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Number 1 Shimbun

NUMBER 1 SHIMBUN 2017

NUMBER 1 SHIMBUN 2017 (109)

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January 2017 (10)
January 2017

 

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January 2017

From the archives:
Trump makes a Tokyo visit
 

Voices of 2016
Quotes from Club speakers


2017: Something to Crow About
Correspondents' predictions for the year ahead

Profile: Abigail Leonard
In search of untold stories . . . by Tim Hornyak


A Change in the Air(waves)
New technologies and viewing habits . . . by Gavin Blair


Is the Government Blind to Japan's Impoverished?
Activists speak on the country's disadvantaged . . . by Julian Ryall

Vaccine Battle Stakes are High
A drug, news headlines and a libel lawsuit . . . by Justin McCurry


Exhibition:
Someday Going Back Home

photographs of Syrian refugee children by Natsuki Yasuda


From the President    Khaldon Azhari

Club News

New Members/New books in the library

  

Nissan1 Ricoh NSK1
FCCJ - Spherical Image - RICOH THETA

 

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February 2017 (9)
February 2017

 

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February 2017

From the archives:
The Maestro with the Baton
 

Journalism Enters the Matrix
The new visual technologies . . . by Michael Penn


Difficult Conceptions
The pregnancy struggle in Japan . . . by Sonja Blaschke

 

Profile: Andy Sharp
Beating tight deadlines for Bloomberg  . . . by Gavin Blair


The "Kabuki" of Donald Trump and the Auto Industry
A look at the real story . . . by Roger Schreffler


Welcome to the Post-truth World
Fake news isn't the only problem . . . by Ayako Mie

 

Olympic Press Center Under Fire
Another 2020 mix-up . . . by Julian Ryall


Exhibition: Dojo Giga
Paintings by Bujinkan Dojo Soke, Masaaki Hatsumi


From the President    Khaldon Azhari

New Members/New books in the library

  

Nissan1 Ricoh NSK1
FCCJ - Spherical Image - RICOH THETA

 

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March 2017 (8)
March 2017

 

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March 2017

From the archives:
Catalyst for Change
by Charles Pomeroy


Excerpts from Press Freedom in Contemporary Japan

Growing Pains: How Japan's Media Got Here and Why
by Koichi Nakano


Trials in the Shadows
by Lawrence Repeta and Yasuomi Sawa



Profile: Yoichi Yabe
A nautical photographer on his profession . . . by Tyler Rothmar


Women Power the Reconstruction of Kitakami
Some good news from Tohoku . . . by John R. Harris


Who was Kim Jong-nam?
by Justin McCurry


Exhibition: Fukushima Photographic Journey

Photographs by Bruce Osborne


From the President    Khaldon Azhari

New Members/New books in the library

  

Nissan1 Ricoh NSK1
FCCJ - Spherical Image - RICOH THETA

 

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May 2017 (10)
May 2017

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May 2017

Collections:
Showa Memories

From the archives:
The Man with the Baton
by Charles Pomeroy

Trouble, Rubble, Toil and Bubble
The media fascination with the Showa era . . . by Mark Schreiber


What's in a Word
The meaning of sontaku . . . by Eiichiro Tokumoto

 

Profile: Bruce Osborn
by Abigail Leonard


The Emperor's Buon Viaggio
Traveling with the press pack . . . by Stefano Carrer


When We Targeted North Korea

The crisis in 1969 . . . by Todd Crowell


Exhibition: Made in Tokyo
Photographs by Carla Hernandez


From the President    Khaldon Azhari

Club News

New Members/New books in the library

  

Nissan1 Ricoh NSK1
FCCJ - Spherical Image - RICOH THETA
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June 2017 (10)
June 2017

 

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June 2017

Collections:
Water Control

From the archives:
Economic Reform Advocate
by Charles Pomeroy

Salute to the Gaijin Ghetto Rats
Memories from the old Nikkei Building residents . . . by Bradley K. Martin


Rebellion in the Valley of the Fireflies
Local protests have halted dam construction, for now . . . by Sonja Blaschke

 

Profile: Sarah Birke
by Julian Ryall


The Kyoto Classroom: Writers and the Kansai Aesthetic
A different perspective . . . by Eric Johnston


The New Japan Times

Reborn at 120 . . . by Gavin Blair


Exhibition: Being There
Photographs by Michael E.J. Stanley


From the President    Khaldon Azhari

Club News

New Members/New books in the library

  

Nissan1 Ricoh NSK1
FCCJ - Spherical Image - RICOH THETA

 

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July 2017 (9)
July 2017

 

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July 2017

From the archives:
Japan's Favorite Optimist
by Charles Pomeroy

Best Frenemies: Japan vs the UN
Government spokesmen challenge UN statements
. . . by David McNeill


"I Love Linda"
A post-war TV star was discovered at the Club tables . . . by Eiichiro Tokumoto

 

Profile: Kazunori Takada
Bloomberg's Tokyo bureau chief . . . by Justin McCurry


Scoop! Team Work
An Australian correspondent's China gambit . . . by Gregory Clark


A New Owner for the Japan Times
 by Tim Hornyak


Exhibition: Agion Oros Athos
Photographs by Hirohito Nakanishi


From the President    Khaldon Azhari

Club News

New Members/New books in the library

  

  Ricoh NSK1
FCCJ - Spherical Image - RICOH THETA

 

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August 2017 (9)
August 2017

 

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August 2017

From the archives:
The enduring politician and ambassador
by Charles Pomeroy

If . . .
Could the Vatican have helped stop Hiroshima
. . . by Eiichiro Tokumoto


When the journalist becomes the story
Some South Korean reporters had a tough decision . . . by Asger Rojle Christensen

 

Profile: Johann Fleuri
  . . . by Justin McCurry


The state of the fourth estate
A panel of journalists speak of the future . . . by Julian Ryall


Meet Watson, your non-human resources manager
 by Tim Hornyak


Exhibition: Temptation to express the sensation of riding waves
Photographs by NAKI


From the President    Khaldon Azhari

Club News

New Members/New books in the library

  

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FCCJ - Spherical Image - RICOH THETA

 

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Who was Kim Jong-nam?

No1-2017-03GomiYoji Gomi at the Club
 

A Tokyo Shimbun journalist recalls his time with the half-brother of the North Korean leader and expresses shock at his recent murder.

by Justin McCurry

I

T IS LITTLE WONDER that Yoji Gomi appeared tired, and at times close to tears, during his recent appearance at the FCCJ. Just three days had passed since his friend, Kim Jong-nam, had apparently been murdered while waiting to check-in for a flight home to Macau from Kuala Lumpur International Airport.

As one of the few journalists to have spent significant amounts of time with Kim, the elder half-brother of the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, Gomi has been in huge demand for insights into the possible reasons and people behind Kim’s death at the age of 46. Gomi said he did not wish to speculate on who was behind the killing, or their possible motivations. As the Number 1 Shimbun went to press, police in Malaysia had arrested four people, including one North Korean, while another four North Koreans wanted in connection with the attack have reportedly fled to their home country.

 

“He said that the only way that North Korea could survive would be to go through the series of reforms and liberalization that China had carried out.”

