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Number 1 Shimbun


NUMBER 1 SHIMBUN 2019 (87)

Children categories

Join the Film Committee. . .


…on Wed., June 19 at 6:45 pm for 5 Million Dollar Life, which poses the question “Just how much is life really worth?” For Mirai Takatsuki (played with gusto by Ayumu Mochizuki), it took $5 million in donations to cover his medical bills and keep him alive. Eleven years later, his miraculous recovery is still TV news, and his mother continues to promise that Mirai will pay everyone back by living up to their expectations. But the 17-year-old has had enough of the pressure. In despair, he decides to commit suicide – until a stranger texts him that he has no right to take his own life until he returns the $5 million. So Mirai sets out to do just that. What begins as a familiar-seeming journey with echoes of the teen suicide/coming-of-age/road movie genres, then expands into something completely unexpected, constantly surprising and ultimately, transformative. First-time feature director Sungho Moon will join us for the Q&A session after the screening with Mochizuki.

(Japan, 2019; 112 minutes; in Japanese with English subtitles.)

– Karen Severns


KnK Photo Exhibition

Class Rooms: Places to spend time as a child. 

By Kyo Shimizu

KnK (Kokkyo naki Kodomotachi: Children without Borders) is an NGO that supports children and schools in a number of locations around the world. These photographs by Kyo Shimizu are of children, classrooms and school commutes at KnK missions in Palestine, Timor Leste, the Philippines, Syrian refugee camps, Tohoku and beyond. ❶

Kyo Shimizu, born in Tokyo in 1970, has been helping children for 20 years and expanded his work to become an award-winning photographer of humanitarian issues in 2016. He has worked for KnK Japan since 2003.


Concentrating without noticing my camera, Kohistan, Pakistan, 2010


A girl lights a candle to continue studying after a power outage, in a KnK Home, India, 2005

Lens craft


“Twilight Flow”
Jiufen, Taiwan.
by Stirling Elmendorf


Lenses aft
Photographers await the first public appearance of the new emperor, April 4.
by Albert Siegel


Spring is in the air
PM Shinzo Abe (along with his security personnel) runs to greet his guests at a cherry-blossom viewing party. Shinjukugyoen, Tokyo, April 13.
by Yoshikazu Tsuno

Faking ourselves to death


The author of a new book says the quality of reporting in Japan under the Abe government is in dangerous decline.

By David McNeill

Donald Trump’s first press conference as president-elect in January 2017 set the discordant tone for the two years to follow. The hour-long encounter with a sullen media corps was seasoned with Trump’s now familiar insults and sleights of hand. 

A stack of folders on a nearby podium was “proof” that he had divested his business interests to ensure no conflict of interest. Claims that Russia had helped send Trump to the White House, or had compromising information on his exotic sexual peccadillos, were a “pile of garbage.” Obamacare was a “complete and total disaster.” CNN reporter Jim Acosta was told to be quiet when he tried to ask a question. “You are fake news,” said Trump, eyeing him with contempt.

It was entertaining stuff. Many voters, after all, had dispatched Trump to Washington in anticipation of these bad-tempered showdowns with the “libtard” media. For Japan-watchers, however, the event was thin gruel. Apart from a single non-sequitur at the end, when Japan was cited – along with Russia, China and Mexico – as countries that had “taken total advantage” economically of America, there was no mention of its closest Pacific ally. 

So when Yoichiro Tateiwa watched the Japanese media’s take the following day, he was astonished to see banner headlines about a looming trade war. “They read: ‘Trump criticized Japan for trade issues,’” Tateiwa says. “But I wondered: Did he even mention Japan? I had to go back and check the record.”

