Sales of Kumamon mascot products hit record Y128 bil after quake
Japan Today -- Feb 16
Products bearing the image of "Kumamon," the black bear mascot of quake-hit Kumamoto Prefecture, racked up sales of at least 128 billion yen ($1.1 billion) in 2016, the prefectural government said Wednesday.

The official mascot has been used to support reconstruction efforts in the southwestern prefecture following major earthquakes last April, encouraging consumers nationwide to buy agricultural goods and other products from Kumamoto, it said.

The figure was up around 30% from a year earlier when sales exceeded 100 billion for the first time, a record-high for Kumamon-related products.

"Kumamon is driving reconstruction. We will proceed together to achieve recovery," Kumamoto Gov Ikuo Kabashima told a press conference.

Japanese businesses can produce and sell products featuring the much-loved black bear mascot free of charge upon receiving approval from the prefectural government.

News source: Japan Today
Feb 28
The Japanese government is planning to reduce penalties for those who plot serious crimes like terrorism but turn themselves in before actually committing them under a contentious anti-conspiracy bill it is preparing, sources close to the matter said Monday. (Kyodo)
Feb 28
Car-bicycle collisions accounted for about 40 pct of fatal traffic accidents in Japan last year in which passenger cars bumped into other vehicles as they encountered at intersections or other parts of the road, a National Police Agency survey has revealed. (Jiji)
Feb 27
Some Japanese banks have recently launched services allowing customers to pay for their shopping abroad using debit or prepaid cards linked to foreign currency deposits. (the-japan-news.com)
Feb 27
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Monday sought to deny allegations that he is linked to an Osaka-based ultranationalist kindergarten as the public outcry over the operator and its alleged efforts to indoctrinate children with xenophobia and pre-war militarism grows. (Japan Times)
Feb 27
The Cabinet is set to approve a bill next month to impose longer prison terms on rapists, and cover male rape victims for the first time, government sources said Monday. (Japan Times)
Feb 27
Hideki Matsuyama moved up a place to fourth in the world golf rankings released Sunday, matching the highest-ever position by a Japanese male player. (Japan Times)
Feb 27
A Tokyo zoo's hopes for a new baby panda grew Monday as it confirmed that its pair of giant pandas had mated for the first time in four years. (Japan Times)
Feb 27
The Lower House on Monday approved a record ¥97.45 trillion budget for fiscal 2017 designed to finance ballooning social security costs and enhance Japan's defense capabilities. (Japan Times)
Feb 27
Manhole covers are trending high in Japan and for good reason -- they're stunning! Only in Japan are manholes to cover sewage designed so beautifully that they now make MANHOLE TRADING CARDS! (ONLY in JAPAN)
Feb 27
A fire broke out in a restaurant at the luxury hotel Grand Hyatt Tokyo at Roppongi Hills on Sunday night. (Japan Today)