No public consultation planned to decide Japan’s new Imperial era name

The Japanese government is not planning to ask for the public’s opinion on what the next Imperial era name should be if Emperor Akihito abdicates in order to speed up the process, a government source was cited as saying.

Called a “gengo” in Japanese, an Imperial era name is valid for the entirety of an Emperor’s reign but changes with a new Emperor. The name is often used on calendars and official documents without reference to the Gregorian date.

The current period under Emperor Akihito is known as “Heisei”. It changed from “Showa” on 8 January 1989, the day after the death of the Emperor Akihito’s father, Emperor Hirohito, posthumously known as Emperor Showa.

Usually, a new era name is selected by a process of incorporating public submissions when passing an ordinance. Although the government is not legally obliged to abide by the outcome of public consultation, it is required to give thorough consideration to suggestions and present its opinions on the proposals.

When Emperor Hirohito died, however, the selection of the era name was fast-tracked as a matter of urgency. Instead of asking the public, the government officially solicited ideas for the next era’s name from intellectuals and presented three of them to a panel of experts.

This time around, time is also a concern. The succession from Emperor Akihito to his son, Crown Prince Naruhito, could take place at a predetermined date because the government plans to announce the new era name at least several months before the Emperor’s envisioned abdication, The Japan Times reported.

“The government source acknowledged that seeking public comment improves transparency, but also expressed concern that it might not be able to come up with a “satisfactory” name in time if the opinions presented diverge too widely,” the newspaper said.

Since 83-year-old Emperor Akihito hinted that he would like to resign and pass the Chrysanthemum throne onto his son in a rare video message last summer, Japan has been anticipating the need for a new Imperial era name. Businesses and calendar-makers require advance notice of the name change which will have a number of effects upon the Japanese calendar. The date of the Emperor’s Birthday national holiday will probably have to be changed to reflect the new emperor’s date of birth, for instance.

“Changes in era names have affected people’s lives in various ways, including administrative papers and official documents such as driver’s licenses and health insurance cards,” The Japan Times said.

“Shortly after the nation changed from the Meiji Era to the Taisho Era in 1912, following Emperor Meiji’s death, names inspired by the new era name, such as those containing the Chinese character used, became the most common new names for babies, according to Meiji Yasuda Life Insurance Co., which compiles an annual ranking of the most popular baby names.”

To allow the current Emperor to abdicate and pass on the throne without dying (the 1947 Imperial House Law currently lacks a provision regarding abdication meaning only posthumous succession is allowed), the Japanese government is reportedly seeking to pass special legislation in the Diet.

Source: The Japan Times

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Legendary Japanese director Hayao Miyazaki working on new film

According to reports, the 76-year old has come out of retirement to work on a new animated feature film.

Thomas Schulz detengase @ Flickr - http://flickr.com/photos/t_p_s/2842706001/

Hayao Miyazaki at the 2008 Venice Film Festival.

The Oscar-winning director and co-founder of Studio Ghibli retired almost three and a half years ago after directing WWII drama The Wind Rises (released in July 2013), said to be his final feature-length film.

Toshio Suzuki, a producer at Studio Ghibli, said on Thursday (16.02.17) during a pre-Oscars interview – to promote the studio’s most recent picture The Red Turtle – that the legendary director was working on a new feature-length film. “He is creating it in Tokyo, working hard right now,” Suzuki was cited by The Japan Times as saying.

“(The storyboard) was quite exciting,” Suzuki said, “but if I’d told him it was good, I know it would ruin my own retirement,” as making the film would dominate his life, Suzuki told the audience.

“Nevertheless, I put my own feelings aside and told him straight, ‘This is fascinating.”

Some reports name the new film as Boro The Caterpillar or “Kemushi no Boro” in Japanese, a film which Mizyazaki described in documentary, “Hayao Miyazaki: The Man Who Is Not Done”, aired in Japan in November 2016 as “a story of a tiny, hairy caterpillar, so tiny that it may be easily squished between your fingers” In an interview for the documentary, Miyazaki said he would “continue making anime until I die.”

Miyazaki is known for his anime feature films, which include My Neighbor Totoro (1988), Princess Mononoke (1997) and Spirited Away. The latter won the Berlin International Film Festival Golden Bear award in 2002 and the Oscar for Animated Feature Film in 2003.