Tateiwa is a former NHK staff reporter who left the broadcaster in 2016 to take up a fellowship at the American University in Washington. He has just written a book, Toranpu Houdou no Feiku to Fakkuto (Fact and Fakery in Media Coverage of Trump, Kamogawa Shuppan, 2019) that draws on his comparative knowledge of media systems in both countries. He believes the Japanese reporters took their cue not from the actual press conference, but from Yoshihide Suga, the government’s chief cabinet secretary. “The political reporters asked Suga what the Japanese stance was and Suga said: ‘This trade issue is serious and we have to discuss it,’” says Tateiwa. In other words, Suga single-handedly spun the story that Trump’s election meant trouble for Japan.



THAT’S WORRYING ENOUGH, BUT it indicates a bigger problem, says Tateiwa: stories in the Japanese media often do not name their sources. Or source, since many important stories are propped up by a single anonymous voice in the government. That’s a recipe for manipulation, he warns.

American political journalism has hardly covered itself in glory either, given how it was hoodwinked over calamitous wars in the Middle East. Tateiwa agrees, but says journalists there have become more careful. As evidence, he cites the Washington Post’s scoop on alleged Russian meddling in Trump’s election and the role of Michael Flynn, the former national security advisor. “The newspaper confirmed with nine former government officials who had access to the records of conversations between Flynn and the Russian ambassador (in 2016),” he says. “The Japanese media doesn’t do that.”

Elite spin is most evident in the media’s coverage of North Korea, says Tateiwa. When Kim Jong Un agreed to meet Trump in Singapore last June, Japanese officials fretted that prematurely rewarding Kim for coming to the negotiating table could leave the North’s missiles pointed at Japan. And would the quixotic Trump grill Kim about Japanese citizens abducted by North Korean agents in the 1970s and ’80s, a particular priority for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe? Someone in the Abe government decided that journalists needed a carrot, says Tateiwa. Up popped a story on Fuji TV claiming without evidence that far from being diplomatically shoved aside, Japan had in fact facilitated the Trump-Kim meeting. “I was like, really?” says Tateiwa, laughing. 

After Singapore, a nervous looking Abe spoke briefly to the local press, warning that the abductions would have to be solved by Japan alone, seemingly confirming that the issue was a very low priority for Trump. The next day, almost the entire Japanese media ran the story that Trump had in fact discussed the abduction issue with Kim, who had ‘responded positively.’ The sources for this claim were anonymous. “Given what Abe said the night before, I really doubt that conversation took place,” says Tateiwa.

“SOMEONE WAS MANIPULATING THE media,” he continues. “I suspect it was one person who was the source on North Korea – and they don’t name him. He tells reporters: ‘I can tell you what Trump really said to Abe – that the abduction issue is very important and he is open to dialogue.’ We know it is a lie but . . . .”

“The stories are attributed to a ‘source close to the Japan-US relationship’ or ‘someone in the US government,’ Tateiwa says. “You cannot just say ‘someone in the American government – there is no ‘American government!’ It should be ‘someone related to the White House’, or ‘someone in the State Department.’ 

Tateiwa says even the “liberal” Japanese media swallow the most unlikely stories when it comes to Pyongyang. He cites one Asahi TV report in 2017 claiming that the American military was preparing for a conventional attack because the North “would not retaliate.” 

“I was stunned because what the secretary of defense [James Mattis] said was completely different,” he says. The conventional wisdom on all sides was that any attempt to dislodge the Kim regime by force risked setting off a ruinous conventional war that would destroy Seoul, about 40km south of the demilitarized zone separating the two Koreas. “Now Japanese TV was saying that the US forces had entirely changed their stance by preparing for a pinpoint attack,” says Tateiwa. “Nobody in America ran that, so it was clearly coming from a Japanese source. Again, somebody in the government was tipping the media. And the way the Japanese media uses sources it could almost be anyone.”

