2008年5月29日 星期四

Nippon Steel falsifies strength data for steel pipes

Nippon Steel falsifies strength data for steel pipes



CHIBA--Nippon Steel Corp. said Thursday it shipped more than 120,000 steel pipes used in natural gas plants and other places after falsifying strength data and failing to conduct required hydraulic pressure tests.

A Nippon Steel official acknowledged in a news conference Thursday that the company violated the law concerning industrial standards.

Nippon Steel, the industry leader in Japan, said the pipes in question were manufactured by Nittai Corp., its subsidiary in Noda, Chiba Prefecture, and shipped to about 80 companies.

Nittai, which suspended the shipments Tuesday, was expected to halt production Thursday.

The economy ministry plans to look into the case.

Earlier this month, JFE Steel Corp. admitted to falsifying strength data for steel pipes used for oil pipelines and other purposes.(IHT/Asahi: May 29,2008)

2008年5月27日 星期二

"Diary of Tama, the Station Master."

Cat puts Japan rail firm on track

Tama on duty at Kishi station
Tickets please! - Tama works nine to five and takes Sundays off

A loss-making Japanese railway company is back on track thanks to the popularity of a stray cat.

Wearing a black cap and posing for photos with passengers, Tama the tabby is credited with boosting Wakayama Electric Railway's revenue by 10%.

The firm had to axe all staff at Kishi station in western Japan two years ago.

But Tama stuck by her post and was rewarded with promotion to station manager. The pet mascot even has her own office, a former ticket booth.

The feline, who was born and raised at the station in the city of Kinokawa, Wakayama prefecture, is living proof of the Japanese belief that cats are good luck.


"She never complains, even though passengers touch her all over the place. She is an amazing cat. She has patience and charisma. She is the perfect station master," said Yoshiko Yamaki, a spokeswoman for the rail company.

The nine-year-old - who receives cat food in lieu of a salary - won national stardom last year when the firm formally appointed her as "station master".

Since then passengers have been gradually returning, recently rising 10% to about 2.1 million a year.

The cat has spawned a range of popular merchandise, including a picture book called: "Diary of Tama, the Station Master."

2008年5月24日 星期六




 台湾は、昨年7月に国民年金保険法が成立、本年10月より施行される。同法が施行されると、被保険者は約500万人になると推定される。500万人分の 年金データを扱うため、同システムには、レスポンスの確保、ディザスタリカバリー対策、情報漏えい対策など非常に高い信頼性が求められる。

 同システムで取り扱うのは、被保険者管理、保険料の計算、請求、収納、勧告、給付といった国民年金に関わる一連の業務。同システムに より、被保険者はインターネットで各種の申込みや検索が可能になる。同社は、すでにシステム開発に着手しているが、本年10月に一次システムを提供し、そ の後順次機能を強化していく。


2008年5月23日 星期五

Tokyo food Fishy business

Tokyo food

Fishy business

May 23rd 2008
From Economist.com

Gems of the ocean

Monday | Tuesday | Wednesday | Thursday | Friday


IT'S half past seven in the morning. I'm at Tsukiji, the greatest fish market on earth. With me is Master Mizutani, at whose restaurant I ate lunch yesterday, and whom many Japanese think is the greatest sushi chef on earth. And we're each eating a ¥900 ($9) dish of tonkatsu, breaded deep-fried pork cutlet, with shredded raw cabbage, ketchup and Worcestershire sauce. Mr Mizutani says he deals with the refinement of fish all day; what he needs in the morning is an honest dish, like tonkatsu, washed down with beer. We clink glasses.

Mr Mizutani has already bought his fish, from dealers he has done business with for years. His young apprentice has taken the haul back to the sushiya (sushi shop), and Mr Mizutani has a moment to relax in a deeply familiar setting: he has known the middle-aged woman bustling about this joint since she was a girl.

The master is a peaceable man with a twinkling humour that can be drawn out with a little gentle prodding. Only one subject appears to get him agitated, and that is the plan by Tokyo's governor, Shintaro Ishihara, to move Tsukiji further from the city’s centre, to a landfill in Tokyo Bay that once housed a gasworks.

 Kajibashi stalks his prey

I had met Mr Ishihara the previous day, after my lunch at Sushi Mizutani. The market needed to move, he said, to give the lorries easier access. Besides, he added, Tsukiji's buildings are old and decrepit. A big earthquake would expose dangerous asbestos. Moreover, the place was unhygienic. If Mr Mizutani was upset about the greater distance of the new market, said the governor, he should move his sushiya nearer to it.

Mr Ishihara is known for his bluntness. Still, I was puzzled. He had shown me a stunning picture from 1885 of old Tokyo, and had spent much of the interview arguing for a return to an earlier architectural glory instead of the sprawling “vomit”, as he put it, of the modern city.

