Anti-Olympic Petition Closes in on 200,000 Signatures

At the time of writing more than 183,000 people have signed a petition calling for the cancelation of the Olympics to “save people’s lives.” It was launched on Tuesday by lawyer Kenji Utsunomiya who believes the Summer Games could become a “superspreader” event. “Government policies are being set with the Olympics in mind and measures to curb the coronavirus pandemic are being neglected,” Utsunomiya told the Associated Press. “Hospitals are being stretched thin and some people are dying at home.”

On Thursday, US drug maker Pfizer and German biotech company BioNTech announced that it would be donating doses of their Covid-19 vaccine to inoculate athletes and delegations participating at the Tokyo Olympics. Those doses would be in addition to doses provided under supply agreements with countries around the world and would not affect existing agreements.

State of Emergency Extended Until May 31

In a move that will have surprised very few, the government confirmed on Friday that it would be extending the State of Emergency in Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto and Hyogo prefectures until May 31 while also adding Aichi and Fukuoka prefectures to the list. Under the current State of Emergency, which went into effect on April 25, bars, restaurants, karaoke establishments and other shops are instructed not to serve alcoholic drinks and people are asked to refrain from taking unnecessary trips. Other requests are to be loosened, allowing commercial facilities to shorten hours rather than close completely – though Tokyo and Osaka will be making their own decisions based on local conditions. “We have a strong sense of crisis,” said economy minister Yasutoshi Nishimura. “We aim to thoroughly curb the infections and make sure the number of newly infected people declines so that people will feel safe.”

Japanese Journalist Charged with Spreading “Fake News” in Myanmar

The Japanese government has called for the release of Yuki Kitazumi who was this week charged in Myanmar under Section 505A of the penal code, imposed by the military junta to stamp out critical speech. A freelance journalist who has been reporting for many Japanese news outlets through his company Yangon Media Professionals, Kitazumi had been covering the Myanmar coup d’état since the military (Tatmadaw) deposed of the country’s ruling party on February 1 of this year. He was detained later that month and rearrested at his house on April 18. According to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP) around 50 local journalists are currently in detention, half of whom have been prosecuted. Kitazumi is believed to be the first foreign journalist to have been charged. If found guilty, he faces up to three years in prison.

World’s Oldest Person Skips Olympic Torch Relay

118-year-old Kane Tanaka became the latest person to pull out of the Olympic torch relay this week due to concerns about the coronavirus. The supercentenarian followed in the footsteps of several celebrities who previously withdrew from the festivities. Tanaka, who was slated to take the flame in her hometown of Shime in Fukuoka Prefecture on May 11, had bought a new pair of sport shoes for the event but in the end decided it wasn’t worth the risk. “We received an email from her family which said she wanted to withdraw from the relay as she and her family were concerned about spreading the virus at the nursing home,” said an official at the home. Tanaka, who has twice survived cancer, is known for her love of fizzy drinks, chocolate and the strategic board game Othello.

Demon Slayer Surges Ahead of Mortal Kombat

Despite making history by scoring the highest first weekend box office gross for a foreign language film of any kind in the U.S., Demon Slayer: Mugen Train narrowly missed out on top spot to Mortal Kombat on its opening weekend in America. The following week, the two movies swapped places as the R-rated anime action-adventure flick took the gold prize with US$6.4 million in ticket sales. In doing so it became the first Japanese film since Pokémon: The First Movie, released more than 20 years ago, to top the box office over there. It has also overtaken Dragon Ball Super: Broly as the third highest grossing anime film ever in the United States, but still has some way to go to catch up with the first two Pokémon flicks. Demon Slayer: Μugen Train was the highest grossing film of 2020.

Noto Criticized for Squid Statue

The coastal town of Noto in Ishikawa prefecture has defended its decision to erect a 29.5-foot-long squid statue which was built using funds from an emergency Covid-19 relief grant. A local government official stated that it was part of “a long-term strategy,” to raise awareness of the fishing industry in Noto where squid is a local delicacy. The town was given around 800 million yen in aid of which 25 million went on the giant pink cephalopod statue. While it is not stipulated that the relief money is allocated for treatment of coronavirus patients, the town has been widely criticized for what is seen by many as a complete waste of money. “No matter how you look at it, it’s wrong. They have to return that money,” wrote one Twitter user.

Hachimura Brothers Highlight Online Racist Abuse

In the week that the Premier League led a boycott of social media in “a show of solidarity against online abuse,” basketball forward Rui Hachimura revealed that he receives racist messages “almost every day.” It was in response to a tweet by his brother Aren who shared a screenshot of a direct message that said the pair were “born by mistake” and “should die.” The younger Hachimura, who plays basketball for Tokai University, wrote, “There are people who say there is no racism in Japan, but I would like them to take an interest in this matter.” Underneath, his older sibling replied saying, “Messages like this come almost every day.” The brothers were born to a Japanese mother and a Beninese father. Earlier in the week Rui celebrated his 100th NBA game with 27 points for his side, the Washington Wizards who defeated the Indiana Pacers 154-141.