Source: The Japan Times, The Guardian

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The Japanese Connection offers a wide range of professional Japanese translation or interpreting services worldwide, with specialists in many areas including lawbusiness and engineering.  Indeed, our level of specialism coupled with excellent customer service accounts for our ever-expanding list of clients from around the world. To find out how our services can assist you, please visit our website or contact us directly by email. You can also visit our blog guide to doing business in Japan.

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Number of foreign workers in Japan hits 1 million

2016 saw the number of foreign workers in Japan reach 1 million for the first time as country faces labour shortage.construction-1921518_1920

Data from the Japanese labour ministry revealed on Friday that slightly over a million foreigners were working in the country as of October, The Japan Times reported.

The figure is the highest ever recorded in Japan and represents a near 20 per cent increase on that of the previous year.

Workers from China and Vietnam made up the largest proportion of the foreign workforce, accounting for 30 per cent and 16 per cent of the total respectively. The number of Vietnamese workers alone was up by over 50 per cent on 2015.

According to The Japan Times, “the figures suggest Japan is increasingly turning to overseas workers to plug its labor shortages despite its reluctance to accept them.”

“The country is facing its worst labour crunch since 1991 amid a shrinking and aging population, which has prompted calls from the International Monetary Fund for it to accept more overseas workers to boost economic growth,” the report said.

Construction is one of the areas hit hardest by the shortage. Demand for workers in this sector has increased ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics as well as for rebuilding following the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami.

The number of construction labourers from abroad reached 41,000 as of last October, up from around 29,000 the previous year.

According to government data, in November 2016, there were over eight times as many job offers for putting together steel construction frames as there were workers.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has said that more Japanese women and elderly people should be employed to plug the gaps rather than bringing in foreign labour but, according to the Japan Times, policymakers are exploring ways to bring in more foreign workers without calling it “immigration.”

A system for accepting trainee workers from developing countries was expanded by the government in December, and a new visa status for nurses and domestic helpers was created. The trainee system aims to attract highly skilled workers from overseas by easing the path to permanent residency.

According to The Japan Times, the trainee programme has, however, been dogged by cases of labour abuse including illegal overtime and unpaid wages, prompting criticism from Human Rights Watch and the U.S. State Department.

Trainees made up 20 per cent of the foreign workforce, labour ministry data showed, an increase of more than 25 per cent on the previous year.

Source: The Japan Times

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Japan to use world’s smallest flying car to transfer Olympic flame at Tokyo 2020 closing ceremony

A team of Japanese engineers is developing a miniature flying car to drive the Olympic flame around the New National Stadium track and then take off to light the Olympic cauldron.

skydrive_img

Image of the SkyDrive from Cart!vator’s website

Cart!vator (Cartivator),  the company behind these plans, comprises a team of about 20 young engineers. Founded in 2012, the company’s objective is develop a flying car that can be used to reduce the reliance on roads, and also be used to lift people out of disaster zones, SportTechie reported.

In order to develop the vehicle, the Cart!vator team has been conducting tests at an abandoned primary school in the mountains of the Aichi Prefecture after being given permission to use this building by the city of Toyota.

“We aim to create (a) world where anyone can fly in the sky anytime by 2050,” the Cart!vator website states. “To realize our vision, a compact flying car is necessary with a vertical takeoff and landing type, which does not need roads and runways to take off.”

According to SportTechnie, the car, known as “SkyDrive” will be a single-seat electric vehicle design that will have one front wheel, two rear wheels, and a rotor in each of the four corners. Each rotor will consist of two propellers that will allow the car to take off and land vertically.

In terms of dimensions, the vehicle is expected to be roughly three metres in length and 1.3 metres in width. According to the company, this will make it the world’s smallest flying car.

Cart!vator’s website says the company hopes to start selling SkyDrive to the public in 2023, with mass production planned by 2030.

“If technological innovation is achieved in the battery performance and other fields, the vehicle could be commercialized in the future,” Masafumi Miwa, a mechanical engineering professor and Cart!vator partner, told the Asahi Shimbun.

First, however, the team needs to get the vehicle to fly higher. Its current prototype can only fly at an altitude of one metre for a period of five seconds, according to the Asahi Shimbun. The company believes this can be remedied by reducing the weight of the vehicle by replacing the 180kg aluminium frame with a 100kg frame made of carbon fibre-reinforced plastic.