Tsukiji was designed in the 1920s, a masterpiece of functional modernism. Bringing fish and seafood from the quay via auctions and wholesalers in curved rows of warehouses through to the end-buyers, it is the last echo of a Tokyo whose loss the governor seems to mourn. The city's fish market dates back 400 years.

Mr Mizutani is agitated. How can Tsukiji be unhygienic, he asks? It does not even smell of fish. The market, he adds, is “not just Tokyo's best known brand. It's the people's market.” Both would be destroyed by moving it to an automated new complex without a soul. A people's market: now I understood. Mr Ishihara's photograph was of daimyo (lords') mansions.

The master knows better than most that Tsukiji is not just an economic entity, though at 25 times the size of London's Billingsgate, it sits at the heart of the world's seafood trade, handling 2,000 tonnes of fish and seafood—400 different species—on a normal day.

It is also a place of deep human connections, rooted in place. Over 60,000 people make a living in Tsukiji, including auctioneers, stevedores, porters, clerks, traders at the 1,700-odd firms of intermediate wholesalers and a raft of trades—knifemakers, restaurants, grocers—that have sprung up around the central market like a ramshackle village around a castle's walls.

Family firms would be put out of business by the move, old connections severed, and a whole district would die. Only the big auction houses, the supermarkets and the wholesalers who supply them will be happy with the move. And the bureaucrats, who love to tidy up the world.

Mr Mizutani's agitation quickly passes. We drain our beer. The master puts his cap back on and grins. “Kiai!” he cries: Let's get on with the day.

I hang around Tsukiji until ten o'clock, waiting for Kajibashi-san. Now is when Tsukiji's natural day ends, and I have been here since before dawn. The early morning is a period of astounding activity, like a souk, with the added anarchy of lorries, motorised carts, hand carts and bicycles all carrying seafood and all competing for space.

The auctions begin after 4am for costly boxes of sea urchins and move on to the warehouse for bluefin tuna, where the dealers walk round inspecting the huge animals with a torch in one gumboot and a handspike in the other. The bell-ringing and the guttural chants of the tuna auctioneers lend the place the air of a lamasery.

Sold fish quickly make their way through to the stalls of the intermediate wholesalers, where it is prepared for sale. The tuna go through large bandsaws, while eels are pinned through the eyes to a wooden board and skinned. Once a year, the eel-dealers go to the market temple to pray for continued good sight, and to ask forgiveness of the eel spirits.

Kajibashi-san is unnaturally tall, with a bald, shiny pate. Another feature marks him out as a striking regular at Tsukiji: he is an Englishman by the name of Andy Lunt, and he married more than 20 years ago into a family that has run Tokyo restaurants for generations. I had been introduced to Andy by a friend, David Pilling, who has written the best piece of journalism on Tsukiji, in the Financial Times. Kajibashi is Andy's yago, or guild name, which all Tsukiji regulars have.

Kajibashi-san wanders among the stalls with a coffee in hand, explaining his buying strategy. His restaurant under the railway arches in Yurakacho thrives on offering cheap food cheerfully. While upscale restaurants and hotels buy for a menu that has already been ordained, he can hunt for bargains, changing his menu daily to suit. If he came earlier, Kajibashi-san says, the dealers wouldn't even look him in the eye. Now, with a fistful of cash, he can outgun the housewives. “I’m called the 'stopper'”, he says. “I stop the dealers from losing money on the day.”

As we move about, dealers call out to Kajibashi-san, opening boxes for him. He inspects pink kinki, a smallish plump snapper that is a regular on his menu, simmered in soy sauce. Octopus tentacles recoil when he prods them: proof they have been freshly killed. Meji maguro, a small tuna with soft flesh, is in season, and cheap.

Then one dealer really tries his luck, showing Andy an extraordinary and unlikely beast, a pink-and-red disc nearly three feet in diameter, with a round mouth encircled by fleshy lips and a pyschedelic pattern of coloured spots that gave it an air of a cartoon creation from “Yellow Submarine”. This is an aka mamba, a moonfish, caught off the coast not far from Tokyo. With a grin, the dealer offers an absurdly low price for the 40-kilo fish and assures Andy, perhaps with more hope than experience, that the beast would make fine sashimi. Kajibashi-san is moonstruck. The dealer has hooked him, and is reeling him in.

“There's a lot going on here,” says Kajibashi-san with a grin, describing his reasons for falling for the unlikely animal. “It'll make the boys' day in the kitchen, and it's one-up on my father-in-law. And it'll be a fun thing to sell to the customers.” Then his expression clouds over briefly as he seems to revisit the wisdom of the purchase. “Hell,” he says defiantly. “We'll make moonfish salad, moonfish pie…we’ll even make a bloody dessert out of it before we're finished.”

