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Number 1 Shimbun

NUMBER 1 SHIMBUN 2019

NUMBER 1 SHIMBUN 2019 (134)

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Lens craft

09 09

After the typhoon
Rescue personnel walk a muddy road during search and rescue operations in the aftermath of Typhoon No. 19 (known as Hagibis) in Hoyasu, Nagano on Oct. 14. Rescue efforts for people stranded in flooded areas were in full force after the extremely powerful and deadly typhoon unleashed heavy rainfall.
by Richard Atrero de Guzman/ Sipa USA

 

09 10

The typhoon saw more than 60 rivers overflow and caused destruction across a widespread area of Japan. More than 100km away from Hoyasu (above left) in Sano, Tochigi (right) a woman carries her daughter through a flooded area on Oct. 13.
by Tomohiro Ohsumi

 

09 11

Winning smiles
Novak Djokovic takes a photo with fans after he defeated Japan’s Go Soeda at the Rakuten Japan Open tennis championships in Tokyo, Oct. 2. Djokovic went on to be overall winner of the championship
by Yoshikazu Tsuno

New in the Library

 

09 06

The Fourth String: A Memoir of Sensei and Me
Janet Pocorobba
Stone Bridge Press

 

The Last Train: A Tokyo Mystery
Michael Pronko
Raked Gravel Press

 

The Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere: When Total Empire Met Total War
Jeremy A. Yellen
Cornell University Press
Gift from Bruce R. Bailey

 

09 07

Tokyo en smeltedigel af gammelt og nyt
Asger Røjle Christensen
Turbine
Gift from Asger Røjle Christensen

 

New State, Modern Statesman : Hashim Thaçi – A Biography
Roger Boyes; Suzy Jagger
Biteback Publishing
Gift from Hashim Thaçi

 

New Members

REGULAR MEMBERS

09 04
Noburu Okabe is an editorial writer for the Sankei Shimbun. He graduated from Rikkyo University in 1981, and has done postgraduate studies at Duke and Columbia universities. He was Moscow bureau chief from 1997 through 2000, reporting on the return negotiations for the Northern Territories and the transition of power from Yeltsin to Putin. Okabe was also London bureau chief from 2015 to April 2019. His writing focuses on World War II intelligence gathering and post war territorial disputes. In 2012, he published the award-winning non-fiction book Kieta Yalta Mitsuyaku Kinkyuuden:Jouhou-Shikan Onodera Makoto no kodokuna tatakai, for which he received the 22nd Yamamoto Shichihei Prize in 2013. His original work was then adapted into an NHK drama in August 2016. His published works also include God of Intelligence in 2015 and The UK Failure in Brexit: The Risk of No-deal in 2019.



REINSTATEMENT

09 05

Bradley Martin, Asia Times, who first joined the FCCJ in 1978, has resumed his Regular Membership. A former Club secretary, vice president, and director at large, he’s the author of two books, including the novel, Nuclear Blues.

 

ASSOCIATE MEMBERS

David J. Semaya, Sumitomo Mitsui Trust Asset Management Co., Ltd.
Katsuhiko Aoki, Mitsubishi UFJ Lease & Finance Co., Ltd.
Mari Hirata, Rinpei Inc.
Koichiro Ikeda, Japan Commercial Real Estate Inc.
Yasuhiro Kobayashi, Atlas Marine Co., Ltd.
Naoko Okada, Network Communications Corp.
Yasuhito Sarumaru, Cornes & Co., Ltd.
Rumie Sakiyama, The University Of Tokyo
Hiroki Tomita, Marubeni Corporation
Yukako Uchinaga, J-Win (Japan Women’s Innovative Network)
Shinichi Yamashita, Akan Tourism Association
Yasuyo Yamazaki, Kuni Umi Asset Management Co., Ltd.