 

Gomi spoke fondly about Kim Jong-nam – calling him a man with “a keen intellect” who, despite his public image as an inveterate gambler and womanizer, had displayed great personal courage in speaking out against the North Korean regime under his younger half-brother. “Even if it put him in danger, he wanted to tell his opinions to Pyongyang through me or other media,” Gomi said at a press conference on Feb. 17. “He said that the only way that North Korea could survive would be to go through the series of reforms and liberalization that China had carried out.” In his discussions with Gomi, Kim had criticized North Korea’s hereditary transfer of power in a socialist society, saying that the leader should be democratically elected.

Kim Jong-nam’s death had come as “a great shock” to Gomi and his wife, who accompanied her husband to Macau for his first meeting with the exiled Kim in January 2011. That meeting, plus several hours of follow-up interviews and about 150 emails, formed the basis of Gomi’s 2012 book, Kim Jong Nam: My Father, Kim Jong Il and Me.

GOMI, A SENIOR STAFF writer at the Tokyo Shimbun, cast doubt on widespread speculation on the reason Kim Jong-nam had been overlooked to succeed Kim Jong-il. In May 2001, Kim was reported to have caused his father deep embarrassment after he tried to enter Japan via Narita Airport on a forged Dominican Republic passport. Accompanied by his wife, their nanny and young son, they had said they were planning to visit Tokyo Disneyland.

“He told me that he didn’t think the Disneyland incident was the reason Kim Jong-un was chosen over him to become the next leader,” said Gomi, adding that the half brothers had never met.

Gomi believes Kim quickly grew disillusioned with the North Korean political system soon after he returned to the country after attending school in Switzerland.

In a possible sign that he was being groomed for leadership, Kim was asked to accompany his father in the early 1990s on a nationwide tour of farms and factories to witness the country’s economic development. “He said he saw the reality of the country’s situation on that trip, and that was when he started expressing views that contradicted those of his father,” said Gomi. “That’s what prompted him to start leading a ‘wild’ life and eventually to leave the country.”

 

Soon after the succession, Kim Jong-nam requested that he delay publication of the book, describing the timing as “difficult.”

 

Gomi said Kim had made several trips to Tokyo, where he enjoyed singing karaoke and drinking in the bars of Ginza with South Koreans, North Koreans and Japanese.

The reporter’s friendship with Kim began after a chance meeting at Beijing airport in 2004. “I’d heard rumors that he was a playboy, had complicated relationships with women and was crazy about gambling, but the man I encountered was polite, and with a keen intellect,” Gomi said.

They began exchanging regular emails in 2010. Kim gave Gomi permission to use his comments in the book, but became more cautious after Kim Jong-un became North Korean leader in December 2011. In a message to Gomi soon after the succession, Kim Jong-nam requested that he delay publication of the book, describing the timing as “difficult.” Gomi said: “I thought that it was important to tell the world about Kim Jong-nam’s philosophy and humanity, and hoped it might bring about a change in North Korea’s relationship with Japan and other countries, so I decided to go ahead and publish.”

He informed Kim of his decision and, after a gap of several days, received a response in early January 2012. “He emailed me back to say there would be no more contact between us,” Gomi said.

Justin McCurry is Tokyo correspondent for the Guardian and Observer newspapers in London and writes for the Lancet medical journal. He also reports on Japan and South Korea for France 24 TV.

 

 

 

 

Women Power the Reconstruction of Kitakami

No1-2017-03DDR2Women with a plan: five of the six women who won the right to live as neighbors.

The restoring of a tsunami-battered community in Miyagi Prefecture has been enhanced by an approach that values listening to its citizens and involving women in all aspects of planning.

by John R. Harris

S

ix-and-a-quarter years after the 3/11 tsunami took the lives of 185 residents of Kitakami, six elderly women left widowed and homeless will finally move into a social housing complex specially designed to meet their shared desire to live out the rest of their days together. Although long in coming, this small step will mark an important victory for the citizens of Kitakami, a community of 3,900 inhabitants on the northern fringe of Miyagi Prefecture’s Ishinomaki City.

The tsunami that barreled up the mouth of the Kitakami River on the afternoon of March 11, 2011, defied all expectations. Since the city branch office was a designated evacuation site, 37 residents took refuge there along with 20 local officials. But after the full force of the tsunami struck the building only three survived, including Teruo Konno, a municipal official who has since played a key role in reconstruction efforts.

Meanwhile, just across Japan’s fourth-largest river, 80 pupils and teachers perished at the Okawa Elementary School after the principal opted to follow the rulebook and keep everyone assembled in the schoolyard instead of climbing a nearby slope.

Few Tohoku communities experienced greater devastation. And with most of Kitakami’s administration lost, Konno and the other surviving officials were too overwhelmed with immediate response to even begin thinking about reconstruction. That’s partly why Konno made the pivotal decision to delegate planning efforts to Kitakami’s economic development committee, a group of citizens and local businesspeople. Repurposed as the Kitakami Town Planning Committee in February 2012, the group’s efforts are now being hailed as a model for inclusive community rebuilding.

No1-2017-03DDRThe rebuilders of Ishinomaki's Kitakami community: Architect Hiroyuki Teshima, consensus builder Naomi Sato and municipal official Teruo Konno.

BY NOW, FEW OBVIOUS traces of devastation remain along Tohoku’s coast, save for vast, eerily empty lots. Roads, rails and other infrastructure have been restored by massive government spending. Although 45,000 Tohoku families still live in temporary housing, new multi-story housing blocks are sprouting on the heights behind the coast.

“The best thing about reconstruction in Japan, is that we do it very quickly, which is of course essential,” says Akiko Domoto, former Chiba governor and now an activist in the multilateral process aimed at improving global Disaster Response and Reconstruction (DRR). “But Japanese officials are slowly coming to realize that the social fabric of local communities is too often sacrificed in the haste to get the job done quickly."

Domoto, who heads the Japan Women’s Network for DRR (jwndrr.org), an advocacy group focused on the social aspects of disaster planning and response, believes citizen involvement is the answer, before and after a calamity: “There is no substitute for intensive consultation if reconstruction plans are to meet the needs of everyone – especially women, the elderly, children and the disabled. Ideally, the mechanisms for this should be prepared before disaster strikes. Organizing after the fact takes a lot of time and effort. So governments typically prefer to make one standard plan and, to avoid favoring one area over another, impose the same thing on all communities. This is why Kitakami is such a rare and important model.”

 

"Japanese officials are slowly coming to realize that the social fabric of local communities is too often sacrificed in the haste to get the job done quickly."

 

At a Tsunami Awareness Day symposium, held in Tokyo last October, government bureaucrats and construction industry people sat down together with DRR social-policy advocates to hear Kitakami’s story. “It was a wonderful moment,” Domoto says. “You could see the lights go on as they finally got the point.”

LIKE MANY TOHOKU COMMUNITIES, Kitakami has always been closely knit, a tight cluster of low-rise houses around the harbor and riverside, steeped in traditional customs and relationships that order the ways of its fishery and local festivals.

After losing so much to the tsunami, however, it was obvious to all that the village could not be rebuilt exactly as it was: the wisdom of moving to higher ground was undeniable. What was not obvious was how the plans for a new community could restore its damaged social fabric.

Most other damaged communities had little chance to even consider such questions. Traumatized, habitually obedient to authority and eager to rebuild quickly, most communities meekly accepted one-size-fits-all government plans to replicate suburban Japan, with serviced lots for those able to rebuild single-family houses and multi-story social housing blocks for others. Typically, units are distributed by drawing lots, so instead of living next to long-time friends or relatives people end up with randomly assigned neighbors.



