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Number 1 Shimbun


NUMBER 1 SHIMBUN 2018 (116)

Children categories

New Members (February 2018)

New Members (February 2018)

Regular Members (Reinstatement)
Yuji Nakaya, Kyodo News
Atsushi Yamada, Freelance

Associate Members
Michael R. Snook, Embassy of the United States of America
Akio Hayashi, Kairin Juku School
Kimimasa Iwamoto, Asia Electronics Inc.
Tamotsu Kosano, Geek Pictures Inc.
Susumu Kaminaga, SK Global Advisers Co., Ltd.
Hiroshi Nishino, NI Intelligent Initiative Inc.
Hajime Namba, Japan Institute of Life Insurance
Kaoru Sato, Osaka University
Hiroyuki Tanabe, Sojitz Corporation
Makoto Washio, Ginza Daiichi Houritsu Jimusho
Atsushi Yoshikawa, Nomura Real Estate Holdings, Inc.
Seiji Yasubuchi, Visa Worldwide (Japan) Co., Ltd.

Reinstatement (Associate Member)
Hisashi Akazome, No affiliation

Brief Biography of Yuji Nakaya

Yuji Nakaya is currently an executive director of Kyodo News in charge of international strategy and the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics.

He assumed the current position in June 2017 after serving as an executive director in charge of general affairs, labor management, compliance and business continuity plan from June 2015.

Nakaya became managing director of the General Affairs Department in June 2013after serving as deputy managing editor of the New Department.

He has long experience in working for Kyodo overseas bureaus. He served as chief of the Washington Bureau between 2009 and 2012 after working as chef editor of the Foreign News Section from 2006.

He was assigned to the Washington Bureau as a correspondent in February 1993 after working as chief of the Nicosia Bureau from July 1990.

Nakaya joined Kyodo in April 1981 after graduating from Sophia University. He worked at the Nagoya and Toyama bureaus before beginning to work for the Foreign News Section in April 1989.

New in the Library (February 2018)

New in the Library (February 2018)

Contents Tourism in Japan: Pilgrimages to "Sacred Sites" of Popular Culture
Philip Seaton
Cambria Press
Gift from Philip Seaton

The Cambridge History of China. v. 12-15
John K. Fairbank and Denis Twitchett (general editors)
Caves Books
Gift from Detlef Rehn

Korea Witness: 135 Years of War, Crisis and News in the Land of the Morning Calm
Donald Kirk (ed.); Choe Sang Hun (ed.)
EunHaeng NaMu
Gift from Detlef Rehn

Red China Blues: My Long March from Mao to Now
Jan Wong
Doubleday/Anchor Books
Gift from Detlef Reh

The Rise of Modern Japan
W.G. Beasley
Weidenfeld and Nicolson
Gift from Detlef Reh

Hacks & Flacks 2018

Hacks & Flacks 2018

The Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan’s annual "Hacks & Flacks" party welcomed nearly 230 attendees, who celebrated the start of 2018 with colleagues from media, public relations and the government in a gala networking event.

FCCJ members and their guests, the Ambassadors of Germany and Greece, and Rep. Seiko Hashimoto, who delivered a keynote speech to kick off the upcoming Winter Olympic Games, gathered January 26 to toast the new year and the fortunes of all ahead.

Kind donations from Suntory, Bon sake and Ito-ya, as well as entertainment by a Lion Dance team supplied by ALSOK, set the mood for an evening of unprecedented professional exchange and socializing.

This event was the beginning of a series of targeted professional evenings that aim to bring together the FCCJ’s diverse interests and community more frequently and for mutual gain.

The next such evening under consideration is a "Tokyo 2020" night, in which Olympic athletes and the national sports, Games and team sponsors, local communities and venues, as well as the media and our membership, will come together to mine stories and make connections ahead of the blockbuster global event just two years off.

The Club thanks all who attended this event, welcomes tour feedback, and looks forward to see even more folks at the next Tokyo 2020 Night later this year.


The World of the Professional Ski Instructors in Japan

No1-2018-02 Sky


The World of the Professional Ski Instructors in Japan
~In Commemoration of an Olympic Year~
Photography from SIA Archives
Feb. 3 - March 2, 2018

In commemoration of the PyeongChang Olympic Winter Games, the SIA (Professional Ski Instructors Association of Japan) would like to take this opportunity to share the jubilation and depth of skiing in Japan. A lifetime sport, it enjoys a large following from toddlers to seniors. The trill of skiing brings us closer to nature and is a source of great passion for both the novice and hardcore enthusiast. Please celebrate with us the beauty of this Nordic sport as we cheer for the athletics competing in the XXIII Winter Olympics.

SIA was established in 1968 and approved as an incorporated association in 1981. It is the only professional snow-sport organization in Japan that is a member of “ISIA” (International Ski Instructors Association). Nationwide, SIA has 133 ski schools, each with its own unique program geared to wide range of skiing abilities.

Book review and interview: Pachinko by Min Jin Lee

Book review and interview: Pachinko by Min Jin Lee

by Fred Varcoe

“History has failed us, but no matter.” So starts Pachinko, Min Jin Lee’s epic novel on Korea and Japan, which spans most of the painful century that Korea endured first under the Japanese occupiers, later under its own home-bred tyrants. If others had written that opening line, you could imagine an ironic cackle of laughter coming after it, bearing in mind Japan’s official line on the history of its relations with Korea.

But Lee’s novel does not represent a hammer blow of revenge. Koreans have endured so much in the last 100-plus years, it doesn’t require a battle axe to draw blood – or even a scalpel. Rather, Lee’s weapon is the sculptor’s chisel, slowly creating a huge work of art and carving out truth in her words.

