Compared to the chaos that has engulfed Japan in the opening days of 2024, the final days of last year seem like a halcyon age.

Before an earthquake caused devastation across the Noto Peninsula and Japan Airlines flight 516 narrowly avoided disaster at Tokyo’s Haneda Airport, the biggest news item that preoccupied the country was the great Christmas cake scandal. After some 800 strawberry shortcakes arrived at households across the country damaged and misshapen, executives of department store operator Takashimaya bowed in apology at a press conference carried on national television.

Around the same time, a more serious briefing was being held: Daihatsu Motor, the Toyota Motor unit, revealed that an internal investigation found that most of its vehicles hadn’t been properly collision-tested. The maker of cheap, fuel-efficient kei cars has been forced to pull its entire range of vehicles off the market.