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

Click to enlarge

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.

Scenes from the disaster — Fukushima

Five years since the meltdown at the Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear power plant, progress has been made to rebuild much of the prefecture. Yet within evacuation zones designated by the Japanese government, scars are still obvious. Many evacuees who fled are unwilling to return. Thousands still live in temporary housing outside these zones.

Photographs by Ko Sasaki and Tomohiro Ohsumi…

A house stands in an area damaged by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami

A fishing boat swept inland by the tsunami is still left in Namie.

Click through to see more photos. The fifth anniversary of the Fukushima disaster.

Condom wars between China and Japan

Quick quality control check at Daming

The latest battle in Sino-Japanese relations is playing out in the bedroom, with the holy grail being the thickness of a condom.

Or rather, whose condom is thinner.

On Monday, a court in Guangzhou’s Yuexiu District ruled that Japanese condom company Okamoto must immediately stop advertising its condoms as the world’s thinnest and remove condom packages that say as much from stores, according to the state-run China News Service.

The court said Okamoto’s behavior “violated the principle of honesty for business operators and negatively affected the competitiveness” of Aoni condoms, which are made by Guangzhou Daming United Rubber Products, a Chinese condom maker that filed the lawsuit.

Okamoto’s condom sales have skyrocketed recently, in part due to increasing numbers of Chinese tourists traveling to Japan and bringing the ultrathin condoms home.

Daming, a company founded in 1992 that says it has sold 7 billion condoms, filed the lawsuit against Okamoto in September 2014, after the Guinness World Records verified in December 2013 that Daming’s Aoni condom was indeed the thinnest latex winner. The Aoni has an average thickness of 0.036 mm, while Okamoto’s clocks in at 0.038 mm, according to the Guinness World Records.

“We accept the decision and have no plans to appeal it,” an Okamoto spokesman said…

The court has ordered Okamoto to pay a compensation of just one yuan to Daming, a request that Daming proposed in its lawsuit, indicating that the alleged violation likely had little impact on the Chinese company’s business.

Erm, OK. The least likely popular tastes concern food and sex. Especially national differences.

Cripes, I just remembered past dealings in my own working life – with Okamoto Riken. And some pretty salacious tales involving how and why they brought the bicycle company Zebra-Kenko to the United States, BITD.


10 adventure trips for every photographer

Click to enlargeChad Copeland

If you’re making travel plans for 2016, these ten places are the best adventure trips for photographers to explore and photograph this year.

For photographers seeking inspiration, or adventure-seeking travelers looking to explore, we’ve put together a list of our favorite adventure trips to take this year.

Beyond their beauty, we believe these locations have more to offer than you might initially think. From hidden caves along the Oregon Coast, to snow-capped mountains in Japan, the following locations are not only worth photographing, but also traveling to see a few sites you might not know exist.

One of the delights of making it to being an old fart is memories – and visual reminders/your own photographs – of the places you visited that stick in your mind for their beauty. I’ve been to a few of these places and they are among my favorites.

Thanks to Om Malik for the reminder.

Kyocera begins work on world’s largest floating solar farm

Click to enlarge – one of Kyocera’s smaller projects

The Japanese electronics multinational Kyocera has begun work on what it says will be the world’s biggest floating solar farm.

The power plant is being built on a reservoir in Japan’s Chiba prefecture and is anticipated to supply enough electricity for nearly 5,000 households when it is completed in early 2018.

Space-starved Japan has already seen several floating solar farms built as part of the country’s drive to exploit more renewable energy in the wake of the 2011 Fukushima disaster. The shutdown of nuclear plants has seen Japan increasingly reliant on fossil fuel imports that have hit its emissions-cutting ambitions.

The Yamakura dam power plant will see more than 50,000 solar photovoltaic panels cover a 180,000 m sq area, but compared to other land-based plants it is relatively small. At 13.7MW when finished, it would not make the top 100 of the world’s largest solar photovoltaic farms…

Kyocera has already built three floating solar farms, which are much smaller than the new one…

Context is everything. Space constraints have made Japan a world leader in many space efficiencies. Americans are just discovering tiny house living. It’s a way of life for millions in Japan. The same is true for reuse, repurposing technology. It’s already not unusual to find large battery packs designed for electric cars or plug-in hybrids being reused as backups and storage for home solar panel arrays. They’re already used beyond flexible storage requirements for mobile use – and perfectly fine for such a repurposing.

