In this week’s news roundup we report on Japan’s akiya crisis as the government announces that there are now more than 9 million abandoned homes throughout the country. Two more suspects are arrested over the charred bodies found in Nasu. It’s been another bad week for the LDP as the ruling party loses three seats at the Lower House by-elections. The resort town of Fujikawaguchiko begins erecting a large barrier to block out a famous view of Mount Fuji. And a firefighter is suspended for appearing in porn films. In soccer, Japan’s men’s U-23 side book their place at the Paris Olympics.

The Number of Akiya in Japan Has Doubled in the Last 30 Years

Japan’s Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications announced on Tuesday that the number of akiya (vacant houses) in this country has topped 9 million, as of October 31, 2023. That represents 13.8%, (close to one in seven) of all houses here. It’s also an increase of more than half a million from the previous survey, taken in 2018. The figure, which stood at 4.48 million in 1993, has doubled in the last three decades.

There are a multitude of factors as to why these numbers are growing, including a declining population and migration from rural to urban areas. You are now seeing more and more “ghost towns” scattered throughout Japan and the number of akiya may even be higher than the government estimates. According to the Nomura Research Institute (NRI), the figure is closer to 11 million. It also predicts that akiya could account for more than 30% of all houses by 2033.


charred bodies

Former Child Actor Among Those Arrested Over Burned Corpses in Nasu 

Two more men were arrested on Wednesday in connection with the murder of restaurant operator Ryutaro Takarajima, 55, and his wife Sachiko, 56. Their burned bodies were discovered on a riverbank in Nasu, Tochigi Prefecture two weeks ago. South Korean national Kang Kwang Ki and former child actor Kirato Wakayama, both 20, were taken into custody on suspicion of damaging the corpses. They are also suspected of assaulting the couple at an abandoned house. 

Ryoken Hirayama, 25, the first man to be apprehended on April 21, told the police he received more than ¥10 million to dispose of the couple’s bodies. He also claimed that he shared the money with two acquaintances. Hirayama didn’t, however, name the person who hired him. On Monday, Hikaru Sasaki, 28, was the second man arrested in relation to the case. He was tracked down in Okinawa. Investigators suspect that he may have instructed the three men. 

Japanese LDP party fractures, Kishida in trouble

LDP Loses All Three Seats in By-Elections  

Candidates from the liberal-leaning Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan (CDPJ) won all three seats at the House of Representatives by-elections held in constituencies in Tokyo and the prefectures of Shimane and Nagasaki on Sunday. The ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), which previously held all three vacated seats, didn’t field a candidate for the election in Tokyo’s No.15 district or for No.3 district in Nagasaki Prefecture due to public mistrust following the recent political funds scandal. 

The party instead focused on defending its seat in Shimane, seen as a “conservative kingdom.” Surprisingly, though, Norimasa Nishikori from the LDP was defeated by CDPJ candidate Akiko Kamei. “I believe the voters’ anger over LDP’s slush funds problem and the lack of improvement in daily lives in the prefecture became support for me,” said Kamei. The defeat is a major setback for Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, who has no intention of calling for a snap general election. 

mt fuji lawson

Yamanashi Town Begins Erecting Barrier to Block out View of Mount Fuji 

On Tuesday, the resort town of Fujikawaguchiko in Yamanashi Prefecture began constructing a large black screen to block a view of Mount Fuji. This drastic measure has been taken by the local government to stop hordes of disrespectful tourists. In autumn 2022, an image of a Lawson convenience store in front of the iconic mountain went viral. After Japan opened its borders, the number of visitors to the area started to get out of control.

Stories about inappropriate behavior by tourists near the store soon began to spread. In 2023, local authorities reported that they received complaints weekly. Authorities put up signs, requesting that people refrain from standing for too long on the sidewalk and to stop jaywalking. Security guards were also called in, but the situation showed no sign of improving. Eventually, the government decided on a 2.5-meter-high and 20-meter-wide black sheet to deter tourists from coming. 

firefighter suspended for being in porn films

Saitama Firefighter Suspended for Appearing in Porn Films  

A firefighter in Saitama Prefecture’s Koshigaya city was recently suspended for six months by his city fire department for appearing in porn films. According to NHK, the 26-year-old male deputy fire sergeant featured in five porn movies. He was reportedly paid ¥250,000 (approximately $1,600). The firefighter’s side porn career came to light after someone wrote to the Koshigaya City Fire Department in early April. The anonymous tipster asked whether one of its employees had been appearing in adult videos.

The man admitted that it was true. He was struggling financially, so he decided to take part in the erotic scenes on his days off. “I had a car loan and was in need of money,” he allegedly told his bosses. Koshigaya City Fire Chief Jun Nakai commented, “As a public servant, I sincerely apologize for this action, which has greatly damaged the trust of the residents. I will work to restore that trust as soon as possible.” 


Japan U-23 Side Qualify for the Olympics 

Japan defeated Iraq 2-0 on Monday to reach the final of the AFC U-23 Asian Cup and in doing so, booked their place at this summer’s Paris Olympics. Mao Hosoya and Ryotaro Araki scored for Go Oiwa’s side, who will now face Uzbekistan for the title on Saturday. In Europe, Yuito Suzuki scored again for Brøndby. There were also goals for Ayase Ueda (Feyenoord), Ao Tanaka (Fortuna Düsseldorf) and Koji Miyoshi (Birmingham). 

In Major League Baseball, pitcher Yu Darvish impressed on his return from injury on Tuesday. He struck out three and walked none, while allowing only three singles as the San Diego Padres defeated the Cincinnati Reds 6-4. Shohei Ohtani, meanwhile, smashed his seventh homer of the season against the Toronto Blue Jays last Friday. On Wednesday, he was left out of the Dodgers’ lineup for the first time. Manager Dave Roberts said it was just a standard day off. 

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