Officials say Olympic cancellation, no fans still an option
Officials say Olympic cancellation, no fans still an option
Credit: Kyle Dias

According to the Kyodo news agency, Toshihiro Nikai, the secretary general of Japan's ruling Liberal Democratic party, said in a television interview on Thursday that cancelling this year's Olympic Games could be an option if Covid-19 infections continue to rise.

It is the first time that a senior government figure has admitted on the record that the Tokyo competition might not go ahead should the pandemic situation in Japan intensify.

Climate & Environment
Japan wants to discharge one million tonnes of contaminated Fukushima water into the sea
IAEA Experts at Fukushima
IAEA Experts at Fukushima Credit: IAEA Imagebank (Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 2.0)

Japan will discharge over one million tonnes of treated water from the Fukushima disaster reactor into the sea. Head of government Yoshihide Suga announced this decision to dispose of the water on Tuesday. The plans have already sparked protests from environmentalists, fishermen and farmers in the region, as well as concern in Beijing and Seoul. Dumping the water is expected to take years.

Regional News • World
North Korea will not participate in Tokyo Summer Olympics over fear of Covid-19
North Korea will not participate in Tokyo Summer Olympics over fear of Covid-19
Credit: unsplash.com / Thomas Evans

North Korea will not attend the upcoming Summer Olympics in Tokyo, Japan due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the North's Olympic Committee announced, saying it "decided not to participate in the 32nd Olympic Games during the general assembly to protect our athletes from the global health crisis situation related to the coronavirus as proposed by committee members."

The country, which has a history of no transparency, claims that it has not had any confirmed cases nor deaths related to Covid-19.

Diversity & Inclusion
District court in japan rules ban of same-sex marriage unconstitutional

A district court in the northern Japanese city of Sapporo ruled on Wednesday that the state's refusal to legally recognize same-sex marriages was unconstitutional, according to media reports. Japan is the only country in the Group of Seven major industrialized nations (G7) that does not allow same-sex marriage.

Regional News • Asia • Japan
Japan appoints a "Minister for Loneliness" to tackle increase in suicides

Tetsushi Sakamoto was appointed "Minister for Loneliness" by Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga earlier in February after Japan saw the first rise in suicides in 11 years in 2020. 20,919 people committed suicide in Japan in 2020, 750 more than in 2019. A department will further investigate the impact of the "many kinds of loneliness".

Regional News • World
New Covid-19 strain found in 91 cases in Japan
New Covid-19 strain found in 91 cases in Japan
Credit: unsplash.com/Fusion Medical Animation

A new, possible more contagious Covid-19 strain has been found in 91 cases in eastern Japan, Japan's chief cabinet secretary Katsunobu Kato confirmed. The new strain contains the E484K mutation, which was first identified in the South African SARS-CoV-2 variant and later in the UK variant.

Arts, Entertainment, Culture • Art & Design
Netflix to offer anime scholarship taught by Studio Ghibli animator
Netflix to offer anime scholarship taught by Studio Ghibli animator
Credit: Studio Ghibli, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Netflix has teamed up with Japanese anime studio WIT Studio to offer a 6-month long full scholarship for up-and-coming anime artists created by former Studio Ghibli animator Hitomi Tateno. The scholarship will be offered to ten individuals and will take place at the Sasayuri Video Training Institute in Tokyo. Students between the ages of 18 and 25 can apply and, while non-Japanese citizens may be considered they must have conversational Japanese.

Tokyo 2020 Olympics chief Yoshiro Mori resigned
Yoshiro Mori
Yoshiro Mori Credit: World Economic Forum (Creative Commons Attribution 2.0)

After his apology for sexist remarks failed to quell domestic and overseas outrage, Yoshiro Mori resigned his position as the president of the Tokyo Olympics Organising Committee.

Last week, Mori sparked international outrage by saying, "Board meetings with women take too long because they talk too much." The 83-year-old former prime minister of Japan later apologized, but by then, the damage had been done.

Sports • Soccer
Soccer: Kazuyoshi Miura to play on at 54 after signing an extension with Yokohama FC
Kazuyoshi Miura in 2012
Kazuyoshi Miura in 2012 Credit: norio nakayama (Creative Commons Attribution 2.0)

Japanese soccer legend Kazuyoshi Miura is set to play another season after extending his contract with Yokohama FC. Miura will be aged 54 when the season starts.

The striker is one of the most revered sportsmen in Japan and was at the forefront of the country's football boom in the early 1990s when he was the poster boy of the newly launched league in 1993.

The Guinness World Record for the oldest professional footballer is held by Israeli Isaak Hayik, who played in goal last April for Israel's Ironi Or Yehuda, aged 73.

Regional News • Asia • Japan
Tokyo: State of emergency declared issued amid Coronavirus surge

Japan has issued a month-long state of emergency for Tokyo and three surrounding areas - Saitama, Kanagawa and Chiba. Schools, gyms, cinemas and theatres will be allowed to remain open under certain restrictions. Restaurants will have to shorten their opening hours or be "named and shamed" by the government. The state of emergency will end of February 7th.

