In this week’s news roundup, we report on a Vietnamese intern who was bullied and beaten by colleagues at a factory in Okayama Prefecture. We have the latest on Covid as 13 areas, including Tokyo, go into a quasi-state of emergency from today. Three more prefectures in western Japan are expected to join them.  

Also this week, it was announced that 87 government-sponsored students would be allowed to enter the country. A high school student was arrested after stabbing three people outside the University of Tokyo. Famed manga artist Shinji Mizushima passed away. And in sport, there were dream debuts for Celtic’s new Japanese recruits and a big win at the Australian Open for Taro Daniel.  

Vietnamese Intern Assaulted by Japanese Colleagues  

“Before coming to Japan, I thought Japanese people were kind and that it was a safe country with a good working environment, but I had a very hard time because of the violence I received.” These were the words of a 41-year-old Vietnamese man at a press conference on Monday. Working as a technical intern trainee at a construction company in Okayama, he was violently abused by colleagues for two years. He revealed that he suffered several injuries including a broken rib.  

In one video, two men are seen hitting him with a stick and broom over and over again. According to the man, the company asked him to tell the doctor he’d fallen off a bicycle when he went for an examination. Requesting a transfer, the organization heading his intern program said it would be difficult. He is now seeking an apology and compensation from the company and the organization. Despite the bullying, he would like to continue working in Japan. With around ¥1 million in debt, he left his wife and daughter behind in Vietnam to come here.  

The quasi-state of emergency begins in Tokyo and 12 other areas today

Tokyo and 12 Other Regions Placed Under a Quasi-State of Emergency 

From today, Tokyo as well as 12 other areas in Japan will begin a three-week quasi-state of emergency. In the capital, eating and drinking establishments with anti-virus measures certifications are being asked to stay open no later than 9pm (for those that serve alcohol) or 8pm (for those that don’t). Last orders for alcohol are 8pm. Places without a certificate are urged to close by 8pm and not serve alcohol. On Thursday, Osaka, Kyoto and Hyogo confirmed that they will also be asking the government to place them under a quasi-state of emergency. 

“We have concluded that we need to apply intensive measures to help local governments push ahead with preparations so their medical systems will function well. We also need to take effective steps to curb the increase in the number of new infections,” said Prime Minister Kishida. On Wednesday, new daily Covid cases exceeded 40,000 for the first time in Japan. Tokyo recorded 7,377 new infections, almost 1,500 more than the previous high in August last year. On Thursday that number rose to 8,638 with the nationwide figure topping 46,000.  

Japan to Allow 87 Government-Sponsored Students to Enter  

Last week Prime Minister Kishida announced that the ban on foreign arrivals would be extended until at least the end of February. It was confirmed this week that there were no plans to ease those strict border controls. An exception, however, will be made for 87 government-sponsored students who have less than one year until they graduate. The decision was made after “considering public interest and the urgency of the matter,” said Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno at a press conference.  

It’s good news for a very small number of individuals. For the vast majority — around 147,000 in total — the waiting game goes on. Many have been stuck in limbo for two years. Others have simply decided to give up on their dream of coming here. “We certainly do feel betrayed by Japan and abandoned,” Beatriz Reganassi Okumura told NHK. The Brazilian has been forced to take online classes since last October. “It seems like they’ve forgotten about us. I can’t believe they’re letting just 87 people enter.” 

Knife attacks appear to be on the rise in Japan

High School Student Stabs Three People Outside the University of Tokyo  

A 17-year-old boy was arrested on Saturday after he stabbed three people with a knife near the entrance of the University of Tokyo’s main campus. A 72-year-old man was seriously hurt in the attack, while two students, male and female, suffered minor injuries. They had arrived at the university to sit the nationwide entrance exams. The perpetrator, whose name is withheld because he’s a minor, is a student at a private school in Nagoya.  

“I was not doing well in my studies, so I wanted to cause an incident and die,” he was quoted as saying. He added that he’d hoped to study medicine at the famous university known as Todai, but lost confidence as his grades worsened. Investigative sources later revealed that the suspect was carrying around four liters of flammable liquid. He reportedly started a fire at a station near the campus before the stabbings. 

Famed Manga Artist Dies at 82  

On Monday, Shinji Mizushima’s management announced that the renowned manga artist died of pneumonia on January 10. The Niigata-native was most well-known for his stories about baseball including Dokaben and Abu-San. The main character in the latter played for Mizushima’s team the Nankai Hawks (now the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks). Former Hawks manager Sadaharu Oh, who holds the world lifetime home-run record, paid tribute to the manga artist. “Mr. Mizushima supported the Hawks when they were struggling. We owe him a great deal.”  

In brighter literary news, the recipients of the 166th Naoki and Akutagawa prizes were announced on Wednesday. Bunji Sunakawa, a former Self-Defense Forces officer, picked up the latter for his novel Black Box. It tells the story of a man who gets a job as a messenger on a bicycle. The Naoki Prize, meanwhile, was won by two novelists. Honobu Yonezawa received the accolade for his book Kokurojo which is based around the imprisonment of historical figure Kanbei Kuroda. Shogo Imamura also received the award for his novel Saio no Tate.  

Dream Start for Celtic’s Debutants 

Things couldn’t have gone much better for Daizen Maeda and Reo Hatate on their first starts for Celtic on Monday. The Hoops defeated Hibernian 2-0 with Maeda opening the scoring after just four minutes. Hatate, meanwhile, was named man of the match for his classy and energetic display in the middle of the park.

In England, Takumi Minamino celebrated his 27th birthday with a goal for Liverpool against Brentford. There were also goals scored by Junya Ito in Belgium, Yukinari Sugawara in Holland and Takefusa Kubo in Spain. In Germany, Masaya Okugawa scored for his fourth straight game for Arminia Bielefeld while Daichi Kamada found the net for Eintracht Frankfurt. There was sad news for Naoki Maeda who broke his leg on his debut for FC Utrecht. On loan from Nagoya Grampus, he’s unlikely to play for the Dutch club again. 

At the Australian Open, Japan’s Taro Daniel reached the third round of a major for the first time. The 28-year-old caused an upset by defeating three-time Grand Slam title winner Andy Murray in straight sets 6-4, 6-4, 6-4. Daniel was born in New York to a Japanese mother and an American father. He studied in both Saitama and Nagoya and started playing tennis when he was seven. Also into the third round is Naomi Osaka. The defending women’s champion made light work of America’s Madison Brengle, winning 6-0, 6-4.  Her next game is this evening against Amanda Anisimova. 

Feature image by Anna Petek