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Bird flu's spread to Hokkaido sparks culling of 210,000 chickens

The Japan Times

Japan has begun slaughtering about 210,000 farm birds in northern Hokkaido to contain another outbreak of highly contagious bird flu, an official said Sunday. It is the fifth mass cull this winter, with hundreds of officials working to prevent the virulent H5 strain detected at several farms nationwide from spreading. Just weeks earlier, outbreaks on Honshu led to a cull of 550,000 chickens in the city of Niigata and 23,000 ducks in Aomori Prefecture. Authorities have also banned the transport of poultry and related products in areas close to the affected farms, while sterilizing the main roads leading to them. But progress in stemming the Hokkaido outbreak has been slow, with just 32,310 chickens at the infected farm in the town of Shimzu culled as of Saturday evening, local officials said in a statement.

Japan's love of ramen tempered by mortality warning

The Japan Times

Slurping down a steaming hot bowl of ramen is a great way to warm the soul on a cold winter's day but overindulging in the dish could prove deadly, a British medical paper has warned. In a paper published on BioMed Central in September, three Japanese researchers from the Jichi Medical University School of Medicine in Tochigi Prefecture found a direct link between the prevalence of ramen restaurants and stroke mortality in certain parts of the country. Following up on this issue, the Asahi Shimbun said that Tochigi, Akita, Aomori, Yamagata, Niigata and Kagoshima prefectures -- all famed for their ramen offerings -- were by far the worst offenders. The newspaper also noted that households in these regions were also more likely to use more salt, which causes high blood pressure. According to a survey conducted by the General Affairs Agency, Yamagata Prefecture consumes more salt than any other part of the country.

Coronavirus death toll reaches 52 in Japan

The Japan Times

The number of fatalities linked to the coronavirus in Japan rose to 52 on Monday following the deaths of three elderly people, including a man in his 80s in Aichi Prefecture. The man, who returned from New York on March 11, died at a hospital in Okazaki on Monday morning. He was later found to have the virus, according to the city government. The health ministry also reported the deaths of two men, both in their 70s, who were on board the virus-hit Diamond Princess cruise ship. In the city of Hachinohe, Aomori Prefecture, a man in his 70s, who returned from Spain, and his wife tested positive for the virus, marking the first cases of infection in the prefecture.

Inmates in Japan produce masks and protective gear amid virus crisis

The Japan Times

To aid society in the fight against the coronavirus outbreak, Japanese prisoners have been set to work turning out cloth masks and protective gear to help overcome shortages instead of the leatherware and carpentry goods they usually make. A total of around 100 inmates at prisons in Aomori in northeast Japan and Kyoto, Osaka, Kakogawa, Yamaguchi, Iwakuni and Takamatsu in western Japan are aiming to produce 66,000 masks per month to meet orders received from the private sector in March. Protective gear, meanwhile, which is in short supply on the medical front line, is being produced at prisons in Kyoto and Osaka, with around 4,600 sets to be dispatched monthly. Prisoners in Tsukigata in northern Hokkaido as well as Yokohama are also preparing to join in the production. At the Mine Rehabilitation Program Center in Yamaguchi Prefecture, housing first-time offenders, eight inmates have made around 1,800 cloth masks in total following a request from the city of Mine in late March.

Carmakers extend Japan plant closures; Honda to furlough thousands in U.S.

The Japan Times

TOKYO/SOUTHFIELD, MICHIGAN – Toyota, Honda and and a slew of other automakers say plant suspensions will continue into May in light of the fall in demand caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Toyota said Wednesday that all 15 of its domestic assembly plants will close on May 1 and May 11, both weekdays, while manufacturing lines at four plants in Aichi, Shizuoka and Iwate prefectures will be wholly or partially suspended from May 12 to May 18 at the longest. Daihatsu Motor Co. said it will halt its plants in Osaka and Kyoto prefectures for two to three days in May, with a plant in Shiga Prefecture making its mainstay Tanto minivehicle that was set to be closed through April 21 staying shut for three more days. Hino Motors Ltd. said it will close its plant in Hamura, Tokyo, on May 12. Suzuki Motor Corp., which began intermittently suspending its five domestic plants earlier this month, said it will extend a production freeze at two of the plants until April 28. Subaru Corp. will postpone the reopening of a plant in the U.S. state of Indiana to May 11.