In the first news roundup of the year, we report on the tiger attack at Nasu Safari Park in Tochigi Prefecture. There’s the latest on the Omicron variant as cases surge nationwide, particularly in Okinawa. In Osaka, a transgender woman is accused of trespassing after using a female restroom, Jikei Hospital in Kumamoto Prefecture announces that a teenager became the first person to use its “confidential birth” system and the world’s oldest person celebrates her 119th birthday. In sport, Celtic sign three players from the J-League and Hayao Kawabe joins Wolves.  

Tiger Attacks Safari Park Workers  

Three zookeepers have been injured, including one who lost her hand, after they were bitten by a tiger at Nasu Safari Park in Tochigi Prefecture. The incident occurred at around 8:30am on Wednesday as they prepared for the day’s service. The Bengal tiger named Volta is around two meters in length and weighs 150 kilograms. It was supposed to be in a fenced enclosure but instead made its way to a corridor that leads to an exhibition area.  

The fence was reportedly not checked the night before and the park is now being investigated for mismanagement. The female employee who lost her hand was transported to hospital via a medical helicopter. Another woman was bitten in several parts of her body while the male keeper suffered injuries to the back of his head. The safari park, which houses around 700 animals from 70 species, was closed for the day following the mauling. Two lion attacks at the park were reported in 1997 and 2000. 

Covid cases have been surging in Okinawa

Okinawa Governor Blasts US Military as Omicron Spreads  

Daily Covid cases in Japan topped 2,000 for the first time in three months on Wednesday. As a result, Okinawa, Hiroshima and Yamaguchi prefectures are all set to declare quasi-states of emergency. The current hotspot is Okinawa which reported 981 cases on Thursday, up from 623 a day earlier. Governor Denny Tamaki blasted the US military for failing to control an outbreak at one of its bases last month.  The outbreak at Camp Hansen on December 15 soon spread to eight other bases. 

“I’m outraged because the sharp rise in the number of infected among US military personnel suggests their management is insufficient,” said Tamaki at a press conference on Sunday. He also filed a request for military personnel to be confined to their bases until the outbreak is brought under control. The first civilian case on the island was traced to a man employed at an American base. More than half of the 47,000 US troops in Japan are located in Okinawa.  

Teenager First to Use Hospital’s “Confidential Birth” System  

A teenage girl gave birth anonymously at Jikei Hospital in Kumamoto in December. She is believed to be the first person to use the hospital’s so-called “confidential birth” system, which was introduced in 2019 due to the growing number of women choosing to deliver without medical assistance in order to keep their pregnancies secret. Not included in Japanese legislation, it’s the only facility in the country with such a system.  

Speaking at a press conference on Tuesday, hospital director Takeshi Hasuda revealed that the girl had given her name to the head counselor and had already been discharged. “The mother and child are safe. There have been other similar consultations and we will continue with this initiative” he said. The girl contacted the hospital in November. She feared her mother would cut ties with her if she found out about the pregnancy. She was also concerned about being beaten by her partner. 

shibuya toilets

Transparent toilets in Yoyogi-Fukamachi Mini Park

Transgender Woman Referred to Prosecutors for Trespassing in Female Restroom 

A transgender woman was referred to prosecutors on Thursday after using a female restroom in Osaka. The suspect identifies as a woman but presents as a man for work and her gender is listed as male on the family registry. She has not undergone reassignment surgery and doesn’t have a medical certificate confirming gender dysphoria. “I knew it was the wrong thing to do, but I wanted to use the women’s restroom because it made me feel like I was accepted as a woman,” she said.  

The suspect entered the female facility in May 2021 despite there being a multipurpose restroom on the same floor. A woman complained, stating that she could not use the bathroom out of fear as “a man wearing women’s clothes was using it.” Mameta Endo, 34, a transgender man and representative of the sexual minority group Nijiizu, is concerned about the impact this news could have. “I’m worried that if this single case draws attention, it might lead to more prejudice and discrimination against transgender people,” he said.  

World’s Oldest Living Person Celebrates 119th Birthday 

Born on January 2, 1903, Kane Tanaka was verified by the Guinness Book of Records as the world’s oldest living person in 2019. A year later, she broke Japan’s all-time age record, reaching 117 years and 261 days. This week, the woman known for her love of fizzy drinks and chocolate turned 119. According to official records, only two people have lived longer: France’s Jeanne Calment and Sarah Knauss from America.  

Tanaka resides in a nursing home in Fukuoka, the prefecture of her birth. Though she is unable to speak, she communicates with staff through gestures. She is said to keep her mind active by doing math and playing board games such as Othello. Last year Tanaka was supposed to take part in the Olympic torch relay. She eventually pulled out due to fears of spreading Covid-19 to others in her nursing home.  

Celtic Sign Japanese Trio  

Following the success of Shunsuke Nakamura in the mid 2000s, Celtic now have a new Japanese hero in Kyogo Furuhashi. The former Vissel Kobe forward has taken the Scottish top flight by storm. It was, therefore, no surprise to hear the Glasgow club has again tapped into the J-League market. Coach Ange Postecoglou has recruited Daizen Maeda, whom he worked with at Yokohama F. Marinos, as well as Reo Hatate from Kawasaki Frontale and Yosuke Ideguchi from Gamba Osaka.  

Maeda is known for his lighting pace and can play either out wide or up front. Last season, he finished as the J-League’s joint top scorer with 23 goals. Hatate is a versatile player who can operate as a left-back, central midfielder or winger. Ideguchi, meanwhile, is a combative midfielder who struggled during his first spell in Europe. In the English Premier League, Wolves have signed midfielder Hayao Kawabe from Swiss side Grasshopper Club Zürich. He’s expected to be sent back to his former club to finish the season there on loan. 

*Feature image by Anna Petek