THE JAPAN NEWS
Formerly called The Daily Yomiuri, The Japan News is the English-language edition of Yomiuri Shimbun, one of Japan's leading newspapers, founded in 1874, and considered to have the largest daily print circulation in the world at circa 14 million.
UberEats and Glovo workers wait for McDonald's meals to deliver to their costumers.
THE ECONOMIC TIMES

A Door-To-Door Global Tour Of Delivery In COVID-19 Times

As the novel coronavirus races its way around the world, we are also witnessing a rush of changes in the delivery industry. No longer just an option, delivery has all but become a necessity during the pandemic, and the sector as a whole has proven itself extremely adaptive. From creative innovations to corporations venturing into new milieus, here is a global tour of how delivery is changing:

Organic growth: While countless businesses great and small are suffering in the pandemic period, others seem naturally suited for these turbulent times:

  • Naturalia, the organic branch of the French food retailer Monoprix, saw its turnover increase by 40% during France"s two-and-a-half-month lockdown phase, the daily Les Échos reports. Naturalia's success is part of a larger trend, according to Daniel Ducrocq, an executive with the data and measurement firm Nielsen. "Drive-up and home delivery have reached historically high levels," he says. There's been a particular increase in the use of such services by older clients, Ducrocq noted. "The challenge for the coming months will be for distributors to keep this newly acquired clientele."

  • In the UK, Amazon Fresh is expanding its offer by proposing free delivery for Amazon Prime members. The company, having experienced booming food sales during the lockdown, wants to cover more areas in the country, according to the Guardian.

  • There's evidence that this fresh approach to procuring fresh food is catching on in Senegal as well. In Dakar, a company called Club Kossam has added fruit and vegetables to its offer (it already delivered dairy products) and doubled its monthly sales as a result. The firm now delivers to nearly 1,300 homes in the Senegalese capital every week, Siècle Digital reports.

  • The big question, though — and not just in Senegal — is whether the shift in favor of online shopping will last beyond the pandemic. Rapidos, another Senegalese home delivery company that has seen earnings increase of late, isn't convinced. But they're not complaining either. The company's managers, as reported by FranceInfo, attribute the success of online commerce to the coronavirus crisis but also to purchases linked to the month of Ramadan.

Unexpected opportunities: The pandemic didn't just add to the number of people seeking home deliveries, it also increased the number of businesses willing to send their products out, particularly among restaurants.

  • In the UK, some high-end restaurants were loathe to offer takeaway — until the lockdown period, that is. Desperate times, in other words, call for desperate measures. And for takeaway services like Just Eat, that's meant extra revenue. The company's earnings were up 33% in April and May compared to the same period last year, the business publication Investment Trust Insider reports.

Delivery workers on the road in Lima, Peru. — Photo: El Comercio/GDA/ZUMA Wire

Pushing the envelope: In these unprecedented times, some companies are taking things to a whole new level. Whether for the sake of speed or safety, innovation has been the name of the game.

  • Leave it to Japan to really ramp things up on the tech end. With the need for social distancing and contactless delivery options, some Japanese firms are experimenting with delivery robots.

  • Japan Today reports that one autonomous delivery robot called DeliRo will be rolling out onto the streets of Tokyo to deliver Japanese soba noodle dishes directly to nearby customers. "We want to explore what kinds of autonomous delivery services are possible and what the DeliRo can offer at a time when new lifestyles are called for amid the coronavirus outbreak," says a spokesperson for the robot firm ZMP Inc.

  • The Japanese Government is fully on board with increasing autonomous delivery service in hopes that it will alleviate what has been an acute shortage in labor since the start of the pandemic. It may be easier said than done, however, as there are still some legal and logistical issues to iron out with regards to the slow-moving, self-driving machines.

  • Speed is also of the essence in Bengaluru, India, where the Walmart-owned retailer Flipkart has launched a hyperlocal, 90-minute delivery service called Flipkart Quick, Economic Times reports. "With this launch, the company is making its first foray into fresh fruits and vegetables, as well as meats and milk products," the publication explains. "And to do so, Flipkart is working in partnership with Ninjacart, a company specialized in business-to-business fresh produce provisions."

  • The partnership is a prime example of how the coronavirus pandemic has led to faster convergence between online and offline commerce, with traditional businesses now increasingly collaborating with online channels as a long-term strategy to generate demand.

