The Japan Times


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.


Toyota to cut managers' summer bonus by up to 5% due to high R&D costs

The Japan Times

NAGOYA - Toyota Motor Corp. will cut summer bonuses for some 9,800 managers by 4 to 5 percent, as it looks to tighten cost control in the face of high spending on developing technology for autonomous and electrified vehicles, a source close to the matter said Thursday. The decision comes even as the company expects a 19.5 percent rise in net profit in the current fiscal year, and reflects an uncertain business outlook due to the prolonged trade war between the United States and China, the source said. Toyota President Akio Toyoda said Thursday at an annual shareholders' meeting that his company is boosting efforts in developing zero-emission vehicles including fuel cell vehicles. "We are facing a once-in-a-century transformation. I hope to build a mobility society of the future with our shareholders," Toyoda said at the meeting at its headquarters in Aichi Prefecture.


After spate of incidents, Japan increases punishments for pilots who drink and fly

The Japan Times

The Diet enacted a revised aviation law Thursday that increases punishments for pilots found to have flown under the influence of alcohol or drugs following a series of drinking-related incidents involving Japanese airlines. Under the legislation, which will take effect in stages within one year of its official announcement, the penalty for drinking and flying has been raised from a maximum one-year jail term or ¥300,000 fine to a sentence of up to three years or a ¥500,000 fine. Japanese airlines have already tightened drinking rules, introducing mandatory Breathalyzer tests and relieving pilots of their duties if even a very low level of alcohol is detected. Those flying private planes, however, are not subject to the same checks. The legislation also seeks to improve aviation safety ahead of the intended mid-2020 delivery of the Mitsubishi Regional Jet, Japan's first homegrown commercial passenger jet.


Coalition vows retaliation after Yemen's Houthis strike Saudi airport

The Japan Times

DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - The Saudi-led military coalition vowed to respond firmly to a missile attack by Yemeni Houthi forces on a civilian airport in southern Saudi Arabia on Wednesday that wounded 26 people. The Western-backed, Sunni Muslim alliance that has been battling the Iran-aligned Houthi movement in Yemen said the early-morning strike was proof of Iranian support for what it called cross-border terrorism. The coalition said a projectile hit the arrivals hall at Abha airport, causing material damage. Three women and two children were among the wounded, who were of Saudi, Yemeni and Indian nationalities, it said in a statement. The Houthis said on their media channels that they fired a cruise missile at Abha airport, which is about 200 km (125 miles) north of the Yemen border and serves domestic and regional routes.


Uber tests drone food delivery, launches new autonomous SUV

The Japan Times

WASHINGTON - Uber is testing restaurant food deliveries by drone. The company's Uber Eats unit began the tests in San Diego with McDonald's and plans to expand to other restaurants later this year. Uber says the service should decrease food delivery times. It works this way: Workers at a restaurant load the meal into a drone and it takes off, tracked and guided by a new aerospace management system. The drone then meets an Uber Eats driver at a drop-off location, and the driver will hand-deliver the meal to the customer.


Yemen's Houthi rebels launch attack drones into Saudi Arabia

The Japan Times

DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - Yemen's Houthi rebels said on Tuesday they launched at least two drones targeting a southwest Saudi city that's home to an air base. The Houthis' Al-Masirah satellite news channel reported the rebels launched Qasef-2K drones to strike the city of Khamis Mushait. The state-run Saudi Press Agency reported Tuesday, quoting military spokesman Col. Turki al-Maliki, that soldiers "intercepted" two drones launched by the Houthis. The Iranian-allied Houthis increasingly have targeted the kingdom with bomb-carrying drones. Khamis Mushait, some 815 km (510 miles) southwest of the capital, Riyadh, is near the kingdom's border with Yemen.


Nagoya-based firm develops tech to let autonomous cars know if driver is holding the wheel

The Japan Times

Sumitomo Riko Co., a Nagoya-based auto parts maker, has developed a system that can determine whether a driver is holding the steering wheel, a piece of technology that could prove to be indispensable for semi-automated cars. The firm aims to start commercial production of the system -- designed to enable drivers to switch from autonomous driving to manual control safely in case of emergencies -- in the 2020 business year. The so-called Smart Rubber sensor, made of anti-vibration electrically conductive rubber material, can determine which part of the steering wheel a driver is holding by detecting a change of pressure. The auto industry is currently engaged in fierce competition to develop technology to achieve conditional automation -- Level 3 on the Society of Automotive Engineers International's scale to 5. In Level 3, cars are self-driving but a human driver must take over the wheel in emergency situations or if the system requests that the driver intervene. But self-driving mode will not be turned off unless the system determines that the driver is ready to take the wheel to avoid an accident.


Osaka Ishin no Kai candidate Hideki Nagafuji wins Sakai mayoral election

The Japan Times

Hideki Nagafuji, a 42-year-old former Osaka Prefectural Assembly member, defeated two other contenders. Voter turnout stood at 40.83 percent. The regional party's so-called Osaka metropolis plan calls for reorganizing the prefectural capital of Osaka into special wards. In April, the party won the Osaka prefectural and mayoral elections. Nagafuji collected 137,862 votes, against 123,771 votes garnered by Tomoaki Nomura, 45, a former Sakai Municipal Assembly member, and 14,110 votes by Takashi Tachibana, 51, a former assembly member for Katsushika Ward, Tokyo.


G20 ministers kick of talks on trade and the digital economy in Ibaraki Prefecture

The Japan Times

However, reaching consensus is likely to prove difficult on some key issues, in particular those involving trade. Participating nations have clashing interests, most notably the U.S. and China. "First, I would like to stress the importance of tapping into data, which is the source of innovation," Hiroshige Seko, minister of economy, trade and industry, said at the beginning of the digital economy session. Seko said that "ensuring the free flow of data internationally is indispensable to the economic development of the world as a whole." He then introduced a concept called "Data Fee Flow with Trust," or DFFT, which he said would promote free data flows while securing trust related to privacy and security.


Japanese government adopts draft bill to create high-tech 'supercities'

The Japan Times

The government on Friday adopted a draft bill to realize its "supercity" initiative to create cities that make use of artificial intelligence, big data and other advanced technologies. In such cities, autonomous driving, cashless payments, goods delivery by drone and novel services using sophisticated technologies will be introduced in an integrated manner. Initially, the government planned to submit to the Diet a bill to revise the national strategic special zone law by the end of March. But it was unable to do that because of difficulty obtaining support from the Cabinet Legislation Bureau for related deregulation. The bill is unlikely to pass the Diet before the end of the ongoing ordinary session, set for June 26.