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IT WAS A GREAT pleasure to see the many Associate Members at their General Meeting on April 13. One 40-year Member quietly told me that it was his first time to attend. Clearly, interest has increased now that Associates are finally able to decide Club policy.

Last month saw a remarkable flourish of activity at the FCCJ. After nine months of negotiations, we finally inked an agreement with Mitsubishi Estate to move four blocks into a new building complex in the central Marunouchi district which will be ready in 2018.

Four years will soon have passed since the March 11, 2011 Tohoku earthquake, tsunami and Fukushima disaster. The high school boy I profiled in my book on the disaster will be graduating from university this month.

LAST MONTH’S CHARLIE HEBDO slayings and the murder of the Japanese journalist Kenji Goto by Islamic State spotlighted again the increasing deadly risks facing journalists today.


明けましておめでとうございます。本年もよろしくお願いいたします。 Wishing you all a healthy and prosperous 2015 in this Year of the Sheep (with Goats and Rams also qualifying.)

SIX MONTHS INTO OUR financial year, I’m very pleased to report good news: we are getting stronger, with our finances well ahead of budget.

SO CLOSE, BUT SO far. The 2020 Tokyo Olympics may seem a distant six years away, but they’re already looming close as organizing committees congregate, Olympic and Paralympic athletes visit from abroad, and marketing/ad agencies gear up to draw more attention to Tokyo than the city has seen since 1964.

Freedom of expression is more important than ever as political tensions, armed conflicts, government restrictions and secrecy increase worldwide.

Tsukimi moon viewing parties this month will get a special treat: a perigree “supermoon” on Sept. 9, along with a Perseid meteor shower of “shooting stars.”

While the days are heating up, so is interest in our speaker events. We’ve expanded our options, partly to improve and enhance our membership benefits.

As I began to write this, another severe downpour made visibility across the Tokyo skyline nearly nil. This too will pass, I whispered under my breath.

JUNE 2014 IS AN extremely important month in FCCJ history. On Thursday the 26th we’ll be holding the first Annual General Membership Meeting (AGMM) as a public interest incorporated association (koeki shadan hojin).

平成26328(March 28, 2014) was the day my shaking hand signed the official letter from Prime Minister Shinzo Abe granting us the right to become a public interest incorporated association (koeki shadan hojin).


With cherry blossoms and hanami beckoning, it’s definitely time to do something fun, and a glance at the FCCJ’s monthly calendar shows a remarkable mix of entertainment options.


The massive snowstorm on Feb. 8 may have created havoc in Tokyo but it was a winter wonderland when viewed from the Club’s 20th floor.

We got off to an exciting start in January after the New Year holiday. I can’t tell you how happy I was to greet our new general manager Tomohiko (Tom) Yanagi on his first day.


We have many exciting and positive changes to look forward to this year.

The FCCJ is back in the news, helping kick off the media storm on the Designated Secrets Protection Bill. Opposition had been mounting when Abe’s Cabinet approved the controversial bill on Oct. 25.

FCCJ "Designated Secrets Bill" Protest Statement

The Foreign Correspondents' Club of Japan views with deep concern the "Designated Secrets Bill" now under consideration by the Japanese Diet. In particular, we are alarmed by the text of the bill, as well as associated statements made by some ruling party lawmakers, relating to the potential targeting of journalists for prosecution and imprisonment.

It is at the very heart of investigative journalism in open societies to uncover secrets and to inform the people about the activities of government. Such journalism is not a crime, but rather a crucial part of the checks-and-balances that go hand-in-hand with democracy.

The current text of the bill seems to suggest that freedom of the press is no longer a constitutional right, but merely something for which government officials “must show sufficient consideration.”Moreover, the "Designated Secrets Bill" specifically warns journalists that they must not engage in "inappropriate methods" in conducting investigations of government policy. This appears to be a direct threat aimed at the media profession and is unacceptably open to wide interpretations in individual cases.

Such vague language could be, in effect, a license for government officials to prosecute journalists almost as they please.The Foreign Correspondents' Club of Japan includes members who are both citizens of Japan and those who are not. But our venerable organization, established in 1945, has always viewed freedom of the press and free exchange of information as the crucial means by which to maintain and increase friendly relations and sympathetic understanding between Japan and other countries.

In that context, we urge the Diet to either reject the "Designated Secrets Bill" in total, or else to redraft it so substantially that it ceases to pose a threat to both journalism and to the democratic future of the Japanese nation.

Lucy Birmingham


Foreign Correspondents' Club of Japan

November 11, 2013















The holiday and travel season is fast approaching, along with opportunities to enjoy FCCJ’s reciprocal ties with press clubs abroad. We’ve got a total of 13 in Asia, the U.S. and Canada.

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