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Gazprom Tanker Breaks Through to the Pacific

In the midst of Japan’s energy woes, prompted by the Fukushima disaster and reinforced by the uncertainty arising from the tensions in East Asia, the arrival for the first time of a Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) tanker through the Arctic Ocean and into the Pacific Ocean offers hope and the chance to diversify away from the sea lanes Tokyo currently relies upon for the bulk of its energy imports. This is possible thanks to the gradual melting of Arctic Ocean ice, technological developments, and Russia’s policy of energy export diversification.

The Return of the Trans-Pacific Partnership

After about a year of hanging about in the background, the issue of Japan’s participation in Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations was suddenly thrust back into the front rank of political debate. Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda has been in favor of Japan’s participation in TPP negotiations all along, as was his predecessor Naoto Kan. However, it appears that Noda decided to soft-pedal the matter late last year as he faced the daunting challenge of raising the national consumption tax, a divisive issue within the ruling party that he saw as the bigger priority.

The Cold Road to Europe

The long string of incidents off the Senkaku-Diaoyu Islands this summer and the wider maritime territorial disputes in East and Southeast Asia have been overshadowing a major development with great potential implications for Japan: The northern sea route, linking East Asia with Europe through waters traditionally closed by ice to commercial navigation, are increasingly accessible during the Arctic summer thanks to the global warming.

Chinese Patrol Boat Bound for Hawaii

If all goes well, one of China’s largest and most advanced patrol boats, the Haixun 31, should arrive in Hawaii on September 4 for cooperative exercises with the United States Coast Guard to “strengthen mutual understanding.” This will be the first time a Chinese patrol ship with helicopter-carrying capacity will dock in the United States.

Kanami’s Wind in the Pines Heading to Canada

Once described as the oldest form of masked theatre in the world, Noh has a history that stretches back in current form to the 14th and 15th centuries; even earlier if you consider its predecessors. As is, however, modern Japanese Noh is an almost exclusively male discipline of theatre in which actors never rehearse together, but rather come together as well-practiced individuals on the day a play is to be performed, to engage in what is essentially a one-off event.

A Tale of Two Courts: Japan and South Korea

Perhaps the law is a subject better left to lawyers and courts, but the reality is that the law often collides with international politics as well, so it can never be completely ignored. We couldn’t help but notice that there were two court cases this month in which a judge in a foreign nation made some claim upon Japan, but that the domestic reaction was entirely different.

Imperial Palace Joggers

Complaints are growing about the increasing number of joggers around the Imperial Palace in Tokyo and the alleged bad manners that some of them are showing.