No public consultation planned to decide Japan’s new Imperial era name

February 27, 2017

The Japanese government is not planning to ask for the public’s opinion on what the next Imperial era name should be if Emperor Akihito abdicates in order to speed up the process, a government source was cited as saying.

Called a “gengo” in Japanese, an Imperial era name is valid for the entirety of an Emperor’s reign but changes with a new Emperor. The name is often used on calendars and official documents without reference to the Gregorian date.

The current period under Emperor Akihito is known as “Heisei”. It changed from “Showa” on 8 January 1989, the day after the death of the Emperor Akihito’s father, Emperor Hirohito, posthumously known as Emperor Showa.

Usually, a new era name is selected by a process of incorporating public submissions when passing an ordinance. Although the government is not legally obliged to abide by the outcome of public consultation, it is required to give thorough consideration to suggestions and present its opinions on the proposals.

When Emperor Hirohito died, however, the selection of the era name was fast-tracked as a matter of urgency. Instead of asking the public, the government officially solicited ideas for the next era’s name from intellectuals and presented three of them to a panel of experts.

This time around, time is also a concern. The succession from Emperor Akihito to his son, Crown Prince Naruhito, could take place at a predetermined date because the government plans to announce the new era name at least several months before the Emperor’s envisioned abdication, The Japan Times reported.

“The government source acknowledged that seeking public comment improves transparency, but also expressed concern that it might not be able to come up with a “satisfactory” name in time if the opinions presented diverge too widely,” the newspaper said.

Since 83-year-old Emperor Akihito hinted that he would like to resign and pass the Chrysanthemum throne onto his son in a rare video message last summer, Japan has been anticipating the need for a new Imperial era name. Businesses and calendar-makers require advance notice of the name change which will have a number of effects upon the Japanese calendar. The date of the Emperor’s Birthday national holiday will probably have to be changed to reflect the new emperor’s date of birth, for instance.

“Changes in era names have affected people’s lives in various ways, including administrative papers and official documents such as driver’s licenses and health insurance cards,” The Japan Times said.

“Shortly after the nation changed from the Meiji Era to the Taisho Era in 1912, following Emperor Meiji’s death, names inspired by the new era name, such as those containing the Chinese character used, became the most common new names for babies, according to Meiji Yasuda Life Insurance Co., which compiles an annual ranking of the most popular baby names.”

To allow the current Emperor to abdicate and pass on the throne without dying (the 1947 Imperial House Law currently lacks a provision regarding abdication meaning only posthumous succession is allowed), the Japanese government is reportedly seeking to pass special legislation in the Diet.

Source: The Japan Times

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Japan to use world’s smallest flying car to transfer Olympic flame at Tokyo 2020 closing ceremony

January 27, 2017

A team of Japanese engineers is developing a miniature flying car to drive the Olympic flame around the New National Stadium track and then take off to light the Olympic cauldron.

skydrive_img

Image of the SkyDrive from Cart!vator’s website

Cart!vator (Cartivator),  the company behind these plans, comprises a team of about 20 young engineers. Founded in 2012, the company’s objective is develop a flying car that can be used to reduce the reliance on roads, and also be used to lift people out of disaster zones, SportTechie reported.

In order to develop the vehicle, the Cart!vator team has been conducting tests at an abandoned primary school in the mountains of the Aichi Prefecture after being given permission to use this building by the city of Toyota.

“We aim to create (a) world where anyone can fly in the sky anytime by 2050,” the Cart!vator website states. “To realize our vision, a compact flying car is necessary with a vertical takeoff and landing type, which does not need roads and runways to take off.”

According to SportTechnie, the car, known as “SkyDrive” will be a single-seat electric vehicle design that will have one front wheel, two rear wheels, and a rotor in each of the four corners. Each rotor will consist of two propellers that will allow the car to take off and land vertically.

In terms of dimensions, the vehicle is expected to be roughly three metres in length and 1.3 metres in width. According to the company, this will make it the world’s smallest flying car.

Cart!vator’s website says the company hopes to start selling SkyDrive to the public in 2023, with mass production planned by 2030.

“If technological innovation is achieved in the battery performance and other fields, the vehicle could be commercialized in the future,” Masafumi Miwa, a mechanical engineering professor and Cart!vator partner, told the Asahi Shimbun.

First, however, the team needs to get the vehicle to fly higher. Its current prototype can only fly at an altitude of one metre for a period of five seconds, according to the Asahi Shimbun. The company believes this can be remedied by reducing the weight of the vehicle by replacing the 180kg aluminium frame with a 100kg frame made of carbon fibre-reinforced plastic.