Rescue teams are still removing debris from the 12-story oceanfront residential building that collapsed last week in Surfside, near Miami, Florida. Ten people have been confirmed dead and at least 151 remain unaccounted for.
BBC

The Latest: Delta Variant Hits Russia, Tigray Ceasefire, Facebook’s Trillion

Welcome to Tuesday, where Russia sees record deaths from the Delta variant, former South African President Jacob Zuma gets 15 months and Facebook becomes a $1 trillion company. Meanwhile, ahead of the Chinese Communist Party's 100th anniversary, The Initium takes us to the "red village" where it all began.

• Ethiopia declares unilateral Tigray ceasefire: After eight months of war between the government army and rebels in Ethiopia, a unilateral cease-fire was declared on Monday night after Mekelle the capital of the northern Tigray region was retaken by rebels. While celebrations in the streets of the capital have been reported, Tigrayan rebels have vowed to continue fighting in spite of the ceasefire.

• COVID update - spike in Russia, more vaccine good news: Moscow and Saint Petersburg have reported record numbers of COVID-related deaths, as Russia faces a third wave of coronavirus by the Delta variant. Meanwhile, a Nature study suggests that Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines could provide COVID protection for years. In Brazil, a scandal is breaking out over the irregular purchase by the state of overpriced vaccines.

• South Africa's top court sentences ex-President Jacob Zuma: The former South African president has been sentenced to 15 months in prison for contempt of court, related to corruption allegations. Zuma was charged with corruption and his presidential career ended in 2018, but he refused to show up in court for inquiries after an initial appearance.

• Italy region bans farm work during hot hours after death of migrant worker: The southern Italy region of Puglia has banned farm labor during the hottest hours of the day, from 12.30 to 4 pm, after the death of a migrant worker last Thursday. The deceased 27-year-old, a native of Mali, was picking tomatoes under the heat that reached 40 C and collapsed on his way home.

• Mexico decriminalizes cannabis: Mexico's Supreme Court has decriminalized the private recreational use of cannabis by adults, announcing the current prohibition unconstitutional. The bill does not mention the commercialisation of cannabis, while smoking in public and in front of children is still banned.

• UK Secret defense documents found at bus stop: An almost 50-page classified "secret defense" document containing details about a British warship and Russia's possible reaction towards its passage in the Black Sea has been found in Kent, in a "soggy heap behind a bus stop" by an anonymous citizen.

• Is there life on Venus? Nope: A UK study finds that the amount of water contained in the atmosphere of Venus is too low for the planet to sustain life. Jupiter, on the other hand ...

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A fast-evolving question ...
THE TIMES OF INDIA
Rozena Crossman

Work → In Progress: Gender In The Workplace, Past And Future

PARIS — In 1919, the International Labor Organization adopted the first conventions on women in the workplace. In 2019, the women who won the World Cup earned $850,000 less than their male counterparts. Three waves of feminism have transformed sexual and interpersonal dynamics. Still, the #MeToo movement reminded us of entrenched power-and-sexual dynamics in the workplace. And other contradictions abound: a case is now before the United States Supreme Court about whether a company can force women to wear skirts or fire an employee for being transgender; and even as some women rise to the heights of corporate power, a report last year on gender disparity in tech found that men own 91% of employee and founder equity in Silicon Valley ...

Whatever the gender gap looks like in 2119, at the heart of the matter will be questions about work. The working world is both a microcosm of the world around us and its fuel: a place where networks are formed, ambitions are achieved and wages are earned. This edition of Work → In Progress looks at the future demographics and dynamics around the water coolers of the world.

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Crossing into new territory
Japan
The Yomiuri Shimbun

It's Time For Japan To Open Up To Foreign Workers

As the Japanese government plans to accept up to about 340,000 new foreign workers over the next five years, coexistence may become an issue.

On a sunny Saturday morning, foreigners living in Oizumi, in the prefecture of Gunma, some 100 kilometers northwest of Tokyo, participated in a futsal event with local officials in the neighboring town of Ora.

In the past, Brazilians and Peruvians were the only foreigners who used to participate in such events. But over the past two years, technical intern trainees from Indonesia have joined in. "It's fun to meet and talk with many people," said a 20-year-old Indonesian technical intern trainee. "I hope there will be more opportunities like this." In his second year living in Japan, the young man has few opportunities to interact with Japanese people outside his workplace.

In Oizumi, where the manufacturing industry is thriving, the number of foreign residents surged after the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Law was revised in 1990 to allow second- and third-generation descendants of Japanese emigrants to work in Japan.

"There are some people who don't like an increase in the number of foreigners."

As of the end of October, foreign residents totaled 7,589, accounting for more than 18% of the town's population. There has been friction between Japanese and foreign residents over issues such as waste disposal and nighttime noise.

