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Number 1 Shimbun


NUMBER 1 SHIMBUN 2019 (147)

Children categories

On the twisted trail of Comrade Kim

 05 1


By Anna Fifield

In this excerpt from a fascinating new book, the Washington Post correspondent describes her obsession to discover the secrets of the young tyrant who now stars on the global stage


I was sitting on Air Koryo flight 152 to Pyongyang, ready to make my sixth trip to the North Korean capital but my first since the third-generation leader, Kim Jong Un, had taken over. It was August 28, 2014.

Going to North Korea as a journalist is always a bizarre and fascinating and frustrating experience, but this trip would reach a new level of surrealness.

For one, I was sitting next to Jon Andersen, a three-hundred-pound professional wrestler from San Francisco who goes by the ring name of Strong Man and is known for moves including the diving neckbreaker and gorilla press drop. We settled into the red seats of the aging Ilyushin jetliner, which, with their white-doily-covered headrests and gold brocade cushions, looked like armchairs from Grandma’s front room.

Andersen was one of three American wrestlers who, their best days behind them, had washed up in Japan, where their size had helped make them the top attractions they no longer were at home. They enjoyed modest levels of fame and income there.

But they were still in the market for new opportunities, so the three were on their way to a gig like no other: the first-ever Pyongyang International Pro Wrestling Games, a weekend of martial arts-related events organized by Antonio Inoki, a lantern-jawed Japanese wrestler who was promoting peace through sports.

As we took off, Andersen told me he was curious to see what North Korea was really like, to get past the clichés of the American media. I didn’t have the heart to tell him that he was flying into a charade crafted over decades specifically to make sure no visitor could see what North Korea was really like, that he would not have one unplanned encounter or one ordinary meal.

The next time I saw Andersen, he was wearing tiny black Lycra shorts with STRONGMAN emblazoned across his butt. He came romping into the Ryugyong Chung Ju-yung Gymnasium in Pyongyang in front of thirteen thousand carefully selected North Koreans as the sound system blared: “He’s a macho man.”

He seemed so much bigger without his clothes on. I gasped at his bicep and thigh muscles, which seemed to be straining to escape his skin like sausage meat from its casing. I could only imagine the shock that went through the North Koreans, many of whom had experienced a famine that killed hundreds of thousands of their compatriots.

It was as foreign and as mind-bending as anything I’d ever seen in North Korea: American farce in the home of the world’s most malevolent propagandists. It soon dawned on the North Koreans in the audience, no strangers to deception, that it was all highly choreographed, more entertainment than sport. With that realization, they laughed at the theatrics.

I, however, had trouble discerning what was real and what was not.


IT WAS SIX YEARS since I’d last been to North Korea. My previous visit was with the New York Philharmonic in the winter of 2008. It was a trip that had, at the time, felt to me like a turning point in history.

The United States’ most prestigious orchestra was performing in a country founded on hatred of America. The American and North Korean flags stood like bookends at either side of the stage, while the orchestra played George Gershwin’s “An American in Paris.”

“Someday a composer might write a work entitled Americans in Pyongyang,” conductor Lorin Maazel told the North Koreans in the theater. They later played “Arirang,” the heartrending Korean folk song about separation, which visibly affected even these carefully selected Pyongyang residents.

But the turning point never came.

That same year, North Korea’s “Dear Leader,” Kim Jong Il, suffered a debilitating stroke that almost claimed his life. From that point on, the regime was focused on one thing and one thing only: ensuring that the Kim dynasty remained intact.

Behind the scenes, plans were taking shape to install Kim Jong Il’s youngest son, a man who was at that time still only twenty-four, as the next leader of North Korea. It would be two more years until his coronation was announced to the outside world.

When it was, a few analysts hoped that Kim Jong Un would prove to be a reformer. After all, the young man had been educated in Switzerland, traveled in the West, and been exposed to capitalism. Surely he would try to bring some of that to North Korea?

Similar hopes had greeted the ascension of London-educated eye doctor Bashar al-Assad in Syria in 2000 and would later await Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who toured Silicon Valley and let women drive after taking power in Saudi Arabia in 2017.

But mostly, there was a different kind of optimism—an optimism that the end was nigh.

From nearby Seoul to faraway Washington, DC, many government officials and analysts boldly predicted—sometimes in whispers, sometimes in shouts—widespread instability, a mass exodus into China, a military coup, imminent collapse. Behind all the doom mongering was one shared thought: surely this regime couldn’t survive the transition to a third totalitarian leader called Kim, much less to a twentysomething who’d been educated at fancy European schools and had an obsession about the Chicago Bulls—a young man with no known military or government background.

I, too, was doubtful. I couldn’t imagine North Korea under a third generation of Kim family leadership. I had been following the country, up close and from afar, since the Financial Times posted me to Seoul to cover both Koreas in 2004. This system could not continue existing into a third generation. Could it?


THE EXPERTS WHO PREDICTED widespread reforms were wrong. Those who predicted imminent collapse were wrong. I was wrong.

In 2014, after six years away from the Korean Peninsula, I returned to the region as a correspondent for the Washington Post.

A few months into my posting, and almost three years into Kim Jong Un’s tenure, I went to cover the pro-wrestling tournament in Pyongyang. The things journalists do to get a visa for North Korea.

I was stunned.

