Japan Timeline

Timeline for October 2016

Ōsumi Yoshinori wins a Nobel Prize, a powerful earthquake rocks Tottori, and the oldest member of the imperial family passes away. Read on to learn what happened in Japan in October 2016.


Ōsumi Yoshinori is named as the winner of the 2016 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. Now professor emeritus at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, he is honored for his discoveries of the mechanisms of autophagy, or “self-eating,” the process by which cells break down and recycle their own proteins.

Related article

Ōsumi Yoshinori Wins Medicine Nobel for Autophagy Research


The Nara National Research Institute for Cultural Properties announces the discovery of the name of an official believed to be from Persia inscribed on a piece of wood from around the mid-eighth century. This name, found via infrared imaging in the ruins of Nara’s Heijō Palace, is the first evidence that a Persian was working in the capital during that era.


Takahashi Yukimi—the mother of Takahashi Matsuri, an employee at advertising giant Dentsu who committed suicide last year—holds a press conference in Tokyo on October 7, 2016, after the death is ruled to have been the result of overwork. The Tokyo Labor Bureau raided Dentsu on October 14 in connection with the case. (© Jiji)

The cabinet approves Japan’s first white paper on karōshi or death by overwork. The paper reveals that there are permanent employees who complete more than 80 hours overtime per month at 22.7% of corporations. It also reports that long hours and other work issues were a contributing factor in 2,159 suicides in 2015.

Related article

Work Style Reform: Addressing the Challenges Ahead
Japan’s First “Karōshi” White Paper

Rio de Janeiro Olympic and Paralympic medalists take part in a parade in central Tokyo. The streets of Ginza are lined with 800,000 spectators as a total of 87 athletes pass through on open buses and other vehicles.

Gymnast Uchimura Kōhei (foreground) and other athletes wave to spectators as they pass through central Tokyo on October 7, 2016. (© Jiji)

Related article

Japan’s Olympics: 2016 Medalists and Historic Medal Totals


Crater 1 at Mount Aso in Kumamoto Prefecture erupts for the first time since January 1980. The Japan Meteorological Agency raises the alert level to three on its five-point scale, indicating “Do not approach the volcano.”


A Shinshū University team led by Professor Shiba Yūji publishes a paper in the online version of Nature about successful treatment of heart damage in monkeys using muscle cells derived from another monkey’s induced pluripotent stem cells.

Related article

The Promise of Regenerative Medicine


Toyota and Suzuki announce that they are discussing a business partnership to collaborate in environment, safety, and information technology. This move consolidates Japan’s automakers into three groups led by Toyota, Nissan, and Honda

Comedian Kosaka Daimaō, performing as his singer-songwriter Piko Tarō character, becomes the first Japanese person to top the YouTube Music Global Top 100 with the song “PPAP (Pen-Pineapple-Apple-Pen).” On October 19, he becomes the first Japanese artist in 26 years to appear in the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart, debuting at number 77.


A fire in a Tokyo Electric Power facility in Niiza, Saitama Prefecture, causes power outages across large parts of Tokyo. Some central government agencies in Kasumigaseki and approximately 580,000 households are affected.

Sony begins sales of its home virtual-reality device the PlayStation VR. Connecting the head-mounted display to the company’s PlayStation 4 console allows users to enjoy three-dimensional games and other software.

The PlayStation VR on display at September’s Tokyo Game Show. (© Nagasaka Yoshiki)

Related article

Tokyo Game Show 2016: The Dawn of the VR Era?


SoftBank announces the establishment of a technology investment fund that could grow to $100 billion. A Saudi Arabian government fund is considering investing up to $45 billion.


Yoneyama Ryūichi is elected governor of Niigata Prefecture on a platform of opposition to the restart of Tokyo Electric Power’s nuclear plant, Kashiwazaki-Kariwa, which is located in the prefecture. Seeking office for the first time as an independent, the doctor defeats three candidates, including Mori Tamio, the former mayor of Nagaoka who was supported by the ruling Liberal Democratic Party and Kōmeitō

Related article

Niigata Voters Elect Antinuclear Governor in Blow to Abe’s Energy Policy


A government advisory panel meets for the first time to discuss the possible abdication of Emperor Akihito. As the emperor is not able to abdicate under the current system, the panel will discuss whether and how to introduce new legislation making this possible.

