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Shinzo Abe Passes Hirobumi Ito

SNA (Tokyo) — The following stories were reported recently by the Shingetsu News Agency.

Top Headline

—Shinzo Abe has now been prime minister of Japan for more days than Hirobumi Ito, Japan’s first prime minister and senior figure of the Meiji Era. Overall, Abe now holds the 3rd longest tenure as prime minister in Japanese history. In December, he may hold the No. 1 spot.


—In their latest stunt to gain public attention, the centrist Democratic Party For the People to run former wrestler Antonio Inoki as one of their proportional representation candidates in the House of Councillors elections.

—In Warabi city, Saitama Prefecture, Hideo Yoritaka, the nation’s only mayor who is a member of the Japan Communist Party, is reelected to a 4th term, defeating the latest challenger thrown at him by the conservative ruling party.

—Shingo Mimura elected to a 5th term as Governor of Aomori Prefecture. His challenger, Wakako Sahara, had the united support of the main opposition parties behind her but came nowhere close with about 25% of the vote. Voter turnout was a miserable 40%.

—A petition with almost 19,000 signatures submitted to the Labor Ministry demanding ban on work dress codes requiring women to wear high heels. The #KuToo movement gaining increased attention as an aspect of the struggle against gender discrimination.

—Health, Labor and Welfare Minister Takumi Nemoto declares himself opposed to the #KuToo movement in Diet testimony: “It’s generally accepted by society that wearing high heels is necessary and reasonable in workplaces.”

—Opposition parties led by the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan submit a bill to the Diet that would legalize same-sex marriage. The ruling conservatives and Abe government expected to block its passage, as they remain behind the general public on this issue.

—Japan’s ruling and opposition parties agree to a joint resolution condemning Hodaka Maruyama for comments about retaking the Northern Territories by war. It says that Maruyama has undermined the authority and dignity of Diet members.

—Centrist opposition lawmaker Kazunori Yamanoi looking to join the parliamentary caucus of the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan after leaving the Democratic Party For the People.


—Russia Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov: “We continue to explain to our Japanese colleagues the need to conclude a peace treaty that would not simply be a peace treaty signed a day after the end of the war but that reflects the current level of relations between Russia and Japan.”

—Japan Innovation Party leader Ichiro Matsui apologizes directly to the organizers of the visa-free trip to Kunashiri in May on which party member Hodaka Maruyama disgraced himself. Maruyama asked if Japan should retake the islands by war. He has been expelled from the party.

—Defense Minister Takeshi Iwaya highlights the threat of North Korea at the Asia Security Summit: “We need to remind ourselves of the undeniable fact that there has been no essential change in North Korea’s nuclear and missile capacities.”

—Government trapped between its newfound desire to hold a bilateral summit between Shinzo Abe and Kim Jong-Un “without conditions,” and its inability to use anything but harsh, admonishing language when speaking in public about North Korea.

—Defense Minister Takeshi Iwaya meets South Korean Defense Minister Jeong Kyeong-Doo in Singapore. They still don’t agree on the maritime radar lock-on incident last December. “I believe there is only one truth,” Iwaya states.

—After Tokyo began tightening inspections on imported Korean seafood in retaliation for Seoul’s restrictions on seafood imports from the Fukushima area, Korea and Japan held working level talks on Wednesday to discuss this issue and others, including wartime forced labor.

—Prime Minister Shinzo Abe schedules historic Iran visit for next week. He will also meet with Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in addition to government leaders such as President Hassan Rouhani.

—Japan has suspended its search for the F-35A that crashed April 9 off the coast of Aomori, in spite of the fact that they continue to assert that the wreckage contains valuable technological secrets they want to keep out of the hands of China and Russia.

—It has happened again. Another US military helicopter accidentally drops something onto a school in Okinawa. This time it was a twenty-gram piece of rubber tape that fell onto the tennis court of a school in the city of Urasoe.


—Japanese automakers worried by US President Donald Trump’s threats to slap tariffs on Mexico over immigration matters. Many companies have auto assembly plants in Mexico under the terms of the NAFTA agreement, and now the rules are suddenly being changed.

—Tokyo Metropolitan Government launching campaign to promote trips to Fukushima Prefecture as part of its support for reconstruction after the 2011 tsunami and nuclear disaster.

