Connect to share and comment

PM's first policy speech: Where's the beef?

Hatoyama's address to parliament goes long on ideals, short on details. Cronyism continues in appointments at Japan Post Holdings. Actress/singer Noriko Sakai pledges to swear off drugs, become a nurse to the elderly. Japan Airlines' losses approach $5.4 billion. The green polar bear mystery is solved. And ladies who buy shoe boxes at a bazaar find much more inside than shoes.

Top News:  Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama delivered his first policy speech at the Diet on Monday, pledging that policymaking would now be in the hands of lawmakers rather than bureaucrats, as well as laying out a foreign policy vision of Japan as a bridge between Asia and the West. Hatoyama also used the speech to launch another attack against the excesses of free market fundamentalism. His address was long on ideals, but so vague on policy details that it even drew ire from the editorial page of the left-of-center Asahi, a natural ally. 


The appointment of an ex-bureaucrat to head Japan Post Holdings was largely viewed as a contradiction of the new government’s much-touted policy of ending the “amakudari” practice of ex-ministry officials landing such positions. Eyebrows rose even higher when two additional ex-ministry officials were appointed to the board of Japan Post, which was on the way to being privatized under the former administration — a policy that now looks likely to be reversed. The appointments are being pushed through by the minister in charge of postal affairs, Shizuka Kamei, who heads the New People’s Party, a junior coalition within the Democratic Party of Japan. Kamei knows his support is essential until the DPJ can secure a working majority in the Upper House elections next year, and appears to be reveling in his indispensability. But with recent defections from other parties and by-election victories boosting the government’s position, Kamei’s time in the spotlight may be short lived. 


The Tokyo Film Festival ran October 17-25, featuring a screening of "The Cove," a controversial U.S. documentary about Japanese dolphin fishing that grabbed much of the spotlight. After festival officials agreed to include the film, the director offered to give all profits from screenings in Japan to dolphin fishermen who switched to alternative catches.


More than 6,000 people lined up for the 20 open gallery seats at the trial of actress/singer Noriko Sakai, whose flight and subsequent arrest for possession of 0.008 grams of “stimulant drugs” has gripped the nation. During the trial, she claimed she wants to divorce her husband, who allegedly introduced her to drugs, and become a nurse for the elderly.


Money: The financial woes of Japan Airlines (JAL) continue, with losses predicted to exceed 500 billion yen ($5.4 billion) this year, as the government asks banks to write-off debts in a bailout that has been compared to that of the “big three.” Like the Detroit auto giants, JAL is saddled with massive pension obligations it's unlikely to be able to pay.


NEC, which has been battered along with every other electronics manufacturer, is hoping innovations such as its new glasses that read foreign languages and project the translation onto the wearer's retina, will help turn its business around. Perhaps equally innovative is a new solution to the giant jellyfish invasions that plague some of Japan's coastal and fishing areas — eating them.


Elsewhere:  Two ladies who bought shoe boxes at a school bazaar for 10 yen (11 cents) were surprised to find 2 million yen ($22,000) when they opened them. The rightful owner hasn’t been identified yet.


The mystery of two polar bears at Nagoya Zoo that turned green has been solved: blue-green algae had been growing in their fur. Although it appears to be white, polar bears’ fur is apparently clear.


A policeman who visited the house of a 14-year-old schoolgirl to take a statement about a public indecency she had witnessed ended up stealing 25 pieces of her underwear.


As police requested that train operators install security cameras in the roofs of carriages to help combat groping on crowded commuter trains, one officer was busy pointing his mobile phone camera in the other direction — up women's skirts.