Universities plan to build android of Japanese literary great Soseki Natsume

RocketNews 24:

Soseki Natsume: writer, a man long dead. We can rebuild him. We have the technology. We can make him better than he was: better, stronger, faster…

With 2016 marking the 100th anniversary of his death and next year celebrating his 150th birthday, this is perhaps an appropriate time to honor one of Japan’s greatest writers, Soseki Natsume. And what better way to pay tribute to the author of classics such as Kokoro and I Am a Cat than by making a robot of him?

That’s exactly what the Nishogakusha University Graduate School is planning. In 1881, a young Natsume was enrolled there and heavily influenced by their teachings of Chinese poetry and Confucianism. And to celebrate the institution’s 140th anniversary they are hoping for his return, only this time as “Soseki Android.”

First, a team of students at Nishogakusha will conduct in-depth research into Natsume’s life, revisiting not only his extensive written works and life story but also gathering information about his physical appearance and size for an accurate android. To help out, major newspaper Asahi Shimbun has agreed to allow them access to their large collection of photos and works of their former employee Soseki Natsume.

▼ Old-timers in Japan may remember Natsume as the guy on the 1,000 yen bill 

Once the necessary information has been gathered, a team at the Osaka University Graduate School of Engineering Science will take on the challenge of building Soseki Android with the assistance of robotics company A-Lab, who made headlines with their Asuna android last year.

The sound of Soseki Android will be extracted from samples of his grandson Fusanosuke Natsume’s voice.

When the robot is complete, they hope to program him to give lectures at universities, high schools, and junior high schools. Understandably, a robotic Soseki Natsume might be a little too intense for elementary school kids.

The aim is to breathe life into his works by allowing the students to witness Soseki Natsume reading and discussing them first-hand. It is hoped this will inspire them to read and write more, improving their language skills.

Japanese tourist injured in Tunisian terrorist attack, also “attacked” by Japanese media in hospital

tunisian museum

RocketNews 24:

On March 18, three terrorists attacked and took hostage patrons at the Bardo National Museum in Tunisia, killing 21 people and injuring about 50 others. Among those injured was Noriko Yuki, a Japanese tourist visiting Tunisia with her mother.

Ms. Yuki sustained a gunshot wound in the attack and was taken to a nearby hospital for treatment. There, shortly after her surgery, she was immediately bombarded by Japanese media looking to interview her, with some members of the press apparently going so far as to tell the Japanese ambassador watching over her that he did not have the authority to stop us from interviewing her.”

Noriko Yuki (age 35), a major in the Japanese Self Defense Forces, was taken to the Charles Nicolle Hospital in the Tunisian capital shortly after the attacks on March 18. The very next day, reporters from Japan’s Asahi Shimbun arrived at the hospital and asked the doctors if Ms. Yuki was well enough to be interviewed. They were told she only had minor wounds remaining after the surgery and so permitted them to talk to her.

Security lead them all the way to Noriko’s room, but before they entered, the Japanese ambassador who had spent the past several days with Ms Yuki and knew that she was in no state to do an interview told them they could not enter. The reporters told him: “If you were Noriko herself or her family then you could stop us interviewing her, but you do not have the authority to stop us from interviewing her.”

But stop them he did. The reporters left a little while after, never getting that interview with the barely-conscious Noriko, who gave a statement a few days later on March 20. Here is the translation:

She goes into detail on her trip and the attack itself:

“I’m sorry for troubling everyone, and I want to apologize for causing any inconvenience. I also want to thank everyone too, since I’ve been unable to get any information about the terrorist attack or the aftermath. Even though I was caught up in it, I know almost nothing about it, and everyone has been so kind in informing me. Since I’m in no condition to appear in public, I’d like to express my gratitude through writing.

My mother and I left Japan on March 14, and we arrived in Italy on the 15. From there we took a cruise to Tunisia and joined a tour group. Our guide spoke English and French, so I didn’t understand a lot of what they were saying.

We arrived at the museum at 11:30, and when we were looking around on the 2nd floor, a member of our group said ‘there’s someone holding a gun outside the window.’ Our tour guide was very casual about it and said ‘that’s something that you see quite often in Tunisia.’ Shortly after, we heard gunfire and everyone, myself included, started running. I saw people bleeding and falling to the ground around me. I slammed into somebody, fell down, and then heard a gunshot and felt pain in my ear. When I looked back to the entrance to the room, there was a man holding a gun. I couldn’t see his face. I covered my head with my hands and stayed lying down. The guns kept going off for quite a while. I hurt all over and thought I was going to die, I couldn’t believe something like this was actually happening.

