North Korea threat boosts bomb shelter sales in Japan

An opinion poll published by the Japan News Network at the beginning of May found that 90 percent of the public admitted feeling worried about North Korea and 54 percent said that they were greatly worried.

The conservative government of Shinzo Abe, the Liberal Democratic Party leader who became Japan’s prime minister in 2012, has tried to respond to these fears in part by giving assurances that it is working hard to fulfil its duty to defend the nation.

But there are also suggestions that the government is more subtly stoking these concerns just enough to assist it in its long-term agenda of dispensing with the remnants of the nation’s post-war pacifism and moving towards constitutional revision.

There were certainly mixed reviews when Tokyo Metro, a subway company that serves millions of commuters in the Japanese capital, shut down all of its train lines for about 10 minutes on the morning of April 29 in response to news reports that North Korea had fired a missile. While some commentators appreciated the abundance of caution shown by the company, others pointed out that even in Seoul, the capital of South Korea, which is much closer to the danger zone, no such measures have ever been taken.

This criticism led Tokyo Metro to quickly change its company policy. In the future, the subway trains will be halted only if an official warning is issued through the J-Alert system of the Fire and Disaster Management Agency (FDMA), and not in response to media reports.

The J-Alert system is a fundamental pillar of Japan’s civil defence measures. First launched in 2007, the system involves the FDMA sending out a warning signal via satellite that is to be received by Japanese local governments, which in turn warn the general public about the emergency through loudspeakers and other broadcasts. By 2014, all local governments throughout the nation were provided with the necessary receivers and were woven into the J-Alert system.

Japan’s space agency has proposed to a government panel a plan to send Japanese astronauts to the moon after 2025. (NHK)

The frequent tests and growing sophistication of North Korean missiles is prompting the Japanese government and the general public to think carefully about civil defence. What if Pyongyang actually did fire missiles at a major Japanese city? (

A Japanese budget airline apologised Wednesday for forcing a wheelchair-bound man to crawl up a set of stairs to board his flight. (

Farmers in Kagawa Prefecture, western Japan, have started shipping square watermelons across the country. (NHK)

A 42-year-old woman of Sakai, Osaka Prefecture, was arrested Tuesday for allegedly setting a man on fire, causing him to sustain burns over his entire body, police said. (Japan Times)

A committee of Japan Broadcasting Corp., or NHK, came up with a proposal on Tuesday calling for charging fees on households without television sets for watching TV programs distributed through the Internet simultaneously. (Jiji)

The poverty rate among Japanese children slightly improved in 2015 thanks in part to the country’s better job market but one in every seven children remains poor, a survey by the welfare ministry showed Tuesday. (Japan Today)

Sota Fujii, the youngest professional shogi player, set an unprecedented record on Monday, marking the 29th official straight win since his debut in December last year. (Jiji)

The Japanese science and technology ministry said Monday it will have to wait at least until the fiscal year starting in April 2019 to launch work to complete a seamless earthquake and tsunami observation system for the Nankai Trough in the Pacific Ocean off central to southwestern Japan. (Jiji)

A 70-year-old woman dubbed the “black widow” for allegedly murdering her husband and common-law partners with cyanide, pleaded innocent Monday at the first hearing of her trial at the Kyoto District Court. (Japan Times)

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