Japan’s “Lonely Deaths”

❝ There was a putrid smell emanating from the apartment. There was an obvious brown stain on the futon where the body had been. The futon, the clothes, the newspapers and horse-racing stubs were covered with maggots and flies.

Still, if the man had died in the summer and rotted for months in the sweltering heat, instead of drying to a shrivel as winter approached, it could have been much worse.

“I’d say this is a four out of 10,” said Akira Fujita, leader of the crew from Next, a company that specializes in cleaning up after “lonely deaths” — where people lie dead in their apartments for long periods before being discovered.

❝ Every country has cases where elderly people die alone, but none experiences it quite like Japan, home to the world’s fastest-aging population. More than a quarter of the population is over 65, a figure set to rise to 40 percent by 2050.

Lonely-death statistics are hard to come by — the central government doesn’t collect them — but regional figures show a sharp increase over the past decade. NLI Research Institute, a Tokyo think tank, estimates that about 30,000 people nationwide die this way each year.

❝ As the number of lonely deaths has grown, so too has the lonely-death-cleanup industry. Numerous firms offer this kind of service, and insurance companies have started selling policies to protect landlords if their tenants die inside their properties. The plans cover the cost of cleaning the apartment and compensate for loss of rent. Some will even pay for a purifying ritual in the apartment once the work is done.

RTFA. I have to wonder how healthier lifestyles contribute to this phenomenon, country by country. I’ve outlived many of my peers – especially within my immediate family.

Until I met the love of my life 26 years ago, I had consciously, reflectively, given up on anything other than living alone the rest of my life. It wasn’t an unhappy choice – just realistic for an old geek and activist.

How we entered World War 2

On the morning of December 7, 1941, Japanese bombers staged a surprise attack on U.S. military forces at Pearl Harbor Hawaii. In less than three hours, the United States suffered more than 2,400 casualties and loss of or severe damage to 188 airplanes and 8 battleships.

At one station, Army privates were running the radar and at 7:02 a.m., a large white blip appeared. The privates marked this activity and the continuing movements of incoming planes. Pvt. Joseph Lockard reported this to the Information Center, but a group of American B-17s were due to arrive that day from San Francisco, and Lockard was told to forget about what he saw. It was only after arrival at camp that they received word that at 7:55 a.m. the Japanese had begun dropping bombs on Pearl Harbor.

They realized that the planes they had been tracking on the radar plot were not American, but the Japanese attacking force. They had witnessed the start of World War II for America, but they hadn’t realized it.

And so it began.

Germany to Put First Zero-Emissions Train Into Service This December

❝ Trains, buses and trucks are all vital to the modern world, but the vast majority of them use huge amounts of fuel and create tons of air pollution. What’s even worse is that they represent a (thus far) missed opportunity for making the world’s cities greener.

While buses reduce the need for cars, trains are capable of hauling huge amounts of goods, as are trucks, AND moving huge amounts of people. Imagine if we could convert all of these big vehicles to run on hydrogen, which is the most basic of all molecules…

❝ Many of the world’s advanced nations, namely Norway, Japan and Germany, are investing heavily in the technology in order to move away from their dependence on fossil fuels. The Norwegians, for instance, are going about implementing a new hydrogen-powered train network right now, saving $67 million a year in fuel in the process.

❝ Germany is going even further. It will launch the world’s first hydrogen-powered commuter rail service in December 2017. The hydrogen-powered trains will be used on smaller interurban routes initially, however it’s the first step towards a cleaner, zero-emissions future.

Nice to see some nations – like some cities and states here in the US – press ahead with technology combatting climate change. Something for the next administration [or Congress] to get to work on.

Photo gems from the Moon


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From October 2007 to June 2009, Japan’s SELENE (SELenological and ENgineering Explorer) mission orbited the moon. The mission consisted of three spacecraft. The largest was better known by the nickname the public had chosen for it: Kaguya, honoring a lunar princess of Japanese legend.

