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Posts tagged ‘Land of the Rising Sun’

Heavy snow strands 430 people overnight on train in Japan

January 12, 2018

TOKYO (AP) — About 430 people were stuck on a train overnight in Japan because of heavy snow that blanketed much of the country’s Japan Sea coast, a railway official said Friday. The train started moving again shortly before 10:30 a.m., about 15 hours after it had been forced to stop the previous evening, said Shinichi Seki, a spokesman for the Niigata branch of JR East railway company.

The four-car train departed Niigata city in heavy snow Thursday at 4:25 p.m., more than an hour behind schedule, Seki said. As the snow accumulated, the train’s wheels couldn’t turn anymore, and it stopped between stations about 7 p.m. at a railway crossing.

Officials decided it was too risky to evacuate all the passengers because of the deep snow and darkness, Seki said. The train had electricity and heat and toilets. Five passengers who said they did not feel well were taken off.

Some passengers were allowed to leave the train after sunrise with the help of railroad personnel, if family members had come to meet them. Trains continued to be delayed or suspended on Friday. Seki apologized for the major trouble caused to travelers.


Japan sets Emperor Akihito’s abdication date for April 30, 2019

By Daniel Uria

Nov. 30, 2017

Nov. 30 (UPI) — Japan’s Imperial House Council set a date for when Emperor Akihito will step down and open a path for his son to succeed him.

The panel, led by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, announced Friday Akihito, 83, will abdicate on April 30, 2019, and his 57-year-old son Crown Prince Naruhito will succeed him on May 1.

The Japanese Cabinet approved a bill granting Akihito to power abdicate in May of this year, after he curtailed public appearances due to his declining health.

The Imperial House Council, which consists of politicians, the judiciary and Imperial family members, initially considered setting the abdication date for December 2018, but delayed it to April to avoid scheduling issues with important year-end and New Year Imperial events.

Akihito’s younger son, Prince Akishino, was replaced on the panel by the emperor’s brother, Prince Hitachi, because he will become first in line to the throne after his father’s abdication.

Japan’s constitution defines the emperor as “the symbol of the state” and the position holds no political power.

Source: United Press International (UPI).


With tensions high, Trump, Abe strengthen bond on the links

November 05, 2017

TOKYO (AP) — With a round of golf, a custom cap and a hamburger of American beef, President Donald Trump’s first trip to Asia began with a taste of home. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe welcomed Trump to Japan Sunday with an effusive display of friendship that, in the days ahead, will give way to high-stakes diplomacy. The two leaders, who have struck up an unlikely but easy rapport, shared a casual lunch and played nine holes at the Kasumigaseki Country Club, joined by professional golfer Hideki Matsuyama.

The low-key agenda was a prelude to the formal talks, a press conference and state dinner planned in Tokyo Monday. Abe will be looking for a united front against North Korea and reassurances that the U.S. will stand by its treaty obligations to defend Japan if attacked.

Eager to forge a bond with Tokyo’s crucial ally, Abe was one of the first world leaders to court President-elect Trump. He was the first to call Trump after the election, and rushed to New York days later to meet the president-elect and present him with a pricey, gold Honma golf driver. The two men also met on the sidelines of an international summit in Italy this spring and Trump hosted Abe in Florida. White House officials said Trump has spoken with Abe by phone more than any world leader, aside from British Prime Minister Theresa May.

That bond was clear on Sunday. “The relationship is really extraordinary. We like each other and our countries like each other,” Trump said Sunday night before dinner with Abe, who for this meal did show Trump traditional cuisine with a teppanyaki dinner. “And I don’t think we’ve ever been closer to Japan than we are right now.”

Trump and Abe also exchanged glowing tweets about their golf. Trump dubbed Abe and Matsuyama “wonderful people,” while Abe called it a “round of golf with a marvelous friend.” Abe told reporters after the golf session that the two could talk frankly in a relaxed atmosphere while out on the course. He said they were able to “carry out in depth discussion, at times touching on various difficult issues.” A senior White House official, briefing reporters on condition of anonymity, said the pair had discussed trade and North Korea — but didn’t keep score.