According to a survey conducted in 2016 by the Gunma prefectural government, 58.3% of foreign residents in the prefecture said they wanted to settle in Japan, and 67% said they wanted to actively interact with Japanese people.

On the other hand, only 11.7% of Japanese respondents said they wanted to actively interact with foreign residents. "There are only a few opportunities for Japanese residents to associate with foreigners and there are some people who don't like an increase in the number of foreigners," said a Japanese woman who runs a liquor shop in Oizumi.

In this context, planned efforts to encourage face-to-face encounters between Japanese and non-Japanese residents can help build relationships. The town has encouraged residents to understand more about each other by issuing a magazine in Portuguese and starting Japanese-language classes at elementary and junior high schools. The futsal exchange event organized by the Gunma prefectural police is another such effort.

In Hamamatsu, closer to Tokyo, there were 24,214 non-Japanese residents as of Nov. 1, accounting for 3% of the city's population. At a public housing complex where many Japanese-Brazilians live, the city hires interpreters and encourages foreign residents to participate in the residents meetings and local festivals.

"We organized a barbecue at the summer festival, and Brazilians were the first to come and help us," one Japanese resident said.

In another part of Japan, language classes are being encouraged.

"Konokiwa ‘nagai" desuka? Is this tree ‘long"?," asked a Philippine woman.

"Korewa‘takai" ne. This is ‘tall"," replied a Japanese volunteer teacher, kindly correcting the woman's usage of adjectives while pointing at a picture of a tree.

The dialogue was heard at a meeting room of the Iwata housing complex in Toyohashi, in Aichi prefecture, 300 km south of Tokyo.

Non-Japanese residents, many of them Japanese-Brazilians, started settling down in the city in the 1990s. As of Nov. 1, the foreign residents' population was 17,122, accounting for about 4.5% of the city's population.

A local nonprofit organization began a Japanese-language class about nine years ago at the Iwata housing complex, which is managed by the prefecture, where foreigners are the lease signers of about half of all the households.

Shinzo Abe lending a hand
Japan

How Japan Can Help Soften U.S.-China Showdown

-OpEd-

TOKYO — The United States has turned to inward-looking politics, while the unifying force of Europe has waned due to rampant populism and confusion in Britain, Germany and France. The pillars that have sustained global stability are seemingly fading away. Given the situation, we cannot but be wary of confusion stemming from the intense struggle for supremacy between the United States and China.

"China poses the biggest threat to America...," "China has chosen economic aggression...." High-ranking members of the U.S. administration are using harsh language to criticize China. The superpower status of the United States is under threat, and as such, it has changed its demeanor toward China — which it once called its "strategic partner" — completely.

Democrats share this view with the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump.

The struggle between the No. 1 and No. 2 powers of the world — economically as well as militarily — extends from trade and advanced technology to various other areas, and we should brace ourselves for the long haul.

Now that 30 years have passed since the United States and the Soviet Union declared an end to the Cold War, there is no sense in being terrified of a "new Cold War" and shrinking to the sidelines. Japan, which is allied with the United States and has close ties with China, must tenaciously carry out the responsibility of maintaining regional stability and prosperity.

Trump's uncertain diplomacy

The top priority should be to revive multilateral cooperation in which the United States plays the pivotal role.

Trump's "America First" policy is a source of constant anxiety. He has prioritized seeking the immediate benefit of reducing trade deficits over matters of diplomacy and security. Tweeting does not allow for predictability, and his artless management of the U.S. administration is too much to tolerate.

We should brace ourselves for the long haul.

Among other issues, if suspicion that the Trump campaign colluded with Russia in the 2016 U.S. presidential election grows stronger, the president's hard-line foreign policies may shift toward an even stronger stance in an attempt to get out of hot water.

Even then, there is no alternative to the United States. That country alone accounts for one-fourth of global gross domestic product and one-third of global military spending. Keeping the United States involved in the maintenance of international order will serve the national interests of Japan.

Revive international cooperation

Dialogue between the leaders of Japan and the United States is important as it provides Japan with the opportunity to share its views toward China with its counterpart and to urge the United States to cooperate with other countries. Furthermore, Japan should make sure Trump does not make easy concessions to China on security policies in exchange for what he might achieve on trade.

Considering the instability of the Trump administration, which continues to replace one Cabinet official after another, it is important to extensively establish strong ties with congressional leaders, bureaucrats, senior officials of the U.S. military and other key figures who can involve themselves in the making of U.S. foreign policy.

A matter of concern is a situation in which the United States and China impose even higher tariffs on each other. In order to avoid a global recession, we must urge both sides to exercise self-restraint.

