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For one explanation of why overseas fans won’t be able to attend the Tokyo Games, look no further than Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga’s public support rate. The risk of inviting a wave of coronavirus infections linked to the influx of spectators and incurring voter wrath ahead of an election was not one Suga was willing to take, experts say.

Yet the fourth COVID-19 wave could come regardless, knocking Suga’s leadership off course at a crucial moment ahead of Tokyo 2020. Japan is entering the season for cherry blossom parties, graduation ceremonies and the start of the new academic and fiscal year, with the state of emergency now lifted across Japan.

Six months into his tenure, wining-and-dining scandals at the communications ministry, including one involving Suga’s eldest son, are also weighing on the PM, who has apparently lost steam after starting out strong with a flurry of action on key policies such as the lowering of cellphone fees.

Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga speaks at a news conference at the Prime Minister's Office on Thursday along with Shigeru Omi, head of the government's COVID-19 subcommittee. | POOL / VIA REUTERS
Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga speaks at a news conference at the Prime Minister’s Office on Thursday along with Shigeru Omi, head of the government’s COVID-19 subcommittee. | POOL / VIA REUTERS

Last Tuesday, Yasuhiko Taniwaki, who played a key role in helping Suga lower phone fees, resigned after the communications ministry announced its decision to suspend him from work. He was found to have violated the government ethics code by receiving lavish dinners from telecoms giant NTT.

Communications minister Ryota Takeda admitted Thursday that he too dined with NTT President Jun Sawada, as had been reported by a weekly magazine, although he insisted everything was above board. Two of Takeda’s predecessors also dined with Sawada when they were leading the ministry.

One question looms over the wining-and-dining affair: Why did mainstream media outlets take so long to probe the scandals that were first uncovered by weekly magazine Shukan Bunshun? In the Media Mix column, Philip Brasor looks at what might have given TV and newspaper companies pause, including connections to the PM and the fact that satellite TV licenses were involved.

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