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 Tomoko Otake

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Tomoko Otake
Tomoko Otake is a senior writer with a strong interest in health, medical and social issues. A native of Nara Prefecture, she obtained an M.A. in journalism from The University of Montana.
Soyo Hinata (right) and Lillian Ono, members of Climate Case Japan, with a petition for human rights relief before submitting it to the Japan Federation of Bar Associations in Tokyo on Wednesday
JAPAN / Society
Jun 12, 2024
Activist group asks Japan's bar association for help on climate action
It will likely take more than a year for the association to scrutinize Climate Case Japan's petition before deciding what steps to take next.
About 1 to 1.8 out of 1,000 people in Japan are diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease.
JAPAN / Science & Health
Jun 6, 2024
Japan researchers develop drug to visualize Parkinson’s disease in living patients
The study could help better our understanding of such neurodegenerative diseases, for which there are currently no cures.
As the world marks World No Tobacco Day on Friday, debate is growing over passive smoking in one crucial space that remains unregulated: private homes.
JAPAN / Science & Health
May 30, 2024
In Japan, neighborly debates light up over secondhand smoke
Passive smoking has become a concern because many people live in multiunit apartment buildings or small houses with little space between them.
The health ministry says it will conduct its first survey on how much foreign residents are paying in health insurance and pension premiums.
JAPAN / Society
May 28, 2024
Health ministry to collect data on insurance premium payments by foreign residents
The ministry currently has no data on how much foreign nationals are paying in terms of health insurance payments and pension premiums.
A 2-megawatt solar farm in the city of Fukushima. “Megasolar” refers to farms with a minimum output of 1 MW of electricity — enough to power around 300 homes for a year.
ENVIRONMENT / Energy / OUR PLANET
May 26, 2024
‘Megasolar’ is a dirty word in Japan. Where do solar projects go from here?
Vocal campaigns are pushing back against projects as dangerous eyesores, but "dual-use" approaches and community engagement may offer a solution.
Shigeru Omi, then-Japan's top COVID-19 advisor, speaks to reporters at the Prime Minister's Office in April 2022. A study published this month has shown that many experts who spoke to the media about COVID-19 in Japan were harassed by the public.
JAPAN / Science & Health
May 22, 2024
Many COVID experts in Japan harassed after speaking to media, survey shows
The research conducted by a professor at Waseda University is Japan’s first comprehensive survey on threats targeting COVID-19 experts.
Kyoto University researchers have found a way to create “near-indefinite” volumes of early-stage sperm and egg cells from iPS cells — a milestone that could potentially lead to new infertility treatments.
JAPAN / Science & Health
May 21, 2024
New Japan study on germ cells may help advance infertility treatments
The research aims to expand our understanding of how human germ cells develop, and also opens up possibilities for creating sperm and egg cells in a lab.
As Japan grapples with its population's rapid aging, supporting people who live and age alone is looming larger on the policy agenda.
JAPAN / Society
May 14, 2024
In Japan, 68,000 people over 65 projected to die alone at home this year
In the first official tally of solitary deaths, the National Police Agency said a total of 21,716 people had died alone at home from January through March.
Archaeologists say a 1,600-year-old wooden coffin at the Tomio Maruyama tumulus in the city of Nara was kept in good condition probably because it was protected by a layer of clay and copper ions that had seeped out of the mirrors that were buried together.
JAPAN / History / FOCUS
May 9, 2024
How the discovery of a giant sword in Nara offers clues into ancient Japan
Experts say a series of surprise finds at the burial mound could help untangle the many mysteries surrounding the rulers of fourth-century Japan.
A screenshot of the Meteorological Agency's satellite image of clouds and yellow sand (in pink) on Sunday.
JAPAN / Science & Health / EXPLAINER
Apr 30, 2024
Yellow sand allergy: A health issue made worse by climate change
