Japan Timeline

Timeline for March 2015

Politics Economy Science Technology Society

The nation remembers the Great East Japan Earthquake, German Chancellor Angela Merkel visits Tokyo, and the Hokuriku Shinkansen service goes into operation. These are the major Japanese stories of March 2015.


The United Kingdom’s Prince William wraps up a four-day tour of Japan that took in Tokyo and disaster-hit Fukushima and Miyagi Prefectures.


The 12 host cities for the 2019 Rugby World Cup to be held in Japan are named. The opening and final matches will take place at Tokyo’s New National Stadium, with other games taking place in cities including Osaka, Yokohama, and Kamaishi in Iwate Prefecture.


Six parties, including the ruling Liberal Democratic Party and main opposition Democratic Party of Japan, submit a bill to revise the Public Offices Election Law and lower the voting age from 20 to 18. The amendment could take effect as soon as the House of Councillors election in summer 2016, adding about 2.4 million young voters to the electorate. This is the first change to the voting age since it was lowered from 25 to 20 in 1945, when women were also enfranchised for the first time.


Osakabe Sayaka becomes the first Japanese woman to receive the International Women of Courage award from the US Department of State. Pressure from her boss to resign after she became pregnant led to Osakabe suffering two miscarriages. The award recognizes her subsequent efforts to support women facing “maternity harassment.”


German Chancellor Angela Merkel meets with Prime Minister Abe Shinzō in Tokyo. They discuss the Ukraine crisis and how their countries have grown economically to contribute to the international community after defeat in World War II. At a press conference, Merkel states of Germany, “Dealing with our past was one of the conditions for reconciliation,” and urges Japan to strive for better relations with its Asian neighbors.


Japan marks the fourth anniversary since the Great East Japan Earthquake and ensuing tsunami, which left more than 18,000 people dead or missing, with a ceremony at the National Theater in Tokyo attended by Emperor Akihito and Prime Minister Abe. Due partly to the accident at Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station caused by the tsunami, more than 200,000 people are still living in prefabricated housing.

On the fourth anniversary of the Great East Japan Earthquake, representatives of families of victims from Iwate, Miyagi, and Fukushima Prefectures share words of condolence in memory of the dead at a ceremony at the National Theater in Tokyo on March 11, 2015. (© Jiji)


The Nikkei stock average finishes above 19,000 for the first time since April 21, 2000, boosted by the European Central Bank’s quantitative easing program and expectations of wage hikes at Japanese firms.

Bosnian Vahid Halilhodzic is named as the new coach of Japan’s men’s soccer team. Halilhodzic led Algeria to the last 16 in the 2014 World Cup and has previously managed the Côte d’Ivoire national side and club teams including Paris Saint-Germain. On March 27, Japan defeats Tunisia in his first match in charge.


The Hokuriku Shinkansen service connecting Tokyo to Kanazawa comes into operation, cutting travel time between the two cities by over an hour to 2 hours and 28 minutes. The service will be expanded to Fukui and Tsuruga by 2022.

The first Hokuriku Shinkansen service, the Kagayaki, leaves Kanazawa Station for Tokyo on March 14, 2015. (© Jiji)


The Third United Nations World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction is held in Sendai, attended by representatives from 186 countries. Attendees reach agreement on the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, which sets seven shared targets for improvement, including reducing deaths and economic losses from disasters.


Japanese utilities decide to shut down three reactors in Fukui Prefecture: two in Mihama and one in Tsuruga. On March 18, further closures are announced at Matsue in Shimane Prefecture and Genkai in Saga Prefecture. The five reactors have been in operation for from 39 to 44 years, and the cost of meeting new safety standards is given as the reason for closure. The closures bring Japan’s total number of nuclear reactors from 48 to 43.

Nintendo announces a business and capital tie-up with mobile gaming firm DeNA that opens the door to the appearance of popular Nintendo characters on smartphones and tablets.


Terrorists attack the Bardo National Museum in the Tunisian capital of Tunis, killing 21 people and injuring dozens more. The Japanese government confirms that three Japanese citizens were killed and three injured in the attack. Suspicions fall on the domestic terrorist group Ansar al-Sharia, but some believe extremist group ISIL to be responsible.


US First Lady Michelle Obama visits Japan as part of efforts to promote the “Let Girls Learn” initiative. On March 19, she talks separately with Prime Minister Abe and First Lady Abe Akie; the first ladies announce a partnership supporting girls’ education. The US first lady did not accompany President Barack Obama on his April 2014 visit.


A ceremony is held at Kasumigaseki Station in central Tokyo on the twentieth anniversary of the subway sarin gas attack by cult Aum Shinrikyō, which killed 13 and injured more than 6,000. A total of 13 cult members, including the leader Asahara Shōkō (born Matsumoto Chizuo), have been sentenced to death for their involvement.

Ruling coalition members LDP and Kōmeitō agree on a framework for new security legislation to expand the range of overseas activities by the Self-Defense Forces. In allowing forces to engage in collective self-defense by providing military support to allies that are under attack, the agreement represents a major shift in Japanese postwar security policy.


Foreign Ministers Kishida Fumio, Wang Yi, and Yun Byung-se of Japan, China, and South Korea hold talks in Seoul in the first three-way meeting between the nations’ foreign ministers since April 2012. They announce they will work toward setting up a trilateral leadership summit at the earliest possible opportunity. In a joint statement the ministers announce that “based on the spirit of looking squarely at history and moving forward to the future” they “have agreed to make joint efforts to properly resolve related issues.”


Governor Onaga Takeshi of Okinawa Prefecture orders the Okinawa Defense Bureau to suspend work related to the relocation of the US Marines Futenma air station from Ginowan to Henoko. Onaga threatens to revoke the bureau’s coral drilling permit if it does not comply, but the national government states its intention to continue with the relocation. On March 30, Fisheries Minister Hayashi Yoshimasa temporarily invalidates this order, allowing the project to continue.


Himeji Castle in Hyōgo Prefecture reopens to the general public after the completion of five and a half years of renovation. Replacement of 75,000 roof tiles and new plaster on walls and between tiles has restored the brilliant white appearance that gave the UNESCO World Heritage site its nickname, “White Heron Castle.”

Many consider Himeji to be Japan's most spectacular castle. (© Jiji)


Shibuya Ward in Tokyo becomes the first place in Japan to recognize same-sex relationships as it approves a statute to issue cohabiting couples with certificates and treat them the same as married couples.

Great East Japan Earthquake elections Tunisia Hokuriku Shinkansen Aum Shinrikyō subway sarin Angela Merkel Michelle Obama