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The Daily Beast has a very interesting article on an ostensible religious cult running Japan:

Japan’s leading constitutional expert, Setsu Kobayashi, who is also a former member of Nippon Kaigi, says of the group, “They have trouble accepting the reality that Japan lost the war” and that they wish to restore the Meiji era constitution.

Some members are descendants of the people who started the war, he notes.

Kobayashi is so vexed with his former brethren, that in May he created a new political party to promote and protect constitutional rights called, somewhat amusingly, Kokumin Ikari-no Koe aka The Angry Voice of the People. For Nippon Kaigi, he is a traitor and a nightmare. For Prime Minister Abe, he is an angry loud-mouthed headache.

And Abe is having other headaches before the election. Seicho No Ie, the spiritual forebear of Nippon Kaigi, has turned its back on the LDP and the ruling coalition as well–its first overt political action in decades.

The organization told the Weekly Post last month, “The Abe government thinks lightly of the constitution and we are opposed to their attempts to change Article 9 (the peace clause). In addition, we feel distrust in their failure to uphold policy determined by law.”

Despite Nippon Kaigi’s small numbers overall, half of the Abe Cabinet belongs to the Nippon Kaigi National Lawmakers Friendship Association, the group’s political offshoot. Prime Minister Abe himself is the special advisor.

The whole idea sounds sneakily similar to the many stories of esoteric organizations filled with rich white men who are supposedly running the world.

Although Masuzoe is no longer the Tokyo governor, it seems his era of fleecing Tokyo taxpayers was spread passed his own illegal personal use of government funds:

And all this studying was happening between 9:10 and 11:40 a.m. — during work time, when they should have been toiling on behalf of Tokyo’s millions of taxpayers. Instead, the city was forking out tens of millions of yen from public funds to teach them a subject they had already studied for at least six years at school, and probably a couple more at university.

I contacted the metropolitan government for comment about the amount of public money involved in this project but neither the Bureau of General Affairs nor the Office of the Governor for Policy Planning had responded by the time of going to print. ECC’s salesperson in charge of the Tokyo government account also declined to comment.

The significance of all this did not hit me at first, but what did raise eyebrows in the makeshift teachers’ room was the number of students attending — around 200 each month — and the fact that few had any direct relationship with the various Olympic-related positions in the city government. The scheme effectively meant the loss of around 1,000 work-hours a month by attending students. Questions I sent to the Tokyo government about how staff were selected for the English course have also gone unanswered.

In yet another unbelievable act of stupidity for the US military stationed on Okinawa, the prefectural police apprehended a Kadena Air Base Airman for drinking and driving:

At approximately 4:05 a.m. on Sunday, police stopped and questioned Christopher Aaron Platt, a 27-year-old staff sergeant, who was driving on a road in the town of Chatan. During questioning, police noticed liquor on the suspect’s breath. The results of a breathalyzer test revealed an alcohol level in excess of the legal limit.

Platt denies the charges. “I didn’t drink at all,” the suspect is quoted by police.

Prior to pulling Platt over, police observed his vehicle weaving on the road.

Is is that difficult to start living like an adult by not drinking and driving? Seriously, what is wrong with these people?

Balmuda is a new $230 toaster from Japan capable of producing the perfect toast:

The toaster costs 24,000 yen ($230), or almost five times the price of a regular device in Japan (the smaller appliances with doors and trays are the norm here, rather than the pop-up variety). With at least a three-month wait in stores, the gadget has become a quiet hit, even though the manufacturer hasn’t bought ads or aired any commercials since it debuted in June—an unusual glimmer of innovation in a country that once wooed consumers with Walkmans, digital cameras and flat-panel TVs.

It was at a company picnic on a rainy day, warming bread on a grill, that company founder Gen Terao and his band of product designers accidentally made great toast. After the showers stopped, they tried to reproduce it in a parking lot and realized that water was the key. Thousands of slices later, they figured out that steam traps moisture inside the bread while it’s being warmed at a low temperature. The heat is cranked up just at the end, giving it a respectable crust.

There is nothing like a couple slices of toast, and nice cappuccino to get the morning started off right.

