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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:
The iconic structure with its shell-shaped roof at Bennelong Point in Sydney is a source of immense pride for many Australians.
CULTURE / Art
Dec 27, 2023
Yuzo Mikami: The unsung hero behind the Sydney Opera House
On the building's 50th anniversary, those with memories and knowledge of the Japanese architect say recognition of his achievements is long-overdue.
Shingo Takashima, a 26-year-old doctor, killed himself three months into his specialty doctor training at a general hospital in Kobe.
JAPAN / Society / FOCUS
Dec 13, 2023
Young doctor’s suicide highlights overwork culture at Japan hospitals
The issue is coming into sharper focus ahead of the April implementation of a legal cap on doctors’ overtime.
Mariko Hayashi, chairperson of Nihon University, bows her head in apology at a news conference in Tokyo on Monday.
JAPAN / Society
Dec 4, 2023
Nihon University chair vows to continue reforms despite calls to quit
The vice president and president have decided to resign to take responsibility for a drug scandal involving the American football team.
Prime Minister Fumio Kishida receives a COVID-19 booster shot in Tokyo on Nov. 11.
JAPAN / Science & Health
Nov 28, 2023
Japan approves first domestically developed COVID-19 XBB vaccine
The XBB-adapted coronavirus vaccine will be available as a booster under the nation’s free COVID-19 vaccination program beginning next week.
The National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation's new exhibition lets people experience life with robots.
JAPAN / Science & Health
Nov 22, 2023
Miraikan science museum debuts new permanent exhibition on aging
Visitors will be able to experience various age-related challenges such as blurry vision and heaviness in the legs.
Visitors stroll through a tunnel of autumn maple leaves at Mount Koya in Wakayama Prefecture on Nov. 4.
ENVIRONMENT / Climate change / OUR PLANET
Nov 19, 2023
Fall is the new summer: Warming threatens Japan’s cultural calendar
Climate change is disrupting Japan’s autumn and seasonal experiences, and with it the rhythm of people’s lives.
People with triple-negative breast cancers account for 10% to 20% of all breast cancer cases in Japan.
JAPAN / Science & Health
Nov 16, 2023
Heart failure drugs may help prevent breast cancer relapse: Japanese study
The study, conducted by a team of Japanese researchers, could lead to the future development of a therapy for patients with triple-negative breast cancer.
Smuggled cannabis resin, which had been hidden inside ethnic Indian musical instruments, alongside the instruments in which they were hidden, at a police station in Fukuoka Prefecture in 2012.
JAPAN / Crime & Legal
Nov 14, 2023
Bill to legalize cannabis-derived drugs clears Japan’s Lower House
The bill was sent to the Upper House the same day. If approved there, changes stipulated in the bill will likely go into effect by the end of next year.
Japan Times
JAPAN / Science & Health
Nov 9, 2023
Drug shortages create challenge for Japan as influenza cases rise
Amid an earlier-than-usual start of the flu season, a type of flu medicine for children is experiencing a supply shortage as cases rise.
The National Museum of Nature and Science in Tokyo's Ueno district
JAPAN / Science & Health
Nov 6, 2023
Japan's national science museum holds record crowdfunding campaign
The institution has raised ¥920 million through the 90-day campaign, with 57,000 members of the public chipping in.
Lawyers Kazuyuki Minami (left) and Masafumi Yoshida (right) representing a transgender woman show off signs that say "unconstitutional" and "sent back" to a lower court, during a news conference Wednesday in Tokyo after a Supreme Court decision.
JAPAN / Crime & Legal
Oct 25, 2023
Supreme Court hands down landmark decision on transgender rights
A law requiring sterilization surgery to change a person's legal gender has been declared “unconstitutional."
Sawai Pharmaceutical president Motohiko Kimura (left) and chair Mitsuo Sawai apologize at a news conference in the city of Osaka on Monday.
JAPAN / Science & Health
Oct 24, 2023
Sawai joins list of drugmakers known for manufacturing misconduct
The company had been fraudulently using capsules with new, replaced outer shells for post-approval quality testing, in place of ones it should have used.
Kanata Kimoto had his womb and ovaries removed in Thailand when he was 24, so he could have his legal gender status changed. Now he questions whether such an invasive and costly procedure was necessary.
JAPAN / Society
Oct 22, 2023
Calls grow to abolish Japan's surgery requirement for gender change
Between 2004 and 2022, a total of 11,919 people had their gender changed through the law in Japan.
Japan's latest report on death by overwork delves into the amount of sleep both self-employed and corporate workers are getting and how that affects workers' health.
JAPAN / Science & Health
Oct 13, 2023
Report on overwork highlights Japan's work-life balance issues
Over 90% of self-employed and corporate workers in Japan feel they need at least six hours of sleep, but only about half are getting it, the report said.
Prime Minister Fumio Kishida attends a ministerial meeting on hay fever at the Prime Minister's Office on Wednesday.
JAPAN / Science & Health
Oct 11, 2023
Japan to revitalize forestry industry to counter hay fever
“We will aim to resolve hay fever, which is a social issue, and revitalize local communities through the promotion of forestry,” Kishida said.
A bill would have banned the act of letting children play in a park or travel to school on their own, as well as parents going out and leaving their high school-age children behind to take care of younger siblings.
JAPAN / Society
Oct 10, 2023
Saitama to withdraw proposed ban on leaving children unattended
The bill had been criticized by many parents in the prefecture and beyond as being too restrictive and impossible to follow.
A screen at the Karolinska Institute shows this year's laureates Katalin Kariko of Hungary (left) and Drew Weissman of the U.S. during the announcement of the winners of the Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine.
WORLD / Science & Health
Oct 2, 2023
Pair win medicine Nobel for work related to COVID-19 vaccines
Their findings "fundamentally changed our understanding of how mRNA interacts with our immune system," the Nobel committee said.
Members of sexual minority groups and experts at a news conference in Tokyo on Tuesday
JAPAN / Crime & Legal
Sep 27, 2023
Supreme Court may adjust requirements for gender status change
If the court deems the surgery requirement for a gender change to be unconstitutional, it is expected to pave the way for an amendment of the law.
An elderly person plays a racing video game in 2022 to ward off dementia.
JAPAN / Science & Health
Sep 25, 2023
As Japan OKs Alzheimer's drug, issue of side effects comes into focus
There are big challenges ahead for the use of lecanemab, particularly on how to control side effects such as brain swelling and bleeding.
Leaves of marijuana plants from which hemp fibers are extracted at Japan's largest legal marijuana farm in Kanuma, Tochigi Prefecture, on July 5, 2016
PODCAST / deep dive
Sep 21, 2023
Does a university cannabis scandal point to a larger trend?
A drugs scandal at Japan’s biggest university draws attention to a troubling statistic: Cannabis use among young people is on the rise.

Longform

Hideo Shimoju points to a possible site that his fellow neighbors may relocate to. Such relocations have happened before, but not preemptively.
In disaster-prone Japan, some communities consider major moves