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Jan 2004
Issue 044

KS Classifieds combined with Kansai Scene this issue!


Wildfire At World Heritage Site Virgin Forest In Nara

On the night of Dec.17, a wildfire occurred at a segment of a World Heritage Site virgin forest in Nara City. Many Japaense cedar trees said to be about 400-years old were reduced to ashes.
At around 8pm, the Kasugano Township Fire Department received a report of a fire in the Mount Kasuga Primeval Forest. The wildfire occurred at a point about a 40-minute walk from a driveway.

About 100 local firefighters relayed plastic bags of water and managed to extinguish the blaze six hours later. As thunder and lightening were observed Wednesday night in the city, the Fire Department believes lightening had caused the fire. The Mount Kasuga Primeval Forest was registered as a World Heritage site in 1998. Mount Kasuga has been worshiped as a "divine mountain" of the Kasuga Shrine and logging in the forest has been prohibited for more than 1,100 years.

In May, there was a fire in the forest also presumably caused by lightening. At that time, trees believed to be around 700 years old were burned down.

China Museum Displays 6,000 Years of Sex

Shanghai — It's all there, artistically displayed on fans, bronzes and ceramics and in phallic forms sculpted in crude stone or precious jade: more than 6,000 years of human sexuality in the world's most populous nation.

Liu Dalin, 71-year-old founder and curator of the Chinese Sexual Culture Museum, has made it a mission to reintroduce his country's ancient culture of sexuality to generations brought up in more prudish communist times. But after years of struggling to keep his private museum afloat, Liu is packing up his collection of 3,700 erotic toys, icons and other sex paraphernalia and moving to the countryside.

Liu, a retired Shanghai University professor and noted sociologist, says he was done in by a lack of official support.
Last month, Beijing's first "sex culture" exhibition was shut down after only one day, even after officials forced its organizer, sexual therapist Ma Xiaonian, to remove some sexually explicit exhibits and to bar visitors younger than 18.

Canada to reintroduce legislation on simple possession of pot

Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin said his government will reintroduce legislation to decriminalize simple possession of marijuana when Parliament sits again in the new year. Martin indicated that the bill, first brought in under his predecessor Jean Chretien, could be toughened in committee before it passes.
"I think that one's got to take a look at the fines," Martin said. "I think that you have to take a look at the quantities, and I think that there has to be a larger effort against the grow-ops and against those who distribute."

But the Prime Minister said he agrees with the principle that young people should not be dogged throughout life by a criminal record if they are caught in possession of small amounts of cannabis.

The Yanks are Coming

Major League Baseball announced that the New York Yankees and Tampa Bay Devil Rays will open the 2004 season with a two-game series in Tokyo Dome on March 30-31.

"Major League Baseball is excited about returning to Tokyo to open the 2004 season," commissioner Bud Selig said. "We are pleased that the New York Yankees and Tampa Bay Devil Rays have accepted our invitation to participate in the 2004 Opening Series, and we anticipate that, with the support of our long-time partner Yomiuri, these games will help further promote the global expansion of Major League Baseball."

Yankees owner G. Steinbrenner, normally not a fan of early season overseas travel, said he was happy to make an exception.

Japan news

No Rice?
This year's rice harvest has been the worst in about a decade, according to a final assessment by the Agriculture Ministry, which set the harvest's average index at 90. The finalized rice harvest index represents the nationwide average of rice harvests against a basis of 100 for an average year. The figure is considered "severely poor" and is the worst in a decade after the figure marked 74 in 1993. The harvest was particularly poor in northern Japan, as Aomori registered 53, Miyagi 69, and Iwate and Hokkaido 73. The bad harvests have caused rice prices to rise continuously. The average bidding price of all rice brands surged about 1.5 times last month compared to the previous month.

Foreign visitors waiting too long at Narita
Foreign visitors to Japan have to wait too long for immigration procedures at Narita airport, and measures will be taken to improve the situation, said the Minister of Transport. Most foreign travelers have to wait three times longer than Japanese citizens at the airport, Land, Infrastructure and Transport Minister Nobuteru Ishihara told a news conference.

Osaka City Forcibly Removes Park's Karaoke Stalls
After about two months of disagreement, Osaka city officials decide to take action to remove karaoke stalls in a park compound, reportedly a source of noise pollution and complaints, saying a local road needs to be paved.

The well-known karaoke stalls in Osaka's Tennoji Park were forced to shut down, ending a long confrontation between city officials and the stalls' operators. Approximately 300 Osaka city officials gathered at the park to take action around 8 am. They began removing all the stalls whose owners had failed to comply with earlier city demands to leave the area. Stall operators, as well as supporters, had spent the night in the park. They clashed with the city workers as they began forcibly removing the structures.

However, all operators were eventually forced out of the area. One supporter shouted out "This is wrong! Don't you have a heart?" and an owner of one of the karaoke stalls commented "Osaka has lost its symbol. This is the end of our cultural karaoke street." The eviction virtually puts an end to the commotion that had prevailed for the past two months. The city is expected to go ahead with its plan to spend 80 million yen to pave the road where the stalls stood, the cited reason for forcing the people out of the area.

Humanoid Robot Capable of Jogging
Sony Corporation has developed a humanoid robot, "QRIO," which is capable of running. It is rather difficult to confirm with the naked eye but the two feet of the robot, when running, leave the ground by several millimeters for less than a second each time. The running speed is no faster than that of jogging but the robot is capable
of moving sideways, backwards and even making turns. There have been some robots in the past capable of jumping vertically but this is the first time in the world for a humanoid robot capable of running to have been developed. The kinetic ability of "QRIO" is not limited to running. It hurled balls with the form of a good baseball pitcher.

63% of Japanese fear Terrorism
Sixty-three percent of Japanese are afraid of terrorism at home and 80% of them believe the chances of a terrorist attack are increas-ing, according to a National Police Agency (NPA) survey released last month. The NPA said the survey, its first on terrorism, shows that the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the US, North Korea's past abductions of Japanese nationals, the Iraq situation and other forms of violence have led the Japanese public to consider terrorism as a "palpable threat."

Japanese sculptor to re-build Cloud Fortress
Masayuki Nagare, the sculptor of a stone carving dubbed the "Cloud Fortress" that was demolished in the aftermath of the Sept.11, 2001 attacks on New York, is working to recreate the piece for display in Japan. The massive sculpture, which creates the image of a floating pyramid-structured in black granite stone, stood in front of the World Trade Center buildings, which were destroyed in the Sept. 11 attacks.

Drunk man steals police car
A drunken man unlocked a police vehicle and drove off in the early hours of Dec.17 believing it to be his own car, but later turned himself in after realizing what he had done, police said. The 32-year-old man was charged with stealing the car from the parking lot of the Uraga police station in Yokosuka, Kanagawa Prefecture. He was on his way home after a party and went to the vehicle believing it to be his car bur found it locked.

News section compiled by Jason Mills

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