For Philip Brasor's latest contributions to The Japan Times, see below:
Mar 7, 2020
On Feb. 17, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe apologized for a remark he made in response to a comment from opposition lawmaker Kiyomi Tsujimoto during a Lower House Budget Committee meeting in the Diet. Tsujimoto was talking about what she perceived to be corruption in the ruling Liberal Democratic Party. Abe appeared to be annoyed by the comment, saying it was "meaningless." The opposition demanded an apology and, while Abe did say he was sorry, he qualified his remorse by saying the outburst was a reaction to Tsujimoto's "abuse."
Feb 29, 2020
A good portion of the airspace over central Japan has been reserved for the exclusive use of the U.S. military since the end of World War II, a fact that isn't widely known in Japan. Over the past several weeks, however, it has become a sudden reality to thousands of Tokyoites and residents of Kawasaki who live below new low-altitude flight paths that bring commercial aircraft in and out of Haneda Airport.
Feb 22, 2020
Last month, MUFG Bank Ltd. started offering ¥1,000 to each of its first 100,000 customers willing to give up their paper passbooks. MUFG wants people to switch to online banking, which is cheaper for banks — and not just because they can save on production costs. Banks pay billions of yen a year in stamp taxes, which are levied on certain official printed documents. The government will lose revenue on MUFG's plan, but it knows that Japan's banking industry has been in serious financial trouble for years.
Feb 15, 2020
The ruling Liberal Democratic Party submitted an amendment to the Diet in January to expand the "widow's deduction" to cover single parents who have never been married. This system allows single parents who have lost spouses to death or divorce to deduct a certain amount of money from their taxable income in order to reduce their tax burden. At present, single parents who have never been married do not qualify for the deduction.
Feb 8, 2020
Trial of Sagamihara massacre suspect spurs debate on what society may think about people with disabilities
The trial of Satoshi Uematsu, who is accused of killing 19 people with disabilities at a care facility in Sagamihara, Kanagawa Prefecture, in 2016, began on Jan. 8 and is expected to end in March. Uematsu admits to the murders. His defense team is trying to convince the judges, who include lay judges, that he carried out the killings with "diminished capacity" owing to marijuana use. This seems to be the only strategy his lawyers could think of to keep him off death row. An evaluation of Uematsu concluded he has "narcissistic personality disorder," but prosecutors argue he can be held criminally responsible for his actions.
Feb 1, 2020
Shortly before Shinjiro Koizumi’s wife, Christel Takigawa, gave birth to a baby boy last month, the environment minister told reporters during a regular news conference he would be taking time off for paternity leave. It was a revelation that surprised some because after the pair had revealed she was pregnant last summer, Koizumi said in September he would only go so far as to say he would consider taking paternity leave.
Jan 25, 2020
Like many construction projects supported by the public sector, the new U.S. Marine Corps air base being built in the Henoko district of Nago, Okinawa Prefecture, has seen its budget skyrocket since it was first proposed and its completion date postponed. When the project was first announced jointly by the U.S. military and Japan in 1996, the construction period was going to be five years for landfill work and three years for building the airfield. Henoko is meant to replace U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, which is considered a danger to residents of Ginowan City and, according to a previous plan, Futenma would be "returned" to Okinawa by 2022 at the earliest. On Dec. 25, the Defense Ministry announced that the land would not be returned until the mid- to late 2030s.
Jan 18, 2020
Having fled Japan while awaiting trial for alleged financial wrongdoing, former Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn has probably become the most famous foreign national ever arrested in the country. For a while after his initial detention in November 2018, the media discussed Japan's so-called hostage justice system, which allows prosecutors to compel courts to hold suspects for indefinite periods prior to and during trials. With Ghosn's escape, this discussion is again in the news, although its focus is misleading in that it gives the impression Ghosn was subjected to harsh legal procedures because he is not Japanese. These legal procedures apply to Japanese defendants as well.
