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Number 1 Shimbun

New Members in December

REGULAR MEMBERS

 

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JAMES ARMSTRONG, a long-term resident of Tokyo, has been working at the Associated Press for the past 13 years, primarily covering sports. His major assignments have included the World Cup (2002, 2006) and the Olympics (Turin, Beijing). “I was hired by Jim Lagier just before he retired,” James said. “I guess it was his parting shot to the agency.” Prior to the AP, James worked for the IHT-Asahi and Kyodo news. A native of Toronto, Ontario, James graduated from the University of Toronto in 1986 with a Bachelor of Arts degree, majoring in political science.

 

PROFESSIONAL/JOURNALIST ASSOCIATE MEMBERS
Marika Keniry, Freelance
Rensei Baba, 21 Seiki Koso-Kenkyukai
Tadashi Sato, The Electric Daily News

ASSOCIATE MEMBERS
Kazunari Miyazaki, HABA Laboratories Inc.
Masatomo Tanaka, HABA Laboratories Inc.
Kiyoshi Nishijima, CLC Inc.
Nariki Yasuda, Tokio Marine & Nichido Risk Consulting Co., Ltd.
Toshio Shirakura, Tokio Marine & Nichido Financial Life Insurance Co., Ltd.
Akio Konno, Fuji Patent Law Firm
Tadakatsu Sano, Jones Day Law Firm

REINSTATEMENT (ASSOCIATE)
Masazumi Ishii, AZCA, Inc.

Club Notes

FCCJ 69th ANNIVERSARY & HALLOWEEN PARTY

 

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FCCJ President Lucy Birmingham

 

14.10.31_11.jpgFCCJ Director-at-Large Suvendrini Kakuchi

 

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Andrew Silberman led the Moonshots in entertaining the celebrants.

 

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Cracking open the traditional saké cask are (from left) Director-at-Large Milton Isa, Yozo Hasegawa, and Entertainment Committee co-chairs Sandra Mori and Suvendrini Kakuchi.

 

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Revelers of all ages took to the floor to dance to the sounds of the Moonshots.

 

 

SPC KAGA PRESS TOUR

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LAST MONTH, NINE JOURNALISTS representing eight countries participated in a press tour to Kaga, a beautiful city in Ishikawa Prefecture, at the invitation of Mayor Riku Miyamoto. The highlight of the tour was sakaami hunting.

The traditional hunting method, which dates from the Edo Period, targets migrating ducks. Some 28 hunters use large, Y-shaped nets to trap ducks leaving a local pond. Under the wetland conservation system, only 200 birds may be caught for shipment to exclusive Japanese and French restaurants.

Mayor Miyamoto said that the area’s style of duck hunting and cooking was a symbol of the Kaga people’s ecological mentality and culinary arts.

Haruko Watanabe

 

 

 

Exhibition: "White Moment"

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photographs by Yoshiro Higai

YOSHIRO HIGAI BEGAN SKATEBOARDING in 1978 after seeing the movie Kenny and Company. A few years later, he bought a single-reflex camera and started photographing his skater friends. While studying photography in college, a friend talked him into taking photos of a snow-surfing race.

This was the start of a career that he slipped and skated into sideways.

Through his passion for skateboarding and snowboarding, along with a love for photography, Higai has been at the center of these sports for the last 30 years.

(Book) Breaking News: Right is the New Center

   When national master narratives collide head-on,

all bets are off on historical credibility.

 


by Peter O'Connor

 

O

N APRIL 2, 2007, prior to the 70th anniversary of the events that took place in Nanjing in Dec. 1937, the historian Minoru Kitamura launched the English edition of his book, The Politics of Nanjing, with a Book Break at the FCCJ. The event drew an audience of 51, including a sizeable press pack, among them TV film crews and 15 journalist members. The audience, particularly the journalists, seemed to treat Prof. Kitamura’s thesis with unjustifiable hostility. Most queried his avoidance of the word “massacre and his use of the gentler and no more specific term “disorder,” and some insisted that he qualify what he called “emotive terms” such as “massacre” with a specific number. Others felt that he lost academic credibility by describing the Chinese as a people “prone to cultural exaggeration.”

“Nevertheless,” Prof. Kitamura then insisted, as far as Nanjing was concerned, “I am a Centrist” – thus staking out the middle ground on Nanjing: those who consider the events of the winter of 1937 as neither a massacre nor an illusion, but who research the evidence and historiography and aim for balance.

 

Some felt that he lost academic credibility

by describing the Chinese as a people

"prone to cultural exaggeration."

Seven years later, on Wed. Nov. 12, Kitamura returned to the Club for a Book Break on the English edition of his recent study, The Reluctant Combatant: Japan and the Second Sino-Japanese War. With him was co-author Dr. Lin Siyun, who was born in Nanjing, has a PhD in engineering and has published criticism of conventional mainland Chinese attitudes to the history of its interactions with Japan in Epoch Times and other online Chinese media.

 

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Though the audience was slightly smaller with half as many journalists, Prof. Kitamura had plenty of support. After introducing a member of the audience, Hiromichi Moteki, Secretary of the Society for the Dissemination of Historical Fact, on whose website the book has already been posted, he turned the dais over to a specialist in international law. His role was to illuminate a key contention of Reluctant Combatant: that, by the time of the Second Sino-Japanese War, waging “aggressive war” was not a crime recognized in international law, and was still not recognised as such at the “League of Nations” in September 1944. According to Kitamura, the term had come to be “reflexively applied” to Japan following its use at Nuremberg and the International Military Tribunals for the Far East.

Unfortunately, by this time, the audience had become restive.

One audience member pointed out that in raising the issue of the legality of waging aggressive war, Kitamura and Lin were setting up a straw man. The lawyer eventually stepped aside and Kitamura moved on to his broader contention that in the 1920s and 1930s Japan and China were rivals in East Asia who, at any other time, might have worked together to modernize and combat “Western aggression.”

Kitamura and his co-author then put forward their case for describing Japanese military incursions in China in the Second Sino-Japanese War as “reluctant.” Of course, reluctance to wage war, aggressive or otherwise, is not in itself unusual, and in their address the authors set up a new straw man – that of “standard historical analysis,” according to which “Imperial Japan was bent on destroying China, and the rest of Asia, for purely selfish reasons.”

Neither author was, however, reluctant to single out China as a perpetrator of untruths, maintaining that the “traditional Chinese historical perspective . . . does not concern itself with the truth,” and that “the first duty of Chinese historians is protecting their nation.” Indeed, they said, Chinese historians saw their main function as constructing “a righteous image of China.” And the authors reprised Kitamura’s notion of “the Chinese philosophy of exaggerated self-promotion while covering up or lying to cover faults.”

 

Thereafter this Book Break ceased as a

discussion . . . broadcasting not much Q

and receiving very little A.

 

Club Member Gregory Clarke made some pointed interventions. Maintaining that much of what Kitamura and Lin had to say was already accepted by mainstream historians, and agreeing that the Chinese were in the main hostile to Japan, he cut straight to the chase with the question, “But why did that hostility exist?” to which he received no answer.

Thereafter this Book Break ceased as a discussion and morphed into a series of remarkably consensual speeches from various grey eminences in the audience, broadcasting not much Q and receiving very little A.

A great deal of sincerity went into this Book Break. The authors were clearly committed to finding some sort of truth, if not “the truth” that no realistic historian can ever hope to find. Japan does have a case. China does have unanswered grievances. But, until historians on all sides of this debate engage more fully, as the authors put it, “Reconciliation between Japan and China will be extremely challenging at best.” In any perennially controversial issue, we need to talk more to our opponents than we do to our friends.

Peter O’Connor writes and lectures on the international media history of East Asia.

 

The New Stars of Morning TV

 

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Whisky and a New Mexican actress share the screen

in the popular NHK historical

drama series “Massan.”