I knew there had been a construction boom in the capital, but I had no idea how widespread it was. It seemed like a new high-rise apartment block or theater was going up on every second block in the center of the city. Previously, it had been unusual to see even a tractor, but suddenly there were trucks and cranes helping the men in olive-green military uniforms put up buildings.

When I’d walked on the streets before, no one as much as glanced at me, even though the sight of a foreigner was a rare thing. Now, there was an easier air in the city. People were better dressed, kids rollerbladed in new rinks, and the atmosphere was altogether more relaxed.

There was no doubt that life was still grim in the showcase capital: the lines for the broken-down trolley buses were still long, there were still plenty of hunched-over old ladies carrying huge sacks on their backs, and there was still not a fat person in sight. Not even a remotely chubby one. Apart from the One. But it was clear that Pyongyang, home to the elite who kept Kim Jong Un in power, was not a city on the ropes. Seven decades after the establishment of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, I saw no signs of cracks in the communist façade.

Over those seven decades, the world had seen plenty of other brutal dictators rise and reign, tormenting their people while advancing their own interests. But what sets the three Kims apart is the durability of their family’s hold on the country. During Kim Il Sung’s reign, the United States went through nine presidents, starting with Harry S. Truman and ending with Bill Clinton. Japan cycled through twenty-one prime ministers. Kim Il Sung outlived Mao Zedong by almost two decades and Joseph Stalin by four. North Korea has now existed for longer than the Soviet Union.

I wanted to figure out how this young man and the regime he inherited had defied the odds. I wanted to find out everything there was to know about Kim Jong Un.


SO I SET OUT to talk to everyone who’d ever met him, searching for clues about this most enigmatic of leaders. It was tough: so few people had met him, and even among that select group, the number of people who’ve spent any meaningful time with him was tiny. But I went in search of any insight I could get.

I found Kim Jong Un’s aunt and uncle, who had been his guardians while he was at school in Switzerland. I went to the Swiss capital of Bern to look for clues about his formative teenage years, sitting outside his old apartment and walking around his former school.

I twice had lunch in a grimy restaurant in the Japanese Alps with Kenji Fujimoto, a down-and-out cook who made sushi for Kim’s father and who became something of a playmate to the future leader. I talked to people who had gone to North Korea as part of basketballer Dennis Rodman’s entourage and heard tales of drunkenness and questionable behavior.

As soon as I heard Kim Jong Un’s older half brother, Kim Jong Nam, had been killed in Kuala Lumpur, I immediately got on a plane and went to the spot where he had been assassinated just a few hours before. I waited outside the morgue where his body was held, watching angry North Korean officials coming and going. I went to the North Korean embassy and discovered they were so annoyed with reporters that they’d actually removed the button on the doorbell at the gate.

I found Kim Jong Nam’s cousin, the woman who essentially became his sister and stayed in touch with him long after her defection and his exile. She had been living an entirely new life under an entirely new identity for the previous quarter century.

Then, amid the frenzy of diplomacy in 2018, it suddenly became a lot easier to find people who’d met the North Korean leader.

South Koreans and Americans had arranged and attended Kim Jong Un’s summits with presidents Moon Jae-in and Donald Trump. I talked to people who’d talked with him in Pyongyang, from a South Korean singer to a German sports official. I watched his motorcade zoom past me in Singapore. I searched for any understanding to be gleaned from any encounter with this puzzling potentate.

I also repeatedly asked the North Korean diplomats assigned to the mission at the United Nations—a collection of urbane officials who lived together on Roosevelt Island in the East River, sometimes jokingly referred to as a socialist republic in New York City—if I could have an interview with Kim Jong Un. It was a long shot but not a completely crazy idea. After all, Kim Il Sung had lunch with a group of foreign journalists shortly before his death in 1994.


SO EVERY TIME WE met—always over lunch at a steakhouse in mid-town Manhattan, where they always ordered the forty-eight-dollar filet mignon rather than the daily special—I would ask. Each time, I was met with guffaws.

On the most recent occasion, a month after Kim Jong Un’s summit with Donald Trump in the middle of 2018, the suave diplomat responsible for American media, Ambassador Ri Yong Phil, laughed at me and said, “You can dream.”
Rather than dreaming, I set out to hear about the reality outside the fake capital, in the places that the regime wouldn’t let me visit. I found North Koreans who knew Kim Jong Un, not personally but through his policies: people who’d lived through his reign and had managed to escape it.

Over my years covering North Korea, I’ve met scores, perhaps even hundreds, who’ve escaped from the Kimist state. They’re often called “defectors,” but I don’t like that word. It implies that they’ve done something wrong by fleeing the regime. I prefer to call them “escapees” or “refugees.”

It is becoming increasingly difficult to find people willing to talk. This is partly because the flow of escapees has slowed to a trickle during the Kim Jong Un years, the result of stronger border security and rising living standards inside the country. It is also because of a growing expectation that escapees will be paid for their testimony, an ethical no-no for me.

But through groups that help North Koreans to escape or settle down in South Korea, I managed to find dozens of people who would talk to me without payment. They were from all walks of life: officials and traders who’d thrived in Pyongyang, people in the border regions who were earning their livings through the markets, those who’d ended up in brutal regime prisons for the most frivolous of offenses.

There were people who had also been optimistic that this young leader would bring about positive change, and there were those who remained proud that he’d built a nuclear program that North Korea’s richer neighbors had not.

