<   2012年 05月 ( 32 )   > この月の画像一覧

携帯ゲーム規制 健全性を重視したビジネスに

The Yomiuri Shimbun (May. 30, 2012)
Social networking games must be responsible
携帯ゲーム規制 健全性を重視したビジネスに(5月29日付・読売社説)

It is after all an improper business model to earn profits by exploiting child psychology and stimulating vanity and the desire to gamble.

The Consumer Affairs Agency has decided to ban "kompu gacha" (complete gacha) online games played on mobile phones from July under the Law against Unjustifiable Premiums and Misleading Representations. This is a reasonable step.

The phrase "kompu gacha" combines "complete" and the name of the "gacha gacha" game arcade machine that sells capsules of toys. It is a kind of lottery game played on a social networking service website via mobile phones.

Players pay about 300 yen per drawing in a lottery in the game to win virtual items. If they combine items they win in a certain order, they can obtain rare items. The possessors of these rare items gain an advantage in playing games, thereby becoming the envy of other game players.

Items can be bought and sold among players, so it is possible to earn profits by selling them at high prices.

Games played on social networking service websites enthrall players by stimulating a sense of superiority and achievement as well as a desire to gamble.

If players draw in the lottery many times, they end up having to pay a huge amount of charges added to bills for mobile phone service.


High price to pay

It is not a problem if mature adults play online games because they can take responsibility for themselves. But it is problematic if children are caught up in such games. Consumer consulting offices have received one complaint after another from the guardians of children, including one case in which a middle school student was charged 400,000 yen for one month.

The Consumer Affairs Agency has decided to regulate kompu gacha after concluding it is a sales practice banned by the Law against Unjustifiable Premiums and Misleading Representations, as in the case of selling the cards of professional baseball players, which was extremely popular among boys between 1945 and 1955. But it is difficult to apply the law to quasi-gacha games, which differ slightly from the practice of collecting and trading in baseball cards.


Restrictions necessary

In other mobile phone games, too, players are attracted by advertisements promising no fees "in principle." But players have to buy items if they want to take the games to a higher level. This framework is adopted in most of these games. They are no different from kompu gacha games in that children are tempted to pay a huge amount of money to play the games.

Six major mobile phone game operators, including GREE, Inc. and DeNA Co., have decided to abolish their kompu gacha games before the end of this month and study compiling self-restraint guidelines on all their social networking games.

Some measures must be taken to set the age limit for players of social mobile games. It will be also necessary to prevent virtual items earned through the games from being exchanged for money.

The social gaming market has grown by leaps and bounds, with annual sales now reaching 250 billion yen. If the market is to expand further, it will be necessary to restructure the business model for such games. Individual corporate visions and the industry-wide stance must be reviewed in this regard.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, May 29, 2012)
(2012年5月29日01時59分 読売新聞)

by kiyoshimat | 2012-05-31 07:39 | 英字新聞

海底資源開発 政府主導で戦略を構築せよ

The Yomiuri Shimbun (May. 29, 2012)
Govt must establish strategy to develop seafloor resources
海底資源開発 政府主導で戦略を構築せよ(5月28日付・読売社説)

Abundant natural resources are sleeping under the seafloor in Japan's exclusive economic zone.

We think the government needs to play a leading role in devising measures to aggressively develop and effectively use them.

The government has started to review the Basic Plan on Ocean Policy, a set of guidelines for medium- and long-term ocean policies. It plans to formulate a new plan within the current fiscal year.

The commanding organ for the work is the Ocean Policy Headquarters, which consists of the prime minister and all other cabinet ministers. We hope the headquarters will strategically work on not only the problem of resources but also other topics, such as measures to assist remote islands and environmental protection.


High hopes for 'ice that burns'

We have high expectations for the development of methane hydrate, dubbed "the ice that burns," and other important resources. Methane hydrate, which contains abundant amounts of natural gas, is widely distributed under the seafloor.

