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Posted by On 5:29 AM

An island off the coast of Japan disappeared into the ocean, but hardly anyone noticed for quite some time

  • Esanbe Hanakita Kojima, a small island off the coast of Japan, has vanished into the ocean.
  • Erosion and rising sea levels may have led to the "sinking."
  • Although the island itself was very small, it was used to mark the edge of an island chain historically disputed over between Japan and Russia.
  • The Northern Territories, or Kuril Islands, have been sought after for their natural resources.
  • With the disappearance of the island, Japan might have to retrace its borders, since international law states that islands can only be named if they're above the water line at high tide.

You may never have heard of the small Japanese island of Esanbe Hanakita Kojima, but it's just hit the headlines after disappearing into the ocean - apparently without anyone no ticing for quite some time.

A combination of wind and the impacts from drift ice is thought to have sunk the island beneath the waves, as it stood just 1.4 metres (4.6 feet) above the surface when it was last measured in 1987.

While the tiny piece of land was too small to be of any use, it had an importance beyond its size: before it disappeared, it marked the western edge of a disputed island chain Japan calls the Northern Territories, while Russia says it's the Kuril islands.

So now Japan's territory has shrunk by about half a kilometer (nearly a third of a mile). Esanbe Hanakita Kojima was 500 metres (1,640 feet) off the shore of Sarufutsu, a village at the edge of Hokkaido island.

Cape Erimo is seen in Erimo Town, on Japan's northern island of Hokkaido, October 12, 2017
Malcolm Foster/Reuters

It was only when author Hiroshi Shimizu visited Sarufutsu to continue writing about Japan's "hidden" islands that the disappearance of Esanbe Hanakita Kojima was noticed, The Guardian reports.

Esanbe Hanakita Kojima isn't the only island to be swallowed by the sea this year - last month the Hawaiian archipelago's East Island met a similar fate.

In that case, surging sea levels caused by the ferocious Hurricane Walaka were blamed, whereas with Esanbe Hanakita Kojima the vanishing is attributed to natural forces of erosion.

Now a coast guard visit is planned to confirm the island really has disappeared - though it may have been underwater for some time already. Locals say they avoided the area as it was marked as an underwater reef on maps.

The island was one of 158 that Japan officially named in 2014 in a bid to extend and clarify its territorial reach, with Russia making a similar move. The countries are keen to stake claims to islands with valuable natural resources, including gas and oil, reports Newsweek.

A metal drum painted in the Russian national colors stands in the garden of a country house stan ds on a highpoint overlooking the coast of the Okhotsk Sea outside Yuzhno-Kurilsk, the main settlement on the Southern Kuril Island of Kunashir September 16, 2015.
Thomas Peter/Reuters

Esanbe Hanakita Kojima wasn't specifically disputed, but was an important marker. International law states islands can only be named if they're above the water line at high tide, which seems a fair definition; Japan may have to retrace its borders.

For now the Kuril islands or Northern Territories, separating the Sea of Okhotsk from the north Pacific, remain under Russian jurisdiction, at least until the next island disappears from the map.

Rising sea levels caused by climate change are putting many remote islands at risk, even if those in this particular region aren't in immediate danger.

Wind and waves are also a threat, and scientists are worried about the potential impact of increased storm activity and erosion on barrier islands - islands which help protect the mainland coast from the brunt of the weather.

It would seem that it was changing weather conditions that accounted for this particular Japanese island. So long, Esanbe Hanakita Kojima, we hardly knew you.

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Source: Google News Japan | Netizen 24 Japan

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Posted by On 4:57 AM

Japan looks to crack down on abuse of health insurance system as it plans for foreign worker influx

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Japan looks to crack down on abuse of health insurance system as it plans for foreign worker influx
Indonesian workers who came to Japan through an intern trainee visa program examine fish at a port in Ishinomaki, Miyagi Prefecture, in September. | KYODO

Japan’s justice minister said Wednesday the country will draw up “comprehensive measures” by the end of the year for welcoming more foreign nationals as the country aims to open up to blue-collar overseas workers from next spring amid a severe labor crunch.