 

 

by Julian Ryall

 

ASK THE AVERAGE JAPANESE what they know about Scotland and chances are that the replies will revolve around whisky, the Loch Ness monster, golf and men in skirts.

It is therefore fortunate that “Massan,” the 15-minute NHK drama that runs from 8 am every weekday morning, is challenging some of those stereotypes and broadening the public's understanding of the people and habits of the United Kingdom's nether regions.

And it matters not a jot that the star of the show, Charlotte Kate Fox, is actually from New Mexico and had visited neither Scotland nor Japan before being cast as Ellie, the Scottish wife of a Japanese chemistry student who introduces whisky to this country. Indeed, even Scots who attended the press conference at the FCCJ on Nov. 5 with Fox and Ken Sakurai, the senior producer behind the program, congratulated her on her mastery of a Scottish brogue.

In graduate school, we did a lot of voice and dialect work, so I did Irish, Scottish and French accents by locating certain phonetic sounds and then replacing them with whatever accent I was using,” Fox said. “Although speaking Japanese with a Scottish accent proved just impossible,” she admitted. Fox fought off competition from 521 other actresses who wanted to play the part of Ellie in a story based loosely on that of Rita Cowan and Masataka Taketsuru, who arrived in Japan from Scotland almost one century ago and are credited with starting Japan's award-winning whisky industry. (The success of the drama also coincides with Japan getting one over on the home of the amber dram, with the Yamazaki Single Malt Sherry Cask 2013 crowned the best in the world by Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible last month.)

 

"In grad school, we did a lot of voice and

dialect work . . . but speaking Japanese with

a Scottish accent proved just impossible."

 

“Massan” – which is taken from Ellie's nickname for her husband – was first screened in late September; it is due to run for 150 episodes until late March of next year. For cast and crew, the latest incarnation of a Japanese TV institution that dates back to 1961 – though the first starring a non-Japanese actor – has been a testing experience.

This whole process has continuously been the hardest thing I have ever done in my life,” said Fox. “Every day, especially at the beginning, was the hardest day of my life. Imagine that you have to get up and do a speech and you wake up in the morning and find that you have forgotten how to speak your language. Though now I have a better understanding of the language and I hope one day to be fluent.”

 

Sakurai heaped praise on his star and her dedication to her craft. “This is a tremendous project, although it has been full of challenges,” he said. “The one person who I think has suffered the most and made the greatest effort has been Charlotte.

Not only has she had to master the language, but she has to master the performance as well and bring it alive,” he said. “The Ellie that she has produced is absolutely breathtaking and has been full of surprises, even to us, the staff. The viewers' response to Charlotte has been overwhelming, week after week.”

Sakurai was coy when asked about the budget for what is undoubtedly a major television undertaking, but admitted that the program “is costing a great deal more than previous series.” And he agreed that if NHK had been a private broadcaster that could take advantage of sponsorship of its programs, then it might have been able to offset much of those costs by marrying the series to one of Japan's whisky makers.

 

"The story is bigger than just whisky.

It is the story of manufacturing in Japan."

 

But while the story has whisky as its backdrop, Sakurai insisted, it is more a tale of the development of Japan's manufacturing sector and the relationship between a foreign woman and a Japanese man. “The story is bigger than just whisky,” he said. “It is the story of manufacturing in Japan. We had wanted to focus on Japan’s history of 80 or 90 years ago, when manufacturing here was truly taking off, and we decided to take one particular theme – that happened to be whisky.

But, of course,” he said, “if through our efforts Japanese whisky becomes more popular and sales increase around the world, then that will be an added bonus.”

Fox added that she hoped Ellie and her Japanese husband might serve as role models for modern-day couples. “She is probably the most patient person on Earth,” she said. “And this show brings out – not only for wives, but for married couples – the simple sense that they should never give up.” She added, “I think that mentality has been lost today and divorce is so easy. The second there is a misunderstanding or a difference in values or morals, everybody just signs the papers and walks away.

For Ellie, that is simply not an option,” she said. “If people watch the show and take one thing away, I hope it is that they should not give up, that they should not walk away, that they have to be patient and continue loving each other.”

Julian Ryall is the Japan correspondent for the Daily Telegraph.

 

 

Danish Welfare on Away Ground

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Two decades ago a fascinating social experiment

began in northern Japan. Could a small town learn from

Denmark’s advanced health system for the elderly?

 


by Asger Rojle Christensen

O

n the nondescript outskirts of a small Akita town stands an unusually impressive structure. The stylishly curved roof and modern colors of Takanosu Care Town were designed to attract attention, for the center was to serve as a showcase for a system that would revolutionize Japanese health care. It was to display Danish design, Danish beds, Danish elderly care – in fact, all the best of the Danish welfare system. It was the brainchild of the mayor of Takanosu, Tetsu Iwakawa.

I first visited the town in 1994, when Iwakawa was being seen as a visionary pioneer in Japanese elderly care. When he ran for mayor in 1991 for the first time at the age of 44, he challenged the traditional power elite of the town with promises of dramatically better care for the elderly. That helped him overthrow the incumbent mayor, who had held the post for 24 years.

As a voter I met in a café told me, “We voted for him because he was the only one who looked forward. The shops are shutting down, the young generation is leaving, the old ones are being left on their own, and everything was going downhill here in town. We did not understand his philosophy, but he gave us hope.”

 

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The author's 1994 article for a Danish newspaper.

 

Shortly after the election, Iwakawa went on a study trip to Denmark on a search for a way to keep his election promises. He was so inspired by the Danish system that over the following 11 years he led nine study trips for a total of 120 civil servants, nurses and domestic helpers from the town.

The mayor also invited a number of experts from Denmark such as the former minister for social security, Bent Rold Andersen, to give presentations on Danish welfare. He brought in expensive Danish architects, and Danish NGO’s were directly involved in the construction of the city’s elderly care facilities.

I learned from Denmark that public welfare ought to be free for citizens,” Iwakawa told me on my visit to report on his ambitious endeavor. “If the Japanese could have more confidence in their politicians, they might not mind paying taxes so much.”

WITHIN TWO YEARS IWAKAWA dramatically increased the number of home-helper employees in the municipality from five in 1991 to thirty in 1993. He converted a former clothing store on the main street into a nursing station, so that elderly citizens could drop in at the facility while shopping without feeling embarrassed.

The nurses and home caregivers didn’t simply copy what they saw in Europe, but the Danish inspiration in those years had a profound effect. One of the group leaders of the municipal home-caretaker station, Yumiko Nagasaki, told me that the two countries’ understanding of elderly care is different. “In Denmark, help and assistance is seen as support for the elderly themselves, so that he or she can be more independent. In Japan, in contrast, it is basically seen as support for the family, so that the family can have more time and energy to help the elderly in everyday life.”

After being re-elected in 1995, Mayor Iwakawa focused on his pet project, the Care Town elderly care center. The facility was built after much controversy, and when it opened in 1999 it was indeed something to see. As well as its contemporary architecture and design, the elderly inhabitants each had their own single room: something unique at the time. The ratio of residents to staff was not 3:1, as in the rest of Japan, but 3:2.

 

Things looked good for the elderly

of the little northern town.

But then things started going south.

 

On top of that, a number of local regulations were introduced that differed sharply from the general practice in the rest of Japan at the time. Strict rules were put in place against restraining residents with dementia, and employees received training to handle difficult situations in other ways. Finally, residents and users had to pay a much smaller share of the costs of running the health care system than people did in other parts of the country.

Things looked good for the elderly of the little town in northern Japan.

BUT, AS IS SO often true, it was financial circumstances that led to everything going south.

The many changes that Mayor Iwakawa introduced cost the town money – a lot of it. What became clear, however, was that the municipality didn’t have a tax base big enough to support his big dreams. Debts began to pile up over the years, and things went from bad to worse. Other municipal buildings throughout the town – schools and sports facilities – became dilapidated because of the lack of funds available for maintenance.

