Supplement Death Link: This Week in Osaka March 22nd to March 29th 2024

Each week, here at, 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.

Supplement Contributes to At Least One Death

The cholesterol reducing supplement implicated in at least one patient death.

An Osaka based health supplement manufacturer faces legal scrutiny this week after their product was connected to a person’s untimely death.

Kobayashi Pharmaceuticals, based in Osaka City, recalled all products containing the active ingredient known as Ben Kouji. Ben Kouji is a form of red yeast rice extract. The compound is used in several supplements sold by Kobayashi. The supplements offer to lower the user’s cholesterol level. However, over 100 people have been hospitalized and at least one died after the supplement impeded kidney function. The product recall goes beyond just the Japanese domestic market. Kobayashi also supplied versions of the supplement to sellers in Taiwan and China. China has consequently suspended all online sales of their version of the supplement. A full product recall is also in force in Taiwan.

Company Admits “Causal Link” Between Supplement and Death

Bloomberg reported that Kobayashi’s share price is in freefall after the supplement recall.

Kobayashi Pharmaceutical confirmed in a statement this week that their investigation into one of the two deaths allegedly linked to Ben Kouji is complete. The company confirmed there was a causal link between the victim’s death, due to chronic kidney failure, and their use of the supplement. The deceased person used the supplement for 3 years in the run up to their untimely death. Investigations into the second suspected death continue this week.

Authorities in Osaka promised to work alongside the health ministry to get the situation under control as soon as possible. Speaking to the local press, Health Minister Keizo Takemi said: “We will cooperate fully with Osaka City to investigate the deaths and “prevent further damage to public health”.

In a brief statement Kobayashi offered their “sincerest apologies”. One would suspect however that the company will face calls to do a lot more than just say sorry as the number of affected individuals continues to rise.

Machinery Manufacturer Implicated in Worker’s Suicide

Hitachi Zosen’s headquarters.

Hitachi Zosen Corporation, one of the biggest machinery makers in the Osaka region, this week faced disciplinary action. The judgement handed down by Osaka Labor Standards Bureau confirms the company’s culpability in the death of a young worker. 27-year-old Yuki Ueda took his own life in Thailand in 2021. His death came three months after he was transferred, against his wishes, to a power plant in Rayong, Central Thailand.

Labor Standards ruled that Ueda was the victim of frequent bullying from superiors and was often given tasks beyond his area of expertise. Additionally, due to the Covid-19 pandemic at that time, he was given no localized training. Ueda spent almost all his time either working or isolated in his hotel room. He did not speak Thai, so despite having a high level of English, could not communicate with many people in his area. In the month before his death, Ueda recorded over 100 hours of overtime. He also kept a diary recounting almost daily berating from his boss in front of other staff.

In one of his final entries, Ueda said: “I can’t do my job at all, they’re asking me to do things I don’t know and I’m scolded every day.”

Ueda’s family will now likely pursue significant damages in light of the judgement.   

And Finally….

Takerufuji proudly holds his Emperor’s Cup.

Last time we covered the meteoric rise of young Sumo wrestler Takerufuji, from debutant to championship contender in record time.

Well, the 24-year-old fulfilled his promise and then some!

The Aomori native showed great strength, both physically and mentally on the final day to get his title win over the line. On the penultimate day of the Osaka Grand Tournament, where a win would have secured for Takerufuji The Emperor’s Cup, he lost to 5th ranked Onosato. He also suffered a painful ankle injury in the process. However, in sport where no quarter is asked, nor given, taking time out to recover was not an option.

So, Takerufuji set aside his obvious pain and discomfort going into his final bout. He overcame Gonoyama in his final match to put his Championship beyond doubt.

The historical significance of Takerufuji’s win really can’t be understated. It marks the first time since 1914 that any sumo wrestler has won the title in his first top division competition. It also marks the fastest progression from beginner to champion in the sport since 1958. Takerufuji only began professional sumo wrestling in autumn of 2022.

Many commentators think we have a future Yokozuna on our hands. Yet the man himself remains humble. He said of his final day triumph:” My body just moved instinctively, I didn’t even think about it.”

One thing is for sure, all eyes will be on this remarkable young man as he continues his journey in the Sumo arena.

That’s all for now but be sure to check back again same time next week for another round of this week in Osaka!


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