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I ATE lunch with my colleague at Sushi Mizutani. The sushiya is down a narrow flight of steps in the basement of a building it shares with a slew of hostess bars in Ginza. The Michelin Guide recently awarded Sushi Mizutani three stars, its highest accolade.

It is an utterly simple place: just eight seats around a scrubbed cedar counter. Mr Mizutani (pictured) has a small tub of sushi rice kept at blood temperature, and a tray of eight or ten different kinds of fish and seafood at room temperature. To his right, a small bowl of wasabi, one of shoyu (soy sauce), and one of water for wetting his hands before reaching into the rice tub.

Mr Mizutani’s art brings home how much the idea of “raw” is a cultural rather than a physical construct. For a start, the rice on which the fish is served is cooked, mixed with vinegar, salt and sugar, and carefully cooled by fanning it. Occasionally fish is salted in subtle and varied ways, and sometimes briefly vinegared.

More than that, the dexterity with which Mr Mizutani wields his yanagiba (“willow-blade” sushi knife), the deft laying of the fish onto the rice with a dab of wasabi, the brushing of the fish with shoyu, and the light swift touch with which the master reaches out to bring the piece between thumb, index and middle finger to your dish: all banish notions of raw as a crude state, while an explosive sensation of extraordinary freshness remains.

For an hour my colleague and I were in a state of grace as one wonder followed another: sayori (half-beak), hirame (flounder), anago (conger eel), maguro (tuna), chutoro (fatty tuna), kuruma ebi (a species of prawn), kohada (gizzard shad), tairagai (a flat shellfish), awabi (abalone, this time cooked), ika (squid) and uni (sea-urchin). If asked, Mr Mizutani would describe where along the coast the fish was caught, what point it had reached on its migration, and what it was eating.

It was a lesson in the fertility of Japan’s coastal waters. The island chain is washed by the north-going Kuroshio current as it meets colder streams coming south, creating abundance. Unlike the deep-sea fisheries, Japan's hundreds of village collectives have reason to preserve stocks.

This sushi style is known as Edomae zushi: sushi from in front of Tokyo (Edo is the old name for the city), for Tokyo Bay was rich in shellfish. After industrialisation and pollution destroyed the bay’s marine life, Tsukiji made up for it. Now, after huge clean-up efforts, says Mr Mizutani, the shellfish are returning.

At Sushi Mizutani, while some customers linger, most move in and out briskly. Sushi, Mr Mizutani says, is the ultimate Tokyo fast food, and not even in other parts of Japan can you eat it well. As for overseas: forget it, he says with a wry smile. After this meal I see his point.

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I AM glowing warmly after an early evening spent at Saito Sakaba, an izakaya in a lower-class neighbourhood in north-western Tokyo ran by an irrepressible bunch of elderly women. The building is old by Tokyo standards, dating from the 1920s, and for an izakaya the room is big: perhaps 30 customers are packed around half-a-dozen big rustic tables.

It had once been a sake shop, but none of the men returned from the war, and the women found it hard to move the sake barrels. So they turned the business into an izakaya serving beer and shochu (grain spirit with more than a whiff of poteen about it), and small dishes prepared in a tiny kitchen at one end of the room. The place has not changed since, and is marked by laughter, flushed faces and a flow of cheerful banter, in which strangers and serving staff alike are drawn in. Any foreigner who has fallen for the silly “Lost In Translation” image of Tokyo as a place of alien habits and impenetrable politeness should be dragged to Saito Sakaba.

Reuters Welcome home

I have been brought here by a friend, Mark Robinson, a Japanese-Australian who has lived in Tokyo for over 20 years and who has just written a book about the capital’s izakaya food culture. He had asked the old women if he could feature Saito Sakaba in his book. They refused, politely but directly. What was the point, they said? Their customers already knew how to find them.

We were warmly greeted, and within seconds a chilled bottle of beer was on the table. Then the dishes started flowing: green beans with a sesame sauce, tuna sashimi on grated daikon and aji (horse mackerel) sashimi with grated ginger, the skin an iridescent silver. Slices of the sweetest onion came with ponzu, a citrus sauce made from yuzu, whose peel is as fragrant as its flesh is bitter. Curry powder reared its head, in deep-fried croquettes. Juicy grilled pork appeared with a dab of mustard, along with new potatoes simmered in dashi. Two or three large bottles of beer and a couple of glasses of shochu later, we tottered out with farewells ringing in our ears. The bill had been so staggeringly cheap I had thought there was some mistake.

