In this week’s news roundup, we report on Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s visit to the US. Unsurprisingly, his talks with American President Joe Biden have been heavily focused on China’s growing military threat. The two men also announced that a Japanese astronaut will become the first non-American to set foot on the moon. In other news this week, we pay our respects to Akebono, the first foreign-born yokozuna, who died of heart failure aged 54. Shohei Ohtani’s ex-interpreter, Ippei Mizuhara, is charged with bank fraud after a federal investigation revealed he stole more than $16 million from the baseball player’s bank account. The Japanese yen continues to tumble against the dollar. And Max Verstappen wins the Japanese Grand Prix.  

Legendary Sumo Wrestling Champion Akebono Dies Aged 54

Akebono, the first foreign-born yokozuna, has died of heart failure at the age of 54, local media announced on Thursday. Born Chadwick Haheo Rowan in Waimanalo, Hawaii, he made his professional sumo debut in 1988. After reaching the top division two years later, he was then promoted to yokozuna in 1993. With a height of 203 centimeters and weighing 233 kilograms, he was one of the tallest and heaviest wrestlers of all time. Known for exhibiting courtesy and decorum, he was also extremely popular with fans of the sport. 

Akebono won 11 championships, including eight as yokozuna. He retired as a wrestler in 2001 due to injuries that forced him to miss several tournaments. Following his retirement, Akebono joined the Japan Sumo Association and helped train Asashoryu, who became the 68th yokozuna. The legendary figure appeared in several TV commercials and opened a restaurant. After his business ran into financial difficulties, he became a K-1 martial arts fighter and performed at WrestleMania 21. He’d been battling illness for several years. Akebono is survived by his wife, daughter and two sons. 

kishida visits US

Kishida’s US Visit: Alliance Upgrade, Threat From China and a Future Japanese Moon Landing

The strongest of enemies eight decades ago, Japan’s relationship with the US is now as close as it’s ever been. “This is the most significant upgrade in our alliance since it was first established,” said President Joe Biden at a joint press conference with Fumio Kishida in the White House Rose Garden on Wednesday. The two men announced an upgrade to their security ties to counter what they see as a growing threat from China. “Unilateral attempts to change the status quo by force or coercion are absolutely unacceptable, wherever they may be,” said Kishida.  

In addition to military cooperation, the two nations are planning to bolster science and education ties. The relationship will also stretch to the moon under the Artemis program. “Two Japanese astronauts will join future American missions and one will become the first non-American ever to land on the moon,” said Biden. On Thursday, the two leaders were joined by Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. for a trilateral summit. Biden emphasized America’s “ironclad” defense commitments to Japan and the Philippines. He also pledged to defend the Philippines from any attack in the South China Sea. 

president biden yoasobi

Yoasobi Among Star-Studded Guests Invited to the Bidens’ State Dinner

Honoring Prime Minister Kishida’s visit to their country, the US president and his wife Jill Biden hosted a glitzy state dinner on Wednesday. Several Japanese celebrities were invited to the banquet, including Yoasobi duo Ayase and Ikura. The pair, most well-known for their monster hit “Idol,” sat at the main table alongside the Bidens, Kishidas, Clintons and other big names like Robert De Niro. Japanese business leaders such as Masayoshi Son (SoftBank) and Hiroshi Mikitani (Rakuten) were also in attendance, as were sports stars Shingo Kunieda (wheelchair tennis) and Yukiko Ueno (softball). 

The White House was transformed into a spring garden, complete with a koi pond and floating lily pads. Paul Simon provided the entertainment, performing “Graceland” and “Slip Slidin’ Away.” The extravagant menu featured house-cured salmon with avocados and red grapefruit and dry-aged rib eye steak. During his toast, Kishida quoted Star Trek, wishing everybody to “boldly go where no one has gone before,” after stating that “we’re now standing at a turning point in history.” Biden spoke about cherry blossoms, describing them as “a symbol of what both countries hold dear: new beginnings.” 

Ippei Mizuhara shohei ohtani scam

Ippei Mizuhara Reportedly Stole Over $16 Million From Shohei Ohtani

Federal prosecutors charged Shohei Ohtani’s former interpreter Ippei Mizuhara with bank fraud on Thursday, saying he stole $16 million from the Dodgers star to cover debts that he allegedly owed to a bookmaker. According to the charging document, Mizuhara “falsely identified himself as Ohtani to trick employees into authorizing wire transfers from Ohtani’s bank account to associates of the illegal gambling operation.” He reportedly lost a mind-boggling $40 million across 19,000 bets. As the baseball player’s “de facto manager,” he sometimes lied and pretended to be Ohtani to bank managers.  

Speaking ahead of the Dodgers 4-2 win over the Minnesota Twins on Monday, Ohtani told reporters that he’s able to focus on his game despite the ongoing scandal. “When I play baseball, I don’t really think about it,” he said. “I think basically the skills I’ve acquired playing baseball don’t change, so I trust that first and foremost.” He then smashed his third homer in five games. Also this week, Ohtani ranked as Japan’s favorite athlete in a survey by The Yomiuri Shimbun ahead of soccer star Kaoru Mitoma and boxing sensation Naoya Inoue. 

Max Verstappen

Max Verstappen | Ben Cooke

Max Verstappen Wins Japanese Grand Prix

In other sports news, Max Verstappen and Sergio Pérez made it a Red Bull one-two at Sunday’s Japanese Grand Prix. The race at Suzuka was halted for 20 minutes following a crash involving Daniel Ricciardo and Alex Albon. The disruption had little effect on Verstappen, who controlled the race from the outset. It was his 57th career victory, putting him 13 points ahead of teammate Pérez in the driver standings. Yuki Tsunoda, meanwhile, became the first homegrown driver to score a point at the Japanese Grand Prix since Kamui Kobayashi in 2012. 

In women’s soccer, Nadeshiko Japan lost both of their games at the SheBelieves Cup in the United States. Following a 2-1 defeat to the hosts on Saturday, Futoshi Ikeda’s side were then beaten on penalties by Brazil after a 1-1 draw in the third-place match. In the men’s game, Daizen Maeda struck after just 21 seconds in the Old Firm derby between Rangers and Celtic. The pulsating encounter finished 3-3. Ko Itakura was also on target this week. He netted his third goal of the season in Borussia Mönchengladbach’s 3-1 win over Wolfsburg. 

yen drops to 153 on the dollar

Japanese Yen Drops to the 153-Mark Against the US Dollar

For the first time since June 1990, the Japanese yen fell below the 153-line against the US dollar on Wednesday, sparking speculation that the government will intervene. In the past, the 152-mark was seen as the critical threshold that could trigger further action to support the yen. The Japanese currency continues to drop at an alarming rate. That’s despite the Bank of Japan (BOJ) ending its negative interest rate policy last month. At one stage on Wednesday, it fell nearly 1% to ¥153.24 against the greenback. 

The latest dollar surge came after the release of the March Consumer Price Index. It showed a 3.5% hike compared to a year earlier, marking the highest annual gain in the past six months. The reading, which was released in the morning, led to increased dollar-buying and yen-selling. “Recent moves are rapid,” said Masato Kanda, the vice finance minister for international affairs, on Thursday morning. “We’d like to respond appropriately to excessive moves, without ruling out any options,” he added. The last time the government intervened was in October 2022.  

Related Posts