This week’s news roundup is dominated by two big sexual assault cases. The first involves soccer star Junya Ito, who has filed a counterclaim against his accusers for ¥200 million. The second is all about famed director and actor Hideo Sakaki, who was arrested on Tuesday on suspicion of sexual assault. Also this week, we pay our respects to the late Daiso founder Hirotake Yano. Former Guantánamo Bay detainee turned best-selling author Mohamedou Slahi is denied a visa to enter Japan. And a 1,000-year-old “Naked Men” festival is held for the last time. In sport, Yokohama F. Marinos reach the quarterfinals of the Asian Champions League and Hideki Matsuyama wins his ninth PGA Tour title. 

Soccer Star Junya Ito Files Lawsuit Against Women Accusing Him of Sexual Assault

On Monday, international Japanese soccer star Junya Ito and his personal trainer filed a lawsuit against two women that accused them of sexual assault. Ito is seeking approximately ¥200 million in compensation as sponsors have ended contracts with him, causing considerable financial damage. His trainer is demanding just under ¥2.5 million. In an article posted in the tabloid Daily Shincho at the end of January, two females accused Ito of involving himself in a sexual act without their consent. They claimed the incident took place at a hotel in Osaka after an international match against Peru last June.  

The story came out on the same day that Japan faced Bahrain in a second round clash at the Asian Cup. Ito was left on the bench for that game and was then withdrawn from the squad the following day. The Japan Football Association said it was “out of consideration of his mental and physical condition.” His club side Reims released a statement, stating that they “stand in solidarity” with their player as they “await concrete evidence that will shed light on the alleged facts.” Ito played for Reims on Sunday, providing an assist in their 1-1 draw with Lens. 

Hideo Sakaki Arrested

Famed Actor and Director Hideo Sakaki Arrested on Suspicion of Sexual Assault

On Tuesday, the Tokyo Metropolitan Police arrested director and actor Hideo Sakaki. He is accused of sexually assaulting a woman in her 20s who aspired to become an actor. According to the police, the suspect has denied the charges.  The incident was said to have taken place on May 23, 2016. Sakaki and the alleged victim, who had reportedly met at an acting instruction workshop led by the director, had been out for some drinks and food when he invited her to his apartment to “talk a little bit more about acting.”

He later suggested that she remove her clothes, so he could check what she looked like naked, as it would be difficult to land roles if she had a tattoo. In March 2022, four women spoke to the weekly tabloid Shukan Bunshun, accusing the Versus and Battlefield Baseball actor of sexual assault, with one of the allegations dating as far back as 2011. Sakaki issued an apology, but refuted parts of the article. While admitting to having sex with three of the women, he claimed it was consensual. He denied any kind of relationship with the fourth woman.


Mohamedou Slahi

Mohamedou Slahi: “I Thought Japan Was a Free, Democratic and Peace-Loving Country”

Mauritanian national Mohamedou Slahi, a former Guantánamo Bay detainee turned best-selling author and human rights advocate, was denied a visa to enter Japan for a second time, sources close to the matter revealed on Sunday. His latest application was turned down in January. Japan’s Foreign Ministry didn’t provide any details as to why it came to the decision, just stating that he did not meet the requirements for visa issuance. Slahi, who was detained without charge by the US at its Guantánamo Bay prison in Cuba between 2002 and 2016, was also denied entry to Japan in 2020. 

Slahi says that this time, as with 2020, he was planning to speak about “how to build peace beyond religion and national position in a world where conflicts continue unabated.” The lecture was scheduled for March. Unsurprisingly, he was both shocked and disappointed by the decision. “I thought Japan was a free, democratic, and peace-loving country,” he was quoted as saying. Slahi, who was released from Guantánamo Bay in 2016, penned a memoir titled Guantánamo Diary, which was published while he was being detained. In 2021, Kevin Macdonald’s The Mauritanian, a film based on the memoir, was released.  

daiso founder Hirotake Yano dies at 80

Hirotake Yano, 100-Yen Daiso Store Founder Dies at 80 

Daiso Industries announced on Monday that its founder, Hirotake Yano, passed away due to heart failure. He was 80. According to the company’s statement, he died on February 12. A private funeral was held by family members. Despite his status as one of Japan’s most successful businesspeople, Yano was anything but ostentatious. A self-effacing individual who drove around in an old Toyota and worked in a nondescript office, he once uttered the words, “Okyakusama wa yoku wakaran” (“I just don’t understand customers”). That obviously wasn’t true. He seemed to know exactly what they wanted. 

Born Koro Kurihara in Beijing in 1943, his family, including five brothers and three sisters, returned to his father’s hometown of Higashi-Hiroshima at the end of World War II. In 1972, he established his first company named Yano Shoten, selling cheap household goods from the back of a truck. Five years later, he changed the name to Daiso, meaning “big warehouse.” As it was too time-consuming to tag so many different products, he decided to charge a uniform price of ¥100 for everything. Today, Daiso has more than 4,000 stores in Japan and close to 1,000 shops overseas. 

naked men festival

1,000-Year-Old “Naked Men” Festival Held for the Last Time

On Saturday, huge numbers took part in Kokuseki Temple’s famous “Naked Men” festival for the last time. First held more than 1,000 years ago, the annual tradition in Oshu, Iwate Prefecture, officially called Sominsai, will no longer take place after this year as the aging community can no longer cope with the demands of such a big event. “You can see what happened today,” said Daigo Fujinami, a resident monk of the temple. “So many people are here, and it’s all exciting. But behind the scenes, there are many rituals and so much work to be done.” 

Known as one of the three most bizarre festivals in Japan, the Naked Men event in Iwate was traditionally held from the seventh night of the Lunar New Year to the following morning. After the coronavirus pandemic, however, it was shortened, ending before midnight. Participants, carrying lanterns while dressed in mawashi (white fundoshi loincloths) — so not technically naked — first purified themselves in the nearby river. After praying for a fruitful harvest, they then competed for a hemp sominbukuro lucky bag with charms inside. They also chanted jasso joyasa, meaning “evil, be gone.” 

Hideaki Matsuyama

Hideki Matsuyama current official PGA TOUR headshot (Photo by Stan Badz/PGA TOUR)

Matsuyama’s Sensational Fightback Secures Record-Breaking 9th PGA Tour Title

Hideki Matsuyama produced a sensational fightback at the Genesis Invitational on Sunday to secure his ninth PGA Tour title, a record number for an Asian-born golfer. Going into the final day, he was six shots behind leader Patrick Cantlay. Remarkably, he defeated Cantlay by four shots after firing a stunning nine-under 62 on the final day, just one shot short of the course record at the iconic Riviera Country Club in Los Angeles. Will Zalatoris and Luke List finished join-second, three shots back. The victory, Matsuyama’s first for two years, put him one ahead of South Korea’s K.J. Choi.  

In men’s soccer, Kawasaki Frontale defeated Vissel Kobe 1-0 in the Japanese Super Cup, but were then knocked out of the Asian Champions League by China’s Shandong Taishan. Ventforet Kofu were also eliminated, losing 5-1 on aggregate to Korea’s Ulsan HD FC. Yokohama F. Marinos are the J-League’s only representatives in the quarterfinals. They defeated Bangkok United 3-2 on aggregate. In Europe, Takuma Asano scored in Bochum’s surprise 3-2 win over Bayern Munich. Other Japanese players on the scoresheet this weekend included Ritsu Doan (Freiburg), Takefusa Kubo (Real Sociedad), Koji Miyoshi (Birmingham City), Kyogo Furuhashi (Celtic), Naoki Kumata (Jong Genk) and Hidemasa Morita (Sporting). 

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