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GB "Japanews Digest" January 2024

Every week, we scour the web for the hottest Japanese news items. At the end of the month, we translate a selection of articles into English and curate them into a little digest so you can get an overview of the latest news that moves Japan. The digest is divided up into 4 categories in no particular order: Economy, Corporate, Society and Politics.

The following covers major news highlights of January 2024, presented in chronological order per category.


Ride-Sharing Services to Be Legalized in Tokyo (January 10)

Ride-sharing services for taxi dispatch will be legalized in certain areas of Tokyo starting April this year. The Tokyo Hire-Taxi Association announced this decision, enabling ride requests via a dedicated smartphone app at fares comparable to regular taxis

Nikkei Stock Average Surpasses 35,000 Yen Mark (January 11th)

Closing at 35,049 yen on the 11th, boosted by strong performance in US stocks, the Nikkei Stock Average hit a record high for the third consecutive day. Surpassing 35,000 yen hasn't happened since February 1990. The all-time high (post-war high) of 38,915 yen recorded in December 1989 is faintly visible.

Economic News: Spending by Inbound Tourists Exceeds ¥5 Trillion for First Time (January 17)

In fiscal year 2023, spending by inbound foreign tourists (preliminary figure) exceeded ¥5.29 trillion, reaching a record high. The recovery of inbound tourists to around 25 million annually, coupled with the depreciation of the yen, contributed to this increase

Nikkei Stock Average Surpasses ¥36,000 Mark (January 22)

The closing price on the 22nd reached ¥36,546, setting a new record high since the burst of the bubble economy. This positive trend in the Nikkei Stock Average at the beginning of the week follows the S&P 500 hitting an all-time high on the 19th

Real Wages Record Negative Growth for 20th Consecutive Month (January 10

)Real wages per worker in November last year decreased by 3.0% compared to the same period the previous year. Despite an increasing trend in nominal wages (total cash payments), real take-home income has been declining for 20 consecutive months due to rising prices


Pokémon Company Issues Statement Regarding Similar Game from Another Company (January 25)

The Pokémon Company commented on the PC game "Palworld," featuring characters similar to Pokémon. They stated that they had not granted any authorization and would take appropriate action after conducting an investigation. "Palworld," released on the 19th of this month, sold 7 million copies in five days but sparked controversy for featuring characters seemingly plagiarized from Pokémon

Toyota Motor Corporation Faces Certification Fraud Issue with Engines (January 29)

Certification fraud was discovered in diesel engines developed and manufactured by Toyota-affiliated companies. This led to the suspension of shipments for ten models, including "HiLux" and "Land Cruiser 300," for the domestic market and the halting of production at four domestic factories. The investigation report highlighted the lack of compliance awareness among managerial staff, who were aware of and approved the fraud. Toyota Motor Corporation previously faced a certification fraud issue at its subsidiary, Daihatsu, dating back 30 years (in December). Production at the factories affected by this issue is still suspended


M7.6 Earthquake Strikes Noto Peninsula, Ishikawa Prefecture (January 1)

A magnitude 7.6 earthquake occurred in Ishikawa Prefecture, with 57 confirmed fatalities as of the 3rd. Prime Minister Kishida established an emergency disaster response headquarters, and the Japan Meteorological Agency named it the "2024 Noto Peninsula Earthquake

222 Confirmed Dead in Ishikawa Prefecture (January 15)

Two weeks have passed since the earthquake, and 222 fatalities have been confirmed in Ishikawa Prefecture. Ninety percent of the deceased were confirmed in the cities of Suzu and Wajima on the Noto Peninsula

Death Sentence for 19-Year-Old Defendant (January 18)

In Kofu District Court, a 19-year-old male (now 21) who murdered the parents of a woman received a death sentence. The defense argued that the defendant had a mental disorder and lacked responsibility at the time of the crime. The court concluded that he was responsible based on the premeditation of the crime

JAXA Probe Successfully Lands on Moon (January 20)

JAXA's unmanned probe "SLIM," launched in September last year, successfully landed on the moon early on the 20th (Japan time). Japan became the fifth country to achieve a lunar landing, attempting a pinpoint landing within 100 meters (success uncertain) but facing uncertainty due to solar panel malfunction

Public Disclosure of Draft Amendment (Outline) for Introducing "Joint Custody" (January 31st)

Introducing "joint custody" where both parents have custody of the child after divorce. It will be possible to choose between "sole custody," where one of the parents holds custody, and the traditional system, along with "joint custody," when parents cannot agree on custody, such as in cases of domestic violence. The Family Court will make appropriate judgments when the parties cannot agree on custody. Adjustments are being made to submit the amendment to the current Diet session.