The Japan-U.S. alliance must serve as a foundation for stability in the region.

Japan — through bilateral talks with other leaders, at G7 meetings, at the G20 summit scheduled to be held in Osaka in June and at other events — should lead discussions to defuse the standoff between the United States and China. It will also be Japan's role to act as an intermediary between the United States, which tends to lean toward isolationism, and other countries.

It is an urgent task to widen the network of free trade that supports multilateral cooperation. Japan is urged to make efforts to expand the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement, from which the United States has withdrawn, and create free trade zones with China, India and other Asian countries, while working on trade talks with Washington.

Abe and Trump in Washington in April 2018 — Photo: Allen Eyestone/ZUMA

To prevent China from changing the status quo in the Senkaku Islands in Okinawa Prefecture and in the South China Sea, it is imperative to make the Japan-U.S. alliance serve as a foundation for stability in the region.

The Self-Defense Forces should strengthen cooperation with the U.S. military and move ahead with the advancement of equipment and capabilities. It is crucial for Japan to deepen security cooperation also with Australia and Southeast Asian countries to complement the Japan-U.S. alliance.

Hold firm on China

To face China, a long-term perspective is essential.

China touted a reform and opening-up policy in 1978, raising hopes for it to become a free and open country. However, Beijing cracked down on pro-democracy protesters in the 1989 Tiananmen Square incident, after which it was slapped with harsh sanctions by the international community. China then shifted its course toward one of becoming a rich and powerful country different from Japan, the United States and European countries.

China has pursued coercive diplomacy and significantly reinforced its military. Its thefts of advanced technologies from other countries, unfair economic practices and tight control of its people have been carried out at an accelerated pace.

In the past three decades, the post of general secretary of the Chinese Communist Party's Central Committee has been held by three people, including current President Xi Jinping. During the same period, the United States has had five presidents, and Japan has seen a total of 17 people serve as prime minister.

Jiping and Trump in Beijing — Photo: White House/Shealah Craighead

The average term in office is 10 years for China, while that for the United States is six years, and it is under two years for Japan. In 2018, Xi paved the way for him to stay in power indefinitely by amending the Constitution to abolish the presidential term limit.

Both Japan and the United States have elections frequently. After their governments changed following the elections, their China policies wavered. China stands at a great advantage. This is because Beijing only needs to respond to criticism superficially and wait until its opponent has a change of government.

China's GDP has grown about 30 times larger in the past 30 years on the back of the world's largest population of consumers and a huge industrial foundation. The country is said to intend to become a "modern socialist country that is prosperous and strong," which could have national power on par with that of the United States, in the middle of this century.

Nevertheless, China's strong economy has shown signs of slowing. Its economic growth rate has been on a gradual decline. With corporate debts accumulating, concern over the bursting of the country's economic bubble cannot be wiped away.

This is a good opportunity for Tokyo and Beijing to hold frank discussions.

Regarding China's Belt and Road Initiative in creating a huge economic zone, Asian countries have been increasingly alarmed by excessive debts as a result of hefty loans from Beijing, as well as its political influence.

China's heavy-handed expansionist stance is at a crossroads. Japan should point out to Xi and others in the Chinese leadership that if this goes on, China will hit a dead end.

Now that China has shown its willingness to improve diplomatic ties with Japan due to the deterioration in its relationship with the United States, this is a good opportunity for Tokyo and Beijing to hold frank discussions.

China has deep mutual dependence with Japan, the United States and European countries, in which people, goods and money come and go actively. The current situation is different from that in the Cold War period, in which the world was divided between the Eastern and Western blocs. China cannot be contained. China, for its part, cannot keep going without giving consideration to the world.

The goal is to make Beijing abide by international rules and truly embrace mutual prosperity and coexistence with Japan, the United States and European countries. The strategies and diplomatic abilities of Japan and other democratic countries will be put to the test.

North Korea has refrained from its past provocations with nuclear tests and ballistic missiles. It is necessary to draw up a strategy that ensures the easing of tensions on the Korean Peninsula, currently in a lull, on a permanent basis.

After the U.S.-North Korea summit talks in June last year, discussions on Pyongyang's denuclearization have lost their initial momentum. Efforts should be made to convince North Korea that denuclearizing itself is indispensable for its own stability. It is necessary to continue various talks, including Trump's next meeting with Kim Jong-un, the chairman of the Workers' Party of Korea.

Japan, for its part, needs to take precautions to prevent Trump from easily agreeing to make compromises. Japan also must continue calling for not only South Korea but also China and Russia to maintain the international net encircling North Korea.

