In this week’s news roundup, we have the latest on the case involving Lieutenant Ridge Alkonis, a US naval officer who on Wednesday appealed to the Tokyo High Court for a lighter sentence following a fatal accident in Shizuoka last year. Two people died after he allegedly lost consciousness at the wheel of his car. We also report on Kenichi Horie who became the oldest person to sail solo across the Pacific Ocean. And we look at the results from a survey by consulting firm Shikigaku that asked 300 employees if there was an old bloke at their workplace who didn’t really do anything. 

In our controversial comments section, we hear from Bank of Japan Governor Haruhiko Kuroda. He apologized this week for suggesting Japanese consumers were becoming “more tolerant” of price hikes. And then there’s former PM Yoshiro Mori, who expressed his dismay at the reaction to his sexist remarks from last February. In sport, boxing sensation, Naoya Inoue defeated Nonito Donaire as his home was being ransacked. Two Japanese players won titles at the French Open. And a Neymar penalty gave Brazil a narrow victory over Japan at Tokyo’s National Stadium.  

US Naval Officer Seeks Suspended Sentence for Fatal Crash 

“I feel the pain, shame and sorrow in every way possible. I feel the burden of the damage I’ve caused every minute of every day,” said Lieutenant Ridge Alkonis to the three-judge panel on Wednesday during his appeal hearing. Last October, the 34-year-old was sentenced to three years in prison for a fatal car crash. The incident took place at a parking lot in Fujinomiya in May 2021. As he was driving, he lost consciousness and drove into pedestrians outside a soba restaurant. An 85-year-old woman and her son-in-law, 54, died as a result of the accident.

Prosecutors argue that Alkonis fell asleep while drowsy at the wheel and consequently shirked his duty to pull over immediately. According to the defense, the naval officer suffered from acute mountain sickness. They say a $1.65 million settlement paid to the victims’ families is evidence of his sympathy. Supporters of Alkonis have taken to social media to state that this was an accident that could have happened to anyone, including American television host Montel Williams. The American, who was stationed at Yokosuka Naval Base as a weapons officer, is seeking a suspended sentence.

Image: Makoto Ishii /

Horie Becomes Oldest Person to Sail Solo Across the Pacific 

In 1962, Kenichi Horie made history by becoming the first person to sail solo and non-stop across the Pacific Ocean. Six decades on and he’s still breaking records. The 83-year-old set sail from San Francisco on his Suntory Mermaid III in late March. On Saturday at 2:39am, he arrived in the waters off the Kii Peninsula in western Japan. From the first to complete the challenge to the oldest, Horie had once again sailed non-stop across the Pacific.  

“Don’t let your dreams just stay as dreams. Have a goal and work towards achieving this and a beautiful life awaits,” he told CNN over a satellite phone. When he first sailed across the Pacific, Horie arrived in the States without any passport or money. This led to his arrest. Fortunately, San Francisco Mayor George Christopher heard about his voyage and arranged for him to be freed. Known for his use of environmentally friendly boats, the vessel Horie used for his voyage from San Francisco to Japan in 1999 was made primarily from recycled materials. 

There’s Always One  

Almost 50 percent of companies in Japan have an old guy who doesn’t do anything. That’s according to a recent survey by consulting firm Shikigaku. An article by All About News revealed that Shikigaku asked around 300 people who worked for companies with more than 300 employees if there was an old man at their workplace who didn’t really do anything. 49.2 percent of respondents said yes. The questionnaire then went deeper, asking respondents what they did instead of working.  

Taking many breaks to snack and smoke was the top answer from respondents. That was followed by staring into space, idle chit-chat and surfing the internet. As for why they thought these workers were so idle, the number one answer was simply no desire to work. Companies increasing salaries based on seniority and longevity rather than performance was another popular response. As was a lack of trust in the worker and a lack of incentives to try harder. 

Yoshiro Mori by Shugo Takemi

Former PM’s Dismay at Backlash over his Words  

On Tuesday, Yoshiro Mori expressed his dismay at the backlash caused by his words from February last year. The former prime minister stepped down as president of the 2020 Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic organizing committee after saying meetings tended to “drag on” when females participated. “I simply said women talk a lot. I get scolded for telling the truth,” he said at a party hosted by LDP lawmaker Takeo Kawamura. “The world’s going crazy because politicians don’t tell the real story,” added Mori. 

Other comments making news this week came from Bank of Japan Governor Haruhiko Kuroda. He apologized on Wednesday for suggesting Japanese consumers were becoming “more tolerant” of increasing prices. “The expression was utterly inappropriate. I retract it,” he said during a parliamentary session. “It’s true that we use the word ‘tolerance’ at the Bank of Japan. But we don’t use it to mean price hikes are being welcomed. It means they are being accepted (by consumers) as a last, painful choice,” he added. 

Inoue Burgled as He Beats Donaire

After their 2019 ‘Fight of the Year’ in Saitama Super Arena, Naoya Inoue and Nonito Donaire returned to the same venue on Tuesday for a rematch. The Japanese boxer won the previous fight in a unanimous decision following 12 brutal rounds. This time he needed just two. The man known as ‘Monster’ dropped his legendary Filipino opponent with a straight right in the closing stages of the first round. He then finished him off with a left hook in the second. 

It’s now 23 wins in 23 bouts for Inoue, including 20 knockouts. The 29-year-old currently ranks number two on ESPN’s list of the best pound-for-pound boxers in the world. Tuesday’s victory meant that he added the WBC bantamweight title to his IBF and WBA belts. His next opponent is expected to be Britain’s Paul Butler, holder of the WBO belt. It wasn’t all good news, though, as Inoue’s house was burgled while he was taking on Donaire. Two men were seen fleeing from his home in a white vehicle.

French Open Triumphs for Shibahara and Kunieda  

In other sports news, three Japanese players competed in finals at the French Open last weekend. Ena Shibahara partnered Holland’s Wesley Koolhof in the mixed-doubles competition. They defeated Belgium’s Joran Vliegen and Norway’s Ulrikke Eikeri 7-6, 6-2. In the men’s wheelchair event, Shingo Kunieda won for the eighth time at Roland Garros, defeating his doubles partner Gustavo Fernandez of Argentina 6-2, 5-7, 7-5. It’s his 27th single’s Grand Slam in total. In the women’s wheelchair final, Yui Kamiji lost 4-6, 1-6 to Diede de Groot of the Netherlands.  

In soccer, Japan lost 1-0 to Brazil at Tokyo’s National Stadium on Monday, Neymar scored the winning goal from the spot-kick after Richarlison was fouled in the box. The away side dominated but it was a vast improvement by the Samurai Blue compared to their previous showings against the Seleção. In baseball, DeNA Baystars’ pitcher Shota Imanaga became the 85th player in Nippon Professional Baseball history to throw a no-hitter. His side defeated the Nippon Ham Fighters 2-0. 

Feature image by Anna Petek