It all led to a very abrupt end to the Danish experiment in Takanosu. After a bitter election campaign in 2003, Iwakawa failed to be elected to a fourth term as mayor. The extent of the accumulated debt was no longer a secret to the voters, and they hoped that participation in the municipal merger into Kita-Akita – which Iwakawa opposed – would result in more taxpayers having to share the burden of the large deficit.

 

The fees for the Care Town Center more

than doubled. The guaranteed 24-hour

surveillance was abolished.

 

Meanwhile, a new law had been introduced in Japan in the year 2000. The so-called long-term assistance insurance system ensured a minimum of help to senior citizens in need and opened its arms to private companies. While the law actually led to significant improvements in most places in Japan, it also meant that most of the local decisions made during the Iwakawa administration that had led to better conditions for the elderly were rescinded very soon after his election defeat.

Only four years after the establishment of the Care Town Center, it was transferred from public to semi-private status. The fees for residents and users of the Care Town Center more than doubled. The guaranteed 24-hour surveillance in the home care center was abolished. The kitchen, which supplied food to the city’s elderly 24 hours a day regardless of where they lived, was closed.

CARE TOWN TAKANOSU IS no longer a showcase, I found upon my recent return to the area. It is just a semi-private, semi-public senior center in line with other elderly care centers across Japan. Yuichi Kosaka, director of the care provider company that operates the center, says that he is “running it like a business.” The only reason that it can balance its books, he says, is that the facilities are now utilized to full capacity.

There was never a need for such a luxurious place,” Kosaka says. “Mayor Iwakawa and the people around him just used the place as a tool to promote themselves in the eyes of the world.”

Iwakawa had received recognition for having learned in Denmark that involving working groups of citizens and experts in formulating policies was a good strategy. His supporters were very active in these working groups, while opponents argued that it was used as a way to exclude them from the decisions.

 

In 2009, Mayor Iwakawa was suddenly

charged with giving illegal gifts

during the 2003 campaign.

 

The working groups would have been a good idea if they had made compromises and if they had cooperated more with other groups in the town,” says Yuetsu Suzuki, director of the health and welfare division of Kita-Akita, the merged municipality that includes Takanosu. “Unfortunately it didn’t happen that way.”

LOCAL POLITICS CAN BE a brutal affair in Japan. With his charisma, his lofty vision and numerous initiatives, Mayor Iwakawa made many enemies in the local power elite, and in 2009 he was suddenly charged with giving illegal gifts during the 2003 election campaign.

Furious at his arrest, Iwaki refused to testify on his own behalf, and ended up spending a year in prison. He was convicted in 2012, but has appealed the judgment, and the case is ongoing. Today, he operates a pharmacy in the center of Takanosu. For several years after his defeat, he planned a comeback, but it looks increasingly unrealistic.

Also gone are the Danish beds, replaced by Japanese ones. “The truth is that we always had major problems with the Danish beds,” says director Kosaka. “They looked smart, but they broke down all the time, and it was terribly expensive to order replacement parts from Denmark or send them there to repair.”

But while the Danish system, like the beds, is no longer in place, the Danish inspiration has not entirely vanished. Not if you ask at the town hall.

 

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Yuetsu Suzuki (Kita-Akita Director of Health and Welfare) and
Makoto Kanezawa (who took part in one study trip to Denmark) at City Hall

 

Makoto Kanezawa is head of another department in the merged municipality, but he participated in one of the study trips to Denmark in the nineties and hasn’t forgotten what he learned. “Now we think of the elderly care center as a home for the residents – not just as a place to go to die,” he says. “I learned that in Denmark.”

Yuetsu Suzuki, the health and welfare director and another participant in the study tours to Denmark, also finds positive remnants of the experiment. “Look at the elderly citizens of this town today,” he says. “They are mobile, they move around in society, they are enjoying their twilight years

In the old days they never came out of their homes,” he continues. “They were ashamed of their infirmity, and their families didn’t have the energy to help them get around. There has been a huge change, and it is a result of what occured during the Danish period.”

Asger Rojle Christensen was Tokyo correspondent for various Danish news media from 1989 until 1995. He is back in Japan as a journalist/analyst reporting on Asia. (A longer version of this article was first published in February 2014 in Danish).

 

 

Life Begins Earlier in Japan

 

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Alive and kicking. Ayako Ishii with her son, Kenta

The country boasts the world’s highest survival

rates of extremely premature babies,

thanks to advanced medicine –and the law.

But it’s still a matter of contention.


by Sonja Blaschke

 

W

hen she first saw her new-born son Kenta, Ayako Ishii did not feel a thing. There was no motherly love flooding her system, nor was their sadness. She simply thought: “That isn’t a baby, it’s still a fetus.” Looking at the child’s narrow face, a typical feature of premature infants, she knew he should still be in her womb, not in an incubator. With only 23 weeks of gestation, he weighed just 500 grams, six times less than children born after a regular pregnancy of 39 weeks. But he had it good: the smallest preemie to ever survive in Japan only weighed 300 grams.

Many prematurely born children are physically and mentally handicapped to varying degrees. In fact, three years on, Kenta suffers from a light form of cerebral palsy as well as blindness, and his development is slowed. But at least he survived, even as it took his mother weeks to overcome her first shock. Her attitude only changed when a psychologist pointed out Kenta’s will to survive, manifested by his struggle to move his little arms and legs. Then, she says, she and her husband decided, “He’s making such an effort to live that we have to support him as much as we can.”

EVERY NINTH U.S. CHILD IS BORN BEFORE ITS TIME

The Ishiis are not alone. Though comparatively few children are born preterm in Japan – less than six per 100 births – preterm births of babies under 37 weeks of gestational age are on the rise worldwide. Even in developed countries like the U.S. every ninth child is born before its time. There are a number of theories about why this is happening. The fact that more and more women give birth for the first time later in life may be one reason; increased stress could be another. Infections of the birth canal may also lead to preterm births. Sometimes, as in the case of the Ishii family, the waters break too early and birth has to be induced. Often, however, the exact reasons remain a mystery.

 

No other country in the world saves as many extremely low-birth-weight children – those who weigh less than 1000 grams and have spent only 22 or 23 weeks in the mother’s womb. Dr. Satoshi Kusuda from Tokyo’s Women’s Medical University, who was responsible for the care of little Kenta at the hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), explains: “Children born after 22 weeks of gestation have a 50 percent chance of survival, and 50 percent of the survivors suffer physical damage, such as neurological defects. After 23 weeks of gestation, 80 percent of the children can be saved, 80 percent of them without suffering any handicap.”

In some countries doctors do not even try to save children born with just 22 weeks, but Japanese doctors are obliged to – by law. According to most specialists, this is the utmost limit of viability. It’s also quite simple to remember, since women can have an abortion in Japan under certain conditions up to 21 weeks.

 

Unlike Japan, in other countries, the costs

for some medications, which can make the

difference between life and death, have to be

shouldered by the parents themselves

 

There are a number of reasons why Japan has so few preterm births and why it is so successful at saving them. One is that the country’s health system is well developed. It covers over a dozen health checks for the mother during pregnancy and all costs for the treatment of preemies. Such financial support can make it easier, especially for low-income families, to decide whether doctors should save their child in critical cases or not. In other countries, the costs for some medications, which can make the difference between life and death, have to be shouldered by the parents themselves.

Another factor that impacts the survival rate is the highly specialized equipment available. In the 1970s, there were no respirators for extremely small babies in Japan. Children born weighing less than 1500 grams were considered nonviable back then. But now Japan ranks high among nations with the highest standards of equipment and training.

In Tokyo, for example, a system linking 25 hospitals that can take care of preemies and their mothers has been in operation for over 10 years: participants are able to check in real-time the availability of spare hospital beds at clinics specializing in neonatology. In addition, the condition of every child at Dr. Kusuda’s unit is monitored and recorded by a personal computer placed next to its incubator.

