Happy Easter 2016

Maundy Thursday


Hello Hugo

Happy Easter.

The above photograph was taken in Covent Garden in London; it shows a large version of the Easter egg that I enjoyed the most when I was around your age.  I mailed you an Easter egg of this brand, along with a card, in Monday’s post so hopefully they will reach you by tomorrow or Saturday.  I hope you have a lovely Easter in Japan.

This is the 4th Easter blog post that I find myself writing to you. March 2016 has been a busy month at work in London and I find myself having to work over the Easter holiday itself as we have an external audit next week. It has also been a month of some sadness as one of my childhood heroes died earlier this month: I fondly remember aged around your age watching on Saturday evenings in the 1980s Paul Daniels’ magic show. He sadly died this earlier month. Such was my admiration for him that, for a while, I wanted to become a magician.  That ambition was thankfully short-lived although I find that in my current legal work clients do expect me to be a magician.

As I posted last year, my sister is going to have your first UK cousin soon. Her due date is this coming Sunday, Easter Day itself.  I am very much looking forward to seeing her child and I hope that you will get to meet him or her (we do not know which yet) one day in the future.

Easter 2016 1

Your Easter card and egg

Easter 2016 2

Post Office receipt



Japan sees record high number of foreign residents: Justice Ministry

Japan sees record high number of foreign residents: Justice Ministry

by Shusuke Murai

The Japan Times

Staff Writer

  • Mar 11, 2016

The number of foreign residents in Japan reached an all-time high last year, the Justice Ministry reported Friday.

There were 2.23 million long-term and permanent foreign residents in Japan as of the end of last year, up 5.2 percent from 2.12 million people at the end of 2014, according to the ministry.

It was the highest number since the ministry began keeping data in 1959.

The largest group by nationality was Chinese, with 665,847 people, accounting for almost 30 percent of foreign residents in Japan, followed by 457,772 South Koreans and 229,595 Filipinos.

An immigration bureau official said the surge in foreign resident populations is linked to a government campaign to draw more foreign visitors, as well as signs of economic recovery.

“The number of foreign visitors in Japan increased dramatically last year . . . At the same time, we also have an increasing number of foreign residents” who intend to stay in the country for business or study, the official said.

The number of visitors from overseas reached a record 19.73 million people last year, according to the Japan National Tourism Organization.

Meanwhile, the number of residents who had overstayed their visas has also increased.

The ministry reported that there were 62,818 foreign nationals overstaying their visas as of Jan. 1, up 4.7 percent from the same date last year.

This marks the second year the figure has risen. Last year’s increase was the first in more than two decades, and the trend comes despite recent efforts by the ministry to crack down on overstayers.

Among overstayers, South Koreans were the biggest group with 13,412 people, followed by Chinese with 8,741, and Thais with 5,959. The largest increase was among Indonesian overstayers, with a 77.1 percent surge year on year. The country ranked seventh among overstayers overall, with 2,228 people.

The official said this resulted from a jump in visa waivers to Indonesian tourists in December 2014. In 2013, before visa requirements were eased, only 113 Indonesians overstayed their visas. The number increased slightly to 164 in 2014, but spiked almost tenfold in 2015 to 1,200 people.

By visa type, short-term visitors — mostly tourists — were the biggest group with 42,478 people. But a significant surge was seen among people arriving as interns for the government’s foreign trainee program: 5,904 such people were found to be overstayers, a rise of 26.2 percent from last year.

The official said the result reflects the recent trend of an uptick in the number of foreign trainees fleeing workplaces, which hit a record 5,803 in 2015.

The foreign trainee program has been often criticized for the harsh labor conditions of foreign interns, who are often forced to work overtime, and for extremely low wages.

The ministry also said 3,063 illegal immigrants have been served deportation orders as of Jan. 1, of which 1,406 people were applying for refugee status.

Source:  “Japan sees record high number of foreign residents:  Justice Ministry”, The Japan Times, 11 March 2016

Japan tsunami remembered five years on


Japan tsunami remembered five years on

  • 7 hours ago
  • From the section Asia

Japan is marking the fifth anniversary of the earthquake and tsunami that left more than 18,000 dead or missing.

PM Shinzo Abe and Emperor Akihito are attending a memorial in Tokyo, and joined a moment of silence nationwide at the exact moment the quake hit.

The magnitude-9.0 quake struck offshore, creating a vast water surge that devastated the north-east coast.

