In this week’s news roundup, we report on the proposed changes to Japan’s sex crimes penal code, including plans to raise the age of consent from 13 to 16. We also have the latest on the North Korean missiles that landed in the Sea of Japan, conspiracy theories related to a large metal ball found on a beach in Hamamatsu, the appeal trial of Nicolas Zepeda and the death of legendary manga artist Leiji Matsumoto.

Proposal to Raise Age of Consent Part of Wider Overhaul of Penal Code

A Justice Ministry panel in Japan has proposed raising the age of consent here from 13 to 16. It’s part of a wider overhaul of the country’s sex crimes penal code. The age of consent, one of the lowest among developed nations, has remained unchanged since it was enacted in 1907. The suggested changes criminalize sexual intercourse with persons under the age of 16. However, an exception will be made concerning intercourse between youngsters aged 13 and over when the age difference is less than five years.  

The proposal also plans to make voyeurism a criminal offense and expand the definition of rape. According to the current law, victims of sexual assault must prove there was “violence and intimidation” and that it was “impossible to resist,” to secure a conviction. While this wording hasn’t changed, acts that constitute a lack of consent have been added. This includes being caught off guard, psychological control, abuse of power, intoxication and drugging. The statute of limitations for reporting rape, meanwhile, is to be increased from 10 to 15 years.  

North Korea continue to fire missiles into the Sea of Japan | Image by Anna Petek

North Korea Fires More Missiles into the Sea of Japan  

For the first time since November last year, North Korea launched an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) toward the Sea of Japan on Saturday. It splashed down west of Hokkaido in the country’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) at approximately 6:27pm, having traveled around 900 kilometers and flown for around 66 minutes. “The launch this time around is an outrageous act that escalates provocations against the international community,” said Prime Minister Fumio Kishida. Two days later, two more projectiles were launched into the Sea of Japan by Pyongyang.  

This time it was short-range ballistic missiles that landed outside the country’s EEZ. They traveled around 350 and 400 kilometers respectively. On Monday morning, Kim Yo-jong, the powerful sister of Kim Jong-un, warned against America’s increased presence on the Korean Peninsula. “We’re carefully examining the influence it would exert on the security of our state. The frequency of us using the Pacific as our firing range depends on the US forces,” she said. Later in the day, the United Nations Security Council held an emergency meeting to discuss the missile launches. 

Mysterious Object Found on Beach is Most Likely a Mooring Buoy

The bomb squad descended on Hamamatsu’s Enshu Beach this week to investigate a mysterious metal ball washed up on shore. After X-raying the 1.5-meter-wide object, they found it was hollow and not a threat. Initially bewildering both authorities and locals, it seems that it was most likely a mooring buoy that came loose. Netizens, however, came up with more outlandish suggestions related to UFOs and espionage. Others compared it to an orb from the Dragon Ball series. The object was removed from the beach on Wednesday.  

It’s unusual for a finding like this to garner so much media attention. It’s probably due to the growing public interest in unidentified objects since the US shot down an alleged Chinese spy balloon on February 4. Last week, the Japanese government said it “strongly suspected” that three unmanned Chinese balloons flew into its airspace between 2019 and 2021. This was one of the main issues discussed on Wednesday as the two countries held their first security dialogue in four years. China claimed Japan was “making up stories to smear and attack” Beijing.  

Appeal Trial of Narumi Kurosaki’s Suspected Killer Delayed

The appeal trial of Nicolas Zepeda, the man accused of murdering Narumi Kurosaki, has been delayed. The defendant changed his lawyer at the last minute and his new representatives requested more time to get to know the 8,000-page file. Zepeda’s previous lawyer told the presiding judge he’d been dismissed, a claim the Chilean man denied. Last year, Zepeda was sentenced to 28 years in prison for the murder of Kurosaki. The last person to be seen with the former Tsukuba University student, he previously sent her threatening video messages.  

In other crime news, four men were arrested on Wednesday on suspicion of carrying out the robbery and murder of 90-year-old Kinuyo Oshio. The case is believed to be linked to the so-called Luffy burglaries that have taken place across Japan in recent months. The suspected ringleaders of the crimes were deported from the Philippines two weeks ago. In Neyagawa, Osaka Prefecture, a 15-year-old girl was arrested for swindling money from a woman in her 70s. Pretending to be a municipal government employee, she allegedly got hold of her card and withdrew around ¥500,000. 

Legendary Manga Artist Leiji Matsumoto Dies Aged 85

Leiji Matsumoto, one of Japan’s most beloved manga and anime creators, died of acute heart failure on February 13. He was 85. His studio announced his death on Monday. Matsumoto was most well-known for his space operas, including Galaxy Express 999, Space Pilot Captain Harlock and Space Battleship Yamato. His storylines were often emotional, with more than 150 of them depicting the tragedy of war. Aged 7 when WWII ended, he called for such devastation to never be repeated, having been heavily influenced by the stories of his father, a former pilot for the now-defunct Imperial Japanese Army.  

“My father told me his eyes met those of an American pilot, whom he thought might have family and children. But he had to be a devil and shoot down the enemy plane,” Matsumoto once said. Born Akira Matsumoto in 1938, he debuted at 15 with Mitsubachi no Boken appearing in the magazine Manga Shonen. In 1961, he married fellow manga artist Miyako Maki, and they collaborated on multiple works. Daft Punk were huge fans of Matsumoto and commissioned him for many of their videos, including “One More Time.”

Japan Beat Canada 3-0 in SheBelieves Cup  

Nadeshiko Japan finished the SheBelieves Cup on a high with a 3-0 win over Canada thanks to goals from Kiko Seike, Yui Hasegawa and Jun Endo. Following narrow defeats to the US and Brazil, the victory lifted them to second in the table. In the men’s game, Yokohama F. Marinos kicked off their defense of the J-League title with a 2-1 victory away at Kawasaki Frontale. In Europe, Reo Hatate bagged a brace as Celtic beat Aberdeen 4-0. Ado Onaiwu was also on target for Toulouse, who lost 3-2 to Marseille. 

In other sports news, the finale of the 2022-23 Speed Skating World Cup tour took place in Poland last weekend. Seven-time Olympic medalist Miho Takagi finished third in both the women’s 1,000- and 1,500-meters races. Those results meant she topped the overall table for the season in both distances. Teenage skater Momoka Horikawa secured her first victory at a World Cup meet in the women’s mass start event. Yuma Murakami, meanwhile, triumphed in the men’s 500-meters race. He finished the season second in the table.