With nuclear power facing an unclear future, it is important for the country to increase the amount of natural gas it can obtain in its own backyard, from the viewpoint of securing a variety of energy resources.

The government carried out drilling operations in the Pacific Ocean off the coasts of Aichi and Mie prefectures in February and March. The existence of a methane hydrate layer was confirmed after digging 200 to 300 meters down from the seafloor 1,000 meters beneath the water's surface.

It has been estimated this sea area alone has reserves of natural gas equal to more than 10 years worth of Japan's annual imports of liquefied natural gas.

Following the drilling operations, the world's first production test for extracting natural gas from methane hydrate in the seafloor will start in January next year. Taking into account the future production of natural gas from methane hydrate, Japan should also promote the development of the necessary equipment.

Meanwhile, seafloor hydrothermal deposits, which contain copper, zinc and rare minor metals, are also seen as a promising natural resource. The government has been conducting deep-sea research in two ocean areas: one in the sea around Okinawa and the other between the Izu Islands and the Ogasawara Islands.


Utilize continental shelf

Based on results of test drilling and investigations of methane hydrate and seafloor hydrothermal deposits, the government plans to make final judgments on whether to go ahead with commercial production of the resources in fiscal 2018. We expect a path to utilizing seafloor resources will open.

The fact that a seafloor area of about 310,000 square kilometers in the Pacific Ocean off Japan was newly recognized as part of the nation's continental shelf is a positive factor for the nation's ocean resource development. We believe active utilization of the continental shelf must be clearly positioned in the new basic plan.

To promote seafloor resource development in a stable manner, it is necessary to set certain rules.

Enforcement of the revised Mining Law in January enabled the government to take the lead in specifying candidate sites for extracting seafloor resources, such as oil and natural gas, and selecting developers.

The revised law also enables the government to control illegal exploration activities for resources, including those conducted by foreign vessels. Patrol operations by the Japan Coast Guard must of course be beefed up.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, May 28, 2012)
(2012年5月28日01時17分 読売新聞)

by kiyoshimat | 2012-05-30 06:55 | 英字新聞

島サミット 米と連携し中国進出に対処を

The Yomiuri Shimbun (May. 28, 2012)
Strengthen intl ties in Pacific to deal with China's assertiveness
島サミット 米と連携し中国進出に対処を(5月27日付・読売社説)

Japan's efforts to support development of the island countries that dot the Pacific will surely enhance the stability of the region.

Bearing the rapidly growing assertiveness of China in mind, it is indispensable for Japan to beef up cooperation with the United States in tackling this task.

The Pacific Islands Leaders Meeting (PALM) in Nago, Okinawa Prefecture, with leaders of 12 island countries, including Palau, and one territory attending, wrapped up after finishing its two-day program on Friday and Saturday.

Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda, who chaired the meeting, said at a news conference after the close of the summit, "Both Japan and Pacific island countries are vulnerable to natural disasters, and we would like to share lessons of Japan's natural disasters [with them]." Noda stressed the importance of a joint declaration adopted in the latest PALM that puts top priority on antidisaster measures.

In the declaration, Japan promises to support improvement of an "early warning system for disasters" to help Pacific island countries prepare for earthquakes, tsunami and other natural calamities. Japan has also pledged to launch a "natural disaster risk insurance" program on a pilot basis to help Pacific island countries cover damage from natural disasters in cooperation with the World Bank.


A precious diplomatic asset

Noda said at the news conference: "Japan's fiscal conditions are tight, as we need to reconstruct areas devastated by the [March 11] disaster. Even so, we should not be inward-looking but seek to be a country that will continue to contribute to peace and prosperity in the world." The prime minister expressed Japan's intention to offer up to 500 million dollars (about 40 billion yen) in official development assistance over the next three years for such endeavors. The figure is equivalent to the sum the country gave out in the previous three years combined.

