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Japan’s top court says government not responsible for Fukushima damage

The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant following a strong earthquake, in Okuma town, Fukushima prefecture, Japan, on March 17, 2022.

TokyoJapan’s government is not liable for damages demanded by people whose lives were devastated by the Fukushima nuclear disaster, the country’s top court said on Friday, the first such ruling in a series of similar cases.

The ruling’s effect as a precedent will be closely watched, media said.
A massive tsunami set off by a 9.0 magnitude earthquake off Japan’s northeastern coast on March 11, 2011 struck the Fukushima Daiichi power plant of Tokyo Electric Power (Tepco), causing the worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl and forcing hundreds of thousands from their homes.
Plaintiffs demanded damages from both Tepco and the country in several class-action lawsuits, and in March the Supreme Court upheld an order for Tepco to pay damages of 1.4 billion yen to about 3,700 people.
Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno declined direct comment when asked about the ruling at a news conference, though he said he was aware of it.
“Regardless of the ruling, we will stay close to those affected by the disaster and keep on doing our utmost for Fukushima’s reconstruction and revival,” he said.
About 470,000 people were forced to evacuate in the first days after the disaster, and tens of thousands remain unable to return even now.
Lower courts had split over the extent of the government’s responsibility in foreseeing the disaster and ordering Tepco to take steps to prevent it.

Vaccines, masks? Japan puzzling over sudden virus success

TOKYO (AP) — Almost overnight, Japan has become a stunning, and somewhat mysterious, coronavirus success story.

Daily new COVID-19 cases have plummeted from a mid-August peak of nearly 6,000 in Tokyo, with caseloads in the densely populated capital now routinely below 100, an 11-month low.

The bars are packed, the trains are crowded, and the mood is celebratory, despite a general bafflement over what, exactly, is behind the sharp drop.

Japan, unlike other places in Europe and Asia, has never had anything close to a lockdown, just a series of relatively toothless states of emergency.

Some possible factors in Japan’s success include a belated but remarkably rapid ecco shoes vaccination campaign, an emptying out of many nightlife areas as fears spread during the recent surge in cases, a widespread practice, well before the pandemic, of wearing masks and bad weather in late August that kept people home.

But with vaccine efficacy gradually waning and winter approaching, experts worry that without knowing what exactly why cases have dropped so drastically, Japan could face another wave like this summer, when hospitals overflowed with serious cases and deaths soared — though the numbers were lower than pre-vaccination levels.

Many credit the vaccination campaign, especially among younger people, for bringing infections down. Nearly 70 percent of the population is fully vaccinated.

“Rapid and intensive vaccinations in Japan among those younger than 64 might have created a temporary condition similar to herd-immunity,” said Dr. Kazuhiro Tateda, a Toho University professor of virology.

Tateda noted that vaccination rates surged in July to September, just as the more infectious delta variant was spreading fast.

He cautioned, however, that breakthrough infections in the U.S., Britain and other places where inoculations began months earlier than in Japan show that vaccines alone are not perfect and efficacy gradually wears off.

Japan’s vaccinations started in mid-February, with health workers and the elderly first in line. Shortages of imported vaccines kept progress slow until late May, when the supply stabilized and daily inoculation targets were raised to above 1 million doses to maximize protection before the July 23-Aug. 8 Olympics.

The number of daily shots rose to about 1.5 million in July, pushing vaccination rates from 15% in early July to 65% by early October, exceeding the 57% of the United States.

Daily new cases surged just weeks ahead of the Olympics, forcing Japan to hold the Games with daily caseloads of more than 5,000 in Tokyo and around 20,000 nationwide in early August. Tokyo reported 40 cases Sunday, below 100 for the ninth straight day and lowest this year. Nationwide, Japan reported 429 cases Sunday for an accumulated total of about 1.71 million and 18,000 deaths since the pandemic began early last year.

So why the drop?

“It’s a tough question, and we have to consider the effect of the vaccinations progress, which is extremely big,” said Disease Control and Prevention Center Director Norio Ohmagari. “At the same time, people who gather in high-risk steve madden shoes environments, such as crowded and less-ventilated places, may have been already infected and acquired natural immunity by now.”

