Member Login

Member Login

Username
Password *

Lucy_Birmingham.jpg

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.)

Good news on the prediction front. The planets are aligning and the forecast is for calmer, more peaceful times ahead. I agree it’s hard to imagine. Japan’s secrets law, censorship, growing threats to freedom of speech and press, FCCJ boycotting, etc. are worrying indeed. But I can’t help throwing a dash of peace, humor and hope into the bad news mix.

Peacemakers do emerge in troubling times. Soon after the LDP and Komeito boycotted the FCCJ during the December elections, I was invited to meet with the new Cabinet Office Director of Communications Kenko Sone. It was a gesture of cooperation. He promised to make efforts to bring more ministers to the Club, and hopefully the prime minister at a later time. We promised to improve our press conference emcee-ing. With our doors open to a growing variety of “journalists,” it is important to clearly identify legitimate press during the Q&A. (For details please read David McNeill’s story in this month’s Number 1 Shimbun.)

On a wider scale, the Emperor also appears to have stepped into a peacemaker’s role. During a news conference ahead of his 81st birthday on Dec. 23 he spoke about his hope that Japan goes forward in the world “as a stable, peaceful and sound nation, in mutual support not only with neighboring countries but with as many of the world’s countries as possible.”

Will the ultranationalists bend to the Emperor’s gentle call for pacifism? Listening to their snarls booming from van speakers as they crawled past NHK in Shibuya last month sent a wave of chills up my spine. How to neuter the extremists? A scalpel wielding the power of humor seems to be one answer.

A case in point is Sony, which may get the last laugh on the The Interview censorship threat. As I write, the film is being released on digital platforms and at independent movie theaters in the U.S. and tickets are already sold out. That the movie features two wacky, unscrupulous TV journalists plotting the assassination of the century makes the laugh bittersweet. But I had a good laugh watching the trailer, knowing that freedom of speech and artistic freedom has prevailed – in this case – thanks in part to headlines fueling consumer interest and outrage.

On censorship and public rebuke, I laughed with disbelief when vagina artist Megumi Igarashi was arrested again for distributing “obscene” data, despite Japan’s flourishing pornographic manga and anime industries. Igarashi spoke at the FCCJ last July. Hopefully another petition or forum is in the works demanding her release.

The FCCJ Members Forum, launched in December, is your place to voice concerns, complaints and suggestions for the Club to the Board of Directors. It’s also a vehicle to share job opportunities, trends in journalism, event happenings and many other topics. The forum was established partly as an alternative to Facebook with hopes that members will keep private FCCJ issues private. Although we are now a koeki shadan hojin (public interest association) offering services to the public, we remain a private Club. Please give the FCCJ Members Forum a try. More information is available on the FCCJ website front page.

Finally, choice quotes from The Interview on bad-ass journalists: “They hate us cause they ain’t us . . . They’re just peanut butter and jealous.”

Lucy Birmingham

Go to top