Monday, December 29, 2008


The frequently questionable Yomiuri Shimbun published its list of the 10 biggest news stories for Japan in 2008. What was #1? The random attack in Akihabara in which a young man murdered 7 people and sent 10 others to the hospital? The Nikkei's plunge to its lowest level since the bubble amid an overall economic meltdown? The sudden resignation of the prime minister? Or perhaps his successor's refusal (citing the aforementioned economy as an excuse) to schedule elections as planned, despite his anemic 20% approval rating? How about Japan's Nobel Prize winners for Physics?
As it happened, none of the above were deemed worthy. The "winner" was the poisoned gyoza story, which dominated the news cycles during the early part of 2008. Though the number of people who claimed to feel ill was well above a thousand, it was only ever proven that 10 were poisoned. Among these 9 were hospitalized and nobody died. Biggest story of the year?
Ikasumi would have chosen the Akihabara tragedy, and then perhaps the economy. But the former only ranked 5th and the latter 8th on the Yomiuri's list. The Akibahara case was, alas, just the most bloody example in a recent trend of violent crimes (often random) by Japanese. But perhaps it is easier to emphasize threats from outside than to ask tough questions about what is happening to one's own country and countrymen.