Queen Elizabeth II, Britain’s figurehead for the last seven decades, has died at the age of 96. She passed away peacefully at Balmoral Castle on Thursday afternoon. Tributes have been pouring in from leaders around the world including Fumio Kishida. The Japanese prime minister described her death as “a great loss not only to the British people but also to the international community.” The Queen’s funeral will take place at Westminster Abbey within the next two weeks. It’ll be followed by Shinzo Abe’s controversial state funeral on September 27, a ceremony that will cost around ¥1.66 billion.   

Also this week, we report on the fallout from Rina Gonoi’s sexual assault claims as the Ministry of Defense announce there will be a thorough investigation into the growing number of harassment cases within the SDF. There’s tragic news from Shizuoka as a kindergarten student dies from heatstroke after being locked in a bus for five hours. In Fukuoka, a Vietnamese student at a language institute is held against his will for wanting to switch schools. And in sport, Shohei Ohtani blasts three more home runs.  

Kishida Hails Queen’s Contributions to Japan-Britain Relations  

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida hailed the Queen’s “great contributions to the strengthening of Japan-Britain relations,” following her death on Thursday. In May 1975, she became the first British monarch to visit Japan. Two decades earlier, the then-Crown Prince Akihito attended her coronation at Westminster Abbey. He also attended her Diamond Jubilee luncheon in 2012 with his wife Empress Michiko. Their son, Emperor Naruhito, first met her majesty in 1983. He was impressed by her laid-back manner and the fact that she poured him a cup of tea herself.

The Queen’s state funeral, due to take place in the next two weeks, will no doubt overshadow Shinzo Abe’s ceremony set for September 27. At a press conference on Tuesday, Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno revealed that the latter is to cost around ¥1.66 billion. Approximately ¥800 million is required for security with another ¥600 million on hosting. The figure of the ceremony itself is supposed to be in the region of ¥250 million. More than 6,000 guests are expected to attend.   

Defense Ministry to Investigate Growing Number of SDF Harassment Claims 

Speaking at a press conference on Tuesday, Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada announced that he’d ordered a thorough investigation into the sharp rise in harassment claims amongst Self Defense Forces (SDF) personnel. According to Hamada, the number of harassment complaints (including sexual, power and other forms of intimidation) increased from 256 in 2016 to 2,311 in 2021. “Harassment is a violation of basic human rights. It also shakes troop morale and absolutely should not happen,” he said. A panel of experts has been set up to delve into the matter. 

Former SDF member Rina Gonoi, 22, recently spoke via various social media sites about the harassment she experienced during training. She claimed three male senior colleagues forced her to the ground by her neck. They then pulled her legs apart before repeatedly pressing their crotches against her. Prosecutors investing the allegations, however, dropped proceedings, citing insufficient evidence. Last week Gonoi submitted a petition to the ministry demanding an independent probe into the case. She collected more than 100,000 signatures.  

Kindergarten Student Dies After Being Locked in Bus for Five Hours 

A 3-year-old girl died on Monday after being left on a kindergarten bus. China Kawamoto was reportedly inside the vehicle for more than five hours and is suspected of dying from heatstroke. The bus arrived at Kawasaki kindergarten in Makinohara, Shizuoka Prefecture at approximately 8:50am. Kawamoto was found unconscious after 2pm. That morning, five other children boarded the bus. They were accompanied by a staff member in her 70s and the kindergarten’s director and principal, Tatsuyoshi Masuda, 73.  

“I apologize to the bereaved family for the child’s death. I take it that the cause of this sad accident was that we didn’t conduct thorough safety management,” said Masuda. The principal drove the vehicle on Monday as the usual bus driver had taken the day off. He’ll now step down from his role. A similar incident occurred in Nakama City, Fukuoka in July of last year. Five-year-old Toma Kurakake died of heatstroke after being locked in a nursery school bus for nine hours. 

Vietnamese Student Abused for Wanting to Switch Schools  

Japan’s immigration agency blacklisted a language school in Fukuoka Prefecture on Wednesday for an incident involving a Vietnamese student. Nishinihon International Education Institute in the southwestern city of Fukuoka will not be allowed to admit foreign pupils for at least five years after a staff member there physically restrained the man from Vietnam for several hours using a metal chain and a padlock. Other workers were reportedly in the room at the time, but nobody tried to help the student.  

A disagreement occurred between the student and the institute after he said he wanted to switch schools. That was in October of last year. Staff members asked to speak to him about it in a faculty room, yet when the pupil tried to leave, he was detained. Though he was finally allowed to return to his room in the evening, he was still being monitored to ensure he wouldn’t escape. The school described the incident as “a prank without bad intentions.” 


Isolation Period Reduced to Seven Days 

The isolation period for Covid-19 patients in Japan has been shortened from 10 days to seven for infected people with symptoms and from seven to five for those without (providing they test negative on the fifth day). Asymptomatic patients will also be allowed to go out for daily necessities and groceries from the first day of their quarantine period. Those with symptoms can go out 24 hours after their condition improves. They must wear a mask and not use public transportation. 

The new rules were announced by Prime Minister Kishida on Tuesday and went into effect the following day. “We’ll proceed to a new phase of living with the coronavirus and strengthen measures to balance (virus policies) with socioeconomic activities,” said the PM. Also this week, Japan opened its borders to foreign travelers on unguided tours booked through pre-registered travel agencies. Pre-arrival PCR tests, meanwhile, are no longer required and the daily entry cap has increased from 20,000 to 50,000. 

Ohtani Battling with Judge for American League’s MVP 

Battling it out with the New York Yankees’ home run king Aaron Judge for the American League’s MVP award, Shohei Ohtani is enjoying another memorable season for the Los Angeles Angels. His 31st and 32nd homers of the campaign came in Monday’s 10-0 win over the Detroit Tigers. He then hit number 33 in his team’s 5-4 loss to the same opponent on Wednesday. He currently leads the way in every major batting and pitching category for the Angels. 

In European soccer, Ritsu Doan grabbed the winner as Freiburg defeated Bayer Leverkusen 3-2 to move top of the Bundesliga. He then scored again in their 2-1 victory over Qarabag in the Europa League. Daichi Kamada fired in the opener as Eintracht Frankfurt walloped RB Leipzig 4-0. In the Champions League his team lost 3-0 to Sporting CP with Hidemasa Morita setting up the first for the Portuguese side. There were also goals this week for Ryota Morioka and Koji Miyoshi in Belgium, Keito Nakamura in Austria and Hayao Kawabe in Switzerland. In women’s soccer, Japanese international Yui Hasegawa signed Man City.