The novel, which runs to nearly 500 pages, starts in Korea. We are introduced to Sunja, a simple and kind-hearted girl blossoming into womanhood. The blossoming gets a helping hand from a smart-dressed guy who grooms, seduces and impregnates the simple Sunja. She opts for an opportunistic marriage to a Korean priest heading for Osaka and her odyssey in Japan begins.

Life for Sunja and ordinary Koreans in the Japanese empire is bleak, except for those few smart-dressed men who can exploit their own people and the Japanese. Sunja – easily seen as a symbol of Korea – is pure at heart, and true to herself and her decent upbringing in a world of temptation, terror and vice. Sunja refuses to take the easy way out and live off the riches of her seducer. For her, the pain of honesty is worth it.

With the storyline covering decades, her family and friends are confronted with the reality of life as Koreans in Japan – the hardships, the prejudices, choices between right and wrong. Her two sons choose distinctly different routes to “acceptability.” Both become involved with pachinko – a bit of a cliché and perhaps the only blot on Lee’s copybook – but their lives and fates remain poles apart. In Lee’s deft hand, neither is right, neither is wrong. Sunja’s purity, humanity and love remain a constant despite the turmoil and tragedy in her life.

Lee dresses the politics in a comfortable overcoat of normal life – that is, normal life in the 20th century for Koreans living under or in Japan. She could be accused of soft-pedalling on the truth and even hiding it from view. The torture, rape and enslavement of a noble country and their people beneath the trampling boots of the Japanese army is alluded to more than described. Indeed, to have described it would have made Lee a polemicist rather than a novelist. As she states below, including the politics is easy; getting the emotional balance was the hard part. And it’s hard because she had to make the reality of life for Sunja and her family hard. This is not a Hollywood movie; characters are beaten up, suffer and die when you don’t want them to. They don’t come back and rescue the heroine.

Pachinko is a family drama and Lee certainly gets the emotional side right. You connect with the characters and are eager to find out what fate has for them. Throughout, Sunja carries herself with solidity, grace and sacrifice. Some Japanese would call it gaman. For Koreans, it has been about, to quote Emperor Showa, “enduring the unendurable.” Pachinko is set in the past, but in a political world dominated by Japan’s pugnacious right, it’s also a book of the present.


Interview with Pachinko author Min Jin Lee

Fred Varcoe: I only know that you went to America at the age of 7, but don't know why, so my first dumb question is: How Korean do you feel? Or how Korean are you? Or how Korean do you want to be?

Min Jin Lee: I don’t think it’s a dumb question. I think it’s honest. I feel more or less Korean depending on where I am. In Seoul, I feel very American. In New York, not so Korean, rather, far more American. In Japan, I felt like a Martian, because I was so often misread ethnically and culturally. As you know, in America or anywhere else, really, there is no such thing as a South Korean-identified Korean-Japanese (Mindan) or North Korean-identified Korean-Japanese (Chongryon/Soren), so that was odd, too. In an ideal sense, everyone considers himself or herself existentially and ontologically whole without race, ethnicity or nation; however, the objective reality is that we have our physical envelopes and cultural legacy/baggage, which distinguish us from the majority. Consequently, I feel very respectful to how an individual interprets his reality. Some of us belong everywhere, and some of us belong nowhere – in a curious way, I think this is very true of all writers.

FV: Did you set out with a political statement in mind? It's hard/ impossible to write about the topic of Koreans in and related to Japan without being political, but was there a purpose in mind when you came up with the idea for the book?

MJL: In the first version of this manuscript (the one I wrote from 1996-2003), I was very political and consequently, for me, that book failed artistically. It was dull and stupid as a novel. I did not try to send it out and I was depressed about how bad it was. Then, after I moved to Japan and lived there from 2007-2011, I met many, many Korean-Japanese and Japanese folks, who became intimate friends, and I felt more able to write about one Korean-Japanese family. I do not speak for the Korean-Japanese people; in fact, I think even a highly educated Korean-Japanese person does not speak for a whole community. Pachinko is a work of fiction about characters who are real to me.

FV: Notwithstanding the above questions, you seem to land your punches in a velvet glove. It's easy to beat Japan over the head for its crimes against Korea, but you seem to refrain from doing that and I assume it was intentional …

MJL: I like your phrasing. As we know, the Japanese people are not cartoon villains, and in the same way, the North Koreans are not child kidnappers. It is racist to equate the evil actions of several individuals with groups of people who share immutable traits or ethnic origins. It is insulting to readers to present binaries of good versus evil, when in fact, all of us end up flawed, foolish, afraid, as well as sublime, appealing, and wise. There is so much about Japan that I love and admire, and I wanted very much to share this feeling in this book. The colonial history of Korea is painful, but I do not see it as humiliating or shameful. So many Koreans do not like this 20th century history because they were on the losing side. I think the Koreans I have met in South Korea and around the world have only demonstrated their resilience and vitality in the face of tragic circumstances. I think the alleged winners did not win, and the alleged losers did not lose.

FV: Have you had hate mail, etc., as a result of the book?

MJL: I have had a few Twitter trolls, but gosh, haven’t we all? I’ve had the unexpected privilege of receiving wonderful, kind letters from Japanese, Korean-Japanese and Koreans from around the world. I think my book is very fair to every side, and I think readers, too, are savvy enough to get this.

FV: “History has failed us” – Will it go on failing Korea, Koreans and zainichi?

MJL: Yes. I believe that history will continue to fail Korea (both North and South), Koreans and the Korean-Japanese, but that does not mean that history will favor the Japanese or the so-called superpower nations. There is a national cost to inequity and a denial of its true history. There is an extraordinary price to future generations of a nation that refuses to acknowledge its moral failings. History tends to fail the poor, disenfranchised, elderly, sick, and minorities. There is far too much proof that throughout history, all working class people have been failed by those in charge. Governments and ruling bodies are disappointing human creations, and sadly, even in advanced democracies, the ones in charge tend to favor themselves over the greater good. Independent media and the freedom of the press are the last bulwarks of democracy and truth, and as we know, we live in a time with an endangered and troubled fair and free media. I am a journalist and a fiction writer, and I am increasingly alarmed by the threats we face as we do our work.