It also triggered the world’s worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl, at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant.

Water inundated the plant, taking cooling systems offline which set off a series of meltdowns.


A monk and relatives of some of those still missing, offer prayers on a boatImage copyright AP

Is Fukushima’s exclusion zone doing more harm than radiation?

Drone video of Japan’s new tsunami sea wall

Japan’s tsunami debris: Five remarkable stories

How kids prepare for an earthquake in Japan

The subsequent disaster spewed radiation over a wide area and forced the evacuation of more than 160,000 local people.

Five years on, most have not been able to return to their homes, despite extensive decontamination work.

People observe a moment's silence in Tokyo, JapanImage copyright Reuters
Image caption People in Tokyo stopped in the streets to observe the moment of silence
A woman throws a flower bunch at Fukanuma beach on March 11, 2016 in Sendai, JapanImage copyright Getty Images
Image caption People marked the anniversary in public gatherings and more personal acts
Buddhist monks pray for victims of the massive earthquake and tsunami disaster which hit northeastern Japan in 2011 in front of former municipal disaster prevention centre building in the town of Minamisanriku, Miyagi prefecture on March 11, 2016Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Buddhist monks gathered to pray in front of the former disaster prevention centre in Minamisanriku

The earthquake on 11 March 2011 was one of the most powerful ever recorded.

But it was the resulting tsunami that claimed the most lives, as a wall of seawater powered through coastal areas of Tohoku, flattening entire towns and villages.

At 14:46 Tokyo time (05:56 GMT), the exact moment the quake was detected, people across Japan bowed their heads as a mark of respect for the victims.

Bells rang, and in the capital the underground metro came to halt.

“Many of the people affected by the disaster are aging, and I worry that some of them may be suffering alone in places where our eyes and attention don’t reach,” Emperor Akihito said at the ceremony.

The day before the anniversary, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe reiterated his government’s commitment to nuclear power, saying Japan “cannot do without it” in the long term.

How far has tsunami area come in five years?

  • 180,000 people have not returned home, of which 100,000 are Fukushima evacuees.
  • As of 12 February 174,000 people were still living in temporary, rental or other housing as evacuees.
  • Nearly 800,000 tons of tainted water is stored in more than 1,000 tanks at the Fukushima plant. No firm plans have been made to dispose of the water.
  • The government-set time frame for intensive reconstruction will be over at the end of this month.

Source: Reconstruction agency

All of Japan’s nuclear power plants were ordered offline amid safety concerns following the Fukushima disaster, forcing it to rely on expensive imported fossil fuels for power.

Only a few have since been restarted, despite opposition from residents who say not enough has been done to ensure such a disaster can never happen again.

Earlier this week, two plants were ordered to shut down again because of safety fears.

Overall 470,000 people were evacuated from the area around Fukushima as the scale of the radiation threat became clear.

The government has spent billions of dollars on reconstruction work, but much remains to be done and many have never been able to return.

Takagi Tsuyoshi, Japan’s minister of reconstruction, promised the work would be completed.

For many survivors though, emotional difficulties are their main concern.

“Infrastructure is recovering, hearts are not. I thought time would take care of things,” said Eiki Kumagai, a volunteer fireman.

He was in Rikuzentakata, one of the worst hit areas, and lost 51 colleagues in the tsunami.

“I keep seeing the faces of those who died,” he told Reuters. “There’s so much regret, I can’t express it.”

Source:  “Japan tsunami remembered 5 years on”, BBC News, 11 March 2016

One in 29 babies in 2014 had at least one non-Japanese parent

One in 29 babies in 2014 had at least one non-Japanese parent

The Japan Times


  • Mar 5, 2016
  • Online: Mar 05, 2016
  • Print: Mar 06, 2016
  • Last Modified: Mar 06, 2016

One in 29 babies born in Japan in 2014 had at least one non-Japanese parent, a Kyodo News analysis of government data found, increasing the need to provide language support to such families at schools and medical facilities.

Of the 1.02 million babies born in Japan in that year, an estimated 35,000, or about 3.4 percent, had at least one parent who is not Japanese, according to population statistics compiled by the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry.

The proportion is close to the record high of 3.4 percent in 2008.

With the percentage trending higher over the long term — 1.7 percent in 1990 and 2.6 percent in 1995 — the proportion could rise even higher if more foreigners come to Japan as guest workers through deregulation.