Takashi Yamashita said the measures will not only cover new visa statuses to expand the types of foreign workers the country accepts, but also steps covering foreign nationals in the country in general.

His remarks came a day after government sources said Japan is set to revise its public health insurance system and apply stricter rules for its coverage to prevent abuse mainly by foreigners.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe also said on Wednesday that the government “will create a system in which it can properly deal with” the existing problems over the use of the insurance system, which caps an insured person’s monthly payment of medical bills depending on age and income.

The social welfare system offers services to a user regardless of his or her nationality. The insurance, which covers medical expenses of not only corporate workers but also their family members, currently does not require the kin â€" including great-grandparents and grandchildren financially supported by the workers â€" to be living in Japan.

The government is planning to submit bills to the Diet next year to amend laws relevant to the insurance system, although it is unlikely to be revised in time for the new immigration program that could take effect in April.

The planned revision is aimed at blocking the use of the insurance system by people who have never lived in Japan, including family members of incoming foreign laborers.

Cases have been reported in which nonresident relatives had their medical expenses in other countries reimbursed under the Japanese system, the sources said.

Similarly, the kin of Japanese workers will also be required to live in Japan in order to be covered by the system after the revision, the sources said. But the government is considering making exceptions for the kin of Japanese who are temporarily living abroad for studies or work.

The government plans to accept around 40,000 workers in the first year of the new visa system from April, and it eventually envisions bringing in hundreds of thousands of additional laborers from abroad, government sources have said.

Yamashita told a Diet committee that the governmen t has no intention of setting an upper limit on the number of foreign workers to be accepted under the new system, although he said he plans to halt the influx in sectors where labor shortage are resolved.

As of October last year, the number of foreign workers in Japan stood at a record 1.28 million, doubling from 680,000 in 2012, with Chinese making up the largest group of around 370,000, followed by Vietnamese and Filipinos, according to the labor ministry.

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Posted by On 3:54 AM

Japan-MLB All-Star Series part of rich history

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Japan-MLB All-Star Series part of rich history
Seibu second baseman Kazuo Matsui is congratulated by Minnesota left fielder Torii Hunter after receiving the Fighting Spirit Award during the 2002 Nichibei Yakyu series at Tokyo Dome in November. | KYODO

The latest chapter in a long history of pro baseball exchanges between Japan and the United States will open Friday with the start of the six-game Japan All-Star Series.

For the second time, visiting major leaguers will square off against Japan’s national team, Samurai Japan, a format that started in 2014. Japan beat the major leaguers 3-2 over five games, including one game in which the big league side was no-hit.

Japan sees these games as a spring board in its quest to win an Olympic gold medal when the sport appears for the first time since 2008 in the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.

“These international games are very meaningful,” said Masatake Yamanaka, Samurai Japan’s head of baseball operations. “Their opponents will be major league all-stars. And the question for each individual, not just the youngsters, is how will his skills play against really strong opponents whom they have never faced before?

“It’s a big test, and also a great chance to grow.”

Japan Hall of Famer Sadaharu Oh has praised the competition between Japan’s pros and major leaguers for raising the quality of play here and he is not alone.

Kazuo Matsui, who retired this year after 24 seasons in pro ball â€" seven of those in the States as Japan’s first big league infielder â€" agreed. Matsui said recently that competing against big leaguers in 1998 and 2002 was a huge factor in his wanting to play in the majors.

“I agree with that,” Matsui told Kyodo News recently when asked about Oh’s comments.

“I was fortunate to be picked. After I played against those guys, I knew that if I had the chance to go to the majors, I wanted to grab it.”

Matsui’s electric performance in the 2002 series greased the wheels for his move to the majors, according to his first big league skipper, Art Howe. The major leaguers’ 2002 manager, Howe, took over as the New York Mets’ skipper in 2003 and the club snapped up Matsui when he became a free agent that autumn.

That the all-star series would become a showcase for Japanese talent instead of a way to market Major League Baseball’s brand in Japan was something no one envisioned before Hideo Nomo upset the apple cart and moved to the U.S. as a free agent in 1995.

