December 3rd, 2012
08:31 AM ET

9 bodies recovered from vehicles crushed by tunnel collapse in Japan

Nine bodies - eight of them burned - have been pulled from vehicles crushed in a tunnel collapse about 80 kilometers (50 miles) west of Tokyo, highway police said Monday.

The disaster has prompted Japanese authorities to order emergency checks on dozens of other tunnels across the country that have a similar design, as questions were raised about whether aging parts may have contributed to the collapse.

Five of the bodies were recovered in one charred station wagon, and three others were in another burned vehicle, according to a police spokesperson. The other fatality was in a truck.

The Sasago tunnel on the Chuo Expressway remained closed Monday morning, one day after the cave-in occurred on the highway's Tokyo-bound lanes, police from the nearby city of Otsuki said.

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October 30th, 2012
02:41 AM ET

Flights canceled at Japanese airport after unexploded shell discovered

Dozens of flights were canceled in and out of a northeastern Japanese city on Tuesday after construction workers came across an unexploded shell believed to be from World War II buried near a taxiway.

Airport authorities in Sendai said they had canceled all 92 flights, national and international, scheduled to use the airport Tuesday after the discovery of the shell late Monday under an unpaved area beside the taxiway.

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Filed under: Air travel • Aviation • Japan • Travel • World
October 29th, 2012
05:25 AM ET

U.S. sailor found dead at train station in Japan

A U.S. Navy sailor has been found dead with a head injury at a Japanese train station, local police said Monday.

Petty Officer 2nd Class Samuel Lewis Stiles was discovered surrounded by seven or eight alcoholic drink cans on the platform in Haiki Station in Nagasaki Prefecture at 5 a.m. Sunday, Haiki police said. FULL POST

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2 U.S. sailors arrested in Japan over rape allegations
Okinawa Gov. Hirokazu Nakaima answers questions at the prime minister's official residence in Tokyo on Wednesday.
October 17th, 2012
02:11 AM ET

2 U.S. sailors arrested in Japan over rape allegations

Japanese police have arrested two U.S. sailors over accusations that they raped a woman on the island of Okinawa, where the American military presence has generated long-simmering resentment.

Police in Okinawa identified the detained service members as U.S. Navy Seaman Christopher Daniel Browning and Petty Officer Skyler Dozier Walker of Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base Fort Worth in Texas.

The two men, both 23, are alleged to have raped a Japanese woman in the early hours of Tuesday morning, leaving her with an injury to her neck, police said. They were taken into custody later that day.

Tensions over the American military presence on Okinawa have boiled over before. Many residents were incensed by the rape of a 12-year-old Japanese girl in 1995 by three U.S. military personnel. And allegations that a Marine raped a 14-year-old girl caused a furor in 2008, although the girl decided not to pursue charges.

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October 1st, 2012
07:01 PM ET

Earthquake detected off Japan

A magnitude 6.2 earthquake struck off Japan's eastern coast early Tuesday, the U.S. Geological Survey reported.

With a depth of 9 kilometers (5.5 miles), the temblor was about 150 kilometers (93 miles) east-southeast of Hachinohe and 550 kilometers (342 miles) north-northeast of Tokyo, according to the U.S. agency.

The quake occurred just over a year and a half after a magnitude 9.0 earthquake triggered a huge tsunami off Japan, resulting in thousands of deaths and the world's worst nuclear crisis in a quarter century.

The Japan Meteorological Agency, however, did not issue any tsunami warnings or advisories immediately after the Tuesday morning quake, according to its website. No such warnings were issued by the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center either.


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September 17th, 2012
04:29 AM ET

Fallout widens from island dispute between China, Japan

The widening fallout from an increasingly volatile territorial dispute between China and Japan prompted a Japanese company to halt work at plants in China on Monday, and the United States to urge the two sides to avoid letting the situation spiral out of control.

