No Impact to Outside Environment Following Radioactive Water Leak at Fukushima Plant

An estimated 5,500 tons of radioactive water leaked from a treatment machine at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant on Wednesday morning. A worker for a contracted company discovered the leak while checking the valve on the SARRY filtration machine, which is designed to remove cesium from radioactive water. The water came out through a ventilation hole and seeped into the surrounding soil. It is estimated to have contained approximately 22 billion becquerels of radioactive substances. According to NHK, the standard level for reporting to the government is 100 million becquerels.  
Tepco was keen to stress that the spillage was confined to the surrounding soil. A spokesperson for the company said there had been “no significant changes” at posts monitoring radioactivity around the power station. Jin Watanabe, head of Fukushima Prefecture’s crisis management section, requested a vigorous investigation into the matter. China’s embassy in Japan believes the leakage “further highlights” the need for international supervision in monitoring Fukushima’s wastewater release. “Japan’s repeated accidents in the process of treating Fukushima nuclear-contaminated water have fully exposed the chaos and disorder of Tepco’s internal management,” an embassy spokesman said on Thursday. 

Transgender Rights

Japanese Court Approves Gender Change for Trans Man Without Surgery

For the first time in Japan, a transgender man has been granted the right to legally change his gender without having to go through sterilization surgery. On Wednesday, the Tsuyama branch of the Okayama Family Court ruled in favor of Tacaquito Usui, 50, stating that the hormone therapy he received made him eligible for gender affirmation. Assigned female at birth, he was diagnosed with gender identity disorder as an adult. Speaking at a press conference, Usui thanked his family, before adding, “I feel like a new life is beginning.” He can now legally marry his partner.  

In 2003, a law was passed in Japan allowing trans people to change their gender marker on legal documents. While that was seen as a step in the right direction for transgender rights, the procedure proved discriminatory as only applicants who had undergone surgery to remove their sexual organs were accepted. Last October, the Japanese Supreme Court ruled that this provision was unconstitutional. Nine years earlier, a report by the World Health Organization and other United Nations agencies condemned laws requiring sterilization for gender change, stating that such practices were “recognized as human rights violations.” 

itochu tokyo office

Itochu to Cut Ties with Israeli Weapons Firm

Itochu Corporation announced on Monday that it intends to sever ties with Israeli weapons provider Elbit Systems. The announcement came less than two weeks after the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruled that Israel must do all it can to prevent genocide, including refraining from harming or killing Palestinians, though it stopped short of calling for a ceasefire. The ruling increased the pressure on Itochu, a major stakeholder in some of Japan’s most familiar brands, including Edwin Jeans and Family Mart, to end its relationship with Israel’s largest military manufacturer.  

According to Tsuyoshi Hachimura, Itochu’s chief financial officer (CFO), the relationship will terminate by the end of February. “The partnership is based on a request from the Japan Defense Ministry for the purpose of importing defense equipment for the Self-Defense Forces necessary for Japan’s security and is not in any way related to the current conflict between Israel and Palestine,” he said at an earnings press conference. Along with Nippon Aircraft Supply, the company signed a memorandum of cooperation with Elbit Systems in March 2023, seven months prior to the start of the Israel-Hamas war. 

miss japan karolina shiino gives up grown

Ukrainian-born Miss Japan Gives Up Crown Due to Affair

Karolina Shiino, the Ukrainian-born model who last month was crowned Miss Japan, relinquished her title, the competition organizers announced on Monday. The news came just a few days after Shukan Bunshun weekly magazine published a story about a relationship she was having with a married man who has since been named as Takuma Maeda. An influencer who also happens to be a doctor, Maeda posted a handwritten letter on his Instagram page on Friday apologizing for “causing discomfort to many people.” Shiino, meanwhile, claimed that she thought he was single and ended the relationship after she realized he was married. 

On Monday, however, Free Wave Co., Shiino’s model agency, released a statement confirming that she had, in fact, continued seeing him after she learned he was married. She subsequently relinquished her Miss Japan Grand Prix title. The association’s website, which last week supported Shiino following the article, stated that she had “requested to withdraw from the contest due to personal reasons.” Accepting the request, it added that the “Miss Japan 2024 Grand Prix will be declared vacant.” Taking to Instagram, Shiino apologized for the “huge trouble” she caused and for “betraying” those who supported her.  

killer whales trapped in ice Japan

Image via Wildlife Pro LLC.

Killer Whales Trapped in Drift Ice May Have Escaped

On Tuesday morning, a drone captured images of a pod of more than 10 killer whales that were trapped by drift sea ice just off the coast of Rausu in the east of Hokkaido. Footage aired by national broadcaster NHK showed the group of orcas closely packed together. During the short, distressing video, they could be seen sticking their heads out of the water gasping for air. There was good news the following day, though, as they were no longer there. “As the gap in the drift ice started to open, it’s likely they escaped,” said an official from Rausu. 

The orcas were first spotted by local fishermen, who alerted the coast guard. Officials said a rescue operation couldn’t be launched due to the thick ice. While killer whales are fully aquatic mammals that spend their entire lives in the water, they don’t have gills and, therefore, cannot breathe underwater. They have very powerful lungs but must come up to the surface every five to 10 minutes to take a breath when their oxygen depletes. In February 2005, nine orcas reportedly died after a similar situation occurred in the same area off the coast of Rausu. 

Taylot Swift News Roundup

Taylor Swift and Lionel Messi Delight Tokyo Fans  

Two global superstars landed in Tokyo this week, delighting both music and soccer fans. Taylor Swift performed at the Tokyo Dome on Wednesday, just a few days after winning her 14th Grammy. She will conclude the tour on Saturday night before flying back to the US to watch the Super Bowl. On the same night as Swift’s opening show here, Lionel Messi made a cameo appearance at Tokyo’s National Stadium. He played for 30 minutes as his side, Inter Miami, lost on penalties to Vissel Kobe. Politicians and fans on Chinese social media site Weibo criticized Messi for playing in Japan after staying on the bench for his side’s friendly in Hong Kong. 

Supporters of the Japan national side had little to cheer about last Saturday as the Samurai Blue lost 2-1 to Iran in the quarterfinals of the Asian Cup. Hidemasa Morita put the pre-tournament favorites ahead just before the half-hour mark. While Japan probably shaded the first half, the second was completely dominated by Iran. Amir Ghalenoei’s side deservedly equalized through Mohammad Mohebi in the 55th minute. Struggling to cope with Iran’s attackers, Ko Itakura gave away a penalty in injury time, which was coolly dispatched by Alireza Jahanbakhsh. Iran then lost to Qatar, who will play Jordan in the final. 

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