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Number 1 Shimbun


NUMBER 1 SHIMBUN 2019 (49)

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New in the Library


11 comfort women

Comfort Women and Sex in the Battle Zone
Ikuhiko Hata; Jason Michael Morgan (trans.)
Hamilton Books
Gift from Yoshiko Sakurai

The Private Diplomacy of Shibusawa Eiichi: Visionary Entrepreneur and Transnationalist of Modern Japan
Masahide Shibusawa; The Center for International Communication (trans.)
Renaissance Books
Gift from Masahide Shibusawa

Colonizing Language : Cultural Production and Language Politics in Modern Japan and Korea
Christina Yi
Columbia University Press 

11 reinventing japan
Reinventing Japan: New Directions in Global Leadership

Martin Fackler and Yoichi Funabashi (ed.)
Gift from Martin Fackler

Target: Business Wisdom from the Ancient Japanese Martial Art of Kyudo
Jérôme Chouchan
LID Publishing
Gift from Jérôme Chouchan

Target: Godiva wa naze uriage nibai o gonenkan de tassei shitanoka?
Jérôme Chouchan
Takahashi Shoten
Gift from Jérôme Chouchan

* EBSCO is an e-library system provider. Members are able to borrow books from anywhere via the FCCJ Library’s EBSCO account.
The system works in a similar way to the lending system of the print-book library in that only one person can borrow these books at a time.
But after due dates borrowers will not be able to open the book. Members will need their own ID and password to use the service.

Full guidance for using these books will be explained to Members.


New Members & New in the Library


11 Denyer Simon DR0530

SIMON DENYER is the Washington Post’s bureau chief for Japan and the Koreas. He arrived in Japan last summer as a refugee from China’s pollution and Internet censorship, after five years in Beijing. He also spent more than seven years in India, for the Post and Reuters, and managed to get a book out of the experience: Rogue Elephant: Harnessing the Power of India’s Unruly Democracy. He won an Overseas Press Club award for his coverage of China’s Internet censorship and digital surveillance, a National Headliners Award and a Human Rights Press Award for coverage of Tibet. He also covered the Libyan uprising against Gaddafi and Ukrainian civil war for the Post, and was president of the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of South Asia in New Delhi. He worked as Reuters Washington bureau chief during the Obama administration, as Pakistan & Afghanistan bureau chief shortly after 9/11, and in Nairobi, New York and London for Reuters text and television. Born in Portsmouth, and a devoted Pompey fan, he now lives in another port city, Yokohama, with his wife and daughter, and still plays football and cricket at every possible opportunity, if not always very well.


11 Inada Shinji IR0760 a small

SHINJI INADA is the Foreign News Section editor of the Asahi Shimbun. He joined the paper in 1992 and held positions in Gifu and Nagoya before joining the Foreign News section at the Tokyo head office in 1998. His overseas roles have included bureau chief in Tehran from 1999 to 2001, a stint as correspondent in London from 2004 to 2007 and bureau chief in Paris from 2010 to 2014. He has been with the Foreign News Section since 2015.


11 Takeo Yuko TR1020 a

YUKO TAKEO reports on the economy for Bloomberg News, and is currently focused on covering the Ministry of Finance and the Bank of Japan. Since joining Bloomberg in 2013, she has covered the Japanese stock market, Japan’s giant pension fund GPIF, and various corporate news. She returns to the FCCJ after being a student member back in 2011. Born in Tokyo, Yuko is a graduate of Sophia University and the London School of Economics and Political Science.


Stefan J. Wagstyl, Financial Times/Nikkei Asian Review


Takao Nagatake, Chunichi Shimbun
Kenichi Sakuma, Makino Publishing Co., Ltd.


Goya Furukawa, Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation
Shinichi Fukuoka, Real Estate Research Institute, Inc.
Yoshiaki Hagiwara, Hagiwara Electric Holdings Co., Ltd.
Ichiro Ishikawa, K and Blue Co., Ltd.
Satoshi Ihara, Sun Realty & Insurance Corporation
Masatoshi Kato, Nikka Shoko Co., Ltd.
Makoto Miyauchi, Toin Hospital
Yoko Niwa, Real Estate Research Institute, Inc.
Munenori Ogata, MUFG Bank, Ltd.
Tomohiro Omoda, Central Japan International Airport Co., Ltd.
Yohei Suzuki, Shihodo Gallery
Yoshinao Takashima, Tokyo Maine & Nichido Fire Insurance
Yasuhiro Tamai, K and Blue Co., Ltd.
Ichiro Yonahara, Japan Steels International Co., Ltd.


Yasutaka Sanga, Kajiya Corporation Co., Ltd.
Noriko Takaku


Kakejiku art

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Hanging scrolls


A total of 33 designers, selected by the designers’ association DAS, display new takes on Gifu’s traditional kakejiku (Japanese hanging scrolls). DAS believes that kakejiku are one of the best interior decoration choices for today’s art lovers (with extra advantages of being light and compact). The exhibition’s aim is to continue to inspire new kakejiku reflecting different lifestyles all over the world – and to promote a beautiful craft. ❶

Designers: Motodugu Araki, Junko Inagaki, Shinsaku Inoue, Takako Imatani, Hiroshi Ira, Dairoku Oka, Miyoko Kawamura, Kazuo Kimura, Hiroko Koshino, Tadahiro Sakamoto, Hitoshi Sasaki, Kunio Sato, Takahiro Shima, Akihito Mizu, Giacomo Valentini, Shinnosuke Sugizaki, Yoshinori Sengoku, Toshihiko Daimon, Yukichi Takada, Zenmaru Takahashi, Akihiko Tamura, Masahiko Tsubota, Yoshihiro Noguchi, Shigeki Hattori, Masaki Hisatani, Takeshi Fukuda, Takashi Fujita, Riko Honta, Yoshiho Mawatari, Haruko Mitori, Akiko Miyako, Takao Yamada, Yoji Yamamoto.

