TIME Japan

Japanese City Urges ‘Smartphone Curfew’ on Teens

Teenagers in Kasuga are facing lonely nights after education authorities advised a nightly ban on smartphones between 10pm and 6am

The education board of a Japanese city has said junior high school pupils should stop using their phones after 10pm, the Wall Street Journal reports.

In the city of Kasuga, education authorities have encouraged students to surrender their phones to adults between 10pm and 6am Though the board has support from local schools, there are no penalties in place for those who disobey.

A survey conducted by the Japanese cabinet office in November and December of last year found that over half of students aged 13-15 owned a cell phone.

Of the 52% that did, nearly half owned a smartphone. This is a staggering leap from 2010 when only 2.6% of those with cell phones had smartphones.

The Japanese government has voiced concerns about excessive internet use amongst children. Their website warns of the risks of such use, citing cyberbullying, leaks of private information and use of pay sites as possible examples.

This latest campaign by authorities in Kasuga came after discussions with parent-teacher associations concerned about smartphone use amongst teens.

Posters and leaflets have been sent to the city’s six junior high schools asking them to observe the ban.

Kasuga’s campaign follows the city of Kariya who started a similar campaign, with a curfew of 9 p.m., in April.

[WSJ]

TIME Japan

Typhoon Neoguri Barrels Toward Japan

Typhoon Neoguri, the first super typhoon of 2014 heading towards Japan on July 7, 2014.
Typhoon Neoguri, the first super typhoon of 2014 heading towards Japan on July 7, 2014. NOAA/EPA

"This is not just another typhoon"

A “once in decades” storm is approaching Japan’s southern islands with winds up to 150 mph, the country’s weather agency said according to Reuters.

Typhoon Neoguri was south of Okinawa on Monday afternoon local time, but moving northwest with sustained winds of 110 mph. The Japan Meteorological Agency has issued high sea warnings and storm advisories for the Okinawa island chain and other parts of southern Japan, forecasting that the super typhoon will grow into an “extremely intense” storm by Tuesday.

“In these regions, there is a chance of the kinds of storms, high seas, storm surges and heavy rains that you’ve never experienced before,” a JMA official said at a news conference according to Reuters. “This is an extraordinary situation, where a grave danger is approaching.”

The state minister in charge of disaster management canceled a planned trip to the United States.

Okinawa is home to most of the U.S. military facilities in Japan, and Kadena Air Force Base, one of the largest, was taking measures to prepare for the storm.

“I can’t stress enough how dangerous this typhoon may be when it hits Okinawa. This is the most powerful typhoon forecast to hit the island in 15 years,” Brigadier General James Hecker, the base commander, wrote on the Facebook page. “This is not just another typhoon.”

TIME Japan

Japan Is Planning to Resume Whale Hunts

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe Visits New Zealand
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe speaks to the media after a traditional Maori welcome at Government House and talks with New Zealand Prime Minister John Key on July 7, 2014, in Auckland. Fiona Goodall—Getty Images

Trade talks turned to whale rights in New Zealand as Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe touted a revival of his nation's "scientific" whaling program

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told his New Zealand counterpart, John Key, during trade talks in Auckland that Japan intends to resume whaling in the Southern Ocean.

Key said he was told of Tokyo’s plans to build a scientific whaling program that is in line with the International Court of Justice’s recent guidelines, but made his position clear that all whale hunting should cease, reports the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. “New Zealand’s view is there is no place for whaling, scientific or otherwise,” said Key.

In March, Australia and New Zealand won a legal case against Japan’s government-subsidized whaling program in Antarctica. The court found that the scheme was carried out predominantly for commercial purposes, instead of scientific research as claimed.

Abe dodged reporters’ questions on whether or not Japan will resume whaling. “We will abide by the verdict of the International Court of Justice, but in any case there are different positions in regard to whaling,” he said.

