There’s no doubt about the biggest story in Japan this week. Yesterday, Shohei Ohtani announced via his Instagram page that he is now married, stirring a frenzy on social media. Shortly after the announcement, comedian Yuriyan Retriever posted on X that she also had some big news to report alongside a picture of her wearing a ring on her ring finger. With several congratulations messages coming in, Yurian then started an “emergency Insta-live” for the big reveal. “Thank you so much to everyone who supports me,” she said. “I’m sorry to have to report to you in this way, but…” She then held up her left hand with the ring on it and said, “I’ve cut my nails.”

In much more serious news, the Hello Kitty theme park Sanrio Puroland was forced to close on Saturday due to a “terrorist threat.” One person died and two were injured after a knife-wielding man went on a rampage at a convenience store in Sapporo. Ghibli Park’s new “Valley of Witches” area was unveiled to the press. Torikizoku announced plans to expand its popular yakitori chain restaurant in Asia. In sport, Nadeshiko Japan qualified for the Olympics, and Japan’s men’s basketball team beat China for the first time in 88 years.

Shohei Ohtani Announces Marriage

It’s been another busy week for Shohei Ohtani. The two-way superstar made his preseason debut for the Los Angeles Dodgers against the Chicago White Sox at Camelback Ranch on Tuesday and, in typical Ohtani fashion, smashed a two-run homer in the fifth inning as his new side ran out 9-6 winners. “It was definitely a big first step,” said Ohtani through interpreter Ippei Mizuhara. “The big thing for me was that I was able to finish off the game without any problems.” Bigger news was to come later in the week, though, as the former Los Angeles Angels man announced that he’s now married.

Posting to his more than 7 million followers on Instagram, Ohtani wrote, “Not only have I began a new chapter in my career with the Dodgers but I have also began a new life with someone from my native country of Japan who is very special to me and I wanted everyone to know I am now married.” Ohtani didn’t disclose the identity of his new wife and asked the media to refrain from approaching her or her family members. He added that he would hold a press conference on Friday. At the time of writing, his post has more than 2.8 million likes. A two-time National League MVP, Ohtani was named Japan’s most famous living person in a Tokyo Weekender poll in January.

Tokyo couple slaying

One Dead, Two Injured Following Stabbing at Sapporo Store

A knife-wielding 43-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of attempted murder on Sunday after going on a rampage at a convenience store in Sapporo. Hirotaka Miyanishi entered a Seicomart store shortly before 7pm on February 25. He first stabbed a 60-year-old man behind the counter, then a female employee in her 50s in the center of the shop, and a worker in his 40s in the back room. Sadly, the man in his 40s was confirmed dead after arriving at the hospital. The other two employees didn’t suffer life-threatening injuries. Miyanishi admitted to stabbing the three workers after he was arrested at the scene. 

In other crime news, the Tokyo High Court upheld a district court’s decision to sentence Kazuho Ishibashi, 32, to 18 years in prison for road rage. Yoshihisa Hagiyama, 45, and his wife, Yuka, 39, both died in the incident on the Tomei Expressway in 2017. Their two daughters were also injured. According to the district court’s ruling in 2022, Ishibashi flew into a rage after being warned by Hagiyama about the way he parked. He then pursued Hagiyama’s family, driving in front of their car four times. Hagiyama’s car was rear-ended after he stopped it on the highway. Leaving court, Ishibashi uttered the words, “Wait until I get out,” to Judge Akira Ando.  

Sanrio Puroland

Takamex /

Hello Kitty Theme Park Forced to Close After “Terrorist Threat”

The Hello Kitty theme park Sanrio Puroland was forced to close for the day on Saturday following a “terrorist threat.” An email was sent to the park in the morning that stated, “I placed a hazardous material on the premises.” The police were then notified about the threat by a Sanrio employee at approximately 9 a.m. A statement was released on the park’s website, informing the public of the closure shortly after. “As we are unable to adequately ensure the safety of our customers, performers, and on-site staff, we have decided to temporarily close.” Some parents reportedly told their children Kitty was sick.

