Japanese News: June week 2

These are the topics that I found interesting this week! As usual, I have skipped all international matters.

  • Fukushima (imperial visit and dismantling)
  • The attack in the Shinkansen
  • Wedding anniversary
  • Hakamada case (paragraph break down and some reflexions on Japanese grammar)
  • Majority at 18


Imperial visit

It is the sixth time that the Emperor and Empress visit Fukushima since the disaster. It would also certainly be the last time before the Emperor’s abdication next year.

Among other activities, they met four representants of the victims from 富岡、大熊、双葉、浪江 and gave words of comfort and encouragement for the future like: “ご苦労も多かったと思いますが、それを乗り越えて良い生活を築いていかれるよう願っています。お元気で.” (source)

From the various articles I read on the subject, it seems that the words uttered by the Emperor and Empress really mean a lot to those who receive them.


Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc announced that it will dismantle four reactors at the Fukushima’s second nuclear power plant.

The Japanese name for Tepco or Tokyo Electronic Power Company Holdings is 東京電力ホールディングス(HD)and is abbreviated into 東電HD. The Japanese word for ”second nuclear plant” is 福島第2原発.

The word used to say “the decommissioning of a nuclear power plant” is 廃炉・はいろ (to me, sometimes, English is more difficult than Japanese 😳.)

As the article says, it is the first time that Tepco evokes clearly its intention to dismantle reactors at Fukushima: 東電が廃炉方針を明言したのは初めて.


On Saturday (9th) a man wounded three persons with a knife in the Shinkansen Tokyo-Shin Osaka. One of the victims deceased and two others have heavy wounds.

A man of 22 has been arrested. He admitted to having committed the attack and explained: “むしゃくしゃしていた。誰でもよかった.”, thus acknowledging that he stroke without reason.

Is it what is called 通り魔・とおりま in Japanese? 😒I am not familiar with this term, but I saw it appear in relation with this case. From what I read in Wikipedia, 通り悪魔 is a demon from the Japanese folklore that would inhabit people it finds being absentminded or lost in reverie and would then disturb their heart. Today, it is used to describe random acts of violence perpetrated without reason.

The article also evokes another attack in the Shinkansen in 2015. At the time, a man of 71 had set himself on fire, which resulted in the death of one other person and 28 persons wounded.

Wedding Anniversary

Crown Prince Naruhito and Crown Princess Masako are to celebrate their 25th wedding anniversary. In this article, they talk about 努力賞 and 感謝賞 which seems to be prizes given by the Crown Prince to his wife during the 10-years anniversary. To be honest, I don’t really understand what it is, and I find it even a little awkward.

The Crown Prince said:


Hakamada’s case

This is a case that I never heard of before, but several articles came out about the “袴田事件.” This is the topic that interested me the most this week. As it was challenging to read it in Japanese, I took it as an opportunity to do some sentence analysis.

To summarise the issue:

In 1968, Iwao HAKAMADA was sentenced to death for the murder of 4 people committed in 1966.

In 2014, Hakamada was freed by a district court that asked for a retrial and suspended his death sentence. What triggered this decision is a new DNA analysis brought by the defence that seriously undermines the evidence that was used to convict Hakamada at the time. One year after the murder, police have found bloodstained clothes and have said that Hakamada had worn them when he committed the crime. Today, further DNA analysis proves that neither Hakamada’s nor the victims’ DNA could be found on the clothes. Some suspect that the evidence was forged by the police.

We learnt this week that the Tokyo high court rejected the decision to reopen the case and start a new trial. However, they did not cancel the district court’s decision concerning the release of Hakamada because his health is deteriorating.

(If you want to read a more detailed account of it in English, I recommend this article by Mainichi)

Articles I have read on this topic in Japanese all started with the similar paragraph that summarises the problem in a concise way but proved very discouraging for me. Namely:

“1966年に起きた「袴田事件」で死刑が確定し、2014年の静岡地裁の再審開始決定で釈放された袴田巌元被告(82)の即時抗告審で、東京高裁(大島隆明裁判長)は11日、地裁決定を取り消し、再審請求を棄却する決定を出した。地裁が再審開始の根拠とした弁護側のDNA型鑑定について「信用性は乏しい」と判断した。一方で、袴田さんの健康状態などを考慮し、死刑と拘置の執行停止については維持した。弁護側は再審請求の棄却を不服とし、最高裁に特別抗告する方針。” (source).