[Australian Broadcasting Corporation]

TIME China

On a Wartime Anniversary, China Steps Up Its Anti-Japan PR Campaign

CHINA-JAPAN-WAR-BRIDGE
A woman reads from an inscription on the Marco Polo bridge, or Lugouqiao, in west Beijing on Sept. 3, 2013. Ed Jones—AFP/Getty Images

Generous coverage of the 77th Marco Polo Bridge Incident anniversary comes amid simmering geopolitical tensions between the two Asian powers

On the evening of July 7, 1937, and into the next day, Japanese soldiers began making their way across the Marco Polo Bridge in Beijing, beginning a ruthless eight-year occupation that ceased only with imperial Japan’s defeat at the end of World War II. As far as anniversaries go, 77 may not be a particularly iconic number. But the People’s Daily, the mouthpiece of the Chinese Communist Party, announced that it would be conducting rare live coverage of the Marco Polo Bridge Incident commemoration.

First up in the morning was a “grand gathering” at the Museum of the War of Chinese People’s Resistance Against Japanese Aggression in Beijing, which was attended by China’s President Xi Jinping. “We firmly take the path of peaceful development and safeguard world peace,” said Xi in a speech, according to Xinhua, the Chinese state media agency. “History is history and facts are facts. Nobody can change history and facts. Anyone who intends to deny, distort or beautify history will not find agreement among Chinese people and people of all other countries.” Xi also unveiled what Xinhua called an “anti-Japan war sculpture.”

The generous coverage of the 77th Marco Polo Bridge Incident anniversary appears to be part of an effort by the ruling Chinese Communist Party to highlight Japan’s brutal wartime past, at a time when geopolitical tensions between the two Asian powers are simmering. Last week, Japan’s hawkish Prime Minister Shinzo Abe pushed through a controversial reinterpretation of Japan’s pacifist constitution that allows the nation to engage militarily in order to defend its allies should they come under attack. The notion is known as collective self-defense.

Abe’s administration also issued a report last month that reviewed the process by which a 1993 Japanese government statement was made apologizing for the systematic sexual enslavement of Asian women by the Japanese military. While the review did not result in any overturning of the Kono Statement, just the fact that a reappraisal was conducted enraged both the Chinese and South Korean governments, who have accused Abe and his conservative cohorts of diminishing Japan’s wartime abuses.

Amid a territorial spat over uninhabited isles in the East China Sea, a July 7 Xinhua editorial on Japan opined, “War is hell, but there are always devils who try to spark war and trample peace under foot.” (The editorial did also concede that “Japanese people are respected for their diligence and energy-saving awareness.”)

Last week, the Chinese State Archives Administration announced that it would begin releasing confessions by Japanese who were convicted as war criminals by China’s Supreme People’s Court. The full texts of the 45 confessions are being released daily online. China is also applying to UNESCO to have documents related to the Nanjing Massacre and Chinese comfort women (as the women forced to sexually service Japanese soldiers are called) added to the Memory of the World Register — a move that has gained popular support on Chinese social media. Earlier this year, China’s rubber-stamp parliament designated Dec. 13 as a national remembrance day for the Nanjing Massacre.

Earlier this year, I visited Nanjing to tour the Memorial Hall of the Victims of the Nanjing Massacre by Japanese Invaders, which ensures that the six-week slaughter that began in late 1937 is not forgotten. The museum welcomes 6 million visitors a year with a permanent exhibition called “A Human Holocaust.” Photos and videos show women disemboweled after they were raped, along with piles of Chinese corpses. A vast graveyard of pebbles represents the lives stolen by Japanese soldiers.

Museum director Zhu Chengshan was scathing in his appraisal of Japan’s Prime Minister Abe, whose grandfather directed industrialization efforts in Manchuria, the northeastern Chinese region that Japan turned into a puppet regime and where imperial soldiers carried out horrific crimes, including biochemical experiments on civilians. “Japan has consistently denied its mistakes and says it loves peace but [these are] empty words,” Zhu said. “A lot of serious criminals were let go and some became the Prime Minister of Japan, like Abe’s grandfather. Abe is taking Japan to the right but there is not just one Abe. There are many other people in Japan like him.”

