2024 got off to a tragic start in Japan with a 7.6 magnitude earthquake striking Ishikawa Prefecture’s Noto Peninsula at approximately 4:10pm on New Year’s Day. At the time of writing, the death toll sits at 84. Just over 24 hours had passed before the next tragedy struck. At approximately 5:47pm on January 2, a Coast Guard aircraft collided with a Japan Airlines (JAL) passenger jet at Haneda Airport (officially Tokyo International Airport), killing five of the six people who were inside the smaller vessel. The JAL airbus burst into flames, yet remarkably, all 379 on board were safely evacuated. In our first news roundup of the year, we report on those two major events and the other stories making headlines in Japan this week, including a stabbing incident on a Tokyo train and a large fire in Kitakyushu 

Rescue Operations Continue Following Sea of Japan Earthquake 

At least 84 people have died and more than 300 injured following the Sea of Japan earthquake which struck Ishikawa Prefecture’s Noto Peninsula on January 1. The crucial 72-hour window, after which survival rates drop sharply, has now elapsed, meaning the chances of rescuing the 179 people unaccounted for are fading fast. A woman in her 80s, however, was found alive under the rubble of her collapsed house yesterday. Search efforts are being hindered by ongoing tremors. There have been more than 600 aftershocks since the main quake.  

Measuring 7.6 on the Richter Scale and the highest level of 7 on Japan’s shindo intensity scale, the earthquake moved the land more than 130 centimeters west and raised it by more than 4 meters. Just 10 minutes after it struck, waves at least 1.2 meters high hit Wajima Port in Ishikawa. For the first time since 2011, a major tsunami warning was issued. This was later downgraded. More than 30,000 households were left without power following the quake, which destroyed at least 200 buildings. 

A JAL plane was set ablaze after colliding with a Coast Guard aircraft

Coast Guard Plane Collides with JAL Passenger Plane

The day after the disaster in Ishikawa, a Coast Guard plane was set to depart Haneda Airport to deliver aid to survivors in the quake-hit region. Tragically, the aircraft never took off. Shortly before 6pm on January 2, it collided with JAL Airbus A350, killing five of the six members on board. The passengers on the burning JAL plane rushed to emergency exits without their hand luggage as instructed by crew members. Everyone who boarded the flight from Sapporo’s New Chitose Airport survived.  

The Coast Guard plane’s captain — the only survivor from the smaller vessel — reportedly told investigators he had been authorized to enter the runway where the JAL airliner had been approaching. However, according to flight control communications released by Japan’s transport ministry on Wednesday, the Coast Guard Bombardier Dash-8 hadn’t been given permission for take-off. The control tower’s instruction for the plane was to “taxi to holding point C5.” The transcript shows that the Coast Guard aircraft acknowledged this in what was the last transmission before the collision.  

Large Fire Breaks out in Kitakyushu’s Popular Restaurant District  

It wasn’t just Haneda Airport that had to deal with a huge fire this week. In Kitakyushu, several buildings burned down after a blaze reportedly started from a pot at a restaurant near the city’s lively Torimachi Shokudogai alley, around 200 meters south of Kokura Station. At approximately 3:10pm on January 3, a passerby called 119 to report that smoke was emerging from an eatery in the area. The fire soon spread to surrounding structures and 30 firetrucks were subsequently dispatched to the scene.  

According to the Kitakyushu city fire department, the fire was contained at approximately 7:45 pm that night, though it wasn’t fully extinguished until 4 am the next day, more than 13 hours after it started. Fortunately, the police have received no reports of injuries. “It’s painful to see the devastation of an area that was bustling with people just a few days ago. It’s a shame because fire prevention measures have been strengthened since fires at the Tanga Market in 2022,” said Kitakyushu Mayor Kazuhisa Takeuchi.  

knife attack on Tokyo train line in Akihabara

The stabbing incident occurred on the Yamanote Line

Four Stabbed on Tokyo Train Line by Knife-Wielding Woman  

At around 10:55pm on Wednesday, a woman reported to be in her 20s attacked and slashed four men on the JR Yamanoe Line as it ran between Okachimachi and Akihabara stations. Three out of the four victims allegedly suffered serious stab wounds in the stomach, back and arms and were taken to hospital. The attacker, unidentified at the time of writing, was immediately arrested for attempted murder at the scene. East Japan Railway Co. stated that the incident disrupted outbound services on the line.

According to police investigators, after being arrested, the young woman stated in an interview, “I boarded a train from Ueno Station. I stabbed [them] with the intention of killing people.” The exact motive for the attack remains unknown. Akihabara, a popular tourist spot in Tokyo, was also the scene of a massacre in 2008, when killer Tomohiro Kato drove a truck into a busy crossing and then stabbed at least 12 people with a dagger. He killed seven people and was executed for his crimes in 2022.  

Aoyama Gakuin Wins 100th Hakone Ekiden  

In addition to that first shrine visit (hatsumode), eating osechi ryori and buying a lucky bag (fukubukuro), one of the most popular New Year traditions in Japan is sitting down to watch the Hakone Ekiden. A two-day marathon race from Otemachi to Hakone and back, it usually features 20 universities from Kanto and the Kanto Student Union team, made up of the best runners from colleges that didn’t qualify. With this year being its 100th edition, the field was extended to 23.  

The 2024 title went to Aoyama Gakuin in a record time of 10 hours, 41 minutes and 25 seconds. It was the private Christian university’s seventh triumph in the last 10 years. Last year’s champion and pre-race favorite, Komazawa University, finished more than six minutes behind in second. Crowds were allowed to cheer on runners for the first time since 2019. In other sports news, the Fujitsu Frontiers defeated the Panasonic Impulse 16-10 on Wednesday to claim their eighth overall Rice Bowl American football championship. 

Kyogo Furuhashi was omitted from the Japan squad for the 2024 Asian Cup

Kyogo Left out of Japan Squad for 2024 Asian Cup 

It’s been a mixed week for Celtic striker Kyogo Furuhashi. On Saturday, his stunning strike helped the Hoops defeat Old Firm rivals Rangers 2-1 at Parkhead. Two days later, his name was the most notable absence from Hajime Moriyasu’s squad for the 2024 Asian Cup. His Celtic teammates, Daizen Maeda and Reo Hatate, were selected. The former scored against St Mirren on Tuesday. Other names missing out include Daichi Kamada, Ao Tanaka, Yuya Osako and Tatsuhiro Sakamoto, who this week bagged a brace for Coventry City against Middlesbrough.  

Brighton winger Kaoru Mitoma was included despite injuring his ankle against Crystal Palace on December 21. “I’m really surprised because my medical staff told me Mitoma needs four, six weeks for his injury,” said the Seagulls manager Roberto De Zerbi prior to his side’s away trip to West Ham. Japan warmed up for the tournament in Qatar with a 5-0 thumping of Thailand at the Tokyo’s National Stadium on January 1. It was the country’s first ever game on New Year’s Day. 

Related Posts