The electronics company Panasonic said Monday that it was suspending operations at three plants in China after two of them were damaged amid violent anti-Japanese protests set off by the clash between Beijing and Tokyo over a group of small islands in the East China Sea.

Japan calls the islands Senkaku; China calls them Diaoyu.

The United States, a key military ally of Japan, has called on the two sides to find a peaceful resolution to the disagreement, which is generating more and more unease in the region and starting to hurt economic links between the world's second and third largest economies.

"It's in everybody's interest for Japan and China to maintain good relations and to find a way to avoid further escalation," U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said Monday at a joint new conference in Tokyo with his Japanese counterpart, Satoshi Morimoto.

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Record radiation found in fish near Fukushima plant
Workers stand near the damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant on February 28.
August 21st, 2012
07:32 PM ET

Record radiation found in fish near Fukushima plant

Radioactive cesium measuring 258 times the amount that Japan's government deems safe for consumption has been found in fish near the damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, Japan's Kyodo news agency reported Tuesday.

The Tokyo Electric Power Co. found 25,800 becquerels per kilogram of radioactive cesium in two greenlings in the sea within 20 kilometers of the plant on August 1  a record for the thousands of Fukushima-area fish caught and tested since the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami that led to a nuclear disaster at the plant, Kyodo reported.

Japan's government considers fish with more than 100 becquerels per kilogram unsafe for consumption. A becquerel is a measurement of radioactive intensity.

TEPCO said it also found limit-exceeding radioactive cesium levels in several other kinds of fish and shellfish during the testing, which happened in the Fukushima area from mid-July to early August, according to Japanese broadcaster NHK.

The finding comes 17 months after the disaster at the plant, which spewed radiation and displaced tens of thousands of residents from the surrounding area. It was the worst nuclear accident since the 1986 Chernobyl disaster in Ukraine.

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Mutant butterflies a result of Fukushima nuclear disaster, researchers say
This image from a study on Fukushima's impact on butterflies shows wings mutated by the radiation.
August 14th, 2012
10:35 AM ET

Mutant butterflies a result of Fukushima nuclear disaster, researchers say

In the first sign that the Fukushima nuclear disaster may be changing life around it, scientists say they've found mutant butterflies.

Some of the butterflies had abnormalities in their legs, antennae, and abdomens, and dents in their eyes, according to the study published in Scientific Reports, an online journal from the team behind Nature. Researchers also found that some affected butterflies had broken or wrinkled wings, changes in wing size, color pattern changes, and spots disappearing or increasing on the butterflies.

The study began two months after an earthquake and tsunami devastated swaths of northeastern Japan in March 2011, triggering a nuclear disaster. The Fukushima Daiichi plant spewed radiation and displaced tens of thousands of residents from the surrounding area in the worst nuclear accident since the 1986 Chernobyl disaster in Ukraine.

In May 2011, researchers collected more than 100 pale grass blue butterflies in and around the Fukushima prefecture and found that 12% of them had abnormalities or mutations. When those butterflies mated, the rate of mutations in the offspring rose to 18%, according to the study, which added that some died before reaching adulthood. When the offspring mated with healthy butterflies that weren't affected by the nuclear crisis, the abnormality rate rose to 34%, indicating that the mutations were being passed on through genes to offspring at high rates even when one of the parent butterflies was healthy.

The scientists wanted to find out how things stood after a longer amount of time and again collected more than 200 butterflies last September. Twenty-eight percent of the butterflies showed abnormalities, but the rate of mutated offspring jumped to 52%, according to researchers. The study indicated that second-generation butterflies, the ones collected in September, likely saw higher numbers of mutations because they were exposed to the radiation either as larvae or earlier than adult butterflies first collected.

To make sure that the nuclear disaster was in fact the cause of the mutations, researchers collected butterflies that had not been affected by radiation and gave them low-dose exposures of radiation and found similar results.

"We conclude that artificial radionuclides from the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant caused physiological and genetic damage to this species," the study said.