The Emperor will abdicate on April 30, with his Heisei era coming to a close. It is important to clarify issues that are a domestic priority and to be addressed in the next era by reflecting on the 30 years of Heisei.

Emperor Akihito speaking in January 2018 — Photo: TAKA@P.P.R.S.

Japan's GDP, which had accounted for 13% of global GDP in 1989, has been reduced to 6%, with its ranking dropping to third place when it was overtaken by China. Japan's population started to decrease during the era. In provincial areas suffering serious labor shortages, even maintaining infrastructure is becoming difficult. The proportion of people age 65 or older doubled to 28%.

Awaiting new era

The Yomiuri Shimbun asked about perceptions of the Heisei era in a survey of the public in November last year. The survey found that more people chose "unstable" and "stagnation" than "stable" and "development." The results were totally opposite to those of a similar survey conducted shortly after the Heisei era started.

What should be done to wipe away the public's pessimistic feelings? Ruling and opposition parties need to compete in their efforts to propose specific measures for the upcoming House of Councillors election this summer.

The first thing to be squarely confronted is the current fiscal and financial situation.

As a result of suffering a lingering economic slump and overly depending on fiscal policy, the central and local governments' combined long-term outstanding debt has topped 1.1 quadrillion yen. With the Bank of Japan's protracted monetary easing policy, low interest rates have ended up imperiling banks, a negative phenomenon that stands out under the policy.

Japan has not experienced turmoil as seen in European countries and the United States.

It is necessary to realize the goal of completely exiting deflation and turning to stable growth. At the same time, it is important to set a course for achieving fiscal reconstruction and to continue making efforts to eliminate ill effects caused by the monetary easing policy. Achieving those objectives is not impossible if the central government, the BOJ and the business sector join hands to map out a meticulous strategy.

In order to continuously fuel the economy, it is necessary to increase consumer spending, which has remained sluggish. That is because consumers have tightened their purse strings out of anxiety for the future.

It is imperative to make the medical care, nursing care and pension systems inspire enough confidence for the public to perceive them as sustainable. Given that, as life spans become longer, the number of social security benefit recipients is increasing and the number of working-age people who support the systems is decreasing, efforts should be made to restore the appropriate burden-benefit balance. Although achieving that aim comes with pain for the public, it can lower the price to be paid by future generations.

The consumption tax rate hike, which is to support the social security system, will be implemented in October. The tax rate, which started at 3% in 1989, will have reached 10% over a period of 30 years. Consumption taxes are imposed on a broader range of people than income taxes and are much less prone to the influences of economic fluctuations. It is significant to have the public thoroughly understand that this revenue is a stable fiscal resource for a super-aging society.

Fortunately, Japan has not experienced turmoil as seen in European countries and the United States, such as extreme divisions in society, the emergence of far-right or far-left groups and grave disparities. It is hoped the current Japanese society, which is stable, will be handed down to the next era with its characteristic qualities of good public order, enthusiasm for education and respect for being hardworking.

Remembrance ceremony in Hiroshima
Japan

73 Years On, Hiroshima And Nagasaki Survivors Still Grapple With Guilt

TOKYO — Seventy-three years after atomic bombs laid waste to the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, remaining survivors still bear the physical and psychological scars of the horror they endured. And for many, one of the most troubling aspects of that experience is the lingering guilt they feel, for having survived while so many others perished.

That was one of the findings of a joint survey conducted by the Yomiuri Shimbun and Hiroshima University's Center for Peace. Timed to coincide with the anniversaries this month of the bombings in Hiroshima (Aug. 6) and Nagasaki (Aug. 9), the poll was based on interviews with 100 people who were within two kilometers of the detonation sites.

When asked if they were unable to save the lives of their families and other people close to them or those who were in need of help, 47 of the 100 respondents said "yes." Of them, 35 respondents expressed sentiments along the lines of, "Even now, I sometimes feel a heavy burden on my mind and feel guilty."

Researchers conducted the interviews between April and July.

I said I would come back with water, but I just left.

In Hiroshima, almost all of the buildings within two kilometers of ground zero were destroyed and burned down. In Nagasaki, which has basin-shaped terrain, only about 20% of structures within that radius survived. In both cities, the fatality rate for people within one kilometer of the impact sites was higher than 80%. Half the people within 1-1.5 kilometers of the blasts died, and 20 to 30% of people within 1.5-2 kilometers were killed.

Many survivors recall seeing people lying on the ground on the brink of death. "People who wanted water grabbed my foot, but I told them to keep laying there. I said I would come back with water, but I just left," one 87-year-old Nagasaki told the interviewers.

