In this week’s news roundup we report on the Twitter Japan layoffs, a rare celestial event and soaring Covid numbers. The Carlos Ghosn saga continues to make headlines as the two Americans who helped him escape return home. And in sport there’s joy for Yokohama F. Marinos, Japanese gymnasts and the women’s curling team.  

Former Twitter Japan Employees Consider Legal Action

Laying off employees in Japan isn’t a straightforward thing for companies to do. They must either prove a worker’s incompetence or demonstrate that the business is in a dire economic situation while also showing they attempted to avoid redundancies. If mass dismissals are justified, then a pecking order of who to lay off first must be established. This usually takes around 12 months. For Elon Musk it took less than a week in charge at Twitter to eliminate nearly half the workforce. He said it was unavoidable as the company was losing more than $4 million a day.  

Among those to lose their jobs were several staff members at Twitter Japan. Speaking to The Japan Times, Kazushi Nagayama, a former Twitter Japan employee and founder of consulting firm Jade, said that at least a dozen workers who’d been laid off were considering taking legal action against the company with many asking him to recommend a lawyer. Twitter wasn’t the only tech giant to announce mass job cuts in recent days. On Wednesday, Mark Zuckerberg confirmed that Meta, which operates Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp, is set to lose more than 11,000 employees.  

Image Lisa Knight

A Magical Celestial Event

On Tuesday evening people in Japan had the pleasure of witnessing a celestial event that hasn’t been seen in the country since 1580: a total lunar eclipse and a planetary eclipse observed simultaneously. According to the National Astronomical Observatory, the last time it took place 442 years ago, the moon occulted Saturn. This time it concealed Uranus. “It was surreal,” says Tokyo Weekender’s Lisa Knight. “Everybody was watching (from Roppongi Hills Mori Tower Sky Deck) in awe as the shadow of the Earth slowly ate away at the moon before it began to glow a spectacular red above the twinkling lights of the city.”

Lunar eclipses occur when the Earth positions itself between the sun and moon, casting a shadow across the lunar surface. It appears dark red as some sunlight passes through the earth’s atmosphere to reach the moon. Occultations take place when the moon appears to move in front of another object in the sky. While this happens fairly routinely with stars, planetary lunar occultations are much rarer. The next time a lunar eclipse coincides with a planetary occultation will be 322 years from now in 2344, when the moon will hide Saturn. 

Americans Who Helped Ghosn Escape Return Home  

The lawyer of the father and son who helped former Nissan chairperson Carlos Ghosn escape from Japan three years ago confirmed this week that the pair have returned to America. Ex-Green Beret Michael Taylor was sentenced to two years in prison last July while his son Peter was given a 20-month sentence. After being arrested in the States, they were extradited to Japan in March 2021. Peter’s now reportedly back home with his family. His father, currently at a Los Angeles detention facility, is due to be released on January 1, 2023. 

The two men confessed to helping fugitive Ghosn flee the country on a cold December night in 2019. They arranged for him to hide in a music equipment case that was loaded onto a private jet which flew from Osaka to Beirut via Istanbul. The famous entrepreneur paid them at least $1.3m to help him. He was arrested in 2018 on allegations of under-reporting his salary and gross misuse of company assets. Ghosn continues to claim his innocence and says he fled Japan because he didn’t think he would get a fair trial here. 

The government is preparing for the inevitable eighth wave

No Restrictions Planned Despite Spike in Covid Cases

Covid cases are on the rise again as Japan prepares for the inevitable eighth wave. The number of new coronavirus patients in the week up to November 7 was 1.42 times higher than the preceding seven days and has continued to rise since then. Hokkaido has seen the biggest spike. On Tuesday, it recorded a record daily tally of 9,136 patients. The number rose to 9,545 the following day. Other regions that have seen significant increases include Tokushima, Miyagi and Fukui prefectures. The nationwide figure for new cases exceeded 87,000 on Wednesday with 97 deaths. 

Despite the rise in numbers, the central government is not planning to impose restrictions on people’s movements, unless a more severe strain emerges. “Our basic stance is that we will carry on with our social and economic activities and will not restrict people’s behavior, while taking measures to prevent the spread of the virus,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno said at a press conference on Wednesday. Prefectural governments, however, will be allowed to declare stepped-up coronavirus measures if the number of daily new cases matches the summer’s seventh wave. 

Marinos Crowned J-League Champions

Yokohama F. Marinos secured their fifth J-League title on Saturday with a 3-1 victory against Vissel Kobe. Going into the game with a two-point lead and a far superior goal difference over reigning champions Kawasaki Frontale, a draw was all they effectively needed. Playing for a point, though, is not their style. Goals from Elber, Takuma Nishimura and Teruhito Nakagawa gave Kevin Muscat’s the victory and the trophy. At the other end of the table, Shimizu S-Pulse were relegated after losing 4-3 to Hokkaido Consadole Sapporo. Kyoto Sanga will play Roasso Kumamoto in the relegation-promotion play-off. 

In Europe, Kaoru Mitoma scored his first Premier League goal as Brighton defeated Wolves 3-2. He followed that up with his second of the season against Arsenal in the Carabao Cup on Wednesday. Strikers Ayase Ueda and Kyogo Furuhashi both netted in consecutive games for Cercle Brugge and Celtic respectively. Daizen Maeda also struck for the latter. Other Japanese goal scorers this week included Hidemasa Morita in Portugal and Daichi Hayashi in Belgium. In World Cup news, Shonan Bellmare striker Shuto Machino was called up to the Japan squad to replace injured defender Yuta Nakayama.

Hashimoto and Watanabe Strike Gold in Liverpool 

Japan finished the 2022 World Artistic Gymnastics Championships in Liverpool, England with eight medals including two golds. Daiki Hashimoto won the most prized possession: the Individual all-around title. The 21-year-old Olympic champion edged out 2021 winner Zhang Boheng, while Japan’s Wataru Tanigawa was well back in third. Hashimoto also picked up silver medals on the floor and the horizontal bar as well in the team event. Hazuki Watanabe, meanwhile, became the youngest Japanese female World Champion. Making her debut as a substitute, she won the balance beam title.  

In winter sports, Japan’s women’s team won the inaugural Pan Continental Curling Championships on Sunday. They defeated South Korea 8-6 in the final following an additional 11th end. Represented by Loco Solare, the famous curling team in Kitami, Hokkaido, they led 6-3 after six ends. Their opponents scored three points in the final two ends to extend the match. Skip Satsuki Fujisawa then secured the victory, earning two points with her final shot. The men’s team finished fourth on Saturday and subsequently qualified for next year’s World Championships.