Okinawa still fighting to get out from under the Japan-US “Security” Treaty

Okinawa officials have filed a lawsuit against the central Japanese government in a new bid to block the slated construction of a U.S. military base in the prefecture’s Henoko region.

“We will do whatever it takes to stop the new Henoko base,” Okinawa Gov. Takeshi Onaga said during a press conference… “Okinawa’s argument is legitimate, and I believe that it will be certainly understood.”

Residents and officials charge that the Japanese government’s Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport, and Tourism…acted unlawfully when it suspended Onaga’s permit cancellation for work needed to move the U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma to its slated spot in Henoko…

The legal challenge is the latest effort to block the continued militarization of the southern Japanese island, which has long served as home base for more than half of the 50,000 American military service members in Japan, as well as over two-thirds of U.S. bases in the country. In late October, hundreds of Okinawa residents, largely elders, linked arms and physically blocked vehicles transporting building materials to the base.

Don’t the people of Okinawa have sovereignty? one protester, 70-year-old Katsuhiro Yoshida, told Japanese paper The Asahi Shimbun at the time. “This reminds me of the scenes of rioting against the U.S. military before Okinawa was returned to Japan (in 1972). Now we are facing off against our own government. It is so contemptible.”

Time and again the people of Okinawa revolt against domination of their island home by the US military, the capitulation of the old Japanese government in Tokyo. Treaties, secret and public, enacted 70 years ago should not control their destiny just because it suits Uncle Sugar’s imperial dreams in Asia.

Calamari bigger than your mouth? How about bigger than you?

Giant squid, the huge tentacled creatures that live in the dark ocean depths, were probably the inspiration for the legend the kraken and have remaind largely elusive for most of human history. The first images of a live giant squid were captured in 2004 and another became the first to swim into view on film in 2013. Even so, most specimens spotted have died, tangled in fishing nets. Last week, a giant squid made gentle mockery of decades of efforts to spot them when it swam into a harbor northwest of Tokyo.

A fisherman noticed the 12-foot-long giant squid swimming beneath fishing boats at the Mizuhashi Fisherina in Toyama prefecture…“Whereas the ones caught in fishing nets are mostly dead and their colors have already turned white, the body of the giant squid swimming inside the marina was red,” says Tatsuya Wakasugi, the marina’s manager.

The squid visited long enough for a diver to arrive and accompany the tentacled beast as it swam. The diver, Akinobu Kimura, filmed the encounter before ushering the squid back out toward the open ocean, reports Euan McKirdy and Junko Ogura for CNN.

Another camera person captured the diver and the squid interacting from the surface…

RTFA and watch the second video, too. You don’t see the size comparison until you’re almost halfway into the video.

Thanks, Ursarodinia

TPP talks crash and burn — not every nation willing to rollover for Obama

Pacific Rim trade ministers have failed to clinch a deal to free up trade between a dozen nations after a dispute flared between Japan and North America over cars, New Zealand dug in over dairy trade and no agreement was reached on monopoly periods for next-generation drugs.

Trade ministers from the 12 nations negotiating the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which would stretch from Japan to Chile and cover 40 percent of the world economy, fell just short of a deal on Friday at talks on the Hawaiian island of Maui…

The result frustrated negotiators who had toiled to cross off outstanding issues and made significant progress on many controversial issues.

Three sources involved in the talks told the Reuters news agency that a last-minute breakthrough had been viewed as unlikely due to issues with dairy and auto trade and a standoff over biologic drugs made from living cells.

Australian Trade Minister Andrew Robb said the problem lay with the “big four” economies of the United States, Canada, Japan, and Mexico. “The sad thing is, 98 percent is concluded,” he said.

Failure to seal the agreement is a setback for US President Barack Obama, given the trade pact’s stance as the economic arm of the administration’s pivot to Asia and an opportunity to balance out China’s influence in the region…

Obama promised oil income to Canada and Mexico, agricultural income to Canada and Mexico, monopoly power to US Pharmaceutical giants and American Tech firms. Japan as our pet stalking horse on the Asian side of negotiations was promised continued niche protections which would help keep Abe’s political party in power. Everyone else was supposed to line up in tidy little rows and nod their bobbleheads. Especially those nations like Australia with Conservatives holding power.

Didn’t happen.

If this doesn’t happen before the end of the year, the TPP is probably dead. An election year in the United States guarantees no legislative approvals more radical than Congress voting for baseball, motherhood and apple pie.

Prepare for five months of carrots, sticks, butt-kissing and bribes.