Mr. Ozawa Chance To Speak

Ichiro Ozawa Former Democratic Party of Japan chief Ichiro Ozawa should heed DPJ Secretary General Katsuya Okada's call to speak before the Lower House's Council on Political Ethics with regard to political fund-reporting irregularities involving Mr. Ozawa's aides.

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Temperatures Plunge Across Japan

Kitami , HokkaidoSevere cold gripped the Japanese archipelago Thursday, with temperatures in some locations dropping to the lowest recorded this winter, the Japan Meteorological Agency said.

The mercury fell to as low as 21.7 C below zero in Kitami, Hokkaido, the record low in the city for the month of December, the agency said.

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Tokyo - Osaka Maglev Approved

Tokyo-Osaka maglev route approvedA government panel approved a plan Wednesday to build a magnetically levitated train line over the shortest proposed Tokyo-Osaka route.

The panel at the Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Ministry gave the green light to a midterm report that states Central Japan Railway Co. (JR Tokai) is responsible for constructing and operating the route on a virtual straight line through the Southern Alps.

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Gov To Open Isahaya Floodgates

Isahaya Bay dikeReversing the government's stance on a decades-old reclamation project, Prime Minister Naoto Kan said Wednesday he won't appeal a court order to open two floodgates in the Isahaya Bay dike in Nagasaki Prefecture for five years.

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Bananas Keep Allergies Away

Bananas keep allergies awayEating bananas--three or four a day--may alleviate the symptoms of pollen allergies by improving sufferers' immunity, according to a group of Tokyo University of Science researchers.

Constituents of the banana may have what it takes to improve immunity in the human body, they say.

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Winter Seafood Prices Up

Winter seafoodPrices of salmon, scallops and oysters--all traditionally big sellers during the year-end and New Year holiday seasons--have soared because higher water temperatures caused by the summer heat had a marked impact on the size of catches.

Fishermen in the Hokkaido and Tohoku regions have been hit hard by a poor autumn salmon catch, attributed to unusually warm seawater, which has sent prices of lightly salted salmon and salmon roe skyrocketing.

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Undercover Officers In Phone Shop

Japanese mobile phone shopThe National Police Agency decided Tuesday to dispatch undercover officers to mobile phone dealers to check if they are properly explaining to customers about filtering software to prevent minors from accessing hazardous sites.

The officers will pretend to be parents who are purchasing mobile phones for their children, will visit more than 1,500 dealers nationwide by the end of the year.

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Kabuki Star Apologizes

Kabuki star apologizesKabuki star Ichikawa Ebizo, injured during a midnight brawl in a Tokyo bar late last month, apologized Tuesday for disappointing his fans and promised to keep away from alcohol.

Junichi Sakomoto, president of Shochiku Entertainment Co., said Ebizo will be suspended from performing indefinitely.

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Lasik Surgeon Held Over Infections

Lasik surgeon held over infectionsThe Metropolitan Police Department on Tuesday arrested a former eye clinic director in connection with bacterial eye infections in five men caused by unsanitary procedures during a popular laser eye surgery.

Tomoo Mizoguchi, 49, of Hitachi, Ibaraki Prefecture, was arrested on suspicion of professional negligence resulting in injury.

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Young Smokers Turn To Loose Tobacco

Young smokers turn to loose tobacco Following the recent hike in cigarette taxes, cheaper loose tobacco is rapidly growing in popularity among young smokers, making it difficult for the country's main manufacturer to keep up with increasing demand.

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Yoshiko Noda Seeks Pension Funds

Yoshiko Noda seeks pension funds Finance Minister Yoshiko Noda said Sunday he will consider securing resources to make sure the government's contribution to the basic national pension program stays at 50 percent, although there are calls to cut the ratio.

"We need to make a judgment on whether to make utmost efforts to secure financial resources to achieve the one-half share or reduce the ratio to 36.5 percent," Noda said on an NHK TV program.

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Agency To Ban Home Dvd Copying

Agency to ban home DVD copying A government agency is planning to ban copying of DVD and Blu-ray movies, even if it is done in the home for the purchaser's own use.

The production and distribution of programs to decrypt commercially produced discs would also be prohibited under legislation being prepared by the Agency for Cultural Affairs.

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Tokyo Subway Merger

Tokyo subway merger This year saw author, social critic and Tokyo Vice Gov. Naoki Inose call for uniting Tokyo's two subway systems, Tokyo Metro and the city-run Toei subway. The two sides have entered talks but are still far from agreement.

Why does Tokyo have two parallel subway systems in the first place? The present Tokyo Metro dates back to 1941, when prewar subway lines — presumably safe from bombing raids — were consolidated in the name of wartime security.

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Japan's Bullet Trains Go Faster

Japan's bullet trains go fasterJapan Railways on Saturday unveils an 80-kilometre extension to the northern tip of its bullet-train network that will take passengers from the previous terminus of Hachinohe to just outside Aomori City.

The new track slices about 15 minutes off the trip from Tokyo, with the journey now clocking in about three hours and 20 minutes.

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