Fred Varcoe is a Chiba-based freelance journalist and reluctant historian

FCCJ Library Marks 70th anniversary

FCCJ Library Marks 70th anniversary

by Geoffrey Tudor

On a sweltering summer day in 1948 in occupied Japan, a two-ton truck in the familiar olive drab livery of the U.S. Army pulled up outside the Marunouchi Kaikan, home of what was then called the Tokyo Correspondents’ Club.

Under the direction of Gene Zenier, a newsreel reporter, and watched by a dusty and perspiring United Press reporter, Ian Mutsu, staff of the organization later to be known as the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan unloaded the cargo.

The boxes they carried into the building contained books, the beginnings of the Press Club Library, donated by member Mutsu from his family’s collection to help start the library. Zenier, known for his ability to fix things, had “borrowed” the truck and driver from the military to haul the books from Mutsu’s home by the Pacific seaside in unbombed Kamakura, some 70 kilometers south of Tokyo. Many of the books Mutsu donated are still on the shelves, according to librarian Hiroko Moriwaki, and provide a very valuable resource, covering Japanese history, culture and biographies of prominent personalities.

Mutsu’s gift was highly appreciated. “The members voted unanimously to extend their thanks to Ian Mutsu for his contributions in books and labor to the new library,” wrote Club secretary and U.P. bureau chief Earnest Hoberecht in minutes of the regular membership meeting of September 8, 1948.

Later donations from others followed and there was also a need for newspapers and magazines. In the Club minutes for a March 29, 1949,meeting we find a motion from A.W. Jessup of Newsweek which read, “I move that the sum of $150 be appropriated for subscriptions to newspapers and magazines of world renown for the enlightenment, education and professional use of the membership, said magazines to be placed in the Club library where they can be read or slept under by members wishing peace and quiet rather than the noise of the bar and lounge.” Included among the list of recommended newspapers and publications were the New York Times, New York Herald Tribune, Atlantic Monthly, Harper’s, Economist, The Nation, The New Republic, Fortune, the New Yorker and the U.S. editions of Time, Life and Newsweek. “The Library has a larger list,” reported Hoberecht.

“I was amazed to find we still subscribe to most of them,” remarked librarian Moriwaki.

The library this year commemorates the 70th anniversary of its foundation. The FCCJ marked its own 70th anniversary in 2015, having been formally established in 1945, but it was three years before the library came into being.

Veteran newspaperman Allen Raymond, at the time first vice president of the Club and Tokyo correspondent of the New York Herald Tribune, was the driving force behind the library’s foundation.

In June 1949 Raymond was elected Club president for the 12 months beginning July 1st of that year. He resigned in 1950 before his term came to an end and went back to the United States, leaving the newspaper business to become an independent writer and consultant. He died in June 1957 aged 64.

In January 1959 the already renamed Club named the library “The Allen Raymond Memorial Library” and installed a plaque to that effect near the library door. Although the Club has moved several times, the plaque has followed. It reads:


Today the Allen Raymond library provides members with newspapers, periodicals and the latest books as well as reference materials and research functions, using the latest technology and the skills of two professional librarians and researchers.

A native of Tokyo, Moriwaki spent 15 years in London where she studied at Goldsmiths College of the University of London, taking a BA degree, followed by a diploma course at King’s College, London.

From 1991 Ms. Moriwaki worked for Nikkei in London, returning to Japan in 2000, where she later worked in the office of ex-NHK broadcaster and investigative journalist Ryuichi Teshima. She came to the FCCJ in February 2013.

Chiaki Aita was born in Iwaki City, Fukushima Prefecture. She spent eight years in the United States as a librarian at the University of Maryland. She returned to Japan in 2013 and has been with the FCCJ since December 2013.

At the last inventory, the library shelves held some 11,200 books including reference works. New books arrive in the form of donations from authors, publishers and members – and purchases by the Library and Workroom Committee (LAW), which supervises the library’s operations.

The Library Committee oversees the budget, including the selection and purchase of new books and subscriptions for newspapers, periodicals data, bases and wire services. The Committee also decides on the choice of authors for the “Book Break” events.

Providing professional support services for foreign correspondents is one of the main purposes of the FCCJ library. The library staff members identify sources, make appointments for correspondents and obtain information for them.

“Foreign media have very wide interests,” says Moriwaki. “They want to know trends in subculture, mainstream culture, goods, shops, restaurants, travel, foreign visitors and so on.”

High on the list of support activities is translation. To help gather information, the staff will translate journalists’ questions into Japanese and then translate the answers into English. Depending on the length, a fee is charged for this – but if questions are simple and the list is short, there is no charge.

Research may entail searching for official reports and documents that a journalist needs for a story. This involves searching databases or going back to the archives of organizations and media companies. There is a regular need to seek out reports by financial research bodies and analysts.

Obtaining data from government sources sometimes can be very difficult, says Moriwaki. The route to the data from the home page can be very complex and the librarians have to ask government officials for guidance.

The FCCJ is a private members club. The Club and its facilities, including the Library, are not open to the public. An exception is the Book Break series, when newsworthy authors are invited to present their views and discuss their latest books. Since October 2014 and the Book Break for former Olympus CEO Michael Woodford’s best-seller, Exposure – From President to Whistleblower at Olympus, these events have been open to non-members.

The Breaks – held on average monthly – are not only a potential Club revenue source but also part of the Club’s contribution to the public interest under its Koeki Shadan Hojin legal status. LAW would like to promote the Book Breaks more effectively by attracting more non-members to these events.