Though izakaya exist in their tens of thousands in Tokyo, the term is a tricky one to translate. “Pub”, the most common term, gives a nod to the idea of a local when you can pop in for a drink and a gossip. In izakaya, after being handed an oshibori, a hot towel, drinks are promptly ordered and as swiftly delivered. The best establishments will bring out complimentary light dishes known as otoshi: baby scallops steamed in the shell, a dish of cold tofu with soy sauce and a scattering of dried bonito flakes, or cold baby squid whose rich dark guts burst as you bite into them.

In truth, “pub” gives no hint of the izakaya's culinary possibilities. One of my favourite joints is in Kagurazaka, a real foodie's quarter. For the past 45 years the same elegant woman has presided here. She lives above the shop and comes down every evening in kimono and white smock, though her nephew is now the chef, and he in turn is training a family youngster. Only seven customers can squeeze along the counter, and with quiet grace the family serves them nothing fancy, just glorious seasonal ingredients properly prepared: a sashimi of tai (gilt-headed bream) with just the slightest resistance between the teeth; grilled halibut that has been marinated in miso; battera zushi (vinegared mackerel that has been shaped with sushi rice in a wooden mould—battera coming from the Portuguese for “boat”; and (a moment of ecstasy for me the first time) a tempura of wild spring plants—curling fern fronds dipped in the lightest batter and deep-fried.

And now an ambitious breed of younger chefs is on the rise, borrowing from other cuisines and even reaching for some of the refinements of kaiseki. It stretches the izakaya's definition, but some things are constant. For one, food can be ordered, rather like Spanish tapas, as the mood takes you, though it is worth sticking roughly to the traditional sequence: raw fresh fish (sashimi); something grilled (yakimono); something steamed (mushimono); something simmered (nimono); something fried (agemono); and a dressed or vinegared salad. The meal ends, if you still have room for it, with rice (gohan), pickles (tsukemono), an invigorating miso soup (miso shiru) and tea.

Above all, the joy of an izakaya is its intimacy, established from the moment you see the glow through the frosted windowpane, part the noren (hanging curtain), slide open the low door and are motioned to the counter. You see the food prepared before you, and you talk about it. It establishes a bond: you are a guest as much as a customer, since you are, as my friend Mark points out, entering a tiny world created by someone else. Complaining loudly about the food or service, a customer's God-given right in the West, is out of the question in an izakaya. But then, why would you ever need to?

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JAPAN is the true fast-food nation, and Tokyo's food-on-the-run is vast and diverse: at its best a thing of genius, while at its worst it can out-affront anything the United States has to offer. A bottom-up tour gives a sense of the possibilities. At the ubiquitous combini (convenience store) that caters to millions of salarymen, students and shiftworkers each day, you find not just the yakisoba dog, but also the potato-salad sandwich (available in vending machines too), the katsu sando (breaded pork-cutlet sandwich) and the curry pan, in essence a doughnut with a slurry of curry powder and meat gristle injected into the middle of it, irradiated for longevity.

Friends of mine showing discrimination in other parts of their lives confess to a fondness for such outrages, though even they cannot swallow the Homo sausage (an emulsified, shrink-wrapped fish sausage). By each cash register sits a tray of assorted oden: fish-paste dumplings, chunks of giant radish, blackened eggs and grey cakes of konnyaku (devil's-tongue jelly, made from a starchy root) all swimming until thoroughly drowned in a tepid dashi broth.

 The noodle connection

Yet even among the horrors of the combini a few edifying insights into Japan’s relationship with its food can be gleaned. One is the abandon with which foreign influences are seized upon without the restraints of context or tradition: in this sense, Tokyo's mix of culinary styles mirrors the queasy architectural stew (mock-Tudor, Georgian, post-modernist) of the capital's shoddy buildings. Blame the British for the 19th-century introduction of curry powder, which finds its way also into katsu curry, a breaded deep-fried pork cutlet atop a plate of curry and rice; and curry udon, gloop served on a bed of thick wheat noodles.

The combini also provides tantalising hints about the central importance of food in Japanese life. It defines life's stages, starting with a gift of red rice or rice with red azuki beans at the birth of a child. Every combini stocks onigiri, triangles or ovals of rice wrapped in seaweed and filled with something tart or salty: umeboshi (pickled plum), for instance, or salted salmon. Lady Murasaki, who wrote “The Tale of Genji”, Japan's literary masterpiece (finished 1,000 years ago this year), wrote of courtiers bringing such rice balls along for picnics, and they were already old fare then.

