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  1. I think there's a guy dressed as a woman among that threesome https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M8-vje-bq9c
  2. Rise in video games addiction feared in Japan Elementary school students in Anan, Tokushima Prefecture, are taught how to safely use the internet on July 20. The Japan News/Asia News Network OSAKA — Concerns over more people, especially children, becoming addicted to playing video games are growing, amid the ongoing calls to refrain from going out because of the novel coronavirus pandemic. Addiction support organizations have received several consultations from parents, some even saying that their children are so addicted to video games that they stopped going to school. Experts say it is important to make rules for playing games in the household. The government is also working to boost its efforts to prevent such addiction and is organizing a counseling system. More time to play games A 43-year-old homemaker in Osaka is worried her 6-year-old son is spending more time playing video games than before school had temporarily closed in spring of last year due to the pandemic. Until then, the first-grader in elementary school used to play games only when his brother, 13, was playing when friends came over. These days, however, he plays every day with a handheld game console, which his older brother no longer uses, for one to three hours a day even after school resumed. His mother has continued allowing her son to play games while keeping an eye on him as letting him play outside is still a concern due to the pandemic. In addition, he doesn’t play video games before going to school or after-school lessons, and diligently does his homework. Nevertheless, she said, “It’s bothers me to think I may not be able to control how he uses a smartphone once he gets one in the future.” Since the summer of last year, consultations from parents concerned over their children’s dependence on video games has almost doubled at MIRA-i, a service provided by a Tokyo-based company to support recovery from internet and video game addictions. The coronavirus pandemic is thought to have contributed to the sharp increase in consultations. Among the concerns addressed were “My child can’t stop playing games and isn’t how they used to be” and that playing games “led to a drop in their grades and now my child can’t go to school.” Problems related to online game billings have also increased, with the National Consumer Affairs Center of Japan receiving 4,544 consultations between April and December in 2020, or a 30% increase from the same period the previous year. The average daily time spent on online games by 80 people ages 12 to 44 increased from 3.9 hours before the pandemic in February last year to 5.4 hours in May and June, according to a survey conducted by the National Hospital Organization Kurihama Medical and Addiction Center in Kanagawa Prefecture, which has an outpatient clinic specializing in video game and internet addiction. About half of the respondents said their symptoms of “withdrawing from society” and “having a sleep disorder” worsened. A survey conducted in fiscal 2017 by a research group of the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry showed 930,000 junior and senior high school students were estimated to be addicted to games or the internet. “The actual number of those addicted is unknown, but if people spend more time at home because they refrain from going out, more people could suffer from addiction,” said Susumu Higuchi, the director of the center. Defined as mental illness In May 2019, the World Health Organization (WHO) dubbed the condition in which daily activities and health are seriously affected by video games as “gaming disorder,” defining the behavior as a mental illness like alcoholism and gambling addiction. The disease is characterized by such behavior as impaired ability to control the amount of time and frequency spent on video games and increased priority given to games over other activities. In February of last year, the government held a liaison conference comprising relevant ministries and agencies. In addition to focusing on supporting awareness-raising programs for video game addiction prevention, the government plans to strengthen the system for counseling by compiling a manual on the characteristics of addiction and how related institutions and organizations can work together. With specialized treatment facilities in short supply, the government will also prepare treatment guidelines for medical workers and enhance the treatment system for video game addiction. Although effective treatment methods have not been established, some programs are on offer to treat the addiction. For example, offline camps are set up so people refrain from using their smartphones while staying on, say, a remote island rich in nature. Group treatment programs are aimed at improving the lifestyle of patients while recuperating. “Children will rebel if their parents try to unilaterally suppress them, for example, by taking away their game consoles,” said Saya Moriyama, a clinical psychologist who works as a counselor for MIRA-i. “It’s important to pay attention to children’s efforts, communicate with them and make rules together, such as setting a time limit for games,” she said. Source: Rise in video games addiction feared in Japan
  3. A few hours ago and after years of preparation, amendments to Japan's copyright law came into effect, aiming to criminalize those who download unlicensed manga, magazines, and academic texts from the Internet. So how will the new law work, who will it affect, and what kind of penalties should people expect? In 2012, Japan passed legislation that made it illegal to download unlicensed movies and music from the Internet. The move, to criminalize these activities with a prison sentence of up to two years, was widely welcomed by copyright holders. However, for many others operating in less protected niches, the law didn’t go far enough. Wildly popular manga (local comics), magazines and other literary works (such as academic texts) were not covered by the law. It would take another eight years for legislation to catch up. In the summer and after years of work, Japan’s parliament passed new copyright amendments that bridged the gap. Punishments for the unlicensed downloading of manga, magazines and academic texts from the Internet were brought into line with the previously outlawed media categories, with violators facing a theoretical sentence of two years in prison or a fine of up to two million yen (US$19,366). New Law in Effect Today: Who Will Be Tracked Down and How? The new law came into effect today, January 1, 2021, so in preparation for the event, TorrentFreak caught up with Masaharu Ina from Japan-based anti-piracy group CODA to find out who will be affected by the new law, and what kind of penalties infringers could potentially face. While uploading pirated content has always been illegal, the new law is quite specific in that it criminalizes the downloading of unlicensed content. While that could take place in a simultaneous upload environment such as BitTorrent, it seems most likely that people will obtain content from websites instead. That presents some roadblocks to enforcement so we asked Ina how, from a technical perspective, will the authorities track, obtain evidence, and prosecute people who simply download content (comics, movies, music etc) to their machines but don’t distribute? “The authorities shall use digital forensic technologies to track suspects’ activities and collect evidence. The details of such technologies have not been publicly available,” he explained. “There are certain special units specialized in cyber crimes in each prefecture. For example, the Tokyo Metropolitan Police has its own Cyber Crime Control Unit. But the police do not investigate unless the person commits the crime repeatedly, intentionally and maliciously, i.e. innocent light downloaders shall not be prosecuted.” Similar Laws Already in Place for Other Entertainment Content Given that simply downloading movies and music has been illegal in Japan since 2012 and this new law, to cover manga and other content, has been aggressively pursued since then, one might assume movie and music downloaders have been widely prosecuted. According to Ina, however, that hasn’t been the case because certain criteria need to be fulfilled for prosecution, including proof of malicious intent such as repetitive and continuous downloading. In fact, to date, no one has been prosecuted for simply downloading movies or music. Despite Harsh Penalties, Common Sense Should Prevail Given that Japan’s authorities have already proven that casual downloaders will not be prosecuted over small-scale downloading of movies and music, there seem few reasons for regular Internet users to unnecessarily panic over the new law covering manga, magazines, and other texts. Ina says that safeguards have been built into the legislation, precisely so that the serious penalties available won’t apply to casual downloaders such as those who grab a few frames of a comic or when their downloading doesn’t negatively affect copyright holders. “Of note is the criteria for prosecution, i.e. there are certain exemptions to avoid prosecution of innocent light users who happen to download works without the intention of committing a crime. And the police shall not investigate unless the right holder requests the police to do so,” he says. “All in all, the law (and its amendment to include still images) is intended to deter crime,” Ina concludes. A New ‘Hello Kitty’ Educational Video As reported last August, Japan’s Agency for Cultural Affairs, a body of the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, hired Hello Kitty as its Copyright Ambassador. To mark the introduction of the new law, Kitty (with script and production help from Masaharu Ina) has released a new video. It’s a far cry from some of the anti-piracy videos released in the West and it’s hoped its cuteness will strike the right tone with content consumers. Next Post Source: TorrentFreak
  4. Dragon Ball is one of the most profitable franchises in the anime and manga industry, and much of it is due to the popular mobile games with in-app purchases. This has unfortunately caused some to cheat, however. The Asahi Shimbun newspaper in Japan reported (via Anime News Network) the arrest of seven individuals who were involved with a cheating app for the Dragon Ball Z Dokkan Battle mobile game. Police in the Gifu prefecture arrested seven people connected with the sale of an unauthorized cheating app proxy service for the game. The app can allegedly be used to purchase its in-app goods for free. Ages of the individuals ranged from a high school student to 44 years old, and each one is charged with something different. One was arrested for selling the app, one for buying, one for selling information as to where interested parties can find the app, and two individuals who paid for that information. Another was arrested for providing a proxy service for the purchases, and another was arrested for using that service. In-app purchases are mostly geared toward getting new characters to use in-game. And interested person playing Dokkan Battle can pay real world money in exchange for virtual currency such as Dragon Stones. These Dragon Stones are then used toward many of the character blind packs, which work as a "loot box" system in which interested parties can pay the virtual currency for a chance to get the characters they want. This indirect form of purchasing characters has even been deemed as gambling by the Belgian Gaming Commission, and Dragon Ball Z Dokkan Battle has since ceased in-app purchases in Brazil to comply with its gambling laws. Dragon Ball Z Dokkan Battle is currently available for purchase on iOS and Android in the United States and other territories, and has in-app purchases. Source