 

Another unique feature of the Japanese system is that every NICU employs specialists who have the authority and knowledge to conduct all necessary checks and treatments themselves, on site. At least one of these “almighty” doctors is present at all times, and each is capable of determining the whole treatment strategy, according to Kusuda. That is different from the U.S. system, for example, where the division of labor is more prevalent and the infants have to be taken to different rooms for different examinations.

For Hiroshi Nishida, one of Japan’s leading neonatologists, the doctors’ attitude towards their tiny patients is another decisive factor. “Even at the very beginning of their lives, preemies are human beings,” he says. “Therefore we do everything we can to help them survive. That is how we achieve our high survival rate.” In the early days of Japanese preemie medicine, Nishida devised ethical standards for doctors they could refer to when deciding whether or not to continue treatment and to what degree.

Kusuda says that doctors try to treat their small patients as non-invasively as possible when giving injections, drawing blood samples or conducting ultrasound tests. They provide the infants with food, give them oxygen and keep them warm. “We try to create an environment similar to the one in the mother’s womb,” he says. “Then we observe how the child develops.”

THE PROS AND CONS OF SAVING EARLY LIVES

If Kenta had been born in China, he might not have lived to become a three-year-old who loves to listen to music and play with his parents. There, doctors only save preemies born with 28 weeks of gestation – a full six weeks later than in Japan. At least in major cities like Shanghai, where neonatology clinics are on par with Japan, this is not due to a lack of knowledge or technology. It is the cost involved, not only for the infant in question and his family, but also for society as a whole: preemie care is extremely expensive and its outcome often hard to predict.

Financial and other resources put into their treatment become unavailable for other research and treatment. And this view is not only limited to China. Similar reasons are put forth in the U.S. and some European countries. Ethical considerations and the psychological impact on the child’s parents are also very important factors in the decision making process. In Europe, most doctors start to actively support preemies in their struggle for survival from between 23 and 26 weeks of gestation.

 

The situation in Japan changed after a couple of cases in which children survived with only 22 weeks of gestation, and since 1990, Japanese doctors have been obliged by law to save preterm babies from 22 weeks. Neonatologist Nishida was involved in the drafting of the law, and for him, the argument that a child might be born disabled does not count. “We should not engage in social Darwinism,” he says. “All life is equal.”

In spite of the law, the limit of viability is still a matter of dispute among Japanese neonatologists. Some, citing the peculiarities of each child’s condition, question if the length of gestation was calculated properly when the law was pushed through. Dr. Fujiwara, the discoverer of surfactant (see box, below), considers 24 weeks the lowest limit and would even prefer to see it raised to 26 weeks. “The younger the children, the higher the mortality rates,” he explains. The 84-year old still treats patients, and encourages his younger colleagues as well as obstetricians to engage more in proactive, clinical research, including animal experiments. This research, he argues, should not exclusively focus on preemies but on expectant mothers as well. The most important focus in his view should be on “preventing premature births in the first place.”

 

 

How Calves' Lungs (and Dr. Tetsuro Fujiwara)

Saved Thousands of Young Lives

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Dr Fujiwara (right) with his successor, Dr Shoichi Chida

 

PATRICK, THE FIVE-AND-A-HALF-WEEK prematurely born son of U.S. President John F. Kennedy, was in trouble from the start, after being delivered by Caesarean section on Aug. 7, 1963. He could breathe in, but not out, and less than two days later he was to die of respiratory distress syndrome, or RDS. One of the biggest challenges for premature births – other than brain damage and heart problems – had always been under-developed lungs. In fact, only 30 years ago, half of such babies died of suffocation. While doctors had known since the 1950s that preemies lacked a substance called “surfactant,” a coating for the lungs that helps the pulmonary alveoli to maintain the surface tension necessary for breathing, the search for a cure had stalled after several setbacks.

The high-profile death of young Patrick gave a much-needed push to further research, and a call from his former mentor at UCLA encouraged a young pediatrist at Akita University to delve deeper into the issue. Tetsuro Fujiwara had his own motivation as well: as a young doctor he had been unable to save a child who died from RDS.

 

It was a visit to a slaughterhouse

that would hold the key.

 

It was a visit to a slaughterhouse that would hold the key. Fujiwara asked for the lungs of recently born lambs and calves to study in his research. After mincing them and putting them in a centrifuge he found a whitish liquid in the mix. It turned out to be surfactant, and after extensive testing, Fujiwara had developed the substance to a level suitable for human tests.

The first opportunity came when a schoolteacher who had lost six children from miscarriages gave birth to a child who suffered from RDS. She pleaded with Fujiwara for help. After testing it on himself, Fujiwara injected the surfactant into the child’s lungs. The child survived, and Fujiwara’s report on his successful surfactant research was published to much attention in the medical journal The Lancet in January 1980. In the years since, thousands of children around the world have been saved by his surfactant replacement therapy. In 1996 Fujiwara, along with Swedish scientist Bengt Robertson, another pioneer in surfactant research, was awarded the prestigious King Faisal International Prize. Fujiwara now lives and works in Morioka, Iwate Prefecture.

Sonja Blaschke is a German freelance journalist writing for publications in Germany, Austria and Switzerland. She also works as a producer for TV filming in Japan.

 

 

Profile: Chuck Lingham, Centenarian

 

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On his 100th birthday, the Club's oldest

Member remembers his first

encounters with Japan.


by Monzurul Huq

 

V

ellayappa Chokalingham was born on Nov. 30, 1914 to a South Indian merchant family whose business empire stretched to Malay and Singapore. Many of the male family members of the well-off clan had been sent to Europe for higher studies – and, upon completing his education, the same opportunity was open to young Vellayappa. The young man chose to head in the opposite direction, however, and sailed to Japan with the dream of becoming an engineer specializing in power generation. It was an area that he hoped would be helpful in expanding the family business.

His first encounter with Japan came at the port city of Nagasaki on a sunny spring morning in 1935, and there was not the slightest hint that his stay in the country was going to be a very long one, or that it would cover turbulent times and be full of exciting endeavors. That first encounter did expose, however, the first few of many contradictions in Japanese life that he was to find curious.

 

It was a time when exiled Indians were

organizing with the idea of launching

a liberation movement to free India

from British colonial domination.

 

As he sailed eastward from Singapore, he was pretty sure that he was going to arrive at a country that was preserving the oriental traditions that were much appreciated in other parts of Asia. Instead, the people he met at the port were all dressed in Western attire. Surely, he thought, the way they had taken to the Western dress code meant he could expect a deep knowledge of the languages of the West as well. That would be to his benefit, since he knew no Japanese and needed to get directions to the railway station from where he had to take a train to Tokyo. Instead, to his misfortune, no one spoke a single word of English and he had to find his own way to the station with much difficulty.

In Tokyo he rented a place near Shinjuku and enrolled at Kogyo University. It was a time when exiled Indians in Japan were organizing under the leadership of Rashbehari Bose with the idea of launching a liberation movement to free India from British colonial domination.

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As the Japanese army started moving westward, the movement received the patronage of the Japanese government, and it was sometime during this period that Bose asked young Lingham to become his private secretary. Initially he was a bit hesitant as he thought accepting the offer might disrupt his study. Later, however, he decided to join Bose; his close association with the leader continued until Bose’s death in early 1945.

 

He travelled all over the Southeast Asian region with the movement leader, encouraging Indian expatriates to join the newly formed liberation army. However, many of their countrymen in Southeast Asia were suspicious of Rashbehari Bose’s motives. They saw him as a puppet of the imperial Japanese army, and were reluctant to step forward. This prompted the Japanese leadership to look for an alternative, and with the arrival of the charismatic Indian leader Subhash Chandra Bose in Tokyo in 1943 the leadership crisis was solved. By the time Rasbehari Bose returned to Tokyo to hand over the leadership to Subhash Chandra Bose, he was already seriously ill.

 

At the luxurious Imperial Hotel he once saw

the legendary spy master Richard Sorge

spending time with his cohorts.


