In our latest news roundup, we look at the BBC documentary on Johnny Kitagawa. Delving into the dark past of the Johnny & Associates founder, the program examines Japan’s response to accusations of sexual assault made against him by minors more than two decades ago. Kitagawa, who died in 2019, was arguably the country’s most famous talent manager, yet remained an enigma until his death. The allegations made against the American-born Japanese businessman didn’t stop people revering him here. Former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe even sent a message of condolence for his funeral.  

Also this week, we report on South Korea’s proposal to resolve a war-time compensation dispute with Japan. JAXA and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries’ H3 rocket is ordered to self-destruct shortly after taking off. Japan ranks second worst in The Economist’s glass-ceiling index, which measures the influence of women in the workplace. The government here approves a bill to revise the Immigration Law. There’s another parliament no-show for YouTuber-turned politician GaaSyy. And in sport, Shohei Ohtani stars as Japan get off to a winning start against China in the World Baseball Classic. 

Johnny Kitagawa Back in the Headlines Following UK Documentary

“He is a god,” is how one man on the streets of Tokyo described Johnny Kitagawa. He was speaking to Mobeen Azhar for the BBC documentary, Predator: The Secret Scandal of J-Pop, which aired on Tuesday. The program looked into sexual abuse claims made against the late music mogul in 2000. The story came out in the tabloid magazine Shukan Bunshunwhich ran a 10-part series featuring accounts from 12 former Johnny & Associates members who claimed they were abused as minors by Kitagawa. He avoided a criminal investigation as the statute of limitations had passed.   

“I’ve been in despair about this for 23 years,” one of the Bunshun reporters told Azhar. Johnny & Associates sued the magazine for libel. The Tokyo High Court eventually ruled that nine of the 10 claims made in the exposé were true. It should’ve been a story as big as the Jimmy Saville sexual abuse scandal in the UK. Instead, it was swept under the carpet by the Japanese media. In the documentary, Azhar was also largely met with a wall of silence. Some survivors did talk to him, though, with one saying he still loved Kitagawa. 

Plans to Resolve Labor Compensation Dispute between South Korea and Japan Criticized by Victims

Speaking at a press conference on Monday, South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol announced a proposal aimed at resolving a wartime labor compensation dispute between his country and Japan. The plan is for a South Korean government-backed foundation to pay compensation to victims of forced labor by Japan. This is to be funded by private sector companies. In the past, the South Korean government attempted to make Tokyo pay reparations. In 2018, the Supreme Court in Seoul ordered Japanese companies, including Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, to compensate 15 victims. They refused, further aggravating tensions between the nations.  

Of the 15 original plaintiffs, only three remain alive. Their lawyers criticized the plan, stating that their clients plan to refuse the money. “The biggest humiliation and stain in diplomatic history,” was how Lee Jae-myung, leader of South Korea’s opposition Democratic Party, described the deal. For Suk-yeol, who will visit Japan on March 16, it’s all about mending relations between the neighboring countries. Unsurprisingly, Tokyo welcomed the proposal, as did US President Joe Biden. He called it “a groundbreaking new chapter of cooperation and partnership between two of the United States’ closest allies.”

Japan’s H3 Rocket Fails After Lift Off

Japan’s new flagship H3 rocket lifted off from the Tanegashima Space Center at 10:37am on Tuesday. Unfortunately, just a few minutes later, it was ordered to self-destruct as the engine failed to ignite. Viewed as a potential competitor to SpaceX’s Falcon 9, the idea was to launch it as an observation satellite. It had been delayed by several years and then failed to leave the launchpad last month. Tuesday’s launch initially looked like a success, but it soon became clear that things weren’t going as planned.  

“It seems that the velocity is coming down,” said announcers on the JAXA live feed. That was when the rocket was around 300 kilometers above the ground. This was then followed by a command center announcement, stating that the “second stage engine ignition has not been confirmed yet, we continue to confirm the situation,” and a message that read, “We are currently checking the status. Please wait.” The command center later announced the disappointing news. “Destruct command has been transmitted to H3 because there was no possibility of achieving the mission.” 

Japan Ranks Second Worst Again in The Economist’s Glass-Ceiling Index

British magazine The Economist released its annual survey measuring the role and influence of women in the workforce across 29 OECD nations on Monday, ahead of International Women’s Day on Wednesday. For the seventh consecutive year, Japan ranked second from last with South Korea occupying the bottom position. The publication noted that women in the two countries “must still choose between a family or a career.” Nordic nations dominated at the other end of the table. Iceland topped the list ahead of Sweden, Finland and Norway. Portugal was also named in the top five.  

The glass-ceiling index assesses the countries based on 10 metrics. This includes education, labor-force participation and the gender wage gap. Japan ranked highest among all the nations assessed in regard to paternity leave. However, it had the lowest percentage of women in managerial positions and in parliament. The prime minister has pledged to “work even harder” to bridge the gender equality chasm in this country. He said it was “imperative” that Japan closes the pay gap, appoints more female executives and reverses the trend of women taking up low-paid contract work after pregnancy.  

The government has approved a bill to revise the Immigration Law in Japan

Japan’s Cabinet Approves Changes to Immigration Law

On Tuesday, the government approved a bill to revise the Immigration Law. It includes a controversial provision limiting the number of times a foreigner can apply for refugee status. Anyone who doesn’t provide an adequate reason as to why they should receive approval on their third attempt could be deported. This proposal has been criticized by refugee supporters who fear it puts people in danger of persecution in their home countries. A similar bill was submitted to the Diet in 2021 but was scrapped after Sri Lankan Wishma Sandamali died in custody at an immigration detention facility in Nagoya.   

In other government-related news, Yoshikazu Higashitani looks set to be expelled from the Diet. The former YouTuber, who is more commonly known as GaaSyy, was elected as an upper house lawmaker last July. Since then, he hasn’t even made one appearance in parliament. The Dubai-based politician was due to attend a plenary session on Wednesday to apologize for his continued absence. Once again, though, he failed to turn up. Higashitani represents the NHK Party, which was founded by activist Takashi Tachibana in 2013 with the purpose of opposing the national broadcaster’s license fees. 

Ohtani Stars as Japan Begin WBC with Win Over China

Japan’s World Baseball Classic (WBC) campaign got off to a relatively straightforward start with an 8-1 victory over China on Thursday. Shohei Ohtani starred with both the bat and ball. Allowing just one hit, he struck out five and smashed a two-run double. Japan’s next game is tonight against a South Korean side who were defeated 8-7 by Australia in their opener. The first match of the tournament was won by the Netherlands, who defeated Cuba 4-2 in Pool A. They followed that up with a 3-1 win over Panama, who previously crushed Chinese Taipei 12-5.  

In soccer, Kaoru Mitoma scored and won a penalty as Brighton thumped West Ham 4-0 in the Premier League. Kyogo Furuhashi and Daizen Maeda were both on the scoresheet in Celtic’s 3-1 victory over Hearts, helping to maintain the Hoops’ nine-point lead at the top of the Scottish Premiership. In Belgium, Ayase Ueda bagged a brace in Cercle Brugge’s 3-1 win against RFC Seraing. There were also goals for LASK’s Keito Nakamura in Austria, Sparta Rotterdam’s Koki Saito in the Netherlands and FC Magdeburg’s Tatsuya Ito in Germany.