Although non-journalists who are Associate members far outnumber the professional journalists as FCCJ members today, the FCCJ first and foremost is a working press club.

By tradition the Club has always welcomed visiting journalists. Guest members can also ask the FCCJ staff for help in arranging coverage and in hiring local assistance. Such a case was the triple disaster in March 2011 of the Great Tohoku Earthquake.

Not all media visitors to Japan arrive in such dramatic circumstances. There is a steady stream of media visitors coming to the country for more routine purposes, such as the Tokyo Motor Show coverage and other regular, normal events.

In the early days the library’s filing cabinets were crowded with paper news clippings from English language editions of Japanese newspapers, a journalist’s treasure trove of historic information. With the arrival of the internet and the “paperless” society there have been drastic changes. Many data files of data are now digitalized and easily accessible by individuals using their own personal computers.

The library still maintains paper clippings files from English language newspapers in Japan between the 1950’s and 2000 as well as English translations of Japanese newspaper and magazine articles on specific themes such as the Imperial Family, US-Japan Security Treaty, the Senkaku Islands, the Northern Territories and the issues surrounding Okinawa.

Journalists using the FCCJ Library today have an unparalleled reference resource, the vision of Press Club members in the late 1940’s who had the foresight to establish the Library as an integral part of the main hub of foreign language reporting on Japan.

In the library’s 70th year, the LAW committee is working to enhance service to members through three particular projects.

First of these, explained committee co-chair Suvendrini (“Drini”) Kakuchi, is the creation of an archive resource where the work of past top journalist members can be accessed easily. This would include written and audio-visual materials.

Second, with more Japanese members joining the Club, there is a requirement for more Japanese language material and events. Third, there is a need for more digitalization in the Library’s basic functions, for research and record purposes, said Drini.

Additionally, the Library and Workroom will be affected favorably by the move to new premises. This offers a good opportunity for service improvements.

Allen Raymond’s memorial plaque will find a new home.

Geoff Tudor writes for Orient Aviation, Hong Kong.

Tet, Half a Century Later

No1-2018-02 War

 Photo credit: David Terry


Tet, Half a Century Later
By Donald Kirk

This lunar new year conjures memories of a lunar new year 50 years ago in February 1968 when some of us were covering the Tet offensive as it raged across the land we knew as South Vietnam. I was in a bunk in the U.S. Marine Press Center in Danang the day before Tet when we heard rockets exploding and small arms fire crackling down the street. The rockets were all incoming.

A clutch of journalists gathered in the central courtyard of the press center, asking our marine minders what was going on. They reported a firefight a mile or so away. The enemy, they said, had been repelled. We could walk down there, with escorts, and see for ourselves. We set off, accompanied by a couple of marines, with a sense of adventure. The war had come to us. We didn’t have to board helicopters for flights to jungle bases under fire. That was a special relief for me since I had broken my right arm just above the wrist a couple of days earlier in a freak accident at Khe Sanh, site of a U.S. Marines combat base a few miles from the Lao border near the line with North Vietnam.

I was trying to catch a ride out of Khe Sanh, where I’d spent a night or two as North Vietnamese gunners rocketed intermittently from ridgelines. The big C130 cargo planes landing there would have to take off in a hurry so they never halted completely but slowly taxied while ammo, C-rations and other stuff rolled out of their ends onto the tarmac. When we wanted to leave, we were supposed to run behind the planes while they were still taxiing and jump on. We were told to wait until the last pallet had rolled off. No sooner had I clambered aboard one of them, however, than I saw the last ammo pallet coming at me. I leapt onto the pallet, tumbled out with it and landed on my hand on the runway. I’ve always figured a broken arm was a pretty lucky break, considering some of the alternatives.

With my arm in a cast, provided the day before after a long wait at the marine medical center in Danang by a U.S. Navy doctor rightly more interested in a steady stream of marine wounded, I joined the journos running down the road from the press center. A South Vietnamese Army major was standing beside his jeep, grinning broadly, saying, “Very lucky, very lucky.” His good luck was that he was alive, unscathed, while his driver lay slumped over the wheel, killed by gunfire through the windshield. On the side of the road, I saw a man on his back on the ground, a black-clad North Vietnamese soldier. South Vietnamese soldiers were looking at him with detached interest. He had a sucking open chest wound from which he would die in minutes. More bodies lay in neat rows by an intersection where the South Vietnamese had dragged them.

South Vietnamese soldiers, rather than American marines, seemed to have the scene in hand. I have a memory of John Wheeler, then an ace AP correspondent, talking about the need to “count the bodies.” Back at the Press Center, my right hand protruding from a sling, I could hardly write. John Laurence, the CBS correspondent, drew a star on the cast and happily offered to type as I dictated. The story made the front page of the next day’s Washington Star, the Washington Post’s afternoon competitor, destined to go out of business a few years later.

The Star had hired me a few months earlier as “Asia correspondent,” based in Hong Kong but mostly covering Vietnam. The man who had inherited the job of publisher, Newbold Noyes, was by coincidence on a swing around the region. “Newbie” shared the view of the Pentagon and the White House that cynical young correspondents were undermining the “war effort” with all their negative reporting. He could hardly have picked a more opportune moment to see his views tested under fire.

We didn’t know it that day, but the attack on Danang was the opening of the offensive that was to break out as South Vietnamese set about celebrating Tet, the lunar new year holiday. Years later, in 1995, on the 20th anniversary of the “fall” of Saigon and the South Vietnamese surrender on April 30, 1975, I revisited Danang and the citadel at Hue and asked a Vietnamese guide, a veteran of the North Vietnamese offensive, why the soldiers from the North had attacked Danang first. He said with disarming frankness that orders had been confused, the date was read or relayed incorrectly and the North Vietnamese had jumped off too soon. The North Vietnamese were repelled at Danang the day before the Tet offensive opened in earnest elsewhere.