PALM has been held every three years under Japan's sponsorship since 1997. The latest summit is the sixth.

The Japanese government's continued support for the island countries, successfully nurturing their confidence in this country, is a precious diplomatic asset.

Notably during the latest summit, a meeting was held between leaders of the island countries and Japan's business leaders, including executives of Japanese companies, to expedite private investment. The government, together with the private sector, should proceed with carefully considered diplomacy to assist Pacific island countries.

Also taken up in the latest PALM were issues involving the marine environment and marine resources development.

China, too, has been proactively practicing assistance diplomacy toward Pacific island countries. Beijing has surpassed Japan in terms of the amount of assistance cash, and is believed to place third on the list of donor countries after Australia and the United States.


China's strategic thinking

In particular, China's assistance to such countries as Papua New Guinea and Fiji, which have abundant mineral and other natural resources, has been sharply increasing.

Fiji, which skipped the island countries summit this time, has seen its relations with the United States and Europe deteriorating recently. It may be inclined to deepen its ties with China.

Chinese leaders such as Premier Wen Jiabao and Vice President Xi Jinping have been making visits to these countries almost every year.

In addition to port calls to these countries by Chinese Navy warships and military assistance to them, the number of Chinese immigrants to Pacific island countries has reportedly been rising steadily. This may be part of China's strategic thinking.

This year, delegates from the United States took part in the triennial PALM event for the first time. The administration of President Barack Obama, with growing wariness toward Beijing, has shifted its diplomatic focus to the Asia-Pacific region and is building close relations with Pacific island countries.

The government should continue making efforts for stable development of the Pacific region by joining hands with the United States as well as Australia and New Zealand, which are PALM members.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, May 27, 2012)
(2012年5月27日01時42分 読売新聞)

by kiyoshimat | 2012-05-29 11:50 | 英字新聞

特許の国際戦略 「知財大国」中国への対策急げ



The Yomiuri Shimbun (May. 27, 2012)
International patent strategy needed against China
特許の国際戦略 「知財大国」中国への対策急げ(5月26日付・読売社説)

Taking advantage of intellectual property rights such as patents and enhancing Japan's industrial competitiveness through them will be an engine for the nation's growth. In that sense, it is urgent to implement measures regarding China, which is becoming a superpower in terms of intellectual property.

A concern for Japan is the increase in patent applications in China.

China surpassed Japan in terms of the number of patent applications in 2010. China's total--about 530,000--became the world's largest last year, exceeding the about 510,000 applications in the United States.

The Chinese government has a plan to boost the annual number of applications for intellectual property rights, including patents and rights of industrial design, to 2.5 million in 2015, nearly twice the current figure.

Reflecting this government policy, Chinese companies are apparently changing their way of thinking and trying to acquire rights on their technology as soon as possible.

In contrast, the number of patent applications was only 340,000 in Japan last year, representing the sixth consecutive year of decline. Behind this might be the fact that Japanese companies apply for patents on only a carefully selected few of the technologies they develop.

Nonetheless, the number of patent applications is one index to show the fundamental strength of the economy and the stances of companies that place importance on technological innovation. The trend of decline in Japan should be stopped.


China a hotbed of piracy

Meanwhile, China is often called a hotbed of piracy, where illicit copying of technologies developed by other countries and trademarks is rampant and causes constant damage to rights holders.

It was learned last year that a Chinese company filed patent applications in the United States for technology used in the chassis of a high-speed railway car that allegedly copied Japanese technology.

The number of disputes on intellectual property rights between China and other countries is increasing.

Apple Inc., manufacturer of the iPad tablet computer, is involved in a dispute with a Chinese company that claims it obtained the iPad trademark right before Apple.

Japanese companies doing business in China need to revamp their strategy. While implementing every countermeasure at hand to deal with piracy, they should shore up defenses of their intellectual property by more actively filing international patent applications.