I met some in South Korea, often at down-market barbecue restaurants in satellite suburbs after they’d finished work for the day. I talked to others near the banks of the Mekong River as they stopped for a pause in their perilous escape, sitting on the floor with them in dingy hotel rooms in Laos and Thailand.

And most dangerous of all, I met some in northern China. China treats escapees from North Korea as economic migrants, meaning they would be repatriated and subjected to severe punishment if they were caught. But hiding out in borrowed apartments, they bravely told me their stories.

Over hundreds of hours of interviews across eight countries, I managed to piece together a jigsaw puzzle called Kim Jong Un.

What I learned did not bode well for the twenty-five million people still trapped inside North Korea. ❶

05 2

Excerpted with permission from The Great Successor: The Divinely Perfect Destiny of Brilliant Comrade Kim Jong Un, published by Public Affairs, 2019 © by Anna Fifield. She is the Beijing bureau chief for the Washington Post.

The new FCCJ Board


04 1

PETER LANGAN, freelance, has been in the news business in Asia for 30 years, with postings in Japan and Singapore, covering stories on the ground from Jakarta and Beijing to Mumbai, Ulaanbaatar and many points in-between. He was the Tokyo Bureau Chief of Bloomberg News from 2005 to 2009, and later as an Editor-at-Large led the bureau’s news team that won two SOPA awards for coverage of the Fukushima disaster. He is from the UK, more precisely the City of Liverpool—well known for producing lousy music and useless football teams, with the exception of Everton FC.


1st Vice President

04 2

MONZURUL HUQ, Daily Prothom Alo, has been in journalism from his days as a freelancer while still a student in the late seventies. Huq later joined the United Nations as an Information Officer, but left in the late 1980s and moved to BBC London where he worked as a radio producer. He landed in Japan in mid-nineties to work at NHK radio and began working for a Bangladesh daily as their correspondent. When the editor of that newspaper launched a new daily, Prothom Alo, in 1998, Huq joined as their Japan correspondent, and is now East Asia Bureau Chief. He has authored a number of books on Japan and other issues, including a memoir reflecting on his journalism activities. He has been actively involved in Club activities throughout his tenure as a member of the FCCJ and served as President in 2009.


2nd Vice President

04 3

ROBERT WHITING, freelance, is the author of several successful books on contemporary Japanese culture, including Tokyo Underworld, The Meaning of Ichiro, The Chrysanthemum and the Bat and the best-selling You Gotta Have Wa. He has published 20 other books in Japanese. He has written for Sports Illustrated, Time, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and the Japan Times as well as for Japanese-language publications, including Shukan Asahi and Bungei Shunju. He authored a manga series for Kodansha that sold 750,000 copies in graphic-novel form. At present, he writes a weekly column for Yukan Fuji. He has lived in Japan on and off for the past 50 years, and is a graduate of Sophia University.



04 4

WILLEM KORTEKAAS has been an Associate Member since 1983. Following a 25-year career in banking with ABN Bank and postings to Africa, Canada, the US and Japan, he set up a Japan-based consulting firm that focused on Japanese M&A in Europe. He is a director of several foreign-owned companies in Japan. Past and present honorary functions include Chairman of the Netherlands Chamber of Commerce in Japan, Vice-chairman of the Japan-Netherlands Society, Vice-chairman of the European Business Community (EBC) and Member of the Expert Committee of the Japan Investment Council. He lives in Joetsu and is trying to become an expert in Niigata-ken saké.



04 5

TAKASHI KAWACHI joined the Mainichi Shimbun in 1970, after graduation from the Keio University faculty of Law and Politics. He began his career as a local reporter at the newspaper’s Chiba branch. He was transferred to the political department in 1975, where he covered the Prime Minister’s office, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Department of Defense and the LDP. In 1988, he was assigned to Washington D.C as correspondent, where he covered the White House, the Department of Defense, two presidential elections and the Gulf War. He was named foreign-news editor in 1996 and editorial writer in 1998. In 2002, he became a Mainichi board director, manager of the Nagoya office, and later, head of the Tokyo digital media department. He is working as a freelance journalist since his resignation from the Mainichi in 2006.



04 6

KHALDON AZHARI is president of PanOrient News, an American media company producing TV News Packages and articles for wires and print publications, mainly in Arabic, with a focus on Japan and East Asia. Azhari has been the bureau chief of WAM (UAE-based news agency) and a correspondent for PETRA (Jordan News) since the mid-nineties. Additionally, as a former correspondent for various Arabic media such as MBC, CNBC Arabia, Dubai TV, he has been a regular contributor to BBC Arabic Radio and TV since the mid-nineties. Azhari has been the voice of Japan and East Asia to West Asia and the Arabic world for more than a quarter of a century and is a recipient of an award from the Japan-Arab Association for his contributions to media relations and for strengthening ties between Japan and the Arab countries.


04 7

MEHDI BASSIRI, an Associate Member, was a career diplomat with the Iranian foreign affairs ministry. He served at the Iranian Embassy in London England before his posting as first secretary to the Iranian Embassy in Tokyo in charge of consulate affairs and press relations. In 1980 he resigned his diplomatic career because of disagreements with the new Iranian revolutionary regime and established his own trading company. Immediately after becoming an FCCJ member, he became involved in the Club’s social activities, first joining the Associate Liaison Committee, and organizing an annual Persian New Year Night that drew capacity bookings to enjoy Iranian food and music. He has served as co-chair of the Membership Marketing committee, and chairman of the Wine Committee. He has also been a long-time member of the Food and Beverage Committee, including serving as secretary, co-chair and chairman.


