Japan Timeline

Timeline for April 2017

Imamura Masahiro resigns as minister for reconstruction, the abdication advisory panel presents its final report, and Asada Mao retires from figure skating. These are the leading news stories from April 2017.


Hanyū Yuzuru wins the men’s competition at the World Figure Skating Championship in Helsinki, Finland. He recovers from a fifth-place finish in the short program, beating his own record in the free skate with a score of 223.20 to secure his second victory at the event three years after his first. His total of 321.59 points is a season high.

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Japanese Ambassador to South Korea Nagamine Yasumasa returns to his post in Seoul after around three months away. He was withdrawn in January in protest at the placement of a statue representing the comfort women outside the Japanese consulate in Busan.

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Fujii Sōta sets a new record by winning 11 consecutive official shōgi matches since he turned professional at the age of 14. Japan’s youngest-ever professional shōgi player is ranked fourth dan. In further matches on April 13, 17, and 26, he extends his streak to 14, in addition to beating top-ranked ninth dan player Habu Yoshiharu in an unofficial match on April 23.

Fujii Sōta sets a new record of 11 consecutive victories since his debut by beating Kobayashi Hiroshi, ranked seventh dan, at an Ōsho Sen tournament qualifier in Osaka on April 4, 2017. (© Jiji)


The Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science, and Technology announces the results of its fiscal 2016 survey of English-language education at junior high and high schools. Around 36% of final-year students at both junior high schools and high schools attained the target proficiency level, falling considerably short of the government target of 50% by fiscal 2017.


Debate begins in the House of Representatives on a bill proposing reform of organized crime legislation to expand the “conspiracies” class of crimes to include planning of terrorist acts. Three previous proposals were rejected due to fears that they might infringe on freedom of thought.


The National Institute of Population and Social Security Research announces its projections for population decline until 2065. It predicts that Japan’s population will drop from 127.1 million in 2015 to 88.1 million in 2065, falling below 100 million in 2053. The percentage of citizens aged 65 and over is expected to rise from 26.6% in 2015 to 38.4% in 2065.

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Figure skater Asada Mao announces her retirement at the age of 26 after a career in which she won the silver medal at the 2010 Olympic Games in Vancouver and was world champion three times. At an April 12 press conference, she says that she has no regrets.

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Toshiba reports a net loss of ¥532.5 billion for April to December 2016, making the unusual decision to do so before receiving auditor approval.

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Ceremonies are held to mark one year since the first of a number of damaging earthquakes in Kumamoto Prefecture. More than 220 people died as a result of the disaster, whether directly or due to indirect causes including deteriorating medical conditions while living in temporary accommodation.

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Kubo Takefusa becomes the youngest scorer of a goal in the J. League with a strike for FC Tokyo U-23 in the J3 division at the age of 15 years and 10 months. He is expected to make his debut for the full side in the J. League Cup in May.

Kubo Takefusa shoots to score his first goal for FC Tokyo U-23 in the 38th minute of a J3 match against Cerezo Osaka U-23 in Osaka on April 15, 2017. (© Hōchi Shimbun/Aflo)


The first of the US-Japan economic talks agreed in February between Prime Minister Abe Shinzō and US President Donald Trump takes place in Tokyo. Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Asō Tarō and US Vice President Mike Pence agree to establish rules on bilateral trade and investment and discuss infrastructure construction. After the meeting Pence says that the two countries might in the future “commence formal negotiations for a free trade agreement.”

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The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development announces the results of its first Program for International Student Assessment survey on student happiness. Japan’s score is 6.8, falling below the OECD average of 7.3, placing the country in sixth from last position overall among 47 comparable countries and regions. The survey was conducted on 540,000 15-year old students in 72 countries and regions.

Finance Minister Asō speaks in New York about discussions to take place at the May Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting in Hanoi on establishing the Trans-Pacific Partnership without the participation of the United States. He is the first cabinet member to talk in public about the possibility of pushing forward with the TPP without the United States.


The advisory panel established to advise on the abdication of Emperor Akihito presents its final report to Prime Minister Abe. It suggests titles for both the emperor and empress after abdication. It also describes the dwindling numbers of the imperial family as an issue requiring immediate discussion.

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A US Navy aircraft carrier strike group led by the USS Carl Vinson begins joint training exercises with Japan’s Maritime Self-Defense Forces in the Philippine Sea. One goal of the exercises is to warn North Korea against carrying out further ballistic missile or nuclear device tests. On April 26, US Pacific Fleet Commander Harry B. Harris Jr. announces that the Carl Vinson strike group has sailed past Okinawa’s east shore to reach a position where it can launch attacks on North Korean territory as needed. On the morning of April 29 the group sails through the Tsushima Strait to enter the Sea of Japan, completing the joint exercises that same afternoon.

The MSDF Ashigara (top left) and Samidare accompany the USS Carl Vinson, in foreground, as it sails through the Philippine Sea on April 26, 2017. (US Navy Photo)


Prime Minister Abe and President Trump hold a telephone discussion and urge restraint from North Korea after its repeated nuclear tests and firing of ballistic missiles. Abe later states at a press conference, “We will continue to work closely with the United States, maintaining a high state of alert and monitoring, and meet the situation with resolution.”


Minister for Reconstruction Imamura Masahiro says of the Great East Japan Earthquake, “It was good that the disaster occurred in Tōhoku. The disaster could have caused huge damage if it had happened near the Tokyo metropolitan area.” After heavy criticism, he resigns on April 26. On April 4, Imamura had said that people who evacuated by their own choice following the Fukushima Daiichi accident should take responsibility for their own decision. He later withdrew the comment.

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Construction work begins on the seawall around the area to be filled off the shore of Henoko, Okinawa, as a replacement facility for US Marine Corps Air Station Futenma. This marks a key step toward the agreement reached by Japan and the United States 21 years ago, in 1996, to return the Futenma land, in the city of Ginowan, to Okinawa. The Okinawa prefectural government, meanwhile, announces that reclamation of the Henoko sea area runs counter to the will of the Okinawan people.

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Japan Post announces it will report a ¥40 billion loss for fiscal 2017, its first annual loss since privatization in 2007. It is the result of the company’s decision to write off ¥400.3 billion in goodwill on its Australian logistics subsidiary Toll Holdings, which has performed poorly since JP acquired it in 2015.


Following its Monetary Policy Meeting, the Bank of Japan issues its quarterly Outlook for Economic Activity and Prices. Due to strong industrial production and exports, the bank abandons its previous description of the Japanese economy as continuing a “moderate recovery trend” to note that it is “turning toward a moderate expansion.” It is the first time in nine years to see the term “expansion” appear in this report, its last usage being in March 2008.

Prime Minister Abe meets with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow. The two leaders agree to send a joint survey mission with public- and private-sector members to the Northern Territories to craft specific plans for bilateral economic activities there.
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Prime Minister Abe meets with British Prime Minister Theresa May in London, reaching agreement on the need to promote free trade. The leaders also shared recognition that North Korea’s development of nuclear weapons and ballistic missile technology presented a threat on a “new level.”

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