TIME Japan

Japan’s Leader Apologizes for ‘Damage and Suffering’ Inflicted During WW2

Shinzo Abe
Toru Hanai—Reuters Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe attends a news conference to deliver a statement marking the 70th anniversary of World War Two's end, at his official residence in Tokyo Aug. 14, 2015.

He also apologized for Japan's actions

TOKYO — Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has expressed “profound grief” for all who perished in World War II in a statement marking the 70th anniversary of the country’s surrender.

Abe acknowledged Friday in the statement delivered live on national television that Japan inflicted “immeasurable damage and suffering” on innocent people in the war. He also expressed apologies for Japan’s actions.

The statement was closely watched by Japan’s neighbors, especially South Korea and China. Resentment over invasion, occupation and atrocities by the Japanese Imperial Army before and during the war still bedevils relations between Japan and the East Asian countries decades after the war ended with the Aug. 15, 1945, surrender.

Abe said Japan must face its history squarely, but that future generations should not have to continue apologizing.

TIME Japan

U.S. Army Helicopter Crashes on a Ship Near Japan

aerial
Ryusuke Uematsu—AP A yellow sheet covers a U.S. Army helicopter that crashed on a Navy cargo vessel near Okinawa on Aug. 12, 2015.

7 people were injured in the crash off the island of Okinawa

(TOKYO) — A U.S. Army helicopter crashed while landing on a Navy ship Wednesday off Japan’s southern island of Okinawa, injuring seven people and damaging the aircraft, officials said.

The H-60 helicopter made a hard landing on the USNS Red Cloud cargo vessel around 20 miles (30 kilometers) east of Okinawa, U.S. Forces Japan said in a statement, adding that the cause was under investigation. Okinawa is home to most of the tens of thousands of U.S. troops in Japan.

The injured were transported to a Navy hospital, the statement said. Their conditions were not immediately clear.

The other 10 people aboard the helicopter were not hurt, said Japanese coast guard spokesman Shinya Terada.

Japanese national broadcaster NHK showed video of the helicopter sitting on the cargo ship, with its tail broken off and its body partly covered with an orange tarp.

The presence of so many U.S. troops on Okinawa — more than half of about 50,000 American troops in Japan — has been a source of friction and Okinawans have long complained about crime, accidents and noise from the U.S. bases.

A plan formulated in 1996 between the Japanese and American governments would move U.S. Marine Air Station Futenma from a populated neighborhood to a less developed area, but Okinawans want the Marine base moved off the island altogether.

Wednesday’s accident coincided with Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga’s visit to the island for talks with Okinawa Gov. Takeshi Onaga, a vocal opponent of the relocation plan.

“For those who live near (U.S.) bases, it’s a serious matter,” he said at the outset of the talks, reminding Suga of Okinawa’s burden and risk of accommodating the U.S. military bases.

Onaga has threatened to revoke an approval for reclamation work to build an off-shore runway in the area called Henoko.

Suga called the helicopter accident “extremely regrettable,” and told reporters that he has lodged a protest to the U.S. military over it, asking for prompt information disclosure, thorough investigation and implementing preventive measures.

Since the island prefecture reverted to Japanese control in 1972, there have been 45 crashes involving U.S. military aircraft, according to Okinawan government statistics. The island was the scene of a harsh World War II battle and was U.S. occupied for 27 years.

TIME Bizarre

There’s a Perfect Outline of a Disney Princess In This Iced Coffee

With perfectly coiffed hair and a puffy gown to boot

A Disney Princess may have appeared in the most unlikely of places—a cup of iced coffee.

A tweet purportedly showing a princess-shaped outline in an ice cube was sent out by user @niiiiiifaaaaa in Japanese. According to RocketNews24, the tweet reportedly says, “It looks like a Disney princess is in my iced coffee.”

Good thing the evidence—with its perfectly coiffed hair and puffy Disney signature gown—was snapped before it melted away.

TIME Japan

Japan Restarts First Nuclear Reactor Since Fukushima Meltdown

Dozens of protesters gathered outside the plant

(TOKYO) — A power plant operator in southern Japan restarted a nuclear reactor, the first to begin operating under new safety requirements following the Fukushima disaster, and said Wednesday that there has been no major problem so far.

Kyushu Electric Power Co. said Tuesday it had restarted the No. 1 reactor at its Sendai nuclear plant as planned. The restart marks Japan’s return to nuclear energy four-and-half-years after the 2011 meltdowns at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant in northeastern Japan following an earthquake and tsunami.

The plant said the nuclear chain reaction started safely late Tuesday.

The national broadcaster NHK showed plant workers in the control room as they turned the reactor back on. Tomomitsu Sakata, a spokesman for Kyushu Electric Power, said the reactor was put back online without any problems.

The Fukushima disaster displaced more than 100,000 people due to radioactive contamination and spurred a national debate over this resource-scarce country’s reliance on nuclear power.

A majority of Japanese oppose the return to nuclear energy. Dozens of protesters, including ex-Prime Minister Naoto Kan, who was in office at the time of the disaster and has become an outspoken critic of nuclear power, were gathered outside the plant as police stood guard.

