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Dusting off a 150-year-old ode to the city's favorite samurai

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Jun 19Junior high school girl dies after boat capsizes on Lake Hamanako (AP)
A junior high school girl died Friday after a rowing boat with a total of 20 people aboard capsized on Lake Hamanako in Shizuoka Prefecture during stormy weather, police and local fire department officials said. Kana Nishino, a 12-year-old first-year student at a school in Toyohashi, Aichi Prefecture, died in hospital after being found unconscious below the boat after it capsized around 3:30 p.m., they said. The roughly 7-meter-long boat, carrying two teachers and 18 students, overturned while being towed by a motorboat following a radio message from one of the teachers saying it had become difficult to row because of strong winds.
Jun 19Cameron Diaz: 'I lost my virginity in Japan'(dropnews.net)
Cameron Diaz has revealed that she was not a virgin when she was with her first real boyfriend, video director Carlos de la Torre, and she lost it in Japan at 16. In a new interview with Playboy, the actress Cameron Diaz admits she lost her virginity "to end" once and then felt "the doors were open" for her, and then went crazy when she left home for the model.
Jun 18Dusting off a 150-year-old ode to the city's favorite samurai (New York Times)
From an ornate balcony above a ballroom on the East Side of Manhattan, a nine-piece string ensemble played a sprightly number Wednesday evening for the benefit of several dozen people who stood below. None had heard the two-minute piece before. How could they have? "Tommy Polka," as it was called, had not been played in public for 150 years. But in 1860 New York it was at the top of the charts, or whatever passed for the charts back then. Tommy was a visiting Japanese samurai, Tateishi Onojiro.
Jun 18Japanese couple murdered in Indonesia (AsiaOne)
A retired Japanese teacher and his wife were stabbed to death in their home in Indonesia by a disgruntled former domestic worker, police said Friday. Yasuwo Hara, 69, was stabbed in the chest and his wife, Mizue, 67, in the neck and stomach around 9:00 pm (10 pm local time) Thursday at their home in Ciputat, southern Jakarta, police said. Police arrested the couple's recently sacked gardener, 22-year-old Asep, a spokesman said.
Jun 18Fukuoka man arrested for tossing 3-year-old out of condo window (AP)
Police arrested a 24-year-old man on suspicion of attempted murder Thursday after he allegedly threw a 3-year-old nephew out of a window of his condominium to the pavement about 11 meters below in Fukuoka, the prefectural police said. The child survived the fall, although he landed on his chest and was taken to a hospital, the police said. The man suddenly lifted the child from a chair from behind and tossed him out the window shortly past 5 p.m. after he spilled juice on the table, while they, the boy's 25-year-old mother and another family member were having a birthday meal together.
Jun 18Fitness celebrity becomes bestseller in Japan (Korea Times)
Jung Da-yeon, known in Korea as 'momjjang ajumma' or 'hot body missus,' has become a sought-after author in Japan, ranking No. 1 as of Wednesday on Amazon Japan's bestseller list. Her latest hit book, 'Momjjang Diet Premium,' is tailed by her 2007 publication 'Momjjang Diet,' which made her the first Korean author to top the bestselling list on the online bookstore. In her new book she notes that in the history of mankind it has been only 10,000 years since people started eating three regular meals per day. Jung argues that it is better to eat several smaller meals just like animals do in the wild.
Jun 18Kitano fumbles gangster formula (Japan Times)
Takeshi Kitano went to the Cannes Film Festival this year hoping to snag the big prize that had so far eluded him: the Palme d'Or. He left with little more than a stack of negative reviews from the international media for his competition entry, "Outrage." One panel of critics, for the trade magazine "Screen International," gave it the lowest average rating of any competition film: 0.9. What happened? Kitano was feted throughout the 1990s, both at home and abroad, for combining extreme violence with zero cool in his films about cops and gangsters, including his 1993 international breakthrough "Sonatine."
Jun 17Chinese woman slipped through biometric identification checks (AP)
A Chinese woman arrested on suspicion of robbery has been found to have entered Japan unlawfully after changing her fingerprints to slip through airport biometric identification checks, investigative sources said Thursday. Lin Xiuai, 33, a resident of Yokohama, has told police investigators that she underwent a surgical operation to change her fingerprints at a clinic in China's Fujian Province for about 30,000 yen, the sources said.