Monocle Magazine has ranked Tokyo the most livable city in the world for the second straight year:

Tokyo is the city of the future, it really speaks to the possibilities of the megalopolis to provide a high standard of living for its residents. There are tradeoffs to living in such a large city. The most obvious tradeoff is that the availability of space is limited. Apartments are tiny, houses are tiny, seats on trains are tiny if you can find one.

What you get in return is convenience and experience. Tokyo has the most interconnected and efficient train system in the world. Tens of millions of passengers are constantly moving through Tokyo’s many train lines that are almost always on time. Having such reliable transportation really does put your mind at ease when it comes to showing up on time for work, or even meeting up with friends. The low-rise small scale nature of Tokyo’s best neighborhoods creates an atmosphere of endless discovery, and unique experiences.

Tokyo really is an exceptional city. It is amazing how far things have come in the past twenty years. I cannot fathom living elsewhere at this point in my life. Tokyo is home.

Tokyo has innumerable hidden neighborhoods, and this guide is an attempt at uncovering some of the more interesting gems lurking in those crevices:

Who better to guide you through a city’s secret neighborhoods than the locals? We tracked down seven longtime Tokyo residents—from a French retailer to a Japanese designer and museum curator—and asked for their insider tips on what makes their piece of the city special. The answers may surprise you.

“I moved to Daikanyama a couple of years ago, and I am still discovering new places all the time. Daikanyama T Site has some good restaurants and makes an ideal resting point when you want to read a book or magazine over a coffee or cocktail, but it can get quite crowded, especially on weekends. But roaming through the alleys around it will bring you to all sorts of interesting shops and little cafes. Weekend Garage Tokyo is one of my favorite places to hang out. It has a garage-like atmosphere with high ceilings and lots of outdoor tables, and the food is very good value for money.”

Weekend Garage Tokyo sounds like my kind of place.

Okinawan prosecutors seek four year prison term for US Navy sailor who raped local woman in a hotel:

The prosecutors said in their closing arguments Monday at the Naha District Court that the actions of 24-year-old Justin Castellanos were “selfish and absolutely despicable,” and sought a harsh punishment.

The sailor, based at Camp Schwab, was indicted for raping a woman at a hotel in Naha on March 13. The victim, a woman in her 40s from Fukuoka Prefecture, was in Okinawa on holiday.

While the prosecutors said Castellanos took advantage of the state of the woman, who was asleep in a hotel corridor, his lawyers are seeking a lenient term, saying he had initially planned to take care of the woman after finding her.

I cannot comprehend “harsh punishment” and “four year prison term” existing in the same breath.

According to a report by the Japanese National Police Agency, there was a huge surge in targeted cyber attacks in Japan in 2015:

The National Police Agency said it recorded 1,472 attacks from January to June, NHK news agency reported.

The agency monitors such attacks in coordination with more than 6,900 defence and nuclear-related firms and others, which are the main targets.

In targeted attacks, emails carrying computer viruses are sent to companies and government offices in a bid to steal classified information. Typically, the virus is hidden in an attached file sent with the e-mail.

The agency said cases in which a Microsoft Word document was used to automatically download an illicit programme accounted for 64 percent of all incidents involving attached files. That’s up from two percent last year.

The Japanese government is having a tough time finding the right types of cyber warriors with the right skillset before the 2020 Olympics:

The government set up a working team on cybersecurity last October to prepare for the 2020 Games. Based on the basic law on cybersecurity, which was enacted the following month, the government in January created a cybersecurity strategy team, headed by Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, and the National Center of Incident Readiness and Strategy for Cybersecurity (NISC).

The headquarters drafted a new strategy paper emphasizing measures for the period up to 2020. The draft calls for the establishment of a Computer Security Incident Response Team (CSIRT) for the 2020 Olympics and Paralympics. It would be staffed with dozens of experts from both the public and private sectors whose job would be to minimize damage from cyberattacks.

Most cyberattacks against government agencies are blocked, mainly by firewalls. But personnel at the Japan Pension Service inadvertently opened email messages containing a computer virus attachment.

CSIRT will be responsible for the quick recovery of affected computer systems, on the premise that “there is no such thing as perfection when it comes to cybersecurity,” one top government official said.

In an effort to give the team much-needed experience, the headquarters is aiming for a 2018 launch ahead of the 2019 Rugby World Cup and just a year before the Tokyo Games.

For the Olympics, “we are concerned most about disruption caused by cyberattacks against key infrastructure such as transportation networks and energy facilities,” a government official said.

