Japan, Checking on Its Oldest, Finds Many Gone
( New York Times )

Japan has long boasted of having many of the world’s oldest people ― testament, many here say, to a society with a superior diet and a
commitment to its elderly that is unrivaled in the West.

That was before the police found the body of a man thought to be one of Japan’s oldest, at 111 years, mummified in his bed, dead for more than three decades. His daughter, now 81, hid his death to continue collecting his monthly pension payments, the police said.

Alarmed, local governments began sending teams to check on other elderly residents. What they found so far has been anything but encouraging.

For the moment, there are no clear answers about what happened to most of the missing centenarians. Is the country witnessing the results of pension fraud on a large scale, or, as most officials maintain, was most of the problem a result of sloppy record keeping? Or was the whole sordid affair, as the gloomiest commentators here are saying, a reflection of
disintegrating family ties, as an indifferent younger generation lets its elders drift away into obscurity?

【 まずは準備運動 】

・mummify ミイラにする(名詞:mummy)
・witness 目撃する、証言をする
・gloomy (薄)暗い、憂うつな

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Sumo’s Ties to Japan Underworld Go Beyond Limits
( New York Times )

Japan’s ancient sport of sumo had already fallen on hard times from damaging
scandals and declining popularity. Now, an even more sinister problem has been added to its list of woes: ties to the criminal underworld.

On Sunday, the Japan Sumo Association, the sport’s governing body, announced the firing of a top wrestler and a stable master ― a powerful coach who controls a cluster of wrestlers ― for betting on professional baseball games in a gambling ring run by organized crime. Two other stable masters were demoted, and 18 other wrestlers were barred from competing in the next tournament.

This came after an apparently unrelated scandal two months ago over the sale of tickets for prized seats at the foot of the sport’s raised dirt ring to around 50 members of the Yamaguchi-gumi, Japan’s largest crime syndicate. The seats allowed the gangsters, known as yakuza, to be clearly visible during television broadcasts of the bouts, a brazen display that sumo experts said was aimed at cheering up an incarcerated syndicate boss watching from prison.

【 まずは準備運動 】

・cluster (果実・花などの)房、群れ、集団
・bar 棒、かんぬき、かんぬき、閉じる、禁ずる
・prize 賞、重んずる、尊ぶ
・syndicate シンジケート、企業組合・連合、犯罪組織
・bout 試合、一勝負
・incarcerate 監禁する、投獄する

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Disease Threatens Japan’s Beef Trade
( New York Times )

It is a calamity for this quiet cattle community. A prized black calf born last fall will soon be killed, part of the mass destruction of livestock in Japan’s battle against its worst foot-and-mouth diseaseoutbreak in at least a century.

The epidemic threatens to ravage the country’s trade in prime
marbled beef, considered a delicacy in this country. Miyazaki, on Japan’s southernmost main island of Kyushu, is one of Japan’s top beef producers and sends calves to other cattle-producing regions across the country, including the area that produces the famed Kobe brand.

“For me, this is the end,” said Tsuyoshi Kawasaki, 86, who has raised cattle in a small hamlet for 60 years. His calf, sired by a legendary local stud bull named Tadafuji, is not carrying the virus but must be destroyed because Mr.Kawasaki’s barn falls within a six-mile radius of the outbreak zone.

【 まずは準備運動 】

・epidemic 伝染病の発生、流行性の
・hamlet 村落
・sire (種馬が)子を生ませる、動物の雄親
・stud bull 種牛(stud:種馬)
・barn (農家の)納屋、物置
・radius 半径

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Japan Tries to Face Up to Growing Poverty Problem
( New York Times )

Satomi Sato, a 51-year-old widow, knew she had it tough, raising a teenage daughter on the less than $17,000 a year she earned from two jobs. Still, she was surprised last autumn when the government announced for the first time an official poverty line ― and she was below it.

After years of economic stagnation and widening income disparities, this once proudly egalitarian nation is belatedly waking up to the fact that it has a large and growing number of poor people. The Labor Ministry’s disclosure in October that almost one in six Japanese, or 20 million people, lived in poverty in 2007 stunned the nation and ignited a debate over possible remedies that has raged ever since.

But perhaps just as surprising was the government’s admission that it had been keeping poverty statistics secretly since 1998 while denying there was a problem, despite occasional anecdotal evidence to the contrary. That ended when a left-leaning government led by Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama replaced the long-governing Liberal Democratic Party last summer with a pledge to force Japan’s legendarily secretive bureaucrats to be more open, particularly about social problems, government officials and poverty experts said.

【 まずは準備運動 】

・remedy 治療、療法
・rage 激怒する、荒れ狂う
・contrary 反対(の・に)
・lean 傾く、傾斜する
・pledge 誓約、公約、抵当
・bureaucrat 官僚(bureaucracy:官僚制)

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Where Giants Dance and Crash in Japan
( New York Times )

AT the edge of the balcony, a tiny woman was screaming. The elderly couple in the next row were jumping up and down. Below us, all around the ring at the Kokugikan, Japan’s national sumo stadium in Tokyo, a roaring crowd hurled seat cushions into the air. My husband and I looked at each other in
amazement. After two weeks of travel among the intently well-behaved, rigorously unflappable Japanese, were we about to have a peek behind that decorous facade?

Well, yes and no.

Certainly the huge, nearly naked wrestlers had little to hide. But even in their diaper-like loincloths, they maintained a dignified swagger. And while the crowd erupted in spontaneous shouts and demonstrations, the competition was carefully choreographed, full of rituals and pageantry. Nobody argued with the referee, not even the loud fan in the back who had brought an ample supply of beer. As for the apparently no-holds-barred wrestling ― a flurry of pushing and grappling, like a skirmish between the schoolyard’s two biggest bullies ― it was preceded and concluded by courtly bowing.

Like so much we’d already encountered in Japan, sumo turned out to be a mix of the seemingly approachable and the utterly confounding. It’s hard, after all, to let your hair down when it’s arranged in a topknot whose traditional shape hasn’t changed for centuries.

【 まずは準備運動 】

・rigorous 厳しい、厳格な(名詞:rigor)
・unflappable 動じない、冷静な
・decorous 礼儀正しい、端正な(名詞:decorum)
・facade (建物の)正面、見かけ、外見
・swagger いばって歩く(こと)
・pageantry 野外歴史劇、壮麗なショー(pageant)
・skirmish 小競り合い
・courtly (宮廷人のように)上品な、優雅な(court:宮廷、法廷)

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