Though some speculated that the drop in cases might be due to less testing, Tokyo metropolitan government data showed the positivity rate fell from 25% in late August to 1% in mid-October, while the number of tests fell by one-third. Masataka Inokuchi, the Tokyo Medical Association deputy chief, said falling positivity rates show infections have slowed.

Japan’s state of emergency measures were not lockdowns but requests that focused mainly on bars and eateries, which were asked to close early and not serve alcohol. Many people continued to commute on crowded trains, and attended sports and cultural events at stadiums with some social distancing controls.

The emergency requests have ended and the government is gradually expanding social and economic activity while allowing athletic events and package tours on a trial basis using vaccination certificates and increased testing.

To speed up inoculations, former Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, who left office recently, expanded the number of health workers legally eligible to give shots, opened large-scale vaccination centers and promoted workplace vaccinations beginning in late June.

Kyoto University professor Hiroshi Nishiura told a recent government advisory board meeting that he estimates vaccinations helped some 650,000 people avoid infection and saved more than 7,200 lives between March and September.

Many experts initially blamed younger people, seen drinking on the streets and in parks when the bars were closed, for spreading the virus, but said data showed many in their 40s and 50s also frequented nightlife districts. Most serious cases and deaths were among unvaccinated people in their 50s or younger.

Takaji Wakita, director of the National Institute of Infectious Diseases, told reporters recently he is worried people have already resumed partying in dr martens boots nightlife districts, noting that the slowing of infections may have already hit bottom.

“Looking ahead, it is important to further push down the caseloads in case of a future resurgence of infections,” Wakita said Thursday.

On Friday, new Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said a preparedness plan to be compiled by early November would include tougher limits on activities and require hospitals to provide more beds and staff for COVID-19 treatment in case infections soar in a “worst-case scenario.”

He did not elaborate on details.

Many people are cautious about letting down their guard, regardless of the numbers.

Mask-wearing “has become so normal,” said university student Mizuki Kawano. “I’m still worried about the virus,” she said.

“I don’t want to get close to those who don’t wear masks,” said her friend, Alice Kawaguchi.

Public health experts want a comprehensive investigation into why infections have dropped off.

An analysis of GPS data showed that people’s movements in major downtown entertainment districts fell during the most recent, third state of emergency, which ended Sept. 30.

“I believe the decrease of people visiting entertainment districts, along with the vaccination progress, has contributed to the decline of infections,” said Atsushi Nishida, the director of the Research Center for Social Science & Medicine Sciences at the Tokyo Metropolitan Institute of Medical Science.

But people headed back to entertainment districts as soon as the recent emergency ended, he said, and that may “affect the infection situation in coming weeks.”

Japan to declare state of emergency, Tokyo Olympics still on but maybe without fans

The Olympic rings is displayed near the National Stadium, main venue for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games in Tokyo on July 7, 2021, as reports said the Japanese government plans to impose a virus state of emergency in Tokyo during the Olympics. (Photo by Kazuhiro NOGI / AFP) (Photo by KAZUHIRO NOGI/AFP via Getty Images)
The Olympic rings are on display throughout Tokyo. The Games begin July 23.

The Tokyo Olympics will happen later this month amid a state of emergency.

The Japanese government on Thursday proposed a plan to re-institute strict measures to counter COVID-19 surges in the capital. ecco shoes The measures will take effect next week, and last the duration of the Games, according to widespread media reports.

And they will likely lead Olympic organizers to reconsider their decision to allow local fans to attend events. The Asahi Shimbun reported that venues in and around Tokyo would be “completely unattended.” An announcement on fans is reportedly expected Friday at the latest.

On Wednesday, 16 days before the July 23 Opening Ceremony, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government reported 920 COVID cases, over 200 more than any other single-day total since May. Dr. Shigeru Omi, a top government medical advisor, said that “infections are in their expansion phase and everyone in this country must firmly understand the seriousness of it.”

Prime minister Yoshihide Suga vowed to “do everything we can to prevent the further spread of the infections.” One day later, he has reportedly decided to declare the state of emergency, which will extend through Aug. 22, two weeks after the Olympics end.

Organizers have said, though, that the Games can and will go on in a state of emergency.