Arrest of LDP's Yoshitaka Ikeda, Implicated in Abe Faction Kickback Scandal (January 6th)

Yoshitaka Ikeda, a member of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), was arrested on suspicion of violating the Political Funds Control Act by conspiring with his secretary to not report a portion of party ticket income in political funding reports. It is estimated that he had pocketed over 48 million yen over the past five years until 2022.

Kickback Suspicions in Kishida Faction: Prime Minister Kishida Attributes it to "Administrative Oversight" (January 18th)

Suspicions arose regarding the failure to report 30 million yen worth of party ticket income in political funding reports. Prime Minister Kishida explained it as an administrative mistake (oversight). The "Kishida Faction" was chaired by Prime Minister Kishida until last December.

LDP Members, Yoshikazu Tanigawa and Yasumasa Ono, Prosecuted (January 19th)

Both Tanigawa and Ono were affiliated with the "Abe Faction." They were prosecuted on suspicion of violating the Political Funds Control Act by failing to report kickback amounts in their funding reports. They both had omissions of over 40 million yen, larger than those of other members, which was taken into consideration. Tanigawa is considering resigning from his position as a member of parliament, while Ono has left the LDP.

Accountability of "Abe Faction," "Nikai Faction," and "Kishida Faction" Leaders: Simultaneous Prosecution (January 19th)

Leaders of the "Abe Faction" failed to report a total of 1.3 billion yen, the "Nikai Faction" 264 million yen, and the "Kishida Faction" 30 million yen in their funding reports, suspected of leading kickbacks. Except for Yoshitaka Ikeda, who was previously arrested, no collusion with faction members was confirmed, resulting in prosecution only for the accounting officers.

Disbandment of "Abe Faction," "Nikai Faction," and "Kishida Faction" Announced (January 19th)

With the dissolution of the three factions, 180 members will become unaffiliated. Combined with the 75 originally unaffiliated members, over half of the LDP's parliamentary members will be independent.

Self-Defense Force Officers' Visits to Yasukuni Shrine Conclude with Disciplinary Action for Separate Matter (January 26)

On the 9th of this month, 22 Self-Defense Force members, including the Vice Chief of Staff of the Ground Staff Office, visited Yasukuni Shrine. The Ministry of Defense investigated potential violations of internal directives prohibiting shrine visits by military personnel. The investigation concluded that the visits themselves were not problematic but found three senior officers, including the Vice Chief of Staff, had used official vehicles for the visits. They received disciplinary action

Prime Minister Kishida Considering Introducing Joint Liability System (January 29th)

Prime Minister Kishida addressed the kickback issue in the Diet session, revealing that the Liberal Democratic Party is considering discussing and considering a revision of the Political Funds Control Act, including the introduction of a joint liability system.

The joint liability system automatically dismisses related lawmakers if individuals in important positions of political organizations, such as the chief accountant, are convicted. The joint liability system has already been adopted in the Public Offices Election Act. If election managers or relatives are convicted of election violations, their election is invalidated.

【213th Regular Diet Session】 Prime Minister Kishida's Policy Speech: "A Year to Feel Achievements" (January 30th)

Prime Minister Kishida delivered a policy speech at the convening of the regular Diet session, outlining the government's policy for the year. Key themes include reconstruction of areas affected by the Noto Peninsula earthquake, complete departure from deflation, political reform in light of factional kickback issues, and comprehensive strengthening of childcare policies. Regarding the complete departure from deflation, he emphasized making it "a year to feel achievements."

The regular Diet session was convened on the 26th. While it is customary to deliver a policy speech on the day of the session, this year, concentrated deliberations between the ruling and opposition parties were conducted prior to the policy speech, in response to the factional kickback issue.


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