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'Comfort women' issue refuses to go away

by Reiji Yoshida

“Comfort women,” as Japan refers to the females who were forced into sexual servitude for the nation’s wartime forces, have been a constant source of controversy since the early 1990s, when the media started to take a serious look at their ordeal. These women have recently again become a focus ...

Mount Fuji finds mixed success with tolls

| Sep 29, 2014

Mount Fuji finds mixed success with tolls

by Masaaki Kameda

As the Mount Fuji climbing season drew to a close earlier this month, authorities were assessing the success of a new ¥1,000 voluntary climbing fee, which almost half of hikers skipped paying. It was introduced this year following a trial in 2013. Formally called ...

Fukushima cleanup going painfully slow

| Sep 22, 2014

Fukushima cleanup going painfully slow

by Mizuho Aoki

Three and a half years after Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power station spewed massive amounts of radioactive materials into the air and water, decontamination work in Fukushima Prefecture has yet to draw to an end. The government initially hoped ...

Blood types

| Sep 19, 2014

Blood types

by Alice Gordenker

Dear Alice, Can you please explain why the heck Japanese are so interested in my blood type? I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been in a normal social situation and someone asks if I’m type O or whatever. I don’t mind so ...

How vulnerable is Japan to severe weather?

| Sep 8, 2014

How vulnerable is Japan to severe weather?

by Eric Johnston

The deadly mudslides in Hiroshima and other parts of western Japan last month caused by torrential rains have raised concerns about how vulnerable Japan is to such natural disasters, especially given severe weather events due to climate change. While a combination of factors were ...

After STAP scandal, Riken plots its future

| Sep 1, 2014

After STAP scandal, Riken plots its future

by Mami Maruko

With recent revelations of misconduct involving its research on so-called STAP cells, stem cell researcher Haruko Obokata and her employer, Riken Institute, have come under intense scrutiny and criticism. Last week, the nation’s largest science research institute announced an “action plan” to avoid similar ...

Who's at the table for Abe's reshuffle?

| Aug 18, 2014

Who's at the table for Abe's reshuffle?

by Reiji Yoshida

Rumors and speculation are swirling in Nagata-cho, Japan’s political nerve center. The hot topic: Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s plan to reshuffle the Cabinet and the leadership of his Liberal Democratic Party next month. Why is Abe planning to shake up the Cabinet now? Who ...

Selective consumption tax weighed

| Jul 21, 2014

Selective consumption tax weighed

by Ayako Mie

It’s only been three months since the consumption tax was hiked to 8 percent, but the ruling coalition is already expediting talks on another increase scheduled to come into effect in October next year. Concerned that the tax hikes could harm consumer confidence, the ...

Organ donation

| Jul 18, 2014

Organ donation

by Alice Gordenker

Dear Alice, I’m looking at my Japanese driver’s license and wondering if the form on the back has anything to do with organ donation. Years ago, I registered in the United States to be an organ donor, which was a simple matter of checking ...

Budget phones challenge the majors

| Jul 14, 2014

Budget phones challenge the majors

by Kazuaki Nagata

Smartphones may be convenient, but there’s one thing about them that bugs many people: their costly monthly data plans. Seizing this opportunity, noncarrier firms have broken into the market in the past several months with low-cost plans and handsets. Here are some questions and ...