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Chinook crash, Hiroshima bombing among memorable events on August 6
August 6 is the birthday of Andy Warhol, who had a penchant for painting Marilyn Monroe. She died August 5, 1962.
August 6th, 2012
12:12 PM ET

Chinook crash, Hiroshima bombing among memorable events on August 6

August 6 is a day of anniversaries. Unfortunately, some of them are dubious milestones.

Topping the list is the first anniversary of the Chinook helicopter crash in Afghanistan that killed 30 U.S. service members, 22 of them Navy SEALs. Included were some members of Team 6, the unit credited with the raid that killed terror mastermind Osama bin Laden.

CNN.com's Ashley Fantz was able to find a heartwarming angle to this tragic anniversary, revisiting an iReport posted by Braydon Nichols, the son of Army Chief Warrant Officer Bryan Nichols, who piloted the Chinook. The boy, now 11, asked that no one forget his father, and judging from the reaction to young Braydon's iReport post, no one has.

His brother, Monte, adds that Braydon is doing well in school and coping with the loss of his father as well as can be expected.

Monday also marks the anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima during World War II.

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New report criticizes TEPCO over Fukushima nuclear crisis
A TEPCO worker explains the situation at the stricken Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, February 28, 2012.
July 23rd, 2012
04:16 AM ET

New report criticizes TEPCO over Fukushima nuclear crisis

A Japanese government report Monday heaped fresh criticism on the operator of the nuclear power plant where a disastrous accident was set off last year by the devastating earthquake and tsunami that hit the country.

The measures taken by Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO), the plant operator, and the Japanese nuclear regulator to prepare for disasters were "insufficient," the report by a government-formed panel of investigators said, and the response to the crisis was "inadequate."

The crippled Fukushima Daiichi plant spewed radiation and displaced tens of thousands of residents from the surrounding area in the worst nuclear accident since the 1986 Chernobyl disaster in Ukraine.

Even now, more than one year after the disaster began, TEPCO doesn't seem to be making much effort to clearly investigate the causes of the accident at the plant, the 10-member panel, led by Tokyo University engineering professor Yotaro Hatamura, said in the report Monday.

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Japan again getting electricity from nuclear energy
Kansai Electric Power's Ohi nuclear plant began generating electricity on Thursday.
July 5th, 2012
02:13 AM ET

Japan again getting electricity from nuclear energy

Japan was once again getting electricity from nuclear power on Thursday after two months as a nuclear-free nation.

Unit No. 3 at Kansai Electric Power Co. Ohi nuclear plant began generating power at 7 a.m., according to a report from broadcaster NHK.

The process of restarting the reactor had begun Sunday night.

The reactor will provide electricity to western Japan - which includes Osaka, Japan's second-biggest city.

Ohi's No. 4 reactor is scheduled to resume operations by July 24.

All 50 commercial nuclear reactors in Japan have been offline since May 5 for safety checks in the wake of the meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi plant after last year's devastating earthquake and tsunami. The government has been conducting simulation tests for restarting its nuclear reactors in response to public concerns.

Before the March 2011 nuclear disaster, Japan had relied on nuclear energy for about 30% of its electricity needs, according to government figures.

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June 20th, 2012
04:32 AM ET

Fukushima plant operator: We weren't prepared for the nuclear acccident

The operator of Japan's crippled Fukushima Daiichi power plant admitted Wednesday that it was not fully prepared for the nuclear accident spurred by last year's devastating earthquake and tsunami.

"All who were related to the nuclear plant could not predict an occurrence of the event which was far beyond our expectation," said Masao Yamazaki, executive vice president of Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO). "We did not have enough measures to prevent the accident."

Yamazaki spoke at a press conference announcing a TEPCO report on the nuclear accident that spewed radiation and left tens of thousands of residents displaced.

He acknowledged criticism that his company took too long to disclose information and as well as accusations that TEPCO has been hiding information.