During its expedition, the SELENE mission returned a wealth of scientific information from its polar orbit, such as the most detailed map of the moon’s gravity field ever obtained up until that time.

The Kaguya spacecraft also carried cameras, including one with a pair of 2.2 megapixel HDTV sensors that captured the first high-definition video from the moon. Thanks to this clear-eyed video camera, many of Kaguya’s images — especially the shots showing the Earth rising and setting at the lunar horizon — are moving in both senses of the word.

Now the Japanese space agency, JAXA, has publicly released the entire data set from Kaguya’s HDTV cameras. The iconic views are all there…plus some gems that haven’t been widely seen before.

Click through to the blog post and follow any other links along the way. Entertaining, beautiful.

Japanese electric utility admits to coverup during Fukushima nuclear meltdown


Warning sign on the road to Fukushima

The utility that ran the Fukushima nuclear plant acknowledged Tuesday its delayed disclosure of the meltdowns at three reactors was tantamount to a coverup and apologized for it.

Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) president Naomi Hirose’s apology followed the revelation last week that an investigation had found Hirose’s predecessor instructed officials during the 2011 disaster to avoid using the word “meltdown.”

I would say it was a coverup,” Hirose told a news conference. “It’s extremely regrettable.”…

And it only took five years and information released in an investigation to prompt a moment of honesty.

TEPCO instead described the reactors’ condition as less serious “core damage” for two months after the earthquake and tsunami on March 11, 2011, wrecked the plant, even though utility officials knew and computer simulations suggested meltdowns had occurred.

An investigative report released last Thursday by three company-appointed lawyers said TEPCO’s then-President Masataka Shimizu instructed officials not to use the specific description under alleged pressure from the Prime Minister’s Office, though the investigators found no proof of such pressure.

The report said TEPCO officials, who had suggested possible meltdowns, stopped using the description after March 14, 2011…Shimizu had a company official show Muto his memo and tell him the Prime Minister’s Office has banned the specific words.

Government officials also softened their language on the reactor conditions around the same time, the report said…Former officials at the Prime Minister’s Office have denied the allegation…

Deny, deny, deny. Political hacks, corporate hacks, still rely on the Big Lie to cover their tracks. If you do a crappy job at preserving the safety of ordinary citizens, you lie and deny – unless you can find someone else to blame.

Thousands protest US bases on Okinawa — murder provokes increased anger over subservience to US military


Click to enlargeAssociated Press

Tens of thousands of people on the Japanese island of Okinawa have taken part in one of the biggest protests against US military bases in recent years, weeks after the arrest of an American base worker in connection with the murder of a 20-year-old local woman.

The protesters, many of whom wore black, braved scorching heat to call for an end to the island’s role as host to more than half the 47,000 US troops in Japan…

The protesters also urged the Japanese and US governments to abandon the controversial relocation of a marine airbase from a crowded city on Okinawa to a more remote coastal location on the island, about 1,000 miles south of Tokyo.

They just want the American military gone!

Okinawa’s anti-base governor, Takeshi Onaga, told the crowd he regretted being powerless to prevent crimes by US military personnel, two decades after the abduction and rape of a 12-year-old girl by three US servicemen.

That crime prompted mass protests and forced Tokyo and Washington to discuss reductions in the US military footprint on Okinawa, including the relocation of Futenma to a district in the coastal town of Nago, and the transfer of 8,000 marines and their dependents to the US Pacific territory of Guam and other locations.

…Onaga said…“The government … must understand that Okinawa residents should not suffer any more from the burden of the bases.”…

Okinawa was the scene of one of the bloodiest battles of the Pacific war, and remained under American occupation until 1972. About a fifth of the island is still under US military control.

Previous Japanese governments with more independence than Shinzo Abe’s actually tried to have the bases removed from Okinawa. They received messages from both George W Bush and Obama reminding them of officially secret treaties signed with the United States as part of Japan’s surrender at the end of World War 2 – giving the US control over Japanese territory essentially forever.