Govt must support firms

Meanwhile, the Japanese government must support Japanese firms in filing international patent applications by urging Beijing to take measures to prevent violations of intellectual property rights.

We praise the Patent Agency for beginning to consider granting design rights for icons displayed on screens of personal computers and smartphones.

The necessity to protect such design rights is growing quickly. If Japan is slow in taking action, Chinese companies and others may steal their rights.

In the United States, where the patent act was extensively revised last year, President Barack Obama's administration is placing more importance on protection of intellectual property rights. Intensifying competition with the United States will also force the Japanese government and companies to strengthen their countermeasures toward that country.

The government and private sectors should work together to enhance effective utilization of the nation's intellectual property rights.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, May 26, 2012)
(2012年5月26日01時03分 読売新聞)

by kiyoshimat | 2012-05-28 07:26 | 英字新聞

温暖化ガス削減 「25%」は撤回し現実的目標を

The Yomiuri Shimbun (May. 25, 2012)
Set new, realistic target for greenhouse gas reductions
温暖化ガス削減 「25%」は撤回し現実的目標を(5月24日付・読売社説)

The government should immediately withdraw Japan's target of cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 25 percent from 1990 levels by 2020.

This ill-advised target spelled out by former Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama at a U.N. meeting three years ago is totally unrealistic. Estimates released Wednesday by the Environment Ministry's Central Environment Council are obvious proof of this.

The council compiled the estimates in the wake of the crisis at Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant. It calculated reduction rates in greenhouse gases in 2020 based on five different ratios of nuclear power in relation to the country's total power generation, from 0 percent to a maximum of 35 percent.

Nuclear power plants, which emit almost no carbon dioxide when they generate electricity, are an important energy source in terms of fighting global warming.

The estimates show Japan may be able to cut greenhouse gas emissions by a maximum of only 19 percent in 2020 from 1990 levels, even if the ratio of nuclear power generation is raised to 35 percent from the 26 percent level before the nuclear crisis and energy-saving policies are thoroughly implemented.


More nuclear power unlikely

Currently, the country has no operating nuclear reactors and there are no prospects of them being restarted. Nuclear reactors must be reactivated soon to ensure a stable supply of electricity, but it can hardly be assumed that the ratio of nuclear power generation will be higher than before the nuclear crisis.

We can safely say that achieving the 25 percent reduction target will be difficult even if purchases of overseas emissions quotas and the absorption of greenhouse gases by forests in Japan are taken into account.

As the Kyoto Protocol will expire at the end of this year, a U.N. conference will enter full-scale discussions to formulate new rules with the aim of putting them into effect in 2020.

If Japan continues to tout the 25 percent reduction, which has already become an empty promise, there is no doubt it will be cornered into a disadvantageous situation in negotiations to decide on a new international framework for cuts in greenhouse gas emissions.

Japan's commitment to the 25 percent reduction was originally premised on building a fair framework with the participation of all major greenhouse gas emitters--including China and the United States, the world's two largest greenhouse producers--and reaching an agreement on ambitious targets.


Heavy burden looms

However, Japan could be forced to assume obligations for extremely high reductions, as the 25 percent figure has taken on a life of its own.

The government therefore needs to set a new, feasible target so it will not repeat the failure of the Kyoto Protocol, under which Japan shouldered unfair reduction obligations.

The government plans to announce a new energy strategy this summer. It is essential to decide appropriate ratios for electricity generated by different power sources, including nuclear power, and map out a target for reducing greenhouse gas emissions based on these ratios.

Curbing greenhouse gas emissions is important to achieving energy conservation, but an unduly strict reduction target would adversely affect production. Such a target also could hinder reconstruction from the Great East Japan Earthquake.

