Category Archives: Japan

Google Earth In Hot Water With Japan’s Burakumin

Old maps showing where lower-caste communities in Japan were has put Google Earth in hot water with Japan. The maps had previously been on the Internet so Google Earth wasn’t expecting any flack for posting the old maps.
Now the company is having to deal with inquiries from the Justice Ministry and angry accusations of prejudice.

the maps were from a time when shoguns ruled and the caste system was a way of life. The lowest of the low were the “burakumin,” although they were ethnically like everyone else their jobs dealt with death. They lived in isolation for working with leather, butchering animals and digging graves. They were legally liberated in 1871 with the abolition of the feudal caste system;

While the caste system has been gone for a long time there are still 3 million descendants of burakumin. They face prejudice to this day because of where they live or where their ancestors lived. Employers routinely screen to check for buraku ancestry through Japan’s elaborate family records.

Boston.com reports:

“If we suspect that an applicant is a burakumin, we always do a background check to find out,” she said. She agreed to discuss the practice only on condition that neither she nor her company be identified.

Because of the stigma the maps could lower property values in neighbourhoods linked to the lower-caste system.

“If there is an incident because of these maps, and Google is just going to say ‘it’s not our fault’ or ‘it’s down to the user,’ then we have no choice but to conclude that Google’s system itself is a form of prejudice,” said Toru Matsuoka, a member of Japan’s upper house of parliament.

While printing maps in Japan is legal publishers and museums are careful not to anger the highly organized burakumin leadership. Public showings that pinpoint the areas almost always have a historical explanation. Google Earth failed to do this one step.


Study Suggests Lithium Added To Water Supply Will Lower Suicide

A Japanese study suggests that putting the drug lithium into water supplies could reduce suicide. The researchers have called on other countries to study the effects.

The study looked at the lithium levels in drinking water in Oita. The city have a population of more than one million people. In areas where the lithium was highest there was a positive marked difference in suicide deaths. High doses of lithium is used in the treatment of mood disorders.

The team of researchers from universities in Oita and Hiroshima found that even low levels of water with lithium had lower rates of suicide.

Researchers believe that the lower rates may have a cumulative protective effect on the brain after drinking the water for years.

There have been past research on the same subject in the 1980’s. Those results showed the same lower levels of suicide.

Researchers in Japan have asked other countries to research the issue. They have stopped short of suggesting that lithium be added to drinking water elsewhere.

BBC quotes Professor Allan Young of Vancouver’s Institute for Mental Health:

“Large-scale trials involving the addition of lithium to drinking water supplies may then be feasible, although this would undoubtedly be subject to considerable debate. Following up on these findings will not be straightforward or inexpensive, but the eventual benefits for community mental health may be considerable.”

Sophie Corlett, external relations director at mental health charity Mind, agrees that the study deserves more investigation but cautions that adding even trace amounts of the drug needs to be researched throughly because of side effects.


A FedEx plane has crashed in Tokyo

The plane crashed at the main Narita International Airport Monday morning local time. There is no word on survivors. High winds are a factor.
There has yet to be word on any fatalities. The cargo plane bounced twice before bursting into flames.

News reports say that high winds may have been a factor in the crash. It was a MD 11 plane.

One person believed to be a pilot has been taken from the plane. Two people were on plane have been confirmed on the plane, a pilot and a co-pilot. It is not clear if anyone else was on board. The flight originated in China.

The runaway at the airport has been closed.

Information coming live from CNN television.