Timeline for December 2018
JR East announces that its new station under construction on the Yamanote Line between Tamachi and Shinagawa will be called Takanawa Gateway. The station is scheduled to open in spring 2020.
The Liberal Democratic Party abandons plans to present a draft of constitutional reforms during the current parliamentary session, even though amending the Constitution is a long-held ambition of Prime Minister Abe Shinzō.
- LDP Gives Up Presenting Constitutional Reform Draft for Now
- LDP Fails to Propose Constitutional Revision
Legislation to allow more foreign workers into the country is approved at the House of Councillors with the support of the LDP, Kōmeitō, and other parties. The government aims to make necessary preparations and adopt new measures to facilitate this influx by April 2020.
- Japan to Set Up 100 Inquiry Counters for Foreigners
- Japan to Introduce 12 Skills Tests for New Visa for Foreign Workers
- Japan Adopts Policies for Expanding Use of Foreign Workers
Kyoto University Professor Honjo Tasuku, the winner of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, receives an official medal and diploma at the award ceremony in Stockholm.
The government announces that ministries and agencies will not procure equipment with malicious functions for its communications systems. Although not directly mentioned by name, the action is taken with reference to Chinese telecommunications giants Huawei and ZTE, which have been banned for US government usage. Japanese mobile firm Softbank states that it will follow the government’s lead at its key facilities.
- Japan Government to Exclude Huawei, ZTE from Procurement
- Softbank to Exclude Chinese Products from Key Network Facilities
Japan Investment Corporation President Tanaka Masaaki says that he and eight other board members of the public-private investment fund will resign after disagreements with the Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry, its supervisory governmental entity, over remuneration and investment policies.
- Execs of Government-Linked JIC Vow to Quit
- Japan Industry Ministry Drops Capital Hike Plan for Stake-Backed Fund
The Japan Kanji Aptitude Foundation announces that the Kanji of the Year for 2018 is 災 (wazawai or sai), meaning “disaster” or “misfortune.” It refers to disasters including heavy rain in western Japan, earthquakes in Osaka and Hokkaidō, and Typhoon Jebi.
The government begins placement of soil in landfill work in Nago, Okinawa, for the replacement facility for the US military’s Air Station Futenma in Ginowan.
The Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science, and Technology releases the final report of its emergency investigation following revelations about rigged entrance examinations at Tokyo Medical University. It announces that it has discovered unfair practices, such as marking down of female candidates and those retaking exams, or strong suspicion of such wrongdoing at 10 of the country’s 81 universities with medical schools.
Ishibashi Kazuho is sentenced to 18 years in prison by the Yokohama District Court for a road-rage incident in June 2017 in which he caused the deaths of a couple on the Tōmei Expressway in Kanagawa Prefecture, when he forced them to stop their car in the passing lane, where it was subsequently rammed in the rear by a truck.
The LDP and Kōmeitō decide on a tax reform package for fiscal 2019 including bigger tax breaks for vehicle and housing purchases ahead of the planned consumption tax hike in October.
- Japan to Extend Tax Deduction for Housing Loan Users by Three Years
- Japan Ruling Camp Adopts Fiscal 2019 Tax System Reform Package
An explosion causes severe damage to a two-story building in Sapporo, Hokkaidō. The Hokkaidō Prefectural Police announce that 42 people were injured, including 1 seriously. The explosion was caused by the release of gas during disposal of a large number of air freshener spray cans at a real-estate office in the building.
Hitachi announces its acquisition of Swiss heavy electric machinery maker ABB’s power-grid business for ¥700 billion. The move is set to boost Hitachi’s consolidated annual sales to over ¥10 trillion, matching German company Siemens, presently the second-largest company in the sector worldwide.
The government reaches agreement on a five-year defense buildup program from fiscal 2019 with a record budget of ¥27.5 trillion. The program includes a plan to upgrade the Maritime Self-Defense Force's destroyer, the Izumo, to a de facto aircraft carrier.
- Japan Ruling Bloc OKs Plan to Own De Facto Aircraft Carrier
- Budget for Japan's New Defense Program to Top ¥27 Trillion
- Japan Adopts Plan to Procure 105 F-35 Stealth Fighters from United States
Softbank makes its debut on the Tokyo Stock Exchange’s first section. Its initial public offering is estimated at ¥2.6 trillion, exceeding the previous IPO record of ¥2.3 trillion set by Nippon Telegraph and Telephone in 1987. However, the debut share price of ¥1,463 falls below Softbank’s IPO price of ¥1,500. Based on this price, the company’s total market capitalization is ¥7.35 trillion.
Former Nissan Chairman Carlos Ghosn is rearrested by Tokyo prosecutors on suspicion of violations of the Companies Act. On December 20, the Tokyo District Court had rejected a request from prosecutors to extend the detention of both Ghosn and his aide, former representative director Greg Kelly.
- Tokyo Court Rejects Another Extension of Ghosn's Detention
- Ghosn Arrested Again on Breach of Trust Charges
- Tokyo Court OKs Release on Bail of Key Aide to Ghosn
Defense Minister Iwaya Takeshi announces that a South Korean destroyer aimed fire-control radar at an MSDF P-1 patrol aircraft in Japan’s exclusive economic zone in the Sea of Japan off the Noto Peninsula. On December 28, the Ministry of Defense releases a video of the incident.
- South Korean Destroyer's Radar Takes Aim at Japan MSDF Plane
- Tokyo Rebuts Seoul's Contention over Radar Locking
- Japan Releases Video of Radar Lock-On by South Korean Destroyer
At a cabinet meeting, the government adopts a budget plan for fiscal 2019 stipulating general-account spending of ¥101.5 trillion. The figure is up 3.8% from the previous year, setting a new record for the seventh consecutive year.
Marking his last birthday as emperor of Japan before stepping down from the throne next spring, Akihito turns 85. At an earlier press conference, he spoke of his relief that the Heisei era had been a period of peace.
The government announces Japan’s withdrawal from the International Whaling Commission and plan to resume commercial whaling in July 2019. Japan will catch minke and Bryde’s whales within its territorial waters and EEZ, and cease whaling for scientific research.
The TSE closes the trading year with the Nikkei average at 20,014.77, a drop of 62.85 from the previous day. Share prices fall ¥2,750, or 12%, short of the end of 2017, as the index records its first year-end annual loss in seven years.
(Originally published in Japanese. Banner photo: Kyoto University Professor Honjo Tasuku, center left, at the Nobel Prize award ceremony in Stockholm on December 10, 2018. © Jiji.)