Japanese News: April week1

I have been checking the news to in Japanese to give an overview of what happened this week (including last weekend). Of course, I may have overlooked important information and I hope that I understood well the articles I have read. I did my best!

Let’s have a look! (all sources from NHK News Web):

Civil protest after Sagawa’s testimony

Last week, Sagawa testified before the Diet concerning the falsification of the documents relative to the Moritomo Gakuen scandal. However, he refused to answer the hottest questions because he could be subject to prosecution. On Friday evening, demonstrators in a massive protest asked for answers: 森友 国会前で大規模抗議デモ 佐川氏喚問後初の週末.

I would translate the title as such: “[Moritomo] Big protest before the National Diet building: first weekend after Sagawa’s testimony.

  • 大規模・だいきぼ: large-scale. Sadly, the article does not say how many people were there.
  • 抗議・こうぎ: a protest
  • 喚問・かんもん: a summons

The article says that people asked for clear explanations: “ちゃんと説明しろ”. The reporter interviewed two persons. What they say certainly reflects the sentiment of many people and is quite easy to understand in Japanese:


This man says that he cannot trust a government who easily falsifies documents and doesn’t give explanations. He says that now, he can’t but think that the government is lying and he asks for the truth.


This woman says that she finds it strange that Sagawa did not give any explanations. She asks: whereas Sagawa didn’t say a word about the process of the falsification, why did he state so clearly that neither Abe nor his wife was involved?

April Fool

I didn’t know, but the newspaper 東京新聞 publishes hoaxes every year for April fool since 2001! I understand that people may be against jokes in newspapers, but it makes me think of 19th Century Great Moon Hoax or Poe’s Balloon Hoax, and I find it exciting!

Anyway, そのうそ、本当? asks one article. Among other examples of jokes made by several brands, it cites last year’s hoax by 東京新聞. They said that the きんさんぎんさん姉妹 were in reality 三姉妹. Kin (金・きん) and Gin (銀・ぎん) are twin sisters known for their longevity. They died in 2000 and 2001 at the age of 107 and 108 years old. The article says that there was a third sister named Do (銅・どう).

In France, we stick a paper fish in other people’s back on April Fools’ Day (but the last time I did it, it was during primary school…)

New canvas

Emperor’s abdication planning

I see that there are discussions around the Emperor’s abdication but nothing really new. As this article’s title says 今後の焦点は元号に 政府 慎重に検討進める, the government is working on it. If you are interested in this matter, NHK has a very thorough dossier on the subject! I might read some parts of it later, to be up-to-date next year, when the transition takes place.

  • 焦点・しょうてん: a focal point, a central point
  • 元号・げんごう: an era name
  • 慎重・しんちょう: careful
  • 検討・けんとう: an examination

What I found very interesting is this article: 「平成」後の新元号 いつ変わる?どう決まる?. It is about how the new name of an era is chosen. Let’s have a look at the intertitles:

  • まず、有識者が2~5の案を提出: First, the persons in charge (?) will propose 2 to 5 names. These persons are specialists of literature and history.
  • 「漢字2文字」「書きやすい」など 政府内で数案に絞る: The government narrows down the propositions with the criteria “2 kanji”, “easy to write”. The name must also be easy to read and of course, must not have been used in the past.
    • 絞る・しぼる means “to squeeze” but it also means “to narrow down”. I often see the expression “容疑者を絞る” (narrow down the suspects) in Keigo HIGASHINO’s books.
  • 最後に、改元の政令を閣議決定: A Cabinet meeting session makes the final decision concerning the new era name.
    • 改元・かいげん: a change in era name
    • 政令・せいれい: a government ordinance, a cabinet order
    • 閣議・かくぎ: a cabinet meeting
  • 「いつ発表するかは白紙」首相: Abe said that the date of the public announcement of the new era name was still “白紙・はくし”. This word means “white paper” but can also mean “scratch” like in the expression “start from scratch”. I guess that what is meant here is that they still haven’t decided or even started to discuss the date (?)
  • 官房長官が記者会見で発表か: Abe said that, given that it was the Chief Cabinet Secretary who announced the new era name Heisei during a press conference at the time, it certainly will be Chief Cabinet Secretary this time too.

Gosho AOYAMA is back!

Gosho AOYAMA (青山剛昌・あおやまごうしょう) had taken some months of rest. The series Case Closed 「名探偵コナン」will make a return in the magazine「週刊少年サンデー」on April 11th, after 4 months of absence.