We urge the government to set a target that will not dampen Japan's vitality.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, May 24, 2012)
(2012年5月24日01時32分 読売新聞)

by kiyoshimat | 2012-05-27 08:08 | 英字新聞

中比対立激化 尖閣諸島でも警戒が必要だ

The Yomiuri Shimbun (May. 25, 2012)
China-Philippine confrontation a warning for Senkakus
中比対立激化 尖閣諸島でも警戒が必要だ(5月24日付・読売社説)

A confrontation between China--which has been building up its military in recent years--and the Philippines is intensifying over marine interests in the South China Sea. We urge both countries to engage in dialogue to prevent the dispute from escalating into military conflict.

The confrontation started April 10 when a Philippine Navy warship inspected Chinese fishing vessels at Scarborough Shoal, which is called Huangyan Island in China. Beijing immediately responded by sending patrol ships to the area, and a standoff between Chinese and Philippine vessels in the waters has continued for more than one month.

Beijing and Manila both claim sovereignty over Scarborough Shoal.

The Philippines has proposed that the territorial dispute be resolved through the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea. It also has strengthened military ties with the United States--which recently unveiled a new defense strategy that places greater emphasis on Asia--through such measures as conducting joint military exercises. This appears to be an attempt to counter the huge military pressure from China.


Beijing's overwhelming power

Beijing issued a strong warning against the recent moves by Manila: "The Chinese side has made all preparations to respond to any escalation of the situation by the Philippine side."

China's naval might is far superior to that of the Philippines and other nations near China. China even has a plan to deploy its first aircraft carrier soon. We urge China to refrain from taking a hard-line stance on the standoff.

Overreactions to the dispute have already emerged in China--travel agencies have suspended tours to the Philippines, and the government has stepped up quarantine inspections on bananas grown in the Philippines. The government has justified these responses by citing an increase of anti-China protests in the Philippines and the detection of pests in bananas, but it is likely that Beijing is attempting to pressure Manila over the shoal dispute.

China's reaction has shades of its response to the collisions between a Chinese fishing boat and Japan Coast Guard patrol vessels near the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea in autumn 2010. After this incident, Beijing piled pressure on Tokyo by restricting exports of rare earth minerals to Japan, for instance.


Don't turn blind eye to dispute

Japan cannot afford to ignore the Scarborough Shoal dispute, as the nation faces similar friction with China, which claims sovereignty over the Senkaku Islands.

Chinese fisheries surveillance vessels routinely sail around the Senkaku Islands to make their presence felt. China's strategy of using fishing boats and fisheries patrol vessels to give the irreversible impression that the area belongs to China is identical to what is happening in the South China Sea. Japan must not let the situation in the East China Sea deteriorate to what is going on in the South China Sea.

Peace and stability in the South China Sea is not only crucial for nations in Southeast Asia. It also is in Japan's national interest to ensure that its sea lanes remain safe.

The Japanese government plans to use official development assistance to provide the Philippines with patrol vessels for its coast guard. This will help the Philippines strengthen its maritime security, and also be important in making China pause to think.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, May 24, 2012)
(2012年5月24日01時31分 読売新聞)

by kiyoshimat | 2012-05-26 06:47 | 英字新聞

NATO会議 長期的アフガン支援が必要だ

The Yomiuri Shimbun (May. 24, 2012)
Long-term assistance key to achieving Afghan peace
NATO会議 長期的アフガン支援が必要だ(5月23日付・読売社説)

Leaders from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization ended their meeting in Chicago on Monday after affirming the deadline for troop withdrawal from Afghanistan and pledging to provide long-term assistance for the troubled country.

The Chicago Summit Declaration adopted at the meeting clearly states that the combat mission of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) "will be concluded at the end of 2014" and the public safety forces of the Afghan government will start leading the combat missions in the middle of next year.

To make this possible, NATO must make greater efforts to bolster the training and equipment of the Afghan force.

Despite the presentation of a deadline for the pullout of ISAF combat units, there is no sign of combat with the Taliban coming to an end. To realize the withdrawal as scheduled, improvement of public safety is needed more than anything else.