Traumatized, habitually obedient to authority and eager to rebuild quickly, most communities meekly accepted one-size-fits-all government plans

 

Teruo Konno and his surviving colleagues in Kitakami’s local administration opted to take a different route in delegating responsibility to what was initially an ad hoc group of local residents – and not only because their ranks were decimated and overwhelmed. Konno says they had also learned vital lessons from other disaster-stricken communities.

“Citizen consultation is clearly important,” Konno says, “but we realized that when you put municipal officials in front of a group of people traumatized by the loss of homes, families and livelihoods, too often the result is endless complaints and arguments. Nothing gets done.

“We learned a lot from the experience of Yamakoshi in Niigata” [which had to rebuild after the 2004 Chuetsu quake]. “Their consultation process took three years, but in the first two years only men were involved . . . and all they did was argue. Then they brought local women into the process and everything was resolved quickly.”

DELEGATING RESPONSIBILITY TO A citizen-led group not only created a buffer between bureaucrats and citizens, it harnessed the strength of Kitakami’s tradition of neighborhood consultation – a channel where women have always had a voice.

At the Tsunami Awareness symposium, one local man was quoted as saying: “This town has been made by women! We really didn’t expect they could do so much.”

“Women are just more practical and adaptable,” counters Naomi Sato, a mother of three school-aged children, widowed by the tsunami, who stepped up to organize the consultation process. “When men lose everything they often become paralyzed, but we women just think, ‘What are we going to make for dinner tonight?’”

Sato also says local women were better able to shoulder the burden: “This is volunteer work that most men didn’t have time for because they were off working to pay the bills. I had never been involved in anything like this before, but I thought the best way to honor my husband’s memory was to build a better community.”

 

“When men lose everything they often become paralyzed, but we women just think, ‘What are we going to make for dinner tonight?’”

 

Encouraged by Konno and his colleagues, Kitakami’s women began to hold a series of meetings focused on specific issues or neighborhood needs. Starting informally in 2012, the Town Planning Committee later took on official power delegated by Ishinomaki City. But as that change made it less open to ordinary citizens, subcommittees were formed, giving residents of each neighborhood a conduit to provide detailed input.

For critical meetings to decide on relocating residential areas to higher ground, female university students from outside the community were brought in to moderate. “This created a much better atmosphere than if we had tried to do it ourselves,” Konno says.

Through these consultations, Kitakami residents achieved a strong consensus on the shape they wanted their new community to take. But in order to focus that into a detailed alternative to the standard government plans, sympathetic professional expertise was required.

Fortunately, Sendai-based architect Hiroyuki Teshima stepped forward soon after the disaster. Having been interested in the community’s traditions before 3/11, his local knowledge quickly earned the locals’ trust.

TESHIMA WAS PUT IN charge of designing the Nikkori housing complex, now nearing completion, which creates a new upland residential neighborhood and elementary school grouped around an existing junior high school.

Based on local consensus, Nikkori provides 25 serviced lots to those rebuilding single-family dwellings on higher ground, plus a 60-unit social housing complex mainly for seniors. Under standard plans, the houses would have all faced in the same direction and the social units might have been a multi-story concrete block – an alien structural form for small-town seniors. And both types of housing would have been allocated by lottery, randomly scattering people across the area.

Instead, Teshima designed the social housing as barrier-free single-story units grouped around shared gardens and common spaces to replicate the fabric of the old community. The single-family houses were oriented to optimize ocean views. And who gets to live where was decided by consensus – after extensive discussion.

No1-2017-03DDR3

Teshima integrated the new dwellings into the existing topography and preserved the surrounding forest to serve as a natural windbreak.

 

Where contractors initially recommended bulldozing the entire area into a flat plateau, Teshima integrated the new dwellings into the existing topography and preserved the surrounding forest to serve as a natural windbreak. Not only is the result more visually appealing, it slashed the cost of earth-moving.

Public input also determined the compact layout of the neighborhood center, with elementary school, baseball diamond and festival space all grouped together, and surrounded by housing. “The ultimate aim,” Teshima says, “is to feel the area’s energy wherever you stand.”

Still, when the new development is completed in June, nothing will give Konno, Sato and Teshima more satisfaction than watching six elderly widows settle into their new nest. During the consultations, they shyly approached the committee with a photo of themselves holding hands. “Can you please give this to the mayor?” they asked. “Tell him we have come to depend on each other in temporary housing. Now all we want is a place where we can look after each other until the end.”

“Kitakami’s experience teaches a lesson of global importance,” says Domoto, who led successful efforts to have gender issues recognized as fundamental to disaster best practices in the Sendai Framework adopted by the Third UN World Conference on DRR in March 2015. “Beyond being particularly vulnerable in disasters, women have inherent strengths that are a vital source of resilience. Kitakami shows how we can harness women’s natural power.”

John R. Harris is a freelance writer and journalist who lives in Onjuku, Chiba. Yasufumi Horie assisted with this story.

 

Profile: Yoichi Yabe

 No1-2017-03Pro2

This nautical photographer has shot yacht races all over the world, from the America's Cup to the Olympics.


by Tyler Rothmar

Y

oichi Yabe is a photographer, chiefly of nautical races and vessels, but his love of sailing and the elements preceded any knowledge of how to shoot them.

Born in 1957 in Mishuku, an area in Tokyo’s Setagaya Ward, Yabe nurtured an interest in music and guitars even as he studied law and international politics at Hosei University. He landed a scholarship and spent his third year of study at the University of California San Diego, where he took a course in sailing out of the school’s training facility in Mission Bay. “I was fascinated by all the knowledge that is condensed into sailing ships,” he says. “All the different riggings, all the details – it’s a crystallization of human knowledge and culture.”

Yabe returned to Japan, where after graduation he found himself at odds with his parents’ wishes: He wanted to make the acoustic guitars he’d loved to play as a student, while they were loath to see him enter a field in which his education would be all but useless.

 

The successful recruit would be 27 or under, have a love of the sea and boats, be able to speak English, and, curiously, have no experience with photography.

 

As a kind of compromise, he joined the Yamaha Corporation in the stereo equipment division, hoping somehow to change tack to guitar production. But he was assigned to sales, eventually working at the firm’s headquarters in Hamamatsu. Frustrated with the limitations of company life and longing for autonomy, he bought a small dinghy and sailed Lake Hamanako on the weekends.

One day Yabe noticed an ad in Kazi, Japan’s preeminent sailing magazine, the publisher of which was seeking a staff photographer. The successful recruit would be 27 or under, have a love of the sea and boats, be able to speak English, and, curiously, have no experience with photography. Being 27 and a perfect fit in all regards, Yabe was taken on and trained in editing text as well as taking pictures. Before long he was sent to Europe for six months to cover yacht races from a base in the UK. The year was 1989.

Covering a race typically involves riding ahead of the competition in a powerboat full of other photographers. There is rivalry and camaraderie in equal measure, Yabe says, and much depends on the skill of the photo-boat captain in bringing them close to the action without interfering with it. Large races attract multiple photo boats, which compete for vantage even as individual photographers negotiate with the captains and their peers for the same. The resulting melee is as thrilling as it is unpredictable.

“The windier the conditions get, the better the photography becomes. Action, the power of the waves and wind, brings the movements and tension of the crews to a near peak. Everything is heightened, and the windier it gets, the wetter we get,” Yabe says, adding that doing the job well is a combination of economy of movement, equipment management, and luck. He refers to his early period of shooting European races such as the Admiral’s Cup and the Whitbread Round The World Race as “good training.”