AS EVGENY MOROZOV, AUTHOR of Net Delusion: The Dark Side of Internet Freedom, has pointed out, there’s nothing new about exaggerated or fabricated news. False stories helped goad America into war with Spain in 1898; faked reports of Iraqi troops yanking babies from incubators in Kuwait in 1990 and the infamous “weapons of mass destruction” provided the rationale for the invasion of Iraq in 2003. But fake news has recently been turbo-charged by at least three factors: the Internet and the digital monopolies that dominate it, the erosion of journalistic resources and standards, and a mass cynicism about public institutions, including the media. The timing was perfect for the rise of an unscrupulous political huckster. 

At least, according to Tateiwa, most journalists in the United States are onto Trump. “Here, nobody knows who is spreading the fake news,” he says. “And what is worse is that the reporters here believe they are doing a good job. But they are being manipulated and used. There is far less transparency in this country, so I think the situation here is more serious.”

Reporters are part of the deception, he says. Abe, for example, “is rarely caught saying anything stupid” because the questions are sent to him before each encounter with the media. “The reporters like that too: sending the question in advance means they can prepare their stories before the press conference even starts. That’s what they call good journalism.”

Tateiwa’s solutions are as straightforward as they are difficult to achieve. He says reporters must be trained to fact check and seek out multiple sources. He has founded an NPO called FactCheck Initiative Japan for this purpose, and is writing a new book on the subject. He also wants more US-style journalism courses taught in Japan. “I’m not saying that American journalism is good – they’ve failed a thousand times. But they do investigative journalism there and they have to use sources in a more precise way – they have to keep digging for their stories, otherwise people say it is fake news.” 

The alternative is that Japanese newspapers and TV keep being used by the government. “So long as they keep doing what they are doing, any type of politician can manipulate the press.” ❶

David McNeill writes for the Irish Times and the Economist and teaches media and politics at Hosei University.
Yoichiro Tateiwa at the Club in 2018

Emiko Jozuka, CNN


By Ilgin Yorulmaz

In the summer of 2008, Emiko Jozuka, then a junior at the University of Cambridge, was assisting one of her professors with an archeological excavation in Mersin, a major town in southern Turkey, when she got invited to a wedding.

She was so intrigued by the friendly locals in the village who invited her into their homes that she became more interested in digging into their everyday lives than the excavation. Despite having to rely on a Turkish-English dictionary, Jozuka never missed a chance to hang out with them as soon as she finished her daily shift.

“They called me a ‘wedding queen’ as I ended up going to all the weddings in that village and beyond that summer,” she says.
Now a Hong Kong-based digital producer for CNN, Jozuka says this chance encounter kick-started her interest in telling human stories. She returned to the Turkish village the next summer to improve her language skills, adding to the French, Spanish and Portuguese she had learned as a languages, literature and film major at Cambridge.

Upon graduation, Jozuka spent a month learning documentary making in Cuba. She then decided to crack into journalism as a freelance reporter in Turkey for the Hurriyet Daily News (HDN), the country’s oldest English-language paper, while also teaching English in Istanbul. She started out interviewing expat diplomats, artists and journalists, which she calls “ironic” for someone who wanted to learn more about what Turkish people thought.

But this “sideways angle” of seeing Turkey through a foreign lens was indispensable in her later work as a foreign-educated Japanese looking into various issues faced by certain countries, including her own – a unique position she has enjoyed since the beginning of her career.

Jozuka emigrated with her Japanese parents to the UK when she was just three years old. Speaking Japanese at home and visiting Japan once a year during school holidays enabled her to keep close ties to her native country. Her father was Asia’s first motorsports photojournalist and covered everything from Formula One to the Paris-Dakar rallies over a career spanning nearly five decades since the ’60s. It wasn’t long before Jozuka also caught the journalism bug, proving the old Japanese saying, Kaeru no ko wa kaeru, (literally, “The child of a frog is a frog”), or “Like father, like daughter in this case,” Jozuka says.