From the time Marine One landed on the Kasumigaseki Country Club’s driving range, Abe rolled out little touches to make Trump feel welcome. He presented a hat that had a version of Trump’s campaign theme, this time reading “Donald and Shinzo: Make Alliance Even Greater.” The two passed up the region’s famed Kobe beef in favor of the American version, which is favored by Trump, a famed picky eater.

When Trump hosted Abe in Palm Beach earlier this year, they played at one of Trump’s Florida golf courses. For that outing, Trump brought along pro golfer Ernie Els, so this time Abe matched him by bringing along Matsuyama, whom Trump described on the plane ride to Asia as “probably the greatest player in the history of Japan.” Abe was behind the wheel of a golf cart as the two men were spotted moving from hole to hole, Trump in the passenger seat smiling and waving at those they passed.

“From the point of view of Abe administration, the personal chemistry that exists between the two leaders is seen as an asset,” said Mireya Sollis, chair in Japan Studies for the Brookings Center for East Asia Policy Studies. She said that the Japanese believe it is already “seeing it pay off,” including when Trump agreed to meet with the families of Japanese citizens kidnapped by the North Korean regime, an important issue for Tokyo.

Ever since Saudi Arabia delivered a lavish welcome on Trump’s first international trip, leaders have tried to outdo themselves to impress the president, who has proven susceptible to flattery. Before the game, Trump delivered a speech in which he hailed Japan as a “crucial ally” and warned adversaries not to test America’s resolve.

“Japan is a treasured partner and crucial ally of the United States and today we thank them for welcoming us and for decades of wonderful friendship between our two nations,” Trump told American and Japanese service members at Yokota Air Base on the outskirts of Tokyo.

Though Trump did not mention North Korea by name during the speech, the spectre of its weapons program will loom large throughout Trump’s five-nation Asia trip. The president warned of the consequences of crossing what he called the “most fearsome fighting force in the history of our world.”

“Together with our allies, America’s warriors are prepared to defend our nation using the full range of our unmatched capabilities. No one — no dictator, no regime and no nation — should underestimate, ever, American resolve,” he told the troops.

And while there is worry in the region about Trump’s unpredictable response to the threat posed by Kim Jong Un, Trump made clear he did not intend to tone down his bellicose rhetoric — including dubbing Kim Jong Un as “Little Rocket Man” — even while in an Asian capital within reach of the North Korea dictator’s missiles.

“There’s been 25 years of total weakness, so we are taking a very much different approach,” he said, speaking to reporters on Air Force One. Trump will also meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of an upcoming summit in Vietnam.

The easy rapport with Japan could be strained if Trump takes an aggressive approach on trade or the two men disagree on how best to approach the threat looming in Pyongyang. During his campaign, Trump suggested Japan should acquire its own nuclear weapons to defend itself, hinted the U.S. might not come to the nation’s defense, and accused Japan of “killing us” on trade. He has dropped that antagonist language almost entirely since the election, but tensions remain.

Scott Seaman, a director for Asia of the Eurasia Group, a political risk consultant organization, noted: “everything is fine with Trump until you tell him no. So far, Abe hasn’t told him no.”

Colvin reported from Tokyo. Associated Press writers Ken Moritsugu, James Armstrong and Mari Yamaguchi contributed to this report.

Japan PM Abe begins new term with vow to increase North Korea pressure

By Hiroshi HIYAMA

Tokyo (AFP)

Nov 1, 2017

A newly re-elected Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe Wednesday pledged increasing pressure on North Korea to force the nuclear-armed country to the negotiating table, days before a visit by US President Donald Trump expected to be dominated by the threat from Pyongyang.

Kicking off a fresh term in office after he was formally re-elected by parliament, Abe hailed his recent thumping election victory as a means to further squeeze a North Korean regime that has alarmed the region with missile launches and a sixth nuclear test in recent months.

“A strong mandate from the people is a source of strong diplomacy,” Abe told a press conference Wednesday, adding that a tough line could persuade Pyongyang to ask for negotiations.

“When President Trump visits Japan, we will spend sufficient time analyzing the latest North Korean issues and discussing ways to deal with them,” Abe said.

Signs of any message by Trump to the North will be closely watched during his Asian tour, which begins at the weekend and will see him visit Tokyo from Sunday through Tuesday. Trump will also visit South Korea, China, Vietnam and the Philippines.