—On June 2, 239 Japanese boats set out to begin harvesting kombu (kelp) around Kaigara Island, part of the disputed Habomais. Since 1963, Russia and Japan have had an agreement to permit such access. This year Japan is paying 90.8 million yen (US$830,000) for access.

—During the first four months of 2019, 186,000 right-hand-drive cars were sold in Russia, an increase of 3.6% from the same period in 2018. These are primarily second-hand cars imported from Japan. Toyotas account for more than half of the vehicles.

—Mitsui & Co. close to finalizing agreement to invest in Novatec’s Arctic LNG-2. The Japanese consortium, which will include Mitsubishi Corporation and the government’s JOGMEC, is expected to take a 10% stake worth $2.5-$3 billion. The deal may be officially signed at G20. At first, Mitsui and Mitsubishi were not enthusiastic about Arctic LNG-2, worried about the high costs and the risk of US sanctions. However, the Japanese firms have warmed to the project, encouraged by the Abe government’s promise to finance half the stake with public money.

—Fiat Chrysler has withdrawn its merger offer to Renault after negotiations hit some sort of snag.

—The French government turns against Carlos Ghosn, announcing that they will back a legal action by Renault charging that Ghosn had 11 million euros (US$12.4 million) in questionable expenses. It’s not immediately clear why France has now decided to throw Ghosn under the bus.

—Low-cost carrier Jetstar Japan canceling some of its domestic and international flights this month because they cannot secure a sufficient number of pilots. They say that they will return to regular service next month.

—Abe government estimates that there are about 1 million long-term unemployed people in Japan in the 35-45 approximate age range. They are considering plans to create employment for some of these people.

—Japan Business Federation (Keidanren) chief Hiroaki Nakanishi’s health problem revealed to be lymphoma. He will undergo treatment and retain his current positions, taking a leave of absence.


—An automated train operated by Yokohama Seaside Line moves in the wrong direction and slams into a bumping post. Passengers inside the train were thrown to the ground, injuring about twenty people, including three serious injuries.

—Abe government considers pushing hospitals to install facial recognition systems to identify patients and prevent fraudulent use of MyNumber cards. This sounds to us like a solution in search of a problem, as we are not aware of rampant fraud of this nature in Japan.

—Abe government trying to find more situations in which the unpopular MyNumber cards can be used so as to convince more of the general public to obtain them.

—Environment Minister Yoshiaki Harada plans to make it mandatory for stores to charge an extra fee to shoppers who utilize single-use plastic bags. The fee will be small and not standardized by the government, but this is meant as a symbolic measure.

—East Japan Railway (JR East) spending about 4 billion yen (US$37 million) to develop an experimental electric-powered trains using hydrogen fuel cells. They hope to commercialize the hydrogen-fueled trains by FY2024.

—Tokyo Metropolitan Government to ban use of plastic cups at official events from next April, and are considering drawing up measures against plastic bottles and straws as well.


—Legal revisions are effectuated that will now require police and prosecutors to record interrogations of suspects in the most serious criminal cases. This is meant to deter (extremely) forced confessions, but many loopholes remain.

—Jiji Press: National Police Agency reports that 47 teachers in Japan were charged in 2018 with possessing child pornography.

—Hideaki Kumazawa, the former top bureaucrat of the Agriculture Ministry and former ambassador to the Czech Republic, has admitted to stabbing his son to death.

—ASIJ Parent Teacher Association donates an 100 million yen (about US$920,000) endowment gift to the American School In Japan. The ASIJ hopes to utilize this endowment and others to reduce its dependence on tuition.

—A fishing boat swept away from Ishinomaki, Miyagi Prefecture, by the March 11, 2011, tsunami has been found floating off the coast of Kochi Prefecture, more than eight years later, with large shellfish clinging to its sides.

—Measles patients in Japan more than double last year’s number, with at least 566 cases reported so far. The hardest-hit prefecture is Osaka, although the spread is national.

—A woman sues three medical schools for denying her admission on the basis of gender and age discrimination. In fact, some of the schools have already admitted that her test scores were high enough to secure her entry, but the scores were secretly lowered to deny her.

—The Yokohama Municipal Subway Blue Line train departing from Shimoiida Station derailed. All 120 commuters on six different cars were reported uninjured.

Note: There were no separate “Today in Japan” reports issued between June 1 and June 7.

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