In this week’s news roundup we report on Shinzo Abe’s state funeral, a topic that has divided the nation. On Wednesday evening, a protest rally was held outside the Diet in opposition to the ceremony. At a press conference earlier in the day Prime Minster Fumio Kishida defended the event. He also vowed to sever ties between his party and the Unification Church as well as announcing that the daily cap on arrivals into Japan will be increased from 20,000 to 50,000 from September 7. 

In crime news, 31-year-old Akinori Hashimoto received a 20-year prison sentence for indecent acts on 20 boys while arsonist Shogo Arimoto got four years for burning down empty buildings in a Korean neighborhood in Kyoto. We have the latest on the fallout from the Teruyuki Kagawa scandal and a financial report on Noto’s squid statue. In sport, there’s three more home-runs for Shohei Ohtani, three more goals for Kyogo Furuhashi and another badminton world title for Akane Yamaguchi. 

Thousands Protest Abe’s State Funeral

The state funeral for former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is less than a month away, yet public opinion in Japan remains divided over whether he should be granted such an honor. On Wednesday, around 4,000 people (according to organizers) rallied outside the Diet building to protest the planned event. Many see it as a waste of taxpayers’ money. Last week, the cabinet confirmed that at least ¥250 million has been allocated for the ceremony at the Budokan arena. That figure, though, doesn’t include security expenditure, with opposition parties suggesting the final bill could be in the billions. 

Speaking at a press conference prior to the rally, Prime Minister Kishida defended the government’s decision to hold the ceremony. “We’ve received many requests to attend the funeral from people including members of royal families, presidents and heads of states. I increasingly feel we need to respond to such admiration and condolences with courtesy,” he said. The PM vowed to “squarely answer questions” from opposition parties about the state funeral in parliament. In a recent poll by the Mainichi Shimbun, 30 percent of respondents said they supported the event while 53 percent were opposed to it.  

Japan’s border restrictions are slowly starting to ease | Image by Anna Petek

Daily Entry Cap for Arrivals to Rise to 50,000

At the same press conference on Wednesday, Kishida announced that the entry cap for daily arrivals into Japan is set to rise by 30,000 next Wednesday. He added that tourists will no longer need to travel on packaged tours with guides. “We’ve seen international exchanges gaining traction in various parts of the world. We’re raising the daily cap on new arrivals to 50,000 from September 7 to join the trend and make sure the benefits of the weak yen are felt,” he told reporters. The non-guided package tours must be booked through a travel agency who will manage itineraries.  

Another issue the PM addressed at the press conference was his party’s links to the Unification Church. The religious group has been under the spotlight since the assassination of Abe on July 8. “We continue to receive concerns and doubts from the public. As president of the LDP, I would like to offer my sincere apologies. Diet members should sincerely reflect on the past, discard their ties and sever all ties with the organization. This should be the party’s basic policy,” said Kishida. A recent Kyodo News survey revealed that at least 106 lawmakers had links with the church.  

2channel Founder Sparks Controversy with Remarks about Women Working at Hostess Bars

Hiroyuki Nishimura, a successful entrepreneur who founded 2channel, Japan’s most accessed message board, sparked controversy over the weekend with his views on what women working at hostess clubs should be prepared to accept. Taking to Twitter, he claimed they’re paid very well to tolerate sexual victimization and being made to feel uncomfortable. “If you don’t like sexual harassment, you shouldn’t work in the sex industry,” tweeted Nishimura. He added that those who say they can’t do anything else “should go on welfare” instead. Unsurprisingly, his comments, accompanied by a YouTube video, caused quite a stir online. 

Nishimura was responding to a scandal involving Teruyuki Kagawa. On August 26, the famous kabuki actor apologized for his inappropriate behavior at a club in Ginza in 2019. According to the Shukan Shincho weekly, he removed a hostesses’ underwear, touched her breasts without consent and forcibly kissed her. She reportedly then suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder. Speaking on The Time, a morning current events program he hosted, Kagawa said he was “truly sorry for the inconvenience, worry and heartache,” he caused. He’s since been removed from that role. His contract with Toyota Motor will also not be renewed.  

Akinori Hashimoto has been sentenced to 20 years behind bars

Pedophile Sentenced to 20 Years in Prison

A 31-year-old man was sentenced to 20 years in prison on Tuesday for indecent acts on 20 boys. A former babysitter, Akinori Hashimoto was charged with rape, child pornography and other violations against the boys in his care, all of whom were aged between five and 11. Hashimoto admitted to 18 of the acts, but his defense described the other two as “close physical contact” that did not constitute a crime. “He preyed on young children for sexual gratification,” said a representative for the prosecution. “He needs to face severe punishment.”  

Another sentencing that made headlines took place in Kyoto on Tuesday. Shogo Arimoto, 23, is to serve four years in prison for setting fire to empty buildings in a community of Korean residents in Uji City on August 30, 2021. Seven structures were destroyed or partially damaged in the blaze. A month earlier, he’d been implicated in arson attacks on South Korea-related buildings in Aichi Prefecture. The unemployed Nara Prefecture-resident said he harbored “antagonistic feelings toward Koreans,” at the trial. Presiding judge Keisuke Masuda called his crimes “violent acts based on prejudice and ill will toward ethnic Koreans.” 

Giant Squid Generates an Estimated ¥604 Million in Tourism Spending

Last May, the coastal town of Noto in Ishikawa Prefecture was heavily criticized for erecting a 29.5-foot-long squid statue using funds from an emergency Covid-19 relief grant. Of the ¥800 million the town received, ¥25 million initially went on the giant pink cephalopod statue. A further ¥2 million was then required to complete it. The idea was to raise awareness of the fishing industry in Noto where squid is a local delicacy. Most, however, saw it as a huge waste of money. Sixteen months on, though, and many people are now revising that opinion. 

On Monday, a town official announced that between April 2021 and July 2022, the giant squid generated an estimated ¥604 million in tourism spending, more than 22 times the cost of the statue. That figure was calculated by business consultant Toshiro Shirai. He came up with the number after conducting a survey at a nearby mall, asking visitors why they’d come to Noto and how much they’d spent. He also took into account the media coverage the place received due to the statue. While the amount is probably exaggerated, it shows it wasn’t a complete waste of money.  

Japan’s two-way sensation is enjoying another memorable season

Another Milestone for Ohtani

Another week another Shohei Ohtani milestone. On Wednesday, he became the first Japan-born baseball player in Major League Baseball (MLB) to reach 30 home runs in consecutive seasons. He’s also the first player in MLB’s history to hit 30 homers while recording 10 pitching wins in a single season. His 28th home-run of the campaign came against the Blue Jays on Sunday. He followed that up with two more against the Yankees. Domestically, the Yakult Swallows continue to dominate the Central League. Munetaka Murakami hit his 48th homer of the season in Sunday’s win over second-placed DeNA Baystars. 

In soccer, Kyogo Furuhashi hit a brilliant hat-trick for Scottish champions Celtic’s in their 9-0 thumping of Dundee United. Compatriot Daizen Maeda was also on the scoresheet for the Hoops in the Scottish League Cup. In France, Junya Ito scored in consecutive games for Reims. Ayase Ueda and Shinji Kagawa opened their accounts in Belgium for Cercle Brugge and Sint-Truiden. As did Takahiro Kunimoto for Portuguese side Casa Pia. Keito Nakamura, meanwhile, bagged a brace for LASK in the Austrian Cup. In other sporting news, Akane Yamaguchi won the women’s singles badminton World Championships, retaining her crown from 2021.

Feature image by Anna Petek