Turkey provided the perfect backdrop to cultivate her interest as a documentarist. During her freelance gig at the HDN, she took every chance to cover art, film and environmental festivals across Turkey “so I could learn the language faster and understand the country better,” she says. Another chance encounter with indie Kurdish filmmakers at an international film festival led to jobs as a script developer, production staff and freelance reporter in southeastern Turkey.
Her guiding principle through her work then and now has always been “to give voice to the people who lack it.” The fast pace of the international news agenda left Jozuka feeling disillusioned with her role. “I felt like my stories weren’t having much of an impact. . . . It was only later on that my editor at the time told me that the articles we’d worked on were being picked up by academics and local news groups outside of Turkey,” she says.

After a period in southeastern Turkey and along the Turkish-Syrian border, Jozuka decided to return to school in 2013 for a master’s degree in visual, material and museum anthropology at Oxford University. But she quickly realized she wasn’t cut out for an academic life. So she turned her attention to science and technology reporting.

During stints in London at Wired magazine and later at Motherboard, the technology portal by the online news outlet VICE, she became interested in the intersections of society, culture and technology. She reported in depth on Senegalese game developers, Kurdish Google, and sought to explore the impact of technology on people.

Jozuka started working for CNN in August, 2016. In 2018, she travelled to Japan on a Pulitzer Center grant to produce five stories on the country’s much publicized demographic time bomb. Her stories ranged from Japan’s vacant housing issue and immigration to childcare and the elderly, documenting solutions that communities had come up with to deal with these challenges.

Her main reservation with foreign media’s Japan coverage is the danger of missing cultural nuances, and misinterpreting seemingly weird but ultimately human stories. “Growing up [overseas], I didn’t have such a great image of Japan, because it had been filtered through the western media’s take of it,” she says.

She gives the example of one recent story on the Japanese man who married a hologram, and how that challenged her own assumptions. “Many people think that people like him are odd and have cut ties with other humans, but he had a normal social life and just did what made him happy,” she says.
Another story recently was on a group of female members of the Japan Self-Defense Forces (JSDF). It featured, among others, a 23-year-old actress-turned-navy recruit who had been deeply moved by a trip last year to Bosnia and Herzegovina’s war zones and decided to join the military.

“These girls had joined the army for a sense of adventure, ambition and career trajectory,” says Jozuka. No wonder she chose to feature them; the same passion seems to follow her everywhere, whether it’s a small village in Turkey or a bustling city like Tokyo. ❶

Ilgin Yorulmaz is a freelance journalist and a regular contributor to BBC World Turkish-language service.

Watching the watchers

A photo series that explores how the traditions of Japan are often disrespected by foreign tourists and point out the problems that the Geiko (Geisha) face on a daily basis in Gion, Kyoto.

Alzbeta Kossuthova asked herself how much discrimination against foreigners was brought on by their own discriminatory behavior in a photo essay that the judges described as “compelling.”

Alzbeta Kossuthova is a graduate student at Waseda University


An almost unnoticed Geiko.


Prohibited behavior in pictures for non-Japanese speakers.



Traditional beauty – Maiko performance at the Hyatt Regency hotel.



Japan: Stop procrastinating

Why the country should address minority rights to solve its demographic challenges

By Marina Yoshimura


Voices on the street
About 500 people listened to women publicly share their experiences
of sexual harassment and abuse and calling for change in a demonstration 
in Tokyo that followed the acquital of a man after years of raping his daughter.


Japan has to change its treatment toward minorities. It has yet to address women’s rights in and out of the workforce, and it must integrate – not just accept – more immigrants and refugees. These issues are not mutually exclusive; both challenge Japan’s traditional view of minorities as second-class citizens. While the country has made progress in minority rights, gender roles are shifting with little momentum, and society still treats immigrants as tools for the labor force. Traditional systems need to be overhauled and society must add foreigners to its social fabric. With globalization rapidly growing and the population shrinking, Japan can no longer procrastinate on such issues

Admit more women in the workforce – 
and support them. 

