In this week’s news roundup we report on the American embassy’s warning about racial profiling in Japan, Yusaku Maezawa’s trip to space and the announcement of a same-sex partnership system in Tokyo set to be introduced next year. There’s also the latest on Omicron, a YouTuber’s battle with Toei Animation and Takefusa Kubo’s first goal of the season.  

Japan Denies Racial Profiling Claim  

In an unprecedented move, the United States embassy in Tokyo sent a message on Monday warning citizens about suspected racial profiling in Japan. “The U.S. Embassy has received reports of foreigners stopped and searched by Japanese police in suspected racial profiling incidents. Several were detained, questioned, and searched,” read the tweet. It also warned American citizens to “carry proof of immigration and request consular notification if detained.” Asked about the message, Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno denied the claim that police question suspicious individuals based on race or nationality.  

Naomi Kawahara, who founded the Japan for Black Lives advocacy group, told Reuters her African-American friend “was questioned by police more than 30 times in the six years that he lived here.” Speaking to TW, she said the issue doesn’t just affect foreigners. “Some of my biracial friends got stopped and searched by the police. Of course, the U.S. embassy tweet doesn’t cover that, but it is another problem here. As it’s always about foreigners vs. Japanese, they tend to be invisible.” 

Lift-Off for Maezawa  

Japanese billionaire entrepreneur Yusaku Maezawa and video producer Yozo Hirano rocketed to space on Wednesday. The latter will document the voyage for Maezawa’s YouTube channel. Joining them on their journey, which launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, is Russian cosmonaut Alexander Misurkin. The Japanese men are the first self-financing space tourists since 2009. Training prior to the launch included playing long periods of badminton, sleeping on an inclined bed and being spun around on a chair.  

The spacecraft docked with the International Space Station at around 10:40pm Japan Time. Two and a half hours later the hatch opened as the trio entered the ISS. “This really is space,” said Maezawa shortly after arriving. He previously promised to perform 100 tasks while there. They will be picked from suggestions sent to him by the public. Founder of the e-retailer Zozotown, Maezawa is estimated by Forbes to have a net worth of $1.9 billion. He is set to travel to the moon in 2023.  

YouTuber Hit with 150 Copyright Claims by Toei Animation  

YouTuber Mark Fitzpatrick this week spoke of the “disbelief, shock, and sorrow,” after Toei Animation hit him with 150 copyright claims. A popular video creator with over 633,000 subscribers, Totally Not Mark, as he’s known on his channel, usually posts reviews of manga and anime including several videos related to Dragon Ball and One Piece, two of Toei’s most well-known productions. The studio objected to Fitzpatrick showing montages from these shows. Unlike America, Japan doesn’t allow for fair use provisions, giving authors much control over how their work is presented.  

“Two nights ago, I received an email notifying me that 15 of my videos had been copyright claimed and blocked by Toei Animation,” said Fitzpatrick. “One hour later, that number rose to 28. And when I woke up this morning, it had reached a total of 150 videos that my audience can no longer see and that I can no longer monetize. And as a result, the main source of my company’s income is now gone.” The Irishman added that he always adheres to YouTube’s fair use terms.   

Two More Omicron Cases Confirmed in Japan 

Japan confirmed its third Omicron case on Monday. The man in his 30s became the first Japanese national known to have been infected with the new variant. He arrived at Haneda Airport from Italy on November 30. The fourth case was then announced on Wednesday. He is reportedly a man in his 50s with a history of travel to Nigeria. Both men have been fully vaccinated. According to Japanese scientists, Omicron is more likely than Delta to evade protection built by vaccines or a previous infection.  

Japan shut its borders at the end of November due to fears of the Omicron strain spreading. Foreigners are currently banned from entering the country unless they have a valid visa. Non-Japanese residents from 10 African countries are also prohibited from entering. Afghan staff of Japanese organizations hoping to evacuate Afghanistan, however, will be granted special permission to enter. The decision is based on humanitarian grounds due to the escalating crisis in the Taliban-ruled nation. 

Tokyo to Introduce Same-Sex Partnership System in 2022 

The Tokyo Metropolitan Government is set to introduce a same-sex partnership system for the fiscal year beginning in April 2022. The system currently covers 41 percent of Japan’s population. That will now increase to over 50 percent. “From the point of view of advancing understanding of sexual diversity, as well as reducing the problems faced by those involved, we will lay out basic principles for introducing a same-sex partnership system in the current fiscal year,” the city’s governor Yuriko Koike told an assembly meeting on Tuesday. 

Under the same-sex partnership system, couples have an easier time renting places together and are granted hospital visitation rights. While it doesn’t take into account issues such as inheritance or access to government services, it is a significant step. The partnership system was first introduced in Shibuya in 2015. Since then, other wards in the capital have followed suit, as have several prefectures around the country. Japan is the only G7 nation not to fully recognize same-sex marriage. This was ruled as “unconstitutional” by the Sapporo District Court in March.  

Takagi Wins Two World Cup Races  

With the Beijing Winter Olympics less than two months away, Miho Takagi is hitting form at the right time. The 27-year-old speed-skater won her first 1,000-meter World Cup in five seasons on Saturday. She followed that up with her third consecutive World Cup triumph in the 1,500-meter race the next day. Compatriot Ayano Sato finished second. Yamato Matsui claimed his first Word Cup victory in the men’s 500-meter race, edging out fellow countryman Wataru Morishige.  In snowboarding, Reira Iwabuchi won the big air World Cup in Colorado. 

As for soccer, Takefusa Kubo scored a dramatic late winner as Mallorca came from behind to defeat defending LaLiga champions Atlético Madrid 2-1. The 20-year-old, who was sidelined for two months with a knee injury, came on in the 74th minute with his side 1-0 down. Franco Russo equalized with 10 minutes to play before Kubo’s tidy finish in injury time. Ritsu Doan, meanwhile, scored one and assisted another as PSV Eindhoven beat FC Utrecht 4-1. In the J-League, Kawasaki Frontale’s Brazilian forward Leandro Damião was named as the division’s Most Valuable Player for 2021.