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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.
For Tomoko Otake's latest contributions to The Japan Times, see below:
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.
A series of photos show how Space One's Kairos rocket lifted off from the launch site and exploded in midair on Wednesday, scattering debris on a nearby mountainous area.
JAPAN / Science & Health
Mar 13, 2024
Japan's Space One rocket explodes shortly after launch
The firm's solid-fuel Kairos rocket burst into flames just seconds after liftoff, in a major setback for Japan’s space development aspirations.
A hiker walks toward Asahidake in Hokkaido. The health and environmental issues around PFAS could be a particular problem for Japan, which boasts a number of globally renowned outdoor brands and related suppliers.
ENVIRONMENT / Sustainability / OUR PLANET
Mar 10, 2024
Japan’s revered outdoor brands face down PFAS challenge
Outdoor apparel consumers are generally more environmentally conscious, but are likely to be using products that have a big environmental footprint.
 Alli, which will be available from April 8, is expected to reduce fat stored around internal organs and prevent obesity-related diseases.
JAPAN / Science & Health
Mar 5, 2024
Japan’s first over-the-counter anti-obesity drug to hit stores in April
The drug is expected to reduce fat stored around internal organs and prevent obesity-related diseases.
PFAS does not break down easily and remains in the body and the environment for a number of years, and is thus called “forever chemicals.”
JAPAN / Explainer
Mar 4, 2024
Japan’s food safety panel drafts intake limit for 'forever chemicals'
The report spells out the “tolerable daily intake” of PFAS through food for the first time. Here's what you need to know.
A man pours water into a plastic tank at an evacuation shelter in the city of Suzu, Ishikawa Prefecture, on Feb. 1.
JAPAN / Society / FOCUS
Feb 23, 2024
Noto quake highlights aging water systems in depopulating areas
Nearly 22,000 homes in Ishikawa Prefecture are still without water, and the shortage has sparked debate on how to maintain services in depopulating areas.
A second test model of the H3 rocket lifts off from the launch pad at Tanegashima Space Center on the southwestern island of Tanegashima, Kagoshima Prefecture, on Saturday.
JAPAN / Science & Health / FOCUS
Feb 20, 2024
Can Japan’s new H3 rocket compete with Elon Musk’s Falcon 9?
In order to seriously compete with the Falcon 9, which currently dominates the market, experts say price and usability of the H3 would be key.
The second test model of Japan's H3 rocket lifts off from the launchpad at Tanegashima Space Center in Kagoshima Prefecture on Saturday morning.
JAPAN / Science & Health
Feb 17, 2024
Japan’s space agency successfully launches latest H3 rocket
With the H3, JAXA aims to maintain Japan’s prowess in rocket development technologies and give a jolt to related industries.
Masashi Okada, project manager in charge of H3’s development at JAXA, speaks during a news conference on Tuesday in Minamitane, Kagoshima Prefecture.
JAPAN / Science & Health
Feb 16, 2024
Japan’s space agency set to retry H3 rocket launch
With H3, JAXA aims to maintain Japan’s prowess in rocket development technologies and give a jolt to related industries.
Canned ready-to-drink cocktails, including Asahi Breweries' 9% Clear Cooler Strong chūhai produced in conjunction with Seven & I Holdings, at a 7-Eleven store in Tokyo's Chiyoda Ward on Tuesday
BUSINESS
Feb 13, 2024
Asahi calls time on new strong chūhai amid low-alcohol shift in Japan
New versions of the canned fizzy cocktails with alcohol content of 8% or higher will not be launched in order to “reduce inappropriate drinking.”
Clone piglets born Sunday with genetically modified embryos
JAPAN / Science & Health
Feb 13, 2024
Japan startup creates pigs with organs suitable for human transplants
Research in the field helped produce pigs that have a smaller chance of immune rejection by human recipients by manipulating 10 related pig genes.
The hippocampus is a part of the brain that controls memory, learning and emotions. Stressful life events such as disasters and terrorist attacks are known to lead to post-traumatic stress disorder and result in its shrinkage.
JAPAN / Science & Health
Feb 9, 2024
Tokyo teens were less stressed during first COVID emergency: study
Increases in the volume of the hippocampus in their brains suggest reduced stress, according to research conducted by the University of Tokyo.

Longform

Historically, kabuki was considered the entertainment of the merchant and peasant classes, a far cry from how it is regarded today.
For Japan's oldest kabuki theater, the show must go on