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Tokyo samurai women punish fat with sword workout

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May 15Power-hungry hordes flock to Ise Grand Shrine (Yomiuri)
More and more people in recent years are hoping to get a taste of spiritual power at the famed Ise Grand Shrine in Mie Prefecture. The sharp increase in the number of visitors to the shrine is attributable to the recent power spot craze, coverage of which has become a mainstay in lifestyle magazines and on Internet sites. A power spot is a place known for its restorative or energizing powers. Last year saw nearly 8 million visitors to the shrine.
May 15Disposing of a sticky problem (Japan Times)
The answer to the disposable chopsticks problem is now at hand. And it always has been. We should all just eat with our fingers. And I knew disposable chopsticks were a problem the minute I laid eyes on them, which was at lunch on my very first day in Japan. I didn't know they broke in two and therefore used a double set. The waitress rushed to my aid and taught me how to crack them apart. Upon which I found it much easier to drop noodles in my lap.
May 14Crown Princess Masako will skip party for Cambodian King (AP)
Crown Princess Masako will not be attending the reception and dinner party to be held for visiting Cambodian King Norodom Sihamoni due to her illness, the Imperial Household Agency said Friday. The crown princess, who is undergoing treatment for a stress-induced illness, regrets not being able to attend the event for Sihamoni's first state visit to Japan from Sunday, agency officials said, while denying the decision had anything to do with her daughter's condition.
May 14Assailants stab Japanese man to death in Philippines(AP)
A Japanese national was killed before dawn Friday, apparently stabbed to death by two suspected robbers in the southern Philippine city Zamboanga, police said. The victim was identified as Tokio Miyake, 71, a pensioner from Okayama Prefecture who has been a resident of Zamboanga in western Mindanao for around 15 years, police investigator Mario Lafuente told Kyodo News. Lafuente said Miyake sustained a fatal wound on the left part of his chest caused by an ice pick. He died on the spot.
May 14Returning to Japan with kids was only safe option, two mothers say (Japan Times)
It was a typical love story for Kyoko Yamaguchi. The couple met in Europe, fell in love, married and later had a son. But the happy life she had envisioned soon turned sour. First there were the fights and the yelling, and then the cheating and violence. After nearly 10 years of trying desperately to hold on to her marriage, Yamaguchi, not her real name, left her husband. But that wasn't enough. Physically and mentally worn out from her husband's abusive and stalkerlike behavior, she finally decided to take her son and move back to Japan without her husband's consent.
May 14On film, Tokyo is having one helluva bad trip(Japan Times)
If "Lost in Translation" is the film you'd make when all you know about Japan are the pampered press junkets at Shinjuku 5-star hotels, then "Enter the Void" is what you would make if you never got beyond the Roppongi pub-crawl. Full of strip clubs, drug deals and loveless love-hotel sex, the latest provocation from France's enfant terrible Gaspar Noe follows the lives of several expats lost in Tokyo's seedier side.
May 13Another person's hair found in plastic bag containing woman's body (AP)
Another person's hair was found in a plastic bag in which the body of a woman was discovered last month on a bank of the Yodo River in Takatsuki, Osaka Prefecture, according to investigative sources. Police are analyzing the hair as it is highly likely to belong to the person who abandoned the body of Tsuyuko Uno, 36, from Toyono in the prefecture, the sources said. Meanwhile, the police also plan to question a couple who legally adopted the woman in around February and a male acquaintance of theirs, the sources said.
May 13Suicides due to hardships in life, job loss up sharply in 2009(AP)
The number of people who committed suicide in Japan in 2009 stayed above 30,000 for the 12th consecutive year, with suicides due to hardships of life and losing jobs rising sharply, a National Police Agency survey showed Thursday. The number of suicides in the reporting year totaled 32,845, up 1.85 percent from the preceding year, the NPA said in a revised report. The number of suicides in Japan grew sharply in October 2008 -- a month after Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. collapsed, throwing the global economy into a prolonged recession.
