Could That Street Art Be Banksy? Tokyo Officials Probe

Tokyo: Tokyo is trying to verify if a drawing of a rat holding an umbrella that has been sprayed near a station is the work of the famous and mysterious street artist Banksy.

"We noticed there is a drawing of a rat painted with spray" on the door near a monorail station in central Tokyo, government official Koji Sugiyama told AFP.

"We think there's a possibility it has been done by Banksy."

A rat holding an umbrella is one of Banksy's most famous artworks.

The government removed the door and placed it in storage Wednesday night to prevent any damage, Sugiyama said.

It is unclear when it was painted but local residents contacted the government about the work at the end of last year.

The government hopes to find out if it is truly a work by Banksy, but "we still don't know if there's an expert in Japan", the official admitted, adding that the government will discuss ways to verify the painting.

Banksy, a British street artist whose identity is known to only a handful of friends, caused a sensation in October when one of his paintings began shredding itself, just after selling for $1.4 million (1.2 million euros).

Experts say "Girl with Balloon", which is now called "Love is in the Bin", is probably worth even more because the stunt created such a massive media stir.

  • Published in Culture

Japan and Russia Prepare Foreign Ministers' Meeting on Peace Treaty

Tokyo, Dec 23 (Prensa Latina) Japan and Russia are putting the finishing touches so that their foreign ministers meet next month to negotiate a peace treaty, local media reported.

According to the website of NHK, Taro Kono and Sergei Lavrov must meet in Moscow on January 14 to talk about a territorial dispute over four islands controlled by Russia and claimed by Japan.

Early this month, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed on negotiating a peace treaty before Abe's visit to Russia early next year.

According to NHK, Abe expects to make progress on the talks with Putin to prepare the draft peace treaty, based on a joint declaratin signed more than 50 years ago.

  • Published in World

Cubans in Japan Condemn US Policy against Cuba

The 3rd National Meeting of Cuban Residents in Japan concluded on Saturday in Tokyo with a denunciation of the US government''s policy against Cuba.

The final declaration of the meeting condemned Washington's economic, commercial and financial blockade against Havana, as well as the United States' refusal to listen to the claim of the vast majority of Cuban residents abroad in favor of the normalization of relations between the two countries.

Cuban Ambassador to Japan Carlos Miguel Pereira Hernandez reiterated the Cuban government's will to strengthen relations with the Cuban community abroad and, this way, to include them more and more in the construction of the country.

During the meeting, the Association of Cuban Residents in Japan recognized the new immigration measures and the historic inclusion of the Cuban community abroad in the popular consultation on the Draft Constitution.

The final declaration of the third meeting also included the recognition of and support for Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel, who 'following Raul's steps, he is promoting the update of the economic model and other changes in Cuba that will allow achieving a more democratic, prosperous and sustainable society.'

The Cuban residents in Japan thanked this Asian nation for its support for Cuba, not only in the demand for the end to the US blockade, but also in the collaboration for the economic development of the country.

  • Published in Cuba

Concert on 120th Anniversary of Japanese Migration to Cuba

Japanese musicians and the Cuban group Havana Ensemble will share the stage in Havana to celebrate the 120th anniversary of the first Japanese migration to Cuba, organizers announced.

The concert, scheduled for December 17 and 18, will also include performances by the The Taiko Club of the Reitaku Mizunami School in Japan.

At the Jose Marti Theater, the cultural event will be part of the visit by a Japanese delegation headed by the president of the Japan-Cuba Parliamentary Friendship League, Keiji Furuya.

Directed by Cuban saxophonist Cesar López, Habana Ensemble has a series of new elements, in both in the music and aesthetics, which differentiate it significantly from other Cuban groups.

The celebrations on the 120th anniversary of Japanese migration to Cuba will also include an exhibition of dolls, friendly games, panels, academic exchange, conferences, presentation of calendars, public speaking contest and the publication of a commemorative book.

Japanese immigrants began arriving in Cuba in 1898, mainly from the regions of Okinawa, Kagoshima, Kumamoto, Fukuoka, Hiroshima, Nagano, Niigata, Fukushima and Miyagi.

  • Published in Culture

Cuban Athletes Will Train in Japan for 2020 Olympic Games

Cuba will have volleyball and baseball training camps in Japan with a view to the 2020 Olympic Games, Japanese sports authorities and a delegation from the National Institute of Sports, Physical Education and Recreation (INDER) agreed here Saturday after fruitful negotiations.

According to the Embassy of Cuba in Japan, the Sendai Ikuei Gakuen School and the local governments of Sendai and Tagajyo, will welcome the athletes of these disciplines.

The Cuban delegation, headed by the President of the Cuban Olympic Committee and first Vice President of INDER, Roberto Leon Richards, signed other similar agreements with several Japanese localities, among them the city of Hiroshima.

The mayor of that city, Kazumi Matsui, expressed his satisfaction for hosting the Cuban athletes, and commented on the great sympathy and admiration that prevails among the inhabitants of the city towards the Cuban people, as well as the pleasant memory of the historic visit of Commander in Chief Fidel Castro in 2003.

For his part, Leon Richards, thanked the support of the authorities of Hiroshima for the preparation of Cuban athletes. He also held a meeting with the minister in charge of the Olympic and Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020, Yoshitaka Sakurada, who also serves as vice president of the Japan-Cuba Parliamentary Friendship Group.

Sakurada spoke of the importance of cooperating with Cuba, considered a world sporting power, to achieve success of the upcoming games.

