In this week’s news roundup, we once again marvel at the genius of Shohei Ohtani as he produces one of the most memorable individual performances in MLB history. We also report on the arrest of Ichikawa Ennosuke, the investigation into the death of a 6-year-old boy in Kobe and the health ministry’s decision to approve over-the-counter sales of emergency contraceptives on a trial basis. In train-related news, the men behind the attacks on the Odakyu and Keio lines go on trial and a chef carrying knives causes panic on the Yamanote Line. 

Ohtani Mesmerizes Again at the Plate and on the Mound  

Another week, another Shohei Ohtani milestone. On Tuesday, he became the first American League pitcher in almost 60 years to hit two homers in a game while also striking out 10 batters. Despite being forced to leave the mound in the seventh inning due to a cracked fingernail, he was able to continue as a designated batter, helping the Los Angeles Angels to a 4-2 victory over the Chicago White Sox. He currently leads the Majors with 28 home runs. 

In other sports news, Japanese boxer Kazuto Ioka defeated America’s Joshua Franco on Saturday to claim the WBA super flyweight title. The victory came three days after the Japan Boxing Commission revealed that Ioka’s urine sample, taken on December 31, 2022, showed traces of cannabis. The fight went ahead, though, as the amount found was below the World Anti-Doping Agency’s detection limit. Franco was stripped of the belt prior to the contest as he came in too heavy. 

Ichikawa Ennosuke

Ichikawa Ennosuke Arrested on Suspicion of Assisting His Mother’s Suicide  

Highly reputed kabuki actor Ichikawa Ennosuke was arrested on Tuesday on suspicion of assisting in the suicide of his mother. An autopsy found that the 75-year-old woman died from psychotropic drug poisoning. Her son is accused of supplying her with sleeping pills. On May 18, she and her husband, kabuki actor Ichikawa Danshiro, 76, were discovered lying on their backs in their living room covered with a futon. She was confirmed dead at the scene, while he died after reaching the hospital.  

An investigation into Ennosuke’s involvement in his father’s death is ongoing. The 47-year-old actor, whose real name is Takahiko Kinoshi, tried to take his own life as well. He was found collapsed by his assistant in the basement of the house next to a suicide note. “After I told my parents that a weekly magazine would carry an article about me, we agreed that the three of us would go to the next world,” he reportedly said during questioning by Tokyo’s Metropolitan Police Department.  

Grandmother Says Uncle of Dead 6-Year-Old Boy Organized Dumping of the Body 

The grandmother of a 6-year-old boy whose dead body was discovered in a suitcase in Kobe last week told the police that her son, the child’s uncle, organized the dumping of his corpse. According to the autopsy, Nao Hosaka likely died from traumatic shock on June 19. That same evening, security footage captured four people carrying a suitcase to the area where his body was found. The police believe he was regularly abused as he had several bruises on his shoulder and buttocks.  

Sources said Nao’s mother, Saki Hosaka, 34, led the police to the suitcase. She was arrested last Thursday with her brother Daichi, 32, and her twin sisters Asaka and Tomomi, 30, on suspicion of injuring and confining their mother, Yumiko Hosaka, 57, who they reportedly kept in a closet. The police believe she was hit on the back with an iron pipe. She managed to escape on June 20 and was placed in protective custody. The household allegedly became increasingly violent after Daichi moved in.  

Over-the-counter sales of emergency contraceptives will begin this summer on a trial basis.

Japan Approves Prescription-Free Trial of Contraceptive Pills  

Japan’s health ministry announced on Monday that it would be allowing over-the-counter sales of emergency contraceptives on a trial basis beginning this summer. The trial will run through March at designated pharmacies that have trained pharmacists. Being able to coordinate with nearby obstetrics and gynecology clinics is also a must. An emergency contraceptive works best within 72 hours after unprotected intercourse. However, under current rules, women need to go to a hospital or clinic to obtain one, including sexual assault victims.  

Japan only legalized the birth control pill in 1999, more than 30 years after it was first submitted for approval. By contrast, the Viagra drug for erectile dysfunction was approved in just six months. Clinical trials indicate that emergency contraceptive pills demonstrate an efficacy rate of about 80%. They’re available without prescription in around 90 countries. Last year, the health ministry’s expert panel asked more than 46,000 people if they were in favor of pharmacy sales. Over 90% said they were.  

Chaos and Confusion on the Yamanote Line 

There was chaos and confusion on the Yamanote Line on Sunday after a passenger noticed a man was carrying knives. It led to several passengers frantically escaping from the train when it arrived at Shinjuku Station. Two people were injured in the stampede. The man with the knives, believed to be a foreign national in his 50s, told the police he was a chef who’d just quit his job at a restaurant. He reportedly wrapped the knives in cloth to take home.  

The panic brought back memories of the “Joker” train incident from 2021 on the Keio Express train. Dressed as the villain from Batman, Kyota Hattori, sprayed a man with pesticide before stabbing him in the chest. Moving to a different carriage, he then spread lighter fluid across the floor to start a fire. He told the police he wanted to be executed. In his first hearing on Monday, Hattori admitted to attempted murder regarding the person he stabbed. However, he denied any intent to kill 12 others.  

The hearings of two men involved in high-profile train attacks in 2021 began this week | Image by Anna Petek

Suspect Admits to Stabbing Passengers on the Odakyu Line  

Another man indicted for a train attack faced his first hearing on Tuesday. Yusuke Tsushima, 37, is charged with the attempted murder of three passengers on the Odakyu Line on August 6, 2021. He admitted to the crime, but according to his lawyer, had no murderous intent and only thought that he “didn’t care if they died or not.” Prosecutors, however, argued that he wanted to kill “successful” people by spraying kerosene on a train of defenseless people.  

Among the victims was a female university student who was attacked relentlessly. Her injuries took three months to heal. In total, 10 people were hurt in the attack. Another knife crime occurred in Yokohama’s Tsurumi ward on Thursday. Haruki Ito, 22, admitted to stabbing his girlfriend Sana Tominaga, 18. The university student was pronounced dead at the hospital. She had reportedly called the police four times between October 2021 and June this year to report that they’d been fighting.