Tadanori Tanaka mimics the sounds that convinced him his new home is haunted. "Bam, bam, bam," blurts the 69-year-old carpenter, pounding his fist on the wall of his apartment. "Or 'tchi, tchi,' like the snap of a whip." Noises, he says, have erupted from the walls without warning since he moved into the newest public housing block in Tomika, a hamlet 300 kilometers southwest of Tokyo, in 1999.
It was a perfect July day in Okinawa -- lots of sunshine, beautiful white-sand beaches and shimmering aqua-colored water. Too bad Koichi Yamamoto, director of student services for Ehime Women's College, a small junior college on the island of Shikoku, was hustling around Japan's southernmost island in a stifling-hot business suit.
Keizo Obuchi looked exhausted on the evening of April 1. After days in crisis mode following a volcanic eruption in Hokkaido, the prime minister had spent much of that Saturday in fruitless negotiations with Ichiro Ozawa, the mercurial leader of his government's smallest coalition partner, the Liberal Party.
The police who called on Japan's most-wanted fugitive addressed him in low, polite tones. "We would like to speak with you," an investigator implored through a kitchen window. "We want to hear your story." Inside his tiny Kyoto apartment, 21-year-old Hiromasa Okamura resisted.
The Masako frenzy started when the Asahi Shimbun hit the streets last Friday. In a page-one scoop, the mass-circulation newspaper reported that Japan's 36-year-old crown princess has "shown signs of pregnancy" with her first child and potential heir to the ancient Chrysanthemum Throne.
The dinner party brought old enemies together at a tranquil state guest house on the outskirts of Pyongyang. The host of this thank-you banquet was presidential envoy William Perry, the highest-ranking American emissary to visit North Korea since the end of the Korean War, in 1953.
AFTER GOING ITS OWN WAY FOR decades, Tokyo badly wants to be a big player in the global financial system. The reason is plain: it's good business. The Japanese may own nearly half the world's investable savings, by some estimates, but much of it is funneled into the thriving markets of New York and London.
Three and a half years ago, the prime minister of Japan looked his questioners straight in the eye and said, "In order to restore the people's trust in the government, I have made the decision to resign." Noboru Takeshita, disgraced by the Recruit scandal, in which he admitted receiving $1.2 million from a Tokyo company, was finished.