Chokalingham, too, was ordered to return to Tokyo, where he was given a new assignment as a Tamil language radio broadcaster at NHK. The remuneration that he received for his service was quite hefty at the time, allowing him to lead a relatively well-off life. He even had enough to sip coffee at the luxurious Imperial Hotel, where he once saw the legendary spy master Richard Sorge spending time with his cohorts. But that good time came to an end. Chokalingham remembers when Tokyo was the target of frequent U.S. bombing raids, and he had to run for shelter on a number of occasions when he was trapped in the street.

Japan’s unconditional surrender in August, 1945, led to a period of uncertainty. “It was a time of anxiety and fear,” he says, “because I belonged to the losing side and was waiting for my turn to be called for interrogation.”

But he needed work. The only opening he could see for someone with his skills was for interpreters. He was worried that for someone like him applying for that kind of job might turn out to be suicidal. Eventually, he made friends with a few Americans who encouraged him to get involved in interpretation. The call from the interrogators came while he was already working for the occupation.

 

His worries were for nought. “My interrogators came to a firm conclusion,” he says, “that I had done nothing wrong.”

His American friends also suggested that he try his hand at commerce, so in the 1950s he began operating his own import company. (The friends also began simplifying his name from Chokalingham to “Chuck Lingham” – a name that has stuck.) Success followed quickly, and with his Japanese wife, Chuck settled down to make a good life in his adopted country. Later he established a new company that concentrated on importing metals for Gillette Japan, which he ran until his retirement almost 30 years ago. Chuck joined the FCCJ in 1967 and was given life membership in March 2005. He is now its oldest member. It has become his second home to the extent that, most days, he can be seen spending a few hours being waited on with great care by the staff and his friends at the Club.

From an obscure student activist dreaming of liberating his country to a very successful businessman and entrepreneur to a beloved fixture at our tables, Chuck has led his fascinating and active life to the full.

He celebrated his 100th birthday last month

Monzurul Huq represents the largest-circulation Bangladeshi national daily, Prothom Alo. He was FCCJ president from 2009 to 2010.

 

 

Reporting Japan to Our Neighbors

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Though some suffer from dwindling resources and

access barriers, East Asian journalists reporting from

Tokyo have a big impact across the region.


by Michael Penn

I

n an unremarkable residential neighborhood in the Ebisu area of Tokyo stands a small, anonymous office building with security cameras and a distinctly unwelcoming locked door. There is not even a sign on its glass façade. But this is the local headquarters of the most powerful news media organization of continental East Asia; this is the Tokyo Bureau of the Xinhua News Agency, as well as an annex to the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China.

Media is not noted for its shyness in seeking attention. The whole concept is to be out there in the public eye. So when a media organization hides behind a locked door, we can imagine factors at play that lay outside the industry norm.

These are tough times for media everywhere, and that includes the foreign media in Japan. Foreign correspondents have been hit by a double blow since the 1990s: the declining financial fortunes of the news media globally and, specifically, the fading foreign interest in Japan.

While pockets of keen interest in Japan remain, it is believed by most media watchers that, within the Tokyo-based foreign journalist community, East Asian journalists are the only group that is growing in numbers and capacity.

A TALE OF THE NUMBERS

The number of journalists granted Foreign Ministry press cards is one way to gauge this assertion. The South Korean media, for example, had 41 journalists with press cards in 2004, and the current level is 38.

The number of Hong Kong journalists with press cards grew from 10 in 2004 to 15 journalists today, while over the same 10-year time period, the number of Taiwanese journalists with press cards dropped, but only slightly, from 11 to 10.

 

The one truly striking figure, however, is that of China. From 27 holders of Foreign Ministry press cards in 2004, the community of Chinese journalists in that category has now grown to 47.

These figures, of course, don’t include freelancers and stringers, but from discussions with the East Asian press community here, it seems that freelancing for the South Korean, Taiwanese and Chinese media organizations is a profession that effectively doesn’t exist.

Living in Tokyo is expensive,” notes Yang Ming Chu, the Tokyo bureau chief for Taiwan’s Central News Agency. “There’s no way for freelancers to make money. The media companies will not even cover a freelancer’s travel expenses.” Moreover, editors at East Asian newspapers do not generally welcome submissions from anyone other than their own reporters.

This is not to say, however, that there isn’t a lot of work for the reporters here. For Taiwan, especially, the public appetite for news from Japan is voracious. “Taiwan is remarkably influenced by Japan,” says Amy Huang, Tokyo bureau chief for China Times, “Our public is interested in all kinds of things; not just politics and economics, but also culture, the arts, manga, food, transportation and various aspects of tourism.”

THE TIGHTENING FINANCIAL SITUATION

Unfortunately, that massive public interest back home does not translate into sound economic prospects for the Taiwanese journalists here. As it has globally, the internet has undermined the traditional media outlets, and most Taiwanese can now access, at no charge, English-language news or Japanese media services translated into Chinese in order to learn about the major happenings in Tokyo.

 

Even the Central News Agency, the Taiwanese equivalent of NHK, now stations only a single correspondent in Japan – Yang – who does all of her work alone, including writing articles out of her apartment and taking video with her little handycam.

Before I came here,” she laments, “there used to be a lot of Taiwanese journalists in Tokyo. If you were a bureau chief like me, for example, you’d be making good money and you’d be treated like an ambassador. There were cars and mansions . . .
but now we don’t even have a dedicated office.”

That’s certainly not the case for the state media of China, which has become increasingly dominant in the field of Chinese-language reporting about Japan. Xinhua’s staff is now young and professional and equipped with state-of-the-art television cameras. They have the manpower to put stories out immediately, and the budget to send reporters and crews all around the Japanese archipelago. They are now operating on an entirely different level from the one-man or one-woman shows that characterize the Taiwanese – or, for that matter, the South Korean – journalists.

Taiwanese journalists point out that more and more of their potential readers take their news directly from Xinhua, which usually can deliver its reports more quickly. But since Xinhua is also the state media of a non-democratic country, there are questionable effects attending its expanding dominance of the Chinese-language sphere. It can change the political nuances of stories, and can have other unfortunate effects.

 

I told them, ‘It didn’t happen!’” she says.

“I’m talking with the Ministry of Defense and

I’m telling you that such an event

did not occur!”

 

For example, the China Times’ Huang relates an incident in which her editors in Taiwan called her frantically after they had read a breaking story in the Chinese press. According to the reports, Japan was sending a warship to the Senkaku Islands, and the situation had the potential to start a war. They demanded that she file her copy on the warship’s departure as soon as possible.

I told them, ‘It didn’t happen!’” she says. “I’m talking directly with Japan’s Ministry of Defense and I’m telling you that such an event did not occur!” It took some effort to convince her editors that the headlines splashed across China’s newspapers were, in fact, baseless.

Attempts to get a direct response on this issue from the Chinese side were unsuccessful in light of that locked door in Ebisu and unanswered requests for interviews.

 

Transparency – or the lack of it – is not only a feature of the Chinese media. South Korean journalists did answer interview requests, but requested anonymity in order to speak freely. The picture they paint of their community stands somewhere in the middle, both in regard to the financial resources available to them as well as to the political pressures that they must conform to.

The recent poor diplomatic relations between Tokyo and Seoul encourages them to be critical of Japanese policy in some of their reports, which could be a reason why they frequently have trouble scheduling interviews with Japanese news sources. They are set apart from the other East Asian journalists by their national language and a more competitive media environment among the Koreans themselves.

DEALING WITH THE BARRIERS

On top of their financial struggles, most East Asian journalists have little institutional support for their efforts. They are routinely blocked out of some events by the Japanese press club system, and few of them feel that there are enough compelling reasons to join the FCCJ.

They make some use of the government-affiliated Foreign Press Center Japan (FPCJ). For the journalists with no travel budgets, FPCJ press tours to the various local regions are a welcome chance to see other parts of the country and socialize with their peers. On rare occasions – such as after the Fukushima nuclear disaster – the journalist community has banded together on their own.

