Timeline for January 2019
A man drives his car into pedestrians on Takeshita-dōri in Harajuku, Tokyo, injuring eight people. The Metropolitan Police Department arrests him on suspicion of attempted murder.
Prime Minister Abe Shinzō says that the new era name to follow Heisei will be announced on April 1. He explains that the cabinet will approve the name through an ordinance on the same day, and that it will be promulgated through the usual procedures. The new era will begin on May 1, when Crown Prince Naruhito becomes emperor.
Stock prices plunge on the first day of trading at the Tokyo Stock Exchange in 2019. A slump in US stocks and a stronger yen make for a bearish market. The Nikkei index dives more than 700 points at one point before recovering slightly to finish the morning at 19,407.40, down 607.37 from the end of 2018.
Nihon Ki-in, an association for the game of go, announces that nine-year-old Nakamura Sumire is set to become the youngest-ever professional player. The daughter of ninth-dan player Nakamura Shin’ya will be 10 years old when she turns professional on April 1, beating the record of 11 years and 6 months set by Fujisawa Rina, now 20.
Japan introduces a departure tax, collecting ¥1,000 from all travelers who leave the country. The aim is to raise funds to provide better services and facilities to international tourists.
Wrestling star Yoshida Saori, winner of three Olympic gold medals, announces her retirement at the age of 36 in a Twitter post. On January 10, she confirms her decision at a Tokyo press conference.
- Olympic Wrestling Champ Yoshida Announces Retirement
- Retiring Wrestling Star Yoshida Satisfied over Career
The special investigation squad of the Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office indicts former Nissan Chairman Carlos Ghosn on an additional charge of aggravated breach of trust for transferring his private losses to the Japanese automaker. It also indicts him on the charge of hiding some of his executive pay for the past three years in violation of the Financial Instruments and Exchange Act. On January 15, the Tokyo District Court rejects Ghosn’s bail request.
- Carlos Ghosn Denies Allegations of Misconduct in Tokyo Court
- Ghosn Indicted on New Charge of Aggravated Breach of Trust
- Tokyo Court Rejects Ghosn's Bail Request
It emerges that French prosecutors have launched an investigation into Japanese Olympic Committee President Takeda Tsunekazu with a view to indicting him on suspicion of involvement in bribery to influence the selection of Tokyo as host city for the 2020 Olympics and Paralympics.
- French Prosecutors Probing JOC Head for Indictment over Bribery
- Japan Olympic Chief Reiterates Innocence in Alleged Bribery
The Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare announces that due to errors in monthly surveys, ¥56.7 billion of work-related benefits were not paid. On January 18, it is learned that necessary documents with 2004–11 statistics are missing, having been lost or disposed of.
The philosopher Umehara Takeshi dies at the age of 93. He was known for his unique perspective on Japanese culture and history and for his bold hypotheses.
Yokozuna Kisenosato announces his retirement at the age of 32, after three straight losses in the first Grand Sumō Tournament of the year.
The Akutagawa Prize is awarded to Ueda Takahiro for Nimuroddo (Nimrod) and Machiya Ryōhei for 1R 1-pun 34-byō (1 Round, 1 Minute and 34 Seconds). Shindō Junjō wins the Naoki Prize for Takarajima (Treasure Island).
The Ministry of Defense releases recorded sounds of radar waves as new evidence to support its claims over fire-control radar directed at a Japanese patrol plane by a South Korean warship in December. It also releases a final statement on the matter, indicating that it will cease talks with its South Korean counterpart.
Prime Minister Abe and Russian President Vladimir Putin talk in Moscow. There is no significant progress on the Northern Territories, with only an agreement that the two countries’ foreign ministers will discuss the issue in February.
A third-party special investigation panel submits its report on irregularities in the MHLW monthly report to Minister Nemoto, who punishes a total of 22 incumbent and former officials including Vice Minister Suzuki Toshihiko. However, after it becomes clear that some hearings were conducted by ministry officials themselves, Nemoto announces that another round of hearings will be held.
- Panel Unable to Find Cover-Up over Japan Labor Survey
- Japan to Compensate for Jobless Benefit Shortfalls from March
- Japan to Conduct Hearings with Labor Ministry Staff Again
Foreign Minister Kōno Tarō meets with his South Korean counterpart Kang Kyung-wha in Davos, Switzerland. He calls for discussions of the forced labor compensation issue based on the countries’ 1965 agreement. The two ministers agree to work together and with the United States to achieve a successful outcome to the United States–North Korea summit slated for late February.
The Ministry of Justice announces based on preliminary immigration statistics that a record 30.1 million foreign nationals entered Japan in 2018, a rise of 2.7 million from 2017.
Ōsaka Naomi defeats Petra Kvitova in the Australian Open women’s singles final to become the first Japanese winner of the tournament. On January 28, she becomes the first Asian, including both women and men, to top the world rankings.
- Ōsaka Wins Australian Open, Set to Be World Number One
- Ōsaka's Beloved Grandpa Happy with Her Successive Grand Slam Win
- Ōsaka Naomi Becomes World Number One in Women's Tennis
The five members of the idol group Arashi announce that they will halt group activities at the end of 2020. Group leader Ōno Satoshi says that he plans to quit show business in 2021.
In his speech marking the start of the 150-day Diet session to end on June 26, Prime Minister Abe talks about future policies and apologizes for irregularities in the MHLW monthly report.
The organizing committee for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games announces prices for Olympic tickets and how to buy them. Tickets for the opening ceremony are priced at ¥12,000–¥300,000, while the most expensive track and field ticket is ¥130,000 for the men's 100-meter sprint final. Sales will begin by lottery on a dedicated site in April.
(Originally published in Japanese. Banner photo: Yokozuna Kisenosato sheds tears as he announces his retirement in Tokyo on January 16, 2019. © Jiji.)