In this week’s news roundup, we report on the Tokyo gubernatorial election as campaigning began in the capital. Things got off to a controversial start with one candidate putting up posters of a near-naked lady, which led to a warning from the police. Also this week, we review the latest figures from the Japan National Tourism Organization as overseas visitors exceed 3 million for a third consecutive month. With so many travelers taking advantage of the weak yen, the mayor of Himeji believes now is the right time to introduce a two-tier pricing system for his city’s most famous sightseeing spot. 

Tokyo Governor Race Off to a Controversial Start

Official campaigning for the Tokyo gubernatorial election began on Thursday with a record 56 candidates taking part, more than double the 22 candidates who ran four years ago. The two leading figures are the TV-presenters-turned-politicians, Yuriko Koike, 71, and Renho Saito, 56. The former, seeking her third term, has the backing of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, while the latter is being backed by the main opposition parties. Other standout names include Shinji Ishimaru, 41, the former mayor of Akitakata city, and Toshio Tamogami, 75, who previously served as the Chief of Staff of Japan’s Air Self-Defense Force. 

There are several candidates that appear to be running purely for exposure. One of the most controversial figures is Yusuke Kawai, who ran in the 2021 Chiba gubernatorial election dressed like the Joker. On the opening day of campaigning for the Tokyo governor’s hot seat, he put up posters of a near-naked gyaru idol named Miu Sakurai — a supporter of his campaign — to “promote the importance of freedom of expression.” Kawai was subsequently warned by the police over a possible violation of Tokyo’s anti-nuisance ordinance. As a result, he decided to remove all the posters featuring the woman. 

Japan's Tourism Policy

Visitors to Japan Top 3 Million for Third Consecutive Month

For a third successive month, foreign visitors to Japan exceeded the 3 million mark in May. According to the Japan National Tourism Organization (JNTO), approximately 3.04 million travelers entered the country from overseas last month. It’s around the same rate as the numbers seen in April and slightly down from the record figure of 3.08 million in March. Arrivals in May were up 60.1% from a year earlier and 9.6% higher than the same month in 2019. With more than 738,000 visitors, South Korean travelers made up the largest group, ahead of Chinese travelers, who exceeded 545,000.  

The cumulative figure for the first five months of 2024 was 14.64 million. That’s 6.5% higher than the same period in 2019, the year a record 31.88 million people arrived in Japan from overseas. The weak yen, which briefly plummeted to below the 160 mark against the dollar for the first time in 34 years in April, is helping to fuel a tourism boom in this country. However, it is making it more difficult for residents here to travel abroad. In May, the number of outbound Japanese travelers was 941,700, 34.5% lower than the same month in 2019. 

himeji castle entry fee tourists

Ben Cooke

Mayor Considers Quadrupling Himeji Castle Entry Fee for Tourists

Speaking at an international symposium on cultural heritage and natural disasters on Sunday, Hideyasu Kiyomoto, the mayor of Himeji in western Japan, said he is considering “quadrupling” entry fees exclusively for foreign tourists visiting the UNESCO World Heritage site, Himeji Castle. Currently, adult entry fees for the castle are set at ¥1,000, which is around $6.33 according to current exchange rates. Kiyomoto feels that it is too cheap for visitors from overseas. He believes that with the yen being so weak and tourism thriving, now is the right time to introduce two-tier pricing, known as nijukaku in Japanese. 

“We would like to charge the equivalent of around $30 for foreigners and around $5 for residents,” said Kiyomoto during Sunday’s symposium. Speaking to reporters on Monday, he emphasized that he would like to “avoid raising the admission fee for local residents.” He added that there are two-tier pricing systems at several historical sites around the globe. Earlier this year, Tamatebako, a seafood restaurant in Shibuya, Tokyo, made headlines for offering discounted prices for local residents. For nijukaku to be realized at Himeji Castle, though, the idea will first have to be approved by the Agency for Cultural Affairs. 

jojo's bizarre adventure producer hiroyuki omori passes away

JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure Producer Hiroyuki Omori Passes Away

Hiroyuki Omori, who worked as the executive producer of the anime series, JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure, has sadly passed away. Warner Bros. Japan revealed the news to Anime News Network on Sunday. The company did not provide any other details such as how he died or his age. After working as a producer at NBCUniversal Entertainment Japan LLC, Omori joined Warner Bros. Japan in 2011. His career in the anime industry spanned more than a quarter of a century. He worked as a producer on several popular series, including Terra Formars, Highschool of the Dead, Casshern Sins and Hi Score Girl.

The series for which he is most remembered, though, is JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure. An adaptation of the immensely popular Japanese manga series of the same name by Hirohiko Araki, the story focuses on the mysterious adventures of the Joestar family, beginning at the end of the 19th century, going up to the modern era. The show, which premiered in 2012, was an immediate hit both domestically and internationally. As well as being nominated for several awards, it was also included in Polygon’s list of “The Best Anime of the Decade” for the 2010s. 

Mysterious Pop Star Ado To Hold Handshaking Event From Inside a Box

Japan’s most mysterious singer, Ado, has never publicly shown her face. For a brief moment, it sounded like that was going to change when her management announced an upcoming handshake event with the enigmatic musician. However, instead of getting a view of the pop star, fans will have to make do with shaking hands with her through a box. While not as intimate as meeting her face-to-face, it is an exciting opportunity for her followers to interact with the reclusive star. It’s planned for two days in October with 1,000 places (500 per day) up for grabs. 

Winners will be selected through a special lottery. Before applying, hopefuls must first purchase Ado’s upcoming second album, Zanmu, set to be released on July 10. It will take place at a secret venue that will only be revealed to those who are selected. On the Universal Music website, a concept image accompanied the announcement, showing potential applicants what will happen on the day. “You will shake hands with Ado inside the box! Please insert your hand into the hole installed inside the box. Ado will shake hands with the hand you have placed inside!” 

Hideaki Matsuyama

Hideki Matsuyama | Stan Badz/PGA TOUR)

Hideki Matsuyama Finishes 6th at the U.S. Open

Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama finished sixth at the U.S. Open on Sunday, his best finish at a major in two years. The 2021 Masters champion hit a final round score of 70 to end the tournament on 2-under, four strokes behind eventual winner, Bryson DeChambeau. The American edged out Rory McIlroy, who came back from three strokes behind to lead DeChambeau by two shots. He then missed two putts from inside four feet across the last two holes. It was a heartbreaking finish for the 35-year-old Northern Irish golfer, whose 10-year wait for a fifth major goes on.  

In baseball news, Shohei Ohtani has enjoyed another fine week with the bat. On Sunday, he smashed a pair of solo home runs — his 18th and 19th homers of the season — in the Dodgers 3-0 victory over the Kansas City Royals. His 20th of the campaign then came against the Colorado Rockies two days later. His 476-foot blast was the longest home run in Major League Baseball this year. He finished the game 2-for-5 with two RBIs and two runs scored in the Dodgers 11-9 win. On the same day, Ohtani celebrated the first birthday of his dog, Dekopin.  

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