As for the oden by the cash register, the name is a shortened derivation from dengaku, public entertainments at festivals where dancers and acrobats leapt about on single stilts. The ingredients for oden—and much else—are also threaded on small bamboo skewers. When grilled over charcoal and served with a miso topping, they too are called dengaku—a popular and delicious nibble with drinks.

Today it is to the streets that you should venture to see Tokyo's genius for fast food. The temple areas are best, in the earthy working-class districts of Tokyo's shitamachi, literally, the “lower town”, near the Sumida River and Tokyo Bay where something of old Tokyo's mercantile vitality and lust for life remain apparent. Some specialities are served only in certain areas of shitamachi: monja, a cheap hash of octopus or pork, negi (green onion) and a Worcestershire-type sauce, is found in Tsukishima, where with friends you usually cook it yourself on a hot steel plate.

I prefer the peripatetic graze. In the Kappabashi district near Asakusa's great temple, Sensoji, I like a particular street stall serving yakitori: nearly every part of the chicken including the liver grilled and dipped in a tera sauce, with a base of soy and sake, whose finer secrets are withheld.

Two or three skewers are usually enough to get me to the other side of Asakusa, where down a narrow alley a favourite tachiguisoba (standing soba bar) serves a steaming bowl of soba in broth, served outside and slurped loudly to draw in air so that it can be eaten fast and hot. Not just temple areas, but the streets around stations and under the railway arches are stand-and-eat havens for soba, ramen (Chinese-style noodles in broth) and gyudon (bowls of shredded beef, rice and pickled ginger).

Serving some of the same dishes are yatai, food-stalls on wheels at which four or five customers can sit; they are also found near stations. Why, then, do oden, so repulsive in the combini, become objects of desire on a winter’s night at a yatai? Because, I think, at every turn Tokyo offers an alternative to bleak Hopperesque isolation. Here eating is a ritual pleasure, a bond shared, however briefly, with fellow diners and the “master” behind the stall, before you nod goodbye and melt back into the moving crowds.

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FORGIVE me: I usually shut the door to my bathroom, but just this once let me show you my lavatory in Tokyo. Without electricity, it is a white elephant, incapable even of flushing. When connected to the grid, it is a marvel of ingenuity and po-faced perfection of the sort found in superior French waiters.

When you enter the room, the seat rises in salute. Clipped to the wall, an infra-red remote-control panel boasts no fewer than 38 buttons that operate the lavatory’s functions. It is not just that the seat can be heated, or indeed the room, on a timer if required. A gentle coursing of water can be ordered up to hide sounds (a particular favourite among women users, the makers say).

Above all, the Toto Neorest (pictured) excels at the bidet functions. Skilful manipulation of the control panel delivers a near-infinite combination of washing and drying experiences. Water from a retractable nozzle can be sent in waves or pulses, as a fine mist or in strong squirts, to precise parts—if you are capable of identifying them—of your body’s lower reaches. A warm drying air is then dispensed through the same nozzle. You can almost feel a French-waiter smugness as the machine sends you on your way.

I mention my lavatory because Western food writers who descend on Tokyo cannot seem to help writing about similar lavatories in their hotel rooms. They are, after all, almost the first direct experience of the city. And with this much care taken of food on the way out, the writers conclude, imagine the care taken on the way in.

Possibly they are right. The world has suddenly discovered that Tokyo is a gourmet’s paradise. Outside Tokyo, this was secret outside a tight-knit freemasonry of gluttons. But it burst into the open late last year, when Michelin chose Tokyo as the object of its first guide beyond the eating bastions of Europe and the United States.

All around the world, diners looked up from their plates in astonishment: restaurants in Tokyo had gathered more Michelin stars than Paris, London and New York put together. A number of the stars were won by restaurants serving French, Italian and indeed Spanish cuisine.

But most went to Japanese restaurants. And here, the range is striking. Certainly, many starred restaurants serve kaiseki, Japan’s multi-course equivalent of haute cuisine, myriad small dishes organised for taste, texture, look and colour. Others, though, specialise only in tempura, or teppanyaki, sushi, soba noodles and, yes, fugu, the pufferfish that is lethal if contaminated with the toxic internal organs.

For all that, to concentrate on Michelin misses a trick or three. The guide is criminally silent about Tokyo’s ubiquitous izakaya, for which “pub” serves as an inadequate translation but where some of Tokyo’s finest food and certainly greatest conviviality can be found. And it gives no hint of Tokyo’s extraordinary array of fast-food options—a glorious burst of taste and experience at best, a monstrous affront if it’s four o’clock in the morning, your lover has left you, and the convenience store shelves have run out of all but yakisoba dog (cold fried noodles in a hotdog bun).