After a while the man left, and when I stood up there were about ten people on the ground around me. Some were unharmed, some weren’t moving.

I was bleeding from my left hand, left ear, and neck, but other than that I was fine. My mom was on the ground next to me. Blood was coming out of her neck; there was a pool of it underneath her head. When I called to her she said ‘my neck hurts’ and moved around a bit, so I was relieved that she was alive, but she couldn’t move by herself. I kept hearing gunfire and worried that the gunmen would come back. Making everything even worse was the thought that I was the one who had invited my mother to come on this trip, so it was my fault this happened to her.

Policemen then came to help us and I was so happy I cried. I asked them to help my mother, but they said that people who could walk would be taken first, so I was put in an ambulance and separated from her.

When I arrived at the hospital, the bag that had my passport was taken away, as well as my cellphone. After my examination and treatment, I was told I would need to be put to sleep for surgery, so I was again loaded into an ambulance and taken to another hospital. The whole time, inside and outside the hospital, lots of people were taking pictures and video of me which made me feel very uncomfortable.

At the new hospital I was given medicine for the pain, and shortly after a large group of people came into my room: the Tunisian Prime Minister, government officials, and others. I told them all to please find my mom. NHK and New York Times reporters also came in and asked me questions. I thought I had no choice, and I was out of it that honestly I have no memory of anything I told them.

The Japanese Ambassador also came, asking for my contacts in Japan to call. Since I didn’t have my cellphone and could only remember my parents’ landline number, we didn’t get through to anyone.

That evening I learned that my mom was in another hospital and had had surgery and was doing fine. I was relieved, but I was told I would need surgery too. They put me to sleep, and when I woke up it was over, but the pain was far worse than before, so I asked for some medication. But that just made me worry: my mom didn’t know any English. What would she do if she couldn’t communicate? What if she was in pain too?”

The interview:

“When I was brought back to my room, the Japanese Ambassador and local Japanese coordinator were there. Since I’d been crying all day my eyes were inflamed and I couldn’t open them, so I couldn’t see their faces. The ambassador called my mother for me, and I was relieved to hear her voice. The coordinator called Nippon Television and asked me to do an interview with them over the phone. I did as I was asked and answered the questions. At the end they asked me if they could show the interview on TV, and since I was embarrassed at the horrible state I was in I said no. They then told me that my my name, face, and interview with NHK had already been broadcast, so it didn’t really make a difference. That was the first time I’d heard anything about that, so I was shocked.

The next day I got my bag and passport back and was able to talk to family back home. My mother was moved to the same hospital as me and then into the same room as well.

After she was moved, I heard someone yelling at the Japanese Ambassador outside the room: ‘Let us do the interview. You do not have the authority to stop us from interviewing her.’ The ambassador told me: ‘Asahi Shimbun wants you to let them interview you, but you don’t have to do it. You’re in bad shape, and we don’t know how the interview will be used, so you can refuse if you’d like.’ Since I’d been doing all these interviews up to now thinking I had no choice, I was so happy I cried.

Yesterday I was asked to do an interview with Fuji Television. I thought about refusing again, but I wanted to tell everyone what happened, and how I feel. So instead of refusing I decided to give my statement through writing instead. My mother is getting surgery again, and then depending on how that goes we might be able to go back to Japan. Both of us are fine, but we’re in bad shape, and we want to go back home as soon as possible. We’re very thankful to everyone in Tunisia who helped us, and to the Japanese Ambassador and everyone else. Now we just ask that you please let us rest for a while. Thank you.”

Asahi Shimbun has since released a response, apologizing for demanding an interview:

The reporter should not have shouted at the ambassador. We have read Ms. Yuki’s statement, and we apologize to her.”

Noriko Yuki, her mother, and everyone else involved in this horrible incident has been through a terrible ordeal. After being through a terrorist attack, they shouldn’t have to worry about attacks from their home country’s media. Let’s hope that everyone who was hurt in this crime gets the treatment they need, all the while avoiding intrusive interviews from pushy reporters.

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Parents of Japanese woman abducted by North Korea meet their granddaughter for first time

 

Shigeru Yokota (L) looks on as his wife Sakie (R) answers questions during a press conference in Kawasaki, a suburb of Tokyo, on March 17, 2014.  The ageing parents of their daughter Megumi, who was kidnapped in 1977 by North Korean agents and taken to North Korea as a schoolgirl and allegedly died there, met with Megumi's daughter Kim Eun-Gyong for the first time and spent five days last week in the Mongolian capital Ulan Bator.

