Niigata probes cause of biggest blaze in 20 years; 17th century Kaganoi brewery lost

The Japan Times

NIIGATA – Police and firefighters on Friday opened an investigation into the cause of a wind-driven inferno the day before that injured ten people and destroyed some 150 buildings in the coastal city of Itoigawa, Niigata Prefecture. The fire, which forced hundreds of residents to evacuate and called the Self-Defense Forces into action, was declared extinguished on Friday afternoon, about 30 hours after it broke out at a Chinese restaurant. The city has a population of about 44,510 people. The magnitude of the blaze, which burned 40,000 sq.-meters of the city, prompted Emperor Akihito to express his sympathies to those affected by the biggest fire in 20 years not caused by a natural disaster. "Many people had to be evacuated in the cold weather.


Rural resorts, well-to-do visitors key as Japan looks to become tourism giant

The Japan Times

Developing rural resorts that can draw wealthy overseas visitors is the key to making Japan a thriving tourism-oriented nation, Mori Trust Co. President Miwako Date said Wednesday. As part of a push to do just that, the real estate developer announced the same day that, in cooperation with hotel operator Marriott International Inc., it will on Friday open new Marriott luxury hotels at five such resort destinations. The sites include the Lake Yamanaka area near Mount Fuji in Yamanashi Prefecture, the Izu hot spring resort in Shizuoka Prefecture, Lake Biwa in Shiga Prefecture, Nanki Shirahama beach in Wakayama Prefecture and the Karuizawa summer retreat and ski resort in Nagano Prefecture. Date said opening global brand hotels in resource-rich but not as globally known prefectures will help attract more foreign tourists beyond already-popular staples such as Tokyo, Osaka and Kyoto. She said the company plans to invest ¥100 billion to open 10 more luxury hotels in Japan, including one in Okinawa, two in Nara, three in Tokyo and four others in rural resort areas by 2023.


Ministry plans to step up efforts to prevent seeds, saplings of high-end fruit varieties from being taken out of country

The Japan Times

The Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Ministry is set to launch full-fledged efforts to prevent "outflows" of domestically developed high-end fruit varieties to other countries. A number of seeds and saplings of Japanese high-end fruit varieties have been taken out of the country without permission and grown abroad against a backdrop of their global popularity. The ministry will consider stricter regulations and a possible law revision, as such outflows of fruit varieties to foreign countries can hinder growth in exports of agricultural and food products. Japan is trying to boost the amount of exports of high-end fruit, with the total annual shipments of such items nearly reaching ¥1 trillion. Shine Muscat, a Japanese-developed high-end grape variety, is being grown in China and South Korea without permission, for sale in Malaysia, Thailand and other Southeast Asian countries, according to the ministry.


Japan restaurant chain ordered to pay damages over raw-meat food poisoning deaths

The Japan Times

The Tokyo District Court on Tuesday ordered restaurant chain operator Foods Forus Co. to pay ¥169 million ($1.58 million) to the families of three victims who died from food poisoning after eating raw meat at one of its barbecue restaurants in 2011. While the court awarded damages to the plaintiffs, it ruled that the former president of Foods Forus, which is filing for special liquidation, was not guilty of gross negligence. The plaintiffs had sought around ¥209 million in damages and medical treatment expenses from the company and the former president. Around 180 customers developed symptoms of food poisoning after dining at six Yakiniku-zakaya Ebisu restaurants in four prefectures -- Kanagawa, Toyama, Ishikawa, and Fukui -- in April 2011. A strain of E. coli, O-111, was found in many of the victims.


Event held in India to promote sake and other Japanese alcoholic drinks

The Japan Times

NEW DELHI – An event to introduce Japanese alcoholic beverages such as sake rice wine and shōchū distilled spirits to Indian distributors and hotel officials was held Wednesday at the Japanese Embassy in New Delhi. Nine Japanese breweries participated in the annual event, the third of its kind, hoping to further broaden the consumption of Japanese alcoholic drinks in the South Asian country. "Wine consumption is high in India, so I feel the potential for sake to become popular," said Takenosuke Yasufuku, the 46-year-old president of Kobe Shu-Shin-Kan Breweries Ltd. in Hyogo Prefecture. "Speaking to about 10 Indian companies gave me confidence," said Yasufuku, who attended the event for the first time. Other companies participating included Gassan Sake Brewery Co., based in Sagae, Yamagata Prefecture, and Ninki Inc., based in Nihonmatsu, Fukushima Prefecture.