Brace yourself, a strong quake is coming. This dramatic emergency message sent to smartphones and loudspeakers caused a brief panic after midnight Wednesday in Tokyo and neighboring prefectures, with many taking to social media to express their confusion over whether or not to get ready for the worst. The Meteorological Agency warned of a strong quake off the east coast of Chiba Prefecture at 12:15, warning of possible severe jolts in the capital and Ibaraki, Kanagawa, Saitama and Tochigi prefectures. The agency warned that a 6.7 magnitude quake could reach lower 5 on the Japanese intensity scale in Ibaraki, but even though a quake did occur, it was relatively weak and unnoticeable in some areas. "The advance warning system predicting quakes miscalculated the location of the epicenter and predicted a quake of a larger magnitude with more intense shaking," an official with the agency said in explaining the cause of the erroneous alert.
Toyota Motor is set to launch a pilot project testing a transportation system focusing on autonomous vehicles, in one of Japan's first such initiatives in a real-life setting over a wide area. The company will team up with the University of Tsukuba and the government of the city, just north of Tokyo, to run the project. Under the system envisioned, self-driving, single-seat electric vehicles will take passengers from their homes to the nearest bus stop, where they will be able to transfer to autonomous, fuel-cell powered buses. The experiment, set for launch in fiscal 2019 and running until fiscal 2022, will test the feasibility of the relevant technologies in situations involving regular traffic. One of the main aims of the project is to help resolve the issue of elderly citizens being isolated from their communities.
Tokyo police have arrested two Chinese men on suspicion of making unauthorized online access and using shopping points of other person at an outlet of electronics retailer Bic Camera Inc. The two arrested by the cybercrime division of the Metropolitan Police Department on suspicion of fraud and a violation of the law banning illegal online access included a 24-year-old student in Kawasaki. He denied the allegations, saying he was just asked by a friend to buy a product. The division also arrested for alleged fraud a 23-year-old unemployed Chinese man in Kawaguchi, Saitama Prefecture, who is a member of the same suspected fraud group to which the two other arrested men belong. The police suspect that the group has illegally used other people's shopping points worth at least ¥2 million.
Japan's economy ministry is planning to test cashless payment technology using fingerprints and other biometric markers to make transactions more convenient for foreign tourists, sources close to the project said Tuesday. The trials by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry will be held from around October in tourism hot spots in the Kanto region around Tokyo, the Kansai region centering on Osaka and Kyushu, the sources said. The ministry will analyze customer data and purchasing patterns collected from each area during the trials by nationality, age group and other demographic features, with a view to making Japan a more attractive destination and improving tourism services in the country. Initiatives allowing tourists to rely less on cash could help boost visitor numbers ahead of the 2020 Olympics and Paralympics in Tokyo. The system using biometric identification technology, known as the Omotenashi Platform after the Japanese term for hospitality, is being developed by Dai Nippon Printing Co. and Deloitte Tohmatsu Consulting LLC.