims of damages raised by residents.

Regardless, TEPCO, having caused the disaster, must listen carefully to the voices of disaster victims and compensate amounts comparable to the damage that has been done.

In Fukushima Prefecture, the number of those who have died from suicide and other causes related to the 2011 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster has surpassed 1,670 -- greater than the number of those in the prefecture who died as a direct result of the quake and tsunami. We need further debate on how the families of those people should be compensated.

毎日新聞 2014年08月27日 02時32分

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「イスラム国」 凶暴な武装集団の跳梁許すな

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Barbaric Islamic State militant group must be stamped out
「イスラム国」 凶暴な武装集団の跳梁許すな

The international community should take every possible action to eradicate the barbaric Islamic State militant group.

There seems to be no end in sight to the Sunni Islamist group’s increasing influence in Iraq and Syria. The Islamic State is reported to have forced Syrian President Bashar Assad’s forces to withdraw from an air force base in the north of the country, setting its sights on capturing Aleppo, the largest city in that area.

The Islamic State has been increasing its combat potential with funds obtained through such nefarious means as the seizure of oil fields and kidnapping for ransom. On the other hand, the militant group has been carrying out a skillful campaign to attract combatants from around the world who hold radical beliefs. The number of Islamic State militants total about 15,000, according to some observers.

The group is guilty of mass slaughter and sexual assault in areas under its control. It recently beheaded an American who had not been heard of since he was kidnapped in Syria about two years ago, and released a chilling video on the Internet showing the execution. A Japanese man has also been captured by the group, arousing concern for his safety.

The international community faces the pressing task of eliminating this barbaric group.

In early August, the United States launched air strikes on the Islamic State in some areas of Iraq. This achieved a certain measure of success in hurting the group. However, the Islamic State, which is trying to expand its influence through cross-border activities, has shifted its main area of operations to Syria, a move leading to the American’s execution.

The United States has said the purpose of its air attacks is to protect its own people, indicating that it is prepared to conduct a similar military campaign in Syria as one of its options.

U.S. faces dilemma

Assad’s government is poised to permit U.S. air strikes on the militant group in Syria if Washington agrees to hold consultations to reach a bilateral consensus prior to military operations.

However, launching air strikes puts the United States in a quandary. Doing so will help Assad remain in power at a time when the United States is at odds with his country. This will force President Barack Obama to make a difficult decision on how to deal with the situation.

The United States and European nations intend to supply weapons to Iraq’s Kurdish troops and the Free Syrian Army, an armed Syrian dissident group opposed to the Islamic State. The move is intended to deal a blow to the Islamic State by supporting its enemies.

However, there is concern the Islamic State may gain the upper hand in its fight with its opponents, a development that could result in the Islamist group acquiring a large number of weapons that have been supplied to the troubled region.

The great increase in the Islamic State’s power is believed to be attributable to massive funding from wealthy supporters in oil-producing countries. The international community needs to uncover the whole truth behind this and shut off the militant group’s source of funds.

Immediate measures must also be taken to stop the group from recruiting members from around the world. One of the tasks in this respect is to remove video footage promoting the Islamic State on the Internet, a task necessary to prevent the further spread of radicalization.

There is an increasing number of cases in which figures involved in terrorist activities in the Middle East and elsewhere return to the United States, European and other nations. It is extremely important to keep a close eye on them and track their movements.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 27, 2014)

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慰安婦問題 史実踏まえて新長官談話を

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Govt should issue new, fact-based statement on comfort women
慰安婦問題 史実踏まえて新長官談話を

The latest move represents a call, in effect, on the government to revise the statement by former Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono on wartime “comfort women,” toward the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II next year.

The Liberal Democratic Party’s Policy Research Council on Tuesday submitted a proposal to current Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, calling on the government to issue a new statement on comfort women through Suga.

There has been a misunderstanding, spread widely throughout the international community, that a large number of women were forcibly taken away by the Imperial Japanese Army to serve as “sex slaves.” The Kono statement is a factor in that misunderstanding.

Suga is said to be negative toward issuing a new statement. But he should take the LDP’s call to heart and seriously consider it.

The statement, issued in 1993 by the Cabinet of Prime Minister Kiichi Miyazawa through Kono, expressed the government’s apologies and remorse to former comfort women.

The statement said “at times, administrative/military personnel directly took part in the recruitments.” This expression can be construed to mean military and administrative personnel were involved in the forcible taking away of women.

Yet there have so far been no confirmed documents to prove the forcible taking away of comfort women.

A governmental panel of experts in June compiled a report on an investigation into the drafting of the statement.

It revealed that the Japanese and South Korean governments had coordinated closely over expressions regarding “coercion” in the recruitment, with Seoul calling for modification, saying that the statement must be one whose value could be recognized by the people of South Korea.

Verification key

In light of these findings, the council criticized the then government for releasing the statement to the world “as a product of political negotiation without going through a verification process.” It is reasonable for the council to point out that the then LDP-led administration should be held heavily responsible.

The council, in its proposal, also regards news articles carried by some news media as problematic, saying that they have repeatedly spread falsehoods that aggravated relations between Japan and South Korea. This apparently refers to the series of articles on wartime comfort women run by The Asahi Shimbun.

The Asahi had repeatedly carried articles since 1982, citing the false testimony of a man named Seiji Yoshida, including his statement that many Korean women were “hunted out” on Jeju Island during the war.

On Aug. 5, the Asahi at long last retracted its articles concerning Yoshida’s testimony, but it is clear that the articles stirred up anti-Japan sentiment in South Korea, influencing the environment in which the Kono statement was released.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has made clear his policy of leaving the Kono statement as it is, probably as part of his big-picture judgment that bilateral relations could be aggravated further.

Yet the release of a new government statement on the issue would be significant for passing down correct history both at home and abroad, with next year seeing the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II and the 50th anniversary of the normalization of diplomatic ties between the two countries.

Nonetheless, it is also a fact that the honor and dignity of a large number of women were hurt during the war, even though there was no forcible taking away of comfort women.

As the LDP has advocated, the government should transmit to the world the information concerning comfort women based on historical facts.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 27, 2014)

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2014年8月27日 (水)

社説:サッカーとバナナ 人種差別を根絶しよう

August 26, 2014(Mainichi Japan)
Editorial: J.League should adopt zero tolerance toward racism
社説:サッカーとバナナ 人種差別を根絶しよう

It's not their fault but bananas have become a symbolic sign of racism. We must eradicate all sorts of discrimination from soccer stadiums and society.
During a J.League game between Yokohama F. Marinos and Kawasaki Frontale at a stadium in Yokohama on Aug. 23, a teenage Marinos fan sitting behind the Marinos goal waved a banana toward the pitch. It was just after a Brazilian player with Frontale failed to score a goal and was about to turn back.

During questioning by Marinos' officials, the teenager explained that he was aware of his act of provocation but that it wasn't aimed at any particular player. His explanation underscores a lack of awareness against discrimination, which the Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) and the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA), as well as soccer leagues across the globe, have been trying so hard to eliminate from stadiums.

Throwing bananas onto the pitch carries the connotation of calling someone a monkey and is a well-known means of racial discrimination. Since African footballers started to play in the European leagues in the 1970s, there has been a spate of discriminatory incidents involving bananas. Those incidents represent the dark side of racial and ethnic diversity.

During a Spanish league game in April, a banana was thrown onto the pitch at the feet of FC Barcelona player Dani Alves as he was about to take a corner. The Brazilian national team player picked up the banana, peeled it and ate it, and then kicked the ball as if nothing had happened.

Such a humorous reaction to an act of discrimination sparked worldwide compassion, prompting not only fellow soccer players but also the Italian prime minister to be photographed peeling a banana and then post it on Facebook and other social media. Unfortunately, however, there is an endless stream of similar acts of discrimination in Europe.

In the J.League, the Urawa Reds were penalized with an unprecedented game behind closed doors after its supporters displayed a racist banner reading "Japanese Only" at Saitama Stadium in March. Urawa's management was criticized for leaving the banner unaddressed until after the game while some spectators had raised questions about it.
 Jリーグでは3月、浦和のサポーターによって人種差別横断幕「JAPANESE ONLY(日本人以外お断り)」が埼玉スタジアムに掲げられ、浦和に史上初の無観客試合が科された。観客から指摘を受けながら、クラブ側が試合終了まで放置したことも問題だった。

Lessons and reflections from that incident may have led to the Marinos' quick reaction to the latest incident. The club decided to impose an indefinite ban on the teenager later the same day, and the Marinos' president reported the incident as an "act of discriminatory provocation" to J.League Chairman Mitsuru Murai on Aug. 25. The J.League is poised to impose sanctions on the Marinos at an early date.

What takes place at soccer stadiums represents the realities of society. The J.League should take this incident as an opportunity to send out a message to society that discrimination is totally intolerable and demonstrate its spirit of "zero tolerance" to racism and discrimination, following the footsteps of FIFA and other organizations.

毎日新聞 2014年08月26日 02時30分

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全国学力テスト 適度な競争が好結果を生んだ

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Competition brings improvement in national school achievement test
全国学力テスト 適度な競争が好結果を生んだ

Regions that previously produced poor grades were showing significant academic improvement, which may be the fruit of nationwide achievement tests for children.

The Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry released the results of the test it conducted in April this year.

The test has been implemented since the 2007 school year for primary school sixth-graders and middle school third-year students to measure the basic understanding and applied skills of Japanese language and arithmetic or mathematics.

Under the administration of the Democratic Party of Japan, the tests were conducted in the 2010 and 2012 school years by selecting about 30 percent of primary and middle schools nationwide. But from the last school year, all primary and middle schools have been required to participate in the test.

This time around, sixth-graders in Okinawa Prefecture showed outstanding improvement. They have no lowest-ranking subjects according to prefecture-by-prefecture data. They rank within the top 10 on the basic understanding of arithmetic.

The sixth-graders in Shizuoka Prefecture, previously ranked lowest on their basic understanding of Japanese language in the 2013 school year, recovered to almost the average national level this year.

These municipalities that once had poor results are emphasizing classes where students express their opinions in writing.

The teachers are also increasingly participating in training sessions to improve their teaching skills and are even interacting with those in high-ranking prefectures such as Akita and Fukui to gain insight into their teaching methods.

Detailed results available

Education ministry analysis indicates that such efforts to improve teaching methods raise the general level of academic ability. The change could also be the result of full participation in the national achievement test, which has produced moderate competition.

However, in general, both sixth-grade primary school students and third-year middle school students have a consistent tendency to be weak in applied skills, such as proving a problem using figures and expressing writers’ intentions with sentences.

Based on the latest national test results, we hope each municipality will strive further to improve teaching abilities while referencing a collection of ideas for classes that the education ministry plans to distribute to primary and middle schools in September.

For the latest test, municipal boards of education were able to release school-by-school results.

But to prevent promoting the grading of schools and inviting excessive competition, the education ministry has urged each municipality to announce not only numerical results, such as the average percentage of questions answered correctly, but also analyses of the test results and how academic abilities can be improved.

The Japan Teachers’ Union opposes the revelation of the numerical results because the grading of schools is inevitable and will cause children excessive stress. But is that really so?

At what point are children suffering setbacks in learning? What measures should be taken to improve their academic abilities? Sharing common views between teachers and students’ guardians on the basis of the test results will enhance the understanding of how school education should be conducted on the side of the guardians.

Most municipal boards of education are said to be cautious about publicly releasing school-by-school test results. The education ministry needs to make the merits of releasing the test results more widely known.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 26, 2014)

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広島土砂災害 安否確認と被災者支援を急げ

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Safety confirmation, aid to Hiroshima disaster survivors must be expedited
広島土砂災害 安否確認と被災者支援を急げ

The death toll from the ground disaster in the city of Hiroshima has topped 50, with more than 20 people still reported missing.

Confirming the safety of the missing people and assisting disaster survivors must be carried out as quickly as possible.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who inspected the disaster-stricken area Monday, said the government will designate the massive mudslides as a disaster of extreme severity requiring special financial support. “The government will make all-out efforts to search for the missing people,” he said. Abe also presented plans to launch a disaster victim assistance team and accelerate efforts to help victims rebuild their livelihoods. These plans must be carried out steadily.

The search for the missing people has continued in the disaster area amid bad weather. Heavy rain is forecast to hit a wide area, including the city of Hiroshima, in the week to come.

The Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Ministry has begun to install wire-fixed sensors near the top of the debris flows. The sensors are designed to sound an alarm should the wires be cut if a landslide occurs.

Police and the Self-Defense Forces have assigned their personnel to higher ground to keep watch for additional cliff collapses. Helicopter surveillance is also continuing.

The search for missing people must be conducted in such a way as to ensure a secondary disaster does not occur.

Appropriate action

The Hiroshima municipal government on Monday disclosed via the media and its website personal information about the missing people, including their names, addresses and ages, which had been obtained from Hiroshima prefectural police. This is an appropriate action.

The city previously considered such information as personal and refrained from releasing it. However, this caused a situation in which the number of missing people differed among the police, city and fire station.

The city’s personal information protection ordinance stipulates that such information can be provided when there is no other way to protect people’s lives and assets in times of disaster. An expert said, “Disclosure has validity during search and rescue operations when there is no time to lose.”

Some of the missing people possibly took refuge at relatives’ homes and could not be contacted. Public disclosure may be one way to determine who is missing.

About 1,600 disaster survivors have been forced to live in evacuation centers, such as gymnasiums. There is a high risk of heatstroke and other diseases occurring at these centers, which do not have air conditioners. Meticulous health care management is imperative.

The mental burdens evacuees now carry are heavy as they have no privacy, making mental care by the Disaster Psychiatric Assistance Team, among others, essential.

The Hiroshima municipal government has begun accepting applications from survivors who lost their homes for public housing units. Construction of temporary houses and acquisition of private rental apartments will also have to be studied.

Measures to support the survivors must be carried out depending on their circumstances.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 26, 2014)

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2014年8月26日 (火)

社説:震災避難者数 国は一元管理に責任を

August 25, 2014(Mainichi Japan)
Editorial: Earthquake disaster refugees falling through cracks of gov't negligence
社説:震災避難者数 国は一元管理に責任を

This matter goes right to the root of disaster recovery support.

The Reconstruction Agency is now churning through data to come up with a new figure for the number of people made refugees by 2011's Great East Japan Earthquake, tsunami and nuclear meltdowns after finding that central and local government estimates were well off the mark.
What's especially surprising about the massive miscount is the sloppy handling of relevant data, which is the very basis for disaster recovery policy.

We call on the government to consider a uniform management policy for all data on its support for long-term evacuees, and thereby prevent those who fled the Fukushima nuclear disaster of their own accord from being cut out of the assistance loop.

One case of a poorly managed refugee estimate happened in Saitama Prefecture.

The prefectural government only counted people using prefectural and municipal temporary housing as disaster refugees, and only did regular recounts in a few cities and towns.

That the true number was quite a bit more was discovered when a local citizens' group pointed out that the prefecture's disaster refugee count seemed too low.

The Saitama Prefectural Government stated that there were 2,640 evacuees from the 2011 disasters living within its jurisdiction as of June this year.

Simply toting up all the refugees living in municipalities in the prefecture, however, apparently showed there were possibly more than 5,000 evacuees within Saitama Prefecture's borders.

Why the discrepancy?

In May 2011, about two months after the magnitude 9.0 earthquake hit Japan's northeast, the Cabinet Office asked prefectural governments to total up the number of disaster refugees in their jurisdictions based on the type of place they were staying in.

Actually confirming these numbers proved difficult in practice, however, and in July 2012 Saitama Prefecture told the central government that it would stop counting evacuees receiving direct housing assistance from the Fukushima Prefectural Government and other sources.

For its part, the central government failed to set comprehensive standards for counting evacuees, suggesting that the lowball number of refugees is the result of a mutual failure to communicate.

It's quite possible that Saitama Prefecture is not the only government body miscounting its refugee population.  こうした把握漏れは埼玉に限らない可能性がある。

Reconstruction Agency figures for July this year put the number of refugees at 247,233 nationwide.

However, the agency has asked all the prefectures for a recount that includes "voluntary" nuclear disaster evacuees. 同庁は原発事故に伴う自主避難者も含めるなどの見解を示したうえで避難者数の再確認を都道府県に通知した。

Standing here in the summer of 2014, you could say this is too little, too late, but then it also goes without saying that double-checking evacuee figures is a necessary step.

There are in fact two running counts of nuclear disaster refugees; one by the Reconstruction Agency, and one based on the number of evacuees from 13 municipalities in eastern Fukushima Prefecture.

The latter is the basis for assistance under the special law on nuclear disaster refugees, and most of these evacuees have filed assistance claims with the local governments where they now live.

What this figure does not include, however, are people who left their homes in Fukushima Prefecture on their own recognizance, for whom there is no support system.

As such, these evacuees are not even informed of available support measures.

Efforts must be made to make sure these people are not overlooked.

Right after the March 2011 disasters, the government briefly considered allowing refugees to list a "second address" on their resident certificates, but the idea was dropped due to legal difficulties.

In April 2011, the government set up a "national evacuee information system" to allow refugees to report their own status.

The information on the system, however, soon proved to be out of kilter with reality, and it is no longer used for nationwide evacuee number estimates.

The true number of people who remain disaster refugees more than three years after that terrible March day is unknown, lost in the cracks of government negligence.

To ensure that recovery assistance is delivered smoothly to those who need it, the government has a responsibility to set standards and expand the activities of existing support systems to their maximum potential. It must come up with good ideas, and fast.

毎日新聞 2014年08月25日 02時32分

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水中遺跡調査 沈没船は何を教えてくれるか

The Yomiuri Shimbun
What historical secrets lie hidden within sunken ships around Japan?
水中遺跡調査 沈没船は何を教えてくれるか

Surveying and exploring sunken ships on the seafloor off Japan’s coasts could reveal new historical facts and information. We think more efforts should be made to research such underwater wrecks and sites.

About 500 such sites have been confirmed in Japanese waters.

On the seabed off Matsuura, Nagasaki Prefecture, lie the remains of a military vessel thought to have sunk during the Mongolian invasions of Japan in the 13th century. It was discovered three years ago by a research group from the University of the Ryukyus. Items including spherical fragmentation bombs, which were drawn as “tetsuhau” (grenades) in “Moko Shurai Ekotoba,” illustrated narratives of the Mongolian invasions, were found at the site and recovered.

The sea area near this site is home to what is known as the Takashima Kozaki site. This was the first submerged site in Japan to be registered as a national historic site. Furthermore, underwater exploration of the area was conducted this summer.

The Cultural Affairs Agency plans to use the achievements and results of this research in future surveys of underwater ruins and sites. It has launched an exploratory committee of scholars to oversee this task. We have high hopes that there are outstanding developments in store.

The Seto Inland Sea is the final resting place for the Iroha Maru, the ship carrying Sakamoto Ryoma that collided with a ship run by the feudal Kishu domain during the final days of the Tokugawa shogunate. Furnishings thought to have been used in the ship’s cabins have already been retrieved from the site.

Chinese ceramics from about the 13th century have been found in the sea near Ojikajima island, which is one of the Goto Islands that are part of Nagasaki Prefecture and have served as key traffic lane on the sea route to China from ancient times.

Despite such examples of the historically significant items under the sea, in actuality most submerged sites around Japan have been left untouched.

Funding main problem

Underwater archaeology is the study of sunken ships and ancient cities that have sunk below the surface of the sea, a field that can provide insight into the levels of craftsmen’s skills and technology, as well as into people’s ways of life at the time. Since the end of World War II, this discipline has mostly developed in Europe and the United States.

In recent years, advances in sonar, remotely controlled cameras and other technologies have helped researchers learn even more about what lies under the sea. Japan lags behind many other countries when it comes to underwater archaeology and needs to strengthen its foundation in the field.

The greatest obstacle to this is funding. Surveying underwater reportedly costs about 10 times as much as examining ruins on land, so finding the cash for such projects is daunting. In many cases, local governments and research institutes play a central role in conducting such surveys.

However, underwater surveys can, on occasion, run up bills of hundreds of millions of yen. Such exorbitant costs have probably given organizers of many potential projects cold feet. To conduct surveys of ruins with historical value, financial support from the central government is essential.

Japan also will need to nurture more underwater archaeology experts.

Japan is a member of the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea. The convention states for objects of an archaeological and historical nature “particular regard” will be “paid to the preferential rights of the State or country of origin, or the State of cultural origin.” There will likely be cases in which the examination of foreign ships that sank in waters near Japan will require coordination with the nation from which the ship came.

The first task for the government will be sorting out and examining the various issues involved in the survey of underwater wrecks.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 25, 2014)

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サイバー対策 政府の防護態勢強化が急務だ

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Govt must urgently beef up measures to protect nation from cyber-attacks
サイバー対策 政府の防護態勢強化が急務だ

The number of cyber-attacks directed at government organizations has been increasing at an alarming rate. In some cases, information related to such fields as space development has been stolen.

The government must do everything it can do to strengthen protection measures against cyberattacks.

According to an annual report the government released last month, there were 5.08 million cases of illegal access to government organizations’ computer networks in fiscal 2013. This figure is five times the level in the previous fiscal year.

A majority of the cases are considered to be cyber-attacks aimed at stealing important government information. Many are believed to have come from abroad, from places such as China.

During the period from August to September last year, many advanced persistent threat (APT) attacks were made on central government bodies including the ministries of finance; foreign affairs; economy, trade and industry; and the agriculture, forestry and fisheries.

Such attacks plant computer viruses on specific websites, and infect the networks of targeted organizations only when the organizations’ staff browse the tainted websites.

APT attacks have also been spreading to include independent administrative institutions, or government-affiliated research institutes, especially those relating to space exploration and nuclear power studies. This is a profoundly serious situation.

In 2011, the United States defined the cybersphere as the “fifth battlefield,” in addition to land, air, sea and space, and said it would not rule out the option of retaliatory strikes in the event of a serious cyber-attack. Washington views cyber-attacks as a grave problem affecting national security.

Enact cyber-attack law promptly

In May this year, the U.S. Justice Department indicted five Chinese military officers on charges of hacking U.S. companies’ computers to steal trade secrets.

The Japanese government set a goal of bolstering its ability to counter cyber-attacks in December last year as part of national security strategy, but there can be no denying that this nation lags in tackling the problem.

The Information Security Policy Council (ISPC) chaired by the chief cabinet secretary is currently the key government body in handling cyber-attacks.

But even when government ministries and agencies are subject to cyber-attacks, ISPC is not empowered to demand relevant information from them.

As a result, investigations into the causes of cyber-attacks are not conducted promptly.

It is extremely important to strengthen the ISPC’s powers.

The government plans to upgrade the ISPC to a “cybersecurity strategy headquarters” as early as fiscal 2015.

The planned headquarters will be able to force ministries and agencies to provide relevant information if attacked.

These steps have been incorporated into a cyber-attack countermeasures bill that was jointly submitted to the latest ordinary Diet session by the ruling coalition parties of the Liberal Democratic Party and New Komeito, as well as the Democratic Party of Japan and other opposition parties.

The envisioned legislation should be enacted swiftly in the forthcoming extraordinary session of the legislature this autumn.

Cyber-attacks targeted at companies that are vitally important to the nation’s economic activities, such as those in the financial and power generation sectors, have also been surging.

Japan is highly likely to be a target for cyber-attacks in the years leading up to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympic Games, which have drawn attention from around the world.

It is vital for the public and private sector to work together to prepare to combat security breaches, by addressing such tasks as developing the currently insufficient human resources for information security.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 25, 2014)

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2014年8月25日 (月)

香山リカのココロの万華鏡:招きたくない監視社会 /東京

August 24, 2014(Mainichi Japan)
Kaleidoscope of the Heart: Publically shaming criminals online is going too far
香山リカのココロの万華鏡:招きたくない監視社会 /東京

Recently, a comic store generated controversy with a threat to publically release the image of a shoplifter's face who was caught on a security camera stealing an expensive figurine. The store first released an image of the shoplifter with his face pixelated and threatened to remove the pixilation if the person did not return the figurine by a certain day.

In the end, at the urging of police, the store did not remove the pixilation. However, in on-the-street interviews on television shows, many people gave the opinion that the pixilation should have been removed, to help deter future shoplifters.

Crime is said to be overall on the decline, but shoplifting numbers refuse to fall. Perhaps lacking awareness that what they have done is a crime, some shoplifters supposedly take a defiant attitude, saying, "As long as I return it, there's no problem, right?"

Some small retailers are supposedly affected quite badly by shoplifting, so it is not a problem that can be overlooked.  経営に大きな支障が出る小売店もあるというから、見逃せない問題だ。

However, we must be careful about the idea that a store can set up its own "punishment," by for example threatening to release a photo of a shoplifter's face.

In this day and age, using the Internet one can easily find all kinds of information about a person -- their name, their address, their place of work.
It can lead to ruining a person's standing in society.

While the theft in the recent case was of a very valuable item, is it right for stores to be able to decide that when the value of shoplifted merchandise is over some particular amount it warrants a public release of the shoplifter's photo?

Sometimes on the Internet, people will release photos of criminals, taken while they happened to be nearby.

"This person is a groper," they may write, releasing a photo on a site such as Twitter.

I feel that more and more, the reaction to this public exposure is not "that's going too far," but "they deserve it."

Of course, no matter the reason, there is no excuse for breaking the law or other rules.

But I also think that stores -- who are not police -- should not come up with and deal out their own "punishments." しかし、警察以外の個人や店の手により、どんな“罰”を加えても許されるというのは違うと思う。

While public exposure on the Internet is not a direct punishment like a fine or prison sentence, it is in some ways a heavier punishment.

According to police statistics, recently many shoplifters are people 65 and over.

Maybe, having retired or no longer having any family, they think, "I have nothing left to lose, so I don't care who you report me to.

You're going to put my face out on the Internet? I don't care." If so, it is a sad situation.
ネットで顔を“さらす”? ああ、かまいませんよ」という心境なのだろうか。それも寂しい話だ。

I hope that we do not become a world where people are always observing each other, quick to photograph and expose other people on the Internet the moment they do something wrong.

(By Rika Kayama, psychiatrist)
毎日新聞 2014年08月19日 地方版

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関空運営権 利便向上へ民間の力生かそう

The Yomiuri Shimbun
2 Kansai airports’ privatization must lead to improved convenience
関空運営権 利便向上へ民間の力生かそう

Can having the private sector take charge of managing airports improve their convenience?

New Kansai International Airport Co., wholly funded by the central government, has launched procedures to sell the rights to operate two airports it owns: Kansai Airport and Osaka Airport, also known as Itami Airport.

The concession sale plan is designed to enable private companies to acquire the management rights of the two airports for 45 years without transferring the government ownership of such facilities as passenger terminals and runways.

Bidding will begin in October this year, with the completion of a sales contract with the successful bidders scheduled for autumn next year at the earliest.

The planned sale of the management rights is a new approach to improving the operations of the airports through introduction of private-sector funds and managerial know-how. The goal of the concession sale plan—boosting the quality of public infrastructure, or social overhead capital, through avoiding fiscal burdens—is reasonable.

The government has announced plans to sell operating concessions of airports as part of the nation’s growth strategy, pursuing the goal of selling the management rights of six airports by the end of fiscal 2016.

Sendai Airport has already announced guidelines for applications concerning the sale of its management rights, while Fukuoka Airport and Hiroshima Airport are also preparing for their privatization.

Success or failure of the envisioned sale of Kansai and Osaka airports will serve as a test of the prospects for the sale of airports’ operation concessions.

About 150 companies and other organizations, including financial institutions and trading houses at home and from abroad, took part in a briefing session that New Kansai International Airport Co. held earlier this month, indicating a high level of interest in the concession sale plan.

¥2.2 trillion too expensive

Firms managing airports overseas are also reported to be interested in buying the management rights of the two Kansai airports, citing such reasons as the wealth of tourism resources in the Kansai region and rising civil aviation demand in Asia. It is likely that multiple Japanese companies and foreign firms will formulate consortiums to take part in the bidding.

One concern is the colossal price sought for Kansai Airport: ¥2.2 trillion over a period of 45 years if no advance payment is made.

The airport company says this will be easy enough to pay if the concession holder secures the company’s current level of profits.

Analysts from such industries as the real estate business, however, have pointed out that the price sought by the airport company is excessive compared to prices of airports in foreign countries, which they say are priced mostly at levels equivalent to several hundreds of billions of yen.

In addition, the division of roles to be played by the three airports of Kansai, Osaka and Kobe remains ambiguous, making it unclear whether a concession holder could obtain stable earnings over a long term.

The government, the sole shareholder of New Kansai International Airport Co., should fulfill its responsibility to present a convincing account of where its airport policy is headed.

In numerous cases, airport operations by private-sector companies have proved successful, leading to large increases in the number of airport users attracted by such steps as expansion of the airports’ commercial facilities.

But there have also been failures. In Argentina, for example, airport operations have gone into the red after their management was privatized, resulting in increases in financial burdens on their users and declines in the quality of services.

Selling the management rights to the private sector in a way that is detrimental to airport users would be the completely wrong approach. In selecting winning bids, the government must be very careful in scrutinizing the managerial capabilities and the feasibility of business plans of potential concession holders.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 24, 2014)

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健康寿命 「元気で長生き」を目指したい

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Elderly must enjoy healthy long life without need for nursing care
健康寿命 「元気で長生き」を目指したい

A major challenge facing the nation at a time when its population is rapidly aging is to ensure that elderly people can maintain their day-to-day lives for as long as possible, dispensing with the need to receive nursing care.

In early August, the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry released the 2014 edition of its annual white paper, which focused on the goal of expanding the healthy life span so that the nation can be transformed into a long-lived, healthy society.

Healthy life expectancy refers to the number of years that people can continue to live their daily lives independently, uninterrupted by health problems and without having to receive the help of family members or others.

In 2010, the healthy life span of the Japanese stood at 70.42 for men and 73.62 for women, both marking the world’s highest levels. The figures have been increasing year by year.

However, these figures compare poorly with the average life expectancy—80.21 for men and 86.61 for women in 2013. This shows there is a disparity of about 10 years between the healthy life span and the average life expectancy among both Japanese men and women.

The gap represents how long men and women will be highly dependent on nursing care and medical services. It is widening due to a greater increase in the average life expectancy compared to that of the healthy life span.

It is necessary to shorten the period for which people need nursing and medical care, a task essential for enabling elderly people to live fulfilling, independent lives. If aged persons do not become bedridden and can live in good health for an extended period, the medical and nursing-care expenses they incur will likely be significantly reduced.

The government has said the goal of making Japan a nation of healthy and long-lived people is a pillar of its growth strategy.

In its strategy for health preservation and medical improvement adopted at a Cabinet meeting in July, the government said it would pursue the target of increasing the healthy life expectancy by more than one year by the end of 2020. The government hopes to nurture healthcare businesses that support elderly people’s efforts to lead long healthy lives, and promote such services and operations overseas, an endeavor conducive to economic growth.

An increase in the number of healthy elderly people is also expected to help secure workers and contribute to the promotion of volunteer activities.

Battle lifestyle illnesses

To increase the healthy life span, it is important for individuals to take preventive measures against lifestyle-related illnesses even while they are still working. Various complications can occur from diabetes, high blood pressure and other diseases associated with one’s lifestyle habits, which can easily lead to a need for nursing-care services in old age.

It is also necessary for local government and business corporations to play an active role in improving the health of local residents and employees. Measures must include promoting better lifestyle habits and raising the percentage of people receiving medical checkups.

A good case in point is the Shizuoka prefectural government. The local government is promoting what it calls a “health mileage program” under which local residents are awarded points according to their medical checkup and daily physical exercise records. When a resident has collected a certain number of points, he or she is entitled to receive complimentary services at shops participating in the program.

Meanwhile, Tanita Corp., a Tokyo-based measurement equipment manufacturer, has adopted a system in which pedometers are distributed to all its employees, requiring them to record how many steps they take every day. Employees who score high in this daily practice receive awards for their accomplishments.

We hope measures will be taken to achieve the intended goal in a manner that fits the realities of each community and company.

It is also important to provide elderly people with more opportunities to play an active role in society. If they make contributions to society through work and community service, elderly people will find their lives to be fulfilling and are unlikely to need nursing care.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 24, 2014)

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2014年8月24日 (日)

社説:広島土砂災害 検証尽くして教訓導け

August 23, 2014(Mainichi Japan)
Editorial: Learning a lesson from Hiroshima landslides
社説:広島土砂災害 検証尽くして教訓導け

The number of residents reported missing following major landslides in northern Hiroshima in the predawn hours of Aug. 20 has significantly increased, threatening to make the disaster the worst of its kind in recent years when combined with the confirmed death toll.
Initially seven people were reported missing, but a little over 24 hours later that figure climbed to over 50. The discrepancy in the numbers reported missing comes from police and local municipalities using different methods to confirm the safety of residents.

The difficulty that officials face in fully grasping the extent of the damage indicates how severe the disaster is.

With rain continuing to fall intermittently, rescuers are desperately searching for the missing while remaining on alert against secondary damage. All efforts should be exhausted in search and rescue operations, with priority put on saving human lives.

Amid ongoing power and water outages in the disaster-hit areas, an increasing number of residents have been forced to take shelter at public facilities.

Local municipalities are urged to pay close attention to residents' needs so that volunteers can provide adequate support.

Hiroshima Prefecture has the most spots vulnerable to sediment disaster in Japan.

However, the designation of warning zones under the Act on Sediment Disaster Countermeasures for Sediment Disaster Prone Areas has not come fast enough.

The residential areas that suffered damage in the latest landslides were prone to disasters due to their proximity to mountains, but most of them had not been designated as sediment disaster-prone areas.

Financial and manpower shortages have reportedly hampered the progress of field surveys, while residents are reluctant to have land designated as being disaster-prone, fearing that their property values will be downgraded.

Nevertheless, it is serious that such an immense disaster hit areas that had not been listed as being disaster-prone.

If more damage like this arises, criticism that the disaster was a man-made calamity could intensify.

The Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism is urged to review the operation of the law and promote the designation of areas prone to sediment disaster as such.

If reviews alone are insufficient, legislative revisions need to be deliberated in the Diet.

The city of Hiroshima has acknowledged that its evacuation advisory came too late, and is poised to review the standards for issuing such advisories.

Memories of the landslide disaster on Izu Oshima Island in October last year, when an absence of an evacuation advisory or order resulted in many casualties, remains fresh in our minds.

The central government subsequently notified municipalities across the nation to issue evacuation advisories without fearing that they might turn out to be unnecessary.

The government should fully reassure municipalities about the directive once again.

It is difficult and dangerous for residents to evacuate at night, but the risks could be lowered in some cases if people moved to the upper floors of buildings.

In the Hiroshima disaster, a family found their way to safety by evacuating upstairs to the second floor of their home. 今回の災害でも1階から2階に移り全員が無事だった家族がいた。

Residents in disaster-prone areas should regularly discuss how to act in the event of a disaster and make steadfast preparations.

In the wake of the torrential rain that hit the Kii Peninsula in September 2011, leaving 82 people dead and 16 missing, the Wakayama Prefectural Government created guidelines for issuing evacuation advisories.

The guidelines require avoidance of ambiguous expressions.

They also require the use of numerical criteria such as accumulated precipitation so residents can make an objective judgment.

In the Hyogo Prefecture town of Sayo, where flooding from a typhoon five years ago left 18 dead and two missing, the town office introduced a monitoring system in which residents living near rivers report water levels and other relevant information, based on which the town office decides whether to issue evacuation advisories.

We should take note of such system improvements grounded in lessons learned from tragedies.

In the Hiroshima disaster, the cause and background factors of the extensive damage should be thoroughly verified so we can utilize the information in future measures.

