The editorial staff of The Japan Times selected these domestic stories as the most important of 2015.
1 Defense shift: The Diet enacts security laws in September that allow the Self-Defense Forces to engage in collective self-defense and a wider range of missions overseas, marking a historic departure from Japan’s pacifist postwar policies. Tens of thousands of people rally outside the Diet in protest.
2 Hostage crisis: The Islamic State group executes self-styled military contractor Haruna Yukawa in January and journalist Kenji Goto in February after three-way negotiations to free them fail. The incident spurred the government to revamp its contacts in the Middle East, deploying additional staff to embassies in the region and establishing a new intelligence liaison unit under the Foreign Ministry.
3 Free trade triumph: Twelve nations approve a basic agreement in October on a sweeping Pacific free trade pact involving nearly 40 percent of the global economy. A final round of talks in Atlanta caps years of on-off negotiations.
4 Olympic missteps: Amid ballooning costs, in July Prime Minister Shinzo Abe scraps the design for the National Stadium, the centerpiece of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. The tournament’s official logo is withdrawn in September over a plagiarism claim.
5 Atomic reboot: Kyushu Electric restarts two reactors at the Sendai power plant in August and October, ending a 2013 moratorium on atomic power prompted by the Fukushima nuclear disaster. Power companies submitted other reactors for safety checks prior to possible restarts.
6 War apology: Abe releases a statement on the 70th anniversary of Japan’s surrender in World War II in August. The text includes the phrases “heartfelt apology,” “deep remorse,” “colonial rule” and “aggression” to avoid diplomatic friction with former foes China and South Korea.
7 Gay rights, surnames: In a first, Tokyo’s Shibuya and Setagaya wards issue certificates in November recognizing same-sex unions as “equivalent to marriage.” In a move upholding traditional values, in December the Supreme Court upholds a requirement for married couples to share the same surname.
8 Teens get vote: The Diet lowers the voting age to 18 from 20 in the nation’s biggest electoral reform in 70 years, encouraging younger voters to become more politically active in deciding the nation’s future.
9 My Number: The rollout of the My Number ID system begins in October with an eye to numbering every Japanese and foreign resident nationwide. The system is aimed at aiding the administration of tax and social support, while critics say it could be open to misuse once it goes live in January.
10 Shoddy construction: Toyo Tire admits falsifying data that led to the installation of defective seismic shock absorbers in buildings; building contractor Asahi Kasei admits piling data for a Yokohama condominium were faked by a subsidiary after a tower in the complex is discovered to be tilting.