In Memoriam: Life Member James P. Colligan

 09 James P. Colligan 0000-00-00-B2-003


JAMES P. COLLIGAN, a Roman Catholic priest and FCCJ Life Member who died at 90 on Jan. 31 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, had something in common with Cold War-era journalistic contemporaries who represented government-funded news organizations ranging from VOA and Stars and Stripes to Komsomolskaya Pravda and Novoye Vremya, and who did not wish to be – or to be seen as – anything less than first class correspondents.

Colligan was determined to show that church-sponsored journalism was the real deal. Representing UCAN (Union of Catholic Asian News) and then CNS (Catholic News Service), he threw himself into both reporting good stories and participating in the professional activities that help make good stories possible. He served three terms as chair of the Foreign Press in Japan and was elected to the FCCJ’s board.

“Jim was on my board,” recalls Mike “Buck” Tharp, Club president 1989-90. “Just as he always was while sitting at a table in the Main Bar, Jim was often the grownup in the room. He was measured, polite, intelligent and empathetic with a subtly wicked sense of humor.” 

Coming from what he described as a working class family in the ethnic mixing bowl that was Pittsburgh, Jim Colligan had an explanation for his healthy lungs despite exposure to the tobacco smoke that used to fill the Club’s bars: In the American steel capital he’d awakened each morning to find soot on the family’s window sills.

COLLIGAN WENT TO COLLEGE at Duquesne University and enjoyed the dating scene. He even came close to marrying one woman – but before that could happen he realized he had a religious vocation. Of course, Catholic priests must take vows of chastity and so, he recalled, he “said a sad goodbye” and went off to the seminary of the Maryknoll Society.

In 1955, after his ordination, Father Colligan was posted to Japan as a Maryknoll missioner. He studied Japanese and carried out parish priest duties in Sapporo and Kyoto parishes. For four years, he was a pastor and kindergarten principal in the coal-mining town of Mikasa in Hokkaido. At the same time, he taught English at Hokkaido University’s Iwamizawa Division.

He took time out to study journalism back in the U.S., at Syracuse University, then returned to Japan as a journalist. Besides writing for the Catholic news organizations, he also did a column for a Protestant publication, Japan Christian Quarterly. He edited a book called The Image of Christianity in Japan: A Survey. A highly accomplished photographer, he published a book of photos of the 1981 visit to Japan by Pope John Paul II. 

Non-religious news stories he covered included the 1992 visit of President George H.W. Bush. When the president fell ill at a state dinner, Colligan was there.

He was a fixture evenings in the Main Bar, where he exhibited his artistic talent by constantly sketching cartoons on the backs of drink coasters. He and the late Richard Pyle of the AP “scribbled lots of cartoons, often funny ones,” recalls former Club board member Toshio Aritake. Some of those cartoons, signed “Japacol,” made it into Number 1 Shimbun.


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Wedding vows
Jim officiates a marriage in his role in the parish

“HE SHOWED THAT DRY wit,” agrees Tharp. “He drew one for us –‘The Buckboard’ with me at the reins and caricatures of our board members in the wagon.”

A topic he kept returning to in conversation was the pigeons that made sleep in his Tokyo apartment difficult and repeatedly fouled his balcony. To hear him talk, you’d imagine he went after them relentlessly but haplessly – the way Wile E. Coyote pursued the Roadrunner.

Club colleagues didn’t hesitate to consult him on the relevant theology. Animal lover Mieko Yasuhara, longtime translator of the Asahi Shimbun’s “Vox Populi” column, was given to feeding the pigeons on her own balcony. A graduate of a Catholic school, she asked whether cats have immortal souls – and if so, whether Colligan would baptize her cat Kobayakawa. “No,” he replied, unfazed.

“It was all good fun,” remembers Yasuhara’s husband, former Club president Roger Schreffler. “The Club had an auction for some reason, I can’t recall why or when. Jim donated more than a hundred of his coasters. I do remember that I bought one on which he had drawn a pigeon.”

Although he seldom wore a clerical collar in the Club, Colligan, with his chiseled Irish looks, could have been Hollywood casting’s version of a handsome priest. As Schreffler puts it, “he was dapper, the most eligible bachelor some might say.” Or, as Colligan himself would have protested, ineligible. 

Often asked to handle delicate Club legal issues, Colligan liked to say, tongue in cheek, that he did so in reliance on “canon law.” In one such instance in 1993, recounted in the official Club history, president Lew Simons asked Colligan to deal with a dispute over regular membership qualifications.

ONE IRATE MEMBER “PROMPTLY sent Simons a fax complaining that the problem should be handled by a regular correspondent and not ‘by a fucking missionary.’ Simons handed the message to Colligan, who was sitting next to him in the bar. Colligan smiled and said, ‘No, no. I’m the unfucking missionary.’ Colligan eventually was able to defuse the issue.”

Even though his eyes might twinkle when he referred to his priestly vows, he was dead serious about them. That was a major factor when, ultimately, Colligan-style journalism apparently became too probing to suit some superiors in his religious order. The work that upset Maryknoll bosses was on a topic less often addressed at that time than it is now: priests aggressively indulging their sexuality.

“Maryknoll priests who have taken vows of chastity and fidelity to the Church are bound to uphold that teaching, both in word and deed,” he wrote in a 1991 article in the Catholic magazine Crisis, in which he cited a series of cases of Maryknoll priests behaving otherwise. “As more cases like this become known, priests everywhere become targets of suspicion on the parts of mothers and parishioners.”

