Top domestic news of 2014

The Japan Times editors selected these domestic stories as the most important of 2014.

1. Collective self-defense: Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Cabinet adopts a resolution reinterpreting the Constitution as permitting the nation to act in collective self-defense. This paves the way for possible use of military force to repel aggression against allies even if Japan itself is not under direct attack.


An employee at an Aeon store in Mihama Ward, Chiba, changes a price tag March 31 to reflect the hike in the consumption tax that took effect the next day.
An employee at an Aeon store in Mihama Ward, Chiba, changes a price tag March 31 to reflect the hike in the consumption tax that took effect the next day. | KYODO

2. Consumption tax: In April, cash registers begin adding 8 percent to the cost of purchases, up from 5 percent previously, dampening consumer demand and causing gross domestic product to shrink for two consecutive quarters. The impact is more sustained than expected. As a result, Abe in December postpones a hike to 10 percent, planned for October 2015, until April 2017.


Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is all smiles after a flower indicating victory is placed above his name on the candidates board at Liberal Democratic Party headquarters in Tokyo on the night of the Lower House election Dec. 14.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is all smiles after a flower indicating victory is placed above his name on the candidates board at Liberal Democratic Party headquarters in Tokyo on the night of the Lower House election Dec. 14. | KYODO

3. Snap election: Abe dissolves the Lower House and calls a general election that he bills as a referendum on his economic policies. The Liberal Democratic Party and Komeito secure a landslide and their coalition ends up in control of more than two-thirds of the seats. But voter turnout hits a record low, with many people citing a lack of viable alternatives. Even Banri Kaieda, the head of the Democratic Party of Japan, is ousted from his Tokyo seat.


Researcher Haruko Obokata works in her lab at the Riken institute
Researcher Haruko Obokata works in her lab at the Riken institute’s branch in Kobe on Jan. 28. | KYODO

4. STAP scandal: Research that makes headlines worldwide is soon revealed to be unreliable, and possibly faked. The respected international science journal Nature retracts two papers about a purportedly simple way to generate stem cells. Efforts to replicate the work fail, and the lead author of the papers, Haruko Obokata, resigns from the Riken institute.


Tadakazu Kimura, then-president of the Asahi Shimbun, bows in apology during a news conference in Tokyo on Sept. 11.
Tadakazu Kimura, then-president of the Asahi Shimbun, bows in apology during a news conference in Tokyo on Sept. 11. | KYODO

5. Asahi’s “comfort women” apology: The left-leaning Asahi Shimbun retracts past stories about the coercion of women into military brothels during World War II, admitting — years after the fact — that an eyewitness it cited is now considered unreliable. The Asahi also retracts an allegation that workers fled the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant in panic during the meltdowns in March 2011. The newspaper’s president resigns.


Hikers make their way down Mount Ontake as the volcano erupts on Sept. 27.
Hikers make their way down Mount Ontake as the volcano erupts on Sept. 27. | KYODO

6. Mount Ontake eruption: The volcano straddling Gifu and Nagano prefectures erupts in September, leaving 63 people, mostly hikers, dead or missing. Many were bludgeoned to death by falling rocks and hot ash in an eruption that seismologists did not predict. The nation’s worst postwar volcanic death toll was a reminder of some of the uncertainties Japan will always face from its seismically active islands.


The US-2 amphibious rescue aircraft is among the defense equipment that Japanese companies hope to export.
The US-2 amphibious rescue aircraft is among the defense equipment that Japanese companies hope to export. | KYODO

7. Arms exports: Abe’s Cabinet in April adopts a new set of principles that allows Japan to sell defense equipment to other countries, on condition that they are not actively involved in conflict, and that the exports contribute to international cooperation and national security.


Bank of Japan Gov. Haruhiko Kuroda speaks during a news conference at the central bank on Oct. 31.
Bank of Japan Gov. Haruhiko Kuroda speaks during a news conference at the central bank on Oct. 31. | KYODO

8. Surprise monetary easing: The Bank of Japan shocks the market and confounds economists’ predictions at the end of October by expanding its already massive monetary easing, after economic growth and inflation fall short of expectations. The yen further weakens and stock prices head upward, pleasing exporters and investors.


Isamu Akasaki (left), Hiroshi Amano (center) and Shuji Nakamura display their medals after being jointly awarded the Nobel Prize in physics at a ceremony in Stockholm on Dec. 10.
Isamu Akasaki (left), Hiroshi Amano (center) and Shuji Nakamura display their medals after being jointly awarded the Nobel Prize in physics at a ceremony in Stockholm on Dec. 10. | KYODO

9. Nobel Prize in physics: Three Japan-born professors — Isamu Akasaki of Meijo University, Hiroshi Amano of Nagoya University and Shuji Nakamura of the University of California, Santa Barbara — are honored for their work on blue light-emitting diodes. Their research is widely hailed as having paved the way for the production of energy-efficient white LEDs, which are fast replacing incandescent bulbs in lamps worldwide.


Protesters hold a rally against the secrecy law near the prime minister
Protesters hold a rally against the secrecy law near the prime minister’s residence on Dec. 9, the day before the law took effect. | KYODO

10. State secrecy law: Government officials and defense industry employees who leak information designated as a state secrets, and those who encourage such leaks, are threatened with prison sentences when a new law takes effect in December. Hundreds of people protest outside the prime minister’s office, saying the law undermines the public’s right to know. Journalists fear they could be prosecuted for trying to obtain data about, for example, nuclear accidents.

  • timefox

    I think Abe ministry was fine when I looked back to one year in this way.

  • Tomoko Endo

    I’m liberal,so I feel discomfort. The gov. are hunting rebels and detain them at mental illness hospital.
    Patients who are detained at mental illness hospital for a long time may be climinal of thinking. That is against the Japanese constitution. That is a big problem for us.
    The consevative want to break out wars,so they erase their oppsosition.
    The gov. and the party of ‘komei’ are hunting Japanese, it is said. Some say that the popes of Japanese cults’ are Koreans. And the Internet said that almost Japanese prim ministers are Koreans?.
    If so ,Japan are occupied by Korea for almost 69 years. The annexation of Korean for 69 years?
    I suspect that almost the right are Koreans??? They are too stupid.