The state of COVID in Tokyo

Tokyo’s seven-day COVID-case average had fallen in late May and early June, to fewer than 400 cases per day in a city of billions. The decline led government officials to peel back their previous state of emergency, and eased any lingering fears in the Olympic world that the golden goose sneakers Games might be postponed again or canceled.

That seven-day average, however, has been slowly but steadily climbing since June 18, two days before the previous state of emergency was lifted. Some targeted restrictions remained in place, leaving some sectors of public life under a quasi-state of emergency. But the virus lingered, and over the past 10 days showed signs of accelerating. The test positivity rate rose from under 4% in mid-June to over 6% this week. Hospitalizations are also rising.

Transmission rates remain far lower than they ever were at the pandemic’s peak in the U.S. But with most Japanese still unvaccinated — less than 30% has received at least one dose — officials and citizens have been wary of exponential spread, and of the possibility that the Olympics could contribute to it.

The Olympics’ plan for COVID

Olympic organizers have outlined and plan to enforce a complex web of COVID countermeasures that will limit contact between Olympic participants and non-participant Japanese citizens. The measures won’t completely eliminate that contact, but all “Level 1” participants — athletes, coaches, team officials and more — will be tested daily. Testing frequency for others will depend on how often they interact with Level 1 participants. The testing will greatly limit spread in and around the Olympic bubble.

The Japanese concerns, though, extend beyond that bubble. One is that the Games would lead to dense gatherings of local citizens. Organizers have barred foreign fans from traveling to Tokyo, but in late June, one day after the previous state of emergency was lifted, announced that venues would open to Japanese spectators at 50% skechers outlet capacity, up to 10,000 per event.

In doing so, organizers defied the advice of Omi, the government medical advisor, who had recommended a ban on all spectators and warned of “continuing risks of a resurgence of the infections that puts pressure on [Japan’s] medical systems.”

In announcing the decision, though, organizers left leeway for reconsideration. “In the event that a state of emergency or other priority measures aimed at preventing infection are implemented at any time after July 12,” they said, “restrictions on spectator numbers at the Games, including non-spectator competitions, will be based on the content of the state of emergency or other relevant measures in force at that time.”

In light of the impending reinstitution of emergency measures, some reports have suggested that all fans will be barred from events, but that sponsors and other stakeholders may still be allowed to attend. On Monday, the Tokyo 2020 Organizing Committee push a ticket lottery back from Tuesday, July 6 to Saturday, July 10.

International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach is set to arrive in Tokyo on Thursday. He and others will meet with local organizers Friday, and will reportedly make a final decision on spectators then.

2022 Toyota GR 86 embraces sports car evolution with fresh looks, more power

The Subaru BRZ’s twin is finally here, and the new Toyota GR 86 keeps the back-to-basics sports car formula in great shape.

2022-toyota-86

The new Toyota 86 sports car looks great.

We saw the 2022 Subaru BRZ last year, and on Sunday, Toyota debuted its version. Welcome the second-generation Toyota 86 sports car to the world, which bows with more power, edgier looks and the same mission as its predecessor: provide affordable fun for the masses.

Toyota revealed the new sports car, officially known as the GR 86 around the world now, in Japan with partner Subaru showing off the BRZ for the first time locally. While the two wear different wrappers, the 86 is once again largely an identical car to the BRZ. Behind the Toyota Gazoo Racing grille sits a 2.4-liter flat-four engine, sans turbocharger, that makes 230 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque. We’ll have to wait for US-spec units to see if the GR 86 actually makes a couple more horsepower than the BRZ’s 228 hp, or if the kilowatts-to-horsepower conversion is generous. Toyota told Roadshow US-specific information will come in the weeks ahead. Like the BRZ, the 2.4-liter engine replaces the 2.0-liter unit with over 20 more hp and nearly 30 additional lb-ft.

Drivers will once again have the option of a six-speed manual or automatic transmission, and both send power to rear tires exclusively, measuring 215/40, just like those on the BRZ. A set of 18-inch wheels are standard. With the manual transmission, a sprint from 0 to 62 mph should take 6.3 seconds — over 1 second quicker than the outgoing 86 — and weight only increases by 23 pounds when comparing the new and old cars.