Shigeru Yokota (L) looks on as his wife Sakie (R) answers questions during a press conference in Kawasaki, a suburb of Tokyo, on March 17, 2014. The ageing parents of their daughter Megumi, who was kidnapped in 1977 by North Korean agents and taken to North Korea as a schoolgirl and allegedly died there, met with Megumi’s daughter Kim Eun-Gyong for the first time and spent five days last week in the Mongolian capital Ulan Bator.

TOKYO – The parents of a Japanese woman abducted by North Korea in 1977 were allowed to see their North Korean-born granddaughter for the first time last week at a secret meeting in Mongolia, Japan’s Foreign Ministry said Sunday.

The meeting in the Mongolian capital, Ulan Bator, between the parents of Megumi Yokota, who disappeared in Japan on her way home from school when she was 13, and her daughter, Kim Eun-gyong, now 26, according to Japanese news media, appeared to be a goodwill gesture by North Korea toward Japan.

Yokota, who died in 1994, according to North Korea, has been the subject of foreign and Japanese documentary films and also manga comics, making her perhaps the best-known of more than a dozen Japanese citizens known to have been kidnapped by North Korean agents in the 1970s and ’80s.

The ministry said her parents, Shigeru and Sakie Yokota, 81 and 78, met Kim for several days last week, though it provided few details. Yokota’s former husband, Kim Young-nam, a South Korean who was also kidnapped by the North, may have also been present, according to Japan’s Kyodo News Agency.

The Asahi Shimbun, a major Japanese newspaper, quoted unnamed government officials as saying that Kim’s young child – the Yokotas’ great-grandchild – was also present. The age and sex of the child were not provided.

Japanese news media said the meeting was agreed upon during informal talks between Japanese and North Korean officials this month in Shenyang, China. Those talks, on the sidelines of a meeting of the two nations’ Red Cross societies, were aimed at restarting an official dialogue between the two estranged nations, which was frozen after North Korea launched a large rocket over Japan in December 2012.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan has reached out to North Korea, sending a top aide to Pyongyang, the North’s capital, last year in an effort to resolve lingering questions over the fate of the abductees. A breakthrough on this issue could open the way for the resumption of talks toward normalizing relations. Those talks were disrupted a decade ago, when North Korea first admitted to Junichiro Koizumi, then Japan’s prime minister and Abe’s political mentor, that it had kidnapped 13 Japanese citizens.

 

AP Photo/Kyodo News, File

Kim Un Kyong, who’s Japanese mother Megumi Yokota was adducted by North Korea in 1977, is moved to tears while speaking about her Japanese grandparents, Shigeru and Sakie Yokota, during a press conference at a hotel in Pyongyang, North Korea. Japan’s Foreign Ministry confirmed Sunday, March 16, 2014, that Shigeru Yokota and his wife Sakie spent spent time with their Korean-born granddaughter Kim, for the first time over several days last week in Ulan Bator, Mongolia. Kim is 26 years old, Japanese media said.

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Parents of Japanese woman abducted by North Korea meet their granddaughter for first time

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Japan’s Nikkan Sports under fire after publishing hugely unflattering photos of Mao Asada

RocketNews 24:

maochan

Mao Asada, the figure-skating darling so adored in Japan that she’s more commonly known simply as “Mao-chan”, hasn’t had the best week ever. After a less-than-stellar performance at the women’s short event at Sochi 2014, which ended in tears for the young skater, thousands of people took to Twitter and Facebook to voice their support for her.

But a photo spread in a recent issue of Japan’s Nikkan Sports, an affiliate of the Asahi Shimbun, almost definitely won’t make Mao-chan feel especially good about herself, and many net users are decidedly unhappy about it.

The issue of Nikkan Sports in question carries a spread of photos of the 23-year-old skater mid-routine. The photos they chose, however, are far from flattering, and many Japanese have described the article as “awful” and “cruel”.

“Are they making fun of Mao-chan here!?”

“This is really insensitive.”

“These are awful. I mean, she’s such a cute girl!”

“Is this newspaper aimed at Koreans or something!?”

Published on February 18, the paper has been around for a few days now. We’re not quite sure why Nikkan Sports decided to run such unflattering images, especially since Mao-chan is at Sochi representing the country to which the paper belongs, but we have to admit we’re happy to see her fans rallying for her so.

▼ The Nikkan Sports article

maochan

Source: Matometa News

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Japan’s Nikkan Sports under fire after publishing hugely unflattering photos of Mao Asada