South Korean journalists, for example, became unhappy at their treatment regarding access to the danger zone. Japanese journalists were being given tours of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, and Western journalists were also being provided with tours through the Foreign Press In Japan (FPIJ) – but the South Korean press was completely locked out. Some of them then grouped together and approached the FPCJ to help them. Their effort bore fruit when several journalists were allowed to participate in a plant tour along with a very large delegation of Japanese journalists.

 

The Taiwanese journalists have a similar story. After becoming aware of a rumor that spread across Taiwan after 3/11, suggesting that Hakodate in Hokkaido had been terribly damaged by the tsunami, they banded together and decided to take a look for themselves. There was some urgency involved because Taiwanese tourists had begun avoiding Hokkaido, and the local economy was feeling the pinch.

What they found, of course, was that tsunami damage in Hokkaido was relatively light. The local Japanese authorities were very cooperative once they understood the purpose of the Taiwanese journalists’ visit, and that the reporters were spending their own personal money to report the story. The very positive result of their reports from Hakodate was that Taiwanese tourists were effectively reassured and they quickly began to return to Hokkaido in large numbers.

 

In fact, their reports may exercise a

larger influence on the real world than

the English-language media that receives

more attention.

 

This latter example highlights the largely unrecognized importance of the East Asian journalists in Tokyo. In fact, their reports, even when compiled with very modest resources or with particular political slants, may exercise a larger influence on the real world of politics and economics than the English-language media reports that receive more attention from Japanese government and big business.

The Central News Agency’s Yang points out that she is often locked out from video news coverage by press club restrictions, and she doesn’t receive support from the FPIJ because of her use of a handycam, but that the impact of her reports on the Japanese economy may be greater than that of the “major” Western agencies.

My video reports are distributed to at least five 24-hour news channels,” she says, “meaning that they are viewed not only in Taiwan, but also in Hong Kong and in some coastal parts of mainland China, as well as via the internet to Chinese-speaking communities in Australia, the United States, and elsewhere.

The system run by the ‘major’ Western agencies is extremely unfair,” she adds. “Although I work alone, I am also a major agency.”

Michael Penn is President of the Shingetsu News Agency and First Vice-President of the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan

 

 

From the Archives: The Doomsday Cult

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 Fumihiro Joyu, Aum’s spokesman, responding to a question at the FCCJ on April 3, 1995. Joyu, who spoke fluent English, denied the cult’s involvement in the March 30 sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway system that left 13 people dead and more than 5,000 seeking medical treatment. Behind Joyu is Gebhard Hielscher, correspondent for Suddeutsche Zeitung who was FCCJ president. Leaning forward on the right is Richard Lloyd Parry, then correspondent for the Independent, now for the Times. (AP photo from the FCCJ Archives by Tsugufumi Matsumoto) 

The first major press conference of Aum Shinrikyo (Supreme Truth) drew wide news coverage and was carried live by a number of Japanese TV networks. Joyu was absent from a second news conference held at the Club only days later, on April 7. Instead, lawyer Nobuyoshi Aoyama, and head scientist Hideo Murai, fielded questions. (Murai was stabbed to death in front of Aum headquarters a few weeks later.)

Both events drew criticism from some Club members who viewed them as abetting the spread of Aum propaganda. President Hielscher rejected that view saying that the news conferences presented major news events. The grumbling subsided as Aum continued to make headlines.


Asahara lured into his cult the young scientists

who produced the sarin

used in the subway attack as well as

other chemical and biological weapons.

A doomsday cult founded by Shoko Asahara (born Chizuo Matsumoto) in 1984, Aum was built on a patchwork of elements drawn from major religions. It was also influenced by a fictional book in which a group of scientists survive a calamity to create a new world. Using this, Asahara lured into his cult the young scientists who later produced the sarin used in the subway attack as well as other chemical and biological weapons.

Intended to divert police attention, the subway attack of 1995 instead led to Aum’s downfall. The cult lost its status as a religious organization shortly thereafter, had assets seized, and had its compound near Mt. Fuji – where the sarin gas had been made – closed down. Its membership at the time was estimated at some 40,000 members worldwide with over 9,000 members in Japan.

Although sentenced to death by hanging in 2004, Asahara’s execution is still on hold. The last fugitive of the sarin attack, Katsuya Takahashi, was captured in 2012 and will be tried in January, 2015. A verdict is expected in April.

 

-- Charles Pomeroy

 

Tales from the Round Tables: Hijinks and High Seas

 

by the Shimbun Alley Whisperers

Being a club founded by hacks who came ashore with MacArthur, it’s no surprise that there have always been epic tales from the high seas on tap at the Shimbun Alley bar. Many of us can recall firsthand accounts – such as Al Cullison’s tale of his destroyer’s great rescue mission after witnessing the HMAS Canberra take a surprise hit of 28 Japanese 8-inch shells. It was in the still-dark hours of Aug. 8, 1942, and heralded the tumultuous beginning of the Battle of Savo Island.

Then there were the award-winning insights of premiere war correspondent Dennis Warner, who started covering the Pacific region in the 30s and went on to report from the fronts of WWII, the Korean War and Vietnam. Dennis filed a number of stories of his close calls, the most dramatic probably being the direct kamikaze attack on his warship Formidable. Years later the experience led to a book, The Sacred Warriors: Japan’s Suicide Legions, co-written with his wife Peggy, a correspondent for the Herald.



The guard arrived to catch

the two club members feeding the

now chopped up police kanban

into the fire

One of our all-time favorite stories comes not from the swashbuckling heroics of a renowned journalist, but from longtime associate member Bill Salter. After working in Japan for over a decade, Bill joined the British Navy when the war broke out, and was assigned to a submarine. As the senior officer on deck one day, he was about to start questioning the captured members of a Japanese crew when he hears (‘in the middle of the f--cking Indian Ocean!’ Bill would repeat to delighted audiences for the next 50 years) ‘Salter-san! Salter-san!’

“‘And wouldn’t you know it?’ Bill would laugh, ‘It’s the damn guard from the YCAC who in pre-war days once caught my friend Serge Bielous and me trying to burn evidence in the club’s boiler next to the men’s big ofuro.’

The evidence in question was a rather formidable wood signboard that had graced the front of a police station and which Bill and Serge had been inspired to steal in a moment of alcohol-induced merriment. The guard saw the suspicious black smoke go up from the club’s chimney in the early morning hours, and arrived with great urgency to catch the two club members feeding the now chopped up police kanban into the fire. ‘That cost us ¥5 to keep him quiet,’ Bill said, ‘a lot of money in those days.’

But rather good value, the Round Table Whisperers would venture, when you consider how much chuckle mileage Bill clearly got out of it for the remainder of a very long life. As for the guard, he not only earned his payoff, but enjoyed exceptional British hospitality on the high seas for keeping his end of the deal . . . we’re pretty sure.”

 

New Members in November

REGULAR MEMBERS

 

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BRIAN PUBLICOVER writes about solar and wind industries as the East Asia correspondent for Recharge News, a London-based publication under Norway’s NHST Media that covers the global renewable energy market. A native of Ottawa, Canada, Brian Publicover has worked in the Asia-Pacific region for 14 years. After a brief period in Seoul, he moved to China, where he bounced between Beijing and Hong Kong in the years leading up to the 2008 Olympics. When a Hong Kong-based, Asia-focused news start-up he helped manage folded, he moved to Jakarta, Indonesia, to work as part of a team behind the launch of yet another election-oriented media project. He returned to Japan in 2010, and after a brief stint at Nikkei, joined Norway’s NHST Media Group.

 

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JONAS PULVER reports on culture, society and technology for the Swiss newspaper Le Temps, Swiss national radio, Espace 2, and some specialized publications including Hemispheres magazine, Technologist and 360 Magazine. Prior to coming to Japan he worked in Geneva as a staff writer for the Society and Culture section of Le Temps, and as the editor-in-chief of 360 Magazine.