We got the news of the attack on the U.S. embassy in Saigon, and on provincial capitals, at the marine press center the next morning. Ed Behr, the Newsweek correspondent, after calling a colleague in Saigon, told us, “They’re attacking everywhere.” The marines organized a briefing at the headquarters of III MAF, 3d Marine Amphibious Force, which consisted of two marine divisions and a marine aircraft wing assigned to I Corps Tactical Zone, whose area of operations was the northern provinces. The briefer said there’d been fighting at Hue but the marines were on the way to rescue the South Vietnamese First Division.

The First Division’s commanding general had told me two weeks earlier the North Vietnamese were in nearby hills but his men were ready. Intelligence was disturbingly vague. Outside the city, marines on patrol had said, “The VC are everywhere.” In the compound for CORDS – Civil Operations for Revolutionary Development Support – across the river from the Citadel, earnest U.S. aid types had heard the reports but were confident they were getting somewhere.

When I went to the air base at Danang in hopes of boarding a U.S. Air Force flight to Phu Bai, the base town a few miles south of Hue, a young airman told me nothing was flying and “Hue isn’t ours.” I could hardly believe him. “What do you mean?” I asked. “Well, the North Vietnamese have captured the city,” was his laconic response.

We soon learned what the marine briefer had neglected to report, that the enemy held the vast Citadel, east of the river, where the elite of Hue had lived from the days of dynastic rule over Vietnam before the French colonial era. By now a number of the U.S. aid people whom I’d met had been killed along with several thousand Vietnamese.

Anxious to get to the heart of the fighting in and around Saigon, I hitched a ride with a U.S. army general who had an extra seat in his personal plane. I remember him telling me how moved he was by the fighting spirit of “our young soldiers.” He seemed pretty sincere, but a couple of years later I would have liked to able to ask how he felt as U.S. forces bogged down in serious morale problems, worsened by drugs, mostly marijuana but also heroin, that were for sale outside U.S. bases.

Once in Saigon, I had to figure out which way the war was going – which was not altogether clear as the North Vietnamese faded under heavy fire. At the same time I had to deal with the specter of my publisher and employer. Newbie Noyes had just arrived on a U.S. military jet and by the time he’d had his first military and diplomatic briefings, arranged in advance in Washington as a tribute to his VIP status, was confident that he knew all about everything. Mostly, he accepted the view of General William Westmoreland, the U.S. commander, that “We’re winning.” He disdained my less than laudatory comments as the complaints of “a very cynical young man” – a label he bestowed on me while plying me with food and drink in the Caravelle Hotel.

Newbie, though, was but a temporary nuisance. As a VIP, he got offered a flight to Phu Bai on a C130 laid on for Walter Cronkite and Cronkite’s producer, Jeff Gralnick. The flight was scheduled the very morning. That conflicted with his existing schedule, which called for him to leave then for the next stop on his magical mystery tour – I think Bangkok. Not exactly the image of journalistic aggressiveness, Newbie relinquished his C130 seat to me, giving me the chance to listen to Cronkite expressing his first veiled misgivings about the war.

The top U.S. information honcho, Barry Zorthian, was also on board – eager to massage Cronkite’s ego though a little disappointed to see me in place of Noyes, on whom the administration counted for editorial sympathy. Cronkite was surrounded by fawning U.S. military officers when we landed in Phu Bai, but his commentary several weeks later marked a turning point in U.S. opinion – despite the inability of the North Vietnamese to hold the cities and towns they had overrun in Tet.

In fact, when Cronkite spoke out publicly against the war on February 27, 1968, the U.S. Marines, backed up by the U.S. First Air Cavalry division, were just finishing what had turned into a four-week battle inside the Hue Citadel – one of the most significant engagements in U.S. military history. I flew into the Citadel a couple of times during the battle, picking up flak jackets and helmets stacked up by the bodies of dead marines at the headquarters in the rear of the Citadel, and sticking with the marines as they fought block by block – the blocks marked by stone walls behind which troops from both sides could conceal themselves.

I remember a marine groggily starting to wake up one morning and saying, “When I was a kid, I never thought I’d be in a war like this.” After he’d fully awakened, another marine asked him if he knew what he’d said. And I remember a couple of young marines rushing into the headquarters of a company commander, to whom I’d been sticking pretty close, on the ground floor of an abandoned home, saying another marine had been cut down after rushing a block too far on a “mule,” a springless vehicle used for moving supplies in the field.

A little later, a marine sniper said the man beside him had stuck his head from a balcony and been killed by a single shot, but the sniper said he’d seen an enemy soldier and killed him. “I know I got him,” he said when I asked how he could be sure the guy had not just been wounded. “He fell like this” – accompanied by a quick doubling up and pitching forward.

Joining as marines moved up, I found one, who’d been sprayed by shrapnel, slumped on the floor of a home. “I was really lucky,” he said, half-smiling to discover he was alive and out of danger, as he sipped from a newly opened bottle of whiskey. There were strict orders on looting. “If you can eat it or drink it, you can have it,” the company commander said tersely. “Leave everything else alone” – an edict that presumably applied to the snapshots of a nude young woman the marines gleefully discovered in a bureau drawer overflowing with silken scarves and ao dai, the Vietnamese national dress.

The Tet offensive was a moving target. The story was everywhere. As the fighting moved west from the center of Saigon, I encountered little kids by the race track, holding sticks, playing soldier, while the real war went on blocks away.

