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Headline

The Voice of Tokyo for over 50 Years

JAPAN’S NO.1 ENGLISH LIFESTYLE MAGAZINE

Serch Form
Latest Issue
About Us

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News Roundup: Filmmaker Blasts Government for Fighting Suit Filed by Kin of Sri Lankan Detainee

Thomas Ash, director of the documentary Ushiku, said he wasn't surprised by the decision

By Matthew Hernon

The Japanese government is planning to fight a ¥156 million lawsuit by the family of Ratnayake Liyanage Wishma Sandamali, sources close to the matter said on Sunday. The Sri Lankan detainee died while in custody at an immigration center in Nagoya last year. Her family claim she was illegally detained and her death was due to a lack of necessary medical care. This week, we spoke to Thomas Ash about the government’s decision. His documentary film, Ushiku, exposes the conditions in Japan’s heavily criticized immigration facilities.   

Also this week, we caught up with Jack Stone to hear how his hunger strike is going. We report on the rising food prices here and have the latest on Japan’s tourism trial as one traveler tests positive for Covid-19. In Tokyo, Fusako Shigenobu, former leader of the Japanese Red Army, is released after more than two decades behind bars. And in sport, Japan hit four past Paraguay in Sapporo while the Panasonic Wild Knights win the inaugural Japan Rugby League One trophy.    

Investigating Japan’s Controversial Immigration Centers   

Thomas Ash recently picked up the Best Documentary Director award at the Harlem International Film Festival in New York. He won it for Ushiku, a film that brings viewers into direct contact with detainees at one of Japan’s largest immigration centers. Though critically acclaimed, the film, unsurprisingly, hasn’t been well-received by the Immigration Agency. “They told NHK that my exposing of the conditions inside the detention center with a hidden camera was an unforgivable act. What do they know about forgiveness,” Ash told TW.   

“This is the same Immigration Agency that has allowed 17 people to die in their care in the past 15 years. This is the same Immigration Agency that allowed Wishma Sandamali to die in their custody after she complained multiple times that she was unwell. That they would fight the damages suit filed by her family doesn’t surprise me at all,” added the director. The first oral proceedings of the case against the government will begin at the Nagoya District Court on June 8.   

Update on Jack Stone’s Hunger Strike   

Jack Stone is now on the 16th day of his hunger strike. The American father of two told TW he was both physically and mentally unwell. He remains determined, however, to keep going for the sake of his two children. He hasn’t seen either since last October. Stone previously lived with his eldest son, aged eight, but says after he gave his wife custody for a week, she never returned him. At a press conference two weeks ago, he vowed to continue with his strike until “Japan starts implementing and putting together joint custody.”   

For the first 14 days of his strike, the American was joined by Japanese father Akihiro Hirano. Stone is now going it alone. Adding to his mental anguish came the news that his mother passed away on Tuesday. He has been buoyed, however, by the support he’s received both in person and online. On Saturday a large group turned up outside the Diet Building to take part in a candle vigil with him. His location has since moved to Hibiya Park.   

Test Tour Canceled after Traveler Tests Positive for Covid-19   

A test tour for inbound travelers in Japan was canceled this week when one of the travelers tested positive for Covid-19. The person in question arrived at Fukuoka Airport via Haneda from Thailand last Friday along with three other Thai visitors. After complaining of a sore throat on Monday, they then took an antigen test which came up positive. Other members of the group tested negative, but had to isolate as they were deemed close contacts.   

On Wednesday, Japan officially doubled its cap on daily arrivals to the country to 20,000. Those entering from the 98 nations in the “blue” group are exempt from having to isolate and don’t need to submit to Covid-19 testing at the airport. That includes the US, the UK, Australia, Canada, Ireland and New Zealand. Those from the 99 “yellow” group nations don’t have to go through testing or isolation if they’ve received three vaccinations. Visitors from a “red” group nation must quarantine and take an on-arrival test.    

Food Prices Surging in Japan  

The coronavirus pandemic and Russia’s ongoing invasion in Ukraine have led to price increases around the globe. Japan is no exception. A survey by credit firm Teikoku Databank Ltd. showed on Wednesday that more than 10,000 food items will experience price hikes of an average 13 percent this year. According to the survey, 105 major food manufacturers had raised prices on 6,285 products by June 2022. A further 4,504 items will see prices rise in the coming months.   

Attempting to tackle rising food and fuel prices, the Japanese government enacted a ¥2.7 trillion extra budget on Tuesday. It will finance part of the ¥6.2 trillion emergency economic package adopted by Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s cabinet in April. “High crude oil prices and rising prices are serious problems. We will try to minimize the impact on people’s lives and businesses,” Kishida said in parliament. Price hikes are expected to continue as raw material costs increase further.   

Former Japanese Red Army Leader Released   

After more than two decades behind bars, Fusako Shigenobu was freed from prison on Saturday. The founder and former leader of the Japanese Red Army (JRA) became a wanted person by Interpol following the 1974 French Embassy attack in the Hague. Three members of the JRA, allegedly acting on her orders, stormed the building demanding the release of the group’s member, Yatsuka Furuya. The ambassador and 10 others were taken hostage during a siege that lasted five days.  

Those hostages and Furuya were eventually released. The three terrorists; Haruo Wako, Jun Nishikawa and Junzo Okudaira, escaped out of the Netherlands. Wako and Nishikawa were eventually arrested over 20 years later. Shigenobu was taken into custody in Osaka in 2000. Okudaira, meanwhile, remains at large. “It was half a century ago, but we caused damage to innocent people who were strangers to us by prioritizing our battle, such as by hostage-taking,” said Shigenobu after her release.  

 Japan Hit Four Past Paraguay  

Japan could easily have had six or seven against Paraguay on Thursday. Instead, profligacy in front of goal meant they had to settle for a 4-1 victory. Coach Hajime Moriyasu picked an attacking lineup that dominated their South American opponents. Goals from Takuma Asano and Daichi Kamada separated the teams at the break. Kaoru Mitoma’s cute finish restored the host’s two-goal lead after Derlis Gonzalez gave Paraguay hope. Ao Tanaka added a delightful fourth, five minutes from time. Japan’s next game is against Brazil on Monday.   

At the Tokyo National Stadium on Sunday, the Panasonic Wild Knights won the inaugural final of Japan Rugby League One. The Saitama-based side, led by former Wallabies coach Robbie Deans, defeated Tokyo Suntory Sungoliath 18-12 to take home the trophy. At the other end of the table, the Shining Arcs were relegated. They made headlines at the beginning of the season with the controversial signing of Israel Folau, a man who once said “hell awaits gay people.” The Mitsubishi Dynaboars will replace them in the top flight.