Archive for the ‘Japan in the News’ Category

Shoichi Nakagawa Found Dead

October 4, 2009

Shoichi NakagawaFormer Finance Minister Shoichi Nakagawa, who lost his Hokkaido Diet seat on August 30th, after his drunken appearance at a Rome G8 conference in February led to his resignation from the Cabinet, was found dead in his Setagaya home by his wife at about 8:15 this morning.So far, Tokyo police say suicide is unlikely, but are conducting an autopsy to determine the cause of death, which they believe may be related to prescription a sleeping medication he was taking.

Foul play has been ruled out.

The Kyodo report contains one interesting line:

When Nakagawa’s 50-year-old wife came home at around 9 p.m. Saturday, she saw him sleeping with his upper body leaning against the bed, his face down, but did not sense anything was wrong, they said.

The way that’s phrased makes it sound like an unusual posture, but perhaps not that unusual considering the number of even more unusual sleeping positions in which Mrs. Nakagawa must have seen her husband over the years. (more…)

Olympic Decision Tomorrow: Say No to Tokyo

October 1, 2009

The day has come. Tomorrow, the International Olympic committee will meet in Copenhagen to decide which of the four finalist cities – Chicago, Rio de Janeiro, Madrid, or Tokyo – will get the dubious honor of hosting the Games of the XXXI Summer Olympiad, better known as the 2016 Summer Olympics.

Obviously, each candidate city has spent years and millions of dollars already in an attempt to snag the Games, in the process making more and more promises that are almost certainly unachievable. (Tokyo budgeted $48 million for bidding alone, with $27 million of that explicitly coming from the metropolitan government.)

In this respect, the competition to get the Olympics is quite a bit like a political campaign: even if one of the candidates wanted to be up front about it and make a case, the process drags everyone involved down into the muck of disingenuous myopia. Once the bids begin, candidates go for the gold no matter what the costs – appealing in a sprinter, less so in a government. After all, the whole point of hosting the Olympics is to benefit the host city and environs in one way or another, right?

On Friday, the contenders are pulling out all the stops. In addition to the wining, dining, and wooing of the IOC that has already taken place, big names will be on hand to pitch for their respective cities. For Chicago, President Obama announced last week that he would join his wife, Michelle, in Copenhagen to make the case, even as protests heat up in the Chicago itself and fewer and fewer respondents to polls say they really want to see the Olympics in their town. For our own Tokyo, new Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama will make the case in what the media here have been entertainingly, but ridiculously calling “Hatoyama vs. Obama.”

First, let’s set aside some of the hogwash about what the Olympics actually represents. (more…)

The Otaru Onsen Case: Ten Years On

September 24, 2009

September 19th marked the tenth anniversary of human rights activist Debito Arudou’s first visit to the Yu-no-Hana Onsen in Otaru, Hokkaido and the first of three times he and some of his companions were turned away due to an explicit “Japanese Only” policy that turned out to be, according to the explanation offered by the management of the onsen, a “Japanese-looking” Only policy.

As most TPR readers or listeners know, after trying many other avenues of reconciliation, Arudou and two other plaintiffs filed and won a civil suit against Yu-no-Hana, as well as two appeals. The first and only decision against the plaintiffs was in a civil suit before the Supreme Court against the City of Otaru for negligence.

The case generated more publicity and hardship than Arudou or his co-plaintiffs had anticipated and wound up launching Arudou down a new path of human rights advocacy, on which he continues to this day. (more…)

Hatoyama Officially becomes PM, Names Cabinet

September 17, 2009

As expected, Yukio Hatoyama officially became Japan’s 93rd Prime Minister yesterday and just the second since the long-ruling Liberal Democratic Party was founded not to belong to it. Just as importantly, after roughly two weeks of managing to keep the press at bay and leaking little, if anything about the make-up of the new Cabinet, the new Prime Minister formed the first Cabinet since 1955 to contain no LDP members.

In fact, as promised, the new Cabinet is made up entirely of elected representatives. Every portfolio went to a DPJ member, with only two positions going to the DPJ’s partners: State Minister in Charge of Consumer Affairs and the Declining Birthrate to SDP head Mizuho Fukushima and State Minister in Charge of Financial and Postal Issues to People’s New Party chief Shizuka Kamei.

So, without further ado, the Cabinet: (more…)