毎日新聞 2014年08月23日 02時33分(最終更新 08月23日 09時39分)

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検察の再犯対策 高齢・障害者に福祉の支援も

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Help for elderly, disabled recidivists crucial for rehabilitation into society
検察の再犯対策 高齢・障害者に福祉の支援も

Public prosecutors are working to rehabilitate elderly people and people with intellectual disabilities who repeat relatively minor crimes, such as shoplifting and skipping out on restaurant bills, to help them rejoin society.

In cooperation with welfare experts, prosecutors are trying to secure places at welfare facilities for such people, as well as seeking to get their indictments suspended or receive suspended sentences in court.

Preventing repeat offenses is important to protect the public’s safety. It is understandable that prosecutors are exploring ways to achieve this in keeping with suspects and defendants’ circumstances, instead of just sending them to prison, thereby encouraging them to regain their footing in society.

Since January last year, the Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office has recruited social welfare workers as part-time employees to help prosecutors with specific assistance measures.

For example, an elderly man arrested on suspicion of shoplifting was placed in a nursing home after a suspended indictment, as he was suspected of suffering from dementia. More than 350 people have received welfare assistance and medical treatment in the past 1½ years without serving prison terms.

In Nagasaki, Otsu and elsewhere, panels comprising psychiatrists and other experts investigate the degree of disability of each defendant and compile reports that district public prosecutors can refer to when they seek penalties. Sendai and 19 other district public prosecutors offices cooperate with local probation offices and help probation officers find places for suspects to live after they are released.

Such endeavors are an attempt to take advantage of welfare networks and expertise.

No end to repeat offenses

The driving force behind these efforts is the seemingly endless number of repeat offenses committed by the elderly and mentally disabled.

According to a Justice Ministry white paper on crime, the number of elderly persons serving prison terms has been continually increasing, with the figure for 2012 more than five times that seen 20 years before. More than 70 percent of the prisoners were repeat offenders.

A survey of inmates suspected to have mental disabilities shows they served 3.8 prison terms, on average, and some of them had been imprisoned more than five times.

It is hard to say that serving time in prison has led to rehabilitation in such cases. If they have no place to live and work and no prospects for their lives after completing their jail terms, released prisoners will repeat crimes and end up being jailed again.

Severe punishments must be imposed for heinous crimes, but depending on the case, it could be an effective public safety measure to treat elderly offenders or those with intellectual disabilities from a welfare standpoint.

Welfare assistance for repeat offenders would have the additional benefit of preventing the overcrowding of prisons and reducing the costs of operating them.

However, much remains to be done to sufficiently implement welfare assistance. The Justice Ministry and prosecutors offices must cooperate with the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry and local governments to increase the number of welfare facilities that can accept repeat offenders.

The prosecutors must also examine the effects of welfare assistance to verify that recipients can be rehabilitated and that such steps deter repeat offenses.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 23, 2014)

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自衛隊海外派遣 恒久法制定は有力な選択肢だ

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Govt, ruling parties should consider permanent law on dispatch of SDF
自衛隊海外派遣 恒久法制定は有力な選択肢だ

Is it time to stop resorting to the enactment of special measures laws to allow the Self-Defense Forces to be dispatched after a serious situation has erupted overseas?

A proposal is being floated within the government and the ruling parties to enact a permanent law regarding the overseas dispatch of the SDF.

The move is meant to address the need to enact relevant legislation to deal with the expansion of the SDF’s logistical support for U.S. and other forces, which became possible with the Cabinet approval in July of the government’s new constitutional interpretation that allows limited exercise of right of collective self-defense.

During intensive interpellation in the House of Councillors, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe hinted at his positive stance on permanent legislation, saying the government would consider “whether to have a permanent law or special measures laws” regarding the SDF’s international peace cooperation activities.

Two special measures laws have been enacted in the past in connection with the overseas dispatch of the SDF.

One was the counterterrorism special measures law enacted after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States, which allowed the SDF to take on refueling missions in the Indian Ocean.

The other was the 2003 special measures law on assisting with the reconstruction of Iraq, which made it possible for the SDF to engage in air transportation missions and such humanitarian activities as supplying water.

Both laws were enforced over fixed periods and have since expired.

If the Diet enacts comprehensive permanent legislation instead of revising the International Peacekeeping Activities Cooperation Law and other pertinent laws, it will be not necessary to enact special measures laws in response to pressing situations, thereby allowing the swift, flexible dispatch of the SDF abroad.

The enactment of permanent legislation would be a promising step to help put the Abe administration’s strategy of “proactive contribution to peace” into action.

SDF activities expanded

The government’s new interpretation limits the definition of activities constituting “integration with the use of force”—banned under the Constitution—to SDF logistical and other activities at locations where battles are actually taking place.

This has made it possible for SDF personnel to rescue foreign troops that are under attack, if the foreign country agrees.

Both measures are significant in expanding and improving the SDF’s international peacekeeping activities, as well as enhancing their effectiveness.

Thus far, the SDF’s activities have been limited to noncombat zones, a concept that the world will not accept.

Until now, even if a foreign military asked for SDF rescue operations, Japan had no option but to decline or go to the site to assess the situation and resort to the emergency step of using arms for self-defense if SDF personnel were in danger.

After the Self-Defense Forces Law was revised in 2006, international peacekeeping cooperation activities became a primary duty of the SDF.

In 2008, the Liberal Democratic Party and New Komeito considered permanent legislation but failed to reach an agreement and gave up on having the Diet enact such a law.

The government’s new interpretation is a prime opportunity to enact permanent legislation.

Such legislation would help the government put together and present an overall picture of the SDF’s international activities.

It is necessary to put such activities into two categories—those conducted with and those conducted without a resolution by the U.N. Security Council—and restrict SDF dispatch abroad through such measures as requiring prior Diet approval.

We urge the government and the ruling parties to positively consider permanent legislation.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 23, 2014)

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2014年8月23日 (土)

社説:女性管理職6.6% 異次元の対策が必要だ

August 22, 2014(Mainichi Japan)
Editorial: Implement new steps to boost ratio of women in managerial posts
社説:女性管理職6.6% 異次元の対策が必要だ

Achieving the government's goal of increasing the ratio of women to those in managerial positions to 30 percent by 2020 appears to be extremely difficult, as was shown by a government survey.

The results of a survey released by the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry shows that women accounted for only 6.6 percent of those in managerial posts at the division chief-level and above in fiscal 2013.

There is no sign of an improvement in the situation.

One cannot help but wonder whether efforts to address the issue should be left to the discretion of individual companies. Since the government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe places top priority on encouraging women to play an active role in society among its policy measures, it should work out an unprecedentedly bold action plan that is not bound by a traditional mindset.

It is globally infamous that Japan lags behind many other countries in women's advancement in society.

A report issued by the U.S. Congress features measures Japan has taken to encourage women to assume important positions in society as part of "Abenomics," an economic policy mix promoted by the Abe administration. The report also shed light on specific problems that have blocked women from participating in Japanese society in the economic and political fields.

Are there any changes in Japanese companies' awareness of the roles that women should play?

Only about 20 percent of the companies surveyed by the ministry answered that they have taken positive action to eliminate the gap in job opportunities between men and women, declining from the last two years when the ratio was over 30 percent.

What is worse, 63 percent of the companies responded that they have no intention of taking any specific measures to that end, as compared with 54 percent in fiscal 2012.

Moreover, reasons cited by surveyed companies for not making any effort to narrow the gap between men and women would certainly stun the public.

Some companies said they are developing human resources regardless of their gender, some other businesses replied that women are already playing an active role in their organizations, while others answered that there are too few women in their workplaces.

These answers suggest that the companies do not view the current situation as problematic.

Many employers claim that they have difficulties finding women with the required ability and experience although they are willing to appoint women to important positions, a reason cited by the largest number of surveyed companies as to why they do not actively appoint female employees to managerial posts.

The survey results have raised questions as to whether companies are truly enthusiastic about recruiting hidden talent and whether male managers truly have enough expertise or experience.

While the government is seeking to enact new legislation to encourage companies to take action to hire and appoint women to important posts, the business world has taken the stance that efforts toward that end should be left to the discretion of each individual company.

However, it would be too optimistic to expect employers who have even failed to grasp the situation of their own companies to spontaneously try to appoint women to managerial positions.

Many business operators argue that a radical system like one in Norway, under which companies that fail to appoint women to at least 40 percent of their executive positions must be disbanded, does not fit in with Japanese culture.

If the business world sticks to its opposition to making it mandatory to ensure women account for a certain percentage of board members or managers, companies should take unprecedentedly bold measures to demonstrate that they are truly enthusiastic about promoting women to key positions.

The chairman and 18 vice chairmen of the Japan Business Federation (Keidanren) are all men.

Japan's largest business organization has never appointed women to any of these top positions.

Keidanren should appoint women to high-ranking posts, such as chairman and vice chairmen, as a symbolic example of the business world's efforts to appoint women to key posts.

毎日新聞 2014年08月22日 02時31分

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宇宙基本計画 安全保障の強化へ改定を急げ

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Basic space plan must be revised swiftly to strengthen national security
宇宙基本計画 安全保障の強化へ改定を急げ

To cope adequately with rapid changes in situations surrounding Japan, a review of the country’s space strategy is essential.

The Committee on National Space Policy, an advisory body to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, has put forward a set of proposals calling for the government’s Basic Plan on National Space Policy to be revised to place priority on national security.

China’s high-pressure maritime advances have become a menace to the security of countries in Asia. Continued vigilance is also required against North Korea’s missile launches and nuclear weapons development program.

As things stand, the committee is reasonable in its assertion of “a need for more effective use of various types of satellites in such fields as Self-Defense Forces troop operations, information gathering and analysis, maritime surveillance, data communication and positioning technology.”

The basic national space policy plan is worked out based on the Basic Space Law. The current plan, decided in January last year, is problematic in its lack of specific measures on ensuring Japan’s security.

Toward the end of last year, the National Security Council declared a policy of exploitation of space for the national security field. In May this year, the Japanese and U.S. governments reached an agreement to strengthen bilateral cooperation in this field. A revision of the basic plan, which is deficient in this respect, is urgently needed.

Japan’s information-gathering satellites, which currently number four, are of pivotal importance for national security. The four-satellite system is said to lack the flexible capability to boost the accuracy of ground surveillance activities and swiftly grasp movements of objects such as vessels at sea.

Increase quasi-zenith satellites

The quality and quantity of information-gathering satellites must both be enhanced.

For surveillance activities, acquisition of high-precision positioning information using space technology is also important. Only the global positioning system (GPS) run by the United States is currently reliable for this purpose.

The national space policy committee’s proposals highlight the need to improve Japan’s own positioning system in preparation for the possibility of the GPS being destroyed in an attack. Specifically, the committee suggests increasing the number of Japan’s quasi-zenith satellites from the current one to seven, which the panel said would make it possible for Japan to carry out surveillance of all regions around the clock on its own.

The committee also proposed launching a project to develop early warning satellite technology capable of detecting foreign missiles as soon as they are fired.

These space technologies are of key significance as deterrence against potential threats from abroad, but their materialization involves colossal amounts of money. It will therefore be necessary to clarify priorities in revising the basic plan.

To ensure that the nation’s space technology is maintained and to nurture space-related industries and experts, it is also vital to continue to conduct space exploration and rocket development. In addition, whether to continue Japan’s participation in the operation of the International Space Station is an important question to consider.

The Liberal Democratic Party proposed creating a “Space Agency” and integrating space-related budgetary appropriations. Discussions on the matter should be deepened from the standpoint of making more effective use of limited revenue sources relevant to the matter.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 22, 2014)

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水道老朽化 ライフラインの危機は深刻だ

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Steadily renew aging waterworks to maintain vital lifelines for nation
水道老朽化 ライフラインの危機は深刻だ

Superannuated waterworks must be steadily renewed to maintain vital lifelines for the nation.

Municipalities cannot avoid the task of replacing aging water supply facilities.

The nation’s water service facilities were built during intensive construction from the 1950s to the ’70s. Almost all of them have been operated by local governments and public corporations.

Their service life is set at 40 years under the law, but in actuality it is not rare for water pipes to see continued use for 50 to 60 years due to delays in repair work.

Water pipes installed about 50 years ago burst in various districts of the country in June. In Otsu, tap water supplies to 12,000 households became muddy, while in Kitakyushu sidewalks caved in as underground soil was washed away by the water that leaked from ruptured pipes.

To prevent such problems, it is essential to systematically repair and renew facilities.

According to a white paper on water resources compiled by the Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Ministry in August, the current annual renewal costs for waterworks nationwide are slightly less than ¥800 billion. However, this figure is expected to balloon to more than ¥1 trillion 15 years from now as superannuation progresses further.

In contrast, the amount that municipalities can spend on renewing facilities is expected to decline, as revenues from water rates will fall due to a decline in the population. In about 10 years, it will become impossible for them to raise the funds necessary for renewal.

Shortage of funds, manpower

Some water utilities with weaker finances, such as those in underpopulated areas, will no longer be able to maintain their facilities and will find it difficult to continue operations without help.

It is necessary to enhance the efficiency and reinforce the foundations of their operations, through such measures as introducing systems in which neighboring municipalities integrate their water supply operations to achieve service over a wide area.

Local governments and residents must seriously examine how to secure fiscal resources to renew waterworks.

There have been moves to increase water rates to make up for fund shortages. The Mito municipal government decided on a 7.9 percent rate hike in April, while the Chichibu municipal government in Saitama Prefecture announced a plan in May to raise rates by a whopping 17.5 percent.

Rate hikes will deal a blow to residents’ livelihoods. Efforts must be made to limit their financial burdens as much as possible.

Municipalities must maintain a clear, detailed grasp of their facilities’ superannuation and carry out repair work efficiently. Detailed inspection and maintenance work will likely help prolong the life of facilities.

Another concern is the difficulty securing sufficient manpower. The number of local government employees and others in charge of water supply services has dropped by about 30 percent in the past 15 years. The shortage of experienced technicians is particularly serious, making it difficult to deal with the superannuation of facilities.

The use of information technology in inspections must also be widely adopted.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 22, 2014)

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(社説)広島土砂災害 検証究めて命を守れ

August 22, 2014
EDITORIAL: Hiroshima landslides show need to review disaster response plans
(社説)広島土砂災害 検証究めて命を守れ

Massive landslides caused by heavy rainfall engulfed wide areas in northern parts of Hiroshima, leaving dozens of people dead or missing.

The disaster is reminiscent of the mudslides that killed 32 people in Hiroshima Prefecture 15 years ago and prompted the central government to enact the landslide disaster prevention law.

It is deeply deplorable that lessons learned from the tragedy in 1999 have not been effectively applied.

Much of the areas where landslides occurred this time have not been designated as special caution areas under the law. The Hiroshima municipal government advised evacuations only after the disaster started unfolding. A secondary landslide occurred in a disaster-hit area, killing a firefighter who was engaged in rescue work.

An exhaustive investigation should be carried out to learn why the landslides caused so many casualties and so much damage.

It was in the hours before dawn on Aug. 20 that cumulonimbus clouds, or dense towering vertical clouds associated with thunderstorms and heavy precipitation, formed quickly, triggering torrential rainfall exceeding 100 mm per hour.

It should be noted that cumulative rainfall is a crucial factor for mudslide disasters. In Hiroshima, total precipitation since early August had been more than three times greater than average. The local meteorological observatory issued a mudslide warning before the rainfall peaked.

In addition, the nature of the soil in Hiroshima is known to be unstable and vulnerable to mudslides.

With many residential areas located close to the foothills, Hiroshima Prefecture has more high-risk areas for landslides than any other prefecture.

A senior official of the Hiroshima municipal government said there were faint expectations that the rainfall would soon taper off. But the government was apparently too optimistic.

Every year, around 1,000 landslide disasters take place in Japan. In October 2013, huge mudflows caused by a typhoon claimed 39 lives on Izu-Oshima island off Tokyo.

There have been signs that torrential rain occurs more frequently than in the past. Experts suspect that global warming is causing the trend.

The risk of natural disasters is rising. It is clearly necessary to enhance systems to protect the lives of people during these calamities.

In areas struck by landslides in Hiroshima, many people have said they were not aware of the danger. Local governments have created and published hazard maps showing levels of natural hazards for areas. But people tend to think their areas are safe.

More meticulous and effective efforts should be made to make local residents aware of the risks they are facing.

In the cases of Izu-Oshima and Hiroshima, the rain intensified late at night, causing delays in the responses by the local governments.

Needless to say, natural disasters can occur at any time, day or night. Swift actions based on weather forecasts must be made when there is the possibility of a disaster.

Kumamoto Prefecture in the last fiscal year launched a new disaster response program focused on “preventive evacuations,” which can be instructive for other local governments.

The prefectural government developed the program after heavy downpours in the early morning hours caused casualties in July 2012.

Under the program, when heavy nighttime rainfall is expected, local governments set up evacuation sites in the evening and call for voluntary evacuations.

When Typhoon No. 8 struck Japan in July, some 5,000 people in Kumamoto Prefecture actually took shelter under the program. Even if an evacuation later turns out to have been unnecessary, such actions are meaningful because they make people more conscious of the risks.

To boost our own safety during natural disasters, we should do what we can during normal times.

We can, for example, learn more about the geographical and geological features of the area where we live, such as the existence of a nearby hill and a river. And we can think about what we should do during torrential rain.

Such self-help efforts by individuals do a lot to reduce casualties from actual disasters.

--The Asahi Shimbun, Aug. 22

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2014年8月22日 (金)


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社説:広島の土砂災害 救援活動に全力挙げよ

August 21, 2014(Mainichi Japan)
Editorial: Landslide disaster shows need for better prevention measures
社説:広島の土砂災害 救援活動に全力挙げよ

Torrential rain has triggered a series of landslides in northern Hiroshima, crushing houses and leaving many residents dead and some others missing.

Police, firefighters and Self-Defense Forces (SDF) personnel are desperately searching for and rescuing survivors. 警察や消防、自衛隊による救助・救援活動が急がれるが、

However, they must take care to prevent a secondary disaster as a firefighter lost his life during search and rescue operations.

The government should put its utmost efforts into restoring disaster-hit areas and extending assistance to affected residents.
Typhoon Halong, this year's 11th, brought heavy rain mainly to western Japan earlier this month.

A rain front hovering along the Japanese archipelago has since repeatedly brought rain and loosened the ground. その後も前線が日本列島上空に停滞し、度重なる雨で地盤は緩んでいる。

Therefore, even a small amount of rain could trigger a landslide, and maximum caution needs to be exercised.

In just over a three-hour period early on Aug. 20, northern Hiroshima saw rainfall that exceeded the average amount of rain that falls throughout all of August.

The Hiroshima Local Meteorological Observatory issued a warning of record-breaking rain over a short period around 3:45 a.m., and the Hiroshima Municipal Government issued an evacuation recommendation about half an hour later. 広島地方気象台は記録的短時間大雨情報を発表し、その約30分後に広島市が避難勧告を出した。

By that time, however, some landslides had already occurred and local residents had alerted emergency services. しかし、既に土砂崩れが発生し、住民からの通報が相次いでいた。

Therefore, the local government's response was too slow.

It is essential to thoroughly scrutinize why local authorities failed to issue an evacuation recommendation or order before the disaster occurred.

The landslides occurred in a district where mountains were developed into residential areas.

The ground in extensive areas of Hiroshima Prefecture is composed of decayed granite covered with thin surface soil. 広島県には風化した花こう岩の上を薄い表土が覆う地質が広がり、

Therefore, if rainwater accumulates in these areas, slopes are prone to collapsing.

In the latest disaster, it is believed that rain that had fallen over the past few weeks accumulated in the soil, making the ground fragile, and that a massive amount of rain that hit the area over a short period triggered mudslides.

In June 1999, torrential rain that hit residential areas in the city of Hiroshima and surrounding areas left 31 people dead and another missing.

Following the disaster, the Sediment-related Disaster Prevention Law was enacted.

In accordance with the legislation, prefectural governments are supposed to conduct a survey on areas prone to landslides and other sediment disasters and designate vulnerable locations as caution zones.

Municipal governments are required to work out evacuation plans and draw up maps clearly showing caution zones.

There are many areas prone to sediment disasters in Hiroshima Prefecture.

However, local bodies' efforts to ensure the safety of residents in vulnerable areas have made little progress as it takes a long time to conduct a detailed survey on disaster-prone locations.

The majority of areas hit by the latest landslides were not designated as caution zones.

Local governments should take flexible measures such as prioritizing the designation of high-risk locations as caution zones.

A nationwide survey conducted by the Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Ministry shows that there are some 520,000 locations vulnerable to sediment disasters, but one-third of these have not been designated as caution zones.

This is attributable partly to local residents' resistance to the designation of their neighborhoods as such for fear that the value of their land would decline.

However, since landslides could cause huge damage, it is necessary to patiently explain the purpose of the law to residents of high-risk areas to convince them of the need for such warnings.

There have been a growing number of local downpours in recent years.

Any kind of serious natural disaster could hit anytime and anywhere in Japan where there are numerous mountains and rivers.

All local governments must work out disaster prevention measures based on a wide diversity of scenarios without being bound by stereotypes.

毎日新聞 2014年08月21日 02時33分

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中国WTO敗訴 不当な輸出規制を是正せよ

The Yomiuri Shimbun
China’s unfair rare earth export restrictions must be rectified
中国WTO敗訴 不当な輸出規制を是正せよ

The World Trade Organization’s latest ruling on China’s strict limits on rare earth exports confirms its principle that restrictions imposed by one country exclusively seeking to protect its own interests violate global trade rules.

The world trade body recently arrived at its final conclusion that China’s rare earths export restrictions and related actions are a violation of WTO agreements. This finalized Beijing’s loss of the case.

China should accept the WTO’s decision and immediately rectify its unfair export restrictions.

Rare earths are used in such high-tech products as high-performance motors for hybrid automobiles and smartphones. China is the world’s largest producer of such valuable raw material, accounting for more than 90 percent of global production.

China greatly lowered its rare earths export ceiling in 2010. Beijing has also introduced export duties on rare earths and some rare metals.

In 2012, Japan, the United States and the European Union joined hands in bringing a case before the WTO, insisting these Chinese actions were violating WTO agreements.

China defended its rare earths export restrictions, arguing they aimed to protect the environment and conserve natural resources. Despite its export restrictions, however, China has continued to supply rare earths to its own domestic manufacturers. Beijing has clearly been giving preferential treatment to domestic corporations in the supply of rare earths.

Given the circumstances, the WTO had every reason to fully accept the assertions put forward by Japan, the United States and the EU to the effect that China’s export restraints were a protectionist move.

Taming the tiger

In the past, China has continued to exploit its natural resources as leverage to exert diplomatic pressure on other nations.

In 2010, for instance, Beijing temporarily suspended rare earths exports to Japan amid heightened tensions between the two countries that arose after a Chinese fishing boat struck two Japan Coast Guard vessels in waters off the Senkaku Islands in Okinawa Prefecture.

Such conduct violates the WTO’s fundamental rules, including a ban on the discriminatory treatment of a given nation.

China joined the WTO in 2001. Since then, the country has reaped the benefits of free trade to achieve high economic growth. Beijing should take its obligations to heart as an economic power and adhere to global trade rules.

Japan cannot help but continue to rely on imports for rare earth and nearly all other scarce resource supplies. It is important to ensure that export restrictions by other countries do not deal a serious blow to our nation’s economic activities.

The Japanese government and business circles have taken steps to secure their rights and interests tied to rare earth supplies, including an attempt to increase the number of nations that can sell such raw material to Japanese manufacturers. Further action should be taken to achieve that goal.

Recycling should also be promoted to extract valuable materials from used electronic devices, as well as the development of substitutes for rare earths.

We hope the government and the private sector will join forces to create the necessary technologies, despite our disadvantage as a resource-poor nation. Japan’s handicap in this respect could be used as a springboard to step up efforts.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 21, 2014)

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広島土砂災害 生かされなかった過去の教訓

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Failure to learn from past disasters contributed to landslide tragedy
広島土砂災害 生かされなかった過去の教訓

A massive volume of dirt and sediment swept down valleys and engulfed many homes.

Before dawn on Wednesday, torrential rain that pounded parts of Hiroshima city triggered debris flows and cliff collapses in more than 10 locations. About 40 people have been confirmed dead, and several others remain missing. It is a harrowing disaster.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who had been on summer vacation, quickly returned to the Prime Minister’s Office and ordered more Self-Defense Forces personnel to the affected areas to conduct search and rescue operations for victims of the tragedy.

A firefighter engaged in a rescue mission at the scene also died when he became buried under the mud. We hope the police, firefighters and the SDF take care to avoid being caught in secondary disasters while doing everything in their power to search for the missing people.

According to the Japan Meteorological Agency, Asa-Kita Ward in Hiroshima city was inundated by more than 200 millimeters of rain in the three hours to 4:30 a.m. Wednesday. This is 1.5 times the amount of rainfall the area gets for the whole of August in a normal year. This huge amount of rainwater swept away dirt and trees, and then poured into residential areas at the foot of hills in the ward.

Experts have pointed to the fragile geological features peculiar to Hiroshima as one reason why the damage was so extensive. The ground on which many homes were built is a kind of compacted granite scree known in Japanese as “masado.”

About 32,000 locations in Hiroshima Prefecture are designated as being at risk from landslides. That is the highest figure for any other prefecture in Japan by a significant margin. Hiroshima, more than any prefecture, needed to routinely prepare for such a disaster.

Warnings too late

In June 1999, a similar disaster, including cliff collapses, in Hiroshima city killed 20 people. This prompted the enactment of the Sediment Disasters Prevention Law in 2001.

Under this law, prefectural governments must examine areas vulnerable to landslides and other sediment disasters, and designate areas at risk as “special caution” or “caution” zones. Municipal governments are obligated to compile hazard maps showing areas at risk. The development of residential areas is restricted in special caution zones.

However, many of the areas affected by Wednesday’s landslides had not been categorized as requiring caution. There have been claims that the designation of zones at risk could not keep up with the workload due to a personnel shortage. It is regrettable that the law did not function as expected.

The Hiroshima city government issued evacuation orders and advisories to residents at 4:15 a.m. Wednesday and later. By this stage, the mudslides had apparently already occurred. The city government has acknowledged the delay in issuing the evacuation warnings was the result of “mistakes in analysis of the rainfall.”

Be that as it may, even if evacuation orders and advisories had been issued properly, evacuating in the dark as pounding rain falls also has its dangers.

It is important that all municipalities, not just Hiroshima, consider how they can safely evacuate residents during disasters that occur in the middle of the night and in the hours before dawn.

These heavy downpours were caused by warm, moist air from the south that flowed into a stationary front over the Sea of Japan. This weather pressure pattern will reportedly continue for a while. Vigilance against further disasters must be maintained, especially in western Japan.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 21, 2014)

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(社説)「アナ雪」人気 生きにくさを超えて

August 21, 2014
EDITORIAL: 'Frozen' craze in Japan mirrors women’s struggle to break glass ceiling
(社説)「アナ雪」人気 生きにくさを超えて

In the current dog days of summer, somewhere in this country someone is singing “Let It Go,” the well-known

signature song of “Frozen,” a Disney computer-animated musical fantasy that has become a box office blockbuster.


Released in March in Japan under the title “Ana to Yuki no Joo” (Anna and the Snow Queen), "Frozen" is the tale of

two sister princesses. Elsa is the queen who has the magic power to turn things into ice, while Anna is her younger

sister who does not have any special powers, but is possessed of a cheerful spirit.

Since its release in Japan, “Frozen” has attracted nearly 20 million moviegoers and has raked in 25.3 billion yen ($245

million) in ticket sales. It has become Japan’s third-highest-grossing film of all time, following “Spirited Away," which

earned 30.4 billion yen, and “Titanic,” which grossed 26.2 billion yen.


More than 2 million DVDs and Blu-ray discs of “Frozen” have been sold since they were released last month. Sales of

the CD soundtrack have reached 900,000 copies.

The princess fantasy film is a staple of Disney movies. Depicting a world of snow and ice with breathtaking artistry,

"Frozen" is enjoyable to a wide range of ages.

“Let It Go” has gained enormous popularity. Countless videos showing someone singing the song have been

uploaded to the YouTube video-sharing site.

A Twitter survey has found that the number of tweets about this movie has been far larger than those about other hit

films, with the buzz about "Frozen" in the Twittersphere lasting far longer.


A huge number of people have found themselves feeling a strong desire to sing the song and tell others how they

have been inspired by the movie. They have used the Internet to communicate and connect with others who also

identify with the movie.

“Frozen” has been a global hit as well, but its box-office sales in Japan have been second only to those in North

America, where it was created, and on a different order of magnitude from those in other countries.

It is notable that in addition to families with children, a large number of adult women have watched the film in Japan,

according to the distributor.

One of the co-directors of “Frozen,” Jennifer Lee, is the first female director of a Walt Disney animated feature film.

She also wrote the film's screenplay.

In the movie, Elsa and Anna overcome their difficulties on their own instead of waiting for a knight on a white horse

to come to their rescue. Elsa sings the theme song when she decides to stop restraining herself and start using her

special power freely.

Japanese audiences have responded strongly to a movie in which the heroine sings a song about “being herself.”

This must have something to do with the reality of this society, where women face various obstacles, big and small, in

their lives.

While the movie was showing in Japan, a string of incidents happened to underscore the difficulties facing women.

While the Abe administration has pledged to boost the status of women in the economy as part of its growth strategy,

a babysitter who was hired by a single mother to take care of her two children was arrested after one of the children,

a 2-year-old boy, was found dead in the babysitter's apartment.

There were also scandals concerning sexist remarks hurled against female members of the Diet and a local assembly.


In a Mie Prefecture-sponsored meeting to promote gender equality, male business leaders uttered sexist remarks,

with one saying women are simply beneath men in terms of social standing.

In order to change this environment, it is necessary for us to pay attention to each of the problems involved, voice

our opinions and make efforts to eliminate them.

We need to take a fresh look at flaws in our social systems and keep questioning various prejudices against women.

Such efforts are crucial for building a society where women, and men as well, can have a fulfilling life.

--The Asahi Shimbun, Aug. 19

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2014年8月21日 (木)

社説:原子力小委 動画非公開は教訓軽視

August 20, 2014(Mainichi Japan)
Editorial: Nuclear policy committee shows disregard for Fukushima lessons
社説:原子力小委 動画非公開は教訓軽視

One of the most important lessons we've learned from the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant disaster is that the closed nature of the nuclear power industry led us to underestimate the dangers of nuclear reactors.

The industry tuned out sound criticism from outside sources, largely influencing the government's policy and risk assessment.

We must put this lesson to good use by making the policymaking and risk assessment process public and raising information transparency.
The Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) -- established after the onset of the Fukushima disaster -- streams video of its meetings and press conferences live, and the footage is also available for viewing online after the events take place.

A Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) deliberative council that reviewed the government's basic energy policy does the same.

Such arrangements not only allow debate to extend to outside experts, it also serves to raise awareness and interest among the general public.

However, the Nuclear Energy Subcommittee of METI's Advisory Committee on Natural Resources and Energy, which has been holding meetings since June, accepts silent observers but does not publicly broadcast its meetings.

Some subcommittee members have demanded that the meetings be broadcast, but as of the fourth meeting held Aug. 7, no video had been made available.

The subcommittee was established for the purpose of deliberating specific policies in the nuclear energy field based on the Basic Energy Plan approved by the Cabinet in April.

Topics under discussion include reconstruction and revival in Fukushima, reduced dependence on nuclear energy, human resource development and nuclear fuel cycle policy.

Such discussions will have a great bearing on what the country decides for its energy mix.

With the subcommittee debating topics that will dictate Japan's nuclear policy, transparency of its discussions is crucial.

Some may argue that allowing silent observers to watch from the visitors' gallery and the release of the minutes are sufficient.

But those who can actually attend the meetings comprise a tiny percentage of the general public.

Overviews of the meetings are released within a week or so of each meeting, but they do not indicate who said what. 1週間程度で議事要旨は公開されるが、発言者が誰かわからない。

It takes about a month before the minutes are released, by which time the next meeting has already taken place.

This state of affairs prevents the public from closely following the deliberation process.

Some have proposed a compromise of providing audio broadcasts of the meetings, but such broadcasts fail to provide a complete picture, since it's difficult to identify who has the floor at any given time.

The subcommittee chair, Itaru Yasui, has cited the uneasiness some members would feel in voicing their views if the meetings were to be broadcast via video.

However, nuclear energy policy is an important matter bearing on Japan's post-Fukushima energy policy.

It's a matter of great interest to the public.

If indeed the subcommittee's members feel they can't be honest if their meetings are broadcast, then perhaps there's a lack of understanding about the significance of the meetings and the importance of their transparency.

At its fourth meeting, the subcommittee recognized the importance of making its meetings public, saying that it would "discuss how to improve the situation."

We hope the subcommittee will modify its policy and move ahead with video broadcasts of their meetings.

毎日新聞 2014年08月20日 02時40分

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ウクライナ情勢 撃墜の真相究明へ停戦を急げ

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Efforts to achieve a ceasefire must be stepped up in Ukraine
ウクライナ情勢 撃墜の真相究明へ停戦を急げ

It has been over a month since a Malaysia Airlines plane carrying 298 people was shot down above eastern Ukraine on July 17, but little progress has been made in getting to the bottom of what really happened. The situation is cause for grave concern.

Early this month, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte withdrew an international investigation team the Netherlands leads from Ukraine, saying it was impossible to ensure the team’s safety.

Fierce fighting continues to rage between armed pro-Russia rebels and Ukrainian military forces around the rebel-controlled crash site and the nearby cities of Donetsk and Lugansk. The death toll, including civilians, is now greater than 2,000.

Malaysian authorities say an investigation into the downing is less than halfway completed. Many bodies have yet to be recovered, and many of the recovered bodies have yet to be identified, according to reports.

The results of investigations, including an analysis of the black boxes recovered from the wreckage of the aircraft, will be released no sooner than early September. However, there is serious concern over how much will be revealed regarding the matter.

In order to resume the investigations and stop the further killings of civilians, the Ukrainian military and the armed rebels should try to bring about a ceasefire as quickly as possible.

However, there is deep-rooted mutual distrust between two camps: the United States and European countries, on which the Ukrainian government relies, and Russia, which provides support to the armed rebels.

Sense of distrust

The United States and other countries said the civilian plane was mistakenly attacked by rebels with a surface-to-air missile, presenting satellite photos and other materials as evidence. Russia, for its part, has been adamant that the passenger plane was accidentally shot down by Ukrainian military aircraft.

The crux of the distrust the United States and European countries have toward Russia is the fact that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s government—which unilaterally annexed the Crimean Peninsula this spring—has continued behind-the-scenes military interventions in eastern Ukraine, jolting the pro-Europe government of Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko.

A senior leader of the rebel group has announced they were joined by 1,200 fighters who were trained in Russia for extended periods, as well as many tanks and armored vehicles.

Russia has sent massive amounts of food, medicine, generators and other humanitarian aid to eastern Ukraine, a move believed to be aimed at expanding its sphere of influence.

“We are going to do everything within our power to end the military conflict as soon as possible,” Putin said last week, referring to a ceasefire in eastern Ukraine.

If he really believes that, Putin should put his words into action. The Russian president must make earnest efforts to persuade the rebels into agreeing to a ceasefire and cooperating with the international investigation team.

The impact of sanctions the United States and European nations imposed in late July has been steadily spreading in the Russian energy and financial sectors.

While maintaining this pressure on Russia, countries concerned should hold repeated talks with Moscow to bring about a breakthrough toward realizing a stabilized Ukraine.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 20, 2014)

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福島原発汚染水 リスク減へ知見を結集したい

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Knowledge, talent must be utilized to tackle radioactive water problem
福島原発汚染水 リスク減へ知見を結集したい

Efforts to contain water contaminated with radioactive substances at the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant are progressing at a snail’s pace.

