Japan Times editors selected the following domestic stories as the most important in 2013.
1) State secrets bill
The ruling bloc forces the controversial state secrets bill through the Diet in December despite roaring protests from opposition parties, the media and the public, enabling the government to hide information and jail people who leak or illegally seek such information.
2) Tokyo Summer Olympics
Tokyo wins the bid in September to host the 2020 Summer Olympics and Paralympics. Also the site of the 1964 Olympics, Tokyo will be the first Asian city to host the Summer Games twice. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, in his presentation to the International Olympic Committee, downplays the dangers of radiation-contaminated water from the Fukushima No. 1 plant, saying “the situation is under control.”
3) Territorial disputes
The territorial dispute with China escalates with Beijing’s declaration in November of an air defense identification zone in the East China Sea, which includes the Japan-held Senkaku Islands. Japan’s relations with South Korea remain troubled by the issue of the use of Korean sex slaves during the war. Since becoming prime minister again last December, Abe has yet to sit down for talks with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang or South Korean President Park Geun-hye.
4) Ruling coalition takes Upper House
The ruling coalition secures a majority in the July Upper House election. With his party in control of both houses of the Diet, Abe has the momentum to achieve his policy goals, including the enactment of the state secrets law and the establishment of a Japanese version of the U.S. National Security Council.
5) Contaminated water leaks
Tokyo Electric Power Co. announces in August that some 300 tons of radioactive water leaked from a tank at the damaged Fukushima No. 1 power plant. The following month, it estimates that some 400 tons of contaminated groundwater is flowing into the Pacific daily. Tepco continues to test a high-tech filtering machine, ALPS, to remove radioactive materials from the tainted water.
6) Gov. Inose’s resignation
Tokyo Gov. Naoki Inose, who was instrumental in Tokyo’s successful bid to host the 2020 Olympics, announces his resignation in December after coming under fire for receiving ¥50 million in cash from a hospital operator, Tokushukai, mired in vote-buying allegations involving a Diet member.
7) Raising of consumption tax
In an effort to curb the nation’s fiscal debt, which topped ¥1 quadrillion at the end of June, the prime minister announces in October that the consumption tax will be raised in April to 8 percent from the current 5 percent, the first hike in 17 years. In December, his Cabinet approves a ¥5.5 trillion supplementary budget for fiscal 2013 to fund a stimulus package designed to minimize the negative impact of the tax hike.
8) Hostage crisis in Algeria
Ten Japanese are among 37 hostages from eight countries killed in an attack by Islamic militants on a gas plant in eastern Algeria, where Yokohama-based engineering firm JGC Corp., known as Nikki in Japanese, was contracted to build facilities. The government decides to more than quadruple its defense attaches in Africa to strengthen military intelligence. The massacre, and Japan’s apparent shortcomings in gathering intelligence, fuels momentum for the secrets and national security council bills.
9) Monetary easing policy
Less than a month after taking office, Bank of Japan Gov. Haruhiko Kuroda unveils in April a radical monetary easing policy to end more than a decade of deflation by expanding the central bank’s purchase of government bonds to ¥50 trillion annually. In line with “Abenomics,” the policy is aimed at delivering both inflation and faster domestic growth. But many, doubting the BOJ’s 2 percent inflation target can be met, predict the economy will slow in fiscal 2014 after the consumption tax is hiked.
10) Mount Fuji reaches to the top
Mount Fuji, Japan’s highest and most celebrated peak, is named a cultural World Heritage site in June by the United Nations Economic, Scientific and Cultural Organization, after failing to be registered as a natural Heritage site in 2003. In December, “washoku” traditional Japanese cuisine, is added to UNESCO‘s Intangible Cultural Heritage list, raising the government’s hopes of attracting more foreign tourists.
In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
By subscribing, you can help us get the story right.