  5. DETROIT/PARIS (Reuters) - French automaker Renault SA, its Japanese partner Nissan Motor Co and tech giant Alphabet Inc’s Waymo are exploring a partnership to develop and use self-driving vehicles to transport people and goods in France and Japan, the companies said on Thursday. The proposed venture could also be expanded to other markets, the companies said. If the partnership is realized, it will have ramifications for other alliances and other self-driving projects, most of which have yet to hit the road. Automakers across the world are re-thinking independent autonomous vehicle efforts, and instead looking for partners to share rising investment costs and regulatory risks. In Japan, a potential competitor to a Renault-Nissan-Waymo venture would be Monet Technologies, a self-driving project involving Toyota Motor Corp and Honda Motor Co and backed by SoftBank Group Corp. SoftBank and Honda also have invested in General Motors Co’s Cruise self-driving car unit. The initial agreement among Waymo, Renault and Nissan aims to “develop a framework for deployment of mobility services at scale,” according to Hadi Zablit, Renault-Nissan Alliance business development chief. Physical testing of vehicles and deployment of services would come in later phases. The two automakers will set up 50-50 joint ventures in France and Japan to develop the driverless transportation services. Zablit said a later Waymo investment is “one of the options” under consideration. With Waymo, they will also research commercial, legal and regulatory issues related to building automated transportation-as-a-service businesses in the two countries. The agreement is time-limited and exclusive in both countries, barring either side from working with competitors. Its duration was not disclosed. It is not clear how involving Waymo might affect the existing alliance between Renault and Nissan, which has been strained since the departure earlier this year of longtime chief executive Carlos Ghosn, or a proposed merger between Renault and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles. FCA and Renault reached a preliminary agreement in late May to pursue a $35 billion merger. But FCA Chairman John Elkann abruptly withdrew the offer on June 6 after the French government, Renault’s biggest shareholder, blocked a board vote and demanded more time to win backing from Nissan. Waymo late last year began offering a self-driving service in Arizona called Waymo One, but with a human monitor on board. Waymo also has an existing partnership with FCA under which the automaker is supplying Chrysler Pacifica minivans for Waymo’s fledgling self-driving fleet in the United States and eventually may buy self-driving systems from Waymo for its own vehicles. FCA also agreed in early June to partner with Aurora, the Silicon Valley startup co-founded by former Waymo chief Chris Urmson and funded in part by South Korean automaker Hyundai Motor Co. The alliance took an earlier step towards working with Alphabet last year, when it agreed to adopt the Google Android operating system in its future vehicles. Source
  6. For the first time, a government is supporting a plan to create animal embryos with human cells and bring them to term, resulting in a type of humanimal known as a human-animal chimera. According to Nature, a committee from Japan’s science ministry signed off on a request by researchers to grow human pancreases in either rats or mice, the first such experiment to gain approval since a government ban was reversed earlier this year. “Finally, we are in a position to start serious studies in this field after 10 years of preparation,” lead researcher Hiromitsu Nakauchi told the Japanese newspaper Asahi Shimbun. Researchers have previously created human-animal embryos, such as sheep and pig embryos with human cells, but those pregnancies were terminated after a few days or weeks. This experiment aims to eventually bring chimera embryos to term, resulting in the birth of real, living, breathing humanimals. But to the disappointment of some of my coworkers (and potentially many readers), this is not a step towards catgirls, nor is it a way to cross yourself with your favorite animal. Scientists perform this kind of research with the hope of one day providing a source of transplantable human organs from animals we already have the infrastructure to slaughter, such as pigs. Human organs for transplant are otherwise scarce. For this research, Nakauchi’s team will engineer rodent embryos that are unable to grow their own pancreases, then put human stem cells into them with the goal of having the embryos develop pancreases from human cells. They will then transplant the embryos into adult rodents, but Nakauchi told Nature they plan to proceed carefully, first growing them to near-term before pursuing a live birth some time in the future. Should too many human cells get into the embryos’ brains, they will pause the experiment, according to Asahi Shimbun. If you have ethical concerns with this, you’re not the only one. In 2017, Carolyn Neuhaus, a medical ethicist now at The Hastings Center, told Gizmodo that scientists need to step back and have these ethical discussions as a community. Some of the biggest ethical questions—such as what happens if human cells get into a test animal’s brain—seem to be addressed by the Japanese study’s design. But the rest of the story—like whether it’s right to harvest human organs from a pig—isn’t that much different from debates surrounding the ethics of industrial agriculture or using animals in research. “I don’t think they’d be worse morally from how we raise pigs for meat, but my hunch is that the way to raise pigs to retrieve organs would require a departure from the way pigs are raised [for research],” Neuhaus said. Another important voice to be heard in this debate is that of folks who actually need organs. Source
  7. Japan bombed an asteroid and now it's preparing to collect the debris The Japanese Space Agency's Hayabusa 2 shot a cannonball at Ryugu and is ready to scoop up some of the ejected rock. The shadow of Hayabusa 2 spacecraft can be seen on the asteroid Ryugu, May 29. JAXA Japan's asteroid-hunter, Hayabusa2, recently blew a nice, new crater on the desolate gray surface of the asteroid Ryugu. But what good is blowing a hole in an asteroid if you can't go down and grab some of the debris? Hayabusa2 has already successfully sampled the surface of Ryugu, but the material it nabbed was resting on the surface of the asteroid. To gain a better understanding of the material deeper below, they need to grab another. In mid-May, Hayabusa2 attempted to drop a target marker on the surface of Ryugu, in a location where much of the debris settled. However, during the attempt, the spacecraft ran into some trouble and terminated its descent. The Japanese Space Agency (JAXA) confirmed that the target marker had not been placed -- and so Hayabusa2 couldn't ready itself to lean in and collect a new sample. The target marker is incredibly important for Hayabusa2 to succeed in its touchdown, high-five and rock theft. Without the reflective ball to guide it, the spacecraft risks colliding with the asteroid or snagging itself on a rock. Not content with the first failure, JAXA decided to try again. On May 29, they set the spacecraft to descend toward Ryugu at a pace of 40 centimeters per second for a second time. The key to dropping the target marker is getting up close and personal with Ryugu. Hayabusa2 needed to reach a distance of around 10 meters before it would drop the target marker. It uses a special on board radar to determine exactly where it is in relation to the space rock. During a previously aborted attempt, the radar had experienced difficulty detecting this distance, and so the spacecraft ascended to save itself any drama. During their second attempt on May 29, things went a lot more smoothly. At 7:38 p.m. PT, JAXA tweeted "the spacecraft turned to rise near an altitude of 10m. There is applause in the control room!" Though JAXA is yet to confirm the separation of the target marker onto Ryugu's surface, Hayabusa2 was programmed to offload the reflective ball before it reached its lowest altitude of 10 meters. Thus, provided it carried out those commands, Hayabusa2 will be ready to return to the asteroid and collect a second sample in the coming weeks. Japan's Hayabusa2 spacecraft has been tailing the asteroid Ryugu since June 2018. It's successfully touched down on the asteroid's surface and shot a cannonball at the spinning space rock to collect debris -- so it has already achieved big things. However, it's chief mission is to study and sample Ryugu, and then return to Earth with samples from the asteroid in late 2020. That makes the second sample collection a high stakes gambit, but with the target marker successfully deployed, JAXA will be hopeful of success. The spacecraft is also looking to drop a second exploration rover, known as Minerva-II-2, on the asteroid at some point "after July." Source
  8. Jan. 31 (UPI) -- Radioactive uranium was traded online in Japan, and police say investigation of the suspects is ongoing, according to multiple press reports. The Mainichi Shimbun reported Thursday the uranium changed hands in January 2018 from one seller to multiple buyers. The defendants are suspected of "possibly" violating laws on nuclear regulation. The transaction took place on Yahoo! Japan's online auction space, according to Kyodo News. The confiscated chemical was sold in powder and solid forms in glass cases and was emitting radiation, reports say. The seller, an unidentified man, reportedly told police the uranium was obtained from a "foreign site," but did not disclose the radioactive powder's national origin. Appraisals from the Japan Atomic Energy Agency indicate the uranium was likely depleted uranium -- a type with a lower content of the fissile isotope U-235 than natural uranium -- or possibly uranium concentrate, also known as yellowcake. Yellowcake emits radiation at a slow rate. Tatsujiro Suzuki, a professor at the Research Center for Nuclear Weapons Abolition at Nagasaki University, said the substance that was seized likely emitted low levels of radiation. But he also said the spread of the material poses grave risks, and could have unintended consequences if it finds its way into the hands of "terrorists." Japan maintains tough laws against the trade of nuclear material, with punishment ranging from a one-year prison term to about $10,000 in fines. Police launched investigations as early as November 2017, when it learned of an advertisement for the product, according to Kyodo. Source
