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Typhoon Hagibis Ravages Japan

SNA (Tokyo) — The following stories were reported in the first half of October 2019 by the Shingetsu News Agency.

Rolling Coverage: Typhoon Hagibis

—Japan braces for the impact of powerful Typhoon No. 19 (Typhoon Hagibis), which is forecast to hit the Tokyo region on Saturday. Many events, including some Rugby World Cup matches, being cancelled or rescheduled to ensure public safety.

—Public transportation in Tokyo may be close to nonexistent for most of Saturday. Most flights have already been cancelled and most Shinkansen and local train services likely to follow suit. Taxis will probably be the only major option for those who insist on going out.

—Chiba Governor Kensaku Morita, who was criticized for his lax crisis management during Typhoon Faxai, will stay in the prefectural headquarters all weekend to oversee the local government’s response to Typhoon Hagibis.

—Typhoon Hagibis appears to have created a tornado in Ichihara city, Chiba Prefecture, that injured four people, including two children.

—JR East is in the process of suspending service on all of its train lines in the Tokyo region as a result of Typhoon Hagibis. They are unlikely to resume service until sometime tomorrow.

—About 7,400 buildings and homes have already lost electricity services as a result of Typhoon Hagibis. Since the typhoon hasn’t really even hit yet, one wonders why TEPCO’s system is so fragile. Most of the blackouts in Chiba Prefecture.

—First confirmed death. A man found in an overturned car near where the suspected tornado hit in Ichihara, Chiba Prefecture. The number of wounded from the tornado raised to five people, including three children.

—Flooding has been particularly bad in Ise city, Mie Prefecture, where trucks parked in a residential neighborhood have been found in water at levels above their headlights. Rivers in many areas rising with the rains.

—Several areas have already experienced record rains. Hakone town in Kanagawa Prefecture, for example, has recorded over 577 mm of rain over the last 24 hours, the highest figure ever recorded in that location.

—Contact with some of the small islands near the center of the typhoon has been lost, as both telephone and internet services have been knocked out for hundreds of customers in those areas.

—Japan Meteorological Agency: “Because the risk of landslides and floods is extremely high, immediately take those actions necessary to save your life.”

—Instances of power outages are spreading. In the Tokyo Metropolitan Region and Kanagawa Prefecture alone, more than 33,000 buildings and homes have now lost electricity services.

—Serious flooding in some parts of Saiwai Ward, Kawasaki city, with waters waist high in some residential areas, presumably caused by the Tama River running over its banks.

—As if the typhoon wasn’t enough, a moderate earthquake has also hit the Tokyo region, felt most strongly in Chiba Prefecture.

—The typhoon-lashed Tokyo area earthquake was a 5.2 magnitude, centered off the coast of Chiba Prefecture.

—Typhoon Hagibis has made landfall on the Izu Peninsula.

—Authorities are pointing to rivers in the Tokyo region as particularly dangerous areas as Typhoon Hagibis hits. The Tama River and Arakawa River are already running at alarmingly high levels, and there is more rainfall to come.

—Tokyo streets that would normally be packed on a Saturday night are now deserted. Even places like Shibuya Crossing are largely empty of foot traffic, with trains not running and all local businesses closed.

—About 430,000 buildings and homes have had their electricity services knocked out as a result of Typhoon Hagibis.

—JR Yamanote Line services expected to restart from about now as Tokyo region transportation systems come back to life in the wake of Typhoon Hagibis.

—A woman in her 70s in Fukushima Prefecture has died after a botched effort to rescue her from Typhoon Hagibis. She was being picked up by a fire department helicopter, but as the copter lifted off she fell out and dropped about forty meters to the ground.

—Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism reports that 21 rivers overflowed their banks due to the heavy rainfall in a total of 24 locations. Flooding along riverbanks proving to be a dangerous vulnerability.

—Taito Ward government rightfully under fire for refusing to let homeless people into evacuation shelters during the historic Typhoon Hagibis. All other wards in Tokyo managed to exercise common sense and decency, offering shelter to all comers during the deadly storm.

—In the immediate wake of Typhoon Hagibis, it looked like the toll wasn’t quite as bad as feared, but after several days, it’s now apparent that it was immense: 74 confirmed dead and 12 missing, plus massive material damage.

Rolling Coverage: KEPCO Bribery Scandal

—Two Kansai Electric Power Company (KEPCO) executives received nuclear industry bribes amounting to about US$1 million each. The current leadership of the company, including President Shigeki Iwane and Chairman Makoto Yagi, who also received bribes, refuse to resign or take any serious responsibility.