During his election campaign Abe, a staunch conservative, stressed the need for strong leadership to deal with what he called Japan’s “twin crises”: a shrinking birth rate and the actions of a belligerent and nuclear-armed North Korea, which has sent missiles over northern Japan in recent months.

– Abe’s super majority –

Abe’s conservative Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) swept to a two-thirds “super majority” in the 465-seat lower house on October 22. He was reinstated as premier by a huge majority Wednesday and then reappointed all of his cabinet ministers.

The 63-year-old is now on track to become Japan’s longest-serving premier.

Abe now has the parliamentary numbers to start a process to change Japan’s pacifist constitution — an ambition he has long cherished.

But he told reporters he will move cautiously on the divisive issue, saying that he will first seek an open discussion on the subject.

Abe also said he will improve the nation’s productivity, offer free early childhood education and expand childcare support.

Despite his October poll victory, Abe’s popularity ratings are relatively low and most observers attribute his election success to a weak and fractured opposition.

The main opposition party, the Democratic Party (DP), effectively disbanded after Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike launched a new conservative group and vowed to do away with “old school politics”.

Several DP lawmakers defected to Koike’s new “Party of Hope” and the more left-leaning MPs formed a new party, the Constitutional Democrats.

In the end, Koike’s support imploded, mainly because she failed to stand herself in the election — confusing voters who did not know who would be premier if she won.

The Party of Hope finished with a mere 50 seats while the Constitutional Democrats won 55.

They were both dwarfed by Abe’s conservative coalition, which secured 313 lower house seats, obtaining the “super majority” required to change the constitution.

Source: Space War.


Japan votes for lower house; Abe’s party seen headed for win

October 22, 2017

TOKYO (AP) — Voting in a general election started Sunday that would most likely hand Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s right-wing ruling coalition a victory and possibly close to a two-thirds majority in parliament.

Abe dissolved the lower house less than a month ago, forcing the snap election. He judged the timing was ripe for his ruling Liberal Democratic Party, or at least better than waiting until the end of its term next year.

Up for grabs are 465 seats in the more powerful lower house, which chooses the prime minister. Media polls have indicated voters are passively choosing Abe’s government despite its railroading of unfavorable bills and cronyism scandals, seeing it as a safer choice over an opposition with little or unknown track records.

Scare over North Korea’s missile and nuclear development is also seen contributing to voters’ conservative choice. Media surveys also predicted Abe’s coalition to win around 300 seats though they said it could lose some ground from the current 318 due to scandals.

Hiroshi Yamada, 82, said his vote was based on “the issues such as (a possible) war and foreign affairs,” suggesting his support for the LDP coalition amid growing concerns over North Korea. “I am supporting the political party which presents feasible policies amid the current situation.”

Makiko Yamada, who’s unrelated to the other voter, said she was bothered by Abe’s cronyism scandals. “I saw reports showing people who would help (Abe) were given high positions. It made me think twice.”

Voters were casting ballots early, apparently worried by an approaching powerful typhoon. Vote counting at a few locations in southwestern Japan may be delayed due to the weather, NHK public television reported.

Abe says he is seeking a mandate on his government’s tougher stance to defend Japan against the North’s threat and his proposed increase in the consumption tax, but experts say it’s an election about securing his rule.

An election victory would boost Abe’s chances to head LDP for another three years at the party’s convention next September. It would extend his premiership possibly to 2021 and eventually achieve his long-time goal of revising Japan’s war-renouncing postwar constitution.

In a speech in Tokyo wrapping up the 12-day campaigning Saturday night, Abe said, “We will protect Japan at all costs for the future of this country.” Support for Abe’s Cabinet has recovered thanks to the absence of parliamentary debates over political scandals during a recess.

The main opposition force, the Democratic Party, was in more disarray after a leadership change and a key member was slammed by an extramarital affair. Holding off on an election would only give Abe’s potential rival, Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike, more time to organize a challenge.

Koike hastily launched a new party to contest the vote, though she ended up not running. Her Party of Hope attracted a slew of defectors from the Democrats who converted to her populist platform including phasing out nuclear energy by 2030, and freezing of a consumption tax hike due in 2019. The initial excitement for her party has waned as Koike’s nationalist stance and policies were seen similar to those of Abe’s LDP.