The car will not be cheap to make. The company says that it needs 30 million yen (GBP 208,000) from investors to make the prototype ready for a manned test flight. To raise these funds, the company presented a 1/5 scale prototype at a Maker Faire in Tokyo in 2014, and set up a page on the Japanese crowdfunding website zenmono. By January 2015, it had raised almost 2.6 million yen (about GBP 18,000). “It used the money to purchase a full-scale prototype from a joint researcher, and that’s the prototype it’s experimenting with now,” reported Sports Technie. If the company raises the 30 million yen, it plans to perform a manned-piloted demonstration of the car in January 2019.

Another concern is safety. A breakdown in the air probably means a fatal crash.

According to the SportTechie report, at least nine other companies are also trying to build some version of a flying car. “Google co-founder Larry Page has invested hundreds of millions of dollars in two different flying car companies. Slovakian company AeroMobil could be launching its own flying car as early as next year. And the Massachusetts-based company Terrafugia has already built a flying car that has received legal approval for personal use, although it’s really more of a street-legal plane,” the website revealed.

Sources: SportTechie, Asahi Shimbun


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“Toilet paper” for smartphones introduced at Narita airport

Japan’s predominant mobile operator, NTT Docomo, has installed rolls of smartphone “toilet paper” in Tokyo’s Narita airport after a US report showed smartphone screens harbour more bacteria than a toilet seat, the Mainichi reported.

The smartphone sheets bear the message “Welcome to Japan” alongside information about Docomo’s Wi-Fi services in Japan. This comes after the Japanese Tourism Agency recently found that foreign visitors have trouble finding these internet services when travelling in Japan.

The smartphone rolls, which look like smaller versions of regular toilet paper, were installed on 16 December 2016 in 86 cubicles in Japan’s predominant international airport, Narita Tokyo and are due to remain until 15 March 2017, the Mainichi said. This airport handles 50 per cent of the country’s international passengers.

NTT Docomo is a play on words: an abbreviation of “do communications over the mobile network“, and reminiscent of “dokomo”, which means “everywhere” in Japanese.

With the advent of Docomo’s mobile toilet paper, it really is everywhere.

Source: The Mainichi

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Honda to supply vehicles for Google’s self driving tech company, Waymo?

Google announced in December it would be expanding its self driving project into its own independent company called Waymo. Its mission? “To make it safe for people and things to get around.” A week later and Honda Motor Co Ltd has revealed it is now in talks with the company to supply vehicles to test Waymo‘s self-driving technology, Reuters reported.

Alphabet Inc, the parent company of Google, partnered up with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV in May after the automobile company agreed to fit 100 Pacifica Hybrid minivans with the Waymo technology. The vehicles have now been delivered. Honda could now become the tech firm’s second automotive industry partner.

According to Reuters, these moves “illustrate how carmakers, faced with the high cost of developing autonomous driving tech in-house, are separating into those going it alone, such as General Motors Co and Ford Motor Co, and those teaming up to spread the costs.”

Honda itself has been developing automated driving functions and cars with intelligent features but has in the past emphasised that cars always need drivers. Now, the company has said it is interested in the approach of Google’s self-driving car project to develop fully autonomous, driverless cars, Reuters said.

“There’s only so much technology a company can develop while focusing on one specific approach,” Honda spokesman Teruhiko Tatebe told Reuters. “By approaching it from multiple angles it’s possible to come up with new innovations quicker.”

“You’ve got Google, which is engaging with another automaker to apply its technology into different vehicles and different platforms,” said senior analyst Jeremy Carlson at researcher IHS Automotive. “From Honda’s perspective, you get a close-up look at some of the most capable technology in the industry today.”

Source: Reuters

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Fingernail QR codes to keep track of dementia sufferers in Japan

The Japanese city of Iruma has developed a QR code tagging system for elderly dementia patients at risk of getting lost, the BBC reported.

The QR barcode stickers, 1cm (0.4in) square in size can be attached to fingers and toes. According to an official, the new method is more effective and discreet than the existing system in which sufferers put ID stickers on clothes or shoes as “dementia patients are not always wearing those items.” The new stickers are also water-resistant and remain attached for an average of two weeks.

The information held in the code includes an address, telephone number and unique identity number for each user. The service is free and will be launched this month, BBC News said.

“The initiative, which uses a system of QR codes, was set up to help reunite family members with their elderly loved ones in the event that they go missing, according to the Iruma welfare office,” the report said. “The technology allows police to obtain details of a person’s local city hall, along with contact telephone numbers and personal details, simply by scanning the code.”