 

REINSTATEMENT (Associate Member)

Kazutoshi Kakuyama, Anderson Mori & Tomotsune

Book Break: Insight into the emperor’s views

09 08

 

The Book Break on Tues., Dec. 10, will feature a talk (in English) about a book by his Majesty, the Emperor Naruhito, titled Suiunshi kara Sekai no Mizu he, (“From the History of Water Transportation to Global Water). The event will begin with a video lecture the Emperor gave at the United Nations, followed by a speech by Kenzo Hiroki, professor at the National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies.


The book, published by NHK Publishing in April of this year, is a compilation of Emperor Naruhito’s selected speeches about water, and illustrates his activities over the years. He wrote his post graduate thesis in 1984 at Oxford University about navigation of the upper Thames river. He also held the position of honorary president of the UN Secretary-General’s Advisory Board on Water and Sanitation from 2007 to 2015.

Professor Hiroki will share episodes of interactions with His Majesty that hint at the direction he may take as the new symbol of Japan. He will also share some views and perspectives of the emperor on such global issues such as climate change, environment, gender equality, poverty eradication, peace, and sustainable development.

The library committee has arranged a cocktail party to meet the author starting at 6:15 pm, followed by a set dinner with one drink at 6:40 pm. Reservations are required. Book Break charges are ¥3,100 for Members (¥4,100 for non-Members). The member price is applicable to members’ guests.

Club Events

The FCCJ Autumn Golf Tournament

The tournament (along with breakfast, lunch and after-party!) was held at the Glissando Golf Club in Chiba Prefecture on Oct. 4. A good game and time was had by all – and notably by Regular Member and winner Tomoo Ito. Keep your eyes open for future tournaments!

09 01

 

Club Quiz Night!

The Club’s inaugral Quiz Night saw 20+ attendees in five teams vie for a bottle of Born saké as first prize for answering largely news-oriented questions. First prize turned out to be won jointly by two teams – the “Misfits” and the “Number 1 Shimbun” team. A rematch is therefore scheduled for Nov. 7. But any repeat or new teams can compete on the first Thursday of the month, which is now set aside for the quizzingly competetive and enjoyable night. There was also a Happy Hour at the bar and pub-quiz-style pizzas from the kitchen.

09 02

09 03

Join the Film Committee…

08 4



. . . on Tues., Nov. 12 at 6:45p.m. for a sneak preview of the provocative new work from acclaimed filmmaker Tatsuya Mori, i: Documentary of the Journalist. Mori follows press-freedom folk hero Isoko Mochizuki (the “i” of the title), a reporter for Tokyo’s largest regional paper, as she crisscrosses the country, following leads and waging a lonely battle for the truth, particularly at the Cabinet Office briefings that have helped make her (in)famous. Refusing to toe the government line, she has relentlessly peppered officials with questions in her quest to get behind their smokescreens—flirting constantly with the risk of ejection from her kisha club. Touching on nearly every news story of note over the past year, the documentary also features a short but important scene with FCCJ’s Pio d’Emilia and David McNeill. (Japan, 2019; 120 minutes; in Japanese with English subtitles)

— Karen Severns

 

08 5

FCCJ Exhibition: Kengo Kuma

 

08 1


The FCCJ is hosting an exhibition of my work that will be something of a departure from normal. My architecture is described as “world architecture,” and I think this term is very appropriate.


The early 20th century saw the emergence of what was called “international architecture,” and in the 1980s we started to hear the term “global architecture.” But I prefer the term “world architecture,” with its connotations of world music. There are current projects involving more than 20 countries that really give me a feeling of being part of a world movement. And this is the spirit that I have tried to convey in my exhibition. – Kengo Kuma

 

08 2

The V&A, Scotland

 

08 3

Yusuhara Wooden Bridge Museum, Japan


Kengo Kuma was born in 1954. He received his Master’s Degree in Architecture from the University of Tokyo (where he is currently a Professor of Architecture). After his time as a Visiting Scholar at Columbia University in New York, he established his office in Tokyo. Since 1990, Kengo Kuma & Associates has designed architectural works in over twenty countries and received prestigious awards. Kengo Kuma & Associates aims to design architecture which naturally merges with its cultural and environmental surroundings.