Criticizing priests and officials “who take a light view of the problem,” he argued that “one reason for their neglect and acquiescence is Maryknoll’s philosophy of liberation theology.” The society “has actively promoted the idea that social justice is more important than personal morality.” He added, “I believe in social justice myself, but not to the point where it takes away responsibility for individual behavior.”

REPORTING ON QUESTIONS OF that sort more than a decade later would bring Pulitzer Prize recognition to the Boston Globe and, still later, win the movie Spotlight the Oscar for best picture. But such was the level of concern about Colligan’s challenge that his superiors ordered him home for a psychiatric examination.

When talking with fellow FCCJ members, he compared the experience to something that would have been inflicted on a Soviet dissident. He described his stay at the order’s New York-area base as akin to house arrest.

Eventually, in 1997, Colligan wangled a career-capping assignment to Los Angeles. Jim Palmer, former AP photojournalist, and his wife Pamela were among Tokyo friends who had already moved to L.A. Pam Palmer relates that they helped him find an apartment and that he had “a swell time.” Colligan led Sunday services at a couple of churches and, in his spare hours, rode his bicycle, hung out with the Palmers, Tharp and ex-UPI Tokyo correspondent John Needham and became a champion (in his age group) skyscraper climber.

He returned to Maryknoll’s headquarters in Ossining, NY, to live in the society’s retirement home for a couple of years. Then, after cerebral incidents and an eventual diagnosis of dysphasia, he moved back to Pittsburgh – by then a city cleaned up, gentrified and quite pleasant. His final two years, during which he went silent on social media, were spent in assisted living there as some of his many relatives helped look after their beloved brother and uncle. “The adventurous life that he led was something that touched my entire family,” a nephew, Shawn MacIntyre, said in a eulogy. ❶

Bradley Martin, in his 42nd year as an Asia correspondent, is also the author of a thriller set in a near-future North Korea.


Lens craft

08 20190211 146 RdeGuzman

Somin-sai festival 
Men at Kokusekiji, Oshu, after bathing in the river, Feb. 11.
The ancient festival is to pray for good harvests and the prevention of climate disasters.
by Richard Atrero de Guzman/SIPA


08 E IGP4578

A long line
Left, the Imperial family greets well-wishers from the balcony
of the palace on the Emperor’s birthday, Dec. 23 last year.
by Albert Siegel


08 Tomohiro Ohsumi 004

Lion dance 
Below left, a street performance for Chinese New Year
in Yokohama enters a restaurant, Feb. 5.
by Tomohiro Ohsumi


08 IMG 5922

More icy bathing 
Below right, Shinto believers pour purifying cold water
over themselves at Kanda shrine, Tokyo, Jan, 26.
by Yoshikazu Tsuno


Truth, lies and Shock and Awe

07 Rob Reiner 01


Rob Reiner trains his lens on a true story about journalism, jingoism and the drums of war.


By Tim Hornyak


THERE’S A BRILLIANT SCENE in the 1970s U.S. TV show All in the Family where Archie Bunker, a “lovable bigot,” meets his daughter’s hippy boyfriend for the first time. Looking over the headlines in a newspaper, they immediately begin arguing about the Vietnam War. When the boyfriend calls the conflict illegal and immoral, Bunker tells him, “You are a meathead… Dead from the neck up!” He then breaks into an overpowering rendition of “God Bless America,” causing the boyfriend to storm out. 

Rob Reiner, the actor who played the boyfriend, is still protesting America’s overseas wars. He visited Japan in February to promote his latest film, the true story of Knight Ridder journalists Jonathan Landay and Warren Strobel who probed the official justifications for the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003. The title, Shock and Awe, refers to the battle plan concept developed at the National Defense University that was repeated by U.S. officials and parroted by U.S. news media. 

Apart from directing, Reiner stars as Knight Ridder editor John Walcott, who has described the film as practically a word-for-word accurate representation of actual events. Reiner, known for iconic films like Stand By Me, When Harry Met Sally… and This Is Spinal Tap, visited the FCCJ to talk not only about why he wanted to make a movie about the George W. Bush administration but also today’s news media landscape. 

“I was of draft age during the Vietnam War, and as we were running up to the war in Iraq in 2003 I was appalled that in my lifetime we would be engaging in war based on lies,” said Reiner. “We knew that there was no connection between Saddam Hussein and 9/11. We knew that there was no evidence of weapons of mass destruction, WMD. And we knew that the administration was using the fear of the American public in going forward and invading Iraq based on the ‘Project for a New American Century’, [a 1997 statement of principles] written by a bunch of neocons at a conservative think tank.”

THE FILM INCLUDES A 2002 clip of then-Vice President Dick Cheney telling an audience, “Simply stated, there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction.” Mainstream U.S. media swallowed this, hook, line and sinker, ignoring investigative reports written by Landay and Strobel, portrayed in the film by Woody Harrelson and James Marsden, respectively. The jingoist chorus for invasion grew as overwhelming as Bunker’s singing. The result, of course, was the fall of the Iraq regime and, according to the website Iraq Body Count, the violent deaths of over 280,000 civilians and combatants. U.S. weapons inspectors found no militarily significant WMD. 

The war left a tragic, divisive legacy that was reflected in the film’s production. Some U.S. news media outlets refused to sell footage for use in Shock and Awe. Predictably enough, many American viewers didn’t warm to it either, with critics comparing it unfavorably to Reiner’s 1992 Oscar-nominated court-martial drama A Few Good Men. “It’s an important story to remember right now, assuming you can remember anything after being beaten over the head with talking points for 90 minutes,” Rolling Stone’s David Fear wrote. “The title is a misnomer.”