Regional News • Asia • Japan
Japan considers 1-month long state of emergency for Tokyo area

Japan is considering declaring a state of emergency as numbers of Coronavirus cases rise. It would apply to Tokyo and the three neighboring prefectures of Chiba, Saitama and Kanagawa. In his new year's speech, Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga already hinted at measures to keep the virus from spreading. Japan reported 4520 new cases on December 31st and 3158 on January 3rd.

Science • Space
To cut space junk, Japan is developing LignoSat, a wooden satellite
To cut space junk, Japan is developing LignoSat, a wooden satellite

The Japanese company Sumitomo Forestry and the Kyoto University have joined forces to develop what they hope will be the world's first satellites made out of wood by 2023.

As space junk becomes an increasing problem, wooden satellites would burn up without releasing harmful substances into the atmosphere or raining debris on the ground when they plunge back to Earth.

Lifestyle • Travel
Super Nintendo World in Osaka's Universal Studios Japan to open in February
Screenshot of Super Nintendo World Direct
Screenshot of Super Nintendo World Direct Credit: Nintendo via YouTube

Super Nintendo World in Osaka's Universal Studios Japan is set to open in February. During the company’s latest Direct live stream, game director Shigeru Miyamoto led a video tour through the new theme park that's modelled after the Mushroom Kingdom.

Visitors can use smart wristbands, the so-called "Power-Up Band", to interact with the attractions, such as punching question mark or POW blocks.

Super Nintendo World is set to open to visitors on February 4, 2021 and is planning to launch parks in other cities across the world.

Regional News • Asia • Japan
Takahiro Shiraishi, Japan's 'Twitter killer', has been sentenced to death for the murder of 9
Murder scene of Zama Suicide Pact Slayings in 2017 (Zama, Japan)
Murder scene of Zama Suicide Pact Slayings in 2017 (Zama, Japan) Credit: Asanagi, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

Takahiro Shiraishi, who admitted to the murder of nine people he had befriended on Twitter, has been sentenced to death in Japan. Shiraishi strangled and dismembered eight women and one man over the course of three months. All of his victims had expressed suicidal thoughts prior to their death on Twitter, but "none of the nine victims consented to be killed, including by silent consent" so the the judge, Naokuni Yano, found.

Climate & Environment
Ocean Panel countries commit to higher level of ocean protection
Manta Ray
Manta Ray Credit: Tchami (Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 2.0)

14 countries worldwide have committed themselves to the sustainable management of their national waters. The "Ocean Panel" is a body for sustainable marine management. A goal is it to place until 2030 a third of the seas under protection.

Involved are countries like Australia, Canada, Ghana, Indonesia, Japan, Kenya, Mexico, Norway and Portugal. Together they have a marine area that is about the size of Africa.

Science • Space
Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency successfully lands capsule with asteroid samples
Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency successfully lands capsule with asteroid samples
Credit: Courtesy of Twitter / Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency

According to the project manager for the asteroid mission, Dr Yuichi Tsuda, the capsule with asteroid samples has been successfully landed in Australia, and "the capsule collection was perfectly done". The samples will now be analyzed for research purposes in order to gather further information about our solar system.

Business • Economy
New World's largest trades bloc created

15 countries have formed the world's largest trading bloc.

It is named 'RCEP', short for 'Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership'. The countries involved include 10 Southeastern Asian companies, South Korea, China, Japan, Australia and New Zealand.

The long road to this point started back in 2012. The US was excluded from the deal after pulling out of a rival Asia-Pacific deal in 2017.

The deal was confirmed by each individual country signing copies of the trade agreement, and then showing it to a camera in a virtual ceremony.

Regional News • Asia • Japan
Japanese government announces that taxis in Tokyo can refuse passengers without masks
Japanese government announces that taxis in Tokyo can refuse passengers without masks
Credit: unsplash.com / Josh Wilburne

The Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism (MLIT) has approved a new regulation for taxi operators, which states that they can refuse passengers who are not wearing masks. Drivers are required to ask customers why they do not wear masks when they board and check to see if there are any unavoidable circumstances, such as illness. The Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism explains the reason for the approval, saying, "This is not only for the driver but also to prevent the next passenger from becoming infected".

Climate & Environment
The U.S. formally withdraws from Paris agreement

After a three-year delay, the US has become the first nation in the world to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement formally. In the wake of the President Donald Trump announcement back in 2017, several states and businesses have pledged to continue cutting carbon and to try and make up for the Federal government's decision to walk away from the US commitment under Paris.

"The EU green deal and carbon neutrality commitments from China, Japan and South Korea point to the inevitability of our collective transition off fossil fuels," said Laurence Tubiana, one of the architects of the Paris agreement and now chief executive of the European Climate Foundation.

Climate & Environment
Japan aims for zero emissions by 2050
Prime Minister of Japan Yoshihide Suga
Prime Minister of Japan Yoshihide Suga Credit: 内閣官房内閣広報室 (Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 4.0)

Japan will aim to become carbon-neutral by 2050, said Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga in his first policy speech since taking office in September. The country emitted 1.24 billion metric tonnes of greenhouse gases in 2018.

Environmental groups have criticized Japan in the past for its slow progress in cutting emissions. This new commitment was commented by Greenpeace as "precisely the kind of action the world needs" while cautioning that it must be met by the policy.