May 13Monk's enlightenment begins with a marathon walk (NPR)
Anyone who has run a marathon knows that feats of endurance require mental discipline - a way to fuse mind, body and spirit. Perhaps not surprisingly, then, a monk at a Zen Buddhist temple in Japan has walked a great distance - roughly the equivalent of the Earth's circumference - as a form of physical and spiritual exercise. Last fall, 34-year-old Zen monk Endo Mitsunaga became the 13th monk since World War II to complete the Sennichi Kaihogyo, 1,000 days of walking meditation and prayer over a seven-year period around Mount Hiei. He walked 26 miles a day for periods of either 100 or 200 consecutive days.
May 13Pot a long way from legalization(Japan Times)
Despite easing of regulations elsewhere in the world, Japan's laws remain draconian. Unlike some countries, including the Netherlands where possession of up to 5 grams of marijuana would be considered a negligible amount and overlooked, Japanese police made about 2,000 pot-related arrests a year in the four-year period from 2005 to 2008. Some of those who possessed 0.5 gram of the drug have received suspended prison sentences of 10 months, while possession of more than 5 grams commonly results in a suspended sentence of one year at the least.
May 13Hunger strike at immigration center(Japan Times)
About 60 detainees at the East Japan Immigration Control Center in Ushiku, Ibaraki Prefecture, have been on hunger strike since Monday to seek better treatment, a Tokyo-based volunteer group member said Wednesday. The detainees are demanding the detention period be shortened to at most six months, bail for temporary release be no more than \200,000 and those younger than 18 not be confined.
May 13From Ginza glitz to street 'n' surf styles (Japan Times)
"Who is that girl?" comments someone beneath a photo on Scott Schuman's fashion blog The Sartorialist, referring to images of a stylish Japanese girl with model good looks, captured traipsing around Paris with a camera in hand. "That girl" turned out to be Rei Shito, one of Japan's most experienced and globally known street-style photographers. Shito posts photos from Harajuku, Paris and New York on her blog.
May 12Tokyo samurai women punish fat with sword workout(AFP)
Japan's ancient samurai swords were once used to slice apart enemies, but in a new fitness craze they serve to slash away at extra pounds and cut down on modern-day stress instead. "Cut down!", a sword-wielding instructor shouted during a recent "Samurai Camp" gym session in Tokyo as a squad of sweat-drenched women warriors followed suit, slashing the air with their shiny blades. "Put your right foot forward, cut down straight, thrust out your chest, no bending of the back," the instructor yelled to the sound of a techno dance beat and swooshing weapons. "Punish the extra fat with this!" To avoid turning the health workout into a bloodbath, the swords are made of wood and urethane foam, but the determination of the participants is steely: the goal is to shed five kilograms (11 pounds) in about a month.
May 12Pop group vocalist Nakamura avoids prison for drugs(AP)
Koichi Nakamura, vocalist of pop group JAYWALK, was sentenced Wednesday to two years in prison, suspended for four years, for possessing and taking illegal stimulants and also having narcotics. Nakamura, 59, consumed a stimulant drug in a parked car in Tokyo's Minato Ward on March 8, and the next day was in possession of 0.67 gram of the drug each in the car parked on a street in the ward and his home in Nerima Ward, where he also held 0.73 gram of powdered cocaine, the Tokyo District Court ruled.
May 12Judge orders napping audience out of courtroom(Mainichi)
A judge ordered napping courtroom audience members to leave after they fell asleep during the trial of a woman who is accused of causing the deaths of her children. The second trial of Kaori Takagi, 37, who is accused of inflicting bodily injury to three of her daughters and causing two of them to die, was held at the Kyoto District Court on Tuesday, with about a half of its largest courtroom filled with observers including the news media. Takagi reportedly mixed water in a drip infusion of the young victims.
May 12Japan's yen for bugs (New York Post)
You can't tell a book by its cover, nor can you judge a movie by its title. "Beetle Queen Conquers Tokyo" sounds like a "Godzilla"-type thriller -- but definitely isn't. Rather, it is a contemplative documentary about Japan's age-old fascination with bugs. The director-writer-producer is an American, Jessica Oreck, a lifelong insect lover and an animal keeper at the American Museum of Natural History in Manhattan. The beautifully filmed, seductively narrated proceedings open with a boy talking his father into buying a pet beetle for the equivalent of $57.