But Reiner didn’t seem to be fazed when discussing his hopes for a better response in Japan, where the film was slated to debut in March 2019 under the title Kishatachi (journalists). He noted that, in a happy irony, journalists like Landay and Strobel are no longer media pariahs, thanks to the rise of a reality TV star to the presidency. Reiner said the U.S. news media has been “bifurcated” between outlets with a pro-Donald Trump agenda and those that have returned to their watchdog role vis-à-vis the White House. 

“CNN, NBC, Washington Post, New York Times are holding the president accountable and they’re working very hard at trying to get to the truth,” Reiner said. “That didn’t happen in the run-up to his election. I believe mainstream media was not doing the due diligence it needed to do at the time, for a couple of reasons. One is I don’t think they thought he was going to win, and two, quite frankly, money. [Former CBS Corp. CEO] Les Moonves put it quite succinctly. He said ‘Donald Trump is bad for the country. He’s good for CBS.’”

All in the Family also aired on CBS, and no doubt Archie Bunker would have cheered Trump’s refrain of “fake news.” The anti-war boyfriend though, would probably respond with a line from Shock and Awe that Reiner’s Walcott delivers to his troops: “When the government says something, you only have one question to ask: Is it true?” If American news media today does its job, future scholars of journalism may look back and say, “Those were the days.” ❶

Tim Hornyak is a freelance writer who has worked for IDG News, CNET News, Lonely Planet and other media. He is the author of Loving the Machine: The Art and Science of Japanese Robots.


Nabbing the newsmakers

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A packed meeting
Left to right, Fred Varcoe (freelance), Abby Leonard (freelance), Yuka Ito (PAC), co-chair Teddy Jimbo (Video News),
Akiko Saikawa (PAC), co-chair David McNeill (The Economist), Ken Moritsugu (AP), Roger Schreffler (WardsAuto).


Inviting those in the headlines to face the questions of journalist Members is one of the core elements of the FCCJ. Meet the Professional Activities Committee – the team that’s responsible for the lineup.


By Julian Ryall


A foreign correspondents’ club that lacks a hard-driving and fast-acting committee dedicated to bringing in speakers to address the most pressing and newsworthy issues of the day, David McNeill reckons, is about as much use as the proverbial chocolate teapot.

Joint chair of the FCCJ’s Professional Activities Committee (PAC) and a correspondent for the Economist, McNeill has served on the board and the Club’s Freedom of the Press Committee as well as editing the Number 1 Shimbun, but considers PAC to be the heart of what the Club is about. “What are we if we’re not a fully functioning club that facilitates the work of journalists?” McNeill said.

The 12 member-strong committee is charged with consistently delivering the people and issues that the Club’s members turn into column inches or video footage, he says, although he admits that is rarely as straightforward as it might be. “PAC is made up of working journalists who vote on events. If it is working well, it brings in speakers that are of use to the Club’s members,” he said. “If it doesn’t do that, then members of the FCCJ cannot be plugged in to what is going on in Japan and the region.”

Members of the committee meet once a month to propose speakers for the weeks ahead, although they communicate recommendations via e-mail when a breaking news story requires swift action to arrange for a speaker to address the Club.

In February, for example, the committee’s discussions led to invitations being extended to Denny Tamaki, the governor of Okinawa, to speak after the prefecture-wide referendum on U.S. bases, and to the “combative” new lawyer who has been taken on to defend Carlos Ghosn in his legal struggles with Nissan Motor Co.

The press conference in January with Ghosn’s previous lawyer – with McNeill as moderator – was one of the best-attended in the FCCJ’s history. With the world’s media watching and the FCCJ logo prominent in the background, that sort of publicity can only be a good thing. The committee continues to try to get Greg Kelly – who is accused of abetting Ghosn’s alleged illegal actions – to speak at the Club, along with officials from the prosecutor’s office for the other side of the story.


06 IMG 3032

Studying newsmakers
At a PAC meeting, committee members consider the newsmakers.
On the right, a member who missed our portrait, Martin Koelling.


THERE IS A STANDING request in with the government for someone from the cabinet to speak at the Club, although McNeill admits it has been a “real struggle” to convince the administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to engage with the foreign media since he returned to power in 2012. “We have never had Abe since he was elected in 2012; in fact, we have not had [Finance Minister] Taro Aso or any foreign minister since then,” McNeill said. “We have put in a lot of effort to get them to come, but to no avail. It now feels like a boycott.”

It is possible that the government considers the FCCJ to be in decline, with an ageing and shrinking core of full-time correspondents, more freelancers and bloggers writing for an online audience, but they almost certainly prefer scripted events that they are able to control – unlike the press conference on Sept. 25, 2014 in which Eriko Yamatani, chair of the National Public Safety Commission, ended up “like a rabbit in the headlights,” McNeill said.

Arriving with the expectation of discussing North Korea’s kidnapping of Japanese nationals, she was instead quizzed on the recent revelation of her close links to Zaitokukai, described by McNeill himself in a report on the event as “perhaps Japan’s most toxic racist group.” The result was not the choreographed reception she could have expected at the National Press Club, but an example of how the media operates in most parts of the world with a strong press.

McNeill says he was “astonished” when another senior politician demanded all the questions that he would face after his speech in advance. And was not embarrassed at making the demand. Instead of free-for-all press conferences, the government has introduced “surgical strikes” in the form of invitation-only meetings with bureau chiefs, often off the record. The downsides are obvious; most FCCJ members cannot access these senior government ministers and invitations can suddenly stop if the correspondent is perceived to have stepped out of line.


06 IMG 3046

McNEILL SAYS HE HAS the utmost admiration for the FCCJ’s PAC staff, who are charged with reaching out to potential speakers – and cajoling those who are reluctant to step out of their comfort zone. “We have superb staff who are brilliant at what has to be quite a demanding job,” he said. “Nominating these people is the easy part; they have to do all the tough stuff.”

