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Party on the Eve of Disaster

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

Top Headline

—Always Vigilant: Opposition leaders, fairly or unfairly, pointing out that this is where Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera could be found on the evening of the 5th, as the rainstorm and flooding disaster was unfolding across western Japan. Even the conservative Tochigi Governor Tomikazu Fukuda adds his voice to the chorus of criticism.

Politics

—Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visits western Japan disaster zones: “I will visit disaster-affected areas one after another to inspect the damage and hear what sufferers and local governments need.”

—The idea of establishing a government ministry dedicated to preventing and managing disasters is rising from various quarters of both the ruling and opposition parties.

Asahi Shinbun poll suggests that the public is giving the Abe administration low marks for its handling of the western Japan rainstorm and flooding disaster: 32% say they appreciate the administration’s response and 45% feel they didn’t do a good job.

—The Japan Communist Party again calls for other opposition parties to work more closely together in order to defeat the ruling coalition. Akira Koike points out that ideological differences haven’t prevented the Liberal Democratic Party and Komeito from establishing a stable regime for years.

—Democratic Party For the People sets goal of having more than 30% of its House of Councillors election candidates be female. Of course, with less that 1% party support nationally, they are almost all on track to go down to defeat.

—Japan Communist Party head Kazuo Shii says that the opposition parties should unite behind a single candidate in every House of Councillors single-member district next July.

—Shinzo Abe to postpone until August his formal announcement that he will run for an unprecedented third term as president of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party. He decided to wait a little longer due to the flooding disaster in western Japan.

Asahi Shinbun poll finds that Taro Aso is correct: People who read newspapers less likely to support the Liberal Democratic Party. The ruling conservatives get much stronger support from those who rely on social media services for their news. Television news is in the middle ground.

International

—Ginowan Mayor Atsushi Sakima comes to the Kantei for his interview with Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga. Having knocked off Susumu Inamine as Nago mayor in February, the Abe government now aiming to make Sakima their Okinawan pro-base candidate in Naha.

—Kim Jong-Un is apparently willing to try to “re-explain” to Japan the fate of the 1977-1983 Japanese abductees to North Korea. It sounds like Pyongyang thinks they’ve already revealed what they know, but want to try again to see if the Japan side will accept the information.

Economy

—Fair Trade Commission says the Japanese unit of Apple may be guilty of violating the anti-monopoly law. Apple has been forcing mobile service providers to give discounts on iPhones rather than let each one determine its own price structures.

—Major oil refiners Idemitsu Kosan and Showa Shell have signed an agreement to merge their management in April 2019.

—Financial Services Agency slaps Higashi-Nippon Bank with a business improvement order because it is charging its customers some fees without any clear reason for doing so.

—Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiators are meeting in Hakone, Kanagawa Prefecture, to discuss how to handle applications from additional countries that may want to join, such as Thailand, Colombia, and the United Kingdom.

Technology

—Global Innovation Index 2018 ranks Japan as the 13th most innovative country in the world, behind Singapore (5th) and South Korea (12th).

—Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga: “It’s an undeniable fact that this sort of disaster due to torrential, unprecedented rain is becoming more frequent in recent years.”

—NHK gets green light to begin full-time live streaming service sometime in FY2019. The bad news is that they may try to start collecting fees even from those people who don’t own televisions.

—Shimizu Corporation to use experimental method in attempt to clean up dioxin contamination at Vietnam’s Bien Hoa Airport. The contamination remains from the US Vietnam War, when US forces stored tons of toxic defoliants.

Society

—Ochanomizu University, a women’s university in Tokyo, announces new policy to officially accept transgender students beginning in April 2020. It is the first Japanese women’s university to announce such a policy of welcoming “diverse women” for enrollment.

—A private group to establish an LGBT Support House in Tokyo’s Nakano Ward in November. The facility will offer temporary housing for sexual minorities who are forced to leave their homes or workplaces due to discrimination or violence.

—Kure city in Hiroshima Prefecture facing particular difficulties in wake of rainstorm and flooding disaster. It is largely cut off by landslides that severed road and railway links. Also, about 90,000 homes are without water services.

—Government warning residents in disaster-struck western Japan to pay particular concern to the threats of heatstroke and food poisoning in the coming days. The skies have turned clear, but many areas have temperatures in excess of 35 degrees Celsius.

—Thousands of volunteers, Japanese and resident foreigners, using this brutally-hot three-day weekend to volunteer to help clean up the areas devastated by the western Japan flooding disaster. No one knows the exact number, but it appears to be over 20,000 volunteers.

—Western Japan Floods: About 5,000 people across 15 prefectures are still living in evacuation centers, especially in Okayama, Hiroshima, and Ehime. 167,000 homes still have no running water, with Hiroshima Prefecture hardest hit in this respect. Confirmed deaths in western Japan floods reach 219 people. An additional 22 people are listed as missing.

Kyodo News data reveals that, not surprisingly, most of those who died in the western Japan floods were elderly people, with about 70% of known fatalities being people who were at least 60 years old. An inability to quickly evacuate and a lack of mobile devices were key.

—Koriyama Mayor Masato Shinagawa raises the ire of JT and local businessmen by declaring, “Tobacco is a drug, not a luxury item.” They strongly demand that he apologize for this “outrage.”

—Japan’s population loss in 2017 was 374,000 people, which is more than all the people, for example, who live in Tokyo’s Shinjuku Ward.

—Justice Ministry investigation reportedly discovers that four Japanese companies used the notorious foreign “trainee” program to force foreigners to work on radioactivity decontamination projects in Fukushima.

—Fire Ants! Having been temporarily stopped at the shores, the little critters try an air assault. Tropical fire ants found at Narita Airport after having stowed away aboard a cargo plane from Mumbai, India.

—Residents on alert at Rishiri Island on alert after a brown bear has been spotted. The last time a brown bear was seen on the island was in 1912, before World War I. It is thought the bear must have swam 20 kilometers across the sea from Hokkaido to get to the island.

—Welfare Ministry claims that Japan has a record-low number of homeless people nationally at under 5,000 people. They count less than 2,400 in Tokyo and Yokohama, and about 1,100 homeless in Osaka. Local government officials have been patrolling to make these estimations.

—Kyoto municipal authorities trying to crack down on so-called “yami minshuku,” accommodations for tourists that have been made illegal under the terms of the new minshuku law. There is quite a bit of evidence that the government badly handled this issue.

Note: There were no separate “Today in Japan” reports issued between July 11 and July 15.

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