Starting in 1996, Japanese big leaguers became a regular feature of the tours. When Nomo first pitched to Ichiro Suzuki in the 1996 tour, Tokyo Dome was lit up by camera flashes.

Although it seemed like a watershed moment, it was one long in the making. The first tour by American pro ballplayers came in 1908, when the Reach All-Americans, a group of mostly minor league barnstormers, made Japan a stop on their Asian tour. An early high point was the visit of Babe Ruth in a 1934 tour sponsored by the Yomiuri Shimbun that provided an impetus for the revival of pro baseball in Japan and the creation of its first pro league.

Starting in 1949, with the visit of the Pacific Coast League’s San Francisico Seals, the focus switched from all-star teams to individual ball clubs, a practice that was to continue until 1984.

The tours were big events, but MLB’s business got a huge jolt when Nomo put on a Los Angeles Dodgers uniform and Japanese viewers couldn’t get enough of his games.

And with that growth of interest in and knowledge of the game overseas, tours by big leaguers became an even bigger de al.

“These big events are a shot of adrenaline for our business,” MLB Vice President for Asia Jim Small told Kyodo News last week, adding that the reach of the event goes beyond Japan. “People watching in China can see these prime-time games at 5:30 p.m., instead of early in the morning like they have to do if they watch the U.S. All-Star Game.”

And while an expanded television audience enriches MLB and its partners, Matsui said watching games on TV â€" he turned pro the year Nomo moved to the majors â€" motivated him once he had a chance to compete in the autumn competitions.

“Being selected to play against the major leaguers â€" guys I watched all the time on TV â€" that was such a kick,” he told Kyodo News recently. “It gives you the feeling that, ‘If I do really well, it could make me famous.’ “

The major league team plays the Yomiuri Giants in a Thursday exhibition at Tokyo Dome, followed by three games there against Japan. After a tr avel day on Monday, the teams will play Game 4 in Hiroshima on Tuesday before wrapping up with two more at Nagoya Dome the following two days.

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Posted by On 3:21 AM

Can foreign labor make Japan great again?

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Can foreign labor make Japan great again?
A Filipino care worker moves a patient at Eisei Hospital in Tokyo in December 2016. The Abe administration has proposed a bill that would reform foreign labor regulations to help ease Japan's growing manpower shortage. | BLOOMBERG

At a time when the anti-immigration debate is heating up not only in the United States but also in other parts of the world, the Abe administration has proposed a bill to reform the nation’s foreign labor regulations and accept more workers from overseas. Does this mean that Japan is going against the global trend or is the nation’s labor shortage so severe that the reform is urgent?

The debate around the proposed amendment to the immigration control law appears to focus on several fronts. Some criticize the new program’s lack of clarity and specifics, and argue that clearer definitions and limitation are required. For example, what sectors (so far it seems about a dozen or so) will be allowed to use “type 1” category foreign labor under the bill and what specific skills will be required to qualify for the “type 2” category visa status are not clearly defined.

Another cause for opposition is that the Abe administration is busy pushing the legislation through the Diet without sufficient discussion and debate, citing the severe domestic labor shortage as an excuse. Some charge that the move is opening a Pandora’s box that will lead to unexpected consequences such as an oversupply of labor once the current economic boom is over and the baby boomer retirement surge finishes.

Others argue that this is in fact an immigration policy whether or not Prime Minister Shinzo Abe calls it as such, and that issues often linked to immigration (such as increases in crime and terrorist attacks in Europe, in particular) will likely emerge in Japan once it opens its doors and there is no way back. Yet others insist that Japan should stay as “Japanese” as possible without people from other countries and races, i.e., stay isolated from the rest of the world.

It is my view that the move to accept unskilled foreign labor, if done in clearly s pecified fields and with a well thought out program of integration, could provide great opportunities for both young Japanese and foreign workers to be directly exposed to the diverse nature of today’s world. It could lead to a better world in which people with different backgrounds can compete to create new values. We can perceive the move as a step toward making Japan great again, by developing people with a global mindset and sensitivity to diversity, which is a reality in the rest of the world. It can give younger generations an opportunity to be creative and innovative through working and studying with people from diverse backgrounds.

