National

The top Japan news stories of 2016

The Japan Times newsroom selected these national news stories as the most important of 2016.

1. A president in Hiroshima: U.S. President Barack Obama made a historic and emotional visit to Hiroshima on May 27. He was the first sitting U.S. president to go to the once-destroyed city, where he paid tribute to the victims of the atomic bombs and called for the elimination of nuclear weapons.


People in Tokyo watch a speech by Emperor Akihito on Aug. 8.
People in Tokyo watch a speech by Emperor Akihito on Aug. 8. | BLOOMBERG

2. Signs of retirement: In an unprecedented video message on Aug. 8, Emperor Akihito expressed concern about how his advanced age is affecting the performance of his public duties. The speech, indicating his wish to abdicate, sparked debate over how to revise a law that prevents him from doing so.


A naval officer pays his respects at the USS Arizona Memorial for those who died during the bombing of Pearl Harbor on the 75th anniversary of the attack.
A naval officer pays his respects at the USS Arizona Memorial for those who died during the bombing of Pearl Harbor on the 75th anniversary of the attack. | AP

3. A prime minister in Pearl Harbor: Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced earlier this month that he would visit the USS Arizona Memorial in Pearl Harbor — the first official visit by a sitting Japanese leader — in late December during a trip for his final summit with outgoing U.S. President Barack Obama.


A woman stands in shock in front of her wrecked home in Mashiki, Kumamoto Prefecture. A second earthquake that struck early Saturday morning has caused extensive structural damage to buildings and roads.
A woman stands in shock in front of her wrecked home in Mashiki, Kumamoto Prefecture. A second earthquake that struck early Saturday morning has caused extensive structural damage to buildings and roads. | KYODO

4. Earthquakes in Kumamoto: A series of huge earthquakes and aftershocks rattled many areas in Kumamoto and Oita prefectures in April. The temblors killed dozens of people and destroyed or damaged more than 80,000 houses and other buildings.


A man offers a prayer for victims of a mass killing in Sagamihara, Kanagawa Prefecture.
A man offers a prayer for victims of a mass killing in Sagamihara, Kanagawa Prefecture. | KYODO

5. The Sagamihara massacre: In the country’s worst mass murder in postwar history, a 26-year-old knife-wielding suspect named Satoshi Uematsu attacked a care facility for people with disabilities in Sagamihara, Kanagawa Prefecture, on July 26. He killed 19 people and wounded 25 others.


Former Diet lawmaker Yuriko Koike cheers after the results of the Tokyo gubernatorial election are announced on Sunday evening.
Former Diet lawmaker Yuriko Koike cheers after the results of the Tokyo gubernatorial election are announced on Sunday evening. | SATOKO KAWASAKI

6. Tokyo’s iron lady: Former environment minister Yuriko Koike was elected the capital’s first female governor on July 31, and began her tenure with a bang by reviewing the swelling costs for the 2020 Olympics and Tsukiji fish market relocation.


Mothers deliver a petition to lawmakers in Tokyo on March 23 demanding better access to day care.
Mothers deliver a petition to lawmakers in Tokyo on March 23 demanding better access to day care. | KYODO

7. The “Die Japan” blog: An anonymous blog entry posted by an irate mother complaining that she had to quit her job after her child was denied admission to a day care center went viral on social media in February, sparking nationwide movements to call for more nurseries.


After the voting age was lowered, a third-year high school student casts her vote during a mayoral election in Ukiha, Fukuoka Prefecture, on July 3.
After the voting age was lowered, a third-year high school student casts her vote during a mayoral election in Ukiha, Fukuoka Prefecture, on July 3. | KYODO

8. This vote’s for you: Legislation took effect on June 19 to lower the voting age to 18 from 20 — the biggest reform of the nation’s electoral laws in 70 years — to encourage younger people to be more politically active.


Yukimi Takahashi, the mother of Dentsu employee Matsuri Takahashi, speaks at a conference on overwork in November.
Yukimi Takahashi, the mother of Dentsu employee Matsuri Takahashi, speaks at a conference on overwork in November.| KYODO

9. Dentsu under fire for overwork: The country’s biggest advertising agency, Dentsu Inc., was held responsible for the suicide of a 24-year-old employee, Matsuri Takahashi. The headquarters and its units were later investigated by the labor authorities.


In January, Bank of Japan Gov. Haruhiko Kuroda made the decision to introduce a negative interest rate.
In January, Bank of Japan Gov. Haruhiko Kuroda made the decision to introduce a negative interest rate.| KYODO

10. Less than zero: In a bid to beat the country’s long deflationary trend, the Bank of Japan decided to introduce the nation’s first-ever negative interest rate on Jan. 29. The shocking move sent financial markets gyrating in the following months and hit many banks’ profits.

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