  9. Canada’s legalization of the recreational use of marijuana, which went into effect last week, has prompted the Japanese government to issue warnings that Japan’s law on cannabis use may apply to its nationals even when they are abroad. A woman smokes marijuana during a legalization party at Trinity Bellwoods Park in Toronto last Wednesday. In an Oct. 4 message posted on its website, the Japanese Consulate in Vancouver said that while Canada was set to legalize the possession and use of marijuana on Oct. 17, acts such as possessing or purchasing the drug are illegal in Japan and are subject to legal penalties. It said the Cannabis Control Law may be applicable for actions taken overseas. The consulate asked that Japanese nationals living or traveling abroad respect Japanese law and stay away from marijuana, including food and drink products that contain the substance. An Oct. 11 Japanese language notice issued by the consulate general in Toronto made a similar request. Japan’s law makes growing, importing or exporting marijuana punishable by up to seven years in prison. The punishment can reach up to 10 years — and possibly a maximum ¥3 million fine — for those proven to have engaged in those acts with the intent to profit. Possession, distribution or receipt of marijuana can mean up to five years prison, while those with a profit motive can get a maximum seven-year jail term and up to a ¥2 million fine. An official of the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry suggested that all individuals, not just Japanese nationals, are technically subject to this law, wherever they are. But there are limits to what authorities can do to pursue someone who violates the law when abroad, especially in a country where the acts are legal. “It boils down to whether it can be proven that someone had committed acts in question while abroad after that person returns to Japan,” the official said. “It’s probably difficult to go after a case unless it involves a situation in which the person has been caught abroad and deported to Japan.” Any individual bringing marijuana from overseas to Japan would certainly be subject to the domestic law, and Canada also warns against such action. In an email reply to The Japan Times, John Babcock, a spokesman for Global Affairs Canada, a government organization, said that the legalization of cannabis in Canada will not change the country’s border rules. “Taking cannabis or any product containing cannabis across Canada’s international borders — either exiting or entering — will remain illegal and it can result in serious criminal penalties both at home and abroad. Transporting cannabis used for medical purposes will also remain illegal,” Babcock said. “Each country or territory decides who can enter or exit through its borders. The Government of Canada cannot intervene on your behalf if you do not meet your destination’s entry or exit requirements,” he added. Over the years in Japan, there have been a number of high profile arrests of foreign nationals and Japanese for marijuana possession. In 1980, former Beatle Paul McCartney was caught with eight ounces of marijuana when he arrived at Narita airport and deported nine days later. In 2017, former actress Saya Takagi was sentenced to a year in prison, suspended for three years, for possessing about 55 grams of marijuana, while Koki Tanaka, a former member of the boy band Kat-tun, was arrested for allegedly possessing a small amount of marijuana. Tanaka denied the allegation and prosecutors decided not to indict him. Last year police took action against a record 3,008 people in marijuana-related cases. The National Policy Agency noted that there was a rise in marijuana cases among those between 14 and 19 years old, a fivefold increase since 2013. A separate police survey last year showed that only about 30 percent of those who were investigated for alleged involvement with marijuana thought its use was dangerous. Source
  10. Prices rise as flying squid become harder to find off Japan's warming shores, unsettling a seafood-loving nation where fishermen are heroes of countless TV shows. HAKODATE, Japan (Reuters) - Takashi Odajima picked up a cracked and faded photograph and dusted it off with his sleeve. He smiled a little sadly at the image from long ago, back when he was a baby boy. In the photo, he sits on his uncle’s lap as his family poses at a nearby dock, squid heaped in the background. In another, his uncle dries rows of squid, carefully folded like shirts over a clothesline on the roof of their house. Odajima’s family has lived for generations in Hakodate, on Japan’s northern island of Hokkaido. It’s a city steeped in squid, a place where restaurants outside the local fish market advertise the start of the squid-fishing season with colorful banners. When Odajima’s father returned home from World War II, he supported his family by driving a truck for a local seafood company. He was paid in salt, a valuable commodity at the time. Using the salt, his family began making and selling shio-kara, a fermented squid dish that derives its name from its taste: “salty-spicy.” Because it keeps for days without refrigeration, it was an important source of protein for Japan’s starving population after the war. Seven decades later, most Japanese bars still serve it as an appetizer, and small bottles are sold in supermarkets as a condiment to be eaten with rice. “Someone once asked me what squid means to people in Hakodate, and I told him that it was our soul. I was half-joking at the time,” Odajima, 66, said. “But squid was always the main dish, long before we started eating rice.” Out of more than a dozen types of squid eaten here, the Japanese flying squid, or Todarodes pacificus, is so central to the national cuisine, it’s sometimes referred to as maika, or the true squid. But now, fluctuations in ocean temperatures and years of overfishing and lax regulatory oversight have drastically depleted populations of the translucent squid in waters around Japan. As recently as 2011, fishermen in Japan were hauling in more than 200,000 tons of flying squid a year. That number had fallen by three-quarters to 53,000 tons last year, the lowest harvest since Japan’s national fisheries cooperative started keeping records more than 30 years ago. Japanese researchers say they expect catches of flying squid to be even smaller this year. That such a ubiquitous creature could disappear has shaken a country whose identity is intertwined with fish and fishing, a nation where sushi chefs are treated like rock stars and fishermen are the heroes of countless TV shows. The shortage of flying squid, an icon of the working and middle classes, has dealt a hard blow to the livelihoods of not only fishermen, but everyone from suppliers to traders at Tokyo’s famous fish market. The fate of the flying squid is a microcosm of a global phenomenon that has seen marine life fleeing waters that have undergone the fastest warming on record. Reuters has spent more than a year scouring decades of maritime temperature readings, fishery records and other little-used data to create a portrait of the planet’s hidden climate change – in the rarely explored depths of the seas that cover more than 70% of the Earth’s surface. Fish have always followed changing conditions, sometimes with devastating effects for people, as the starvation in Norwegian fishing villages in past centuries when the herring failed to appear one season will attest. But what is happening today is different: The accelerating rise in sea temperatures, which scientists primarily attribute to the burning of fossil fuels, is causing a lasting shift in fisheries. In Japan, average market prices of the once-humble squid have nearly doubled in the past two years, quickly putting the dish out of reach for many blue-collar and middle-class Japanese families that grew up eating it. A TOWN’S IDENTITY IS THREATENED Here in Hakodate, the squid shortage threatens the very culture and shared history of the town. One of the country’s first ports to open for trade with the outside world in the 19th century, it has the look of a Japanese San Francisco, with gingerbread Victorians and tram lines that slope down to the waterfront. Odajima’s earliest memory is of his mother buying squid from a neighbor’s cart piled high with the morning’s catch. Now, fishermen barely have enough squid to sell to traders, much less to neighbors. A festival celebrating the start of the squid season in a nearby town has been canceled two years in a row. Odajima still works in the family compound, a collection of deteriorating buildings near the Hakodate docks. Walking through a cluttered storage shed, he shows off the factory floor where he keeps his family treasure: dozens of 60-year-old barrels made of Japanese cedar. He’s one of the last local manufacturers still using wooden barrels to ferment and age his product. Odajima also refuses to use cheaper imported squid, saying it would harm the brand’s locally sourced appeal. But with costs skyrocketing, he isn’t sure about the future of his family business. His 30-year-old son quit his office job to help out after Odajima failed to find new workers. “I wanted to be able to hand it to him in better shape,” he said, “but now…” One morning in June, Odajima joined a huddle of men at the docks for one of the first squid auctions for the season. They looked over three neat piles of white Styrofoam boxes, comforting one another that it was still early in the squid season. “Shit, they’re all tiny,” one buyer said. His friend walked away without waiting for the bidding to start. At exactly 6.20 a.m., men in green jackets tipped their hats and began the auction. Once an event that used to attract dozens of buyers and take as long as an hour, this one took less than two minutes. A gruff buyer supplying local restaurants that cater mostly to tourists strode to the front of the pack and bought all 11 boxes without looking. The rest of the group, including Odajima, hung back and shook their heads. In the month of June, just 31 tons of fresh squid ended up at Hakodate’s main market, 70 percent less than the previous year. A typical squid caught in the Sea of Japan now weighs a third less than it did 10 years ago, according to surveys by Takafumi Shikata, a researcher at the Ishikawa Prefecture Fisheries Research Center. AN EARLY WARNING ON SQUID The squid shortage has become so dire, anxious bankers with outstanding loans to those in the industry have started showing up at the annual seminars held by Yasunori Sakurai, one of Japan’s foremost experts on cephalopods. Sakurai, the chair of the Hakodate Cephalopod Research Center, began warning fishermen and other researchers about the effects of climate change on Japan’s squid population nearly two decades ago. The flying squid gains its name from the way it can spread its mantle like a parachute to draw in and eject water, using propulsion to fly above the waves. The squid spend their short life – just over a year – migrating thousands of miles between the Sea of Japan and the Pacific Ocean, mating, then returning to lay eggs in the same area where they were born. Sakurai blames climate change for recent fluctuations in ocean temperatures – a cold snap in waters where the squid spawn and steadily warming waters in the Sea of Japan where they migrate. These changes mean that fewer eggs laid in the colder-than-average waters in the East China Sea survive, and those that do hatch are swimming northward to avoid unnaturally warm waters in the Sea of Japan. The Sea of Japan has warmed 1.7 degrees Celsius (around 3 degrees Fahrenheit) in the past century, making it one of the fastest-warming areas in the seas surrounding the archipelago. Based on predictions by Sakurai’s former students now at Japan’s Fisheries Research and Education Agency, surface temperatures in these waters may rise an additional 3.7 degrees Celsius over the next century. These changes have taken a toll on squid. “It’s something that’s always been eaten on the side, and now it’s just gone. Everyone is asking why,” Sakurai said. Others, like retired regulator and researcher Masayuki Komatsu, argue that although Japanese officials and fishermen are loath to admit it, the country’s rampant overfishing and lax regulatory oversight are also to blame for the shortage. “They all blame it on climate change, and that’s the end of the discussion for them,” said Komatsu, who served as a senior official in Japan’s fisheries agency until 2004. Since Japan started setting catch limits for the flying squid 20 years ago, fishermen