NILS Fukuoka Times

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What’s Happening Now in Fukuoka & Japan in December 2018


More foreigners see typical country life in Japan through farm stays – Nationwide

An increasing number of foreign visitors are taking part in farm-stay programs in Japan to get a taste of typical country life in areas without any particular sightseeing spots. The popularity of stays in traditional farming villages, which has helped attract some overseas travellers away from big cities such as Tokyo, is expected to help revitalize local communities amid the growing overall number of visitors to Japan.

The annual number of foreign travellers to Japan has already reached the 30 million milestone for the first time in 2018 and the country aims to welcome 40 million foreign visitors by 2020.

In late October, when tree leaves began to take on autumnal colours, two workers for Chinese travel magazines were having fun harvesting vegetables such as carrots and green peppers at a farm in the Takeshi district of Ueda, Nagano Prefecture. At night, they enjoyed eating tempura made from the vegetables they had picked earlier in the day, and sat up late playing hanafuda card games and enjoying other Japanese traditional pastimes at the farmhouse. Tranquil mountainous farming communities like the Takeshi district, about 150 kilometers northwest of central Tokyo, or about a three-hour drive, can be found across the country.

The company has accepted Japanese students on school trips at contracted farmhouses in the area since 2002 and foreign tourists since 2005. The number of overseas guests has been on the rise, hitting 2,322 and accounting for about 40 percent of total visitors in 2016. Charging 8,000 yen per person per night with dinner and breakfast included, overseas travelers from 20 countries and territories such as China, Taiwan and Australia have joined the company’s programs.

According to a survey on farm stays in Japan by Mitsubishi UFJ Research and Consulting Co. conducted in December last year, 66.2 percent of 71 program operators that responded to a question about foreign visitors said their number is “on the upward trend.” By contrast, 43.3 percent of 104 respondents to a question about Japanese participants said their number “remains flat.” Municipalities in other prefectures are also attracting many foreign tourists with their farm-stay programs.

Japan officially announces IWC withdrawal; will resume commercial whaling – Nationwide

Japan is withdrawing from the International Whaling Commission and will resume commercial whaling next year, a government spokesman said Wednesday, in a move expected to spark international criticism. The announcement had been widely expected and comes after Japan failed in a bid earlier this year to convince the IWC to allow it to resume commercial whaling.

Tokyo has repeatedly threatened to pull out of the body, and has been regularly criticised for catching hundreds of whales a year for “scientific research” despite being a signatory to a moratorium on hunting the animals.

Leaving the IWC means Japanese whalers will be able to resume hunting in Japanese coastal waters of minke and other whales currently protected by the IWC. But Japan will not be able to continue the so-called scientific research hunts in the Antarctic that it has been exceptionally allowed as an IWC member under the Antarctic Treaty. The withdrawal means Japan joins Iceland and Norway in openly defying the IWC’s ban on commercial whale hunting.

Japan has hunted whales for centuries, and their meat was a key source of protein in the immediate post-World War II years when the country was desperately poor. But consumption has declined significantly in recent decades, with much of the population saying they rarely or never eat whale meat. Whale hunting has become a rare thorny subject in Japan’s otherwise largely amiable foreign policy, with international opposition only serving to make conservatives dig in deeper in support of the tradition.

Japanese students’ eyesight the worst in recent years; smartphones and mobile games are blamed – Nationwide

Japan has a ton of quality mobile games that can entertain players for hours on end, but spending too much time staring at a bright little screen can be rather detrimental to vision. Visual acuity data gathered from physical examinations conducted between April and June this year on all elementary, junior high, and high school students have shed light on startling trends among the Japanese youths of today.

Specifically, the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology has revealed that a record high of 25.3 percent of the 3.4 million students failed to meet the 1.0 mark in vision tests. The ministry said 34.1 percent of elementary students and up to a whopping 67.09 percent of high school students did not have 1.0 vision, the highest ever in history. Although junior high school students did not break any records this year, they still came pretty close at 56.04 percent (compared to last year’s 56.33 percent).

Japanese netizen reactions were mixed, as some found it dubious that smartphones have such profound effects on children’s vision. Smartphones have changed our lives for the better, but it may be prudent to take regular breaks to allow eyes to rest, as maintaining a healthy vision is one of the best things we can do for our bodies. And if you are worried about your visual acuity, perhaps this mysterious optical illusion that only works for poor eyesight may help confirm your suspicions.


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