Gender roles around the world are shifting. Women, more than ever, are speaking up and demanding justice. The #MeToo movement, which gained traction in 2017 (although the Me Too organization was founded in 2006), sparked conversations on social media about sexual harassment and assault. This movement also challenged the misogynistic power dynamics that dictate society. It prompted changes in corporate culture and systems concerned with sexual abuse. The discourse about issues surrounding gender roles remains active today. 

In Japan, however, gender roles are not shifting nearly as effectively or efficiently as they are in the West. Japanese society seems reluctant to support increased involvement of women in the workplace. “Womenomics,” a plan the Abe administration initiated in 2014 to encourage women to enter the workforce, has largely fallen flat. The efforts, if top-down, barely reach the bottom, and if bottom-up, rarely reach the ivory towers in which politicians make decisions. 

The notion that women will quit after getting married or having children persists; so companies often relegate these women to serving tea to their male colleagues. Despite the fact that more women graduate from college than men, women are at a disadvantage compared to their male colleagues because of this perception. Today, for example, only about 10 percent of parliamentarians in Japan are women, according to the World Bank Group, and women make up just 13 percent of corporate managerial positions. 

Womenomics has, however, encouraged discussion of the importance of women in the workforce, at a time when their labor participation was rising from 42.4 percent in 2012 to just a little less than 50 percent in 2017. The problem, however, is not only whether women are in the workforce, but also how they are treated. To prevent sexual harassment and to foster equality in the workplace, traditional attitudes must change. Kentaro Matsuoka, 20, a Yale College student who has roots in both the United States and Japan, said every time he flies back to Japan, he is struck by the sight of restaurants offering “Ladies’ Lunch,” and advertisements soliciting female workers only. In fact, some government officials undermine the issue. Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso once caused a stir by stating, “Sexual harassment is not a crime.” Politicians who discriminate against women both in and out of the parliament should step down, for they do not represent ideas that Japanese society needs to survive.

The culture – as well as the leaders – must change. Besides being a barrier to a larger, more integrated work force, the social discrimination against and subconscious bias toward women can harm women’s well-being. Japan has the second highest female suicide rate in the world, according to the OECD, and mental health can affect the workforce. So providing mental health services as women navigate office politics, especially amid strict gender roles, is key. The Japanese government, together with the private sector, should promote gender equality, not by putting women on a pedestal, but by hiring them on the basis of their qualifications.

Accept – and integrate – foreigners. 

The shrinking and aging population inevitably raises the question of immigration. The Japanese Diet has brought this issue to the political agenda. The problem with the government’s proposal to admit immigrants is that it sees them only as workers who are conducive to Japan’s economy. But such immigrants are not just workers; they are human beings, too. The government, and by extension, society, would first need to consider how to treat foreigners to fully appreciate the benefits of admitting refugees and immigrants to the country.

The number of foreigner residents in Japan is increasing by the year, reaching 2.3 million in 2016. But despite the increase, many struggle to fit in, and feel there is a social wall that divides them and the Japanese. “I feel accepted but not integrated,” expatriate Ann-Katrin van Schie said, although she admitted that she may not have worked “hard enough” to be integrated. She is the founder of At Ease, a support network for expatriates in Japan. 

Many sectors of society still hesitate to integrate foreigners into their country as challenges in exchanges between foreigners and Japanese persist. In fact, only 23 percent of respondents in a PEW Research Center survey responded that the country needs more immigrants. Services such as At Ease become all the more important. Expats are not the only foreigners in Japan to experience a sense of isolation, and this could be a problem for Japan. 

Japan is not an ideal haven for refugees, either. Most of those who apply are denied refugee status because the government is wary of the validity of their cases and perceives them as threats to the country’s traditions and homogeneity. In fact, the government rejected 99 percent of applicants in 2017, admitting just 20 out of 19,628, according to Japan’s Justice Ministry. The rejection pressures them to reapply, return to their countries or risk deportation. Those who resist are detained along with foreign criminals. Although the international community has voiced its concerns over the Japanese government’s reluctance to admit refugees, the criticism has not yet convinced the country to open its borders. And those who are admitted aren’t welcomed with open arms. “If I could give one [piece of] advice to incoming refugees in Japan, I would tell them to not settle here,” said former intern for the Japan Association for Refugees (JAR), Phuong Phamthihoai, who, as a refugee in Japan herself, faced discrimination.