have never come close to hitting the limit of the quotas. This year, the fisheries agency said it will allow fishermen to catch 97,000 tons of squid, a third less than the government’s limit for last year, but nearly double what fishermen actually caught during the same period. The ministry acknowledges that flying squid, particularly those born in winter months, are rapidly declining. But officials say the catch limits are appropriate given the scientific evidence available. They say it is especially hard to study the elusive creature, which travels long distances over a short lifespan and is more susceptible to environmental changes than many other marine species. “It isn’t scientific to simply say that because squid isn’t being caught, we need to lower the catch limits, when we don’t have the scientific backing to justify that,” said Yujiro Akatsuka, assistant director of the agency’s resources management promotion office. A FISHING TOWN ON THE ROCKS Ripped curtains and fraying bits of cardboard cover windows of the empty storefronts along the main shopping street in Sakata, a town on the northwestern coast of Japan that once thrived as a major trading hub for rice and later as a fishing port. Old signs for grocery stores, camera shops and beauty parlors are barely visible through a thicket of vines. Wooden warehouses that once stored the region’s rice are one of the few reminders of the town’s prosperous past. They were turned into souvenir stores after the buildings were featured in a popular television drama series. On an early summer day, the docks were deserted except for a group of young Indonesian men living in shared rooms next to the port. They’re Japan’s answer to an aging industry, part of an army of young foreign men brought into the country to take fishing jobs spurned by Japanese men. Shigeru Saito was 15 when he boarded his first fishing boat. By the time he was 27, he was at the helm of his own ship. He never questioned his path. Both his father and grandfather, born on a small island off Sakata’s coast, had been fishermen. Now 60, Saito has steered dozens of ships all over Japan. When Saito started fishing, Japan had a fleet of more than 400 ships harvesting squid. He now captains one of the 65 remaining ships specially kitted with powerful light bulbs that lure squid from dark waters. Until recently, his crew could return to port in two weeks after the start of the squid-fishing season in early June with their ship’s hold full of flying squid. Now, it takes them almost 50 days to catch that much. “We’re having to travel farther and farther north to chase squid, but there are limits,” he said, pausing his round of checks to sit in the captain’s room of his ship, the Hoseimaru No. 58, where he sleeps in a tiny cot under boxes of equipment. As competition intensifies for an ever-dwindling catch, fishermen have begun blaming trawlers from China, South Korea and Taiwan for overfishing in nearby waters. In recent years, fishermen from North Korea have also joined the competition. Japan says North Koreans are illegally poaching squid in the Yamato Shallows, a particularly abundant area in the Sea of Japan. Saito’s fishing lines got tangled in a net set by a North Korean boat there last year. Cautious about any confrontation with North Koreans, he and other Japanese fishermen abandoned the area early in the squid season. “We can’t fish in these conditions,” he said. Young Japanese men like Saito’s son are reluctant to join the industry, with its long months away from home and physically grueling labor. His crew is already half Indonesian. Soon, he said, only the captain will need to be Japanese. In the last decade, the number of fishermen in Japan has declined by more than a third to fewer than 160,000. Of those left, an average fisherman earns about $20,000, not even half of Japan’s national median income. “My son is a salaryman in the city,” Saito said. “I couldn’t recommend this to him – how could I? We’re away a third of the year,” and, with North Korean poachers on the prowl, “the waters are more dangerous now.” The next day, men set up folding chairs and tents on Sakata’s dock for a ceremony marking the start of the fishing season. Saito joined other captains in the front row, bowing his head with his baseball cap in his hands. Young Indonesian men fidgeted in the back of the crowd. Melodic chants of Buddhist monks filled the salty air. “We know we are powerless before the might of nature,” one monk said as the captains fixed their eyes on the ground. “We cannot go against the power of the sea. But we pray for a bountiful harvest and safe passage over the seas.” ANXIETY IN TOKYO Several weeks had passed since Japan’s squid-fishing fleet left port. But in Tokyo, near the Tsukiji fish market, Atsushi Kobayashi was waiting anxiously. The specialist wholesaler still hadn’t received a single shipment of flying squid from northern Japan. His driver sat on the concrete curb next to Kobayashi’s truck smoking in the midday sun. In the past, each week Kobayashi would unload three to four shipments of 1,200 squid, to be dispatched to high-end sushi restaurants around Tokyo. “Last year, the fishing season ended in November because the squid disappeared” – two months earlier than usual. He unlocked his phone to message another customer that he had nothing to sell that day. Elsewhere in Tsukiji, the largest wholesale seafood exchange in the world, hundreds of other family-run fish traders were also awaiting this season’s catch. But by the time cases of squid finally began to arrive later in the summer, many of the traders were preparing to close their stalls to abandon the 80-year-old market. In October, hundreds of fishmongers moved to a gleaming new market on the waterfront that cost more than $5 billion. But others, their businesses already failing from a drop in consumer demand, higher operational costs and a lack of interest from the families’ younger generation, didn’t make the move. Those who left felt a powerful sense of loss about a place that has been a colorful symbol of the country’s fishing industry. Masako Arai was one of them. Her husband’s family started their wholesale fish trading business 95 years ago, first in Nihonbashi, where the previous market was destroyed in a massive earthquake and fire in 1923, and later in Tsukiji. “Our families have lived here and protected this place for generations,” the 75-year-old grandmother said. Near Arai’s store were empty spaces where families had tended shop for generations; more than a hundred businesses have closed in the past five years. Nearly a third of the remaining 500 fish traders at the market were losing money. “It feels like we’re always on shifting sand, and we don’t know what the future holds,” Arai said. Nor do the chefs who create Japan’s signature cuisine. Kazuo Nagayama has visited Tsukiji most mornings for the past 50 years to buy fresh fish. Once back at his sushi bar in the Nihonbashi district, he changes into his white uniform to write out the day’s menu with an ink brush. For the past few years, the 76-year-old chef has found it harder to list local fish he deems decent enough to serve to his customers. On this summer day, the first item on his handwritten menu was yellowfin tuna shipped from Boston. “I’m worried that people won’t know what it’s like to taste truly delicious fish,” he said. “Fishermen feel they have no future, and fisherfolk are disappearing. Our culture surrounding fishing is disappearing, and our culinary culture is also fading.” Nagayama doesn’t allow anyone else to handle fish behind the counter, where customers pay up to $300 each for the chef’s nightly omakase course. Although his tiny bar is usually fully booked, he doesn’t see a future for it – he has no children and no heir. “We’ll have to close in the next four to five years,” he said. “I’ll be the last one here.” ‘EVERYONE’S RAISING PRICES’ At Nabaya, a dark bar across the street from his Tokyo office, Hiroshi Nonoyama sipped a beer after another long day at work. “It’s all depressing news, not a great topic of conversation over drinks,” he said. Nonoyama manages a trade group overseeing 79 companies that manufacture everything from squid-flavored potato chips to squid jerky. They’ve been some of the hardest hit by the recent run of poor harvests, Nonoyama said. “A lot of these guys are old school. They haven’t diversified beyond using flying squid, you see? And when that becomes too expensive? Boom!” he said, crashing his hand on the bar counter. Already this year, two of his companies had gone out of business because of the rising cost of squid. “I only heard about one of them because I got a call from the tax office about unpaid taxes,” he said, sighing. The owner, who had employed 70 workers for half a century, was now on the run from his creditors. “Everyone’s raising prices, but how much are customers willing to pay?” Nonoyama asked. It’s the same question that Odajima, the Hakodate squid merchant, asks himself every day. He has nearly doubled prices in the past two years to 700 yen per bottle. “Buyers are telling me that if I raise prices again, they won’t be able to sell it as a side dish or condiment – consumers just won’t buy it,” he said. His factory’s yearly output is almost half of what it was 10 years ago. Looking for ways to survive, Odajima is now courting boutique supermarkets and upscale restaurants. Recently, Odajima flew to Tokyo to pitch his product. By the time he arrived at Ginza Six, a shimmering luxury mall in the city’s posh shopping district, he was already sweating in his oversized pinstripe suit. He adjusted his tie and patted down his freshly cut hair in front of Imadeya, a premium liquor store on the basement floor of the mall. Two Chinese women sampled glasses of Japanese wine under a pair of Edison bulbs at the shop counter. Shohei Okawa, the store’s 36-year-old manager, waited patiently as Odajima pulled several jars of shio-kara out of a cooler he had carried on the plane from Hakodate. Folded copies of Tokyo’s subway map peeked out of his large duffel bag. “As you know, prices are getting higher, particularly for squid,” he said, suddenly sounding formal and looking anxious. “Which is part of the reason why we’d love to sell in a higher-end store like yours.” “What other stores carry this in Tokyo?” Okawa asked. “And is this rare? Is it authentic?” Odajima quickly added that his product was handmade with no artificial coloring. atisfied, Okawa said he would send in orders for a few cases. Outside, leaning against the mall’s glass façade, Odajima was happy – for the moment, at least. “I wonder what my father would think, selling it at a place like this,” he said. “It’s a little unbelievable. We had so much squid we didn’t know what to do with it. Now, it’s become a delicacy.” Source
