In this week’s news roundup, we look at the latest projections regarding Japan’s population, which is expected to drop by about 30% by 2070. A private Japanese spacecraft fails in its bid for a historic moon landing. Japanese nationals are evacuated from Sudan. The country’s public safety chief is criticized for continuing to eat his lunch upon hearing the news of the attack on the prime minister. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis meets with Fumio Kishida. An American rapper is arrested for masturbating and exposing himself on a flight from Tokyo to Minneapolis. And in sport, Kazuyoshi Miura breaks another record.  

Japan’s Population Expected to Fall to 87 Million by 2070  

Japan’s population is forecast to fall to 87 million by 2070, around 70% of the current figure of 125 million. The ratio of foreign residents by then is expected to increase to approximately 10.8%, well up from the 2020 number of 2.2%. This is all according to the latest projections by the National Institute of Population and Security Research, released on Wednesday. The health ministry-affiliated institute provides demographic forecasts for up to half a century every five years (six years this time due to the coronavirus pandemic).  

In 2017, the institute forecast that Japan’s population would drop below 100 million by 2053. That estimate changed to 2056 this time around due to the rise in the number of people entering Japan from overseas.  However, Masashi Kawai, president of the Research Institute of Countermeasures for Population Decline, believes the data “overstates the rise in the foreign population and does not take into account pandemic-caused falls in the younger generation’s desire to marry or have children.” 

The spacecraft was due to land on the moon on Wedensday morning | Image by Nostalgia for Infinity via Shutterstock

Historic Moon Landing Fails  

Ispace’s Hakuto-R Mission 1 lander was due to touch down on Wednesday morning at around 1:40am Japan time. Had it succeeded, it would have become the first private landing on the moon. Sadly, it failed. “We have not confirmed communication with the lander,” a company official from the Japanese startup told reporters. That was around 25 minutes after it was expected to land. “We have to assume that we could not complete the landing on the lunar surface,” he then added.  

Carrying seven payloads, including a rover from the United Arab Emirates, the 2.3-meter tall, unmanned spacecraft was launched from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station four months ago. Running out of fuel, it reportedly failed to reduce its speed during the descent and crashed into the moon. “We believe that we have fully accomplished the significance of this mission, having acquired a great deal of data and experience by being able to execute the landing phase,” Takeshi Hakamada, founder and CEO of Ispace, said in a statement. 

Japanese nationals were evacuated from Sudan earlier this week | Image by Andy.LIU via Shutterstock

Japanese Nationals Evacuated from Sudan  

Japan’s Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi confirmed on Tuesday that 58 people, including 51 Japanese nationals and seven of their family members, have been evacuated from Sudan. Of the total, 45, including 12 minors, were taken to Djibouti via the Self-Defense Force (SDF) transport plane. There, they were met by State Foreign Minister Shunsuke Takei. “They looked very tired, but didn’t seem to have any serious health problems,” Takei told reporters. He added that the government will support their return to Japan. 

Another 10 Japanese nationals plus three family members were able to leave Sudan with support from France and the International Committee of the Red Cross. Prior to the evacuation, there was said to be 63 Japanese people living in the war-torn country. A few remain, including one residing near the relatively stable southern border, who wishes to escape. Hundreds of lives have been lost and thousands of people have been injured since the violence erupted there on April 15.  

Koichi Tani enjoyed his unagi meal | Image by norikko via Shutterstock

Safety Chief Continued with his Meal Despite News of Kishida Attack  

When you’re about to tuck into an exquisite meal that you’ve been eagerly anticipating, the last thing you want to deal with is something work related. That’s how Koichi Tani must have felt when he was told about the attack on Prime Minister Kishida. Japan’s public safety chief was at a governing party in Shimanto, Kochi Prefecture at the time. His unagi lunch arrived in front of him just as the phone rang. Somebody had hurled a handmade bomb in the direction of the PM.  

“I was told that we could eat a delicious eel rice bowl and I was looking forward to it,” Tani told party lawmakers on Tuesday. “Just as I was going to dig into it, I got a call from the National Police Agency.” The shocking news, however, didn’t stop him enjoying his food. “I fully savored and finished my unadon,” he added with a big smile. His comment sparked criticism with some opposition lawmakers demanding his resignation. Kishida, though, said he handled his duties adequately.  

Ron DeSantis | Image by The Old Major via Shutterstock

DeSantis Applauds Japan’s Military Build-Up   

Seeking to improve his diplomatic profile, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis arrived in Japan on Monday. Expected to run for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, the former military officer, who is in an ongoing feud with Disney, met with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida on what was the first leg of a four-nation tour. “We very much applaud your efforts to bolster your defenses,” he said. “We understand it’s a tough neighborhood out here with North Korea and the rise of the CCP (Chinese Communist Party).”  

Another American who made headlines following a recent trip to Japan was rapper, Desiigner, real name Sidney Royel Selby III. The 25-year-old, who’s most well-known for his track “Panda,” was charged by the FBI on Monday for masturbating and exposing himself three times on a flight from Tokyo to Minneapolis. According to the complaint, he said he “didn’t get much” in Japan and subsequently showed his “magic stick” to a flight attendant he found attractive. Desiigner said he was “ashamed” and was seeking treatment.  

A wax sculpture of Kazuyoshi Miura | Image by Samuel Ponce via Shutterstock

King Kazu Breaks Another Record 

Another year, another Kazuyoshi Miura milestone. At 56 years, one month and 24 days, the age-defying striker became the oldest soccer player to play a professional match in Portugal on Saturday. He came on in the 90th minute for second-tier club Oliveirense in their 4-1 win over Académico Viseu. Miura, who has also played in Brazil, Italy, Croatia and Italy, moved to Oliveirense on loan from Yokohama FC in January. He made his pro debut for Santos in 1986, a year before Lionel Messi was born. 

In baseball, Masataka Yoshida became the first Japanese Major Leaguer to hit two home runs in one inning. Playing against the Milwaukee Brewers, the Boston Red Sox outfielder struck a single homer in the eighth and followed that up with his first MLB grand slam. Shohei Ohtani, meanwhile, smashed his fifth home run of the season in the Los Angeles Lakers 4-3 victory over the Kansas City Royals on Sunday. His sixth came three days later against bottom side Oakland Athletics, who’ve lost 11 of their opening 13 games.