Japan Timeline

Timeline for January 2018

A volcano erupts in Gunma Prefecture, the Aum Shinrikyō trials end after more than 20 years, and Kyoto University admits falsification in an iPS cell research paper. These are the leading Japan-related stories of January 2018.


The National Police Agency announces that there were 3,694 deaths caused by traffic accidents in 2017, the lowest level since records began in 1948. The former record low was 3,790 in 1949.

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The government decides to confer the People’s Honor Award on shōgi master Habu Yoshiharu and go champion Iyama Yūta. Habu is the first shōgi player to win the eisei lifetime honor for all seven major titles, while Iyama is the first go player to hold all seven major titles on two occasions.

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A US military helicopter makes a forced landing on a waste disposal site in the Okinawa village of Yomitan. The US Marine Corps AH-1 chopper is assigned to the Futenma air station in Ginowan, Okinawa. There are no injuries to the crew members or local citizens.

Yokohama-based kimono rental and sales company Harenohi does not open its stores for business on Coming of Age Day, failing to provide the traditional attire to young adults for the day’s ceremonies, despite advance payment. On January 26, the Yokohama District Court starts bankruptcy proceedings against the company.


Keidanren announces at a meeting of its chairman and vice chairmen that Vice Chairman Nakanishi Hiroaki will succeed current Chairman Sakakibara Sadayuki at the end of May. Nakanishi is also chairman of Hitachi and will become the company’s first Keidanren leader.

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The Ministry of Defense announces that a submarine—apparently Chinese—and a Chinese navy frigate passed through the contiguous zone by the Senkaku Islands in Okinawa. It is the first time the ministry has confirmed and announced that a submarine from a foreign country was submerged in this area.

Sony launches a new version of its canine robot Aibo. The updated artificial pet is more like a real dog due to artificial intelligence and communication functions. Interaction with its owner affects how it acts.

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Heavy snow forces a local train traveling from Niigata to Nagaoka to stop at Sanjō in Niigata Prefecture. Some 430 passengers are stranded in the train for more than 15 hours.


The Imperial Household Agency announces that Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko will visit Okinawa in late March. The trip will include their first-ever visit to the island of Yonagunijima, Japan’s westernmost point.

Beatrice Fihn, the head of ICAN, the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, goes to Nagasaki in her first visit to the site of an atomic bombing. On January 15, she lays a wreath at the Cenotaph for the A-bomb Victims in Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park. ICAN won the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize.


The 158th Akutagawa Prize is awarded to Ishii Yūka for Hyakunen doro (Hundred-Year Mud) and Wakatake Chisako for Ora ora de hitori igu mo (Me, I'm Goin’ It Alone). Kadoi Yoshinobu wins the 158th Naoki Prize for Ginga tetsudō no chichi (Father of the Galactic Railroad).

Kadoi Yoshinobu (left) and Wakatake Chisako in Tokyo on January 16, 2018. (© Jiji)


The Democratic Party and Kibō no tō (Party of Hope) abandon plans to form a unified political group. Rank-and-file lawmakers of each party oppose the move, scuppering the respective leaders’ plans to cooperate.


The Supreme Court rejects an appeal by Takahashi Katsuya, a former member of Aum Shinrikyō charged with crimes including murder in the sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway. This settles his life sentence, bringing to an end all trials related to the actions of the cult after 23 years.


Kyoto University announces that there was manipulation of data in a paper on induced pluripotent stem cells written by an assistant professor at its Center for iPS Cell Research and Application. The center is headed by Nobel laureate Yamanaka Shin’ya. The paper in question included claims to have generated blood-brain barrier tissue using human iPS cells.

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Prime Minister Abe Shinzō encourages both ruling and opposition parties to present specific proposals for revision of the Constitution in his policy speech at the start of the ordinary Diet session, scheduled to run until June 20.


Gunma Prefecture volcano Mount Motoshirane erupts, killing a Self-Defense Forces member who is hit by rocks while ski training in the nearby resort of Kusatsu. The eruption of the volcano, part of a group collectively known as Mount Kusatsu-Shirane, injures a further 11 people.

The eruption of Mount Motoshirane in Gunma Prefecture, as taken by a skier on a nearby lift on January 23, 2018. (Courtesy Hamajima Kai; © Jiji)

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Prime Minister Abe announces that he will attend the opening ceremony for the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics in South Korea on February 9. He plans to talk with South Korean President Moon Jae-in during his visit.

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The Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare decides to extend by one year the time by which small and medium-sized enterprises must comply with an upper limit on overtime and equal pay for equal work. These are central requirements for work-style-reform legislation.


The MHLW estimates that more than 1 million people will receive home medical care in 2025, when all members of the baby boom generation will be 75 or over.

Liberal Democratic Party politician Nonaka Hiromu dies at the age of 92. As chief cabinet secretary from 1998 to 1999 during the premiership of Obuchi Keizō, for a time he was known as the “shadow prime minister.”

Tokyo-based virtual currency exchange Coincheck announces that hackers have stolen ¥58 billion worth of the NEM cryptocurrency that it was managing for 260,000 customers. On January 29, the Financial Services Agency issues a business improvement order to Coincheck, citing its insufficient security procedures.
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