At present, dealing with radioactive water is the overriding issue in resolving a series of problems following the nuclear crisis at the power plant. We urge the government and Tokyo Electric Power Co., the power plant’s operator, to strengthen their efforts to contain contaminated water.

Contaminated water is increasing by 300 to 400 tons a day, as underground water continues to flow into wrecked reactor buildings and mixes with highly radioactive water used to cool reactor cores.

About 1,000 tanks are being used to store radioactive water on the grounds of the Fukushima power plant. However, the tanks are nearing their capacity of 550,000 tons. TEPCO plans to expand the capacity to more than 800,000 tons by the end of this fiscal year, but the contaminated water is expected to exceed even this amount before long. There is also a greater risk of water leaking as the number of tanks increase.

In May, TEPCO began pumping untainted groundwater from wells near mountains and releasing the water into the sea in what was dubbed the “groundwater bypass program.” But this effort failed to curb the increase of contaminated water as much as expected. The seriousness of the current situation cannot be understated.

Earlier this month, TEPCO announced it would take the additional measure of pumping groundwater from wells around the power plant—known as subdrain pits—and discharging the groundwater into the sea after confirming its safety.

Local fishermen have expressed concern that the measure may raise new fears about the safety of marine produce. The government and TEPCO should try to gain their understanding by sincerely explaining about the safety of the measure.

Technical difficulty looms

Another concern is the huge amount of highly radioactive water—11,000 tons—that has leaked and now remains in underground tunnels near the coast. The Nuclear Regulation Authority has pointed out there is a high risk of this water leaking into the sea and causing other problems.

Simply pumping the highly radioactive water out of a tunnel will not work, as it would soon be replaced by more contaminated water flowing in from reactor buildings. TEPCO has tried to freeze water in a section connecting the tunnel to a reactor building, but the attempt failed. The company needs to come up with another method of stopping water from flowing into the tunnel.

The failure proves the technical difficulty of dealing with contaminated water by freezing it.

Currently, a project of freezing subsurface soil under reactor buildings to create an ice wall to prevent the flow of underground water is making headway. This project is considered a trump card in dealing with contaminated water. TEPCO should use all of its technical know-how to smoothly implement the project.

Ensuring the stable operation of Advanced Liquid Processing System water decontamination devices is also essential. If high-level purification work becomes feasible, processing radioactive water and releasing it into the sea may be an important option in dealing with this problem.

On Monday, the government established the Nuclear Damage Compensation and Decommissioning Facilitation Corporation, an organ tasked with supervising decommissioning work and measures to deal with contaminated water from a technical standpoint.

The government and TEPCO must utilize a wide range of information and talent both in Japan and abroad to tackle the radioactive water problem.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 20, 2014)

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(社説)生活保護 外国人の扱い法律で

August 20, 2014
EDITORIAL: How to treat nation's foreign residents a burning issue
(社説)生活保護 外国人の扱い法律で

When foreign residents who are in Japan legally fall into financial hardships, what sort of safety net should be there to ensure that their basic needs are met?

In a lawsuit on whether foreign nationals who are permanent residents in Japan qualify for benefits under the Public Assistance Law, the Supreme Court on July 18 ruled that they do not qualify, overturning the Fukuoka High Court's ruling that they do.

Taking effect in 1950, the Public Assistance Law applies to "all Japanese people who are in financial difficulties," provided the individuals possess Japanese nationality. The top court's ruling was based on this provision, plus the fact that no legal amendment has been made since 1950 to apply this law to non-Japanese as well.

In reality, however, foreign permanent residents are already entitled to public assistance benefits. A directive issued in 1954 by the then-Health and Welfare Ministry proclaimed, "For the time being, foreign nationals who are in financial difficulties are to be protected in accordance with the Public Assistance Law." Although the government in 1990 restricted the beneficiaries to permanent residents and foreign citizens of Japanese ancestry, the government's treatment of cases involving needy foreign residents in Japan has remained effectively unchanged to this day.

In terms of strict interpretation of the law, the Supreme Court's decision is quite understandable. And it would be an overreaction to fear that the public assistance will not be provided to foreign permanent residents, because all the Supreme Court did was refute the right of foreign citizens to challenge the government when the latter withholds public assistance. In no way did the top court invalidate the current administrative procedures for dealing with needy foreigners.

The same issue was debated when Japan joined the U.N. Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees in 1981, because this treaty required all signatory nations to accord legally-recognized refugees the same treatment as their own nationals. And any revision to the Public Assistance Law was deemed unnecessary at the time, given that foreign residents were already eligible for public assistance benefits in effect.

That said, however, it does not mean that the present situation requires no change. Foreigners can never be fully certain what to expect, as most cases are left to the discretion of local administrative authorities.

Also, the government needs to define more clearly who are eligible for public assistance benefits. Under the current application of the law, it does not apply to foreigners who come to Japan to work.

But should this still be the way to go even when Japan starts accepting foreign workers in more fields than now, such as in nursing care, construction and housekeeping? This is definitely a matter to consider, now that the pros and cons of importing foreign labor are being debated in earnest amid the shrinking of the Japanese population.

While we obviously need to eliminate illegal aliens and others who are here to abuse the public assistance system, we must also establish a good safety net for foreign residents if we are to rely increasingly on foreign labor.

The Supreme Court ruling is a cue for us to start thinking seriously about determining by law how our country should treat foreign residents.

--The Asahi Shimbun, Aug. 20

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2014年8月20日 (水)

奨学金の滞納増 所得に応じた返済で負担軽く

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Ways should be found to lessen student loan repayment burden
奨学金の滞納増 所得に応じた返済で負担軽く

Student loans play an important role in realizing equal opportunity in education. It is vital for such loans to become more convenient for students and for economic assistance to be expanded.

With regard to the government’s student loans extended through the Japan Student Services Organization (JASSO), an expert panel of the education ministry has proposed the introduction of a system in which a loan can be repaid according to the recipient’s postgraduate income.

Unlike the current system, in which a loan recipient pays back the loan at a fixed amount every month, under the proposed system recipients could change the amounts in accordance with their annual, post-graduate income. To lessen the burden of repayment, the amount will be set lower for a low-income earner, with the amount rising as the annual income increases.

The new system can be called a flexible framework of student loan repayment as it takes into consideration the financial situation of student loan recipients.

More students are receiving government loans because of increasing university tuition fees and other factors. About 40 percent of university students obtain loans, either interest-free or interest-bearing. The scale of the government loan project totals as much as ¥1.2 trillion annually.

Those who obtain loans are obliged to repay them in the future. For example, if a student borrows an interest-free loan totaling about ¥2.6 million over four years during college, the student is supposed to make a monthly repayment of ¥14,400 over 15 years.

Due to the expanded employment of nonregular workers and the difficulty for finding jobs in recent years, however, many postgraduate students are failing into arrears. In fiscal 2012, 330,000 people fell behind in their payments, with the amount in arrears totaling ¥92.5 billion. Should such a situation remain unaddressed, the government’s student loan system may be seriously affected.

Falling into arrears

Some people in arrears reportedly were unaware of their repayment obligation until they received a notice of overdue payment. Such people must not forget that if they do not repay their loans, future generations may be affected.

If it becomes a regular state of affairs for a borrower to fall behind in payments, the name of the borrower will be registered with a personal credit information organization, which may create an obstacle for that person to use credit cards. In some cases, borrowers fail to pay back their loans, prompting the JASSO to call on their relatives or gurantors to pay back the loans for them.

We hope the introduction of the new system will lead to a decline in the failure to repay loans. The Education, Science, Sports and Culture Ministry assumes the JASSO will be able to keep tabs on the annual income of loan recipients in their postgraduate years with the so-called My Number system—under which people will be given identification numbers—to be launched in fiscal 2016.

Yet there are many details that need to be discussed further.

If the repayment period becomes longer under the new system, for instance, there is the likelihood that the total amount repaid becomes greater than under the current system for those who have interest-bearing loans. There is also a question of how to deal with a situation in which a recipient’s annual income does not rise as anticipated.

With regard to the government’s student loans, there are strong calls for establishing a grant-in-aid scholarship, which requires no repayment. However, the government’s fiscal situation remains tight.

Graduate students with excellent scholastic achievements are exempted from paying back student loans. We should extend such supportive measures to undergraduates, despite the tight fiscal situation.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 19, 2014)

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夏の電力供給 火力頼みはそろそろ限界だ

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Continued reliance on thermal plants not viable for stable power supply
夏の電力供給 火力頼みはそろそろ限界だ

Severe late summer heat and a rise in power consumption usually overlap at the time of year following the end of the Bon holiday period.

With no nuclear power plants in operation this summer, what we do now is crucial for surviving the heat. Power companies must take all possible measures to ensure stable power supply.

The balance of supply and demand for electricity is severe this summer centering on western Japan. Especially in the service areas of Kansai Electric Power Co. and Kyushu Electric Power Co., the surplus supply capacity when demand reaches its peak is no more than 3 percent, the minimum level said necessary to prevent a sudden blackout. This illustrates exactly how serious the situation is.

The demand for electricity has been held at lower levels than in usual years in western Japan, where a lot of rainfall has been recorded so far this year. But no optimism is warranted for future prospects.

The stoppage of power generation due to trouble at thermal power plants, which have been substituting for suspended nuclear plants, is of particular concern. This summer has already seen more than 20 such cases, double the figure for the previous year.

Twenty percent of the nation’s thermal power plants are superannuated facilities that have been operated for more than 40 years. So it is hardly remarkable for trouble to occur at any time at these plants.

For example, a thermal power station of Kansai Electric, which first fired up 40 years ago, has suffered malfunctions of many of its antiquated parts. The plant reportedly has managed to continue operating thanks to repairs on Saturdays and Sundays or at night, when power demand is lower.

The possibility of a catastrophic power outage brought on by a number of thermal power plants, which have been maintaining operations on a tightrope, cannot be ruled out.

Overoptimistic thinking

It is too optimistic to think that stable power supply is possible without relying on nuclear power generation at all.

Ultimately, it is indispensable to restart nuclear reactors smoothly after their safety is confirmed. The Nuclear Regulation Authority should carry out safety checks of nuclear plants without delay while the government must make efforts to win over the local residents and governments concerned about the restarting of nuclear reactors.

These matters must be urgently tackled while also enhancing a system for carrying out the nationwide interchange of power.

The balance of supply and demand for power is adjusted by major utilities individually within their service areas. In the event of a power supply shortage, they exchange power with each other.

An institution to promote power supply management over wider areas will start operation next April as a control tower to conduct power interchange more efficiently.

It is vital for the new organization to establish an effective management system to prevent an electric power shortage crisis from occurring due to a lack of cooperation among the utilities.

Power interchange between eastern and western Japan, which use different power supply frequencies, is made possible via frequency-conversion facilities.

The current conversion capacity stands at 1.2 million kilowatts. But this is considered insufficient to cope with emergencies. The electric power industry plans to boost the capacity to 2.1 million kilowatts by fiscal 2020. This plan must also be firmly promoted.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 19, 2014)

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(社説)WTOの意義 無差別いかす柔軟さを

August 19, 2014
EDITORIAL: WTO should be more flexible to establish new global trade rules
(社説)WTOの意義 無差別いかす柔軟さを

With cross-border interactions in the modern world of globalization increasing at a dizzying pace, international efforts to develop rules governing such activity often fail to keep up with reality.

One typical example of this challenge facing the world in the 21st century is the World Trade Organization’s struggle to reach an agreement on new global trade rules.

During a WTO ministerial meeting held late last year, member nations agreed to adopt a package of “trade facilitation” measures, such as simplifying customs clearance. But opposition from India and some other countries blocked the adoption of these measures by the July 31 deadline.

This development has further blighted the already bleak prospects for the Doha Development Round (DDA) of multilateral trade talks under the WTO, which started in 2001.

The DDA has managed to remain alive by muddling through many crises. Negotiators have prevented its collapse by narrowing the scope of areas for negotiations and taking other steps.

But efforts to keep the round of talks going have apparently reached their limit.

Meanwhile, a growing number of countries have been seeking to reach free trade agreements with their trading partners. This trend is threatening to relegate the WTO to a secondary role in trade liberalization.

The problem with FTAs is that these deals on abolishing or lowering tariffs are discriminatory, applied only to the countries involved. Other nations are denied the benefits of the agreements.

The WTO, in contrast, adopts the principle of nondiscrimination to ensure that agreements for free trade are applied equally to all participating countries.

Here lies the primary significance of the WTO, which has not lost its relevance despite the proliferation of FTAs.

The number of WTO member countries and regions has increased to 160 from 128 when it was formed in 1995. In addition, more than 20 countries are currently going through the process of attaining WTO membership.

The WTO has also proved itself to be an effective mechanism for settling trade disputes among countries.

Earlier this month, the WTO upheld a ruling that China violated trade rules with restrictions on the export of rare earth minerals or metals, supporting the claim made by Japan, the United States and the European Union. It is far from easy for countries involved in such disputes to settle them on their own.

Even so, the credibility of the WTO will be undermined if it continues failing to work out new trade rules fit for the times.

One of the major reasons for the WTO’s struggle to conclude negotiations is its unanimity principle, which requires decision-making by consensus among all members. This rule can be described as democratic, but it is usually a formidable challenge to build consensus among 160 countries with different interests.

What is noteworthy is an approach that allows an agreement to come into force when participants representing a certain percentage of world trade accept it. Unlike an FTA, such an agreement is open to all countries.

The WTO adopted this approach for its agreement on reducing tariffs on information technology products, which was signed in 1996 by 29 countries and separate customs territories.
The WTO Information Technology Agreement required approval by a minimum of WTO members that represented 90 percent of global trade in the sector for the pact to take effect.

As the number of signatory countries increased, the agreement came into force in 1997. Now, 78 countries and territories are party to the agreement, representing 97 percent of global IT trade.

The WTO should expand the scope of such flexible decision-making methods as part of its efforts to establish new trade rules swiftly.

There are a number of areas that are crying out for new global trade rules, such as investment and electronic commerce.

--The Asahi Shimbun, Aug. 19

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社説:無戸籍の人 法を見直し抜本救済を

August 19, 2014(Mainichi Japan)
Editorial: Time to aid residents without family records
社説:無戸籍の人 法を見直し抜本救済を

In Japan there exist a number of adults who have been left without family register records because their parents have failed to register their births. The government does not have a grasp of the situation, and the exact number of such people remains unknown, but private support groups receive roughly 100 inquiries a year.

Recently, the Ministry of Justice sent notification to regional legal affairs bureaus across the nation and initiated its first investigation into the problem. It is wrong for children to be left struggling in society simply because their parents, dealing with particular circumstances, failed to submit birth notifications. We hope the ministry's investigation will be the first step in providing relief.
The problem has been partially fuelled by a stipulation in the Civil Code that when a woman gives birth, the person who was the woman's husband at the time she was pregnant is deemed to be the father. Any child born within 300 days of a divorce, therefore, is presumed to be the child of the woman's former husband.

Because of this, if a woman flees her husband due to violence or other such reasons, and meets another man and gives birth without first settling her marriage relationship, it is apparently not uncommon for that woman to refrain from registering the child's birth.

There are also times when a woman gets pregnant with another man's child before her divorce is finalized, and after the child is born takes measures to avoid her former husband being registered as the father under the 300-day rule.

Of course, such problems can be overcome through arbitration and court rulings, but it is often a great burden for each side to meet face to face.

If a person has no family register, they cannot prove their age. Accordingly, they cannot vote, and are unable to obtain a driver's license or a passport. There are apparently a significant number of people who are also unable to obtain resident cards.

This leaves them in a worse situation, in which they are left out from being notified about entry into public schools while their families remain ineligible to receive administrative services and benefits, such as child welfare allowances.

It is possible for local bodies to create resident cards at their own discretion even if a person does not have a family register, but this fact has not been sufficiently publicized.

The Ministry of Justice is said to be seeking the cooperation of municipalities in its investigation. We hope that it will release its findings.

The Justice Ministry also sent out notification encouraging local officials to explain the administrative services that people without family register records can access under certain conditions.

Naturally, a careful explanation of the procedures is necessary, but the ministry should also think about drastic legal revisions that prevent people being left without family register records.

In today's society, divorce and remarriage have increased, and family relationships are often complicated.

Violence toward spouses has also risen, with some 50,000 incidents recorded each year.

In such circumstances, it is hard to say that the Civil Code stipulations on presuming paternity fit in with the times.

Just last month, cases that questioned paternity on the grounds of DNA tests were heard in a Supreme Court appeal and presumed paternity emerged as a focus of the hearings. Four of the five justices submitted individual opinions stating a need for legislation.

In 2007 the Tokyo Bar Association drafted a revision to the Civil Code under which presumed paternity would not apply if the space for the father's details was left blank when registering the child's birth, releasing this draft as a statement of its position.

The Legislative Council of the Ministry of Justice should begin full-scale deliberation of such methods discussing ways to presume paternity of a child.

毎日新聞 2014年08月19日 02時31分

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2014年8月19日 (火)

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不登校増加 サポート態勢の充実が大切だ

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Enhanced support system urgently needed to stem school absenteeism
不登校増加 サポート態勢の充実が大切だ

The figure stands at 119,617. This is the number of primary and middle school students across the country who were absent from school for 30 days or more in fiscal 2013 for reasons other than health or economic hardship. It represents the first increase in six years, and is up 7,000 from the previous year.

Among middle school students, this worked out to one in 37 being chronically absent. Statistically speaking, one student was absent from every homeroom. This is obviously an alarming situation.

The number of long-term absentees was brought to light in a basic school survey recently conducted by the Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry.

A growing number of students are becoming unable to go to school for such reasons as difficulty in forming human relations or the inability to follow healthy waking and sleeping patterns, according to the ministry.

In many instances before a student becomes absent for a long time, there is reportedly a “latent period” in which their short-term absences increase. To respond effectively, teachers must cooperate with parents to ascertain students’ concerns, so they can detect early signs of a student starting to avoid school.

Sharing information between teachers and school counselors, who are experts in child psychology, is also essential.

Bullying can be a reason for students to stop going to school.

Since the suicide of a middle school boy because of bullying in Otsu in 2011, an increasing number of parents seem to believe their children should not have to go to school if it means enduring bullying. This may be a factor behind the rise in students’ absences in the latest survey.

Survey results favorable

Both parents and teachers should respect and support children’s feelings, instead of trying to force them to attend school. Naturally teachers must give firm guidance to students who bully others.

Ever since the 1990s, when student absenteeism rose sharply, there has been a growing number of facilities to help young people who do not want to go to school, such as adaptation guidance classes run by municipal governments at about 1,300 locations across the country and private-sector “free schools” for children who avoid school or are unable to go to school for various reasons.

The adaptation guidance classes, which are operated outside schools, aim to get children back in school. Current and former teachers tutor students and they are helped by counselors.

The free schools run by private-sector groups or nonprofit organizations offer greater freedom for students. Students are allowed to learn at their own pace, engaging in such activities as cooking and caring for animals together with classmates and facility personnel, with the aim of connecting with other people.

A system exists under which school principals can count attendance at these facilities as days of attendance at the students’ former schools. Effective use of this system should be encouraged.

The education ministry last month released findings from a follow-up survey about students who were absent in their third year at middle school. The survey examined their situations five years later, and found that 85 percent went on to high schools or other schools.

This was a significant improvement from results in a similar survey 13 years ago.

The good results likely reflect the achievements of the adaptation guidance classes and free schools. The government’s Education Revitalization Council last month proposed studying the advisability of using public funds to extend financial support to free schools.

To help absent students become able to learn again together with their friends at school, arrangements should be made that are suited to their individual circumstances.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 18, 2014)

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燃料電池車 エコカーの選択肢が広がる

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Production of fuel-cell vehicles will offer more eco-car options
燃料電池車 エコカーの選択肢が広がる

Will moves by Toyota Motor Corp. and Honda Motor Co. to market fuel-cell vehicles (FCVs) herald the beginning of the spread of what is dubbed the “ultimate eco-friendly car”?

Toyota will start selling its FCV model this fiscal year, while Honda will introduce a model sometime next year.

The price of an FCV, which was about ¥100 million 10 years ago, is expected to fall to around ¥7 million. The government is reportedly considering offering subsidies of between ¥2 million and ¥3 million to FCV buyers. We welcome efforts to make FCVs affordable to consumers in Japan, ahead of any other nation.

FCVs are powered by electricity generated through the chemical reaction between hydrogen fuel and oxygen in the air and supplied to their engines. Like electric vehicles (EVs), FCVs do not emit carbon dioxide.

FCVs are capable of further reducing the burden on the environment, even when compared with EVs, which use electricity generated in thermal and other types of power plants.

With a full tank, the FCV can travel about 700 kilometers, more than three times farther than EVs. FCVs also have a short refueling time—about three minutes—while EVs need at least 30 minutes to by fully recharged.

When production of state-of-the-art FCVs starts in earnest, the ripple effect will likely be felt by many industries. Both the government and private sector must cooperate to ensure FCVs are widely used.

However, a considerable number of hurdles remain.

Obstacles must be overcome

The government and the relevant industry plan to establish hydrogen fuel stations for FCVs at 100 locations across the nation next fiscal year—a number that will be much more inconvenient for FCV users than drivers of gasoline-run vehicles, which can be refueled at about 40,000 gas stations in this country.

As construction of a hydrogen fuel station is costly at about ¥400 million, four times of that of a gas station, it remains to be seen if construction of the stations can be completed as planned.

Although the government has a system to provide as much as ¥280 million to subsidize a station, many operators are reluctant to build these kinds of stations as they have a hard time forecasting future demand for hydrogen fuel.

As things stand now, the cost of fuel for FCVs is about 50 percent more expensive than that of gasoline-driven vehicles.

It is essential to lower the construction cost of hydrogen fuel stations, utilize hydrogen from abroad, which is less expensive than domestically available hydrogen, and make other cost-cutting efforts.

Hybrid vehicles (HVs) using gasoline dominate the eco-car market mainly because they are convenient to refuel, but the drawback lies in their dependence on a fossil fuel.

Although they have the disadvantage of traveling a short distance per charge, EVs have the advantage of easy recharging at home and the low cost of using electricity as fuel.

After the entry of FCVs into the market begins in earnest, the three types of eco-cars will share the market by taking advantage of each vehicle’s merits. It is important for automakers to compete vigorously in development and propagation of eco-cars to sharpen Japan’s industrial competitive edge.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 18, 2014)

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社説:内部告発者保護 不利益扱い防ぐ制度に

August 18, 2014(Mainichi Japan)
Editorial: Strengthen system to protect whistleblowers
社説:内部告発者保護 不利益扱い防ぐ制度に

Many of those who have blown the whistle on wrongdoing involving their colleagues or employers have complained that they have been dismissed or transferred to unimportant divisions.

The Whistleblower Protection Act came into force eight years ago, but the spirit of the legislation has not been sufficiently respected. The system to protect whistleblowers needs to be reinforced by amending the law or taking other effective measures to prevent those who try to correct an injustice from being treated unfavorably.

The law is aimed at protecting workers, including public servants, who blow the whistle on criminal activities they witness at their workplaces to their employers or administrative organs. The Consumer Affairs Agency that enforces the law is hearing the views of experts and those who have experience of blowing the whistle in an effort to grasp the situation of whistleblowing and consider challenges that must be overcome.

The agency has recently interviewed those who have sued their employers for being unfavorably treated at their workplaces in retaliation for blowing the whistle on wrongdoing. One of the victims, an anesthetist who worked at a public hospital, notified high-ranking officials of his workplace that a dentist who had no license as an anesthetist was anesthetizing patients and that a fatal blunder had occurred. However, he was relieved from his post and forced to resign from the hospital. He also blew the whistle to the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry. But the ministry dismissed his complaint on the grounds that "the Whistleblower Protection Act does not apply to retirees" and that "it is prefectural governments that are authorized by the law to receive complaints from whistleblowers and issue recommendations to or take punitive measures against offenders."

These examples have demonstrated that whistleblowers are not being protected despite the legislation. The anesthetist requested that clauses providing punishment against employers that treat whistleblowers unfavorably and requiring administrative organizations to respond to whistleblowers in an appropriate manner be added to the law.

The Whistleblower Protection Act prohibits employers from dismissing or demoting employees or cutting their wages in retaliation for blowing the whistle on wrongdoing, but has no punitive clause against violators. Therefore, whistleblowers who have been treated unfavorably by their employers have no choice but to sue their employers to have the damage redressed.

The results of a survey that the Consumer Affairs Agency released last year show that 7 percent of whistleblowers or those who consulted their bosses or administrative organs about wrongdoing at their workplaces have been dismissed, and 21 percent have been unfavorably treated or harassed.

Critics have expressed fears that the introduction of punitive clauses could encourage workers to blow the whistle with evil intent. However, some form of punishments should be introduced against businesses and administrative organs that violate the law.

Problems involving administrative bodies that receive complaints from whistleblowers should be addressed. In at least one case, an administrative organization leaked the name of an employee who blew the whistle and the details of the worker's complaint to the company involved, allowing the firm to unfairly punish the whistleblower. As such, there have been calls for a clause to ban administrative bodies from leaking such information.

There have been calls for the establishment of a third-party body to receive complaints from whistleblowers as administrative bodies often share a mutual interest with businesses. These opinions are worthy of consideration.

Whistleblowers tend to be viewed by their colleagues or employers as traitors.

However, whistleblowing conducted in a fair manner could save the organizations they work for from an unfortunate predicament, and therefore whistleblowers should be protected.

毎日新聞 2014年08月18日 02時32分

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2014年8月18日 (月)

辺野古海底調査 移設工事を粛々と進めたい

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Govt must ensure preparation work for Futenma transfer goes smoothly
辺野古海底調査 移設工事を粛々と進めたい

It is important for the government to make steady progress in carrying out the work necessary to relocate the functions of the U.S. Marine Corps’ Futenma Air Station in Okinawa Prefecture, in keeping with relevant legislation.

The Defense Ministry has started preparations for a drilling survey aimed at exploring the nature of the submarine geology in waters along the seashore of the Henoko area in Nago in the prefecture, the location to which the Futenma functions are to be transferred.

In the ongoing preparation work, marker buoys have been laid to encircle a survey spot within the contiguous no-trespassing coastal area off the U.S. Marine Corps’ Camp Schwab in Nago, which the ministry greatly expanded in June. A floating platform to be used in the geological survey has also been assembled.

The latest move came after the government attempted to carry out a similar drilling survey in waters off the Henoko area in 2004. The government had to suspend that survey after failing to take effective measures to prevent offshore sabotage by groups of people opposing the Futenma relocation project. The mistake should never be repeated.

In conducting the upcoming survey, the government intends to ensure that the Japan Coast Guard clamps down on any attempts by antirelocation residents and others to enter the restricted zone. To this end, the government will treat such conduct as violations of the Laws for Special Measures Concerning Criminal Cases, which complement the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty.

Given that Japan is a nation governed by law, there is every reason to eliminate unlawful obstructive behavior.

The JCG should adopt all possible measures to keep watch on any obstructive conduct and guard the survey by using all the personnel, patrol boats and rafts it will need to achieve that objective. It is also important for the JCG to closely cooperate with the Defense Ministry, the police authorities and other relevant organizations in this respect.

In March last year, the ministry filed a request with Okinawa Gov. Hirokazu Nakaima for permission to conduct land reclamation work along the coast of the Henoko area under the Public Waters Reclamation Law. This came after the ministry had obtained the consent of Nago’s fishing cooperative, which holds the fishery rights in the area in question.

In December, the ministry gained approval from the prefectural government, which had examined the environmental preservation and other measures stipulated in the request.

Survey must go ahead

All this means that procedures necessary for the start of the submarine geological survey have been properly completed, with endorsement gained from many people who will be affected. Given this, the ministry must proceed with the survey as required.

Nago Mayor Susumu Inamine, an opponent of the Futenma transfer project, is poised to use various measures to hinder work to build an alternative facility in the Henoko area. The mayor reportedly intends to refuse to approve the construction of a material storage facility, on the strength of his authority to control the use of a nearby fishing port, for instance.

With this in mind, the ministry must devise measures to cope with the situation by, for example, securing a material storage site somewhere else.

When the planned alternative installation is put in place, U.S. military aircraft are scheduled to fly over an offshore area in the region. This arrangement will ensure that the impact on local residents, including the risk of an accident and noise pollution, is far smaller than that felt around the Futenma facility, which lies in a residential area.

The project to relocate the Futenma functions to Henoko is highly significant in that it will serve to achieve two key purposes: reducing the burden of hosting U.S. bases that is shouldered by people in the prefecture and maintaining the deterrent potential of the U.S. military presence in this country.

In November, an Okinawa prefectural gubernatorial election will be held. The incumbent, Nakaima, has already announced his bid to seek a third four-year term.

Naha Mayor Takeshi Onaga is also expected to run as an opponent of the relocation project. Another probable contender is Mikio Shimoji, a former postal reform minister, who has said he will put the controversy to a prefectural referendum if elected governor.

The reclamation law does not include a provision by which prefectural governors are authorized to cancel previously granted approval. We hope the project to transfer the Futenma functions to Henoko will be carried out without fail. This is essential for preventing renewed turmoil in the prefecture and in the Japan-U.S. relationship.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 17, 2014)

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北方領土演習 ロシアの挑発は看過できない

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Provocative Russian military games in northern territories unforgivable
北方領土演習 ロシアの挑発は看過できない

Nothing other than an act of provocation has taken place in the Russian-held northern territories, the biggest of the issues pending between Tokyo and Moscow, and we categorically oppose the Russian action.

Russia has carried out military exercises with about 1,000 soldiers taking part on the islands of Kunashiri and Etorofu off Hokkaido, and the Kuril Islands.

Many attack helicopters and military vehicles were reportedly involved in the war exercises. Full-fledged war games in the northern territories are said to be the first since July 2010.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has criticized the exercises as “totally unacceptable,” while the Foreign Ministry has lodged a strict protest with Russia’s charges d’affaires ad interim in Tokyo. These responses are undoubtably reasonable.

The Soviet Union illegally seized the four islands off eastern Hokkaido, which are an inherent part of Japan’s territory, in 1945 immediately after World War II. They have been illegally held ever since. Russia’s unilateral action of holding military exercises in the disputed areas—the focal point in the long-standing territorial negotiations between the two countries—will have a profound, negative impact on trust in the bilateral relations.

Problematic in particular is the fact that Russia issued a statement on Wednesday that rejected Japan’s protest against the military maneuvers, saying, Russia “can choose by itself where to hold military exercises within its own territory.” Russia had taken no account of Japan’s demand in advance that the exercises be canceled.

During the exercises, Russian President Vladimir Putin made a visit to the Crimean Peninsula in the southern part of Ukraine. This makes us suspicious that the military drills this time may have been designed to stress Moscow’s stance never to budge even an inch on territorial issues as was the case with Crimea, which Russia annexed forcibly in March.

Strategic diplomacy needed

A machine-gun and artillery division comprising about 3,500 soldiers has been stationed on Kunashiri and Etorofu islands, and it has been modernizing its equipment in recent years. This is part of the “Russification” attempts in the northern territories. Japan must work tenaciously to prod Russia into using self-restraint over the matter.

Also notable is the possibility that a Mistral-class amphibious assault ship, which Moscow will purchase from France, will be deployed to Russia’s Pacific Fleet.

Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera, during a meeting with his French counterpart at the end of July, urged France to cancel the sale of the amphibious assault vessel. The government should continue such diplomatic efforts.

Russia, for its part, has reacted adversely to Japan’s support for anti-Russia sanctions by the United States and European countries over the Ukrainian situation.

Following Japan’s decision on Aug. 5 to pursue a set of additional sanctions against Russia, including a freeze on the assets in Japan of Russian government officials and others, Russia took the countermeasure of postponing a consultative meeting of foreign vice ministerial officials that was scheduled toward the end of this month.

Moscow, however, has exempted Japan from a ban on farm product and fisheries imports, targeting only the United States and Europe. This has been deemed a tactic presumably aimed at disrupting ties between Japan and the United States and European nations.

Because of the military exercises this time, further stagnation of Tokyo-Moscow relations is most likely inevitable. The prospects for realizing a visit to Japan by Putin this coming autumn, which the two countries have agreed upon, have become even slimmer.

It is very important for Japan not to waver in the face of Russia’s attempt to put this country off balance, but rather to maintain the stance of keeping cooperative relations with the United States and European countries.

The government must engage in strategic diplomacy to never allow Russia’s infringement on any country’s territorial sovereignty or attempts to change the status quo by force.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 17, 2014)

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(社説)食料の確保 自給率一辺倒をやめよ

August 18, 2014
EDITORIAL: Food security policy should be more diversified
(社説)食料の確保 自給率一辺倒をやめよ

Japan’s food self-sufficiency rate for fiscal 2013 stood at 39 percent on a calorie basis, remaining unchanged for the fourth consecutive year. There is no prospect for the rate to rise to 50 percent, a key goal set by the government for its food security policy.

On a calorie basis, even Japanese-raised beef is not regarded as a 100 percent domestically produced food if the cattle have been raised on imported feed.

Japanese consumers have become highly price-conscious, while many Japanese farm products are priced much higher than imports. Given this reality, it is probably not wise to treat the self-sufficiency rate on a calorie basis as a vital indicator of food security.

It is certainly important for the government to make efforts to increase domestic food production. But the government could end up spending huge amounts of money on ineffective policies if it focuses too much on raising the self-sufficiency rate.

A case in point is the policy of encouraging farmers to give up growing rice and switch to wheat and soybeans as part of the acreage-reduction program to lower domestic rice production.

The idea is to reduce rice production in response to sagging domestic rice consumption while trying to raise the food self-sufficiency rate by using surplus rice fields to grow crops that the nation buys from other countries in large amounts.

At first glance, this seems to be a sound idea. Under this approach, however, state subsidies to rice farmers switching to growing other crops tend to keep rising while the cost effectiveness of the measure remains unclear.

In fact, domestic production of wheat and soybeans has failed to increase significantly in the face of competition from cheaper imports. The total acreage of deserted farmland has kept increasing.

The government has decided on a major change in its rice policy. Under the new policy, a farmland control organization set up in each prefecture will be used to promote consolidation of rice fields and lower production costs. The government will terminate the acreage reduction program in four years.

The new policy will still be based on the same principle of adjusting production to demand.

The government plans to encourage farmers to grow rice to be used as livestock feed instead of growing wheat or soybeans. But this approach could end up creating a new inefficient subsidy-based program.

The acreage reduction program has distorted Japanese rice production toward high-end crops that are delicious but pricey. Farmers should be encouraged to do more to produce lower-priced rice as well.

Boosting the price competitiveness of rice will expand Japanese rice exports and help protect the foundation of domestic production. The government should step up farm policy efforts focused on these goals, especially for rice, the nation’s staple food.

It is also vital to strengthen Japan’s relations with major food producing countries to secure stable supplies while reducing food losses caused by disposal and leftovers.

From this point of view, it is notable that the economic partnership agreement Japan and Australia signed in July includes a provision that commits the two nations to make efforts not to introduce and maintain export restrictions.

The government should try to secure a similar promise from other exporting countries of agricultural, livestock and fisheries products.

Japan’s annual food losses have been estimated by the government to be 5 million to 8 million tons, roughly the same amount as annual rice production.

There are many steps that can be taken immediately to reduce food losses. The retail industry, for example, can contribute to the cause by changing its practice of rejecting food products when the period until the best-before date is not long enough. Families, for their part, can improve their dietary habits.

Efforts to ensure food security should be more diversified, instead of being focused solely on raising the food self-sufficiency rate.