But Chen Guixiang, 91, a survivor of the Nanjing Massacre, was more forgiving. She recalled, through tears, how her grandmother was murdered by Japanese soldiers. Fearful of being raped or killed, Chen, then 14, hid in a hole for three months, her legs atrophying from the confined space. She shared museum director Zhu’s antipathy toward Abe but didn’t hold an entire nation accountable. “I think the Japanese government was pro-war and evil,” Chen said, “but the Japanese people are good.”

After we talked, Chen shuffled out of the museum, past massive sculptures representing anguished figures brutalized by Japanese soldiers. The number 300,000, which China estimates as the death toll of the military rampage, is emblazoned repeatedly on an outdoor wall of shame. On July 7, People’s Daily posted a picture of this wall on its home page. The day before, a new website was launched to publicize the Nanjing Massacre, a joint effort by the Memorial Hall and official news agency Xinhua. Those who visit the website will be able to light virtual candles to honor the massacre’s victims, so they will never be forgotten.

With reporting by Chengcheng Jiang / Nanjing

TIME East Asia

The Chinese President’s Visit to Seoul Says Much About Shifting Alliances

SKOREA-CHINA-DIPLOMACY
China's President Xi Jinping and his wife Peng Liyuan are welcomed upon arrival at Seoul Air Base on July 3, 2014 Ed Jones—AFP/Getty Images

The two-day trip is the first time a Chinese leader has chosen to visit South Korea before calling on the North

South Korea is a good neighbor. North Korea, not so much. That’s the message China sent this week as President Xi Jinping stopped by Seoul for a two-day visit. It is the first time a Chinese leader chose to visit South Korea before meeting with the Kim clan first — a deliberate slight to North Korea and a sign of shifting alliances across Asia’s northeast.

South Korea and China are not natural allies. China backed the North in the 1950–53 war that split the Korean Peninsula. Since then, Beijing has been North Korea’s greatest ally, serving as patron and protector to Pyongyang — a closeness Mao Zedong once likened to “lips and teeth.”

But the bonds of authoritarian brotherhood have frayed of late. Beijing is rather tired of the North’s nuclear theatrics and increasing unwillingness to prop up its sluggish economy. The North’s bold young dictator, Kim Jong Un, has yet to meet with Beijing’s top brass. As news of Xi’s Seoul trip broke, he was busy lobbing rockets into the sea.

Shared frustration with the North has given democratic South Korea and authoritarian China some common ground. They have since discovered they share much else, including a thriving trading partnership and an old foe: Japan. Amid ongoing territorial disputes, the legacy of Japan’s 20th century imperial expansion and the country’s wartime record have become a focal point for East Asia, particularly Seoul and Beijing. They recently collaborated on a museum that pays tribute to Korean man who, in 1909, assassinated a Japanese colonial official.

Not wanting to be outmaneuvered, Tokyo has made a quiet overture to Pyongyang. Sitting within range of North Korea’s nuclear arsenal, and an ally of the U.S., Japan is hardly a North Korea fan. But, on July 3 as Xi flew to Seoul, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced that he would lift some economic sanctions on North Korea in return for its pledge to investigate the abduction of Japanese nationals by North Korean agents in the 1970s and 1980s. Japanese and North Korean diplomats have already met in Beijing.

TIME North Korea

Japan To Lift Some Sanctions On North Korea

North Korea Agrees To Reopen 'Full-Scale' Investigation Into Abduction Issue
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announces North Korea has agreed to reinvestigate its abduction of Japanese nationals at his official residence on May 29, 2014 in Tokyo, Japan. The Asahi Shimbun

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced the decision Thursday but provided no immediate details.

(TOKYO) — Japan says it will lift some of the sanctions it has imposed on North Korea.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced the decision Thursday but provided no immediate details.

The lifting of the sanctions is in return for North Korea’s promise to reinvestigate the fate of Japanese who were abducted by North Korean agents in the 1970s and 1980s.

Even a partial thaw could provide Pyongyang with a small but potentially meaningful boost to its recent efforts at promoting international tourism and, perhaps farther down the road, increased trade.