May 12WHO: Japan's life expectancy longest at 83 years (Yomiuri)
Japan and San Marino in Europe have the world's longest life expectancy at 83 years, according to the World Health Organization. On Monday, the U.N. body released World Health Statistics 2010, which is based on surveys conducted in 2008 and covers 193 WHO member countries. By gender, Japanese women boast the longest average life expectancy at 86 years, followed by France, Andorra and Monaco at 85 years. Japanese men were ranked 4th at 79 years, following San Marino at 81 years, and Iceland and Switzerland at 80 years.
May 12Teishokuya: cheap eats that never go out of style(Japan Times)
Times will change, empires will rise and fall, but thankfully some institutions are set, if not in bronze, then at least in good old concrete. By this I mean the backstreet teishokuya, specifically the tasty one in my neighborhood. At lunchtime the place is crammed with businessmen and construction workers, huddled over small, greasy plastic trays and reaching over each other's shoulders for the hashibako. The feeling is: Who needs restaurants when you can get a cheap, caloric teishoku for under \1000, served in less than three minutes?
May 11Woman found dead in plastic bag on Osaka Pref. river bank identified (AP)
A woman found dead last month in a plastic bag on a bank of the Yodo River in Takatsuki, Osaka Prefecture, has been identified, police said Tuesday. The police determined that the body's features and clothing matched those of Tsuyuko Uno, 36, from the town of Toyono in the same prefecture, as described Monday by a member of her family, who told police she had not returned home since April 20 and lost contact on April 27.
May 11Japanese gals flock to Bali's Beach Boys for lots of Fun, Fun, Fun (Tokyo Reporter)
Singapore-based writer and director Amit Virmani's documentary film, "Cowboys in Paradise," takes up the subject of "beach gigolos" at the Indonesian resort of Bali. Nikkan Gendai (May 11) reports that Virmani got the idea for his film after learning that the young hunks were hitting the books to learn conversational Japanese. The documentary has been vociferously denounced by provincial governor Pastika as being illegal "because it had been shot without permission." Police responded by charging 28 local males with engaging in prostitution.
May 11Tuna auction reopens to tourists (Japan Times)
The tuna auction at Tokyo's popular Tsukiji fish market reopened Monday to the public with new restrictions following a monthlong ban leveled after tourists obstructed business. Shortly after tourists started entering early in the morning, the new limit of 140 was reached. Several other people were turned away. The lucky ones who got in were orderly and there were no disruptions, Tsukiji official Yoshiaki Takagi said.
May 11Japan zines: Never mind the bloggers (Japan Times)
Koenji is a nice, quiet place in the suburbs, but venturing along its Kitanaka Street one weekend last March, you could not have missed the commotion coming out of Shirouto no Ran No. 12. Crammed inside this small rental space, dozens of people were poring over, discussing and exchanging piles upon piles of booklets bursting with eye-catching imagery and color. The get-together was the biggest yet for Japanese "zinedom": the 4th Tokyo Zinester Gathering, a two-day event devoted to making, trading and selling zines.
May 10Japan to relax restrictions on tourist visas for Chinese (Xinhua)
The Japanese government plans to relax the restrictions on income conditions for granting visas to individual Chinese tourists as of July 1 in a bid to attract more Chinese to Japan, Kyodo News reported Monday, citing government officials. Under the plan, Japan will lower the threshold of an annual income of 250,000 yuan for an individual Chinese tourist to 60,000 yuan, said the officials.
May 1010-year-old girl stabbed in abdomen by friend's mother (AP)
A 10-year-old girl was stabbed in the abdomen by her friend's mother Sunday afternoon in Osaka Prefecture, police said. The fifth-grader is conscious and the injury is not life-threatening, the police said. She was visiting her friend's apartment in Toyonaka when the 42-year-old woman apparently stabbed her with a kitchen knife at around 4 p.m., they said. The police arrested the woman on suspicion of attempted murder.
May 10Sex offenders database yields limited results(Yomiuri)
A registry system for people convicted of sexual crimes against children has been in place for five years, but it appears to be limited in its ability to prevent repeat offenses. In June 2005, the Justice Ministry started providing the National Police Agency with information on people who had been convicted of sexual offenses against children under 13--including rape, molestation and indecent assault. The data includes offenders' names and addresses. As of the end of 2009, however, there had been only seven cases in which the database enabled police to prevent registered offenders from committing similar crimes again.