Ultimately, Japanese society should recognize that – however difficult the process may be – accepting immigrants, including refugees, would benefit the country. The government should look to other countries for guidance. For example, the Canadian government has adopted a Private Sponsorship Program to bridge public and private sectors to sponsor refugees. It’s not enough to just admit them. The media should frequently cover immigration and refugee topics as an avenue for dialogue between citizens and the government. Policy revisions, difficult discussions and accurate media portrayals of immigration and refugee admission are necessary. By integrating refugees, immigrants, and foreigners in general, Japan can develop a stronger social fabric that not only leads to a stronger economy but also a more diverse society. As globalization expands, these changes are exactly what Japan will need. 

There is no time for Japan to procrastinate on these issues. Women still lack an equal platform as men in the workforce, which stems from the country’s traditional views toward women. Foreigners in Japan, especially immigrants and refugees, face legal and social discrimination in the country. Addressing minority rights issues will determine whether Japan will remain a prosperous country in years to come. It must solve them now or lose its position on the global stage. ❶

Marina Yoshimura is an undergraduate student at Waseda University and Yale College.

When anime meets ancient gods


When two seemingly disparate cultural icons come together, some see opportunities for economic and cultural growth

By Jonathan Chu

It may be cliché, but it is also true: Japan is a country of contradictions, where one can find all sorts of old traditions alongside new subcultures. But are they co-existing in harmony or tension? Recent collaborative activities between ancient shrines and anime production companies may give a clue into such interactions, and how they change Japanese culture and create business opportunities in the process.

At Kanda Myojin, a 1,200-year-old Shinto shrine near Tokyo’s Akihabara district, one can find many anime-based products on sale, along with their usual lineup of religious articles. Featuring the characters of “Love Live!,” an anime in which a group of high school girls pursue their dreams of becoming an idol group, they range from sweets, posters and lucky charms to ema, small wooden boards on which worshipers write down their wishes and prayers to the gods. 

Here, the ema hanging on the rack not only are covered with wishes, but also with drawings of the “Love Live!” anime characters. The quality of the drawings is amazingly professional, and some are even colored. 

Mr. Masanori Kishikawa, a priest at Kanda Myojin, says that the shrine began collaborating after the anime company Sunrise Inc. approached them with an offer to sell the anime-themed products in 2014, a year after the anime first aired. The connection is that one of the high school girls in “Love Live!” is cast as a miko, or “shrine maiden,” of Kanda Myojin. According to Kishikawa, the shrine is open to consider any such offers, as long as they are not inappropriate. The shrine does not specifically calculate the profits generated by the collaboration, he says, but they have felt a surge in visitors since the project began.

THE PHENOMENON OF FANS visiting places that are featured in their favorite anime is called “anime pilgrimage.” This is not something unique to Japan (just imagine all the Harry Potter fans who visit King’s Cross station in London), but the trend is growing at a fast pace, creating a whole new genre of tourism. Information on the “sacred places” of various animes, access and how to take pictures that look identical to specific scenes can be found easily online. 

One of the early examples of a shrine benefiting from anime tourism is Washinomiya Shrine in Saitama prefecture, though the collaboration was unplanned. After an unexpected boom in popularity of the 2007 anime “Lucky Star,” in which two of the main characters were cast as the shrine’s miko, an influx of anime fans began visiting, and the shrine and shops nearby started selling anime-related products. According to the shrine, annual visitors jumped from 130,000 in 2007 to 300,000 in 2008. A report by the Development Bank of Japan in 2016 estimated that “Lucky Star” brought in economic benefits of ¥3 billion over ten years for Washinomiya Shrine and the surrounding community.

