1. COVID-19 Updates In Japan


  • Citing the total daily number of people in Tokyo, Kanagawa, Chiba and Saitama who had been infected in comparison with that of the day of the announcement of the state of emergency declined by more than 80%, and the availability of beds of the hospitals in those four prefectures went up reasonably high, PM Suga lifted the state of emergency on March 22nd.
  • Rep. Kono, Minister of Deregulations and Special Tasks including the vaccination revealed his prospect that the vaccination of regular people would have begun by the end of April after or in parallel with vaccinating the people with priority like the ones in the medical community and the seniors of 65 years old and above as well as people with high risk diseases.
  • The government announced on March 20 that it would loosen the restriction of the number of spectators of a large event on March 22 from 5,000 people or less to up to 10,000 people through April 11, and then further loosen to 50% of the maximum capacity.  So, the Tokyo Dome stadium will be able to accept up to 23,000 professional baseball fans for a Yomiuri Giants’ game this season unless a sharp rebound of the infection occurs. This loosening is said to be a sort of preparation for readiness to safely accept spectators for the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic games to be held in this summer.


  1. Japan-U.S. 2+2 Meeting


U.S. State Secretary Blinken and Defense Secretary Austin visited Japan last week and attended the 2+2 meeting with their Japanese counterparts Foreign Minister Motegi and Defense Minister Kishi on March 16 in Tokyo. This was the first 2+2 meeting between the Suga Administration and the Biden Administration. A joint communique out of the meeting was released on the same day to exhibit the close tie between the two against the threat and risks that China and North Korea had been posing in the Indo-Pacific region.


In fact, Yomiuri reported this morning that this communique is going to be a prologue of a joint document, which will be released after PM Minister Suga meets with President Biden in early April at the Whitehouse.  The two administrations are currently drafting the joint document, which, Yomiuri reported, would include the following agreements: 

  • Apply Article 5 of the Japan-U.S. Security Pact to the Senkaku Archipelagos
  • Establish strong, resilient, diversified and safe supply chains
  • Strengthen collaboration to materialize “Free and open Indo-Pacific”
  • U.S. to provide “enlarged deterrence” including its nuclear weapons
  • Collaborate with each other to achieve denuclearization of North Korea and to solve the North Korean abduction issue
  • Recognize the importance of “peace and stability of the Taiwan Strait”


  1. Olympic Torch Relay Began


On March 25, 16 women who won the Soccer World Cup in 2011 as “Nadesico Japan Team”, kicked off the Tokyo Olympic Torch Relay at J Village in Naraha-cho, Fukushima. The win of 2011 was made after the Eastern Japan Great Earthquake of March 11, 2011, and became a symbol of hope for recovery of the town and the area which were devastated by tsunami and the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant’s accident. The torch will be relayed throughout Japan for 121 days to reach the main stadium for the opening ceremony of July 23. Very stringent countermeasures against Covid-19 are being implemented for both the relay runners and spectators on the roadsides, media reported.


  1. Resumption Of Kashiwazaki Kariha Nuclear Power Plants Denied By Nuclear Regulatory Commission


It was revealed as the result of the inspection of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in February that the intruder detection system of Tokyo Electric Power Company’s Kashiwazaki Kariha Nuclear Power Plants in Niigata Pref. had been out of order since March last year without much corrective actions to fix the problem, the media reported this week. This detection system is intended to prevent any nuclear terrorism, so the fact that terrorists could have possibly intruded into the nuclear power plant is posing a serious concern to the government and the public. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission convened on March 24 and administrative disposition plan was presented to TEPCO.


Although No. 6 and No. 7 plants of the Kashiwazaki Kariha NPP had passed the NRC’s safety inspection in December 2017 for resumption of the operation, the commission is reportedly considering a very severe order including revoking the license given to TEPCO to operate the nuclear power plants.


  1. Higher Tariff To Be Imposed On US Beef 


The government of Japan activated on March 18 its emergency import limit dubbed “Safeguard” against U.S. beef citing the fact that its accumulated imported amount exceeded the limit (242,000 ton) that is set by the Japan-U.S. Trade Agreement for Japan’s fiscal 2020 (April 1, 2020 through March 31, 2021). This activation increases the original tariff of 25.8% assigned to U.S. beef to 38.5% on the same day for a period of 30 days. 

U.S. beef shares around 40% of Japan’s entire imports of beef. It seems that the reduction of Australian beef imports due to the draught last year in the country boosted the imports of U.S. beef. Japan and U.S. will discuss how to deactivate the safeguard and decide on a new limit. 


  1. Timing For Suga To Dissolve The House Of Representatives   


Dissolving the House of Representatives, and holding a general election is one of strongest political mights given by the Constitution to Prime Minister of Japan. If this power is not exercised before the term (4 years) of the HoR ends, its general election shall be held on a full term basis. 

Present HoR’s term ends on October 21. So, the media now speculates when PM Suga contemplates to be the best timing to gain his political power through general election.  


Yomiuri introduced three timings as follows:

  • Early May: Since his approval rating is a bit rebounding now, the presumed successful meeting with President Biden, followed by accelerated vaccination in April could present a good opportunity
  • July 4: This date is scheduled for the election to the Tokyo Metropolitan Government’s Assembly.  Some of LDP guys think simultaneous elections could be “killing two birds with one stone” although the other say “if you run after two hares you will catch neither”.
  • Sometime in September or early October:  Make the Tokyo Olympic/Paralympic Games that end September 5 a big success and tailwind for the general election   


Each has its own pros and cons including LDP’s internal politics as well as its coalition partner, New Komei Party’s preference and so forth. 

So far, PM Suga tends to pretend to just focus on fighting Covid-19.



Please continue to have a safe and pleasant weekend!