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Okinawa blues

The relocation of a Marine base on Okinawa impedes the Tokyo — Washington relations. Four American military children are arrested for attempted murder after a prank. The DPJ wrests power away from ruling bureaucrats. A new spy satellite keeps an eye on North Korea. Economic growth is far lower than originally calculated. The financial system gets more stimulus. And "love hotels" truly are recession-proof.

Top News: The ongoing saga of the relocation of an Okinawan U.S. Marine base is continuing to cause some fiction between Tokyo and Washington. The Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) government has announced it will give the U.S. an answer by Dec. 18. Fallout from the government’s indecision on the issue seems to be behind Washington’s postponement of proposed talks on deepening bilateral ties.


Meanwhile, four children of U.S. military personnel from a base near Tokyo have been arrested for attempted murder, after initial reluctance by army authorities to hand them over. The teens are accused of causing serious injury to a scooter rider by pulling a rope across a road at neck-height. 


As part of the DPJ’s pledge to wrest power from bureaucrats, the government is to introduce a bill preventing ministry officials from answering questions in place of politicians during parliamentary sessions. Meanwhile, the cabinet approval rate has fallen to 59 percent as dissatisfaction grows with the government’s handling of deflation and the strong yen.


Japan launched a new spy satellite on Nov. 28, aimed at providing hi-definition imagery of North Korean military installations. Pyongyang’s military regime has caused anxiousness around the region by test firing missiles, sometimes without warning.  


A Buddhist monk lost his final appeal to the Supreme Court against a trespassing conviction resulting from him posting political leaflets through letterboxes in Tokyo condominiums. The case has echoes of three anti-war activists charged for a similar offence; a case that reached the Supreme Court last year.


Money: The GDP figures for the July-September quarter, which had shown a promising 4.8 percent expansion, have been revised down to only 1.3 percent growth year-on-year, and up only 0.3 percent versus the previous quarter.


A 7.2 trillion yen ($80 billion) supplementary budget, the second of 2009, has been announced by the government as a further stimulus measure to try and strengthen the fragile recovery. However, tax revenue will fall below 40 trillion yen ($443 billion) for the first time in 24 years, which means that this year the government will issue far more in new bonds than it will collect in taxes. This follows plans for further quantitative easing by the Bank of Japan, which is to inject another 10 trillion yen ($113 billion) into the financial system.


The consumer price index was down 2.2 percent year-on-year in October, as deflation also continues to prove a major concern. Half of big firms now say the nation is in a deflationary cycle. Industrial output edged up just 0.5 percent in October, hampered by the strong yen which went on to hit a 14-year high against the greenback at the end of November.


A lengthy editorial in the left-leaning Asahi newspaper lays out the challenges facing the new government’s fiscal and economic policymakers.


Foreign currency reserves hit a new all-time high for the fourth month in a row, topping $1.07 trillion on higher gold, Euro and U.S. Treasury bond valuations.


Elsewhere: While much of the economy struggles to come out of the worst slump since World War II, some sectors truly are recession-proof it seems. Funds investing in love hotels – where amorous couples can escape for a few hours “rest” or overnight stays in themed rooms – have been going from strength to strength. However, times may not be so good for hostesses, who spend their working hours pouring drinks and flirting with drunken salarymen, as they are to form a labor union


Two unemployed men in their twenties made 28,000 online hotel reservations, racking up thousands of dollars worth of loyalty points, which they used to buy video game software and hotel stays.  


A 60-year-old man tried to grope the breasts of a woman near a police station, not realizing she was a policewoman coming off shift. The officer walked him the short distance into the station, and booked him.   


The head of a police unit security detail at Narita, Tokyo’s international airport, was arrested after breaking into a gas company to sleep off a heavy night out. Local police found him asleep on a couch after the office alarm had signaled an intruder around 3:30 a.m.