Japanese News: an overview of the week (an attempt)

Today, instead of studying one article, I would like to have an overview of the topical issues of the week. I think that it would be more interesting to look at a wide range of topics and vocabulary, instead of going deeply into one subject.

The problem is that I don’t have a paying subscription to access a digital newspaper that would provide headlines. Instead, I use websites like NHK news or Asahi, but the continuous flow of articles makes it daunting to look for main information.

The only solution would be to check the news every day and bookmark articles that I want to review. I am far from reading the news every day in Japanese, but this is something I would like to do (instead of “reading”, I should say looking blankly at articles’ titles and having no idea what they are talking about).

Unfortunately, I have not been thorough in my reading the news resolution. I just isolated two main topics, but I don’t pretend to really do an overview of the week. But that’s the idea, and I hope I can improve in this domain. So, today’s topics are:

  • The 3.11 earthquake commemoration through the Arabaki rock festival
  • Latest developments in the Moritomo Gakuen scandal
  • Hayao MIYAZAKI’s last short film
  • Hello Kitty Shinkansen

3.11 earthquake commemoration

On March 11th, Japan commemorated the Aniversary of the Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami that stroke the East coast 7 years ago. It is also called the 3.11 earthquake in English and 3.11 震災 in Japanese

  • 震災・しんさい: earthquake disaster

Among the commemorative articles published by Asahi, one offers to look back on the 3.11 earthquake through the Arabaki rock festival アラバキロックフェスティバル.

The article is long but relatively easy to read and well illustrated. I will just go through some parts of it.

The festival (also called フェス, it took me a while to understand it!) usually takes place at the end of April. In 2011, however, the earthquake stroke while the staff was working on the preparation. After discussions on whether they should cancel or postpone the festival, they decided to hold it in August.

  • 開催する・かいさいする: to hold, open, host (a meeting, a festival, an exhibition, the Olympics…)
  • 主催者・しゅさいしゃ: a sponsor, a promoter
  • 出演者・しゅつえんしゃ: a performer, the cast

In 2011, the festival should have been held on April, 29th and 30th. The staff was hoping for a full bloom of the sakura at the time: “ばっちり満開になってほしい.”

  • ばっちり is an adverb which conveys the meaning of “perfect”, “beautiful”. This kind of adverb, along with onomatopoeia, is almost impossible for me to remember.
  • 満開・まんかい full bloom.

The first edition of Arabaki rock festival was in 2001. Since then, the festival changed location and became the musical event that launches the festival season: “日本のフェスシーズン到来を告げる音楽祭として定着し”.

  • 到来・とうらい: arrival
  • 告げる・つげる: tell, inform, announce
  • 定着する・ていちゃくする: to establish itself

After the earthquake, the question was whether to cancel or to postpone the event: 中止か延期か. They decided to postpone it until several weeks after the disaster: “被災から数週間で「延期開催」を決断した。”.

  • 被災・ひさい: disaster, suffering from a disaster.
  • 決断・けつだん: a firm decision.

Finally, the 春のフェス became 夏のアラバキ. The edition of 2011 was a way to pay respect to the victims. One of the staff said: “あの年のアラバキには、亡くなった方への鎮魂の意味合いが確かにあった”.

  • 鎮魂・ちんこん: the repose of the dead
  • 意味合い・いみあい: an implication, a connotation, a hidden meaning.

Note: I didn’t know this festival, but I have always been looking for alternative Japanese singers and groups. The festival website has a full list of artists!

Moritomo Gakuen scandal: the documents had been falsified

I cannot possibly work my way through the numerous articles relative to this case. There is so many of them that I don’t know which one I should read, and anyway, they are all above my level. Fortunately, I found this video on Asahi website: いちから解説!森友学園の決裁文書改ざん問題.

If they made a video called “いちから解説!”, this case must be complex even for Japanese. Anyway, it is perfect for me!

Tuesday (12th), the Minister of Finance confirmed that 14 documents relative to the Moritomo Gakuen scandal have been falsified:


  • 決裁文書・けっさいぶんしょ: this is how all the news articles refer to the documents that had been tampered with, but I don’t know how I am supposed to understand 決裁 and how to say it in English. I think, but I am not sure, that these documents had been approved by the Ministry of Finance, although they had been altered. I will just talk about “the documents”.
    • 決裁・けっさい means “sanction”, “approval”.

The video then goes through the whole case and sums up what we already know:

  1. Concerning the sale price 売却額, there had been a reduction of 800 million Yen: “本来の鑑定価格から約8億円の値引き”:
    • 鑑定・かんてい: an expert opinion, estimation.
    • 値引き・ねびき: a reduction in price, a discount.
  2. Abe’s wife, Akie ABE, was to be named “honorary principal” 名誉校長 of the new school.
  3. Abe said that he would resign if it could be proven that he or his wife had interfered in the sale.
  4. Nobihisa SAGAWA, who was then a high official in the Ministry of Finance at the time of the sale, said that the documents relative to the sale’s negotiations had been disposed of: “交渉記録を廃棄した”:
    • 交渉・こうしょう: negotiations
    • 廃棄する・はいきする: dispose of, throw away, get rid of
  5. At the end of 2017, the Board of Audit concluded that justifications 根拠・こんきょ for such a discount were insufficient.

