Sumiko Oshima
For Sumiko Oshima's latest contributions to The Japan Times, see below:
Aug 24, 2000
A new deal for man's best friend
Theta was a month-and-a-half-old puppy when she first came to live with Fuyumi Morita and her husband in the city of Kakegawa, Shizuoka Prefecture, one year after the couple's marriage. Morita remembers Theta's little paws scrabbling at her when she picked her up, Theta's little eyes looking into her eyes, and Theta's little tail wagging when she walked.
Aug 21, 2000
Homocysteine a new heart attack threat
Even if your regular medical checkup shows a low cholesterol level, don't celebrate too soon: Recent medical research has revealed another bad guy in the blood.
Jul 31, 2000
Taking the bitter with the sweet
It looks scary at first -- more like Godzilla's back than like something you'd eat. Nor does the first taste come easy. A bite sends a bitter flavor along the tongue.
Jul 13, 2000
Groping: the proof is in the accusation
When a station attendant tapped his shoulder to lead him into a nearby police box shortly after he got off the last train of the day, Roberto (not his real name) thought the police just wanted to check if he had overstayed his visa.
Jul 3, 2000
It's a drink and a snack: black soybeans
Japanese health enthusiasts are pursuing another lead in their quest for healthi er living. Following the green-tea boom, they are now drinking a much darker "tea," prepared not from tea leaves but from black soybeans.
Jun 8, 2000
Pageants losing face with public
Mari Nishihama, 20, a native of Oshima, an island located 100 km south of Tokyo, had always lived a peaceful, if somewhat uneventful, life in the small tourist resort town. But all that suddenly changed last fall, when town celebrities voted the local bank clerk Miss Oshima 2000.
May 1, 2000
New treatments can save stroke victims if diagnosed in time
It creeps up on you unawares and attacks suddenly. One day you are fine and leading a nation. The next day you are in a coma at a hospital.
Apr 27, 2000
Outdated male views hamper care
In early April in a Tokyo suburb, a group of in-home caregivers -- all women -- were absorbed in a conversation about their elderly clients.
Apr 17, 2000
Germinating a new attitude toward brown rice
A new way of eating rice may revolutionize the Japanese diet in the next century.
LIFE / Food & Drink
Apr 5, 2000
Take your vitamin C -- but how much?
The message is everywhere -- take vitamin C.
Mar 21, 2000
'What ifs' haunt families of Aum's sarin victims
Even five years after the 1995 sarin nerve gas attack on Tokyo's subways, many questions remain.
Mar 14, 2000
Tokyo budget sidesteps asbestos
After having recently provoked outrage in the trucking industry over a controversial plan to regulate diesel cars, "environmentally friendly" Gov. Shintaro Ishihara has just submitted a budget proposal to the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly that has one less allocation for green initiatives: that for asbestos monitoring.
Mar 11, 2000
Antique restorer teaches old furniture new tricks
Western antique furniture has an ambivalent reputation. Some people are so enchanted with it that they become collectors, while others simply think of it as old, dirty -- and often unreasonably expensive.
Feb 26, 2000
Religious art meets shamanism
People in the village of Monobe, Kochi Prefecture, nestled deep in the mountains, have passed down from generation to generation a mysterious folk religion that worships paper gods.
Feb 24, 2000
Home is where change is
A visit to Tobetsu would surprise anyone looking for a glimpse of "old Japan" in the countryside.
Jan 29, 2000
Traditional art gets the seal of approval
You need them to register a birth certificate, to marry, to open a bank account and even to receive a parcel. You might say the hanko validates every official occasion in Japan.
Jan 1, 2000
Leaving an impression for time to come
Children can't wait for that moment on New Year's Day when they can snatch at the small, colorful envelope appearing from the purse or pocket of the gift-giver. Some sit upright before their parents and swear to behave well or study more during the year, while others happily speculate about how much they will receive from grandparents or neighbors.