Transition to self-reliance

Last year, the ISAF began a full transfer of security control to the Afghan side. We urge Afghan forces to enhance their capabilities and become able to stand on their own feet as soon as possible.

Given the protracted hostilities and the growing number of victims, public opinion has grown louder among NATO member nations for the early withdrawal of their troops from Afghanistan.

French President Francois Hollande pledged during his election campaign to advance the pullout of his country's troops by one year to "by the end of this year." He reaffirmed this commitment during the NATO meeting.

But if France resorts to early withdrawal without taking into consideration the Afghan situation, there is concern other countries will follow suit. If NATO's solidarity is weakened by this, it will only embolden the Taliban.

Afghanistan should never again be a hotbed for international terrorist organizations. Cooperation in the international community is indispensable in this regard.

The Taliban is deeply rooted in local tribal communities. Even if the country is brought under control militarily, it will not bring about real peace. The United States must continue exploring the possibility of holding dialogues with moderate elements of the Taliban, thereby laying the foundation for realizing national reconciliation in Afghanistan.


Manifestation of political will

NATO has decided to provide strong long-term assistance even beyond 2014. This decision is significant as the manifestation of its political will to help stabilize the Afghan situation.

In his talks with NATO officials after the summit meeting, Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba expressed the Japanese government's policy of continuing assistance for the Afghan security forces. He sought NATO's cooperation in achieving a successful result in the International Conference on Economic Assistance to Afghanistan to be held in Tokyo in July.

The Democratic Party of Japan-led government has been implementing a pledge it made after its inauguration in 2009 to provide about 5 billion dollars (about 400 billion yen) in assistance to Afghanistan over five years from that year. It is necessary to examine whether the assistance has been provided effectively.

The government should call on the Afghan government, which is suspected to be riddled with corruption, to become more transparent in revealing how it utilizes the aid it receives.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, May 23, 2012)
(2012年5月23日01時27分 読売新聞)

by kiyoshimat | 2012-05-25 07:24 | 英字新聞

電力全面自由化 効果と副作用を冷静に考えよ

The Yomiuri Shimbun (May. 23, 2012)
Think carefully before liberalizing power business
電力全面自由化 効果と副作用を冷静に考えよ(5月22日付・読売社説)

The intended effects and the possible side effects that would be brought about through full liberalization of the electricity retail business must be carefully considered.

An expert panel of the Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry has reached a broad agreement to liberalize the electricity retail business, including supplies to households.

The liberalization plan is aimed at encouraging the participation of new companies in the business to increase competition and lower utility rates. The plan also calls for abolishing the current system under which utility charges are decided by adding certain levels of profits to the personnel and fuel costs of power companies.

The government plans to submit a bill to the ordinary Diet session next year to revise the Electricity Business Law to fully liberalize the utility retail business as early as fiscal 2015.

Behind this move is the government's and the public's distrust in power companies that have neglected necessary corporate efforts, while remaining dependent on the current system that allows them to monopolize their respective service areas.

In connection with its plan to raise utility charges, an executive of Tokyo Electric Power Co. said, "It's our [vested] right to raise the rates." This insensitive statement drew harsh criticism.

All power companies must realize that such a public outcry is the driving force behind the effort to liberalize utility rates.

But what effect total liberalization will have remains to be seen. In the domestic electricity market, liberalization of retail sales to large-lot users began in 2000. Liberalization has been expanded to users with a contracted electricity volume of 50 kilowatts or more, including small and midsize factories.


Few new participants

Under this system, users are allowed in principle to freely select their power suppliers and negotiate with power companies on rates. But the amount of electricity generated by new participants in the market is between 3 percent and 4 percent of the total. Existing power companies dominate the business in terms of capital and equipment.

If the power retail business is fully liberalized while leaving a situation in which there is no real competition, we fear the monopoly the power companies enjoy will allow them to raise power charges at will.

It is not easy to realize a sound electricity market in which a variety of companies compete freely. To help encourage new participation in the market, a plan is emerging to reexamine the current system.