 

PROFESSIONAL/JOURNALIST ASSOCIATE MEMBERS


Motohiro Miura, Otsuma Women's University
Chiaki Ishikawa, Clean Tec Blog / SELC Co., Ltd.

ASSOCIATE MEMBERS


Hiroshi Imura, Conocophillips Japan Ltd.
Ryoji Furukawa, MBK Co., Ltd.
Atsushi Usui, Asahi Breweries Ltd.
Keiichirou Kondou, Asahi Breweries Ltd.
Hiroyuki Taguchi, Dai-Ichi Suisan Co., Ltd.
Kazumasa Kitamura, CP Solutions Inc.
Yoshihisa Matsumoto, Idemitsu Kosan Co., Ltd.
Mariko Hayashibara, Bank Of America Merrill Lynch Japan Securities Co., Ltd.
Hiroshi Ishikawa, Dentsu Emarketing One
Kazuhide Kawai, Mitsubishi Ore Transport Co., Ltd.
Kai Lip Ang, Brunei Energy Service Company

 

 

 

 

Exhibition: "Tokyo Pop"

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photographs by Androniki Christodoulou

 

I HAVE BEEN SHOOTING Tokyo Pop over a period of 10 years, part of a visual diary formed as I walked the city streets and met Tokyo’s people, through work-related assignments or just because I am out there with my camera.

Japan’s unique and colorful popular culture was one of the reasons that brought me here and kept me captivated for so long: tradition and new trends; zones in the city that have specific character and others where everything is possible. From the uniformity of salarymen to the extremes of fetish culture, there is space for everything. Popular culture in Tokyo isn’t something fixed that can be described in one set of photos. It flows and changes all the time.

In these photos I aim to show the mood of places and situations as I experienced them in these transient moments.

Androniki Christodoulou was born in Greece and moved to Tokyo in 2004. She freelances for international media and corporate clients. She is expanding her skills into video and multimedia. She has published the book Otaku Spaces and self-published Underworld about the 2011 tsunami.

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A New Publishing Paradigm

 

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The author's self-published book.

 

Have a book inside you

that is just dying to escape?

Here's a way to let it out.


by Charles Pomeroy

Anyone with a book idea, or even a finished manuscript, knows how difficult – if not impossible – it can be to attract the attention of a traditional publisher. Very few publishers these days will even look at a manuscript unless it comes from an agent. For my memoir about Japan’s 2011 tsunami, the initial interest shown by one traditional publisher faded as the estimated retail price climbed, thanks to my desire to include some 113 color photos and maps. On top of a declining interest in the subject matter by the public, that slammed the door on any deal.

My subsequent decision to check out self-publishing possibilities for an e-book led me to Telemachus Press, one of a number of services for self-publishers. Under this imprint, authors become “micro-publishers” who pay for the services but own all rights to the book. Telemachus offers a number of options, including editing, design, and formatting as well as several publishing packages for both e-books and print-on-demand (POD) books. In return, the author/micro-publisher, receives up to 70 percent in royalties from book sales (the booksellers retain 20 or 30 percent). It’s a good deal if the book is successful.

 

A POD book can be ordered one book at a time,

and has the advantage of a low production cost

without warehousing problems.

 

The Telemachus response to my initial contact was a proposal to do a POD book as well as an e-book. They made the case that a POD book can be ordered one book at a time, anywhere in the world, and has the advantage of a relatively low production cost without warehousing problems. The clincher was their estimated retail price – $5.99 for the e-book and $14.99 for the POD version. This was much lower than a traditional publisher, even with all those color photos. And their sales estimate would take me past the break-even point, which had been a major concern.

I made the commitment in May of this year. Four months later, at the end of September, Tsunami Reflections, was launched as an e-book on the distribution networks of both Amazon and Smashwords. Though less familiar than Amazon, Smashwords is a major distributor of indie books to outlets like Apple’s iBooks, Barnes & Noble, Kobo and many others.

 

The POD edition was made available worldwide in early October by Lightning Source, which can print and bind books individually at plants in the U.S. for North America, in the U.K. for Europe, and in Australia for Asia. Lightning Source is a subsidiary of Ingram, a major worldwide book distributor.

 

Although making the POD version available through brick-and-mortar outlets was also an option, the cost for making those arrangements and the necessary marketing efforts were beyond my means. Such traditional outlets are for a novelist with visions of a blockbuster, not for a retired and aging journalist reflecting on a recent disaster.

Also worth mentioning is that working with the Telemachus staff – editor, project coordinator, production people and cover designer – turned out to be a breeze. They were user-friendly and professional, especially the editor who prompted a number of rewrites. After several tries, incorporating unfamiliar Japanese calligraphy on the cover of the book was neatly done by the designer. The project manager’s role included welcome guidance for this neophyte in making separate contracts with Smashwords and Lightning Source in order to receive royalty payments.

 

With self-publishing, marketing and promotion

is the responsibility of the author.

 

The total out-of-pocket cost for the package and editing service I selected was a bit under $4,000. It could have been done at lower cost by going directly to Smashwords, which offers publishing services as well, but that would have required technical expertise beyond my capabilities in formatting an acceptable manuscript for publication. Telemachus seemed to offer a less stressful way to do this. (Amazon offers a similar publishing service through its CreateSpace service, but the cost of their POD color printing would have meant a higher retail price for my book.)

With self-publishing, marketing and promotion is the responsibility of the author. So those higher royalties may do little more than help an inept marketer like me break even, but I will be happy with that. After all, my purpose in writing the book was simply to provide some personal insight on the tsunami and its aftereffects.

 

Goodreads, the “world’s largest site for readers and book recommendations,” offers some help in this regard. I joined and have been assigned a profile page, including a blog. They also offer low-key promotional services at relatively low cost, but I have yet to work out a strategy to take advantage of this.

For those interested, a POD copy of the book is now available in the FCCJ library. It details the fate of Otsuchi – the hometown of my wife, Atsuko, where we had built our retirement home – and is a microcosmic look at the effects of the horrific tsunami that destroyed Japan’s Sanriku Coast on March 11, 2011. The narrative provides geographical and historical context and reflects on the tsunami’s aftermath, loss of family members and home, mass funerals, cultural aspects, humanitarian efforts and plans for recovery. As mentioned earlier, many color photos and maps are included.

I look forward to letting everyone know in a few months how my experiment with this new paradigm in publishing has worked out. By the way, this article is in no way a blanket endorsement of the companies named, but simply a record of my short career as a self-publisher.

Charles Pomeroy retired from journalism 10 years ago and now devotes his time to writing books.

 

The Governor Takes On the "Nuclear Village"

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Niigata Governor Hirohiko Izumida at the FCCJ on October 15, 2014.

 

Time to fire up the reactors?

"Not so fast," says Niigata Governor Hirohiko Izumida.


by John R. Harris

Anyone inclined to give Japan’s “Nuclear Village” the benefit of the doubt, to assume that nuclear regulators and plant operators have fully digested the lessons of Fukushima Daiichi, would do well to watch the FCCJ video of Hirohiko Izumida, governor of Niigata. It may change your mind.

Izumida, 52, an LDPer and former METI bureaucrat, told the FCCJ audience on Oct. 15 how the July 16, 2007 earthquake in his own Niigata Prefecture informed his perspective on nuclear safety. Its epicenter was beneath the seabed, 19.6 kilometers offshore from Tepco’s Kashiwazaki-Kariwa complex, with seven reactors the world’s largest nuclear power plant. The plant was Izumida’s problem from the moment the 6.6 magnitude quake struck at 10:13 a.m.

 

Niigata officials were familiar with their quake-response

handbooks – and the existence of a hotline to the plant.

But when they called, no one answered.