 

Investigating the story of the century

07 1

 

In the third and final installment of this series, we look at the need to investigate suggested solutions, how to cover human adaptation and how to explain geo-engineering

 

By James Fahn

 


BIOFUELS

The development of biofuels—derived from vegetation and thus, in theory, consuming as much carbon as they emit—was once seen as the most promising alternatives to fossil fuels. But the bloom is off the rose for several reasons. Most biofuel initiatives require a lot of land and fresh water, resources that are increasingly in short supply, potentially increasing food security concerns. The development of biofuels is often expensive when compared to the energy density of the fuel produced. This has led some critics to consider biofuel development a boondoggle, more of a subsidy for farmers than a way to prevent climate change.

Biofuel made from organic waste (also known as “biogas”) is generally considered a clean energy source. And there is still hope that biofuels can become a more effective solution in the future; for instance, if they can be derived from food waste, cellulose, or algae, which may require fewer amounts of land and water, or if they can be turned into aviation fuel, for which there are few alternatives at the moment. But as with all proposed solutions, journalists will need to investigate whether they turn out to be more hype than help.


CARBON REMOVAL, CAPTURE, AND SEQUESTRATION 

Increasing our capacity to store carbon is going to be a crucial component of our effort to prevent climate change. So far, this has mostly been done by trying to grow trees and protect forests—sometimes through offset programs like Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD+). Such projects can contribute significantly to forest preservation and the regeneration of degraded landscapes. On the other hand, they sometimes conflict with the interests of forest-dwelling people, and their links to carbon offsetting efforts are not always clear, creating tensions that suggest abundant potential for journalistic inquiries.

There are other initiatives aimed at removing carbon from emissions or from the atmosphere and then either storing or re-using it. Many of these are supported or promoted by fossil fuel companies that are particularly keen on Carbon Capture and Sequestration (CCS). This is a process that involves capturing the CO2 emitted during coal or other fossil fuel burning processes and storing it, typically by channeling it into underground storage facilities to prevent its release into the atmosphere. Such promises have been key to the industries’ claims of producing “cleaner” energy.

But despite all the promise, CCS has so far mostly been relegated to dubious demonstration projects, basically because it needs to be carried out on a huge scale and remains a relatively expensive process. Other engineering efforts aimed at removing carbon from the atmosphere seem to be mostly in the pilot stage thus far. In effect, it has faced the same problem as renewable energy initiatives: figuring out who is going to pay for them when the price on carbon remains low or non-existent.

That said, we are probably going to have to eventually rely on carbon removal and storage to a certain extent. We have already wasted so much time trying to reduce the world’s carbon footprint that the world will probably overshoot the Paris targets aimed at preventing catastrophic climate change, which means we may well need the “negative emissions” that carbon removal can generate. As with biofuels, journalists will need to watch this space.


ADAPTATION

Humanity has a vast task ahead adapting and responding to climate change, and the scale can seem scary. A deep look into all the resilience, and the reporting, that is going to be required could be as long as this piece. But there are a few key issues on which to keep a close eye. Much of the focus on resilience will be about fresh water: its availability and the lack thereof, and its role in floods, storms and drought. Preparing for and recovering from more devastating weather-related disasters will also command a lot of attention.

Trillions of dollars are likely to be spent on adapting to climate change—from building seawalls to restoring sand marshes—and it seems unlikely all the money will be spent responsibly and efficiently. Journalists will need to keep a sharp eye on that, and on whether politicians and planners face choices as to whether to build “hard” defenses or “soft” ones, and whether to plan for two feet of sea level rise or five or more, and so on.