Injured people, 1.1 km from Hiroshima ground zero — Source: Yosuke Yamahata/Wikimedia Commons

When asked about how she deals with such feelings, a Nagasaki woman, 88, said that as a survivor, she made it her responsibility to tell the story of what happened that day." On behalf of those who died, I devoted myself to activities to talk about what I experienced," she said.

Others said the experience was too painful to divulge: "I couldn't talk about my experiences until I turned 80, because doing so is like confessing sins, which is painful and shameful," a 89-year-old Hiroshima woman said.

As of April, the number of people who have an Atomic Bomb Survivor's certificate stood at 154,859 — down 60% since the end of the year 1980, according to the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry. The average age among survivors is now just above 82.

It's like confessing sins.

The survey also underlined the disconnect that survivors perceive between their experiences and what subsequent generations understand about the bombings, and the threat of nuclear weapons in general. Only six of the 100 respondents said the threat is well recognized among the public.

Still, when asked if Nobel Peace Prize awarded last year to the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) would hasten efforts to abolish nuclear weapons, many survivors responded positively. Twenty respondents said, "I strongly think so" and 47 said, "I think so, to a certain extent."

Rescuing migrants off the Libyan coast in December 2016
Japan
Bertrand Hauger

From The Sea Of Japan To The Mediterranean, The Risk Of Leaving

-Analysis-

A boat is drifting along the coast. There's no captain manning it, no visible passengers on the derelict wooden vessel. The "ghost ship" is missing its rotor blade, making it look like it's facing the choppy waters on its own. Eventually, it washes up on a Japanese beach. In its hull, eight bodies — some in an advanced state of decomposition, making identification or origins of the boat impossible. But in all likelihood, it had set off from the coast of North Korea. Just two days earlier, Japanese officials inspecting another wreckage nearby with two skeletons aboard found a North Korean cigarette pack and life jackets with Korean writings.

Such grim scenes are only coming to light now, but the "ghost ships' of North Korea are not a new phenomenon. In Japan, two other boats, also reportedly coming from North Korea, suffered a similar fate this month, and a total of 44 deadly "ghost ships' have reached the Japanese coasts this year. A similar spate of 15 such vessels washed ashore in 2015.

It's tempting to believe that the passengers were trying to escape the totalitarian regime of Kim Jong-un, especially with last week's dramatic footage of a soldier's escape across the Korean border fresh in our memories. Still, the rare survivors of one these shipwrecks told investigators that they were simply fishermen carried away by strong currents, and insisted on being reconducted to North Korea.

Hunger and politics, of course, continue to drive people to risk their lives elsewhere.

Driven by the country's food shortages, North Korean fishermen are believed to be forced into deeper waters and venture ever farther on dangerously ill-equipped ships. For Seo Yu-suk, a research manager of North Korean Studies Institution in Seoul, such an increase on seafood quotas is a direct consequence of toughened U.S.-led sanctions against the rogue state, which President Trump recently called a "state sponsor of terrorism."

Hunger and politics, of course, continue to drive people to risk their lives elsewhere. Over the weekend, at least 30 would-be migrants — including three children and 18 women — drowned off the coast of Libya when their boats sank, Italian daily Corriere della Serra reports.

A recent study by the International Organization for Migration has found that between 2000 and 2017, at least 33,761 people fleeing violence or poverty have died or gone missing in the Mediterranean, earning the Sea the macabre distinction of being "the world's deadliest border." Not a week goes by without local police and coast guards conducting rescuing operations, looking for surviving passengers from Somalia, Nigeria, Ghana, Ethiopia, etc. — and recovering bodies from the sea.

From the Sea of Japan to the Mediterranean, an apparently empty "ghost ship" and a terribly overcrowded rubber raft would seem to offer a portrait in contrast. But the drifting vessels in fact tell the same story: the risk of staying vs. the risk of leaving.

Miniature statues sold at Komatsuji temple
Japan
Yomiuri Shimbun

Preserving Japanese Artifacts, One 3D-Printed Replica At A Time

CHIBA — Researchers are collecting 3D data of Buddhist statues and other cultural assets at a university here on the eastern outskirts of Tokyo in order to store the stereoscopic information in case of the objects' deterioration or theft.

The graduate school research laboratory at Chiba University is recording the 3D data, which is also already being used to help vitalize local communities. One temple, for example, sells miniature models of its Buddhist statues as charms, and a metalwork and engraving artist has used the data to produce fashion accessories.