TIME Japan

Japan Ends Ban on Military Self-Defense

JAPAN-DEFENCE-SECURITY-POLITICS
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe speaks during a press conference at his official residence in Tokyo on July 1, 2014. Kazuhiro Nogi—AFP/Getty Images

But the public worries that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is turning his back on the country's post-WWII pacifism

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced a major revision to Japan’s pacifist postwar defense policy amid wide public protests Tuesday — but don’t expect to see Japanese troops sweeping across foreign battlefields anytime soon.

Under the new policy, Japan’s powerful but low-profile military would be allowed to defend friends and allies under attack for the first time, even overseas. It’s part of a new interpretation of Japan’s war-renouncing constitution that Abe has pushed since taking office 18 months ago.

But ending the ban on so-called collective self-defense comes amid widespread public opposition. Thousands of protesters ringed Abe’s office during his televised announcement. A middle-aged man in a business suit set himself afire in protest in downtown Tokyo on Sunday — a shocking event in normally docile Japan.

But in many ways, the new policy merely formalizes the linguist sleight-of-hand that has allowed an officially pacifist nation to maintain a military of 250,000 well-trained and well-equipped troops in the first place.

“This is not a game changer,” says Brad Glosserman, executive director of the Pacific Forum CSIS in Honolulu. “The Japanese have always been able to find a way to do whatever was needed to defend their interests and meet their obligations under the U.S.-Japan Security Treaty. What this does is allow them to do things more openly.”

At issue is Article 9 of the constitution, written in the early days of the U.S. occupation of 1945–52. The article formally renounces Japan’s right to wage war or maintain a military:

Article 9

Aspiring sincerely to an international peace based on justice and order, the Japanese people forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of forces as a means of settling international disputes.

In order to accomplish the aim of the preceding paragraph, land, sea and air forces, as well as other war potential, will never be maintained. The right of belligerency of the state will not be recognized.

Various interpretations over the years have allowed Japan to develop robust air, land and sea forces and maintain the right to defend itself against attack, should that ever be necessary (so far, it hasn’t). Until now, however, Japan’s Self-Defense Forces have operated on the premise that they could not come to the aid of friendly countries — like the U.S., for example — unless the Japanese were directly attacked as well.

Abe says that has to change. North Korea’s development of nuclear warheads and long-range missiles, and China’s growing defense spending and military assertiveness, means that no country in the region can defend itself on its own, according to Abe. If Japan wants to count on its friends, its friends must be able to count on Japan too.

“The most important thing is that this makes it possible for us to work more closely with countries in the region to maintain the balance of power and deterrence vis-à-vis China. Unless Japan can exercise the right of collective self-defense, we can’t even participate in joint training exercises, even in peacetime,” says Narushige Michishita, director of the Security and International Studies Program at the National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies in Tokyo.

Abe has been pushing an aggressive defense agenda even as he’s struggled to right Japan’s ailing economy. He has organized a new National Security Council, rammed through a tough new state-secrets law and ordered a small but important increase in defense spending.

But ending the ban on collective self-defense has been a hard sell, even to Abe’s own ruling block. Resistance from within his coalition forced a milder version of the policy than recommended by a handpicked advisory committee earlier this year. Abe has attempted to placate concerns by vowing Japan would never abandon its pacifist ideals. Under no circumstances, he said Tuesday, would Japanese troops be sent to fight in wars like those in Iraq or Afghanistan, even if the new policy permits.

“We shall never repeat the horror of war. With this reflection in mind, Japan has gone on for 70 years after the war. It will never happen that Japan again becomes a country which goes to war,” Abe said.

The public may need more convincing. In a Kyodo News poll over the weekend, 55.4% of respondents expressed opposition to Abe’s plan, up from 48.1% just a month ago. Thousands of well-dressed, mostly middle-class citizens protested overnight Monday and Tuesday in front of Abe’s official residence at the perceived shift from Japan’s pacifist post-WWII constitution. “The current constitution is the result of the sacrifice of more than three million Japanese and more than 20 million Asian victims of war,” Yoshihiko Murata, a 74-year-old protester, told the Guardian. “We should value it more.”