Related articles

Emperor Akihito Addresses Nation Following Abdication Reports
Abdication and the Japanese Emperor as a Pacifist Symbol
Emperor Should Have Right to Retire


Wrestler Ichō Kaori receives the People’s Honor Award. By taking gold in the women's freestyle 58-kilogram event at the 2016 games in Rio de Janeiro, she became the first woman in any event to win individual gold medals in four successive Olympics.

Ichō Kaori receives the People’s Honor Award shield from Prime Minister Abe Shinzō in Tokyo on October 20, 2016. (© Jiji)

Related article

Japan’s 2016 Olympic Medal Winners (Photo Gallery)

Tabei Junko, who became the first woman to climb Mount Everest in 1975, dies at the age of 77. In 1992, she also became the first woman to successfully climb all of the Seven Summits—the highest mountains on each of the seven continents.

Tabei Junko at the summit of Mount Everest on May 16, 1975. (© Yomiuri Shimbun/Aflo)

Nintendo releases a trailer for its new Switch hybrid console, which can be played as a portable device or connected to a television for home gaming. It will go on sale in March 2017.

The new Nintendo Switch hybrid console. (Photograph from Nintendo press release)


A magnitude 6.6 earthquake centered in Tottori Prefecture takes place, reaching a seismic intensity of lower 6 in the city of Kurayoshi. Six people are seriously injured and more than 1,000 buildings are damaged in Tottori and Okayama Prefectures.

A white-walled storehouse, a local tourist attraction, shows signs of earthquake damage in Kurayoshi on October 22, 2016, a day after the quake. (© Jiji)


Two House of Representatives by-elections are held. In Tokyo’s tenth district, Wakasa Masaru of the Liberal Democratic Party is elected following Koike Yuriko’s resignation to become governor of Tokyo. A by-election is also held in Fukuoka’s sixth district after the death of the incumbent, former Minister of Justice Hatoyama Kunio. His son Hatoyama Jirō is elected and gains LDP endorsement after his victory.


JR Kyūshū makes its debut on the Tokyo stock market. It is the fourth JR company to go public since the breakup and privatization of the state-run Japanese National Railways in 1987. Shares open trading at ¥3,100, which is ¥500 more than the offering price. With a market capitalization of some ¥496 billion, the opening is the year’s second biggest after Line.

Apple launches its Apple Pay system in Japan. Owners of the Japanese iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus can use the inbuilt FeliCa contactless technology to make payments using Suica and similar services.

Related article

Apple Shifts Focus to Japan with Launch of iPhone 7

Film director and television personality Kitano Takeshi receives France’s Legion of Honor award for his contributions to film and comedy.

Kitano Takeshi (right) with Jack Lang, France’s former minister of culture at the Legion of Honor ceremony in Paris on October 25, 2016. (© Jiji)


Prime Minister Abe Shinzō holds talks with President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines in Tokyo, following the latter’s election as leader in June. Duterte states that he will seek a peaceful settlement of his country’s ongoing territorial dispute with China in the South China Sea, based on the rule of law.

Families of 23 children who died in the tsunami caused by the Great East Japan Earthquake are awarded a total of \1.4 billion in compensation from the city of Ishinomaki and Miyagi Prefecture after a judgment at Sendai District Court found that their school was negligent. A total of 74 children died at Ōkawa Elementary School in Ishinomaki.

Related articles

A Land Awash in Despair
A Late Spring in Tōhoku (Part 1)

The Museum of Modern Art in New York announces that it has acquired the original 176 emoji launched by NTT Docomo in 1999 for use in mobile phone chats. The emoji will go on display from December 10.

The original 176 emoji. (Shigetaka Kurita, NTT Docomo. Emoji [original set of 176]. 1998–99. Software and digital image files. Gift of NTT Docomo Inc., Japan)


Takahito, Prince Mikasa, the uncle of Emperor Akihito and younger brother of Emperor Shōwa, dies at the age of 100.

Takahito, Prince Mikasa in 2011. (© Jiji)


The government announces that more than 20 million international visitors have arrived in Japan from January 1 through October 30. According to Ishii Keiichi, Japan’s tourism minister, the calendar year total is projected to reach 24 million, well above the previous record of 19.73 million set in 2015.
Related articles
Japan Sets New Record with Nearly 20 Million International Arrivals in 2015

Nintendo Sony earthquake emperor Nobel Tottori Japan Timeline