Jun 17Taliban demands ransom for Japanese journalist (AP)
Taliban militants have demanded that the Afghan government pay a ransom for a Japanese journalist who went missing in late March in northern Afghanistan, it was learned Thursday from Afghan security authorities. Negotiations are under way on a payment of several hundred thousand dollars for the release of Kosuke Tsuneoka, 40, according to the authorities. The authorities said they believe he is being held by the militants. However, Zabihullah Mujahid, a spokesman for the Taliban, on Thursday denied reports that the Taliban are holding Tsuneoka.
Jun 17Returnee claims frameup, denies robbing cabby (Japan Times)
An American man pleaded not guilty Wednesday to robbing and injuring a taxi driver in conspiracy with two other foreign nationals in 2008. Burnside Brandon Lee, 28, said as his trial opened in the Tokyo District Court that another man is the real culprit, claiming he was staying in the Kabukicho district of Shinjuku Ward, Tokyo, when the crime occurred in Shinagawa Ward. The two other men, a Peruvian and an American, were convicted last year. Lee claimed they were lying and trying to frame him.
Jun 16Arrested girl says she 'waited for right time' to stab classmate (AP)
A 15-year-old girl, who was arrested Tuesday for allegedly stabbing a classmate during a lesson at a private girls' high school in Yokohama, has told police she shoplifted the knife used in the assault and waited for the "right time" to attack, police officials said Wednesday, indicating that the incident was premeditated. The victim, a 15-year-old first-grader at Seishin Girls' Senior High School, remains in critical condition in hospital. She suffered deep stab wounds to her side inflicted by a knife with a 12-centimeter blade that passed through her liver and reached a kidney, the police said.
Jun 16File-sharing program exposes problematic sex-club patrons to public disgrace (Tokyo Reporter)
When customers at sex shops get a little too frisky or imaginative, causing injury and/or humiliation to the female staff, management is left with little choice but to yank in the welcome mat. It's bad enough to be turned away from play for pay, but to make matters worse, reports Weekly Playboy (June 28), it seems that through a flaw in Winnie, a notorious file-sharing program, the customer blacklist for a famous sex shop in Nagoya was leaked onto the Internet.
Jun 16Sendai man spits his way to cherry pit victory(Japan Times)
The annual cherry pit-spitting competition in Higashine, Yamagata Prefecture, was won this year with a championship blast of 15.95 meters. The winner, Shinya Kikuchi of Sendai, received 2 kg of sato-nishiki cherries, one of the most expensive varieties, as his prize. About 1,000 people turned out Sunday to participate in the contest.
Jun 16Noodles flow 2,500 meters down mountain into world record book (Mainichi)
A sea of noodles flowing down bamboo half-pipes for 2,500 meters into waiting mouths has set a world record. "Nagashi-somen" (flowing noodles) is a festive way to eat somen noodles in which a person places the noodles on a water slide made of cut bamboo trees, and another person tries to grab the moving noodles from further down the stream with chopsticks.
Jun 15Company employee found to be rescuer of man who fell onto rail track (AP)
A Tokyo fire station said Tuesday it has found that a 36- year-old company employee was the man who saved a blind man's life after he fell onto a railway track from a platform in Tokyo. The Ueno fire station will honor Makoto Takesue from Saitama Prefecture for his bravery by presenting him with a letter of appreciation on Thursday, it said. According to the fire station, Takesue, who was waiting for his train on the opposite platform from the one where the 34-year-old blind man fell off at JR Yamanote Line's Uguisudani station, immediately jumped onto the track and pushed him up back onto the platform on June 6.
Jun 15Student stabbed, another nabbed at Yokohama girls' high school (AP)
A student was stabbed Tuesday with a knife in her side at a private girls' senior high school in Yokohama, and another student was arrested there, police said. Seishin Girls' Senior High School made a 119 emergency call around 12:20 p.m. about the stabbing, which caused the first-year student to be treated in an intensive-care unit of a hospital, they said.
Jun 15Japanese photographer robbed in South Africa (AP)
A freelance Japanese photographer was robbed of a backpack containing cash, a camera and a passport by a group of three robbers in Bloemfontein, central South Africa, after Monday's World Cup match between Japan and Cameroon. The 32-year-old photographer was unhurt in the incident that occurred around 6:30 p.m. when he was walking from Free State Stadium to the hotel where he was staying, according to the Japanese Embassy.
Jun 15'Sword girls' slice away stress at all-lady swordplay classes (Mainichi)
The number of women taking sword-fighting classes across Japan has been rising recently, and they even have a nickname: sword girls. What spurred these women to take sword in hand? The roots of the attraction, it is said, lie in the deep seriousness and profundity of wielding a katana. Looking to discover what brings women to this ancient weapon, I decided to join a beginners' class myself. On a Saturday in May, I made my way to a former primary school building in Shinjuku, Tokyo, where the Takase Dojo -- which has been training actors in staged swordplay for some 40 years -- holds a women-only sword fighting class once every two months.
