Japan Timeline

Timeline for February 2016

Politics Economy Science Technology Society

North Korea launches a rocket that passes over Okinawa, the Trans-Pacific Partnership is signed in New Zealand, and national census results show Japan’s population fell by almost a million between 2010 and 2015. These are the leading Japan-related stories of February 2016.


Former baseball star Kiyohara Kazuhiro is arrested for possession of stimulants. On February 23, he is served with an arrest warrant for drug use. Kiyohara first shot to fame as a high school player at PL Gakuen before going on to win the Japan Series with both the Seibu Lions and the Yomiuri Giants. He retired in 2008.


The Trans-Pacific Partnership is signed in Auckland, New Zealand, by ministers from the 12 member countries. Minister of the Cabinet Office Takatori Shūichi represents Japan in place of former TPP Minister Amari Akira, who resigned from the cabinet after a funding scandal. The agreement must now be ratified in each of the countries involved.


The Sakurajima eruption recorded on Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport, and Tourism cameras in Kagoshima Prefecture on February 5, 2016. Photograph provided by Ōsumi River and National Highway Office. (© Jiji)

The volcano Sakurajima in Kagoshima, Kyūshū, erupts violently for the first time since September 2015. The Japan Meteorological Agency raises the alert level to three on its five-point scale, indicating “Do not approach the volcano.” On February 17, the Coordinating Committee for Prediction of Volcanic Eruptions projects that heightened Sakurajima seismic activity will continue.


North Korea uses ballistic missile technology to launch what it claims is a communications satellite. The rocket passes over Okinawa Prefecture 10 minutes after launch. The Japanese government judges that there is no need to take interceptive action with the Patriot missile launchers deployed in Tokyo and Okinawa.


The Korean Central News Agency reports that the committee established to investigate abductions of Japanese citizens has halted its inquiry and disbanded. This comes in response to tightened sanctions from Japan following North Korea’s recent nuclear test and this month’s ballistic missile launch.

Share prices plunge on the Tokyo Stock Exchange amid serious concerns about the global economic outlook. The Nikkei index sinks 4.84% in daily trading to close at 14,952.61, dropping below 15,000 for the first time since October 2014.

Miyazaki Kensuke, the first Japanese lawmaker to take paternity leave, resigns after admitting to an extramarital affair. The weekly tabloid Shūkan Bunshun had published photographs of Miyazaki and another woman leaving his home just days before his wife Kaneko Megumi, also an LDP Diet member, was due to give birth.


The Cabinet Office announces that GDP fell 0.4% and the economy shrank by 1.4% on an annualized basis in the October–December quarter of 2015. Factors include stagnant domestic demand in such areas as consumer spending and housing investment.

Conductor Ozawa Seiji wins the Award for Best Opera Recording for Ravel: L'Enfant Et Les Sortilèges; Shéhérazade at the Grammy ceremony in Los Angeles. It is Ozawa’s first Grammy win after having been nominated eight times.

Ozawa Seiji (second from right) smiles at a curtain call after conducting Die Fledermaus—the first opera he has conducted following his Grammy win—in Kyoto on February 18, 2016. (© Jiji)


The Bank of Japan’s maximum interest rate of –0.1% on funds deposited by commercial banks comes into effect.


The Astro-H X-ray observatory—formally given the name Hitomi after its successful launch—was unveiled to the media at the Tsukuba Space Center, Ibaraki Prefecture, on November 27, 2015. (© Jiji)

Japan successfully launches its new X-ray observatory Hitomi on an H-IIA rocket. Hitomi aims to elucidate the origin of the universe by studying the growth of black holes and other space phenomena.


Japan and the United States reach a deal that allows daytime flights from Haneda Airport, Tokyo, on US routes. At present, there are only nighttime and early morning flights to Hawaii and West Coast destinations, but the deal will allow for departures between 06:00 and 23:00, along with routes to New York and other East Coast destinations.


Struggling electronics giant Sharp announces that the company will become part of Taiwanese manufacturer Hon Hai Precision Industry (which trades as Foxconn) in a deal worth almost ¥500 billion. This is the first foreign takeover of a major Japanese electronics firm. Following the announcement however, Hon Hai states that it is putting the deal on hold, due to concerns over Sharp’s contingent liabilities.


Okada Katsuya and Matsuno Yorihisa, leaders of the Democratic Party of Japan and the Japan Innovation Party, respectively, announce that the two parties are planning to merge in March 2016. The new party will have around 150 lawmakers in the National Diet. The two leaders and secretaries general form a council that will decide the new platform and party name.

The Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications announces the results of last year’s national census. As of October 1, 2015, the total population of Japan, including foreign citizens, was 127,110,047, having fallen by 947,305 or 0.7% since the previous census in 2010. This is the first population decline since the national census began in 1920. Among eight prefectures that bucked the overall trend with population increases were Tokyo and the surrounding prefectures of Kanagawa, Saitama, and Chiba.


Former Tokyo Electric Power Company Chairman Katsumata Tsunehisa and two other TEPCO executives are indicted by Tokyo prosecutors over alleged professional negligence resulting in death in the 2011 disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station. This follows a July 2015 decision at the Committee for the Inquest of Prosecution to move forward with cases on the basis that the executives knew in advance that the plant might be hit by tsunami waves more than 10 meters in height, leading to a facility accident, but failed to take adequate preventive measures.

Democratic Party of Japan TPP North Korea Sharp Hon Hai Haneda Airport Japan Innovation Party Amari Akira Kiyohara Kazuhiro Miyazaki Kensuke Ozawa Seiji