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What’s Happening Now in Fukuoka & Japan October 2021

11/01/2021

Scholars urge Japan to restart issuing visas to foreign students – Nationwide

Over 650 academics and students from universities in the United States, Japan, Britain and other countries have called on the Japanese government to resume issuing student and researcher visas, a process currently suspended amid the coronavirus pandemic. A group of academics, professionals and students led by Paul Hastings, executive director of the Japan ICU Foundation, submitted a petition to Kanji Yamanouchi, Japanese consul general in New York, warning the ban on new visas “has eroded the global relationships and reputations of Japan’s educational institutions.”

“While Japan has started sending its students and researchers abroad, the country does not receive students and researchers. The lack of reciprocity damages carefully cultivated partnerships” between Japanese universities and schools in other countries, the petition said.

Those who signed the appeal included professors and students from renowned academic institutions such as Harvard University, Princeton University and Columbia University in the United States, the International Christian University, Keio University and Kyoto University in Japan, and Cardiff University in Britain.

Hastings pointed out in an online press conference Thursday that Japan is the only country among the Group of Seven industrialized nations that currently is not issuing visas for foreign students, putting exchange programs in danger.

In January, Japan stopped handing out visas to foreign students, except for those awarded government scholarships, under its strict border control policy imposed to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Only around 7,000 new foreign students entered Japan in the first six months of 2021, down 88.5 percent from the same period in 2019 before the outbreak of the pandemic, according to the Immigration Services Agency of Japan.

“The dwindling number of foreign students reverses progress made in the internationalization of Japanese universities,” the petition said. “Many students cancelled plans, opting instead to study in countries open to international students,” providing fewer opportunities for Japanese students to learn from their international peers, it added. The group also said, “The entrance ban may result in an overall decrease in interest in Japan within the field of higher education.”

As Japan has been seeing a gradual decrease in the number of COVID-19 infections recently, travel restrictions may be eased soon. Tokyo and Osaka Prefecture are set to resume allowing eateries to operate until late in the evening and removing an alcohol-service ban from next week for the first time in 11 months.

Power outage at Universal Studios Japan strands 35 roller coaster riders – Osaka Prefecture

A total of 35 people were left stranded on a roller coaster at Universal Studios Japan in Osaka after a power outage caused the ride to stop, according to the park’s operator. It took around an hour and a half for staff to rescue those stuck on the “Hollywood Dream – The Ride: Backdrop” rollercoaster, which had stopped near the highest point on its tracks, the park said, adding none of the riders was injured.

The attraction, which has a capacity of 36 riders, is known for its sharp drop from a height of around 43 meters. On “The Flying Dinosaur,” another roller coaster with a high drop, riders were temporarily left dangling in mid-air while facing downward, a visitor at the park said. A number of other attractions also stopped due to the power outage, but all rides were restarted by around 3 p.m., the park said.

According to Kansai Transmission and Distribution Inc., the outage occurred at 12:45 p.m. and affected about 3,200 households, primarily in the Konohana Ward, where USJ is located. The power was fully restored at 1:06 p.m. The cause of the outage is still being investigated. As part of measures against the coronavirus, USJ currently only admits a maximum of 10,000 people per day.

Mount Aso volcano erupts – Kumamoto Prefecture

Mount Aso in Kumamoto Prefecture erupted, spewing a giant column of ash thousands of meters into the sky as hikers rushed away from the popular tourist spot. No injuries were immediately reported after the late-morning eruption of the volcano in southwest Japan, which sent rocks flying in a dramatic blast captured by nearby CCTV cameras.

Authorities warned people not to approach the volcano as it ejected hot gas and ash as high as 3,500 meters, and sent stones tumbling down its grassy slopes. For those near the mountain, “caution must be exercised for large flying rocks and flows of pyroclastic materials”, Japan Meteorological Agency official Tomoaki Ozaki told a televised press conference.


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