  11. NAHA – A high court on Thursday upheld a lower court ruling that found a prominent anti-U.S. military base activist in Okinawa guilty of several criminal offenses committed during protests in the island prefecture. Hiroji Yamashiro, 66, a key figure in the movement against the relocation of the U.S. Marine Corps’ Air Station Futenma within Okinawa, was given a two-year jail term, suspended for three years, in March for, among other things, obstructing base transfer work. Yamashiro, the head of the Okinawa Peace Action Center, was seeking to overturn the Naha District Court ruling but the Naha branch of the Fukuoka High Court rejected his appeal. The criminal trial of Yamashiro caught the public’s attention due to his months-long detention by authorities that prompted human rights groups to voice criticism of what they considered his unnecessary confinement. The March ruling found Yamashiro guilty of obstructing relocation work at U.S. Marine Corps’ Camp Schwab after he piled blocks at its gate in January 2016 and cut barbed wire at the site in October of the same year. He was also found guilty of injuring a local Japanese defense bureau official in August 2016 near a U.S. military training site in Higashi. “I find the decision unfair. We will face the biggest challenge yet from tomorrow but won’t give up,” said Yamashiro at a gathering after the high court ruling, referring to landfill work that the Japanese government plans to start Friday in the coastal district of Henoko, in the city of Nago, where the new base will be constructed. Yamashiro is considering an appeal. During the trial at the high court, the defense team said Yamashiro should be acquitted of all charges aside from the property damage caused when he cut the barbed wire. They said Yamashiro was merely “expressing his opposition under the freedom of expression guaranteed by the Constitution” when he piled blocks at the gate of Camp Schwab and that applying the charge of obstruction of work would be unconstitutional. But the high court rejected their claim. “The blocks piled in front of the gate weighed about 20 tons in total. The construction work was unjustly disrupted beyond the scope of the freedom of expression,” presiding Judge Masamichi Okubo said. Many residents of Okinawa, which hosts the bulk of U.S. military facilities in Japan, want the Futenma base that is located in a crowded residential area of Ginowan moved out of the prefecture altogether, rather than transferred to Henoko. But the Japanese government under Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has maintained the base relocation to Henoko is “the only solution” for removing the dangers posed by the base without undermining the deterrence provided by the Japan-U.S. security alliance. The government plans to start full-fledged land reclamation work on Friday for the construction of the controversial replacement facility. Source
  12. Japan probe sends ‘impactor’ to blast asteroid Japanese Space Probe Fires Bullet Into Asteroid to Collect Samples A Japanese probe on Friday launched an explosive device at an asteroid, aiming to blast a crater in the surface and scoop up material that could shed light on how the solar system evolved. The explosive mission is the riskiest yet attempted by the Japanese space agency’s Hayabusa2 probe that aims to reveal more about the origins of life on Earth. Hayabusa2 released the so-called “small carry-on impactor” — a cone-shaped device capped with a copper bottom — as scheduled, as the probe hovered just 500 metres above the asteroid Ryugu. The impactor is programmed to explode 40 minutes later, propelling the copper bottom towards Ryugu, where it should gouge a crater into the surface of the asteroid that spins 300 million kilometres from Earth. Hayabusa2 moved smartly away from the area to avoid being damaged by debris from the explosion or colliding with Ryugu. Members of The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, or JAXA, seen on screen, celebrate as Hayabusa2 spacecraft is safely evacuated and remains intact after the blast, in Sagamihara, near Tokyo. Picture: Daisuke SuzukiSource:AP As it did so, it successfully released a camera above the site of the detonation that should be able to capture images of the event, sparking jubilant applause at Mission Control. The camera should be able to transmit those images, but it is unclear when the first confirmation of the mission’s success will come. It will take two weeks for the probe itself to return to its “home position” near Ryugu after the detonation and impact. “We are excited to see what will happen when the impactor collides with the asteroid,” Takashi Kubota, engineering researcher at the Japanese space agency (JAXA), told reporters earlier this week. The crater could be as large as 10 metres in diameter if the surface is sandy, or three metres across if it is rocky, according to JAXA scientists. ‘DRAGON PALACE’ NASA’s Deep Impact project succeeded in creating an artificial crater on a comet in 2005, but only for observation purposes. The aim of the crater on Ryugu is to throw up “fresh” material from under the asteroid’s surface that could shed light on the early stages of the solar system. The asteroid is thought to contain relatively large amounts of organic matter and water from some 4.6 billion years ago when the solar system was born. In February, Hayabusa2 touched down briefly on Ryugu and fired a bullet into the surface to puff up dust for collection, before blasting back to its holding position. This file handout photo received from the Hayabusa2 spacecraft and made available by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) on March 6, 2019 shows stone and sand after bullets were fired into the surface to collect data by the Hayabusa2 spacecraft after landing on the asteroid Ryugu.Source:AFP The Hayabusa2 mission, with a price tag of around 30 billion yen ($370 million), was launched in December 2014 and is scheduled to return to Earth with its samples in 2020. Photos of Ryugu — which means “Dragon Palace” in Japanese and refers to a castle at the bottom of the ocean in an ancient Japanese tale — show the asteroid has a rough surface full of boulders. Hayabusa2 observes the surface of the asteroid with its camera and sensing equipment but has also dispatched two tiny MINERVA-II rover robots as well as the French-German robot MASCOT to help surface observation. At about the size of a large fridge, Hayabusa2 is equipped with solar panels and is the successor to JAXA’s first asteroid explorer, Hayabusa — Japanese for falcon. That probe returned with dust samples from a smaller, potato-shaped asteroid in 2010, despite various setbacks during its epic seven-year odyssey and was hailed as a scientific triumph. Source
  13. TOKYO - Japan's sole pager provider will end its services Tuesday, with the device, first introduced in the country half a century ago, made redundant by mobile phones. Tokyo Telemessage Inc will shut down radio signals for its services from around midnight Monday through Tuesday. In recent years, the device had been favored mainly by those working in hospitals, where cell phone use was once discouraged because of concerns over the effect of electromagnetic waves on medical devices and where cell phone reception can sometimes be poor. Beeper services in Japan began in 1968 with the predecessor of Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corp. Users would call a specific number via a landline, causing the device to emit a beeping sound. Initially, the services were often used by companies in communicating with sales staff who were out of the office. But from the late 1980s onward, the popularity of pagers grew as they could be used to send messages combining numbers and text characters. The number of pager users exceeded 10 million in 1996, with the device becoming one of the defining symbols of a subculture among female high school students along with "loose socks" and taking photos in puri-kura photo booths. However, beeper services declined with the introduction of mobile phones. The number of pager users further decreased as e-mailing, texting as well as taking and sending pictures by phone became standard. NTT Docomo Inc, mobile unit of NTT, terminated its nationwide pager service in 2007, while Tokyo Telemessage continued to provide its services to Tokyo and neighboring Saitama, Chiba and Kanagawa prefectures. Source
  14. TOKYO (Reuters) - The Japanese economy contracted the most in over four years in the third quarter as companies slashed spending, threatening to chill the investment outlook in 2019 as the export-reliant nation grapples with slowing global growth and trade frictions. The slump in the world’s third-biggest economy adds to signs elsewhere in Asia and Europe of weakening momentum, with recent data in China and Australia showing a slowdown in growth and stoking concerns about the wider impact of the Sino-U.S trade war. Japan’s gross domestic product shrank at an annualized rate of 2.5 percent in the July-September quarter - the worst downturn since the second quarter of 2014 - from 2.8 percent growth in the second quarter, revised data from the Cabinet Office showed. The downturn, in part driven by a series of natural disasters that forced factories to cut production, was deeper than an initial estimate of a 1.2 percent contraction and against economists’ median forecast for a 1.9 percent decline. . The capital expenditure component of GDP fell a sharp 2.8 percent from the second quarter, worse than the expected 1.6 percent decline and the preliminary 0.2 percent drop. That was the biggest decrease since the third quarter of 2009, weighed on by wholesalers, retailers, and information and communications machinery, the Cabinet Office data showed. “Capex is decelerating in areas such as all-purpose machinery, production equipment and automobiles,” said Takeshi Minami, chief economist at Norinchukin Research Institute. “Depending on extent of global slowdown and trade frictions, companies may put off their bullish spending plans or even make adjustments from the latter half of this fiscal year onwards.” That risk - of businesses cutting back on spending - is a worry for policymakers who are counting on capital expenditure to boost growth and inflation. Capex has been a bright spot in the economy since late 2016, underpinned by investment in automation and labor-saving technology to cope with labor shortages. The capex slump is particularly worrying as it comes at a time of cooling global growth, a rising tide of protectionism and slowing company profits. While analysts expect the economy to stage a rebound in the current quarter as factories lift production following the natural disasters, there are worries the Sino-U.S. trade war could crimp global growth and hurt export-led Japan. In October, Japanese robot maker Fanuc Corp (6954.T) - which is highly exposed to the China market - slashed its outlook for the full year, citing slower technology spending and trade friction. The revised GDP figure translates into quarter-on-quarter contraction of 0.6 percent in real, price-adjusted terms, against a preliminary reading of a 0.3 percent slide and economists’ median estimate of a 0.5 percent decline. Private consumption, which accounts for roughly 60 percent of GDP, fell 0.2 percent in July-September from the previous three months, versus 0.1 percent drop seen in the initial estimate. Domestic demand shaved 0.5 percentage points off the revised GDP figure, while net exports - or exports minus imports - contributed minus 0.1 percentage point. Source
  15. Japan's new cyber-security minister has dumbfounded his country by saying he has never used a computer. Yoshitaka Sakurada made the admission to a committee of lawmakers. "Since I was 25 years old and independent I have instructed my staff and secretaries. I have never used a computer in my life," he said, according to a translation by the Kyodo news agency. The 68-year-old was appointed to his post last month. His duties include overseeing cyber-defence preparations for the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo. A politician from the opposition Democratic Party, Masato Imai, whose question had prompted the admission, expressed surprise. "I find it unbelievable that someone who is responsible for cyber-security measures has never used a computer," he said. But Mr Sakurada responded that other officials had the necessary experience and he was confident there would not be a problem. However, his struggle to answer a follow-up question about whether USB drives were in use at the country's nuclear power stations caused further concern. The disclosure has been much discussed on social media where the reaction has been a mix of astonishment and hilarity, with some noting that at least it should mean Mr Sakurada would be hard to hack. Source