But even those issues may pale compared to the potential costs of the massive human migration we’re likely to see. Only the wealthiest places will be able to pay to protect themselves. The next best scenario for people living in harm’s way will be “managed retreat.” But let’s face it, most of the time it won’t be well-managed. It will be chaotic and probably bloody. Journalists will need to watch carefully who’s making what decisions regarding whose communities get saved.


GEO-ENGINEERING

Climate change is actually an unplanned geo-engineering experiment on a vast scale, and humans are carrying out several of them. The jury is out as to whether we’ll be good planetary engineers, but the evidence so far isn’t looking too good. It’s quite possible some country, bloc, corporation, or other powerful entity might one day decide to enact some purposeful geo-engineering, with the goal of protecting itself from onslaught of climate change.

Our job as journalists is to explain the science, and investigate the human responses all around the globe that have made this the story of our time. 

Some of the schemes that have been most talked about include distributing aerosols into the atmosphere or solar shades into space to slightly reduce the sunlight falling on the Earth. But there are concerns that this could also end up reducing agricultural output, and it wouldn’t do anything to prevent the acidification of the oceans. Right now, we even lack opportunities to talk about the possibilities, as there are few governance mechanisms for global decision-making on such matters.

If all this sounds outlandish, bear in mind that 20 years ago, it was virtually taboo in environmental circles to talk about adaptation, because it was seen as distracting the world from the main goal of preventing climate change in the first place. That is roughly the position of geo-engineering today. It is considered a “moral hazard”—but who knows what desperate measures countries may turn to if some of the most dire predictions come to pass. Journalists should want to know, and would be well advised to keep an eye on any such initiatives, which could in theory be developed in secret.

As indicated by this long but far from exhaustive list of topics for journalists to investigate, climate change and all its manifestations is altering everything. It’s beginning to touch every part of our planet, from the bottom of the ocean to the top of the atmosphere, as well as every aspect of humanity’s economy and society.

Scientists, economists and people working close to nature can help explain how we are changing the world around us. Our job as journalists is to explain the science, and investigate the human responses—in many more places around the globe—that have made this the story of our time. ❶


James Fahn is Executive Director of the Earth Journalism Network at Internews.

He is also a lecturer at the Graduate School of Journalism at the University of California at Berkeley, where he teaches international environmental reporting.
First published on the Global Investigative Journalism Network website. Reprinted with permission.

Profile: Randy Schmidt, CBS

06

 

By Julian Ryall

 

Randy Schmidt is a difficult man to pin down. One day he’s in Hong Kong, filming confrontations between protesters venting their fury at the city’s government and riot police—who have, in recent days, shown an alarming propensity to use live rounds at very short range—and the next he’s off to India for another assignment. After that, he might be back home in Tokyo for a few days. But it’s very possible that something else is going to crop up somewhere else in the Far East and he will be living out of his backpack once more.


It’s a punishing schedule that is particularly hard on his wife and 9-year-old son Dylan, but he still gets that familiar kick out of what he does. “I love it because there is so much variety, and you get to do so many things that most people don’t get to do,” he said. Originally from Saratoga in California, the 56-year-old Schmidt is now both cameraman and editor contributing to all CBS news programs from the region. “I like the thrill of breaking news assignments on location somewhere and doing lots of live-shots, and I like taking my time and shooting and editing feature stories.”


Covering the news is not, however, the career that Schmidt intended after finishing a degree in motion pictures and television at UCLA. “My initial interests were in Hollywood motion pictures, as a cinematographer, director or screenwriter,” he said, and his first position was as an artist and animator on a stop-motion animated short titled, Frog and Toad are Friends.


“I worked at 20th Century Fox for the producer of Die Hard and other action movies, but I was mainly performing screenplay analysis, which was too much of a desk job for my liking,” Schmidt said. “I also worked for a small production company in Los Angeles which did TV news coverage within the United States for Japan’s Fuji-TV network.” The company was run by a Japanese woman who was effectively the Fuji-TV news correspondent. Schmidt’s coverage included the infamous Kazuyoshi Miura murder case in the mid-1980s, in which a Japanese businessman allegedly had his wife murdered in order to collect insurance money.


