Small firms’ business confidence logs worst level on record

BUSINESS Business sentiment among small and midsize companies has deteriorated to the worst level on record, with falls in exports of automobiles and home appliances hitting subcontractors, according to recent surveys by two government-affiliated financial institutions. [KYODO]

Japan to pull military from Iraq by year’s end

INTERNATIONAL Japan will pull its Air Self-Defense Force out of Iraq, part of an effort to withdraw its 210 military personnel from the country by the end of 2008, Prime Minister Taro Aso said Friday. [CNN]

All 9 Japanese trapped in Mumbai hotels freed

INTERNATIONAL All nine Japanese nationals known by the Japanese Foreign Ministry to have been trapped in two hotels in Mumbai following a series of attacks have managed to escape, a senior ministry official said Friday evening. [KYODO]

Japan stocks post best weekly rally in a month; Panasonic drop

STOCKS Japan stocks rose, capping their best weekly gain in a month, on expectations governments will take more steps to pull the global economy out of recession. [BLOOMBERG]

Sapporo dropped by British brewery

BUSINESS The British beer maker Diageo plc said Wednesday that it will end its sales and distribution contract with Sapporo Breweries Ltd. in May next year. [ASAHI]

Dreaming of a Pink Christmas

MUSIC Kaori Asada, better known as J-pop singer Bonnie Pink, loves Christmas, and her present to fans this year is a minialbum titled “Chain,” a sweet, fruity concoction that includes playful covers of yuletide classics, such as “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus.” Maybe it’s mushy, but hey — it’s Christmas. [THE JAPAN TIMES]

Top court notifying lay judge candidates

NATIONAL Over the next few days, some 295,000 Japanese can expect to find a large envelope from the Supreme Court in their mailboxes with the following notice: “This is to inform you that, as a result of a lottery, you are listed as a prospective lay judge of the court.“ [THE JAPAN TIMES]

331 students had their job offers annulled

NATIONAL At least 331 students graduating next March had their job offers canceled, while an estimated 30,000 nonpermanent employees have lost or will lose their jobs during the six months through March, the labor ministry said Friday. [ASAHI]

Report: Confusion delayed Akihabara aid

KANTO Conflicting radio information and disorder at the scene of the street rampage in Tokyo’s Akihabara district in June confused ambulance crews, resulting in the delayed transfer of victims to hospitals, according to a Tokyo metropolitan government panel report. [YOMIURI]

Prime Minister Taro Aso.

Photo: (c) Kantei

Aso flubs again with remarks on elderly’s health

POLITICS Prime Minister Taro Aso was in hot water again Thursday after he criticized people who neglect their health as well as the elderly infirm for causing medical costs to soar. [ASAHI]

Nokia to withdraw from Japanese market

BUSINESS The world’s leading mobile phone maker Nokia said on Thursday it would stop selling and marketing its mobile devices in Japan because its market share there remained below expectations. [AFP]

Fewer travelers putting Japan on itinerary

TRAVEL Overseas visitors to Japan declined year on year for the third straight month in October, falling 5.9 percent to 739,100, according to an estimate Tuesday by the Japan National Tourist Organization. [THE JAPAN TIMES]

Survey finds 87% of private video parlors violate law

NATIONAL A government survey found 87 percent of private-video-watching facilities do not have fire-suppression systems or other equipment required by the Fire Service Law, it was learned Tuesday. [YOMIURI]

Tourism minister apologizes for gaffes

POLITICS New tourism minister Nariaki Nakayama wasted no time putting his foot in it. The day after stating that Japanese do not like foreigners and that the country is ethnically homogeneous, Nakayama apologized Friday and retracted his statements. [THE JAPAN TIMES]

Tokyo stocks plunge after Fukuda’s resignation announcement

STOCKS Tokyo stocks gave up early modest gains to close sharply lower Tuesday due to falls in key Asian equities and anxiety about Japan’s political landscape following Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda’s abrupt announcement Monday that he will resign. [KYODO]

Photo: (c) Kantei

Fukuda resigns as Prime Minister, Aso expected to succeed

POLITICS Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda announced on Monday evening his resignation from the post at an emergency press briefing in the Prime Minister’s official residence, the Kantei.

(c) Studio Ghibli 2008

‘Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea’ brings in 15 billion yen during opening weekend

MOVIES/TV Legendary anime director Hayao Miyazaki’s latest movie, “Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea” sold an estimated 1.5 billion yen ($13.9 million) worth of tickets during its three-days opening weekend in Japan last week.

963 apply to become JAXA astronauts

NATIONAL A total of 963 people applied to the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) to become astronauts, after the agency began accepting applications for the first time in 10 years, officials said. [MAINICHI]

Rice says U.S. won’t forget Japanese abductees

POLITICS The United States will continue to press for the release of Japanese citizens abducted decades ago by North Korea as it seeks the resumption of disarmament talks with Pyongyang, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said on Monday. [REUTERS]

Flood of ‘Akihabara-style’ murder threats posted on Internet

NATIONAL Over a dozen threats of murder and other crimes were posted on the Internet following the random street killings in Tokyo’s Akihabara earlier this month, police said. [MAINICHI]

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