Japan Today

A_cross comments

Posted in: Car hits group of preschoolers in Shiga Pref; 2 dead See in context

Heartbreaking report. Not the same, but I almost saw my kids killed at a T-junction near their Hoikuen (pre-school). We tried to train them to look both ways and walk, not run, at intersections, and to stop immediately if we shouted "STOP". They were waiting, holding hands with a friend, and when the lights changed they started to cross, running. I noticed that a taxi was jumping the lights and had turned after the lights had changed, and I yelled "STOP". They did, and I watched the taxi drive past just a few centimeters ahead of the three children.

Shinjuku-ku has recently re-modelled a number of road junctions in the area to prevent drivers taking them at speed, but not this one. I don't know if this is what happened in Otsu, but I do think that drivers in Japan seem to try to speed pass the traffic lights even after they have changed, rather than waiting in safety for the next cycle, and that drivers of taxis, foreign cars and those using their mobile phones are especially to blame. RIP those kids and let's hope Otsu does a lessons-learned study that is implemented nationwide.

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Posted in: Remains of 2 people found in car destroyed by fire in Aichi See in context

This may be more common than you might think. One day I was cycling around Meiji Jingu Park when I found the road blocked by cops and tape. Looked like the fire service was extinguishing a small fire, not big enough to justify the large police presence or the road being blocked such a distance away. I thought it might be something like a terrorist bomb. I went back after the road was re-opened, everything was cleaned up but the road surface and paving stones still had scorch marks showing the outline of a car.

My guess is that the emergency services have enough experience of similar suicide events to want to protect the general public from seeing a burning car with people dying inside. So sad .....

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Posted in: Canadian man indicted for smuggling record amount of stimulant drugs to Japan See in context

Everyone is looking at this the wrong way around. Someone handed this guy millions of dollars worth of merchandise which, if he got caught, would be lost. The mule would surely know the serious consequences of getting caught, but took the chance for the "big reward". Why? In both cases, the answer must be that the customs get lucky only one time in several such trips. How many? The only people who really know are the gangsters behind this. My guess would be one in ten.

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Posted in: Starbucks to open 4-story high-end roastery cafe in Tokyo See in context

Patricia: You missed where it said Nakameguro.

browny1: of course, it's the Church of St. Arbuck ........

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Posted in: Tokyo 2020 venues on track for completion, say organizers See in context

Kenji: The sad reality of the Olympic Stadium ..... and then Zaha died from the stress of those legal actions, and Kengo Kuma, who led the xenophobic movement to discredit Zaha's design, now takes undeserved credit as the architect.....

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Posted in: Sumida sunset See in context

Very nice, but I think "as seen from about 50 meters above the Sumida River" would be more accurate.

It's also very close to a "Fuji Diamond". If the weather's good I hope to see a "REAL" Fuji Diamond from Shinjuku tomorrow.

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Posted in: Foreign divorced parents fight in vain for child custody in Japan See in context

This issue not only affects "Foreign divorced parents", it affects, in one case I know of, a Foreign Widower of a Japanese wife. The family was living, and the child in school, in the father's country, where the mother was diagnosed with cancer. She returned to Japan, with the child, to visit her parents, and sadly died here.

The Japanese mother, the father and the child were all expecting that, whatever happened, the child would return to school in the father's country. Instead, the grandmother took custody of the child and refused to allow any contact with the father.

When Japan signed the Hague Convention, the father hoped he would eventually see his child. However, it seems that, while Japan has signed the Hague Convention, it is not enforced or even recognized by courts here.

To make this sad story even sadder, it seems that the grandmother has been telling this child from an early age that its father never visited and never wanted to be part of its life, making his hope of an eventual reunion with the child as an adult even less likely.

Japan looks after its own, regardless of international pressure or law, but in this case it is making an innocent Japanese child fatherless .....