Akiko Saikawa, who oversees PAC events as media and press conferences liaison manager, plays down the scale of the task she regularly faces. “The hardest part is that we get so many requests from members suggesting people to come and speak at the Club: we can only have so many events,” she said. 

“It is surprisingly easy to get some speakers to come, but on other occasions we have to work really hard to try to persuade them to come. In some cases, it can take more than a year,” Saikawa said. “At that point, they often agree because we have worn them down; they know we will just keep calling them until they agree. I think some of them come just so we will stop calling them.”

Along with Carlos Ghosn’s lawyer, a particularly memorable press conference for McNeill was David Kaye, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, because it shone a new light on the on-going issue of Japan’s closed press club system and questions over the independence of the domestic media.

But there are still some high-profile targets for the committee to convince to come to the Club. “It would be great to have the Emperor or the Crown Prince – although that will likely never happen,” said McNeill. “But Abe would be a very important event for us and there is absolutely no reason why he could not come. We’re also obviously very keen to get Ghosn here just as soon as we can – that would be huge for us.” ❶

Julian Ryall is Japan correspondent for the Daily Telegraph.


Kathrin Erdmann

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By David McNeill


Kathrin Erdmann has been in Japan for less than six months but has already had her share of surprises. Take public prosecutors. In her native Germany, reporters expect them to give detailed briefings of ongoing cases. “Here, they say just ‘no comment’,” she laughs, recalling her first calls to stonewalling prosecutors on the detention of Carlos Ghosn, Nissan’s defrocked boss. “If you’re talking about a democracy, it is really shocking that they don’t respond.”

Then there is immigration, which Germany knows something about too: It has fielded over 1.4 million asylum applications since Chancellor Angela Merkel resisted demands to close the country’s borders in 2015. Erdmann doesn’t underestimate the difficulties of accommodating such a tsunami of foreigners. “It took a long time; we had a lot of problems with refugees and still have, but we understood that they have to speak the language, and we have to make it easy for them to find a job.”

She sees no such system here. “In Japan, [refugees and immigrants] have to learn Japanese themselves; there are no programs to integrate them and learn the customs – and this is much more important here. This country needs immigration.” Erdmann says the missing ingredient is political leadership. “You have to really change the minds of people. This has to come from the politicians but they are not really interested in attracting immigrants. My impression is that they only see them as second-class people.” 

ERDMANN COVERS JAPAN AND a large chunk of East Asia, including Korea and Taiwan, for ARD, Germany’s powerful consortium of regional public broadcasters. A Berliner, she studied politics in the city before joining NDR (Northern German Broadcasting) as a freelancer in 2005. NDR put her on half-time staff in 2011. The Tokyo bureau is her first full-time position. 

The decision to come halfway across the world wasn’t easy, she says, during an interview at ARD’s office in the upscale residential district of Shoto, just around the corner from the home of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. For one thing, she had to leave her partner behind in Germany. “I cannot ask someone to give up and follow me here. By the time we would go back he would be in his mid-50s.” 

Erdmann hopes her efforts will bring a fresh perspective from Asia to her millions of German listeners. The focus of her predecessors – all men – she says, was economics; she leans toward social issues. “I’d like to do stories on women, on poverty and how homeless people really live.” She wants to look at businesswomen who buy men in host bars and says stories about Japan’s kawaii culture are popular back home. She recently visited a fashion show, the first ARD correspondent in 12 years to do so.


05 20190208 remm KathrinErdmann004

ERDMANN IS RELUCTANT TO deploy the usual, sometimes clichéd historical comparisons between Germany and her new host country. “I think it’s too complicated,” she says, of the discomforting legacy of World War II. “Nobody understands why Japan has such difficulties with the past.” Still, the past can’t be completely avoided: “As a correspondent you can’t choose,” she says, noting that she has already been snagged for stories on comfort women. 

Not surprisingly, perhaps, given German’s nuclear-phobic reputation, Erdmann was invited to visit Fukushima soon after she arrived. The resulting look at the cleanup from Japan’s 2011 disastrous triple meltdown was “more or less” a promotion tour but she says that’s perfectly natural. “If I were a foreign journalist in Germany, of course, I would not expect them to show me the country’s weak points.” Still, the technical complexity of the story means she is dreading a March 11 deadline. “I would love to do a human story about someone who has been displaced instead.”

Like many Japan-based foreign correspondents, Erdmann often finds herself busier dealing with stories about its isolated neighbor, North Korea. Last October, she went there to report. “I had a lot of fun,” she says, recalling a “very good” cappuccino in Pyongyang and a trip to the mountains. “People were singing, dancing, and they had a barbecue. It was another face of North Korea. Of course, I know it’s a difficult country but I could only report what I saw.”

Japan and Germany could still learn a lot from each other, she says. While Merkel is criticized for accepting so many Syrian refugees, Erdmann thinks that on balance the open-border policy will be good for Germany. “On the other hand, I appreciate very much this deep culture and tradition in Japan. In some ways, we gave up on that in Germany.” The important thing, she says, is to show respect to the place you’re reporting. “We all have our own personal interest but ultimately you just have to report the story.” ❶

David McNeill writes for the Irish Times and the Economist, and teaches media literacy at Hosei and Sophia Universities.


Friend or foe: Artificial Intelligence in the newsroom



AI may be replacing journalists in mundane jobs, but it could also be the savior of true journalism in an increasingly complex world.