For a fleeting visitor, the Tokyo food experience is a life-changing one. A resident is incomparably luckier. If not every day, then certainly every week promises a revelation. After all, some 147,000 eating establishments, large but mostly small, serve the capital’s discerning diners. I have been here for something over two years, but am barely scratching the surface of what the city has to offer.

Food and lavatories combine to offer insight in other way—as evidence of a Japanese passion for connoisseurship. This is, after all, a country that has a glossy monthly magazine for male admirers of bespoke shoes, called Last. More abundant, by far, are magazines, pamphlets and television programmes given over to food. Only sex sells more—though in Tokyo, naturally, the two are often commercially combined, as in the no pantsu shabu-shabu.

In Tokyo, the food publications tell you which restaurants to visit and what dishes to order. They talk about the ceramics upon which the dishes are delivered, and give hints about how to prepare a restaurant’s speciality at home. They tell housewives how to shop in the streets around Tsukiji, Tokyo’s pantry and the world’s fish market: “Feel a little like a pro”, runs the headline of one pamphlet.

And they “discover” districts or individual restaurants that in fact have happily been doing business for generations and sometimes centuries—which is all part of their newly discovered charm. There is even a magazine called Tokyo Jocho Shokudo (Tokyo Emotional Restaurants), which has a special section on establishments that boast cutting-edge lavatories, with glossy pictures to prove it. So here, at least, the circle is closed.

2008年5月20日 星期二

日本高齡化比率 創新高

Number of elderly in Japan hits record high
By MARI YAMAGUCHI – 12 hours ago

TOKYO (AP) — The number of elderly in Japan hit a record high of more than 27 million in 2007, the government reported Tuesday, warning of an imminent pension crisis as the country rapidly ages.

The annual report by the Cabinet Office showed Japanese aged 65 or over making up 21.5 percent of the population last year, while the so-called "late-stage elderly" — those 75 or older — accounted for nearly 10 percent.

"We have become a full-fledged aged society," the report declared.
"The pace of aging has reached the highest level (among advanced countries) at the beginning of the 21st century, and is expected to enter a phase that no other country in the world has yet experienced," the study added.

Japan's population peaked at just under 128 million in 2005 and began falling as fertility rates have dropped, while long life spans have boosted the elderly population. The government reported earlier this month that the number of children was at its lowest since 1908.
The report on Tuesday painted a dire picture of Japan in the 2050s: one-quarter of the total population of less than 90 million will be 75 or older, and 40 percent will be 65 or older. That compares with 16.2 percent projected for the world by the Untied Nations for those aged 65 or older in 2050.
On the upside, lives will continue to get longer, the study said. By 2050, Japanese women will live an average of about 90 years, while men will live nearly 84 years. That would be up from the present 86 years for women and 79 years for men.
The demographic shift from a declining birthrate and high life expectancies is expected to strain government services and lead to labor shortages, and those worries figured prominently in Tuesday's report.

In 2005, it took pension premiums from 3.3 working people to cover the pension payout of one retiree, but by 2050, Japan will have only 1.3 workers to support a single elderly person, greatly burdening pension systems.

In order to ease the expanding woes, the government has stepped up programs such as those that promote elderly hiring.

The government is gradually extending the retirement age to 65 from 60, and is now urging companies a further extension to 70. Tokyo also introduced a new health insurance system in April to deal with bulging medical costs for people 75 or older.

More than 60 percent of Japanese senior citizens think they are healthy, but nearly the same percentage of them go to hospitals almost daily, the report said. The number of bedridden people has also surged, many of them cared for at home by elderly relatives.

2008.05.21 03:56 am







2008年5月13日 星期二

A delicate balance that must be maintained

A delicate balance that must be maintained


It appears that every period in history has its share of people who resent seeing their country inundated with foreign influences and products.

In the Kamakura Period (1192-1333), for instance, the monk Yoshida Kenko bristled in "Tsurezuregusa" (Essays in Idleness), "Aside from medicines, we can do perfectly well without goods from China."

He went on, "How stupid it is to load up ships with unnecessary items and risk sailing the treacherous waters from China." Were Kenko to live in present-day Japan and see households overflowing with Chinese consumer goods, he would probably flip.

Chinese President Hu Jintao arrived in Japan earlier in the week for a summit with Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda. The talks focused on three issues--Tibet, gas fields in the East China Sea, and the recent tainted frozen gyoza Chinese dumpling scare.

Fukuda usually talks as if everything is someone else's problem, not his. But even he came across as uncharacteristically "hands on" when he insisted that the gyoza issue "must never remain unresolved."

Chinese imports satisfy Japanese consumers' desire for cheaper and more convenient products.

The summit, however, did nothing to guarantee the safety of Chinese food imports. But Hu was more than accommodating on the matter of loaning a couple of giant pandas to Tokyo's Ueno Zoo.

