In our latest news roundup, we report on the Unification Church as the prime minister orders a probe into the controversial group, which could be about to lose its protected status as a religious corporation. Also this week, the yen continues to depreciate, hitting a 32-year low against the dollar. Japan’s oldest restroom is damaged after a driver hits the accelerator by mistake. There’s a brawl in Ikebukuro and a former Olympic executive is arrested for the fourth time. In sport, Ventforet Kofu cause a big upset in the Emperor’s Cup final. 

PM Kishida has pledged to launch an investigation into the Unification Church

PM Orders Probe into Unification Church

Speaking at a parliamentary session on Tuesday, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida pledged to launch an investigation into the Unification Church. The probe will be implemented under the Religious Corporations Law, which gives authorities the “right to question” any contentious groups. According to the PM, the controversial organization may have “violated various norms, including criminal law.” He added that the government could only request an order to dissolve the church if it had breached the penal code, not the civil one. The following day, he retracted his statement. 

“If the acts were found to be organized, vicious and continuous, among other conditions, and meet the conditions of the Religious Corporations Law, illegal acts under the Civil Code could also be included,” he said during a House of Councillors Budget Committee session after being grilled by an opposition lawmaker. Kishida’s announcement means the likelihood of a dissolution order has increased. If that were to happen, the Unification Church, often referred to as the Moonies, would be stripped of its “religious corporation” status. 

Car Crashes into Japan’s Oldest Toilet

A 30-year-old worker employed to help preserve Kyoto’s rich heritage damaged an important cultural property with his car on Monday. The unnamed man, who works for the Heritage Preservation Association, smashed his vehicle into the country’s oldest restroom. The unused communal bathroom known as “tōsu,”is located inside the Buddhist temple Tofukuji. Built during the Muromachi Period (1336-1573) for 100 trainee monks practicing self-discipline, the latrines — basically circular holes cut into blocks of stone — were reportedly last used during the Meiji Era (1868-1912).

While the actual lavatories remained intact, the ancient door was ruined. Fortunately for the driver, who mistakenly accelerated while his car was in reverse, the damage appears to be mendable. “We’d like to restore it before the autumn foliage season, but it will probably take until the new year [to repair it],” Toshio Ishikawa, director of Tofukuji’s research institute, told the Kyoto Shimbun. He added that he was “stunned” by the extent of the damage but was relieved nobody was injured. 

The Japanese Yen continues to depreciate against the dollar

Japanese Yen Breaches the 150 Mark Against the Dollar

The depreciation of the Japanese yen continues. On Thursday it fell below the 150-mark against the US dollar for the first time since August 1990. That’s almost half its 75.32 value in 2011, which was a postwar high. Last month, the Bank of Japan (BOJ) intervened in the market for the first time in 24 years to buy the yen and sell the dollar. Investors are now keeping a close watch on the situation for the possibility of another intervention.  

Finance Minister Shunichi Suzuki declined to comment on whether the government had already engaged in stealth intervention, which involves the state entering the market on a smaller scale that’s not easy to detect. “Generally speaking, there are times when we intervene by making announcements and some other times when we do it without,” he said at a parliamentary session on Tuesday. At the same session, the PM described the yen’s depreciation as “problematic,” but vowed to work with the BOJ to find a solution. 

Crime Syndicate Linked to Brawl in Ikebukuro

A French restaurant on the 58th floor of Ikebukuro’s Sunshine 60 building was the setting for a brawl on Sunday involving members of a gang linked to organized crime. Known as Chinese Dragon, the group reportedly consists of descendants of Japanese orphans left behind in China at the end of World War II. It’s been categorized by the National Police Agency as an anti-social force under the tier of designated crime syndicates. This means it’s not covered by the anti-organized crime law.

The group allegedly gathered at the venue to celebrate the release of one of its members from prison. Around 100 people were reportedly drinking and dining at the restaurant. At approximately 6pm, a fistfight broke out. The police were notified of the disturbance and arrived 30 minutes later. The scene was littered with broken bottles and glasses. By that point, most of the group’s members had already left. Of those who remained, one was transported to a hospital with a minor head injury. 

Sun Arrow manufactured the official mascots for the Summer Games | Image courtesy of Tokyo 2020

Former Olympic Executive Arrested for a Fourth Time

On Wednesday, former Tokyo Olympic executive Haruyuki Takahashi was served with his fourth arrest warrant. The 78-year-old was previously indicted for accepting bribes of around ¥51 million from business suit retailer Aoki Holdings, ¥76 million from publisher Kadokawa and ¥15 million from Daiko Advertising. The latest charge concerns advertising firm ADK Holdings and stuffed toy maker Sun Arrow. Takahashi’s suspected of receiving ¥47 million from the former and ¥8 million from the latter. Sun Arrow manufactured the stuffed mascots for the Summer Games. 

In other crime news, a man was arrested in Kanagawa Prefecture on Monday for assisting the suicide of a junior high school student. Yuya Nozaki, 28, contacted the girl via social media. He allegedly decided where and how she should kill herself and drove her to the location in the mountains. In Osaka, meanwhile, the mysterious human bones discovered on the premises of Universal Studios Japan are those of an unidentified man aged between 60 and 79. Around 158 centimeters tall, he reportedly died two years ago. 

Shock Emperor’s Cup Triumph for Kofu

Sunday’s Emperor’s Cup final was expected to end in a straightforward victory for Sanfrecce Hiroshima over Ventforet Kofu. However, the third-placed team in the top flight struggled against the side languishing in 18th in the second tier, conceding after 26 minutes. They eventually equalized with six minutes remaining, but then came the heroics from Kofu goalkeeper Kohei Kawata. He saved a penalty in extra-time followed by another in the shootout. It earned his side the victory and one of the biggest upsets in the tournament’s history.  

In Europe, Daichi Kamada bagged a brace of penalties for Eintracht Frankfurt in their 5-1 win over Bayer Leverkusen. Wataru Endo was also on target in Germany, scoring in consecutive games for Stuttgart. Hayao Kawabe hit a double for Swiss side Grasshoppers Zurich. In Scotland, Daizen Maeda, Reo Hatate and Kyogo Furuhashi all found the net for Celtic. Ayase Ueda and Shinji Kagawa were both on the scoresheet in Belgium. As were Mizuki Arai in Portugal and Keito Nakamura in Austria. In the women’s game, Yui Hasegawa got off the mark for Man City.