--The Asahi Shimbun, Aug. 17

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2014年8月17日 (日)

香山リカのココロの万華鏡:お母さんの夏休み /東京

August 17, 2014(Mainichi Japan)
Kaleidoscope of the Heart: Mothers and homemakers need a summer break, too
香山リカのココロの万華鏡:お母さんの夏休み /東京

Schools are out for the summer, and it's around the time of the season when people working for companies are taking time off either all at once, or in shifts.

It's been a bit more cheerful than usual during consultations, where when asked if they're planning to take a summer vacation, many will answer with something like, "Yes, I'm finally going to be visiting Okinawa."

But there are people for whom summer is more challenging than usual: mothers and homemakers.

I've heard a woman say that she's filled with gratitude for hot school lunches when she has to make three meals a day for her children during summer break. Another homemaker said that her husband's sister's family was planning to stay with her family over the summer, which meant she was going to have to cook for seven people every day. 「子どもが夏休みなので、3食しっかり作らなければならないんです。給食はつくづくありがたい」「夫の姉一家が夏休みでわが家に滞在することになり、7人分の食事の準備が待ってます」といった話が出る。

Children and men may get a break from school or work, but often the kind of work many women are tasked with -- such as caring for elderly relatives -- does not allow for any time off. Visiting husbands' families during an extended break can also be tough on women, too.

I used to know a married woman suffering from depression who went with her children to visit her parents during the Bon festival in August.

She said that her parents, whom she hadn't seen in a while, had aged more than she'd expected.

She was brooding over such dark thoughts when her parents said to her, "Go upstairs and lie down, there's a futon out for you. We'll keep the kids occupied, and wake you when dinner's ready. Sleep as long as you'd like." Her parents must have had stories to tell, things they wanted to discuss with her, but instead, they urged their exhausted daughter to rest.

"I was so grateful. My parents understood that I didn't need any extravagant meals or invitations to go out here and there, but to rest without any distractions," she said.

The woman slept like a log for the majority of the two days she was there, and missed plans to go shopping with her parents and to visit relatives.

"We were barely able to talk, and I'm sure my parents missed that, but they sent me off with smiles saying, 'Come back anytime to rest.'" As the woman recalled the scene, her eyes welled up with tears.

If "don't worry about us, take care of yourself first," is what loving parents say, then are parents who abuse their children thinking first and foremost about themselves?

To all the children and fathers or husbands across the country: this year, why not say to your mother or wife, "Make sure you take a summer break, too"?

(By Rika Kayama, psychiatrist)
毎日新聞 2014年08月12日 地方版

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社説:8・15と日中韓 「歴史の衝突」回避せよ

August 16, 2014(Mainichi Japan)
Editorial: Japan must avoid conflict with China, S. Korea over historical perception
社説:8・15と日中韓 「歴史の衝突」回避せよ

Japan commemorated the 69th anniversary of the end of World War II on Aug. 15 without resolving its conflicts with China and South Korea over historical perceptions and territorial issues. This is indeed regrettable.

In some ways, changes in the power balance in East Asia stemming from the rise of China have created friction, but the leaders of the three countries are largely responsible for the conflicts.

There are signs that Japan's bilateral relations with China and South Korea are beginning to improve as Japan-China and Japan-South Korea foreign ministerial talks have recently been held. These moves should lead to fundamental improvement in Tokyo's ties with Beijing and Seoul.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe refrained from visiting Yasukuni Shrine, where Class A war criminals are enshrined along with the war dead, on Aug. 15 this year. Instead, he sent a close aide to make a ritual offering to the shrine as president of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), while Internal Affairs and Communications Minister Yoshitaka Shindo and two other Cabinet ministers paid a visit to the shrine. The Chinese Foreign Ministry has issued a statement criticizing the prime minister and the three Cabinet ministers' acts.

Prime Minister Abe's decision not to visit the shrine on the anniversary of the war's end is appropriate. The last war was a reckless war of aggression. The prime minister apparently made the decision out of diplomatic considerations. The prime minister should not, however, visit the shrine where Class A war criminals -- or war leaders -- are enshrined in the first place.

It is necessary to put an end to the controversy and diplomatic rows over the pros and cons of the prime minister and other high-ranking government officials visiting the shrine. Now is the time to seriously explore the possibility of separating war criminals from the war dead enshrined at Yasukuni or building a non-religious national memorial for the war dead, which has previously been discussed within the LDP.

For the second consecutive year, Abe stopped short of mentioning responsibility for Japan's wartime aggression in Asia or pledging not to wage war again, which could invite misunderstanding among Asian countries.

In a speech marking the anniversary of Korea's liberation from Japanese colonial rule, South Korean President Park Geun-hye urged Japan to take proactive measures to settle the issue of so-called "comfort women" that can satisfy the victims by next year -- the 50th anniversary of the normalization of bilateral diplomatic relations.

There is still a wide perception gap between Japan and South Korea over the issue. While Seoul is demanding that Japan admit the government's responsibility for conscripting Korean women to serve as comfort women for Japanese soldiers during the war, Tokyo has taken the position that the issue of compensation has been legally settled.

It is necessary for Japan and South Korea to lead international efforts to settle the comfort women issue from the viewpoint that it is an issue of women's individual rights in wartime rather than just a bilateral issue.

Japan should discuss with South Korea what Tokyo can do in terms of its humanitarian and ethical responsibility. South Korea should also refrain from excessively criticizing Japan and show its readiness to play a constructive role in settling the issue.

China should also refrain from using the history of Japan's wartime aggression to paint Japan as the bad guy on the international stage, or take any other provocative action in bilateral territorial disputes.

The leaders of the three countries must try to avoid any conflict over historical perceptions or nationalism-fuelled clashes, and work toward improving relations as we approach 2015, which marks the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II.

毎日新聞 2014年08月16日 02時31分

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イラク首相退陣 過激派排除へ勢力を結集せよ

The Yomiuri Shimbun
New Iraqi premier must gather forces to remove radical Islamic insurgents
イラク首相退陣 過激派排除へ勢力を結集せよ

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s relinquishment of his post must be used as an important step toward eliminating the Sunni Islamic State radical group that has been expanding its sphere of influence in northwestern Iraq.

Maliki has decided to step down and declared his support for Haider al-Abadi, vice speaker of the Iraqi parliament, who has been nominated as his successor. Maliki had lost credibility at home and abroad as he was devoted to protecting his own position while unable to deal with the crisis of his country’s divisions.

During about eight years in office, Maliki concentrated power among his Shiite allies, provoking strong distrust from Sunnis and Kurds. He eventually became unable to obtain cooperation in forming a government for his third term.

The secession of Sunni factions from the Maliki administration was a factor behind the expansion of the Islamic State. It is commendable that a major hurdle in the way of national reconciliation, which is indispensable for overcoming the crisis, has been removed with Maliki’s resignation.

Like Maliki, Abadi is a Shiite, but his politics are relatively moderate, and he is said to be practical-minded. Reconciliation with the Sunnis and Kurds must be realized as quickly as possible.

The first task for Abadi is to establish a cabinet of national unity by an early September deadline. To this end, it is necessary for the new prime minister to put forth a stance of breaking away from Maliki-style politics so as to secure the cooperation of the Sunnis and Kurds. It is essential to unite various political forces under his leadership.

Intl support secured

In addition to the United States and Europe, such countries as Japan, Iran and Saudi Arabia have joined hands to support Abadi. This is because they have judged that backing the new Iraqi government is crucial to cope with the threat of Islamic State militants.

The Islamic State has fought alongside Sunni tribes and remnants of the former Saddam Hussein regime that tried to topple the Maliki administration. Joined also by radicalized young people from abroad, the Islamic State has reportedly increased its membership to about 10,000. It is feared that the threat of terrorism will spread globally if the group is left unchecked.

It is necessary to weaken the Islamic State by severing its links to Sunni tribes through political approaches by Sunni leaders.

Limited U.S. air strikes in the areas around its consulate general in Arbil, northern Iraq, have produced certain results, including blocking the advance of Islamic State insurgents and rescuing some minority Yazidis.

The U.S. military plans to maintain a policy of air strikes in Iraq for at least several weeks and has started supplying arms to the Kurds. However, there are limits to the effects of restricted air raids. It is imperative to fully support and rebuild Iraq’s military security forces, which are on the brink of collapse.

It is essential to provide assis-tance for refugees who are said to total 700,000 in the Kurdish autonomous region of northern Iraq alone. From a humanitarian standpoint, Japan should study effective aid measures in cooperation with the United States and Europe.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 16, 2014)

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朴大統領演説 対日関係は「慰安婦」だけか

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Japan, S. Korea share concerns beyond ‘comfort women’ issue
朴大統領演説 対日関係は「慰安婦」だけか

We seriously question the appropriateness of South Korean President Park Geun-hye’s pursuit of unilateral concessions from Japan on the issue of so-called comfort women. This unbending stance should be altered to allow for more flexible diplomacy if an improved Japan-South Korea relationship is to be built.

In her speech Friday at a ceremony marking the 69th anniversary of Korea’s liberation from Japan’s colonial rule, Park said it was necessary for the two nations to make efforts to heal the wounds from the past, stressing the importance of settling historical issues. She also reiterated her criticism of the administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, saying certain Japanese politicians are hurting and pulling apart the hearts of people in both nations.

The fact that she made a stronger demand than before for Japan to address the comfort women issue should not be overlooked. Park said the bilateral relationship would certainly develop if the two nations properly settle this issue, a remark made to urge Tokyo to take specific steps.

Her remarks were made as if the settlement of the comfort women issue were an absolute prerequisite for improving bilateral ties. Her stance is questionable.

Immediately after her inau-guration in February last year, Park started putting importance on historical issues with Japan. In a ceremony in March this year to mark Korea’s 1919 uprising against Japan’s colonial rule, Park referred to the necessity of solving the comfort women issue. By doing so, she made clear her anti-Japan stance of putting top priority on the issue.

Japan’s gesture spurned

It is unreasonable to demand that only Japan compromise on the issue, considering relevant developments in the past.

The issue of colonial-era reparations, including individual rights to claim compensation, was legally settled when Japan and South Korea normalized diplomatic relations in 1965. Despite that, the Japanese government established the Asian Women’s Fund to provide “atonement money” and carry out other projects for former comfort women in order to fulfill its moral responsibility.

The South Korean government hailed the fund’s establishment, but the projects did not progress as intended in the face of rising public opinion in South Korea that sought for Japan to take legal responsibility over the issue.

Although it would be extremely difficult for Japan to do more in terms of humanitarian measures, Park has taken it upon herself to insist on the settlement of the issue, impeding fence-mending between the two nations.

In her Friday speech, she also said the two nations must build future-oriented relations of friendship and cooperation toward next year, which will mark the 50th anniversary of the two nations’ normalization of diplomatic relations. If this is really what she wants, perhaps she should stop making the settlement of the issue a precondition for a bilateral summit meeting.

It would be realistic for Japan and South Korea to seek specific ways to settle the issue with both sides coming steps closer, while building a relationship of trust through repeated dialogues between the political leaders.

In South Korea, an increasing number of people are questioning the current state of their nation’s diplomatic policy toward Japan, which is stalled due to the comfort women issue, and calling for cooperation with Japan over North Korean and economic policies.

We wonder if such calm opinions have reached her ears.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 16, 2014)

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(社説)日本と韓国 国交半世紀に向かって

August 16, 2014
EDITORIAL: Wise decisions needed from Abe and Park to ensure good ties
(社説)日本と韓国 国交半世紀に向かって

On Aug. 15, the anniversary of the end of World War II, prayers were said across Japan for the repose of the souls of the war dead.

In neighboring South Korea, the day was commemorated as the anniversary of the country’s liberation from Japanese colonial rule.

In an Aug. 15 ceremony to mark “Liberation Day,” South Korean President Park Geun-hye referred to next year’s 50th anniversary of the normalization of diplomatic relations between Japan and South Korea and said, “Now, both South Korea and Japan have to work to develop a future-oriented, friendly and cooperative relationship.”

In particular, she stressed that resolution of the “comfort women” issue would promote the development of firmer bilateral ties. “I have high hopes for the wisdom of Japanese political leaders and expect them to make a decision,” she said.

It's about time the two countries took steps to ensure they have a brighter future together. While Japan needs to make a sincere response to the long-festering issue, Park should also boldly show “wisdom and decisions.”

There can be no solution that is rated as perfect by either country. Any proposal to resolve the issue is bound to provoke complicated reactions from both sides, comprised of both positive and negative responses.

But it is the mission of political leaders engaged in diplomacy to find a point at which both sides can compromise so as to settle the issue from a broad perspective. The relationship between the two neighboring countries must not be allowed to remain as frosty as it is now.

Earlier this month, The Asahi Shimbun ran special coverage on the issue of comfort women in which it corrected some errors in its past reporting while pointing out that this is essentially an issue of universal human rights.

At comfort stations set up with the involvement of the Japanese military, many women were forced to provide sex to soldiers. Their dignity as women was degraded. There is no denying these historical facts.

Successive Japanese governments have recognized responsibility for this dark chapter in the nation’s history. Japan has made a certain degree of effort to sort out the issue. For instance, it created the Asian Women’s Fund to provide compensation to former comfort women in the 1990s, although Seoul refused to accept the measure.

Even though the issue had grown complicated, the two governments came close to an agreement to break the diplomatic impasse two years ago. The agreement would have resulted in an apology from Japan’s ambassador to South Korea to the victims and granted them aid financed by Japan’s state budget.

But the deal fell through as Japanese politics entered a period of flux. But this shows that serious efforts by political leaders on both sides could open the door to a solution to this sticky issue.

Last week, the 22nd Korea-Japan Forum was held in Fukuoka, which brought together experts and politicians from both countries.

The participants discussed a range of issues, including the situation where the current political deadlock between the two countries is beginning to negatively affect their economies and tourism industries.

In the area of national security, cooperation between Japan and South Korea, two leading democracies and free market economies in the Western Pacific, is vital for effective international efforts to deal with North Korea and ensure stability throughout Asia.

As long as the leaders of the two countries remain unable to hold an official summit and build healthy bilateral ties, they cannot hope to lay out a convincing vision for the future of Asia.

We strongly hope that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Park will provide true political leadership to change the situation now before the landmark anniversary in the history of the bilateral relationship next year.

--The Asahi Shimbun, Aug. 16

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2014年8月16日 (土)


'What was that war all about?': Ex-Japanese soldier recalls a year in the Philippine jungle
いったいあの戦争はなんだったのか? 元軍人がフィリピンのジャングル生活に思いをはせる(スラチャイ訳)



'What was that war all about?': Ex-Japanese soldier recalls a year in the Philippine jungle
いったいあの戦争はなんだったのか? 元軍人がフィリピンのジャングル生活に思いをはせる(スラチャイ訳)

SHIRAKAWA, Fukushima -- Eishiro Wada carefully opens the old, dark blue notebook. It's no larger than a business card, and looks like it might fall apart just by looking at it. Inside, sentences written in blue fountain pen roll out across the pages.

"My eyes are too old to read this anymore," says the 92-year-old Wada, chuckling. On this particular page are the words, "Dragonflies, mice, snails, earthworms; I ate everything and anything." The little book is Wada's diary from nearly seven decades ago, and in it are the tales of the Imperial Japanese Army veteran's year hiding in the Philippine jungle, unaware that World War II had ended.

Wada was born to a farming family here in Shirakawa, Fukushima Prefecture. After finishing elementary school (which was as far as compulsory education went in prewar Japan), he went to work in an aircraft factory in Kanagawa Prefecture. Though there was a conscription system, Wada did not wait to be drafted, volunteering for the army in 1942.

He was trained as an airfield signals operator and posted to northern Manchuria, but was redeployed in 1944 to the town of Cotabato on Mindanao in the southern Philippines -- just as the American-led Allied forces were closing in. He still has the farewell letter he wrote to his parents when he left Manchuria, in full expectation he would not return to Japan alive.

"I will die to destroy America and Britain, for Japan," the letter says. Looking at it now, Wada points out that his younger self had added the radical for "beast" to the kanji characters for the United States and Britain, "because at that time they were monsters."

In April 1945, 10 months after the Imperial Japanese Navy had been badly defeated in the Battle of the Philippine Sea but still four months before Japan would surrender, the Japanese commander at Cotabato dissolved his units under fierce American attacks. Wada, 23 at the time, sent out the last message.

"I cried," he wrote in the diary. "I cried, and my hand shook as I touched the telegraph key for the last time." The message he tapped out went, "Enemy units of unknown strength have, on the morning of April 18, Year 20 of the Showa Era, begun landing operations (on Mindanao)."

Wada says he truly believed at that moment that Japan would turn things around and win the war, "but I'd have to be patient until that happened." He then smashed his cipher machine, burned his codebooks and fled into the jungle with eight other soldiers. The small band walked aimlessly through the dark forest for days on end. Wada was carrying some dry rice, but the men couldn't cook it because they'd run out of matches to light a fire.

"We ate the rice raw. We shot a monkey and ate that raw, too," the diary records. Snakes and lizards joined the monkey on the soldiers' jungle menu. What they didn't have, however, was salt, and Wada began to show signs of malnutrition. He was also running a high fever from a bout of malaria, yet he walked on. If he'd stopped moving, the other men would have left him behind to become some forest creature's dinner.

One among the group, a private first-class, became too sick and weak to carry on. The soldiers abandoned him to the jungle, and he never reappeared. "We assume he's dead," the young Wada wrote. Later, another soldier, a very young signals operator, shot himself through the throat. Eventually, there were only two men left, and one of them was Wada.

The two men said to each other every day, "I'd die for a meal of white rice and miso soup right about now." One morning, as Wada was trying to give water to his prostrate companion, he thought to himself, "I'm no longer a man of this world. I've become cold-hearted." A little later, he was alone, and thought he'd be following his comrades into death before long. He stayed in one spot for several days, but then decided he had to keep walking.

Sometime later, Wada ran into a man calling himself "Kato," a Japanese civilian living in the area.

"Mr. soldier, sir," the man said to him, "please come and help me."

Kato had married a local woman and put down roots on Mindanao. Attacks by guerrillas fighting the Japanese had forced Kato to flee his home with his three children, however, and the family was now roaming from place to place. Kato did, however, have matches, and Wada shared his first meal of cooked rice in a long time with the man. But Kato had already been in bad shape when Wada ran into him, and he died a few days later, leaving two daughters and a son. Wada's diary records the eldest as 14 years old. Her name was Nobuko.

Wada could not leave the kids behind. He and the children found a jungle hut and moved in. Wada says that Nobuko took good care of her siblings, and the four spent probably more than six months together. They hunted using a rifle taken from a dead Japanese soldier, and were very careful with when and how they lit their fires, worried that they'd be discovered by American troops.

One morning in May 1946, Wada heard voices coming from the jungle. It was a U.S. Army unit sent to secure the surrender of Japanese holdouts. Wada raised his rifle and grabbed a hand grenade, ready to blow himself up on the spot. Then, among the Americans, he spotted a familiar face; one of his former army comrades. Wada knew then that the war was over and Japan had lost, and he was momentarily paralyzed by the realization.

Living in his jungle hut with the three Kato kids, Wada had no way of knowing that World War II was over, though he had noticed that the skies had emptied of enemy aircraft. However, even in the jungle hell that devoured eight of his fellow soldiers, Wada had believed down to the bone that Japan would regain its feet and go back on the offensive. That belief shattered the moment he saw the U.S. troops and their Japanese companion, and Wada suddenly wondered what he'd been thinking, what he'd been waiting for all this time. He broke down in tears.

Wada gave himself up and was sent to a POW camp on Leyte Island in the central Philippines. When he had regained his strength, he was sent back to Japan. It was December 1946, and his family was surprised to see him. They'd received a notice from the army saying he'd been killed in action; shot through the head, specifically.

Back on Mindanao, the nine men who went into the jungle had sworn to visit the families of any one of them who did not survive. Wada kept that promise, traveling to the homes of the eight men across Japan, from Mie to Niigata prefectures. Their parents greeted him with tears, and Wada found he hadn't the heart to tell them what the jungle was really like or how their boys had died.

"He confronted the enemy, and was killed in battle," Wada told each family in turn.

The story of Wada's year in the Philippine jungle did not end with these sad visits, however. In November last year, he got a call he'd never expected.

Wada hadn't talked about the war for many, many years, but the person on the other end wanted to know all about his experiences. Why? "For that girl you met back then," said the caller, a representative of an organization backing the citizenship claims of stateless people born to Japanese parents. The call was about Nobuko, full name Inia Nobuko Kato, now 80.

Nobuko's father had been a Japanese man who worked as a carpenter and in farming. Her mother, a native of Mindanao, had died young from disease. Then her father had died in the jungle. She had no citizenship, and had lived her life in poverty.

Nobuko had always thought of herself as Japanese and wanted to claim citizenship. However, she had no proof her father had been from Japan, leaving her to build a case out of memories and witness statements. On Aug. 7, 2013, Nobuko arrived in Japan with the financial backing of the support organization.

"I'm very thankful for the chance to come to Japan since my father is no longer in this world," she said upon her arrival at Narita International Airport, dabbing at her tears and clutching her mother's Buddhist mortuary tablet, which she says was made by her father.

She thought that the Japanese soldier from the jungle, the man named "Wada," would remember her father, and give her the proof she needed of his nationality. Depending only on Nobuko's dim recollections of this Wada, the support organization began their search. The group finally found Wada three months later, and made that November call.

In January this year, the Tokyo Family Court accepted Nobuko's citizenship claim, and Wada's testimony was one of the centerpieces of her case.

"There's no way I'd forget her. She was a lovely girl, and very reliable," Wada says, looking at a photo the Mainichi snapped of Nobuko at Narita Airport in April. "She's got so many wrinkles now!"

Wada says that Nobuko was all skin and bones when he'd first met her. He wrote about it in his little blue diary. "She's suffered a lot over the years, hasn't she?" he goes on. Nobuko's brother and sister had both passed away before her citizenship case was heard.

As Wada passes his finger over the blue kanji characters in his diary, he mutters to himself over and over, "What was that war all about?" He says he'd like to meet Nobuko again one day, but realizes they are both old folks now, and that wish may not come true.

August 15, 2014(Mainichi Japan)

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社説:8・15と戦争 記憶の継承の担い手に


August 15, 2014(Mainichi Japan)
Editorial: Pass on lessons of war to future generations
社説:8・15と戦争 記憶の継承の担い手に

The Aug. 15 anniversary of the end of World War II is the anniversary of surrender for Japanese people.

Japan, which invaded China and launched a surprise attack on the United States, was defeated exactly 69 years ago, although Japanese leaders said all 100 million Japanese were prepared to die an honorable death.

This reckless war left 3.1 million Japanese nationals dead. In all of Asia, the number of victims is believed to surpass 20 million.

Every August, many newspapers run articles featuring the war.

This tendency is occasionally ridiculed as journalism limited to August.

However, on Aug. 15 each year it is an indispensable ritual to quietly mourn war victims both in Japan and overseas and deeply consider war and peace.


Next year marks the 70th anniversary of the end of the war.

Those born after the war account for 80 percent of all Japanese nationals, and an overwhelming majority of those who experienced the war are in their 80s to 90s.

The memory of the war is gradually fading among Japanese people, and there are tendencies to regard wars as if they were games and describe the last war in a nostalgic tone.

No time should be wasted.

It is an urgent task to hand over the memory of the war to future generations to prevent a recurrence of the same mistakes.

Even those who did not experience World War II can visualize the war through the words of those who experienced the tragedy and through literary works featuring the war.

Novelist Shohei Ooka channeled his experience of the last war into literary works, such as "Furyoki" ("Taken Captive: A Japanese POW's Story") and "Leyte Senki" ("The Battle of Leyte Gulf").

In his book, "Sendo" ("War"), published by Iwanami Shoten Publishers, he wrote, "As a soldier and someone who experienced the war, I'd like to talk forever about how tragic war is."

It is important for each and every member of the public to respect his resolve and to pass on how stupid wars are to future generations.

Former Okinawa Gov. Masahide Ota, who fought in the war as part of student mobilization, has collected photos of various wars in the world and reminded the public of the cruelty of wars.

Ota inserted photos of a soldier being beheaded, a child who was stabbed in the stomach, a charred woman and other cruel scenes into a book titled, "Ningen-ga Ningen-de Nakunaru Toki" ("When humans become non-humans").  首をはねられる兵士、腹を裂かれた子供、焼け焦げた女性。目を背けたくなるような写真の数々を「人間が人間でなくなるとき」という題の記録集にまとめた大田さんは、

In the book, Ota writes, "It is necessary to confirm that we, individuals, cannot only be easily turned into 'non-humans' depending on the situation, but can also turn others into non-humans."

Wars are nothing but absurdity that turn humans into non-humans and madness that tramples down the dignity of lives.

The novel, "All Quiet on the Western Front," authored by German novelist Erich Maria Remarque, known for his antiwar literature and works describing World War I, ends after notifying its readers of the death of protagonist Paul Baeumer.

Remarque, a World War I veteran, wrote in the work's last scene that it was so quiet and calm on the western front that a command post had nothing to say but "All quiet on the western front. There is nothing to report."

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the beginning of World War I. Up to 15 million people are believed to have died in the war. In other words, in the history of that war, there are 15 million people who perished and were buried, just like Baeumer.

In the Pacific War, a massive U.S. airstrike on Tokyo left 100,000 people dead on a single night.

The atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki killed over 200,000 people.

There were numerous other air raids on Japanese cities.

Poet Zenmaro Toki composed a poem that reads, "There were reportedly hundreds, or even thousands of abandoned bodies. None of them had two lives."
土岐善麿は、日中戦争をこう詠んだ。「遺棄死体 数百といひ数千といふ いのちをふたつ もちしものなし」


Tens of thousands, or even hundreds of thousands of precious lives could be lost instantly in any war.

Having a rich imagination of such a tragedy can lead to true mourning of the war dead.

If so, we must keep in mind that a massive number of Asian people fell victim to the Japanese military in the last war.

The victims of the Sino-Japanese War and the Pacific War are spread throughout Asia.

There is no difference between countries and regions in the degree of absurdity and cruelty of war.

Such being the case, it is the duty of Japan, which caused immeasurable human suffering and damage to property in Asia, to equally mourn Japanese and other war victims.

Any war causes a rift between countries involved and instills feelings of hate.

While those who wage war tend to forget their memory of causing damage to their victims, the victims keep their memory of suffering forever.

Japan's deep-rooted row with China and South Korea over the interpretation of history involving Japan's wartime atrocities has raised questions as to how countries that wage war and victims should hand over their bitter memories to future generations.

How to remember what has historically happened may differ from country to country. But a conflict over the matter must not cover up the tragedy of war.

Ongoing discussions on reinterpreting the war-renouncing Constitution to open the way for Japan to exercise the right to collective self-defense have called into question the pros and cons of using force.

There are wars to counter acts of aggression and unavoidable wars that must be fought for humanitarian purposes. 戦争には侵略に対抗する戦争も、人道支援が目的の、やむをえない戦争もある。

Having a military deterrence is necessary to maintain peace.

However, wars cause cruel bruises and leave a negative legacy to countries involved and their people, regardless of how they start or end.

This is the reality of any war.

The phrase, "use of force," should not be easily mentioned without deeply thinking about its meaning.

Almost everyone throughout the world certainly hopes that they will not experience a tragedy similar to World War II.  二度とあのような戦争は経験したくない、というのが、ほとんどの国民の願いだろう。

Each and every member of the public should keep in mind the ugliness and cruelty of war in discussing how to ensure peace.

毎日新聞 2014年08月15日 02時30分

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(社説)戦後69年の言葉 祈りと誓いのその先へ

August 15, 2014
EDITORIAL: Japan needs meaningful language, not demagogic words, to discuss Aug. 15
(社説)戦後69年の言葉 祈りと誓いのその先へ

On the first Saturday of August, a demonstration was staged in Shibuya, one of Tokyo’s most vibrant shopping areas, where demonstrators repeatedly shouted, “Senso hantai” (No war), under a blazing sun.

Over the past 69 years, we have been able to safely assume that when Japanese talk about war, they most likely refer to the world war that ended on Aug. 15, 1945, with Japan’s defeat. When that is not the case, we have been able to say that the topic is probably a tragic incident that is happening somewhere outside Japan.

On July 1, however, the Cabinet of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe formally decided to change the government’s interpretation of the Constitution to make it possible for Japan to exercise its right to collective self-defense. As a result, war is no longer something that happened in the distant past or that can only happen far away from this nation.


There was no national consensus on the radical security policy change. We neither heard the government make a convincing case for supporting the move nor received a request from the government for our opinions about the policy shift.

Japan has been transformed from a country that never fights a war to a country that can go to war. This has been done by a limited number of people who have used far-fetched arguments to unilaterally change the way the government interprets certain words and discusses certain issues.

The speeches Abe delivered on Aug. 6 in Hiroshima and on Aug. 9 in Nagasaki, two special dates and places for Japan and humankind, were almost identical to his addresses at the same occasions last year. Not only that, he gave the cold shoulder to an atomic bomb survivor who told him that his argument for collective self-defense was not convincing. The prime minister bluntly replied, “It’s just a matter of opinion.”

When significant differences in opinions arise about important issues, politicians should provide explanations to narrow the gaps with the public.

Abe, however, failed to make such efforts concerning either the state secrets protection law or the issue of Japan’s collective self-defense. After the decisions were made and the actions were taken, he just repeated that he would make efforts to win public support for these controversial policy initiatives through explanations.

Abe doesn’t even try to conceal his contempt for the people with whom sovereign power resides.

The estimated average life expectancies of Japanese men and women in the year the war ended with Japan’s defeat were 23.9 and 37.5 years, respectively. Now, the various valuable things this nation obtained at huge costs are being threatened.

How has Japan drifted to such a situation?

An essay written by philosopher Shunsuke Tsurumi and published in 1946 offers some insights. It was titled “Kotoba no Omamori-teki Shiyoho ni Tsuite” (About the talismanic use of words).

“As long as politicians try to appeal to popular opinion with speeches and gobbledegook full of talismanic words without explaining their opinions in clear, concrete terms while the people readily adapt themselves to the astute way the politicians use talismanic words without trying to figure out what they really mean in a cool-headed manner, as long as this convention continues, the possibility remains that the kind of shady politics that was seen during the wartime will revive in some years.”


Talismanic words here mean words used by the powers that be in a demagogic manner or by ordinary people to protect themselves. Examples of such words used during the war are “kokutai” (national polity), “hakko ichiu” (the whole world under one roof) and “yokusan” (supporting the imperial rule). After the end of the war, these words were replaced by “democracy” and “freedom,” which were imported from the United States.

Using such words without knowing what they exactly mean is making what Tsurumi called “talismanic use” of words.

Words that are originally intended as mere rhetorical flourishes gradually acquire influence while being frequently used and eventually become so powerful that they can be used effectively to silence criticism. There was, for instance, a situation during the war where the word “kokutai” forced people into tame submission even when their interests were harmed. Talismanic use of words leads people into undesirable situations before they know it.

When Abe began to advocate what he calls “proactive pacifism,” some people must have been unsure about what he meant and suspicious about what he intended to do.

While people felt hesitant about criticizing any form of “pacifism,” Abe advertised this term internationally during his overseas trips. He then started claiming that he had won international support for his “proactive pacifism” in an attempt to create a fait accompli.

As it turned out, this vague concept of “proactive pacifism” was used as a slogan to replace Japan’s three long-established, highly restrictive principles regarding arms exports with the new “three principles concerning transfers of defense equipment.” Not surprisingly, this term is mentioned three times in the Cabinet’s statement endorsing Japan’s use of its right to collective self-defense.

Other examples include “toward a beautiful country,” “a departure from the postwar regime” and “Abenomics.”

How should Japanese people, as sovereign members of society, respond to this administration of “talismanic words?”


During the Aug. 9 ceremony to mark the 1945 atomic bombing of Nagasaki, Miyako Jodai, who delivered a speech as the representative of hibakusha, said, “The initiative to allow Japan to use its right to collective self-defense that is now under way is an outrageous act of trampling on Japan’s Constitution.”


These words, which Jodai uttered on the spur of the moment, reflected her profound anger about what is happening and charged the air at the ceremony, which was proceeding quietly.

Some people were taken aback by her words, while others were offended. There were also people who applauded her in their minds. Her words provoked strong emotions, whether they were sympathy or antipathy, and stood in sharp contrast to the prime minister’s “recycled speech.”

The episode demonstrated the power that words can have.

On the day when the anti-war demonstration was held in Shibuya, people were apparently shaken by what the demonstrators said. A woman glared at the protesters and said in disgust: “I don’t see the point of what you are doing. Just go to vote.” Her friend, who was walking beside her, just shrugged it off with a bitter smile.

There was also a couple who mimicked the “No war” chanting of the demonstrators and rolled about laughing.

The rally at least created a slight crack in daily life.

The only way for us to avoid being hypnotized by talismanic words is to voice our own words based on our own thinking, not those borrowed from others, and make them heard.

We should be able to talk in our own plain language about what kind of society we want to live in and what happiness means to us.

Aug. 15 is supposed to be a day to quietly mourn for the war dead. In recent years, however, it has become a day filled with patriotic utterances.

We need to find our own words to commemorate Aug. 15, which should be neither a day of silence nor a day of noisy demagogy.

--The Asahi Shimbun, Aug. 15

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2014年8月15日 (金)

終戦の日 平和国家の歩みを堅持したい

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Anniversary of war’s end sees Japan still committed to path of peace
終戦の日 平和国家の歩みを堅持したい

Today, Aug. 15, marks again the anniversary of the end of the war.

This is the day we renew our pledge of peace and our determination not to engage in war, while also quietly paying tribute to the memory of those who died in World War II.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s administration decided in July on a new constitutional interpretation that acknowledged the country’s limited ability to exercise the right of collective self-defense.

In connection with this, Mayor Tomihisa Taue of Nagasaki expressed “anxiety and apprehension” in the Peace Declaration of Nagasaki on the 69th anniversary of the atomic bombing of that city on Aug. 9, stating that “the rushed debate over collective self-defense has given rise to the concern that this principle [of pacifism] is wavering.” Others are also averse to the government’s reinterpretation of the Constitution, making such claims as that the new government view could “pave the way for Japan to again take part in a war.”

Govt not seeking war

The new government view, however, is by no means an attempt to make it easier for Japan to take part in a war. On the contrary, it is aimed at minimizing that possibility by strengthening the Japan-U.S. alliance and Japan’s cooperation with the international community to enhance the nation’s deterrent against war.

The security environment surrounding Japan has been deteriorating rapidly in recent years. North Korea has been pushing ahead with nuclear weapons and missile development programs, while China has been bolstering its armaments and repeatedly conducting self-righteous maritime advances. The menace of international terrorism has also been surging.

It is urgent for this nation to firmly establish a system capable of coping effectively with new security situations.

During the 69 years since the war’s end, Japan has seen the benefits of peace and prosperity, having never attacked any other country or been subject to invasion from abroad.

Peace cannot be maintained simply by chanting the slogan, “Let’s defend Article 9 of the Constitution.”

It is of major significance that this country, in the years after the war, founded the Self-Defense Forces and built up its defense capabilities in a manner suited to changes in the times, while concluding the Japan-U.S. security treaty and steadily strengthening the bilateral ties of the alliance.

Although no SDF personnel have been killed in war, more than 1,800 have so far died in the line of duty from such causes as accidents and illness. We must always remember that Japan’s security is ensured through the inconspicuous day-to-day efforts of the SDF.

When the Japan-U.S. security treaty came under revision in 1960, emotional objections erupted based on the claim that Japan would be drawn into war, splitting public opinion in two.