See the article: 漫画「名探偵コナン」連載再開へ 今月発売号から.

  • 連載・れんさい: serialization, serial publication

You can see a handwritten note by Gosho AOYAMA on the magazine site. He announces the return of Conan and says that, even if this note is published on April Fool, there is zero lie in it!

Japanese macaques relieve stress in hot springs?

Everything is in the title: 野生ニホンザル 温泉でストレス解消か 京大グループ

A research group at Kyoto University (京都大学) has observed that Japanese macaques ニホンザル tend to spend more time in the onsen in Winter than in Spring. The reason could be that they relieve the stress ストレス解消.

Tradition vs human life?

A shocking report came out on Thursday: 女性が土俵 相撲協会幹部「次元の違う話」緊急時対応を柔軟に

On Wednesday, during the grand sumo 大相撲 Spring tournaments 春巡業 in the city of Maizuru (舞鶴市), the mayor collapsed on the ring. The ring of Sumo tournaments is called Dohyo 土俵・どひょう, and it is traditionally forbidden to women.

  • 大相撲・おおすもう: a grand sumo tournament, professional sumo
  • 巡業・じゅんぎょう: a provincial tour, a tour of the provinces. Also: 地方巡業.

On the video, we can see that several men surround the unconscious mayor, but they don’t seem to be doing anything. Then a woman, who has medical knowledge, steps on the Dohyo and starts a heart massage. What is shocking is that we can hear an announcement saying that women should get out of the Dohyo: 「女性は土俵から下りてください」. This announcement was repeated three times.

The video in the article is relatively easy to understand. People asked on the street said saving a life comes first 最優先・さいゆうせん (highest priority). The doctor interviewed said that the woman’s reaction was right 正しい and that nothing should be done to prevent saving a life.

This other article 大相撲巡業 土俵上で倒れた舞鶴市長 くも膜下出血で入院 京都 cites an official who was on the Dohyo at the time. He said that he heard the woman say: 『看護師で心臓マッサージができる』. When the announcement asked women to step out of the Dohyo, she said 『人命救助をしているのになぜ』.

This other article 大相撲巡業 救命処置の女性に「土俵から下りて」とアナウンス says that while the video of the scene becomes viral on Twitter and Youtube, comments on the Internet were 「救命活動を止めろということか」 or 「非常識きわまりないアナウンスだ」.

  • 救命・きゅうめい: lifesaving
  • 非常識・ひじょうしき: absurdity, lack of common sense
  • きわまりない: extremely

Isao TAKAHATA died on Thursday

Isao TAKAHATA 高畑勲(たかはた・いさお)died at the age of 82 on Thursday (5th). He co-founded Studio Ghibli with Hayao MIYAZAKI and directed, to name a few, The grave of the fireflies「火垂るの墓」, The Tale of the Princess Kaguya「かぐや姫の物語」and Only Yesterday「おもひでぽろぽろ」which is one of my favourite Ghibli films.

Further reading: アニメ作家 高畑勲さん死去 「火垂るの墓」などの作品

Japanese News April week1 3

The log of GSDF in Iraq

The context:

GSDF is an acronym for Japan Ground Self-Defense Force or in Japanese 陸上自衛隊・りくじょうじえいたい. The GSDF has operated in Iraq from 2004 to 2006. The Self-Defense Forces participate in peacemaking operations overseas.

Last year, there has been a cover-up scandal that led to the demission of Defense Minister Inada. This scandal concerned the operation of the GSDF in South Sudan. To summarise the case, although the GSDF was there to reconstruct infrastructures and provide humanitarian aid, information leaked that they were facing combats. Under the accusation that the ministry knew but tried to conceal the real situation that was facing its soldiers in South Sudan, Inada resigned.

At this occasion, a large-scale investigation has been made concerning documents of the Defense Ministry. It concerned, among others, the daily activity log of the GSDF in Iraq. At the time of the investigation, the Defense Ministry said that the daily activity log “does not exist”.

And what happened on Monday (2nd)? Defense Minister announced that they had found the log: 「存在しない」イラク派遣の陸自日報が見つかる 防衛相が陳謝

The title of this article can be translated as such: “the daily activity log of the SDF operation in Iraq that “does not exist” has been found: Defense Minister apologises.”