In this context, the Minister of Finance admitted that documents submitted during the investigation had been falsified. We talk of 決裁文書改ざん.

  • 改ざん・かいざん means “falsification”.

What has been altered?

First, the sale was described as “exceptional”: 本件の特殊性. These words were deleted.

  • 特殊性・とくしゅせい: a special characteristic.

The name of Akie ABE had also been erased from a document: “昭恵氏の名前が削られていた”.

  • 昭恵・あきえ: Akie ABE
  • 削る・けずる: delete, erase

Before having been tampered with, the document referred to the visit of Akie ABE to the site and words of encouragement she gave at the time: “いい土地ですから、前に勧めてください。”

The original documents also mentioned contacts between officials, but I don’t understand to whom exactly these contacts have been made or why this could have been a sensitive piece of information.

A leading member of the Finance Ministry said that the “Official Residence of the Prime Minister” was not involved in the falsification.

  • 幹部・かんぶ means “a leading member”, a “key officer”, “a senior member”.
  • They say that there is no 関与 with the 官邸
    • 関与・かんよ involvement, participation
    • 官邸・かんてい: the Official Residence of the Prime Minister. I guess that it is a way to talk about Abe and include his wife too.

Of course, the opposition is asking for cross-examination of the Prime Minister Shinzo ABE and the  Minister of Finance Taro ASO

  • 追及・ついきゅう: questioning, interrogation, a cross-examination

In the meanwhile, Minister of Finance Taro ASO denied all conjecture concerning the government or politicians and said that we had to wait for the police to complete the investigation to get more detailed results.

  • 麻生太郎・あそうたろう: Taro ASO, Minister of Finance
  • 忖度・そんたく: conjecture.

Note: I wouldn’t be surprised if they updated the video later, to include future new developments. I studied it as it were on Friday morning (16th).

The note left by an employee of the Kinki Financial Bureau

On March 7th, a member of the Kinki Finance Bureau (an organisation under the Finance Ministry that was involved in the sale and, as it appears, in the falsification of the documents) committed suicide. The NHK article 「森友」自殺した職員がメモ「自分1人の責任にされてしまう」 gives an insight of the note he left before dying.

He clearly accuses his hierarchy, says that he acted upon directives from above and was treated as a scapegoat:

  • “上からの指示で文書を書き直させられた”
    • 書き直させられた: a good opportunity to revise the causative-passive form!
  • “決裁文書の調書の部分が詳しすぎると言われ上司に書き直させられた”
    • 調書・ちょうしょ: a protocol, a written evidence, a record
  • “勝手にやったのではなく財務省からの指示があった”
  • “このままでは自分1人の責任にされてしまう、冷たい”

The video in the article was surprisingly understandable to me.

Hayao Miyazaki’s「毛虫のボロ」

This is an article I found on NHK news.

5 years after The Wind rises 「風立ちぬ」, Hayao MIYAZAKI announced that he has completed his new short film 「毛虫のボロ」. The 14 minutes story follows a caterpillar as it opens his eyes to the world for the first time.

  • 宮崎駿・みやざきはやお: Hayao MIYAZAKI
  • 短編アニメーション・たんぺん: The word 短編 means “a short piece of fiction.”
  • 毛虫・けむし: a hairy caterpillar (chenille)

This short film is, as usual, drawn by hand but also uses computer-generated imagery: “これまでの手描きに加えて、初めて一部にCGを取り入れた”.

With The Wind Rises, Hayao MIYAZAKI took his retreat from directing long films and concentrated on this short animation. But he came back on his decision last year and is coming back to full-length animation: 宮崎監督は、5年前に長編アニメからの引退を表明してこの作品に専念してきましたが、去年、引退を撤回して長編アニメの製作を再開しています。

  • 長編・ちょうへん: a long work, opposed to 短編.
  • 専念する・せんねんする: concentrate on, devote oneself to. (sthに 専念する)
  • 撤回する・てっかいする: withdraw, revoke, recall

Hello Kitty Shinkansen

This Summer, it will be possible to travel on board of a “Hello Kitty Shinkansen“. The idea is to link people and region through Hello Kitty’s pink ribbon: “ハローキティのリボンがお客様と地域を、「つないで、結ぶ」新幹線。”

  • つなぐ: to link, to connect
  • 結ぶ・むすぶ: to tie up, to knot, to bind. Can also mean “join, link, tie” in our context. This verb is used to say that a train “links” two cities. For example “東京と大阪を3時間で結ぶ新幹線”.


I am taken aback by the number of new articles published on Japanese information websites. I like the Asahi website and NHK news, but new articles are coming every 2 minutes, so it is very difficult to find the main topics in it. The best way I found until now is to listen to NHK Radio News every morning, but this does not mean I understand what they say…

Of course, I am sure that if I get better at reading Japanese, going through articles’ titles and selecting crucial information will be much easier!