In this week’s news roundup, we report on two deaths that shocked Japan. On Monday, the dead body of Hinako Ashihara, creator of the Sexy Tanaka-san manga series, was found in Nikko, Tochigi Prefecture. Police believe she died by suicide. On the same day, a man claiming to be Satoshi Kirishima, a fugitive that had been on the run for 49 years, died at a hospital in Kamakura. At the time of his death, the police were still waiting for his DNA test results.  

Also this week, we report on Taro Aso’s latest inappropriate comments. Racial profiling is in the news again as three foreign residents sue the central and local governments. Japan soccer star Junya Ito is accused of sexual assault in a daily tabloid on the same day that his country reach the quarterfinals of the Asian Cup with a win over Bahrain. And in other sports news, Terunofuji wins the New Year Grand Sumo Tournament, while wheelchair tennis sensation Tokito Oda triumphs at the Australian Open. 

Hinako Ashihara Found Dead Shortly After Voicing Her Frustration at TV Adaptation of Her Work

Police discovered the dead body of 50-year-old manga artist Hinako Ashihara at Kawaji Dam in Nikko on Monday. They suspect she took her own life as a suicide note was found at her home. Ashihara was most well known for her romantic comedy manga, Sexy Tanaka-san, which has over a million copies in circulation. It tells the story of a plain-looking 40-year-old female accountant living a secret life as a sexy belly dancer. Nippon TV aired a live-action television adaptation of the popular series between October and December of last year. The story’s creator, however, was reportedly not pleased with the show.  

Writing on X and her own blog, Ashihara criticized the television adaptation for not sticking faithfully to her manga, a condition she said had been agreed upon between herself and the production side. As a result, she decided to take over the scriptwriting responsibilities for the final two episodes. On Sunday afternoon, Ashihara deleted several of her previous tweets and posted an apology on X, stating, “I didn’t mean to attack anyone. I’m sorry.” That was at 1:11 p.m. A few hours later, a missing person report was officially filed. The following day, she was found dead. 

If you or someone you know is struggling with thoughts of suicide, you can reach out to the TELL Lifeline on 03-5774-0992. For more information on the services and how you can receive or provide support, visit

Satoshi Kirishima dies

Japanese Bomber Suspect Dies After Evading Capture for Almost 50 Years

A man who confessed to being a suspect wanted for terrorist bombings that targeted Japanese companies in the 1970s died at a hospital in Kamakura on Monday morning, reportedly due to complications from stomach cancer. According to investigative sources, he told the police he’d been working for a civil engineering company in Fujisawa. Admitted earlier this month, he didn’t have a health insurance card and subsequently received treatment at the hospital at his own expense, initially under the name Hiroshi Uchida. Staff were then apparently stunned last week when he told them he was Satoshi Kirishima. 

Kirishima had been on the run for 49 years. For decades, his smiling mugshot could be seen on posters outside police stations and various other buildings up and down the country. He belonged to the East Asia Anti-Japan Armed Front, a radical, left-wing organization that claimed responsibility for at least 12 bombings in Tokyo in the mid-1970s, including the headquarters of Mitsubishi Heavy Industries in 1974, which killed eight people and injured 165. Kirishima was suspected of planting and detonating a homemade bomb in a building in Ginza the following year. 

Photo by 360b via Shutterstock

Former PM Describes Female Foreign Minister as Not ‘That Beautiful’

Former Prime Minister Taro Aso is known for putting his foot in his mouth. Famous faux pas in the past have included him suggesting that Adolf Hitler “had the right motives,” and that there was “no such thing as a sexual harassment charge.” However, his latest gaffe, according to the Japanese Communist Party’s secretary-general, Akira Koike, is his “worst” yet. “It is ‘lookism,’ and such things should never be uttered,” said Koike after Aso described Foreign Minister Yoko Kamikawa as an obasan (middle-aged woman), who isn’t “that beautiful.” He also got her name wrong, calling her Yoko Kamimura. 

