Asian News 1/19

Hamasaki Announces Partial Deafness

Immediately after the New Year’s break, the Japanese media was buzzing with news about Ayumi Hamasaki, Japan’s biggest pop star, who announced over the January 5 weekend that she is deaf in her left ear and has been since 2000.

Hamasaki, 29, admits that she may have waited too long to have the problem remedied.

Doctors told her at the end of last year that it was too late to fix her hearing through surgery.

When she first noticed she was losing her hearing seven years ago, she postponed a national concert tour as a result.

However, she says that she has resigned herself to her condition and will continue with her career as long as she can hear in her right ear. Her latest album, Guilty, was just released and Hamasaki will start a national tour in April.

The silver lining of the announcement is that Hamasaki’s problem, a form of tinnitus, has brought attention to a health condition that is much more prevalent than previously thought.

In the week following the announcement, TV news shows and magazine articles highlighted hearing loss, which seems to be unusually prevalent among young women who suffer from stress and emotional problems.

Though the organic cause is not clear, doctors urge young people to seek treatment immediately because in some cases the hearing loss can be reversed.


Tokyo Disney’s Float Problem

Tokyo Disneyland canceled all of its parades for several days following an accident involving one of the floats January 8.

The float, which features "Toy Story" character Buzz Lightyear, was proceeding along one of the streets in the theme park when a section that includes a constellation of planets suddenly broke loose and fell to the pavement, narrowly missing spectators who had lined up along the street.

The weight of the fallen piece is about 300 kilograms (about 660 lbs.) but fortunately no one was hurt.

It was the first time such an accident happened in the park and the first time that the park’s operator, Oriental Land Co., canceled the popular parades for reasons other than inclement weather.

About 29 floats were inspected thoroughly and police investigated what caused the cylindrical support pillar on the Buzz Lightyear float to collapse.

In addition, it was reported that the park was receiving more than the usual number of phone calls from people complaining of safety control.

The parades resumed the evening of January 12 with 24 of the 29 floats.


Spring Fests On Sale

Creativeman Productions has begun to sell tickets for its annual Springroove/Punkspring mini-festivals, which will be held simultaneously in Tokyo and Osaka on the first weekend of April.

Among the artists so far signed for Springroove are Rihanna, Ne-Yo, and Sean Kingston.

Punkspring will feature Rancid, Pennywise, Me First and the Gimme Gimmes, Flogging Molly, Bowling for Soup, Angels & Airwaves, Plain White T’s, the Buzzcocks, and more.

Both festivals will play the Makuhari Messe Convention Center outside of Tokyo on successive days, but the Osaka leg will be split up among different nights or different venues.

Punkspring will be held at Zepp Osaka over two nights, while the various acts attached to Springroove will play separate stand-alone concerts at various clubs in the Osaka area.


Politicos Endorse Gambling

Japan’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party plans to introduce a bill in the national assembly that will legalize casino gambling.

The proposed legislation will include the formation of a watchdog group that will have extensive investigative authority so as to prevent organized crime and other undesirable elements from influencing future gambling business, which has been the main obstacle to such legislation in the past.

This authority would be empowered to screen applications for casinos, conduct on-site inspections, monitor people involved in the industry and certify gaming equipment. The LDP plans to fund this authority with casino revenues rather than taxes.

The law will include bans on minors entering casinos and ATMs being placed on or near casino premises.

In June 2006 the LDP adopted a basic policy for launching casinos in the near future as a means of attracting foreign visitors and revitalizing stagnant regional economies.