The car will not be cheap to make. The company says that it needs 30 million yen (GBP 208,000) from investors to make the prototype ready for a manned test flight. To raise these funds, the company presented a 1/5 scale prototype at a Maker Faire in Tokyo in 2014, and set up a page on the Japanese crowdfunding website zenmono. By January 2015, it had raised almost 2.6 million yen (about GBP 18,000). “It used the money to purchase a full-scale prototype from a joint researcher, and that’s the prototype it’s experimenting with now,” reported Sports Technie. If the company raises the 30 million yen, it plans to perform a manned-piloted demonstration of the car in January 2019.

Another concern is safety. A breakdown in the air probably means a fatal crash.

According to the SportTechie report, at least nine other companies are also trying to build some version of a flying car. “Google co-founder Larry Page has invested hundreds of millions of dollars in two different flying car companies. Slovakian company AeroMobil could be launching its own flying car as early as next year. And the Massachusetts-based company Terrafugia has already built a flying car that has received legal approval for personal use, although it’s really more of a street-legal plane,” the website revealed.

Sources: SportTechie, Asahi Shimbun

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Fingernail QR codes to keep track of dementia sufferers in Japan

December 9, 2016

The Japanese city of Iruma has developed a QR code tagging system for elderly dementia patients at risk of getting lost, the BBC reported.

The QR barcode stickers, 1cm (0.4in) square in size can be attached to fingers and toes. According to an official, the new method is more effective and discreet than the existing system in which sufferers put ID stickers on clothes or shoes as “dementia patients are not always wearing those items.” The new stickers are also water-resistant and remain attached for an average of two weeks.

The information held in the code includes an address, telephone number and unique identity number for each user. The service is free and will be launched this month, BBC News said.

“The initiative, which uses a system of QR codes, was set up to help reunite family members with their elderly loved ones in the event that they go missing, according to the Iruma welfare office,” the report said. “The technology allows police to obtain details of a person’s local city hall, along with contact telephone numbers and personal details, simply by scanning the code.”

More than a quarter of Japanese citizens are aged 65 or over and the number of dementia sufferers is increasing. According to a Guardian report in June, the disorder currently affects 4.6 million people in Japan. The number is expected to rise to 7 million – one in five people aged 65 or over – by 2025.

A record number of people with dementia were reported missing in Japan in 2015, according to the national police agency. Of the more than 12,000, most were found within a week, but 479 were found dead and 150 are still missing.

Last year, the Japanese government announced it planned spend 22.5bn yen (£152.3m) in 2016 to train more specialists, improve early diagnosis and expand community-based care to relieve the pressure on family members who have to give up work to become carers.

Source: BBC; The Guardian

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Amazon’s checkout-free stores to come to UK?

December 9, 2016

The first Amazon Go store opened for employees this month. The company now seems to be preparing to open its checkout-free grocery stores in Britain after registering a UK trademark for the format, the Guardian reported.

The Amazon Go store concept allows shoppers to walk out with goods without paying at a checkout. Customers must log in, and then the store uses facial recognition technology and sensors to track items taken off shelves which are then charged to the corresponding Prime account. The first such store, comprising 1,800 square feet of retail space, opened in December 2016 near the company headquarters in Seattle, Washington. It is currently only open to the company’s employees but it is expected to open to the public in early 2017. According to reports, the store sells food staples such as milk, bread and chocolate. Amazon also launched a physical bookshop in its hometown – University Village in Seattle – in 2015.

Although Amazon has remained quiet about whether it plans to launch Amazon Go outside the US, the Guardian found it registered a UK trademark for Amazon Go on 5 December, “indicating it intends to bring the format to Britain”. But this may not be good news for everyone. Concerns are that automated stores like this will put retail employees out of work.

According to The Guardian, the British Retail Consortium predicted almost a third of the UK’s 3m shop jobs would disappear by 2025 as companies use technology instead of people. “If Amazon Go catches on in the UK, established retailers would probably be forced to match its convenience to keep their customers,” the report said.

In May, Amazon chief executive, Jeff Bezos, said more stores were on the way but this week, the company said it had no grand plan and was still testing the market.

The Guardian said Amazon has made it clear that it is targeting the UK retail market. “In February it announced it would sell fresh and frozen food to UK consumers in a deal with Morrisons and in July it launched Amazon Fresh to sell fresh food to selected postcodes,” the article said. “It is also developing a clothes range, after helping ravage the books, music, home entertainment and consumer electronics sectors over the past decade.”

Source: The Guardian

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Sir James Dyson to launch engineering institute in UK

November 5, 2016

Having long lamented the dearth of skilled engineers in the UK, British inventor Sir James Dyson is to launch his own technology university to help the country compete with Asian nations, the Guardian said.

