On first impression, the news stories most read online in 2013 paint a fairly gloomy picture, a mix of loneliness, darkness and tragedy. However, you can also see readers’ penchant for science and fantasy, even if Atlantis was not actually discovered. May there be plenty of good news in 2014!

10. Married or single, Japan is a desolate country

Japan is a lonely, lonely country, if two reports, one in Spa magazine and the other in the weekly Aera, reflect the true state of things. The former focuses on single life, the latter on marriage. Both come across as sad, abject, mournful failures.

9. Japanese media declare ‘dark times’ are on us

Grim discovery: Investigators gather at a crime scene in Kure, Hiroshima Prefecture, after the body of a 16-year-old girl was discovered.

Being good has never been easy. And it’s not getting easier — unlike many things in this age of mass technological empowerment. If it were, presumably, there would be more good and less evil — unless evil is more attractive?

8. Meat eating Aichi plant new species

Redesignated: This photo from Aichi University of Education professor Mikio Watanabe shows a carnivorous plant that has been confirmed as an entirely new species.

The pitcher plant with purple-red flowers was initially believed to be a variant of the white-flowered Drosera indica, designated as an endangered species by the Environment Ministry.

7. Japan: The new Uzbekistan of press freedom in Asia

Paper trail: Guards at the Diet building restrain a man who opposes the ruling coalition

Welcome to the new Dark Ages of Japan, brought to you by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party, Komeito and Your Party. If the economy and the actions of the government and its politicians seemed opaque up to now, the ruling bloc is making sure that it’s very solid obsidian.

6. Cervix vaccine issues trigger health notice

Speaking out: Mika Matsufuji (center), who represents a parents

The health ministry has issued a nationwide notice that cervical cancer vaccinations should no longer be recommended for girls aged 12 to 16 because several adverse reactions to the medicines have been reported.

5. Japanese submersible finds possible signs of legendary Atlantis off Brazil

In search for lost world: A Shinkai 6500 manned submersible belonging to the Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology probes the seabed off the coast of Rio de Janeiro on April 30.

A Brazilian official said the discovery of the granite — which normally forms only on dry land — is strong evidence that a continent used to exist in the area where the legendary island of Atlantis, mentioned in antiquity by Plato in his philosophical dialogues, was supposedly located.

4. Welfare payments to be slashed ¥74 billion to root out the comfortably poor 

Welfare benefits will be slashed by ¥74 billion over a three-year period starting from fiscal 2013, after a government panel found that some people are making more on the dole than the average low-income person who is not spends on living costs . . .

3. China’s new air defense zone above Senkakus ‘very dangerous’ escalation, Japan says

Controlled area: China

The Chinese Defence Ministry said the zone was created to “guard against potential air threats,” but the move will only inflame a bitter sovereignty row over the islets, which China claims as Diaoyu.

2. Top North official’s daughter defects

The teenage daughter of a senior North Korean security official has escaped to the South in a rare defection by a member of the privileged elite . . .

1. Girl slain after alerting police about stalker

Saaya Suzuki

Saaya Suzuki, 18, had gone to the police with her parents Tuesday morning to say she was being stalked by the suspect, who was later identified as Charles Thomas Ikenaga, 21. The police subsequently tried three times to call Ikenaga on his cellphone to issue a warning, but he didn’t answer.

In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
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