FROM THIS FOOTHOLD HE climbed, eventually covering everything from the America’s Cup to the Olympics. The scope of Yabe’s work has likewise increased: Assignments from a range of clients have included chronicling the major refit of the storied J-class yacht Endeavour in New Zealand, and profiling solo racer Kojiro Shiraishi, 49, a national hero and the youngest person ever to sail around the globe alone when he was 26, whom Yabe counts as a good friend.

In 1999, Yabe founded his own company, Office 11, though he is still a contracted chief photographer for Kazi Co. The arrangement affords him the freedom to cover events of his choice with the equipment of his choosing, something that’s extremely valuable to him. He sometimes shoots from hired helicopters, too.

 

No1-2017-03Profile

When he has time, Yabe practices aikido as well as Kashima Shin-ryu kenjutsu, a traditional sword art with centuries of history.

 

Although he made the switch to digital with everyone else, Yabe says he misses one specific aspect of the film era that affects the photos themselves: optical acuity. “Everything was manual at that time; manual focus, manual everything,” he explains. “Because of that, the optical quality of the camera’s finder was very high, and it was easy to focus. But nowadays autofocus is the major technology, and camera makers don’t invest in the optical system. It’s very hard to focus manually – you don’t see the peak. In the film days, you could focus on the face of a crew member on a yacht from a distance. That part I really miss, and it makes the photos different. The way you focus is very important.”

When he has time, Yabe practices aikido as well as Kashima Shin-ryu kenjutsu, a traditional sword art with centuries of history. He also enigmatically professes a love of mangoes, and hopes one day to grow them: “A warm climate. A small shack in the middle of a mango farm. A small dinghy or sailboat. This is my dream.”

Until then, he remains a professional shutterbug, covering events around the world in both photos and text while pursuing a private quest to document the wind, the waves and the light. “These are the elements that I’m chasing,” he says.

“Many times I have been at the right place at the right moment to meet good people, good boats. I’ve been lucky,” he adds.

Tyler Rothmar is a Tokyo-based writer and editor.

 

Trials in the Shadows

No1-2017-03PFree2

This excerpt from Press Freedom in Contemporary Japan describes how reporters for the news media face some formidable barriers in trying to cover criminal court cases in Japan, even after the fact.

 

by Lawrence Repeta and Yasuomi Sawa

from Press Freedom in Contemporary Japan, Routledge (2017)
© Jeff Kingston and the authors

 

T

here are few news categories that attract more attention than criminal prosecutions. Everyone has a strong interest in maintaining a high standard of public safety and in confirming that police power is exercised in a responsible manner. And everyone involved in the news business is well aware that tales of crimes – especially sensational crimes or those involving celebrities – sell the news. So reporting crime and criminal prosecutions is high on the agenda of all news media.

Article 82 of Japan’s Constitution recognizes the immense public interest in criminal prosecutions and other trials, declaring that “Trials be conducted and judgement declared openly.” Despite this unambiguous statement, Japan’s legal community has conspired to spin a web of secrecy around criminal trials. Journalists face countless obstacles in reporting criminal prosecutions.

The veil of secrecy descends at the time of arrest. In general, suspects can be detained up to 23 days before an indictment is filed. During this period, police and prosecutors interrogate suspects at will, while the suspects themselves are often prohibited from seeing anyone other than attorneys and immediate family members. Suspects have no contact with the news media. When reporters try to build a story at this stage, their primary sources are often leaks from police interrogators.

Defense counsel are obvious sources of information, but they are barred from interrogation sessions so they may learn of confessions and other client statements only after the fact. And they may hesitate to speak to the press to protect client confidences. Even after an indictment is filed and trial commenced, reporters face other obstacles. In particular, defense counsel and their clients are subject to a relatively new restraint on talking to the press, created by laws passed in 2004.

“UNINTENDED USE” OF TRIAL EVIDENCE

In response to widespread complaints that trials take too long, new rules that went into effect in 2005 created a pre-trial procedure that requires both the defense and prosecution to identify the issues and provide the other side with access to evidence in order to prepare for trial. This new procedure was a boon for defense counsel because there is no general rule requiring the government to disclose all evidence to the defense. Under the new procedure, defense counsel can get a relatively early look at evidence the government plans to present in court.

But there is a catch. Another new provision strictly prohibits defendants and their counsel from using disclosed evidence for any “unintended use” other than preparing for trial. Thus, news reporters may request to see this evidence, but defendants and their lawyers are prohibited from showing it to them – and violating this rule is punishable by fines and prison terms of up to one year.

 

But there is a catch. Another new provision strictly prohibits defendants and their counsel from using disclosed evidence for any “unintended use” other than preparing for trial.

 

This prohibition came into focus in May 2013 when a prosecutor filed a disciplinary procedure with the Osaka Bar Association against attorney Masami Sadamoto for sharing his client’s interrogation video with an NHK reporter. The video had played a key role in gaining an acquittal by discrediting the prosecutors’ allegation that the defendant confessed to strangling a victim to death, and the reporter later aired the footage on national television in an NHK program focused on the value of video-recording in identifying false confessions.

Prosecutor Yuji Ueno alleged that Sadamoto’s disclosure violated the “unintended use” prohibition. Sadamoto argued that his act was legal and justifiable as the video was “important material describing the process of confessions that are contrary to the deposer’s intent,” showing that “investigators sometimes cherry-pick their preferred information and even modify or fabricate it.” He claimed that revealing such injustice serves an important public interest.

After eight months of deliberation, the bar association panel concluded that his act did violate the unintended use prohibition, but “giving weight to . . . his intentions, the propriety of his means, and the lack of actual harm,” that discipline was not appropriate. The “unintended use” rule has quickly become an entrenched feature of Japan’s criminal trials. Some bar associations have even adopted ethical rules cautioning members against unauthorized disclosures.

 

Tokyo prosecutors blocked a Japanese equivalent of the “Innocence Project,” in which criminal justice experts and law students at Waseda University inspected court records together.

 

Many reporters complain that it hamstrings their work. The rule was applied in the infamous Ashikaga case, which involved a murder conviction based on a false confession. Audio-tapes of the defendant’s 1992 confession were first disclosed to defense counsel in 2009. Although defense attorney Hiroshi Sato spoke regularly with news reporters, he was required to withhold the tapes due to the prosecutors’ insistence on the rule. The defendant was ultimately released from prison later that year, following a retrial that resulted in acquittal.

Creative application of the unintended use rule has even affected law schools. In 2006, Tokyo prosecutors blocked a Japanese equivalent of the “Innocence Project,” in which criminal justice experts and law students at Waseda University inspected court records together. The prosecutors said that allowing students to examine the records serves an educational purpose that has nothing to do with trial preparation and therefore violates the rule.

BARRING ACCESS TO TRIAL RECORDS

The most authoritative source of information on any criminal trial is the trial record itself. However, Japan’s courts interpret the Code of Criminal Procedure to require that all records in criminal trials be sealed throughout the duration of the trial and all appeals. Like other members of the public, news reporters are blocked from access.

In 1987, the Diet passed a law governing the preservation of and access to trial records after appeals are exhausted and court decisions final. Oddly, this statute provides that trial records are not to be maintained by the courts, but by the prosecutors’ office in the jurisdiction where the case was initially filed. And while Article 4 of the law declares the general rule that such records must be disclosed to anyone who requests them, this rule is subject to broad and vague exceptions – a perfect example of a case where “the exceptions have swallowed the rule.”

