Latest news, in-depth features and opinion on Japan, covering politics, economy, society, the country's relationships with China, North Korea and South Korea and the legacy of World War Two in Asia.


‘This is 2020’: Japan lampooned for filing Covid-19 cases by fax
Japan’s stubborn reliance on the fax machine has been hit by a storm of ridicule after a frustrated doctor went on a Twitter tirade about the legal requirement that hospitals complete paperwork on coronavirus cases by hand then fax it to public health centers so they can compile statistics. The doctor, apparently a specialist in respiratory medicine at a public hospital, wrote: “Come on, let’s stop this.” “Reporting cases in handwriting? Even with the coronavirus, we are writing by hand and faxing.” He added that the practice was “Showa period stuff,” referring to the imperial era that ran from 1926 until the death of Emperor Hirohito in 1989. Yet fax still reigns supreme in Japan, with a re
‘Lonely’ Japanese eels get some face time
Workers at Tokyo’s Sumida Aquarium, which has been closed since March because of the coronavirus, noticed that their garden eels had become too shy to monitor. The aquarium appealed to the public to use video calling software to dial in and keep the eels more socially engaged. The three-day event ended on May 5.
Forget coronavirus babies. Japan may see a ‘corona divorce’ spike
The term “corona divorce” is trending on Japanese social media as couples forced to stay home because of the global Covid-19 pandemic air their grievances about the state of their marriages. Twitter, in particular, is serving as a forum for frustrated wives to vent about inconsiderate or demanding husbands. Many messages include hints – veiled or otherwise – that they are at the end of their rope. Reports suggest couples who are being forced together in other parts of the world are facing similar relationship challenges, but the term “corona divorce” resonates particularly in Japan.  In the 1980s, the term “Narita divorce” took hold to describe newlywed couples returning to Tokyo’s Narita A
Keep the red light shining? Japan’s sex industry faces a dilemma
Japan’s nightlife venues are facing dire times after the country declared a state of emergency over the coronavirus pandemic. That poses a dilemma for the country’s ever-thriving adult entertainment industry: do they stay open and try to maintain clients while risking their health? Or shut entirely and face losses? Unlike the country’s restaurants, which have started offering “bento” takeout lunchboxes as alternatives to drinking and snacking at after-work izakaya bars, adult venues rely on face-to-face contact.  These range from hostess clubs, where stressed salarymen can chat with a young woman for a fee, to pinsaro, or oral sex bars, where clients can rent a 40-minute booth for around $5
Japan may be sleepwalking into a coronavirus crisis
Japan’s top government spokesman on Monday moved to dispel growing talk of a lockdown in the capital Tokyo, amid concerns that restrictions on movement would wreak damage on an economy already walloped by the economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic. “It’s not true that the government is planning on declaring a state of emergency from April 1,” said Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga.  He added that an expected phone call between Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the head of the World Health Organization, had nothing to do with that topic. But a top Japanese doctor called on Abe to issue an emergency decree to fight the outbreak. “If we wait until an explosiv
2020 Tokyo Olympics postponed for one year
The 2020 Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo have officially been postponed because of health concerns stemming from the coronavirus pandemic. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said he asked for a one-year postponement and the International Olympic Committee has agreed.
Was Japan behind a mysterious bid to buy Macau outright?
In the 1930s, Western newspapers were in the habit of portraying Macau as a haven of pirates, scoundrels and ne’er-do-wells, gambling the days away and smoking opium by night. Maurice Dekobra, a bestselling French writer of the inter­war years, had a hit with his 1938 novel, Macao, enfer du jeu (Macao, Gambling Hell), which became an equally sensationalist film. Lacking Peking’s bohemianism, Shanghai’s modernity or Hong Kong’s dynamism, Macau sat in the South China Sea, fanning itself in the heat, a decaying relic of the diminished Portuguese empire. The economy was hurting thanks to the British Royal Navy’s suppression of piracy and smuggling. Officially, it was good news, but not for Maca
Tokyo, Melbourne, Hong Kong: the world’s safest cities
Antte Alatalo had a surprise when he first walked around Seoul at night. There wasn’t anything to fear. The Finnish exchange student, 23, said the experience was in contrast to European cities, which were often unnerving after dark. “I have never felt isolated walking alone in Seoul as there are always other people strolling around in almost any part of the city, even late at night,” he said, adding “I have never seen a fight breaking out since I came here.” Among Alatalo and other international visitors, Seoul’s reputation as a safe city has been steadily gaining for years. The bi-yearly Safe Cities Index by The Economist Intelligence Unit ranked it the eighth safest city in the world in 2
China’s economy looks like Japan’s in the 1990s, and that’s not good
China’s economy is flashing worrying signs reminiscent of Japan’s economic bubble in the 1990s, said a Japanese economist. Japan’s home prices nosedived in 1992 after a period of asset price inflation and sank the economy into a recession that lasted almost 25 years. Naoyuku Yoshino, dean and CEO of the Asian Development Bank Institute, said China’s housing sector is looking similar to what it was like in Japan three decades ago. As Japan did then, China in recent years has adopted a loose monetary policy that has fueled a housing bubble, he said. Couple these with an impending demographic shift – China’s population is rapidly aging and its workforce is shrinking – Yoshino said he is concern
The crown jewel of American fighter jets crashed in China’s backyard
When an American-developed F-35 fighter jet went missing on Tuesday minutes after it took off from an airbase in north-eastern Japan, several US military analysts reacted in alarm. This was a “big deal,” tweeted Thomas Moore, a former staffer at the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations. “There is no price too high in this world for China and Russia to pay to get Japan's missing F-35, if they can.” As China has ramped up its efforts to develop a fighter fleet to rival that of the US, the Chinese military has seen the F-35, the result of the most expensive weapons program in American history, as a model to match and to beat. There is no price too high in this world for China and Russia to pay