Yellow sand gets carried by the wind from the deserts of China and Mongolia to Japan along with man-made pollutants, causing a host of symptoms.
The legality of products that contain cannabinoids, a group of substances derived from the cannabis plant, has been somewhat murky in Japan.
JAPAN / Science & Health
Apr 21, 2024
Japan’s cannabis market growing rapidly amid regulatory shift
Robust sales of products using CBD, a compound found in marijuana, are attributed to rising demand for products that offer relaxation and stress relief.
Lung cancer causes about 76,000 deaths in Japan each year, and about 1.8 million deaths worldwide.
JAPAN / Science & Health
Apr 16, 2024
Japan study shows link between passive smoking and lung cancer
The study shows how passive smoking causes genetic mutations, providing further evidence of the harmful effects of secondhand smoke.
Health experts say the beni kōji supplement scandal should not be treated as a one-off incident. Instead, it should be seen as a cautionary tale about how such health food items could pose more risks than benefits.
JAPAN / Science & Health / FOCUS
Apr 12, 2024
Kobayashi Pharma’s slow response to scandal spotlights deeper issues
Health experts say the scandal should be seen as a cautionary tale, and not a one-off incident.
Health ministry officials head to a Kobayashi Pharmaceutical factory in the city of Osaka on March 30 to conduct a search of the premises.
JAPAN / Science & Health
Apr 9, 2024
Kidney doctors report 95 health complaints linked to beni kōji pills
So far, five people have died, 212 people have been hospitalized and 1,224 others have sought medical treatment after taking the supplements.
Haruko Obokata speaks to reporters in the city of Osaka in 2014. Ten years after the STAP scandal, structural problems that led to the scandal persist, leaving ample room for researchers to tamper with research data, experts say.
JAPAN / Science & Health / FOCUS
Apr 9, 2024
Little change in Japan’s research sector 10 years after stem cell fraud
A decade after the STAP scandal, there is still a lot of leeway for researchers to tamper with data.
Streptococcal Toxic Shock Syndrome (STSS) is caused by bacteria called group A streptococcus, the same type that causes a strep throat infection, which affects mostly children. A strep A throat infection is not the same as STSS, however.
JAPAN / Science & Health / EXPLAINER
Apr 5, 2024
Japan's tissue-damaging bacterial disease: What you need to know
Misconceptions are fueling jitters at home and abroad, with travelers considering putting off their plans to visit the country.
Beni kо̄ji has been widely used in Japan and elsewhere as a food additive, and features prominently in Okinawan cuisine, particularly in a dish called tо̄fuyо̄.
JAPAN / Society
Apr 1, 2024
Beni kōji purveyors fear growing aversion following supplement scandal
The ingredient has long been used in Japan and elsewhere as a food additive, and features prominently in Okinawan cuisine.
Packs of dietary supplements designated as functional food by Kobayashi Pharmaceutical. Consumer rights groups have for years argued that the functional food label is thin in scientific evidence and potentially harmful to health.
JAPAN / Science & Health
Mar 29, 2024
Kobayashi Pharma scandal reignites debate on ‘functional food’ labels
The labels have been criticized for years over the lack of sufficient scientific proof of safety and efficacy accompanying their use.
Akihiro Kobayashi (left), president of major drugmaker Kobayashi Pharmaceutical, speaks to reporters along with other executives in Osaka on Friday.
JAPAN / Science & Health
Mar 24, 2024
Osaka drugmaker recalls dietary supplements linked to kidney disorders
The Osaka-based drugmaker announced Friday that, of the six hospitalized, two suffered symptoms serious enough to require temporary dialysis.
Measles has a typical incubation period of 10 to 12 days, though this can extend to as long as 21 days. Early symptoms include a fever, cough and a runny nose.
JAPAN / Science & Health
Mar 22, 2024
Japan urges priority for children as demand for measles shots spikes
Recent outbreaks in the country have led to a surge in interest in the vaccine among unvaccinated adults who haven't been infected with the disease.

Longform

People wait for the main act to begin at Summer Sonic, which holds simultaneous music festivals for those in Tokyo and Osaka.
Can Japan's summer music festivals adapt to a post-pandemic reality?