Jun 15Mah-jongg ancient, progressive (Japan Times)
Few games may be as addictive as mah-jongg, whose players range from university students to salarymen and tend to go at it all night, often for money. Part of mah-jongg's popularity is due, somewhat like bridge, to its combination of strategy and luck. Many "manga" comic books feature mah-jongg, and software companies cater to the craze with games.
Jun 14The celestial journey of Shoko Tendo (Tokyo Reporter)
Upon introduction, author Shoko Tendo does not offer the image of a woman who has spent much of her life mixed up with drugs and yakuza gangsters. With straight brown hair and sharp facial features shaped by reconstructive plastic surgery, this 42-year-old daughter of a mobster reveals no visual hints as to her past, aside from the occasional glimpse of one of her elaborate tattoos peering from under the cuff of her long shirtsleeve. She is not shy about revealing that striking artwork covering her pencil-thin frame. A courtesan with a dagger gripped in her teeth fills her back as serpents crawl along her arms and legs. Kanji characters and carp fill in the spaces between and around.
Jun 142-yr-old Saitama girl dies after choking on dental cotton (AP)
A 2-year-old girl died Monday after choking on dental cotton during treatment for a broken tooth at a dental clinic in Niiza, Saitama Prefecture, police said. Suspecting professional negligence, the Niiza police said they will conduct an autopsy to confirm the cause of death while questioning people concerned. According to the investigators, the girl fell at her home and broke her front tooth on Sunday. Her parents took her to the clinic later in the day and were with her while she was receiving treatment in the afternoon. The girl was taken to hospital after choking but died there at around 6:30 a.m. Monday.
Jun 14Tokyo assembly votes down measure to regulate child porn in comics (AP)
A Tokyo metropolitan assembly panel voted down on Monday a controversial proposal to toughen regulations on pornographic depictions of children in comic books and animations, with the opposition of the Democratic Party of Japan. Using the concept of "nonexistent minors" for characters in comics and animations that appear to be under the age of 18, for example, from their clothes, the proposal urged bookstores and other vendors not to sell to children comic books and animated content depicting the minors' intercourse.
Jun 14Japan's BeeTV draws big buzz by only broadcasting to mobile phones (adage.com)
In a country where almost every facet of daily life is lived on some of the world's most-advanced cellphones, Japan's year-old BeeTV broadcasts only to mobile phones. BeeTV is a joint venture by NTT Docomo, Japan's largest mobile phone carrier, and Avex Group Holdings, the holding company for a group of entertainment-related subsidiaries based in Japan. BeeTV broadcasts more than 20 short programs in eight genres like drama, music and comedy and plans to add shows on cooking, fashion and beauty for a total of more than 50 programs. The two most-popular are drama series "Love Letter in Five Years" and "Death Game Park."
Jun 14Fireflies put on light show to help Kamakura shrine mark summer (Japan Times)
Visitors to a major shrine in Kamakura, Kanagawa Prefecture, were treated to a Saturday night light show put on by 1,500 fireflies released for the event. At Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine, 10 girls clad in priestess outfits from six countries, including Japan and Russia, released the fireflies into the air at around 7:30 p.m., drawing rousing cheers from the crowd.
Jun 14Quake leaves northeast unharmed(Japan Times)
An earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of 6.2 jolted northeastern Japan on Sunday, the Meteorological Agency said. No tsunami warning was issued for the 12:33 p.m. quake and there were no immediate reports of major damage or injuries. Tokyo Electric Power Co. said its two nuclear power stations in Fukushima Prefecture were undamaged and normal operations were unaffected. Tohoku Electric Power Co. said the same for its nuclear plant in Miyagi Prefecture.
Jun 13Busted Tokyo call-girl service's VIP customer list has cops licking chops(Tokyo Reporter)
On June 3, the Tokyo MPD's vice squad slapped the cuffs on a baker's dozen of people allegedly involved in call-girl ring. Shukan Jitsuwa (June 24) reports that Michinori Matsushita (age 31), the operator, was charged with having sent a 27-year-old "campaign girl" to service four male customers at hotels in Tokyo's Shibuya district between March 18 and May 23. But the cops were astonished to find that the scale of the operation was a lot more than they had bargained for.
By J.S. on June 25, 2010

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