I saw soldiers in shops and apartments calling in helicopter strikes, and I saw a couple of mangy dogs, their ears pinned back, running for their lives down empty streets, terrified by nearby explosions. The first cobra gunships roared in, their guns blazing, sounding like chain saws, blasting whatever they saw, to the disgust of a U.S. civilian official who told me, “That’s not winning hearts and minds.” But what else were the troops to do? The mission was to drive out the North Vietnamese and Viet Cong. Hearts and minds could wait.

JUSPAO, the Joint U.S. Public Affairs Office, and MACV, Military Assistance Command Vietnam, proudly flew reporters to the scenes of their triumphs. On a flight to Cà Mau, at the southeastern tip of Vietnam, I saw charred enemy bodies by the landing strip. I was with Don Sider of Time and a young American woman. Sider wanted to shield the view. “It’s the first time she’s seen dead bodies,” he said. Somewhere in the upper delta, I ran into an American lieutenant colonel who denied Westmoreland’s futile claim that commanders had been warned of what might transpire. “All we got was a routine max alert for Tet,” he said.

A week or so into the offensive, on February 7, while fighting was still raging in Hue, JUSPAO and MACV staged a flight to Ben Tre, a charming provincial center in the upper Mekong River delta that had been hit hard in the first day or so of the offensive. The flight would make for an easy dateline for journalists wanting to show they were getting around the countryside. The junket was so easy that Joe Fried of the New York Daily News, who covered the war mostly from the daily five o’clock follies, was on the plane, looking distinctly uneasy in a neatly pressed correspondent’s suit on a rare venture outside Saigon as we flew over shell-pocked rice paddies.

JUSPAO and MACV wanted to show off Ben Tre as a success story. When we got there, we heard the sound of hammering and sawing as energetic townspeople began reconstruction from the rubble of buildings shot up first by enemy rockets and then by American helicopters as they drove out the invaders. The town by now was at peace, licking and healing the wounds. As civilian vehicles and street markets reappeared, in the shadows of balconied old colonial buildings, bullet-spattered but still standing, shaded by trees and garlanded with flowers, we were driven to the headquarters of the U.S. provincial team. A phalanx of officials was ready for us, standing in front of maps and a blackboard on a terrace behind the headquarters.

An army major, in his role as military adviser on the provincial team, described the battle to retake the town. The fighting had been tough, he wanted us to know, but the result was a success, Ben Tre was ours. Peter Arnett, the famous AP correspondent, grinned sardonically, asking loudly, “You mean you had to destroy the town to save it?” The major shrugged, “Well, you might put it that way.”

That evening, in Saigon, I got a message from the Star. The AP was reporting a U.S. major saying it had become “necessary to destroy the town to save it.” The major, however, had never uttered those fateful words. The quote was Arnett’s question, not his response. Too bad. In an information war, the quote, as Arnett had it coming not from his own mouth but that of the major, at once became a rallying cry for a war that was now as good as lost in a mushroom cloud of anti-war protest and popular revulsion.

Donald Kirk covered Vietnam first for the old Washington (D.C.) Star and then for the Chicago Tribune. He also wrote numerous articles for The New Leader, The New York Times Magazine and others as well as two books on the war, Wider War: The Struggle for Cambodia, Thailand and Laos, 1971, and Tell it to the Dead: Memories of a War, 1975, republished in expanded form in 1996 as Tell it to the Dead: Stories of a War.

Message from the President

Message from the President

The FCCJ is confronting multiple crucial challenges all at once. Start with the move to a nearby location in Marounochi. There’s been lots of talk about it and all I can add is to propose officially designating it as Japan’s Third Major Recent Move.

The first of the three big moves on a national scale has been dragging on since 1996 when Japan and the United States agreed to move Futenma base functions from Ginwan to Nago, both in Okinawa. Over the years, protests have never ceased but just now a new mayoral election in Nago may have provided the momentum, finally, to make this move happen.

Big Move Number Two on a Japanese national scale is the replacement of Tsukiji market. Concerns over the new site were raised on account of a chemical dump reported to have been operated there previously. Not long ago, the Tokyo government made its final decision and the move from Tsukiji is no longer an issue.

As for the FCCJ Move, although the general membership and successive boards decided to move, we still have to negotiate with our partner, Mitsubishi Estate, a compensation deal that will provide the club a safety net. We hope for a successful negotiation so that the move to one of the fanciest hubs in Tokyo won’t threaten the club finances. I hope all FCCJ members will stand behind the board in that endeavor so we can bring in the best possible deal.

Beyond the big move, another Club challenge is smoothing the outsourcing deal with our new food and beverage partner. We have passed the bumpy start and now all efforts by the Board and the Food and Beverage Committee are directed to making the best of the new arrangement so as to satisfy our historically high F&B standard. We used to have our in-house kitchen staff working directly for the Club under the General Manager. Previous boards changed this formula and now the task of overseeing the outsourced function is added to the daily work of all Board members. So the press club is very much involved now in crucial negotiations with both a real estate company and a catering company.

Add to those challenges the HR responsibility to find the right General Manager for our club. Fortunately the office and staff have been exerting great efforts following the departure of the former GM, and business is done smoothly. We expect to have a new GM before the new fiscal year 2018, to help us manage the logistics problems inherent in the move including negotiations with the outsourcing partner. All concerned are entering uncharted territory, even though we have been diligent in studying and researching to prepare ourselves.

Oh, and there is one more challenge. It is our publication, the Number 1 Shimbun. We are trying to set up a new track for this publication that takes into greater consideration the pressing need for cost-effectiveness.

There are two contending schools of thought. One argues that the members who contribute articles need to be paid since most journalists these days are so tightly pressed to make a living that they can’t afford to work for free.

The other school says paying members for articles is a violation of our bylaws and should be halted.
After all, in various Club committees members volunteer their time and professional knowledge. Take the Finance Committee, for example – an all-volunteer operation.

