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Web-only Exclusives
November 30, 2000

From Our Correspondent: Hirohito and the War
A conversation with biographer Herbert Bix

From Our Correspondent: A Rough Road Ahead
Bad news for the Philippines - and some others

From Our Correspondent: Making Enemies
Indonesia needs friends. So why is it picking fights?

Asiaweek Time Asia Now Asiaweek story

Week of April 25, 1997

Amid jeering from anti-U.S. military protesters, the lower house passed legislation allowing American bases on Okinawa to stay in place, even if landlords refuse to lease land to them. PM Hashimoto Ryutaro said the agreement was necessary for stable relations with the U.S. "Don't sacrifice Okinawa," one activist shouted.


Week of April 18, 1997

RUSSIA-JAPAN The two countries are nearing an agreement in which Tokyo will lend $500 million to Moscow to finance three large projects. The loan will complete a $1.2 billion package signed in 1991. Russia already has about $12 billion in outstanding debt to Japan.

LOOKING UP: Job prospects for the most recent crop of graduates look better. In a survey, 40 of 100 companies questioned say they plan to increase hiring fresh college graduates. Only 10 said they plan to reduce the number. The job market for new job seekers has been tight for years amid the country's prolonged recession.


Week of April 11, 1997

Some 3,000 young violinists, all trained under the regimen developed by Suzuki Shinichi, performed at their graduation ceremony on March 27 in Tokyo. It was the 43rd Suzuki Method Grand Concert. Master Suzuki, 98, was in attendance

ON SHAKY GROUND Seismologists at the University of Tokyo admit that they cannot predict earthquakes, and to hope to do so is unreasonable. A draft government report , to be released this summer, all but admits a 32-year-old program to provide early warning of seismic disturbances has failed. The 1995 earthquake that devastated Kobe caused the renewed look at the prediction research.

SALES TAX The national sales tax jumped from 3% to 5% on Apr. 1. Consumer buying is expected to cool, but in the run-up to the higher rate, car sales in March shot up 20% and department store sales rose more than 10%. Retailers are promoting "anti-5% shock" campaigns to encourage the public to continue spending.


Week of April 4, 1997

Japan-U.S. Despite calls for a reduction, the two countries agreed to maintain the current level of American troops - at about 47,000 - in Japan. The announcement was made when Vice President Al Gore stopped in Tokyo on his way to Beijing. Washington has vowed to keep its troop levels throughout Asia - about 100,000 - indefinitely.


Week of March 28, 1997

Five major computer chip makers - Hitachi, Toshiba, Mitsubishi Electric, NEC and Fujitsu - expect fiscal year 1997 to be a turn-around from 1996, which saw a 23% drop in pre-tax profits. They expect a possible 18% increase in earnings, based on a recovering market buoyed by active investment in information hardware.


Week of March 21, 1997

In the midst of its financial crisis, Japan's January balance of payments showed a dramatic 150 billion yen surplus in current accounts, the first in 17 months. The cheaper yen explains part of the change. Bookkeeping anomalies for car exports also helped. Tokyo says the good numbers are only temporary, the general trend is bad.


Week of March 14, 1997

IMMIGERATION PROBLEMS: Tokyo officials asked Beijing to stem a rising tide of illegal Chinese immigrants from the mainland. Japan wants China to tighten coastal security and crack down on the gangs which smuggle the people, mostly from Fujian province. It will also impose heavier penalties on those in Japan who assist the job seekers.


Week of March 7, 1997

Some 788 landowners in Okinawa rejected plans to force them to again lease land to U.S. military bases after existing leases expire on May 14. Local officials say the agreement is mandatory because of Japan's obligation under its security treaty with the U.S. In Tokyo, the official line was "It's premature to comment."


Week of February 28, 1997

Aum Case Continues: If you thought Asahara Shokou had turned over a new leaf after accepting responsibility in court late last year for the fatal Tokyo subway gas attack almost two years ago, guess again. He is as belligerent as ever. The chief judge in his case, which started in April, has banished the Aum Shinrikyo cult founder from the courtroom many times for misbehaving. Asahara has reportedly shouted at judges and tried to intimidate former disciples as they testify. And his contrition was short-lived: Asahara later implied his disciples carried out the attack without his knowledge. He has said in recent weeks: "Just go ahead and lynch me," and "everyone is lying, lying!" Meanwhile, his sect has dwindled to the point where Japanese authorities believe it is harmless and haven't bothered banning it.

Red ARmy Arrests: Authorities say they have captured at least five Japanese Red Army members. Tokyo and Beirut are working together closely to confirm the suspects' identities. The group is believed to be behind the May 1972 attack at Tel Aviv's Lod airport that killed 26 people and wounded 80.

Bank problems: With stock prices dropping, banks face gloomy prospects before they close their fiscal books in March. Moody's Investors Services downrated four banks from "stable" to "negative." And managers are nervous about the government's proposals to shift away from protective policies and let poorly run banks sink or swim.


Week of February 21, 1997

After 55 days, the government and the Tupac Amaru rebels holding 72 hostages inside agreed to hold direct negotiations, following pressure from Japanese PM Hashimoto Ryutaro.

Citing a string of cancelled appearances, women's magazines have stepped up speculation that 33-year-old Crown Princess Masako is pregnant. The palace says "recent reports are nothing but rumors," but admits that the princess "was not in good physical condition" in December and January.


Week of February 14, 1997

The neighbors have exchanged angry charges about responsibility for the Russian tanker Nakhodka, which sank in the Sea of Japan in January, causing a massive oil spill. Moscow says the ship hit an unidentified floating object. Tokyo says she was simply too old.


Week of February 7, 1997

The Asia Philharmonic Orchestra made its debut in Tokyo Jan. 24. Music director Chung Myung Whun hopes that the pan-Asian ensemble will promote friendship and cooperation - and reveal the musical side of Asians. "In the West, a lot of people think all we do is work and try to earn money," he said

Meeting Japan's PM Hashimoto Ryutaro and Korean President Kim Young Sam held a weekend summit in the Japanese spa town of Beppu on Jan. 25-26. The leaders discussed such issues as ties with North Korea and the 2002 World Cup, and promised to promote friendly relations.

Come together Japan's top toy firm Bandai and video-game maker Sega are to merge on Oct. 1. The new entity will be called Sega Bandai Ltd., with 0.76 Sega share being applied to every Bandai share. The firms hope the merger will increase their competitiveness and strengthen their position in the entertainment market.


Week of January 31, 1997

World war II Chinese victims of chemical weapons and explosives abandoned by the Japanese after the war will be allowed to sue in a Tokyo court, say lawyers for the Chinese. As a group, the plantiffs will be seeking $1.7 million in damages from the Japanese government.


Week of January 24, 1996

Prosecutors raided the offices of Mitsubishi Oil and arrested a former director and an ex-official of Mitsui Mining on fraud charges. The two allegedly funneled $21 million to Izui Junichi, a broker, via irregular oil deals. Izui, re-arrested on fraud, is known to have donated funds to politicians from the ruling Liberal Democratic Party.


Week of January 10, 1997

Former PM Hata Tsutomu, along with 12 MPs, deserted the main opposition New Frontier Party to form Taiyoto or the Sun Party. "Japan will collapse if it is left as it is," Hata said at the launch ceremony. He will seek an alliance with the third-largest Democratic Party, which has 52 seats in the lower house.


News from Japan in 1996


News from Japan in 1995


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