The project to collect the 3D data was the brainchild of Prof. Akira Ueda, 50, of the university's graduate school of engineering, who first proposed it to temples and shrines in 2013.

The researchers took a portable scanner to 10 locations, including temples, shrines and the Kyodo Shiryokan local history museum in the town of Kamogawa to record the 3D data of about 40 objects, including Buddhist statues and wood carvings.

"The data could also be useful for preservation, repairs and restoration of cultural assets," said Hironobu Aoki, 25, a doctoral student working on the project. "I hope more people become aware that such endeavors are under way, so we can collect even more data."

The 3D data is already being used in local commercial initiatives. The Komatsuji temple in Minamiboso, in southern Chiba Prefecture, is about 1,300 years old. Miniature reproductions of its Kisshoten and Bishamonten statues, originally dating back to the the second half of the Heian period (794 to late 12th century), are now being made using the data and a 3D printer.

The 2.5-centimeter-high statues are sold as charms at the temple on special occasions, such as dedicated viewings of Buddhist statues.

Hiroshi Deguchi, 50, a metalwork and engraving artist based in the city of Tateyama, has been producing silver jewelry based on the 3D data of "A," a woodcarving of a lion at Konrenin temple in Tateyama.

The original "A" sculpture was made by Yoshimitsu Goto, one of two prominent sculptors in the Awa region — now the southern part of Chiba Prefecture — who specialized in shrine and temple decorations during the early modern period.

The woodcarving is 31 centimeters high, 48 centimeters wide and 31 centimeters deep. Deguchi used a 3D printer to produce a replica that is about three centimeters wide. He then made a casting mold using the replica and poured molten silver into it to produce miniatures for bracelets, pendants and rings.

"In the future, I would like to increase the variety of products and sell them as commercial goods," Deguchi said.

The local history museum in Kamogawa recently held an exhibition featuring carved works from the Awa region. Works by Goto and Takeshi Ihachiro Nobuyoshi, the other prominent sculptor for temples and shrines in the area, were shown alongside 3D replicas of their works. Deguchi's products were also displayed.

A BMW plant in Spartanburg, U.S.A.
Japan

As Trump Revs Up Car Industry Rhetoric, Japan Should Ride It Out

-Editorial-

TOKYO — It is a situation in which automobile trade issues could develop into new friction between Japan and the United States. Japan must counter the United States appropriately without giving in to baseless criticism.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Toyota President Akio Toyoda held a meeting. Their talks were apparently intended to coordinate public-private efforts to respond to pressure against Japan from U.S. President Donald Trump ahead of a meeting between the two leaders Friday, which is expected to focus on auto trade.

Trump blasted Toyota's plan to build a new plant in Mexico and prodded the automaker to produce cars in the United States. Toyota then announced new investment plans in the United States, but Trump has yet to mention the announcement.

In the United States, the middle-income class, which was built largely through mass employment by companies such as the three major automakers, has been struggling for reasons such as the streamlining of factories. Frustration in industrial areas pushed Trump to the presidency. This is why Trump is fixated on auto production in the United States.

Nevertheless, taking aim at Japanese automobiles is off the mark.

Sixty percent of Japanese vehicles sold in the U.S. market are produced in the United States. In the wake of Japan-U.S. friction in the 1980s and "90s, Japanese automakers increasingly made a shift from exports to local production.

Japanese automakers have now created 1.5 million jobs in the United States, including those in parts and sales areas. Toyota has stressed his company's efforts to fit into U.S. society, saying, "We're also one of America's carmakers."

Contributions by Japanese companies through investment and employment are significant. Trump should accurately recognize this.

Trump criticized Japan's market as closed, claiming that Japan makes it difficult to sell U.S. cars in Japan.

This criticism is also inaccurate.

The United States levies a tariff of 2.5 percent on Japanese auto imports, but Japan has already removed its tariff on U.S. automobiles.

Japan's safety standards, seen by Washington as problematic, cannot be called non-tariff barriers. Tokyo has taken such measures as allowing U.S. auto exports into Japan if they meet European safety standards.

U.S. auto sales in Japan stand at about 10,000 a year in total. It is in stark contrast to Mercedes-Benz, BMW and other European brands, which sell tens of thousands of units each.

U.S. automakers have yet to exhaust efforts to cater to the Japanese market such as by launching small and attractive models.

It is speculated that sluggish U.S. auto demand is attributable to the U.S. automakers' failure to make efforts to produce automobiles attractive to consumers compared with their Japanese and European rivals.