Schmidt’s work for Fuji-TV gave him an opportunity to visit Japan for two weeks in 1986, followed by similar spells in 1987 and 1992—and that helped piqued a boyhood interest in the country that he traces back to the 1967 James Bond movie You Only Live Twice.
“Even then,” he said, “I never really thought about moving. But in 1996, dissatisfied with my career not really taking off in Hollywood, I thought I would have an adventure for a year and move to Japan.” Making that leap in pre-Internet times was far more tricky than it is today, and Schmidt found it difficult to find information on living and working in Japan. He had no job lined up and was in the catch-22 position of not being able to get a job without a working visa and not being able to get a working visa without a job.


“But then I got lucky,” he said. “I started to get freelance work with CNBC as a cameraman-editor and five months after arriving, I landed a staff camerman-editor job at the Tokyo bureau of CNN.” Schmidt stayed with CNN until massive editorial cuts in late 1997 reduced the Tokyo bureau from 13 positions to just 5. After five years, including a stint with Reuters and lots of freelancing, he set up his own production company, American Ronin Productions, that worked with all the major English-speaking networks.


In February, 2006—on the strength of shooting an interview with Madonna for CBS—Schmidt was hired to work at the broadcaster’s Tokyo bureau, covering all of Asia, including China for up to six months of the year and North Korea. “I travel as much as seven months of the year,” he said. Until two months ago he even maintained a China Resident Journalist Visa, which requires journalists to physically be in mainland China for 183 days of the year.


Technology has made Schmidt’s life significantly easier. His equipment is far lighter and more compact, SD video has changed to HD, and multiple hard cases of editing decks and monitors have been whittled down to a single laptop. It also helps with personal relationships. “I was 43 when I took the CBS News job and started travelling extensively,” he said. “It’s tough, especially on my young son, but we chat once or twice a day via Skype and play chess remotely online. An hour ago, he kicked my ass.”
North Korea remains Schmidt’s “most fascinating” assignment. He has been to Pyongyang on eight occasions and once to Wonsan, when the North Korean regime invited the Western media to record the destruction of tunnels at its nuclear test site.
Another favorite is India, where in 2013 he covered the Kumbh Mela festival, with 40 million people descending upon a village for a religious event that is believed to have been the largest gathering of people in history.


Documenting the impact of the Tohoku disaster in March 2011 was especially tough work. “It was simply shocking to see how much damage was caused by the tsunami,” he said. “All the lives lost, towns wiped out. Ships littered all over the place.
“There is a cliché that cameramen are somewhat immune to the horror of what might be happening in front of them because you are working and sort of ‘watching TV’ in your viewfinder,” Schmidt said. “This is true to a certain extent, but we are certainly not oblivious to what’s going on and often see it closer up than most others.” ❶


Julian Ryall is Japan correspondent for the Daily Telegraph.

Flags of our fathers: Looking for a battle

05 1

Battle stations The Yashima, built for the Imperial Japanese Navy in the 1890s,
in a print belonging to the author.

 

Will the squabbles over the possibility of seeing the Rising Sun flag at next year’s Olympic games turn into a real battle—or fade in the onslaught of the next controversy?

 

By Mark Schreiber

 

My late friend, Adrian Johnston, born in 1934 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, served in the Korean War and developed a great affinity toward Japan. Years later, he would still visit at every opportunity, taking time off from his jewelry manufacturing business to enroll in Japanese-language summer school courses.

In the late eighties, on one of his trips here, he phoned me, sounding puzzled.
“Do you think Japanese are becoming more right wing these days?” he asked.
“I can’t really say I’ve noticed,” I replied. “Why are you asking?”
“I’ve been watching this marathon on TV just now,” he told me, “and the spectators on the roadside were all waving Rising Sun flags while cheering the Japanese runners.”