Now that I know what it is all about, this kind of paragraph is easier to read, but at first, it was very downcasting. When I first read this, I had never heard of the Hakamada case so the whole paragraph was very opaque. Even if I could understand more by only concentrating on the kanji I know, sometimes there is just too many of them, if you know what I mean.

What follows is just a break down of this paragraph with some reflexions on Japanese grammar.

Paragraph break down

The first sentence contains the main information: the High Court of Tokyo rejected the decision to re-open the case:


In blue, the main information:

The High Court of Tokyo (the judge is Takaaki OSHIMA), on the 11th, came out with the decision to cancel the decision of the district court and reject the request for a re-trial.

  • 高裁・こうさい is the abbreviation for 高等裁判所・こうとうさいばんしょ, the high court.
  • 裁判長・さいばんちょう: the presiding judge.
  • 大島隆明・おおしまたかあき: Takaaki OSHIMA is the name of the presiding judge. To say the least, this is not vital information to understand our sentence, but it somehow adds to the profusion of kanji.
  • 地裁・ちさい is the abbreviation for 地方裁判所・ちほうさいばんしょ, a district court.
  • 再審・さいしん: a new trial, a retrial
    • 再審請求・さいしんせいきゅう: a request for a new trial
  • 棄却する・ききゃくする: to turn down, to reject

In purple, we are given context:

In the context of the immediate appeal trial of the former accused Iwao HAKAMADA who had been sentenced to death for the “Hakamada case” which happened in 1966 and was released in 2014 when the court of Shizuoka decided to re-open his trial, …

  • 袴田事件・はかまだじけん: the case Hakamada
  • 死刑・しけい: capital punishment
  • 静岡地裁・しずおかちさい: the court of Shizuoka
  • 釈放する・しゃくほうする: release, discharge, set free
  • 袴田巌・はかまだいわお: Iwao HAKAMADA
  • 被告・ひこく: the accused, the defendant
  • 即時抗告・そくじこうこく: immediate appeal. With the addition of 審, I guess that we can translate it by “immediate appeal court”.

The next sentence brings more precision about the high court’s decision:


In blue, the main argument. There is no subject clearly stated for the verb “判断した” in this sentence so we will go on with the same actor as the previous sentence, namely: “東京高裁は”.

(The high court of Tokyo) formed the judgement “lack of credibility”…

  • 乏しい・とぼしい: scanty, meagre, sparse

In purple, information about the object of this judgement:

… concerning the DNA analysis (provided by) the defence and that the district court considered as evidence to launch the retrial.

  • 弁護側・げんごがわ: the defence, the ones who speak for the defence.
  • DNA型鑑定・ディーエヌエーがたかんてい: DNA analysis, DNA testing

Next, we have the reassurance that the high court will not send Hakamada back to prison:


In blue:

Here again, the subject is still the high court of Tokyo.

However, (The high court) will maintain (the status of) suspension of both the death sentence and the detention

  • 拘置・こうち: detention, imprisonment
  • 執行停止・しっこうていし:  suspension of execution

In purple, the reason for this decision:

… considering things like the M. Hakamada’s health condition.

  • 考慮・こうりょ: consider, take account of

In the last sentence, finally, a new focus is introduced. We are not talking about the high court of Tokyo anymore, but about what the defence will do.


The defence is not satisfied with the (decision to) reject the request for re-trial and will make a special appeal to the Supreme Court,

  • 不服・ふふく: dissatisfaction, objection, protest, disagreement, complaint…
  • 特別抗告・とくべつこうこく: a special appeal
  • 最高裁・さいこうさい is the abbreviation of 最高裁判所・さいこうさいばんしょ, the Supreme Court.

