No. of births in Japan to hit record low in 2017 Nationwide
The number of births in Japan this year has fallen to is lowest since records began more than a century ago with about 941,000 new babies, the health ministry said on Friday, proof if any were needed that it faces an ageing and shrinking population.
The number of births will be about 4 percent lower than last year and the lowest since the government started compiling data in 1899, the ministry said. “What’s behind this is a continuous decline in the number of women in the typical childbearing age bracket of 25 to 39,” a health ministry official said.
The number of deaths will likely rise by three percent from the previous year to 1.34 million, a post-World War Two high, resulting in the largest ever natural population decline of 403,000, the ministry said.
These figures do not include foreign nationals living in Japan, who account for some one percent of the population. Japan has a population of about 125 million, not including foreigners.
Governments have for years tried to encourage families to have more children but the population keeps shrinking, and aging. People aged 65 or older accounted for 27.2 percent of the total population, the highest ratio on record, according to data released in July, while those aged 14 or younger fell to a record low of 12.7 percent. Japan has long been reluctant to open up to immigration. Many Japanese pride themselves on what they see as their cultural and ethnic homogeneity, even as the population ages and the workforce shrinks. But recently, the government has been increasing its efforts to attract students and high-skilled workers from overseas.
Crack found in bullet train could have caused derailment: JR West – Nationwide
A 16-centimeter crack recently found in the undercarriage of a running bullet train could have been serious enough to cause a derailment, train operator West Japan Railway Co said Tuesday. “It was an extremely serious incident that has affected trust in the safety of shinkansen,” JR West Vice President Norihiko Yoshie said, referring to what the transport ministry’s accident investigation board has determined to be the first “serious incident” affecting the Japanese high-speed train system. “It could have caused a derailment,” he told a press conference.
A railway safety expert echoed the view, saying the steel frame holding the set of wheels, where the crack was found, was “close to breaking apart.” “If the train had continued running, there was a high possibility of a major accident,” he said. The crack was found in the undercarriage of the Nozomi No. 34 bound for Tokyo from Hakata, Fukuoka Prefecture, after the crew had noticed a burning smell and heard an abnormal motor sound on Dec 11. The bullet train was halted at Nagoya Station after having run more than three hours with the abnormal smell and noise. The crack at the bottom of the steel frame was 16 cm long and there were also 14-cm cracks on both sides of the frame, the company said.
The train was moved from Nagoya Station to a carriage base in Hakata for a probe after occupying one of the tracks for a week. The transport ministry’s Japan Transport Safety Board and Kawasaki Heavy Industries Ltd., which made the train’s undercarriage, are also investigating what caused the incident. Yoshie said the company had not expected an undercarriage to get a crack. He said all undercarriages will undergo checks by the end of January.
On Dec. 12, the safety board recognized the case as the first “serious incident” affecting the shinkansen system since 2001 when the board’s predecessor organization was established. A serious incident is defined as a situation deemed to bear the risk of causing an accident.
61-year-old teacher fired for kissing female student – Hiroshima
A 61-year-old male teacher, who is employed at a high school in Hiroshima Prefecture, has been dismissed following accusations that he repeatedly kissed and groped a female student.
The teacher was working at a prefectural high school in Seibu, Hiroshima. According to the prefectural Board of Education, the inappropriate sexual behavior occurred this year from late August to the end of October, Sankei Shimbun reported. During those two months, the teacher would get the girl alone and allegedly kissed her on the lips and groped her breasts more than 10 times.
The repeated incidents of sexual assault came to light after the student consulted with her homeroom teacher and said she was being “sexually harassed.” She was quoted as saying, “When he kissed and touched me, I was in total shock and couldn’t even move my body.”
Although the disgraced teacher had initially retired from the school two years ago, he was re-appointed to his faculty position. This year alone, 10 cases of disciplinary action were taken against school personnel in Hiroshima Prefecture, with five on account of obscenity or sexual harassment, the board said.