Since Akira Toriyama’s death was announced last week, the biggest names in manga have been paying their respects to the legendary artist, including the likes of Eiichiro Oda (One Piece), Takehiko Inoue (Slam Dunk), George Morikawa (Hajime no Ippo) and Masashi Kishimoto (Naruto). Tributes have also been pouring in from around the world, including from prominent politicians and several movie stars. In this week’s news roundup, we report on the global reaction to Toriyama’s passing, as well as a night to remember for Japanese cinema at the Oscars, Space One’s rocket explosion, Sapporo High Court’s ruling on same-sex marriage, the overturning of a yakuza boss’s death sentence and a tragedy in Hokkaido. 

akira toriyama passes away

From Politicians to Movie Stars: Tributes to Akira Toriyama

Last Friday the world wept as Shueisha announced that Akira Toriyama, 68, had died of acute subdural hematoma. Since then, tributes to the legendary manga artist, who was most well-known for creating the influential Dragon Ball series, have been pouring in from around the globe, including from world leaders, and high-profile actors. On Instagram, French President Emmanuel Macron posted a photo of a signed picture he received from Toriyama. The government of El Salvador released a statement saying that it was joining “in the mourning of the renowned artist.” China’s Foreign Ministry expressed its “deep condolences” via spokesperson Mao Ning. 

On Sina Weibo, Jackie Chan thanked Toriyama “for creating so many classic works,” adding that “they will last forever.” Creed star Michael B. Jordan posted an image of some of Dragon Balls most iconic characters with the words, “thank you for everything.” Justin Chatwin, meanwhile, who played Goku in Dragon Ball Evolution, wrote, “rest in peace brother. And sorry we messed up that adaptation so badly.” Several sports stars and soccer teams, including AC Milan, Barcelona and Juventus, also paid their respects. On Sunday, tens of thousands of fans congregated around an obelisk in Argentina’s capital of Buenos Aires, where they performed the Genki Dama to honor Toriyama. 

the boy and the heron oscar

The Boy and the Heron and Godzilla Minus One Win Oscars

The Boy and the Heron and Godzilla Minus One both won Oscars at the 96th Academy Awards in Los Angeles on Monday morning (Japan time). The former, believed to be Hayao Miyazaki’s final movie, won Best Animated Feature Film, beating competition from Spider-Man: Across the Spider-VerseElemental, Nimona and Robot Dreams. It’s only the second Japanese film to win in the category after another Miyazaki flick, Spirited Away, triumphed more than two decades ago. Two of his other films, Howl’s Moving Castle and The Wind Rises, were nominated in 2006 and 2014 respectively. 

Godzilla Minus One was the first Japanese film to be nominated in the Best Visual Effects Category. Now, it’s the country’s first-ever winner. It was up against Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One, Napoleon and The Creator. After receiving the award, director Takashi Yamazaki paid tribute to the film’s producer, Shuji Abe. “Finally, on behalf of the cast and crew of Godzilla Minus One,” he said, “I want to tell our producer, Shuji Abe, who we lost too soon, we did it. Thank you.” Sadly, the play-off music began as he was speaking.  

space one rocket crashes

Japan’s Space One Rocket Explodes Seconds After Launch

Aerospace manufacturer Space One was attempting to become Japan’s first private firm to place a satellite in orbit. On Wednesday morning, however, a live video stream showed its 23-ton Kairos rocket exploding shortly after liftoff. It departed from Spaceport Kii, a new private launch pad in Kushimoto, Wakayama Prefecture, just after 11 a.m. A few seconds later, the rocket burst into flames. The remains then fell onto the mountainous area below and into the sea. According to the Tokyo-based startup, the flight was “interrupted” after the launch. The firm is now investigating the situation.   

Wakayama Governor Shuhei Kishimoto told reporters that the fire had been extinguished and that there had been no injuries. The rocket was scheduled to put a small experimental government satellite in orbit. It was due to be launched on Saturday. However, around 10 minutes before liftoff, a ship was detected entering the nearby restricted sea area. Space One had originally planned to conduct its first rocket launch in fiscal 2021. Since then, though, it has been forced to postpone several times as it found it difficult to procure parts due to the coronavirus pandemic and the war in Ukraine.  


queer japan

Sapporo High Court Rules Same-Sex Marriage Ban as Unconstitutional

On Thursday, the Sapporo High Court ruled that Japan’s ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional. It’s the first time that a high court in this country has handed down such a ruling and is expected to increase the pressure on the government to extend marriage rights to LGBTQ+ couples. Earlier in the day, the Tokyo District Court ruled that the ban on same-sex marriage is in a “state of unconstitutionality,” but stopped short of saying it violates the constitution. The Tokyo District Court used the same phrase in 2022, as did the Fukuoka District Court the following year.

While Sapporo and Nagoya district courts described the ban as unconstitutional in 2021 and 2023, the Osaka District Court declared that it was constitutional in 2022. Japan is currently the only G7 nation that doesn’t permit same-sex marriage. There are, however, close to 400 municipalities here that have implemented non-legally binding” partnership certification” systems. Though these certificates can be beneficial in areas such as housing and hospital visitation rights, they do not provide individuals with the social and legal benefits of marriage, such as tax deductions and medical insurance for an employee’s dependent. 

yakuza boss Satoru Nomura death sentence overturned

Death Sentence for Yakuza Boss Satoru Nomura is Overturned

“I asked you for a fair judgment. But this is not fair at all. You will regret this for the rest of your life.” These were the words of Satoru Nomura when he became the first senior yakuza boss to be sentenced to death by the Fukuoka District Court on August 24, 2021. On Tuesday, that decision was overturned by the Fukuoka High Court. It instead handed down a life sentence for the 77-year-old leader of the Kudo-kai, a gang based in Kitakyushu. He was found not guilty in connection with the killing of a former fisheries cooperative chief. 

Nomura was accused of orchestrating four attacks between 1998 and 2014, beginning with the murder of a 70-year-old former leader of a local fisheries cooperative. The second occurred in 2012 when a former Fukuoka prefectural police officer was shot. The following year, a female nurse was stabbed at a clinic where Nomura was seeking medical attention. The final case involved the stabbing of a relative of the former fisheries cooperative. According to prosecutors, Satoru and his second-in-command, Fumio Tanoue, sanctioned all four attacks. Tanoue was sentenced to life imprisonment. That decision was upheld by the Fukuoka High Court. 

Avalanche in Hokkaido Kills Two New Zealand Nationals

Two New Zealand nationals died while backcountry skiing in northern Hokkaido on Monday morning after an avalanche struck Mount Yotei. Joshua Sellens, 33, and Isabella Bolton, 21, were killed after being trapped by the snow. The pair were found by a search and rescue team and airlifted to a hospital where they were pronounced dead. Bolton was known as an experienced skier who had worked in ski resorts in her homeland and Canada before moving to Japan. Sellens was the co-founder of guiding company Niseko Zen. Both were residents of Kutchan, slightly north of Mount Yotei.

The pair of them were among a party of six individuals. According to the local police, a third person, identified as New Zealand national Lars Meier Blattner, 21, sustained a shoulder injury following the snowslide. It wasn’t snowing particularly heavily at the time of the incident and, according to the Sapporo District Meteorological Observatory, no avalanche warning had been issued for the area. At around 12:40 p.m. on the same day, a foreign national reportedly suffered a broken leg after being caught in an avalanche on Mount Iwaonupuri, approximately 15 kilometers northwest of Mount Yotei. 

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