The Dyson Institute of Technology will be based at Dyson’s campus in Wiltshire and will have an initial intake of around 25 students in September 2017. Dyson plans to invest 15 million in the institute in the next five years. He also plans to double his own engineering workforce to 6000.

According to the Guardian report, the entrepreneur came up with the idea after the he complained to the UK government about the shortage of skilled engineers in the UK. He was advised to take matters into his own hands. The Institute is the result.

“We are competing globally with Korea, Japan, Taiwan and Singapore,” he was quoted as saying. “It’s all the major technology nations and we have got to be better than them.”

He said the private sector has a duty to help alleviate the skills gap because the UK now needs 10 times more engineers than 10 years ago.

He said the problem was spreading beyond Europe and the US and was beginning to become an issue in Japan. “It seems that the fast-growing economies or emerging nations really recognise the value of engineering, but when you reach security there us less interest in what makes you successful.”

Students at the Institute will not have to pay tuition fees and will receive a salary for working alongside Dyson engineers. The degrees they receive will be awarded by the University of Warwick until the Institute gains university status from the Department of Education.

Source: The Guardian

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World’s largest marine park created in Antarctica

October 28, 2016

The EU and 24 countries have signed an agreement to protect more than 1.55 million sq km of the Ross Sea, a deep bay in the Southern Ocean in Antarctica.  

 

A map of the Ross Sea protected area released by WWF

A map of the Ross Sea protected area released by WWF

 

 

Over 1.1 million sq km of the area will become a fully-protected marine reserve with no fishing allowed. Beyond this area, designated research zones will be set up allowing for controlled fishing for krill and toothfish. In total, the sanctuary will cover more than 12 percent of the Southern Ocean.

After 5 years of negotiations (including Russia and China blocking the deal), the agreement was made in Hobert, Australia on Friday (28.10.16) at the annual meeting of the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources. It will expire in 35 years.  WWF said that in coming years, it “will continue to push for the Ross Sea to become a marine protected area (MPA), protected in perpetuity.”

The area covered by the agreement is home to a huge variety of wildlife including 95 species of fish as well as whales, dolphins, seals, penguins, and seabirds.

“The Ross Sea has been described as the one of the most pristine wilderness areas left on Earth”, said WWF-Australia Ocean Science Manager Chris Johnson, who attended the CCAMLR meeting in Hobart.

“It is home to one third of the world’s Adélie penguins, one quarter of all emperor penguins, one third of all Antarctic petrels, and over half of all South Pacific Weddell seals.

Today’s agreement is a turning point for the protection of Antarctica and the Southern Ocean. Over 1.5 million km2 is to be set aside for conservation – an area the size of France, Germany and Spain combined – with over 70 per cent of it as fully protected marine reserves.

“This is important not just for the incredible diversity of life that it will protect, but also for the contribution it makes to building the resilience of the world’s ocean in the face of climate change”.

Source: WWF

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Toyota invests in US car-sharing company

October 28, 2016

Leading Japanese car-maker Toyota Motor Corp has invested a reported USD 10 million in the U.S. car-sharing company Getaround, Reuters said on Friday.

A popular carsharing service in Germany

A popular carsharing service in Germany

The deal was done through the company’s investment fund, Mirai Creation Investment Limited Partnership set up in 2015 to invest in startups working on Artificial Intelligence, robotics, and hydrogen power.

The car sharing service, founded in San Francisco, US, was launched to the public in 2011 and has been available in San Francisco, Chicago and other US cities since 2013. It offers drivers the opportunity to rent cars from private owners in return for payment.  Owners earn 60 per cent commission on the rental prices they set. The company says it now has around 200,000 members.

According to Reuters, Toyota’s investment comes as automakers “seek to shore up their presence in new technology sectors amid growing competition from transport start-ups”.

Automakers have been scrambling to partner with tech firms to head off competition from self-driving cars and car sharing services that threaten to eventually trim demand for car ownership,” the report said.

Other companies in the automotive sector have shown interest in similar services in recent years.  General Motors Co set up its own car-sharing service, Maven, in January this year. Around the same time, Volkswagen transferred its own service called Quicar, set up in 2011, to Dutch project Greenwheels in which it has a 60 per cent share.  Audi has recently also announced plans to launch a similar service in 2017.

Source: Reuters

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TJC offers an extensive global network of professional & experienced multilingual translators, proof-readers and interpreters. We also have academic researchers, specialists and speakers, who are all native speakers of over 100 languages. Our expert translators and interpreters are based all over the globe and can assist you with projects of all kinds.

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