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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.