Access under the law was tested in some high-profile cases soon after it took effect. One involved the renowned freelance journalist Shoko Egawa, known for her work investigating police misconduct and wrongful convictions. When Egawa sought access to court records concerning the 1988 conviction of a police officer for rape of a female detainee in a police jail, her request was denied on the ground that disclosure would damage public order and morals, hinder rehabilitation of the offender (a police officer) and injure reputations of related persons. The official who denied the request told her, “The idea that everyone may access records is just what’s written in the law. The reality is, we disclose almost nothing.”

 

“The idea that everyone may access records is just what’s written in the law. The reality is, we disclose almost nothing.”

 

After Egawa filed suit, the prosecutor offered to voluntarily disclose the text of the judgment and another 31 documents, which she found to be irrelevant to her area of interest. The reason the officer gave for denying her the bulk of the records was that she was a journalist and was planning to write about the case. In the end, Egawa’s suit was fruitless. The court declined to order any access beyond the prosecutor’s voluntary offer.

Another case that took place soon afterward concerned one of Japan’s most powerful politicians. In 1992, Shin Kanemaru, vice president of the ruling LDP at the time, was prosecuted for failing to report donations of several million dollars. Kanemaru admitted to receiving the money and resigned his position. There was a great uproar after Kanemaru escaped the expected criminal trial when prosecutors applied a special procedure that did not require him to appear in court and agreed to an extraordinarily light punishment with no prison time.

 

Thus, the trial of one of Japan’s most powerful politicians for improperly receiving a large sum of money took place essentially in secret.

 

After the court decision was final, a news industry researcher filed a request to examine the trial record. Provided access to only superficial portions of the record, he filed suit, arguing that Article 82 and other provisions of the Constitution guaranteed his access to the files. But the trial court ruled against him, ordering only limited disclosure. He appealed all the way to the Supreme Court, but in 1992, the court upheld the trial court action, ruling that no constitutional rights were involved. Thus, the trial of one of Japan’s most powerful politicians for improperly receiving a large sum of money took place essentially in secret.

The 1987 law remains in effect today, and prosecutors continue to enjoy broad discretion in deciding whether and what portions of trial records to disclose. For their part, news reporters continue to make requests. For example, when veteran Mainichi Shimbun reporter Hiroshi Dai requested records from a bid-rigging case in 2014 that involved many former high-ranking government officials, he was told, “[W]e’ll let you see nothing – if anything, only the text of the judgment. Of course, any private and personal information in it will be blacked out. We will never disclose anything else.”

The official implied that the disclosure policy prioritizes financial interests over journalism by saying, “We won’t disclose – especially because you are going to run a story on it. If you intended to use the record for something like an insurance payment, that would be different.” Some reporters have had somewhat greater success, but this seems quite serendipitous – a key feature of the system is its decentralized nature and the nearly unlimited discretion exercised by local prosecutors’ offices.

Although the Constitution guarantees freedom of “speech, the press and all other forms of expression,” Japan’s National Diet, courts and government agencies have adopted laws, made court decisions and enacted policies that create serious obstacles to the exercise of these rights, especially freedom of the press. Because the public relies heavily on news organizations for information concerning matters of broad public interest, these restrictions significantly limit the people’s right to know and their ability to understand and influence public policy.

Lawrence Repeta is a professor of law at Meiji University, best-known as the plaintiff in a landmark suit decided by the Supreme Court of Japan in 1989 that opened courts to note-taking by spectators.

Yasuomi Sawa is an investigative reporter at Kyodo News, who recently worked with the Panama Papers project led by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists.

 

 

Growing Pains: How Japan's Media Got Here and Why

No1-2017-03PressFre 

My goal in editing this project was to assess the implications of Abe’s reactionary agenda, partly to counter the hype about Abenomics and his transformational leadership, but also to draw attention to his goal of overturning the postwar order, rewriting the constitution and revising history. It was easy to find contributors who also believe that grasping how the media is being muzzled is crucial to understanding contemporary politics in Japan, and they have provided in-depth analysis of the media landscape, how it has been changing in 21st-century Japan and the implications for the Fourth Estate and its vital role in a democratic society. Controlling the media is about controlling the narrative about these controversial issues and thus merits the scrutiny that is offered.

Jeff Kingston, editor

Director of Asian Studies, Temple University Japan

The following excerpts are from Press Freedom in Contemporary Japan
Routledge (2017) © Jeff Kingston and the authors

 

This excerpt from Press Freedom in Contemporary Japan describes how the political development of Japan’s newspapers has seen both struggles for power and collaboration between government and media

 

by Koichi Nakano

T

o make sense of the rise of illiberal politics with a particular focus on the role played by the media, it is of utmost importance to look at the historical roots of the most striking features of press-state relations in modern Japan. One of them is the extraordinarily close tie between the press and the state, in terms of both personnel and money. As Sasaki Takashi, a professor of contemporary Japanese history, argues in his 1999 book, Media to Kenryoku (“Media and Power”), “Ever since their inception, Japanese newspapers have had the character as devices for the dissemination of information for the government or power, and while there have been some changes in the appearance, that character remains essentially unchanged.”

LATE DEVELOPMENT AND THE PRESS

According to Sasaki, there are three ways in which the Meiji state can be said to have “sponsored” the press in its early years. First the state practically subsidized the press by purchasing a large number of copies. Both Tokyo Nichinichi Shimbun (today’s Mainichi Shimbun) as well as Yubin Hochi Shimbun (later absorbed by Yomiuri Shimbun) benefitted from such arrangements from the time of their founding in the first decade of the Meiji era. Amounting to as much as 25 to 30 percent of their revenue, this was no negligible amount of de facto subsidy for the fledgling papers.

 

In that context, the Meiji state sought to nurture newspapers that would disseminate information and lead public opinion from a pro-government standpoint

 

Second, the government appointed some papers, Tokyo Nichinichi Shimbun, for instance, as the semi-official conveyors of its news releases – a practice that boosted their sales. This continued on until 1883, when Kanpo was launched as the official news medium of laws, ordinances and personnel appointments, which led to a nearly 40-percent drop in the circulation figures of Tokyo Nichinichi Shimbun.

Third, secret government funds were also provided as subsidies to such newspapers as the Nichinichi, the Yubin Hochi Shimbun, Jiji Shimpo (founded by Yukichi Fukusawa) and even Asahi Shimbun for several years.

It is well known that, as a late developing country, the Japanese state often played a leading role in founding and nurturing such various key industries as banking and steel, but it is of great interest that similar patterns of state-led modernization were to be found in the news industry as well. In early modern Japan, most of the newspapers fell into either of the two categories – “big papers” (o shimbun) that engaged in political debates from strong partisan standpoints, or tabloid-like “small papers” (ko shimbun) that traded in gossip and entertainment.

In that context, the Meiji state sought to nurture newspapers that would disseminate information and lead public opinion from a pro-government standpoint, but the overtly pro-government newspapers were not very popular and, consequently, were limited in their influence. As a result, the government attempted to assist the establishment of a new genre, the “medium paper” (chu shimbun) that would report seemingly “neutral” news. The eventual success of the Mainichi Shimbun and Asahi Shimbun placed these “neutral” medium papers in the mainstream of the newspaper industry in Japan.

