In this week’s news roundup, we report on a high school that forced one of its pupils to sit alone at the back of the hall for its graduation ceremony due to his cornrow hairstyle. At a much more easy-going graduation ceremony in Kyoto, students were allowed to wear what they pleased, so one turned up dressed as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. There’s sad news from Kyoto as two crew members on a tour boat die after the vessel capsizes. A Japanese national is accused of espionage in China. Residents living near Mount Fuji are told to evacuate on foot should the volcano erupt. And in sport, Japan top the medal table at the Figure Skating World Championships.  

Mixed-Race High Schooler Excluded Because of Cornrow Hairstyle  

A student in Himeji city was segregated from other pupils at his high school graduation on Tuesday due to his braided cornrow hairstyle. The 18-year-old had his hair cut to honor his African American father’s roots for the special occasion. It turned out to be a day that he’ll never forget, but not for the reason he’d hoped. Told to sit away from everyone at the back of the venue, he was instructed not to respond even if his name was called. He left halfway through the ceremony.  

“There are many people with different backgrounds and hair types, so it’s not right to uniformly judge us as violating the school rules. I want them to respect our roots,” the student told Livedoor News. Male pupils were reportedly told that their hair shouldn’t cover their ears or eyes. His natural curly locks were deemed too long, so he had them cut the day before the ceremony. The school told the board of education he hadn’t explained “his ethnic background and the reason for wearing cornrows.” 

Kyoto University Student Dresses as Zelenskyy for Graduation Ceremony  

Graduation ceremonies in Japan aren’t always so strict about appearances, especially when it comes to higher education. At Kyoto University, for instance, graduates are allowed to wear whatever they want. While most opt for more traditional attire, namely suits and kimono, there are always more outlandish costumes on show. The standout outfit this year was worn by a graduate named Amiki. After growing out his beard, he was told he looked like Volodymyr Zelenskyy, so decided to go to the ceremony dressed as the popular Ukrainian president. 

As well as the comedian-turned-leader’s signature olive-colored T-shirt and khaki pants, Amiki was also carrying signs showing his support for Ukraine. He had a photo of Zelenskyy and text from a speech he gave at the US Congress in December. Other graduates in fancy-dress included one person in a dinosaur mask and another in a Winnie the Pooh costume. There was also someone dressed as a pepper-grinder. This was in honor of Lars Nootbaar’s celebration, which became a national craze in this country during Japan’s WBC triumph 

The Kyoto boat tours attract around 300,000 tourists annually

Two Dead as Tour Boat Capsizes in Kyoto  

Two people died in Kyoto after a tour boat capsized on Tuesday. The vessel was heading from Kameoka to Arashiyama. Around 15 minutes into the scenic journey, the boat hit a rock before flipping over. The captain, Saburo Tanaka, 51, was pronounced dead at the hospital shortly after the accident. Another, as of yet unnamed crew member went missing. On Thursday, police confirmed that a body found on the bank of the Hozu River was that of the 40-year-old boatman. All 25 passengers, plus two staff members were rescued.  

There was also tragic news from Nagoya as police announced the deaths of 2-year-old twin brothers, Toya and Yuya Mabe. They fell from the seventh floor of their apartment building last Friday. There is reportedly around 80 centimeters between the window frame and the room’s floor. According to investigative sources, it’s likely that they climbed onto a shelf near the window and unlocked it, before falling. “I locked the window,” the mother was quoted as saying. “I was in another room and looked away for a few minutes.”  

Relations between Japan and China remain strained | Image by Anna Petek

Japan Demands China Release Astellas Employee Accused of Espionage  

Japan is demanding that China release one of its nationals, detained since early March, as soon as possible. According to the Chinese government, the man, who works for drug-maker Astellas Pharma, was arrested on suspicion of espionage. He’s believed to be in his 50s. “Japan has strongly requested a consular visit,” said Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno at a press conference on Monday. “We are providing all possible support, including communicating with relevant parties.” The government was notified of his detention through diplomatic channels.  

Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Mao Ning gave a press briefing later that day. “China will handle the case in accordance with the law and protect the rights of the person in accordance with the law,” said Ning. She added that Japan must ask its citizens to refrain from engaging in such activities. China adopted a counter-espionage law in 2014. Since then, 17 Japanese nationals, including the Astellas employee, have been held there on suspicion of violating the legislation. Relations between the two nations remain as strained as ever.  

Mount Fuji | Lisa Knight

Residents Told to Escape on Foot Should Mount Fuji Erupt  

Residents living near Mount Fuji should, in principle, evacuate on foot in the event of an eruption. That’s the latest guideline that was introduced on Wednesday by the disaster management council for the volcano. It’s the first change to the evacuation plan in nine years. Escaping by car was previously recommended, but now the council is proposing that people living in areas where lava flows are expected to reach within 24 hours of the eruption should escape without the use of a vehicle to prevent traffic jams.  

There are, of course, some exceptions. Anyone requiring assistance, such as the elderly and people with disabilities, should evacuate using a vehicle. Escaping by car is also fine for residents living near the crater, those in areas where lava flows are expected to take more than 24 hours and people who voluntarily leave before the eruption. The last time Mount Fuji erupted was in 1707. The vast amount of volcanic ash and scoria reached as far as Edo (now Tokyo), more than 100 kilometers away.  

Shoma Uno | Image by Diego Barbieri via Shutterstock

Japan Top Medal Table at Figure Skating World Championships 

The 2023 World Figure Skating Championships concluded at the Saitama Super Arena on Sunday. For a second consecutive year, Shoma Uno topped the podium in the men’s competition. His victory rounded off another successful championship for the host country, who led the way in the medals table with three golds. The other two came last week from Riku Miura and Ryuichi Kihara in the pairs event and Kaori Sakamoto in the women’s competition. Like Uno, she retained the title she won in 2022.   

In other sports news, Kiribayama defeated Daieisho in a sudden-death tiebreaker to win the Spring Grand Sumo Tournament on Sunday. It was the 26-year-old’s first tournament as a sekiwake. Lone ozeki, Takakeisho pulled out of the competition on the seventh day. That meant there were no sumo wrestlers from the top two ranks at the end of the spring tournament for the first time since 1926.  In soccer, Japan’s men’s team lost 2-1 to Colombia on Tuesday following last week’s 1-1 draw with Uruguay.