In this week’s news roundup, we report on the Nagoya District Court’s decision to rule Japan’s ban on same-sex marriage as unconstitutional. It’s the second ruling of its kind and rights activists are hoping that it will, at the very least, reignite discussions in parliament regarding the issue. Also this week, we look at North Korea’s failed spy satellite launch and the resignation of Fumio Kishida’s son. We have the latest on the rampage in Nagano and congratulate Koji Yakusho on his Best Actor prize at the Cannes Film Festival. In sport, Terunofuji secures his eighth Emperor’s Cup and Shohei Ohtani hits the longest homer of his MLB career.  

Nagoya Court Rules Ban on Same-Sex Marriage Unconstitutional  

According to Article 14 of the Japanese constitution, “All of the people are equal under the law and there shall be no discrimination in political, economic or social relations because of race, creed, sex, social status or family origin.” The second paragraph of Article 24, then states that, “With regard to choice of spouse, property rights, inheritance, choice of domicile, divorce and other matters pertaining to marriage and the family, laws shall be enacted from the standpoint of individual dignity and the essential equality of the sexes.” 

Japan’s ban on same-sex marriage is, therefore, unconstitutional. That was the ruling handed down by Presiding Judge Osamu Nishimura of the Nagoya District Court on Tuesday. The same decision regarding Article 14 was made by the Sapporo District Court in 2021. This, though, was the first time a court ruled that the ban violated Article 24. The plaintiffs’ compensation claims, however, were denied. The male couple in their 30s filed the lawsuit in February 2019, demanding ¥1 million each after their attempt to register as a married couple was rejected.  

North Korea’s satellite launch failed | Image by Dancing_Man via Shutterstock

North Korea Vows to Try Again Soon After Spy Satellite Launch Fails  

A warning was issued to Okinawan residents on Wednesday morning after North Korea launched a space satellite. Mounted on the carrier rocket, Chollima-1, the military reconnaissance satellite malfunctioned before plunging into the sea. The Japanese government lifted the evacuation warning soon after, stating that the missile was not flying into Japanese territory. People in Seoul were woken by the sound of an air raid siren and a message telling them to prepare to evacuate. They were then told, 20 minutes later, that it had been sent in error.  

Pyongyang informed Tokyo of its plans to launch the satellite on Monday. Japan’s Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada told reporters he’d ordered the SDF to shoot it down if it were to enter Japanese territory. In the end, it didn’t come to that because of an abnormal startup of the engine on the second stage of the flight. North Korea’s National Space Development Agency said it would “urgently” investigate the failure. The Korean Central News Agency later added that it was “certain” the satellite would be “correctly put into space orbit in the near future.”  

The PM removed his son from his position as his executive secretary

PM’s Son Forced to Resign from Secretary Role  

Shotaro Kishida, son of Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, was forced to resign from his role as his father’s executive secretary for political affairs on Thursday after photos emerged of a party he hosted at the PM’s official residence. Published by the weekly magazine Shukan Bunshun, the images were from a year-end party he hosted on December 30. Pictures showed two guests pretending to hold a press conference at an official dais. There was also one attendee lying across the West Staircase where commemorative photographs are taken by new Cabinet members.  

The images angered the public and reignited the debate about the mixing of politics and familial ties in Japan. “As a secretary for political affairs, a public position, his actions were inappropriate. I decided to replace him to have him take more responsibility,” said the PM, who greeted guests at the party, but didn’t stay for dinner. Earlier in the year, Shotaro, 32, was reprimanded for using an embassy car to do some sightseeing in Paris and London during official state visits of five G7 nations.  

Two police officers and two civilians were killed in last week’s attack in Nagano

Suspect in Nagano Rampage Bore a Grudge Against Two Victims  

Masanori Aoki, 31, the suspect in the murder of four people in Nagano Prefecture last week, reportedly held a grudge against the two local women he stabbed to death because he thought they were “mocking him for being a loner.” Yukie Murakami, 66, was taking a walk when she was attacked. Yasuko Takeuchi, 70, was later found collapsed around 50 meters from Aoki’s home. When police arrived at the scene, Aoki opened fire, murdering Inspector Yoshiki Tamai, 46, and Sergeant Takuo Ikeuchi, 61, because he feared they would “shoot and kill” him.  

A 12-hour standoff ensued, during which time the suspect reportedly contemplated suicide. According to an investigative source citing the account his mother gave to the police, he was unable to go through with it, so asked her to take his life instead. She allegedly ran outside and placed the weapon on the road. The night after the killings in Nagano, another fatal shooting occurred in Machida, Tokyo. Makoto Sasaki, 58, turned himself in after a man in his 50s was shot in a coffee shop. Police believe it was gang-related.  

Koji Yakusho | Image by Andrea Raffin via Shutterstock

Yakusho Wins Best Actor Prize at Cannes Film Festival 

Koji Yakusho picked up the Best Actor gong at this year’s Cannes Film Festival on Saturday. The 67-year-old Nagasaki Prefecture-native received the award for his role as the toilet cleaner Hirayama in Wim Wenders’ Perfect Days, a quirky and moving film that combines four short stories. Yakusho is the first Japanese actor to receive the accolade at the prestigious festival since Yuya Yagira in 2004. Aged just 14 at the time, Yagira became the youngest winner of the award for his portrayal of Akira in Hirokazu Koreeda’s movie, Nobody Knows.  

Koreeda’s latest film, Monster, due out in Japan today, was nominated for a Palme d’Or. It missed out on the top prize, but was honored with the Queer Palm, an award recognizing films for their treatment of LGBT themes. The movie’s writer, Yuji Sakamoto, meanwhile, picked up the Best Screenplay gong. The Palme d’Or went to Justine Triet for Anatomy of a Fall, a French thriller about a writer trying to prove her innocence following the death of her husband. She’s the third woman to win the prize after Jane Campion and Julia Ducournau.  

Terunofuji won his eighth Emperor’s Cup at Tokyo’s Ryogoku Kokugikan last weekend | Image by Ivan Roth via Shutterstock

Terunofuji Claims 8th Emperor’s Cup 

Lone yokozuna Terunofuji defeated his nearest rival and compatriot Kiribayama (now known as Kirishima following his promotion to the second rank of ozeki), on Saturday to secure his eighth Emperor’s Cup. It’s the 31-year-old Mongolian’s first tournament title in a year. He missed the last four meets after undergoing knee surgery in October. In Major League Baseball, Shohei Ohtani’s first two-homer game of the season against the Chicago White Sox on Wednesday included the longest home run of his MLB career at 459 feet. He also homered against the same opponents on Tuesday.  

In men’s soccer, Japan were eliminated at the group stages of the FIFA U-20 World Cup in Argentina after a disappointing 2-1 defeat to Israel. Takefusa Kubo’s Real Sociedad qualified for the Champions League despite losing. He’ll be joined in the competition next season by Daichi Kamada, who’s set to join AC Milan. Celtic will also be there. Kyogo Furuhashi bagged a brace for the Hoops in their final Scottish Premiership game against Aberdeen. There were also goals this week for Keito Nakamura (LASK), Koki Saito (Sparta Rotterdam) and Takuma Asano (VfL Bochum).