The assassination of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has been picked as the top domestic news story of 2022 by senior editors of Kyodo News and its member or subscriber newspapers and broadcasters.
(1) Ex-PM Shinzo Abe assassinated
Former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was shot dead on July 8 by a lone gunman while delivering a stump speech in the western city of Nara two days ahead of a House of Councillors election.
The arrested attacker has said he held a grudge against the Unification Church and targeted Abe because of the politician's suspected links to it. As such, public attention was drawn to the religious group and its ties to the ruling Liberal Democratic Party.
The state funeral of Japan's longest-serving prime minister on Sept. 27 was met with widespread opposition over its projected cost, with many also saying there was no legal basis to justify holding such an event.
(2) Weak yen, surging prices hit people hard
The Japanese yen plummeted to just shy of 152 against the U.S. dollar in Tokyo in October, its lowest level in 32 years, amid monetary tightening in the United States and easing in Japan, prompting the Bank of Japan to conduct stealth yen-buying interventions. Prices of imports have jumped and the core consumer price index surged 3.7 percent in November from a year earlier, the fastest pace in nearly 41 years, hitting people hard.
(3) Ex-Tokyo Olympic executive arrested over bribery
Haruyuki Takahashi, a former Tokyo Olympic organizing committee executive who wielded huge influence in sports circles, was arrested on Aug. 17 and later indicted on a charge of receiving a combined 196 million yen ($1.5 million) in bribes from five companies. The scandal has since widened to bid-riggings over the games, overshadowing Sapporo's bid to host the 2030 Winter Olympics as public sentiment sours.
(4) Gov't questions Unification Church over illegal acts
The government exercised its "right to question" under the religious corporation law for the first time on Nov. 22 as part of its investigation into the Unification Church. The move is widely seen as preparation for seeking a court order to revoke the church's tax-exempted status. Following controversy over the group's fundraising practices, the House of Representatives on Dec. 10 passed a bill to ban organizations from malicious solicitation of donations.
(5) 20 dead, 6 missing after tour boat sinks off Hokkaido
A tour boat sank in cold waters off a World Heritage site on Japan's northernmost main island of Hokkaido on April 23, leaving 20 dead and six missing. The operator of the 19-ton Kazu I admitted it was inappropriate to give the green light to the ship's departure despite the possibility of bad weather.
(6) 7th wave of COVID-19 pandemic hits as Japan eases restrictions
The number of new coronavirus cases reported in a day hit a record high of more than 260,000 on Aug. 19 in the so-called seventh wave of infections, and Japan has seen an eighth wave from mid-November. The government has refrained from restricting people's movements and lifted most border control measures in October to help the country's economic recovery.
(7) Cabinet ministers resign, approval ratings fall
Prime Minister Fumio Kishida's Cabinet suffered major blows after his economic recovery minister Daishiro Yamagiwa, Justice Minister Yasuhiro Hanashi and internal affairs minister Minoru Terada resigned between October and November over ties to the Unification Church, a gaffe and a political funds-related scandal, respectively. The support rate for the Cabinet stood at 33.1 percent in Kyodo News polls conducted in November and December, the lowest since Kishida became prime minister in 2021.
(8) Yakult Swallows' Munetaka Murakami, Lotte Marines' Roki Sasaki set records
Yakult Swallows slugger Munetaka Murakami became the youngest Triple Crown winner while hitting record-breaking 56th home run in October, and his nickname "Murakami-sama" was picked Japan's top buzzword of the year in a long-running buzzword contest. Lotte Marines' Roki Sasaki became the youngest pitcher in Nippon Professional Baseball history to throw a perfect game at 20.
(9) Japan lowers adulthood age to 18
Japan lowered the age of adulthood from 20 to 18 under the Civil Code on April 1, the first time the legal definition of an adult was changed in over 140 years. With the change came new freedoms and responsibilities for 18- and 19-year-olds. The legal age for drinking and smoking remains at 20.
(10) Japan boosts defense funding, revises security strategies
In a major shift in its security policy under its pacifist Constitution, the government decided on Dec. 16 to acquire "counterstrike capabilities" that could potentially reach an adversary's territory. It also set the target of doubling its annual defense budget to about 2 percent of Japan's gross domestic product over the next five years.
Russia's invasion of Ukraine Kyodo News' top int'l story of 2022