Timeline for November 2014Politics Economy Science Technology Society
A new law goes into effect requiring the national government to take steps to prevent suicides and other deaths caused by overwork. Under the law, the government will conduct research and public awareness campaigns, establish counseling services, and provide support for nongovernmental organizations. Every year around 30,000 people commit suicide in Japan; more than 2,000 of these cases are said to be caused by “problems at work.”
Japanese Ambassador to China Kitera Masato sends a document to Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi expressing regret at coral poaching by Chinese fishing vessels and asking China to help prevent a recurrence. The number of vessels has rapidly increased around the Ogasawara Islands since September and around the Izu Islands since October. On October 30, approximately 50 vessels were sighted around the Ogasawara Islands and approximately 160 around the Izu Islands.
In the wake of the Bank of Japan’s October 31 announcement of a fresh round of quantitative easing, the yen falls rapidly against the dollar to reach the 114 level, the lowest since December 2007. The Nikkei index rises above the 17,000 threshold for the first time in seven years.
The Supreme Court upholds a decision to allow the auction of the Tokyo property that serves as the headquarters for the General Association of Korean Residents in Japan to Marunaka Holdings, a real estate developer based in Takamatsu, Kagawa Prefecture, rejecting the complaint filed by the association. On November 18, Marunaka Holdings pays the purchase price of ¥2.21 billion to the Tokyo District Court and on November 21 ownership is transferred to the developer. The headquarters had served as the de facto North Korean embassy in Japan, as there are no formal diplomatic relations between the two countries; North Korea strongly opposed the sale.
The Japanese and Chinese governments issue a joint document, “Regarding Discussions toward Improving Japan-China Relations,” ahead of a first meeting between Prime Minister Abe Shinzō and President Xi Jinping at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit held in Beijing from November 10. In the four-point document, the sides agree that they will follow “the spirit of squarely facing history” while recognizing that “they had different views” regarding the Senkaku Islands.
Kagoshima Prefecture Governor Itō Yūichirō approves the restart of Kyūshū Electric Power Company’s Sendai Nuclear Power Plant. It is the first such approval since new regulations were introduced following the March 2011 accident at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant; the restart is planned for 2015.
Anime director Miyazaki Hayao receives an honorary Oscar from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for his contributions to the film world. Miyazaki is the second Japanese winner of the honorary award following Kurosawa Akira in 1990.
Prime Minister Abe meets Russian President Vladimir Putin in Beijing. The two leaders agree to make preparations for a visit by Putin to Japan at an appropriate time in 2015 after differences over the worsening situation in Ukraine led to a postponement of Putin’s planned visit this autumn.
Prime Minister Abe meets President Xi of China at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing. The two leaders do not discuss issues relating to the Senkaku Islands or Yasukuni Shrine, agreeing instead to return to the starting point of a “mutually beneficial relationship based on common strategic interests.” It is the first meeting between Japanese and Chinese leaders since May 2012.
A meeting between leaders of the 12 countries engaged in Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations is held in Beijing. The leaders’ joint statement declares that “with the end coming into focus, we have instructed our ministers and negotiators to make concluding this agreement a top priority.” No exact time is given for a final agreement, but it is unlikely to be reached during 2014.
Film star Takakura Ken, born Oda Gōichi, dies at the age of 83 of malignant lymphoma in a Tokyo hospital. Takakura was one of Japan’s biggest stars, appearing in 205 films over his career, including Shiawase no kiiroi hankachi (The Yellow Handkerchief) and Poppoya (Railroad Man). His final film was 2012’s Anata e (To You). His death was announced on November 18.
At the G20 summit held in Brisbane, Australia, on November 15 and 16, Prime Minister Abe, US President Barack Obama, and Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott meet for the second summit between the three countries and commit to strengthening security and defense cooperation in a joint statement. At a separate Japanese-US meeting Abe and Obama also agree to further security cooperation and to work toward early agreement on the TPP.
