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Features Japan Timeline
Timeline for May 2018

A college football tackle draws wide attention, more revelations emerge in the Kake Gakuen scandal, and Koreeda Hirokazu’s Shoplifters wins the Palme d’Or at the Cannes film festival. These are the leading news stories of May 2018.


Four members of the pop group Tokio apologize for the actions of the fifth member, Yamaguchi Tatsuya, after papers were sent to public prosecutors for his suspected indecent assault of a high school girl. On May 6, talent agency Johnny & Associates says it has accepted Yamaguchi’s offer of resignation.

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Picture book writer Kako Satoshi, known for his Daruma-chan (Little Daruma) series, dies at the age of 92.


The Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications announces that as of April 1, the population of children under 15 years old is an estimated 15.5 million, having fallen for the thirty-seventh consecutive year.

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The Cultural Affairs Agency and Ministry of the Environment announce that sites related to Christianity in Nagasaki and Kumamoto Prefectures have been recommended for World Heritage status by a UNESCO advisory body.

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The Democratic Party and Party of Hope merge to form the Democratic Party for the People, which becomes the second largest opposition party with 62 lawmakers.

Joint leaders Ōtsuka Kōhei (left) and Tamaki Yūichirō shake hands at the first meeting of the Democratic Party for the People in Tokyo on May 7, 2018. (© Jiji)


Takeda Pharmaceutical announces that it has agreed to buy Irish pharmaceutical company Shire for £46 billion (¥6.8 trillion). It will acquire all of Shire’s ordinary shares.

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Prime Minister Abe Shinzō meets with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and South Korean President Moon Jae-in in Tokyo. The leaders agree to work together for the complete denuclearization of the Korean peninsula and an early solution to the issue of Japanese nationals kidnapped by North Korea.

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Yanase Tadao, former executive secretary to Prime Minister Abe, gives testimony to the budget committees of both houses of the Diet regarding the ongoing Kake Gakuen scandal. He admits meeting officials of the school operator at the prime minister’s office three times in 2015. On May 21, Ehime Prefecture makes public a document recording that Abe met with the head of Kake Gakuen in February 2015. On May 22, Abe denies that the meeting took place.

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Niigata prefectural police arrest Kobayashi Haruka on suspicion of dumping and damaging the body of seven-year-old Ōmomo Tamaki in the city of Niigata. Her body was placed on a train line after death.

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Japan Sports Agency head Suzuki Daichi calls for an investigation after repeated excessively rough play by a Nihon University player in a college football match against Kwansei Gakuin University. After footage spreads via social media, drawing a huge reaction, Nihon University head coach Uchida Masato resigns on May 19. The Kantoh Collegiate Football Association decides on May 29 to expel Uchida and another Nihon University coach.

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Suruga Bank announces that it has discovered manipulation or fabrication of documents related to investments in a bankrupt sharehouse operator during an internal investigation. It also says that many of its employees may have known about the misconduct.

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The Board of Education in Yoshino, Nara Prefecture, and the Archaeological Institute of Kashihara announce that they have found the remains of a large structure from the first half of the eighth century at a site that is a likely candidate for the location of the Yoshino Palace, which was visited by several emperors from the sixth to the eighth century.


A Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare panel conditionally approves an Osaka University clinical trial of transplants of heart muscle cells created from induced pluripotent stem cells to treat severe heart disease. It is the world’s first clinical trial for heart treatment using iPS cells.

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A bill requesting political parties and organizations to make every effort possible to field equal numbers of male and female candidates is approved and enacted at a meeting of the House of Councillors.

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Singer Saijō Hideki, known for hits like “Kizu darake no Rōra” (Scarred Lola) and “Young Man,” a remake of the Village People hit “YMCA,” dies at the age of 63.

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Saijō Hideki in April 1980. (© Jiji)


Three plaintiffs who were forcibly sterilized under Japan’s former eugenic protection law (1948–96) file suits against the central government for violating their constitutional rights. The suits, seeking damages totaling ¥79 million, are filed in district courts in Sapporo, Sendai, and Tokyo.

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Fujii Sōta becomes the youngest shōgi player to be promoted to the rank of seventh dan at 15 years and 9 months.

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Director Koreeda Hirokazu’s film Manbiki kazoku (Shoplifters) wins the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival. It is the first Japanese film to do so since Imamura Shōhei’s Unagi (The Eel) in 1997.

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After returning to Japan from Cannes, Koreeda Hirokazu smiles at a press conference in Tokyo on May 23, 2018. (© Jiji)


The Ministry of Finance submits records to the Diet of original documents related to negotiations with school operator Moritomo Gakuen. Former MOF official Sagawa Nobuhisa had repeatedly said last year in the Diet that the documents had been disposed of.

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The Ministry of Defense announces that its probe has found that there was no systematic cover-up of daily logs for the Ground Self-Defense Force’s Iraq mission, which it earlier claimed did not exist. It punishes 17 officials for their failure to carry out appropriate clerical work

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Kagoike Yasunori, the former head of school operator Moritomo Gakuen, and his wife Junko are released on bail 10 months after they were arrested on suspicion of fraud.


Prime Minister Abe and Russian President Vladimir Putin meet in Moscow and talk about joint economic activities in the Northern Territories and humanitarian measures for former inhabitants of the islands. Putin says he wishes to discuss political cooperation.

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Japan defeats Thailand 3-0 in the final of the Uber Cup for women’s national badminton teams to win the tournament for the sixth time.


The Osaka District Public Prosecutors Office decides not to indict a total of 38 people, including former MOF official Sagawa Nobuhisa, on charges such as falsification of documents in the Moritomo Gakuen case.

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The House of Representatives passes a work-style reform bill with the support of the Liberal Democratic Party, Kōmeitō, Nippon Ishin no Kai, and others.

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  • [2018.06.01]
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