Japan Timeline

Timeline for January 2017

Japanese diplomats are called back from South Korea, the emperor’s abdication path becomes clearer, and TEPCO locates meltdown debris for the first time. These are the top news stories for January 2017.


Stocks rise across the board on the year’s first day of trading at the Tokyo Stock Exchange due to improvement in the US economy. The Nikkei index climbs 479.79 from the last day of trading in 2016, finishing at 19,594.16, its highest level in over a year.

The number of traffic deaths in Japan in 2016 fell by 213 from the previous year to 3,904. This 5.2% year-on-year drop brought the figure below 4,000 for the first time since the postwar record low of 3,790 in 1949.

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The Japan Geriatrics Society and other groups call for a redefinition of “elderly” as 75 or over, as many people between 65 and 74 remain physically and mentally healthy.

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The government temporarily recalls Japanese Ambassador to South Korea Nagamine Yasumasa and Consul-General in Busan Morimoto Yasuhiro. The move is part of a protest against the installation of a statue representing Korean comfort women in front of the consulate in Busan, following the earlier placement of a similar statue outside the embassy in Seoul. The new statue is seen as going against the December 2015 bilateral agreement that was intended to resolve the comfort women issue.

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Tourism Minister Ishii Keiichi announces that 24.0 million foreign tourists visited Japan in 2016. This is a 21.8% increase from the total of 19.7 million in 2015 and sets a new record for the fourth consecutive year.

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The Ministry of the Environment announces that around 70% of Japan’s largest coral reef has died. This was a result of coral bleaching due to a rise in the temperature of seawater around the reef, which is located between the islands of Ishigakijima and Iriomotejima in Okinawa Prefecture.


Prime Minister Abe Shinzō begins a tour of the Philippines, Australia, Indonesia, and Vietnam, meeting with each country’s leader and returning to Japan on January 16. At his last stop, he offers to provide Vietnam with six new patrol boats to boost its maritime security capabilities.

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An audiotape including an interview with author Mishima Yukio (1925–70)—recorded nine months before his death by suicide after a failed coup attempt—is discovered in a Tokyo Broadcasting System studio. On the tape, Mishima says, “I feel death has come into my body.”

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The Tokyo Metropolitan Government announces that its ninth survey of groundwater at the planned Toyosu site for relocation of Tsukiji’s fish market once again found benzene and arsenic. The amount of benzene reached a maximum of 79 times environmental standards, far exceeding the results of previous surveys. Cyanide was also detected for the first time.

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The launch of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s SS-520-4, one of the world’s smallest satellite-carrying rockets, ends in failure. Around 20 seconds after the initial launch from Uchinoura Space Center in Kagoshima Prefecture, JAXA was no longer able to receive data from the rocket and cancelled the second stage of the launch.

SS-520-4, carrying the Tricom-1 microsatellite developed by the University of Tokyo takes off from Uchinoura Space Center in Kagoshima Prefecture on January 15, 2017. (© Jiji)

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Media reports indicate that the losses from Toshiba’s US nuclear plant business may reach a maximum of ¥700 billion. To avoid insolvency at the end of the fiscal year in March 2017, it plans to sell off part its memory-chip business and seek outside investment to raise ¥200 billion–¥300 billion by the end of March.

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Yamashita Sumito wins the 156th Akutagawa Prize for Shin sekai (New World) and Onda Riku wins the 156th Naoki Prize for Mitsubachi to enrai (Honeybee and Distant Thunder).


An oversight committee states that 10 cases of reemployment of bureaucrats from the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science, and Technology at comfortable private positions violated the National Public Service Act. Administrative Vice Minister Maekawa Kihei resigns for his involvement in the amakudari scandal.


The Japanese panel established to discuss imperial abdication releases its interim report. The report stresses that new legislation to allow Emperor Akihito to relinquish the throne should apply only to him, rather than representing a permanent change to the imperial system.

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The Japan Sumō Association promotes Kisenosato from ōzeki to yokozuna following his victory in the first tournament of 2017. He is the first Japan-born rikishi to be promoted to sumō’s top rank since Wakanohana in 1998.

Kisenosato (second from left) performs the dedicatory dohyō-iri at Meiji Shrine in Tokyo on January 27 after his promotion to yokozuna. Takayasu (left) is sword-bearer and Shōhōzan (third from left) is the tsuyuharai (dew sweeper).

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The Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare announces that there were nearly 1.1 million foreign workers in Japan as of the end of October 2016, a 19.4% increase compared with the same time the previous year. This is the first time the figure has topped 1 million and a fourth consecutive annual record.

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Prime Minister Abe Shinzō talks on the telephone with new US President Donald Trump, arranging their first summit meeting following Trump’s inauguration. The meeting will take place at the White House on February 10.

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Tokyo Electric Power Co. announces that it has located melted debris beneath the pressure vessel for the number 2 reactor at its Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station. The debris may have penetrated the vessel wall after the meltdown caused by the March 11, 2011, tsunami that cut power to the plant’s cooling systems. TEPCO plans further investigations to confirm whether the debris is melted fuel; nearly six years after the disaster, it would be the first time to identify its precise location and state.

An image from the interior of the stricken number 2 reactor shows debris that may include melted nuclear fuel. (Provided by TEPCO; © Jiji)

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Most of the taxis operating in the central 23 wards of Tokyo and the western cities of Musashino and Mitaka lower their initial fare from ¥730 for the first 2 kilometers to ¥410 for the first 1,052 meters. The fare reduction effectively makes rides cheaper up to about 2 kilometers; longer trips cost about what they previously did up to 6.5 kilometers, at which point the new fare chart makes rides cost more than before.
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At its regular Monetary Policy Meeting, the Bank of Japan issues its quarterly Outlook for Economic Activity and Prices, raising its forecast for Japan’s economic growth through fiscal 2018 from the previous report issued on November 1, 2016. The new outlook forecasts real GDP growth of 1.4% for fiscal 2016, up from 1.0% in the November report, and 1.5% for fiscal 2017, up from 1.3%.
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