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Japan

Hidden in green hills east of South Korea's capital is the House of Sharing, a nursing home for elderly women.

It's a bright, spacious place. But its residents are survivors of a dark chapter of history.

"It was 1942 and I was only 15, running an errand for my parents [in our Korean hometown of Busan], when two Japanese men in uniform grabbed me by the arms and dragged me away," recalls Lee Ok-seon, now age 90. "That's how I became enslaved."

She was sent to work in a brothel in a Japanese-occupied area of northeast China.

Courtesy of Lynette Hoy

Author Lori Tsugawa Whaley grew up in a rural, mostly white community disconnected from her Japanese heritage. She didn’t even realize there was something different about her until she faced teasing and prejudice in grade school. 

For the first time in Japanese history three women of different political persuasions are in positions that could be stepping stones to the prime minister's office.

It's especially notable in Japan, where women's labor force participation remains among the lowest among developed nations, and gender roles are traditionally-defined.

"Women have not really been coached or mentored or encouraged to take on leadership roles," Kyoto University diplomacy professor Nancy Snow explains. "Also, women aren't allowed [culturally] to often show ambition, to sort of telegraph that."

Updated at 6:50 p.m. ET

President Obama and Japanese Minister Shinzo Abe made a historic appearance at Pearl Harbor, 75 years after the surprise attack that prompted U.S. entry into World War II, praising the reconciliation and partnership between their respective nations.

In a somber ceremony Tuesday, the two leaders touted the U.S.-Japan alliance that arose in the aftermath of the bitter conflict and became a "cornerstone of peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region," Obama said.

A cable that's as long as six football fields has been launched into orbit — and when it's deployed, it'll test an idea to knock out orbital debris. Japan's space agency sent the electrodynamic tether into space along with supplies for the International Space Station.

Japan has the dubious title of the oldest society in the world, with one in four of its citizens past the age of 65. And while the image of the elderly is typically of sweet grandparents, in Japan, senior citizens are committing petty crimes like shoplifting in bigger numbers than teenagers.

Inside the office of a private security firm in Tokyo are video monitors that take up the entire wall, bisected into 16 boxes showing various camera angles on a nearby business.

Japanese peacekeepers authorized to use force landed in South Sudan on Monday. It's the first time Japanese troops have had such a mandate in almost 70 years, following legislation last year that circumvented the country's post-World War II pacifist constitution.

The 130 Ground Self-Defense Force troops that arrived in Juba, South Sudan's capital, are part of a 350-member team that will take over from a current group of Japanese peacekeepers next month, according to state broadcaster NHK.

Robin Everett, a Sierra Club organizer, says that Trump sees that workers and the environment are not being protected through these trade deals.
KUOW Photo/David Hyde

Last month in Everett, Donald Trump called the Trans-Pacific Partnership a “disaster.”

Hillary Clinton opposes it, too. So what does the rise in anti-trade politics mean for Washington – the most trade-dependent state?

Shiyogi Kawabata, 88, worked on a wooden chain (below) while interned at Minidoka, a Japanese internment camp in Idaho.
KUOW Photo/Marcie Sillman

At 88, Shiyoji Kawabata remembers the harsh conditions he and his family endured in the Minidoka Relocation Center during World War II.

Ticks. Coyotes. Scorpions. Black widow spiders.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee and Japanese Ambassador to the U.S. Kenichiro Sasae signed a Memorandum of Cooperation Tuesday to strengthen trade between the Evergreen State and Japan.

As the U.S. Army Air Corps prepared to unleash the world's first attack by an atomic bomb on Hiroshima on Aug. 6, 1945, Japanese schoolgirl Kikue Takagi, age 12, woke up feeling sick and stayed home that day.

Her classmates were sent to Hiroshima's city center to clean up debris, doing their part in the war effort as Japan struggled to hold off the rapidly approaching U.S. military. Those students were near ground zero when the American bomb obliterated the city.

At home on the outskirts of Hiroshima, Takagi was spared.

Renewed controversy over heavy American military presence on the Japanese island of Okinawa swirled as President Obama arrived in Japan for the G7 summit. Just a week earlier, a former U.S. Marine allegedly raped and killed a local Okinawa woman, triggering protests on the island.

President Obama will visit Hiroshima later this month, while he's in Japan for the G-7 summit, the White House has confirmed.

The trip will mark the first visit by a U.S. president to the site since American forces dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the end of World War II.

Just more than 24 hours after powerful earthquakes struck a large island in southwest Japan, an even stronger quake has hit the same area.

The Associated Press quotes a Japanese official as saying 19 people were killed, bringing the total for the two big quakes to 29.

The company behind a proposed liquefied natural gas export terminal on Oregon’s southern coast has been busy lining up customers in Asia.

On Friday, the Canadian firm Veresen announced a preliminary purchase agreement with the Japanese trading company ITOCHU. Two weeks earlier, Veresen said it had a similar agreement in place with another Japanese firm, JERA.

