In our latest news roundup, we report on the prime minister’s cabinet reshuffle. Out of 19 ministerial posts, just two women were selected. The biggest talking point, though, was once again the government’s relationship with the Unification Church. Several members with ties to the religious organization were removed from their positions. The new cabinet, however, does still include some ministers who previously had links with the church. Also this week, we pay our respects to Issey Miyake, one of Japan’s greatest ever designers. There’s good news for a Turkish Kurd who has been granted refugee status here. And in sport, Shohei Ohtani joins Babe Ruth in a very exclusive club.  

Kishida Reshuffles His Pack as Approval Ratings Slump

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida officially announced the lineup of his new cabinet on Wednesday. Though key members of his leadership team were retained, there were 14 changes. The reshuffle, which took place a month earlier than expected, is an attempt by the PM to revive his party’s fortunes following a slump in approval ratings. According to NHK, support for the cabinet fell to 46 percent in the most recent polls, the lowest level since Kishida came to office. One of the main reasons for the slump is the LDP’s close ties with the Unification Church.  

Several high-profile members connected to the religious organization have been removed from their posts. This includes Nobuo Kishi, younger brother of Shinzo Abe. He’s been replaced as foreign minister by veteran Yasukazu Hamada, but will continue to advise the PM on national security. Despite the cull, there are still members within the cabinet who previously had links with the church. Health Minister Katsunobu Kato and Economic Revitalization Minister Daishiro Yamagiwa, for instance, both paid “membership fees” to organizations affiliated with the group. Prior to the reshuffle, Kishida said cabinet members must “thoroughly review” their ties with the church. 

The Unification Church has come under the spotlight since Shinzo Abe’s murder | Image by Anna Petek

Unification Church Members Received Death Threats

On the same day Kishida announced his new cabinet, Tomihiro Tanaka, president of the Unification Church, held a press conference in Tokyo. He acknowledged his church and the LDP had shared interests regarding their opposition to communism. He denied, however, singling out the LDP for support or instructing members on how to vote in elections. “We encourage them to be active in politics and elections, but we do not ask them to support a particular party,” he said 

During the press conference, Tanaka also revealed that Unification Church followers in Japan have faced harassment and received death threats since the shooting of Abe on July 8 of this year. The man accused of killing the former PM reportedly held a grudge against the organization due to his mother’s donations. “Our churches have been subject to death threats, receiving threatening phone calls saying, ‘we will kill you,'” alleged Tanaka. He added that some people have been told to resign from their jobs and children have been unable to attend school because of bullying. 

Legendary Designer Issey Miyake Dies at 84

On Tuesday the office of Issey Miyake announced that the world-renowned fashion designer died of liver cancer on August 5. He was 84. As well as his fragrances and technology-driven designs, Miyake was known for producing mock turtlenecks for Apple co-founder Steve Jobs. Low maintenance and easily paired with anything, he helped bring the turtleneck to the forefront of the fashion world. Other famous Miyake devotees included Grace Jones, Zaha Hadid, Joni Mitchell and Kim Kardashian. “His name will live on forever,” said fellow designer Junko Koshino. 

Born Kazunaru Miyake in Hiroshima on April 22, 1938, he was was exposed to the US bombing of his city when he was just seven. “When I close my eyes, I still see things no one should ever experience. A bright red light, the black cloud soon after, people running in every direction trying desperately to escape. I remember it all. Within three years, my mother died from radiation exposure,” Miyake told The Onion. He chose to speak about his experiences following Barack Obama’s pledge to seek a world free of nuclear arms.  

Japan only accepts around one percent of refugee applications | Image by Anna Petek

Turkish Kurd Granted Refugee Status in Japan

For the first time, a Turkish Kurd has been recognized as a refugee in Japan. The man entered the country in 2014, fleeing persecution by the Turkish authorities. According to his lawyer, he filed for refugee status twice but was turned down both times. In 2019, he then filed a lawsuit with the Sapporo District Court, seeking to cancel the dismissal of his applications. The petition was rejected by the lower court. However, the Sapporo Regional Immigration Services Bureau eventually granted him refugee status after the appeals court ruled he would be at risk of oppression if he returned home.  

“I almost exhausted all my strength during the long fight, but confidence in justice and the law was maintained. I wish that the justice achieved will bring hope to others as well,” said the Kurdish man. “This is an important decision and a big step forward,” added his lawyer Koji Yamada. Kurds have had a long history of discrimination perpetrated against them by the Turkish government. Japan previously recognized Iranian and Syrian Kurds as refugees, but until now, never anyone from Turkey. Often criticized by human rights lawyers, Japan only accepts around one percent of refugee applications.  

Shibuno Narrowly Misses Out on Play-Off at British Open

Hinako Shibuno had mixed feelings after missing out on a play-off by one shot at the Women’s British Open. The 2019 champion entered the final round at Muirfield five shots behind the leaders. An even-par 71 put her back in contention. Ultimately, though, it wasn’t enough to catch South Africa’s Ashleigh Buhai and South Korea’s Chun In-gee, with the former taking home the trophy. “I’m both frustrated and happy to get a result like this on this difficult and wonderful course,” Shibuno told reporters. 

In other sporting news, Yoshihito Nishioka lost the final of the Citi Open 6-4, 6-3 to Wimbledon runner-up Nick Kyrgios. Making it that far, though, was a great effort from the Japanese player, who’s currently ranked 96 in the world. In soccer, Kyogo Furuhashi scored his first goal of the season as Scottish champions Celtic defeated Ross County 3-1. Ritsu Doan followed up his cup goal for Freiburg with another for his new club on the opening day of the Bundesliga. They defeated Augsburg 4-0. 

Shohei Ohtani continues to astound for the Angels | Image by Anna Petek

Ohtani Joins Ruth in Exclusive Club  

Shohei Ohtani made history this week, becoming the first player in more than a century to reach double digits in wins as a pitcher and home runs as a batter in a Major League Baseball (MLB) season. The feat was last achieved by legendary figure Babe Ruth back in 1918. Ed Rile and Bullet Rogan both reached the milestone in the Negro Leagues in the 1920s, but MLB hasn’t incorporated those scores in its official records. Ohtani also twice logged double-digit wins and homers for the Nippon Ham Fighters in Japan’s Pacific League.  

“I feel like every time we’re out there, he does something special,” said interim Los Angeles Angels’ manager Phil Nevin. It’s hard to disagree. Ohtani’s list of accomplishments continues to grow. In Tuesday’s 5-1 victory over the Athletics, the two-way sensation tossed six scoreless innings and hit his 25th homer of the season. It was his 118th in total, passing Ichiro Suzuki on the list for most home runs in MLB by a Japanese player. He’s now second behind Hideki Matsui who hit 175.