“I would not say she’s that beautiful,” remarked the vice president of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) during a speech on Sunday. “But she speaks with dignity, speaks properly in English and makes appointments with people she needs to see on her own, without help from diplomats. Even we thought that this obasan is a real go-getter.” He also said, “I don’t think there has ever been a woman to serve as Japan’s foreign minister.” This was another thing he got wrong, as both Makiko Tanaka and Yoriko Kawaguchi held the position under Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi in the 2000s. 

japanese police racial profiling

Foreign Residents Sue Japanese Government For Racial Profiling

Three foreign-born residents filed a suit against the Japanese and local governments on Monday due to alleged racial profiling by the police. All of them have lived in Japan for more than 10 years and are either naturalized citizens or permanent residents. “They don’t recognize us as Japanese,” one of the plaintiffs, Syed Zain, 26, said of the police here. “From the first moment, they think I am a criminal.” Zain, who asked to be identified as Pakistani Japanese, claims he is constantly being stopped by the police, sometimes in front of his home.  

“A lot of apathy here has allowed people like me to be abused and mistreated,” said a fellow plaintiff who only gave his name as Maurice S. Maurice, a Black American, who lives with family members who are Japanese citizens, said he’s been questioned by the police in public 16 or 17 times. The third plaintiff, a permanent resident here from the Pacific Islands named Matthew, claimed he has been questioned by the police at least 70 times since moving to Japan in 2002.  They are each seeking ¥3.3 million in damages.  

Photo by katatonia82 via Shutterstock

Soccer Star Junya Ito Denies Sexual Assault Allegations Against Him

According to a report posted in the tabloid Daily Shincho on Wednesday, two women have accused Japan soccer international Junya Ito of involving himself in a sexual act without their consent. They allege that the incident took place at a hotel in Osaka after an international match against Peru last June. The police have reportedly launched an investigation following the complaints. On Thursday, Ito’s lawyer said the Stade de Reims winger has denied their claims and filed a criminal complaint for false allegations. Later in the day, the JFA announced that he had left Japan’s Asian Cup squad. 

Ito was on the bench on Wednesday as Japan booked their place in the quarterfinals of the tournament. Hajime Moriyasu’s team defeated Bahrain 3-1 thanks to goals from Ritsu Doan, Takefusa Kubo and Ayase Ueda. They’ll now play Iran on Saturday for a place in the semifinals. Two players who didn’t make the squad joined new teams in Europe this week. Bayern Munich’s attacking midfielder Taichi Fukui moved to Portuguese side Portimonense on loan, while defender Daiki Hashioka signed for Premier League team Luton Town from Sint-Truiden. In the English Championship, winger Tatsuhiro Sakamoto scored in Coventry’s 2-2 draw with Bristol City.

Terunofuji Secures 9th Top Division Title

Lone yokozuna Terunofuji defeated Kotonowaka in an exciting championship play-off on Sunday after both finished with a 13-2 record at the New Year Grand Sumo Tournament at Tokyo’s Ryogoku Kokugikan. The victory secured a ninth top division title for the 32-year-old Mongolian, who was making his comeback from injury. He withdrew from the last three tournaments due to severe back pain. There was better news for Kotonowaka later in the week as he was promoted from sekiwake to ozeki. He reached the unofficial benchmark for promotion to sumo’s second-highest rank, which is 33 wins from three consecutive tournaments. 

At the Australian Open, 17-year-old Japanese wheelchair tennis star Tokito Oda beat Britain’s Alfie Hewett 6-2, 6-4 to claim his third grand slam trophy. The junior boys’ singles title, meanwhile, was won by Nagoya-native Rei Sakamoto, also aged 17, who defeated Jan Kumstat of the Czech Republic 3-6, 7-6, 7-5. In other sports news, Japan’s figure skating team saw their silver medal from the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics upgraded from a bronze medal to a silver after Russian skater Kamila Valieva was disqualified for doping. The International Skating Union had put off issuing medals for two years. 

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