Hosting the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics amid the coronavirus pandemic has been picked as the top domestic news story of 2021 by senior editors of Kyodo News and its member or subscriber newspapers and broadcasters.
(1) The Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics held behind closed doors
The Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games, postponed for a year due to the coronavirus pandemic, were mostly held behind closed doors to stem the spread of infections.
Amid concern among the Japanese public over staging the Summer Games during the pandemic, when the capital and other parts of the country were under a COVID-19 state of emergency, Japanese athletes excelled by winning a total of 58 medals, including a record 27 gold, in the Olympics and 51 medals, including 13 gold, in the Paralympics.
(2) Japan repeatedly underwent COVID-19 state of emergency
The Japanese government imposed a fourth state of emergency, during which establishments serving alcohol were asked to halt businesses, on Tokyo to stem the spread of the coronavirus infections in July, following the first one declared in April 2020. In August, the number of new coronavirus cases topped 25,000 a day at one point.
(3) PM Suga steps down, successor Kishida forms government
Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga abruptly said Sept. 3 he would step down from office as his Cabinet suffered low approval ratings due to their inability to contain the spread of coronavirus infections. Fumio Kishida became the country's 100th prime minister after prevailing in a presidential run-off of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party on Sept. 29, launching his first Cabinet on Oct. 4.
(4) "Fifth wave" of COVID-19 leads to health care system crisis
The so-called "fifth wave" of infections led by the spread of the highly transmissible Delta variant of the coronavirus put a strain on the country's health care system. Cases of COVID-19 patients who were not admitted to hospitals rose due to a shortage of hospital beds. In Chiba Prefecture, east of Tokyo, a newborn died as its mother, who was infected with the virus, was unable to find a hospital.
(5) Japan's ruling LDP retains majority in lower house
Japan's ruling Liberal Democratic Party secured 261 of the 465 seats in the House of Representatives, enough to effectively control all standing committees, in the general election on Oct. 31. Prime Minister Fumio Kishida launched his second Cabinet on Nov. 10.
(6) Japan marks 10th anniversary of massive quake disaster
On March 11, Japan marked the 10th anniversary of the massive earthquake and tsunami disaster that devastated northeastern Japan. More than 18,000 people died or went missing because of the disaster, which triggered a nuclear accident at a power plant in Fukushima Prefecture. About 40,000 people still live away from their homes after the meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.
(7) Princess Mako, boyfriend Kei Komuro tie the knot
Princess Mako, a niece of Emperor Naruhito, married her commoner boyfriend Kei Komuro on Oct. 26 after years of controversy over a financial dispute involving Komuro's mother that led the couple to forgo traditional ceremonies associated with a royal marriage. The newlyweds left Japan to start a new life in the United States in November.
(8) Massive mudslide hits spa resort Atami, central Japan, after torrential rain
A massive mudslide sparked by torrential rain engulfed a residential area in Atami, a hot spa resort in Shizuoka Prefecture, southwest of Tokyo, on July 3, leaving 27 people dead or missing. Bereaved families and local business operators filed a lawsuit against the current and former owners of the land where the landslide originated, seeking a total of about 3.2 billion yen ($28 million) in damages.
(9) Over 70% of population in Japan vaccinated against COVID-19
Over 70 percent of the population in Japan are currently fully vaccinated against COVID-19 after the government began the inoculation program in February. The pace of vaccination picked up during the summer to 1 million shots per day, and booster shots for health care professionals started in December.
(10) Fujii becomes youngest 4 major titles holder in shogi by winning Ryuo crown
Shogi prodigy Sota Fujii won the prestigious Ryuo championship on Nov. 13 with a four-game sweep over Masayuki Toyoshima. Aged 19 years and three months, he became the youngest player in history to hold four major titles. He broke the previous record set by Yoshiharu Habu, who held four major titles in 1993 at 22 years and nine months before sweeping the seven majors that existed in 1996.