Update: Tetsuya Yamagami, the suspect in Shinzo Abe’s shooting reportedly held a grudge against a religious group that he believed had links to the former PM. According to sources, his mother made a “huge donation” to the organization that left her bankrupt. A former member of the Maritime Self-Defence Force, he allegedly planned to target an executive of the group. Abe was pronounced dead at around 5pm on Friday evening. The assailant used a homemade gun.


Breaking News: Shinzo Abe collapsed on Friday morning while giving a speech in Nara Prefecture. According to reports, gunshots were heard before he hit the ground. An NHK reporter at the scene heard what sounded like a gun going off twice. Ex-Tokyo governor Yoichi Masuzoe tweeted that the former prime minister was in a state of cardiopulmonary arrest. The suspect made no attempt to escape and was taken into custody. Abe was flown to the hospital by helicopter.


Also in this week’s news roundup, we look at the recent Covid surge which is expected to lead to the postponement of Japan’s nationwide travel subsidy program. We report on the trial involving French father Vincent Fichot and the disruption to KDDI’s mobile services which affected close to 40 million people. From Moscow, former President of Russia, Dmitry Medvedev responds to Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s oil price cap proposal. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy addresses university students in Japan. And Japanese political heavyweight Taro Aso compares Russia’s invasion of Ukraine to the bullying of weak children. In sport, the Brave Blossoms lose to France, Shohei Ohtani and Seiya Suzuki both impress and Yuzuru Hanyu’s latest message suggests he’ll be competing this season.  

Travel Subsidy Program Likely to be Postponed  

In an attempt to boost local travel among residents, the government introduced an inner-prefectural travel subsidy program in April 2021. Seven months later, that was expanded to neighboring prefectures. With the Covid situation seemingly improving, the plan was to then extend the program nationwide, giving travelers here up to ¥11,000 per day for expenses such as shopping and dining in the form of discounts and coupons. It was expected to begin in the first half of July. However, as coronavirus cases are now soaring, it looks like the plan is going to be postponed.  

The government will decide after the House of Councillors election this Sunday. “We will assess the general picture of the [pandemic] situation and make an appropriate decision,” said Land, Infrastructure and Transport Minister Tetsuo Saito on Tuesday. Yesterday, Japan reported 47,976 new coronavirus cases. That’s more than double the total on the same day of last week. Tokyo, meanwhile, recorded 8,529 new cases on Thursday, up 4,908 from seven days ago. If the current pace continues, the capital’s daily count is projected to reach around 15,500 in two weeks and 54,900 in four weeks.  

Vincent Fichot went on a hunger strike last summer to protest Japan’s sole custody law

Fichot Plans to Appeal After Losing Child Custody Case  

Last year a court in Paris issued an international arrest warrant for the wife of Vincent Fichot. She ran off with their children in 2018 and was accused of abducting them and endangering minors. Speaking to Tokyo Weekender about the warrant, Fichot said he had “zero expectations,” that it would change anything. “I’ll never stop fighting for my children, but frankly I doubt I’ll ever see them again,” he told us. Following yesterday’s ruling by the Tokyo Family Court, it’s easy to see why he was so pessimistic.  

Presiding Judge Yasushi Ogawara ruled in favor of Fichot’s wife, granting her custody and a divorce. He told her that she should let Fichot see their children. However, due to Japan’s sole custody law and given what’s happened thus far, that seems unlikely. The court ruled that no abuse had occurred. “I’m relieved that I can continue to live with my children as I have, even though it’s regrettable that the court didn’t recognize domestic violence,” the woman told Kyodo News. Fichot plans to appeal the ruling.  

KDDI Mobile Service Restored After 86 Hours of Disruption  

It was like being back in the 1990s for people using KDDI’s services last weekend. A maintenance glitch at the major mobile carrier disrupted services from Saturday, leaving millions without the use of their cellphones. Pay phones were suddenly popular again and people had to find destinations without the aid of Google Maps. More worryingly, users were unable to get through to emergency numbers. The problems began at around 1:35am on Saturday morning. According to KDDI, services were fully restored as of 3:36pm on Tuesday.  