By Maria Teresa Ronderos


Many large newsrooms and news agencies have for some time been relegating sports, weather, stock exchange movements and corporate performance stories to computers. One reason is that machines can be more rigorous and comprehensive than some reporters. Another is that, unlike many journalists who often single-source stories, software can import data from various sources, recognize trends and patterns and, using Natural Language Processing, put those trends into context, constructing sophisticated sentences with adjectives, metaphors and similes. A program, for example, can now convincingly report on crowd emotions in a tight soccer match.

These developments are why many in the journalistic profession fear that Artificial Intelligence will leave them without a job. But, if instead of fearing it, journalists embrace AI, it could become the savior of the trade – making it possible for them to better cover the increasingly complex, globalized and information-rich world we live in.

Intelligent machines can turbo-power journalists’ reporting, creativity and ability to engage audiences. Following predictable data patterns and programmed to “learn” variations in these patterns over time, an algorithm can help reporters arrange, sort and produce content at a speed never thought possible. It can systematize data to find a missing link in an investigative story. It can identify trends and spot the outlier among millions of data points that could be the beginnings of a great scoop. For example, a media outlet can continuously feed public procurement data into an algorithm which has the ability to cross-reference this data against companies sharing the same address. Perfecting this system could give reporters many clues as to where corruption may be happening.

Not only can intelligent computers analyze huge amounts of data to aid timely investigations, they can also help source and fact-check stories from the crowd to see if contributions are reliable. According to a 2017 report from Columbia Journalism School’s Tow Center, several media outlets in the U.S. are already using AI for fact checking. Reuters, for example, is using News Tracer to track breaking news on social media and verify the integrity of tweets. Serenata de Amor, a group of technology enthusiasts and journalists from Brazil, uses a robot named Rosie to track every reimbursement claimed by the country’s members of Congress and highlights the reasons that make some of the expenditures suspicious.

There are many other ways in which algorithms are helping journalists, from making rough cuts of videos, to recognizing voice patterns and identifying faces in a crowd. They can be programmed to chat with readers (chatbots) and answer queries. The tricky part is that this process cannot happen without a human journalist present who, with a goal in mind, asks relevant questions about the data. Reporters and editors need to learn fast how these systems operate and how they can use them to enhance their journalism.

Most journalists in the world do not have access to a team of programmers or data scientists to help design and build their projects. Collaboration is the answer. Small newsrooms and freelancers can make up for the lack of resources by teaming up with software developers to help build a more permanent collaboration. They can also become perceptive in spotting the many open-source search and analytics tools available.

Communication between journalists and techies is not a given. It needs a lot of learning from both sides and some trial and error. With ongoing technological development, journalists now have an ever-expanding toolkit in which to hold power to account. With this increased capacity to listen to their communities and identify their needs, it would be a tremendous waste not to try.

Ethical Challenges

The readers’ editor of the Guardian, Paul Chadwick, writing about the relationship between journalism and Artificial Intelligence, proposes a new clause for the newspaper’s code of ethics. “Software that ‘thinks’ is increasingly useful, but it does not necessarily gather or process information ethically,” he warns. “When using Artificial Intelligence to augment your journalism, consider its compatibility with the values of this code.”

Journalists have to be aware that algorithms may lie or mislead. They have been programmed by humans, who have biases, and logical patterns may lead to the wrong conclusions. This means journalists will always need to check results with their century-old verification techniques: cross-checking sources, comparing documents, doubting their findings.

Transparency is another must for journalism in this new era of machine intelligence.

“The biggest stumbling block for the entrance of AI into newsrooms is transparency. Transparency, a basic journalistic value, is often at odds with Artificial Intelligence, which usually works behind the scenes,” says Nausica Renner, digital editor of the Columbia Journalism Review.

Media should let the audience know what personal data they are collecting if they want to remain credible. Despite the powerful new toys allowing them to cater precisely to their audiences’ taste, editors should also strive to inform users about what they don’t want to know. The public interest is still the media’s business and the key to its survival.

By the same token, investigative reporters should do their best to explain how they are using algorithms to find patterns or process evidence for a story if they want to be different from the manipulators and demagogues who secretly collect data for use as a commercial or political weapon. Moreover, healthy journalism should continue to bring to life those silenced voices and intractable issues around which no one has systematically collected information or built data sets.

In the end, while it is true that AI enables journalism as never before, it is also true that this brings new challenges for learning and accountability. Without journalistic clarity, all this technology will not lead to a well-informed society. Without ethics, intelligent technology could herald journalism’s demise. Without clear purposes, transparent processes and the public interest as a compass, journalism will lose the credibility of people, no matter how many charts, bots and whistles you adorn it with. ❶

María Teresa Ronderos, from Semana, Colombia’s leading news magazine, recently served as director of the Open Society Foundation’s Program on Independent Journalism. This piece was originally published on the Medium page of the OSF program, and is reprinted with permission.



Automated journalism: producing stories from data. Initially it was used in reporting on sports and financial news. It can free journalists from routine tasks, improving efficiency and cost-cutting. AP uses Wordsmith software to turn financial data into stories. The Washington Post uses in house-developed technology Heliograf for reporting on sports events and electoral races.

Organizing workflow: tracking down breaking news, aggregating and organizing news using tags and links, moderating comments and using automated voice transcription. The New York Times uses the Perspective API tool developed by Jigsaw (Alphabet) to moderate readers’ comments. The Reuters Connect platform for journalists displays all Reuters content, including the archive, and content from media partners around the world in real time.

Tracking news on social media: analyzing real time and historical data, identifying influencers and engaging with audiences. AP uses Newswhip to monitor social media trends and increase engagement.