  • 派遣・はけん: dispatch, deployment
  • 陸自・りくじ: abbreviation for 陸上自衛隊・りくじょうじえいたい GSDF
  • 日報・にっぽう: a daily report
  • 防衛相・ぼうえいしょう: Minister of Defense. Also: 防衛大臣・ぼうえいだいじん.
  • 陳謝・ちんしゃ: an official apology.

Let’s go through some parts of the article:

Let’s look at the first paragraph that summarises the issue:


  • 陸上自衛隊・りくじょうじえいたい Ground Self-Defense Force GSDF
  • 防衛省・ぼうせいしょう: Ministry of Defense
  • 小野寺防衛大臣: Actual Minister of Defense Itsunori ONODERA
    • 小野寺五典(おのでら・いつのり)
  • 陸上幕僚監部・りくじょうばくりょうかんぶ: Ground Staff Office

The article further insists that the ministry once said that this log “does not exist”: イラクでの活動の日報について、防衛省は、これまで国会の資料請求や質疑に対し「存在しない」と回答していました。

  • 資料請求・しりょうせいきゅう: asking (a request) for information
  • 質疑・しつぎ: a question, an inquiry

To explain the response of the time, the Minister said that they only searched for the log at one place and that they didn’t find it there.


  • Concerning why they explained that the daily log (of the GSDF’s dispatching to Iraq)  hadn’t been kept,
  • the Ministry of Defense announced that (防衛省は…と明らかにしました)
  • it was because they didn’t find it when they checked at the quarters in charge of the operation
    • 部署・ぶしょ: one’s quarters
    • 運用・うんよう: operation
  • last February
  • when the members of the Diet asked for verification

I am slowly getting used to this kind of long sentences. Another article states clearly that they didn’t check other places than these quarters: 陸自のイラク派遣日報 当初は部隊運用部署しか調査せず 防衛省. We have the use of the grammar “しか…ない”.

Japanese News April week11

The core of the problem is here. Instead of saying that they couldn’t find the log, they said that it no longer existed. This leads to some questioning. The article cites opposition members at the end. Someone said that if the Ministry intentionally hid the log, it would be a big deal:「故意に隠していたら大問題だ」.

To spice the revelation, it seems that the log had been found in January of this year. It took three months before the person who found it (from the GSDF) report it to Defense Minister: 日報問題 防衛相への報告まで3か月 管理適切か検証へ:


On Wednesday, however, a new revelation came out: the existence of the log had been confirmed in March 2017 but has been deliberately concealed until now: 陸自 日報問題 去年3月に存在確認も大臣らに報告せず.

This title encompasses a lot of information in a very condensed way: “the GSDF, concerning the problem of the daily activity log, even though they (the GSDF) had confirmation of its (the log) existence, didn’t report it to the Defense Minister and others”.

Let’s have a look at the first paragraph:


  • Concerning the problem of the discovery of the daily log (about GSDF dispatching to Iraq)
  • Minister of Defense Onodera announced that (this is the last part of the sentence in Japanese)
  • in reality, in March of last year,
  • although the existence of the log had been confirmed
    • we have this N2 grammar: にもかかわらず: although…, in spite of…
  • the GSDF
  • did not report the fact of the discovery to Inada, who was Defense Minister at the time, and others.

Of course, they will make an investigation to understand the process and the motive of the concealment. イラク派遣日報 防衛省 詳しい経緯や動機などの解明急ぐ方針.

  • 経緯・いきさつ: the circumstances, course of events
  • 動機・どうき: the motive

Japanese News April week1 2

The labour reform

Deliberations are going on in the Diet about the Labour reform. Especially, they are discussing the「高度プロフェッショナル制度」. What I know (or think that I know) is that there were two major features in this reform project: the so-called discretionary system 裁量労働制 and the 高度プロフェッショナル制度 (how do you translate this in English?). Abe had to give up the first one because the data given to support it were flawed. So now, we are focusing on the second system.

I will swot up on the labour reform and come back with more information next week!


The less that I can say is that reading the news in Japanese is anything but boring! On top of the falsified documents scandal, they now have a concealed documents scandal! Is it okay??

As for me, I feel more and more at ease to read articles and their long sentences. Also, following the same issue over several days has the advantage that I already know the keywords, so reading becomes easier and easier. However, when a new issue appears (like the labour reform) I need to roll up my sleeves and get to work!