More than a quarter of Japanese citizens are aged 65 or over and the number of dementia sufferers is increasing. According to a Guardian report in June, the disorder currently affects 4.6 million people in Japan. The number is expected to rise to 7 million – one in five people aged 65 or over – by 2025.

A record number of people with dementia were reported missing in Japan in 2015, according to the national police agency. Of the more than 12,000, most were found within a week, but 479 were found dead and 150 are still missing.

Last year, the Japanese government announced it planned spend 22.5bn yen (£152.3m) in 2016 to train more specialists, improve early diagnosis and expand community-based care to relieve the pressure on family members who have to give up work to become carers.

Source: BBCThe Guardian

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Local authorities and private firms urged to assist foreigners learn Japanese

The Japanese finance ministry has advised the education ministry to increase cooperation with local governments to provide Japanese language education to foreigners in order to ease the burden on the state, Kyodo News service reported.

The proposal was made on Friday (04.11.16) by a finance ministry advisory panel in response to growing numbers of people from different linguistic backgrounds, including Spanish, Portuguese and Chinese, in the country.

The panel also urged private companies to play a part in the initiatives as many foreign children live in regions with large corporate presences. Examples include Aichi, Kanagawa and Shizuoka prefectures.

The panel warned that teacher numbers in primary and junior high schools may fall by around 7 per cent in the next 10 years in line with the falling population rate.

“Rather than training teachers to speak particular languages, it would be more efficient to fully utilize outside resources with special skills,” a ministry official was quoted by Mainichi as saying.

Source: Mainichi

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Toyota invests in US car-sharing company

Leading Japanese car-maker Toyota Motor Corp has invested a reported USD 10 million in the U.S. car-sharing company Getaround, Reuters said on Friday.

A popular carsharing service in Germany

A popular carsharing service in Germany

The deal was done through the company’s investment fund, Mirai Creation Investment Limited Partnership set up in 2015 to invest in startups working on Artificial Intelligence, robotics, and hydrogen power.

The car sharing service, founded in San Francisco, US, was launched to the public in 2011 and has been available in San Francisco, Chicago and other US cities since 2013. It offers drivers the opportunity to rent cars from private owners in return for payment.  Owners earn 60 per cent commission on the rental prices they set. The company says it now has around 200,000 members.

According to Reuters, Toyota’s investment comes as automakers “seek to shore up their presence in new technology sectors amid growing competition from transport start-ups”.

Automakers have been scrambling to partner with tech firms to head off competition from self-driving cars and car sharing services that threaten to eventually trim demand for car ownership,” the report said.

Other companies in the automotive sector have shown interest in similar services in recent years.  General Motors Co set up its own car-sharing service, Maven, in January this year. Around the same time, Volkswagen transferred its own service called Quicar, set up in 2011, to Dutch project Greenwheels in which it has a 60 per cent share.  Audi has recently also announced plans to launch a similar service in 2017.

Source: Reuters

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Japanese flying cars set to take off for the Tokyo Olympics

spec_imgWith the 2020 Tokyo Olympics in the not-too-distant future, one team of Japanese engineers has begun work on making one of science fictions most persistent cliches a reality. Cartivator, a group of volunteers from the automotive industry, has begun creating what they call the “world’s smallest flying car”, with the intention of debuting the vehicle by using it to light the Olympic torch in just over 3 years time at the opening ceremony in Tokyo.

Skydive, as the project is named, has 3 wheels and is fitted with four rotors, allowing it to take off vertically. According the the design team the vehicle will be able to fly 10 metres off the ground and reach speeds of 100km/h in the air and 150km/h on the ground.

The team behind the project envisage their creation ushering in a new age of personal transportation: “It can fly anywhere and anytime,” says project leader Tsubasa Nakamura, “it enables us to go places where we cannot go now… by releasing [us from] transportation on roads.”

Aside from alleviating traffic jams and congestion, the car would also reduce the need for the construction of maintenance of roads and bridges, even helping avoid disruption in the case of earthquakes or floods.

Although, as is always the case with the automotive industry, there is already strong competition in the flying car market, with German company Lilium Aviation also hoping to launch their own ‘personal aircraft’ in the coming years.

Whatever the future of personal transportation, the Tokyo Olympics is already promising an innovative spectacle.

 

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