In this week’s news roundup we report on the two charred bodies discovered on a riverbank in Nasu, Tochigi Prefecture. Japan’s lower house passes a bill to revise the civil code, allowing divorced couples to negotiate for joint custody. Yuriko Koike is accused of lying about her degree from Cairo University. The Gazette bassist Reita sadly passes away aged just 42. And a stolen gold tea bowl worth ¥10 million is found in a secondhand store in Tokyo’s Taito ward. In sport, Kento Momota and Makoto Hasebe announce their retirements from international volleyball and soccer respectively. 

Charred Bodies Found by River in Tochigi

Two charred bodies were discovered on a riverbed beside a forest road in the town of Nasu in Tochigi Prefecture on Tuesday morning. One of the victims has been identified as Ryutaro Takarajima, 55, a successful businessman from Tokyo. The other body is believed to be a woman aged between 40 and 69. They were both burned beyond recognition. Their faces were covered with bags and adhesive tape. According to the autopsy report, the cause of death for the two of them was asphyxiation due to cervical compression. The woman also suffered head trauma.

An alert was first raised at approximately 6:50 a.m. on April 16 by a resident who saw smoke rising from the riverbed. He then contacted a local forestry cooperative who called the police, telling them that “something that looks like a mannequin is on fire.” Around three hours before the bodies were discovered, security cameras captured a black sedan coming and going on the road. The car wasn’t familiar to residents. Several people have been questioned, including a man in his 20s who entered a Tokyo police station on his own accord. 

joint custody

Image by Anna Petek

Japan’s Lower House Passes Joint Custody Bill

On Tuesday, Japan’s House of Representatives approved a bill to allow joint custody for divorced parents. This proposed amendment to the civil code, which currently only permits one parent to take custody of a child or children when a marriage ends, passed by a majority vote in the lower chamber of the Diet and will now be sent to the upper chamber, known as the House of Councillors. It’s expected to be passed before the current Diet session ends on June 23. It will then go into effect within two years of its promulgation. 

The revised legislation will allow divorced couples to choose either sole custody or joint custody. If they can’t reach an agreement, a family court will intervene, making a decision based on the child’s best interest. Custody will be granted to one parent if the other is suspected of abuse. Japan is, at present, the only G7 nation that doesn’t recognize dual custody among divorced couples. Critics argue that this incentivizes child abduction. The NGO Kizuna Child-Parent Reunion estimates that every year around 150,000 children lose contact with one of their parents in this country.

Tokyo Governor Koike Accused of Lying About University Degree

In the May edition of the monthly Bungeishunju magazine. Toshiro Kojima, a former aide to Yuriko Koike, claimed that Tokyo’s first female governor drafted a fake graduation document from Cairo University. Speaking at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan (FCCJ) on Wednesday afternoon, he reiterated that accusation. He claims that a former journalist and friend of his, referred to as Mr. A, wrote a statement for Koike confirming that she graduated. That, he says, was then posted on the Egyptian embassy of Tokyo’s Facebook page and issued in the name of Cairo University.  

The statement was posted in 2020 after the release of Taeko Ishii’s book Empress Yuriko Koike. Ishii was told by Koike’s old roommate, Momoyo Kitahara, that the governor quit Cairo University after two years. “When the statement from her university appeared, the media simply accepted her assertion that she had not falsified her academic records without any scrutiny. However, based on my own experience and the experience of Mr. A…  we can say that this statement was indeed drafted with involvement from Governor Koike herself.” At a press conference last Friday, Koike vehemently denied Kojima’s allegations.

golden bowl stolen

Stolen Gold Bowl Worth ¥10 Million Found in Secondhand Store

A pure gold bowl worth around ¥10 million ($65,000) that was stolen last week was found at a secondhand store in Tokyo’s Taito ward. It was taken at approximately 11:40 a.m. on Thursday, April 11, from the Dai Ogonten exhibition featuring several golden objects at Takashimaya’s flagship department store in the business district of Nihonbashi. The perpetrator sold the bowl to an antiques shop in Koto ward less than two hours later for ¥1.8 million. It was then resold to the store in Taito, where it was eventually confiscated. 

Masaru Horie, 32, was arrested for the theft on Saturday. He admitted to the allegation. “There is no mistake,” police quoted him as saying. “I have sold the tea bowl.” He told investigators that he was initially “going to drink tea with the tea bowl.” Changing his mind, he said that it was “better to sell it for cash” instead. The 24-karat gold tea bowl he stole was made by goldsmith Koichi Ishikawa for drinking matcha tea. It was displayed in a plastic case with no lock or alarm. 

the gazette bass player passes away

Reita From Visual Kei Band The Gazette Dies Aged 42

The website of the visual kei band the Gazette (stylized as the GazettE) sadly announced that the group’s bassist Reita passed away on April 15. He was 42. No further information was given about his death. “We would like to express our deepest gratitude to all fans who have supported and loved him and all partners who supported and took care of Reita in his career as the GazettE bassist,” read the statement. According to the website, a memorial service will be held with close relatives only. 

The day before the announcement, a tweet from the bassist’s X account read, “I hope the GazettE will last forever.” Born on May 27, 1981, Reita (stylized as REITA) was one of the founding members of the group along with Ruki (vocals) and Uruha (lead guitar). They then recruited Aoi (rhythm guitar) and Yune (drums). In 2003, Yune left and was replaced by Kai.  On December 21, 2022, their 20th anniversary compilation album Heterodoxy -Divided 3 Concepts- was released. One week later, Yune passed away after a sudden illness. He was also 42.


Kento Momota

Kento Momota and Makoto Hasebe Announce Their Retirements  

At a press conference on Thursday, former world No. 1, Kento Momota, 29, announced that he’ll be retiring from international badminton next month. His last games for the national team will be at the Thomas Cup in Chengdu, China. Once the most feared player on the planet, Momota won 11 titles in 2019. He was then nearly killed in a car crash in Malaysia in January 2020 and has never looked the same player since. “Honestly, it was one difficult time after another. But I didn’t want to blame it on the accident,” he told reporters.  

Another highly respected sports star announcing his retirement this week was former Japan captain Makoto Hasebe. The 40-year-old Eintracht Frankfurt defender will hang up his boots at the end of the season. He has played 383 times in the Bundesliga. Claudio Pizarro (490) and Robert Lewandowski (384) are the only foreign players to have made more appearances than him in the German topflight. During his time in Germany, he has won the Bundesliga title, the DFB Pokal and the Europa League. He was capped 114 times by Japan and appeared at three World Cups. 

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