Speaking at a press conference on Sunday, KDDI President Makoto Takahashi apologized for disruptions that affected nearly 40 million people. “As a telecommunications service operator that is supposed to support social infrastructure and provide stable services, we deeply regret the service disruption. I sincerely apologize for the serious trouble we have caused our subscribers,” he said. KDDI’s terms and conditions state that if a service outage lasts longer than 24 hours, users are eligible for compensation. In October last year, Docomo phones went silent for 29 hours due to a glitch.  

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy | Shutterstock

Zelenskyy Addresses Japanese Universities  

In an online lecture at Toyo University (also seen at 14 other universities across Japan) on Monday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy told attendees that his country is fighting on the path to peace. “This is a war in Ukraine, which the Russian Federation started, which the Russian Federation continues and which the Russian Federation does not want to stop. Ukraine is defending its own land, its sovereignty, its territory. Ukraine is fighting for peace. This is a cruel paradox of the 21st century, and for us these are realities,” he said 

On the same day, Taro Aso compared Russia’s invasion of Ukraine to the bullying of weak children. “What kind of child was being bullied during your childhood? The weak were bullied. The strong weren’t bullied. The same goes for countries,” said the former Japanese prime minister during a stump speech in Chiba Prefecture. From praising Hitler’s motives and speaking about the advantages of global warming, to claiming, “there’s no such thing as a sexual harassment charge,” Aso is known for his controversial statements. His latest gaffe led to a strong backlash on social media sites.    

Medvedev Gives Kishida Warning Following Oil Price Cap Proposal 

Intending to continue punishing Moscow for its invasion of Ukraine and bring down its resources for spending on the war, the Group of Seven (G-7) has put forward a proposal to cap the price of Russian oil at around half its current price. Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida announced the plan during a stump speech in Tokyo on Sunday. “We’ll create a mechanism in which the international community will not buy Russian oil at prices higher than the upper limit,” he said. “We must show that aggression comes with a heavy price,” added the PM. 

Russia’s former president Dmitry Medvedev responded to the proposal, reportedly put forward by Kishida, on Tuesday. “There will be significantly less oil on the market, and its price will be much higher. Moreover, higher than the predicted astronomical price of $300-400 per barrel,” the deputy chairman of Russia’s Security Council wrote on social media. He also warned that Japan “would have neither oil nor gas from Russia, as well as no participation in the Sakhalin-2” oil and natural gas development project as a result. 

Yuzuru Hanyu looks set to compete this season | Image Credit Iurii Osadchi via Shutterstock

France Triumph After Brave Blossoms Run Out of Steam  

The French rugby team proved too strong for Japan on Saturday, winning 42-23 in the first of two tests. Playing in the sweltering heat of the Toyota Stadium in Aichi Prefecture, the Brave Blossoms impressed in the opening half and briefly led following Tevita Tatafu’s try. They went into the break level at 13-13. In the end, though, the home team ran out of steam as the Six Nations champions showed their class. They meet again this Saturday at the National Stadium in Tokyo. 

In other sporting news, the Bundesliga’s Japanese contingent continues to grow. Maya Yoshida moved from Sampdoria to Schalke, Ritsu Doan left PSV for Freiburg and Ko Itakura transferred from Man City to Borussia Monchengladbach. In baseball, Shohei Ohtani produced another sparkling display, striking out 10 batters as the Angels defeated the Miami Marlins 5-2. Seiya Suzuki, meanwhile, returned from his injury layoff to hit homers in consecutive games for the Chicago Cubs against the Milwaukee Brewers. In figure skating, Yuzuru Hanyu wrote that he’s aiming “even higher still,” this season. It suggests we’ll be seeing him on the rink soon.