'Love dance' featuring Santa-clad Ambassador Kennedy, embassy staff instant video hit

The Japan Times

U.S. Ambassador Caroline Kennedy and other embassy staff across Japan made a splash on social media Tuesday by releasing a Christmassy, U.S. Embassy version of a "love dance" routine aired in a popular Japanese TV comedy series. The 90-second clip uploaded Tuesday evening on YouTube features Kennedy in a Santa Claus outfit and others donning reindeer caps dancing in sync with "Koi" ("Love"), a theme song of the TV drama "Nigeru wa Hajidaga Yaku ni Tatsu" (roughly translated as "Running Away is Shameful but Useful"). The video had been played nearly 400,000 times on the video-sharing site within 14 hours of its release. The video starts off with Kennedy in a Santa Claus outfit performing the neatly choreographed dance, followed by various other diplomats and staff from the embassy office in Tokyo as well as the consulate offices in Sapporo, Nagoya, Osaka, Kobe, Fukuoka and Okinawa. The drama, which features actress Yui Aragaki and actor/singer Gen Hoshino, had its last episode aired on the TBS network Tuesday.


As Tokyo shuns ban treaty, leading the way to a nuclear-free world falls to Japan's citizens and hibakusha

The Japan Times

HIROSHIMA/NAGASAKI – In Nagasaki, U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres underlined his solidarity with hibakusha atomic bomb survivors and called them "true messengers" of peace. He acknowledged the power of hibakusha as he reminded the world from the city -- one of the two in Japan subjected to atomic-bombing -- that the realization of a nuclear-free world is still distant, and that work toward disarmament continues. "When we see nonproliferation at risk, and when we see a lack of commitment to disarmament, to amplify the voice of the hibakusha becomes more and more important," Guterres said in an interview with Kyodo News ahead of the 73rd anniversary of the U.S. atomic bombing. Guterres became the first U.N. chief to attend the commemorative ceremony on Thursday. With Prime Minister Shinzo Abe having reiterated -- even on the anniversary of the bombings -- the government's stance of not joining an international nuclear weapons ban treaty, the role of survivors and people in Hiroshima and Nagasaki is expected to come into sharper focus.


More convenient common polling stations to be rolled out in limited numbers for July 10 election

The Japan Times

Only four Japanese municipalities will have common polling stations set up for the upcoming July 10 House of Councilors election that allow eligible voters of the host municipality to cast ballots irrespective of their voting precincts. The common polling station concept was introduced under the revised public offices election law that took effect on June 19. Before the law's revision, voters needed to visit their designated voting places, usually set up at schools or community halls close to their homes. According to the revision, municipalities can now establish common polling stations at their own discretion at train stations, shopping centers and other facilities to enhance voter convenience. The four municipalities planning to use the new system include the city of Hakodate in Hokkaido, the city of Hirakawa in the northern prefecture of Aomori, the town of Takamori in Nagano Prefecture and the village of Minamiaso in Kyushu's Kumamoto Prefecture, according to the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications.


How Kalman Filters Work, Part 1

#artificialintelligence

Let's suppose you've agreed to a rather odd travel program, where you're going to be suddenly transported to a randomly selected country, and your job is to figure out where you end up. So, here you are in some new country, and all countries are equally likely. You make a list of places and probabilities that you're in those places (all equally likely at about 1/200 for 200 countries). You look around and appear to be in a restaurant. Some countries have more restaurants (per capita/per land area) than others, so you decrease the odds that you're in Algeria or Sudan and increase the odds that you're in Singapore or other high-restaurant-density places. That is, you just multiply the probability that you were in a country with the probability of finding oneself in a restaurant in that country, given that one were already in the country, to obtain the new probability. After a few moments, the waitress brings you sushi, so you decrease the odds for Tajikistan and Paraguay and correspondingly increase the odds on Japan, Taiwan, and such places where sushi restaurants are relatively common. You pick up the chopsticks and try the sushi, discovering that it's excellent. Japan is now by far the most likely place, and though it's still possible that you're in the United States, it's not nearly as likely (sadly for the US). Those "probabilities" are getting really hard to read with all those zeros in front. All that matters is the relatively likelihood, so perhaps you scale that last column by the sum of the whole column. Now it's a probability again, and it looks something like this: Now that you're pretty sure it's Japan, you make a new list of places inside Japan to see if you can continue to narrow it down. You write out Fukuoka, Osaka, Nagoya, Hamamatsu, Tokyo, Sendai, Sapporo, etc., all equally likely (and maybe keep Taiwan too, just in case). Now the waitress brings unagi. You can get unagi anywhere, but it's much more common in Hamamatsu, so you increase the odds on Hamamatsu and slightly decrease the odds everywhere else.


Multilingual translation tools spread in Japan with new visa system

The Japan Times

The use of multilingual translation tools is expanding in Japan, where foreign workers are expected to increase in the wake of April's launch of new visa categories. A growing number of local governments, labor unions and other entities have decided to introduce translation tools, which can help foreigners when going through administrative procedures as they allow local officials and other officers to talk to such applicants in their mother languages. "Talking in the applicants' own languages makes it easier to convey our cooperative stance," said an official in Tokyo's Sumida Ward. The ward introduced VoiceBiz, an audio translation app developed by Toppan Printing Co. that covers 30 languages. The app, which can be downloaded onto smartphones and tablet computers, will be used in eight municipalities, including Osaka and Ayase in Kanagawa Prefecture, company officials said.