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The whale wars

The Hatoyama government is increasingly unpopular due to the Ozawa scandal. Japan refuses to sign a treaty, causing friction with Washington. The jousting between whalers and conservationists has drawn in the foreign minister. Japan and China continue to compete for economic prowess. Toyota's president will attend hearings in the US. A man performs a miraculous rescue of a young woman by flattening her under a train. And a third of Japanese couples are "sexless."

Top News: Falling popularity means non-supporters outnumbered supporters of the Hatoyama Cabinet for the first time, as the money scandal surrounding Ichiro Ozawa has damaged the image of the new ruling party, an Asahi Shimbun survey showed. In a rare piece of good news for the embattled government, it  gained a majority in the less-powerful Upper House through the defection of a parliamentarian from the defeated Liberal Democratic Party to the New People’s Party, a junior coalition member.

Japan's reluctance to sign an international treaty that prevents one parent in a failed international marriage from taking a child across national borders without the prior consent of the other parent is causing friction between Tokyo and Washington.

The whale wars between the anti-whaling Sea Shepard Conservation Society and Japanese research whaling vessles continue as a Japanese crew claims Sea Shepherd threw butyric acid at them, while the protestors claim the wind changed and blew pepper spray, which the Japanese were firing at them, back into the crew members’ faces. A New Zealander from Sea Shepherd who boarded the Shonan Maru 2 whaler to carry out a citizen’s arrest over the collision with the Ady Gil, is being taken back to Japan for questioning. Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada is due to visit Australia this weekend, where whaling is set to be on the agenda. Also under discussion is believed to be a possible defense accord between the two countries, facilitating greater cooperation on military and security matters. It would be only the second such agreement for Japan; the other being with the U.S.

Money: Japan vs. China looks set to be an ever-present theme this year as the two nations vie for business and influence in Asia and the world. Japan hung on to its title as the world’s second-biggest economy, though it’s only a matter of time before China overtakes it, something that many in Japan are keen to downplay the importance of. Meanwhile, Japan retook the top spot from China as the biggest holder of U.S. Treasuries, as Beijing reduced sharply its buying of dollar-denominated debt. Panasonic has also regained its title as the company which registers the most patent applications, surpassing China’s Huawei Technologies Co for the first time in two years, according to the World Intellectual Property Organization.

Akio Toyoda, president of Toyota and grandson of its founder, will attend U.S. congressional hearings and will provide a "sincere explanation" for the recall. Toyoda has already faced criticism for his low-profile during the early stages of the poorly-handled recall crisis. Unions at Toyota, along with those at Honda – also hit with a recent recall issue –  are not demanding pay rises at the annual spring round of negotiations.

Delta and three other U.S. airlines are applying for slots at Tokyo’s Haneda airport, with a view to boosting their Asian presence. Haneda has been Tokyo’s domestic airport for decades, but is actually Asia’s busiest in terms of passengers, and is located much closer to the city centre than the Narita international hub.

Elsewhere: More than a third of Japanese couples are now said to be sexless. No word on whether the husband and wife who were both arrested on the same day for completely separate crimes, one for theft and the other for embezzlement, were enjoying a healthy physical relation or not.

A married Japanese man in the Philippines meanwhile, was apparently deported for lying to immigration officials and claiming to be single, when he was actually living with his mistress in Manila.

A police sergeant was shot and severely wounded in a Tokyo police station when  a man under arrest pulled the gun from the officer’s holster and fired two shots.

A  24-year-old man saved the life of a drunken young woman who had fallen from a station platform, knocking herself unconscious, by laying her flat between the rails as an express train bore down on them. He lodged himself in a small gap under the platform and both emerged unscathed as the train came to a stop over the woman, in what rail officials described as a “miracle.”