Mitsubishi apologizes, offers $56 million for Chinese forced labour in WW2 — 71 years after war’s end!


Click to enlargeXinhua/Wang Haofei
Sun Yuanxin, 1 of 20 survivors, views remains of hundreds who died at this mine

A Japanese company that used Chinese forced labour in its coalmines during the second world war has agreed to compensate and apologise to thousands of victims and their families.

Mitsubishi Materials, one of dozens of Japanese companies that used such labourers from China and the Korean peninsula, said it would pay US$15,000 to each of the surviving victims and the families of those who have died.

If all 3,765 people entitled to compensation come forward, the total payout could reach US$56m, making it the biggest deal of its kind so far – From Imperial Japan.

“We have come to the conclusion that we will extend an apology [to the victims] and offer the money as a proof of that apology,” a Mitsubishi Materials spokesman said…

The victims hailed the decision a victory in their long quest for Japanese companies to take responsibility for bringing an estimated 40,000 Chinese to Japan between 1943 and 1945 to work in factories and mines amid a wartime labour shortage.

Almost 7,000 of them died due to the harsh working conditions and malnutrition…

Some of the relatives of former labourers, however, were concerned the settlement was in lieu of official compensation from the Japanese government, which insists that all reparation claims were covered by postwar treaties with former victims of Japanese militarism.

I’m surprised they didn’t wait for a nice round number — like 100 years, eh? Just continue the official Japanese policy of doing little or nothing to compensate anyone for the war crimes committed in the name of that militarist nation. Might only be a dozen or so survivors left by then.

They know they will be backed up all the way by Uncle Sugar – who gets to use Japan’s territory as their own private aircraft carrier and military barracks to “interact” with Asia.

Japan kills hundreds of pregnant whales

balina
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Four Japanese ships returned from a 115-day Antarctic expedition this week on which they killed 333 minke whales, including 230 pregnant females, all under the auspices of scientific research. But according to National Geographic, the whaling expedition violated a 2014 ruling from UN International Court of Justice challenging the scientific legitimacy of such hunts and halting all Japanese whaling. Prior to that, since commercial whaling was banned in 1986, Japan had been skirting the ban by taking advantage of a scientific exemption which allows whales to be killed if it’s done for research, which for the Japanese meant using a little bit of a whale for science and then selling off the rest, which just so happens to be a Japanese delicacy. Japan had then briefly halted their scientific whaling following the 2014 ruling, only to start up again this season after attempting to bolster the scientific value of their expedition and supposedly reduce the number of whales they would kill, although they apparently just went ahead and killed about as many as they normally would.

Japan maintains that it must capture and kill juvenile and adult females in order to determine the age at which minke whales reach sexual maturity. Japan wants to use this data in its quest to demonstrate the minke whale population is healthy enough for regular whaling, Fuchs said. And because it’s breeding time in the southern seas, 90 percent of the females Japanese whalers killed were pregnant.

Thus, as NPR explains, Japan argues that it hasn’t violated the previous ban because the ICJ hasn’t yet ruled on the scientific legitimacy of their new “research” plan, even though the ICJ told them they couldn’t issue any further authorizations for whale hunts. In the meantime, environmentalists in Australia are furious that their government didn’t try to halt Japan’s new expedition, which may have killed minkes within the Australian Whale Sanctuary. Regardless, Australia may get another chance to intervene: Japan’s new whaling effort is just the beginning of a 12-year program designed to study – and then sell – 4,000 dead whales.

Lies and more lies and everyone in Japan knows they are lies. Whale meat isn’t even popular as a delicacy anymore. These criminals needs government subsidies to get rid of the meat through school lunch programs. The kids don’t like it either.

Just more of Japan’s stubborn unwillingness to turn loose from useless traditions.