In this week’s news roundup, we report on the statement by Kim Jong Un’s sister regarding potential bilateral relations in the future between North Korea and Japan. There’s a shocking case in Tokyo as police arrest a couple on suspicion of killing their 4-year-old daughter. Germany overtakes Japan as the world’s third-largest economy. Domino’s Pizza Japan apologizes for some inappropriate behavior by its part-time employees. And in sport, Tomoru Honda wins Japan’s first gold at the World Aquatics Championships. Also this week, we pay our respects to two legendary musicians.

Kim Jong Un’s Sister Hints at Possible Invitation for Japanese PM

On Thursday, Kim Jong Un’s sister, Kim Yo Jong, suggested Pyongyang could be open to improving ties with Japan in the future. She also hinted that an invitation for Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida to visit her country might be possible, though that statement came alongside a caveat regarding the long-standing abduction issue. “If Japan … makes a political decision to open a new path for improving ties based on mutual respect and respectful behavior, it is my view that the two countries can open a new future,” she was quoted by state news agency KCNA as saying. 

Kim’s comments come a week after Kishida spoke of the importance of “taking the initiative and building a relationship” with her brother. “There would be no reason not to appreciate his recent speech as a positive one,” she said. The woman referred to as North Korea’s de facto No. 2 leader added that if Japan doesn’t lay a “stumbling block,” such as “the already settled abduction issue… there will be no reason for the two countries not to become close and the day of the prime minister’s Pyongyang visit might come.” The trip to North Korea of former Japanese PM Junichiro Koizumi in 2002 led to the return of five abductees.

Tokyo Couple Arrested on Suspicion of Killing 4-Year-Old Daughter

Kenichi Hosoya, 43, and his wife, Shiho, 37, were arrested on Wednesday on suspicion of killing their 4-year-old daughter. Yoshiki died from poisoning on March 13, 2023. After her father made an emergency call, rescuers found the child unconscious and topless in the family living room. Police believe she ingested ethylene glycol antifreeze used in engine coolants and large amounts of olanzapine, a medicine prescribed for schizophrenia and other mental disorders. They are also investigating the death of Yoshiki’s aunt. She died in 2018, aged 41. Ethylene glycol was reportedly detected in her body too.  

According to investigative sources, the couple used a Southeast Asian website to purchase olanzapine as a prescription is required in Japan. In 2019, Yoshiki, along with her older brother and sister were temporarily taken under protective care after their mother, Shiho, was arrested for setting fire to clothing at their home. The charge against her was later dropped. In 2022, the nursery that Yoshiki attended allegedly contacted the child welfare center five times due to reports of bumps and bruises on her face. The center concluded that these injuries were the result of accidents. 

seiji ozawa

Tributes Pour in for Genius Conductor Seiji Ozawa

Seiji Ozawa, who led the Boston Symphony Orchestra (BSO) for almost three decades, passed away on February 6, aged 88. His management announced the news last Friday, stating that he died peacefully at his home from heart failure. Since then, tributes to the legendary composer have been pouring in from around the world, including from legendary cellist Yo-Yo Ma. “For Seiji, music started with silence, a blank canvas,” wrote the 19-time Grammy award-winner. “He would then paint and illustrate a whole universe in a way that the world had not seen before and rarely since.”

Professor Daniel Froschauer, chairperson of the Vienna Philharmonic wrote that “It was a gift to be able to go on a long journey with this artist.” Not long after the announcement of Ozawa’s death came the news that another legendary musician had died. On Saturday, Krautrock band Can wrote on Instagram that their former member, Damo Suzuki, had passed away. The Kanagawa-born artist, who was born Kenji Suzuki, made his name with Can in the early 1970s. After leaving the group in 1973, he played for many years with musicians billed as Damo Suzuki’s Network.

japan GDP falls to fourth place in world

Japan Slips to World’s Fourth-Biggest Economy

It appears that the days of Sony, Panasonic, Honda and Nintendo ruling the business world are well and truly over. Japan enjoyed its time in the sun in the 1970s and 80s and has been riding the waves from that golden age for a few decades now. This week, though, came the news that the country has slipped to the world’s fourth-largest economy. Last year, its nominal GDP totaled $4.2 trillion. That compared with $4.46 trillion for Germany, the nation overtaking Japan in third spot. The US and China lead the way in first and second respectively. 

Japan was surpassed by China as the world’s second-largest economy in 2010. It has fallen further behind since due to a multitude of reasons, including an aging population. However, Marcel Thieliant, Capital Economics’ head of Asia-Pacific, believes it’s not all doom and gloom. In a CNBC article, he was quoted as saying that, “While job vacancies have weakened, the unemployment rate dropped to an eleven-month low of 2.4% in December. What’s more, the Bank of Japan’s Tankan survey showed that business conditions across all industries and firm sizes were the strongest they’ve been since 2018 in Q4.” 

dominos pizza japan

Domino’s Pizza Japan Apologizes for Inappropriate Employee Behavior

A Domino’s Pizza store in Amagasaki city, Hyogo Prefecture, closed for the day on Monday after footage of an employee picking his nose and pretending to wipe it on the pizza dough went viral. The video, which was first posted on the X account of at just after 3pm on February 12, appears to show the man touching his nose with his index finger before wiping the dough with his middle one. Domino’s Pizza Japan posted an apology letter on its official X account that same evening. It also confirmed that the dough was discarded.

“We have confirmed that the dough used in the video was at a stage before fermentation was completed,” read the statement. “It was disposed of before being used. In addition, all the dough in the store has been thrown out. Furthermore, the store in question has ceased operations as of February 12.” The letter continued, “We’re planning to take strict action against the employees involved in this matter in accordance with employment regulations.” The pizza restaurant chain added that legal action is being considered. The video quickly garnered tens of millions of views.


200 Butterfly Gold for Honda at World Championships

Tomoru Honda won Japan’s first gold medal at this year’s World Aquatics Championships in Doha on Wednesday. Despite having a sprained ankle, he produced a superb final lap to take home the 200-meter butterfly crown ahead of Italy’s Alberto Razzetti. “I’ve been wishing for this gold medal for so long, so I’m delighted. I was determined to get through that last 50,” said Honda after the race. At the Paris Olympics this summer, the Yokohama-native will be looking to improve on the silver medal he received in Tokyo. However, France’s Léon Marchand is likely to be the man to beat.  

In other sports news, Japan’s women’s basketball team qualified for the Paris Games after narrowly defeating Canada 86-82. The men’s team sealed their place at the Olympics last year. On Wednesday, the nation’s star player, Rui Hachimura, scored a career-high 36 points in the Los Angeles Lakers 138-122 victory over Utah Jazz. In men’s soccer, Australian Harry Kewell’s first competitive match as Yokohama F Marinos boss ended in a 2-2 draw with Bangkok United in the Asian Champions League. Kawasaki Frontale defeated Shandong Taishan 3-2. Ventforet Kofu lost 3-0 to Ulsan Hyundai. In Scotland, Kyogo Furuhashi and Daizen Maeda both netted in Celtic’s 2-0 win over St Mirren. 

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