  16. This is the same exchange that reportedly sold Mt Gox’s bitcoin last year on behalf of its trustee. Japanese crypto exchange Bitpoint has become the latest exchange to suffer a major loss of funds. Its loss of $32 million—in five cryptocurrencies—was announced today. The majority of the coins stolen were from customer funds, with just over a quarter belonging to the exchange itself. The funds stolen were in bitcoin, ethereum, XRP, litecoin and bitcoin cash. Bitpoint has not yet said whether customer’s funds will be recouped. Hacked exchanges typically choose to pay back stolen funds, rather than declare bankruptcy, given that they can cover the costs. This is not the first serious hack Japan has seen. The nation was an early adopter, and so suffered some of the earliest hacks, notably Mt. Gox—which lost $350 million back in 2014. In a strange twist, Bitpoint may also be the same exchange that sold $318 million of Mt. Gox’s coins last year. These were sold by trustees on behalf of the exchange with the original intent of paying back creditors in the fiat equivalent of the bitcoin they lost. Many believed this helped to sink the prices of cryptocurrencies across the board, and was a harbinger for the long crypto winter. According to bank documents revealed on a website called GoxDox, the trustee who sold the coins received millions in dollars from Bitpoint, implying that it was the exchange of choice for the sale of coins. Source
  17. Japanese government to create and maintain defensive malware Japan to deploy malware against opponents in case the country is under attack. The Japanese Defense Ministry will create and maintain cyber-weapons in the form of malware that it plans to use in a defensive capacity. Once created, these malware strains, consisting of viruses and backdoors, will become Japan's first-ever cyber-weapon, Japanese media reported earlier this week, citing a government source [1, 2, 3]. The malware is expected to be finished by the end of the current fiscal year and will be created by contractors, and not government employees, a source familiar with the situation told ZDNet. No official details are available about what the malware's capabilities will be or the exact scenarios in which the government plans to use it, although a graph released by the government suggests the malware will only be used when Japanese institutions will be under attack, and only against the attacker. JAPAN EXPANDING INTO CYBER BATTLEFIELD The news comes as the Japanese military has been expanding and modernizing to keep up with modern times and to counteract China's growing military threat in the region. As part of this modernization effort, the Japanese government plans to expand its military's reach into "cyber," which NATO formally declared as an official battlefield in June 2016, next to air, ground, and sea. Japan becomes just the latest country to formally recognize that it owns and develops cyber-weapons. The others include the US, the UK, and Germany. Israel, China, Russia, North Korea, and Iran are countries that own, develop, and aggressively use cyber-weapons, but they've never formally acknowledged it. Tokyo government sources told local media that they hope that just by being in the possession of a cyber-weapon, this would deter foreign actors from attacking the country. This might be a foolish approach, as the US --the country with one of the largest and most dangerous assortments of cyberweapons-- is constantly under attack from Chinese, Russian, Iranian, and North Korean hackers. JAPAN'S PLAN TO HACK CITIZENS' IOT DEVICES Nevertheless, the Japanese government seems set in its plan for bolstering its cyber-capabilities and its ability to react to cyber-attacks. Earlier this year, the government passed legislation allowing National Institute of Information and Communications Technology (NICT) employees to hack into citizens' IoT devicesusing default or weak credentials, as part of an unprecedented survey of insecure IoT devices. The plan is to compile a list of insecure devices that use default and easy-to-guess passwords and pass it on to authorities and the relevant internet service providers, so they can take measures to alert consumers and secure the devices. This plan was set in motion to secure IoT devices before the Tokyo 2020 Olympics and avoid Olympic Destroyer and VPNFilter-like attacks. Ironically, all these plans are originating from Japan's new Cybersecurity Department, part of its Defense Ministry. Yoshitaka Sakurada, chief of Japan's Cybersecurity Department came under heavy criticism and ridicule last year when he publicly acknowledged that he does not own, use, or know that much about computers. Source
  18. “Internet Atrophy” Fears Put Japan’s Downloading Bill On Hold Proposals to massively tighten up Japan's copyright law have been put on hold over fears the restrictions could reduce use of the Internet. The plans, which would make downloading any copyrighted material punishable as a crime, are seen by opponents as a step too far. As things stand, even screenshots for personal use could be a criminal offense. Downloading movies and music iscurrently prohibited under Japan’s Copyright Act, meaning that anyone who does so is liable to criminal prosecution or civil suits. Over the past several months, rightsholders and authorities have been seeking to make the downloading of any copyrighted content a crime, something that has raised alarm bells in the country of 127 million citizens. While many can see the benefits of preventing people from unlawfully duplicating or sharing full copyright works (if that deprives creators of their income), the proposals currently on the table go way beyond what many citizens see as reasonable. As the wording currently stands, even those making screenshots of copyrighted content would be criminalized, as would those reproducing song lyrics or snapshots of manga publications, for example. With penalties of two years in prison and fines of two million yen (US$18,000) on the table, it’s no wonder that people are concerned. Last month more than 80 academics, researchers, lawyers, and other experts issued an ‘emergency statement‘ urging the government to reconsider the scope of new proposals. It’s not clear whether this alone prompted a review but it seems that the rush to criminalize large numbers of Internet users is causing those in power to pause for thought. The planned copyright amendments were set to be submitted to the Diet on March 8, 2019 but according to local sources, Japan’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP or Jimintō) put the brakes on the proposals the day before they were due to be submitted. Reports suggest that the party had such serious concerns over the scope of the law that its implementation might mean that “use of the Internet would be atrophied.” Prime Minister Shinzo Abe reportedly held a telephone call with Keisya Furuya, the former National Public Safety Commissioner and chairman of the bipartisan MANGA (Manga-Animation-Game) parliamentary group on March 6, 2019. According to AnimeNewsNetwork, this led to the decision to remove the proposals from the agenda. The bill will now be presented for further discussion during the Diet’s Ministry of Culture, Sports, Science and Technology’s next meeting. However, there are no clear indications whether there will be any amendments, ones that might calm the fears of those who feel these overzealous proposals are not only several steps too far but potentially unenforceable. Scholars and other experts are suggesting that the best route is to only criminalize actions that cause real financial damage to content owners. The general consensus among the academics is that making infringement criminally punishable may be acceptable, but only when full copyright works – such as movies, music, manga publications, and books – are exploited in their entirety. Source
  19. Japan Abandons Tough Anti-Downloading Copyright Law Japan's government has decided to not to proceed with its controversial anti-piracy law. The proposals would have rendered the downloading of all copyrighted content illegal while criminalizing offenders with jail sentences of up to two years. The reforms will now go back to the drawing board. Distribution and uploading of copyrighted content without an appropriate license is illegal in most countries of the world. It is seen as the most damaging form of infringement, largely on the basis that this fuels illicit downloading. Straightforward downloading of movies, TV shows and other unlicensed content is rarely, if ever, policed, even when such activity is proscribed under law, as is the case in the EU following rulings from the European Court of Justice. In Japan, however, new legislation under consideration by the government would’ve taken things to a whole new level. Criminalizing the unlicensed downloading of all content – including the pasting of lyrics or taking of screenshots – struck fear into Internet users and experts alike. With serious punishments under consideration (up to two years in prison and fines of two million yen – US$18,000), serious alarm bells were sounded, with academics coming out strongly in opposition. Now, however, the government has become sufficiently unsettled and has shelved the proposals altogether. The planned copyright amendments were set to be submitted to the Diet on March 8, 2019 but Japan’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP or Jimintō) put the brakes on the proposals the day before they were due to be submitted. Early this morning the Japanese government took the decision not to submit the bill to the Diet at all, after executives failed to approve it. “We have yet to eliminate the worries of both copyright holders and [internet] users,” said House of Councillors lawmaker Masaaki Akaike, as cited by Mainichi. “We should work on it anew.” The proposals also contained measures to deal with ‘pirate’ indexing sites (known locally as “leech sites”) which don’t host any infringing content themselves but provide hyperlinks to content hosted elsewhere. Estimates suggest that around 200 such sites exist in Japan. The aim was to criminalize the act of knowingly linking to copyrighted content, or linking to the same when site operators should “reasonably be expected” to know that the content is infringing. Unlike the anti-downloading provisions, plans to criminalize site operators with sentences of up to five years in prison were met with little opposition. If approved, the revisions to Japan’s copyright law were set to take effect on January 1, 2020, but it’s now unclear whether that target will be met. Source
