To give their staff a mid-August break, most magazines came out with special two-week issues. A few, waxing nostalgic, are describing this year as “the last summer of the Heisei Era.”

This doesn’t portend anything ominous, of course; it just means that because the present Emperor will abdicate at the end of April 2019, next year’s summer will have a new nengō (era name).

Shukan Post (Aug. 17-24) wonders if making the date for the future Emperor’s birthday (Feb. 23) a national holiday will create problems, since in the past that date has been picked to hold university entrance examinations. Over the short term, businesses are likely to benefit in a variety of ways: Retailers will almost certainly hold everything-must-go, end-of-old-era sales, to be immediately followed by see-it-all-on-your-new-8K-TV, start-of-new-era sales.” And some travelers are expected to take advantage of the celebrations to leave the country, extending their Golden Week holidays to 10 days, from April 26 to May 5, or even longer.

Hot dogs

This summer’s abnormally high temperatures inspired Shukan Shincho (Aug. 16-23) to list up ways to protect your pets from possibly fatal heat exhaustion. The warning signs might include vomiting, diarrhea, collapsing and tremors.

To avoid unnecessary tragedy, the magazine suggests leaving the air conditioning set to around 25 degrees Celsius while you are absent from home. Walking dogs is best done before 6 a.m. and after 9 p.m. If walking them during the day, try to avoid asphalt or concrete surfaces, which superheats the pads of their feet.

And under no circumstances leave them locked in a car, as they can lose consciousness in as little as 10 minutes. Always make water available — the rule of thumb being 50 milliliters of water for each kilogram of the animal’s body weight.

One less blue Monday

Commencing from February 2017, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry campaign to give salaried workers a break on “Premium Friday” — the last Friday of each month — turned out to be a spectacular flop. Its latest brainstorm, reports Shukan Gendai (Aug. 18-25), has been tentatively named “Shining Monday,” on which one Monday a month workers will be allowed to show up from midday.

Tamami Katada, a practising psychiatrist, thinks it’s a good idea, as “There’s a lot of overtime at the start of the week.” She said some people often become depressed because they start thinking about their workload from Sunday night. Shukan Gendai reserves judgment, however, remarking that any economic advantages to the new experiment will be nullified if it causes people to lose interest in their work.

Harley sales hurting

Shukan Jitsuwa (Aug. 23-30) reported that Murayama Motors, a major outlet for Harley-Davidson motorcycles located in Tokyo’s Shibuya Ward, recently filed for bankruptcy in the Tokyo District Court.

Over the previous decade Harley sales in Japan were boosted somewhat by the affluent middle-aged demographic, but as Japan’s baby boomers age, they are replacing choppers for walkers. Another factor seems to be the gradual phasing out of the internal combustion engine.

“As with passenger cars, two-wheeled vehicles are in the process of switching to electric motors,” said a source in the trade. “This means not only Harley, but established Japanese manufacturers such as Honda … are being challenged by new business startups and can no longer depend on the strengths of their brand image.”

While annual domestic motorcycle sales in 2017 grew by about 10 percent over the previous year to reach 383,613 units, the number is just a fraction of the figure for the peak year, 1980, when about 2.3 million were sold.

A death in August

On Aug. 18, 1945 — three days after the end of the Pacific War — Tatewaki Toda, a 47-year-old priest at the Hodogaya Catholic Church in Yokohama, was shot dead by an unknown assailant armed with a military rifle. Toda, who had previously been imprisoned, as were many other clergymen, for failing to show sufficient enthusiasm for the war, feared for his life, telling a nun the day before his death, “I think I might be cut down by a military sword.”

In the disorder of the postwar period, no arrest was ever made. Journalist Hiroto Sasaki, who has pursued this story for 10 years, revealed in Sunday Mainichi (Aug. 19-26) that about 11 or 12 years after the murder, a Japanese man requested a meeting with a German priest assigned to a Catholic church in Kichijoji, Musashino, and confessed to being the perpetrator. The foreign priest did not know about the killing but raised the case with the head of the church in Japan, who instructed him to “tell the man that after the killing, it was decided that prayers would be said for the criminal and that he would be forgiven.”

This year marks 120 years since Father Toda’s birth and 73 years since his martyrdom. Sasaki is putting together a book on his story, with the first of two volumes to be released in September.

Rat migration

Nikkan Gendai (Aug. 11) is warning that Ginza, one of the city’s most popular visitor playgrounds, may soon fall victim to an infestation of rodents. This, reports the evening tabloid, is likely to be an unpleasant side effect of the closure and demolition of the city’s central fish market following its scheduled move to Toyosu on Oct. 11. With the loss of their home, Tsukiji’s well-fed rats may migrate to new nests within a 1-kilometer radius — which would likely include Ginza. Something similar occurred in 2013, when the Matsuzakaya department store in Ginza was demolished, sending rats fleeing in the direction of Shinbashi.

Portions of fish discarded on a daily basis have made the market a cozy abode for rats, whose numbers might exceed “several multiples” of 10,000. “Getting rid of them isn’t going to be easy,” pest extermination expert Yasuo Abe warns.

Also of interest

• For people caught in holiday traffic jams, Shukan Taishu (Aug. 20-27) introduces three pages of “gourmet” dishes served in the service areas of the Chuo, Kanetsu, Tohoku and other major expressways.

• Shukan Kinyobi (Aug. 10) looks at the human tendency toward blocking out unpleasant memories, underscoring the importance of efforts to serve up reminders of the war.

• Shukan Asahi (Aug. 17-24) cautions pensioners against providing financial assistance to their adult children to buy a home, or generous gifts to their grandchildren, warning it might seriously deplete their own retirement funds.

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