04 8

WARREN DEVALIER, Associate Member, has 50 years of career experience in finance, general management and entrepreneurship, with Citibank, Exxon Corporation, Chase Manhattan Bank, and Interface Inc., a consulting firm he founded in Japan to serve Asian clients in development of business and global leadership skills. He is an alumnus of Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, and a professional coach certified under a joint program of the Executive Education Division of Columbia Business School and the Department of Organization and Leadership, Teachers College, Columbia University. A native of New Orleans, he displayed a passion for food and wine well before the word ‘foodie’ entered the English language. Rumor has it that he dabbles in a miscellany of hobbies, including long-distance running, poetry, Argentine tango, and flamenco guitar.


04 9

ABIGAIL LEONARD is a Tokyo-based journalist who covers Japanese politics and culture for print and broadcast news outlets in the US and Europe. She has written stories for the Washington Post, Newsweek and Vox; produced video pieces for the New York Times and radio stories for NPR, BBC and Deutsche Welle. Before she moved to Japan, she wrote and produced long-form news documentary stories as a staff producer for PBS, ABC and Al Jazeera America and was also a lead writer for two news analysis programs: “Countdown with Keith Olbermann” and “The War Room with Jennifer Granholm.” Stories she’s reported from Japan have earned a National Headliner Award and a James Beard Foundation Media Award Nomination. She was a 2011 East-West Center Japan Fellow and a 2010 UN Foundation Journalism Fellow.


Reserve Directors, Regular Members



Reserve Director, Associate Members



Kanji, Regular Members

KAZUO ABIKO, freelance


Kanji, Associate Members


In the service of JFK


by Charles Pomeroy

Prior to his speech, US Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy conversed with Igor Oganesoff (Wall Street Journal) and his wife at the FCCJ on Feb. 9, 1962, in front of the club’s calligraphy screen by Toko Shinoda*. Kennedy spoke at one of the few professional events held at the Club in its earlier days—he was preceded in January by Israeli Foreign Minister Golda Meir and followed in May by Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin. He noted that “Japan is importing far more from our country than she is exporting to us.” Within a few years, the number of professional events at the Club increased significantly, and the US–Japan trade balance had reversed strongly in favor of Japan.

Robert Kennedy—better known as “Bobby”—was born on Nov. 20, 1925, into a politically prominent family. It included, among his siblings, John F. “Jack” Kennedy, who became US president in 1960 and was assassinated in 1962, and Edward M. “Ted” Kennedy, who became an influential US senator in 1962 and served until his death in 2009. 

Robert, following service in the US Navy (1944-1946), graduated from Harvard in 1948 with a degree in political science and briefly worked as an accredited correspondent in the Middle East for the Boston Post. But politics became his ambition, perhaps as a result of participating in his brother John’s 1946 campaign for Congress, and he entered law school in 1948. Following graduation in 1951, he again briefly served as a correspondent for the Boston Post, covering the San Francisco Peace Treaty that would bring an end to the occupation of Japan by the Allied Powers. 

Later that year, Robert traveled with his brother John, then a congressman, to Israel, India, Pakistan, Vietnam and Japan, deepening a relationship that later resulted in his playing a key role in John’s successful 1960 campaign for the presidency. Appointed US Attorney General, Robert became an influential advisor to the president and expanded the power of that office to a historic high. He made a name for himself fighting organized crime, exposing corruption in the Teamsters union, supporting the civil rights movement and opposing the death penalty as well as playing a key role in the Berlin Crisis of 1961 and the Cuban missile crisis of 1962.

Following the assassination of President Kennedy in November of 1962, Robert expanded his own political base and was elected to the US Senate in 1964. As a Senator, he advocated for gun control, supported labor and minorities, pushed for human rights in foreign policy and sought to end the Vietnam war with an honorable peace agreement. He decided to run for president in 1968. While on the campaign trail in California, he was assassinated by a Palestinian, Sirhan Sirhan on June 5, 1968.

– Charles Pomeroy

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

*(See page 298 of our history book for background on the Shinoda screen, and the May, 2019 issue of Number 1 Shimbun re Shinoda screen update.)

Global resources for women journalists

■  Networks

Launched in 2017, the Coalition for Women in Journalism aims to foster “camaraderie between women journalists around the globe,” offering resources, events, advocacy and mentoring from experienced female journalists. The Coalition has contacts in countries across Latin America and Asia.

Women in Media Network Japan was formed in 2018 by 86 women journalists, growing out of the #WithYou movement against sexual harassment.

The Washington-based International Women’s Media Foundation was founded in 1990 and today provides grants and training, offers several awards and organizes reporting trips for women journalists from all over the world, with a focus on under-reported stories.

The International Association of Women in Radio & Television is a global network for women working in broadcast and electronic media. The IAWRT supports global projects focused on women and media, organizes conferences and offers professional skills training opportunities.


■  Safety Resources

The International Association of Women in Radio & Television has published a Safety Handbook for Women Journalists, a 95-page guide aimed at female reporters in conflict zones that includes sections on risk assessment, online harassment and travel safety.