It has been historically proven, however, that the Japan-U.S. alliance functioned effectively both during the Cold War between East and West, when there was a military threat from the Soviet Union, and under the fluid circumstances in East Asia after the Cold War ended.

The Japan-U.S. alliance is now acknowledged by many countries as “a public asset” needed for the stability of Asia.

The government used the SDF in a restrained way in the initial days of its existence, but has since expanded its role in stages to include such fields as international peacekeeping activities. This progress by Japan as a peace-loving country ever since the war’s end has been highly praised by the international community.

The approval of limited exercise of the right of collective self-defense is an extension of such peacekeeping efforts by Japan and has been supported and hailed by most countries other than China and South Korea. This fact is extremely significant.

The change in the government’s constitutional interpretation has made it possible for the SDF to protect U.S. warships and missiles from attack. Measures will be worked out to handle contingencies in various situations. Through repeated drills, the ability to seamlessly respond in every situation from peacetime to emergencies will be maintained. Such endeavors will enhance the effectiveness of deterrence.

Inflammatory arguments

Some people have made inflammatory claims that the change in the interpretation of the Constitution will lead to a revival of the prewar conscription system. They contend this will happen due to difficulties recruiting SDF personnel because they will be told to go to war, but this is a specious assertion.

A military draft is prohibited outright by the Constitution. Like its principles of pacifism and an exclusively defensive posture, this tenet will never change. The reinterpretation of the Constitution was restricted in order to maintain the spirit of the nation’s top law. The government must explain these points in detail to the public.

It is essential for Japan to remain a country that the United States can trust and that is worthy of being protected.

If the Maritime Self-Defense Force does not take any action when U.S. warships are attacked in the Sea of Japan, the bilateral alliance might collapse. The action one takes when someone is in need determines whether one is a true friend.

It is also indispensable for Japan to play a role commensurate with its national strength in such fields as U.N. peacekeeping operations, based on the Abe administration’s strategy of “proactive contribution to peace.”

Improve security environment

Japan’s contributions to improving the world’s security environment through such efforts as reducing hotbeds of terrorism and preventing conflicts would be directly linked to its own security. Such endeavors would also lead to Japan becoming a country worth being protected by the international community.

The government’s new constitutional interpretation limits the range of what would amount to “an integration of the use of force,” which is banned under the Constitution, and enable urgent rescue missions by the SDF to help foreign troops. It is highly significant for the SDF to take a more active part in building peace.

It is also essential for Japan as a pacifist nation to step up its diplomatic activities. Japan must reinforce cooperation with countries concerned to establish a system that will not allow the status quo to be changed through force and will try to resolve disputes peacefully based on international law.

Based on the new constitutional interpretation, it is crucial to beef up deterrence by making military and diplomatic strategies function as two wheels on the same cart.

This is the only way to ensure that Aug. 15 remains the only date on which we commemorate the anniversary of a war’s end.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 15, 2014)

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(社説)子供とネット 仲間の輪をもっと広く

August 14, 2014
EDITORIAL: Online relationships a very one-sided thing
(社説)子供とネット 仲間の輪をもっと広く

There must be many parents in Japan who lament the time their children spend on smartphones while they could be doing other things during the summer break.

The education board of Kasuga city in Fukuoka Prefecture this summer called for a ban on children using their smartphones at night. The board is concerned that Internet addiction could disrupt the children's daily routine.

Adults tend to think that children who get hooked on Internet surfing have trouble developing normal relationships with others. But that is not necessarily the case.

Most children use the Internet to communicate with friends and acquaintances, such as classmates and other members of their school clubs, after the school day is over.

The Internet offers children the opportunity to stay in touch with their pals all the time, no matter where they are. Many children are unable to stop their online communications with friends because they fear doing so will damage their friendships. The problem, then, is that these children are stuck in a "Catch-22" situation.

There have also been cases in which exchanges on Line and other messaging applications led to serious incidents like suicides caused by bullying, or even murder.

For many children, the greatest risk posed by their online communications is not the possibility of encountering strangers with nefarious intent, but rather pressure from their usual friends to conform.

Most Japanese high school students and about half of all junior high school students have their cellphones or smartphones, according to a survey by the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications. Since each device is the private property of the individual, it is difficult to enforce a ban or restrict the possession of smartphones in trying to deal with the problem.

The Internet is like the automobile. Most adults drive. While driving entails the risk of an accident, and cars are often used in carrying out crimes, the automobile is basically a tool that enriches people’s life. The Web has made it easier for junior and high school students to interact with people of different schools, ages and areas.

This being the case, perhaps parents should make greater efforts to help their children learn how to avoid potential dangers while using the Internet. We suggest that each family should establish certain rules, such as making children use their smartphone in the living room while everybody else is present.

Some experts advise parents to use the same messaging applications and social networking sites as those used by their children. Doing so will help parents understand the risks involved and allow them to set an example to their children on where the line should be drawn in revealing private information or expressing personal thoughts and feelings.

Children feel they are under enormous pressure to gain acceptance from those they view as their peers. Despite this desperation to be accepted, peer pressure often comes into play and some children end up being ignored and excluded by the group.

Sadly, this kind of narrow-mindedness is not uncommon in our society. Adults also display this same tendency.

Children need to develop relations with others outside their schools and clubs to avoid being confined to their usual circle of friends and trying to live up to the expectations of others.

We urge children to value their private lives and focus more on their own interests.

Children need to understand that it is a healthy part of a relationship to disagree with others. It doesn't mean disrespect.

It all comes down to whether families and schools can help children develop this understanding.

--The Asahi Shimbun, Aug. 14

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2014年8月14日 (木)

限定正社員 雇用の「二極化」を是正したい

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Division between temporary, regular employment should be addressed
限定正社員 雇用の「二極化」を是正したい

Regular workers on the corporate payroll are afforded employment security, despite often being required to work overtime and accept job relocation. Meanwhile, nonregular employees are poorly paid in many cases, and their employment status is unstable.

There is a pressing need to rectify the current situation in which corporate employees have been sharply divided into these two types.

One promising measure is more widespread adoption of a proposed system by which people could be hired as regular employees whose job duties, work locations and labor hours are clearly defined. Earlier, a Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry panel of experts put together a set of guidelines to be followed by business corporations in adopting the envisaged system.

This system would not define the period of employment, just as no such term is specified for ordinary permanent workers. This means the position of workers in the new category would be more stable than that of limited-term nonregular employees.

Work locations and some other working conditions would also be clearly defined. This would naturally involve a gap in the treatment and job security given to the new type of regular employees compared to conventional regular workers. Nonetheless, employees under the new arrangement would still be able to receive pay raises and promotions.

The system signifies an effort to create a broader diversity of regular employment arrangements. It would accommodate changes in the status of workers from temporary to regular employment. The scheme would also provide greater opportunities for women to play an active role in corporate activities by granting regular employment status to those who must limit their work hours and locations because of childcare, for example. There is good reason to seek wider spread of the system.

The system is also expected to provide various advantages for corporations. It would help companies secure the talented personnel they need while also enabling them to keep such employees on their payroll for extended periods. The system would lead to greater productivity.

A considerable number of corporations have already hired employees whose status and other working conditions are clearly defined, including those known as area-based regular staff.

Set clear standards

In many cases, however, such corporations are vague about what conditions must be met if employees are dismissed, as well as their wage levels. This has aroused concern among many labor organizations. They are anxious about adopting the system, which they have said would produce more regular workers who could be easily dismissed. They are also concerned the system could be used to help reduce personnel expenses.

In its latest guidelines, the ministry’s expert panel said the corporate sector should try to maintain the employment of workers in the new category if their offices and other facilities are abolished, through such measures as personnel relocation. The abolition will not automatically justify dismissal as due process, according to the guidelines.

The guidelines also urged corporations to achieve a balance in the wage standards applicable to ordinary regular employees and workers in the new category. In giving a yardstick for setting pay standards for the latter, the guidelines cited the criteria adopted by corporations that have already introduced a scheme for hiring employees whose work locations are clearly defined. In many cases, such workers are paid wages equivalent to 80 percent to 90 percent of those earned by ordinary regular workers, according to the guidelines.

The creation of the guidelines bears a certain measure of significance for both labor and management.

The government must make the guidelines fully known to corporations as soon as possible, with a view to ensuring the system will be operated based on these guiding principles.

The status of workers in the new category and ordinary regular employees should not be made permanent. This is essential for preventing employees in the new category from being reduced to a second type of nonregular worker.

Each business corporation should devise a scheme with which it can flexibly change the employment status of workers to accommodate their wishes.

It is also important to reconsider working practices for ordinary regular employees, which seem to take for granted both habitual overtime and frequent job relocation.

The key to successfully pursuing the growth strategy is to improve nonregular workers’ career prospects while also better utilizing the abilities of female employees. All this is important, particularly at a time when our nation’s working population is decreasing.

We hope the government and the private sector will come together to show wisdom in making improvements in the employment system, with a view to bringing workers’ motivation and abilities into full play.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 14, 2014)

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GDP大幅減 消費回復の後押しが必要だ

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Measures need to be taken to boost private consumption after tax hike
GDP大幅減 消費回復の後押しが必要だ

The decline in private consumption and other economic activity following the April 1 consumption tax hike has apparently been greater than initially expected.

The government and the Bank of Japan must take all possible steps through their economic policies to prevent the adverse impact of the tax hike from continuing for a protracted period.

The nation’s real gross domestic product for the April-June period fell 1.7 percent from the previous quarter, marking the first decline in two quarters, according to Cabinet Office statistics released Wednesday.

The price-adjusted real GDP contracted 6.8 percent at an annualized rate in the fiscal first quarter. It was the biggest quarterly decline in the almost three years since the economy contracted markedly during January-March 2011, in the aftermath of the Great East Japan Earthquake in March that year.

Private consumption, which rose significantly in the previous quarter due to a last-minute surge in demand before the tax hike, fell 5 percent over the quarter under review. This was greater than the 3.5 percent drop posted during April-June 1997, when the consumption tax rate was raised in April that year.

Economic and Fiscal Policy Minister Akira Amari said, “The effects of the backlash that followed the pre-tax-hike surge in demand are likely to wane gradually, and the economy is expected to stage a moderate recovery in the quarters to come,” indicating his bullish projections.

Nevertheless, it is worrisome that the pickup in personal spending is weak, with department store and new automobile sales remaining sluggish even after July.

Consumers may have been tightening their purse strings not only because of the tax hike, but also due to general price increases caused by the weakened yen and the rising price of crude oil.

Guard against slowdown

As capital investment by private companies also remains weak, there appears to be no engine for boosting domestic demand. Vigilance against an economic slowdown must be reinforced.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is set to decide this year whether to proceed with a further increase in the consumption tax from 8 percent to 10 percent, currently slated for October 2015. He will likely need to clearly observe economic trends.

Economic measures formulated last December to ease the adverse impact of the consumption tax hike have not yielded sufficient positive effects, as there have been delays in public works projects due to labor shortages at construction sites and the soaring price of construction materials. Smooth implementation of these projects is needed.

The mismatch between employers’ needs and job seekers’ skills in the labor market must be eliminated by improving vocational training, while measures should be taken to prevent the shortage of needed manpower from having further ill effects.

It is also important for the government to steadily carry out its growth strategy, including the lowering of the effective corporate tax rate and the easing of regulations.

It is desirable to reinforce such trends, as reinvigorated corporate activity would lead to wage hikes, which in turn would stimulate personal spending.

Soaring electricity rates will also hinder economic growth. As the restart of its nuclear power plant has been delayed, Hokkaido Electric Power Co. has applied for a second round of rate hikes, involving increases of about 20 percent.

Other power companies, including Kansai Electric Power Co., have shown signs of following suit.

The Nuclear Regulation Authority should conduct its safety examinations of nuclear power plants efficiently, and those plants whose safety has been confirmed should be allowed to steadily restart.

Even though the yen has settled into a lower value, the nation’s exports have remained sluggish. We wonder if the nation’s earning power through foreign trade has weakened.

The public and private sectors must join hands to quickly boost the international competitiveness of industries and analyze structural problems with the economy, including the hollowing-out of industries.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 14, 2014)

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(社説)戦後69年 歴史を忘れぬ後代の責務

August 13, 2014
EDITORIAL: Japan has duty to keep alive lessons of wartime abuse
(社説)戦後69年 歴史を忘れぬ後代の責務

This year marks the 120th anniversary of the outbreak of the First Sino-Japanese War. When peace was shattered in

East Asia, the Tokyo Asahi Shimbun, the predecessor of The Asahi Shimbun, welcomed it in its July 29, 1894,



“War is not a disaster,” it read. “Rather, it is a means for progress. If trounced by Japan, China will repent.”

Back then, it was taken for granted that countries seeking greatness would battle one another. And people were

probably not really aware yet of the brutality of modern artillery. But many soldiers and civilians ended up dead.


After two world wars in the 20th century, countries around the world learned from hard experience that they should

not go to war as a rule. This understanding is reflected in the Charter of the United Nations that provides for

restricted use of arms, and in Japan’s pacifist Constitution as well.


The Japanese people came to understand acutely what war means after expanding their territory and then bringing

ruin upon themselves. But with the passage of 69 years since their nation’s defeat in World War II, their collective

memory is fading. How do we keep the memory alive?



History is sometimes forgotten, sometimes brought back from oblivion, and sometimes rewritten. This was already

going on in ancient Greece, notes British historian Robin Osborne in his book “Greece in the Making 1200-479 BC.”


In 510 B.C., the expulsion of Hippias, a tyrant, from Athens brought democratic rule to Athens, which “was directly a

product of Spartan action,” writes Osborne.

But the Athenians came up with their own narrative, in which two Athenians, who had assassinated Hippias’s brother

four years previously, were given full credit for ending tyranny in Athens. The Athenians even built statues of the two

assassins to honor them. Why? Because relations between Athens and Sparta had become hostile.


This reminds us of China. Until the 1980s, China refrained from openly discussing its history of fighting Japanese

aggression because maintaining amicable relations with Japan was Beijing’s top priority then. But China began

harping on Japanese aggression in the 1990s, and has since become increasingly strident. Nowadays, China hardly

ever mentions Japan’s past contributions to China’s development.



Some people may be quite put off by China’s ways. But before we complain to China, let us first look at our own


In April 2013, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe hosted a ceremony for the first time to commemorate Japan’s recovery of

sovereignty in 1952 when the 1951 San Francisco Peace Treaty took effect. Lauding the nation’s phenomenal postwar

recovery and stressing the horrors of the lost war, Abe noted: “Japan was in ruins, and only its mountains and rivers

remained. Such was the state of our country in the summer of 1945.”


But four months later, at the Aug. 15 memorial ceremony to mourn the nation’s war dead, Abe made no mention

whatsoever of the damage Japan inflicted on its Asian neighbors during the war.

“From humiliation to glory” was the theme of Abe’s appealing narrative that left out any inconvenient historical fact.

The narrative is not necessarily all false, but there seems to lurk a design to rewrite history.



Of course, remembering the war damage done to our country is an important first step in the path to pacifism.

But we must also remember our country’s history of spreading the horrors of war across Asia and victimizing innocent

citizens. To remember this history is the duty of all citizens who value peace above everything.


It is silly to criticize such citizens for having a masochistic view of history. It is shameful to be obsessed with the nation

’s superficial prestige and try to protect it by misrepresenting or distorting the past. A country can be considered

honorable only if it can honestly face the past to learn lessons from it.


Keeping alive the memories of the country’s history of abuse of its wartime enemies and citizens is not easy in the

absence of a firm resolve to do so. The people who personally committed acts of abuse do not want to talk, and it is

certainly hard and painful to listen to harrowing accounts. And most of the victims of abuse or their surviving families

live outside Japan.


In the 69 years since the end of World War II, many stories about kamikaze suicide missions have become bestsellers.

But among war-related works that continue to be read today, how many deal with the damage Japan inflicted on

Asian nations?


It is the duty of Japan’s postwar generation to keep reminding itself not to forget the easy-to-forget history and let

the rest of the world know its resolve whenever appropriate.

And this is exactly why it is of tremendous significance that generations of Japanese prime ministers have established

the custom of mentioning Japan’s war responsibility while mourning the nation’s war dead on Aug. 15 every year.

In 2007, during his first stint as prime minister, Abe said that Japan had “inflicted tremendous damage and pain on

people in Asian nations.” But last year, he chose a different approach. We urge him strongly to repeat those original

words t
his year on behalf of the people of Japan.



Last month, several opinion pieces on the First Sino-Japanese War were published in China. Noting that China of the

Qing dynasty lost the war because it was weaker than Japan, the authors discussed what China of today should do.


The overseas version of The People’s Daily, the organ of the Chinese Communist Party, argued to the effect, “We

must ensure not to repeat the tragedy of the First Sino-Japanese War by securing extensive maritime rights with our

navy and enhancing our capability to protect our sovereignty and security.”


But in using history to justify its recent arms expansion, China is heading in the wrong direction. Its argument in favor

of an armed clash, just like 120 years ago, suggests China’s failure to understand history correctly.


And Japan definitely must not do anything that might result in giving credence to China’s perception of history. Even

if only to prevent such an eventuality, Japan must continue to express the remorse it felt 69 years ago.


--The Asahi Shimbun, Aug. 13

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2014年8月13日 (水)

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エキテン はPCでもスマートフォンなどの携帯端末でも自由自在に使える店舗口コミランキングサイトなんです。


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日中・日韓関係 対話重ねて現状を打開したい

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Strained ties with China, S. Korea should be mended through dialogue
日中・日韓関係 対話重ねて現状を打開したい

Japan should aim to improve its bilateral ties with China and South Korea, with dialogues built on various levels and mutual concessions made on both sides.

Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida held talks with his Chinese and South Korean counterparts separately in Myanmar.

It was the first foreign ministerial meet to be held between Japan and China in roughly two years. Upset with Japan’s nationalization of part of the Senkaku Islands and other factors, China had rejected Japan’s calls to hold bilateral talks. Although Japan must not be too optimistic, the latest development may be a positive sign for the currently strained ties.

Following the talks, Kishida told reporters, “I hope [Saturday’s talks] will be the first step in improving our bilateral relations.”

Regarding improvement in the China-Japan relationship, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said it would depend on Japan acting with sincerity and implementing actual steps to achieve that goal.

By saying this, China is probably hinting that it wants Japan to acknowledge the existence of a bilateral territorial dispute over the Senkakus. But if all China does is one-sidedly press Japan to show its “sincerity” over the issue, bilateral relations will not improve.

China will host an Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit meeting in Beijing in November. A focal point in the days ahead is whether China does in fact want to realize Japan-China summit talks on the occasion of the APEC forum meeting.

As a chair of the APEC meeting, China must not allow it to end up in failure. In this respect, China cannot afford to leave its bilateral ties with Japan “broken off” until then.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has shown his eagerness to hold talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping during the APEC meeting. Former Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda visited China last month and held talks with Xi, apparently as part of government efforts to improve the environment for holding the summit talks.

Seek mutual benefits

Political confrontations between Japan and China have had markedly adverse impacts on their economic relations. There are also a number of areas in which the two countries need to cooperate, such as environmental issues and food safety.

Both leaders need to make mutual concessions with a broad perspective of pursuing “mutually beneficial relationship based on common strategic interests.”

Meanwhile, during the Japan-South Korean foreign ministerial meeting held for the first time in 11 months, both sides agreed on the continuation of dialogue, but remained far apart in their assertions.

Kishida emphasized to South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung Se that “Amicable Japan-South Korean relations will provide mutual benefits.”

Yet Yun mentioned Abe’s visit to Yasukuni Shrine late last year and a Japanese governmental panel’s recent report reexamining the process of drafting the Kono statement on so-called comfort women, criticizing these developments for damaging bilateral relations.

Yun also called on Japanese political leaders “to exhibit their wisdom and political clout” on pressing issues, including the one related to comfort women. Again this time, there was no change in South Korea’s hard-line stance of only demanding that Japan make concessions.

The deteriorated relations between Tokyo and Seoul are more attributable to South Korea than to Japan, with such factors as then South Korean President Lee Myung Bak’s visit to the Takeshima islands in 2012 and an anti-Japan stance taken by current President Park Geun-hye. It is deemed unreasonable for Seoul to unilaterally expect Tokyo to make efforts to solve the bilateral issues.

To close the rift between Japan and South Korea, efforts should be made by both sides. With North Korea’s nuclear and missile development growing more serious, the United States has consistently demanded that both Japan and South Korea improve bilateral ties. Neither Japan nor South Korea must become a factor to cause regional instability.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 12, 2014)

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南シナ海情勢 中国に挑発凍結を促し続けよ

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Keep pressure on Beijing to freeze provocations in South China Sea
南シナ海情勢 中国に挑発凍結を促し続けよ

Antagonism has become more conspicuous over the South China Sea between China and a group of countries including Japan and the United States.

This could be observed at the recent ASEAN Regional Forum in Myanmar, where foreign ministers and officials from 27 countries and organizations gathered to discuss security issues. They included Japan, the United States, China and the members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

The focal topic at the meeting was South China Sea affairs, including the territorial dispute between China and Vietnam over the Paracel Islands.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry called on the countries concerned to put a voluntary freeze on provocative actions. His idea of resolving disputes peacefully through negotiations after easing tensions was supported by the Philippines.

The current regional tensions have been caused by China’s self-righteous actions such as carrying out reclamation work to build facilities and drilling for oil in disputed waters. If such provocative actions are suspended, it would help in making arrangements for negotiations.

Stressing the importance of the principle of “the rule of law,” Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida expressed opposition to the use of force and coercion as well as the importance for resolving disputes peacefully.

The root cause of the problems was that China has been insisting on territorial rights with no grounds in international law and trying to expand its effective rule with the backing of its military might. Kishida’s statements could be intended to check such movements by China. Assertions similar to Kishida’s have been made successively by the representatives of other countries.

In response, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi presented a plan to work together with the ASEAN toward early establishment of a legally binding code of conduct in the South China Sea.

Shared interests at stake

It is, of course, desirable to work out a code of conduct aimed at ensuring peace and stability in the South China Sea. But it is suspected that China’s real intention could be to eliminate U.S. involvement in the sea while buying time by promoting talks on a code of conduct.

If that is the case, China’s proposal on a code of conduct cannot be endorsed, as freedom of navigation and other interests of the whole international community are at stake.

We should pay heed to China’s increasing moves to divide ASEAN into pro- and anti-China groups by wielding its economic clout.

China has been providing assistance to Cambodia and Laos in connection with their infrastructure development projects in the Mekong River area. Beijing has also offered an economic cooperation plan to the Thai military regime that took power in a May coup.

It is cause for worry that Thailand has quickly declared its support for a China-led plan to establish an Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank.

The joint statement of the ASEAN foreign ministers’ meeting held ahead of the ARF expressed “serious concern” about the South China Sea issue.

In the process of drafting the statement, Cambodia among others reportedly opposed a Philippine proposal to call for a “freeze on provocative actions.” China’s diplomatic maneuvering has thus had certain results.

To prevent China from forcibly changing the status quo in the South China Sea, Japan and the United States must beef up cooperation with not only ASEAN member nations but also their neighboring countries such as Australia and India.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 12, 2014)

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(社説)日本と中韓 異常な外交に終止符を

August 12, 2014
EDITORIAL: Japan, China and South Korea must not let war anniversaries break diplomatic momentum
(社説)日本と中韓 異常な外交に終止符を

The recent meetings between the Japanese foreign minister and his Chinese and South Korean counterparts highlighted afresh the surprising and disturbing fact that the top diplomats had failed to hold talks for so long.

Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida recently met separately with Wang Yi of China and Yun Byung-se of South Korea in Myanmar on the sidelines of meetings involving top foreign policy officials from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations members and its key partners.

It was the first meeting between the top diplomats of Japan and China in nearly two years, and also the first since Prime Minister Shinzo Abe came to power for a second time in December 2012. It had been about 10 months since the Japanese and South Korean foreign ministers last held talks.

Kishida’s discussions with Wang and Yun in Myanmar were principally attempts to lay the diplomatic groundwork for the first meetings between Abe and the leaders of Japan’s two neighbors.

It would be naïve to expect just one foreign ministerial meeting to pave the way for a summit between Japan and either China or South Korea. But Kishida’s meetings with his Chinese and South Korean counterparts nevertheless represent a step forward in efforts to improve these important bilateral ties.
Both sides should make further diplomatic efforts to realize meetings of their leaders.

The governments of Japan and China are exploring the possibility of talks between Abe and Chinese President Xi Jinping during this year’s Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Beijing in November.

Since China hosts the event, the APEC conference will offer a good opportunity for the Japanese and Chinese leaders to hold talks.

In July, former Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda visited China and met secretly with Xi. They agreed to improve Sino-Japanese relations, and Fukuda reportedly conveyed Abe’s message about his desire to meet with the Chinese leader.

China’s remarkable rise has triggered various moves toward creating new economic and security orders in the Asia-Pacific region.

Countries in the region are trying to figure out ways to conclude and expand economic deals like free trade agreements and the Trans-Pacific Partnership pact.

The main regional security challenges include not just how to respond to North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs but also how to deal with China’s assertive, hard-line stance toward territorial disputes in the South China Sea.

While the United States and South Korea have been actively engaged with China through strategic dialogue and other channels of communication, Japan, a major regional power, has done nothing but repeat that its “door of dialogue is always open.” The situation is simply unacceptable.

Since the Japanese government bought the disputed Senkaku Islands from a private landowner in September 2012, tensions between Tokyo and Beijing have been running high, triggering a series of scary incidents. They even include cases of Chinese fighters flying dangerously close to Self-Defense Forces aircraft. The situation urgently demands serious talks between the two countries.

Many dates in the coming weeks will mark key events related to World War II. They include Aug. 15, the day of Japan’s surrender in 1945, and Sept. 18, the day when a staged bomb attack against Japan’s South Manchuria Railway took place in Liutiaohu in 1931, setting off the Manchurian Incident.
This is the season for reflecting on the devastation caused by the war and lessons from the history.

Tokyo, Beijing and Seoul should ensure that nothing will take place at these occasions that could dampen the budding diplomatic momentum for improving the bilateral ties.

Abe and other Japanese political leaders should refrain from visiting Yasukuni Shrine. China, for its part, should stop using Japan’s past acts as tools for its international propaganda campaign.

We strongly urge the three governments to exercise self-restraint and work together to put their relations on a better standing.

--The Asahi Shimbun, Aug. 12

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2014年8月12日 (火)

DVストーカー 被害者住所の漏洩を防止せよ

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Local govts must handle addresses carefully in domestic abuse cases
DVストーカー 被害者住所の漏洩を防止せよ

In a considerable number of criminal cases involving stalking and domestic violence against spouses and lovers, perpetrators requested municipal governments to issue copies of resident registries to locate their targets.

City, ward, town and village offices should respond carefully to such requests and not issue them without due consideration.

However, in case after case, carelessness by employees of municipal governments has led to leaks of personal information of residents who had asked the governments to restrict access to their resident registries. It was a matter of course for the Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry to issue instructions to all municipal governments to tightly manage information they keep.

As of the end of last year, access to information contained in the resident registries of as many as 67,000 people was subject to restriction. The ministry’s instructions call for each government to have one employee in charge of managing restricted information and urge that only that employee approve the issue of copies of resident registries.

The ministry also urged the governments to allow other relevant employees in other sections to see warnings displayed when someone is accessing restricted information in the Basic Resident Registration System.

Municipal governments should consistently follow the ministry’s instructions to protect victims.

In 2012, a woman in Zushi, Kanagawa Prefecture, was stabbed to death by a former boyfriend, bringing the issue of information leaks by municipal governments to the fore.

At the request of the perpetrator, the de facto head of an investigative company, pretending to be the woman’s husband, allegedly called the city’s tax affairs section to obtain her address, whose access was restricted.

Awareness crucial

In February last year, an employee of the Fukushima city government, who received an application for child medical care assistance from a female victim of domestic violence, erroneously sent related documents that revealed her address to her former husband.

The mistake occurred because the employee did not realize access to her information was restricted. If this employee had paid more attention, the error could have been prevented.

Municipal government employees can sometimes face difficult situations in making decisions.

Such cases include those in which perpetrators conspire to obtain copies of resident registries by abusing stipulations of the Basic Resident Registration System.

Under the law, a copy of a resident registry can be issued to a third party for a legitimate reason. If a request for the copy is made for collecting debts or initiating a lawsuit, a legitimate reason is necessary to reject the request even if access to the information is restricted.

Last December, a man abducted his child from the home of his former wife who had moved from Kashiwa, Chiba Prefecture, to another prefecture. In this case, an acquaintance of his had obtained a copy of her nullified registry, which included her new address, by submitting a forged IOU to the Kashiwa city hall.

It is difficult to ascertain if IOUs and other documents are valid at the windows of municipal governments. Therefore, immediate responses at the window should be avoided. It is essential to have a mechanism in place to adequately deal with any situation with the help of lawyers and other experts.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 10, 2014)

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米軍イラク空爆 オバマ大統領の苦渋の決断だ

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Decision to launch Iraq air strikes a wrenching choice for Obama
米軍イラク空爆 オバマ大統領の苦渋の決断だ

U.S. forces have launched air strikes in Iraq against an Islamic extremist group. This is the first U.S. military intervention since U.S. forces withdrew completely from Iraq in 2011.

For the administration of President Barack Obama, which has touted the pullout from Iraq as one of its major accomplishments, the decision to militarily intervene again signifies a policy change toward Iraq.

The U.S. strikes are targeting positions of the Islamic State, an extremist organization of the Islamic Sunni sect. U.S. aircraft including fighter planes and unmanned combat air vehicles (UCAVs) have repeatedly bombed such targets as mortar positions of the Islamic State.

Having expanded its sphere of influence by taking advantage of the civil war in Syria, the Islamic State has launched assaults on other religious sects and ethnic groups, seizing towns and oil fields one after another in Iraq, which is now on the brink of a security collapse.

The United States earlier sent such personnel as military advisers to Iraq to help prop up the struggling Iraqi government, but the situation has grown worse and worse. The U.S. decision to embark on military action to rein in the extremists’ offensive is understandable.

Regarding the purpose of the air strikes, Obama referred in a speech on Thursday to the protection of such Americans as diplomats and military advisers who are stationed in Iraq.

He also pointed out that many Iraqi residents who have fled to the mountains to escape persecution by the extremists are facing death due to a lack of food and water. Emphasizing the humanitarian aspect of the air strikes, he noted current events “would constitute genocide,” and that “the United States cannot turn a blind eye.”

Exit strategy unclear

Britain and France have expressed their unequivocal support for the U.S. air strikes, which were made in response to requests from the Iraqi government. Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida has also expressed a degree of understanding, saying the air strikes should be deemed as “part of the fight against terrorism.”

With a midterm election scheduled for November in the United States, the air strikes must have been a politically tough decision for the president.

Many members of the opposition Republican Party have criticized the Obama administration over the deterioration of the Iraq situation, saying it resulted from the administration’s weak-kneed stance.

Meanwhile, many U.S. citizens have opposed sending U.S. troops overseas. Obama strongly denied the possibility of deploying ground troops in his statement, presumably in consideration of such public opinion.

It is concerning, however, that the effect of the air strikes is unclear, and the Obama administration has not crafted an exit strategy. Should the air strikes become unnecessarily protracted, fears would then arise of anti-U.S. sentiment that could develop among the Iraqi people.

For the sake of the long-term stabilization of Iraq, it is indispensable to achieve reconciliation among Iraqi communities and improve public order and security by strengthening the Iraqi forces.

It is vitally important to establish a national unity Cabinet involving both the Islamic Sunni and Shiite sects, as well as Kurdish and other participating forces, as early as possible.

The United States should tenaciously continue its diplomatic efforts to stabilize the Iraqi situation through cooperation with such nearby countries as Iran, a major power among the Shiite nations, and Saudi Arabia, which has significant influence over Sunni Muslims.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 10, 2014)

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(社説)被爆地と首相 逆行あり得ぬ非核への道

August 11, 2014
EDITORIAL: Japan must pursue a path to a nuclear-free world
(社説)被爆地と首相 逆行あり得ぬ非核への道

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visited Hiroshima and Nagasaki this month, both of which marked the 69th anniversaries of the atomic bombings. In the ceremonies in both cities, he emphasized determination to realize a world without nuclear weapons.

However, it seems that the gap between Abe and the cities that were struck by atomic bombs has increased since last year.

In a meeting with Abe in Hiroshima, 85-year-old hibakusha Yukio Yoshioka said, “(The Cabinet’s approval of the exercise of the right to collective self-defense) will make Japan a country that repeats its (past) mistake and can wage a war.”

Miyako Jodai, 75, who served as the representative of atomic bomb survivors in the ceremony in Nagasaki, said, “I want the government not to forget or deny the sufferings of atomic bomb survivors.”

They apparently demanded that Abe withdraw the Cabinet’s approval of the exercise of the right to collective self-defense.


There are also other causes of concern.

One is the exports of nuclear power generation infrastructure to emerging countries. Another is negotiations to conclude a nuclear power agreement with India, which has conducted nuclear tests without joining the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT). Both could lead to nuclear proliferation.

The Abe administration also plans to maintain the policy of removing plutonium from spent nuclear fuels and reusing it in nuclear power plants.

After the March 2011 nuclear disaster in Fukushima Prefecture, the future of nuclear power generation remains unclear. In addition, Japan already holds stocks of more than 40 tons of plutonium whose use has yet to be decided. Anti-nuclear groups in Japan and abroad suspect that Japan has the intention of arming itself with nuclear weapons.

Why are the moves of the government of A-bombed Japan so different from the desires for anti-nuclear policies?

In cities that were devastated by the atomic bombs, Abe asked the people to understand the Cabinet’s approval of the exercise of the right to collective self-defense by repeatedly saying, “It is to protect the lives and livelihoods of the people.”

The government’s basic stance is as follows: China’s military power is conspicuously increasing. North Korea is not halting its nuclear and missile development. The security environment surrounding Japan is becoming harsher. Therefore, the series of policies is preparation for a variety of threats.


It is said that in Northeast Asia, nuclear deterrence is effective because some countries continued to possess nuclear
weapons even after the end of the Cold War. Therefore, the government’s policy of depending on the U.S. nuclear umbrella is unshakable.

If concerned countries only rely on nuclear weapons, however, the era of risking catastrophe by nuclear war will continue. China, Russia and North Korea will heighten their alarm against the strengthening of the Japan-U.S. alliance based on nuclear weapons. As a result, “the lives and the livelihoods of the people” will be endangered.

However, the Abe administration is taking no action to drastically minimize the role of nuclear weapons and positively reduce the risk of the nuclear age.

There are many cases that run counter to nuclear disarmament. One is the missile defense (MD) system, which is being jointly developed by Japan and the United States at present.

The United States puts expectations on Japan’s exercise of the right to collective self-defense on the grounds that the exercise will lead to the strengthening of the MD system. That is because the Abe administration says that it plans to make it possible for Japan to shoot down ballistic missiles targeting the U.S. mainland or warships under the interpretation of the Constitution.

Irrespective of whether it is technologically possible to shoot down the missiles, China and Russia are opposed to the strengthening of the MD system, saying that their nuclear deterrence will be weakened. China could also use the strengthening of the MD system as an excuse to increase its nuclear capabilities in order to break the defense network of Japan and the United States.

Abe also supports the possibility of the Self-Defense Forces sweeping for mines in the Strait of Hormuz. But the potential to do so could irritate Iran and adversely affect multinational talks to halt the country’s nuclear development. As a result, Japan could lose its influence on Iran.

It is important to take the threats seriously. But it is impossible to continue the vicious cycle of “power against power” forever. What policies will the Abe administration take to prevent the acceleration of nuclear power expansion and nuclear proliferation and stabilize the international society and Northeast Asia? The policies are unclear. Therefore, people in cities that were victimized by the atomic bombs are feeling anxiety.