Here are the two of them side by side. I think the 86 looks better.Toyota

Strong quake shakes Japan; minor injuries, no major damage

MARI YAMAGUCHI
·2 min read
TOKYO (AP) — A strong earthquake struck Saturday off northern Japan, shaking buildings even in Tokyo and triggering a tsunami advisory for a part of the northern coast. No major damage was reported, but several people had minor injuries.

The U.S. Geological Survey put the strength of the quake at magnitude 7.0 and depth at 54 kilometers (33.5 miles). The shaking started just before 6:10 p.m.

The quake was centered off the coast of Miyagi prefecture, in the country’s rugged northeast, which was heavily damaged during the huge earthquake and tsunami of 2011 that left more than 18,000 people dead.

Japan’s Meteorological Agency issued an advisory for a tsunami up to 1 meter (yard) in height for Miyagi prefecture immediately after the quake, but lifted it about 90 minutes later.

Officials there said there were no immediate reports of damage.

The Fire and Disaster Management Agency said seven people were injured in Miyagi prefecture, including two elderly women — one who was banged in the head by a door and the other who was hit in the shoulder by furniture. In neighboring Iwate prefecture, a woman in her 50s fell and cut her mouth.

The strong temblor caused a temporary blackout in some areas and suspended bullet train services in the area, according to the East Japan Railway Co.

The Nuclear Regulation Authority said no abnormalities have been detected at nuclear power plants in the region, including the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, which suffered meltdowns in the 2011 quake and tsunami.

Akira Wakimoto, a crisis management official in Tome town in Miyagi prefecture, said he was in his apartment when the quake struck, and felt his room shake for a long time.

In a coastal city of Ofunato, Shotaro Suzuki, a hotel employee, said there was a temporary blackout and elevators stopped briefly, but power has been restored and there were no other problems.

“Our guests seemed worried at first, but they have all returned to their rooms, and our facility seems fine,(asterisk) Suzuki told NHK.

Flu almost vanishes; cases this season estimated at a mere 14,000 in Japan

An estimated 14,000 patients visited medical institutions for influenza during the period between last fall and March 7, the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare recently announced.

The number of influenza cases is believed to be the lowest at least since 1999, when the current counting method began. Last flu season, when the number of cases was relatively low, the estimated number was 7,285,000.

This time around, there were fears that the novel coronavirus and influenza would spread simultaneously. However, it is believed that the number of influenza cases has greatly decreased because of calls for thorough hand washing and hand disinfection, and the wearing of masks, coupled with a drastic decrease in travelers to and from overseas.

About 5,000 medical institutions nationwide each week report the number of influenza cases, and the estimated number of patients is based on these figures.

The number of reported cases for the week ending March 7, the last announcement of the season, was only 26.

Japan man held over bodies and severed heads in flat

Members of the media gather in front of an apartment building where media reported nine bodies were found in Zama, Kanagawa Prefecture, Japan in this photo taken by Kyodo on October 31, 2017
IMAGE COPYRIGHTREUTERS
image captionReporters gathered outside the suspect’s home on Tuesday

Japanese police have arrested a man after finding parts of nine bodies in his apartment in Zama, near Tokyo.

Police found two severed heads in a cold-storage container outside the flat of the suspect, named as Takahiro Shiraishi, while investigating the disappearance of a woman.

They also found the body parts of seven other people, also stored in cool boxes, in his apartment.

The 27-year-old is being held on suspicion of disposing of the bodies.

Police had found the body parts of eight females and one male, some in varying stages of decomposition, Japanese newspaper Mainichi Shimbun reported.

Mr Shiraishi told police he had killed the nine and hid their bodies, broadcaster NHK reported, citing the Metropolitan Police Department.

“I killed them and did some work on the bodies in order to hide the evidence,” NHK quoted him as saying.

Meanwhile, his next-door neighbour said he had started smelling strange odours from the flat after Mr Shiraishi moved in in August, NHK and Asahi Shimbun said.

Police made the grisly discovery while looking for a 23-year-old woman, who had been missing since 21 October.

Investigators found that Mr Shiraishi had been in contact with her, after she wrote online that she wanted to commit suicide.

On Tuesday, reporters gathered outside the suspect’s home, while neighbours expressed shock at the incident.

“It’s a quiet residential area here, with a day care centre nearby. I can’t believe the bodies were discovered in an area like this,” a 41-year-old neighbour told Mainichi Shimbun.