May 10To realize its cultural potential, Japan must celebrate its strengths (Japan Times)
When Japan lost its Asian and Pacific empire in 1945 with the end of World War II, it also lost its confidence in its indigenous culture and that culture's ability to have sway in the world. The genius of Japanese design, though, remained intact, and its practitioners turned their eyes and minds to practical goods over art. Within three decades, Japan was producing electronic goods and cars, among other things, whose sleek appeal once again took the world by storm. However, the bleak and dispirited years since Japan's economic bubble burst and shriveled in the early 1990s have changed that story, too. Japan is at sea, sailing blind, looking every which way for the glint of a lighthouse.
May 10Most Taiji residents rest easy, refuse to change diet(Japan Times)
Residents of Taiji, Wakayama Prefecture, appeared relieved Sunday after health specialists found no symptoms of mercury poisoning in their bodies, even though the hair samples of some residents contained high levels of methyl mercury. And the people in the town with a centuries-old tradition of eating whale and dolphin said they won't change their diet.
May 1070-year-old Japanese woman abandons attempt to climb Mt. Everest(AP)
A 70-year-old woman from Tokyo who was seeking to scale Mt. Everest and become the oldest woman to do so has abandoned her attempt, her local organizer said Sunday. Eiko Funahashi is descending from the Everest Base Camp to Lukla airport in the Everest region. From there, she will fly to Kathmandu on Monday, said Tamling Sherpa, her local organizer in Kathmandu. "We have been informed that she is returning. But we do not know why she abandoned the attempt," Sherpa told Kyodo News.
May 10A skirt that looks like a Coca Cola vending machine (India Times)
A skirt that doubles as a disguise, which has been inspired by Japanese ninja assassins, has been unveiled in Japan. When unfolded, it looks like a Coca Cola vending machine. Aya Tsukioka, 31, hopes that her dress would help ease women's worry about crime and outfox would-be attackers, Daily Mail reported. Tsukioka gave a demonstration of her design by lifting a flap on the skirt to expose a large sheet of cloth printed with red Coca-Cola logo and a woman walking alone could hide behind it to outfox an attacker.
May 092 men die during festival at Nagano shrine(AP)
Two of three men who fell more than 10 meters from a huge timber pole while it was being raised during a festival at Suwa Taisha Shrine in the town of Shimosuwa, Nagano Prefecture, died Saturday due to injuries they sustained, police said. The two have been identified as Noritoshi Masuzawa, 45, and Kazuya Hirata, 33, both from the neighboring city of Okaya. The third man who fell in the 5:05 p.m. incident and another man nearby were slightly injured, the police said.
May 09Men arrested in bank account scam are latest 'regular people' taking up criminal side jobs (Mainichi)
On April 30, the Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office indicted the 47-year-old president of a mobile phone retail company from Ishinomaki, Miyagi Prefecture. What sparked the investigation was a message posted on an underground website by a 32-year-old man who illicitly purchased a bank account. The two men, who had both run into financial difficulties, had become "tool dealers," playing a part in the transfer of bank accounts under false names to criminal organizations.
May 09Tortoise return to Japan (Tokyo Reporter)
Tortoise's blending of dub, electronica and jazz over its two decades in existence has established the instrumental five-piece as the band that brought progressive rock into the present. Yet 2009's "Beacons of Ancestorship" sees the Chicago-based band, which will appear in Japan for two shows this week in Tokyo and Osaka, going in a different direction. "Beacons," the band’s sixth full-length, is much harder to pin down compared to its predecessor, the almost ambient "It's All Around You" (2004) - and that was entirely deliberate. "It is our attempt to move on to something new," explains bassist and guitarist Douglas McCombs. "We intentionally made it more raw, leaving some imperfection in the mix."
May 09On the road to paradise: a cycling pilgrimage to 88 Shikoku temples (Japan Times)
The girl at the cash register of the convenience store gives me a free bottle of iced tea and wishes me "Good luck!" As I remount my bike, I pop a sushi roll she also gave me into my mouth and set off, blissfully relaxed under blue skies, heading for the next temple. At my next halt along the way, a grocer presents me with a bag of mikan tangerines, and others along the village street give me onigiri (rice balls), cans of coffee and other snacks for free. Later, even a man in a repair shop who fixes my bike refuses to accept a penny for his work. Is this paradise?
By J.S. on May 20, 2010

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