11 killed, dozens injured in recreational accidents over Bon holidays

The Japan Times

Eleven people died and more than 30 were injured Sunday as leisure activity surged nationwide over the Bon holidays, according to a tally compiled by Kyodo News. Many of the deaths occurred near water, including a 7-year-old boy from Aichi Prefecture who was found dead in a river in Ogaki, Gifu Prefecture. Other accidents took place near beaches in Hokkaido, Niigata, Kyoto, Tottori, Shimane and Kagoshima prefectures. Many people across the country engaged in some kind of outdoor recreation on the last day of a three-day weekend. The deceased included Sapporo resident Masaki Ogiyama, 29, who died while visiting a beach in the town of Yoichi, Hokkaido, and Hideaki Aomatsu, 71, from Yokohama, who drowned while collecting shells off Sado Island in Niigata.


Seven prefectures let high school students practice winter mountaineering despite government ban: survey

The Japan Times

Winter mountaineering practices and competitions involving high school students are being held in at least seven of the 47 prefectures despite a government ban that has many athletic organizations confused, according to a Kyodo News survey released over the weekend. The survey of athletic bodies and education boards was conducted after an avalanche at a ski resort in Tochigi Prefecture last Monday killed seven high school students and a teacher during winter hiking practice and left dozens injured. In November, the Japan Sports Agency notified boards of education across the country that the climbing of winter mountains by students of high school age or younger was banned in principle. Most of the athletic organizations surveyed said they were aware of the notification sent by the government body, but some said the government's definition of "winter mountains" was ambiguous. Officials of these organizations said the areas where they conduct events are not for climbing winter mountains, with some saying the activities are conducted in March and others saying the students are practicing walking on hilly land.


Ex-abduction victim Soga alarmed by public's declining interest in issue

The Japan Times

"I feel the public is gradually losing interest in the abduction issue," Soga, 58, told a news conference in the Sea of Japan island city of Sado, Niigata Prefecture, ahead of the 15th anniversary next month of her return home. Soga claimed that the abduction issue is "more significant" than the issue of North Korea's nuclear and missile development, which is now at the center of global attention. "I hope everyone (remaining in North Korea) will be returned to Japan while their relatives remain in good health," she stressed. Soga called on the government to "make a greater effort than ever to resolve the abduction issue as soon as possible." Speaking about her mother, Miyoshi, who is still unaccounted for, Soga said, "I just hope she is not sick.


Former victim alarmed by declining interest in North Korean abductions of Japanese

The Japan Times

"I feel the public is gradually losing interest in the abduction issue," Soga, 58, told a news conference in the Sea of Japan island city of Sado, Niigata Prefecture, ahead of the 15th anniversary next month of her return home. Soga claimed that the problem of abductions is "more significant" than that of North Korea's nuclear and missile development, which is now at the center of global attention. "I hope everyone (remaining in North Korea) will be returned to Japan while their relatives remain in good health," she stressed. Soga called on the government to "make a greater effort than ever to resolve the abduction issue as soon as possible." Speaking about her mother, Miyoshi, who is still unaccounted for, Soga said, "I just hope she is not sick.


Assemblies from Niigata to Tottori criticize handling of Moritomo probe as threat to democracy

The Japan Times

OSAKA – Over a half dozen local governments have officially expressed concern with the way Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's government has handled revelations that the Finance Ministry deleted information on official documents related to the Moritomo Gakuen scandal, with the ruling party chapters worried about a voter backlash in next year's nationwide prefectural, municipal, and town assembly elections. As of Monday, seven prefectural and municipal assemblies had passed nonbinding statements of opinion regarding the document-tampering scandal, which involves the heavily discounted sale of state land to the Osaka-based school chain, which had named first lady Akie Abe as honorary principal of a new school it planned to build. Last week, the Niigata and Tottori prefectural assemblies called investigations into the matter insufficient thus far. They warned that representative democracy was imperiled by the Finance Ministry's decision to delete information in the official documents, including a reference to Akie Abe in which she was quoted by Moritomo chief Yasunori Kagoike as being supportive of the land deal. She has denied any involvement.