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Okinawa Governor Takeshi Onaga Dies

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

Top Headline

—Okinawa Governor Takeshi Onaga, a man who fought for the dignity of the Okinawan people as few had ever done before, passes away at age 67. Onaga’s sudden death throws the Okinawa political calendar into disarray. The expected November gubernatorial race will now have to be held next month. The LDP has Atsushi Sakima. The “All-Okinawa” movement is apparently discussing three possible gubernatorial candidates to carry on Onaga’s legacy: Vice-Governor Kiichiro Jahana, House of Councillors lawmaker Keiko Itokazu, and Naha Mayor Mikiko Shiroma.

Politics

—Ichiro Ozawa asked former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi to run as an opposition-supported candidate in next year’s House of Councillors election. The elder Koizumi firmly declined the offer.

Mainichi Shinbun: In another bid to avoid transparency at all costs, government bureaucracies have been using vague and obscure file names to foil freedom-of-information file requests from the public. The National Archives of Japan has seen its work slowed by this stratagem.

—LDP Takeshita Faction fails to fulfill its basic role as a faction by being unable to unite behind a single candidate in the upcoming party presidential elections. The faction leaders wanted to support Shigeru Ishiba, but the pro-Shinzo Abe lawmakers stopped them.

—It looks like every major LDP faction is falling in line and will support a third term for Shinzo Abe. The only exceptions are that the Ishiba group will support their own leader, Shigeru Ishiba, and the Takeshita Faction will have no unified policy at all.

—Media suggests that ruling party lawmakers will vote approximately 345 to 60 in favor of Shinzo Abe over Shigeru Ishiba. That’s more-or-less an impossible margin for Ishiba to make up through the party chapter votes. Abe headed for victory, with only the margin in question.

—Shinzo Abe himself admits that revising Article Nine of the Constitution has been his top priority all along: “My goal has not changed at all since I ran six years ago.”

Asahi Shinbun: Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike still determined to pander to the far right wing and will, once again, defy the practice of her predecessors as governor and will refuse to memorialize the 1923 massacre of Koreans that followed the Great Kanto Earthquake.

—Keisuke Tsumura will also run as a candidate for the leadership of the Democratic Party For the People. He will face Yuichiro Tamaki and perhaps others on September 4.

International

—Deputy Mayor Masanori Matsukawa to be the Liberal Democratic Party candidate for Ginowan (Futenma) mayor, since incumbent Atsushi Sakima will be challenging for the Okinawa Governor post.

—Saga Governor Yoshinori Yamaguchi indicates that he can accept deployment of GSDF Osprey aircraft into his prefecture.

—South Korea’s Gender Equality and Family Minister Chung Hyun-Back indicates that a new Comfort Women memorial will be unveiled next week in Seoul.

—Okinawa Prefecture signals its intention to move forward with the late Governor Takeshi Onaga’s policy line and will revoke permission for landfill operations to construct the US Marine airbase at Henoko.

—An estimated 70,000 people attended an event in Naha to mourn the death of Okinawa Governor Takeshi Onaga and to call for the halt of the construction of the new US Marines airbase at Henoko.

—A Japanese man has been detained in North Korea. The authorities are not being forthcoming with specifics, but it seems the man was a tourist and that the Japanese government is asking that he be returned to Japan. There is no information about the charges against him.

Economy

—Labor Ministry survey finds that, not surprisingly, transportation companies are routinely violating labor regulations, especially in having their drivers, etc., perform illegal levels of overtime work.

—Japan Tobacco to buy the tobacco business of the Akij Group in Bangladesh for about US$1.5 billion.

—Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Hiroshige Seko claims that US sanctions on Iran are unlikely to affect the Japanese economy.

—Wage growth in Japan reached a 21-year high in the April-June quarter. Wages rose at the fastest pace since 1997. This marked progress for the Abenomics policy which is aimed at spurring inflation.

—Gasoline prices have risen above 150 yen nationwide. On July 30, the average price was 151.2 yen per liter, 20 yen more than the year before. Venezuela’s crisis and US sanctions on Iran are believed to be driving the oil prices up.

—Health Ministry survey estimates that financial losses caused by cigarette smoking, including medical bills, accidental fires, etc., amounted to more than 2 trillion yen (about US$18.5 billion) in FY2015 alone.

—Transport Ministry says that Mazda Motor Corporation, Suzuki Motor Corporation, and Yamaha Motor Company are all guilty in engaging in data falsification of their fuel economy and emissions tests.

—Governor Yuriko Koike criticizes the central government for increasingly diverting local tax revenues from Tokyo to regional parts of the country.

—The Japanese economy returned to growth in the April-June 2018 period according to the latest figures, rising 0.5%, or an annualized 1.9% in the quarter.

Technology

—Toyota will use the e-Palette, which is a small vehicle made for delivery purposes, to transport participants and guests during the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. It operates on battery power, and can be used for transporting people with limited mobility.

—NEC will provide face recognition technology to be used during the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. It will speed up identification of over 300,000 people, including the competitors and staff. The technology is based on biometric authentication.

—Japan plans to build base stations for efficient fifth-generation mobile communications systems (5G). 5G is a new development which enables speed of mobile networks to run at even 10 to 20 GB/s. This project is expected to launch by 2020.

—A multilingual robot is being tested at certain hotels across Tokyo in preparation for the upcoming 2020 Olympics, with hopes to communicate effectively with foreign guests. It can currently offer various kinds of advice in English and in Chinese, including directions.

Society

—Gero city in Gifu Prefecture has just recorded a 41 degree celsius temperature, the highest ever in that local area and just below the all-time Japan record high temperature of 41.1 degrees experienced in Saitama Prefecture last month.

—Death toll from the summer heat wave reaches 105 people in Tokyo alone. The most deaths from heatstroke on record occurred in 2015, when 119 people died. This summer may set a new record in that respect as well.

—Fire and Disaster Management Agency reports that 71,266 have been sent to hospital emergency rooms for heatstroke so far this summer. This already far exceeds the previous summer record of 58,729 people sent to the hospital in 2013.

—Osaka City provides an emergency budget of 600 million yen (about US$5.4 million) to install air conditioning in all preschools and kindergartens in the city.

—Okinawa Meteorological Observatory says the average precipitation in the Okinawa region in July was 330% the amount of an average year. In Ishigaki the rain reached 536 millimeters, which is 411% of the average year. These are the highest figures since records began in 1946.

—Survey finds that the five most common Japanese family names are, in order: Sato, Suzuki, Takahashi, Tanaka, and Watanabe.

—Abe government planning to boost the size and authority of the Immigration Bureau. It will have more independent power to develop its own policies, more immigration officers, and enhanced technology.

—Bad Memorabilia: After a storm of social media criticism, TEPCO decides that selling memorabilia of the Fukushima Daiichi Power Plant isn’t such a hot idea after all.

—A disaster response helicopter crashes into a mountain in Gunma Prefecture, killing all nine crew members. The cause of the accident isn’t clear at this point.

—Education Ministry survey finds that about 25% of the nation’s schools have dangerous walls vulnerable to earthquakes. The survey came in the wake of the death of Rina Miyake, the schoolgirl killed in the Osaka Earthquake by an illegal concrete block wall.

Note: There were no separate “Today in Japan” reports issued between August 6 and August 11.

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