The NISC has conducted competition-style training for the cyberattack response capabilities of 12 government ministries and agencies, as well as an exercise for operators of key infrastructure. It hopes to promote information-sharing through public-private collaboration.

Although one of its closest allies, Japan is not immune to being spied on by the United States. The Abe government’s posturing following Wikileaks recent release of documents stipulating the US is spying on Japan as “deeply regrettable” rings pretty hollow (emphasis added):

“We have strongly requested intelligence director Clapper confirm the facts,” Suga said, referring to James Clapper, National Intelligence director.

Claims that Washington spied on Japanese trade officials, among others, came just as delegates negotiating a vast free-trade agreement known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership failed to reach a final deal after several days of intense talks in Hawaii.

The US and Japan are the two biggest economies in the 12-nation negotiations, but they have sparred over key issues including auto sector access and opening up Japan’s protected agricultural markets.

‘Intimate knowledge’

WikiLeaks said the US intercepts showed “intimate knowledge of internal Japanese deliberations” on trade issues, nuclear policy, and Japan’s diplomatic relations with the US.

“The reports demonstrate the depth of US surveillance of the Japanese government, indicating that intelligence was gathered and processed from numerous Japanese government ministries and offices,” it said.

Shinzo Abe, Japan’s prime minister, did not appear to be a direct target of phone tapping but senior politicians were.

Yoichi Miyazawa, Japan’s trade minister; Haruhiko Kuroda, Bank of Japan governor; and officials of Mitsubishi company were in the sights of US intelligence, WikiLeaks said.

This is the type of spying I would expect every world government to conduct. The usefulness of this type of data gives negotiating advantages for the countries with good intelligence, so this really should come as no surprise. If a large economic power like Japan has not engaged in this behavior then I will be very surprised.

Hayao Miyazaki is a legendary filmmaker in Japan thanks to his animated movies like My Neighbor Totoro, Princess Mononoke, Spirited Away, Howls Moving Castle, and others. This tribute uses some of his most beloved characters, transforms them into 3D, and then places them in an interesting world.

Legendary Japanese director Hayao Miyazaki has created some of the most beautiful animated films—but this video tribute takes some of Miyazaki’s most-loved characters and puts them into a 3D world. The result gives you Miyazaki like you’ve never seen him before.

Vimeo user and animator Dono made this incredible video, which combines the beautiful piano work of Joe Hisaishi with extracted clips and characters from a plethora of Miyazaki films, from Spirited Away to My Neighbor Totoro to Porco Rosso, placing them into specially created 3D environments made by Dono.

It is absolutely stunning and a wonderful tribute to this exceptional mind.

The Japanese Government is set to spend approximately 20 billion yen to form and train a cyber security staff dedicated to tackling the 2020 Olympics:

According to local newspaper Nikkei, Japan’s Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications has put forward a set of cyber-security proposals in relations to the Games, and intends to request around 20 billion yen (£103 million) in government funding over the four years, starting from fiscal 2016.

This funding will go towards training for local authorities, schools, SMEs and enterprises, with the ministry also overseeing drills to prepare for attacks linked to the Games, such as websites being hacked and ticket sale scams. There are also reportedly plans for red teaming exercises.

The ministry, which did not respond to our request for comment, aims to create industry-wide forums so companies can share best practices and other knowledge in the realm of cyber-security in the run-up to the Olympics.

One security expert, who played a key and senior role in securing the 2012 London Olympics, toldSCMagazineUK.com that the games is probably being used ‘as a vehicle’ to reduce the much-publicised information security skills gap.

The Nikkei report cites one study which claims that 160,000 of the 265,000 infosec personnel in the country lack the skills need for the job.

“My reading of this is that it must be broader than just the Olympics,” said the expert, speaking anonymously and citing ambitions to reduce the skills-gap in particular.

The Japanese government needs to spend money to train people as the country is absolutely sorely lacking in the cyber security skills arena.

The world’s oldest man died in Japan at age 112 last week and has been succeeded by another 112 year old Japanese man:

A former high school principal who loved Chinese poetry, he has said in the past that sleep was his secret to long life.

The title of world’s oldest living man would now go to another 112-year-old Japanese man, Yasutaro Koide, according to the most recent chart tracking super-centenarians compiled by the Gerontology Research Group.