The number of babies whose parents are both non-Japanese is estimated at about 15,000, compared with the nearly 20,000 who are believed to have been born to Japanese and non-Japanese couples, according to the ministry data.

A separate survey by the education ministry showed that children in public schools with Japanese citizenship who need special help to learn the Japanese language have been increasing.

These children tend to struggle with Japanese if they speak a different language at home, according to support groups for foreign nationals.

By nationality, Chinese nationals accounted for the largest number of both foreign-born fathers and mothers of babies born in 2014. Koreans accounted for the second-largest and Americans the third-largest number of foreign-born fathers, while for mothers, Filipinas constituted the second-largest group, followed by Koreans.

By prefecture, the greatest number of such babies — just over 5.9 percent — were born in Tokyo, followed by 4.9 percent in Aichi Prefecture and 4.8 percent in Gunma Prefecture.

Local governments in such prefectures as Shizuoka, Aichi and Mie have taken steps to ensure such children enroll in schools and are provided with special language training. But the issue is often overlooked in areas with smaller populations of foreign nationals, said Kosei Sakuma, professor emeritus at Tokyo Woman’s Christian University. Even Tokyo has room to improve, he said.

Source:  “One in 29 babies in 2014 had at least one foreign parent”, The Japan Times, 5 March 2016

Madonna has ‘basically accepted she’s not getting Rocco back’

Madonna has ‘basically accepted she’s not getting Rocco back’

Madonna is growing to realise that she cannot force her teenage son Rocco to live with her, friends say


Madonna with son Rocco

Madonna with son Rocco  Photo: Getty

Madonna has reluctantly accepted that she is losing the battle to force her 15-year-old son Rocco to remain with her, it has been reported – despite the singer doing everything in her power to bring the teenager back.

The 57-year-old divorced Rocco’s father, British film director Guy Ritchie, in 2009 and moved back to the United States.

Madonna and Mr Ritchie had adopted a child from Malawi, David Banda, together in 2006 and under the terms of their divorce – filed in New York – their two children would live with her in the US.

Mr Ritchie at the High Court in London on Thursday

But in December, while Madonna and her family were in Europe as part of her Rebel Heart world tour, Rocco decided to stay with his father and his new wife, Jacqui Ainsley, in London.


Madonna then went to court to try and bring him back, even seeking to use The Hague Convention on child abduction to force his return.

On Sunday the New York Post quoted friends as saying that she had resigned herself to losing her son.

“She’s basically accepted she’s not getting Rocco back,” said a friend. “But she’s holding out to get him back for one weekend per month.”

Madonna and Guy Ritchie have taken their custody battle to court   Photo: Getty

On stage in Auckland on Friday night she burst into tears as she said: “There is no love stronger than a mother for her son,” dedicating a performance of La Vie en Rose to him.

Rocco was seen the next day cycling through London with his father.

Earlier in the week both Madonna and Mr Ritchie held a video conference in New York with the judge hearing their custody battle – who reprimanded the pair for failing to reach an agreement, without dragging the matter through the courts in the full blaze of publicity.

A day later the case was heard in London, with Mr Ritchie fighting to try and have the case heard under UK law.

Mr Ritchie with son Rocco

The case will return to the New York courts later this month, with Madonna asked to present her list of demands. They are believed to include the condition that Mr Ritchie set aside time in the week when she and her other children – Lourdes, 19, and nine-year-old Mercy – can speak to Rocco. The Michigan-born singer wants confirmation of her right to have a say in her son’s education, and reassurance about her son’s whereabouts.

She wants an adult to be informed of Rocco’s whereabouts when he goes out to parties, The Mail on Sunday reported, and a stipulation that Mr Ritchie provides him with “young, hip” bodyguards who can discreetly guarantee his security.

Madonna is also determined that the case continue to be heard in New York – where parents retain greater controls over their children until they are 18 – rather than in the UK where more freedoms are granted to 16-year-olds.

Source:  “Madonna has ‘basically accepted she’s not getting Rocco back'”, The Telegraph, 6 March 2016

Remarks:  The full facts are not very clear and nor frankly should they be as this should be a private matter but, despite being someone who has no interest at all in celebrities, I must say that this can only be incredibly difficult for Rocco’s mother; despite all the resources available to her she finds herself having to give up.  Rocco, though, is now of an age at which, for better or worse, he can speak with his feet – regardless of what the courts have to say about it.  I hope that parents and son can, as I believe the judge suggested, come to an out of court arrangement as to the future.  RY.