Dec 27, 1999
Nuclear plant jobs lure unwitting day laborers
Staff writer The death last week of a JCO Co. employee who on Sept. 30 was working at the scene of Japan's worst nuclear accident, reminded the nation of the health consequences of an atomic accident. According to Yuko Fujita, associate professor of physics at Keio University, accidents like the one at the JCO plant in Tokai, Ibaraki Prefecture, alone are not the sole danger to nuclear industry workers. Even without mishaps, workers are routinely exposed to radiation at the nation's atomic facilities, albeit at levels far lower than those that killed Hisashi Ouchi of JCO, he said. Those most at risk, he noted, are often untrained temporary workers such as farmers moonlighting in the off-season or day laborers. Fujita has launched a campaign against the exploitation of day laborers working at nuclear facilities and is giving advice to those who have fallen ill after exposure to radiation through such work. According to Fujita, many workers are recruited every year by brokers commissioned from subcontractors far down in the industry's hierarchy. They do simple jobs such as wiping radioactive parts and equipment with cloth by hand at reactors during routine plant checkups. They are also hired to put up vinyl sheets around radioactive equipment to shield other workers from radiation, he said. Brokers routinely round up laborers to work at nuclear sites, as well as construction sites, at day laborer enclaves such as Yokohama's Kotobuki and Tokyo's Sanya. A growing number of such laborers have become homeless amid the prolonged recession and are easily tempted by nuclear-related jobs, which offer higher-than-average wages. Poorly informed by the brokers about the risks entailed in such jobs, many workers readily go to the sites, where they receive only perfunctory safety training, such as being told to exit the room when the alarm sounds, the professor said. Both the government and industry maintain that safety procedures are strictly observed and occupational radiation exposure is kept at or beneath the legally permissible level. According to a 1997 government report, the average radiation dose for a worker at a commercial nuclear power plant was 1.3 millisieverts, far less than the permissible occupational limit of 50 millisieverts. But temporary workers who move from one facility to another could be receiving higher doses of radiation over the course of a year than full- time nuclear plant workers, Fujita warned. More problematic, he noted, is that transient workers are relatively uninformed about how much radiation they receive. Employers usually issue a health record book to each worker in which to record radiation exposure levels and the results of medical checkups, but the books are often kept by the firms. "That's because there is no law that guarantees the safety of these workers," Fujita said. "Temporary workers have no way of seeing their records, so they cannot receive proper medical care when they fall ill." Although Fujita said he has personally warned such workers, he notes it is difficult for day laborers to shun high-paying nuclear jobs. "I often go to Yokohama's Kotobuki area and tell (workers) not to work at nuclear power plants, but they just ask me, 'How else can I keep from starving to death?' For many day laborers, earning money for tomorrow's bread is much more important than the risk of cancer several years down the line," he said. The industry is now trying to use existing plants for longer periods because it has become difficult to find new locations to build reactors. With more equipment in nuclear facilities needing to be replaced, workers are being exposed to higher doses of radiation, Fujita said. More than 1,000 people worked inside a highly radioactive environment when the core shroud was replaced in the No. 3 reactor of the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant, doubling the average radiation exposure at the plant. The maximum exposure at that time was 25 millisieverts. "The nuclear industry is sustained by workers exposed to deadly radiation," Fujita said. Since the 1970s, 300,000 people have worked at nuclear plants, and up to 800 of them are estimated to have been exposed to radiation levels that could eventually lead to death from cancer, he noted. About 95 percent of the 300,000 workers were employed by subcontractors of plant operators and suppliers. There are no figures available to indicate how many temporary workers have been hired for such jobs.
Nov 26, 1999
Reflecting prosperity, deflecting evil
Every year in the middle of December, thousands of people flock to Tokyo's Asakusa Sensoji Temple for the annual hagoita market to buy oshie hagoita, a decorative battledore that serves as both a New Year's decoration and a good-luck charm.
Oct 2, 1999
Winged labors of love
Bird carvings have typically been thought of as a Western art form, but Haruo Uchiyama is challenging this assumption. Even the birds that have come into contact with his carvings have been made believers.


Later this month, author Shogo Imamura will open Honmaru, a bookstore that allows other businesses to rent its shelves. It's part of a wave of ideas Japanese booksellers are trying to compete with online spaces.
The story isn't over for Japan's bookstores