The plan calls for establishing a nationwide independent organization to manage power transmission between power companies rather than have utilities undertake both generation and transmission of power.

However, some people warn that if transmission is separated from power generation it will become difficult to supply electricity flexibly in response to changes in demand.


Stable supplies vital

Major blackouts have occurred in Europe, the United States and South Korea partly due to the separation of power generation and transmission. The government must investigate these overseas cases thoroughly before deciding to separate generation from transmission.

In the aftermath of the disaster at TEPCO's Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, no nuclear reactors have been restarted, causing a power supply shortage. If the electricity retail business is liberalized at a time when there is a supply shortage, power rates are almost certain to soar. A stable power supply must be in place before liberalization is implemented.

Another concern is whether liberalization will lead to supply cuts and rate spikes on remote islands and in depopulated areas, where power transmission costs are high. Calm discussions are needed before resorting to spur-of-the-moment liberalization.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, May 22, 2012)
(2012年5月22日01時20分 読売新聞)

by kiyoshimat | 2012-05-24 08:12 | 英字新聞

東京スカイツリー 世界一の塔が日本を元気に

The Yomiuri Shimbun (May. 22, 2012)
World's tallest tower will invigorate Japan
東京スカイツリー 世界一の塔が日本を元気に(5月21日付・読売社説)

At long last, Tokyo Skytree will officially open on Tuesday.

Its height is 634 meters, nearly double that of Tokyo Tower. It is the world's tallest freestanding broadcasting tower. Views from the two observation decks, at 350 meters and 450 meters above the ground, must surely take every visitor's breath away. We would like to celebrate the opening of a structure that Japan can boast about to the world.

While construction was still going on in March last year, the Great East Japan Earthquake rocked Tokyo Skytree, which had nearly attained its ultimate height. However, no workers were injured and there was no damage to the tower itself. Construction steadily continued, and the tree's height reached 634 meters a week later.


Symbol of overcoming ordeals

The incident demonstrated the reliability of Japan's earthquake-resistant construction technology. It also reinforced the image in many minds of Japan and the Japanese not yielding to difficulties.

Just as many people remember Tokyo Tower as a symbol of the rapid economic growth period from the late 1950s to the early 1970s, so may Tokyo Skytree become a new symbol of the present period, when Japan and the Japanese are overcoming ordeals of the Great East Japan Earthquake.

Tokyo Skytree embodies the best of Japan's construction technologies from the past to the present.

Materials made with cutting-edge technologies and fine techniques of craftsmanship, such as steel pipes that distort very little even if they are piled up sky-high, were chosen from all over the country in a strict selection process.

As the tower was constructed on a relatively small piece of land, its cross-sectional shape changes from an equilateral triangle at the base to a circle higher up. Here, shapes called "sori" and "mukuri," seen in temple and shrine construction and the design of Japanese swords, were utilized.

The use of a "shimbashira" cylindrical central column to dampen earthquake vibrations is taken from the technique used in Japanese five-story pagodas.

It has been reported that those who were involved in the construction of the Skytree engaged in the work with a zeal to surpass their engineering forebears who constructed Tokyo Tower. Their own efforts are now destined to become a similar target for engineers in the future.

Tokyo Skytree is scheduled to take over the role of transmitting TV and radio waves from Tokyo Tower as early as January next year.


Big economic effect

Annual visitors to Tokyo Skytree and its related facilities are expected to number 32 million. The ward office of Sumida Ward, Tokyo, where the tree is located, estimates the economic ripple effect of the facilities will be 88 billion yen in the ward alone.

Around the Skytree, new tourism spots have arisen one after another, including the Tokyo Gate Bridge. We think many foreign sightseers will be attracted by the synergy of the Skytree and the other facilities.

However, although so many people are expected to visit Tokyo Skytree and its related facilities, infrastructure in the surrounding environment, such as sidewalks and train stations, has not been made fully ready for the opening.