On Sunday, a man spoke calmly for 30 minutes against the new policy from a pedestrian bridge near the busy Shinjuku train station, then doused himself with gasoline and set himself on fire. The man survived, though his current condition is not known. Although the incident was largely ignored by Japan’s mainstream news media, the incident lit up the country’s busy social media and scores of videos were posted on YouTube and other sites, garnering more than a million views.

The U.S. welcomes the new policy, as have leaders in Australia and the Philippines. The reaction in China and South Korea, which suffered mightily during Japan’s era of wartime and colonial expansion, has been less sanguine, of course. Michishita says the new policy is unlikely to make much practical difference. Japan has not had to invoke its right of individual self-defense since the end of World War II. If deterrence works, the same should hold for collective self-defense.

“People might expect us to do more now that we have the right to exercise collective self-defense, but we might end up doing not much more, and that might actually undermine the confidence of people in the region in Japan,” he says. “They could end up saying, ‘Well, after all this fuss, Japan is not going to do anything significantly different.’”

TIME

Japan’s Cabinet Eases Post-WWII Limits on Military

TOKYO — Since Japan’s defeat in World War II, its military has been shackled by restrictions imposed by a victorious U.S. and that, over time, a majority of Japanese adopted as their own. Now, the shackles are being loosened.

Japan’s Cabinet on Tuesday approved a reinterpretation of the country’s pacifist postwar constitution that will allow the military to help defend allies and others “in a close relationship” with Japan under what is known as “collective self-defense.”

Previous governments have said the war-renouncing Article 9 of the constitution limited the use of force to defending Japan.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said the shift is needed to protect the lives of the Japanese people in an increasingly severe security environment. Japanese warships would be able to help protect U.S. ships that were defending Japan, he said.

“Peace is not something you expect to be given, but it’s something that we must achieve on our own,” he said in a televised news conference.

The issue has divided Japan, where many worry about China’s growing military assertiveness but also support the anti-war clause of the constitution and fret about a possible slide toward the militarism that led to World War II.

About 2,000 people protested outside Abe’s office, saying that any change to the constitution should be made through a public referendum, not simply a Cabinet reinterpretation.

“For 70 years, Japan has kept its peace with its constitution,” said 67-year-old protester Toshio Ban. “What are we to do with that stupid man trying to trample over the precious constitution?”

The move drew sharp criticism from China, and a cautious reaction from South Korea, which was colonized by Japan from 1910 to 1945.

“Beijing opposes Japan’s act of hyping the China threat,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said at a daily briefing. The new policy “raises doubts about Japan’s approach to peaceful development.”

South Korean Foreign Ministry spokesman Noh Kwang-il said: “The South Korean government views it as a significant revision to the defense and security policy under the postwar peace constitution, and is paying a sharp attention to it.”

Written under U.S. direction after World War II, the 1947 constitution says the Japanese people “forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation.” The article was crafted to prevent a repeat of Japan’s invasion and brutal occupation of wide swaths of Asia.

America’s position shifted quickly with the outbreak of the 1950-53 Korean War. The U.S. began to see Japan as an ally in the Cold War and pressed its former enemy to rearm. Today, with America’s military financially stretched, the U.S. is backing whatever Japan can do to play a larger role in regional security.

The Japanese, though, particularly older generations, have witnessed Japan’s success under the constitution, even if the postwar economic miracle has lost some luster in the last two decades.

“Most Japanese, over two-thirds, feel that this peace constitution is part of their identity,” said Jeff Kingston, head of Asian Studies at Temple University Japan in Tokyo.

The Cabinet decision is hardly the first loosening of the shackles. The constitutional ban has been relaxed several times over the years, starting with the introduction of a “police” force during the Korean War, which became a military dubbed the Self-Defense Force in 1954.

