Kawazu cherry blossoms, known for their early flowering, are in full bloom at a park in Matsuda in Kanagawa Prefecture, eastern Japan, on Feb. 20, 2024. (Kyodo) ==Kyodo

The following is the latest list of selected news summaries by Kyodo News.


Japan's Diet ethics panel on funds scandal set to be held next week

TOKYO - A parliamentary committee set up to investigate a political funds scandal that has rocked Japan's ruling Liberal Democratic Party will convene next week, lawmakers said Wednesday, as the LDP looked to make concessions on who will attend in a bid to secure passage of next fiscal year's budget.

The LDP informed opposition parties that three additional senior members of its largest faction will attend the political ethics council hearing in the House of Representatives, a day after saying just two members would attend.


Japan eyes 20-yr background check for working in jobs involving kids

TOKYO - The Japanese government eyes allowing employers to conduct criminal background checks going back 20 years under a new system to block people with sex offense convictions from jobs involving children, sources close to the matter said Wednesday.

Japanese criminal law states a sentence ceases to have effect 10 years after a person serves out a prison term to facilitate rehabilitation and ensure occupational freedom, but the government deemed a longer disclosure period is needed in light of the high rates of recidivism among sex offenders over 20-year periods.


Japan minister urges TEPCO for steps to avoid nuclear leak recurrence

TOKYO - The industry minister on Wednesday urged Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc. to ensure radioactive water leaks do not reoccur following an incident earlier this month at its disaster-stricken Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.

Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Ken Saito told TEPCO President Tomoaki Kobayakawa that he wanted "management to take active steps to prevent a recurrence and ensure safety," after around 1.5 tons of water leaked from the complex, which suffered reactor fuel meltdowns in the wake of the 2011 earthquake and tsunami disaster.


Foreign visitors to Japan in Jan. returns to pre-pandemic level

TOKYO - The number of foreign visitors to Japan soared 79.5 percent in January from a year earlier to about 2.69 million, reaching the level seen in the same month in 2019 before the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, government data showed Wednesday.

The number of overseas visitors has been growing after Japan lifted border control measures related to COVID-19 in late April. A weak yen has also been fueling the return of inbound tourists.


Japan cuts economic view in Feb. on weaker consumption, production

TOKYO - The government on Wednesday lowered its view of the Japanese economy in February, the first downgrade in three months, as it turned more cautious about the strength of private consumption and production.

With the recent revelation that Japan slipped into recession late last year, the government cut its assessment of private consumption for the first time in two years. It reflects a diminished contribution from COVID-related pent-up demand for services, which had previously supported the economy despite the rising cost of living.


Japan protests S. Korea's deposit payment to wartime-labor victim

TOKYO - Japan on Wednesday lodged a protest with South Korea over the payment via deposit of money by a Japanese corporate defendant to a South Korean plaintiff following a Seoul court ruling that ordered the firm to compensate them for wartime labor.

Masataka Okano, the Japanese Foreign Ministry's top bureaucrat, summoned South Korean Ambassador Yun Duk Min to protest the move regarding the South Korean Supreme Court's decision involving Japanese shipbuilder Hitachi Zosen Corp., according to the ministry. The ruling was finalized in December.


Japanese suspect in investment fraud detained in Indonesia

JAKARTA - A Japanese man has been detained in Indonesia for allegedly committing investment fraud in Japan, the Southeast Asia country's immigration bureau said Wednesday.

Yusuke Yamazaki, former president of a farm company in Japan's western Okayama Prefecture, had been wanted since 2021. He left Japan in February 2020 to go to Hong Kong.


Australian writer not to appeal death sentence in China, family says

SYDNEY - Chinese-Australian writer Yang Hengjun will not appeal a suspended death sentence handed down in China earlier this month because the process would delay the possibility of receiving supervised medical care, his family and friends said in a statement on Wednesday.

The Australian citizen known for his pro-democracy blogs and spy novels was found guilty of espionage by a Beijing court on Feb. 5 and was given capital punishment that can be commuted to life imprisonment after two years with good behavior.

Video: Cherry blossoms in full bloom in Kanagawa Prefecture