No1-2017-03PFree2

The intricate ties between the state and the press were not limited to often covert financial support from the former to the latter. The personnel connections were as extensive, and far more overt. The pro-government Tokyo Nichinichi Shimbun, for example, was particularly close to the Choshu clique struggling to control the government, and by 1891 it was under the direct control of Hirobumi Ito and Kaoru Inoue, both Choshu natives. The paper was headed by Miyoji Ito, chief secretary of the Privy Council and trusted aid to Hirobumi Ito – in secret, because it was against the law for an official to hold another office in the private sector.

 

The intricate ties between the state and the press were not limited to often covert financial support from the former to the latter.

 

Masayoshi Matsukata of the Satsuma clique countered this move by founding Keisei Shimpo in 1891, in spite of the fact that he was then prime minister. Over the years, Mainichi Shimbun (including its predecessors) invited bigwig politicians to serve as its president – both Takashi Hara and Takaaki Kato, for example, went on to serve as the nation’s prime minister during the Taisho period – while Asahi Shimbun (and its predecessors) developed extensive relationships with former bureaucrats of the Ministry of the Interior in particular. And the Yomiuri Shimbun, an old “small paper” that was acquired in 1924 by Matsutaro Shoriki, an ex-elite police bureaucrat, of course, has eventually grown to become the newspaper with the largest circulation in the world.

CONTINUITIES AND CHANGES IN THE POSTWAR ERA

Once Asahi Shimbun, the last national paper to remain critical of militarism, shifted its position and began contributing to the war effort after the 1930 Manchurian Incident, press freedom and truthful reporting of news disappeared from Japan. In fact, the papers who actively collaborated with the wartime regime received secret funds and preferred paper rationing as well as being supplied with top management personnel.

What is striking, however, is the fact that all of the major national dailies referred to here survived the postwar reforms and disruptions intact. None were disbanded by the U.S. Occupation forces – and none saw fit to close themselves as an act of contrition. In fact, Taketora Ogata, the public “face” of Asahi Shimbun in the prewar period, not only served as a state minister and president of the intelligence bureau in the final years of the war, but once he was de-purged following the end of the Occupation in 1952 and the resumption of Japan’s independence, continued to rise up the political ladder as chief cabinet secretary and deputy prime minister, as well as ascending to the presidency of the Liberal Party.

 

The newspapers themselves, in general, became more liberal and more critical of state power in the newly democratized Japan, but some of the old habits persisted

 

The Yomiuri’s Shoriki, in a similar fashion, swiftly regained control of the newspaper and the Nippon TV empire after his de-purging and went on to become a member of the Diet, an active promoter of nuclear power, probable CIA asset, and a minister of the Science and Technology Agency.

The newspapers themselves, in general, became more liberal and more critical of state power in the newly democratized Japan, but some of the old habits that developed during wartime persisted in the postwar era. The much-criticized press club (kisha kurabu) system is an obvious case in point. The wartime government tried to control the media by organizing them into press clubs, and as one of many institutional continuities in postwar Japan, they survived the spate of U.S. Occupation democratization initiatives as they proved to be a handy way to manage the news. It was a cozy arrangement for the journalists as well, serving as an insiders’ information cartel.

Through the club system, some of the most powerful men in the Japanese media rose and prospered. The now elderly emperor of the Yomiuri media empire, Tsuneo Watanabe, saw his career blossom in conjunction with the success of Yasuhiro Nakasone’s political career in the 1970s and 1980s. And while most mainstream news organizations in Japan have not adopted a sweeping ban on journalists’ participation in government councils, it boggles the mind to think how the journalists can critically examine the government policies they actively take part in formulating in the first place.

Toshio Hara, formerly of Kyodo Press, wrote in his 2009 book, Janarizumu no Kanosei (“Potential of Journalism”),

The biggest sin of the press club system is not only that it is a closed information cartel, but also that the agenda-setting initiative of public debate in Japan is thus held by government ministries, parties, and big businesses. News sources thus control the news, and while the media is mobilized to lead public opinion in a certain direction, the journalists are hardly aware that that is a problem.

 

Change began in the 1970s when the Sankei Shimbun shifted to the right, adopted an overtly pro-government, pro-LDP stance, and started to criticize the other newspapers as “biased” and left-leaning.

 

This may indeed be among the most lasting and pervasive wartime legacies, the happyo (announcement) style journalism that makes a mockery of the Fourth Estate’s presumed role of holding the government accountable. Even though news organizations today are not as dependent on the state for money or personnel as in the wartime period, the prevailing mindset is still very much one of dependency and subordination to the state. So much of what passes as “news” in Japanese newspapers and television programs amount to mindless, uncritical announcements of government initiatives and policies.

The press was generally repentant about the wartime collaboration with militarist leaders in the early postwar period and adopted a critical attitude towards the conservative government agenda. Change began in the 1970s when the Sankei Shimbun shifted to the right, adopted an overtly pro-government, pro-LDP stance, and started to criticize the other newspapers as “biased” and left-leaning. Further change occurred as Yomiuri Shimbun, too, began to shift to the right in the 1980s as Watanabe, a close associate of Prime Minister Nakasone, rose to take increasing control of the paper’s media empire.

The fact that the press was now divided between pro-government, right-leaning papers and critical liberal papers is not necessarily a matter of concern. After all, it is both normal and desirable in a liberal society to have a diversity of views represented by the media. What is both interesting and worrisome at the same time, however, is that a less unified media environment did not lead to a freer, more open and more pluralistic and vibrant press culture in the subsequent years, but instead resulted in the considerable decline in press freedom that we witness today.

Koichi Nakano is Professor of Political Science at the Faculty of Liberal Arts, Sophia University.

 

 

From the Archives: Catalyst of Change

No1-2017-03Arch

Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone spoke at the FCCJ on Oct. 7, 1985, with Club President Jurek Martin (Financial Times) seated to his left. Nakasone read a prepared statement, including comments regarding his and his Cabinet’s taboo-breaking official visit to Yasukuni Shrine to pay tribute to Japan’s war dead on Aug. 15, the 40th anniversary of the country’s surrender. Until then, postwar visits by political leaders to Yasukuni, where 14 Class A war criminals were enshrined in 1978, had been private. Nakasone later told journalists that he had avoided engaging in religious rites to avoid a potential constitutional issue. Still, his official visit sparked domestic and international criticism.

 

Prime Minister Nakasone was no stranger to our Club, having expressed his opinions to journalists here in various ministerial capacities in previous years. On Dec. 1, 1970, he visited as director-general of the Defense Agency, and commented on the suicide of Yukio Mishima less than a week earlier. “The literary genius always had in his left hand the spirit of Zen and in his right hand the pen that produced so many masterpieces,” he said. “He had to kill himself when he replaced the pen with the ken, a sword.”

Born in Takasaki, Gunma Prefecture, on May 27, 1918, Nakasone attended Tokyo Imperial University and served during World War II as an officer and paymaster in the Imperial Japanese Navy. He became a Diet member in 1946 as a proponent of Japan’s traditional values, making his first big splash in 1951 by sending a letter to General MacArthur criticizing Occupation policies – and again attracting attention in 1952 by criticizing Emperor Hirohito for losing the war. He became even more controversial with his support for a stronger national defense, including the acquisition of nuclear weapons and nuclear power research. After rising through the LDP’s ranks and heading five ministries, he became prime minister in 1982.