Some reflexions about Japanese grammar

After all this time learning Japanese, I still feel very insecure when it comes to telling the difference between は and が. I mean, I have a general idea of course, but I am far for mastering it. The paragraph that I have just broken down proved tricky to me because of these particles.

The paragraph is about two main actors, each introduced with は: the high court and the defence. But as long as a new は is not introduced, we are to understand that the paragraph is still talking about the previous thing introduced by は, namely the high court of Tokyo.

This also means that the things introduced by が are not the subject of the main verb. They are the subjects of the verb in the subordinate clause. To know the subject of the main verbs, we need to look at the last thing that was introduced with は.

I am saying this because at first, I didn’t understand the sentence:


“The high court of Tokyo judged that the DNA analysis made by the defence and that the district court regarded as evidence for launching a new trial was lacking credibility”.

I thought that the district court was the subject of the verb “to judge”. Thus, I thought that the DNA analysis was referring to the analysis that was made at the time of the arrest, in 1967/1968. I ended up with something like: “the district court judged the credibility of the DNA analysis (of 1967/1968) to be questionable, thus giving ground to a new trial.”

But if we understand that the district court is the subject of “consider the DNA analysis as sufficient evidence for a retrial” and that the subject of “to judge” is still the high court of Tokyo introduced with は in the previous sentence… we have a completely different meaning.

It also helps to know that the district court re-open the case in 2014 because a new DNA analysis of bloodstained clothes found at the time proved that no connection could be established between Hakamada and the victims. And anyway, the main argument of the paragraph is to tell us that high court rejected the request for a new trial. As a consequence, it is more probable that this sentence explains why the high court rejected the request than tells why there had been a request in the first place.

I am always a little terrified when I see that I had completely misunderstood a sentence and ended up with a completely different meaning… but that it somehow made sense, preventing me from seeing that something was wrong! 😱

To conclude on this, I would say that, even though some grammar point may seem basic, and even though we can understand them in simple sentences, it is easy to overlook their significance in more complex sentences. Personally, I tend to focus too much on the unknown words and the unknown kanji and overlook the grammar. As a result, instead of translating what is really written, I put all the words together and try to guess the meaning. I find this to be particularly true in the news, where articles adopt such a concise style. Misunderstanding a particle can hinder the comprehension of a whole paragraph. I don’t really come across such problem in novels… I really think that this is something linked to the news.

Majority at 18

It’s done, the age of majority will be 18 (instead of 20) from April the 1st, 2022. In the meantime, several laws will have to be changed to adjust to the new age of majority.

In total, 22 laws will be revised. It concerns things like acquiring a passport, signing a contract without the parents’ permission or gender identity.

What I found really surprising concerns the consumption of alcohol, tobacco and gambling. While I thought that this would be allowed for people of 18, I am surprised to read that it won’t be the case:


  • 依存症・いぞんしょう: dependence
  • 懸念・けねん: fear, anxiety, concern
  • 規定・きてい: stipulations, prescriptions, provisions, regulations.

Honestly, I find this surprising. I mean, what is the point of reducing the majority from 20 to 18 if it is to change the word “minor” to “under 20” in the law! (just to be sure, I am not saying this to encourage alcohol and tobacco consumption or gambling dependence!🙂)

Another interesting point is the possibility to sign contracts without the parents’ permission. As there are concerns that unscrupulous companies will manipulate young consumers with methods such as 不安商法 or デート商法, it will be possible to cancel a contract in such cases.

不安商法 refers to deceptive marketing that emphasises people’s anxiety to sell their products or services at a high price. For example, using people’s fear of earthquake to sell infrastructures.

デート商法 is also a kind of misleading marketing that uses people’s sentiments to sell their products.

There are concerns that young consumers will become a privileged target for these unscrupulous marketing campaigns and the opposition asked for more regulations to protect the 18-20.


The Hakamada case was the most shocking news to me this week. After reading different articles on this topic, I cannot help but thinking that he was convicted on dubious evidence…