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Posted in: Powerful quakes more likely to hit Hokkaido, Pacific coast See in context

Powerful earthquakes are no more likely to hit Hokkaido or the Pacific coast of Japan this year than they were last year, the year before that or ten years ago.

What has changed is this: for many years, the Government of Japan told its population that it was fully prepared to handle any foreseeable major earthquake. The Kobe and Tohoku earthquakes clearly demonstrated that this was not the case. So they have been under-reporting the likely risk, especially in the Kanto area, for a long time, meanwhile slowly softening the Japanese public with gradual release of reports describing the risk in the Nankai Trough (Kansai) area as being greater than previously expected. These reports increased after 2011.

Now a relatively small seismic event in Osaka has provided the government with an "I told you so" chance to issue reports increasing the risk in other regions, starting with Hokkaido. Eventually they will start talking about the earthquake risk in Tokyo, but an actual serious earthquake may hit before then.

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Posted in: Holidays to be moved to ease traffic for 2020 Tokyo Olympics See in context

"Ease Traffic ..... ?"

When they say "to alleviate traffic congestion" what they really mean is "to comply with IOC's requirements for the Olympics and Paralympics".

The Olympics require dedicated highway lanes, for Olympic officials and athletes only, between the various official venues, the Olympic Village and other facilities. Since Tokyo's Expressway system includes many junctions where several lanes all merge into one lane, and since Tokyo has not made any effort, in the five years since being awarded the Olympics, to reconfigure the Expressways, the only solution is to close down the entire Expressway system to ordinary traffic.

The dedicated highway lanes are of course required for the entire duration of the Olympics and Paralympics, not just the opening and closing ceremonies, so we can expect more "traffic congestion alleviation measures" to come, not just three national holidays.

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Posted in: Airbnb says new law regulating short-term rentals 'stinks' See in context

ONLY IN JAPAN - the government says they will work to INCREASE the availability of tourist accommodation to cope with the increasing number of visitors, PLUS the expected increase of visitors due to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics. INSTEAD, they introduce legislation that actually DECREASES the availability of tourist accommodation. The large hotel operators are struggling to provide any additional capacity. So who provides it? Well, organised crime has a long history of filling the gaps, as they are doing now with the construction industry and foreign workers, and they know how to keep the politicians happy at the same time. AirBNB has its problems, but their main fault is "cultural insensitivity" in not knowing how to influence politics, i.e. how much to pay and how to keep it quiet.

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Posted in: IOC tells Tokyo 2020 organizers they must prepare for questions, criticism See in context

The IOC is just one of the organizations an Olympic event has to deal with. For every event, there is a Federation, who must accept the arrangements for that sport. To take a simple example, the FIBA requires all doors in basketball facilities to be higher than normal. They signed off the basketball courts in London 2012, but a few weeks before the Olympics, they found that shared practice halls had standard height doors. Contractors had to hurriedly replace doors in all the practice halls.

Coates' point is that Tokyo will face that kind of problem with every single sporting Federation, no matter what deals they have cooked up with the IOC. Being one year behind schedule, for example .....

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Posted in: Pompeo had secret meeting with N Korean leader, says U.S. official See in context

Or arrange through diplomatic channels for a government aircraft from Washington to land at Pyongyang's International airport.

Or did you just assume Director Pompeo snuck in and knocked on the Supreme Leader's back door?

There are diplomatic channels that can arrange a flight from Washington to Pyongyang? I didn't know that. I do know that when former US President Carter flew to Pyongyang, he made a stopover in Tokyo.

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Posted in: Pompeo had secret meeting with N Korean leader, says U.S. official See in context

Just curious, how does a CIA director get into North Korea without being seen or shot at?

Just drive up the Reunification Highway, or sneak through Panmunjeom and board a North Korean chopper? By himself?

Or take an Air Koryo flight from Beijing? They seem to have spare capacity these days .......

Forget all this rhetoric, if the unlikely coupling of Kim Jon Un and Donald Trump can pull this off, it will be a great achievement.