The International Women’s Media Foundation has set up an Emergency Fund to assist women journalists with legal and medical bills, as well as relocation costs.


■  Resources on Discrimination and Harassment

The International Federation of Journalists is working with the International Labor Organization on a campaign to stop violence against women journalists. Resources include toolkits, publications and links to relevant policies, including on the gender pay gap. The IFJ also provides support and resources to directly address problems—including harassment—and to pressure local governments for meaningful change.


■  Finding Mentors

Digital Women Leaders offers women journalists free one-on-one coaching for 30 minutes. While most of the coaches listed work in US media, there are a few based around the world. Still, some issues—like workplace discrimination and the pay gap—are universal.

The Coalition for Women in Journalism offers mentoring from experienced female journalists in Mexico, Latin America and Asia.


■  Grants and Fellowships

For a general list of grant and fellowships available to both men and women, visit the GIJN resource page.

The International Women’s Media Foundation has a number of grants for women journalists around the world, with varying deadlines throughout the year. These include Women’s Health Reporting on reproductive health, rights and justice in the Americas, in partnership with the Women’s Equality Center; Reporting Grants for Women’s Stories for gender-sensitive coverage of under-reported topics, in partnership with the Secular Society; and the Kim Wall Memorial Fund for reporting on subcultures, in partnership with the Wall family. The IWMF also runs the Howard G. Buffett Fund for Women Journalists, which supports projects including educational opportunities, investigative reporting and media development initiatives.


■  Awards for Women 

The International Women’s Media Foundation sponsors the Courage in Journalism Awards, which honor female journalists who face danger to uncover the truth and raise the bar for reporting under threat or duress. The prizes are open to women journalists worldwide and consider nominations.

The IWMF’s Lifetime Achievement Award honors trailblazing women leaders who have demonstrated extraordinary strength and a commitment to press freedom and to advancing women’s voices around the world. These candidates can also be retired journalists.

The International Association of Women in Radio & Television’s IAWRT Documentary Awards give out a $1,000 prize every two years in three different categories, including Social Impact, Innovation and Emerging Talent. Entry is open to women producers, directors and journalists working with radio, television and digital media anywhere in the world.


■  Finding Female Experts

The Request a Woman Scientist platform sponsored by 500 Women Scientists helps journalists connect with an extensive multidisciplinary network of vetted women in science for subject matter expertise, project collaboration, conferences and panels.

Women’s Media Center’s SheSource is a database of over 1,100 vetted female experts on diverse topics around the world, searchable by name, keyword and area of expertise. Source bios and photos are provided, and experts can be contacted through a form on the website.

Women Also Know Stuff has a directory of scholars, organized by research area and locations around the world.

Excerpted from resources assembled by GIJN contributing editor Kira Zalan. Reprinted with permission.

New in the library


Japanese Women in Science and Engineering: History and Policy Change
Naonori Kodate and Kashiko Kodate
Gift from Naonori Kodate

The Ghost of Namamugi: Charles Lenox Richardson and the Anglo-Satsuma War
Robert S.G. Fletcher
Renaissance Books
Gift from Publisher

A Discipline on Foot: Inventing Japanese Native Ethnography, 1910-1945
Alan Christy
Rowman & Littlefield


Tenno: Japans Kejserdømme i Nutiden
Asger Røjle Christensen
Gift from Asger Røjle Christensen

The spirit of huci: four seasons of an Ainu woman
Keira Tomoko
Yay Yukar no Mori

Performing the Great Peace: Political Space and Open Secrets in Tokugawa Japan
Luke S. Roberts
University of Hawaii Press

New Members



Shigeru Matsudo, Sun Alba
Hideo Tomita, Refinitiv Japan K.K.
Natsuko Toda, Freelance
Tomoo Tajima, Tokai University Tokyo Hospital
Shinichi Yasuda, Tama University



Yoshiyuki Maeda


Oyako (Parents and Children) A Group Photography Exhibition


by Bruce Osborn

Oyako Day is held on the 4th Sunday of July, in celebration of the special bond between parents and children. This month’s exhibition is a group show featuring photographs of families from all over the world. China, Myanmar, Bangladesh, Vietnam, Mongolia, Syria, Ethiopia, Uruguay, the United States—even below the surface of the ocean—are among the locations included in this show. The photographs were taken by such renowned cameramen as Kazuyoshi Nomachi, Eiichiro Sakata, Shisei Kuwabara, Natsuki Yasuda, Ikuo Nakamura, Taishi Hirokawa and Herbie Yamaguchi.

Domestic violence between parents and children is a major topic in the news recently, highlighting the problems of communicating and understanding that are becoming more prevalent in society. For newborn babies, parents are the first people they bond with, forming the base for all future relations. Building stronger foundations with our children and the family is the first step to increasing respect, as well as to deepen the understanding between people from different backgrounds and cultures.

The Exhibition Committee would like to express our gratitude to all the photographers participating in this exhibition, and our appreciation to The Photographic Society of Japan for introducing photographers from other countries.

– Bruce Osborn, FCCJ Exhibition-Committee Chair

Lens craft


The art of love making 
Japan’s rubber goods-maker Okamoto annouces a ukiyo-e-themed “Design Condom” in Tokyo, June 3.
by Yoshikazu Tsuno



Taking a fall 
An indoor-skydiving training session in FlyStation’s vertical wind tunnel, Koshigaya, June 13.
by Tomohiro Ohsumi



Hi, flyer
A stage performer on her break waves at a passenger jet just before it lands at Haneda Airport.
by Albert Siegel

Eric Talmadge remembered


On the scene
A May 2010 photo of Eric Talmadge in Bangkok, Thailand,
during clashes between anti-government protesters and Thai soldiers.

