In this week’s news roundup we look at the government’s decision to lift the state of emergency in nine prefectures. The move will no doubt be welcomed by local businesses, but it has concerned disease experts. We also have an update on the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games as well as the vaccination drive. The Carlos Ghosn saga continues to make headlines as a father and son admit to helping him escape. In sport, there’s a year ban for sumo wrestler Asanoyama and a Myanmar goalkeeper seeks political asylum in Japan.

State of Emergency Lifted in Tokyo One Month Before Start of the Olympics

The state of emergency will be lifted in nine prefectures on Sunday. Okayama and Hiroshima are, for the time being, in the clear. Tokyo, Osaka, Hokkaido, Aichi, Kyoto and Hyogo, meanwhile, will move to a quasi-state of emergency until July 11. In Okinawa, the state of emergency will remain in place. Under a quasi-state of emergency, serving alcohol is allowed until 7pm. Restaurants will continue to be asked to close at 8pm. On the surface, it seems pretty positive both for the public and local businesses. The issue is that we’ve been here before. Things open and then within weeks we’re back where we started. Ryuji Wakita, the director-general of the National Institute of Infectious Diseases, believes it could be a case of déjà vu. “To avoid another upsurge, it’s crucial to prevent people from roaming around during the Olympics and summer vacation,” he said.

Will Fans be Allowed in Stadiums for the Tokyo 2020 Games?

As well as the lifting of the state of emergency, it was also announced this week that the cap on spectators at sports venues would increase from 5,000 to 10,000 (or 50 percent of a venue’s capacity, whichever is smaller). It raises the prospect of fans being allowed to attend the Olympic and Paralympic Games this summer. An official decision is expected to be made by the end of the month. According to a telephone poll taken by the Yomiuri newspaper last weekend, 26 percent of respondents want the Games to proceed without fans while 16 percent backed limited attendance. In the same survey, 50 percent of the 1,070 who answered said the event should go ahead. That’s an 11 percent increase from a similar poll taken in May. In a separate questionnaire by TBS, 44 percent of respondents were in favor of the Tokyo Games taking place.

Vaccination Centers Begin Inoculating People Under 65

People aged between 18 and 64 are now eligible for inoculations at the mass vaccination centers in Tokyo and Osaka. The defense ministry decided to change its policy as many reservation slots for the over 65s were left empty. They started taking bookings for the younger age group on Wednesday, June 16, and started administering doses the following day. Only those who have been issued with a voucher from their local government will be accepted. Both sites are using the Moderna vaccine, which is authorized for people 18 and over. According to official data, more than 80 percent of the slots at the centers were not filled between June 21 and June 27. From June 28, it will become more difficult to secure an appointment as the second round of inoculations begin. Last Sunday, ANA became the first Japanese firm to start offering workplace vaccinations.

Father and Son Admit to Role in Carlos Ghosn’s ‘Last Flight’ From Japan 

Two American men accused of orchestrating Carlos Ghosn’s dramatic escape have pleaded guilty to the crime. Michael Taylor, a 60-year-old former green beret and his son Peter, 28, fought for months to avoid extradition from the States. The US Supreme Court eventually handed them over in March. According to prosecutors, they arranged for the former Nissan chairman to flee from Kansai Airport in December 2019. He was smuggled out of the country in a music box on a private plane. The daring escape took place while Ghosn was on bail, awaiting trial. He’d been charged with under-reporting his salary and using company funds for personal use. Shortly after arriving in Beirut, the Lebanese French executive held a news conference. “I did not escape justice. I fled injustice,” he told reporters. As Ghosn continues to try to clear his name, the Taylors face up to three years in prison.

Ghosn Ready for Lengthy Fight 

Speaking to Reuters on the same day the Taylors pleaded guilty, Ghosn suggested the pair’s trial would now be fast-tracked. This, he said, was in contrast to former Nissan executive Greg Kelly. The American, who’s currently on trial accused of aiding Ghosn to help him hide his earnings, has denied the charges against him. “If you plead innocent, you’ll have a very long ordeal, so there is something totally wrong,” said Ghosn. During the interview, the internationally wanted fugitive vowed to challenge the Interpol warrant barring him from travel outside Lebanon. He also told the reporter that he was ready for a lengthy process to exonerate himself. “I will be awaiting their (French investigators’) conclusion which may be in the coming months. But the process of defending myself in front of the French (authorities) will no doubt be very long and I will have to be patient,” he said.

Myanmar Goalkeeper Seeks Asylum in Japan

Goalkeeper Pyae Lyan Aung was expected to depart Kansai airport with the rest of the Myanmar squad on Wednesday. Instead, he decided to stay on and is now set to apply for refugee status here. The 27-year-old player told reporters that his “life would be at risk,” if he returned home. In last month’s game between Japan and Myanmar, Aung held his three fingers up to reveal the words “We Need Justice,” in English as his country’s national anthem was played. In sumo, wrestler Asanoyama has been banned from competing in six tournaments. It effectively puts him out of action for a year. The wrestler, who competes at the sport’s second-highest rank of ozeki, reportedly made 10 visits to drinking establishments that offered entertainment services before the start of the New Year Grand Sumo Tournament. The ban means he’s likely to drop down to sumo’s fourth tier sandanme division.

*Feature image by Anna Petek