Japan Timeline

Timeline for December 2023


Among the big stories in Japan in December 2023, a major Liberal Democratic Party kickbacks scandal emerged and Ohtani Shōhei continued to make headlines as he signed a record-breaking contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers.


Japanese media report on an investigation by Tokyo prosecutors into income from tickets for Liberal Democratic Party fundraising parties. According to these reports, the biggest faction, formerly led by the late Abe Shinzō, paid lawmakers part of this income as kickbacks, amounting to ¥100 million over the past five years.


Following the November 29 crash of a US CV22 Osprey transport aircraft off the island of Yakushima in Kagoshima Prefecture, which resulted in the deaths of all eight crew members, the US military announces a suspension of all Osprey flights. There is a high probability that an aircraft malfunction was the cause of the accident.


The trial of Aoba Shinji, who killed 36 people in an arson attack at Kyoto Animation, concludes at the Kyoto District Court. The prosecution calls for the death penalty, while the defense says Aoba is not guilty due to mental incompetence.

Prime Minister Kishida Fumio announces that he will leave the Kōchikai faction, which he currently heads, amid mounting criticism over faction kickbacks.


Smile-Up, formerly known as Johnny and Associates, announces the establishment of Starto Entertainment to manage the former agency’s performers.


Sakamoto Kaori wins the women’s singles competition at the Grand Prix of Figure Skating final in Beijing.

Sakamoto Kaori celebrates winning the Grand Prix of Figure Skating. (© Reuters)
Sakamoto Kaori celebrates winning the Grand Prix of Figure Skating. (© Reuters)

Empress Masako celebrates her sixtieth birthday.

Empress Masako (center) with Emperor Naruhito and Princess Aiko. (Courtesy the Imperial Household Agency; © Reuters)
Empress Masako (center) with Emperor Naruhito and Princess Aiko. (Courtesy the Imperial Household Agency; © Reuters)


Ohtani Shōhei announces on his Instagram account that he will move to Los Angeles Dodgers. On December 11, the Dodgers make an official announcement that they have signed Ohtani on a 10-year contract worth $700 million, the most lucrative single contract  in professional sports. He will continue to wear the number 17 jersey, as he did for the Los Angeles Angels.


The Fukushima District Court hands down suspended two-year sentences to three former Self-Defense Forces members who sexually assaulted their female colleague Gonoi Rina.


Prime Minister Kishida replaces four cabinet members from the scandal-hit Abe faction, including Chief Cabinet Secretary Matsuno Hirokazu and Minister of Economy, Trade, and Industry Nishimura Yasutoshi. Policy Research Council Chair Hagiuda Kōichi, Diet Affairs Committee Chair Takagi Tsuyoshi, and LDP Secretary-General in the House of Councillors Sekō Hiroshige also resign from their party positions.


Nihon University decides to disband its American football team after several members were arrested for use of illegal drugs.


A summit marking 50 years of friendly ties between Japan and ASEAN begins in Tokyo. On December 17, a joint statement affirms cooperation on strengthened security and the next-generation auto industry.


Former sekiwake Terao dies of congestive heart failure at the age of 60.

Sumō wrestler Terao in May 2002. (© Jiji)
Sumō wrestler Terao in May 2002. (© Jiji)


Nippon Steel announces that it will acquire US Steel for ¥2 trillion. It plans to make the US company its subsidiary between April and September 2024.


Sapporo Mayor Akimoto Katsuhiro announces that the city will cease efforts to host the Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Tokyo public prosecution investigators search the offices of the LDP’s Abe and Nikai factions over suspected kickbacks.

At its policy meeting, the Bank of Japan board decides unanimously to maintain large-scale monetary easing and negative short-term interest rates, while continuing to allow long-term rates to rise above 1%.


Toshiba is delisted from the Tokyo Stock Exchange following its acquisition by private equity firm Japan Industrial Partners in September.

Daihatsu announces the suspension of all vehicle shipments after the discovery of 174 cases of misconduct in safety tests. On December 21, the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport, and Tourism inspects the company’s head office in Ikeda, Osaka Prefecture.


Pitcher Yamamoto Yoshinobu inks a 12-year, $325 million contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers, transferring from the Orix Buffaloes.


The government changes its rules on defense equipment transfers, greatly easing restrictions on weapon exports, and lifting them entirely for licensed equipment headed for the country that holds the patent. Based on this latter change, it decides to export Patriot missiles to the United States.


Emperor Emeritus Akihito celebrates his ninetieth birthday. It is the first time in historical records for an emperor to reach this age.


Tokyo prosecutors hold voluntary hearings with senior Abe faction members Matsuno Hirokazu, Takagi Tsuyoshi, and Sekō Hiroshige

The Cabinet Office releases data showing that Japan’s gross domestic product for 2022 was equivalent to $4.2 trillion. It has the lowest per capita GDP in the Group of Seven.


Inoue Naoya defeats Marlon Tapales with a tenth-round knockout to become the undisputed super bantamweight world champion, and the second boxer in history to be an undisputed four-belt champion in two weight divisions.

Inoue Naoya celebrates after unifying the four major belts at the super bantamweight level in Tokyo on December 26, 2023. (© Jiji)
Inoue Naoya celebrates after unifying the four major belts at the super bantamweight level in Tokyo on December 26, 2023. (© Jiji)


The Tokyo District Court orders the Japanese government and Tokyo metropolitan government to pay ¥160 million in compensation to plaintiffs associated with the Yokohama company Ohkawara Kakohki who were found innocent of charges that they illegally exported equipment that could be used as biological weapons.

The Nuclear Regulation Authority lifts its ban on operations at Kashiwazaki-Kariwa Nuclear Power Plant in Niigata Prefecture, which had been imposed due to insufficient antiterrorism measures.


The government approves by proxy a design change requested by the Ministry of Defense for the relocation of the US Futenma Air Station to Henoko in Nago, Okinawa Prefecture, after the Okinawan prefectural government refuses to approve the move.

Tokyo prosecutors arrest House of Representatives lawmaker Kakizawa Mito, a former state minister of justice, on suspicion of vote buying.

(Originally published in Japanese. Banner photo: Ohtani Shōhei at a press conference in Los Angeles on December 14, 2023, following his signing for the Los Angeles Dodgers. © Reuters.)

Japan Timeline