“Accidents are unpredictable, that’s why they happen. And certainly not all the necessary precautions for such accidents have been taken here,” Kan shouted to the crowd of about 300 people.

The Nuclear Regulation Authority affirmed the safety of the Sendai reactor and another one at the plant last September under stricter safety rules imposed after the 2011 accident, the worst since the 1986 Chernobyl explosion.

The Sendai No. 1 reactor is scheduled to start generating power Friday and reach full capacity next month. The second Sendai reactor is due to restart in October.

Yoichi Miyazawa, Japan’s industry minister, said Tuesday that the government would “put safety first” in resuming use of nuclear power.

All of Japan’s 43 workable reactors were idled for the past two years pending safety checks. To offset the shortfall in power output, the country ramped up imports of oil and gas and fired up more thermal power plants, slowing progress toward reducing its emissions of greenhouse gases.

Miyazawa said nuclear power is “indispensable” for Japan.

“It would be impossible to achieve all these three things simultaneously — keep nuclear plants offline, while also trying to curb carbon dioxide and maintain the same electricity cost. I hope to gain the public’s understanding of the situation,” Miyazawa said.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has sought to have the reactors restarted as soon as possible to help reduce costly reliance on imported oil and gas and alleviate the financial burden on utilities of maintaining the idled plants.

“There are very strong vested interests to reopen nuclear reactors. Accepting them as permanently closed would have financial implications that would be hard to manage,” said Tomas Kaberger, chairman of the Japan Renewable Energy Foundation.

Utilities are seeking approvals to restart 23 reactors, including the other Sendai reactor.

The government has set a goal to have nuclear power meet more than 20 percent of Japan’s energy needs by 2030, despite the lingering troubles at the Fukushima plant, which is plagued by massive flows of contaminated water leaking from its reactors.

Removal of the melted fuel at the plant — the most challenging part of the 30-to-40-year process of shutting it down permanently — will begin only in 2022.

Still, the government favors restarting other plants judged to meet the new safety criteria, for both economic and political reasons. Japan invested heavily in its nuclear power program and many communities rely on tax revenues and jobs associated with the plants.

Japan also faces pressure to use its stockpile of more than 40 tons of weapons-usable plutonium, enough to make thousands of nuclear weapons. The plutonium, as fuel called MOX, will be burned in reactors since the country’s nuclear fuel recycling program at Rokkasho in northern Japan has been stalled by technical problems.

To burn enough plutonium, Japan needs to restart as many as 18 reactors. Nuclear experts say this could pose a challenge.

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Associated Press writer Emily Wang in Satsumasendai, Japan, contributed to this report.

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The first name of the industry minister has been corrected to Yoichi. The story has been also corrected to say Japan’s plutonium stockpile is worth thousands of nuclear weapons.

TIME WalkCar

The Japanese Have Just Perfected The Skateboard

WalkCar

And it looks amazingly fun

A Japanese engineer just invented a nifty new way to travel: A transporter called a “WalkCar” that’s small, light and apparently easy to use.

The product is battery powered and is about the size of a laptop. And although it looks like it can’t hold much weight and is made from aluminum, it can apparently have as much as 265 lbs on board.

VentureBeat reported that it can go up to 6.2 miles per hour for up to 7.4 miles. It needs three hours to charge.

Creator Kuniako Saito told Reuters in an interview, “‘What if we could just carry our transportation in our bags, wouldn’t that mean we’d always have our transportation with us to ride on?’ and my friend asked me to make one, since I was doing my masters in engineering specifically on electric car motor control systems.”

Per VentureBeat:

Saito says customers will be able to reserve their own WalkCars from autumn 2015 on the crowd-funding website Kickstarter. The futuristic skateboard will have a price-tag of around 100,000 Japanese Yen (approx. $800 USD). Shipping is expected to begin by spring 2016.

You can see WalkCar in action here:

TIME North Korea

North Korea Is Creating Its Very Own Time Zone Today

It's all to spite Japan

North Korea, a country of roughly 25 million people, is in the midst of a severe drought, which is contributing to food shortages that are leaving more than 10 million people without enough food. Even those lucky enough to have enough to eat have to suffer the indignity of living under a hereditary despotism of men with ridiculous haircuts.

But it’s not all bad news for the folks living in this nation-sized penitentiary. After all, on August 15th, North Koreans will get to sleep in a half an hour later.

That’s right, according to a report in the BBC, the North Korean government announced on Friday that it would be setting up its own time zone, which will be 30 minutes earlier than that which it currently uses. According to the report, the government made the decision to return to the time used in the Korean peninsula before Japan colonized it in 1910.

Before that time, all of Korea was 8.5 hours ahead of GMT, instead of the nine hours used in Korea and Japan today.

TIME Switzerland

Remains of Mountain Climbers Found After 4 Decades

A mountain shoe found next to the remains of two Japanese climbers who disappeared in the Swiss Alps in 1970 on Aug. 6, 2015.
Police Cantonale Valaisanne/AFP/Getty Images A mountain shoe found next to the remains of two Japanese climbers who disappeared in the Swiss Alps in 1970 on Aug. 6, 2015.