– Kazuo Abiko


THE FCCJ MEMORIAL GATHERING for Eric Talmadge, AP’s North Korea bureau chief, was held on Tuesday, May 21. Eric, who died unexpectedly in Yokohama in the previous week, was a member of the Club for 18 years until 2016 and made a strong contribution, especially to the Club’s professional activities. He was 57.

The memorial event was attended by about 40 people, including his colleagues and former colleagues at AP, people working for other news organizations, and his friends at FCCJ and the Yokohama Country & Athletic Club, where he enjoyed sports activities, particularly bowling.

Since FCCJ President Peter Langan was unable to attend the event due to conflicting schedules, I was asked to moderate the event. As a former colleague of Eric’s at AP and a former FCCJ president, I felt obliged and honored to do so.

In front of the FCCJ banner, three framed photos of Eric were set on the table along with bouquets of white flowers, including ones sent by Kyodo News President Toru Mizutani and YC&AC President Sadao Hosogai. On both sides of the table, about a dozen photos of Eric were displayed on large clear panels. A slide show played on a large screen during the event.

Copies of the February 1995 issue of Number 1 Shimbun were also placed on the table for attendants to read and take home. The issue featured Eric’s first-person report of the Kobe earthquake which killed about 6,400 people the previous month. Its headline, by then editor Pat Killen, read “Quake: Eric’s Walk to Hell.”

Eric joined AP in Tokyo in 1988 after working for the Mainichi Daily News. Having studied at Sophia University, he was fluent in Japanese—with no accent. Since then, he covered a wide range of stories and events, including natural disasters in Japan and Indonesia, war in Afghanistan and five Olympics. After serving as news editor at the Tokyo bureau, he was named AP’s bureau chief in North Korea in 2013.

John Daniszewski was vice president for international news when AP established the first Western news and photo bureau in North Korea in 2012. In comments published in an online newsletter mainly for AP retirees, he recalled that while sketching out the parameter for operating, it was still a gamble whether the bureau would endure in the face of the country’s deep suspicions and hostility toward the West. He wrote:

“Eric was a pioneer. It was Eric who eventually fulfilled AP’s vision of a normally functioning news bureau in Pyongyang. [He] helped open the doors for greater access for other news organizations in North Korea, and even perhaps prepared the ground for the political and diplomatic openings that have followed. His characteristics included tact, patience, courtesy, deep intellect, and an attitude of respectful curiosity and empathy for others that served him well in his profession. 

As a result of these, he slowly broke down the considerable walls that exist for outsiders there. He won trust among his hosts even as he pressed them for information. Eric widened access, was awarded rare interviews and managed to travel outside the capital to give AP’s audience a clearer view of lesser cities and the countryside.”

Even after retiring from AP, I closely followed his reporting from North Korea and even used some of his news reports as good examples in journalism classes I taught at universities. He kindly came to one of my classes at the Tokyo University of Foreign Studies as a guest speaker and talked about international reporting.

Denis Gray, former Bangkok bureau chief for 30 years and a legendary AP foreign correspondent who also served as president of the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand on three occasions, sent a note for the memorial occasion.

“Much has rightly been written about Eric’s pioneering achievement on the North Korean story. But this should not be overshadowed by his ability to wonderfully execute an extremely wide range of assignments—from armed conflict to natural disasters to sports.

ET, as he was often called, graphically chronicled the aftermath of the great Asian tsunami as we flew out each day from a US aircraft carrier to the utterly devastated coast of Indonesia’s Aceh province. He was always an enthusiastic and tireless member of the AP teams that covered regional sports events across Asia. In those days, following the Spielberg movie, he was invariably greeted each morning with, ‘ET, have you called home yet?’”

Eric Talmadge was a no-nonsense man with a dry sense of humor, which I liked very much. Eric Prideaux, a former AP newsman who joined the international news agency after working for the Japan Times, shared the following episode some time ago while I was with AP:

Prideaux lived in the Zushi area on Miura Peninsula, southwest of Tokyo. A nearby convenience store was robbed, and the suspect armed with a knife was at large in the neighborhood. He was supposed to leave home for work, but he did not want to leave his wife and their small baby alone at home until the suspect was caught by police. So Prideaux called Talmadge in the AP office, explained the situation and said he would be late.

Talmadge’s response was: “That’s the best excuse I’ve ever heard.”

Joe Coleman, former AP bureau chief in Tokyo who now is a journalism professor at Indiana University, also sent a touching personal note for the memorial event.

“I worked closely with Eric for more than 10 years. He always had my back. Eric helped me get to Tokyo in the first place, and he supported me throughout my time in Japan. Together, we covered earthquakes and elections, financial crises and even an oil spill, and we cheered each other on to some of our best work. For this I am forever grateful.

But Eric was more than a work-mate. We shared meals and holidays in each other’s home; our kids played together; our spouses are friends. We climbed Mount Fuji. We even shared the ultimate ET experience: bowling. He won.

What I remember now is his generosity and decency and a remarkable sensitivity—concealed by what appeared to be a tough exterior—that enabled him to earn people’s trust and tell their stories with great insight.”

