Thousands of men wearing only "fundoshi" undergarments jostle to touch a chosen "shin otoko" (holy man) during the traditional naked festival at Konomiya shrine in Inazawa, Aichi Prefecture, central Japan, on Feb. 3, 2023, hoping to ward off evil spirits. The event, involving close body contact, took place after a two-year COVID-19 hiatus. (Kyodo) ==Kyodo

The following is the latest list of selected news summaries by Kyodo News.


Japan PM Kishida sacks close aide for making anti-LGBT remarks

TOKYO - Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said Saturday that he has sacked his close aide after he made discriminatory remarks about sexual minorities, with public support for the Cabinet continuing to fall against a backdrop of unpopular policies and ministerial scandals.

Masayoshi Arai, an elite bureaucrat who until Saturday served as executive secretary to Kishida, told reporters at the prime minister's office late Friday that he would "not want to live next door" to an LGBT couple and that he does "not even want to look at them."


ASEAN foreign ministers discuss Myanmar political crisis

JAKARTA - Southeast Asian foreign ministers met Saturday for their annual retreat with talks focusing on how to deal with the crisis in Myanmar two years after the military seized power there.

Opening the session, Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi called for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations to continue to play a role "as an anchor of peace and stability in the region."


Sapporo Snow Festival opens for 1st time in 3 yrs with 160 sculptures

SAPPORO - The annual Sapporo Snow Festival began Saturday in the Hokkaido capital, opening its venues to the public for the first time in three years and featuring 160 sculptures made from snow and ice.

The festival, one of Japan's largest winter celebrations dating back to 1950, returned to an in-person format after being held virtually for the previous two years due to the coronavirus pandemic.


Blinken puts off China trip after spy balloon detected over U.S.

WASHINGTON - U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Friday he has put off a visit this weekend to Beijing after a Chinese spy balloon was detected traveling over the continental United States, calling its flight an "irresponsible act" that is "detrimental" to efforts to improve relations.

Blinken said he informed Wang Yi, China's top foreign policy official, of the postponement in a phone call, telling reporters that the presence of the balloon in U.S. skies is a "clear violation" of the country's sovereignty and international law and that it undermined the purpose of the long-planned trip.


Public expresses anger, concern at Japan PM aide's anti-LGBT remarks

TOKYO - Discriminatory remarks made against sexual minorities by a now-sacked aide to Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida sparked fury and worry in the country on Saturday, a day after they were made public.

Members of the public interviewed on the streets, people posting online and opposition party lawmakers lambasted Masayoshi Arai for saying that he would "not want to live next door" to an LGBT couple and that he does "not even want to look at them."


China to appoint Wu Jianghao as new Japan ambassador: sources

BEIJING - China is planning to appoint Assistant Foreign Minister Wu Jianghao, who has worked in Japan as a diplomat for more than 10 years, as its next ambassador to the neighboring country, sources familiar with bilateral relations said Saturday.

Wu, who will replace the current ambassador Kong Xuanyou, also an expert on Japan, is expected to work toward stabilizing bilateral ties that remain precarious due to a territorial dispute and other issues.


Young gen. hit more by inflation, "excess" savings no savior: Japan

TOKYO - Rising prices are hurting Japanese consumers, especially young people, and around 64 trillion yen ($498 billion) in excess savings accumulated over the COVID-19 pandemic years have done little to support consumption, the Cabinet Office said Friday.

The recent bout of inflation, accelerating twice as fast as the Bank of Japan's 2 percent target, is largely due to higher costs, the office said in its annual economic report, adding that the time is not ripe to change accommodative monetary policy as support from robust wage growth is still lacking.


Japan firms must address human rights in supply chains: UNDP director

TOKYO - Japanese companies need to do more in addressing human rights issues in their businesses as a failure to keep up with international ethical standards will be a serious risk to their operations in global markets, a U.N. Development Program director said.

"If companies do not tackle this issue in the right way, they could be shut out from the European and U.S. markets," Asako Okai, director of the UNDP's Crisis Bureau, said in a recent interview.


Video: Traditional naked festival in Japan