Nakasone also served as a catalyst in bringing about major changes in postwar Japan. Internationally, he improved relations with the USSR, China and other Asian nations while solidifying an even closer relationship with the U.S. through his “Ron-Yasu” friendship with President Ronald Reagan. Domestically, he made waves by pushing privatization of state-owned companies, including the breakup of Japan National Railways, reducing the power of bureaucrats and calling for more patriotism in schools and textbook revisions.

Nakasone sparked another international uproar in 1986 with a comment that Americans were less intelligent than Japanese because of its many immigrants and blacks, then compounded that by saying the U.S. had succeeded despite these drawbacks. In 1987 he was forced to resign after a failed attempt to introduce a value-added tax. Though he was one of the many politicians implicated in the next year’s Recruit scandal, he remained in the Diet until 2003.

Nakasone, who will celebrate his 99th birthday in May, is Japan’s oldest living statesman.

– Charles Pomeroy

 

New Members and New Books in the Library

NEW MEMBERS

REGULAR MEMBERS

 

2017-02Fleuri

JOHANN FLEURI is a correspondent for daily newspaper Ouest-France which has a print and web version. She also regularly contributes to Le Monde Diplomatique, Causette, Sept Info (Switzerland) and other magazines. In Japan, she covers politics, the economy, culture and travel. Johann has been working as a journalist for almost 10 years, including six at a daily newspaper in France. She spent one year in Japan in 2009 and visited often before deciding to settle in Tokyo in 2015. In 2013 she won the Robert Guillain prize for her work on Tohoku reconstruction.

 

2017-02Rich

MOTOKO RICH is the Tokyo bureau chief for the New York Times after spending 13 years at the mother ship in New York, where she covered the housing market, book publishing, the U.S. economy, and education. Since graduating from Yale and Cambridge universities, her career began as a reporter at the Financial Times in London. She has also worked as a staff reporter at the Wall Street Journal. She lives in Tokyo with her husband and two children, aged 12 and 10.

 

REINSTATEMENT (REGULAR)

 

2017-02Mie

AYAKO MIE covers Japanese politics and policies for the Japan Times. She started her career as a reporter at Tokyo Broadcasting System in 2001. In 2008, she went to journalism school at the University of California, Berkeley, as a Fulbright scholar. On returning to Japan in December 2010, she worked for the Washington Post as a special correspondent. Ayako was also awarded with the Wall Street Journal Asia Fellowship at NYU in 2014 and spent 18 months at the NYU’s Stern School of Business, and the Economic Reporting Program.

PROFESSIONAL/JOURNALIST ASSOCIATE MEMBERS
Christopher Jones, Custom Media K.K.
Hirato Shimasaki, Japan Golf Journalist Association
Hideaki Ota, The Sankei Shimbun

ASSOCIATE MEMBERS
Yoichi Minato, MX Engineering Co., Ltd.
Takeru Ogawa, Ogawa Construction Co., Ltd.

 

NEW IN THE LIBRARY

 

The Ideas Industry: Comparative Perspectives

Kent E. Calder (fwd.); Michael Kotler (ed.)

The Edwin O. Reischauer Center for East Asian Studies

Gift from Andrew Horvat

 

The Comfort Women: Historical, Political, Legal and Moral Perspectives

Kumagai Naoko; David Noble (trans.)

International House of Japan

Gift from George Baumgartner

 

How Like a God: Deification in Japanese Religion

Sato Hiroo; David Noble (trans.)

International House of Japan

Gift from George Baumgartner

 

Censored 2017: The Top Censored Stories and Media Analysis of 2015 – 2016

Mickey Huff (ed.); Andrew Lee Roth (ed.); Project Censored (with); Mark Crispin Miller (fwd.); Khalil Bendib (cartoons)

Seven Stories Press

Gift from Suvendrini Kakuchi

 

Another Kyoto

Alex Kerr

Sekai Bunka Publishing

Gift from Sekai Bunka Publishing Inc.

 

Nyumon Toranpu seiken

Hiroki Sugita (supervision); Kyodo Tsushinsha (ed.)

Kyodo Tsushinsha

Gift from Masaaki Urano (Kyodo News)

 

Kyodo tsushin nyusu yotei: 2017

Kyodo Tsushinsha Henshukyoku Yotei Senta

Kyodo Tsushinsha

Gift from K.K. Kyodo News

Exhibition: Dojo Giga Paintings

 

2017-02-Exh

paintings by Bujinkan Dojo Soke, Masaaki Hatsumi

 

IN THE MARTIAL ARTS there is an essence – a feeling beyond training and knowledge and skill. Performance at this intuitive level is beyond description. So how does a master martial artist teach this indescribable feeling? Through his art.

Masaaki Hatsumi is an 85-year-old sōke (head instructor) of Japanese martial traditions. He has worked as a professional osteopath, acted in a popular television series and written many books on ninjutsu and budo. He has previously visited the FCCJ as a guest speaker. About 30 years ago, Hatsumi Sensei made a series of colorful paintings of concepts which are essential to his dojo. Until now, Hatsumi has kept this collection private for the education of his students, but now feels it is the time to share these paintings.

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2017-02Exh3

2017-02Exh4

 

Olympic Press Center Plan Under Fire

2017-02BigSight

The city government's plan to turn Tokyo Big Sight into a media center has the exhibition industry seeing red ink.

 

by Julian Ryall

A

FTER WEATHERING ALLEGATIONS OF brown envelopes changing hands, massive cost over-runs, plagiarism and breaches of contract over the construction of facilities, the organizers of the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games might have hoped that the bad news was behind them. Now the Tokyo Metropolitan Government (TMG) finds itself at the center of a three-way collision pitting the city against the lucrative exhibitions industry and the world’s media.

The TMG decided to close Tokyo Big Sight, the city’s prime exhibition and event venue, so it can serve as the international media center before and during the 2020 Olympics and Paralympics. The exhibitions sector claims that the decision is “insane” and will cost the city dearly in the long run.

Speaking at the annual meeting of the Japan Exhibition Association (JEXA) on Jan. 12, Chairman Tad Ishizumi compared the decision to the disaster wrought on the industry by the earthquake/tsunami/nuclear disaster of March 2011, which hit the industry hard as exhibitors and visitors stayed away from the country.

 

It will cause an estimated ¥1.3 trillion in financial damages, they claim, with exhibitors losing out on ¥1.2 trillion and service companies forfeiting some ¥100 billion.

 

“For enterprises, especially small and medium-size enterprises, this is nothing less than a matter of life and death,” he said. “Even when exhibitions were cancelled for just one month in 2011, many companies were on the verge of bankruptcy. Imagine what the impact will be if Tokyo Big Sight is unavailable for seven months.”

The industry says the decision means that the largest purpose-built venue of its kind will be unavailable for exhibitions between April and October 2020, forcing the cancellation or significant down-sizing of 170 exhibitions that are held at Big Sight during that period. It will cause an estimated ¥1.3 trillion in financial damages, they claim, with exhibitors losing out on ¥1.2 trillion and service companies forfeiting some ¥100 billion. They add that there are insufficient purpose-built alternatives, with Makuhari Messe also earmarked for sporting events and to provide support to the organizers of the Games.