Members of Eric’s family were to attend the event, but unfortunately his widow, Hisako, did not feel well so that they decided to stay home—quite understandable under such circumstances. We conveyed our messages and sent photos of the event to her later.

We will miss him.

– Kazuo Abiko

The Olympiad that never was


Let the games begin . . .
. . . or not. Above, a modernist Olympic tower planned for Komazawa Park that didn’t get built.
(A tower did get built in the park for the 1964 Games.)


Two years before the 1940 Games were scheduled to be held in Tokyo, criticism of Japan’s war in China led to a boycott movement

By Mark Schreiber

It was 2 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 21, 1940, under sunny skies. The temperature was a balmy 23.2 degrees, with a brisk breeze. A multitude of 120,000 excited spectators who filled the just-completed Komazawa Stadium to capacity turned their heads upwards to watch a formation of five newly built Imperial Japanese Navy Zero fighter planes soaring overhead, as they inscribed the five Olympic rings in blue, orange, black, green and red smoke on the sky.
As a military band struck up “Kimigayo,” the crowd rose as one to its feet, and 39-year-old Emperor Hirohito, clad in full military regalia and flanked by his color guard, entered the track atop his white steed, Shirayuki.
Ascending to the rostrum, his majesty, in a reedy voice never before heard by his subjects, proclaimed to the 7,000 athletes and officials assembled from 58 nations—six more than the 1936 event in Berlin—“I hereby declare the opening of the 12th Olympiad!” The stadium reverberated with a chorus of “Banzai!” cheers.


THE ABOVE SCENARIO OBVIOUSLY never happened. It presupposes that prior to mid-1938, Japan’s military had substantially, if not completely, withdrawn from China. And, of course, that Germany had not invaded Poland in September 1939. 

As it turned out, the Japanese government decided against hosting the games on July 14, 1938, and the 12th Olympiad of 1940 became what is now commonly referred to as Maboroshi no Orinpikku—the Olympics that never were. 

Tentative moves toward the selection of Tokyo as host began as early as 1929, when Swedish industrialist Sigfrid Edström, an organizer of the 1912 Olympics in Stockholm, visited Japan and discussed Tokyo’s prospects with Tadaoki Yamamoto, chairman of the Inter-University Athletic Union of Japan. A year later Yamamoto, who traveled to Germany as head of Japan’s contingent to the International Student Games, was urged by Tokyo’s mayor-to-be Hidejiro Nagata to begin promotion efforts. 

Nagata sought to host the games as a way of celebrating Tokyo’s recovery from the earthquake and fire that devastated the city in September 1923. In his view, the Olympics also would add window dressing to plans afoot the same year to commemorate the 2,600th anniversary of the ascension of Jimmu, the legendary first emperor of the Yamato Dynasty, an event that clearly had more enthusiastic support from the militarists in the government. 

Japan’s representatives to the International Olympic Committee (IOC), Seiichi Kishi and Judo founder Jigoro Kano, were respected individuals passionately involved in amateur sports who worked tirelessly to promote Tokyo to their foreign counterparts. Another influential figure, Count Michimasa Soejima represented Japan at the general meeting of the IOC in May 1934, where he proposed Tokyo’s hosting of the event. The following year, Soejima, accompanied by diplomat Yotaro Sugimura, personally met with Italian prime minister Benito Mussolini to persuade Il Duce to withdraw Rome as a candidate city. 

Although Japan’s incursion into Manchuria from 1931 had come under increasingly heavy international criticism, the IOC’s president, Belgian count Henri de Baillet-Latour, was predisposed to treat politics and sports as separate issues, and in July 1936, with Germany’s backing, Tokyo got the nod to host the games, with 36 votes to 27 for Helsinki.


THE ANNOUNCEMENT WAS MADE at the closing ceremonies of the 11th Olympiad in Berlin—memorialized in Leni Riefenstahl’s film, Olympia—when IOC President Latour addressed the crowd: “It has been decided that the next Olympics, in 1940, will be held in Tokyo.” After a brief hesitation for the news to sink in, the members of the Japanese contingent began shouting “Banzai!” with both arms raised. Athletes from other countries who were expecting to compete in Japan besieged Japanese team members, asking for home addresses so they could look them up four years later. 

The news was quickly dispatched to Japan and by late the same evening, people carrying paper lanterns marched in celebration to the Nijubashi bridge outside the palace and to the Meiji Shrine. Long-distance runner Kohei Murakoso, who had finished 4th in both the 5,000 and 10,000 meter events in Berlin, told the NHK audience by telephone hookup that he “would begin training for the Olympics to be held in his fatherland from tomorrow.”

On their voyage home, however, Japan’s athletes were served a rude reminder of the precarious political situation in Asia. When her ship visited Shanghai, swimmer Hideko Maehata recalled being told by the crew that conditions were in the city were “extremely dangerous” and their ship would weigh anchor away from the docks for security. The Japanese athletes were accompanied by an armed military escort while touring the city, and Maehata recalled thinking to herself, “Under these circumstances, an Olympics in Tokyo might not be feasible.” 

