Japan’s Top News of 2023 / Sports Events Bring Jubilation to Japan After End of COVID-19 Pandemic

The long and anguishing COVID-19 pandemic has finally ended. As if bursting forth with their pent-up energy, athletes and others in various fields exhibited their prowess.

The achievements of Japan’s national baseball team Samurai Japan topped the list of this year’s top 10 Japanese news stories chosen by Yomiuri Shimbun readers. The team won the World Baseball Classic for the first time in 14 years, sending the entire nation into a joyous celebration.

In addition, Shohei Ohtani becoming the No. 1 home run hitter in Major League Baseball in the United States ranked second, and the Hanshin Tigers claiming their first Japan championship title in 38 years ranked fifth, putting topics from the baseball world high on the list.

The Tigers’ young players showed their strength, and the slogan “A.R.E.” — a term that Tigers manager Akinobu Okada used to refer to the team’s championship — has become a buzzword among the public.

In the shogi world, too, a young star made a remarkable accomplishment. Many people must have been thrilled by the news that Ryuo titleholder Sota Fujii became the first shogi player to win all eight major titles, a story that ranked fourth.

The measures against the spread of the coronavirus that had been in place for three years reached a major turning point. Ranked seventh was the lowering of the classification of COVID-19 under the Infectious Diseases Law to Category V, which includes seasonal influenza. Restrictions on social and economic activities were eased, and tourist destinations started to bustle again.

Despite the positive signs, this year was also marked by a mounting outcry against despicable crimes. A number of incidents occurred across the nation involving people in “dark” part-time jobs who are recruited via social media to carry out robberies. The arrest of ringleaders, including a man who went by the name “Luffy” and gave instructions, ranked sixth.

It is extremely serious that young people are being lured by high rewards to commit vile crimes. While such ill-considered behavior is rightly condemned, it has been pointed out that the incidents also reflect distortions in society such as the problem of poverty in the younger generation.

Ranking third was the news that Johnny & Associates, Inc. admitted to and apologized for the sexual abuse of the talent agency’s male entertainers by its founder Johnny Kitagawa, a revelation that shocked many people. The company has revamped its system and is working to provide relief to the victims.

This situation must be seized as an opportunity for society as a whole to share the recognition that sexual abuse and sexual harassment should not be tolerated.

Incidents of corporate misconduct happened one after another. Fraudulent insurance claims by used car dealer Bigmotor Co. ranked eighth, and Daihatsu Motor Co. this month was found to have conducted crash tests improperly, leading to the suspension of shipments of all its car models.

Near the end of the year, allegations emerged that Liberal Democratic Party factions had created hidden funds using the ticket sales of political fundraising parties, and the special investigation squad of the Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office is investigating cases. Public distrust remains strong toward the issue of politics and money. Clarifying the precise picture is essential.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Dec. 25, 2023)