THE DECISION BY THE city government – which owns Tokyo Big Sight – also threatens the survival of 38,000 small and medium-size exhibitors that rely on events for a large portion of their annual revenue. It “guts” a 1,000 company-strong local service industry that creates booths, signage, staffing, food and beverage facilities and a host of other services and depends on exhibitions for its existence.

“We organize Comiket, the largest manga and anime event in Japan, at Big Sight every August and many of the companies that take part rely on that exhibition for as much as 50 percent of their annual revenue,” said Hajime Okada, president of Hiroshima-based publisher Eikou Co., Ltd. “To not be able to use the venue for seven months is going to be absolutely devastating to these companies.”

Remarkably, the city government initially proposed to close Tokyo Big Sight for 20 months to carry out upgrades and improvements on the facilities. The exhibitions industry has at least managed to avoid that scenario.

The exhibitions industry is working with the metropolitan government and the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry and is marshalling the assistance of a number of friendly members of the Diet to fight in its corner, but the only solution to emerge so far is a plan for the construction of a temporary exhibition hall one quarter the size of the facilities at Big Sight.

 

“It is a nightmare,” said Christopher Eve, managing director of UBM Japan Co., which organizes trade shows, and a director of JEXA.

 

“They say this is the solution,” Ishizumi said. “But it’s not. A simple calculation shows that with a temporary venue one quarter the size of Big Sight events can only be one-quarter of their previous scale. That means a loss of more than ¥1 trillion in sales.”

A spokesman for the metropolitan government issued a statement confirming that a 23,000m2 facility will be made available nearby between April 2019 and November 2020, but declined to comment on why Big Sight had been selected as the media center, the anticipated scale of economic losses or the possibility that exhibitions will be lost to the city forever because of the decision.

Yuichiro Nishida, director of the Planning and Public Relations Division of Tokyo Big Sight Inc. and presently on secondment to the metropolitan government, also declined to comment on whether the authorities are open
to the idea of reviewing the selection and Gov. Yuriko Koike’s position on
the matter.

“It is a nightmare,” said Christopher Eve, managing director of UBM Japan Co., which organizes trade shows, and a director of JEXA. “We are a big company so we will survive, but a lot of these companies rely on events at Big Sight, so if there are no trade shows, they have no income, they have to lay off staff and, ultimately, they could go under.”

He added: “And organizers of events that have been using Big Sight for years will find out that they have no venue in 2020 and will probably look at Shanghai, Hong Kong or Singapore as an alternative. And some of them might not come back.”

Julian Ryall is Japan correspondent for the Daily Telegraph.

 

 

 

Welcome to the Post-truth World

 

  Fake news, presidential tweets and irresponsible website curating. What's the media world coming to?

by Ayako Mie

I

T SEEMS LIKE THERE’S an entire industry dedicated to explaining Donald Trump’s ascent, with any number of reasons: the anger of those in the Rust Belt left behind by globalization; the frustration against the establishment; and last but not least – fake news, which churned out negative and false information about Democratic Nominee Hillary Clinton.

Across the Pacific from Trumpland, I thought Japan was a safe distance from the fake news movement. After all, even liberal satire such as the U.S. comedy show “Saturday Night Live” and the Onion website have yet to find fertile ground here, perhaps out of fear of political backlash. Yet the recent quasi fake news scandal surrounding DeNA, one of the most respected and innovative social networking and online gaming companies in Japan, was a reminder that all media, anywhere can be manipulated.

Buzzfeed Japan was the first to report last October that the popular healthcare information website called WELQ, owned by DeNA, had run many stories touting medical programs that were not based on scientific facts. The site had stories that claimed that black seeds were a panacea that could cure anything but death, featured headlines that linked allergies with certain restaurants and once even stated that ghosts cause stiff shoulders.

 

Buzzfeed also revealed that WELQ gave contributors a manual that all but encouraged plagiarism, instructing writers how to paraphrase already published articles without attribution.

 

WELQ was one of DeNA’s 10 curation platform services, which gather and present information on specific topics. The information can range from links to news mashups, but the sites generally do not create new content. There are no rules, of course, but for a healthcare site, one would expect the curation to be selective.

It was found, however, that the content was uploaded without any proper editing or attribution. Articles were also outsourced to crowdsourcing websites, using writers with little or no background in professional healthcare writing. Buzzfeed also revealed that WELQ gave contributors a manual that all but encouraged plagiarism, instructing writers how to paraphrase already published articles without attribution. It did attempt to dodge liability by running a disclaimer that it was not responsible for the accuracy and efficacy of the information and that readers should be held accountable for any action taken based on their stories.

AFTER BUZZFEED’S REPORT AND the following public outcry, DeNA, founded by Harvard-educated, visionary business entrepreneur Tomoko Namba, announced the temporary shutdown of WELQ and nine other of its media websites on Dec. 5. The company admitted it lacked understanding as to what it takes to be a responsible media and that its control over accuracy and copyrights issues was lax. (What was ironic during DeNA’s three-hour plus news conference in December was that Namba, who stepped down as the CEO to take care of her cancer-stricken husband, admitted that she herself had turned to academic papers and books when researching the disease rather than relying on web information.)

But why did DeNA, which had started as an online auction site before branching out into social media and gaming, decide to tap into the media business? The answer is easy: more money and growth. During the news conference, DeNA CEO Isao Moriyasu said that the company’s gaming business peaked in 2012, and the company had been searching for other areas such as media-related businesses.

 

While it is true WELQ’s false information wasn’t politically motivated like much of fake news, DeNA did prioritize a monetizing scheme over newsworthiness

 

It bought curation media sites, such as iemo – a mobile service for custom home improvement and interior design – and another media site called MERY from serial entrepreneur Mari Murata reportedly for ¥5 billion in the fall of 2014, and gave Murata an executive position at DeNA to oversee the media business. Unfortunately, Murata, who reportedly lives in Singapore, has yet to comment on the scandal nor was she present at the DeNA press conference.

While it is true WELQ’s false information wasn’t politically motivated like much of fake news, DeNA did prioritize a monetizing scheme over newsworthiness, including using click-bait tactics. The DeNA manual also encouraged writers to focus on often-searched issues, and told them to write longer so that the search engines would highlight the content.

Of course, Japan, with its history of anonymous posting, has many websites whose information accuracy is dubious, such as Naver Matome, another curation media, let alone “2 Channel,” a rumor mill and the ground zero of slanders. But I’m beginning to wonder if anyone can be trusted as accuracy may be taking a back seat to sensationalism in the race to gain more clicks. Yutaka Hasegawa, a former announcer at Fuji TV, came under fire after he wrote a blog with a sensational title, “People who need dialysis due to their fault should entirely pay on their own. If they cannot, kill them.”

Hasegawa, who quit the network after alleged expense account fraud, had been a blogger popular for controversial statements. In a recent Asahi Shimbun interview he said he was advised to use extreme words to gain page views, adding that he became numb as he escalated his rhetoric. At its most popular, his blog claimed 33 million page views. But he lost all his TV contracts and other writing jobs after the scandal.

Does a solution exist? Shigenori Kanehira, a journalist who travels to places like Iraq and Afghanistan for his weekly news program on TBS, told me that technology is the culprit. He said that the amount of information has become so massive that journalists are overwhelmed and readers cannot tell what’s true or false. Some might not even care.

It’s easy to say professional journalists have to do a better job at setting an example in spite of budget cuts. It’s hard to be optimistic in a world controlled by tweets from President Trump.

Ayako Mie is a staff writer for the Japan Times.

 

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