In this week’s news roundup, we take a look at the so-called Barbenheimer memes that have been accused of trivializing the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. We also report on Typhoon Khanun, some controversial tourist pictures from Paris and the sentencing of Kyota Hattori. In sport, Nadeshiko prove too strong for Spain at the FIFA Women’s World Cup and the Japanese men’s foil team triumph at the Fencing World Championships.  

Barbenheimer Memes Criticized in Japan  

The hashtag #nobarbenheimer was trending in Japan this week in response to the so-called Barbenheimer memes that feature mashups of the hugely contrasting films Barbie and Oppenheimer. Both movies were released on July 21 in America and together have already surpassed the $1 billion box office mark. One of the memes showed Margot Robbie, star of the former, with a mushroom cloud hairstyle. Barbie’s official account replied, “This Ken is a stylist.”  

Another one showed Cillian Murphy, who plays the man known as the “father of the atomic bomb,” J. Robert Oppenheimer, carrying Robbie on his shoulders through a burning city. “It’s going to be a summer to remember,” was the response from the Barbie account. Warner Brothers Japan described the responses as “extremely regrettable.” The U.S. headquarters subsequently apologized. “Warner Brothers regrets its recent insensitive social media engagement. The studio offers its sincere apology,” read a statement to media outlets.  

Barbie comes out on August 11 in Japan

Controversy Mars Barbie Promotional Event  

Barbie is set to premiere in Japan on August 11. Movie director, Greta Gerwig, producer David Heyman and Mitsuki Takahata, the Japanese language voice of the eponymous lead character, appeared on a pink stage in Tokyo’s Chiyoda ward on Wednesday to promote the film. Takahata had reportedly considered dropping out of the event following the controversy surrounding the Barbenheimer memes. “This incident is really, really disappointing,” she posted on Instagram.  

The distributor of Oppenheimer, meanwhile, has not yet announced a release date for the film in Japan. The movie, which chronicles the creation of the atomic bomb, was never likely to premiere here around this time, though, due to the upcoming anniversaries of the Hiroshima (August 6) and Nagasaki (August 9) attacks. Director Christopher Nolan has been criticized for not showing the extent of the suffering and devastation that the bombings caused in the two cities.  

Two Dead as Typhoon Khanun Batters Okinawa  

At least two people have died as a result of Typhoon Khanun, which first hit Okinawa on Wednesday. Yoshihiro Sakiyama, 90, was crushed to death after being trapped under his garage. Nago police believe it collapsed due to violent winds caused by the slow moving typhoon, the sixth this season. An elderly lady also passed away after her house caught fire. According to NHK, she was using candles because of a blackout in the area.  

The powerful storm and heavy rain took out power lines, leaving more than 200,000 residents, around a third of the homes in the prefecture, without electricity on Wednesday. Winds reached up to 162 kilometers per hour. All flights in and out of Naha Airport were canceled, as were all the ships heading in and out of Naha Port. Air and sea travel is expected to be disrupted until after August 5.  

Kyota Hattori set the train carriage ablaze

Halloween ‘Joker’ Receives 23-Year Sentence for Knife and Arson Attack 

Kyota Hattori, 26, was sentenced to 23 years in prison on Monday for a knife and arson attack on a Tokyo train on Halloween night in 2021. The assailant, who was dressed as the Joker from the Batman series, stabbed a 72-year-old man, who temporarily suffered a cardiopulmonary arrest. He then set the carriage on fire using lighter fluid. Prosecutors demanded 25 years, arguing that the fire was premeditated with the intention to kill.  

The defense team sought 12 years, stating that passengers had already reached safety by the time he’d started the fire and weren’t at risk of dying. During the trial, Hattori told the court he was shocked to hear that his ex-girlfriend had gotten married just six months after they’d broken up and wanted to end his life. Following an unsuccessful suicide attempt, he decided to carry out the attack so he would receive the death penalty.  

LDP Lawmaker Criticized for Touristy Photos in Paris  

Social media photos taken by a member of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party’s (LDP) Women’s Affairs Division have sparked a backlash online. On July 27, Upper House member Rui Matsukawa, who heads the division, posted several touristy pictures, including one of her alongside two colleagues mimicking the shape of the Eiffel Tower in front of Paris’ most famous landmark. While it all sounds innocent enough, Matsukawa decided to delete some of the images following criticism from taxpayers.  

“I apologize for causing any misunderstanding,” she said. “I didn’t mean to give the impression that the trip was anything but a serious program full of content.” There were 38 members who took part in the study trip, which was funded by the LDP and participants. They were in France to learn about the effects of lowering the compulsory age of education to 3 years. Taxpayers, however, didn’t appreciate seeing them have a good time, seemingly at their expense.  

Saki Kumagai captained Japan to victory over Spain | Image by Bennu Co., Ltd.

Nadeshiko Japan Blitz Spain in Wellington  

Level on six points after two games, Japan’s final group encounter against Spain was expected to be a tight affair. In the end, it proved anything but. Futoshi Ikeda’s side blitzed their higher-ranked opponents 4-0 with some devastating counter-attacking soccer. Despite having just 23% possession in the match, the team nicknamed Nadeshiko produced what was arguably the most impressive performance of the tournament so far. They now face Norway in the second round on Saturday.  

At the Fencing World Championships in Milan, Japan won their first ever men’s team foil title. The Japanese team of Kyosuke Matsuyama, Takahiro Shikine, Kazuki Iimura and Kenta Suzumura were 5-0 down in the early stages of the final against China. They came back strongly, though, to win 45-35. “This (win) takes the pressure off our shoulders,” Matsuyama said. “We became champions this time, but the real battle starts from here.”