It took a moment before it dawned on me. It was obvious my friend had confused the corporate flag of the Asahi Shimbun—sponsor of the marathon—for the Rising Sun flag. The Rising Sun flag, with rays emanating from a red circle, was and is still used by the Japanese military, as opposed to Japan’s official national flag, a red circle in the middle of a white background. The Asahi’s version has rays emanating from a quarter of a red circle in the lower corner.
It seems the similarity had revived traumatic childhood memories of the Rising Sun flags he saw as a boy in UP newsreels and John Wayne movies like Back to Bataan and The Sands of Iwo Jima. I patiently explained the Asahi’s involvement and added that its corporate logo notwithstanding, the newspaper’s political positions were, if anything, the diametric opposite of right wing.

But since the above exchange nearly 30 years ago, I can’t recall one conversation I’ve had with anyone on the topic of Japan’s Rising Sun flag. It’s an image I rarely see, and as far as I know, it cannot be found on a public flagpole anywhere in the Tokyo metropolis, certainly not at the National Diet building or the Ministry of Defense in Ichigaya.


YET IT HAS BECOME the hot spot of the latest controversy between this country and its closest neighbor. 

It began with two fairly low-key events in late August. The first came when officials from the Korean Sport & Olympic Committee on a visit to Tokyo lodged a complaint with their hosts. They wanted a proactive ban put in place to keep displays of the Rising Sun flag out of Olympic venues. Then, the same week, another Korean group representing handicapped athletes protested the design of the medals for the Tokyo Paralympics, which it claimed “evoke the image of the Rising Sun flag.”

These South Korean groups and other critics of the flag see its continued use by the Japan Self Defense Forces as evidence that unlike Germany, where symbols of the former Nazi regime are prohibited by law, Japan has not engaged in serious efforts “to eradicate militarism” since the war. Now the flag issue is being lumped with such other festering historical points of contention as “comfort women” and forced labor during the war. 

On Sep. 5, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga remarked at a press briefing that Japan saw no need to take action to halt displays of the flag. 

A week later, Seoul’s Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism announced it had written to IOC President Thomas Bach expressing “disappointment and concern” that the Japanese organizers have not taken steps to ban displays of the flag.

On Sep. 23, the head of the Chinese Civil Association for Claiming Compensation from Japan chimed in with a letter to the IOC that made similar demands. The same day, North Korea’s official government newspaper, Minju Choson, predictably jumped into the fray, criticizing Japan for “Plotting to transform the ‘war criminal Rising Sun flag’ into a ‘symbol of peace.’” On Sep. 30 the Yonhap news agency reported that legislators in South Korea’s national assembly passed a resolution urging a ban, by a vote of 196 to 3. 

Following Suga’s remarks, other government officials and organizations fell into line. In a press conference on Sep. 6, Education Minister Masahiko Shibayama stated, “We are aware that claims have been raised that it carries a political message, but it is regularly flown, for example, during joint military exercises with other countries. Banning it from being brought into [Olympic] venues is not being considered, and I am in agreement with chief cabinet secretary Suga on this.”


JAPAN’S MINISTRY OF FOREIGN Affairs, meanwhile, posted a PDF file on its web site under the title “The Rising Sun Flag As Part Of Japanese Culture.” It explained, “... the design of the Rising Sun Flag is seen in numerous scenes in daily life in Japan, such as in fishermen’s banners hoisted to signify large catch of fish, flags to celebrate childbirth, and in flags for seasonal festivities.” It added, “For more than half a century, these flags have been playing an indispensable role to show the presence of the Self Defense Forces vessels and units, and are widely accepted in the international community.” 

On Sep. 24, Masanori Takaya, spokesman for the Japan Olympic organizing committee, defended the flag to reporters, “The design of the Rising Sun flag is widely used in Japan and does not convey any political message. We are not planning to ban it from being brought into the venues.” Takaya nonetheless did not entirely rule out proactive measures, stating, “From the perspective of preventing trouble, our guidelines are to consider measures that might be necessary for dealing with the issue.” 