  20. Japan and Ukraine are the latest countries to sign agreements with the World Intellectual Property Organization in an effort to keep advertising off pirate sites. The notable factor here is that Ukraine is the first country to reveal which sites rightsholders have blacklisted. Among them are Amazon-owned Twitch and US-based streaming platform Veoh. Keeping advertising off pirate sites has become one of the key goals of entertainment industry and anti-piracy groups. The theory is that if brands can be encouraged not to place their ads alongside infringing content, pirate sites will be starved of much-needed revenue. To achieve this goal, various coalitions have created their own pirate site ‘blacklists’ so that known pirate players can be screened out as potential advertising partners. WIPO ALERT Database Initially named BRIP (Building Respect for Intellectual Property), the United Nation’s World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) now operates a system known as WIPO ALERT. Founded in 2017 and with early contributions from Italian telecom regulator AGCOM and KCOPA, the Korea Copyright Protection Agency, WIPO ALERT aims to collate national advertising blacklists into one big database. Last week we reported that Russia had thrown its weight behind the project, signing a memorandum of understanding to add its own database of infringing domains to the WIPO ALERT database. Japan and Ukraine Announce Support For WIPO ALERT Japan-based anti-piracy group CODA has now revealed that on September 23, 2020, it too signed an agreement with WIPO, joining Italy, South Korea, Brazil, Spain, and Russia in the program. The difference in CODA’s case, however, is that while the other countries’ databases are run by governments, the Japanese anti-piracy group is the first contributor from the private sector. At the same time as announcing its membership, CODA revealed that Ukraine had also signed an agreement to integrate its advertising blacklists into the WIPO system. The country’s ‘Clear Sky’ anti-piracy initiative confirmed the news, noting that the Ministry of Economic Development, Trade and Agriculture had signed a memorandum of understanding with WIPO. “Today there are more than 1,500 such [infringing] resources on our list. We are delighted that WIPO has initiated a similar project at the international level,” said Vyacheslav Mienko, head of the ‘Clear Sky’ initiative. “Ukraine, represented by the Ministry of Economy, joined the project, and this gives us the opportunity to declare our resources to the WIPO list, containing claims from Ukrainian rightholders. We are confident that the international status of such a list will create additional motivation for the advertising market to control the placement of advertising.” Surprise Transparency From Ukraine With Predictable Results As we mentioned last week, there’s nothing fundamentally wrong with advertisers wanting to keep their ads off piracy portals. That being said, with no country prepared to publish its blacklists in public, it’s impossible to examine those lists for errors, blunders, or questionable entries. Surprisingly, Ukraine changes all that. Via its Blacklists.org.ua website, Ukraine helpfully provides a Google spreadsheet of all its blacklisted sites, i.e platforms rightsholders feel shouldn’t carry advertising from responsible companies so should be boycotted. In the main, Ukraine’s list is a fairly uncontroversial read, with various rightsholders complaining about hundreds of known torrent and streaming portals that are clearly engaged in mass distribution of unlicensed content. However, when taking a really close look, there are sites on the list that will raise eyebrows. Twitch.tv Set to Be Blacklisted by the WIPO ALERT System? At the time of writing there are around 1,300 alleged ‘pirate’ sites in the list but as the screenshot below reveals, not all is well. At position 1098 we can clearly see Amazon-owned Twitch.tv, a platform offering video game live streaming, broadcasts of Esports competitions, and sundry other streams. While Twitch isn’t immune to copyright-infringements carried out by a minority of its users, in this database it’s clearly labeled as a problematic platform that shouldn’t be advertised on. The site’s responsiveness to DMCA takedown notices seems to been pushed aside. The text in blue is a reference to the entity that reported Twitch to the blacklist, in this case the Ukrainian Anti-Piracy Association. Quite why this anti-piracy group has an issue with Twitch is unclear but given the fact that the list is about to be ported over to the WIPO to advise rightsholders internationally, Amazon might have a problem on its hands. US-based Streaming Platform Veoh.com Also Blacklisted Further down the list is another interesting entry, US-based streaming platform Veoh. The site was placed there following complaints from anti-piracy company 1+1Media but exactly why remains a mystery. Veoh has a strict copyright policy that not only removes infringing content but also terminates repeat infringers. As a major contributor to the Ukrainian blacklist, which will soon form part of WIPO ALERT, no reasons are given for any of the hundreds of platforms 1+1Media has recommended for an advertising boycott. However, if people do have any complaints, they must direct their issues to the anti-piracy company contributors themselves. Clear Sky says that listings are not their responsibility. Finally, there are a significant number of sites submitted to the blacklist by Getty Images. After checking a few at random it appears most are news sites which presumably used Getty’s photographs without permission. While that’s still infringement, these are certainly not pirate sites in the traditional sense. That raises the question of where the red lines are drawn and whether any sites, not just obvious ‘pirate’ platforms, are at risk of being placed on these lists at the whim of an anti-piracy company or copyright holder. Exactly Why Transparency is Needed As mentioned earlier, Ukraine is the only country thus far to make its blacklist public and for that, it should be commended. While there some questionable entries, including very significant ones, it is this kind of transparency that will contribute to making more accurate lists that achieve their stated goals. Whether WIPO will go down the same route with a published list of its own is unclear but if there’s a chance that blunders like the inclusion of Twitch and Veoh will get noticed, it should be worth considering. The alternative could be a mysterious fall in ad revenue for platforms that have absolutely no idea what is going on, despite complying with all relevant laws. Source: TorrentFreak
  21. Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba is one of the best-selling manga series of all time. A new movie based on the series was released in October and is already one of Japan's highest-grossing movies. Perhaps understandable then that Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary was prompted to comment after Hong Kong Police allegedly ripped-off the lead character's likeness for an anti-fraud campaign. While the world has been struggling with the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, very few notable movies are being released to the public. Christopher Nolan’s Tenet was a notable exception but with cinema audiences decimated, even that movie failed to reach anything like its full potential. But as with most rules, there are exceptions. Just last month, filmmakers released a movie that was not only an instant smash hit but is already one of the most popular Japanese-made movies of all time, despite the pandemic. Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba the Movie: Infinity Train Released in Japan on October 16, 2020, Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba the Movie: Infinity Train has done incredibly well by any standards. The anime movie is already the highest-grossing Japanese film of 2020 and is believed to be one of the highest-grossing movies in the country, period. Needless to say, that also makes it one of the most successful anime films ever too. Based on the manga series Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba, which in itself is the best-selling manga series of all time, the franchise has huge numbers of fans who enjoy the adventures of lead character Tanjiro Kamado, whose kind and determined nature has elevated him to hero status. A combination of all of these factors has led to an intellectual property drama in both Japan and China, one that has surprisingly caught the attention of the government too. Hong Kong Police Use Likeness to Front Anti-Fraud Campaign Given that millions of people are now familiar with Tanjiro, it will come as no surprise that he’s become a part of popular culture, particularly in East Asia but also further afield too. However, a decision by Hong Kong Police to use his likeness in an anti-crime initiative hasn’t gone down well with fans. Last week a post appeared on Facebook presenting the new face of Hong Kong police’s anti-fraud campaign. Albeit mainly bright purple, the ‘new’ character was immediately confronted with claims of being a ‘rip-off’ of Kanjiro, something that some considered just a little ironic considering the nature of a fraud prevention campaign. To the untrained eye, similarities might not be blatantly apparent but when taking a closer look, many things become more obvious. When placed side by side in the image below, it’s much easier to see why hardcore fans are less than impressed. With similar hair, jacket and pants in exactly the same color schemes and designs as those sported by Tanjiro, it’s not hard to see where the police artist drew his influence. The sword is another obvious element too along with the eyebrows, but when looking at both characters’ foreheads, ‘purple guy’ (who the police say is called ‘Grape’) also has exactly the same marking as Kanjiro which, according to the series, is not a tattoo but a birthmark. Kanjiro Copying Prompts Copyright Warning From Japan’s Government While this type of usage might normally find itself glossed over, this matter has attracted the interest of Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Katō. Noting that he prefers not to comment on specific cases, during a meeting yesterday the Minister did acknowledge that the image posted by Hong Kong Police does indeed resemble Tanjiro, so he took the opportunity to reiterate Japan’s strong stance towards the infringement of local content including manga and anime. Stating that protecting the rights of Japanese animation is important, Minister Katō added that he wants to “take proper measures” to protect intellectual property wherever possible. There’s no immediate indication that anything will be done to prevent Hong Kong Police from using the image moving forward but we were interested to know whether such use is actionable in Japan or indeed Hong Kong, given the public outcry. Japan’s Copyright Act Has No Fair Use Doctine After speaking with an anime expert yesterday who advised that, in his opinion, ‘Grape’ is “a rather obvious parody” of the movie’s main character Tanjiro, TorrentFreak contacted Masaharu Ina, Director of Overseas Copyright Protection at Japan-based anti-piracy group CODA. He confirmed that there is no fair use doctrine under the Copyright Act but said a parody defense is available. “Parody defense is permitted under the Japanese Copyright Act and has been successfully engaged as a defense against copyright (or trademark) infringement at Japanese Court,” he explained. In this case, however, he doubts whether the similarities could be actionable as copyright infringement. “Yes, ‘Kimetsu no Yaiba’ (aka ‘Demon Slayers’) is a copyrighted work. However, just the fact that the Hong Kong design utilizes certain features of the hero of ‘Demon Slayers’ does not constitute a copyright infringement as a matter of law. To constitute a copyright infringement, the design in question must be identical or confusingly similar to the original design. To my eyes the two designs do not appear to be similar enough,” he said. All of that being said, CODA’s director seems convinced that Hong Kong Police knew what they were doing when they created the new character. As it turns out, when one can read the text that accompanies the image of ‘Grape’, it’s actually there in black and white. “Interestingly, the design is accompanied by the name of the character that is similar to the original Japanese character and also the name ‘Kimetsu no Yaiba’ in Chinese characters are inserted at the left-top corner, which makes me believe that the Hong Kong Police tried to trade off of the property. “Therefore, it seems that the design was made on a rather questionable intention, but I do not believe that it constitutes copyright infringement,” he concludes. Source: TorrentFreak
