Ruling coalition-backed Ichita Yamamoto wins Gunma governor race

The Japan Times

Yamamoto, who served as Upper House member of the Liberal Democratic Party for 24 years and also as state minister for Okinawa and Northern Territories affairs, beat Japanese Communist Party candidate Kiyoto Ishida. During the campaign, Yamamoto pledged to improve the competitiveness of farming and other industries in the prefecture, where Abe's Liberal Democratic Party has a strong support base. The 61-year-old will replace incumbent Masaaki Osawa, who did not seek a fourth term. On Sunday night, Yamamoto, in a speech to his supporters in the city of Maebashi, vowed to "increase the happiness of the prefecture's residents and work hard as a governor who is closest to them." Ishida, 62, a former head of a local teachers' union, had pledged to increase the prefectural government's welfare spending by cutting expenditures on public works projects.


Relatives, JAL executives gather in Gunma Prefecture to remember victims of Flight 123 crash

The Japan Times

A ceremony was held in the evening in the village of Ueno, at the foot of the Osutaka Ridge in Gunma Prefecture, where the plane went down. A total of 520 people out of the 524 aboard were killed. The relatives offered silent prayers at 6:56 p.m., the time of the crash, after climbing the steep mountain trail to grave markers and a monument at the crash site to mourn their loved ones. Concerns over air safety have increased recently following a series of alcohol-related incidents at domestic airlines, including JAL, such as higher-than-permissible limits of alcohol detected in pre-flight tests for flight crew. "People may think'What is JAL doing? Did it forget the crash?' " Yuji Akasaka, president of Japan Airlines Co., told reporters after offering flowers at the monument.


'Tiger Mask' donor urges more local governments to engage with orphan-support initiatives

The Japan Times

The campaign he started has motivated his hometown government to launch a fundraising project to offer support for orphans under the furusato nōzei hometown donation system for tax deductions. "I hope other local governments will also be involved, giving it (the donation campaign) breadth," said Kawamura, a 44-year-old company worker in Maebashi, Gunma Prefecture. Kawamura lost his mother in early childhood. He never had a randoseru school satchel, commonly used by elementary school children in Japan, and went to school with a carrier bag. He attended high school while working and living alone.


Japanese city to use vein data to identify lost dementia sufferers

The Japan Times

In a possible first for Japan, the city of Maebashi, Gunma Prefecture, will start an experiment to register the vein data of elderly residents with dementia so they can be instantly identified if they wander off and are found without an ID. The project, to start in April, will use a vein authentication system developed by software firm Climb Co., based in the neighboring city of Takasaki, Maebashi Mayor Ryu Yamamoto announced at a news conference on Wednesday. The city currently offers GPS tracking devices for about 30 residents. But such devices -- which can be attached to shoes or canes -- are of no use when left behind, Yamamoto said. Climb President Osamu Kanai said the firm favors palm vein authentication because, of all biometrics technologies currently available, it is the most reliable and convenient.


Grandson of former Prime Minister Nakasone to run in Lower House election

The Japan Times

Nakasone, 35, who has been working as a secretary for his father, Hirofumi Nakasone, an Upper House lawmaker and former foreign minister, said he plans to file his candidacy to represent the No. 1 constituency in Gunma Prefecture. The election is widely expected to be held in October. Nakasone hopes to become an official candidate of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party. But at the news conference, he suggested that he wouldn't hesitate to run even as an independent. "I'll fight with unwavering resolve," he said.