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Japanese elderly villagers protect themselves from heavy snow

by UNTV   |   Posted on Tuesday, January 16th, 2018

FILE PHOTO: A man and his grandchild walk onva street at Tokyo’s Sugamo district, an area popular among the Japanese elderly, Wednesday. | REUTERS

A heavy snow swept across western Japan this week, causing traffic disruptions and trapping many elderlies inside a home.

Shinichi Koike is one of the elderlies. He lives with his wife in Takamatsu village of Niigata Prefecture, where most residents are in their 60s or 70s, as the youngsters have left for big cities to seek fortune.

Every winter, Koike and his wife have to be fully prepared for the heavy snow.

“It often snows near my hometown in winter, so when winter arrives every year, my house will be like this, with a special layer of protection on the outside preventing the effects of the snow,” said Shinichi Koike, a villager.

As fallen trees brought down by the heavy snow have blocked the only way out, power supply and communication were broken off from the village. After the local authority carried out rushed repairs, the power supply was resumed as of Sunday.

In most parts of Japan, elderly residents who live alone have to remove snow by themselves due to expensive snow removal services. Local governments have called on communities to provide help for each other.

There are some elderly people who live alone in my village. They will ask relevant departments for help when it snows frequently, and the staff will bring snowplows. Our village is not big, so everyone can keep on living with the help from each other,” said the villager.

Now, most regions of Niigata Prefecture are still covered with snow. The local government has warned residents to take security measures when removing snow. — Reuters

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Japan punishes Coincheck after $530 million cryptocurrency theft

by UNTV News   |   Posted on Monday, January 29th, 2018

Cryptocurrency exchange Coincheck’s signboard is pictured in front of a building where their office is located, in Tokyo, Japan January 29, 2018. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon

TOKYO (Reuters) – Japan’s financial regulator on Monday ordered Coincheck to get its act together after hackers stole $530 million worth of digital money from its exchange, jolting the nation’s cryptocurrency market in one of the biggest cyber heists.

The theft highlights the vulnerabilities in trading an asset that global policymakers are struggling to regulate and the broader risks for Japan as it aims to leverage the fintech industry to stimulate economic growth.

The Financial Services Agency (FSA) said on Monday it has ordered improvements to operations at Tokyo-based Coincheck, which on Friday suspended trading in all cryptocurrencies except bitcoin after hackers stole 58 billion yen ($534 million) of NEM coins, among the most popular digital currencies in the world.

Coincheck said on Sunday it would return about 90 percent with internal funds, though it has yet to figure out how or when.

The FSA is due to brief media on the matter at 2 p.m.

Japan started to require cryptocurrency exchange operators to register with the government only in April 2017, allowing pre-existing operators such as Coincheck to continue offering services ahead of formal registration.

The FSA has registered 16 cryptocurrency exchanges so far, and another 16 or so are still awaiting approval while continuing to operate.

Coincheck has said its NEM coins were stored in a “hot wallet” instead of the more secure “cold wallet”, outside the internet.

NEM fell to $0.78 from $1.01 on Friday, before recovering to around $0.97 on Monday, according to CoinMarketCap.

Singapore-based NEM Foundation said it had a tracing system on the NEM blockchain and that it had “a full account” of all of Coincheck’s lost NEM coins.

It added that the hacker had not moved any of the funds to any exchange or personal accounts but that it had no way to independently return the stolen funds to its owners.

In 2014, Tokyo-based Mt. Gox, which once handled 80 percent of the world’s bitcoin trades, filed for bankruptcy after losing around half a billion dollars worth of bitcoins. More recently, South Korean cryptocurrency exchange Youbit last month shut down and filed for bankruptcy after being hacked twice last year.

World leaders meeting in Davos last week issued fresh warnings about the dangers of cryptocurrencies, with U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin relating Washington’s concern about the money being used for illicit activity.

Many countries have clamped down on exchanges.

South Korea will ban crytocurrency traders from using anonymous bank accounts to crack down on the criminal use of virtual coins. China has ordered some exchanges to close, with the aim of containing financial risks.

But Japan has taken a different tack, becoming last year the first country to introduce national-level regulation of cryptocurrency exchanges.

The move, intended to protect consumers and stymie money laundering, was praised by many traders and operators as progressive.

Reporting by Makiko Yamazaki, Takahiko Wada, Thomas Wilson, Chang-Ran Kim in TOKYO, Vidya Ranganathan in SINGAPORE; Writing by Chang-Ran Kim

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With self-parking slippers, Nissan drives Japanese hospitality to a new level

by UNTV News   |   Posted on Friday, January 26th, 2018

Nissan Motor’s self-parking slipper is seen in this handout photo which was released on January 25, 2018, in Japan. Nissan Motor/Handout via REUTERS

TOKYO (Reuters) — In Japan, where old traditions are constantly being updated with new technology, one inn is making use of automated driving technology to offer the latest in hands-free hospitality — self-driving slippers.

Nissan Motor Co has developed a system for slippers to ‘park’ themselves at the entrance of the traditional inn at the push of a button, ready for guests to use upon arrival.

Each slipper is equipped with two tiny wheels, a motor and sensors to ‘drive’ across the wooden lobby floor using Nissan’s ProPilot Park technology.

Nissan uses this technology in the latest version of its all-battery electric Leaf vehicle. High-tech sensors and cameras allow the car to locate and back into parking spots without any driver input.

A simplified version of the technology has been installed at the inn, located in the resort town of Hakone, around 75 kilometers (47 miles) southwest of Tokyo and famed for its view of Mount Fuji. Selected guests will be able to experience the technology in March.

“The self-parking slippers are meant to raise awareness of automated driving technologies, and their potential, non-driving applications,” Nissan spokesman Nick Maxfield said.

And it is not just the slippers that scurry across the inn’s floors. Tatami-matted guest rooms feature floor cushions and traditional low tables that also wheel themselves into place.

Many of the world’s top auto brands are developing self-driving technology. Nissan plans to market a car that can drive itself on city streets by 2020.

Reporting by Naomi Tajitsu; Editing by Neil Fullick

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Hundreds rally in Tokyo against Abe’s attempt to amend pacifist Constitution

by UNTV   |   Posted on Tuesday, January 23rd, 2018

In his policy address during the first day of a 150-day regular parliament session on Monday, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe again expressed his intention to promote an amendment that would alter Japan’s pacifist Constitution.

But the idea has gained massive opposition from people from civil organizations across Japan.

“We don’t need a prime minister who wants a war,” said a protester.

“The constitutional amendment must stop,” said one of the demonstrator.

During the protest, some lawmakers from opposition parties walked out of their offices and joined the event.

According to the latest public opinion poll by Kyodo News, opposition to Abe’s constitutional amendment reached 54.8 percent. Less than 30 percent of the public supports the amendment. Meanwhile, over half of the people polled were against Abe’s proposal of writing the Japan self-defense forces into Article 9.

A poll by Mainichi Shinbun found that 46 percent of respondents oppose the proposed amendment to the Constitution within this year, while 36 percent support the motion.

“We are against war. I’m over 80 years old and I have experienced the pain of war. We must oppose war no matter what happens,” said a local resident.

The party’s first question time will begin on Wednesday. — Reuters

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