Snippets from today’s Japanese news

President Bush asked Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to explain the meaning of the financial term"triangular merger" during their summit talks at the Camp David presidential retreat on April 27…Abe expressed dismay over the question, telling Bush, "This is a measure which the United States strongly requested," according to sources. Read more.

As Japan continues to consider constitutional revision, 62 percent of Japanese surveyed said they think the current government interpretation of the Constitution barring Japan from exercising the right to collective self-defense should remain intact.  Those who favored changing the interpretation to make it possible for Japan to exercise the right dropped to 13.3 percent, while a total of 19.1 percent said the Constitution itself should be revised to enable Japan to exercise the right to collective self-defense.  Reflective of continued issues surrounding Yasukuni Shrine, 62.1 percent of respondents said they do not think it was appropriate for Abe to remain ambiguous over whether he gave an offering — a potted plant — to the war-related Tokyo shrine in late April, nearly double the 32.2 percent who said they thought it was appropriate.  Read more.

Aspiring to join the ranks of Japanese politicians with shady lineages, a granddaughter of General Hideki Tojo, the wartime prime minister who was hanged as a war criminal after World War II, has revealed her intention to run in the House of Councilors election in July. She pledged to work to realize the enshrinement of all of Japan's military war dead at Yasukuni Shrine.  Read more.

Congressman Michael Honda continues to represent a thorn in the side of the Japanese government. Read more.

As "the noodle bowl of free-trade agreements in Asia" becomes more tangled, Japan feels least comfortable with the process.  The country has not demonstrated the kind of initiative exhibited by China and Korea, with the recent U.S.-Korea FTA representing the latest threat to Japan.  Japan's refusal to expose its agricultural sector to international competition continues to remain a sticking point, with Japanese officials thinking that "no deal, even with America, would be incentive enough for the government to take on the farm lobby, particularly before upper-house elections in July."  Japan now applies tariffs of nearly 800% to all but a tiny amount of imported rice.  Read more.

The Japanese Foreign Ministry is considering using the best-selling manga "Barefoot Gen" to underline the importance of nuclear disarmament by distributing it and other similar manga and anime at international conferences.  Read more.

This one is just for fun: According to one paper, retailers all over Japan are scrambling to keep up with a new look known as "bon-kyu-bon." It means "big-small-big" and it signals a change int he way Japanese women look: they're getting curvier.  "The physical changes are largely the result of an increasingly Westernized diet, say nutritionists…an American-style menu of red meat, dairy and indulgences such as Krispy Kreme doughnuts and Cold Stone Creamery ice cream…has led to longer, stronger and fuller bodies….[since] the intake of extra fat tends to go to either breasts or hips in adolescent girls." Read more.

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