Trump's criticism of Japan guiding the yen lower meshes with the claims of the U.S. auto industry. Even when the yen was stronger, U.S. auto sales were lackluster. It is also unreasonable to use foreign exchange markets, which move based on various factors, as a tool to shore up specific trade items.

Life out of the debris
Japan

Marine Life Flourishes In Underwater Fukushima Debris

Five years since the devastating Japan earthquake prompted a tsunami that washed tons of refuse into the Pacific Ocean, ocean creatures in and around that underwater wreckage is burgeoning.

TOKYO — A wide variety of marine life is making its home around underwater debris left after 2011's Great East Japan Earthquake caused a tsunami.

More than 10 times as many marine organisms live in the areas with debris as in areas without it, according to research conducted off the Sanriku Coast of the Pacific Ocean by organizations such as the Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology (JAMSTEC).

Ragworms, Gammaridea crustaceans and other marine organisms have made their homes there, and channel rockfish, conger and snow crabs come to prey on them. These areas may become fishing grounds in the future, according to JAMSTEC.

The research was conducted between March 2012 to November 2015, and examined the seabed at a depth of about 120 meters (394 feet) to 1,000 meters (3,280 feet), and at a distance of 20 kilometers (12.5 miles) to 35 kilometers (21.7 miles) off the Sanriku Coast.

Analyzing pictures taken by a robot, researchers found an average of 114 creatures per square meter around the debris, which includes fishing gear, pieces of concrete and scrap wood. This was 14 times more than in the areas just five meters away from the debris, and 25 times more than in areas 10 meters away.

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Sendai, Japan, just after the 2011 earthquake — Photo: Tex Texin

Researchers said they found ragworms, which tend to attach themselves to reefs, on the debris, while Gammaridea crustaceans were using it to conceal themselves.

The Environment Ministry estimated that about 5 million tons of scraps and materials washed into the sea after the tsunami following the earthquake. About 3.3 million tons of that accumulated on the seabed off the Sanriku Coast.

Debris that could obstruct the navigation of ships has been removed, but a large amount still remains in the seabed valleys.

According to JAMSTEC, the volume of debris piled up in the valleys is more than three times the amount accumulated on flat seabed areas. The number of marine organisms may be surging around debris in the valleys.

JAMSTEC said there is no major difference in the number of organisms found around different kinds of refuse, including metals and plastic. It is currently compiling a map to depict the distribution of debris on the seabed, aiming to complete it within several years. It also plans to conduct a survey on the volume of organisms around the debris and reflect the data on the map in the future.

"Confirming the situation of organisms on the seabed after the 2011 disaster will surely be useful for fishing in the future," says senior JAMSTEC researcher Katsunori Fujikura.

A 2013 visit to Fukushima by Japanese PM Shinzo Abe (in red helmet)
Japan
The Yomiuri Shimbun

Five Years Later, Still Trying To Count Fukushima Deaths

The earthquake and subequent nuclear diaster in Fukushima were no doubt devastating, but Japan still struggles to quantify the number of deaths linked to them.

After the 2011 earthquake and subsequent nuclear accident, there are significant discrepencies in the percentages of deaths recognized as related to the disaster, The Yomiuri Shimbun has learned.

Across 25 municipalities affected in Fukushima Prefecture, the figures range from 33% in the city of Date to Soma's 100% as of the end of January this year, according to municipal governments.

The differences apparently stem from the fact that the central government has yet to provide clear guidelines for determining quake-related death. In the 25 municipalities, there were a total of 2,017 deaths deemed quake-related as of the end of January, exceeding the 1,604 deaths directly caused by tsunami and other elements of the March 11, 2011, disaster.

There are more than 600 cases that failed to be recognized, and some of the bereaved family members have filed lawsuits against relevant municipalities, seeking the reversal of the decision. In one case in Minami-Soma, Fukushima Prefecture, the father of a man in his 50s was in the hospital for treatment for dementia at the time of the outbreak of the nuclear crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

The father died of pneumonia at age of 82 in February 2014 after being transferred to multiple hospitals both inside and outside the prefecture. The municipal government did not deem this case connected to the 2011 disaster.

"It's not a matter of money," says the son. "I just want it to be officially recognized that the life of my father was shortened by the accident."

Kobe University Prof. Yasuhiro Ueno, a specialist in forensic medicine, said the major gaps in the percentage of recognized cases among neighboring municipalities is a cause for serious concern.

"As time goes by, it becomes more difficult to determine the causal relationship between a disaster and deaths because of the increased influence of such factors as a person's chronic disease," Ueno said. "It's necessary to unify the rules, including those relating to the period for accepting applications."