  22. Japan's Agency for Cultural Affairs, a body of the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, has hired Hello Kitty to become its Copyright Ambassador. According to the people behind her appointment, Hello Kitty volunteered for the position because she really respects copyright. From relatively humble beginnings way back in 1974, Hello Kitty is now one of the most popular media franchises of all time. Indeed, a report last year revealed that the cartoon character has generated an eye-watering $80 billion in sales. Over the years, Kitty White – to cite her real name – has had her own clothing and toy lines, appeared in manga and anime, and featured in games and music. But despite being obviously busy, this week it was revealed yet more is on the horizon, this time working for the government in Japan. According to local anti-piracy group CODA, Japan’s Agency for Cultural Affairs appointed Hello Kitty to the role of Copyright PR Ambassador. This week there was an inauguration ceremony during which Koichi Hagiuda, Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, welcomed Hello Kitty to her new role. Masaharu Ina, CODA’s Director of Overseas Copyright Protection, informs TorrentFreak that he obtained a license from Hello Kitty owner Sanrio last year, paving the way for the new career move. We asked if anyone else was considered for the position. Apparently not. “Are you serious? No way. We could think nobody but Kitty,” he said. “She is one of the most well-known celebrities and is loved by everybody worldwide. And she respects and takes copyright seriously. We admire her for her motto ‘Everyone in the world is my friend.’ Isn’t she lovely and perfect for telling the importance of copyright protection to the world sweetly?” Masaharu Ina says that Hello Kitty’s role is to “be the beacon for copyright protection.” She will be looking out for those not respecting the law and if people misbehave online, they will really disappoint her. “She would not fancy people who patronize pirate sites. We believe that the benevolent Hello Kitty should persuade people with love to buy genuine products,” Ina predicts. At the moment Hello Kitty will be working in Japan but she could end up anywhere in future. “I will try my best to let everybody know the importance of copyright,” Hello Kitty says, commenting on her new job for which she won’t get paid. “We heard that she volunteered for this honorary job because she really respects copyright,” Ina says. “Although she may not mind having some apple pie and tea in a peaceful afternoon.” Source
  23. Japan's asteroid-exploring spacecraft has practiced its last task before heading home — and it made a nifty image as well. The Hayabusa2 mission has been studying a space rock called Ryugu for more than a year. During that time, the spacecraft has snagged samples of the rock, created an artificial crater and released three small robots to explore Ryugu's surface. But Hayabusa2 has one more rover on board, dubbed MINERVA-II2. And before the main spacecraft deploys that rover, the team overseeing the mission for the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) wanted to put the vehicle through its paces one more time. That rehearsal, which took place Sept. 16 (Sept. 17 local time at mission control), sent two target markers toward the asteroid. Each target marker is a reflective ball that's about 4 inches (10 centimeters) across and filled with smaller balls — like a high-tech beanbag. Hayabusa2 launched with five of these markers and had already deployed two, one last October and one in May. Two more left the spacecraft during the rehearsal this week, according to JAXA. During the procedure, the spacecraft photographed the target markers every 4 seconds, producing the raw material that mission personnel have turned into stunning would-be multiple-exposure images. As the camera snapped, the target marker itself stayed more or less in the same place, while the spacecraft itself rose at a speed of about 4 inches per second, according to a statement from JAXA. All told, the target markers took a few days to reach the asteroid's surface, on account of the space rock's very weak gravity. The rehearsal was originally scheduled for Sept. 5, but JAXA postponed the maneuver after Hayabusa2 briefly went into safe mode at the end of August. The safe mode was triggered by an anomaly during the testing of a long-unused reaction wheel. Though the issue was easy for spacecraft engineers to work around, it sent Hayabusa2 soaring to its "home position" 12.4 miles (20 kilometers) above the asteroid's surface. Since deploying the two target markers, Hayabusa2 has focused on observing the pair, which it will continue to do until Sept. 23, according to JAXA. The agency has not yet announced when it will deploy the spacecraft's final rover. That deployment marks the last task Hayabusa2 needs to complete before it ferries its precious space-rock cargo back to Earth. The spacecraft will leave Ryugu in November or December. Source
  24. The European Union and Japan on Wednesday launched the "world's largest areas of safe data flows" after finalizing common rules to protect personal information, the EU said. Firms can transfer data now that the executive European Commission finds that Japanese law offers "a comparable level of protection of personal data," the commission said. "This adequacy decision creates the world's largest area of safe data flows," EU justice commissioner Vera Jourova said, referring to an area of more than 600 million people. "Europeans' data will benefit from high privacy standards when their data is transferred to Japan," the Czech commissioner said. "Our companies will also benefit from a privileged access to a 127 million consumers' market," she added. Jourova said the arrangement "will serve as an example for future partnerships" on data flows and set global standards. The two sides cleared the final hurdle by agreeing on supplementary rules. These cover "the protection of sensitive data, the exercise of individual rights and the conditions under which EU data can be further transferred from Japan to another third country," the commission said. Japan's independent data protection authority (PPC) and courts can enforce these rules covering Japanese firms that import data from EU. Tokyo gave Brussels assurances that any use of personal data for law enforcement and national security purposes would be "limited to what is necessary and proportionate." Access by public authorities for these reasons would be "subject to independent oversight and effective redress mechanisms," the EU executive said. The two sides agreed to a mechanism to investigate and resolve complaints from Europeans over data access that Japan's independent data protection authority will run and supervise. The decision complements the EU-Japan Economic Partnership Agreement, which takes effect next month to become the world's biggest trade deal. EU citizens come under the General Data Protection Regulation that took effect in May last year. The EU has billed the GDPR as the biggest shake-up of data privacy regulations since the birth of the web, saying it sets new standards in the wake of the Facebook data harvesting scandal. The law establishes the key principle that individuals must explicitly grant permission for their data to be used and gives consumers the "right to know" who is processing their information and what it will be used for. Source
  25. This article has been updated with a comment from Facebook. The governments of seven countries are calling on Facebook and other tech firms to do the technically impossible - to weaken encryption by giving law enforcement access to messages, whilst not reducing user safety. The governments of the U.S., U.K., Australia, New Zealand, Canada, India and Japan have issued the joint statement which pleads with Facebook specifically, as well as other tech firms, to drop “end-to-end encryption policies which erode the public’s safety online”. The governments once again raise the issue of child abusers and terrorists using encrypted services such as WhatsApp to send messages without fear of content being intercepted. “We owe it to all of our citizens, especially our children, to ensure their safety by continuing to unmask sexual predators and terrorists operating online,” the U.K.’s home secretary, Priti Patel, said in a statement. “It is essential that tech companies do not turn a blind eye to this problem and hamper their, as well as law enforcement’s, ability to tackle these sickening criminal acts. Our countries urge all tech companies to work with us to find a solution that puts the public’s safety first.” Encryption muddle Once again, the politicians seem unable to grasp one of the fundamental concepts of end-to-end encryption - that putting back doors into the encryption algorithms that allow security services to intercept messages effectively breaks the encryption. According to the U.K. government’s statement, the “seven signatories of the international statement have made it clear that when end-to-end encryption is applied with no access to content, it severely undermines the ability of companies to take action against illegal activity on their own platforms”. Yet, end-to-encryption with the ability for third parties to intercept content is not end-to-end encryption in any meaningful sense. Worse, by introducing back doors to allow security services to access content, it would compromise the entire encryption system. Nevertheless, the “international intervention calls on tech companies to ensure there is no reduction in user safety when designing their encrypted services; to enable law enforcement access to content where it is necessary and proportionate; and work with governments to facilitate this.” As has been pointed out to the governments many times before, what they are asking for is technically impossible. An open letter sent to several of the signatory countries by a coalition of international civil rights groups in 2019 made this very point. “Proponents of exceptional access have argued that it is possible to build backdoors into encrypted consumer products that somehow let ‘good actors’ gain surreptitious access to encrypted communications, while simultaneously stopping ‘bad actors’ from intercepting those same communications,” the letter stated. “This technology does not exist. “To the contrary, technology companies could not give governments backdoor access to encrypted communications without also weakening the security of critical infrastructure, and the devices and services upon which the national security and intelligence communities themselves rely.” “Critical infrastructure runs on consumer products and services, and is protected by the same encryption that is used in the consumer products that proponents of backdoor access seek to undermine,” the letter adds. In response to the statement from the seven nations, a Facebook spokesperson said: “We've long argued that end-to-end encryption is necessary to protect people's most private information. In all of these countries, people prefer end-to-end encrypted messaging on various apps because it keeps their messages safe from hackers, criminals, and foreign interference. Facebook has led the industry in developing new ways to prevent, detect, and respond to abuse while maintaining high security and we will continue to do so. Source
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