His kindness is to be appreciated, but it made me think of a delicious appetizer helping to tame the bitter taste of the main dish.

Hu described his visit as a "warm spring trip," while Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, who came to Japan in April last year, called his a "trip to melt the ice." The season, it seems, has advanced from winter to spring.

But inherent in the relations between Japan and China is a certain instability that could bring the chill back the moment something goes wrong. We must not let the buds that look to the future shrink.

Back to Kenko the monk. His diatribe was also directed at people who tended to appreciate only foreign imports. In telling them off, however, he quoted a classic Chinese maxim that warns against coveting exotic goods from faraway places.

His apparently unconscious self-contradiction offers a glimpse of the history that has always bound Japan and China together.

--The Asahi Shimbun, May 9(IHT/Asahi: May 10,2008)

Japanese manufacturers suspend operations at plants in quake-hit areas of China

Japanese manufacturers suspend operations at plants in quake-hit areas of China



Japanese manufacturers have suspended operations at plants and other facilities in China's Sichuan province following the devastating earthquake Monday that has killed thousands in the area.

The companies' buildings escaped serious damage, but they are still confirming safety and reliability of the equipment.

Toyota Motor Corp. has suspended production lines to check for damage at a joint-venture plant in the provincial capital of Chengdu that manufactures small buses and other vehicles, company officials said.

Group company Toyota Boshoku Corp., which produces seats and other interior items for cars, has also suspended operations of its plant in Chengdu.

The plant did not suffer serious damage to its production equipment. However, plant officials are checking whether the equipment operates properly and asking suppliers if they were affected by the earthquake.

Toyota Boshoku plans to resume operations of the plant Wednesday.

Electronics manufacturer Fujitsu Ltd. has decided to suspend operations of its joint-venture company for semiconductor development until Wednesday. The earthquake created cracks in the walls of the company's office building in Chengdu.

A Japanese employee, who had been sent to the company, was found safe after the quake. But one of the 40 Chinese employees there suffered slight injuries.

Kobelco Construction Machinery Co., which operates two plants in Chengdu, has also suspended operations to check production equipment, company officials said, adding that they have not decided when operations will resume.

Supermarket chain operator Ito-Yokado Co., which has three outlets in Chengdu, resumed operations after confirming the safety of elevators, escalators and other equipment, company officials said.

Those outlets are receiving many inquiries from customers about whether water and vegetables are still available, they said.

Suzuki Motor Corp., a manufacturer of motorcycles and cars, temporarily suspended operations of its auto plant in Chongqing, a city close to Sichuan province, immediately after the earthquake.

On Tuesday, the plant was operating as usual.

Operations were also normal Tuesday at an outlet in Chengdu of major department store operator Isetan Co., as well as factories in Chongqing of other Japanese vehicle manufacturers, such as Mazda Motor Corp. and Isuzu Motors Ltd.(IHT/Asahi: May 13,2008)

2008年5月7日 星期三

柴犬 (日本犬)

The smallest (20–30 lb) of the Japanese native dogs, it was bred as a hunting dog. A medium-sized, muscular dog with a thick coat in all solid colors but often red. See also nippon inu.日本犬

Shiba Inu

Wikipedia article "Shiba Inu".

The Shiba Inu (柴犬 shiba inu or shiba ken?) is the smallest of the six original and distinct breeds of dog from Japan.[1]

A small, agile dog that copes very well with mountainous terrain, the Shiba Inu was originally bred for hunting.[1][2] It is similar in appearance to the Akita, though much smaller in stature.

Inu is the Japanese word for dog, but the "Shiba" prefix's origin are less clear. The word shiba usually refers to a type of red shrub. This leads some to believe that the Shiba was named with this in mind, either because the dogs were used to hunt in wild shrubs, or because the most common color of the Shiba Inu is a red color similar to that of the shrubs. However, in old Japanese, the word shiba also had the meaning of "small", thus this might be a reference to the dog's small size. Therefore, the Shiba Inu is sometimes translated as "Little Brushwood Dog". [3]

From the Japanese breed standard:

The dog has a spirited boldness and is fiercely proud with a good nature and a feeling of artlessness. The Shiba is able to move quickly with nimble, elastic steps.

The terms "spirited boldness" (勇敢 yuukan?), "good nature" (良性 ryōsei?) and "artlessness" (素朴 soboku?) have subtle interpretations that have been the subject of much commentary.[7]

2008年5月3日 星期六

On Japan's secretive death row, inmate becomes cause celebre

cause célèbre

(kôz' sə-lĕbrə) pronunciation

, pl. causes cé·lè·bres (kôz' sə-lĕb', kōz' sā-lĕb').
  1. An issue arousing widespread controversy or heated public debate.
  2. A celebrated legal case.