—The fundamental corruption at the Kansai Electric Power Company exposed further as it now known that the company’s auditors had known about the massive bribery of senior executives, but failed to report the facts to the full board of directors or to shareholders.

—Osaka Mayor Ichiro Matsui calling for all twenty KEPCO officials who received bribes to be dismissed. Osaka city is the largest single shareholder in KEPCO and Matsui is determined that the rank corruption not be swept under the carpet as the firm’s leadership proposes.

—The real measure of whether or not the Abe government is taking the KEPCO corruption scandal seriously is not whether the twenty executives who accepted pro-nuclear bribes are forced to resign, but whether or not they are prosecuted. The KEPCO executives’ current stance that the appropriate punishment for receiving illicit bribes is to be forced to give most of the bribes back, and maybe take a two-month partial pay cut, is both untenable and outrageous. They still refuse to even clarify all the facts.

—METI Minister Isshu Sugawara seems to feel that it is sufficient to ask utilities other than KEPCO to conduct in-house surveys about whether or not they have received similar nuclear bribes. Eight firms quickly answer: “Nope! We are totally clean!” This repeated practice of putting the suspects of white collar crime at government ministries and major corporations in charge of investigating themselves is one of the most frustrating aspects of conservative Japanese governance. It’s a key element of structural corruption.

—The chapter of the Liberal Democratic Party led by rightwing Abe protege and former Defense Minister Tomomi Inada had been receiving donations from a company on whose board served the central figure of the KEPCO bribery scandal. There’s no evidence Inada did anything wrong.

—Opposition party politicians visit KEPCO headquarters to personally deliver request that its executives appear for hearings in the current session of the Diet. All KEPCO executives refuse to meet the opposition lawmakers, dispatching a security guard to receive the request.

—KEPCO Chairman Makoto Yagi indicates that he will step down over the Takahama nuclear bribery scandal. While this is a step in the right direction, it is still far short of the mass resignations and prosecutions that the facts clearly demand.

—Liberal Democratic Party blocking opposition demands that KEPCO executives be called before the Diet to explain the bribery scandal. Even now the Abe government is protecting the corrupt pro-nuclear executives, and there is no hint of prosecution for accepting bribes.

—The KEPCO bribery scandal is particularly galling. The fact that the twenty executives accepted bribes has been proven and admitted by the company itself. This involves the personal corruption that Japanese abhor. So why is there no serious accountability yet? The only explanation that makes sense and is truly plausible is that the system isn’t moving against the corrupt KEPCO executives because they retain top level political protection, which could really only be coming from Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and METI.

Rolling Coverage: NHK and Japan Post

—Japan Post President Masatsugu Nagato belatedly admits that a NHK Close-Up Gendai expose of post offices’ practice of selling life insurance policies to elderly people via illegal methods was true. This comes after a year of pressuring NHK (and NHK bending to the pressure).

—NHK Board of Governors under fire for their handling of the 2018 Close-Up Gendai Plus scoop on Japan Post’s illicit practices. Rather than support their journalists, now admitted to have gotten the story 100% correct, they punished executives and apologized to the culprits.

—Benefits of Amakudari: Becoming clear that one way Japan Post forced NHK to censor itself was because Yasuo Suzuki, senior executive vice president, was a former vice-minister of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications. He could have used his government contacts.

—For his part, Yasuo Suzuki, Japan Post senior executive vice president, is making colorful accusations against NHK, accusing it as behaving “just like a yakuza gang” and saying that NHK expected Japan Post to respond to a “punch” by asking to be punched again.

—Mainichi Shinbun Editorial: ”NHK is aiming to become a public media, including on the internet. Unless it conducts a full-on investigation into what happened in the case, and reveals what it has found, it will not be able to retain any trust that it may still have from viewers.”

Rolling Coverage: Protect the Nation from NHK

—Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department refers Protect the Nation from NHK leader Takashi Tachibana to prosecutors on charges of intimidating a former party member with threats such as “I will go and destroy your life.” Tachibana recently proposed genocide for poor people.

—Confirming its growing reputation as the home for outcasts, warmongers, and scoundrels, Protect the Nation from NHK mulling Mayuko Toyota as a party candidate. Toyota was expelled from the ruling party in 2017 for violently attacking her political secretary.

