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Japan’s new Emperor Naruhito officially takes up post

by Robie de Guzman   |   Posted on Wednesday, May 1st, 2019

Japan’s Emperor Naruhito ascends throne in a solemn ceremony of abdication by his father, Akihito

Japan’s Emperor Naruhito formally invested on Wednesday (May 1) in a solemn ceremony which took place in the Imperial Palace in the heart of Tokyo after his father, Akihito, stepped down on the day before.

In his first speech, Naruhito said he said he would act according to the Constitution and fulfill his responsibility as the symbol of the state.

“In acceding to the Throne, I swear that I will reflect deeply on the course followed by His Majesty the Emperor Emeritus and bear in mind the path trodden by past emperors, and will devote myself to self-improvement,” Japanese Emperor Naruhito said.

“I also swear that I will act according to the Constitution and fulfill my responsibility as the symbol of the State and of the unity of the people of Japan, while always turning my thoughts to the people and standing with them,” he added.

Akihito, the first Japanese monarch to abdicate in two centuries, became an active symbol of peace, reconciliation and democracy during his three-decade Heisei era. Many expect Naruhito to follow that model, but with his own style

“I sincerely pray for the happiness of the people and the further development of the nation as well as the peace of the world,” Naruhito said.

While regarding the Emperor as the symbol of the state and Unity of the people, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe expressed his determination to create a bright yet peaceful and hopeful future for his country, amid the fast-changing international environment.

“We are determined to create, amidst the fast-changing international environment, a bright future for a Japan that is proud, that is peaceful and full of hope, and an era in which culture is born and will develop as people bring together their hearts in a beautiful way,” Abe said. (REUTERS)

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South Koreans boycott Japanese brands and cancel trips as diplomatic row intensifies

by Robie de Guzman   |   Posted on Saturday, July 20th, 2019

Angry South Korean consumers are taking action after Tokyo imposed curbs on exports to South Korea, promoting a widespread boycott of Japanese products and services, from beer to clothes and travel.

“We decided to cancel (the trip to Japan) because it went against our beliefs. I’m actually feeling relieved,” said Lee Sang-won, a 29-year-old designer, who canceled his Japan trip for a 130,000 won ($110.15) fee.

Screenshots of Japan trip cancellations are trending on social media. Lee and his friends, who have changed their holiday destination to Taiwan, ‘proudly’ presented their canceled ticket to Japan on his social media account.

“I believe it is very significant for South Korean citizens to show them (the Japanese government) their thoughts and actions. These boycotts are not about how much economic damage we can inflict, but about how we can raise their awareness,” said Lee, scheduling his trip to Taiwan with his friend.

Diplomatic tensions have been simmering again since a South Korean court last year ordered Japanese companies to compensate South Koreans who were forced to work during the war. Then on July 4, Japan restricted exports of high-tech materials to South Korea, denying the move was related to the compensation issue. Tokyo cited “inadequate management” of sensitive exports, with Japanese media reporting some items ended up in North Korea. Seoul has denied that.

Meanwhile, some local supermarkets pulled Japanese beers off the shelves, which was their way of taking a stance against Japan as a quickly worsening political and economic dispute between the two East Asian neighbors rekindles lingering animosity since Japan’s World War Two occupation of Korea.

“Of course we should (boycott Japanese products). There are so many good, tasty products, domestic and overseas alike, so why bother (consuming Japanese products) when we have this problem with Japan?” said a 55-year-old South Korean customer at a local market where he can’t find Japanese beers, said he has plenty of other options which can replace Japanese products.

Economists say the tech export curbs could shave 0.4% off South Korea’s gross domestic product this year. The boycott – if it proves to be more than just a brief burst of nationalistic fervor – could marginally add to that, unless consumers spend on something else.

“We are pleased to see this has turned consumers’ favor towards our pens,” said Park Seol, assistant manager at stationery maker Monami, whose online sales have risen five-fold since the curbs.

Japan’s Fast Retailing fashion brand Uniqlo, which sells clothes worth around 140 billion yen – 6.6% of its revenue – in 186 Korean stores, is also feeling the anger as its chief financial officer said last week there was a certain impact on sales. (REUTERS)

(Production: Daewoung Kim & Heejung Jung)

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Kyoto animation studio fire death toll rises to 33

by Marje Pelayo   |   Posted on Friday, July 19th, 2019

Fire-damaged animation studio building | Courtesy: China Central Television (CCTV)

The death toll from an animation studio fire in Kyoto, Japan on Thursday has risen to 33, local police and rescuers said.

The local fire department said 36 others have been injured, 10 of them critically, in the blaze that sent people desperately scrambling up the stairs toward the roof of the three-story building of the Kyoto Animation Co.

The blaze, ignited by a 41-year-old man with flammable liquid, is believed to be the country’s worst case of arson in decades.

About 70 people were working in the studio when the fire started.

Witnesses said that they saw victims who were badly bleeding were rushed to hospital in the incident that took place at around 10:35 local time in the city’s Fushimi Ward Thursday morning.

Police said the largest number of victims were found on the top floor of the three-story building, including some who had collapsed on the stairs leading to the roof.

The fire caused an explosion that shattered all the windows on the second and third floors.

More than 30 fire engines were deployed to the scene.

The firefighters managed to contain the fire around 03:20 local time, about five hours after it started.

“We sent out a quick report that the building had burned down. This is what has been learned from the investigation at the moment. The building, about 691 square meters, was completely destroyed,” said a Kyoto fireman.

The suspect is also being treated in hospital for injuries sustained during the fire and has been taken into custody, investigators said. His motives are yet to be determined. (REUTERS)

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Several feared dead in fire at Japan animation studio

by Robie de Guzman   |   Posted on Thursday, July 18th, 2019

A large plume of smoke is seen coming out of the animation studio that caught fire in Kyoto, Japan. | Courtesy: Reuters

Several people are feared dead after a fire at an animation studio in the Japanese city of Kyoto on Thursday (July 18) and police are investigating a possible arson attack, authorities and local media reported.

The fire at the Kyoto Animation studio injured more than 30 people, 10 of them seriously, and one person has been confirmed dead, a spokesman for the Kyoto City Fire Department said.

Several people were confirmed dead at the site, public broadcaster NHK reported, citing police. A Kyoto police spokesman was unable to immediately confirm the report when contacted by Reuters.

Police have taken into custody a man who poured what appeared to be gasoline around the studio, NHK said.

The studio produces the “Sound! Euphonium” series and its “Free! Road to the World – The Dream” movie is due for release this month. (REUTERS)

(Production: Akiko Okamoto, Yiming Woo)

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