Such concerns aside, planners moved forward with a schedule of events. The opening ceremony would be held at 3:00 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 21, and the closing ceremony at 2:00 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 6. A total of 20 events were planned: track and field, shooting, swimming, field hockey, water polo, fencing, gymnastics, soccer, weightlifting, basketball, wrestling, cycling, boxing, modern pentathlon, equestrian, art competitions, boating, martial arts, yachting and baseball. Soccer, rugby, tennis, polo, water polo, field hockey, handball, basketball and Basque-style pelota (a relative of jai-alai) were to be introduced on a trial basis.



A woman presents the Games’ logo made from pearls.


THE MARATHON, SCHEDULED FOR Sept. 29—the final day of the track and field events—would probably have followed a 42.195km route from the north exit of Komazawa stadium to what is now Kan-nana Dori at Daitabashi and making the mid-point turn around in the vicinity of Inokashira park. 

Three existing facilities still in use date back to the planning stages of the 1940 Olympics: Meiji Jingu stadium in Shibuya Ward, Baji Koen (Equestrian Park) in Setagaya Ward, and the Boating Course on the north bank of the Arakawa River in Toda City, Saitama. The Equestrian Park, a part of the Yoga district of Tamagawa Village, was actually established to celebrate the birth of the new crown prince on Dec. 23, 1933. Prior to then, no civilian equestrian facility existed in Japan. 

The site of a golf course at Komazawa in Setagaya Ward was meant to be converted into an Olympic venue and to celebrate Jimmu’s ascension, but never got past the blueprint stage. (It was eventually developed for use by the 1964 games, and some of the facilities, now part of Komazawa Park, are still used for various sporting events.)

Meanwhile, unfortunately, the international situation was going from bad to worse. The sequence of events that led to the end of the 1940 games began on July 7, 1937, when Japanese and Chinese troops clashed at the Marco Polo Bridge southwest of Beijing. Three months later the Japanese government established the “National Spiritual Mobilization Movement” as a part of controls on civilian organizations, including organized sports. As the flames of war rose and spread in China, the US and other countries began threatening a boycott. 

Faced with a possible forfeiture, Japan backed out. A day after the July 14 announcement to the media, a vice minister of health and welfare curtly notified Tokyo Mayor Ichita Kobashi in writing that that “While it had been desirable for the 12th Olympiad to be held . . . current circumstances require full physical and mental effort be devoted to achieving objectives . . . and thus the games are to be halted.” The IOC’s first reaction was to transfer the games to Helsinki; but with the outbreak of war in Europe in September 1939, the 1940 Olympics were cancelled for good.


SO, INSTEAD OF THE glitter of the Olympics, Japanese sports fans were treated instead to the “Far Eastern Championship Games,” which commenced in Tokyo on June 3, 1940 as a rather pathetic replacement. About 700 athletes represented the seven participants: Japan, the Philippines, China, Manchukuo, Mongolia, Thailand and Hawaii. (The Hawaiian contingent was made up of ethnic Japanese). The 17 events were spread between June 6-9 in Tokyo and June 13-16 in Nara and Hyogo prefectures. 

Aside from the loss of face, the drain on the Tokyo and national finances was considerable. An article titled “How much was wasted by cancellation of the Olympics?” that appeared in the Sept. 1, 1938 issue of Hanashi magazine, produced a rough calculation. These included the sending of delegations to Los Angeles and Berlin, ¥1.5 million; promotional outlays by Tokyo City, ¥3.5 million (Helsinki actually outspent Tokyo in a losing cause, paying the equivalent of between ¥4 to ¥5 million.) Setting up of the preliminary office in on the 4th floor of the newly constructed South Manchurian Railway Building in Toranomon, budgeted at over ¥3 million in 1937 and ¥4.5 million in 1938, of which only four months were utilized, so perhaps ¥130,000. Another ¥1 million was said to have gone into advertising and public relations activities. All together, the total outlay must have reached a staggering amount. 

Another casualty was TV broadcasting: Japan had hopes to follow up on Berlin, where experimental TV broadcasting had been introduced, to harness its own technology for coverage of the games. 

Private businesses also suffered financially. Tokyo in 1938 had only 1,955 hotel and ryokan rooms deemed suitable for foreign visitors. Tokyo’s Imperial Hotel had issued additional shares of stock to fund a new 8-story wing, to be erected adjacent to its 280-room Frank Lloyd Wright edifice that opened in 1923—and the new wing would have boosted its total rooms to 500. The project was terminated. Designers were already concerned that with steel and concrete being diverted to the war effort, its construction would have been next to impossible. 

More tragic than financial losses of course was the sacrifice of human lives, as many of Japan’s most acclaimed Olympians did not survive the war. 1936 pole vaulting bronze medalist Sueo Oe died during the invasion of the Philippines, and swimming medalist Shigeo Arai died in combat in Burma. Other casualties included swimmers Kiichi Yoshi, a pilot who was shot down, Yasuhiko Kojima, who perished in a banzai charge in Okinawa and Tomikatsu Amano, who went missing in action. The most famous of all, perhaps, was equestrian Baron Takeichi Nishi. An army colonel, he is believed to have committed suicide on Iwo Jima on March 22, 1945.

If you feel like mingling with the ghosts of disappointed Olympic fans from eight decades ago, you might want to stroll along a lonely section of Kaigan Dori in Minato Ward, where, sandwiched between the Haneda Monorail on the west and the Rainbow Bridge on the east stands Goshikihashi—the “five-color bridge”—named for the 1940 Olympics that never was. ❶


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



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