In this week’s news roundup, we report on HHCH, a cannabis-like compound that has been added to Japan’s list of designated controlled substances. There’s anger as North Korea launches a spy satellite into orbit. A team of lawyers announce the results of a survey related to alleged child abuse among Jehovah’s Witnesses. And Soka Gakkai’s honorary chairman passes away. In sport, Yuzuru Hanyu slams the media following his divorce. Japan’s men’s soccer team hit Syria for five. And Tokyo hosts the first-ever SpoGomi World Cup. 

HHCH Added to Japan’s List of Banned Substances  

On Tuesday, government narcotics agents inspected the factory of WWE in Osaka city. The food production and sales company had been manufacturing gummies featuring the ingredient hexahydrocannabihexol (HHCH), a semi-synthetic cannabinoid derivative that emulates tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) found in marijuana. While THC was already banned in Japan, HHCH wasn’t designated as a regulated substance. That changed on Wednesday when it was added to the country’s list of controlled substances. The possession, use and distribution of HHCH will be prohibited from December 2. 

According to the police, more than 20 people fell ill after consuming gummies containing HHCH. That included five individuals who ate them at a festival in Musashino Park in Western Tokyo on November 4. A man in his 40s allegedly handed them out. “Since I ate some myself and felt good afterwards, I wanted everyone else to eat them,” he reportedly told the police during voluntary questioning. The Health Ministry is now considering a ban of all compounds with a similar chemical structure. 

This was North Korea’s third attempt to launch a satellite into orbit | Image by Dancing_Man via Shutterstock

North Korea Launches Spy Satellite Into Orbit 

Early on Tuesday morning, November 21, North Korea announced that it would launch an “artificial satellite” between November 22 and 30. At just before 11pm on the same day, slightly ahead of that timeframe, a projectile flew over Okinawa, towards the Pacific Ocean. The Japanese government issued an emergency warning for the prefecture via its J-Alert system, which was soon lifted. According to Pyongyang, the spy satellite, named Malligyong-1, accurately entered orbit. South Korea’s military concurred, though said they’ll need more time to assess whether it’s functional.  

It was North Korea’s third attempt to send a spy satellite into orbit, following failures in May and August. The latest launch was strongly condemned by the U.S., South Korea and Japan. “Even if the purpose is to launch a satellite, using ballistic missile technology is a clear violation of the relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions,” said Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida. “It is also a very serious matter that greatly concerns the safety of our people,” he added. Tokyo lodged a protest through its embassy in Beijing. 

92% of Ex-Jehovah’s Witnesses Say They Received Corporal Punishment: Survey

At a press conference on Tuesday, a team of lawyers released the results of a survey related to alleged child abuse among Jehovah’s Witnesses in Japan. Featuring 194 questions, it was conducted online between May and June of this year. Of the 560 ex-Jehovah’s Witnesses who responded, 514 — or just under 92% — said they had experienced some form of corporal punishment during their childhood, such as being struck by whips, rulers, belts or bare hands. The main reasons for these beatings were disobedience and falling asleep during religious meetings.

Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that taking a transfusion of blood is against God’s will. As a result, most followers — more than 80% according to the survey — carry a “no blood” card with them. Guidelines compiled by the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry last December state that denying children access to medical treatment, such as blood transfusions, amounts to neglect, which is a form of abuse. “We do not force our religion on children and do not condone child abuse,” Jehovah’s Witnesses told The Asahi Shimbun. 

Beads used during Soka Gakkai prayer sessions | Image by HW Photowork via Shutterstock

Soka Gakkai’s Honorary Chairman Daisaku Ikeda Dies Aged 95  

Soka Gakkai released a statement on Saturday informing the public of the death of the Buddhist group’s former leader and honorary chairman Daisaku Ikeda. He passed away from natural causes at his home on November 15 aged 95. Ikeda joined the religious organization at the age of 19 after meeting with Soka Gakkai’s second president, Josei Toda, in 1947. When Toda died 13 years later, he was chosen as his replacement. Ikeda went on to form the Komeito political party in 1964 and then founded Soka Gakkai International in 1975.  

The Japanese Buddhist religious movement, which is based on the teachings of the 13th-century Japanese priest Nichiren, claims to have more than 12 million members in 92 countries. This includes several celebrities like Pirates of the Caribbean star Orlando Bloom. The British actor paid his respects to Ikeda on Instagram. Other famous practitioners include soccer players Roberto Baggio and Shunsuke Nakamura as well as the revered jazz musician Herbie Hancock. Legendary singer Tina Turner, who passed away earlier this year, also turned to the group after her divorce. 

A Rubbish Victory for Britain in Japan

The inaugural SpoGomi World Cup took place in Tokyo’s Shibuya and Omotesando districts on Wednesday. Derived from the words “sport” and “gomi” — which means garbage in Japanese — SpoGomi involves teams of three players who attempt to pick up as much trash as they can, usually within one hour, in a designated area. They then have 20 minutes to properly sort the garbage. Points are awarded for the amount and variety of waste collected. Cigarette butts earn 100 points, which is the highest score.

Kenichi Mamitsuka came up with the idea for SpoGomi while out jogging in 2008. Picking up litter as he ran, Mamitsuka realized that by setting targets, collecting trash could be turned into a fun competition that would also benefit the environment. The idea soon spread around the globe. Teams from 21 countries competed at this week’s World Cup, which included 45-minute morning and afternoon sessions. Britain lifted the first-ever trophy with host nation Japan settling for second. The next SpoGomi World Cup will be held in Tokyo in 2025.

Yuzuru Hanyu

Yuzuru Hanyu Announces His Divorce on X  

Sporting headlines this week have been dominated by Yuzuru Hanyu’s divorce. The two-time Olympic champion broke the news on the X social media platform, previously known as Twitter, last Friday, claiming various media outlets had been “slandering and stalking” his partner. There was more positive news on the ice as Kaori Sakamoto won her second straight Grand Prix series event on Saturday. The two-time world champion finished 15 points ahead of compatriot Rion Sumiyoshi. There was also a Japan one-two in the men’s event with Kao Miura edging out Shun Sato.  

In men’s soccer, Japan thrashed Syria 5-0 on Tuesday. Ayase Ueda, who hit a hat-trick against Myanmar last week, bagged a brace. There were also goals for Takefusa Kubo, Yukinari Sugawara and Mao Hosoya. Hajime Moriyasu’s men sit at the top of Group B in the Asian second-round qualifiers for the 2026 World Cup. Japan’s U22 side, meanwhile, defeated Argentina 5-2 in Shizuoka on Saturday. The two teams then drew 0-0 three days later. Both nations were preparing for their 2024 Paris Olympic qualifiers.