| May 12, 2009

Historic change puts justice in public hands

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With the “saibanin” lay judge system set to take effect May 21, Japan is gearing up for an important transition in its judicial system, in which citizens begin serving as de facto jurors in district court trials involving serious crimes. Under the new system, ...

| Apr 10, 2009

What did Japan's response to the North's rocket prove?

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When North Korea sent what it claims was a rocket carrying a satellite over the Tohoku region Sunday, the Self-Defense Forces units deployed to possibly intercept it held their fire because the craft apparently posed no threat to Japan’s territory. This leaves unanswered the ...

Road-toll cuts take effect Saturday

| Mar 27, 2009

Road-toll cuts take effect Saturday

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Motorists across the nation this Saturday, if they have an Electronic Toll Collection device, will start feeling the effects of Prime Minister Taro Aso’s economic stimulus measures. The maximum fee on regional expressways will be cut to ¥1,000 for an unlimited distance on weekends ...

| Mar 20, 2009

Hand-wringing over fund scandal

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The political fund scandal involving Nishimatsu Construction Co. has brought to light once again the unhealthy relationship between politics and money. This time, prosecutors went straight to the top by arresting the chief secretary of Ichiro Ozawa, president of the Democratic Party of Japan. ...

Cultural monument or replaceable relic?

| Mar 7, 2009

Cultural monument or replaceable relic?

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Debate is heating up between Japan Post Holdings and the internal affairs ministry over whether to raze or preserve a landmark building in front of JR Tokyo Station. The building is the five-story Tokyo Central Post Office, a 78-year-old structure Japan Post wants to ...

| Mar 5, 2009

Who gets the cash handouts, and how?

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The Liberal Democratic Party-New Komeito ruling bloc rammed legislation related to the fiscal 2008 second extra budget through the Diet Wednesday amid strong protests from the opposition parties. With the passage of the bills, Prime Minister Taro Aso will finally be able to issue ...

The debate over government notes

| Feb 6, 2009

The debate over government notes

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Scholars and Liberal Democratic Party members have been urging the government to print its own money to counter the once-in-a-century crisis buffeting Japan. While advocates claim the measure should at least be considered as an option, senior government and central bank officials are adamantly ...

Postal hotel 'fire sale' draws flak

| Feb 4, 2009

Postal hotel 'fire sale' draws flak

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Orix Corp.’s purchase of 70 Kampo no Yado hotels from Japan Post Holdings Co. for the fire sale price of ¥10.9 billion has been making headlines for the past month and drawing the scorn of internal affairs minister Kunio Hatoyama. The incident seems to ...

| Dec 25, 2008

Temps a threatened species as job cuts bite

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Last of two parts Temporary workers are bearing the brunt of cost-cutting measures taken by businesses, especially in the manufacturing sector, to weather the recession. In November, the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry announced that since October, 30,067 temps have either been let go ...

New U.S. entry requirement

| Dec 18, 2008

New U.S. entry requirement

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The United States will launch a new immigration system starting Jan. 12 to try to prevent terrorists entering the country. This will require foreign short-stay visitors from 34 countries participating in the Visa Waiver Program, including Japan, to apply for travel authorization at a ...

Import food: Do inspections allay fears?

| Nov 26, 2008

Import food: Do inspections allay fears?

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Public concern over imported food is on the rise, especially produce from China. Even if consumers want to avoid imported food, they have few options: Japan’s food self-sufficiency rate is only 40 percent, according to a 2006 study by the Health, Labor and Welfare ...