This week’s news roundup is dominated by sport and the Tokyo gubernatorial election. In American football, Japan’s victory over the U.S. at the IFAF Junior World Championship has caused quite a stir on social media. Baseball star Shohei Ohtani continues to break records for the Dodgers. And the Brave Blossoms rugby team are easily beaten by England. In the election, Yuriko Koike and Renho receive threatening messages. Plus, there are two lively debates: one involving the more serious candidates and the other for the wackier ones. Also this week, we report on the Japanese yen as it falls to a 38-year low. And there’s sad news from Mount Fuji, as four people die while climbing.

The U.S. Stunned by Japan at American Football Junior World Championship

On Sunday, Japan will play Canada for the gold medal game at the IFAF Junior World Championship in American football after a convincing win over the United States in the semifinal of the tournament. Quarterback Nobuaki Kobayashi was the star of the show in the Japanese side’s stunning 41-20 victory. They led 20-0 after just one quarter. “Teamwork is the key for us, and our coaching staff is very good,” said Kobayashi. “We were all focusing on what we can do for the team, so I am proud to be MVP, but it is for the team.” 

Defeat for the U.S. didn’t go down well with American fans on social media. “A day that will live in infamy,” was how one person described it on X. “We got beat in football by….Japan? Thanks Joe Biden,” wrote another. Airing his views on ESPN, sports analyst Pat McAfee said, “We named the game… we can’t be losing in an American football tournament to anybody.”  Robert Griffin III, a former Washington Redskins quarterback born in Okinawa, shared a clip of the game with the caption: “Video evidence of Japan kicking the snot out of the American National Team in American Football.” 

shohei ohtani gambling scandal response

Shohei Ohtani Breaks Dodgers’ RBI Record

For the second time this season, Shohei Ohtani was named as the National League Player of the Week on Monday. During a six-game span, which began on June 17, the Dodgers star hit four home runs and 11 RBIs. His 23rd homer of the campaign came against his former team, the Los Angeles Angels, on Saturday. He then hit his 24th and 25th in his side’s 4-3 and 4-0 midweek victories over the Chicago White Sox. The Japanese man has now scored at least one RBI in 10 consecutive games, setting a new record for the Dodgers. 

In other sports news, the Brave Blossoms were easily defeated by England at Tokyo’s National Stadium on Saturday. Eddie Jones’ side began brightly, but were soon overpowered, losing 52-17. In men’s soccer, 57-year-old Kazuyoshi Miura has rejoined fourth-tier club Atletico Suzuka on loan from Yokohama FC. Last season he played eight games in Liga Portugal 2 for Oliveirense. In men’s street skateboarding, defending champion Yuto Horigome booked his place at the Olympics. He’ll be joined in Paris by Ginwoo Onodera and world champion Sora Shirai. Coco Yoshizawa, Liza Akama and Funa Nakayama will represent Japan in the women’s competition. 

Governor Koike and Renho Targeted in Threatening Messages

Threatening messages targeting Yuriko Koike and Renho Saito, two of the leading candidates in the upcoming gubernatorial election, were sent via fax this week. On Sunday, the office of the latter received a message with the sender threatening to “repeatedly stab Renho with a knife.” The following day, fax messages were sent to people linked to Tomin First no Kai and a party member’s office in the Toshima Ward Assembly in Tokyo “I will pour sulfuric acid on Yuriko Koike and blind her,” read one of them. “I’ll blow up Yuriko Koike’s election office, like with Renho,” read another. 

Later that day, Koike, 71, and Renho, 56, joined the other two leading candidates in the election, Shinji Ishimaru, 41, and Toshio Tamogami, 75, for a debate at the Junior Chamber International Tokyo. Koike highlighted some of her campaign promises, such as free nursery care and subsidies for “pain-free childbirth.” Renho promised increased transparency in government projects. Ishimaru, the former mayor of Akitakata in Hiroshima Prefecture, called for a more unified child-rearing support effort. Tamogami, meanwhile, who previously served as the Chief of Staff of Japan’s Air Self-Defense Force, emphasized the importance of raising young people’s incomes. 

japanese joker

Wacky Candidates Take Center Stage at Chaotic Gubernatorial Election Debate

A less serious discussion took place at the same time on Monday evening. The video-sharing service Nico Nico streamed a live debate for election candidates. While all 56 were invited to appear and talk about their vision for the capital, it was largely only those with no chance of winning that turned up. Hosted by author and journalist Michiyoshi Hatakeyama, the debate gave wacky candidates such as Yusuke Kawai, dressed as the Joker, and Ken Komatsu, the leader of the Golf Party, the opportunity to speak to a wider audience as the mainstream media refuses to cover them. 

Kawai, who caused controversy last week by putting up posters of a near-naked lady, leading to a warning from the police, arrived late for the event. A candidate known as AI Mayor wasn’t too pleased to see him. “He’s not the kind of person who should be here,” said AI Mayor. “He was warned by the police the day before yesterday. While he is putting up sexy posters, we’re doing our job seriously, and we don’t want to be lumped together with that.” Kawai countered by saying that he had not been arrested.


Japanese Yen Drops to 38-Year Low

Since 2012, the yen has lost a jaw-dropping 53% of its value against the U.S. dollar and its decline shows no sign of abating. On Wednesday, the Japanese currency dropped to a new low, not seen for almost four decades. At around 5 p.m. in New York, it was traded at 160.78-88 against the greenback, its lowest level since December 1986. On the same day, the embattled yen briefly slumped to 171.79 against the euro, its weakest level since the European currency was introduced a quarter of a century ago. Traders are now on high alert for intervention. 

“We do not have specific levels in mind, but we are determined to respond to rapid and disorderly movements led by speculators. In this context, the yen’s recent rapid depreciation is a serious concern,” Masato Kanda, vice finance minister for international affairs, told reporters. “We are ready to respond to rapid fluctuations whenever needed. We are monitoring market developments with a heightened sense of urgency,” he added. Between April 26 and May 29, the Japanese government and the Bank of Japan intervened to prop up the yen, funneling close to ¥9.8 trillion (Over $62 billion) into the currency market.  

Authorities Warn Climbers After Four People Die on Mount Fuji

Authorities in Japan have issued a warning to climbers not to go up Mount Fuji until the trails officially open after four bodies were recovered from the mountain this week. Three people were found unconscious in and around the crater on Wednesday. Police later confirmed that they all died. The bodies were found on the Shizuoka side of Japan’s highest mountain in locations away from each other, suggesting they may have been climbing separately. The mountain rescue team were searching for a 53-year-old man after the police received a call from his wife on Sunday morning, reporting him missing.

The man, who began the ascent on Friday evening, was expected home on Saturday. After sending a photo of himself at the summit, he couldn’t be reached. While searching for the man, the rescue team found two other people in a state of cardiopulmonary arrest. Police are now working to identify the bodies and determine how they died. On the same day, Keita Kurakami, 38, a rock-climbing ambassador for Patagonia Inc., fell ill while on the Yoshida Trail on the Yamanashi side. He was rescued by police officers checking paths on the mountain. However, sadly, he also passed away.  

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