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Japan's new prime minister gets good reviews after his first United Nations speech. The government says it will cut cushy jobs given to former bureaucrats. The strong yen is expected to weaken more through the end of the year. Tourism numbers continue to drop. Over one hundred magazines close. And a website is blamed for an increase in shoplifting.
Top News: New Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama has received generally good press for his international debut at the G20 summit and his speech at the UN, including his reiteration of Japan’s anti-nuclear stance. Hatoyama’s call for an East Asian Community and his meetings in New York with Chinese premier, Hu Jintao, have been attracting a lot attention domestically, as hopes rise that better relations with its bigger neighbor are on the cards. Inevitably, not everybody was impressed, as some felt he had been short on specifics for his proposals and that his diplomatic skills were still untested.
Wresting power from Japan’s bureaucracy was a central pledge in the new government’s election campaign, and it has announced plans to nix 30 to 40 "amakudari" appointments of former bureaucrats to "cushy well-paid jobs" related to their ministerial work.
The Fukuoka High Court has overturned the death sentence given to a gangster who shot dead the mayor of Nagasaki, giving him life imprisonment in its place. Capital punishment – which is carried out by hanging – is usually reserved for multiple murders.
On the other hand, a monk’s not guilty verdict at his original trial for trespassing in an apartment block while distributing Japanese Communist Party leaflets, was overturned. His appeal to the Supreme Court is expected to fail.
Money: New Finance Minister Hirohisa Fujii has said the government has no intention of bringing down the yen’s value through market intervention. A group of analysts, however, expect the yen to weaken through to end of the year. With the economy still struggling, almost zero percent interest rates, enormous public debt, and record deflation, the yen’s strength has been increasingly difficult to explain with any logical reasons.
The strong yen, as well as hurting exporters, also makes the country more expensive for tourists, whose numbers keep dropping.
The slowdown has also had a drastic effect on exhibitors for the Tokyo Motor Show, which is to feature only two foreign car makers, down from 46 last year. The Tokyo Game Show, though also quiet, actually had more foreign exhibitors than domestic ones. It was the first time this had happened in the Game Show’s history.
One hundred and nineteen magazines, including Esquire Japan, ceased publication in the first half of the year; a new record as falling ad revenues continued to hurt the print media.
Even Japan’s high-class ‘ryotei’ restaurants have been feeling the pinch in these changing economic and political times, as booze-laden late night meetings between businessman, bureaucrats and politicos have become less commonplace.
The times they are a-changing for gangsters too, as banks are now to refuse to administer accounts for the yakuza and their associates as the screws continue to tighten on the organizations that once operated with near impunity.
Elsewhere: A criminal with a less professional approach than the highly-organized yakuza decided to give up on his attempt to rob a convenience store after being shouted at by a 59-year-old female store clerk. The hapless would-be bandit presumably thought the gangster life was not for him and promptly left the shop before calling police on his mobile phone and confessing.
The disgraced former boss of Nova, Japan’s biggest English conversation school, must have had a lot to talk about with some yakuza who held him in a Tokyo hotel room for a few days. It’s not clear exactly what the topic of conversation was, as one of the gangsters claimed they were “just with him, we weren’t keeping him in the room.”
Massively popular internet bulletin board 2channel is being blamed, along with other websites, for an increase in shoplifting, which many young offenders are said to view as a game. Some of the sites are used to share tips on successful stealing.
A particularly resourceful grade school boy has been found to have produced and used counterfeit 1,000 yen (about $10) bills, and distributed some to classmates.