Jan 11, 2020
On Dec. 27, the top three executives of Japan Post Holdings Co. announced they would be resigning on Jan. 5 over the insurance sales scandal that first came to light more than a year and a half ago. The announcement comes on the heels of an order from the Financial Services Agency for subsidiaries of the firm to halt sales of insurance products for three months starting Jan. 1.
Jan 4, 2020
Dec 28, 2019
Following the assassination of Dr. Tetsu Nakamura in Afghanistan earlier this month, the government of Afghanistan held a memorial ceremony for him as his body was delivered to the airplane that would take it out of the country. President Ashraf Ghani was one of the pallbearers. When Nakamura's coffin arrived at Narita Airport on Dec. 8, the highest public official on hand was Japan’s state minister of foreign affairs.
Dec 21, 2019
Dec 14, 2019
When the International Olympic Committee announced that the marathon and race walk competitions for next year's Olympics would be moved to Hokkaido due to fears that the summer heat in Tokyo might be too intense, Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike had no choice but to accept the directive, although she made a point of expressing her disappointment.
Dec 7, 2019
In September, media reported that 20 executives of Kansai Electric Power Co. (Kepco) had, for a decade or so, received almost ¥320 million worth of cash and gifts from Eiji Moriyama, the former deputy mayor of Takahama, Fukui Prefecture, who died in March at the age of 90. The compensation was presumably paid in gratitude for Kepco contracts with a construction company close to Moriyama that had done work for Kepco’s Takahama nuclear power plant. The story caused a sensation and there has since been a steady drip of reports compounding Kepco's complicity in the matter, but the only significant repercussion so far has been the resignation of Kepco's chairman. No charges have been filed.
Nov 30, 2019
Climate change is not much of a social issue in Japan. Even in the wake of three recent weather-related disasters, there has been little discussion across the political spectrum that climate change contributed to them. In Europe and the United States, left-leaning groups demand action to mitigate the effects of climate change, which they say is the result of human activity, while right-leaning groups tend to dismiss human impact and even question whether climate change is real.
Nov 23, 2019
One of the criticisms of the “Medicare for All” government-run health care scheme proposed by U.S. Democratic presidential candidates Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren is that eliminating all limits to treatment would lead to "overuse" of the medical care system, meaning people would be seeing doctors for every little perceived ailment, which is wasteful. Given the vast number of Americans who presently forego medical attention because they cannot afford private insurance, overuse of medical resources should be considered at worst a necessary evil.
Nov 16, 2019
When Typhoon Hagibis struck Tokyo on Oct. 12, news emerged that three homeless people had been turned away from an emergency evacuation facility in Taito Ward. As the story spread, it varied in tone and content on social media. Some thought the persons refused entry were not actually homeless, while others thought that even if they were the officials at the facility were right to reject them because they weren’t registered at addresses in the ward.
Nov 9, 2019
The Aichi Triennale arts festival closed on Oct. 14, and, along with it, a controversial exhibition titled "After 'Freedom of Expression?'", which had been temporarily shut down following threats of violence and complaints. The main point of contention was a statue of a Korean "comfort woman," the inclusion of which angered those who don't think that the women who sexually serviced Japanese soldiers before and during World War II were forced or coerced into such service, which is what the statue represents.
Nov 2, 2019
A remark commonly heard in Japan in the wake of a natural disaster is, “We couldn’t predict such a thing.” In the case of Typhoon Hagibis, which ravaged the eastern and northern parts of the archipelago in mid-October, the unpredictable thing was the amount of rainfall, which caused massive flooding that resulted in more than 80 deaths and billions of yen in damage. In fact, meteorologists had predicted Hagibis would be the biggest storm to hit eastern Japan in decades and that it would dump an unprecedented amount of water on the region. So when officials say they couldn’t predict the enormity of the typhoon, what they arguably really mean is that they weren’t ready for it.
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