Knowledge and perceptions that the world consists of different races and culture can be acquired via advancing technology as we can see what exists in other parts of the world. We can appreciate the rich history of different cultures and the beauty of diverse lifestyles. At the same time, we can see sharp divides caused by the gap in digit al accessibility, intergenerational conflicts and the widening income inequality that is often debated today. But does knowing that difference exists change our attitudes or behavior? It is one thing to have knowledge of the differences and divides, but it is another to be directly exposed to these differences.

Japan cannot continue doing nothing about its rapidly declining population since it is causing both a manpower shortage and sapping the nation’s economic vitality. We need more people, particularly young ones.

What’s even more critical, however, is the potential lost opportunity for the younger generation to see, feel and experience diversity if Japan remains closed. Young people are usually more curious about new things and new people, and are often more open to differences, if we let them be who they are. They are also more tech-savvy and thus have more access to a variety of information from abroad. If they have direct experience of studying, working and in teracting with people from other parts of the world, they will be capable of understanding the good and bad aspects of diversity.

I once asked a Japanese business leader with extensive global experiences what the best way would be to develop global mindset and understand diversity. His response was to “work and study with people from different countries and backgrounds.” I was a bit surprised at this simple response, but it had a strong impact on me.

The first time I became aware of diversity was when I saw myself in the mirror looking different from others the first time I spent time in the United States as an exchange student, and of the homogeneity of people back home in sharp contrast when I returned to Japan. My experience of having an African-American as a roommate in my graduate school dorm extended my awareness of diversity. Since then, it has grown slowly in my mind as I have experienced going to different places and working and studying with people of diffe rent nationalities. And my experience is quite limited compared to people with much broader global exposure.

I have also seen some young Japanese who have been stimulated and inspired to speak their minds and to form creative and innovative ideas when they study and work together with people from different cultures and nationalities. When they spend some time working on a project, etc., with people of different backgrounds, they seem to realize they are of similar age and wonder why they behave very differently.

Japan is struggling with the effort to make organizations (mainly in the private sector) more diverse, and to stimulate creative and innovative ideas. The Abe administration has tried hard in this endeavor, by seeking to empower women, promoting a corporate governance code, limiting overtime work and pushing for a work-life balance. How many Japanese, however, have experience of working and studying with people from different nationalities, age groups, background s and ways of thinking â€" or living in a diverse society? How many Japanese perceive interactions with people from different cultures to be a natural scene at work?

The proposed policy is not a panacea for achieving a diverse society. But it exposes many more people to direct contact with people from other cultures that have different ways of thinking. They will develop the sensitivity and intelligence needed to explore new fields and to distinguish differences and similarities.

How we can make Japan great again is not by building a wall and driving away people of different nationalities. It is by making Japanese see and hear people from other cultures and letting them develop the capability to judge the differences and similarities themselves, with adaptive, agile and flexible minds. After all, what makes a country, a city and an organization great is the people they develop, recruit and retain.

Yoko Ishikura is a professor emeritus of Hitotsubashi University and serves as an independent consultant in the area of global strategy, competitiveness and global talent. She is a member of the World Economic Forum’s Global Future Council.

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Posted by On 2:50 AM

Japan med school to admit dozens of unfairly rejected women

November 7 at 5:37 AM

TOKYO â€" A Japanese medical university that has acknowledged systematically discriminating against female applicants has announced plans to accept more than 60 who had been unfairly rejected in the past two years.

The discriminatory policy at Tokyo Medical University surfaced earlier this year, triggering national outrage. The school acknowledged in August that it has been slashing female applicants’ entrance exam scores for years to keep the female student population low, saying women tend to quit as doctors after starting families.

The university said Wednesday it will offer to enroll 67 applicants who were eliminated due to the exam manipulation.

In Japan, women are still considered responsible for homemaking and childrearing.

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Source: Google News Japan | Netizen 24 Japan