In this week’s news roundup, we report on the Japanese government’s decision to request a court order to dissolve the Unification Church. A Kadokawa executive is found guilty of bribery but manages to avoid jail time. Saitama drops a bill that would have made it illegal for parents or guardians to leave children unattended. There’s the latest allegation against Johnny Kitagawa and Sota Fujii wins a record eighth shogi title. In sport, the Brave Blossoms lose to Argentina at the Rugby World Cup and Japan’s men’s volleyball team qualify for the Paris Olympics.   

State Aims for Unification Church Dissolution  

After an 11-month investigation that involved collecting testimonies from more than 170 people, the Japanese government announced on Thursday that it had requested a court order to dissolve the Unification Church. It is expected to be submitted to the Tokyo District Court soon, possibly as early as today. If the dissolution is approved, the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification, as the church is formally known, will still be able to operate as an entity and engage in activities in this country, but will lose its tax benefits as a religious organization.  

Culture Minister Masahito Moriyama told reporters that the group has been ordered by the courts to pay around ¥20 billion in damages to over 1,500 victims. “It is deeply regrettable that the government has made such a grave decision based on biased information,” read a statement from the Unification Church. Only two other religious organizations have been disbanded before in Japan. The first was Aum Shinrikyo in 1995 after the doomsday cult attacked the Tokyo underground with sarin gas. The second, seven years later, was the Myokakuji Temple group. Its leader swindled 12 people out of ¥21.5 million.   

The Tokyo Olympics has been tainted by bribery scandals

Kadokawa Executive Found Guilty in Tokyo Olympic Bribery Case 

An executive at publishing house Kadokawa avoided jail time this week despite being found guilty of bribing a former Tokyo Olympics organizing committee member because he showed remorse and his wife promised to watch over him. That was the verdict of Presiding Judge Yoshihisa Nakao on Tuesday as he handed Toshiyuki Yoshihara a two-year prison sentence suspended for four years. It means he’ll avoid spending any time behind bars as long as he doesn’t commit a crime during that period. Yoshihara was charged with paying around ¥69 million to Haruyuki Takahashi.  

“The belief in the fairness of the Games has been damaged,” said Nakao. The bribery scandal has also affected Sapporo’s bid for the 2030 Winter Olympics. On Wednesday, the city Mayor Katsuhiro Akimoto and JOC President Yasuhiro Yamashita confirmed that Hokkaido’s capital would no longer be competing for the right to host the Games. “There’s a possibility that moving forward with the bid movement too hastily will leave an irrecoverable wound on the value of sports,” commented Yamashita.  “I’m sorry for the people of Sapporo and Hokkaido.” The city will instead aim for the 2034 Games or later.  

Saitama Scraps Proposed Ban on Leaving Young Kids at Home Alone  

A controversial bill that would have made it illegal for parents or guardians to leave children unattended, even for a very short time, at home or let them play outside by themselves has been withdrawn. It was scheduled for a vote by the plenary session on Friday. The Saitama prefectural assembly lawmakers that drew up the plan, however, decided to give up on it due to a public backlash. A petition against the draft arranged by a parent-teacher association in Saitama city garnered 27,000 signatures. The prefectural government also received more than 1,000 complaints.

The ordinance aimed to protect children in the third grade of elementary school and younger, but many deemed it unrealistic. The wording of the draft was also criticized. Allowing a child to go to school by themselves, for instance, would have been considered “abuse,” according to the proposal. As would leaving a child alone in the house while taking out the trash. “I understand the idea of seeking to protect children from being left alone or abused,” lawyer Yasushi Ozaki told NHK. “But the draft’s range of situations that would have been restricted was too broad.” 

Johnny Kitagawa

Johnny’s Late Founder Accused of Abusing Teen in NHK Toilet  

The allegations against Johnny Kitagawa keep on coming. On Monday, NHK reported that a man, who is now in his 30s, told the national broadcasting corporation that he was sexually abused several times by the music mogul at the company’s broadcasting center in Shibuya in 2002. The individual was taking dance lessons inside the NHK building in the hope of appearing on the program, The Shonen Club, a music variety show featuring juniors from Johnny & Associates. He says that Kitagawa approached him during a break and took him to a men’s restroom, where he abused him.  

According to the man, this happened around five times. He eventually refused Kitagawa’s advances and, as a result, Johnny & Associates allegedly stopped inviting him to the dance lessons. “I was deeply impacted, realizing that my dreams could not come true unless I endured the abuse. I seriously thought about what I should do next,” said the man on the news program. He added that he was angry at the agency for destroying his dreams. NHK is now considering a complete review of the program, including changes to its title and content.  

Fujii Makes History with Eighth Title 

After almost 12 grueling hours and 138 moves, Sota Fujii could finally celebrate. At 8:59pm on Wednesday, he became the first player in the history of shogi to secure all eight major titles. He did it by defeating Takuya Nagase, 31, in a best of five series. The pair were competing for the Oza championship, the only title that was missing from Fujii’s impressive collection. Leading 2-1 going into Wednesday’s encounter, the 21-year-old knew history beckoned. While Nagase was on top early on, the pendulum swung after the two players used up their allotted time.    

Given one minute to make their moves, Fujii managed to get the better of his opponent and clinch the win. “It’s been a really tough series, and I’m going to use this experience to make myself even stronger,” he said. “I need to keep growing as I’m not good enough to deserve the honor (of the eight titles).” The day after his triumph, Fumio Kishida announced that he would be presenting Fujii with the Prime Minister’s Award. The only other shogi player to receive the accolade was Yoshiharu Habu in 1996.  

Japan finished third in their group | Image courtesy of World Rugby

Brave Blossoms Bow Out in France  

Japan’s 2023 Rugby World Cup adventure ended in Nantes on Sunday at the hands of Argentina. A hat-trick of tries by Mateo Carreras helped Los Pumas to a 39-27 victory in what was a pulsating encounter. The Brave Blossoms played some sumptuous rugby at times, scoring three terrific tries. Ultimately, though, they let themselves down with poor tackling and lost almost every aerial duel. “This time, we couldn’t get to the top of Mount Everest…but I believe that Japan rugby will continue to grow,” said captain Kazuki Himeno. It was the last game in charge for coach Jamie Joseph. 

There was better news for Japan at the 2023 Volleyball Men’s World Cup, which is a qualifying tournament for the Paris 2024 Summer Olympics. The Japanese team booked their spot with a 3-0 victory over Slovenia at the Yoyogi National Stadium in Tokyo on Saturday. Philippe Blain’s men lost their final game of the pool the following night to the U.S., but by then qualification had already been guaranteed. They finished second in the eight-team group behind the States and one point ahead of Slovenia. The women’s team have yet to secure a place in Paris.