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Posted in: Solar-powered flush toilet does not need water supply, sewerage facilities See in context

Whilst I admire all the technology that goes into this sustainable toilet, I cannot help but imagine the scene as the user climbs the step, grasps the door handle, gives it a strong pull as directed and falls over backwards ......

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Posted in: Water at Tokyo's new fish market contaminated: official See in context

This may or may not be a problem, but as presented in English it is certainly bad PR.

Benzine is one of many Volatile Organic Compounds, or VOC's. You are exposed to VOC's every time you re-fuel your car or paint your house. Short-term exposure is OK, long-term exposure is not. Safe levels are set to protect fuel sales workers and house painters whose exposure is many times that of ordinary people. This result was detected at "an inspection well", which probably means it is not related to any air that people breathe or any water that contacts fish or other food products.

The PR problem comes because TMG has not been completely open about its contamination precautions, testing or monitoring since the project began. When Yasuma says "groundwater quality remains largely stable", as a professional he probably thinks that that is a good thing, but ordinary Tokyo residents see "remains largely stable" at 130 times safe levels as scary. Yasuma and TMG need help on their PR.

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Posted in: Trump rebukes Japan over nontariff barriers against American cars See in context

@Slickdrifter "Feb. 24  06:51 pm JST

"@Ramzel Volvo is a Swiss car manufacturer. They do fairly well in Japan."

Correct: "Volvo do fairly well in Japan." Incorrect: "Volvo is a Swiss manufacturer."

Volvo Group is a truck manufacturer based in Sweden. Volvo Cars is a Chinese-owned car manufacturer, also based in Sweden. Volvo Cars was bought by Ford in 1999 and sold to its new owners in 2010. They still share the same logo.

Volvo Cars is the highest ranked non-Japanese and non-German Vehicle Manufacturer in Japan in 2017, at #18 in JADA's list by number of vehicles sold. Jeep is the only American manufacturer in the list at #20.

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Posted in: Trump rebukes Japan over nontariff barriers against American cars See in context

albaleoToday  04:35 am JST

Ford is actually the 3rd best-selling car brand (behind only VW and Renault) in 2017 Europe

"if Ford were to try to enter the Japanese market ........ "

Ford actually LEFT the Japanese market, officially about two years ago:


In fact, Ford was here to sell the high-end cars of its Premier Automotive Group, which had split up by 2010. Since then, formerly Ford-owned PAG carmakers Aston Martin, Jaguar, Land Rover and Volvo have done very well in the Japanese market. Chrysler's American-made Jeeps sell well here too.

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Posted in: Trump rebukes Japan over nontariff barriers against American cars See in context

CaptDingleheimerToday  01:40 am JST

A_crossToday  01:31 am JST*


Oh give me a break. They chose the biggest Cadillac they could find to do a story that fit their narrative.

Break: There are not too many American cars on Tokyo streets to choose from, and the Cadillac Escalade is actually one of the more common American vehicles you can see here. People who buy these cars do so because they are BIG.

The BBC's narrative was the fact that, when Japanese buyers buy foreign cars, they choose mostly German cars. They noted mostly Mercedes, but there are also similar numbers of Audi and BMW cars on the streets. Minis are fairly common too, and Range Rovers.

The idea that tariffs or any kind of politics is holding back sales of American cars in Japan is simply nonsense. As the lady said, the American-made car is simply poor-quality compared to imports from Germany or elsewhere.

Make better cars and Japanese customers would buy them, as they do with so many other American products.

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Posted in: Trump rebukes Japan over nontariff barriers against American cars See in context


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Posted in: Japan protests unified Korea Olympic flag with disputed isles See in context

"smithinjapan Feb. 5  11:45 pm JST"

"A_cross: "Personally, living within range of a Taepodong, I would think that handing over Takeshima to Koreans in return for a peacefully unified peninsula would be a deal worth making."