[French : cause, case + célèbre, celebrated.]

death row noun MAINLY US
on death row in prison and waiting to be killed as a punishment for a crime


On Japan's secretive death row, inmate becomes cause celebre

TOKYO (AP) — Iwao Hakamada, Japan's longest serving death row inmate, has insisted for 40 years that he is innocent of the four murders he was convicted of. The evidence was suspect, he says, and his confession was coerced.

Now the judge who wrote the ex-boxer's death sentence agrees.

"My feelings about Mr. Hakamada remain the same — I believe he is innocent," said Norimichi Kumamoto, who now reveals that he argued for acquittal but was outvoted by two other judges in their secret deliberations before handing down their ruling in 1968. As the junior judge, he was tasked with writing the death sentence order.

The case — and Kumamoto's stunning admission last year — has fixed an unprecedented spotlight on Japan's secretive criminal justice system, causing a stir in legal circles and raising questions about the death penalty in a country where it's rarely questioned.

Among those clamoring for a retrial are Amnesty International, Japanese boxers and Rubin "Hurricane" Carter, the American boxer imprisoned nearly 20 years for three murders before the convictions were overturned.

The case also has illuminated all the elements that critics say make Japanese law enforcement inhumane: heavy-handed interrogations without lawyers present, over-reliance on confessions, an arbitrary capital punishment system that can keep inmates on death row for decades and then hang them with no advance notice.

Discussion of the case coincides with a rapid increase in the number of death sentences. Of 165 people on death row, seven have been executed so far this year, compared with just one in 2005.

Hakamada's case began with a fire on June 30, 1966, at the home of an executive of a soybean paste company where he worked.

Hakamada said he helped douse the flames, whereupon the charred remains of the bodies of the executive, his wife and two children were discovered — all stabbed to death.

Two months later, Hakamada, then 30, was arrested and charged based on a confession and a pair of his pajamas that contained tiny amounts of blood and gasoline. He recanted the confession and pleaded not guilty at his trial. Prosecutors discarded the pajamas and presented a separate set of blood-soaked clothes they said he wore for the killings.

Hakamada, his supporters and now the dissenting judge argue the case was full of holes.

Hakamada says police kicked and clubbed him to get a confession. His lawyers say he was interrogated for 264 hours over 23 days, the longest session lasting 16 hours and 20 minutes. They say the exhausted Hakamada was denied water or bathroom visits during the interrogation.

"Investigators spent some ten hours on average for about 20 days to get his confession. They wouldn't have been doing something so stupid if they had had firm evidence," Kumamoto, the judge, told The Associated Press.

But an appeal to the Tokyo High Court and the Supreme Court failed to overturn the conviction.

The physical evidence also raises questions. When he tried on the pants that replaced the pajamas at his appeal, they didn't fit him.

The murder weapon, a fruit knife with a 4.8-inch blade, should have been more damaged if it had been used to inflict more than 40 stab wounds on the victims, the skeptics argue.

"This is a typical case of finding an innocent man guilty of a false charge because the court trusts confessions made during investigations," said Hideyo Ogawa, one of Hakamada's lawyers.

Under the Japanese system, judges don't disclose details of their consultations, and Kumamoto, now 70 and in retirement, has faced harsh criticism in legal circles for breaking the silence.

"I wanted someone in the Supreme Court to hear me just once at the end of my life," Kumamoto said. "I'm glad I spoke up. I wish I had said it earlier, and maybe something might have changed."

Hakamada's supporters hope the judge's reversal will turn the tide, though not immediately; the Supreme Court has turned down a request for retrial, though his lawyers have resubmitted the petition for further consideration.

The Japan Pro Boxing Association hosted a charity event for Hakamada at a Tokyo gym in January, drawing nearly 1,300 people, according to organizers. Carter spoke in a videotaped message, saying, "It's time to free Mr. Hakamada to show the people that you are a civilized society and you can admit when a mistake has been made."

But only four death row inmates have won acquittal on retrial since World War II, the last in 1989. One waited 33 years and four months before being exonerated in 1983.

Death penalty proponents, however, such as Justice Minister Kunio Hatoyama, say the system has enough checks and balances to ensure justice is administered fairly.

Hakamada, now 72, has spent decades alone in a cell. His family says his mind has sharply deteriorated, and he frequently makes no sense when he speaks. But his family still clings to his past declarations of innocence.

"I will prove to you that your dad never killed anybody, and it is the police who know it best and it is the judges who feel sorry," Hakamada wrote in a letter to his son in 1983. "I will break this iron chain and return to you."