In our latest news roundup, we look at the tragic death of Japan Olympic Committee (JOC) employee Yasushi Moriya. He was hit by a train on Monday two days after a TBS news feature about the Tokyo Games. The program exposed the opaque operating costs of the event and included testimonies from an unidentified JOC employee. Netizens have since been speculating as to whether Moriya may have been the whistleblower on the show.

Also this week, Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga pledges to vaccinate all Japanese residents who want or need to be inoculated by November, there’s a protest rally in Shibuya calling for the implementation of an LGBTQ equality bill and a Korean court rejects slave labor claims against 16 Japanese firms. In sport, there’s US Open joy for golfer Yuka Saso and Kohei Uchimura qualifies for his fourth Olympics.

Japanese Olympic Official Dies After Being Hit by a Train

Yasushi Moriya, 52, tragically passed away on Monday after being hit by a subway train. His ID revealed that he worked as an accounting manager for the JOC. He had joined the organization 16 years earlier. The incident occurred a little before 9:30 in the morning at the Nakanobu Station in Tokyo. Moriya was then taken to the hospital and pronounced dead around two hours later. The metropolitan police said they were treating it as a suspected suicide, though no note was found. Two days before his death a TBS program aired about the operating expenses of the Olympic and Paralympic Games. On the show, an anonymous JOC executive voiced his concerns about the exorbitant brokerage fees and huge sums of money being given to advertising agencies entrusted to manage venues for the Games. Some people online are now wondering whether Moriya was the informant, though others noted the anonymous source reportedly held a different position than Moriya.

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Suga Vows to Vaccinate All Japanese Residents by November 

It was the Diet’s first one-on-one parliamentary debate in two years. Unsurprisingly, it centered around the government’s efforts to bring the coronavirus pandemic under control. Yukio Edano, leader of the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, struck first. “It was too early to lift the previous emergency declaration in March,” he said. “A fifth wave of infections must be prevented at all costs. You should present clear and strict criteria (for lifting the state of emergency).” Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga replied by stating that the key to controlling the infections was the vaccination program. He added that 20 million doses had already been administered. “I want to finish inoculating all those who need or want to be vaccinated by October or November,” said Suga. On June 8, the government gave the green light for companies to apply to set up vaccination programs for employees. It’s set to begin on June 21.

Calls for LGBTQ Equality Bill Grow Louder

Around 100 people gathered outside Shibuya Station last Sunday demanding the implementation of an equality bill to protect the rights of Japan’s LGBTQ community. It’s hoped that the legislation will be in place before the Tokyo Games begin on July 23. The Olympic Charter bans “discrimination of any kind,” including on the grounds of sexual orientation. Japan’s the only country in the Group of Seven major industrialized nations where same-sex marriages aren’t legally recognized. Also, due to a fear of prejudice, many sexual minorities here continue to hide their sexual identities. Things are especially difficult for transgender people who must have their original reproductive organs removed before changing genders on official documents. A new equality bill isn’t immediately going to address all those issues, but would be a significant breakthrough. The legislation wasn’t submitted to the parliament session in May due to strong opposition from conservative factions within the LDP.

Slave Labor Case Against 16 Japan Firms Dismissed by Korean Court

A wartime labor lawsuit against 16 Japanese companies was dismissed by the Seoul Central District Court on Monday. There were 85 plaintiffs involved in the case. They consisted of Korean factory laborers forced to work during Japan’s colonial occupation of Korea as well as bereaved relatives. They launched the damages suit in 2015 demanding a total of 8.6 billion won (around $7.74 million). The Japanese government insists that compensation issues were settled in 1965 under a treaty normalizing relations between the two nations. “We cannot say that an individual’s right to claims completely expired under the agreement, but it’s right to interpret that a South Korean national is limited in exercising it against Japan or a Japanese national.” read a statement from the Seoul court. In 2018, the South Korean Supreme Court ordered Nippon Steel and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries to compensate Korean plaintiffs for forced labor between 1910 and 1945.

‘King Kohei’ Qualifies for his Fourth Olympics

He’s widely regarded as the greatest gymnast of all time. Between 2008 and 2016, Kohei Uchimura was so good, his rivals were effectively competing for second place in the all-around competition. Since his two gold medals at the Rio Olympics, however, injures have taken their toll on the legendary figure. His prospects of making the Japan team for Tokyo 2020 didn’t look good. The pandemic gave him that extra time he needed. Just before the Games were canceled last March, he decided to give up on the all-around title to focus on the parallel bar. Competing with Hidenobu Yonekura for the final individual spot, they were tied on points after Sunday’s final. It meant ‘King Kohei’ had qualified for this fourth Olympics as he had a higher world ranking. “When I landed, I thought I blew it,” said Uchimura.  “I don’t think I deserve it. I apologized to Yonekura afterwards.”

Yuka Saso Crowned US Women’s Open Champion

In other sporting news, golfer Yuka Saso became the joint youngest winner of the US Women’s Open last Sunday. At 19 years, 11 months and 17 days, she was exactly the same age as Korea’s Park Inbee when she triumphed in 2008. Saso edged out Japan’s Nasa Hataoka in a three-hole play-off after they tied for the lead on four-under. Born in the Philippines to a Filipina mother and a Japanese father, the teenager holds dual citizenship. She’s expected to represent the country of her birth at the Olympics. In athletics, Ryota Yamagata broke the 100m national record at a meet in Tottori on Sunday. His time of 9.95 seconds was 0.02 seconds faster than the previous record held by Abdul Hakim Sani Brown. In tennis, Kei Nishikori lost in the fourth round of the French Open 6-4, 6-1, 6-1 to German sixth seed Alexander Zverev.

*Featured image by Anna Petek