Engaging with audiences: Quartz Bot studio’s chatbot app allows users to text questions about news events, people, or places, and the app replies with content it believes is be relevant to them. Others, like the Guardian, include chatbots for Facebook Messenger. The BBC used bots to help cover the EU referendum. The AfriBOT project, one of the Innovate Africa grant winners, by the European Journalism Centre and The Source (Namibia and Zimbabwe), are developing an open source newsbot “to help African news organizations deliver personalized news and engage more effectively with audiences via messaging platforms.”

Automated fact-checking: allows journalists a speedy fact check of public statements or claims. Chequebot is used by Chequeado in Argentina; Full Fact UK and partners are developing an automated fact-checking engine that “will spot claims that have already been fact-checked in new places; and it will automatically detect and check new claims using Natural Language Processing and structured data.” The Duke Reporter’s Lab in the US developed the tool ClaimBuster to deliver politically meaningful claims to media and, in 2017, launched a hub for automated fact-checking projects. Factmata in the UK is also developing an automated fact-checking tool.

Analyzing large data bases: software crunches data and looks for patterns, changes or anything unusual. Reuters’ Lynx Insight goes through massive data sets and provides journalists with results and background information. OCCRP’s Crime Pattern Recognition uses technology that analyzes large databases of documents for similar corruption-related crimes and links between involved parties.

Image recognition: technology that recognises objects, places, human faces and even sentiment in images. The New York Times uses Amazon’s Rekognition API to identify members of congress in photos. Any user can test Google’s Vision API image recognition technology for free.

Video production: automatically creates scripts from news articles and produces narrated rough cuts of short video pieces from video footage. Wibbitz software is used by USA Today, Bloomberg and NBC. Researchers at Stanford University are developing an automated video editing tool.


None behind bars.A look back at four scandals that shook the Japanese auto industry – and their aftermath.

03 AP 125730369287


A sorry sight
Air-bag maker Takata Corp’s CEO Shigehisa Takada, center, Senior VP Hiroshi Shimizu, left, and CFO Yoichiro Nomura, bow at the start of a press conference about the company’s product defect and recall, June 2015.


By Roger Schreffler


It was one of those make-or-break moments – Feb. 24, 2010 at the Rayburn House Office Building in Washington, D.C.

Akio Toyoda, just eight months into his presidency at Toyota Motor Corp., sat before a congressional committee to answer questions about fatalities from an accelerator pedal malfunction in Toyota and Lexus cars sold in the U.S. He was treated, frankly, like a criminal. 

Dennis Kucinich, the congressman from Ohio with presidential aspirations, confronted him about whether he knowingly concealed design flaws which put people’s lives at risk. Since nearly 90 people had died, it couldn’t have been clearer where Kucinich was heading with his questioning.

Kucinich wasn’t the only one to ask “gotcha” questions. I counted at least eight members of the congressional committee in charge who took aim at Toyoda, mostly, not surprisingly, from states like Kucinich’s that didn’t have a Toyota plant. 

Scion of the automotive family that bears his name, Toyoda had a lot on the line. Apart from his presidency – it is customary in Japan for a CEO to take responsibility for a scandal by resigning – Toyota’s decades-old reputation for quality was being questioned. And without becoming overly hyperbolic, “Japan Inc.” was on trial since Toyota was and is the most celebrated corporation in Japan.

In the end, Toyota would pay a lot of money – more than $2 billion – to settle the multiple legal claims, including a criminal complaint by the U.S. Justice Department. 

Toyoda did all the right things in testifying before Congress: he bowed his head, expressed regret and accepted responsibility, all customary in Japan. He did everything except blame Toyota suppliers, including CTS Corp. the one based near Chicago that used the wrong synthetic rubber for the accelerator pedal.

CTS Corp. had used a polymer (a resin synthesized from petroleum) that under certain conditions – extremely hot and cold temperatures – expanded and didn’t revert to its previous form. In a very small number of cases, the pedal swelled and stuck after being engaged, sending the car forward at high speeds.

Toyota would eventually recall more than 7 million vehicles in the U.S. and another 2 million in other markets.


The second scandal involved the Ford Explorer, which under certain conditions – high-speed driving in hot climatic regions – rolled over after its tires blew out.

More than 270 fatalities and 800 injuries over nearly a decade starting in mid-1990s were linked to tread separation involving tires manufactured by Nashville-based Bridgestone/Firestone Inc. 

Ford blamed the tires. Bridgestone/Firestone blamed the Explorer’s design: specifically, that the automaker had added weight, as much as 450 kg, through the model’s various iterations yet didn’t change the specifications of the tires.

Bridgestone/Firestone eventually asked the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to investigate the handling and control characteristics of the Explorer. NHTSA reported back in February 2002 that the evidence was inconclusive. A win for Ford? Yes and no.

First, Ford got lucky. More than half of accidents occurred in a handful of states in the southern region of the U.S. including the Southwest where daytime temperatures often average 40 degrees Celsius in August. Bridgestone/Firestone claimed that the tires should have been inflated at 30 psi. The owner’s manual said 26 psi was sufficient. They went back and forth and back and forth – after the fact.

Second, Ford had a perfect scapegoat in Firestone, the former Firestone Tire & Rubber Co., and may have overplayed its hand. Twelve years before the 1990 introduction of the Explorer, which became the best-selling sport-utility vehicle in the U.S., Firestone was the subject of the largest recall in the auto industry’s history – 14.5 million tires – and was forced to pay a substantial fine, leaving the company financially weaker and eventually opening the door for Bridge-stone to purchase its global operations for a then-record $2.6 billion in 1988. Ford acted as if it was unaware that Bridge-stone (Tokyo) was calling the shots. 

This was all the more ironic considering that when Bridge-stone incorporated in 1931, Firestone challenged its name, accusing the Kurume-based company of trademark infringement. Firestone lost its challenge because the name “Bridgestone” was not a Firestone rip-off but a transliteration and inversion of the surname of its founder, Shojiro Ishibashi, or “stone bridge”.