The Democratic Party had imploded and its more liberal members, led by former top government spokesman Yukio Edano, launched yet another group, the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, whose focus on grassroots democracy, pacifist principles and calls for “decent” politics is now outpolling the Party of Hope.

Abe’s victory would likely mean a continuation of the policies he has pursued in the nearly five years since he took office in December 2012 — a hard line on North Korea, close ties with Washington, including defense, as well as a super-loose monetary policy and push for nuclear energy.

With a possible backing from the conservative opposition, he may get the two-thirds majority he needs in parliament to propose a constitutional amendment, though any change also needs approval in a public referendum.

Associated Press writer Ken Moritsugu contributed to this report.

Japanese roots of Nobel winner Kazuo Ishiguro celebrated

October 06, 2017

TOKYO (AP) — Nobel literature laureate Kazuo Ishiguro left Japan at the age of 5, but some in the country of his birthplace are celebrating his roots. Ishiguro’s former kindergarten teacher in Nagasaki said it’s like a dream come true. Teruko Tanaka recalled to Japan’s Kyodo News service that he was a quiet boy who liked to read books.

Ishiguro was born in Nagasaki but raised and educated in England. He was awarded the Nobel Prize on Thursday. Nagasaki Mayor Tomihisa Taue said he is proud that the city has a Nobel Prize winner who has kept Nagasaki close to his heart. Ishiguro’s first novel describes the city soon after the U.S. atomic bomb attack in 1945.

Japan’s Abe faces new challenge as he calls snap election

September 28, 2017

TOKYO (AP) — A surge of popularity for a freshly minted opposition party in Japan is making Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s decision to call a snap election look riskier than initially thought. Abe dissolved the lower house of parliament Thursday, setting the stage for an Oct. 22 vote.

The Party of Hope, launched earlier this week by Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike, may not dethrone Abe’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party but analysts say it could put a dent in the LDP’s majority. A major setback could derail Abe’s presumed hope to extend his rule for three more years at a party leadership meeting next year.

Minutes after the lower house dissolution, Abe made a fiery speech to party members. He said he is seeking a public mandate on his tough diplomatic and defense policies to deal with escalating threats from North Korea, and that party members would have to relay his message to win voter support during the campaign.

“This election is about how we protect Japan, the people’s lives and peaceful daily life,” Abe said. “The election is about the future of our children.” Abe’s decision to dissolve parliament is widely seen as an attempt to reconsolidate his hold on power within the LDP, after a series of scandals and missteps earlier this year. A big enough victory could help ensure his re-election as party leader in September 2018.

The move is not without risks, but analysts say the timing may be better now than later. The Democratic Party, the largest opposition group, is in disarray, and the sudden election gives the Party of Hope little time to organize candidates and a campaign strategy.

Media polls, though, show the new party off to a respectable start, though still trailing the LDP. Jeff Kingston, a professor at Temple University’s Japan Campus in Tokyo, called Koike’s new party a game changer.

“I think it is really bad news for Abe,” he said. “She doesn’t actually have to win, but she has to inflict a bloody nose on Abe … If her party does better than expected, expect the long knives to come out in the LDP, and Abe could be ushered to the exit.”

Koike, at a news conference, denied speculation that she might run for parliament herself. “I will stay in the city and put my energy to lead Tokyo’s preparations ahead of the upcoming Olympics and Paralympics,” she said.

Still, a relatively good showing by her party could allow it to influence Abe on policies such as constitutional change, an issue both politicians have an interest in, said Stephen Nagy, a professor at International Christian University in Tokyo.

Working in Abe’s favor, he said, are the LDP’s nationwide electoral organization and his handling of North Korea, which has sent two missiles over Japan in recent tests. “Another missile test would likely put him in the limelight further, casting a shadow on the Party of Hope’s policy credentials,” Nagy said.

The Democratic Party, whose predecessor party held power in 2009-2012, is splintering, and many members have defected to Koike’s party. Party leader Seiji Maehara said the Democrats would do whatever it takes to bring down the Abe government.

Lower house members all stood up and chanted “banzai” three times in a dissolution ritual, then rushed out of the assembly hall. The other chamber, the less-powerful upper house, will not be up for election but remain closed until parliament is reconvened after the vote.

AP journalist Richard Colombo contributed to this story.

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