1. COVID-19 Updates In Japan


l  With the visible declination of the new infection cases in the last two weeks, PM Suga announced on June 17 to lift the state of emergency for Tokyo, Osaka, Hyogo, Kyoto, Fukuoka, Hokkaido, Aichi, Okayama, and Hiroshima on June 20.  Although the daily numbers of new cases in Okinawa are also decreasing, the prefecture was excluded from the list because the declination curve has not reached a sufficiently low level yet.  

l  The vaccination speed is accelerated thanks to the government’s initiative to allow and support corporations or any organizations having more than 1,000 employees or members to organize local vaccination by themselves. According to the government’s daily announcement of the number of inoculations, it is approaching one million a day.

l  Chief Cabinet Secretary Kato announced on June 17 that the government would have local cities, towns and other municipalities begin in mid-July to issue a vaccination passport to those who need one for overseas trips.  

l  The Ministry of Finance announced its trade statistics for May that Japan’s overall exports increased by 49.6% to 6,261.3 billion yen ($56.9 billion) from the same month last year.  Automobiles and parts jumped by 240% mainly to the U.S. and China. Imports in May also increased by 27.9% to 6,448.4 billion yen ($58.6 billion) causing a trade deficit of 187.1 billion yen ($1.7 billion) in the month.

l  In the wake of sharing its Astra Zeneca’s vaccines to Taiwan, Japan sent its reserved Astra Zeneca vaccines to Vietnam for around 1 million shots. The government will begin to provide its vaccines to Indonesia, Thailand, Philippine and Malaysia in early July.


  1. Disapproval Rating Continues To Lead PM Suga’s Approval Rating


According to NHK’s monthly survey that was conducted from June 11 through 13, Suga Cabinet’s approval rating went up by 2 points to 37%, while its disapproval rating also increased by 2 points to 45%, which is the highest ever since the cabinet was inaugurated in September last year. 38% of the respondents approve Suga Administration’s responses to the pandemic, while 58% disapprove them. 24% think that the pace of the vaccination is progressing well, while 65% believe it is late.  


As for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic games, 3% said that they should be organized as originally scheduled without any limitation, while 32% said the number of spectators should be restricted, 29% replied the games should be held without any spectator, and 31% said they should be cancelled. 


In the meantime, the opposition parties of the Diet this week called for a non-confidence vote on the Cabinet, but the House of Representatives denied the vote on June 15. With this result, PM Suga could have dissolved the House of Representatives for general election, but he did not take that option.  The media now speculates that PM is coordinating the ruling parties to dissolve the house in September after successfully organizing the Olympic and Paralympic games but before his LDP presidency term limit expires on Sept 30.  In this case, the general election for the House of Representatives may be held either on October 10 or 17.       


  1. Olympic/Paralympic Games To Accept Max 10,000 Spectators Per Game


Yomiuri reported on June 18 that all the parties involved in organizing the Tokyo Olympic/Paralympic games are in a final stage of deciding rules and procedures under the pandemic situations.  With the decision of lifting the state of emergency in Tokyo, which will loosen the upper limit of the number of spectators of one large event to 10,000 from the present 5,000, the same limit is expected to be applied to the Olympic and Paralympic games.  


The administration and the Tokyo Olympic Organizing Committee as well as Tokyo Metropolitan Government, International Olympic Committee, and International Paralympic Committee will hold a 5 party meeting on June 21 to agree on the final rules and procedures. Today, the committee of experts with regard to Covid-19 that were formed to provide the administration with professional advices to contain the pandemic officially announced its recommendation that the Olympic/Paralympic games should be held without any spectator to prevent the infections from rebounding.


  1. Planet Ryugu Found To Have Organic Matter And Hydrogen


Last December, Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) ‘s asteroid explorer called Hayabusa 2 was able to successfully launch to the earth a capsule containing specimen of a small planet named Ryugu. Ryugu’s elliptical orbit around the sun runs between Mars and Jupitar.  Based on the remote observation of various asteroids orbiting around the sun from the earth, Ryugu’s surface had been expected to contain carbon and water contents, and Hayabusa 2 had been dispatched to bring back a small amount of stones and sands out of Ryugu as specimen. 5.4 g of stones and sands were contained in the capsule, and 8 analytical teams from 14 countries are currently analyzing individual shares of the specimen.   


Yomiuri reported on June 18 that one of the teams led by Okayama University announced on June 17 that they found their specimen containing organic matter including carbon and nitrogen, and hydrogen quite a lot. Since those ingredients are essential elements of life, further studies of the specimen are expected to approach the origin of life in the solar system one step closer, Yomiuri reported.   



Please continue to have a safe and pleasant weekend!