TOPTokyo LifeNews & OpinionNews Roundup: Search Continues for Victims of Sunken Tourist Boat

News Roundup: Search Continues for Victims of Sunken Tourist Boat

Of the 26 on board Kazu I in Hokkaido, the bodies of 11 have been found, 15 are still missing 

By Matthew Hernon

Rough conditions at sea are hampering the search for victims of the sunken tourist boat in Hokkaido. The 19-ton vessel, Kazu I, disappeared in the frigid waters off the Shiretoko Peninsula on Saturday afternoon. The boat was carrying 24 passengers and two crew members. Eleven are confirmed dead with 15 missing. Seiichi Katsurada, president of Shiretoko Yuransen, the operator of the tourist vessel, gave a public apology on Wednesday. He got down on his knees three times during the press conference to say sorry to the victims’ families. He also admitted his decision to allow the boat to depart despite the bad weather was “inappropriate.” 

Another apology this week came from the Ukrainian government to Japan for a video showing Emperor Hirohito next to Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini. In Yamanashi Prefecture, a human skull was discovered near to where Misaki Ogura went missing in 2019. Police are now trying to determine whether it belongs to the nine-year-old. We also report on the passing of the world’s oldest person and a surprise financial gift for a resident in Yamaguchi Prefecture. In sport, several Japanese players scored in Europe and Seiya Suzuki continued his fine start to life in Major League Baseball. 

Tragedy at Sea 

As local fishing boats made their way back to the port of Shari in Hokkaido to take shelter from the stormy conditions at sea, Kazu I headed in the opposite direction. The vessel was carrying 24 passengers, including two small children. They were participating in a three-hour tour of the World Natural Heritage-designated Shiretoko Peninsula, hoping to see white bears and white-tailed eagles. The captain of the boat, however, was reportedly told it was too dangerous to go out. Tragically he ignored the warning. A distress call was sent at around 1:15pm, saying the vessel was sinking.  

In-shore passenger boats are not required to have rafts in Japan. It meant that only life vests and floats were available for passengers to try to survive in the freezing water. The emergency rescue operation began more than three hours after the first distress call. Of the 26 on board, 11 have been confirmed to have died, including a three-year-old, while 15 remain missing. One passenger in his 70s called his wife as the boat was going down. “The boat is sinking. Thanks for everything,” he allegedly said. It has also been learned that another passenger was planning to propose to his girlfriend while on tour. 

Human Skull Found in Yamanashi Prefecture  

A human skull has been discovered in Yamanashi Prefecture near the mountainside campsite where nine-year-old Misaki Ogura went missing two and a half years ago. Police are now working to determine whether the remains belong to the young girl. Misaki disappeared at around 3:40pm on September 21, 2019. She was at the campsite with her mother and sister in a group of around 30. She was last seen running with children after eating some snacks. Her mother, Tomoko, watched her skipping off into the woods.  

A 16-day search involving around 1,700 police officers, firefighters and Self Defense Force personnel proved fruitless. Tomoko joined them night and day. She also used social media to appeal for any information on her daughter’s whereabouts. This, however, led to an online campaign of opprobrium as trolls attacked her. Last year, two men in Shizuoka Prefecture were arrested for slanderous comments, including one message that read: “You must have killed the girl. I will kill you.” On Tuesday, Tomoko tweeted that she believes “Misaki will come home safely.” 

Ukrainian Government Delete Emperor Hirohito Image from Anti-Fascist Video  

The Ukrainian government apologized to the people of Japan on Sunday for a video it posted featuring a picture of Emperor Hirohito alongside Nazi Germany dictator Adolf Hitler and Italy’s fascist leader Benito Mussolini. Below images of the three men were the words: “Fascism and Nazism were defeated in 1945.” The foreign ministry here reportedly lodged a complaint and it was subsequently removed. “Our sincere apologies for making a mistake in the previous version of the video,” tweeted the Ukrainian government. “We had no intention to offend the friendly people of Japan.”  

Sergiy Korsunsky, the Ukraine ambassador to Japan, expressed his disappointment at the video. “That was a mistake by a person who’s been running the account since 2019, but has nothing to do with the government. I requested a change and he corrected it. Then I apologized,” Korsunsky told Tokyo Weekender. Opinion regarding the emperor’s role in World War II remains divided and as a result, the video sparked a lively debate on social media. Some suggested an image of wartime prime minister and convicted war criminal Hideki Tojo would have been more appropriate. 

World’s Oldest Person Dies  

The Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare announced on Monday that Kane Tanaka passed away aged 119 years and 107 days. She died in a hospital in Fukuoka on April 19. Certified as the world’s oldest person, Tanaka was born (according to official records) in 1903, the same year the Orville and Wilbur Wright flew for the first time. Her parents, though, said her actual birth was on December 26, 1902. They delayed the process of filing the report as she was premature and they weren’t sure if she would survive.  

The supercentenarian was known for her love of the board game Othello, mathematics quizzes and fizzy drinks, particularly Coca-Cola. She also enjoyed coffee, cake and chocolate. Tanaka married her cousin Hideo in 1922. They had two daughters and two sons while also adopting a fifth child. A two-time cancer survivor, Tanaka became the oldest living person, aged 116 years and 28 days in January 2016. She was the second oldest person ever recorded, behind Jeanne Calment of France, who lived until 122 and 164 days. 

Town in Yamaguchi Prefecture Mistakenly Pays ¥46.3 million to One Resident  

It should have been a fairly straightforward process. A total of 463 households in the small town of Abu in Yamaguchi Prefecture applied for a government handout of ¥100,000 intended to support low-income families affected by the Covid-19 pandemic. With the application process complete, it was then just a case of waiting for the money. For 462 of those households, however, the cash didn’t come. The reason: an error in the system which led to one resident receiving the whole amount of ¥46.3 million. 

Town officials subsequently contacted the home of the recipient. The person allegedly expressed their intention to return the excess money, but then couldn’t be contacted. Officials finally got hold of the resident on April 21. “The money has already been moved elsewhere and can’t be returned. I’m not going to run and I’m willing to pay for my wrongdoing,” the person reportedly said. The town of Abu is now consulting with Yamaguchi police. The 463 households will all receive their ¥100,000, including the recipient of the cash windfall. 

Kyogo Heads Celtic Closer to Title  

In his first start of 2022, Kyogo Furuhashi took just 12 minutes to find the net. The Japanese forward headed home the opener as Celtic defeated Ross County 2-0 to edge closer to the Scottish title. In the Belgium Championship Play-off, Kaoru Mitoma also scored as Royale Union Saint-Gilloise defeated Anderlecht 3-1. They remain top, three points ahead of Club Brugge. Daichi Kamada continued his fine run of form with another goal as Eintracht Frankfurt drew 2-2 with Hoffenheim in the Bundesliga. Kyosuke Tagawa in Portugal, Keito Nakamura in Austria and Hayao Kawabe in Switzerland all netted as well. 

In baseball, Seiya Suzuki continues to shine in his rookie Major League Baseball season. On Saturday, he had his first three-hit game as the Chicago Cubs battered the Pittsburgh Pirates 21-0. Shohei Ohtani, meanwhile, showed off his two-way prowess, helping the Los Angeles Angels to four consecutive victories. On the domestic front, Roki Sasaki’s run of perfect innings finally ended. In the 20-year-old’s first pitch of the game against the Orix Buffaloes, Shuhei Fukuda smashed his fastball past first base. Despite winning the game 6-3, the Chiba Lotte Marines currently sit second from bottom in the Pacific League.