Like Toyoda years later, Bridgestone/Firestone’s CEO Masatoshi Ono, the former head of Bridgestone’s Kurume plant, accepted a congressional invitation to express his “regrets.” Like Toyoda, he delivered his formal statement in English and responded to questions through an interpreter. Unlike the Toyota CEO, he made a disastrous impression and came across as inconsistent and evasive.

(Ono, by the way, spoke English. We spent half a day together in Kurume and met twice in Nashville. His English was good, but his attempt at Congress to accept responsibility but not blame was lost in translation to a hostile audience and skeptical public.)

Both Ford and Bridgestone lost money. Different sources put the losses at more than $1 billion each including recall costs. More interesting is that Bridgestone/Firestone severed its nearly 100-year supplier relationship with Ford in May 2001. Bridgestone also moved to close the subsidiary’s Decatur, IL, plant, which produced the tires and which was the center of the earlier recall in 1978. 

Ford increased the pressure level of the Explorer’s tires when it revamped the model in 2002.


The third scandal centered around an estimated 20-25 deaths that were attributed to faulty airbags supplied by Takata which, to quote Automotive News, “exploded, sending metal shards and other materials into the passenger compartment.”

Takata’s automotive customers were forced to recall more than 50 million airbag inflators in the U.S. alone. Those customers include a who’s who of the auto industry, from BMW and Mercedes in Europe to General Motors and Ford in the U.S. to Toyota, Honda, Nissan and Subaru in Japan.

The root of the problem was a management decision in the late 1990s to switch to ammonium nitrate as the propellant for airbag inflators. The material, which was reportedly cheaper than many other propellants used by suppliers, proved less stable.

Particularly damning, the auto supplier’s engineering division reportedly altered and concealed test results. Neither did management respond with a sense of urgency. In one of his messages to shareholders, Takata president Shigehisa Takada, another scion, focused on “warranty reserves” and “special losses” while not mentioning the victims.

When the end finally came, it came quickly. In February 2017, Takata entered into a plea agreement with the U.S. Justice Department whereby it would pay $1 billion in penalties including criminal penalties. The following June saw the supplier file for bankruptcy and the firm was delisted by the Tokyo Stock Exchange in July, 2017. 

Takata probably would have gone bankrupt sooner except that its main automotive customers couldn’t let it go under until they got a handle on the nature and extent of the problem and found new suppliers to replace it.


In our fourth scandal, no one died. No one was injured. No carcinogens were emitted into the atmosphere. It came to light when it was found that Mitsubishi Motors Corp. inflated mileage claims in its 660cc “kei” car business in Japan to meet new, more stringent regulations. 

And while no one went to jail, several in senior management resigned, including Mitsubishi president Tetsuro Aikawa, himself a scion, the son of former Mitsubishi Heavy Industries president and chairman Kentaro Aikawa.

Osamu Masuko, who was chairman and CEO at the time, did not resign. When we met shortly after the scandal came to light in April 2016, I asked him, partly as a conversation starter, “Why do you still have a job?”

Masuko revealed that it was because Carlos Ghosn, Nissan’s former CEO and chairman who is being held without bail at the Tokyo Detention House, made that a condition for Nissan to extend Mitsubishi a financial lifeline. (Nissan would invest ¥237 billion to acquire a controlling 34 percent stake.)

The revelations that Mitsubishi had inflated mileage-testing results came just as Masuko was preparing the next stage of the automaker’s restructuring – essentially, that it would be able to operate independently in an auto industry of goliaths like Toyota, Volkswagan and Renault-Nissan alliance.

In the second week of April 2016, just days before he was preparing to announce record earnings in the automaker’s then 99-year history, he was shown evidence that Mitsubishi’s engineering group had falsified fuel-economy testing data on more than 625,000 minicars sold in Japan, a majority of which were sold as Nissans.

Note that 16 years earlier, in July 2000, Mitsubishi and its truck-making subsidiary, Mitsubishi Fuso Truck and Bus Corp., were caught covering up defects dating back to the 1990s, triggering a police investigation, multiple recalls and eventually the arrest and conviction of several executives, all of whom received suspended sentences. A truck driver and pedestrian died.

The scandal was big news in Japan and the prelude to Masuko’s involvement with the company, first as a representative director from Mitsubishi Corp., one of the automaker’s major shareholders, and then as president and CEO.

Masuko, who had spent 11 years restructuring Mitsubishi – bringing it back from the brink after DaimlerChrysler AG withdrew its investment in 2005 – had to start over, which meant finding a partner. Now, with Mitsubishi’s benefactor in jail, who knows what comes next?


Although the incident tarnished Toyota’s brand, the damage from the sticky-pedal fiasco wasn’t long term. Toyoda, nine years later, has emerged as a strong chief executive.

Bridgestone replaced Ono as Bridgestone/Firestone CEO in October 2000. Nearly 20 years later, the company is the world’s number-one tire maker and exceedingly profitable. In fact, it is the most profitable automotive supplier in Japan, with an operating margin exceeding 10 percent.

Takata ceased to exist in April 2018. Shigehisa Takada resigned to make way for the sale of its assets to a competitor.

Mitsubishi, despite tensions between Nissan and Renault, is 80 percent back to record earnings. Masuko, who joined the automaker from Mitsubishi Corp. and turned 70 in February, could very well stay on for several more years. 

Carlos Ghosn was held in jail for 107 days before being released on March 6 on bail of ¥1 billion, after agreeing to stiff conditions, including what is virtually house arrest.   ❶

Roger Schreffler is a veteran business reporter who focuses on the auto sector, and a former FCCJ president.

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