There are over 120 species of puffer fish, and 22 different kinds are approved by the Japanese government for use in restaurants. But one is more prized, and more poisonous, than the others: torafugu, or tiger puffer fish.
Wild torafugu is often found at high-end restaurants, where it’s served as perfectly thinly sliced sashimi, deep-fried, and even used to make a hot sake called hirezake. Yamadaya has been serving puffer fish for over 100 years. Their fugu is caught in southern Japan and airlifted alive to their Tokyo restaurants.
In Haedomari Market the fugu is auctioned off using a bag and hidden hand signals. Each potential buyer puts their hand in the bag and makes their bid secretly, before a successful bidder is chosen.
When selling such a dangerous food, safety is paramount. In 2018, a supermarket accidentally sold five packets of the fish that hadn’t had the poisonous liver removed, and the town used its missile-alert system to warn residents.
The tetrodotoxin found in fugu is more toxic than cyanide, and each year about 20 people are poisoned from badly prepared fish.
It takes a lot of skill and training to prepare the fish safely and know which parts are poisonous.
The poisonous parts can vary by species, and hybrid species are appearing now that are even harder to tell apart. One of the hardest things to distinguish between can be the female fugu’s ovaries, which are extremely toxic, and the male’s testicles, which are a delicacy.
The Japanese government tightly control who can prepare fugu, and chefs need to take an extensive exam before they’re legally allowed to serve the fish. This rigorous regulation means that while the fish can be lethal, far more people die from eating oysters than fugu each year.
All of the skill and training that goes into preparing this fish increases the price. The fish is killed seconds before preparation. And while the process looks gruesome as the muscles continue to spasm, the fish is dead.
This method of killing the fish means that the meat stays fresh for longer, and at Yamadaya, the fugu is aged for 24 hours before it’s served. So what does it actually taste like?
There’s another reason tiger fugu is getting more expensive: overfishing.
Tiger puffer fish is near threatened, and in 2005 the Japanese government limited its fishing quotas and seasons. Another popular edible species across Japan, the Chinese puffer fish, has declined in population by 99.9% over the last 45 years.
Farmed versions are much cheaper, and many more affordable chain fugu restaurants are starting to appear, but the farmed version is difficult to raise, and many consumers say it doesn’t taste as good.
Wild fugu’s high price guarantees that it is safely prepared by an expert chef, and when you’re dealing with a potentially deadly fish, that price is reassuringly expensive.
During her stint in Tokyo, Kennedy worked on economic and trade affairs, among other issues.
Before joining the Obama administration, Kennedy, an author and attorney, worked at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and served as director of the Office of Strategic Partnerships for the New York City Department of Education.
She has also sat on the boards of numerous nonprofits, and serves as the honorary president of the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation.
Biden’s relationship with the Kennedy family runs deep.
The president served in the Senate with Caroline’s uncle, Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts, throughout his entire 36-year tenure in the upper chamber.
Biden has also nominated Sen. Kennedy’s widow, Victoria Kennedy, to become the next ambassador to Austria.
He has spoke of the pivotal roles that John F. Kennedy and Ted Kennedy played in his life, reflecting on their Irish Catholic upbringing and their legacy of public service.
During a dedication for Sen. Kennedy in 2015, Biden said that without the senator’s support, he would have walked away from his political career after losing his wife and daughter in a 1972 car accident shortly after his election to the Senate. The accident also resulted in severe injuries to his two sons, Beau and Hunter.
“It’s close to certain I would have never been sworn in as a United States senator if not for your father, your father’s encouragement,” Biden told the Kennedy children at the time. “I didn’t show up the day I was to be sworn in. It was your father, your father, who along with [Democratic Sen.] Mike Mansfield [of Montana], sent the secretary of the Senate to a hospital in Wilmington, Delaware, to swear me in with my boys.”
As a South Korean military interpreter participating in a combined exercise with the US on August 29, 2017, my day began with a jolt, as a North Korean ballistic missile hurtled toward Japan at 6:00 a.m.
Not knowing the exact trajectory in the first few minutes, I quickly headed into underground bunkers near Seoul with my fellow service members.
Radars predicted that the missile would cross Japan’s airspace over its northernmost island, Hokkaido. Japan was faced with two options: shoot it down or let it pass.
The Japanese government chose not to intercept that missile. It ultimately fractured into three pieces and landed in the Pacific Ocean, but debris could have fallen onto unsuspecting citizens. Even worse, an actual nuclear strike could wipe out an entire city.