World number five Nishikori Kei becomes the first Asian man to take part in the Association of Tennis Professionals World Tour finals in London, contested by the top eight ranked players in the world. He is defeated (6–1, 3–6, 6–0) by world number one Novak Djokovic of Serbia in the semifinals. In the group stage, Nishikori lost to world number two Roger Federer, but won against Andy Murray and David Ferrer.
Former Naha Mayor Onaga Takeshi is elected governor of Okinawa Prefecture on a platform of opposition to the relocation of US Marine Corps Air Station Futenma to the Henoko area, defeating incumbent Nakaima Hirokazu, who was backed by the Liberal Democratic Party. Nonetheless, the government intends to proceed with relocation plans.
The Cabinet Office announces that Japan’s gross domestic product shrank by an annualized 1.6% in the July–September quarter. The 0.4% decline in the real economic growth rate marked the second consecutive quarter of economic contraction. The drop appears to have been caused by stagnant consumer spending following April’s consumption tax hike and sluggish capital investment by corporations.
Prime Minister Abe calls an early election for December 14, seeking a new mandate for his economic reforms with the words, “I need to hear the voice of the people.” At the same press conference, he announces a delay in the increase in consumption tax to 10%, which had been planned for October 2015, to April 2017 due to factors including the decline in GDP reported on November 17. Official election campaigning begins on December 2.
The Japan National Tourist Organization announces that 11 million foreign tourists visited Japan in the first ten months of the year, a 27.1% year-on-year increase, topping the total of 10.4 million for the whole of 2013. The depreciation of the yen, eased visa restrictions for Southeast Asian visitors, and the increase in international routes at Tokyo’s Haneda Airport are believed to have contributed to the boosted figures. The second consecutive record-breaking annual total is projected to reach around 13 million.
The US Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee holds a hearing on the recall of airbags manufactured by Japanese auto supplier Takata. Shimizu Hiroshi, Takata’s senior vice president for global quality assurance, is present at the hearing and apologizes for airbag defects, but denies knowingly covering up the problem. Airbags slated for recall have a risk of rupturing and hurling metal fragments across the car when they deploy. Four deaths linked to the airbags have been reported in the United States and one in Malaysia. As Takata airbags represent approximately 20% of the world market and are used by several major automakers, 13 million vehicles worldwide are affected by the recall, including 2.5 million in Japan.
An earthquake of magnitude 6.7, with shaking hitting a maximum of lower 6 on the Japanese intensity scale, hits northern Nagano Prefecture at around 10:08 PM. As of November 24, 47 houses are destroyed in the villages of Hakuba and Otari and 44 people are injured.
Mongolian sumō wrestler Hakuhō wins the Kyūshū Grand Sumō tournament on the final day with a 14–1 record. This marks his thirty-second title, matching the record set by sumō legend Taihō in 1971.
The Supreme Court rules that the July 2013 House of Councillors election was held in a “state of unconstitutionality” due to the weight disparity for votes in different districts, which reached a maximum of 4.77. The court does not invalidate the election outcome, as 16 suits brought by lawyers’ groups had called for, but urges drastic reform of the electoral system.
UNESCO adds “washi, craftsmanship of traditional Japanese hand-made paper” to its representative list of the intangible cultural heritage of humanity. The three kinds of paper on the list are sekishūbanshi from Shimane Prefecture, hosokawashi from Saitama Prefecture, and honminoshi from Gifu Prefecture, all of which are made from the kōzo, or “paper mulberry.” Japan now has 22 elements inscribed on the list.
The Yomiuri Shimbun apologizes for the use of the term “sex slaves” in its English-language edition to describe women who worked in Japanese military brothels during World War II. The newspaper says it is an inappropriate and misleading expression, also apologizing for the definition of “comfort women” as having been “forced into prostitution . . . as if coercion by the Japanese government or the army was an objective fact.”