  • Published in Sports

Photo Exhibition on Cuba-Japan History Opens in Havana

Havana, Nov 25 (Prensa Latina) The photo exhibition ''Japanese Scenery 120 Years Ago'', which deals about Japanese immigration in Cuba, opened at the House-Museum of Asia in Old Havana on Friday.

Izacura Naomi, curator of the exhibition, told Prensa Latina that the exhibition aims to call on Japanese residents in Isla de la Juventud (Isle of Youth) special municipality to recall the beginning of Japanese settlements on that island.

The exhibition displays handicraft images from Yokohama, in which 20th-century western and Japanese traditional techniques are combined.

These albumen-printed photos were recreated vividly with pigments brought from Japan and they were placed in luxurious albums made of mother-of-pearl and gold lacquer.

This cultural event, consisting of 42 pieces from the Japanese Chamber Industry Institute, will be open until December 23.

The first Japanese immigrants arrived in Cuba on September 9, 1898, with plans to establish a community, which came to have more than 1,000 immigrants. Visits by Japanese citizens have been reported since the 17th century.

  • Published in Culture

Cuban envoy denied room at Hilton hotel in Fukuoka

Cuba's ambassador to Japan was denied a room at a Hilton hotel in Fukuoka in October on grounds he represents a country slapped with U.S. economic sanctions.

A company official in Tokyo defended the Hilton Fukuoka Sea Hawk's refusal to provide accommodation, saying the hotel chain is obliged to comply with U.S. law as it is U.S.-based.

But Fukuoka city authorities did not agree and issued an administrative directive to the hotel not to treat prospective guests that way again, citing the Japanese hotel business law that forbids refusal of accommodation based on an individual’s nationality.

The Cuban Embassy booked rooms for Ambassador Carlos Pereira and another embassy official through Tokyo-based Tonichi Travel Service Co.

The travel agency said it informed Hilton Fukuoka Sea Hawk via fax several days prior to the visit that one of the guests is the Cuban ambassador to Japan.

The travel agency said the hotel replied that it looked forward to welcoming them.

But when the ambassador and the embassy official arrived in Fukuoka on Oct. 2, the hotel refused to honor the reservations.

According to Tonichi Travel Service, the hotel called the travel company on Oct. 2 to say it could not allow the Cuban dignitaries to stay.

On Oct. 11, Hilton Fukuoka Sea Hawk sent a letter to the agency that said it “cannot accept guests who represent Cuba in an official capacity.”

The Cuban Embassy filed a complaint with the Foreign Ministry on Oct. 5, describing the hotel's treatment as shameful.

It also said applying U.S. law in Japan amounts to encroachment of this country's sovereignty.

The ministry referred the matter to the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare, which oversees the hotel business law.

Article 5 of the legislation dictates that hotel operators cannot refuse guests unless they are infected with a contagious disease or threaten to engage in illegal or other activity that will corrupt public morals.

The ministry concluded that Hilton Fukuoka Sea Hawk’s treatment of the Cuban officials fell foul of the law.

A labor ministry official handling the matter said the “Fukuoka city government issued an administrative directive for the hotel” to comply with Japanese law as it is licensed to operate under Japanese law.

In an interview with The Asahi Shimbun, Emiko Ogami, senior manager in charge of communications at Hilton Japan, Korea and Micronesia, explained that it is hotel policy worldwide to refuse accommodation to government officials, state companies and certain individuals of countries that are under U.S. economic sanctions.

Among the targeted countries are Cuba, Iran, North Korea and Syria, she said.

However, the Cuban Embassy questioned whether the hotel chain maintains a consistent policy as the ambassador stayed at the Hilton Fukuoka Sea Hawk in April.

Other U.S. hotel chains such as Hyatt and Sheraton said they do not refuse guests for the reasons cited by the Hilton group.

Ogami said the group is still considering its response to the administrative directive issued by the Fukuoka municipal government.

Japan backed a U.N. resolution calling on Washington to lift its sanctions against Cuba, now in their 27th year.

In 2006, the Mexican government ordered the operator of a Sheraton-affiliated hotel in Mexico City to pay 1.2 million pesos (about 13 million yen, or $114,000) as a fine for evicting 16 Cuban government delegates who were staying at the hotel.

The hotel operator cited the U.S. law on economic sanctions against Cuba, triggering a public outcry and accusations its approach violated Mexico's sovereignty.

The Mexican government decided the hotel’s policy ran counter to the Mexican commerce law that forbids discriminating against guests based on their nationality.

  • Published in Cuba

Cuban Despaigne homers for second straight game at Japan´s final playoff

Cuban Alfredo Despaigne increased his great home run production when taking the ball out of the park for second consecutive day in the final of the Japanese Professional Baseball League (NPB).

This time it was a solo homer in the fourth inning, thus helping his team, the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks, to win 4-1 in the fourth game of the final (Japan Series) over the Hiroshima Toyo Carp.

The Caribbean slugger batted 1 for 4, with two strikeouts, and descended his batting average (BA) to .333, although he amounts six RBIs in this final series, with a highlight for what he did in the third match, when he brought four teammates to home plate.

Another Cuban, lefty setup reliever Livan Moinelo, pitched a third of an inning with two walks, but did not allow runs thus maintaining his ERA immaculate in the grand final.

The Hawks took advantage 2-1 in the Japan series, since the first game ended in a draw and extended their consecutive wins-at-home streak in the Japan Series to eleven, thus breaking the previous record of ten held by the 1970–73 Yomiuri Giants.

With two other victories, Cubans Despaigne and Moinelo would be crowned champions for the second year in a row, while utility Yurisbel Gracial would debut with the title in his first foray into the NPB.

  • Published in Sports
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