News Update: Speaking at a press conference in New York on September 22, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida announced that Japan will be accepting visa-free tourists and independent travelers from October 11, 2022. The daily entry cap, currently set at 50,000, will also be lifted. In an attempt to further boost the tourist industry, the government plans to launch a travel discount program on the same day. “I hope many people will utilize it,” said the PM. “I want to support the travel, entertainment and other industries that have been struggling during the coronavirus pandemic.”
In this week’s news roundup, we have the latest on the easing of border restrictions as Japan prepares to accept visa-free tourists from certain (as yet unspecified) countries in October while at the same time, scrapping the daily entry cap. We also report on the Okinawa gubernatorial election, the Queen’s funeral, another Olympic bribery scandal and a shocking crime in Osaka. In sport, Munetaka Murakami edges closer to Japan’s home run record.
Japan Set to Further Ease Its Border Restrictions
To the relief of many, Japan has been gradually easing its border restrictions in recent weeks. However, three issues remain: visa requirements for short-term visitors, tourists having their itineraries managed by travel agencies and the daily entry cap, currently set at 50,000. Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Seiji Kihara told a Fuji TV program on Sunday that the government is considering easing these restrictions in the “not so-distant future.”
According to various reports, that is expected to be in October. “A weak yen is most effective in attracting inbound tourism. And there are the autumn leaves and powder snow. There are many foreign visitors who want to come visit Japan,” said Kihara. A report published yesterday by Nikkei Asia added further weight to the claim. Tourists will need to have been vaccinated three times or supply a pre-arrival test result.
Emperor and Empress to Attend Queen’s Funeral
Emperor Naruhito is set to embark on his first trip abroad since his ascension to the imperial throne in 2019. Both he and Empress Masako will attend the funeral of Queen Elizabeth II scheduled for September 19. Traditionally, emperors do not attend funerals, either at home or abroad. The only time it happened previously was in 1993, when Emperor Akihito and his wife, Empress Michiko traveled to Belgium for the ceremony of King Baudouin.
“From my heart, I declare my gratitude and esteem for her many achievements and contributions,” said the emperor in a message about the Queen conveyed by the Imperial Household Agency. He first met her in 1983 while studying in the UK. In his book, The Thames and I: A Memoir of Two Years at Oxford, he wrote about being impressed by her majesty’s laid-back manner.
Tamaki Reelected as Okinawa Governor
Denny Tamaki secured another four years as Okinawa governor following the gubernatorial election in Japan’s southernmost prefecture on Sunday. The 62-year-old, who was supported by the All Okinawa group and endorsed by four opposition parties, garnered more votes than his two challengers combined. His victory is a blow for the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), who backed his main rival, Atsushi Sakima, 58.
The central issue in the election was the government’s plan to relocate the US Marine Corps Futenma Air Station in Ginowan to the Henoko district of Nago. Tamaki has long been opposed to the proposal. The government, however, remains determined to go through with the plan. “We believe relocating the Futenma facility to Henoko is the only solution,” said Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno on Monday.
Olympics Plagued by Another Bribery Scandal
The Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games continue to make headlines for all the wrong reasons. On Wednesday, Kadokawa Chairman Tsuguhiko Kadokawa, 79, was arrested on suspicion of offering bribes to Haruyuki Takahashi, 78, a former executive of the Games organizing committee. He’s suspected of transferring funds on nine occasions, totaling around ¥69 million. The money was allegedly a reward for helping his company become an official sponsor of the event.
A similar story involving Aoki Holdings emerged a month ago. Takahashi was arrested, accused of receiving bribes of around ¥51 million from the business suit retailer. Aoki’s former chairman Hironori Aoki, his brother Takahisa Aoki and Katsuhisa Ueda were also detained. On September 5, the Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office raided the headquarters of Daiko Advertising. Investigators suspect the Osaka ad agency paid Takahashi more than ¥10 million in bribes.
Father Arrested for Physically Abusing Daughter
Osaka Prefectural Police rearrested Rintaro Hirai, 24, on Monday on suspicion of physically abusing his daughter. He reportedly grabbed her by the ankles and swung her upside down before smashing her head into a table. The incident took place on Boxing Day of last year. It left the then 2-year-old girl with a swollen face which she took around a month to recover from.
Hirai allegedly admitted to the crime. “She was crying and wouldn’t eat her dinner, so I swung her around as punishment but never intended to hit her head against a table,” the police quoted him as saying. The suspect was also arrested in August after his partner reported him to the police for shooting his youngest daughter in the stomach with an air gun. His two children are currently three and five.
And now Munetaka Murakami has tied the great Sadaharu Oh: 55 home runs on the year. One of the great stories in the sports world. pic.twitter.com/PWxRNjuaPt
— Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) September 13, 2022
Murakami Draws Level with Oh
The Japan home run record is edging closer for Munetaka Murakami. The Tokyo Yakult Swallows slugger smashed his 54th homer of the season against the Yomiuri Giants on Tuesday. His 55th came soon after, putting him level with Japanese-born legend Sadaharu Oh. He is now just six away from over-taking outright leader, Wladimir Balentien who hit 60 for the Swallows in 2013.
In European soccer, Reo Hatate’s deflected strike helped Celtic earn their first point in the Champions League. The Scottish champions drew 1-1 with Ukrainian side Shakhtar Donetsk in Group F. In Group D, Daichi Kamada was named player of the match as Eintracht Frankfurt beat Marseille 1-0. Yukinari Sugawara scored in the Europa Conference League for AZ Alkmaar who defeated FC Vaduz 4-1. Keito Nakamura, meanwhile, grabbed another for LASK in the Austrian League.