Some local media took the side of the flag’s detractors. “In general, where else can one see the Rising Sun flag other than at hate demonstrations?” wrote author Koichi Yasuda in Shukan Kinyobi on Oct. 11. “Last month, at a rightist demonstration demanding Japan sever diplomatic ties with South Korea, you could see as many Rising Sun flags in the crowd as the Hinomaru. And what was their intention? Harassment and intimidation.”


WHILE THE PRESENT CONTROVERSY represents the first time Koreans have demanded the Rising Sun flag be banned inside Japan, protests outside the country began several years ago, with mixed successes. In 2013, a female Korean student in France successfully led a campaign forcing the retail chain Fnac to remove a promotional poster bearing an illustration showing the rising sun motif together with a comic character brandishing a Japanese sword. 

At a soccer game played in Suwon, South Korea in April 2017, supporters of the Kawasaki Frontale club nearly provoked a post-game riot by waving the flag. After the game, Korea took its complaint to the Asian Football Confederation (AFC), which ruled that use of the flag constituted a “discriminatory offense.” The Kawasaki team was fined $15,000 and obliged to play a home game to no audience. 

Yoshiaki Sei, author of the book Soccer and Patriotism, believes that permitting Rising Sun flags to be waved at Olympic events isn’t worth the potential downside. “If Japan were to garner negative reactions from the international community or formal complaints from foreign governments, it’s possible that Japanese teams will get penalized,” he cautioned in Weekly Playboy. “I think the organizing committee’s decision [not to ban the flag] is an extremely risky one.” 

Essayist Keiko Kojima, writing in the Sept. 14 edition of the weekly magazine AERA, was adamant in her opposition to the flag. “What kind of person would wave the Rising Sun flag in the Olympic Stadium?” she asked. “At which game, under which situation, and for what intended purpose would they wave it? During the summer, a time when we mourn the many who died beneath that flag at home and abroad, it’s a sight I don’t want to see.” 

South Korea’s raising the issue of Rising Sun flags seems to have caught Japan unprepared. The Japanese government has made clear it’s taking a hands-off position, trusting the nation’s sports fans—who have shown exemplary behavior during the Rugby World Cup—to do the right thing. It will be interesting to see how this story develops. But if one thing’s certain, no one wants next year’s games marred by acts of violence, whether by exuberant fans or rowdy nationalists. ❶

 

05 2

HOME-GROWN PRIDE

Tatsuo Kobayashi, 63, is president of Tokyo Seiki, Inc. He is the fourth generation in his family’s flag-making business, which was founded in 1937. 

Kobayashi’s Japanese flags are entirely home-grown, and as proof he offers photos from his factory in Gunma, where the flags, produced using the silk-screen method, are run off on an automated assembly line.
Rising Sun flags constitute only a miniscule amount of TOSPA’s total business, and there’s no evidence of any surge in demand. Overall sales of Japanese flags and those of other nations (of which TOSPA produces 206) will no doubt benefit from next year’s Olympics.
Rising Sun flags are sold via the company website, and as far as Kobayashi can tell, their buyers appear to be individuals rather than organizations. TOSPA offers the army flag (where the red dot is positioned at mid-center) in five sizes, and the naval flag (with the off-center dot) in 32 varieties, including sets with flagpoles. They are constructed of durable, wrinkle-free polyester.
An impressively large naval flag is the largest item in the catalog, measuring 140 x 210 cm and priced at ¥19,500, which is probably suitable for flying on the mast of a destroyer or coast guard patrol boat.
Kobayashi declined to comment on the current political squabble—which caught him unawares. “For some 50 years, nobody’s raised any issues about those flags. And then all of a sudden this happens,” he said, shaking his head in bewilderment. (M.S.)


Mark Schreiber currently writes the “Big in Japan” and “Bilingual” columns for the Japan Times.

 

 

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