* Police in Osaka and Kobe are warning cashiers to be on guard against con men who claim to be collectors of rare Japanese bank-notes, but who then use sleight of hand to make off with wads of cash. Cops say that ¥1.22 million has been stolen in such ruses.
* The driver of a cash transport vehicle in Fukuoka told a fellow worker to get out of the truck because there was a mechanical problem, and then drove off with an estimated ¥72 million.
* Sentence of the Week™: “A 60-year-old woman has been swindled out of ¥1.98 million by a man who pretended to be her flu-stricken son and asked her to pay off his debts because he was too unwell to move, the police said.” (via The Daily Yomiuri)
* A Panasonic factory in Shiga Prefecture was busted for employing some three dozen illegal Chinese laborers.
* A Kanagawa-based alcoholism research center found that 60 percent of homeless people around Ikebukuro station are suffering from some kind of mental disorder.
* It was reported that the Yamaguchi-gumi crime syndicate is forcing members to take an exam on the ins and outs of the revised Anti-Organized Crime Law, out of fear that non-compliance will lead to costly lawsuits.
* 16 Consecutive months that sales of import cars have fallen in Japan, according to the Japan Automobile Importers Association
* 795,000 Number of people around the nation who took part in emergency preparedness drills held on the September 1 anniversary of the Great Kanto Earthquake
* 15,000 Railway passengers affected when a fire at a yakiniku restaurant knocked out power cables servicing the Kyoto line
* 300 Number of internet supermarkets expected to be operating in Japan by the end of fiscal 2009, an 80 percent rise over the previous year
* An industry association announced that Japanese makers of protective masks would produce some 3.6 billion units this year, nearly double the number from last year.
* One manufacturer is marketing a mask that “adheres to the user’s face without the need for ear straps.”
* Headline of the Week: “Hatoyama’s Wife Says her Man is no Alien, but he Loves Foot Massages and Prawn Crackers” (via The Mainichi Daily News)
* An 11-year-old fifth-grade student in Kobe who was forced to shoplift by his divorced parents told authorities that he was “afraid of being hit by his father” if he didn’t comply.
* A group of researchers led by Kumamoto University professor Yuichi Oike announced that they had identified a protein thought to cause obesity.
* Some 45,000 commuters were inconvenienced after a Narita Express train hit a railway track maintenance vehicle earlier this month.
Free Trip To Jail
Elite Enough For Stupidity
Belong To You Not Me
Increasing number of people staying in farm houses under WWOOF system
Growing numbers of people are staying in farm houses under a system called ”WWOOF,” in which they are provided accommodation and meals in return for helping farmers with harvesting crops and daily chores.
The system brings together people wishing to learn about agriculture and farm households battling labor shortages and some foreigners are staying in such households to learn about Japanese culture.
”It required a lot of strength to harvest vegetables and to weed, but it was pleasant,” said 30-year-old chef Tomoko Takahashi from Nikko in Tochigi Prefecture, who stayed in the home of Noriko Kawai, 59, in Nasukarasuyama in the same prefecture and worked in a watermelon field for three weeks in July.
WWOOF, or World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms, originated in Britain in 1971 and there are currently secretariats in about 40 countries, including Japan. Under the system, labor is exchanged for accommodation and meals without monetary transactions.
Honda rolls out ‘Segway’ of unicycles
By HIROKO NAKATA
Honda Motor Co. unveiled on Thursday a new compact self-balancing vehicle that looks like a futuristic unicycle.
Unlike other self-balancing devices like the two-wheeled Segway or Toyota Motor Corp.’s Winglet, Honda’s U3-X is a one-wheeler. It can move back and forth and even side to side, thanks to a ring of small perpendicular wheels lining the outer edge of the main wheel, Honda said.
The vehicle has a seat on the top and a tiny footrest on each side of the wheel. Riders steer by shifting their weight, while balance-control technology developed from research for the Asimo, Honda’s bipedal humanoid robot, automatically keeps it upright, Honda said.