The Tokyo metropolitan government, the Sumida Ward Office and Tokyo Skytree officials should make every effort to prevent accidents and turmoil from occurring.

People's faces naturally turn upward when they approach the Skytree. We hope it will become a new strong base to invigorate the entire nation.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, May 21, 2012)
(2012年5月21日01時52分 読売新聞)

by kiyoshimat | 2012-05-23 07:30 | 英字新聞

あす金環日食 天空のドラマを堪能したい

The Yomiuri Shimbun (May. 21, 2012)
Let's enjoy a rare astronomical spectacle!
あす金環日食 天空のドラマを堪能したい(5月20日付・読売社説)

An annular solar eclipse, a phenomenon in which the moon blocks out most of the sun, leaving a ring of light around its circumference, takes place on Monday morning, May 21. The annular eclipse will be visible along the Pacific side of the country, from southern Kyushu to the southeastern part of Fukushima Prefecture.

About two-thirds of the nation's population live in areas where the eclipse can be observed. It is said to be first time in 932 years--since the late Heian period (794-1192)--that such a large proportion of the population will be able to see an annular solar eclipse.

Another annular solar eclipse can be observed in Japan in 18 years, but the area from which it can be viewed will be limited to Hokkaido.

This time is definitely a precious opportunity to view a heavenly spectacle. Why not take advantage of a wonderful astronomical show?

The eclipse begins from the top right side of the sun at about 6 a.m., evolving into a perfect, golden "ring of fire," at about 7:30 a.m. This state of "annularity" will last a maximum of five minutes or so.


Be careful of accident

The moment the edge of the moon overlaps that of the sun should not be missed. Sunlight appears to trickle out from the sun, creating gleaming beads, a phenomenon known as "Baily's beads."

Viewing parties and other events related to the eclipse are scheduled in many parts of the country.

Given that the phenomenon occurs while people are commuting to school or workplaces, however, care must be taken not to fall while looking up at the sky while walking or cause an accident while driving.

Avoid observing the sun with the naked eye, which can harm your eyes. Injury of the retina can produce such symptoms as the appearance of black spots in your eyesight and distortion of objects.

These symptoms usually disappear in about a week, but more long-lasting serious eye injuries can happen.

Special eclipse sunglasses have been on sale for some time. Viewers can also enjoy the phenomenon by way of what is called the pinhole method, observing the sun's images that are projected onto a surface through a small hole made in a piece of paper. Sunshine filtering through leaves can also cast an image of the eclipsed sun onto the ground.

The National Astronomical Observatory of Japan and other expert organizations have introduced various observation methods, which can serve as a useful reference.

The annular solar eclipse provides astronomical researchers with an excellent opportunity.

A project has been undertaken to gauge the size of the sun more exactly by recording precisely the scope of the full "ring of fire," or annularity.


Is Earth cooling?

The sun is an immensely huge lump of gases, and interaction between the gases yields the sun's energy.

Determining the size of the sun more accurately would allow a more detailed understanding of solar energy generation.

Currently, the sun is a focus of attention of experts around the world because of an anomaly: It's activity has been at a low level last seen about 200 years ago, when Earth was in the midst of a cooling trend, according to researchers.

In addition to findings in studies by researchers in many foreign countries, data obtained in space by Hinode, the Japanese solar observation satellite, point to a steady decline in the sun's activities. Do these observations indicate Earth is again heading for a cooling phase?

The importance of solar studies is taking on increasing importance.

Although the designed lifetime of Hinode has ended, no plan has been discussed by the government about the wisdom of developing a successor, while budgetary appropriations for sun-related studies have been trimmed continually.

The government must continue to extend a certain amount of financial support to this field of research.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, May 20, 2012)
(2012年5月20日01時39分 読売新聞)

by kiyoshimat | 2012-05-22 06:25 | 英字新聞