According to NHK, the Metropolitan Police Department searched the premises, but didn’t find any suspicious objects. It is now investigating where the email came from. Information regarding refunds and alternative performances will be announced on Sanrio’s website. Normal operations resumed on Sunday. The indoor theme park opened on December 7, 1990, in Tama city on the outskirts of Tokyo. It operated at a loss in its first few years due to several factors, including Japan’s economic stagnation and complaints from locals about noise. It’s now one of the most popular theme parks in Japan, attracting more than 1.5 million visitors annually. 

ghibli park howl's castle

“Valley of Witches” Area Unveiled at Ghibli Park

In much lighter theme park-related news, Ghibli Park’s news area, “Valley of Witches,” was unveiled to the press on Wednesday. The largest area in the park, it opens to the public on March 16. Fans of Kiki’s Delivery Service will, no doubt, be delighted with the latest attraction as it features the Okino Residence, where Kiki grew up, and the Guchokipanya Bakery, where she lived with her black cat, Jiji. There’s also Howl’s Castle and Hatter’s Millinery from Howl’s Moving Castle, and The House of Witches from Earwig and the Witch, as well as some rides like the Carousel and the Flying Machine.  

ghibli cat bus revealed

A day before the Valley of Witches press tour, the prefectural government in Aichi unveiled five low-speed electric vehicles modeled on Catbus from Hayao Miyazaki’s classic My Neighbor Totoro. The buses, which will be in operation from March 16, can carry up to five passengers. They will travel approximately 2 kilometers through the park, with each journey lasting around 10 minutes. The fare is ¥1,000 for adults and ¥500 for children from 4 years old to elementary school age. An iconic character from the movie, it even has its own spin-off short film and was parodied in an episode of The Simpsons.    

torikizoku goes international

Yakitori Chain Torikizoku is Going Global

Torikizoku Holdings this week announced that it is planning to expand its popular yakitori chain restaurant in Asia. According to the company, brand awareness has increased due to inbound tourism, and it needs to move quickly to capitalize on that. It will begin by opening stores in Taiwan and Hong Kong. In the former, Torikizoku is forming a joint venture with poultry farming and food services company, City Chain Food. The first store is expected to begin operations in July. In the latter, it has struck a franchise chain agreement with food manufacturing and sales firm, Four Seas Mercantile Holdings. 

“We’ve conducted market research in Taiwan and Hong Kong and have confirmed that we can open Torikizoku there,” a spokesperson for the yakitori chain told Nikkei. “Our aim is to open shops in cooperation with partners that have a strong business foundation.” Torikizoku also announced on Monday that it is preparing to open directly managed stores in the US. It established a subsidiary in Los Angeles in April 2023. The plan had been to open its first overseas outlet there by July 2022, but that was held back due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Torikizoku is known for its bright yellow sign and cheap chicken grilled skewers.


Nadeshiko Japan Book Their Place at the Paris Olympics  

Nadeshiko Japan secured their place at the 2024 Paris Olympics with a 2-1 aggregate win over North Korea. The two sides met in Tokyo on Wednesday after playing out a 0-0 draw in Saudi Arabia four days earlier. Hana Takahashi and Aoba Fujino scored the goals for Futoshi Ikeda’s side. In men’s European soccer, Wataru Endo won his first trophy in English football as Liverpool defeated Chelsea 1-0 in the Carabao Cup final. There was bad news for Coventry’s Tatsuhiro Sakamoto and Brighton’s Kaoru Mitoma, though, with both expected to be out for 2–3 months with back injuries. Former Premier League winner Shinji Okazaki, meanwhile, announced his retirement from the sport. 

In other sports news, Japan’s men’s basketball team defeated China for the first time in 88 years on Sunday. Yudai Baba was the hero for Tom Hovasse’s side, scoring 24 points in the 76-73 victory. The last time China’s men lost to Japan in basketball was at the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin. Japan’s women’s table tennis team were also looking to make history by winning their first world title in 53 years. In the end, though, they had to settle for a fifth consecutive silver medal after pre-tournament favorites China came from 2-1 down to win 3-2.  Despite the defeat, Japan’s performance will have given them confidence ahead of the Paris Olympics. 

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