With North Korea demonstrating its ability to reach most of the US, improving missile-defense systems has quickly become a concern for everyday citizens.
Tokyo’s decision to disregard that ballistic missile compelled me to ask whether South Korea, Japan, and the US were well prepared for such missile threats.
Layered defenses, split-second decisions
The US defends its territory with a layered system that has several chances to intercept a North Korean missile: in the boost phase soon after launch near the Korean Peninsula and Japan, again over the ocean during the missile’s midcourse phase, and lastly near US territory as the missile enters its terminal phase.
All three options, however, need much improvement.
An intercept over the ocean is challenging because Aegis ships and fighter jets must anticipate where it will impact, which is made more challenging by the fact that Aegis ships and fighters have never attempted to intercept a ballistic missile in combat.
For land-based defense, the Pentagon has slammed its own flagship system, the Ground-based Midcourse Defense, for its insufficient radars and unreliability: Its success rate is barely over 50%.
Improving the intercept ability of South Korea and Japan has therefore been important to the US’s own national interests.
The US’s recent termination of the missile guidelines it imposed on South Korea in 1979 is a step toward allowing its allies to prepare defenses for North Korea’s long-range missiles.
With limits on the range and payload of its missiles now lifted, South Korea will be able to develop advanced missile-defense systems that could help deter long-range missile attacks.
My experience dodging North Korean missiles, however, highlights the need to review the intercept process further to reduce the risks posed by needing to make a split-second decision. Hesitance to shoot down missiles shows that technological ability does not necessarily equal safety.
Why did those countries decide not to respond during that August 2017 missile test? Within minutes of the launch, most countries could tell from radar tracking that the missile was headed toward the Pacific Ocean.
In the case of Japan, the government may have decided not to attempt to do so simply because it was an unnecessary risk. The missile appeared unlikely to harm civilians, and, more importantly, a failed attempt would send a catastrophic message that its US-backed missile system cannot stop North Korean missiles.
A second possibility, however, is that Japan’s Aegis destroyers were unable to intercept the missile in the first place.
The North Korean missile reached an altitude of 550 km, higher than the 500-km range of the Aegis Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) interceptor. The Aegis interceptor may also have not been in the right place, as the missile passed over a region that is not a routine training area.
Why didn’t South Korea try to shoot it down? South Korea’s US-made Terminal High Altitude Defense (THAAD) system reports a 100% test rate, but it has never been used in combat.
THAAD is also designed to shoot down missiles as they re-enter the atmosphere during their terminal phase. The North Korean missile was only in range during its first two phases: boost and midcourse.
Military and diplomatic challenges
What can be done about future missile tests?
In order to shoot down a missile during its boost phase, a ship with an SM-3 would have to be right next to the launch site and intercept immediately upon launch.
As the US military has noted, boost-phase intercepts are quite unlikely due to the challenges in anticipating a launch and the decision process needed to approve such a response. For fighter jets to intercept a missile in that phase, the jets would need to be at a provocatively close distance to the launch site.
None of the missile defenses in Japan or South Korea – which include US-made Patriot missile systems – can intercept missiles during their midcourse phase.
South Korea could technically develop a midcourse defense in the future, but past pushback from China indicates there will be a substantial challenge to doing so. Seoul suffered as much as $7 billion in economic losses when China boycotted Korean products in response to the deployment of the THAAD system.
With nearly one-quarter of South Korea’s exports and one-fifth of Japan’s exports going to China, safely navigating the US-China rivalry while ensuring a defense against North Korean missiles will be a complex military and diplomatic task.
Jessup Jong is a Korean Army veteran (Intelligence Branch at the Transportation Command) and a master’s student at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies. His latest book is “Human Suffering in North Korea.”
Shares in Japanese homebuilder Tama Home fell 10% on Wednesday, marking their biggest one-day fall in over three years, after a report said the company’s president warned employees they’d be punished if they get vaccinated for coronavirus.
Company president Shinya Tamaki told managers he was against vaccination, and warned that people who took the vaccine would die five years later, according to weekly Japanese magazine Shukan Bunshun.
Tamaki added employees who choose to get vaccinated would be ordered to stay at home indefinitely, without being allowed to work. That would be treated as absenteeism, which meant they would be unpaid, the report said.
Internal e-mails also warned employees of the dangers associated with 5G phones. The report didn’t specify what risks were associated with the cellular network, but a conspiracy theory linking 5G with coronavirus had been circulating social media since January 2020.
