Each week, here at Osaka.com, we bring you a selection of some of the top stories about Osaka making the local and national news here in Japan. Sometimes it’s serious, sometimes it’s funny, but it’s always direct to you, from Osaka.
Here’s a look at some of the stories hitting the headlines in Osaka this week.
Table of Contents
Drug Laced “Gummies” Cases Surge in Osaka
Osaka police’s drug enforcement agents issued a call for greater public awareness this week. In line with recent developments elsewhere in Japan, Osaka police confirmed at least 10 people have been hospitalized this year due to drug infused gummy sweets. The sweets contain large amounts of HHCH, a synthetic drug compound that mimics the effects of cannabis. However, despite being legal in Japan, whilst cannabis most certainly isn’t, HHCH appears to be far more dangerous. The symptoms of those hospitalized included nausea, numbness, disorientation and vomiting. The victims, all in their 20s and 30s, purchased the gummies through social media. Ads showed that 1 pack, containing 10 of the drug-addled gummies cost 7,000 yen. Again, since HHCH isn’t, at the time of writing, a controlled substance, such products can be sold freely online. This seems likely to change however. The spate of recent cases involving HHCH specifically, will most likely see direct intervention from government drug control agencies.
Drug Used in Gummies “Will be Banned”
Indeed, the typically slow cogs of the central government were surprisingly quick off the mark in this instance. At a meeting on November 20th, drug control experts from the Health Ministry confirmed they intend to ban HHCH at the earliest opportunity. This means, in all likelihood that the drug will be banned in Japan from December 2nd, or soon after. For the time being, it has been reclassified as a controlled substance, meaning it can no longer be sold freely online. The drug will also be subject to tighter import and export controls until the ban formally enters the statute book.
In the meantime, Osaka police reminded citizens not only of the illegality of illicit drug use, but also the health dangers.
A spokesperson said: “The reality is, if you buy a drug at a party, or a dance venue or whatever, you have no idea what is in it.
“The drug dealer may well tell you its safe, but the only way to be 100% sure is to just not buy it.”
Gummy Drug Fallout Prompts Wider Debate About Cannabis in Japan
Whilst few would debate the dangers, both legal and physical of buying drugs from an unknown source, Osaka citizens are somewhat divided this week on where we go from here.
In various parts of the US, the legalization of cannabis, has led to fewer instances of users getting ill. In these states, the drug can only be bought from licensed, regulated dispensaries. Dispensaries must ensure the products are safe in order to retain their license. Some argue that this means it would be safer to have a similar system in Japan. One Osaka citizen also raised the medical benefits of the drug. He said this week: “One of my friends in the US uses cannabis oil for their chronic arthritis. It helped them a great deal. I’ve also read accounts of it helping people with anxiety and depression.
“At the end of the day, tobacco and alcohol kill more people in a day than cannabis does in a year, yet I can still walk into 7Eleven and buy some beer and cigarettes without any issues.”
Even older, more conservative residents of Osaka can see some benefits. A retiree from Abeno Ward, had this to say: “Its not my thing, I’d never use it. But if the government legalized it, they can also tax it.
“Kids are going to experiment with this stuff anyway, so if they can help keep my pension topped up when they do, then I’m happy with that!”
Student Collapses After Teacher Chokehold
A teacher at one of Osaka Prefecture’s High Schools is on suspension this week after choking out a student. The teacher, a man in his 40s, allegedly snuck up on the student from behind and grabbed him a chokehold for several seconds. The student subsequently passed out. After a brief period, the student regained consciousness. However, he later complained of feeling unwell and collapsed again. An ambulance was called. Further hospital checks showed the student suffered no permanent injuries. However, the teacher has been placed on suspension while the matter is investigated further.
There have been several documented cases of teachers casually using violence in the classroom in recent times in Japan. As such, the prefectural board of education is likely to take a grim view of this incident.
So sooner have we seen the end of Halloween than the Christmas Season now dawns.
For many in Osaka, the ceremonial lighting of the Universal Studios Christmas Tree symbolizes the start of the festive season. This year, USJ’s tree lit up for the first time on November 20th. This will be the first time in 3 years that USJ hosts a complete calendar of festive events. The Christmas seasons of 2020- 2022 faced a host of restrictions due to Covid-19. USJ’s Christmas festival runs until January 8th next year.
That’s all for now but be sure to check back again same time next week for another round of this week in Osaka!