"Ummm... they own and live on it. How would it be "handed over" to them, exactly? Japan has zero to deal with in regards to peace in the peninsula. In fact, Abe is pushing AGAINST it to further his agenda on the Constitution and weapons building."

Sorry, Smith san, I was thinking ahead. In political negotiations, you can "give" something you don't own to someone who can claim receiving it as a major concession. Furthermore, if by some chance Abe and Suga followed my advice, they could refute any and all claims on Takeshima by saying "hey, we offered to give it back, but Kim and Moon didn't unify their peninsula peacefully, so we aren't going to talk about it until they do."

Either way, do you see a Takeshima-sized dot on the Reunification Flag?

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Posted in: Japan protests unified Korea Olympic flag with disputed isles See in context

The "Flags of the World" website shows the Juju and Ulleungdo variants, but not Dokdo/Takeshima. There is a mark in the photo that might be a "blue dot" just to the right of the shadow at centre right, which could be Ulleungdo. If Dokdo/Takeshima was on this flag, and drawn to scale, it would be invisible, and thousands of other Korean islands would have to be shown too. Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga should know this.

If Dokdo/Takeshima was shown, and visible, on this flag, it would have to be greatly enlarged. Or, as it is known in politics "blown up out of all proportion".

Personally, living within range of a Taepodong, I would think that handing over Takeshima to Koreans in return for a peacefully unified peninsula would be a deal worth making. Suga and Abe should make that offer.

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Posted in: 2 men killed in car-truck crash in Shizuoka See in context

The truck was not a "kei jidosha", it was a "Chugata" truck. The car looks like a Toyota Ractis. Unfortunately for the truck driver, it seems to have plowed straight into and under the truck cab on the driver's side.


Modern cars are built to higher standards of crash protection with "crumple zone" bodies and air bags. See this video comparing crash tests of cars from 2017 and 1997:


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Posted in: Dump truck crashes on Tokyo expressway, killing driver See in context

That's in front of Izumi Garden, at the junction of Roppongi Dori and Azabu Dori. If the driver was coming down from Roppongi crossing and followed the sharp curve back towards Azabu, it wouldn't take much to lose control, like driving at speed, losing attention or a sudden diversion due to the long-term expressway renovation work. In fact, it looks like the temporary fence for construction work stopped the truck from going over the side.

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Posted in: Trump says he'll push Japan for more 'reciprocal' trade, in a friendly way See in context


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Posted in: Trump says he'll push Japan for more 'reciprocal' trade, in a friendly way See in context

It will be interesting to see what Trump says to Xi in Beijing. The US trade deficit with China is about five times that of Japan.

Earlier this year, U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said that trade deficits with Japan were "growing at an alarming rate” between February and March 2017 and demanding "rebalancing our trade relationships” with Japan, Mexico and Germany ….. with no mention of China.

According to US Census figures, there was a big rise between February and March 2017, as there has been every year since before the start of this century, see , which shows that Japan imports roughly US $5 billion worth of US goods and services every month, and has done so consistently for the last 20 years, while the US imports roughly US $10 billion from Japan most months, except for around March where the figure goes up to $12 or $13 billion. 

The US trade deficit with Japan has been on a downward trend since its peak at nearly $90 billion in 2006.

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Posted in: Snow cap seen on Mount Fuji for first time this season See in context

@Bshabu (Today  07:09 pm JST)

Thanks for the info, but looking at Google Maps I couldn't find any tower, like the one in the photo's foreground, at Fuji Asama Shrine.

Could it be the Fuji Yoshida Chureito (忠霊塔 富士吉田) which is close to both Arakurayama Sengen Park (新倉山浅間公園) and Arakura Fuji Sengen Jinja (新倉富士浅間神社).

It's a little confusing, it seems that the name of the local god "Fuji Asama" (富士浅間) can also be read as "Fuji Sengen".

Nice photo anyway .....