My personal view is that any such contribution by members to the club should not be paid for. This issue will be at the top of our agenda in days to come, as we take note of members’ replies to the current Number 1 Shimbun survey.

In closing, permit me a note about the weather. In this cold wave, the Club remains a warm haven for journalists. This happens thanks to the continuing support of the membership, for which I am much obliged and on account of which I feel honored to be in this position.

Letter from the Publications Committee

Letter from the Publications Committee

This year marks the 50th anniversary of No. 1 Shimbun. While the publications committee still hasn't set an editorial schedule for 2018, we would like to share with our readers the magazine's mission statement written by its first editor, John Roderick, an AP legendary reporter who is pictured on the lobby wall with Mao Zedong.

In No. 1 Shimbun's inaugural issue in September 1968, Roderick initiated a policy for members to write letters to the editor about issues of importance to them. We will reinstitute that policy. Please submit letters if you have something you wish to share.

Also, please propose articles you may wish to write for the magazine and we promise to respond. We are looking for writers. All members are encouraged to participate.

And as always, if you have any questions, comments or suggestions, please email us anytime at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


A quotation from the editor

"Newspapers must not be run behind closed doors. They
must face the masses, and must have the general orientation
and at the same time be fresh and lively."

This quotation is neither from Lord Thomson of Fleet nor from the late, great Joseph Pulitzer, though it might have been. In fact, it comes from an acquaintance of my Yenan cave days, Mao Tse-tung.

The Chinese Communist chairman conceivably may be wrong on some matters, but what he said about newspapers is wonderfully relevant to No. 1 Shimbun, the first edition of which you now hold in your hands.

The editors will strive to make it "fresh and lively" each month while resolutely facing the proletarian masses of Babasaki-mon.

The Chairman, chock-a-block full of useful quotes, had another on newspapers to the effect that "we must rely on everybody, on the masses of the people... not merely on a few persons working behind closed doors."

And that's where you, gentle reader, come in. Faithful servants of the Chairman, and more important, lazy critters that we are, we will regularly call on you to give us a hand. No slaving away alone behind closed doors for us!

No. 1 Shimbun's aim is to report on the comings and goings of correspondents, their problems in covering major news stories, the professional activities they sponsor and how they feel (in letters to the exalted editor) on issues big and small.

In the wildly remote likelihood that Club associates also make news, we also will report these. More important, perhaps, will be the contributions by member correspondents of articles they have written on a variety of subjects. You will read some of them today, ranging from a report from Mongolia to the foreignization of Japanese.

Our idea is to give other Club members a chance to read, appraise, enjoy the journalistic accomplishments of our brethren; for many of us, it will be a first glimpse.

It seems appropriate to close this introductory column with a quotation from the other side, President Liu Shao-chi. "Correspondents," he said, "should be given recognition and recompense or else their iniative will be stifled."

When’s the next train for Peking?



Pretexts Over North Korea

Pretexts Over North Korea

By Gregory Clark

Pretexts come in shapes and sizes.

The 1961 U.S. Operation Mongoose involved faked and real terrorist activities that could be blamed on Castro and used as an excuse for invasion of Cuba. The domino theory was used as a pretext to get allies involved in the Vietnamese civil war. The faked 1964 Tonkin Gulf affair was used as an excuse to bomb North Vietnam for ten years. Non-existent WMD were used to justify the 2003 invasion of Iraq. And so on.

Japan has also had one or two pretexts up its sleeve, beginning with the staged 1931 Mukden Incident used as the excuse to occupy Manchuria, and the 1937 Marco Polo Bridge and Shanghai incidents, used as justification to invade all China.

Postwar Japan has claimed to be better behaved But when we hear Prime Minister Shinzo Abe – grandson of Nobusuke Kishi, who cut his teeth in Manchuria – telling us that Japan has to rearm to cope with an alleged North Korean nuclear threat, and that alleged abductees justify blocking the talks that would remove that threat, one begins to wonder.

We can begin with the alleged nuclear threat. In its 1950-53 war with South Korea, the United States and other allies, North Korea suffered three years of pulverizing bombardment. As one of the Australian pilots involved put it to me, “After we bombed all the villages we began to bomb the cows. And when we ran out of cows we bombed the haystacks.”

That war ended with only a ceasefire – neither a peace treaty nor any form of diplomatic recognition. Lacking normalized relations with its hostile antagonists, Pyongyang seems to have reached the same conclusion as a number of other nations in the same situation: Go nuclear. But unlike, for example, Israel, whose nuclear development was allowed to go ahead in 1964, North Korea in 1994 faced the threat of more U.S. bombing if it proceeded – a threat staved off at the last moment with a promise to cease further nuclear development in exchange for the promise of normalized relations with the U.S., the 1994 Agreed Framework.

But the normalization never happened. And so North Korea continued its nuclear development. Would North Korea have stopped if the U.S. had stuck to its 1994 promises? Maybe, if it could have trusted the U.S. But as Pyongyang will tell anyone who listens, the examples of Iraq and Libya prove that anyone who gives up nuclear development in exchange for non-attack promises from Western powers is very foolish.

Meanwhile the U.S. claims that North Korea is developing weapons of mass destruction that threaten the U.S., even though the idea that little North Korea would want to launch a surprise nuclear rocket attack against the U.S. and be obliterated in retaliation seems strange.

The Tokyo government’s urgent calls for public caution and preparation against the alleged danger of North Korean attack reach the same levels of incredibility. But a gullible public goes along with it all, which adds to support for the ruling Liberal Democratic Party. In Japanese it is called match pump. With the match you light a fire. Then with your pump you claim the right to put out the fire that you yourself created.