—Protect the Nation from NHK leader resigning as House of Councillors lawmaker to run in October 27 House of Councillors by-election. He faces former Saitama Governor Kiyoshi Ueda, who is backed by opposition parties. LDP sits it out.

—With Takashi Tachibana giving up his House of Councillors seat to run for House of Councillors, Satoru Hamada of his own party, who was first runner-up in the July elections, takes Tachibana’s seat. Protect the Nation from NHK retains two seats and now has shot at a third.

—Protect the Nation from NHK Secretary-General Takashi Uesugi says that the party will be running its own candidate in the November 24 Kochi gubernatorial race. This tiny party is showing a more proactive electoral approach than the much larger Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan.


—Prime Minister Shinzo Abe pledges to help the Japanese farmers who have been disadvantaged by his new bilateral trade agreement with the Trump government: “We will take sufficient measures by the end of the year to deal with farmers’ concerns.”

—Encouraged by new e-visa system, in 2018 more than 20,000 Japanese visited Vladivostok and the surrounding region. The figure is expected to be higher this year. However, the numbers still lag behind visitors to Vladivostok from China (370,000) and South Korea (220,000).

—Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan and Democratic Party For the People are already squabbling within their new center-left parliamentary caucus over personnel matters, as the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan is taking most key posts for itself.

—Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan Diet affairs chief Jun Azumi tells Jiji Press, “If we go all out to speak for people and punish the government, I’m sure people will count on the opposition bloc.” Wrong! What you need to do is show that you are a credible alternative to steer the nation to a better future.

—Democratic Party For the People angry at former Prime Minister Naoto Kan over his criticism of personnel appointments. The basic issue is that Kan is now strongly anti-nuclear and some of the Democratic Party For the People lawmakers have pro-nuclear stances.

—Progress! Naokazu Takemoto’s new posting as Minister of State for Science and Technology Policy has provided him, within one month, with the technical skills to return his own personal webpage to the internet. Now let’s see how he does with the nation’s technology.

—Hometown Tax: The Abe government and the city of Izumisano, Osaka Prefecture, appear headed for a court battle after the Ministry of Internal Affairs confirm’s the city’s exclusion from the program in spite of a third-party panel essentially backing Izumisano.

—Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike backs Izumisano city in its dispute with the Ministry of Internal Affairs over the Hometown Tax issue. She points out that the government simply dismissing the dispute resolution panel’s recommendations threatens all local governments in Japan.

—Yuriko Koike has dinner with former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and LDP Secretary-General Toshihiro Nikai, both of whom reportedly promise that they will support her reelection as Tokyo Governor in 2020.

—Rightwing history denier Nagoya Mayor Takashi Kawamura to lead sit-in protest against the limited reopening of the Aichi Triennale freedom of expression exhibit. Kawamura says reopening the exhibit is “violence” but seems untroubled by the rightwing terrorist threats.


—Pew Research Center finds that 85% of Japanese have an unfavorable opinion of China (14% have a favorable opinion). By contrast, in Russia, 71% have a favorable opinion of China (18% have an unfavorable opinion).

—North Korea’s latest missile test may have included a new wrinkle: It is thought that it was fired from a submarine. Also, it is believed to have landed in Japan’s exclusive economic zone for the first time since 2017.

—Local political leaders and fishermen in the Chugoku region’s Sea of Japan coast express outrage about North Korea firing missiles near the zones where the fishermen work. They are demanding that the Abe government do something about it before someone gets hurt.

—A Fisheries Agency patrol ship has collided with a North Korean fishing boat off the coast of the Noto Peninsula. The North Korea ship sank as a result and more than twenty of its crew have been rescued by the Japanese ship.

—Japan quickly transferred the roughly sixty North Korean fishermen from the vessel that sunk in the collision with a Fisheries Agency inspection vessel to another North Korean ship, probably to prevent the matter from becoming a major diplomatic issue.

—The whaling ship Nisshin Maru returns to Shimonoseki after catching 223 whales during its hunt off the Japanese coast, which began on July 1. This was the first acknowledged commercial whaling since the Abe government withdrew from the International Whaling Commission.

—SMBC Trust Bank has possibly frozen the personal accounts of the Venezuelan ambassador to Japan, his wife, and several other diplomats. This might be a case of US sanctions being applied in an extraterritorial manner within Japan, but the facts need to be clarified.


—Japanese consumers wake up today to a 10% consumption tax rate, except for all the exceptions in which it remains 8%.