A major turning point came after the 1991 Gulf War, when a wealthy Japan was criticized for contributing money but not “boots on the ground.” After hostilities ended, Japan sent mine sweepers to the Gulf as part of U.N. mission, triggering massive protests at home.

A special law passed in 1992 allowed the military to participate in U.N. election monitoring in Cambodia, the first overseas deployment of troops since World War II.

Japan enacted a set of laws in 2003 to enable troops to join the U.N. Iraq reconstruction mission. But Japanese soldiers were only allowed to fire in self-defense, and had to be escorted by Dutch, British and Australian troops, something Japanese conservatives saw as an embarrassment.

The government has no immediate plans to change the constitution, which has never been amended. But Abe and subsequent governments will now be empowered to authorize greater military engagement under the new interpretation of the charter.

Opponents worry the new policy could be a step toward eventual participation in joint military actions such as the war in Iraq.

Abe said his government stands by its current position of not sending troops to overseas battlefields. An agreement with junior coalition partner New Komeito includes restrictions on when Japan can exercise collective self-defense.

“Japan’s status as a peaceful country will not change,” Abe said.

Buddhist-backed New Komeito initially opposed the change, and Tuesday’s Cabinet decision came after weeks of negotiations between the two parties.

Takeshi Iwaya, a lawmaker who chairs a ruling party research commission on security, said Japan has long said it won’t repeat the mistakes of World War II, but that is no longer enough to preserve peace.

“Up to now, Japan has said it will never do anything wrong and merely wish for peace,” he said in an interview. “What we are trying to do now is to play a more proactive role.”

TIME Tech

These Human Robots Will Haunt Your Nightmares

Japan hopes lifelike robots will be as common as laptops

Meet Otonaroid and Kodomoroid, two eerily lifelike robots who can read fluently, recite tongue twisters, blink, move and twitch their eyebrows (natch).

Japanese android expert Hiroshi Ishiguro unveiled the female cyborgs on Tuesday at the National Museum of Merging Science and Innovation. The two will be on display at the Museum for visitors to interact with.

Ishiguro’s robotics are the latest confirmation of the uncanny valley hypothesis, which posits that humans find discomfort when robotic and animated humans approach a natural human appearance.

With Softbank’s commercialization of robots, Ishiguro—who’s previously designed his own doppelgänger robots—hopes that robots will soon become a part of everyday life in Japan.

TIME sexism

Japan Politician Sorry for Heckling Female Colleague

Akihiro Suzuki, a member of the Tokyo metropolitan assembly, bows to Ayaka Shiomura, a fellow assembly member, to apologize for his sexist jeer during a recent event, at Tokyo city hall on June 23, 2014.
Akihiro Suzuki, a member of the Tokyo metropolitan assembly, bows to Ayaka Shiomura, a fellow assembly member, to apologize for his sexist jeer during a recent event, at Tokyo city hall on June 23, 2014. Jiji Press—AFP/Getty Images

Shouted at female assembly member to "get married"

A Japanese politician apologized Monday after he shouted sexist remarks at a fellow assembly member during her speech last week about increased public support for pregnant women.

Akihiro Suzuki, a member of the ruling LDP party, admitted he taunted fellow assembly member Ayaka Shiomura, from the minority Your party, during her speech, CNN reports. He apologized for shouting out “You should get married” while Shiomura was speaking, but denies making a second comment, “Can’t you even bear a child?” A video of the incident shows Shiomura reduced to tears by the comments, but she finishes her speech anyway. She was advocating for more public support for pregnant women in the Tokyo assembly on June 18.

Shiomura accepted Suzuki’s apology, but said she knew there were others who heckled her who have not yet apologized. The apology comes after LPD party leader Shigeru Ishiba denounced the incident on a June 21 TV program and called for the perpetrators to come forward.

The incident is especially embarrassing considering that the heckles were coming from members of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s LDP party, since Abe has himself been vocal about making Japan a better place for working women. The Prime Minister wrote in the Wall Street Journal last year that he wants to boost women’s participation in the workforce to 73% by 2020, and close the wage gap (Japanese women make 30% less than men).

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