Japan ‘Twitter killer’ Takahiro Shiraishi sentenced to death

Takahiro Shiraishi
IMAGE COPYRIGHTGETTY IMAGES
image captionTakahiro Shiraishi after his arrest in 2017

A man who murdered nine people after contacting them on Twitter has been sentenced to death, in a high-profile case that has shocked Japan.

Takahiro Shiraishi, dubbed the “Twitter killer”, was arrested in 2017 after body parts were found in his flat.

The 30-year-old had admitted to murdering and dismembering his victims – almost all of whom were young women he met on the social media platform.

The serial killings triggered debate over how suicide is discussed online.

More than 400 people turned up to watch the verdict on Tuesday, despite the court only having 16 seats available for the public, reported local media.

Public support for the death penalty remains high in Japan, one of the few developed nations to retain capital punishment.

How did he find his victims?

Shiraishi used Twitter to lure suicidal women to his home, saying he could help them die and, in some cases, claimed he would kill himself alongside them.

He strangled and dismembered eight women and one man aged 15 to 26 between August and October 2017, said Japan’s Kyodo news agency, citing the indictment.

The serial killings first came to light on Halloween that year when police found dismembered body parts in Shiraishi’s flat in the Japanese city of Zama, near Tokyo.

Japanese media called it the “house of horrors” after investigators discovered nine heads along with a large number of arm and leg bones stashed in coolers and tool boxes.

What happened at trial?

Prosecutors sought the death penalty for Shiraishi, who admitted to killing and butchering his victims.

But Shiraishi’s lawyers argued that he was guilty of the lesser charge of “murder with consent”, claiming his victims had given their permission to be killed.

Shiraishi later disputed his own defence team’s version of events, and said he killed without their consent.

On Tuesday, the judge who delivered the verdict said that “none of the victims agreed to be killed”.

“The defendant was found to be fully responsible,” said Naokuni Yano, reported The Straits Times newspaper.

What impact had the case had?

The father of one victim, aged 25, told the court last month that he “will never forgive Shiraishi even if he dies”, according to Japanese broadcaster NHK

“Even now, when I see a woman of my daughter’s age, I mistake her for my daughter. This pain will never go away. Give her back to me,” he had said.

The killings stunned Japan, triggering fresh debate about websites where suicide is discussed. At the time the government indicated it may introduce new regulations.

The murders also prompted a change by Twitter, which amended its rules to state users should not “promote or encourage suicide or self-harm”.

Japan refuses to join a statement accusing China of Hong Kong’s security law

On May 29, at the regular press conference of the Ministry of foreign affairs of China, a foreign media reporter asked that on May 28, the four foreign ministers of the United States, Britain, Australia and Canada issued a joint statement saying that the legislative decision on Hong Kong related national security adopted by the National People’s Congress of China violated the international obligations stipulated in the principles of the joint statement of China and Britain and damaged the framework of one country, two systems. What is China’s comment on this ?

In response, Zhao Lijian, a spokesman, said that the countries concerned made comments and accusations and interfered in Hong Kong affairs and China’s internal affairs roughly. China expresses strong dissatisfaction and firm opposition to this and has made solemn representations to relevant countries.

“In any country in the world, whether it is a single system or a federal system, the national security legislation belongs to the national legislative right. It has always been the central authority to maintain national security, which is the case in any country.” Zhao Lijian said that looking around the world, no country is allowed to engage in actions endangering national security such as splitting the country on its own territory. “With the resumption of China’s exercise of sovereignty over Hong Kong in 1997, all the rights and obligations related to the UK stipulated in the China UK Joint Declaration have been fulfilled.” He said.

Zhao Lijian pointed out that after Hong Kong’s return, the legal basis for the Chinese government to govern the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region is the constitution of the people’s Republic of China and the basic law of Hong Kong. “The countries concerned do not have any legal basis, nor are they entitled to invoke the China UK Joint Declaration to make a statement about Hong Kong affairs.” “Hong Kong is China’s Hong Kong. No one is more concerned about the prosperity and stability of Hong Kong and the fundamental well-being of Hong Kong residents than the central government. No one is more determined than the central government to fully and accurately implement the principle of one country, two systems and the basic law,” he said