—Opposition parties criticize consumption tax hike to 10%, with Yukio Edano declaring it “outrageous.” His credibility on this issue is very weak, however, because it was the Yoshihiko Noda government that pushed the tax hike legislation through at all costs in 2012.

—Prosecutors to appeal the acquittal of the three TEPCO executives over their responsibility for the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster. They will again be pursued on charges that they were negligent in not building proper tsunami defenses.

—A cross-party movement is underway that advocates creating a uniform minimum wage for all prefectures in Japan. The precise economic effect of such a policy on the balance between urban and rural employment remains a point of contention.

—WeWork’s Japan branch leadership has changed. Chris Hill, who led the 2017 launch in the country, has been replaced and possibly left the company. He was close to former CEO Adam Neumann. The new Japan boss is Kazuyuki Sasaki, the former managing director of WeWork Japan.

—Bloomberg reports that SoftBank is offering a bailout to cash-strapped WeWork in a deal that would see Masayoshi Son’s company take full control of WeWork. Currently, SoftBank is WeWork’s largest investor.

—Uber Eats contract delivery staff form a labor union, seeking accident compensation insurance and other rights provided to regular workers. At present it seems there are only 17 union members among the estimated 15,000 Uber Eats contract workers in Japan.

—The European Union is reportedly preparing to ease some of its import restrictions on food produced near the disaster-struck Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. These import restrictions have been in place since 2011.

—Seven-Eleven, the largest convenience store chain in Japan, to close 1,000 of its stores, and to ease back from 24-hour service in some locations. It seems that they’ve reached the conclusion that the domestic convenience store market is now saturated with outlets.

—Nissan Europe Chairman Gianluca de Ficchy on Brexit: “If a no-deal scenario means the sudden application of WTO tariffs, we know in that case our business model won’t be sustainable in the future.”

—Renault unexpectedly dismisses its CEO Thierry Bollore, effective immediately. Bollore was the replacement for Carlos Ghosn, and it is being put about that Bollore’s departure is meant to help rebuild ties between Renault and Nissan.

—Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) negotiations in Bangkok appear to have gone poorly, with the sixteen nations of East and Southeast Asia unable to agree on the text of a joint declaration.


—Seven-Eleven Japan has now fully terminated its ill-fated 7pay smartphone cashless payment service, which was hacked within days of its July release. The roughly 400,000 users who still have unused deposits in the system have until January 10, 2020, to ask for a return.

—Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications to require mobile carriers to lift SIM locks immediately, not accepting the recent announcements by SoftBank and KDDI that they would lock phones for 100 days in exchange for allowing customers to purchase handsets in installments.

—The Minerva II-2 robotic rover has been dropped from the height of about one kilometer by the Hayabusa 2 spacecraft, bound for the surface of the asteroid Ryugu. This was the final robot on board the Hayabusa 2 and its feared that it won’t be able to relay information.

—Former US Vice-President Al Gore hits the Abe government’s support for coal: “If they build as many new coal plants as some now propose, and subsidize as many new coal plants in other countries as they now have planned, of course that would be a massive policy failure.”

—Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga chairs first meeting on regulating domestic and global information technology giants, with a special focus on protecting individual privacy from the tech giants’ data harvesting.


—Immigration Services Agency admits that they allowed a Nigerian man who was in immigration detention and on a hunger strike to starve to death. This is the first time for them to admit starvation as a cause of death for a detainee. It happened in June, but announced now.

—Tokyo District Court rules that the 2016 Abe government deportation of Ric O’Barry, an activist opposing dolphin hunts, was illegitimate and was not based on any substantial evidence that O’Barry posed any kind of threat.

—The death toll in the Kyoto Animation arson attack rises to 36 people when one woman in her 20s, who had been hospitalized for weeks with burns, finally died of her injuries. Of the 33 injured, five remain hospitalized.

—Naomi Osaka makes what is probably the smart decision for career and future earning prospects by choosing her Japanese nationality over her US nationality. According to Japanese law, she was required to choose at age 21.

—Felix Kjellberg, better known as PewDiePie, the world’s most successful YouTube creator, has been spending some time in Japan and is considering moving to Japan early next year, depending on visa and tax issues. He currently resides in the United Kingdom.

—The Miyagi prefectural and Ishinomaki municipal governments fought all the way to the Supreme Court to deny their responsibility for the deaths of 74 children of Okawa Elementary School in the March 2011 tsunami, but every court said they owed compensation. The parents won.

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