October 19, 2018 / 7:34 AM / 25 days ago

Japan quake shock absorber maker: products may have been used nationwide

TOKYO (Reuters) - A Japanese maker of earthquake shock absorbers said on Friday that at least 70 buildings across the country may have used its products for which quality data was falsified and that nearly 1,000 are suspected of having done so.

KYB Corp said this week it had falsified data on the quality of some of its earthquake shock absorbers since at least 2003 in one of the world’s most quake-prone nations, the latest in a series of compliance scandals that has shaken confidence in Japan’s manufacturing prowess.

KYB released an initial list of 70 buildings that may have used the products for which data was falsified, including government buildings such as the main Ministry of Finance building in Tokyo and several other government structures.

Media has reported that other buildings, including Tokyo’s main train station, a major tourist site, and some venues for the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics, may also have used the products.

KYB officials, who bowed deeply at the beginning of a news conference, said while an initial list of 70 buildings were suspected to have used products for which the data was falsified, they had confirmed 28.

The true figure for buildings suspected of using the products could be as high as 1,000, they said.

“We would like to apologize for this sort of inappropriate action,” said Keisuke Saito, a senior managing executive.

The list of 70 suspected buildings around Japan included the central government building housing the transport ministry, where the news conference was being held, with the officials saying they were hurrying to make further confirmations.

Shigeki Hirokado, president of KYB subsidiary Kayaba System Machinery, which KYB has said was also involved in the data falsification, said its quake shock absorbers were exported to Taiwan and that some of them were problem products, but the number was “extremely small”.

One of the most common kinds of earthquake shock absorber is a piston-like mechanism usually located in the basement of a building. Another, used in higher buildings, is embedded in the walls at different levels of a structure.

KYB Corp. Senior Managing Executive Officer Keisuke Saito (R) and Kayaba System Machinery Co. President Shigeki Hirokado bow during a news conference at the Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Ministry in Tokyo, Japan October 19, 2018. REUTERS/Issei Kato

SCANDALS

A spokesman for Tokyo 2020 said on Thursday they had been told by the Tokyo government that KYB products were used at several venues for the Games but that they were waiting for details.

A Tokyo government official said it was possible KYB products had been used in the aquatics center and an arena to be used for volleyball, both under construction, but authorities were awaiting further information.

A different official said no KYB products were used in the Olympic Village, also still under construction.

KYB products have been used in Tokyo’s new National Stadium, the site of the opening and closing ceremonies for the Olympics, but they were not affected by possible falsification, said an official at the Japan Sport Council, which runs the stadium.

The operator of the Tokyo Skytree, a 634-metre-high tower that is a major tourist attraction and had been linked to KYB products in media reports, said on Friday there were no problems with any of the tower’s shock absorbers.

Japan has been hit with similar scandals about earthquake safety in the past, including one in 2005 when it was found an architect had falsified quake safety data for nearly 100 apartments and hotels he had designed, sparking widespread outrage.

Nobuo Fukuwa, director of the Disaster Mitigation Research Center at Nagoya University, played down the falsification of data, saying variations in shock absorber quality was not a major issue.

“Some fluctuation won’t have an impact on the building’s safety and peoples’ lives, so not that much worry is needed,” he told Reuters, adding that the most commonly used shock absorbers - those used below ground - could be exchanged relatively easily.

But Tokyo governor Yuriko Koike told a news conference earlier on Friday that the incident was “extremely regrettable,” and some members of the public expressed concern.

Slideshow (8 Images)

“Isn’t it everywhere, like the Tokyo government buildings?” said 70-year-old Yosaku Nishiwaki, walking near one of the Olympic venues.

“I am worried about the place where I live.”

KYB shares plunged 35 percent in the three days following news of the falsification. They ended up 3.27 percent on Friday.

Additional reporting by Mayuko Ono, writing by Elaine Lies; Editing by Robert Birsel

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