The two Japanese climbers disappeared in 1970

The remains of a pair of mountain climbers who went missing 45 years ago have finally been found. On Thursday Swiss authorities announced that they had identified remains found at Matterhorn mountain as Michio Oikawa and Masayuki Kobayashi, two Japanese climbers who attempted to scale the peak in 1970, BBC reports. Someone had seen skeletal remains and old climbing equipment at the foot of the mountain last September, which helped officials to find the rest of the evidence. DNA tests confirmed that the remains were the two Japanese climbers.

Searchers had sought out the climbers in 1970 but heavy snowfall prevented them from being found. The discovery of remains is now becoming more common as the Alpine glaciers continue to melt.

TIME North Korea

North Korea Is Creating Its Own Time Zone to Spite The ‘Wicked Japanese Imperialists’

It will return the country to the time standard it used prior to Japanese colonization

North Korea’s state media is reporting that on Aug. 15 the country will abandon the time zone it shares with Japan and South Korea and create its own.

Pyongyang Standard Time, as it were, will be 12 and a half hours ahead of the Eastern United States — 30 minutes behind Japan Standard Time, which both Koreas have used since Japan colonized the Korean Peninsula in 1910.

“The wicked Japanese imperialists committed such unpardonable crimes as depriving Korea of even its standard time while mercilessly trampling down its land,” said KCNA, North Korea’s state mouthpiece.

The decision serves to commemorate the 70th anniversary of Korea’s independence, which enabled the political rise of Kim Il Sung, North Korea’s founding father and grandfather to Kim Jong Un, the country’s third and current supreme leader. South Korea briefly returned to its precolonial time zone in 1954 before embracing Japan’s standard in 1961, citing diplomatic benefits.

TIME Japan

Japan Marks 70th Anniversary of Hiroshima Atomic Bombing

hiroshima japan atomic bombing memorial prayer
Toru Hanai—Reuters People offer silent prayers for victims of the 1945 atomic bombing, during a ceremony at the Peace Memorial Park in Hiroshima, western Japan on August 6, 2015.

The U.S. bomb killed 140,000 people

(HIROSHIMA, Japan) —Japan marked the 70th anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima on Thursday, with Mayor Kazumi Matsui renewing calls for U.S. President Barack Obama and other world leaders to step up efforts toward making a nuclear-weapons-free world.

Tens of thousands of people stood for a minute of silence at 8:15 a.m. at a ceremony in Hiroshima’s peace park near the epicenter of the 1945 attack, marking the moment of the blast. Then dozens of doves were released as a symbol of peace.

The U.S. bomb, “Little Boy,” the first nuclear weapon used in war, killed 140,000 people. A second bomb, “Fat Man,” dropped over Nagasaki three days later, killed another 70,000, prompting Japan’s surrender in World War II.

The U.S. dropped the bombs to avoid what would have been a bloody ground assault on the Japanese mainland, following the fierce battle for Japan’s southernmost Okinawan islands, which took 12,520 American lives and an estimated 200,000 Japanese, about half civilians.

Matsui called nuclear weapons “the absolute evil and ultimate inhumanity” that must be abolished, and criticized nuclear powers for keeping them as threats to achieve their national interests. He said the world till bristles with more than 15,000 nuclear weapons.

He renewed an invitation to world leaders to visit Hiroshima and Nagasaki to see the scars themselves, during the G-7 summit in Japan next year.

“President Obama and other policymakers, please come to the A-bombed cities, hear the hibakusha (surviving victims) with your own ears, and encounter the reality of the atomic bombings,” he said. “Surely, you will be impelled to start discussing a legal framework, including a nuclear weapons convention.”

The anniversary comes as Japan is divided over Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s push to pass unpopular legislation to expand the country’s military role internationally, a year after his Cabinet’s decision to loosen Japan’s war-renouncing constitution by adopting a new interpretation of it.

“We must establish a broad national security framework that does not rely on use of force but is based on trust,” Matsui said. He urged the Japanese government to stick with “the pacifism of the Japanese Constitution” to lead the global effort of no proliferation.

Abe, also addressing the ceremony, said that as the sole country to face a nuclear attack, Japan had a duty to push for the elimination of nuclear weapons. He pledged to promote the cause through international conferences to be held in Hiroshima later this month.

With the average age of survivors now exceeding 80 for the first time this year, passing on their stories is considered an urgent task. There were 5,359 hibakusha who died over the past year, bringing the total death toll from the Hiroshima bombing to 297,684.

U.S. Ambassador Caroline Kennedy and representatives from more than 100 countries, including Britain, France and Russia, attended the ceremony.

“Little Boy,” dropped from the Enola Gay B-29 bomber, destroyed 90 percent of the city. A “black rain” of radioactive particles followed the blinding blast and fireball, and has been linked to higher rates of cancer and other radiation-related diseases among the survivors.

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Yamaguchi reported from Tokyo.

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