Last year, Narita airport put up a billboard with a guide to anime pilgrimage sites aimed at foreign tourists, listing 88 “sacred places” across Japan, in collaboration with the Anime Tourism Association, an industry body formed by publishers, transport and tourism companies. Promoting anime tourism abroad is part of the government’s Cool Japan initiative, aimed at attracting tourists to localities and supporting local economies. A survey of foreign tourists by the Japan Tourism Agency, a government bureau, found 4.8 percent of respondents came to Japan to “visit sites related to movies and anime,” which translates to over a million people. Anime tourism is a growing opportunity to earn foreigners’ cash, so it is unsurprising that more and more local governments are getting involved.

COOPERATION BETWEEN VARIOUS SECTORS, including the government, can also be seen in Otsu, Shiga prefecture. The city began to attract anime pilgrims after the local Omi Jingu shrine appeared in an anime called “Chihayafuru,” featuring a young schoolgirl playing the traditional card game of karuta. The collaboration featuring the anime is supported by Omi Jingu, the Otsu city tourism board, the National Karuta Association and the local Keihan Railway, which operates trains with “Chihayafuru” characters painted on the exterior. 

One may be tempted to dismiss these as gimmicks by localities desperate for any source of revenue and attention. But that’s not necessarily true. Kanda Myojin, of “Love Live!” fame, has long been one of the largest and most popular shrines in central Tokyo, and during weekends in January, thousands of people have always come to pay their new year visits. The Shimogamo Shrine in the ancient capital of Kyoto, which now sells posters and products of the anime “The Eccentric Family,“ in which the main characters are cute raccoon dogs which live around the shrine and can transform into humans, is well known as a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Still, as old and new cultures meet, there are tensions – and not everyone is eager to embrace this trend of anime characters appearing at religious sites. There have been news reports that some residents are uncomfortable with the influx of otaku (a derogatory term for anime fans, like “nerds” or “geeks”) into their localities. Some critics also question the intention of shrines to join the trend. Are they simply extracting profits from anime characters without caring whether visitors come to pay respect to the gods? Are there other motivations behind these collaborations between shrines and anime productions?

IN SOME CASES, THE connection is stronger than others. For instance, an exhibition of the manga “The Gate of Oten” was held recently at Daizaifu Tenmangu shrine in Fukuoka. The manga’s main character is Sugawara Michizane, a famous scholar and official from the 9th century who is also revered as a Shinto god of learning, and upon whose grave the Daizaifu Tenmangu shrine is built. Still, a close match between anime content and religion as in this case is rare. Most links between shrines and anime are simply because the shrines appeared as locations in the anime.

Mr. Kishikawa of Kanda Myojin, however, does not find this a problem, and instead views accepting new trends and cultures as part of the responsibility of a shrine to connect with people and the surrounding community. The old and new are not intrinsically contradictory, he says. “Old things started out as new ones when they began.”

This attitude probably explains how Japan can be a country that is constantly reinventing itself. Perhaps we do not need to draw a clear line between old and new, as both are part of the ever-changing Japanese culture and society, Adapting to the times may actually help preserve the old, as maintaining tradition requires money, too. The worst scenario is when traditional attitudes or practices lose touch with reality and disappear into obscurity. 

These collaborations also shine light on the fact that shrines and local communities are intertwined. Since ancient times, shops have developed around famous temples and shrines in Japan to serve pilgrims, thereby creating business communities and even forming towns. These are called Monzenmachi, or “towns in front of the door (of shrines or temples),” and attracting visitors to the shrines is crucial for the businesses operating there. In a sense, anime pilgrimage to shrines and the shrines’ willingness to cooperate is just a continuation of this tradition.