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Posted in: Police prepare for Halloween crowds in Shibuya with multilingual guidance system See in context

The OP was about police precautions in Shibuya, which people in Japan decided a few years ago was a place to gather wearing halloween costumes, since the US-style house-to-house neighbourhood "Trick or Treat" did not really work here. Comments somehow turned to US "cultural imperialism" polluting the lives of children of other nations. Well I have to say that Halloween is the HIGH POINT OF THE YEAR for my children, and neither of their British/Japanese parents knew anything about Halloween before, you can only blame Walt Disney. So Hollywood "cultural imperialism" yes, but can you expect any child, anywhere in the world, to grow up without Disney?

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Posted in: MUFG to automate operations to free bankers for wealthy clients See in context

Not only that, but MUFG has even managed to recreate that frustrating experience with its current "online banking" services, which must be the clunkiest low-resolution website ever. If you use an ATM to transfer funds, you can enter a recipient's account number and see the account name automatically to confirm it is the person or company you want. With MUFG's "online banking" you have to enter the account number and the account name TWICE, once in Kana and once in Kanji, and if there is the slightest mis-match the transfer is totally rejected. You must enter "Kabushikagaisha" or Ka) or (Ka in exactly the correct way, and even if you are lucky enough to do this successfully, the online confirmation form will often show it differently.

Remember, besides the Mitsubishi and UFJ in the MUFG group name, the English version of the Bank's name still retains a remnant of the "Bank of Tokyo". These three banks, of which at least two would have otherwise failed, were forcibly merged by J-Gov many years ago, in the hope that the merged group would find economies of scale and the successful parts would be retained while the unsuccessful parts would close. Instead, a single transaction is now handled by three separate offices. So if my company receives a payment from overseas sent to my local branch, a different office calls me to say the money has been received. The documentation for this is handled by yet another office, which sometimes sends it and sometimes doesn't, but I cannot contact them directly and every request, even for online banking services, involves multiple requests, paper form-filling and snail-mail correspondence, each with the correct count of hand-written Kanji, stroke count, hanko stamps and account names. I won't even mention the fact that I have one account where MUFG staff wrote my name in a slightly different form on page 1 and page 2 of my bank book, so that after almost two years of attempting an automated transfer request I am still going through cycles of rejection where each request is rejected in favour of the alternative format. Sorry, I just did.

Just how ignorant of all this Kanetsugu Mike must be to think he can introduce stuff like “robotics process automation” is beyond belief, except perhaps that by 2024 most of the senior citizens working in his Kafkaesque historic throwback "organization" will probably be dead .....

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Posted in: Intense work continues at Tokyo Olympic stadium site two years before deadline See in context

I worked with Zaha and saw her emotional approach to her work. I have no doubt that the stress caused by the cancellation of her prize-winning project contributed to her death. The cancellation was xenophobic and shameful. They had to scrap the roof and fudge the figures to claim they had reduced the costs of the project.

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Posted in: U.S. Navy to hold Japan memorial for sailors killed in crash See in context

I have no idea how this turned into a "War of Words" between Burning Bush and other JapanToday readers, but I do know two things:

The collision between the US Naval vessel and the commercial ship was a serious incident resulting in the unfortunate loss of seven Naval personnel;

The information that is being reported from various sides simply does not make sense.

Considering this, the analysis described by Burning Bush in his second comment seem to be the only explanation that fits the facts as we know them now.

To amplify this, I think that between the time of the actual impact "barely jarring the ship" and "the container ship crew finally realize several irregularities" and turned around, the crew of the container ship must have wondered about the scraping noise, checked the ship and found the huge gashes in the bow.

Whether they were in communication with the Fitzgerald before, during or after this collision is one of the things the crews of both ships do not want to comment on, to cover their stern quarters. Hence the "stern-walling" over the time of the incident.

I have many friends in the US Navy, thankfully not among the 7, RIP. For them, and to ensure this does not happen again, we want to know what really happened.

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