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June 5th, 2012
05:06 PM ET

Moderate earthquake rattles Japan

A 5.8-magnitude earthquake struck off the eastern coast of Japan early Wednesday, the U.S. Geological Survey said.

There were no immediate reports of injuries or damage, and no tsunami alert was issued.

The moderate quake struck off the east coast of Honshu, the main island, about 4:30 a.m., the USGS said. Its center was 95 miles east-southeast of Tokyo.

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May 29th, 2012
04:10 AM ET

Evacuee's suicide sad reminder how Fukushima continues to claim victims

A 62-year-old evacuee from Fukushima Prefecture made a brief visit to his radiation-contaminated home, walked to his shuttered shop, and then hanged himself in a storage space.

The death is yet another sad reminder how the March 11, 2011, disaster in Japan continues to claim victims.

On that day, a magnitude-9 earthquake triggered a tsunami which swamped the Fukushima Daiichi plant, knocking out power to cooling systems and leading to meltdowns in its three operating reactors.

The triple disaster left more than 150,000 dead.

The resulting release of radioactivity forced residents of several towns near the plant to flee their homes, and a 20-kilometer (12.5-mile) zone around the plant remains closed to the public.

The man, who was not named by police, was one of tens of thousands who were evacuated.

He and his wife were briefly granted entry into the exclusion zone around the plant on Sunday, to visit their home and their small store, police said.

After the wife reported him missing, officers and volunteer firefighters in the town of Namie organized a search, police said.

The following day, firefighters found the man's body in his store's storage shed.

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Japan's fugitive penguin captured
Tokyo Sea Life Park's fugitive penguin has finally been caught.
May 25th, 2012
07:52 AM ET

Japan's fugitive penguin captured

When a 1-year-old Humboldt penguin that escaped from a Tokyo aquarium three months ago dared to set foot on land in Ichikawa on Thursday night, it was captured by hand and finally collared, The Japan Times reported.

An aquarium employee was walking alongside the Edogawa River in Chiba Prefecture at 5:30 p.m. and spotted the fugitive penguin, which escaped in March.

The penguin was seen swimming in the river near the Kanamachi water purification plant in Katsushika Ward earlier in the week. Last week, people also saw it thriving and snacking on small fish in Tokyo Bay. It was assumed that the bird was finding some place to rest onshore at night.

The fugitive bird, known as Penguin 337, somehow scaled a 13-foot wall and got through a barbed-wire fence to get into the bay. Aquarium officials believe it escaped through small gaps that cats and frogs can pass through.

Officials from Tokyo Sea Life Park feared the penguin would not survive in the waters of the bay, busy with marine traffic headed for densely populated Tokyo.

"It didn't look like it has gotten thinner over the past two months, or been without food. It doesn't seem to be any weaker. So it looks as if it's been living quite happily in the middle of Tokyo Bay," Kazuhiro Sakamoto, deputy director of the park, told Reuters.

The penguin was filmed by a Japanese coast guard patrol craft on May 7, but the crew was unable to catch it then.

Penguin 337 is one of 135 penguins at Tokyo Sea Life Park.

See the latest photo of the penguin on Reuters AlertNet.

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May 22nd, 2012
02:07 PM ET

World's tallest tower opens to thousands of visitors in Tokyo

Tens of thousands of visitors flocked to the Tokyo Skytree on Tuesday, trying to be among the first people to get a view of the Japanese capital from the world's tallest tower.

The Skytree rises 634 meters (2,080 feet) above Tokyo. It was certified as the world's tallest tower by Guinness World Records on November 17, according to the Skytree's website.

Guinness lists the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, at 828 meters (2,716 feet 6 inches), as the world's tallest building.

The distinction is that Burj Khalifa is an occupied building. The Skytree is a broadcast structure, with digital transmissions for Tokyo media beamed from it. Its towering height doubles the coverage that was previously available, as it enables signals to get past the countless other skyscrapers in the Japanese capital, according to the Skytree website.

