In this week’s news roundup, we report on the meeting between Donald Trump and former Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso. The Japanese yen continues to tumble, dropping below the 155 mark to the dollar. One person has died and seven are still missing after two MSDF helicopters crash into the Pacific Ocean. Papakatsu scammer Mai Watanabe is handed a nine-year prison sentence for defrauding three men out of ¥155 million. And DNA tests reveal that a hippo at a zoo in Osaka has been misgendered for the last seven years. In sport, Shohei Ohtani surpasses Hideki Matsui for the most MLB homers by a Japan-born player and Yokohama F. Marinos reach the final of the Asian Champions League. 

Donald Trump Presents Taro Aso with ‘Ceremonial Key’ to the White House

On Tuesday, Donald Trump welcomed Taro Aso to Trump Tower and presented the former Japanese prime minister with what appeared to be a “ceremonial key” to the White House. The presumptive Republican nominee posted a picture of the pair posing with the key on his Truth Social platform. The item comes in a wooden box carved with the presidential seal. According to Jared Kushner’s 2022 memoir Breaking History, his father-in-law designed these keys himself for special visitors. It’s a nice gesture, but many feel he should no longer be handing them out as he currently doesn’t reside at the White House. 

“Not sure what gives him the right to do this,” wrote former NBC Universal executive Mike Sington on X. “Probably Citizen Trump once again pretending to be President.” Henry M. Rosenberg commented, “If he thinks he has the right to do that, what else is he giving away?” Trump welcomed Aso for an hour-long meeting. They reportedly spoke about the importance of the Japan-US alliance for military and economic security in the Indo-Pacific region. Sources said they also discussed North Korea and China. Trump described the vice-president of the LDP as a “highly respected man in Japan and beyond.” 

yen drops to 153 on the dollar

Traders on Intervention Alert as Yen Breaches 155 Mark

The Japanese yen continues to fall heavily against the dollar, heightening talk of possible government intervention. For the first time since June 1990, it weakened to the 155 range against the greenback in New York on Wednesday. At its weakest point of the day, it hit 155.37. It also briefly fell below 155 in London. On Thursday, it dipped as low as 155.74 in Tokyo. While no clear threshold exists for intervention, analysts like Daisaku Ueno, a chief currency strategist at Mitsubishi UFJ Morgan Stanley Securities, believe that the breach of the 155 mark could finally trigger action to support the yen. 

“Without intervention, the yen could fall as low as 160.20, the level it reached in April 1990. Intervention is likely to occur once the yen exceeds 155 against the dollar,” said Ueno prior to Wednesday’s news. Finance Minister Shunichi Suzuki warned of the possibility of “bold action” in March. After it fell below the 153-mark earlier this month, he commented that the Bank of Japan would “take appropriate action against excessive fluctuations without excluding any options.” On Thursday, he reiterated that stance. “We’re closely watching market developments. There’s no change at all in our resolve to respond appropriately based on this,” he said. 

One Dead, Seven Missing After Two MSDF Helicopters Crash

One person died, and seven others are still missing after two Maritime Self-Defense Force (MSDF) helicopters crashed during a late drill on Saturday night. Commander Yuki Nishihata, a co-pilot of one of the aircraft, has been identified as the crew member whose body was recovered at the crash site. Self-Defense Forces and the Japan Coast Guard are continuing to search for the missing members. The Mitsubishi SH-60K reconnaissance vessels lost contact shortly after 10:30 p.m., around 270 kilometers east of the uninhabited island of Izu-Torishima. The helicopters were reportedly undergoing training to locate submarines using sonar devices.

“Visibility levels are low during nighttime drills, and so the operations are quite difficult,” said MSDF Chief of Staff Ryo Sakai. “It’s possible for the distances between helicopters to become quite close when searching for submarines.” According to Defense Minister Minoru Kihara, an initial analysis of data from the two flight data recorders showed no signs of mechanical problems, suggesting that the accident was likely down to human error. In 2017, three MSDF crew members died when an SH-60J helicopter crashed into the Sea of Japan during nighttime training. A collision also occurred in 2021, but no one was injured. 

sugar baby riri arrested

Papakatsu Scammer ‘Sugar Baby Riri’ Handed 9-Year Sentence

Swindling people out of money and then speaking about it publicly is not the smartest of moves, as Mai Watanabe recently found out to her considerable cost. The 25-year-old former sex worker, who goes by the name of “Itadakijoshi-Riri-chan” (Sugar Baby Riri) was handed a nine-year prison sentence on Monday for defrauding three people out of ¥155 million (approximately $1 million) and for selling “papakatsu” manuals, advising women how to follow in her footsteps by conning older men out of money. She was also convicted of evading income tax, reportedly hiding around ¥40 million from her various scams. 

In addition to the nine-year sentence, the Nagoya District Court fined Watanabe ¥8 million. Prosecutors were seeking a 12-year sentence and a fine of ¥12 million. Watanabe was first arrested in August last year on charges of aiding and abetting fraud through her papakatsu guidebooks. One of them was sold to a Nagoya woman in her early-20s who swindled two men out of more than ¥10 million. Later in the year, she was rearrested for scamming a man in his mid-50s after telling him she was in debt due to the failure of an apparel company. 

misgendered hippo

‘Male’ Hippo at Japanese Zoo Misgendered for 7 Years

When Gen-chan arrived at Osaka Tennoji Zoo from the Africam Safari animal park in Mexico in 2017, the then 5-year-old hippopotamus was declared as a male. That’s what the document said and, as Gen-chan was a calf at the time, nobody questioned it. After a few years, though, suspicions started to grow. Zookeepers couldn’t visually identify any male reproductive organs. Also, Gen-chan made no courtship calls to female hippos and didn’t scatter feces around while defecating with a propeller-like tail motion to mark its territory. Eventually, the zoo decided to carry out a DNA test.   

As suspected, it proved that the now 12-year-old Gen-chan is, in fact, female. “We recognize the importance of confirming the (animals’) sex, and we want to ensure that such mistakes will not happen again,” said Kiyoshi Yasufuku, the facility’s vice director, according to The Mainichi newspaper. He added, “We hope visitors will continue to come and see Gen-chan.” The zoo confirmed that the hippo will not be changing names as she has come to be known and loved by her male moniker. “We will keep doing our best to provide a comfortable environment for Gen-chan,” it said.


shohei ohtani gambling scandal response

Ohtani Surpasses Matsui for Most MLB Homers by a Japan-Born Player

Another week, another milestone for Shohei Ohtani. On Sunday, he smashed his 176th MLB home run in the Dodgers’ 10-0 victory over the New York Mets. It took him past one of his heroes, Hideki Matsui, giving him sole possession of the record of most MLB homers by a Japan-born player. Ohtani then followed that up with his 177th MLB home run in his side’s 4-1 defeat of the Washington Nationals on Tuesday. At 191 kilometers per hour, it was the hardest-hit homer by a Dodgers player in the Statcast era, which began in 2015. 

In men’s soccer, Japan defeated Qatar 4-2 in the quarterfinals of the AFC U-23 Asian Cup. They can now guarantee a place at the Paris Olympics with a victory over either Iraq or Vietnam. In the Asian Champions League, Yokohama F. Marinos reached the final for the first time after beating South Korea’s Ulsan Hyundai 5-4 on penalties. The pulsating tie finished 3-3 on aggregate. Harry Kewell’s side played most of the second leg with 10 men following Takumi Kamijima’s red card. In Europe, Yuito Suzuki bagged a brace in Brøndby’s 2-1 Danish Super Liga play-off win over Midtjylland. Takumi Minamino also scored as Monaco beat Brest 2-0.   

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