It is Japan’s role to show a vision of steadily promoting arms control of the entire Northeast Asian region and stabilizing it.


In the Hiroshima Peace Declaration, Mayor Kazumi Matsui called for the establishment of “a new security system based on trust and dialogue.”

In the world, the Obama administration is losing its centripetal force, and its relations with Russia have cooled due to the Ukrainian situation. China’s maritime advances have intensified friction with neighboring countries. The road to the “new security system based on trust and dialogue” is steep. But is it just a dream?

The Nagasaki Peace Declaration this year again advocated an idea of establishing “nuclear-weapon-free zones.” In the proposal, Japan and the Korean Peninsula are denuclearized, and nuclear powers promise not to attack the areas with nuclear weapons.

The Japanese government is negative to the idea on the grounds that relations of trust, which serve as a prerequisite, do not exist in the areas partly because North Korea has repeatedly conducted nuclear tests. North Korea counters the view, saying that what is a threat is the U.S. nuclear umbrella.

Relations of trust will be established through dialogue. To realize the nuclear-weapon-free zones, Japan should first show its intentions to set up the zones and leave the U.S. nuclear umbrella. Then, it should urge the United States to accept the zones. After that, showing a joint goal, Japan should strongly urge North Korea to take part in the negotiations.

The improvement of relations with China is also indispensable. A council of experts from five countries in the Asia and Pacific region, including former Australian Foreign Minister Gareth Evans, asked Japan and China to hold a summit meeting in its proposal compiled in Hiroshima.

It is not easy to untangle a thread. Unless there is a dialogue, however, nothing will start.

--The Asahi Shimbun, Aug. 10

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2014年8月11日 (月)

香山リカのココロの万華鏡:尊重し合う心がなければ /東京

July 13, 2014(Mainichi Japan)
Kaleidoscope of the Heart: Respect and a bit of consideration
香山リカのココロの万華鏡:尊重し合う心がなければ /東京

There happens to be a charity event in Japan that I have held alongside figures including the young monk Daiki Nakashita, who is known for activities to prevent people from dying alone. A central part of this event is a talk including author Karin Amamiya, Makoto Yuasa, who is known for anti-poverty activities, and Yasuyuki Shimizu, who is involved in work to curb suicide.

This time, we decided to invite a guest: Masaaki Odaka, a specialist in neurological and internal medicine at Minamisoma Municipal General Hospital in Fukushima Prefecture.

Using lots of photos, Odaka described the situation at his hospital and the state of recovery in Minamisoma, one of the areas hit hard by the March 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami and the ensuing nuclear disaster.

"I don't want people to forget Fukushima, but at the same time, it's a problem for people to deliberately stress the dangers of radiation, because that's where we've decided to live," he said.

So what kind of stance should people who live in other areas take?

"They should realize that people are living there and be considerate in what they say," Odaka says with a smile.

"That makes sense," I thought. "If I say such and such, what will the other party think? If I were in their shoes, how would I feel?" Taking this kind of approach, we can become naturally considerate in our choice of words.

It's not simply a case of being able to make up guidelines which tell us, "This word is all right; that one isn't."

Recently, more people struggle to perform the simple tasks of thinking about how the other person feels and being appropriately considerate.

When I went to a bookstore, I was surprised to see a corner of books that listed up the problems and faults of other countries, criticizing them and making fun of them with strong language.

If I went overseas and visited a bookstore only to find books that heaped abuse on Japan, how would I feel?

Picturing this kind of situation should produce a level of consideration for the other party, even when saying something that needs to be said firmly.

Some people might respond, "The other party pays no consideration to me, so there's no need for me to do that."  「向こうがこちらに配慮しないのだからその必要はない」と言う人もいるが、

But surely we have never witnessed a time in history or in our daily lives when "an eye for an eye" has been able to prevent a quarrel or conflict.

I think the reason human society has been able to continue in some way or other is because people have held on to the attitude, "It's not easy, but let's make an effort to respect each other's feelings and position."

"That's hard for you." "You've got it tough, too."

Rather than coming out swinging, it's important to adopt a stance that pays consideration to the other person, and encourages consideration.

And this should apply to any issue, whether it be Fukushima or international society, or even when thinking about diplomacy and security.

(By Rika Kayama, psychiatrist)
毎日新聞 2014年07月08日 地方版

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香山リカのココロの万華鏡:「判官びいき」で再建を /東京

July 20, 2014(Mainichi Japan)
Kaleidoscope of the Heart: Feeling sympathy for the weak
香山リカのココロの万華鏡:「判官びいき」で再建を /東京

The 2014 World Cup has ended. Japan did not make it to the knockout stage, Alberto Zaccheroni has resigned as manager and sport magazines are busy analyzing the causes of the national team's defeat.

Host country Brazil was hammered 7-1 by Germany in a semifinal, a loss that marks one of the darkest moments in the soccer giant's history. Left in dismay and anger, some Brazilian fans took to streets to riot, setting buses on fire.

When Japan's Blue Samurai team returned home, fans welcomed them back with open arms, giving them a round of applause at the airport.

There was reportedly nobody yelling at players for not doing well in the big event.

Some stores held up signs which said, "Thank you Japan!"

Some critics say, however, that this kind of "sympathy" is what keeps Japan from becoming a great power in soccer. しかし、「このやさしさがいけないんだ」と批判する声もある。

I guess they are saying that fans need to take a critical view of the Japan team while admitting that a loss is a loss, so that players thrive to become better under great pressure.

Such a harsh attitude may be necessary for players to improve their skills and work for victory.

But I believe that our ability to appreciate the underdogs, give them a pat on the back and encourage them that there will be another chance is something we should value.

In Japanese culture, there is a long-held concept of being sympathetic for the weak. Such an attitude comes from public opinion in which people side with 12th century general Minamoto no Yoshitsune, who endured unfortunate circumstances because his brother Minamoto no Yoritomo despised him.

Praising those who could not bring good results despite their hard work is unique to Japanese culture, and I think that's something we should be proud of.

Unfortunately, however, that attitude toward the weak has become almost unrecognizable outside of the soccer world.

More people have become critical of others who are in trouble and abandon them in the name of personal responsibility.

Provisions added to the Revised Public Assistance Act, which came into effect on July 1, place stricter punishment on welfare recipients who manipulate the system and aim at getting those who live on public assistance back to work.

We can't talk about soccer players and regular people in the same way.

However, if we can keep cheering for the Japan team without getting angry, we should be able to take a less harsh attitude toward the so-called "vulnerable" who cannot work or raise their children due to illness or those who have fallen off the right path.

If I said, "Let's take a fresh look at our long-held belief of rooting for the underdogs to rebuild both Japanese soccer and society," would soccer fans think I'm being too soft?

(By Rika Kayama, psychiatrist)
毎日新聞 2014年07月15日 地方版

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香山リカのココロの万華鏡:必要な大人は誰なのか /東京

July 27, 2014(Mainichi Japan)
Kaleidoscope of the Heart: Who does a child need most?
香山リカのココロの万華鏡:必要な大人は誰なのか /東京

What determines the relationship between a father and child -- the biological connection or a legal arrangement?  父と子どもの関係を決めるのは、血縁なのか法律上の取り決めか。

Recently Japan's Supreme Court deliberated on this difficult issue, handling relationships between fathers and their children in cases where DNA analysis had shown that the men were not biologically related to their kids.

The court ruled that even if no biological connection existed, the relationship remained unaffected.

In my consultation rooms, parent-child relationships often surface as a problem.

In the majority of these cases, it is clear, both from a biological and legal perspective, that the person is a parent, but that person is not fulfilling the role of a parent.

Some fathers do not pay child support after getting divorced and never come to see their children.

There are also cases where the children are living with their parents, but their mothers pay no attention to them at home, and their fathers treat them violently.

When I encounter people who say things like, "I hate my father," or, "I would've been better off without a mother like that," I start to think that what's important in judging a relationship between a parent and child is not simply the biological connection or a legal decision, but rather how dearly the person cares about that child.

There are some people who are neither legally nor biologically related to the child, but care for the child as if that child were their own.

A documentary film titled "Tonaru Hito" is being shown through independent screenings across Japan.

It is based on eight years of coverage of the child welfare facility "Hikari no Kodomo no Ie" in Saitama Prefecture.

It depicts the lives of workers who fill the role of parents for children who are unable to live with their parents for some reason or another.

Unlike at other facilities, these childcare workers form "families" with the children they are in charge of, and try to live in a way somewhat resembling a regular household.

Because the children live in a "family," there are times when they clash with each other and with the childcare workers.

Attempts to get the children to open up sometimes end without success, and the family commonly faces problems, such as when the children rebel.

But precisely because it is a "family," no one is allowed to say, "That's it. I'm out of here," or, "Let's change the worker in charge."

I'm sure many people feel that these workers, with their tireless approach, go above and beyond the responsibilities of a parent.

Of course, that isn't to say a child is necessarily happier off living with an adult more stable than a parent.

The children look happy when their parents come to pick them up, even if those parents have problems.

The Supreme Court said the law has more say over a parent-child relationship than a biological relationship.

But even so, or even if it were the other way around, I would still have mixed feelings about the decision. Let us consider which adult the child needs most.

(By Rika Kayama, psychiatrist)
毎日新聞 2014年07月22日 地方版

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香山リカのココロの万華鏡:今も健在?血液型ネタ /東京

August 03, 2014(Mainichi Japan)
Kaleidoscope of the Heart: Questioning the relevance of blood type
香山リカのココロの万華鏡:今も健在?血液型ネタ /東京

I once had the opportunity to appear on a television program as a commentator. That day, a prominent musician from the United States was to feature on the program as a guest.

The studio had prepared several question boards, and as I waited before the program, I wondered what questions would be asked. I then spotted one of them, which surprised me. "What is your blood type?" it read.

The program staff member who had prepared the question believed in the ability to tell people's personalities based on their blood type.

They probably imagined a scene where the guest's blood type would be revealed and the host would liven up the program with a comment like, "Wow, I never would have guessed it!" or "I thought you'd be that type, because you do things at your own pace."

But the practice of deducing people's personalities based on blood type is pretty much restricted to Japan and a few other countries in Asia.

In Europe and the United States, most people haven't even heard of it.

I imagine I would be startled if I were suddenly asked a question about my body, like, "What's the diameter and color of your navel?" I think asking someone for their blood type is the same sort of thing.

I quickly called for the question to be ditched, and other staff members apparently agreed with me. The impending scene of a major star suddenly being asked for personal medical information in the form of their blood type was thereby averted.

The other day, a study released by sociologist Kengo Nawata drew attention in Japan. It indicated through statistical analysis that there is no scientific basis for a relation between a person's blood type and personality.

Nawata targeted over 10,000 people from Japan and the United States in the survey, which analyzed the blood types of respondents in comparison to their attitudes.

The study revealed that blood type bears practically no relation to a person's sense of values and daily habits.

There actually exist other studies giving the same results, and I have presented these at universities, where I repeatedly tell students, "There is no relation between blood type and personality."

"That notion," I say, "is based on a boom that was started in Japan in the 1970s.

We simply assume things like, 'I'm type B, so I must be that type of person.'"

My students look at me with serious expressions on their faces and say they understand.

But then when I share a meal with them, I hear them ask each other, "What's your blood type?" and exclaim, "Really? You're serious, so I thought you'd be a different type."
しかし、いっしょに食事会などをするとやっぱりまた、「あなた何型?」「ホント! マジメだから違うと思った」などと盛り上がっている。

For them, talking about blood type might be a handy tool allowing them to find an entry point to communicate with another person.

As an educator, though, I discourage them from picking friends or partners based on blood type, or using their blood type to pass judgment on their own personalities.

(By Rika Kayama, psychiatrist)
毎日新聞 2014年07月29日 地方版

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香山リカのココロの万華鏡:「立派な親」のプレッシャー /東京

August 10, 2014(Mainichi Japan)
Kaleidoscope of the Heart: The pressure of having upstanding parents
香山リカのココロの万華鏡:「立派な親」のプレッシャー /東京

Among the children who come to my consultation room for skipping school or violence in the home, many have parents with some kind of upstanding job: teacher, lawyer, doctor, pastor. Those parents say things like, "I'm in a job where I guide others, yet my own child is a shut-in."

In my mind, I say to these people, "It is because you are considered upstanding, and because you continue to act that way, that your child has assumed your weakness."

People have a variety of sides to them. A kind person has a mean side to them, and a person considered bad has a good side. Sometimes this opposite side that doesn't usually come to the forefront is called a "shadow" in psychology.

For a person in a job of respect, there is little opportunity to express this shadow. They may have to constantly put on a performance that this shadow doesn't even exist, and according to the psychologist Hayao Kawai, in these cases sometimes a family member will end up assuming this shadow role instead.

The reason that the children of people with upstanding jobs sometimes end up skipping school or exhibiting other problem behavior may be because they are assuming this shadow role.

I think it is wrong for the parents of these children to consider them an embarrassment.

Instead, I want them to reflect on whether they aren't trying too hard to make themselves look good, whether they haven't demanded too much of their children that they mind the eyes of others.

Should they self-reflect in this way, I think they will notice a different side of themselves, one that sometimes wants to slack off.

If they can then bring out that side of themselves in front of their family, that would be best, but if they cannot, then I hope they will at least avoid putting too much pressure on their children to act properly in front of others.

To those children who have assumed the shadow of their parents before even realizing it, I want to say, "It's OK to take better care of yourself."

(By Rika Kayama, psychiatrist)
毎日新聞 2014年08月05日 地方版

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2014年8月10日 (日)

エボラ出血熱 国際連携で拡大を食い止めよ

The Yomiuri Shimbun
International cooperation crucial to block spread of fatal Ebola virus
エボラ出血熱 国際連携で拡大を食い止めよ

Widespread infection with Ebola virus has been reported in West Africa. International cooperation is essential to prevent the expansion of this terrible disease.

The deadly virus has been spreading from Guinea since February. The death toll from the epidemic has topped 900 in Guinea and its two neighboring countries, Sierra Leone and Liberia, marking the largest number of victims since the first patient with Ebola virus was confirmed in 1976.

Deaths from the virus have been also confirmed in Nigeria, which does not border any of the other three African countries. A patient with symptoms similar to those of Ebola died in the Middle Eastern country of Saudi Arabia. The deadly virus is thus threatening to spread across the world.

The World Health Organization has declared the outbreak to be “a public health emergency of international concern” and recommended that countries take measures to prevent the spread of the virus, such as strengthening surveillance at airports and issuing travel advisories.

For its part, Japan should steadily take necessary steps and not regard the outbreak as “a fire on the opposite shore.”

Infection with the disease—formally known as Ebola hemorrhagic fever—occurs through contact with blood and other bodily fluids. The fatality rate is extremely high at 50 to 90 percent, as there are no effective treatment methods.

The previous outbreak of the Ebola epidemic occurred mainly in agricultural areas. But this outbreak has reached populous urban areas, threatening to further increase the number of infections. This is a matter of grave concern.

To contain the Ebola outbreak, it is crucial to strictly quarantine infected persons. It is also indispensable to keep area residents fully informed about the fatal disease.

Separate efforts ineffective

In the three West African countries where mass Ebola infection has been reported, administrative and medical treatment systems remain fragile following the civil wars and coups that have occurred in recent years. There are limits to what these countries can do to deal with the outbreak on their own.

The fact that many doctors and nurses have been infected with the Ebola virus has increased worries about potential infection, thereby making it difficult to secure medical staff.

The U.S. government has decided to send an additional 50 medical professionals to West Africa. The decision was apparently made in view of the serious conditions there.

Japan, for its part, must provide financial and other assistance as much as possible.

The Foreign Ministry of Japan has issued information on infection risk in the three West African countries, calling for people to postpone travel to these countries unless essential and urgent. To prevent Ebola infection from reaching Japan, vigilance must not be neglected at borders.

Should domestic infection emerge, the infected persons would be quarantined at a designated medical institution. Procedures for transport and admission of such patients must be verified.

However, there is no special facility available domestically to safely handle viruses with a high fatality rate such as Ebola. If there is no alternative but to ask other counties to conduct an analysis of a pathogen, it is feared that there will be delays in implementing countermeasures.

Protecting people’s lives from deadly infectious diseases is an important crisis-management task for the state. The government must step up efforts to bolster such a system.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 9, 2014)

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公務員給与上げ 世代や地域でメリハリが要る

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Civil servant salaries should vary based on location, workers’ age
公務員給与上げ 世代や地域でメリハリが要る

The economic recovery has finally reached the salaries of national public servants. Looking ahead, it will be important to allocate salaries flexibly, taking a worker’s age and location into consideration.

The National Personnel Authority has recommended to the Cabinet and the Diet that the average monthly salary for national public servants doing regular work in fiscal 2014 be increased by 0.27 percent from fiscal 2013, and their annual bonuses by an equivalent of 0.15 month’s salary. This is the first recommendation for a pay raise in seven years.

In fiscal 2012 and 2013, the salaries of national civil servants were reduced by an average of 7.8 percent, with funds saved by the cuts diverted to finance reconstruction of areas hit hard by the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami in March 2011. These salaries returned to their original level in April this year. If the pay increase is implemented as recommended, the average annual pay among national government workers would rise by ¥79,000 from the current level to ¥6.618 million.

Civil servant salaries are basically kept in line with those offered in the private sector. The NPA’s latest recommendation is linked to the recent string of wage increases being offered by private companies. Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga indicated his support for the proposed pay increase. “It reflects rising salaries in the private sector due to Abenomics,” he said.

In its recommendation, the NPA called for a ¥2,000 raise across the board in the basic salary of civil servants who were new graduates from high school or university. In contrast to a more handsome share being distributed to younger workers, the NPA left the basic salaries of workers aged 55 and older unchanged.

The salaries of civil servants in their 20s are lower than those of their counterparts in the private sector. However, their pay steadily increases, and by the time they are 55 or older, they earn more than average private-sector workers. Given the need to attract and retain talented young and midcareer workers, we can understand the need to give them extra financial consideration.

Keep personnel costs in check

The bonus increase will come in the form of an allowance for industriousness based on a worker’s ability and performance. The more talented the worker, the higher the bonus they receive. We think expanding the performance-based bonus system, just as the private sector has done, is fair.

The NPA also called for a comprehensive review of the civil servant salary system over three years from fiscal 2015. In regions where private sector salaries are low, the basic salary of civil servants will be cut by an average of 2 percent overall in fiscal 2015 and beyond, with the reduction reaching a maximum of 4 percent for personnel 55 and older. This is to eliminate pay disparities between the private and public sectors in these regions.

Funds saved by these pay cuts will be used to boost regional allowances and bump up the salaries of civil servants in cities and areas where prices and private-sector wages are high. Allowances for workers who have to transfer far away or work away from their families will be expanded.

It is only natural that allowances be increased or cut depending on the environment and conditions in the region where one works. We think the government should steadily forge ahead on this matter.

According to a Finance Ministry calculation, fully implementing the recommended pay hikes would increase costs for national public servants by about ¥82 billion for this fiscal year.

Given the nation’s current severe fiscal situation, the government must try to keep total personnel expenses down and move ahead with reviews of the salary system, staffing levels and organization of the government.

If the salaries of local government employees nationwide are raised in line with those of national civil servants, the total costs are forecast to swell by about ¥220 billion. It is not uncommon for local government employees to earn more than private-sector workers in areas where private salaries are low. Close attention needs to be given to this point when considering any revisions of the salary system for civil servants.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 9, 2014)

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2014年8月 9日 (土)

すき家過重労働 赤字は従業員軽視のツケだ

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Tumbling into red, Sukiya pays price for working staff into the ground
すき家過重労働 赤字は従業員軽視のツケだ

The working hours were outrageously long. They must be rectified immediately.

The harsh working conditions at the Sukiya beef-bowl chain have been revealed in a report by a third-party panel set up by Zensho Holdings Co., the parent of the gyudon chain’s operator.

Some Sukiya staff worked more than 500 hours a month and were unable to return home for two weeks. Only one employee was on during graveyard shifts, so they could not even go to the bathroom. These unreasonable working conditions had become routine at the food chain.

The Labor Standards Inspection Office had repeatedly pointed out that Sukiya was violating the law, but the company did not take any fundamental steps to improve its practices.

Management’s attitude of giving short shrift to even the health of Sukiya’s employees cannot be simply overlooked.

Details about the harsh working conditions at Sukiya restaurants spread online and through other channels. The resulting nosedive in job applicants eventually rendered Sukiya unable to secure enough part-time workers. Many Sukiya outlets were forced to temporarily close due to staff shortages, and Zensho is now forecast to register a loss this fiscal year. This will be the first time Zensho has fallen into the red since it was established.

This is the price Sukiya must pay for dumping an excessive workload on its employees. It has exposed a major shortcoming in the company’s business model of continuously expanding its network of outlets and squeezing out every last yen in profit by curtailing labor costs.

At a press conference, Zensho Holdings Chairman and President Kentaro Ogawa said the company “will change its plan to have all outlets operating 24 hours a day.” Ogawa also said he plans to abolish the practice of having just one employee working through the early hours of the morning by the end of September.

The company must quickly create an environment in which its employees can work comfortably.

Staff bearing brunt

Sukiya is not the only company at fault. Competition is intense in the restaurant chain industry. There has previously been criticism of companies where employees committed suicide due to the stress of excessive working hours and other arduous conditions, and exploitative cases of staff being made managers in name only so they do not receive overtime pay.

The mass departure of staff and difficulties in attracting new employees are indications that a company’s work environment is unduly severe. Businesses exhibiting such signs should learn a useful lesson from Sukiya’s woes, and check for any problems with their own work structure and treatment of employees.

In fiscal 2012, the number of people recognized as suffering from work-related heart disease and other conditions due to excessive work increased for the second consecutive year. Cases of work-related mental disorders also increased by nearly 50 percent, hitting the highest figure on record. This is a very serious situation.

The government must take effective countermeasures based on the karoshi (death from overwork) prevention law that was passed this year.

A Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry survey of about 5,000 companies suspected of forcing employees to work excessive hours and other unfair practices found 80 percent were violating the law.

In Japan, there is one labor standards inspector for every 20,000 workers. The ratio of these inspectors, who are responsible for clamping down on companies that violate labor laws, is below that of many other major nations. We hope the government will thoroughly examine whether the nation’s systems for monitoring and exposing labor law violations are sufficient.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 8, 2014)

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防衛白書 中朝の軍事挑発に警戒強めよ

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Bolster sense of vigilance against provocations from China, N. Korea
防衛白書 中朝の軍事挑発に警戒強めよ

While maintaining unfailing vigilance against China and North Korea, which have been continuing their military provocations, Japan must proceed steadily with the tasks of enhancing the Self-Defense Forces’ capabilities and taking relevant legislative action.

“Defense of Japan 2014,” the nation’s defense white paper for this year, has noted that destabilizing factors in Asia, including areas surrounding Japan, “are becoming more serious,” expressing “strong concern” especially on such matters as the Chinese military’s provocative acts.

Regarding Beijing’s unilateral declaration last autumn of an air defense identification zone in the East China Sea, the white paper released on Tuesday criticized the ADIZ imposition as a “profoundly dangerous act that may cause unintended consequences.”

The white paper has clearly stated what stands to reason. Such incidents as Chinese fighters approaching abnormally close to SDF aircraft have subsequently been taking place one after another.

In fiscal 2013, the Air Self-Defense Force scrambled its fighter jets 810 times against military planes and other aircraft feared to be infringing on Japanese territorial airspace, according to the white paper. It is the first time in 24 years that the number has topped 800. More than half of the incidents were in response to Chinese planes, the document said.

There is no doubt that China’s provocations have heightened tensions between Tokyo and Beijing. To avoid an accidental clash, such arrangements as setting up a hotline between Japan and China must be made promptly. It is also very important for Japan to tenaciously prod China in cooperation with other countries, including the United States, to exercise self-restraint to prevent dangerous behavior.

The white paper cited such facts as a Chinese naval fleet making a passage through not only the Nansei Islands, between Kyushu island and Taiwan, but also Hokkaido’s Soya Strait for the first time in July last year. According to the paper’s related analysis, China has continued to ramp up its oceanic deployment capabilities. It is imperative for the Defense Ministry to continue to carry out detailed surveillance of the activities of Chinese naval forces.

Ensure ‘seamless’ defense

In March this year, North Korea fired multiple missiles in the early morning and at night using transporter-erector launchers (TELs), or mobile launchers. The white paper observes that Pyongyang “has deepened confidence about the performance and reliability” of its missiles.

The North’s medium-range Rodong missiles are capable of striking almost anywhere in Japan. If Pyongyang’s actual warfare missile-launching capabilities are boosted and its program to miniaturize nuclear weapons is realized, the threat from North Korea will increase further.

In response, Japan must strengthen missile interception arrangements through such means as the Aegis-equipped destroyers of the Maritime Self-Defense Force. Defense cooperation with U.S. forces should also be made even closer to build up deterrence against North Korea.

As for the Cabinet approval in July to allow Japan to exercise the right of collective self-defense on a limited scale, the white paper has evaluated the decision as having “historic significance” in further ensuring national peace and security.

It also emphasized the importance of enhancing legislative arrangements to make the nation capable of making a seamless response to the outbreak of various types of emergencies.

Bolstering preparedness to cope swiftly with what are known as “gray zone” incidents, or events that cannot be immediately defined as military attacks—such as seizure of remote islands by foreign intruders disguised as fishermen—is matter of urgency. Measures to address such situations should be reflected in the revision of the Guidelines for Japan-U.S. Defense Cooperation scheduled toward the year-end.

Furthermore, it is also important to forge ahead with the international development of weapons based on the government’s three principles on the transfer of defense equipment and technology, with the aim of boosting the nation’s defense-related production and technological bases to ensure the enhancement of its comprehensive defense capabilities.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 8, 2014)

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(社説)代理出産 安易な利用が生む悲劇

August 09, 2014
EDITORIAL: Down syndrome surrogacy case a cautionary tale for Japan
(社説)代理出産 安易な利用が生む悲劇

In a shocking act of trampling on human rights and degrading the dignity of life, an Australian couple has abandoned a child born with Down syndrome to a Thai surrogate they hired. The boy is one of twins carried by the Thai woman, and the couple has returned home from Thailand with the other infant, a healthy girl.

The couple’s selfish act has provoked international criticism. We can find some solace in the fact that the Thai woman said she would raise the boy on her own and has been receiving donations from around the world.

This tale has brought to the fore some deep-rooted problems inherent in the practice of gestational surrogacy, in which a woman becomes pregnant with a fertilized egg from a couple and gives birth on behalf of the wife.

Pregnancy and childbirth inevitably entail risks. It sometimes happens that a surrogate mother begins to suffer serious complications after giving birth, or in worse cases even dies.

The fundamental question is whether people should be allowed to impose such burdens on others in order to have their own children.

Many cases of surrogacy involve a monetary payment to the surrogate mother.

The way people in wealthy nations hire surrogate mothers in poor countries smacks of exploitation based on economic disparities.

It is hard to see the whole picture of international surrogacy, and there may be other cases similar to the one in Thailand.

There are many ways in which surrogacy contracts end up in serious trouble, such as the surrogate mother refusing to part with the baby or cases in which it is later found that the child has no blood relationship with the couple who hired the surrogate mother.

Surrogacy is far from unknown in Japan. More than 20 years have passed since Japanese couples started hiring surrogate mothers in other countries to have children.

Initially, most of such Japanese couples sought surrogate mothers in the United States, but now Asian nations like Thailand and India are more popular because of lower costs.

In 2008, a case came to light in which a child born to an Indian surrogate hired by a Japanese man had not been allowed to leave India.

Further complicating the surrogacy situation in this nation is the fact that Japan trails other countries in regulations on surrogate childbirths.

The government has been trying to ban surrogacy since the 2000s, but has so far failed to submit proposed legislation to the Diet.

The government’s expert panel as well as an academic society have called for a ban. Debate on the issue should not be delayed any further.

It is adults who adopt surrogacy as a means to have their children. But it is always children who suffer when such arrangements go awry. The rules concerning the issue should be designed to protect the well-being of children born under surrogacy arrangements.

Even if legislation banning surrogacy is established, however, it will still be difficult to prevent all surrogacy deals arranged overseas.

Japan should try to work with other governments to investigate the issue more deeply and develop measures to ensure that surrogate mothers and children born to them will not find themselves in predicaments that spell hardship.

Some lawmakers of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party are campaigning for the submission of a comprehensive bill concerning reproductive medicine to the autumn extraordinary Diet session.

The draft bill would allow surrogacy for only certain cases, such as women who do not have a uterus.
But there is no public consensus on key surrogacy-related issues. Debate on the matter should be based on both accurate scientific knowledge and values shared widely among Japanese citizens.

--The Asahi Shimbun, Aug. 9

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(社説)すき家の教訓 使い捨てにはその報い

August 08, 2014
EDITORIAL: Companies eventually pay the price for bad treatment of workers
(社説)すき家の教訓 使い捨てにはその報い

It was not uncommon for employees at the Sukiya restaurant chain to put in more than 100 hours of overtime each month, which is generally regarded as the threshold for “karoshi,” or death from overwork.

That was the finding of a committee that investigated the working conditions at the beef bowl chain.

The third-party panel of experts set up by the chain’s operator, Zensho Holdings Co., published a report on its findings on July 31. The report said most employees at the chain had experienced working 24 hours nonstop. Some workers put in such long hours they could not even find the time to return home for two weeks at a time.

The panel criticized Zensho for failing to improve the working conditions, despite being repeatedly urged to take remedial measures by the Labor Standards Inspection Office concerning problems like overtime in excess of the limit set in the chain’s labor-management agreement.

The panel’s report painted a dark picture of how employees of the company listed on the First Section of the Tokyo Stock Exchange had to endure physically taxing working conditions.

Zensho will be held accountable for making good use of the report to ensure better treatment of its employees. The investigation also highlighted a number of other issues, such as the need to enhance the powers and functions of the Labor Standards Inspection Office.

But are the problems at the Sukiya chain unique to that company alone?

Last September, the labor standards watchdog looked into the working conditions of companies that were suspected of using young people as “disposable workers.”

More than 80 percent of an estimated 5,000 workplaces monitored by the labor standards office were found to have committed violations of labor laws, such as illegal overtime and extra work without pay.

At 730 workplaces, or nearly 15 percent of the total, the workers doing the longest monthly overtime put in more than 100 extra hours. The longest monthly overtime was more than 80 hours at 1,230 workplaces, or nearly a quarter of the total.

Another investigation found that more than 100,000 workers in Japan worked extra hours without receiving overtime pay in fiscal 2012. These workers should have received a total of 10.4 billion yen ($102 million) in overtime pay. The figures fell from their peaks, but are still at high levels.

Many companies have adopted the same staffing policy as that of the Sukiya chain, which was described as being on the “winning side” in an era of deflation. Companies with this policy prefer nonregular workers like part-timers to full-time employees and harshly exploit them.

The dire state of working conditions at Sukiya restaurants came to light as workers quit one after another while encouraging their co-workers to do the same. They aired their grievances on the Internet, forcing many Sukiya restaurants to suspend or shorten their operations.

Sukiya workers could afford to rebel against their employer because the improved economy created more job offers and made it easier for them to land other work.

If the economy had continued to be in bad shape, the problem might have gone mostly unnoticed and become even more serious.

A growing number of Japanese companies, including those with a reputation for long work hours, have been turning their nonregular workers into permanent employees and improving wages and other work conditions. These moves also reflect the seriousness of the labor shortage that is threatening Japanese industries.

There are, however, legitimate concerns about how these companies would behave if the economy slides into the doldrums again. Our fear is that they may suddenly reverse their attitudes.

Zensho is expected to report a net loss for the first time in its history, due partly to the closure of many Sukiya restaurants.

Corporate executives throughout Japan should learn from the mess created by Zensho and realize that a company that does not treat its employees well will have to pay the price sooner or later.

--The Asahi Shimbun, Aug. 8

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2014年8月 8日 (金)

国際科学五輪 理系人材を生かす社会作ろう

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Scientific talent must be nurtured for the sake of Japan’s future
国際科学五輪 理系人材を生かす社会作ろう

Japanese students have been performing well at the International Science Olympiads, an annual event in which international high school students and others receiving secondary-level education compete on scientific knowledge and thinking power.

Efforts should be increased to discover and nurture talented young people who will play leading roles in shaping the future of Japan as a nation that can thrive on the strength of its scientific and technological power.

The ISO is a group of annual competitions in various scientific disciplines. The rankings of participants are decided through scores based on written examinations, experiments and other tests.

A certain percentage of high achievers in each scientific area are awarded gold, silver and bronze medals. About 10 percent of top contestants take home gold.

In July, Japanese students competed in five ISO areas—mathematics, informatics, biology, physics and chemistry—with four to six contenders in each field. All of the Japanese participants earned medals.

Of the six Japanese participants in the mathematics ISO, four were awarded gold medals. In the informatics area, a middle school student achieved the feat of winning a gold medal. It was reassuring to see these young Japanese people earn recognition in international competitions.

Our nation began stepping up efforts to succeed in the ISO about 10 years ago. In 2004, the Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry began taking action to assist with these efforts. The ministry has set aside about ¥200 million in funds for such purposes this fiscal year, including costs to send contestants to ISO competitions and giving them special training.

Domestic ISO contests in this country, through which Japanese participants for the ISO finals are selected, have been increasing in size year by year. In 2004, 3,200 students competed at home, and the figure exceeded 16,000 last year. In the past, high school students from urban districts accounted for the majority of ISO finalists from Japan. Nowadays, more students from other areas earn themselves places in the list of finalists.

Success breeds success

This seems to suggest that middle and high school students nationwide have been inspired by the splendid showing made by Japanese ISO finalists from their generation, largely as a result of the increasing degree to which the ISO is recognized. The situation can be seen as a good opportunity to discover talented young people from around the country.

Giving Japanese students opportunities to mix with talented youths from other nations in international settings will help broaden their outlook on the world. Given this, government support for prospective Japanese participants in the ISO finals is greatly significant.

The international ISO contest is a test of competitors’ knowledge and skills on scientific themes that can go beyond the contents of Japanese school textbooks. To cope with this, teaching staff from colleges and universities in the nation undertake the task of coaching candidates for the ISO at training camps, thus enabling them to better compete in the finals.

A considerable number of high school teachers have visited such training camps, hoping to learn how to teach students more effectively. It is important to ensure that efforts to compete well in the ISO also contribute to improving the level of our nation’s science and mathematics education.

More than 20 domestic universities, including Tohoku and Keio, have set quotas in their entrance exams for high achievers at domestic ISO competitions. Under a recommendation-based admission system to be introduced in autumn next year, meanwhile, the University of Tokyo will consider the achievements gained by candidates at domestic ISO preliminaries. Such efforts are likely to motivate more students to try to qualify for the finals in the annual scientific knowledge contest.

One of the important tasks facing colleges and universities is to further cultivate the talents of gifted students and produce graduates who can play a role in the advancement of society. We hope each college and university will improve its educational programs and research systems.

If no progress is made in creating an environment that utilizes at home the excellence of people gifted with scientific and mathematical knowledge and skills, it is feared a brain drain will ensue. Further efforts must be made to provide talented young people with opportunities to play an active part in society after finishing their school studies.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 7, 2014)

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原爆忌 核軍縮を着実に前進させたい

The Yomiuri Shimbun
We must strive for steady progress in efforts for nuclear disarmament
原爆忌 核軍縮を着実に前進させたい

By transmitting to the world the real facts of being a country where atomic bombs were dropped, we should solidify a global trend of nuclear disarmament so as not to let the catastrophic consequences of such a weapon occur again.

