On Monday, Tokyo recorded 29 Covid-19 cases, the lowest number this year. For the past two weeks, the figures in the capital have consistently been below 100 and have remained low throughout the country. Yet, despite the state of emergency ending and things slowly starting to open up, the entry ban on international workers and students remains in place with no time frame scheduled for when it will be lifted.  

Those affected by the ban decided to turn to social media to drum up support as they petition the government to open up the borders. Wanting to hear about their campaign, we spoke to Davide Rossi, president of Go! Go! Nihon, a company that makes the process of living and working here easier for foreign residents. He also runs the Education is not Tourism website, set up to share stories of students and workers who’ve been locked out Japan.  

Also in this week’s news roundup, we have the latest in the run up to the election on October 31. There’s another missile launch from North Korea and the eruption of Mount Aso in Kumamoto Prefecture. In sport, footballer Kaoru Mitoma bagged a hat-trick, while baseball legend Daisuke Matsuzaka pitched for the last time. 

Education is Not Tourism  

Last Friday a photo campaign kicked off on Twitter and Instagram related to Japan’s entry ban on workers and students. Under the hashtags #educationisnottourism and #日本留学の扉を開く会, people who’ve been shut out of the country shared pictures of themselves holding signs showing their names, nationalities and how long they’ve been waiting to enter Japan. The hope is that with more countries easing restrictions on international travel, Japan will soon follow suit.  

“International students and workers are aware of the measures required to avoid the spread of Covid-19,” says Rossi whose site Education is Not Tourism led the campaign. “They are absolutely fine cooperating with the government, following all the guidelines such as PCR testing and isolation. Japanese national and foreign residents can go abroad and come back to Japan. However, new entrants, who come from the same countries, can’t enter. It’s unfair.” 

LDP Expected to Maintain Majority  

Campaigning for the first general election of the Reiwa Era officially kicked off on Tuesday. Candidates are vying for a total of 465 seats. 289 of those are elected from single-seat districts while the remaining 176 go through proportional representation in regional blocks. Voters cast a ballot for each. Latest opinion polls suggest the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) is likely to lose some of its 276 seats. However, it is still expected to maintain a majority. 

Unsurprisingly, the economy dominated this week’s campaigning. Prime Minister Fumio Kishida promised to implement “economic policies that will raise the income and salaries of as many people as possible.” Yukio Edano, leader of the main opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan (CDP), doubts the plausibility of this pledge. He questioned why the LDP was urging private companies to raise salaries when the government itself was not doing the same for essential workers. 

North Korea Launch Another Missile  

Another week, another ballistic missile launched by North Korea. The latest one, which hit the Sea of Japan on Tuesday, meant that Prime Minister Kishida had to halt his first day of election campaigning and return to Tokyo. He had just finished his first speech in Fukushima when he was told about the launch. The State’s news outlet KCNA said the missile had “advanced control guidance technologies,” which could make it harder to track. 

The Japanese PM described the launch as “very regrettable.” He added, “I will drastically strengthen our defense capabilities. The Kishida administration is determined to protect our land, territorial sea and air space as well as the people’s lives and assets no matter what.” North Korea is prohibited from developing or testing ballistic missiles under a series of UN Security Council resolutions. 

Mount Aso Erupts  

Mount Aso erupted at 11:43 on Wednesday morning sending a plume of dark smoke 3,500 meters skyward. The volcanic alert level (which has a maximum of five) was raised from two, a warning not to approach the crater, to level three, a warning not to approach the volcano. 16 climbers were on the mountain at the time of the eruption, but no injuries were reported. 

Mount Aso is the largest active volcano in Japan. Lying within the Aso Kuju National Park, it comprises the Aso caldera and post-caldera central cones. Stretching 25 kilometers north to south and 18 kilometers east to west, it’s one of the world’s biggest calderas. It was formed through four huge eruptions that occurred between 90,000 to 270,000 years ago. Mount Aso last erupted in a massive upheaval on October 8, 2016.  

End of an Era  

Daisuke Matsuzaka pitched his very last ball on Tuesday. The ex-Major Leaguer finished his career with Seibu Lions, the same team he began it with 23 years ago. Struggling with neck pain and numbness in his right hand, the Aomori Prefecture-native underwent cervical spinal surgery in July of last year. Unable to properly recover, he announced that he would be calling time on his career this summer.  

Turning pro straight from high school, Matsuzaka was the key figure for the Lions in 2004 as they won the Japan Series for the first time in 12 years. In 2007, he signed for the Boston Red Sox, winning a World Series ring in his first season. Internationally, he helped Japan pick up a bronze medal at the 2004 Olympics and received two MVP awards as his country triumphed at the first two World Baseball Classic tournaments. 

Mitoma Shines in Belgium  

It’s been a good week for Japanese footballers in Europe. On Saturday, Kaoru Mitoma scored a brilliant hat-trick for Royale Union Saint-Gilloise in the Belgian Pro League. He came on in the second half with his side 2-0 down and having had a player sent off. The Japanese winger, on loan from England’s Brighton & Hove Albion, turned the game around with three tremendous goals as they defeated RFC Seraing 4-2. 

In Scotland, Celtic striker Kyogo Furuhashi continues to endear himself to the Parkhead faithful. He scored his side’s opener in their 2-0 win over Ferencváros in the Europa League on Tuesday. It was the Hoops first win in the competition this season. Also, in the same tournament, Daichi Kamada grabbed his first goal of the campaign as Eintracht Frankfurt defeated Olympiacos 3-1. In other sporting news, Japanese judoka won seven gold medals at the Paris Grand Slam.