Tama Home’s shares closed 10% lower on Wednesday, declining the most in more than three years. It was the biggest fall on Japan’s Topix index, which was overall up 0.8%.
The company denied it had pressurized workers about the vaccination, or threatened to put jobs in danger if employees decide to get immunized, the report said.
“Regarding the inoculation of the new corona vaccine, it is left to individual judgment,” a spokesperson said, according to a translation from the Japanese report.
Tokyo seems to be going through a third wave of coronavirus infections ahead of the Tokyo Olympics opening on Friday. The city reported 727 new cases on Monday, falling just below the 1,000 level it posted across five straight days. About 22% of the population is fully vaccinated so far, according to data from Johns Hopkins University of Medicine.
Starbucks is serving a limited-edition luxury afternoon tea in Tokyo, Japan – and it’s so popular that the chain says it may have to hold a lottery to decide who gets a spot.
Starbucks’ afternoon tea is called the “Roastery Pasticcini Flight.” Pasticcini is the Italian word for colorful bite-sized cakes and sweet baked goods.
Starbucks’ afternoon tea includes eight types of pasticcini and three small savory items, such as savory scones. It also comes with a pot of Teavana tea from a choice of four types: pineapple tea, hōjicha green tea, strawberry oolong, and a citrus, lavender, and sage tea.
The afternoon tea costs 4,620 yen ($42). A standard tall cappuccino will set you back around 418 yen ($3.80) at a Starbucks in Tokyo, roughly the same as US stores.
The other Reserve roasteries are in Seattle, Chicago, New York, Shanghai, and Milan.
The 32,000-square-foot, four-story upmarket store sells espresso martinis, cream sodas, and whiskey. It also houses a Princi bakery that serves breads, pizzas, and salads – as well as the cakes from the afternoon tea.
The afternoon tea launched on July 7 and is available from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays. Starbucks says that it’s so popular that it can’t keep up with demand, and will hold a lottery for spots on its busiest days to make sure it has enough ingredients.
Starbucks launched the afternoon tea to celebrate 25 years since it opened its first store in Japan. It also launched a unique frappuccino for each of Japan’s 47 prefectures, such as a corn, white chocolate, and cornflake frappuccino available only in Hokkaido, and sweetened soy sauce, coffee, and cream frappuccino that you can only get in Chiba.
A Japanese court sentenced an American father and son to prison for their role in helping smuggle former Nissan boss Carlos Ghosn from Japan to Lebanon in 2019.
Former US special forces veteran Michael Taylor, 60, was sentenced to two years in prison on Monday for aiding the escape of a criminal, while his son Peter Taylor, 28, was given a one year and eight month-term on the same charges, per the Associated Press.
Prosecutors said Michael Taylor met Ghosn’s wife Carole in Lebanon in June 2019 where she convinced him to help orchestrate her husband’s escape, The Wall Street Journal reported. The younger Taylor met with Ghosn during numerous trips to Japan over the next few months, with Ghosn transferring more than $860,000 to his marketing firm to finance the plan, the prosecutors said, per the WSJ.
On December 29 2019, the elder Taylor traveled with another man, George-Antoine Zayek, to Kansai International Airport in Osaka posing as musicians. The pair brought a large metal box normally used to transport audio equipment to hide Ghosn, drilling breathing holes in the side, The Washington Post reported, citing Japanese prosecutors.
That same day, Ghosn traveled with the elder Taylor and Zayek to a hotel close to Kansai airport. Only Taylor and Zayek were spotted leaving the building with the metal box.Zayek has not been arrested, The Washington Post reported.
Japanese authorities arrested Ghosn in 2018 on charges of financial mismanagement. He is accused of underreporting his pay over multiple years and breach of trust, by using Nissan finances for his own personal gain. He denies all charges.
Nissan did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.
A member of Uganda’s Olympic team tested positive for COVID-19 in Japan after getting AstraZeneca’s vaccine and testing negative at home, The Washington Post reported.
It’s the first detection of the virus in incoming athletes five weeks ahead of the games.
The member who tested positive was denied entry into the country and was instead sent to a government-run facility while the rest of the team was able to head to Osaka.
Japan is waiving the required two-week quarantine for international travelers for many Olympic teams but athletes will need to be tested daily for the virus.
While vaccines are not 100% effective at stopping infection, the number of people who are fully vaccinated that have tested positive has raised some alarm especially as mutations like the Delta variant that originated in India spread.