On Wednesday, Hiroshima marked the 69th anniversary of becoming a victim of an atomic bomb during the war.

During a ceremony to commemorate the atomic bombing, Hiroshima Mayor Kazumi Matsui called for the international community to make efforts to eliminate nuclear weapons by saying, “We pledge to join forces with people the world over seeking the abolition of the absolute evil, nuclear weapons, and the realization of lasting world peace.”

There are about 17,000 nuclear warheads in the world. China is building up its nuclear capability while North Korea, which is proceeding with its nuclear development program, has repeatedly conducted ballistic missile tests.

Taking these threats into account, Japan has no option but to depend on the nuclear umbrella of the United States. Even so, it is a mission of Japan, as the sole country where atomic bombs were dropped, to testify to the world about the inhumane nature of nuclear weapons, while making incessant efforts to realize nuclear arms reduction.

The ministerial meeting of the Non-Proliferation and Disarmament Initiative (NPDI) hosted by Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida—attended by 12 nonnuclear nations and held in Hiroshima in April—should be recognized as part of such efforts made by Japan.

Realistic approaches

In the statement adopted by the Hiroshima meeting, the participating countries stressed the need for a systematic and continued reduction of all types of nuclear weapons. They also said it was important to discuss the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons.

Of the 12 nations, seven states including Japan, Australia, Canada and Germany depend on the U.S. nuclear umbrella. The seven countries are characterized by their realistic approaches to realizing gradual nuclear disarmament, instead of calling for an immediate ban on nuclear weapons.

Nuclear-armed states such as the United States have also shown their understanding, to a certain extent, of the NPDI’s efforts.

In the Hiroshima statement, the participating countries also call for the world’s political leaders to visit Hiroshima and Nagasaki to witness the grave consequences of such a bombing.

U.S. President Barack Obama advocated for creating a world free from nuclear weapons in a speech in Prague five years ago. To realize progress in nuclear disarmament, it is important for the world’s leaders, including Obama, to understand the reality of being victimized by such a bombing.

U.S. Ambassador to Japan Caroline Kennedy, attending the memorial ceremony for her first time, released a comment saying, “This is a day for somber reflection and a renewed commitment to building a more peaceful world.” We hope she will convey the voices raised by people in Hiroshima and Nagasaki to Obama and other leaders in the United States.

Next spring in New York, there will be a Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. This important international conference is held every five years to review the current state of affairs of nuclear weapons and to discuss the reduction and nonproliferation of nuclear weapons.

We hope there will be an acceleration in the discussion on nuclear disarmament at the 2015 review conference, with participating countries taking the spirit of the Hiroshima statement to heart.

It is important for Japan, in solidarity with other NPDI member countries, to tenaciously call for a ban on nuclear tests and on the reduction of nuclear weapons.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 7, 2014)

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(社説)警察の不正 組織の病理にメスを

August 07, 2014
EDITORIAL: Deep-rooted structural problems behind Osaka crime data scandal
(社説)警察の不正 組織の病理にメスを

Police in Osaka Prefecture are reeling from a scandal of unprecedented scale after it emerged they failed to report tens of thousands of offenses to improve the prefecture's crime rate figures.
The whole organization should be held strictly accountable for this dire state of affairs.

All of the 65 police stations in the prefecture falsified crime figures in their districts over a five-year period from 2008 to 2012. Data was withheld on incidents of street theft, destruction of property and the like. The police stations failed to report more than 81,000 offenses, some 10 percent of the total, during the period.

In 2010, the prefectural police announced that Osaka shed its shameful title of being the most street crime-infested prefecture--a disgraceful status it held for 10 years through 2009. But it was a false claim based on manipulated data.

The way the prefectural police department responded to the revelation was also surprising. The department concluded that it was not a case of conspiracy involving the whole organization. It claimed the officers in charge at the police stations acted on their own in falsifying crime data without being told to do so by any senior police official.

The scandal has even more serious implications if all the stations were really involved in the same misconduct even though no senior official gave clear directions concerning the matter.

The prefectural police department should recognize that what happened has its roots in serious problems with the organization.

There have been similar cases of data manipulation by police in various parts of the nation. The Saga prefectural police underreported the number of accidents resulting in injury or death. The Aichi prefectural police failed to report a number of fatal traffic accidents.

What is common to all these cases is excessive importance placed on statistics.

After Toru Hashimoto became governor of Osaka Prefecture in 2008 with a pledge to rescue Osaka from the shame of being the most street crime-ridden prefecture, the successive chiefs of the prefectural police department constantly spurred officers on the front line to make greater efforts to reduce crimes. Many officers in charge have said they felt strong pressure that made them hesitant to report crimes.

A top-down system is the norm for police organizations.

If the upper echelons of police regard crime and other statistics as measures of job performances and reward officers for improved data and punish them for worse numbers, it is not surprising that rank-and-file officers start trying to avoid presenting bad data that would displease their bosses.

The number of recognized crimes in an area is an important indicator of the level of public safety. What police should do is to analyze all data carefully to take effective steps to improve the public security situation.

If a crime data falsification scandal raises doubts among citizens about whether police will deal with crime reports appropriately, there will be grave consequences for public security.

The Osaka prefectural police department has reprimanded 97 officers, including heads of police stations and chiefs of criminal affairs divisions during the period in question.

Every time this kind of scandal comes to light, police punish responsible people and avow to make sure that all officers will be properly instructed as to how they should act.

But these disciplinary actions alone cannot root out the structural problems with the organizations that are behind such scandals.

The burden of work and responsibility borne by police is growing. Police stations across the nation receive more than 1.7 million requests for help and advice every year. The number of cases that demand cautious responses, such as stalking and domestic violence, is on the rise.

On the other hand, the fiscal crunches of the central and local governments are making it difficult to expand police squads in response to the growing workload.

The National Police Agency should ask itself why police officers on the front line who are supposed to have a strong sense of mission are often tempted to commit misconduct. The agency should view the situation as a serious challenge for the national police force as a whole and embark on identifying contributing factors while seeking advice from outside experts.

If the agency treats the latest scandal in Osaka as an exceptional, isolated case, it will no doubt see many more similar episodes in the future.

--The Asahi Shimbun, Aug. 7

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2014年8月 7日 (木)

朝日慰安婦報道 「吉田証言」ようやく取り消し

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Asahi Shimbun makes long-overdue corrections over ‘comfort women’
朝日慰安婦報道 「吉田証言」ようやく取り消し


After a review of its reports on the so-called comfort women issue, which has become a huge thorn in the side of Japan-South Korea ties, The Asahi Shimbun has admitted its mistakes in the reports—albeit partially—and retracted some of the contents.

The retractions allude to reports on remarks by Seiji Yoshida, who claimed to have forcibly taken away local women from Jeju Island, South Korea, to make them serve as comfort women. During World War II, Yoshida was said to be the former head of the mobilization department of the Shimonoseki Branch of Romu Hokoku-kai, an organization in charge of recruiting laborers.

In September 1982, the newspaper reported—without verification—the remarks of Yoshida, who claimed to have “hunted up 200 young Korean women in Jeju Island.”

Misperceptions about Japan

The report added fuel to anti-Japan sentiment in South Korea, and also became a basis of misperception of Japan spreading through the world. In its Tuesday morning edition, the Asahi concluded—for the first time—that Yoshida’s remarks were baseless, and finally retracted the newspaper’s reports regarding the remarks.

We cannot help but point out the correction should have been made at a much earlier stage. Doubts about Yoshida’s remarks have been raised as early as 1992. The newspaper’s negligence in allowing the issue to linger for more than 20 years is deplorable.

The Asahi has, by its own account, reported about Yoshida on at least 16 occasions. Historian Ikuhiko Hata raised doubts over Yoshida’s remarks in 1992, but the newspaper has long refrained from making a correction.

In March 1997, The Asahi Shimbun carried a special article on the reports about the comfort women issue. However, the newspaper only said it was unable to confirm the authenticity of Yoshida’s remarks.

Yoshida’s remarks were cited by a 1996 U.N. Human Rights Commission report compiled by Radhika Coomaraswamy, helping propagate a misunderstanding in the international community that the forcible recruitment of comfort women took place.

Another serious problem with the Asahi’s reports is the mix-up between comfort women and female volunteer corps.

In a front-page article carried in January 1992, the Asahi stated that “South Korean women became the major target of forcible recruitment conducted in the name of the female volunteer corps. The estimated number [of victims] range from 80,000 to 200,000.”

The report was issued just before then Prime Minister Kiichi Miyazawa’s visit to South Korea. It prompted the government to conduct an investigation into the comfort women issue, resulting in a statement issued by then Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono, which expressed the government’s “sincere apologies and remorse” to former comfort women.

In Tuesday morning’s edition, the Asahi admitted its mistake over the mix-up for the first time, saying that the female volunteer corps refers to groups of women mobilized for work in munitions factories and elsewhere during wartime and are “completely different” from comfort women.

“We have been working not to confuse the two since 1993,” the newspaper said in the Tuesday edition. However, the Asahi’s reports have prompted the false understanding that even girls of primary school age were recruited as comfort women.

The Asahi defended its coverage by saying in its two-page spread: “Little progress had been made in investigating the comfort women issue at that time. Some documents to which [Asahi] reporters referred contained statements in which the female volunteer corps was mixed up with the comfort women.” Then the special feature said that some other national dailies had also published articles containing a similar mix-up.

In reporting on the female volunteer corps and Yoshida in initial stages, The Yomiuri Shimbun also ran some stories including factual errors. In the late 1990s and onward, however, we corrected such errors through our editorials and other articles.

Assertions unchanged

We question the Asahi’s assertions about how so-called comfort women were kept at facilities to provide sex for soldiers. Though the heart of the matter was whether they were recruited by force, the national daily argued that great importance must be attached to the fact that those women were caught in a situation marked by “a coercive nature” with which they had been “deprived of freedom.”

In initial stages, the Asahi continued to insist the crux of the problem was that these women had been forcibly recruited, citing testimony from Yoshida and other sources. However, the testimony and data used by the paper as a basis for its reasoning were later disproved. Then the Asahi started to argue that the retention of those women in facilities had a coercive nature.

The Asahi’s assertion has remained fundamentally unchanged in this respect, as illustrated by its latest feature, which stated that the essence of the problem lies in the fact that “women were deprived of freedom in brothels, and their dignity was violated.”

There is no doubt that a large number of women, including those from the Philippines and Indonesia, had their honor and dignity injured during World War II. There may have been cases deemed inexcusable from a present-day human rights perspective, even if no coercive action was taken by the prewar government and the military.

Still, it is necessary to discuss two issues related to the whole controversy as separate matters—that is, how to deal with sex-related issues facing soldiers and whether the Japanese wartime military was involved in forcibly recruiting women for the provision of sex.

Questions can be asked as to the appropriateness of calling the Japanese government to task by insisting coerciveness was prevalent in the provision of sex by those women in a broad sense of the term. We believe focusing on such questions is an attempt to sidestep the real issue.

Gaining a proper perception of history requires thorough efforts to uncover the whole truth behind any historical issue.

Better Japan-ROK ties needed

South Korean President Park Geun-hye strongly opposed a report issued by the Japanese government in June regarding the results of investigations into how the so-called Kono statement on comfort women was drafted and issued in 1993, using Coomaraswamy’s U.N. report and other data as a basis for her assertion. Her unbending hard-line stance on Japan is unlikely to change.

The government should not easily compromise on the controversy. It must persist in urging South Koreans to gain a proper understanding of our government’s stance on the comfort women dispute.

Relations between Japan and South Korea are strained today. There has been no summit meeting between the two nations for more than two years. We hope the media and the public in both nations will come to have an accurate grasp of all the facts, a task essential for their respective efforts to build a future-oriented relationship between the two neighbors.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 6, 2014)

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(社説)被爆69年の夏に 核兵器の違法化・禁止を

August 06, 2014
EDITORIAL: Ban nuclear weapons on humanitarian grounds
(社説)被爆69年の夏に 核兵器の違法化・禁止を

“Remember Hiroshima, Nagasaki,” goes the refrain in “Remember,” a number released last year by singer Shinobu Sato (lyrics by Rei Nakanishi, music by Kisaburo Suzuki). Since then, Sato has been singing this song at concerts all over Japan.
 ♪リメンバー ヒロシマ・ナガサキ

Why “remember”? It was often quoted by artist and nuclear disarmament activist Yoko Ono, who insisted that Japan, the world’s sole victim of nuclear attacks, should keep telling the rest of the world to “remember.” She explained, “There are too many people who don’t remember, aren’t there?”

She went on to express her wish that people around the world would imagine and understand the horrors of nuclear bombs before they say, “No more.”

Ono’s wish echoes the desperate appeals that hibakusha (atomic-bomb survivors) have been making to the international community for decades. Their appeals have often been ignored in the coldly calculating setting of international politics and nuclear disarmament negotiations.

But in this 69th year since the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the inhumanity of nuclear weapons is being highlighted anew.

Momentum is surging among nations that are seeking total nuclear disarmament and asking, “Why can’t we ban nuclear weapons altogether on humanitarian grounds?”


In violence-torn Ukraine, Iraq, Gaza and elsewhere, many lives are being lost even as we speak.

Some people think all lethal weapons are equally inhumane, be they nuclear, chemical or conventional missiles or guns. Still, nuclear weapons should be considered differently from the rest.

Over the last two years, four international conferences have been held about nuclear weapons, and each conference has produced a joint declaration condemning their inhumanity. The number of participating nations in support of these declarations has grown each time, from 16 to 34, 80 and 125.

In February this year, as many as 146 nations gathered in Nayarit, Mexico, for the International Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons, although none of the five major nuclear nations--the United States, Russia, France, Britain and China--was in attendance.

Summing up the current state of affairs at the conference, the chairman noted that the impact of any nuclear detonation can spread far enough to cross national borders and that the effects of the destruction of infrastructure and health damage from radiation will remain for an extremely long time. But no matter how badly relief work is needed, no country or international organ is fully equipped to handle it, the chairman pointed out.

Yet, he continued, there is no end to countries and terrorist groups that seek to possess nuclear weapons, and the danger of nuclear detonation by mistake or as an act of terror keeps increasing.

The chairman’s observation echoed what many people have been thinking: When nuclear weapons that cause tremendous damage already exist in mind-boggling numbers, on what grounds can anyone ever say that the human race will still survive?


In the latter half of the 20th century, humanity came face to face with grave challenges, such as global warming and the depletion of resources from mass consumption. As a result, we have come to accept certain limitations to our daily activities, if that is what will help the human race survive.

We believe the same sort of attitude is needed on matters of security. We cannot just sit and do nothing when we already have more than enough nuclear weapons hanging over our heads, so to speak, to drive the human race and civilization to extinction.

The Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty restricts the possession of nuclear weapons to the five major nuclear nations and requires them to proceed with nuclear disarmament with sincerity. But the treaty has proved less effective than expected because of the deeply ingrained belief that the “power of nuclear deterrence” guarantees the safety of the nation.

Given this situation, we must return to the basics and ban nuclear weapons on humanitarian grounds. We can start by prohibiting the pre-emptive use of nuclear weapons, and then proceed to banning their use under all circumstances, until they are completely eliminated.


At the Nayarit conference, five atomic-bomb survivors were given more than one hour to make their presentations. This was unprecedented on a diplomatic stage.

Setsuko Thurlow, a Canadian resident, was 13 years old when she survived the Hiroshima atomic bomb 69 years ago. She gave a vivid account in English of how her classmates and relatives died before her eyes. The majority of more than 70 conference attendees who participated in a general discussion session voiced empathy with what the hibakusha had to say.

In wrapping up the conference, the chairman called for tangible action, including the drafting of a treaty to ban nuclear weapons. His comments were hailed as a succinct summary of the discussions of the past five years regarding the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons, and also as a clear counterproposal to the nuclear nations that continue to rely on their nuclear arsenals.

In December this year, a conference in Vienna will take up where the Nayarit conference left off. Not only the five major nuclear nations, but also as many countries as possible should attend the Vienna conference and hear the discussions.

Three times in the past, the Japanese government refused to endorse joint statements condemning the inhumanity of nuclear weapons, and came under harsh criticism from the mayors and citizens of Hiroshima and Nagasaki for “contradicting its stated policy of seeking total nuclear disarmament as the government of the A-bombed nation.” But at Nayarit, the Japanese government finally came around.

Mayors for Peace, presided over by the mayor of Hiroshima, currently has an active membership exceeding 6,000 mayors around the world. With a growing nuclear risk now being felt globally, it appears that so many mayors are participating in the latest Mayors for Peace conference because they are aware of the sense of crisis being felt by the public at large.

Matters of national security must not be left to the government alone to decide. Whether something deviates from human decency is for us, ordinary citizens, to determine. Let us always bear that firmly in mind.

--The Asahi Shimbun, Aug. 6

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2014年8月 6日 (水)

アルゼンチン 「ハゲタカ」の横暴が目に余る

The Yomiuri Shimbun
‘Vultures’ drive Argentina into default, turning debt relief accords to ashes
アルゼンチン 「ハゲタカ」の横暴が目に余る

The Argentine government has fallen into default, unable to keep up with interest payments on its debt.

It is important to deal with the latest turmoil and prevent it from developing into a serious and more widespread financial crisis.

The latest default resulted from the collapse of talks between the country and U.S. hedge fund creditors, which sought payment in full.

Argentina fell into its first default in 2001. Later, Argentina reached agreements with more than 90 percent of investors to wholly or partially write off obligations comprising about 70 percent of the country’s $100 billion debt as part of its restructuring plans. It has made interest payments since then.

But certain U.S. fund creditors, refusing to accept the debt reduction plans, sued the country. An earlier U.S. court decision that was recently upheld by the Supreme Court blocks Argentina from making interest payments to other bondholders who separately agreed to restructuring plans until the U.S. hedge funds get paid the full value of their bonds.

With the recent decision by the U.S. court, Argentina has become unable to make interest payments to other creditors no matter how much the country wants to do so.

The hedge funds in question snapped up Argentina’s junk bonds from original investors following the first default and then refused the restructuring terms, suing for repayment in full. It is hardly surprising for the Argentine financial authorities to criticize the hedge fund creditors as “vultures.”

Impact limited, for now

Currently, there is hardly any trading of Argentina’s national bonds on the market. Therefore the latest development is expected to have only a limited impact on the international financial market.

Yet Argentina’s economy will inevitably be affected by the impact of the peso’s decline in the currency market, due to the decline in the country’s creditworthiness. Close attention is needed as to whether the latest development may cause a negative chain reaction involving such emerging economies as Brazil, which is closely linked with the Argentine economy.

Prolonging the current turmoil may not be a good course of action to take for the U.S. hedge funds, either. No matter how hard they drive Argentina’s weak economy into a corner, they cannot expect much benefit for themselves. The hedge funds must search for a realistic middle ground with the Argentine government.

The problem is that, due to the funds’ attempt to rake in money, the agreements that other creditors reached earlier with Argentina to resolve the default crisis in 2001—even at the possible cost of suffering a loss—have turned to ashes.

Many are skeptical of the U.S. court decision, which gave credit to the U.S. funds’ unilateral assertions, despite the fact that a large number of creditors had agreed with Argentina over the restructuring plans.

The fact that an international agreement has been overturned by the judicial ruling of a single country has fueled concern among such financial institutions as the International Monetary Fund that it would become ever more difficult to compile assistance efforts such as debt reductions or exemptions, should such a crisis as debt default occur in other countries in the future.

Recently there have been many national bonds that have set, at the time of issuance, a provision that if a certain ratio of creditors agree with a debt reduction, all the creditors will have to comply with the agreement.

The IMF and the Group of Seven major powers have to expedite their efforts to draw up an international framework to help such agreements retain their validity even in the judicial arena.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 5, 2014)

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福島の除染 個人線量の重視で復興加速を

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Use individuals’ radiation doses as decontamination benchmark
福島の除染 個人線量の重視で復興加速を

To effectively carry out decontamination work in areas affected by Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, setting realistic targets to lower radiation exposure doses is essential.

The Environment Ministry has proposed a policy of carrying out decontamination work by attaching utmost importance to the radiation doses individuals are exposed to.

Decontamination plans have been worked out by the government and relevant municipalities based on radiation doses measured in the air. The government has set a long-term decontamination goal of reducing individuals’ annual radiation exposure to 1 millisievert or lower, equivalent to 0.23 microsievert or less in terms of air dosage per hour.

But the measurement of air doses can vary, so the ministry’s shift to deciding on decontamination areas based on measurements of individuals’ radiation doses is realistic.

According to actual measurements taken in Fukushima Prefecture, the radiation dosage of individuals was held to an annual 1 millisievert even in areas where air doses exceeded more than two times the 0.6 microsievert per hour, the conventional level set as a long-term target.

Merely applying air doses uniformly to set decontamination goals would cause affected residents to become extremely anxious. It is natural for relevant municipalities such as Fukushima and Date, which have been taking pains over decontamination, to call for the government to study practical decontamination measures.

Nevertheless, the ministry’s new policy is still inadequate. The “annual dose of 1 millisievert” is regarded as a goal, at present. This could be interpreted as “the threshold of safety and danger.”

Set a viable goal

The International Atomic Energy Agency, for example, says an annual dose of up to 20 millisieverts is tolerable.

The 20-millisievert limit is also set as a condition to lift evacuation orders in the aftermath of the nuclear power plant accident. But many displaced residents assume they will not be able to return home unless the exposure dose falls to 1 millisievert or lower.

The Miyakojimachi district of Tamura city is the only municipality among those around the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant where the evacuation order has been lifted after the completion of decontamination work. Removal of a similar order, which had been scheduled for July in eastern Kawauchi village in Fukushima Prefecture, was postponed due to fears expressed by many people that “radiation doses are still high in some places.”

Thus, the 1-millisievert benchmark, set by the former Democratic Party of Japan-led government to meet requests of local residents that decontamination work be carried out thoroughly, still hampers reconstruction of the affected areas.

The government must give detailed explanations to residents of the importance of using individuals’ radiation doses to set decontamination goals, and that there is no need to stick to the 1-millisievert target for the time being. Even if the 1-millisievert target is set as a long-range goal, discussing phased targets leading to that limit is crucial.

Future decontamination work will have to be conducted intensively in areas of high radiation doses. This will help shorten the period of work and reduce the amount of radioactive waste generated.

Sticking to the 1-millisievert goal alone would delay reconstruction further.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 5, 2014)

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(社説)子どもの虐待 重層的な対策が必要だ

August 05, 2014
EDITORIAL: Multilayered approach needed to prevent child abuse
(社説)子どもの虐待 重層的な対策が必要だ

Child consultation centers across Japan recognized and confirmed a record 73,765 cases of child abuse in fiscal 2013, according to data released recently by the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare. The number has broken records for 23 straight years since fiscal 1990, when the ministry started compiling the statistics.

The ministry said the number of child abuse cases remains “on a high level.” Ministry officials added that the main factor behind the steady increase in the number of recognized cases is “heightened public interest” in the problem, which has led to a larger number of consultations and reports concerning child abuse.

If the ministry’s explanation is accurate, the data indicate that our society’s ability to detect and recognize child abuse has improved.

It is depressing to know that so many children suffer abuse in this nation. The first priority in dealing with this problem should be saving children from abuse.

It is crucial to detect abuse at an early stage. That requires close cooperation among related organizations, including schools, child consultation centers, local governments and medical institutions.

In the case of the recent suicide of a second-year junior high school student in the city of Nishi-Tokyo who was a victim of abuse by his father, the school was aware of bruises on his face but failed to notify the local child consultation center.

In an Aug. 4 conference of the heads of child consultation centers from around the country, the importance of cooperation among related institutions was emphasized afresh. People and organizations concerned should figure out ways to ensure practical cooperation with each other while putting the top priority on the safety of children.

More efforts should be made to detect early warning signs so that child abuse can be prevented.

Abuse by parents accounts for an overwhelming 93 percent of the cases handled by child consultation centers, according to data for fiscal 2012. The other cases involve grandparents or other relatives, such as uncles and aunts.

Many experts say child rearing in an isolated environment often leads to abuse. If so, steps should be taken to prevent parents raising children from becoming isolated.

There should be more places where parents can seek counseling on child rearing as well as help to deal with problems they are facing without feeling hesitant or uncomfortable.

The proposed program of free preschool education the government is now considering would be an effective measure also from the viewpoint of policy support for child care.

If kindergartens and day nurseries become more accessible for low-income families, these institutions can serve as intermediaries to help troubled families receive support from child consultation centers and government organizations.

These institutions could do a lot to help prevent child abuse by gathering more detailed information about the child-care situations in families, such as whether infants are not receiving health checkups or if the parents are having difficulties raising their children.

It is also important to make sure that child abuse is not viewed simply as a problem in the relationships between children and their parents or those among family members.

The questions we need to ask ourselves include whether our society puts strong pressure on parents to assume all responsibility for taking care of their children and whether enough policy support is offered to help parents find jobs and ensure stable livelihoods.

It is vital for all of us to understand that child abuse is a problem for our entire society and work out effective measures to tackle this urgent social challenge from a broad perspective.

--The Asahi Shimbun, Aug. 5

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(社説)子どもの虐待 重層的な対策が必要だ

August 05, 2014
EDITORIAL: Multilayered approach needed to prevent child abuse
(社説)子どもの虐待 重層的な対策が必要だ

Child consultation centers across Japan recognized and confirmed a record 73,765 cases of child abuse in fiscal 2013, according to data released recently by the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare. The number has broken records for 23 straight years since fiscal 1990, when the ministry started compiling the statistics.

The ministry said the number of child abuse cases remains “on a high level.” Ministry officials added that the main factor behind the steady increase in the number of recognized cases is “heightened public interest” in the problem, which has led to a larger number of consultations and reports concerning child abuse.

If the ministry’s explanation is accurate, the data indicate that our society’s ability to detect and recognize child abuse has improved.

It is depressing to know that so many children suffer abuse in this nation. The first priority in dealing with this problem should be saving children from abuse.

It is crucial to detect abuse at an early stage. That requires close cooperation among related organizations, including schools, child consultation centers, local governments and medical institutions.

In the case of the recent suicide of a second-year junior high school student in the city of Nishi-Tokyo who was a victim of abuse by his father, the school was aware of bruises on his face but failed to notify the local child consultation center.

In an Aug. 4 conference of the heads of child consultation centers from around the country, the importance of cooperation among related institutions was emphasized afresh. People and organizations concerned should figure out ways to ensure practical cooperation with each other while putting the top priority on the safety of children.

More efforts should be made to detect early warning signs so that child abuse can be prevented.

Abuse by parents accounts for an overwhelming 93 percent of the cases handled by child consultation centers, according to data for fiscal 2012. The other cases involve grandparents or other relatives, such as uncles and aunts.

Many experts say child rearing in an isolated environment often leads to abuse. If so, steps should be taken to prevent parents raising children from becoming isolated.

There should be more places where parents can seek counseling on child rearing as well as help to deal with problems they are facing without feeling hesitant or uncomfortable.

The proposed program of free preschool education the government is now considering would be an effective measure also from the viewpoint of policy support for child care.

If kindergartens and day nurseries become more accessible for low-income families, these institutions can serve as intermediaries to help troubled families receive support from child consultation centers and government organizations.

These institutions could do a lot to help prevent child abuse by gathering more detailed information about the child-care situations in families, such as whether infants are not receiving health checkups or if the parents are having difficulties raising their children.

It is also important to make sure that child abuse is not viewed simply as a problem in the relationships between children and their parents or those among family members.

The questions we need to ask ourselves include whether our society puts strong pressure on parents to assume all responsibility for taking care of their children and whether enough policy support is offered to help parents find jobs and ensure stable livelihoods.

It is vital for all of us to understand that child abuse is a problem for our entire society and work out effective measures to tackle this urgent social challenge from a broad perspective.

--The Asahi Shimbun, Aug. 5

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covia社により、アンドロイド搭載のシムフリースマートフォンFLEAZ F5 が新発売されした。

コヴィア、デュアルSIMスケジューラー対応、Bluetoothテザリング機能を搭載したAndroid4.4 SIMフリースマートフォン新製品「FLEAZ F5」を発売開始


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2014年8月 5日 (火)

大阪府警不正 犯罪統計の操作にあきれる

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Osaka police’s manipulation of statistics appalling, harmful to public awareness
大阪府警不正 犯罪統計の操作にあきれる

In an attempt to save face, the Osaka prefectural police were found not to have included all crimes that occurred in their jurisdiction in official statistics. This pretense that public order was improving in the prefecture is utterly appalling.

It was revealed that a total of 80,000 Penal Code offenses committed over five years from 2008 to 2012 were excluded from crime statistics by the prefectural police. All 65 police stations in the prefecture were involved, manipulating 4 percent to 13 percent of confirmed criminal cases yearly.

Nearly 90 percent of the unreported cases involved theft. In particular, street crimes such as bicycle thefts and car burglaries constituted a significant number of the hidden cases. Since 2008, Osaka Prefecture has made earnest efforts to escape the notorious title of having the highest number of street crimes of any prefecture in the nation.

As a “result,” Osaka’s street crime numbers appeared smaller than those of Tokyo from 2010 onward.

If the unreported street crimes are added to Osaka’s statistics, it remains the worst prefecture in this category.

The Osaka police have claimed “there was no systemic instruction” to conduct manipulation. But we wonder if that was really the case. Considerable pressure was reportedly placed on police stations to reduce the number of street crimes.

The top echelon of each police station was reportedly pleased when its place in monthly theft statistics was better than those of other stations, and disappointed when it was worse. In some cases, high-ranking police station officials criticized people in charge of compiling statistics for including small misdemeanors.

False numbers affect public

Crime statistics are an important indicator of the reality of public safety. If false statistics are allowed, it will certainly have an adverse effect on residents’ awareness of crime prevention.

It is necessary to check whether similar statistical manipulation is conducted by other prefectural police.

The revelation of the scandal forced the National Police Agency to make a substantial amendment to data immediately before it was to publish this year’s White Paper on Police. It was an unprecedented situation.

According to the white paper, the number of confirmed thefts dipped below the 1 million mark last year for the first time in 40 years. Although this fact is unchanged after the unreported cases are included, the scandal certainly undermined the credibility of all crime statistics.

The white paper finds it problematic that the number of theft cases in which police identify suspects through their investigations has sharply declined. It said this can adversely affect how the public views public safety.

According to a public awareness survey conducted by the NPA, the largest number of people cited burglaries and other forms of theft as crimes they fear in daily life.

Particularly because thefts are misdemeanors that people can easily associate with their daily life, the anxiety of victims and nearby residents will not be dispelled unless the offenders are arrested—no matter how small the damage from the theft.

In recent years, weaker ties among neighbors have made it difficult for police to obtain information during investigations. Police must maintain their investigative capabilities and ensure criminals are arrested.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 4, 2014)

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北海道電値上げ 原発再稼働で火力頼み脱却を

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Hokkaido Electric’s rate hikes must lead to reactors going back online
北海道電値上げ 原発再稼働で火力頼み脱却を

The electricity rate hikes implemented by seven utilities since the Great East Japan Earthquake have entered a second round of markups.

To avoid stagnation in the economy, which is now subject to the adverse effects of the April consumption tax increase, it is urgent and necessary to bring forward the smooth restart of nuclear power plants after confirming the safety of their operations.

Hokkaido Electric Power Co. has applied for electricity rate hikes with the Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry. It seeks to raise electricity bills by 17 percent for households and 22 percent for corporate users, the highest increases requested by a domestic utility since the 2011 earthquake and tsunami disaster. The Hokkaido regional utility’s planned hikes are expected to go into effect as early as this autumn after a ministry screening on whether the higher rates are reasonable.

Hokkaido Electric raised its rates in September last year, but has been forced into circumstances that have made another hike unavoidable less than a year later. This is primarily because the firm’s financial condition has drastically deteriorated due to swelling fuel costs for thermal power generation to make up for its halted nuclear reactors. The planned resumption of the three reactors Hokkaido Electric owns at its Tomari nuclear complex—previously envisioned to be restarted in sequence from last December—has failed to get off the ground.

Although it recently received ¥50 billion as a capital injection from the Development Bank of Japan in a bid to improve its ailing finances, Hokkaido Electric’s business prospects remain severe.

Unless it can make up its financial shortfall by increasing revenue through higher electricity rates, Hokkaido Electric is said to face the risk of its liabilities surpassing its assets as early as next fiscal year.

There is also concern that the utility may find it hard to raise funds through such independent means as loans from financial institutions and issuance of corporate bonds, thus becoming unable to make sufficient capital investment to ensure a stable supply of electricity. Given the situation, it should be considered inevitable that Hokkaido Electric has to increase its electricity rates to some degree.

Little room to cut costs

Nevertheless, it is necessary to make the markups as small as possible to minimize the power bill burdens on households and businesses.

Hokkaido Electric has been making serious efforts to enhance its business efficiency, worth ¥50 billion per year, through such moves as cuts in personnel costs and expenditures for procuring power generation materials. The utility should study whether there is any room to further streamline its operations.

It is also important to undertake a review of its power supply services, including the advisability of devising a new electricity rate-charging system designed to allow users to reduce their electricity bills based on their ability to find resourceful ways to economize on power consumption.

If operations are resumed at the Tomari nuclear plant and the firm’s finances improve, the utility will be in a position to consider the possibility of lowering electricity charges.

On a related note, there are understandable concerns that Tokyo Electric Power Co. and Kansai Electric Power are highly likely to seek another rate hike themselves.

Eighty percent of small and midsized businesses say their profitability will inevitably shrink if electricity bills are raised again. Rising electricity costs could even turn out to be the Achilles’ heel that hampers the Abenomics economic policy mix undertaken by the administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

There are no prospects of lower fuel costs for thermal power generation in the foreseeable future, while cost-cutting efforts by power utilities are nearing their limits in steps to streamline operations. To prevent electricity bills from being raised again, there is no alternative but to slash power generation costs by bringing reactors back online.

A path toward resumption has begun to be carved out for the operation of Kyushu Electric Power Co.’s Sendai plant in Kagoshima Prefecture. The Nuclear Regulation Authority should proceed without delay with the task of conducting safety screenings of other nuclear reactors. The government must throw its support behind the utilities’ efforts through such means as playing a leading role in providing residents of nuclear plant-hosting communities with convincing explanations about the restart.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 4, 2014)

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(社説)新疆のテロ 民族政策を見直す時だ

August 04, 2014
EDITORIAL: China's racial policy fuels cycle of violence in Xinjiang region
(社説)新疆のテロ 民族政策を見直す時だ

The Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region is an inland region in far western China that has a large population of Uighur Muslims.

The region has recently been hit by a series of violent attacks believed to have been perpetrated by terrorists. There are no signs of calming the wave of violence in the region.

It is necessary to take a firm stand against violence. But it is hard to deny that the approach the authorities have adopted to deal with the problems behind these attacks has only stirred up resentment among the local people.

China is a multiracial nation. Although Han Chinese form a great majority of the population, the vast country is home to various minority races with diverse values and lifestyles.

The chain of violence in the Xinjiang region indicates that the Chinese government’s racial policy has gone awry. Beijing needs to rethink its fundamental attitude toward ethnic minorities.

An incident of violence in the region’s Kashgar district in late July involved an exceptionally large group of attackers. Dozens of knife-wielding militants attacked the local government office and police station, killing and injuring many.

In May, bombs set off in a busy morning market in Urumqi, the capital of the region, left more than 100 people dead or injured.

After the May incident, President Xi Jinping ordered strict precautions against “a chain reaction.” The administration tightened its crackdown on “extremist religious groups.”

Chinese police have huge powers to maintain law and order. They are allowed to wiretap telephone lines and monitor private communications over the Internet.

Chinese leaders should ponder why the chain reaction of violence in the region has not stopped, despite the government’s enormous police power.