On the opposite side of the globe, the world’s oldest living woman, Susannah Mushatt Jones, turned 116 on Monday in Brooklyn, New York. She eats four strips of bacon a day and has told TIME her faith in God is the secret to long life.

Surprising the oldest woman is an American. More surprising is she lives in crazy ass New York city. And even more surprising is she lived this long even after eating four strips of yummy, greasy, salty bacon every day!

If that is not a ringing endorsement for bacon then I do not know what is. Long live bacon.

Toyota’a former highest ranking female executive ever learned a tough lesson about mailing drugs to Japan after having spent three weeks in a Japanese prison while the police conducted an investigation into the incident:

Hamp, 55, who resigned as Toyota’s communications officer last week from a Japanese jail, has been detained since her June 18 arrest for allegedly importing prescription painkillers that require prior approval before being brought into Japan. Prosecutors will decide on July 8 whether Hamp, who hasn’t been formally charged, is to be indicted.

Her experience, and that of others like 26-year-old Carrie Russell, an English teacher held for 18 days in February for possessing prescription drugs sent from the U.S., offers a warning to visitors: Japan has tough laws for possession of prescription drugs, even when those medications may have been recommended by doctors abroad.

“When you get medicine from your physician, you assume it’s OK to bring it with you,” said Russell, who’s been taking medication for attention deficit disorder since she was 10. “I was completely wrong,” she said in a phone interview from Oregon.

Tokyo metropolitan police arrested Hamp of Toyota Motor on suspicion that she had imported the pain medication oxycodone. Hamp had her father send 57 tablets containing oxycodone to a Tokyo hotel where she was staying, according to Kyodo News, citing a Tokyo police representative.

Look, I am no rocket surgeon or brain scientist, but I am quite certain it is common knowledge to never send drugs, prescription or otherwise, in the mail, especially to a foreign country. The fact that the pills were hidden inside jewelry boxes points towards firsthand knowledge and thus I honestly believe she got what she deserved.

If Hemp really required the medication then she should have visited a Japanese hospital. It is likely the doctors would have prescribed her something equivalent without any fuss whatsoever. My experience with the Japanese medical system is that it is exceedingly easy to get a prescription for whatever you need just by talking to your doctor about the need for the medicine. They will generally hand it out like candy, so long as the prescription falls within the quantity guidelines outlined in Japanese law.

So yeah, I do not feel bad for Hemp. She should have known better, especially someone as high ranking as her. Hemp was lucky enough to be let free after the police determined she had no criminal intent and had suffered enough as a result of her arrest and subsequent resignation from Toyota.

The tinfoil hat inside me says someone in Toyota who resented her rising to this position knew of her drug issue and informed the Japanese police about it, knowing she would be arrested and likely would not survive staying at Toyota thanks to the ordeal.

Researchers in Japan are claiming the recent self-immolation fire on the Osaka-bound shinkansen has exposed lapses in train security (emphasis added):

Transport officials met with bullet train operators after the fire to seek ways to tighten security without affecting the efficiency of the trains.

Experts say airport-level luggage checks are impractical for the high-speed line, which operates trains every few minutes during busy hours. Instead, they say increased police patrols and random baggage checks could be more effective.

Baggage checks for high-speed train passengers are also not required in Germany, France, Taiwan and South Korea. The Eurostar connecting Britain to Brussels and Paris requires a passport and luggage checks, and China has X-ray checks on subways.

The Tokyo-Osaka leg, the most popular segment with 420,000 passengers every day, is part of a bullet train network spanning most of Japan. The 16-car trains cover the 553 kilometers (343 miles) in 2 hours and 33 minutes.

“All these years we were worried but haven’t been able to find effective precautionary measures,” Sone said. “Now that the accident happened, it’s time to take action.”

It will be interesting to see if any additional action is taken to protect the shinkansen from similar attacks in the future. However, I would argue that security is sufficient: a single incident does not a problem make.

As mentioned, increased patrols and random baggage checks are likely much better measures than adding unnecessary cruft to transportation. Japan is not the United States and TSA-like security theater is a complete waste of the countries limited resources.

If anything, this incident exposed some limitations of the automated security systems once its detects a fire on the train. This seems to be a far more dangerous situation than anything else related to this act.