In this week’s news roundup we hear from Shibuya Mayor Ken Hasebe as he urges Halloween revelers to stay away from the area this year due to safety concerns. Prime Minister Fumio Kishida includes five women in his reshuffled Cabinet. The Sapporo District Court rejects a claim for same-sex spousal benefits. Former SMAP member Takuya Kimura faces a backlash after a controversial Instagram post that he later deleted. Rina Gonoi and Arfiya Eri both feature in Time magazine’s 100 emerging world leaders for 2023. And in sport, there are wins for Japan’s men’s rugby and soccer teams. 

‘Don’t Come’: Shibuya Mayor Warns Halloween Revelers 

“I don’t want people to come to Shibuya if they’re only coming for Halloween.” That was the message from Ken Hasebe, the mayor of Shibuya ward, on Tuesday. He cited safety concerns as the reason, stating that “it would not be surprising” if an accident like the one that occurred in Seoul in 2022 happened in his district. According to the South Korean government, 159 people died and 196 were injured due to a crowd crush in the Itaewon neighborhood of the country’s capital on October 29 last year.  

Between October 27 and November 1, drinking in public places near Shibuya Station such as parks and roads will be prohibited. Convenience stores and other establishments in the area will also be asked to restrict alcohol sales on Saturday the 28th and Halloween night, when the number of visitors is expected to peak. Around 100 security staff will be deployed to patrol the region. Swarming crowds have caused trouble in the past, including in 2018 when four people were arrested for overturning a van during pre-Halloween celebrations.   

Fumio Kishida

Kishida’s Cabinet Reshuffle  

With support rates dwindling, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida decided to reshuffle his Cabinet on Wednesday. Out of the 19 ministers, there are 11 new faces and two who served in previous Cabinets. It also includes five women. While that’s lower than the representation seen in most G7 nations, it’s a joint record in this country, tying with Junichiro Koizumi and Shinzo Abe’s Cabinets in 2001 and 2014. Sanae Takaichi, who previously ran for PM, kept her position as economic security minister. The other four females are new to the Cabinet.  

That includes Yoko Kamikawa, who replaces Kishida’s close ally Yoshimasa Hayashi as justice minister. She’s the first female to take on the position since Yoriko Kawaguchi, who served under Koizumi between 2002 and 2004. Another eye-opening appointment was that of Minoru Kihara as defense minister. He’s seen as a pro-Taiwan politician, having been a senior member of a bipartisan group promoting ties with the democratically governed island. According to a Kyodo poll, the approval rating for the Cabinet rose to 39.8% following the reshuffle, up 6.2% from late August.  

Sapporo Court Dismisses Claim Over Same-Sex Couple’s Benefits 

Two years ago, Kaoru Sasaki, a woman in a same-sex relationship, filed a damages suit against her employers, the Hokkaido government, for being denied spousal benefits. On Monday, the Sapporo District Court denied her claim for ¥4.7 million in compensation, ruling that a person in a same-sex relationship is not entitled to the same spousal benefits afforded to someone who is married or in a common law marital relationship. Presiding Judge Koichi Migita stated that the country’s civil law currently limits marriage to a union between men and women.  

Sasaki applied for spousal benefits and an increase in special benefits for employees working in cold areas in July 2018 and April 2019. Both applications were turned down, however, with the Hokkaido government stating that the benefits were restricted to heterosexual couples. Sasaki described the decision as “discrimination based on sexual orientation, which is beyond a person’s control.” She claimed that as she was in a de facto marital relationship with her partner, she was entitled to the benefits. Despite criticizing the court’s decision, she won’t appeal the ruling.  

Takuya Kimura | Image by Denis Makarenko via Shutterstock

Former SMAP Member Deletes ‘Show Must Go On’ Post  

The “show must go on.” These were the words often uttered by Johnny Kitagawa, the disgraced founder of famed talent agency Johnny & Associates. Following the company’s press conference last week, during which it was announced that Noriyuki Higashiyama was taking over as president from Julie K. Fujishima, former SMAP member Takuya Kimura posted those same words on his Instagram page. The post attracted a lot of attention, with many criticizing it for being insensitive to the victims who were sexually abused by Kitagawa. He deleted it on August 9.  

Kimura may believe the show must go on, but several sponsors, it seems, don’t feel the same way. Since last week’s press conference, many companies have started cutting ties with the talent agency. A spokesperson for McDonald’s told AFP that the company “plans not to renew contracts” with Johnny & Associates members once they expire, adding “no form of human rights violation is tolerable.” Beverage makers Kirin Holdings, Asahi Group Holdings and Suntory Holdings have taken a similar stance. As have Nissan, Japan Airlines and Tokio Marine & Nichido Fire Insurance. 

Two Japanese Females Feature in Time’s Emerging World Leaders List  

Time magazine has included two Japanese women in its list of this year’s 100 emerging world leaders. One is Rina Gonoi, a former Ground Self Defense Force (GSDF) member who experienced sexual violence while serving her country. After quitting the GSDF, Gonoi started posting online about the daily abuse she encountered. She then submitted a petition to the Defense Ministry. The overwhelming support she received finally pushed officials to act. As well as firing five soldiers and punishing four others, the GSDF conducted an organization-wide investigation that found over 100 similar complaints.  

“In Japanese society, speaking up about sexual violence has long been a taboo, but Rina’s courage has kicked the door open for all survivors,” writes journalist and filmmaker Shiori Ito in Time. The other Japanese female to feature in the list is Arfiya Eri. Born in Kitakyushu, Fukuoka, to a Uyghur Japanese father and an Uzbek Japanese mother, she’s a former U.N. official who became a member of parliament in April. “Eri has pitched herself as a bridge to better representation of the country’s true diversity,” writes Chad de Guzman in Time. 

Japanese rugby fans | Image by Faiz Azizan via Shutterstock

Japan Defeat Chile in Rugby World Cup Opener  

Japan began their Rugby World Cup campaign with a 42-12 bonus point victory over debutants Chile. The scoreline was harsh on the South American’s, who gave the Brave Blossoms a fright before falling away at the end. Amato Fakatava was the star man for Jamie Joseph’s side, scoring two tries while also making 17 tackles. Jone Naikabula, Michael Leitch, Ryoto Nakamura and Warner Dearns also went over for Japan, who take on England next. Steve Borthwick’s team defeated Argentina 27-10 in their opener despite playing 76 minutes with 14 players.  

In men’s soccer, Japan hit eight goals in their two friendly games against Germany and Turkey. They defeated the former 4-1 with Junya Ito, Ayase Ueda, Takuma Asano and Ao Tanaka all on the scoresheet. The German FA subsequently axed Hansi Flick. He became the first German coach to be fired since the position was created in 1926. Japan followed up that impressive result with a 4-2 win over Turkey. Keito Nakamura bagged a brace and Atsuki Ito scored his first international goal. Junya Ito added a fourth from the penalty spot.