Vincent Fichot made international headlines in July after staging a hunger strike near the Tokyo Olympic Stadium in an attempt to regain access to his kids. He was back in the news this week as a Paris court issued an international arrest warrant for his wife over allegations of abduction and endangering a minor. Despite taking heart from the latest development, Fichot told TW he doesn’t expect anything to change in regards to him being given access to his children. The Frenchman last saw his son and daughter on August 10, 2018. 

Also this week, we report on Shiori Ito’s case against a cartoonist and two others for tweets she says defamed her character. There’s the latest on the Omicron coronavirus variant with two cases, at the time of writing, having been confirmed in Japan. The government, accused of acting too hesitantly in the past, has been quick to shut down the borders. The opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan (CDP), meanwhile, has a new leader. And in domestic baseball, the Tokyo Yakult Swallows won their first Japan Series in two decades.  

Arrest Warrant Issued for Japanese Woman Over Parental Kidnap  

Will the arrest warrant issued to Vincent Fichot’s wife by a court in Paris increase the likelihood of him reuniting with his son and daughter? He doesn’t think so. “I’ll never stop fighting for my children, but frankly I doubt I’ll ever see them again,” he told us. “I have zero expectations. The Japanese government is refusing to help the French authorities. I think it’s very unlikely they are going to arrest and extradite my wife.”  

The French warrant accuses her of abducting their children and endangering a minor, which Fichot says he has evidence of. Unlike most developed countries, Japan has no joint child custody system. As a result, it’s estimated that around 150,000 under-18s are forcibly separated from a parent annually here. “You have a system that’s being leveraged to create a race to the bottom,” says Fichot. “It incentivizes crime because parents fear they won’t see their children again. This isn’t just an issue that affects men, but women as well.”  

Image by Tsutomu Harigaya

Cartoonist and Retweeters Ordered to Pay Damages to Shiori Ito  

Manga artist Toshiko Hasumi was ordered to pay ¥880,000 to Shiori Ito for tweets implying she’d lied about being raped. Alongside illustrations believed to be of Ito, Hasumi posted messages suggesting the journalist had tried and failed to sleep her way to the top. The plaintiff claimed the cartoonist defamed her by spreading false information. Two men who retweeted Hasumi’s posts were also forced to pay damages of ¥110,000 each. 

Ito became the face of the #MeToo movement in Japan after publicly accusing influential TBS reporter and biographer of former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Noriyuki Yamaguchi of rape. He claims they had consensual sex and the police concluded there wasn’t enough evidence to prosecute. In 2019, Ito won a landmark civil case against Yamaguchi and was awarded ¥3.3 million in damages. Prior to the case, she told TW the negative messages she received “probably outweighed the positive ones,” and that the “worst comments seemed to come from older women.”  

Two Omicron Cases Confirmed in Japan  

While coronavirus cases have been dwindling in recent months, fears of a sixth wave have never dissipated. Those fears were stoked further this week following the confirmation of the first case of the new Omicron variant in Japan. A diplomat in his 30s arriving at Narita Airport from Namibia was found to be infected with the strain. According to the health ministry, he had no symptoms upon arrival, but developed a fever on Monday. 

Case number two wasn’t far behind. On Wednesday, Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno announced that a man in his 20s had been infected with the new variant. He flew in to Tokyo from Peru via Qatar. The government responded by asking airlines to suspend new reservations for all incoming flights until the end of the year. The following day, Matsuno told a press conference the request had been withdrawn due to widespread criticism of the decision. A daily cap of 3,500 is being maintained.  

japan visa

New Foreign Visitors Barred from Entering Japan  

News of Japan’s first Omicron case came shortly after the government announced it was shutting its borders again. The latest ruling, which went into effect on Tuesday, bans all incoming foreign travelers from entering the country for at least a month. That includes businesspeople, students and interns from every country as well as those looking to reunite with loved ones. Some have been waiting more than a year to enter. The latest setback comes less than a month after Japan loosened its border restrictions.  

Foreign residents from 10 African countries are also banned from re-entering for a month. The list includes Angola, Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe. Exemptions are possible under “special circumstances” involving foreign spouses and children of Japanese citizens, diplomats and humanitarian cases. Japanese citizens who’ve visited those countries can return. However, they are required to quarantine in government-designated facilities for 10 days followed by four more at a location of their choosing. People returning from nations on the Omicron watchlist must isolate for 14 days, double-jabbed or not. 

Izumi Wins Race to Become CDP Leader  

In politics, Kenta Izumi won the race to lead the CDP — the main opposition party. The 47-year-old defeated Seiji Osaka, 62, in a run-off ballot. The two other candidates Junya Ogawa, 50, and Chinami Nishimura, 54, were knocked out in the first round of votes. It was Izumi’s predecessor Yukio Edano who founded the CDP in 2017. He announced his resignation as leader at the beginning of last month due to the party’s poor performance in the Lower House election.  

The party lost 13 seats at that ballot with Izumi now tasked with its much-needed resuscitation ahead of next summer’s Lower House election. The biggest issue before then concerns its alliances with other opposition parties, particularly the Japanese Communist Party. The Japan Trade Union Confederation, a major CDP backer commonly known as Rengo, opposes a tie-up with the JCP. Izumi said he would discuss the matter with Rengo to clarify their stance. 

Two Shohei Ohtani-related phrases were named Japan’s buzzwords of the year

Swallows Clinch Sixth Japan Series Title  

The Tokyo Yakult Swallows clinched the Japan Series on Saturday following a 2-1 victory in game six against the Orix Buffaloes. It’s the first time since 2012 that a team from the Central League has captured the championship. For the Swallows, it’s their sixth triumph overall and first since 2001. Both they and the Buffaloes finished bottom of their respective leagues last year. In other baseball-related news, Shohei Ohtani’s nickname “Sho-time” and “riaru nitoryu,” an expression related to his two-way playing style, were chosen as Japan’s buzzwords of the year.  

In European soccer, Kaoru Mitoma and Hiroki Ito both found the net for Royale Union Saint-Gilloise and Stuttgart respectively. Kyogo Furuhashi, meanwhile, grabbed the only goal as Celtic beat Hearts in the Scottish Premiership. He could soon be joined at the Glasgow-based club by a fellow countryman. Reo Hatate is set to leave Kawasaki Frontale when his contract expires in January. The Hoops are already believed to be preparing his work permit application. The versatile 24-year-old can play as a left-back, central midfielder or winger.