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Is Abe really keen to seek a third term?

Updated : 07.02.2017 / Category Politics

On the evening of January 19, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe breezed into Shimbashi Matsuyama, a traditional, exclusive restaurant with a quiet air—despite its location at the heart of bustling Tokyo. Upon entering the premises, Abe was met by an intimate group of politicians, business and mass media leaders. The politicians included Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Hironari Seko and Yasutoshi Nishimura, a special adviser to the Liberal Democratic Party president (Abe).

During the gathering, Abe was the only one to raise conversational topics; the other attendees merely nodded or provided back-channel feedback. The topics varied widely, from the opening of the Diet—slated for the following day—to Abe's meeting in December with Russian President Vladimir Putin. But the most attention-grabbing dinner-table chat revolved around Abe's hopes for 2017.

Toyota trembles in face of Trump demands

Updated : 01.02.2017 / Category Economy

The North American vehicle market is poised to undergo a sea change as global automakers scramble to deal with new U.S. President Donald Trump's bluster. In particular, Toyota Motor Corp. has been singled out by Trump in a Twitter tirade. On Jan. 5, Trump tweeted: "Toyota Motor said will build a new plant in Baja, Mexico, to build Corolla cars for U.S. NO WAY! Build plant in U.S. or pay big border tax."

However, a reporter for a Japanese national newspaper suggests Trump might have some of his facts wrong. "Toyota will build a plant in Guanajuato, not Baja. And what's more, Toyota is shifting production there from Canada—it has nothing to do with the United States," said the reporter, an expert on the auto industry. "It was a completely groundless accusation. There was no need to make a big deal about it."

Nevertheless, the public criticism by Trump jolted Toyota. At the North American International Auto Show held in Detroit a few days later, Toyota President Akio Toyoda announced his company would invest $10 billion in the United States in the next five years.

JAL's spending tactics raising eyebrows

Updated : 24.01.2017 / Category Capsule

After having pulled free of its bankruptcy crisis, Japan Airlines (JAL) continues to pursue its "athlete-chasing" program, among other eyebrow-raising spending.

In November 2015, the company entered into an agreement with professional tennis player Kei Nishikori—who had been contracted with Delta Airlines—in a five-year deal reportedly worth ¥1.5 billion, attracting intense public attention. Then, in November 2016, the firm agreed to sponsor figure skater Marin Honda, after the skater had initially approached rival firm All Nippon Airways (ANA) to ask for support, only to be turned down due to concerns over her potential and the cost-effectiveness of inking such a deal.

Haruki Murakami's other contribution to the literary world: translation

Updated : 18.01.2017 / Category Society and Culture

Haruki Murakami is one of the world's most celebrated writers, but he wears another hat, too, which has allowed him to greatly contribute to Japan's literary sphere: He is a superb translator of literary works into Japanese.

"As a translator and a novelist, I've striven earnestly, to the best of my ability, to find a way to translate that which constitutes the most important elements of 'The Great Gatsby—its very essence, if you will—more effectively and more accurately," Murakami writes in the postscript of his Japanese-language translation of the book.

For Murakami, literary translation is not a mere hobby. Rather, it is part of his life, on a par with his novel writing. His literary translation and novel writing play off each other to create him.

Shochiku planning kabuki theater following passing of 'casino bill'

Updated : 12.01.2017 / Category Capsule

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Shochiku, a major Japanese film and theater company, is welcoming the December 15 enactment of the integrated resort (IR) promotion bill, which was passed just in time for the end of an extraordinary Diet session, despite strong opposition.

Indeed, the firm has long hoped for the establishment of the so-called "casino law," which will legalize casino gambling in Japan.

The insatiable ambition of SoftBank's CEO

Updated : 10.01.2017 / Category Economy

SoftBank Group Corp. CEO Masayoshi Son stunned both the Japanese and U.S. political and business circles when he met with U.S. President-elect Donald Trump in New York on December 6 (local time).

During the 45-minute-long talks at Trump Tower, Son—known for his shrewd ability to win over influential individuals to further his own goals—promised to invest a total of $50 billion (about ¥5.7 trillion) in U.S. startups, helping create about 50,000 jobs. For his part, Trump described Son (warmly referring to him as "Masa") as "one of the great men of industry." It was the first meeting between the two men.

Japanese Defense Ministry silent over atrocity near South Sudan encampment

Updated : 04.01.2017 / Category Capsule

Japan's Defense Ministry did not publicly reveal a report on an atrocity that took place near an encampment of a Japanese Ground Self-Defense Force (GSDF) unit dispatched last year to participate in U.N. peacekeeping operations in South Sudan, just as the government was debating whether to give the GSDF fresh roles in line with controversial security laws, it was learned recently.

The event was reportedly witnessed by members of the 10th unit during their operational duties as part of a U.N. mission called UNMISS, following their dispatch to South Sudan in June last year. "A terrible atrocity was carried out against citizens on the outskirts of the capital city of Juba, close to the SDF encampment" a Defense Ministry source said.

Doubts swirl around Toyota Prius after fatal accident in Japan

Updated : 02.01.2017 / Category Capsule

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Last month, a Toyota Motor Corp. Prius model taxi cab crashed into a hospital in Fukuoka City, southern Japan, killing three people and injuring several others. The police investigation concluded the taxi driver had mistakenly stepped on the gas pedal instead of the brake, based on an analysis of the information contained in the vehicle's event data recorder (EDR).

"There are continual rumors about Prius cars going out of control at convenience store parking lots and other facilities," said an automobile journalist who covers users' car-related comments. "In most cases, police have pointed to driver carelessness as the cause of such accidents."

LDP ignores needed reform by focusing on term limits

Updated : 27.12.2016 / Category Sentaku in The Japan Times

The Liberal Democratic Party quickly wrapped up its discussions to extend the maximum tenure of its president. However, the ruling party does not seem to be paying much attention to more complicated and serious issues that concern its future.

In just about a month after the party's political reform panel led by Vice President Masahiko Komura began discussions on the matter, the LDP effectively decided in late October to allow its president to run for three consecutive three-year terms, instead of the current maximum of two terms—a decision scheduled to be officially endorsed in a party convention next year. That will pave the way for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, the incumbent party chief, to run for yet another term as LDP president when his current term ends in September 2018. Initial calls for caution over the change by the potential post-Abe leaders who stand to see their chances of a near-term ascent to the party presidency dashed, such as Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida and former Secretary-General Shigeru Ishiba, quickly faded away.

What price will Japan pay for getting islands back?

Updated : 22.12.2016 / Category Sentaku in The Japan Times

Lord Palmerston, who served as prime minister of Britain in the 19th century, once remarked that "We have no eternal allies, and we have no perpetual enemies. Our interests are eternal and perpetual, and those interests it is our duty to follow." By quoting these words, a Japanese government insider said recently that Japan is no exception—particularly in an age when a character like Donald Trump gets nominated for president of the United States (and goes on to be elected), noting that Japan would have to map out a new path of its diplomacy should its alliance with the U.S. starts to become adrift.

As if to reflect this view on history in transition, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is bent on seeking a breakthrough on the decades-old territorial dispute with Russia over the group of islands off Hokkaido and move Russo-Japanese relations forward when he meets with President Vladimir Putin on Dec. 15 in Nagato in his home prefecture of Yamaguchi.

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