As Mr. Kishikawa of Kanda Myojin puts it, “Perhaps 100 years from now, anime pilgrimages to shrines will also be seen as a Japanese tradition.” ❶

Jonathan Chu is a master’s student at Waseda University.

Congratulations to the Swadesh DeRoy scholarship winners!

THE FCCJ CELEBRATED THE talent of the next generation of journalists with the announcement of the winners of the annual Swadesh DeRoy Scholarship. 

The initiative – named in honor of the late Swadesh DeRoy, a respected long-time journalist member of the FCCJ – aims to encourage and support university students interested in entering journalism. The award is intended to be used for purposes like language courses, travel, purchase of computer equipment or books, or living expenses during a journalism internship.

For the 2018-19 awards, the Scholarship Committee asked for submissions that addressed the broad topic “Japan's Future in a Changing World – Geopolitical, Economic, or Demographic Dynamics.”

The judges were impressed by the creative ways that entrants addressed the topic, and in some cases decided to award prizes jointly to recognize outstanding entries.

Full list of winners as announced at an awards ceremony at the FCCJ on April 17:


1st: Tin Tung Jonathan Chu (Waseda University) and Marina Yoshimura (Waseda University/Yale College) – ¥200,000 each

2nd: Reiko Naka (Hosei University) and Makoto Iwahashi (Kyoto University) – ¥75,000 each



1st: Chisato Tanaka (Waseda University) – ¥250,000

2nd: Chi Long Nguyen (Tohoku University) – ¥100,000



1st: Alzbeta Kossuthova (Waseda University) – ¥300,000


From the archives: Japan’s International Civil Servant


Yasushi Akashi, then head of the UN Transitional Authority in Cambodia (UNTAC), spoke at the FCCJ on July 29, 1993. UNTAC was a peacekeeping operation in Cambodia from 1992 that had organized and conducted elections there in May of 1993, resulting in a coalition government. Henry Scott-Stokes, Club treasurer, gives his full attention to the speaker’s comments.

Yasushi Akashi was born on Jan. 19, 1931, in Akita Prefecture. After graduating from the University of Tokyo in 1954, he went on to study at the University of Virginia under a Fulbright scholarship followed by studies focused on law and diplomacy at Tufts University. In 1957, he joined the UN – the first Japanese national to do so – initially as a junior officer. He represented his own country from 1974 to 1979, when he served in the Permanent Mission of Japan to the UN as a Counsellor, then Minister, and finally as Ambassador. 

An appointed international civil servant to the UN Secretariat, Akashi was named to two successive posts as an Under-Secretary-General (USG), for Public Information (1979) and for Disarmament Affairs (1987), before being named as the Special Representative of Secretary-General (SRSG) in Cambodia in 1992. In 1994 he became the SRSG in the former Yugoslavia. Both were areas of brutal civil wars and personal risk that an international civil servant accepted as part of the job. He served in 1995 as Special Advisor to the UN Secretary-General before in 1996 again becoming a USG, this time as Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator. Following 40 years of distinguished service in the UN, he retired in 1997.

Akashi’s public service did not end when he retired from the UN. He went on to serve as President of the Hiroshima Peace Institute as well as of the Asahi Shimbun Asia Network (AAN) until February of 1999. The Government of Japan then called on him to be its representative for Peace-Building, Rehabilitation and Reconstruction in Sri Lanka. He served, too, as Chairman of the International House of Japan from 2009 until his retirement in 2018. 

Akashi has also found time to write books on international relations, including The United Nations – Tracks and Prospects, Between War and Peace – People Across the Border, and Skills to Negotiate with a “Dictator,” that were published in Japanese. He ran for governor of Tokyo in 1999 with the support of the LDP and Komeito, but lost to Shintaro Ishihara, the well-known firebrand, author and former Diet member.

Akashi remains active today in a number of roles, including as a speaker at many forums.

– Charles Pomeroy 
editor of Foreign Correspondents in Japan, 
a history of the Club that is available at the front desk

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