In this week’s news roundup, we have the latest on the Chinese spy balloons that reportedly entered Japanese airspace between 2019 and 2021. We also report on the Chinese vessel that trespassed into Japanese waters near Kagoshima Prefecture and the furor surrounding an uninhabited island in Okinawa that a Chinese woman claims to have purchased. In non-China related news, Kazuo Ueda is nominated as the next BOJ chief, Toyota honorary chairman Shoichiro Toyoda passes away and Wishma Sandamali’s video is to be shown in court. In sport, the women’s World Championships Skateboard Park competition is dominated by athletes born in Japan.

Chinese Spy Balloons Allegedly Violated Japanese Airspace

Reports on mysterious flying objects allegedly sent from China continue to make headlines around the world. On February 4, a Chinese-operated high-altitude balloon was shot down by the US Air Force after entering North American airspace. It would appear, though, that this wasn’t an isolated incident, with several countries believed to have been targeted by China. This includes Japan, with the Ministry of Defense here stating that it “strongly suspects” Chinese spy balloons entered its territory three times between 2019 and 2021.

“After further analysis of specific balloon-shaped flying objects previously identified in Japanese airspace, including those in November 2019, June 2020 and September 2021, we’ve concluded that the balloons are strongly presumed to be unmanned reconnaissance balloons flown by China,” read the ministry’s statement on Tuesday. It added that it “demanded China’s government confirm the facts” of the incident, while insisting it never happen again. On Thursday, Japan’s ruling party approved plans to ease requirements for weapon use against flying objects violating the country’s airspace.

Chinese Vessel Enters Japanese Waters

It’s not just Chinese spy balloons that are threatening Japan’s security. Since 2021, seven naval vessels from China have trespassed into Japanese waters off Kagoshima. The latest incident occurred at around 2:30am on Sunday, with the ship leaving at around 4:10am. The Ministry of Defense here expressed its “grave concern” and lodged a complaint with Beijing over the intrusion. According to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, passage through territorial waters is permitted if the foreign ships do not engage in military or economic activities.

Another China-related issue concerning Japanese citizens is the supposed “purchase” of the Okinawan island of Yanaha by a Chinese woman. She made the claim on video-sharing app Douyin (the TikTok application for China) in late January before telling Chinese media it had been bought by a company run by her family. Some people online saw this as China extending its territory. According to public records, a Chinese-affiliated consulting firm based in Tokyo purchased around half of the island in February 2021. The office of Izena Village, which manages Yanaha, wasn’t involved in the transaction.

Toyota Honorary Chairman Shoichiro Toyoda Dies at 97

Shoichiro Toyoda, Toyota’s honorary chairman, passed away on Tuesday. He was 97. The grandson of Sakichi Toyoda, founder of automatic loom manufacturer Toyoda Automatic Loom Works, Ltd., and the eldest son of Kiichiro Toyoda, the man who in 1937 established Toyota Industries Corporation’s predecessor, Toyota Motor Company, Shoichiro Toyoda became a board member of the organization aged 27. Three decades later, when sales and production organizations merged to form Toyota Motor Corporation, he was named the entity’s first president. The third-generation leader would go on to oversee Toyota’s transformation into a global automaker.

Toyoda took over at the height of the US-Japan auto trade wars. He set up a joint venture with General Motors in 1984. This was despite American factories’ fears that Japanese cars were putting them out of business. Two years later, Toyota debuted the Corolla FX16 — its first car assembled on American soil. By the time Toyoda left his post in 1992, 40% of Toyotas sold in the States were manufactured locally. He gave the green light for the company’s first assembly plants in Europe and Canada and spearheaded the development of the Lexus brand.

Gov’t Nominates Academic Kazuo Ueda as Next BOJ Chief

On Tuesday, the Japanese government officially named Kazuo Ueda as its nominee for the next Bank of Japan (BOJ) chief. The 71-year-old academic is set to serve a five-year term. His deputy governors will be Ryozo Himino, a former commissioner of the Financial Services Agency, and Shinichi Uchida, an executive director at the central bank. Their nominations are expected to be approved by mid-March. Ueda will then take over from incumbent Haruhiko Kuroda, who has spent 10 years at the helm, on April 9.

Reports that the Kishida administration was planning to present Ueda as its candidate surfaced last Friday. It caused quite a stir as he wasn’t even considered a dark horse for a role that’s traditionally been taken on by bureaucrats from the finance ministry or the bank itself. A professor at Kyoritsu Women’s Educational Institution, Ueda is set to become the first postwar BOJ governor to come from academia. He did, though, serve as a member of the BOJ’s policy board between 1998 and 2005.

Video of Sri Lankan Detainee’s Final Days To Be Shown in Court

On Wednesday, a lawyer for the family of Ratnayake Liyanage Wishma Sandamali, the Sri Lankan woman who died at a detention facility in Nagoya, revealed that a central Japan court is planning to show video surveillance of her final days. The Japanese government has been reluctant to show the roughly five hours of footage due to security concerns. However, following five rounds of oral proceedings and discussions, Presiding Judge Shin Sano decided it should be shown in court.

Wishma died at the Nagoya Regional Immigration Services Bureau on March 6, 2021. A few months earlier, she was detained for overstaying her visa after going to the police to report domestic abuse. Prior to her death, the Sri Lankan was allegedly vomiting blood and was so weak, she had no control over her arms or legs. Her family is seeking ¥156 million in damages from the government. They claim she was illegally detained and died due to a lack of necessary medical care.

Sky Brown | Photo by Joe Pugliese and @oh_so_co

Sky’s the Limit for Miyazaki-born Star

Miyazaki-born prodigy Sky Brown topped the podium at the World Championships Skateboard Park competition in Sharjah, UAE, on Sunday. It was a first-ever world title for the 14-year-old, who represents her father’s country of Great Britain. Brown finished ahead of Japanese pair Kokona Hiraki, also aged 14, and 20-year-old Sakura Yosozumi. “Being on the podium with these guys again is so crazy. I just thought whatever happens I’m just going to enjoy it,” said the Olympic bronze medalist after the event. Japanese debutant Hinano Kusaki, another 14-year-old, finished fourth.

In European soccer, Takefusa Kubo impressed again in Spain’s La Liga. The 21-year-old found the net for the fourth time this season and forced an own goal as Real Sociedad defeated Espanyol 3-2. Daizen Maeda opened the scoring for Scottish Premiership leaders Celtic in their cup tie with St. Mirren. Reo Hatate then bagged a brace when he came off the bench as the Hoops strolled to a 5-1 victory. In Austria, meanwhile, Keito Nakamura continued to enhance his reputation with the only goal as LASK beat SCR Altach 1-0.