In this week’s roundup, we report on the latest missiles from Pyongyang as North Korea continues to provoke Japan and several other countries. There’s sad news domestically as two Japanese icons pass away and the body of a 7-year-old girl is found in the Edo River. In Myanmar, filmmaker Toru Kubota is handed a 10-year prison sentence. And in sport, NBA players delight Japanese fans at the Saitama Super Arena.  

J-Alert Warning Shocks Residents in Northern Japan

Residents in Northern Japan were given a fright on Tuesday morning as alarms began bleating from cellphones and public speakers. For the first time since September 2017, North Korea fired a missile over the country. People were advised to seek shelter. The J-Alert warning system was activated at around 7:30am for Hokkaido and Aomori Prefectures as well as Tokyo’s Ogasawara and Izu islands. According to Japanese Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada, the Hwasong-12 IRBM flew around 4,600 kilometers. That’s the longest distance ever traveled by a North Korean missile.

Two days later, Pyongyang launched two more missiles towards the Sea of Japan. The projectiles landed just outside the country’s exclusive economic zone shortly after 6am on Thursday morning. “This is the sixth time in the short period from late September. It is absolutely unacceptable,” said Prime Minister Fumio Kishida. Speaking a day earlier, Pyongyang described the recent blitz as “just counteraction measures” to joint South Korean and US military drills. Analysts believe leader Kim Jong-un is preparing to carry out the country’s seventh nuclear test.

Renowned Wrestler Passes Away

Popular wrestler and lawmaker Antonio Inoki died of heart failure on Saturday. He was 79. Born Kanji Inoki in 1943, the Yokohama-native moved to Brazil with his family at 13 and worked at a coffee plantation. A natural athlete, he won championships in shot put, discus and javelin. On an excursion to the South American country, Rikidozan, the man known as the father of Japanese wrestling, liked what he saw. He decided to bring Inoki back to Japan with him to become a pro wrestler, handing him his debut in 1960.    

Inoki’s rivalry with Giant Baba became legendary, leading to a boom in the sport. In 1972, his promoting career began when he founded New Japan Pro Wrestling. Four years later he took on boxer Muhammad Ali in a bout billed as ‘The War of the Worlds.’ Though a bit farcical, it was seen as the precursor to modern mixed martial arts. In 1989, Inoki became an upper house member and successfully negotiated with Saddam Hussein for the release of 36 Japanese hostages in Iraq a year later. He visited North Korea 33 times.  

Sanyutei Enraku VI Dies at 72

A day before the announcement of Inoki’s death came the news that Sanyutei Enraku VI had passed away. The esteemed rakugo storyteller was most well-known for his appearances on the long-running Sunday evening comedy show Shoten. Born Yasumichi Ai in 1950, he began studying rakugo under the tutelage of Sanyutei Enraku V during his student days at Aoyama Gakuin University. Using the stage name of Sanyutei Rakutaro, he rose to the rank of futatsume in 1976. Five years later, he was promoted to shinuchi, the highest rank in rakugo.  

In March 2010, he inherited the name of his teacher, who’d died from lung cancer five months earlier. Sadly, Enraku was later diagnosed with the same illness, posting the news on his website in 2018. On January 25 of this year his agency announced that he’d suffered from a cerebral infarction, further complicated by his treatment for lung cancer. He returned to the stage in the middle of August but was then hospitalized after developing mild pneumonia. He died on September 30 aged 72. 


Myanmar Junta Sentence Japanese Filmmaker to 7 Years in Prison

A junta-controlled court in Myanmar sentenced Japanese documentary filmmaker Toru Kubota to seven years in prison on Wednesday for violating the electronic transactions law. He was also sentenced to three years for sedition, but that will be served concurrently. The former covers offenses that involve spreading false or provocative information online while the latter concerns activities adjudged to have caused civil unrest. Kubota is also charged with violating an immigration control law with that trial expected to be concluded on October 12. 

He was detained by plain clothes officers on July 30 after taking pictures and videos of demonstrators at a flash protest in Yangon. “The Myanmar junta should immediately and unconditionally release Kubota, as well as thousands of others who’ve been arbitrarily detained since the coup,” Teppei Kasai, a program officer for Human Rights Watch, told Tokyo Weekender. “Japan should also realize its soft approach to the coup has been ineffective and take stronger action against the Tatmadaw including targeted sanctions.” It’s estimated that more than 15,600 people have been arrested since the military coup.  

Body of 7-Year-Old Girl Discovered in Edo River

A body discovered in Edo River on Tuesday was confirmed to be that of 7-year-old Saya Minami. The elementary school student went missing from her hometown of Matsudo in Chiba Prefecture on September 23. She had left her house to go to the park with a kick-scooter at around 11:30am. When her mother arrived at the destination approximately five minutes later, her daughter was nowhere to be seen. On the same day, Saya’s kick-scooter was found at a park in the neighboring city of Nagareyama.  

An extensive search led to the discovery of the young girl’s shoes, socks and hat on the riverbank. Around two weeks later, her body was found. According to the Chiba Prefectural Police, she had no major visible injuries and probably died by drowning. A similar tragedy recently occurred in Takaoka City. The body of Reon Takashima, aged just 2, was found floating in Toyama Bay on September 4, two weeks after he was reported missing. He’d wandered out of his home through the back door on August 20.  

Rui Hachimura

Curry and Hachimura Impress in Preseason Games

For the first time since the coronavirus pandemic began, NBA preseason games returned to Japan last weekend. The Golden State Warriors, this year’s champions, defeated the Washington Wizards 96-87 and 104-95 in the two matches that were played at the Saitama Super Arena. Home favorite Rui Hachimura delighted fans despite his side’s defeats. In the opening match, he was his team’s top scorer with 13 points and nine rebounds. He followed that up with 10 points and 11 rebounds in the second. The other big draw for fans was Stephen Curry who scored a team-high 17 points in just 17 minutes in the final game.  

In European soccer, Takefusa Kubo scored and assisted in Real Sociedad’s 5-3 win over Girona. Junya Ito did the same, plus got himself sent off as Reims drew 2–2 with Troyes. Hidemasa Morita and Sai van Wermeskerken opened their accounts for Sporting CP and SC Cambuur. Kyogo Furuhashi and Reo Hatate both netted in Celtic’s 2-1 victory over Motherwell. And Ryota Morioka grabbed the only goal as Charleroi defeated Anderlecht 1-0. Protesting his former teammate Kaveh Rezaei’s arrest by Iranian authorities, he chose not to celebrate.