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Major Quake Hits Osaka

SNA (Tokyo) — The following stories were reported recently by the Shingetsu News Agency.

Top Headline

—At shortly before 8am on June 18, a 6.1 magnitude earthquake struck Osaka, shutting down most public transportation systems for most of the day. A total of three people died and hundreds were injured. Of particular consequence was the death of the 9-year-old Rina Miyake, who was crushed by a concrete block wall on her way to school. This set off a national debate about whether these sorts of concrete block walls should be constructed differently, especially near schools.

Politics

—Shinzo Abe states that he intends to run in September for an unprecedented third term as Liberal Democratic Party president (and thus remain as prime minister). He says it is because he is needed to guide the country vis-a-vis North Korea and wants to solve abductee issue.

—Katsuya Okada says his regional political party in Mie Prefecture will be set up in late July. Yoshihiko Noda is also launching a regional party in Chiba Prefecture. Both of them decided not to join the Democratic Party For the People, as so this is what they are doing.

—Abe government appears to be creating a new organization under the Justice Ministry to centralize and control information about foreign residents. This may include central files of foreign residents’ immigration status, employment, tax payments, etc.

—Abe Cabinet approval rating rises sharply by six points to about 45%, according to the latest Kyodo News poll. It appears that the Japanese public, once again, is quickly developing amnesia about Abe’s scandals, even though the key answers have been stonewalled. Yomiuri Shinbun poll puts Abe Cabinet support rate at 45%, the same results as the Kyodo News poll.

—Kotaro Kake finally holds a press conference. He apologizes to Ehime Prefecture for his officials’ (allegedly) false claim that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe supported the Kake Gakuen veterinary school construction plan.

International

—According to the Wall Street Journal, US President Donald Trump stated at the recent G7 Meeting in Canada regarding immigration policy: “Shinzo, you don’t have this problem, but I can send you 25 million Mexicans and you’ll be out of office very soon.”

—Shinzo Abe dramatically changes his tune after Trump administration fails to back his preferred “maximum pressure” policy on North Korea: “I need to hold a summit meeting with Kim Jong-Un eventually. I hope to reach a solution by breaking the shell of mutual distrust.”

—South Korea signals that it may be willing to ease economic sanctions against North Korea at a significantly earlier stage than the Abe government desires.

—South Korea begins two days of war games on the scenario of Japan attacking Dokdo-Takeshima. While such drills have been carried out since 2003, these are the first since the Abe government created the Self-Defense Forces “marine Unit,” training to “retake Japanese islands.” Meanwhile, even as South Korea begins its war games aimed at Japan, it indicates that it will suspend joint drills with the United States vis-a-vis North Korea. This follows US President Donald Trump’s surprise announcement that the “provocative” war games would be stopped.

—NPO survey finds that most South Koreans believe that negotiations will lead to a peaceful settlement with North Korea, while most Japanese are pessimistic about the prospects for peace.

—Amnesty International has urged Kirin Holdings to begin investigating whether its donations for “humanitarian” work in Myanmar’s Rakhine state ended up in the pockets of military force engaged in rape and massacre.

Economy

—Japan-Style Corruption: Fair Trade Commission discovers that Agriculture Ministry officials leaked Tohoku reconstruction bid information to former Agriculture Ministry officials who had parachuted into private sector executive jobs. Amakudari: senpai and kohai connections.

—While denying that it represents “immigration,” the ruling Liberal Democratic Party seems to be coming to the reluctant conclusion that Japanese business needs more foreign labor… a LOT more foreign labor. A turning point in Japan’s, um, immigration policy is nearing.

—Colombia wants to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership just as Malaysia is mulling a pullout. TPP 12, TPP 11, TPP 10, TPP 11 again. We’re starting to lose count!

—Kyushu Electric restarts the Genkai No. 4 nuclear reactor. Protesters gather outside the plant to shout their objections. With the restart of this reactor, there are now nine nuclear reactors that have been restarted spread across five different plants. The Kyushu Electric Power Company, in fact, now has four reactors in operation, which was their policy goal.

—Osaka Gas says it will take until the end of the month to restore piped gas services to all of its customers in the wake of the Osaka Earthquake.

—JR Hokkaido says it needs taxpayer money if it is to maintain some of the smaller, loss-making train lines and afford the extension of the Shinkansen to Sapporo.

—Nippon Cargo Airlines halted all aircraft operations following the discovery of inappropriate maintenance records. The airline said the suspension to take effect in stages while audit is conducted.

—Aeon to tighten rules on the sale of Japanese eels as part of efforts to protect the endangered species, aiming to deal only in Japanese eels fully traceable across the supply chain. They hope to switch to such a procurement system by 2023.

—Agriculture Ministry has ordered a suspension of imports of wheat from Canada after genetic modifications are discovered in Alberta by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.

Technology

—New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO) to launch industry-government-academia research project on solid-state batteries for electric cars in hopes of beating China on solid-state batteries technology.

—Softbank hopes to invest between US$60-100 billion in a solar power project in India, partnering with Saudi Arabia on what Masayoshi Son calls largest solar project ever.

Society

—Typhoon No. 6 is dropping very heavy rain in parts of Okinawa Prefecture, in some places exceeding half a meter of rain over a 48-hour period.

—Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike’s ordinance to have stronger anti-smoking regulations than the national policy set to be successfully passed through the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly. The minority Liberal Democratic Party will vote against it.

—Some Japanese high schools introducing genderless uniforms in order to be more respectful toward LGBT students. According to a 2015 Dentsu survey, about 8% of Japanese belong to sexual minorities.

—Fire Ants! The struggle to keep them out of Japan continues, as about 2,000 of the critters have been found in Osaka port. They keep arriving in cargo ships and authorities are trying to prevent them from getting a foothold in this country.

—About 400 evacuation shelters have been opened throughout Osaka Prefecture to accommodate residents whose homes may have been damaged in the earthquake.

—The Taian Teahouse in Kyoto Prefecture, thought to be the only existing teahouse designed by tea master Sen no Rikyu, was damaged in the Osaka Earthquake, though apparently it can be repaired.

—Iwao Hakamada’s legal team files an appeal to the Supreme Court after the Tokyo High Court refused to clear his name in the 1966 murder case.

Note: There were no separate “Today in Japan” reports issued between June 16 and June 18.

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