Japan Timeline

Timeline for December 2015

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The government endorses exemptions for food in the country’s upcoming consumption tax hike, the Supreme Court upholds a law requiring married couples to have the same last name, and Japan and Korea reach a potentially ground-breaking agreement on the "comfort women" issue. Here are the top Japan-related stories for December 2015.


Publisher Jiyū Kokumin Sha announces its top 10 list of words or phrases and the winning entries in its annual “Words of the year” prize. Winning top honors are baseball’s toripuru surī (triple three)—batting .300 or better and racking up at least 30 home runs and 30 stolen bases—an achievement accomplished by two players this season; and bakugai, or “explosive buying” by Chinese and other high-spending tourists.


The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s probe Akatsuki enters orbit around Venus, becoming the first Japanese satellite to circle a planet other than Earth. Akatsuki was unable to reach its target orbit in December 2010 due to an engine failure suffered after its launch earlier that year and instead carried out a secondary mission, observing the sun. Nearly five years after their initial attempt, however, mission engineers use the probe’s small thrusters to successfully insert Akatsuki into Venusian orbit.

Novelist Nosaka Akiyuki, author of such well-known works as Grave of the Fireflies and American Hijiki, dies at 85.


New civil aviation regulations aimed at drones and other unmanned vehicles come into effect, banning operators from flying machines in densely populated areas, near airports, at events, and during nighttime hours. Other rules include maintaining at least a 30-meter distance when operating in the vicinity of people or buildings and keeping airborne machines in sight at all times.

At an award ceremony in Stockholm, King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden presents official medals and diplomas to Nobel Prize recipients Ōmura Satoshi, professor emeritus at Kitasato University, in Physiology or Medicine and Kajita Takaaki, director of the University of Tokyo’s Institute for Cosmic Ray Research, in Physics.


Japanese astronaut Yui Kimiya returns to Earth aboard the Russian spacecraft Soyuz after a five-month mission on the International Space Station, touching down in Kazakhstan. Japan’s tenth astronaut in space, Yui oversaw the docking of the unmanned Japanese cargo vessel Kōnotori.

A photo from fellow astronaut Scott Kelly’s Twitter account shows Yui Kimiya (above) climbing through the hatch of the Soyuz spacecraft on December 11, 2015, to return to Earth after completing his ISS mission. (© Jiji)


Prime Minister Abe meets with his Indian counterpart, Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The two leaders announce a deal that will see Japan provide nuclear power technology to India, marking the first Japanese agreement with a country that is not a signatory of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Abe and Modi also shake hands on Japan building a high-speed railway in western India based on Shinkansen technology.

The ruling coalition of the Liberal Democratic Party and Kōmeitō agree to exempt food when the consumption tax is raised to 10% in April 2017. The foodstuff rate, excluding alcoholic beverages and eating out, will remain at the current 8%.

Olympic figure skating champion Hanyū Yuzuru sets a new world record of 330.43 points on his way to winning his third straight Grand Prix Final in Barcelona, Spain.


Japan’s Supreme Court rules in two closely watched cases concerning controversial aspects of the Civil Code. Headed by Chief Justice Terada Itsurō, the court upholds a legal provision requiring spouses to take the same surname. The bench also rules against a law banning women from remarrying within six months of getting divorced, specifying any requirement of more than 100 days to be unconstitutional.

Former Nadeshiko Japan captain Sawa Homare announces she will retire at the end of the season. A veteran of six World Cup campaigns, Sawa is best remembered for leading the national soccer team to victory at the 2011 Women’s World Cup in Germany, a feat that saw her become MVP for the tournament as well as the 2011 FIFA Women’s Player of the Year. At a press conference on December 17, the 37-year-old midfielder says it has become increasing difficult to stay at her best mentally and physically.

Sawa Homare (far left) celebrates with fellow INAC Kobe teammates after scoring the game-winning goal in the final of the Emperor’s Cup on December 27, 2015, at Todoriki Stadium in Kawasaki, her last match as a player. (© Jiji)


A South Korean court finds Japanese journalist and former Seoul bureau chief for the Sankei Shimbun Katō Tatsuya not guilty on charges of defaming President Park Geun-hye. The ruling judge in the controversial case, which came amid increased tensions between Japan and South Korea, says that while Park’s reputation was damaged, Katō did not attempt to slander the president.


Hashimoto Tōru announces his retirement from politics after finishing his four-year term as mayor of Osaka. The outspoken politician, who won office as governor of Osaka Prefecture nearly eight years earlier, says he will become a legislative advisor for the party Osaka Ishin no Kai.

Toshiba announces it will cut 7,800 jobs globally as the conglomerate looks to restructure its operations following a major accounting scandal. The move follows earlier layoffs in its semiconductor business, affecting over 10,000 workers in total. Toshiba projects it will incur record red ink in the fiscal year ending in March 2016, with the company expected to post ordinary losses of ¥550 billion, as well as a loss of ¥340 billion across the entire group.


Architect Kuma Kengo talks with the press in front of an image of his design for the new National Stadium on December 28, 2015, in Tokyo.

The Japan Sports Council announces its selection of world-renowned architect Kuma Kengo’s design for the new National Stadium, meant for use in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. The plan, which was one of two proposals under consideration, incorporates such natural aspects as wood and greenery. The new stadium is projected to cost nearly ¥149 billion and is scheduled for completion by November 2019.


The government approves a record ¥96.7 trillion budget for fiscal 2016. Social security expenses make up nearly a third of expenditures, growing more than ¥400 billion from the previous year to ¥31.9 trillion. The plan also bolsters defense spending, with layouts topping ¥5 trillion for the first time. Driving the spending boost is increased tax revenue, thanks in part to increasingly profitable Japanese corporations; ¥57.6 trillion, an annual increase of 5.6%, is expected to pour into public coffers. The government will print ¥34.4 trillion in bonds, a 6.6% decrease from the previous year.

The Fukui District Court overrules an earlier injunction against the restart of reactors 3 and 4 at Kansai Electric’s Takahama nuclear power plant, saying that there are no safety flaws at the facilities. Following the ruling, the utility moves on December 25 to begin the refueling process at the number 3 reactor.


Foreign Minister Kishida Fumio meets with South Korean Minister of Foreign Affairs Yun Byung-se. The sides reach a ground-breaking agreement on the “comfort women” issue, with Japan pledging ¥1 billion for a new Korean foundation to support surviving victims and offering Prime Minister Abe’s “most sincere apologies and remorse” to them. Both countries state that they will “refrain from accusing or criticizing each other regarding this issue” on the international stage going forward.


The Tokyo Stock Exchange closes the trading year with the Nikkei average at 19,033.71, a rise of 1,582.94 (9.1%) from the close of 2014. This marks the fourth straight annual rise in year-end values, and is the highest end-of-year Nikkei level since 1996.

Sawa Homare Hashimoto Toru Toshiba Nobel Prize Hanyū Yuzuru Japanese Supreme Court Sankei Shimbun Yui Kimiya New National Stadium Prime Minister Modi tax exemption