Japan Timeline

Timeline for March 2017

Three North Korean missiles land in Japan’s exclusive economic zone, Moritomo Gakuen head Kagoike Yasunori gives testimony at the Diet, and the government decides to withdraw Ground Self-Defense Force troops from South Sudan peacekeeping operations. These are the main news stories for March 2017.


Nintendo launches its new hybrid console, the Switch. Gamers can play on the device’s built-in display or connect it to a television to play on a larger screen. It is Nintendo’s first major game system since the 2012 release of the Wii U.

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A rescue helicopter crashes during a training flight in the mountains of Nagano Prefecture. All nine crew members are killed.


Three of four ballistic missiles fired simultaneously by North Korea land in Japan’s exclusive economic zone. The Japanese government lodges a strong protest. Prime Minister Abe Shinzō discusses the matter by telephone with US President Donald Trump on March 7, stating that North Korea has elevated its threat to a new level.

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The National Police Agency announces that the number of reported cases of suspected child abuse rose 46.5% in 2016 to 54,227. The figure has risen steadily each year since statistics were first compiled in 2004.


After holding a meeting of the National Security Council, the government decides to withdraw Ground Self-Defense Force troops from South Sudan peacekeeping operations at the end of May. The country is riven by civil war, but Chief Cabinet Secretary Suga Yoshihide states that deteriorating security conditions did not prompt the decision to end operations.

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Ceremonies around the country mark the sixth anniversary of the Great East Japan Earthquake. Prince Akishino, Princess Kiko, Prime Minister Abe, and family members of the victims attend an event at the National Theater in Tokyo. Over 120,000 residents of Iwate, Miyagi, and Fukushima Prefectures—which were hit hardest by the tsunami—have still not been adequately rehoused and are defined officially as evacuees.

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The Supreme Court rules that it is illegal for the police to use data obtained from Global Positioning System devices in criminal investigations without a court warrant.

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Leaders of both houses of the Diet present Prime Minister Abe with proposed legislation making it possible for Emperor Akihito to abdicate. This would be a special law that would not be applicable to future emperors and would be based on a new supplementary clause in the Imperial House Law. The government will present the proposal to the Diet after the Golden Week holiday in May. It is expected to become law during the current parliamentary session.

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Maebashi District Court rules that the 2011 disaster at Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant could have been averted with preventive safety measures. The Gunma court orders the national government and TEPCO to pay damages of ¥38.6 million to some members of a group of evacuees who had brought a case seeking ¥1.5 billion in compensation.

The Ministry of Justice announces that the number of foreign residents in Japan rose 6.7% in 2016 to 2.4 million, setting a new record for the second successive year.

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Former Tokyo Governor Ishihara Shintarō gives testimony before a Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly committee discussing issues related to the relocation of the Tsukiji fish market to Toyosu. He takes responsibility for approving the move, as he had heard it was possible to deal with soil pollution. However, he states that he could not have opposed the general flow of the entire metropolitan government.

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The Japan Meteorological Agency announces that the somei-yoshino tree it monitors in Tokyo is in bloom, marking the official beginning of cherry blossom season in the capital. It is the earliest of the nation’s most common variety of cherry tree to come into blossom in Japan this year.

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Kagoike Yasunori, head of the school operator Moritomo Gakuen, gives testimony at the Diet. A scandal surrounds the company’s acquisition of state-owned land at a huge discount for a new elementary school due to open in April. First Lady Abe Akie was set to be the school’s honorary head. Kagoike presents a fax, sent by one of the first lady’s aides before the purchase was made, declining a request to extend the lease on the land following consultation with the Ministry of Finance. Chief Cabinet Secretary Suga tells journalists that the rejection of Kagoike’s request indicates that there was no problem.

Moritomo Gakuen head Kagoike Yasunori gives testimony at the House of Representatives budget meeting on March 23, 2017. (© Jiji)


An avalanche at a ski resort in Nasu, Tochigi Prefecture, kills seven students and a teacher from Ōtawara High School during a mountaineering training trip.

The government’s state budget for fiscal 2017 is approved in the House of Councillors. At ¥97.4 trillion, it is the largest ever.


The government adopts an action plan for work style reform, setting an upper limit of 720 hours for overtime. The plan also calls for equal pay for equal work. Employers will be required to explain any discrepancies between pay for regular and nonregular workers. The government will submit related legislation in the autumn’s extraordinary Diet session with the aim of passing it as law in fiscal 2019.

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Osaka High Court overturns a ruling by Ōtsu District Court banning the operation of reactors 3 and 4 at Takahama Nuclear Power Station by Kansai Electric Power Co. The lower court passed the injunction in March 2016. Kansai Electric plans to start operating the nuclear plant again in the near future.


Toshiba’s US nuclear subsidiary Westinghouse Electric files for Chapter 11 protection from creditors with the bankruptcy court in New York. Execution of loan guarantees to Westinghouse will contribute to an estimated consolidated net loss for Toshiba in fiscal 2017 of ¥1.01 trillion.
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The Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communication announces that Japan’s unemployment rate fell to 2.8% in February, its lowest point since June 1994.

Japan Timeline