Many Japanese residents have protested the hosting of the games as COVID-19 spreads in the country. More than 429,000 people have signed a Change.org petition asking the Japanese government to cancel the Games.
Over 70% of the country thinks the Olympics should either be postponed or canceled entirely, according to a Kyodo News poll.
Japan recently lifted its state of emergency, which put limits on gatherings, and restrictions on restaurants and stores in most areas. The country has only fully vaccinated 6.4% of its population, according to data from Bloomberg.
At the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea, about 110,000 condoms were handed out, Insider reported at the time.
About 100,000 were distributed during the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. About 450,000 male and female condoms were handed out at the Rio Olympics in 2016.
Athletes arriving in Tokyo this summer will be told to continue social distancing. They’ll be asked to bring the condoms to their home countries as a way of raising awareness of HIV and AIDS, Reuters reported.
When the International Olympic Committee rolled out its rules in February, they included a ban on physical contact between athletes. RT reported on the social media backlash, quoting a Twitter user who said there would be a “0% chance they will not be having sex.”
After an unprecedented period apart, holding the Olympics would be a powerful symbol that the world can start to come back together again. They can be a beacon of hope and proof of progress against the pandemic.
The Games must go on.
There are still a lot of challenges. The virus continues to claim thousands of lives around the world each day and has overwhelmed the healthcare system in places like India and Brazil. The distribution of vaccines is moving out far too slowly in most countries, including in Japan. And the organizing effort to bring in thousands of athletes from hundreds of countries to safely compete in a multi-week event will be enormous.
The Games were already pushed back from their original 2020 date, and for these reasons, there are many calling for the Olympics to be delayed again..
But while these challenges are real and the undertaking enormous, it’s important to remember what the games represent. They are a singularly powerful symbol of our common humanity. While the realities of politics are sometimes injected into the event – whether through boycotts, cheating scandals, or the occasional friction on the field – the Olympics show us that at our best it is possible for the whole world to play by the same rules.
The Games are also one of the most iconic illustrations of what humans can achieve by setting seemingly impossible goals and expending tireless effort. That is a desperately needed spirit at this moment. After the harrowing days of COVID-19, we could all use a confidence boost. The exhilarating experience of the Games can reassure us that new possibilities lay beyond the horizon.
The head of communications at the International Olympic Committee, Christian Klaue recently told me that organizers plan to build the event around a “light at the end of the tunnel” theme. This does not mean we have emerged from the darkness. The Games should not serve as a celebration or a victory lap around the track. After more than a year and a half, weariness has started to take hold. The Games can help to reinvigorate spirits for what will hopefully be the final stretch.
Under normal conditions, international coordination on the scale of the Games is an extraordinarily challenging endeavor. Klaue says the Olympics very likely, “has the most stakeholders of any event in the world.” Yet, now, even the most basic health and logistical questions result in major divisions, taking much longer to resolve. From travel to housing, meals to medical facilities, the complexity has been compounded.
Yet, we have learned and advanced enough at this point to stage a global event safely. Smaller sporting events have been able to bring in international participants and sports leagues like the NBA have implemented sophisticated contract tracing programs. Organizers have the ability to vaccinate athletes, staff, and media. Using high-quality, rapid tests, it is possible to verify on site that no one entering the facilities is infected.
In many ways COVID-19 has torn the world apart. Countries have shut their borders, hoarded vaccines, and failed to coordinate an effective global response. There is a real risk that the pandemic will only further serve to exacerbate existing inequity and divisions for years to come. Stitching that frayed fabric back together needs to start now. I can think of no better opportunity to rebuild ties than through the Olympics.
There is also a need to start imagining what comes next. The Olympics provide us with the chance to step back from the stress and struggles we presently face. What can we do better or just differently? Looking out across so much loss and devastation, one can’t help but begin to reimagine how we live.
Not since the end of World War II have we been given an opening to rethink international institutions and ideals. Steps were taken back then with the United Nations and other multilateral organizations to better manage conflicts and global crises. Clearly, there is a lot more work needed and there is no more opportune time than during a crisis.
So, let’s meet this momentous moment. Not only hold the Games, but use them to start a new dialogue with the world. What does our collective future look like and how do we get there? If we can agree to play sports, there has to be more we can do together. Let’s hold the games not because we need a break or a bright spot during a bleak period in history. Let’s hold them because they offer a unique chance for global compromise and to begin imagining how we change the way the world works.