Both deals are for 1.5 million tons of liquefied natural gas per year for 20 years. If finalized, they vouch for half the expected production capacity of the proposed LNG terminal in Coos Bay, Oregon.

Five years after an earthquake and tsunami damaged the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant, Japanese authorities say a long-planned "ice wall" around the leaking facility can be turned on.

The underground refrigeration system that should create the frozen barrier was completed last month — more than a year behind schedule, The Associated Press reports.

For Natsumi Miyakawa, a young resident of Japan's Tohoku region, March 11, 2011, should have been a day to celebrate. It was her junior high school graduation day.

Instead, there was chaos and sadness. "Everything was scary," she recalls.

Five years after an earthquake and tsunami caused a series of meltdowns at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant in Japan, there are signs of progress. Many workers cleaning up the ruined plant no longer need to suit up in full respirators. Some nearby villages that were evacuated are open to residents.

But there are still plenty of problems.

Courtesy of Letibee

When 24-year-old Koki Hayashi first came out to his mom, he was a junior in college.

"I just kind of said it quickly, 'Hey, I’m gay,'" he recalls.

“Stop it. That’s disgusting,” she said, according to Hayashi. That really hurt.

Japan — unlike the US — doesn't have a Puritan history that says homosexuality is some kind of cardinal sin. And for years it wasn't uncommon to see a cross-dresser on TV giving fashion advice or a Japanese cartoon with gay characters.

In a much-anticipated speech, Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe expressed his "profound grief" and "sincere condolences" for his country's role in World War II.

But the leader stopped short of renewing apologies extended by his predecessors, and he said he doesn't want future generations to be "predestined to apologize" for the war.

The name Hiroshima is so tied to the atomic bomb that it's hard to imagine there were other possible targets.

But in early 1945, the U.S. was still months away from building its first bomb and certainly didn't know what to hit.

"Should it be a city? Should it be a military installation? Should you be just displaying the bomb, without killing anybody?" These are questions that were yet to be decided, says Alex Wellerstein, a historian at the Stevens Institute of Technology.

Seven Pacific Northwest veterans of World War II leave for Tokyo Thursday. They're carrying 70 captured Japanese flags to return for the 70th anniversary of the end of the war.

A piece of a commercial fishing boat that was ripped from Japan's coast by the March 11, 2011 tsunami has turned up on near Oregon four years later, carrying a small diaspora of live yellowtail jack fish, native to east Asian waters, according to state park officials.

Japan Bans Possession Of Child Pornography

Jun 18, 2014

Japan has banned the possession of child pornography, with some notable exceptions: manga, animation and computer graphics.

Parliament's upper house approved the measure Wednesday; the lower house passed the bill last month.

After 180 years, it is not too late to say thank you. That is what a Japanese delegation did last week as it retraced the history-making path of three  castaways to the Makah Indian Reservation on the Washington coast.

AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko

Marcie Sillman talks with Seattle Times science reporter Sandi Doughton about Japan's efforts to rebuild after the devastating earthquake and tsunami on March 11, 2011.

EarthFix Photo/Ashley Ahearn

Following the 2011 tsunami in Japan, a nuclear reactor released hundreds of millions of gallons of radioactive water into the ocean. That sparked fear that contaminated water would reach the West Coast, but three years later, scientists say that radiation in our waters isn’t necessarily linked to the nuclear reactor. 

Bellevue SWAT, Japanese Farm Food, And Greendays Gardening

Apr 23, 2013
Flickr Photo/Steve Wilson

Bellevue’s SWAT Team Comes To A Seattle Neighborhood
Columbia City residents heard Monday night from Seattle and Bellevue officials about a shooting involving Bellevue police that happened in Seattle late last month. According to KUOW’s Patricia Murphy, the Seattle Police Department is investigating the incident.

Japanese Farm Food
Nancy Singleton Hachisu moved from California to Japan intending to stay a year. Instead she fell in love with the culture, the food and a local farmer. Now — many years and three kids later — she lives on an organic farm in an 80-year-old traditional Japanese farmhouse. She writes about life, love and food in her cookbook "Japanese Farm Food."

Greendays Gardening Panel
Gardening is not just growing vegetables, pruning ornamentals or planting natives. Modern organic gardeners are trying to incorporate practices and aestheticism that works in any kind of garden. Our gardening panel is just the group to bring the ideas together this week and every week on KUOW. They answer your gardening questions live at 10:40 a.m. Call 206.543.5869 or email weekday@kuow.org.

In Seattle, NTSB investigators and Boeing engineers examine the type of lithium ion battery used on the Boeing 787 to start the auxillary power unit and to provide backup power for flight critical systems.
courtesy National Transportation Safety Board

The hunt for a solution to the 787’s battery woes continues. Investigators are crisscrossing oceans looking for a cause to the battery overheating problems that have grounded the Dreamliner since January 16. Teams of investigators are fanning out and crossing paths.

Japan Broadcasting Corporation

Major global news services are reporting that two Japanese airlines have grounded all of their Boeing 787 jets. All Nippon Airways and Japan Airlines made the announcements following an emergency landing Wednesday morning in Japan.

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