In this week’s news roundup, we report on the controversial comments made by Dewi Sukarno via Twitter. The third wife of Sukarno, the first president of Indonesia, described the inquiry into claims of sexual abuse made against Japan’s most famous talent manager, the late Johnny Kitagawa, as “lamentable and shameful.” She was particularly critical of the UN Human Rights Council’s plans to send a working group to Japan to investigate the matter. Her comments have been condemned by many.  

Also this week, we report on the latest missiles to be launched by North Korea. There’s good news for Japan’s tourism industry as inbound visitors exceed 2 million for the first time in three and a half years. Studio Ghibli’s new film, which was shrouded in secrecy, breaks records on its opening weekend. Saou Ichikawa becomes the first physically disabled author to win the Akutagawa Prize. And in sport, Shohei Ohtani impresses again as the Angels sweep the Yankees. 

Dewi Sukarno Courts Controversy with Comments About Johnny Kitagawa 

Never shy when it comes to speaking her mind, Dewi Sukarno has been heavily criticized for her latest comments. The Tokyo-born television personality and businesswoman took to Twitter on Tuesday to defend Johnny Kitagawa, the late music mogul who was accused of sexually assaulting several former members of his organization. Allegations were made both before and after his death. She wrote that “he loved the children of his office as if they were his own.”  

Comparing Kitagawa’s relationship with his subordinates to Jean Cocteau’s love for Jean Marais (the pair often referred to as the “first modern gay couple”), Sukarno focused on his achievements in the industry and described the desecration of his character as “a disgrace to Japan.” One of her tweets already has over 17 million views. Many people condemned her words, stating that while Kitagawa’s accomplishments were commendable, the sexual assault claims are a separate matter.    

North Korea Launches Two More Missiles 

North Korea launched two short-range ballistic missiles on Wednesday that landed in the sea between Japan and the Korean Peninsula. They were fired from the North’s Sunan area between 3:30am and 3:46am. According to Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada, the two projectiles fell outside Japan’s exclusive economic zone. Both missiles flew for up to 600 kilometers at a peak altitude of 50 kilometers. The Japanese government lodged a protest to Pyongyang through a diplomatic channel.  

The launch came a day after the U.S. and South Korea held their first Nuclear Consultative Group framework in Seoul. The two countries agreed to conduct joint military exercises and war simulations to deter North Korea from using nuclear weapons. On the same day, a nuclear-capable US Navy ballistic missile submarine visited a South Korean port and an American soldier facing disciplinary action at home slipped across the inter-Korean border into the North.

Inbound Tourism Rises Above 2 Million in June in Japan

The Japan National Tourism Organization (JNTO) announced on Wednesday that inbound visitors here rose to 2.07 million in June. That’s the first time it has exceeded 2 million since early 2020. The JNTO added that in the first half of 2023, the number of people traveling to Japan from overseas soared around 21-fold from last year’s figure to an estimated 10,712,000. According to the organization, that number was 64.4% of the level in the first half of 2019.  

The main reason for the rebound in foreign tourists is, of course, the government’s easing and then lifting of pandemic-related border control measures. The weakening of the yen, which makes traveling here cheaper, is said to be another factor. This, though, has made it more difficult for people living in Japan to go overseas. In May, the JNTO urged citizens to take foreign trips to help domestic airlines.  

Hayao Miyazaki | Denis Makarenko via Shutterstock

New Ghibli Film Breaks Records in Japan

Sometimes it pays not to advertise. For the company’s latest film, Studio Ghibli, or more specifically, Toshio Suzuki, decided not to do any publicity. No ads, no plot summary release and no information about the voice actors. Nobody knew what to expect when The Boy and the Heron (titled How Do You Live? in Japanese) premiered at Japanese cinemas last Friday. “In my opinion, in this age of so much information, the lack of information is entertainment,” said Suzuki.

The renowned producer added that director Hayao Miyazaki believed in the decision, but was also anxious about it. He needn’t have been. The film grossed ¥1.83 billion in its first three days, an opening weekend record for Studio Ghibli. Set in Japan during World War II, The Boy and the Heron is described by the BBC’s Matt Schley as “a coming-of-age tale in which a child must overcome his selfishness and learn to live for others.”

Ichikawa Becomes First Physically Disabled Author to Win Akutagawa Prize

For the first time, an author with a physical disability won the prestigious Akutagawa literary award on Wednesday. Saou Ichikawa, 43, who has congenital myopathy, took home the top prize for her novel Hunchback. It’s a humorous story that centers around a disabled woman’s anger and desires. It also provides a social commentary regarding the privileges of non-disabled people. “I wrote this with the mind that there are not many authors like me,” said Ichikawa.

According to one of the judges, Keiichiro Hirano, there was overwhelming support for Ichikawa’s novel. “She critically dismantled social norms and etiquette through the use of the protagonist’s difficulties,” he said. Japan’s other big literature award, the Naoki Prize for popular fiction, was won by Ryosuke Kakine, 57, for Gokurakuseiitaishogun and Sayako Nagai, 46, for Kobikicho no Adauchi. Both are historical novels. Named after esteemed authors Ryunosuke Akutagawa and Sanjugo Naoki, the two prizes were established in 1935.

Gwen Stefani celebrated as Shohei Ohtani hit his 35th homer

Ohtani Surpasses Last Year’s Home-Run Total 

Shohei Ohtani smashed his 35th homer of the season on Monday to surpass his total from last year after just 95 matches. Tying the game in the 7th inning for the Los Angeles Angels against the New York Yankees, he flipped his bat high in the air in celebration. The crowd went wild, including Anaheim-native Gwen Stefani. The Angels won the game 4-3 and went on to sweep the Yankees for the first time since 2009.  

At Wimbledon on Sunday, 17-year-old wheelchair tennis phenom Tokito Oda secured his second successive Grand Slam trophy. The talented teenager defeated Britain’s Alfie Hewett 6-4, 6-2 on Court One in a repeat of this year’s Australian and French Open finals, which they won one apiece. At the 2023 World Aquatics Championships in Fukuoka, artistic swimmer Yukiko Inui won two gold medals in the solo free and solo technical routines. Both are non-Olympic events. Japan now has four golds in artistic swimming.