Recent news reports on the situation in Xinjiang suggest that the Chinese government has been tightening its control over the people in the region in ways that brutally ignore Islamic customs.

Officials in the region, for instance, compelled some Muslim restaurant owners to remain open during the holy fasting month of Ramadan. Police detained Muslim women for wearing headscarves.

There have been reports that the attack in Kashgar was triggered by the crackdown on the wearing of scarves.

Violence is unpardonable. By seeking to ban even the daily customs of Muslims, however, the Chinese government has gone too far in its fight against violence. The government’s actions are not so much as efforts to prevent crimes as they are an oppression of an ethnic minority.

The authority’s iron-fisted policy toward the restive region has provoked the chain reaction of violence there.

Last week, in another disturbing move, the Chinese government indicted the outspoken, Beijing-based Uighur scholar Ilham Tohti on charges of “separatism.”

Tohti is known as a moderate who has been working for reconciliation between Uighurs and Han Chinese. His indictment has drawn strong criticism from both inside and outside China.

Chinese law-enforcement authorities have asserted that the East Turkestan Islamic Movement, which it describes as a foreign terrorist group, is inciting Uighurs to carry out terrorist attacks.

It is possible that the attackers may have been influenced by Muslim extremists.

But the government appears to be trying to shift responsibility for its policy failure by blaming the series of attacks in the region on a terrorist organization and others incited by the group.

According to China’s Constitution, all races are equal and their customs should be respected. People in China should also have religious freedom.

Leaders in Beijing should not forget that these are fundamental principles of the nation’s Constitution.

--The Asahi Shimbun, Aug. 3

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2014年8月 4日 (月)

中小企業の救い主 無料の勤怠管理

従業員10人までと制限つきなんですが、無料の勤怠管理 システムが開発されました。

ICカードでは、Suica、nanaco、Edy、Waon、PiTaPa、TOICA、ICOCA、PASMO、PiTaPa、Kitaca、SUGOCA、nimoca などが自由に使えます。




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これは天の声かも クラウド上から自由自在な検索はサジェスト

クラウド技術で有名なクレイトエージェンシー が、新しいかたちの検索サイトを開発しました。その名もサジェストなんです。




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佐世保高1殺害 なぜ少女は凶行に走ったのか

The Yomiuri Shimbun
What was behind the horrendous killing of a Sasebo high school girl?
佐世保高1殺害 なぜ少女は凶行に走ったのか

A first-year female student of a Nagasaki prefectural government-run high school in Sasebo has been arrested on suspicion of murdering a female classmate.

What was behind this grisly killing? Investigative authorities must get to the bottom of this crime.

The girl allegedly strangled the victim after striking her with a blunt instrument at the alleged perpetrator’s apartment on the night of July 26, and severed parts of the victim’s body with a saw and other implements.

The victim was said to have enjoyed studying history and aspired to enter the literature department of a university. At her funeral service, her father was quoted as saying his daughter was “my precious treasure.” The depth of sadness of the bereaved family is beyond imagination.

In reply to questions posed by investigators, the alleged perpetrator was cited as saying she wanted to feel “what it was like to kill someone.”

The two girls had been classmates since middle school and they reportedly had not bullied or quarreled with each other. On the day of the murder, they were said to have enjoyed shopping together until immediately before the killing.

Why on earth did one girl find it necessary to murder her friend? The psychotic nature of the crime is conspicuous. We are completely at a loss to figure it out.

The alleged perpetrator was said to be getting good grades ever since her early childhood, and was enthusiastic about sports. When she was in primary school, however, the girl caused trouble by mixing detergent and other substances into school lunches.

Last autumn, her mother died of an illness. After her father remarried this year, the girl hit her father with an aluminum bat. It also was reported that the girl dismembered a small animal.

Warning left unaddressed

Given that she is at a susceptible adolescent age, it may be that changes in the girl’s familial environment influenced her state of mind.

The girl is expected to be referred to a family court shortly. To try to understand the psychological process behind the murder, the investigative authorities will probably find it imperative to not only have the girl undergo a psychiatric examination, but also to probe in detail her family background and early development.

The girl began living alone in the apartment from spring this year. But she was absent from her high school much of the time.

It has been reported that her middle school teachers and others occasionally called on the girl at the apartment to counsel her and to have a meal with her. It is deeply regrettable that efforts made by the school officials and others failed to bear fruit.

In June, a local child consultation center received a telephone inquiry from a psychiatrist who had examined the girl, saying she could “go to the extremes of even committing murder.” The center, however, did nothing but provide the psychiatrist with some words of advice.

It is highly lamentable that information regarding the deepening seriousness of the girl’s behavior failed to be conveyed to the school authorities and police, so possible steps to adequately address the girl’s problems came up short. Anything relevant to those circumstances must be put under the microscope.

Another incident occurred about a decade ago in Sasebo in which a girl in the sixth year of primary school caused a classmate to bleed to death. Despite the subsequent nationwide effort to encourage students to understand the sanctity of life, the incident this time has sent shock waves throughout the country.

The government should forge ahead with measures to effectively address problems that affect the sensibilities of children, such as improving the use of school counselors.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 3, 2014)

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首相中南米歴訪 互恵の関係を長期的に築こう

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Reciprocal, sustainable long-term ties with Latin America important
首相中南米歴訪 互恵の関係を長期的に築こう

The task of securing a stable supply of energy and food is an important matter of diplomatic concern for our nation. Given this, strengthening relations with resource-rich nations in Central and South America is extremely significant for Japan.

During his five-nation Latin American tour, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Friday held talks with Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff in which he confirmed Japan would offer technical assistance for deep-sea oil development off southeastern Brazil. Japanese corporations are aiming to win orders for projects to build a floating platform as a base for oil development operations.

The two leaders also decided to start talks aimed at improving the efficiency of grain transportation in Brazil. Bilateral talks will likely cover such issues as projects to build and improve road and railway networks extending to seaports from inland grain belts in that nation.

In a meeting with Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto, meanwhile, the prime minister agreed that Japan would cooperate in promoting oil and natural gas development programs in Mexico. The agreement will require our nation to extend technical and financial aid to Mexico.

All this constitutes an effort to facilitate natural resource-related cooperation with Latin American countries, a task essential for rectifying our nation’s heavy reliance on Middle Eastern nations for oil and other supplies and ensuring it has a diversity of suppliers. Doing so is significant for Japan’s energy security.

What is important in this endeavor is to respect efforts by Japan’s partner nations to facilitate resource development on their own while also establishing long-term relations under which to enjoy mutual benefits.

China has been no less active in increasing ties with Latin American countries, with a view to securing natural resources from them. This was evident, for example, in a visit to Brazil and some other nations in the region by Chinese President Xi Jinping. However, observers have said that China puts its own interests first, paying no attention to its partners’ wishes for development.

Japan should attach great importance to building reciprocal relationships with its Latin American partners, and emphasize its difference from China in dealing with these countries.

Path to Security Council

Abe’s latest tour included trips to Trinidad and Tobago, Colombia and Chile. He was the first prime minister to make a full-fledged tour of Central and South America in 10 years. The prime minister was accompanied by about 70 others, including corporate executives.

Latin America is home to about 600 million people. Many nations in that region feel affinity toward Japan. That part of the world has achieved significant economic growth in recent years, combined with an increase in the number of middle-class consumers with a strong motivation to spend money. The Japanese government and the private sector should join hands in encouraging domestic companies to do business in Latin American markets while also boosting two-way trade with these nations.

At Friday’s meeting, Abe and Rousseff agreed that Japan and Brazil, both of which aim to gain a permanent seat on the U.N. Security Council, would promote cooperation in this respect as the United Nations marks its 70th anniversary next year. The two leaders confirmed their governments would increase ties with Germany and India in what could be called a “Group of Four nations,” so progress could be made in reforming the most powerful U.N. organ.

Thirty-three Central and South American nations account for somewhat less than 20 percent of the U.N. member states. Japan’s bid to reform the Security Council will require support from these Latin American countries. Japan stands ready to run in an election to choose new nonpermanent members of the council in autumn next year. Abe’s latest tour was aimed, in part, at securing votes in favor of Japan at the U.N. election.

During his Latin American tour, Abe met top leaders from member states of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), an organization comprising 14 nations and one territory in the Caribbean Basin. The summit meeting was the first of its kind to be held between Japan and the CARICOM members.

Japan should obtain support from the Caribbean nations for its Security Council reform drive. This may be made possible through close cooperation with these countries in the field of disaster damage management, given that they are prone to natural calamities.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 3, 2014)

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2014年8月 3日 (日)

第3極勢力 現実的な政策で存在感を示せ

The Yomiuri Shimbun
‘3rd-pole’ political force must present realistic policies to become meaningful
第3極勢力 現実的な政策で存在感を示せ

Small opposition parties, aiming to become a “third-pole” political force, should try to realize their policies by establishing free and unbiased relationships with the government.

House of Representatives member Shintaro Ishihara and other lawmakers who split from Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Restoration Party), have established the Party for Future Generations. Takeo Hiranuma, a veteran lower house member, has taken the helm of the new party, which comprises 19 lower house members and three House of Councillors members.

Establishment of an independently written constitution, which is one of Ishihara’s pet goals, has been listed as the top priority in the party platform. The enactment in June of the revised National Referendum Law has prepared a legal environment for holding a national referendum on constitutional revision.

It is hoped that the Party for Future Generations will lead debate on constitutional revision.

Asked about how his party would deal with the Abe administration, Hiranuma told reporters that it “will pursue a free and unbiased stance.”

The Party for Future Generations endorses the government’s change in its interpretation of the Constitution to approve a limited exercise of the right of collective self-defense. The party takes the stand that legal arrangements should be made to deal with “gray-zone” situations falling short of armed attacks.

As for nuclear policies, the party has set forth a policy of “maintaining the world’s most advanced nuclear technologies.” The party said it will also seek to end reliance on nuclear power generation by diversifying sources of electricity.

The party’s stances on national security and nuclear policies correspond to those of the government and ruling parties in large part. To accomplish its policy targets, it is essential for the party to actively cooperate with the Liberal Democratic Party and other parties.

The group led by Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto, which has also split from Ishin no Kai, is aiming to merge with Yui no To. The group will shortly establish a council to prepare for establishment of a new party with its inauguration said to be scheduled for early September.

Reconcile differences

The crucial thing is to definitely reconcile fundamental visions and policies.

Ishin no Kai, then led by Hashimoto, neglected efforts to reconcile nuclear and energy policies with the now defunct Sunrise Party, which was established by Ishihara and others, as it hurried to achieve a merger of the two parties before the 2012 lower house election. This is one factor behind the division of Ishin no Kai into two groups now and should be a matter for reflection.

Hashimoto is willing to approve the exercise of the right of collective self-defense, but Kenji Eda, leader of Yui no To, takes a cautious view of the issue. It is necessary for the two leaders to present an unambiguous unified view on the matter. It is indispensable to decide on ways of cooperation and division of roles between the Osaka-based group led by Hashimoto and the group of lawmakers based in Tokyo.

Meanwhile, Your Party has been losing strength. This is due to a money scandal involving former party head Yoshimi Watanabe, who allegedly received a huge amount of questionable loans.

Keiichiro Asao, the current head of Your Party, will be required to make his political presence felt on such policy matters as national security and regulatory reform.

In a political landscape dominated by the powerful LDP, opposition parties cannot attract much attention. The third-pole parties should not forget their obligation as “responsible opposition parties” to cooperate with the Abe administration if they agree on government policies, without repeated alliances and ruptures among them.

Such an approach will make it possible for them to differentiate themselves from the Democratic Party of Japan, the major opposition party, that tends to stick to criticizing the government.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 2, 2014)

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第1次大戦100年 今こそ銘記したい悲劇の教訓

The Yomiuri Shimbun
We must heed the tragic lessons of WWI on its 100th anniversary
第1次大戦100年 今こそ銘記したい悲劇の教訓

This summer marks the centennial of the outbreak of World War I, which ignited in Europe, causing devastation unparalleled by any war the world had witnessed up to that time.

We must learn from the tragedy, whose protracted battles left about 13 million people dead.

World War I was triggered in June 1914 by the assassination of the heir presumptive to the Austrian throne by a young Serbian man who fired two shots. In retaliation, Austria declared war on Serbia.

Early in August of that year, Germany launched a military campaign based on its military alliance with Austria, leading to an all-out war between the Germany-led Central Powers and the Allies that included Britain, France and Russia.

In those days, many people predicted an early conclusion to the war and believed their own country’s side would be victorious.

This war left a weighty lesson that a war should never be launched.

U.S. President John F. Kennedy was a leader who acted based on what he learned from studying the failures of World War I when he dealt with the Cuban missile crisis of October 1962, in which confrontation between the United States and the Soviet Union escalated to the verge of nuclear war.

An eye on history

Having read “The Guns of August” by Barbara Tuchman, which chronicled in detail the developments leading to the opening of World War I, Kennedy reportedly said he did not want somebody writing a book called “The Missiles of October” in the future.

Based on unbridled discussions with his aides, Kennedy worked on possible Soviet actions and considered responses to each scenario, as well as the likely resulting outcomes. He put priority on averting a military clash and decided on a maritime blockade of Cuba, instead of launching attacks on Cuba.

While confirming the Soviet intentions, Kennedy entered negotiations with the Soviet Union for it to withdraw its missiles from Cuba, nipping a potential World War III in the bud. We should never forget what the president accomplished.

It is important to bear in mind that peace is at risk when an international balance of power crumbles. World War I occurred just as the power of Britain declined from its hegemonic status, which coincided with the rise of Germany.

The present-day world is confronting a shift similar to the changing power balance in Europe 100 years ago.

In January, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe likened today’s relationship between Japan and a rising China to that of Britain and Germany before the first world war, stirring widespread controversy and putting him on the defensive. Nonetheless, it is true that stabilizing the bilateral relationship has emerged as a major issue.

It is necessary for the two nations to prevent accidental military clashes by establishing a hotline between the leaders and between defense units. The two nations should urgently build a mechanism to be used in the event of a clash to prevent it from escalating into a full-blown conflict.

History proves that a war, once started, will play out without restraint. Once again, the impor-tance of striving to prevent war has come to the fore.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 2, 2014)

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(社説)増える空き家 放置防いで活用探ろう

August 02, 2014
EDITORIAL: Making good use of millions of vacant houses
(社説)増える空き家 放置防いで活用探ろう

As many as 8.2 million houses in Japan are unoccupied, accounting for 13.5 percent of all existing houses in this nation. The number has increased by 630,000 from five years ago and is the highest on record, according to latest government data.

A confluence of factors is behind this trend, including such major social changes as the postwar tendency among Japanese to live apart from their parents and the aging and shrinking of the population. The number of vacant houses is expected to continue growing in the coming years.

If left abandoned, vacant houses could collapse or become targets of crimes like arson. Greater efforts should be made to prevent uninhabited houses from being neglected and find new uses for them.

Homeowners should in principle take care of their houses. There can be cases, however, where vacant homes pose a safety hazard, such as dilapidated houses in areas of high snowfall that are on the verge of collapse. In such cases, the local government may have no choice but to demolish them.

More than 350 local governments across the nation have ordinances concerning proper management of unoccupied houses. The city of Daisen, Akita Prefecture, and Tokyo’s Ota Ward have torn down houses in danger of collapsing on behalf of the owners under their ordinances regarding such situations.

A group of lawmakers is working on legislation to deal with the increasingly serious problem. One key provision of the envisioned law would give municipalities access to information about local residents’ records concerning the municipal tax on real estate so that they can identify the owners of vacant houses. Another would allow local governments to order the owners of dangerous vacant houses to demolish them.

However, dismantling a house to create a vacant lot means losing a real estate tax break. The tax burden on the owner could increase up to six times.

Many experts say this tax rule is one of the factors behind the growing number of unoccupied houses.

If the government considers putting together a comprehensive package of measures to deal with the problem, changes in tax rules may be effective components.

Some policy efforts are under way to make use of vacant houses that could otherwise become sources of trouble.

Low-rent public housing for low-income earners is generally very popular, with the number of families wishing to move in being dozens of times larger than the number of units available.

Vacant houses could meet the needs of the huge ranks of people looking for low-rent housing.

The Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare in April started a pilot project to use empty houses to provide housing to low-income elderly people.

The project is aimed at encouraging owners to rent their unused houses to such people. Under the project, nonprofit organizations and other entities will provide support for the daily lives of aged renters to ease the landlord’s concerns about the possible solitary deaths of occupants.

The Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism is planning to ease government and ministerial ordinances related to the Building Standards Law, under certain conditions, to make it easier to turn vacant houses into group homes and other facilities for the elderly.

In June, the city of Kyoto started providing subsidies to help remodel detached houses and vacant row houses into housing for foreign students or local public facilities. The municipal government has already received around 100 inquiries about the new subsidy program.

Usable vacant houses are valuable resources. A wide range of organizations and people should be involved in the efforts to come up with good ideas to overcome obstacles to utilizing them.

--The Asahi Shimbun, Aug. 2

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2014年8月 2日 (土)

対露制裁強化 米欧の協調で圧力かけ続けよ

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Concerted action by U.S., EU vital in applying continued pressure on Russia
対露制裁強化 米欧の協調で圧力かけ続けよ

It is highly significant that the United States and Europe have taken concerted actions to toughen diplomatic pressure on Russia, determined to accept the adverse impact it will have on their economies.

Washington and the European Union have decided to implement tougher economic sanctions against Moscow, penalties that are said to be on the largest scale since the end of the Cold War between East and West.

While strongly condemning Russia’s actions since its March annexation of the Crimea Peninsula, a territory of Ukraine, the EU has indicated additional penalties depending on how Moscow responds.

The sanctions are aimed at pressuring Russia to cooperate in the international investigation of the downing of a Malaysian Airlines jet on July 17 over eastern Ukraine.

The site has been controlled by pro-Russia separatist armed groups since the deadly incident occurred. Traces of cutting, which can be interpreted as an attempt to destroy evidence, were found in the wreckage of the aircraft. The preservation of the site has been far from what was called for in a U.N. Security Council resolution.

An international investigation team became able to enter the site from Thursday, a couple of weeks after the crash.

Russia must exercise its influence over pro-Russia separatist armed groups to shed light on the truth of the incident. It must also stop its intervention into Ukraine.

The U.S. and EU lists of sanctions exclude Russia companies involved with natural gas, as such sanctions would be extremely detrimental to Europe, but they have targeted key Russian economic sectors such as finance, defense and energy.

Key sectors targeted

The penalties call for restricting Russian national banks’ procurement of funds in U.S. and European financial markets. The penalties further ban new arms transactions, provision of technology with dual military and civilian uses, and the supply of expertise and equipment used for the development of offshore oil fields and shale oil.

The EU had been reluctant to implement substantial sanctions against Russia, which is its major energy supply source. But it hardened its stance in the aftermath of the deadly incident, as the Netherlands, which lost many citizens in the crash, called for tougher sanctions, prompting a wary Germany to act.

The U.S. release of satellite images as evidence of rocket attacks on Ukraine from Russian territory also helped encourage Europe to enact tougher sanctions.

The Russian economy has been showing signs of deterioration, including drops in stock prices and Russian ruble exchange rates plus capital outflow. The Russian economy as a whole will unavoidably suffer from the sanctions, as it relies heavily on investment and technology from foreign nations. Resources development in the Arctic Sea and western Siberia will also stagnate.

The administration of Russian President Vladimir Putin is poised to counter the Western penalties by taking such measures as raising the prices of energy shipments to Europe. Its antagonistic stance toward the United States and Europe is expected to grow stronger as well.

Emphasizing cooperation with the United States and Europe, Japan has decided on additional penalties against Russia, including a freeze on assets of individuals and organizations involved in the Ukraine issue and restriction on imports of Crimea-made products. This is a reasonable decision.

The Japanese government is making arrangements for Putin’s visit here this fall, but for the moment Tokyo must give priority to international cooperation in promoting the investigation into the deadly incident.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 1, 2014)

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海江田民主党 甘い総括で再建できるのか

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Ineffectual Kaieda remains in charge of DPJ thanks to disunited opponents
海江田民主党 甘い総括で再建できるのか

It was a tepid assessment devoid of a sense of urgency over faltering party strength. The fact that the party head is allowed to stay in office even under such circumstances graphically reveals the party’s current state of affairs.

The Democratic Party of Japan held a meeting on Thursday with most of the party’s Diet members attending to make an overall assessment of the way DPJ President Banri Kaieda ran the largest opposition party in the past year. The evaluation was called for as he remained at the helm of the party after its humiliating defeat in the House of Councillors election last summer by making a commitment to “produce tangible, positive results within one year.”

At the outset of the meeting, Kaieda expressed his intention to stay on in the top post of the DPJ, saying, “Approval ratings for the Abe Cabinet have been on the wane, and what matters most for us is whether our party is able to act effectively in defense of people who feel unease and dissatisfaction.”

Regarding the “tangible results” he committed himself to, Kaieda cited such things as his success in having kept party unity intact. But we feel rather skeptical about the wisdom of using such reasons to justify his staying on as party president.

Even though he appears to have been intent on rebuilding the party in the past year, Kaieda has been hardly able to make his presence felt in the political area because of his feeble ability to come out with strong political messages. Party approval ratings have shown public support for the DPJ hovering at less than 10 percent, compared to the 30 percent to 40 percent levels for the Liberal Democratic Party.

In the by-election of the House of Representatives Kagoshima Constituency No. 2 in April, the first contest for a Diet seat after the raising of the consumption tax, the candidate backed by the DPJ was defeated. The triumph of a former DPJ lower house member in the gubernatorial election in the middle of last month in Shiga Prefecture seemed to be attributable mainly to the tactic of keeping the party’s backing as inconspicuous as possible.

Bleak future prospects

Within the DPJ, such heavyweights as the party’s former Vice President Katsuya Okada demanded publicly that the party’s presidential election, scheduled for September next year, be held earlier, which Kaieda made a point of turning down.

Party rules of the LDP include “recall provisions” that stipulate holding a presidential election if and when a majority of the party’s Diet members and representatives of its prefectural chapters call for one. The DPJ, however, has no such rule, and so long as Kaieda refuses to hold a party election, there can be no party presidential contest before his term of office expires.

Among the factors behind Kaieda’s strong attitude is apparently the fact that those DPJ lawmakers who oppose his leadership are in disarray over who should succeed him, so that moves to oust Kaieda from the top party post have failed to gain impetus.

The DPJ’s future prospects, however, remain bleak. The rift has been deep between the Kaieda leadership, which has been eager to strengthen ties to trade unions, and conservative members who wish to see the DPJ break its dependence on unions.

Kaieda is poised to reshuffle the lineup of party executives as early as September, and it is likely that he will have hard time trying to build party unity as anti-Kaieda sentiment continues to smolder.

The party has said its task of formulating a set of policies geared for unified local elections next spring will soon be in full swing. Although the party says it will make a review of the DPJ electoral platform for the 2009 general election, which comprised many unrealistic and pandering handout policies, before the end of the year, the pace of such review seems to have been extremely slow.

The DPJ has also continued shelving discussions within the party on pros and cons concerning the exercise of Japan’s right of collective self-defense.

So long as it fails to put an end to its propensity to postpone conclusions on key issues merely to prevent a split in the party, the DPJ will be unable to fulfill its responsibility as the No. 1 opposition party and will have no prospects for regaining strength.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 1, 2014)

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(社説)原発事故原因 究明求める声を聴け

August 01, 2014
EDITORIAL: Public demands the truth about Fukushima accident
(社説)原発事故原因 究明求める声を聴け

What is the whole truth about the nuclear disaster that hit this nation three years ago? We have yet to hear a satisfactory answer to this question.

Public discontent about this fact was clearly reflected in a recent decision by an independent judicial panel of citizens concerning the criminal liability of three former executives of Tokyo Electric Power Co. for the accident at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

The Tokyo No. 5 Committee for the Inquest of Prosecution said July 31 that the three should be indicted over the 2011 disaster, rejecting a decision by prosecutors against prosecuting them.

The panel’s action forces the Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office to reconsider its decision to drop the case against the three former executives of the electric utility, which operates the stricken nuclear power plant.

Regardless of whether the three are actually indicted, there is no doubt that the panel’s call is a sign of public exasperation about the lack of serious efforts to get to the bottom of the nuclear disaster on the part of the government, the Diet and the utility.

Both the government and the Diet have the power and ability to gather huge amounts of information about the accident and glean lessons from what happened. The authority is vested in the two institutions by the people.

But both the government and the Diet have failed to make a serious response to the people’s calls for a clarification of the causes of the accident.

This discontent has also been indicated by a recent opinion poll.

In a national poll conducted by The Asahi Shimbun in July, 59 percent of the respondents voiced opposition to the plan to restart reactors at Kyushu Electric Power Co.’s Sendai nuclear power plant in Kagoshima Prefecture, against 23 percent who supported it.

When asked whether they thought that the lessons from the Fukushima accident had been incorporated into Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s energy policies, only 19 percent of the respondents said “yes,” while 61 percent answered negatively.

The committees set up separately by the government and the Diet to investigate the accident both ended their inquiries after about one year of work. Both panels called for continued efforts to reveal the whole truth about the triple meltdown at the Fukushima plant. But virtually no specific step has been taken to do so.

Given the scale and severity of the accident, it is obvious that the hasty investigations conducted by the two panels are far from sufficient. The records of testimonies and the massive materials produced by their inquiries have not been made available for wide use.

A full-scale probe into the accident should be resumed to make clear the lessons that should be learned before the relevant memories of people involved begin to fade.

The three former executives at TEPCO are facing possible charges of professional negligence resulting in death and injury. Legal action has been taken against them by survivors of the accident in Fukushima Prefecture and others. The plaintiffs are seeking to hold the three liable for damage caused by the disaster, such as the deaths of hospitalized patients and the exposure of local residents to radiation during evacuations.

Important for proving their criminal liability are issues like whether the possibility of a powerful earthquake and huge tsunami triggering such a severe accident could be foreseen.

But efforts to draw lessons from the accident should not be focused only on such judicial viewpoints. The probe should be done from a broader perspective.

Whether local residents can be safely evacuated in nuclear emergencies is one of the key questions for the decision on whether to restart an idled nuclear power plant. But the criteria for deciding on whether to bring a reactor back online do not include the existence of an effective and workable evacuation plan.

What happened to local residents during the nuclear crisis? How did the electric utility respond to the crisis?

In order to answer these and other key questions, it is vital to examine afresh the accident in an exhaustive manner from all possible angles.

--The Asahi Shimbun, Aug. 1

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2014年8月 1日 (金)

最低賃金上げ 中小企業への目配りも大切だ

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Spare a thought for smaller firms in light of minimum wage hike
最低賃金上げ 中小企業への目配りも大切だ

To shore up consumption and help the economy finally shake off the shackles of deflation, it is vital that wages are raised.

The Central Minimum Wages Council, a panel of the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry, has agreed to recommend that Japan’s minimum hourly wages for fiscal 2014 be increased by ¥16 on average from the previous year.

This would be a double-digit increase for the second consecutive year, and is expected to bump up the average minimum hourly wage to ¥780. In response to this recommendation, committees in prefectures across the nation will make final decisions on the increase to ensure the minimum wage fairly reflects local conditions. The new standards will be adopted in or around October.

Currently, after-tax income earned by a worker on the minimum wage is less than they would receive in welfare benefits in Tokyo, Hokkaido and three other prefectures. This so-called reversal phenomenon, in which welfare benefits exceed the minimum wage, can deflate a worker’s incentive to keep working, a development that is rightly viewed as problematic.

The latest hike in the minimum wage is forecast to resolve this problem in all five prefectures—a development we warmly welcome.

The monthly income of a full-time worker earning the minimum wage will rise by an average of ¥2,500. With the increase of nonpermanent workers in recent years, many households whose breadwinner is on the minimum wage are barely making ends meet. The value of lifting the minimum wage is considerable.

It is a fact that Japan’s minimum wage is among the lowest of advanced nations.

Buoyed by increasing signs of an economic recovery, this year’s shunto spring labor-management wage negotiations generated a wave of wage hikes, mainly for regular employees of major companies. However, amid rising prices and April’s increase in the consumption tax rate, the income for household budgets is effectively shrinking.

For nonregular workers and employees at small and midsize companies, moves toward wage increases have been lukewarm.

Share the benefits around

There is growing frustration that the benefits of Abenomics, the bold economic policies of the administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, are not reaching every corner of society.

The proposed hefty minimum wage increase appears to reflect the strong desire of the administration to haul the economy out of deflation. Health, Labor and Welfare Minister Norihisa Tamura had called for an increase in minimum wage “equivalent to last year’s rise, or higher.”

In recent years, more young people have been working in nonregular jobs and earning minimum wage. There has been a noticeable increase in people giving up on getting married and having children due to their financial situations. This has been a major factor in the accelerating decline in the population due to the nation’s low birth rate.

Raising the minimum wage is thus also vital from the perspective of countering the falling population.

The public and private sectors should make efforts to ensure higher wages also spread to nonregular workers and other employees.

There are concerns that raising the minimum wage could put a squeeze on the management of small and midsize businesses. Many of these companies are already enduring tough financial conditions as they bear the brunt of soaring fuel and raw material costs due to the weaker yen.

Simply telling these companies to boost wages could worsen their business performance even further. There are also fears that negative consequences, such as companies laying off employees, could escalate.

We think the government should keep a close eye on the actual state of small and midsize companies and prepare effective assistance for them, such as supporting their moves into sectors where growth is anticipated.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, July 31, 2014)

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周永康氏摘発 腐敗蔓延の陰で続く権力闘争

The Yomiuri Shimbun
China anticorruption drive linked to power struggle in Communist party
周永康氏摘発 腐敗蔓延の陰で続く権力闘争

An unprecedented investigation has been launched into alleged wrongdoing by a member of China’s top leadership.

The Communist Party of China decided to conduct the probe into Zhou Yongkang, a former head of the party’s Central Politics and Law Commission and once the ninth-ranking member of the party. Zhou was a member of the Politburo Standing Committee (PSC) until autumn 2012.
The party is investigating him over “serious violations of party discipline,” and plans to prosecute the case.

No details have been released about the charges Zhou faces, but since last year, his aides and former subordinates have been brought up on corruption-related charges one after another. As Zhou himself is strongly believed to be involved in corruption, it is likely that he has already been detained.

There are currently only seven members of the PSC, which sits atop the gigantic party structure, including President Xi Jinping. There were nine when Zhou held his office at the PSC.

There was said to be an unwritten rule that the wrongdoings of a small handful of high-ranking officials were not prosecuted to avoid party fissures and maintain party prestige.

However, proliferating corruption is a source of discontent and mistrust among the people, and is seen as a grave problem for the survival of the party. Xi, who promised with his sweeping anticorruption campaign to target all levels from high-ranking “tigers” to low-level “flies,” may have had no choice but to break the taboo.

Charging this big tiger is aimed at demonstrating to the people the party’s firm stance on eradicating corruption. Anticorruption is also likely to be high on the agenda at the general meeting of the Communist Party Central Committee scheduled for October.

Zhou member of ‘oil faction’

In China, anticorruption charges are closely tied to power struggles within the party.

Zhou is a central figure in the “oil faction” within the Communist Party, a network of influential politicians who have ties with China’s petroleum industry. As the head of the party’s Central Politics and Law Commission, he also assumed control of the security and judicial sectors.

Zhou is said to be backed by former Chinese Communist Party General Secretary Jiang Zemin and former PSC member Zeng Qinghong, who is an aide to Jiang. Zhou is believed to be close to former Politburo member Bo Xilai, who was sentenced to life in prison for corruption last year.

Xi is hurriedly concentrating power in his own hands, assuming one top position after another in organizations leading security and economic reform.

Charging Zhou and stemming the influence of those with vested interests, including Zhou’s oil faction, as well as the influence of Jiang’s faction, appear to be part of Xi’s efforts to consolidate his power base. But it is too early to say that such moves by the president will make his administration stable.

Charging Zhou may be welcomed by the people in the short term, but the deep-rooted nature of corruption in the party remains unchanged. There are fears that opposition to Xi’s high-handed approach could grow stronger within the party. China’s society and politics still have a long way to go to reach stability.

If domestic politics become unstable, Xi could leverage his self-righteous foreign policies to appeal to patriotism among the people. Japan needs to carefully watch the power struggles playing out behind the anticorruption charges.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, July 31, 2014)

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(社説)中国汚職摘発 真の法治をめざすなら

July 31, 2014
EDITORIAL: Xi’s anti-corruption campaign still leaves rule of law by the wayside
(社説)中国汚職摘発 真の法治をめざすなら

Members of the Politburo Standing Committee of the Chinese Communist Party collectively rule a nation of 1.3 billion people, making them China's most powerful group of political leaders.

The party has decided to open a formal corruption investigation into Zhou Yongkang, one of the nine members of the paramount policymaking body of the previous administration of President Hu Jintao. The party’s anti-graft watchdog announced it is investigating Zhou for “serious violations of party discipline.”

The 71-year-old Zhou is said to have been implicated in a large web of corruption. He is the highest-ranking Communist Party figure to face a formal criminal investigation since the country embarked on economic reform in the late 1970s.

Taking on endemic corruption within the party is the right thing to do.

But it needs to be pointed out that the unusual move to bring criminal charges against such a powerful politician is part of the political battle waged by the current administration of President Xi Jinping to solidify its power base.

Zhou was head of a state-owned oil company. It is believed that he used money he had earned illicitly from the oil business to build up a corrupt network of people cemented by interests.

China’s leadership may appear to be monolithic, but in fact the innermost circles of the party and the state include people with widely different agendas and motives. Each section of the government tends to become an interest group. The Xi administration recently launched a series of campaigns against such corrupt interest groups.

After the top official of the Ministry of Railways was charged with corruption, the ministry was dismantled and its functions were taken over by three separate organizations at the time the Xi administration was inaugurated.

Gen. Xu Caihou, who was once one of the country’s most senior military officials, was expelled from the party after being accused of accepting bribes.

Now, the administration is targeting the oil sector’s entrenched interests in its campaign to purge the party of corruption.

Zhou is said to have close ties with former President Jiang Zemin. There must have been fierce resistance within the party to the move against Zhou.

Immediately after Zhou retired from the Politburo Standing Committee in 2012, the government started detaining people around him, including high-ranking officials and business big shots.

The Xi administration then began to make efforts to prepare public opinion for actions against influential politicians by stressing that even high-level officials would not be exempted from its anti-graft campaign.

The investigation into Zhou came after careful and meticulous efforts to corner the former security chief.

It can safely be assumed now that Xi has built a solid power base for his leadership.

The Communist Party Central Committee’s plenary session last year called for judicial reform, and the rule of law is expected to be high on the agenda during this year’s session, to be convened in October.

There are some fundamental questions, however, about whether the action against Zhou will contribute to the efforts to establish the rule of law in China.

The decision to investigate the former member of the Politburo Standing Committee was made by the party leadership, not by the judiciary.

Once the party’s inquiry discovers his violations, he will be stripped of party membership and subjected to the legal process of criminal justice.

The whole system is based on the assumption that the Communist Party’s power is superior to judicial power. The party leadership is considered infallible.

Stamping out corruption to build a fair society is a worthy policy goal. If this goal is merely a political tool used by the powers that be to buttress the party’s monopoly on power, however, there will be limits to what this undertaking can achieve.

As for the rule of law, China has a Constitution that enumerates the people’s rights.

But the party has been cracking down on many legal and academic experts campaigning for the realization of constitutional government. The reality of China’s government is a far cry from the rule of law.

What China really needs is an effective system for the rule of law that can expose and punish the crimes of even top party leaders. Establishing such a system is the proper way to root out systemic corruption.

--The Asahi Shimbun, July 31

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