It’s been another trying few days for Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, who announced that he is resigning as the head of his faction in the LDP on Thursday. As well as the ongoing political funding scandal, he has also been facing questions about a photograph that shows him standing alongside a former Unification Church leader. In other news this week, we have the latest on the Osprey crashOppenheimer‘s release in Japan and a taxi driver is arrested after killing a pigeon. 

Kishida Resigns as LDP Faction Leader Amid Political Funding Scandal 

Fumio Kishida revealed on Thursday that he has decided to resign as head of his faction in the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP). Though his predecessors typically stepped down as leaders of their factions after taking on the country’s top position to avoid the appearance of patronage-driven politics, Kishida decided to continue with the role when he assumed office in October 2021. With the political funding scandal gathering pace, however, he’s decided now’s the best time to quit.  

Five LDP factions, including Kochikai led by Kishida, are alleged to have underreported their revenue from political fundraising parties. Close to 80% of the party’s lawmakers belong to those five groups. The largest, Seiwaken, which was previously led by the late Shinzo Abe, is suspected of having pooled funds amounting to approximately ¥100 million. At least 10 lawmakers reportedly received kickbacks. On Wednesday, Kishida requested all factions to refrain from holding fundraising parties for the time being. 

Prime Minister Kishida resigns from LDP faction leader

Newt Gingrich | Christopher Halloran via Shutterstock

A Potentially Damaging Picture for Kishida

The problems are mounting for the PM. This week, The Asahi Shimbun showed a picture of him standing alongside Michael Jenkins, a former leader of the U.S. branch of the Unification Church. It was taken in 2019 when Kishida was the policy chief of the LDP. Masayoshi Kajikuri, chairman of the Japanese branch of the Universal Peace Federation (UPF), a friendship organization of the church, is also in the picture. As is the former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich.  

According to government sources, Abe was due to meet Gingrich at the time, but sent Kishida instead as he had to deliver a policy speech at the start of an extraordinary Diet session. “I met with Gingrich several years ago when I was chairman of the LDP’s Policy Research Council,” said Kishida. “At the time, he was accompanied by many people, but I was not aware of who was among them.” 

Crashed Osprey bodies recovered

Rescue Teams Recover Six Bodies From Osprey Crash   

Rescue teams from the U.S. and Japan have found the bodies of six of the eight crewmen who were aboard the Osprey military aircraft that crashed near Yakushima last week. One of the bodies was discovered two hours after the accident. Five more were retrieved this week. Efforts have shifted from search and rescue to recovery operations as the Japan Coast Guard continues to look for the remaining two crew members. 

Speaking on Tuesday, American President Joe Biden said he and his wife, Jill, were “heartbroken” over their deaths. “We owe them everything,” he added in a statement. “Jill and I are praying for the families and friends who lost a loved one in this terrible accident.” On Wednesday, the U.S. military announced that it has temporarily grounded its entire Osprey fleet around the world. According to a preliminary investigation, a “potential material failure” may have caused the crash. 

Japan man arrested for killing pidgeon

A Rock Pigeon | hkhtt hj via Shutterstock

Taxi Driver Arrested for Killing a Pigeon  

“Roads belong to humans, so pigeons should have to dodge out of the way.” These were the words of 50-year-old taxi driver Atsushi Ozawa after he purposely used his car to ram into a flock of the plump, short-legged birds while driving at 60 kilometers per hour. One pigeon was killed in the incident, which occurred in Shinjuku last month. On Sunday, Ozawa was arrested on suspicion of violating wildlife protection laws.  

In Japan, a limited number of gaming pigeons can be hunted legally. When it comes to common pigeons, though, they can only be killed if there is evidence they are causing a nuisance, i.e. damaging crops. For that to happen, approval from local authorities is required. Ramming into the birds because you’re annoyed they are on the road is not a valid reason, hence the arrest. The police described his behavior as “highly malicious.”  

Oppenheimer will premiere in Japan

Oppenheimer star Cillian Murphy | Denis Makarenko via Shutterstock

Oppenheimer to be Released in Japan in 2024 

Movie distributor Bitters End announced on Thursday that Christopher Nolan’s epic Oppenheimer will be released in Japan in 2024, though didn’t set a specific date. “The decision was made following months of thoughtful dialogue associated with the subject matter and acknowledging the particular sensitivity for us Japanese,” the indie firm said in a statement. “After screening the film, we feel Christopher Nolan has created a singular cinematic experience that transcends traditional storytelling and must be seen on the big screen.”  

Starring Cillian Murphy as J. Robert Oppenheimer, the theoretical physicist known as the “father of the atomic bomb,” the film has been a huge critical and commercial success, grossing more than $950 million worldwide, a record for a biographical movie. For a long time, though, there was uncertainty as to whether it would play here due to local sensitivities. The so-called ”Barbenheimer” memes didn’t help as many felt they trivialized the devastation of nuclear weapons.  

Uta Abe in action | roibu via Shutterstock

Abe Siblings Lead the Way as Japan Dominates the Tokyo Grand Slam  

Japan dominated the medal table at last weekend’s Tokyo Grand Slam, a prestigious event on the judo calendar. Seven Japanese judoka won golds, including Olympic champion siblings Uta and Hifumi Abe. The former secured victory after just one minute in her 52-kilogram final against France’s Astride Gneto. Her brother took 10 seconds longer to defeat Mongolia’s Baskhuu Yondonperenlei in the men’s 66-kg decider. Japan’s other gold medalists were Mao Arai, Sanshiro Murao, Natsumi Tsunoda, Ryuju Nagayama and Miku Takaichi.  

In European soccer, Japan captain Wataru Endo is starting to find his feet at Liverpool. On Sunday, he scored a superb goal in the Reds’ dramatic 4-3 win over Fulham. He was then one of his side’s best players in their 2-0 victory against Sheffield United on Wednesday. Other Japanese players on target this week were Takumi Minamino (Monaco), Ado Onaiwu (Auxerre), Ao Tanaka (Fortuna Düsseldorf) and Ryotaro Ito (Sint-Truiden). In women’s soccer, Nadeshiko Japan defeated Brazil 2-0.