People showing up for trips up the Skytree were beaming with pride and excitement Tuesday, according to local news reports.

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Fugitive penguin apparently thriving in Tokyo Bay
Penguin 337 is shown shortly after its escape from Tokyo Sea Life Park in March.
May 17th, 2012
08:40 AM ET

Fugitive penguin apparently thriving in Tokyo Bay

A penguin that escaped from a Japanese aquarium in March is apparently thriving in Tokyo Bay, according to news reports from Japan.

The fugitive bird, known as Penguin 337, somehow scaled a 13-foot-high wall and then got through a barbed-wire fence to get into the bay.

Officials from Tokyo Sea Life Park feared the 1-year-old Humbolt penguin would not survive in the waters of the bay, busy with marine traffic headed for densely populated Tokyo.

But apparently 337 is making meals of small fish in the bay and finding some place to rest onshore at night, park officials said, according to a Reuters.

"It didn't look like it has gotten thinner over the past two months, or been without food. It doesn't seem to be any weaker. So it looks as if it's been living quite happily in the middle of Tokyo Bay," Kazuhiro Sakamoto, deputy director of the park, told Reuters.

The penguin was filmed by a Japanese coast guard patrol craft on May 7, but the crew was unable to catch it.

See the latest photo of the penguin on Reuters AlertNet.

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Japanese man claims motorcycle that washed up in Canada
A Canadian man says he found this Harley-Davidson in a storage container on a British Columbia beach in April.
May 2nd, 2012
07:20 PM ET

Japanese man claims motorcycle that washed up in Canada

A Harley-Davidson motorcycle believed to have traversed the Pacific Ocean to western Canada after being swept from coastal Japan during a March 2011 tsunami has been claimed by a Japanese man.

Ikuo Yokoyama, 29, of Yamamoto, Japan, says a Harley-Davidson representative tracked him down after the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. ran a story about the bike, which was found in a storage container on British Columbia’s Haida Gwaii islands, the CBC reported.

Harley-Davidson now intends to restore the bike, which had rusted but still had its Miyagi Prefecture license plate, and send it back to Yokoyama, Japanese broadcaster NHK reported Wednesday.

Yokoyama, who NHK reported lost three family members and his home in the disaster, said he was "so glad that (the motorcycle) will be returned to me.”

“I would like to thank the man who found my bike in person,” Yokoyama said in an NHK interview aired on the CBC.

Peter Mark, a Haida Gwaii resident, told the CBC that he found the container and the motorcycle, golf clubs, camping equipment and tools inside on a beach on April 18.

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April 26th, 2012
10:33 PM ET

U.S. to move 9,000 Marines from Okinawa

Some 9,000 U.S. Marines will be transferred off the Japanese island of Okinawa under an agreement reached by U.S. and Japanese officials, a U.S. Defense Department official said.

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Filed under: Guam • Japan • Marines • Military
April 23rd, 2012
05:25 AM ET

Soccer ball washed up in Alaska traced to tsunami-hit area of Japan

A soccer ball recently found washed up on a remote Alaskan beach apparently belongs to a teenager from a city devastated by the earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan more than a year ago.

And it may soon be returned to its owner more than three thousand miles away on the other side of the Pacific Ocean.

David Baxter, a technician at the radar station on Middleton Island in the Gulf of Alaska, came across the ball as he was beach combing.

The ball had Japanese characters written on it, from which Baxter's wife was able to translate the name of a school that was in the area hit by the tsunami, according to a blog post by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

An enormous amount of debris was swept into the Pacific by the tsunami that hit northeast Japan on March 11, 2011, killing thousands of people.

A number of objects, both large and small, have so far made their way as far as the coast of North America, including a rusty fishing trawler that the U.S. Coast Guard sank earlier this month. But the ball "may be the first identifiable item that could be returned," according to the NOAA.

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