True, Tokyo’s hostility to North Korea was also based on reports that North Korea had been holding people it had abducted from Japan back in the 1970s and ‘80s. And for a long time both Pyongyang and leftwing elements in Japan had stridently denied those reports. But in secret negotiations with senior Japanese diplomat Hitoshi Tanaka, beginning in 2000, Pyongyang was persuaded to admit it had abducted 13 people, of whom, it claimed, only five survived.

This was followed by a 2002 visit to Pyongyang by then Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, and an extraordinary public apology for the abductions by North Korean leader Kim Jong-il, who blamed them on rogue elements that would be punished. The five surviving abductees could visit Japan, provided they could return afterward to their families in North Korea.

In exchange Koizumi offered an apology for past Japanese colonization abuses against Korea and a range of generous economic aid. That, combined with the promise to consult on East Asian policies and to put a moratorium on rocket testing, all wrapped up in a document called the Pyongyang Declaration, marked a remarkable breakthrough in relations. Overnight, Japan seemed to go from hostility toward its communist neighbor to a warm embrace.

But the bonhomie did not last long. The five abductees arrived in Japan as promised, but they were not allowed return to North Korea. From being abducted by North Korea, they were “abducted” by Japan. Tokyo demanded that the relatives come to Japan, even if that meant some must interrupt their education in North Korea.

Once again Pyongyang backed down and in 2004 Koizumi revisited Pyongyang to collect relatives and to reconfirm the 2002 Pyongyang Declaration with its promises of economic aid and normalized relations. But this time he was accompanied by Abe, then deputy cabinet secretary, who was determined to block those promises. Back in Japan Abe began to insist he had evidence North Korea was secretly holding more abductees, many more even, including one named Megumi Yokota, abducted at age 13.

Koizumi said nothing to refute the Abe claims. Rightists threatened to firebomb Tanaka’s house. And so the promise of normalized relations was allowed to disappear into a miasma of hatred of and contempt for North Korea.

It seems obvious that if Abe really was worried about rescuing Japanese languishing in a North Korean hell, then the first thing he should have done was encourage some form of Japanese presence in Pyongyang to assist in the search and rescue efforts. Instead he preferred to use the issue as yet another pretext to refuse any presence in Pyongyang, to impose the strictest possible sanctions on North Korea and to veto any talk of negotiations over the nuclear issue.

Worse, he would go on to warn South Korea away from making an attempt to reconcile with North Korea – a warning that seems very much out of place today as both Koreas seem keen to begin talking to each other again.

In a bid to ease Japan’s abductee trauma Pyongyang, insisting that Megumi Yokota had died in 1994, produced what it said were charred bones from her cremation to prove it. This then allowed Tokyo to claim it had done a DNA testing of the bones and the result was negative – further proof that Pyongyang was lying. But scientific controversy erupted over the quality of the tests and over the basic question of whether decisive tests were possible under the circumstances.

A leading scientific magazine, Nature, came out to insist accurate DNA testing of charred bones was impossible. It followed up with an editorial: "Japan is right to doubt North Korea's every statement. But its interpretation of the DNA tests has crossed the boundary of science's freedom from political interference.

Tokyo, after rejecting the Pyongyang request to return some of the bones for more objective testing elsewhere, doubled down with claims of Megumi sightings. Her attractive image was made focal to sustaining the abductee issue rage in Japan. Her elderly parents have been taken to meet two U.S. presidents in a bid to encourage U.S. outrage over the issue.

Japanese public support for the government’s position is strong, and not just because an uncritical public wants to go along with whatever Tokyo dictates. Partly it is due to an ingrained dislike of Korea and Koreans. But partly also it is genuine distress over the idea that Japanese citizens could be abducted and held by a foreign country. Even educated audiences will bristle if someone tries to suggest that Tokyo may have manipulated the issue for ulterior goals.

In 2009 well known progressive commentator Soichiro Tahara, speaking on Asahi TV, quoted an unnamed high level Foreign Ministry official as saying that Megumi Yokota and Keiko Arimoto, two of the best-known abductees, had died. He immediately came under attack from the two powerful abductee support organizations, which enjoy rightwing and government backing.

The foreign minister at the time, Hirofumi Nakasone, said his ministry worked from the assumption that all the claimed abductees were alive and should be returned to Japan as soon as possible. Tahara responded with a deep apology for having spoken about the two deaths but said he would not reveal the source of his information. He was then hit with a claim in a Kobe court for 10 million yen in damages for having caused emotional upset to the Arimoto parents.

Soon after, a media watchdog organization that seeks to enforce “broadcasting morality” ruled that both Tahara and Asahi TV should make proper apologies – i.e., their earlier apologies were not sufficient. Ordered by the Kobe court to reveal his sources, Tahara appealed to the higher Osaka court, which agreed with his position. Even so he was found liable on the original damages charge by the lower court and fined one million yen.

Hardly anyone came to the support of Tahara. The silence was damning in a nation that claims the right to freedom of speech. I, too, was to be a victim of the hysteria when a rightwing Sankei Shimbun commentator attacked me by misquoting me on the abductee issue. Overnight I could feel the freeze of hostile public opinion. I was asked to relinquish a high-level appointment with a large trading company.

In 2014 Tokyo finally relented and allowed the long-suffering Yokota parents to visit Megumi’s daughter, Kim Eun-kyung. But the visit had to be in Mongolia, where it was said that their granddaughter could talk freely. (Previous moves to talk to the granddaughter in Pyongyang or third countries had been blocked or bitterly criticized as siding with Pyongyang propaganda.)

Reports of the four-day visit made no mention of whether Megumi continued to exist or not, despite the years of Tokyo propaganda based on her presumed survival. When the parents returned from the visit I was able to ask them why they had made no mention of Megumi. The mother, the intelligent Sakie Yokota, simply said that they had gone to Mongolia to provide support for other abductee families.




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