 

Japan’s 47 governors are the frontline generals of the nation’s disaster response system. Disaster plans are laid on a prefectural basis, and governors assume broad executive powers once a disaster is declared. An equally severe quake having hit the area just three years earlier, Niigata officials were well familiar with their quake-response handbooks – and the existence of a hotline to the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant. But when they called, no one answered.

As officials later learned from Tepco, the door to the room with the hotline had been warped by the quake, so no one could get in to pick up the phone. So as reports of black smoke rising from Kashiwazaki-Kariwa came in to officials in Niigata City, the prefectural capital 66 kilometers to the northeast, they were understandably alarmed by their inability to reach the plant’s management. “We had to rely on television news reports,” Izumida said.

It turned out that severe subsidence caused land in parts of the site to drop 1.5 meters, rupturing pipes containing cables and thereby causing the fire. As water mains also ruptured, dry hydrants left firefighters to stand by and watch it burn.

In the aftermath, prefectural officials tore a strip off Tepco and demanded a number of specific modifications to the plant.

As direct communication with the site is essential in the event of disaster,” Izumida said, “we strongly asked Tepco to install a special facility where communication could be assured, a ‘seismic-isolated building’ impervious to shaking. Under regulations at the time this was not required, but due to our bitter experience we demanded it be built. Still, Tepco tried to get around this, asking if it wouldn’t be okay just to use mobile phones. But we were adamant.”

Consequently, a similar facility was completed at Fukushima Daiichi just eight months before 3/11. “If we hadn’t demanded this, it’s unlikely one would have been built at Fukushima,” Izumida noted. “And if that had not been built it’s unlikely that people would be living in Tokyo today.”

The upgraded firefighting capability Niigata demanded was also copied at Fukushima, which Izumida credited with firefighters there having the alternative means to pour cooling water on the reactors.

 

Izumida on NRA head Shunichi Tanaka:

“His thinking is not about how to respond if an accident occurs…

but rather how to evade responsibility.

 

Noting that Japan’s Nuclear Regulatory Authority (NRA) is making new standards for nuclear plants, Izumida expressed “grave concerns” about the process: “Given that the Fukushima accident has not yet been fully reviewed, bringing in new regulatory standards is very unwise. What worries us is that the NRA seems to be trying to shrink its responsibilities. They have a broad mandate to ensure the safety of nuclear power, but Chairman Shunichi Tanaka seems to be focusing on small technical details instead of pursuing the full scope of measures recommended by the IAEA.

Emphasizing prefectural governments’ broad responsibility for disaster response, Izumida complained “the NRA refuses to even listen to our concerns. They refuse to communicate with us, so we have to put our ideas across in the public consultation process. Even then, our comments are not being taken into account.”

Izumida bluntly pointed to Tanaka as the heart of the problem, citing his reluctance to meet with local officials or even the president of Tepco. “His thinking is not about how to respond if an accident occurs… but rather how to evade responsibility. As a professor of nuclear science he seems to have decided to focus solely on technical matters. He is not thinking about the more important mission to protect the lives and assets of the people.”

Tanaka’s contention that Japan’s nuclear regulations are the strictest in the world was not credible, said Izumida. But if he was scathing in his criticism of Tanaka, his comments on Tepco were scorching.

Tepco understood from a very early point that a meltdown had occurred, yet they hid this fact for over two months,” Izumida said. “So you have to ask if they should even have the right to operate a nuclear reactor. We need to have a complete assessment of the Fukushima accident and where responsibilities lie. Until that is done we cannot even begin to discuss restarting plants.”

When asked why he alone was speaking out so stridently, Izumida noted that he was advocating a position agreed by the association of Japanese governors, then added darkly that even people close to him worried about what might happen to him for speaking out.

Scathing and scorching though his comments were, Izumida delivered them with an impressively cool composure, backed by a wealth of cogently argued technical detail. Watch the video and you may well decide that reactor restarts should only come if and when Izumida says it’s time.

John R. Harris is a speechwriter and freelance journalist based in Onjuku on Chiba’s Pacific coast.

 

 

Ian Bremmer is Feeling "Pretty Good"

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The Eurasia Group's Ian Bremmer at the Club on Oct. 14, 2014.

 

The head of a leading political risk research

and consulting firm gives a tentative thumbs up

to the Asia region -- for now.


by Julian Ryall

D

DESPITE THE VERBAL FISTICUFFS that have characterized the Sino-Japanese relationship in recent years, Ian Bremmer is feeling positive about the geopolitical situation in Asia at the moment. Longer-term, however, he admits there is “massive uncertainty” in the region.

Bremmer, the founder and president of the Eurasia Group, spoke at the FCCJ on Oct. 14 on a broad range of issues encompassing geopolitics, the markets and the future of Asia and further afield. Given the crises the world faces with the spread of Ebola and the extremist preachings of the Islamic State in Syria, of ongoing economic problems in the Euro zone, the unresolved conflict in Ukraine and, arguably, a lack of leadership being demonstrated by President Barack Obama’s second administration team, perhaps it is not such a surprise that the Asia-Pacific region seems relatively stress-free. At least for the time being.

 

His optimism is in large part down to the relatively

recent emergence of genuine leaders in the most

important countries in the region;

Shinzo Abe, Xi Jinping in China

and India’s Narendra Modi.

 

 

The rise of China is something that everyone in Japan rightly understands to be a problem long-term, but if you ask me, for the foreseeable future, I feel pretty good about geopolitics in Asia,” Bremmer said. And that optimism is in large part down to the relatively recent emergence of genuine leaders in the three most important countries in the region; Shinzo Abe, Xi Jinping in China and India’s Narendra Modi.

All three are “charismatic,” Bremmer said. All are promoting economic transformation in their respective nations and are experiencing some success with promoting change “on their terms, their time frames and according to their priorities.” “I won’t pretend that I’m optimistic long-term . . . but I do believe that in the near-term all of them would like to see more stability in their backyards,” he said.

The indications that Japan and China are attempting to rebuild bridges – business delegations and envoys travelling back and forth, the increasing number of Chinese tourists to Japan, cultural exchanges – are clearly in place, he said, although there remains a caveat. “None of this makes me say that Japan and China are going to be fine ad infinitum because if China’s domestic reforms do not work or they get pushed back and they start going down the nationalistic route, then things could get very ugly indeed,” he said. “There is still massive uncertainty.”

 

The flashpoint for China and the wider region remains Beijing’s territorial claims in the South and East China seas, he added. That is where China may have been given a slightly freer hand as Washington is embroiled in crises on other parts of the planet and sees no critical and immediate threat to its own interests.

Beijing’s policy has been to “press a little bit and see if we can change the status quo. But the operative term is “a little bit.”

I don’t see China wanting to stir up massive geopolitical tensions anywhere just now,” Bremmer said. “I think they feel they over-extended themselves on that front. A couple of years ago, at the start of the Obama administration, they ended up with a backlash that led to a lot of countries in the region embracing and supporting the U.S. more than China would have liked.”

Another factor in Beijing’s thinking will be the possible election of Hillary Clinton as the next president of the United States – which China “desperately doesn’t want to see.” “They don’t like her and they see her as a kind of architect of anti-China containment,” he added.

 

When 50 percent of your society is incredibly

educated but fundamentally under-employed,

that is ludicrous.”

 

Asked to assess the effectiveness of the Japanese prime minister’s “Abenomics” policies, Bremmer said that major economic redirection was necessary as Japan slipped from the world’s second-largest economy to the number three spot.

Japanese confidence needs to be more robust and they have to find ways to unlock the value that exists in spades in Japanese society,” he said. “The thing that excites me most about Abenomics has less to do with the central bank, but it’s things like bringing more women into the workforce. When 50 percent of your society is incredibly educated but fundamentally under-employed, that is ludicrous.”

Bremmer also expressed optimism that Japan will overcome the reservations of some of its business sectors to sign up for the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade arrangement in 2015.

Abe’s willingness to do this sort of thing, which no leaders before him were engaging with, requires a high level of political courage,” Bremmer said. “This sort of thing is not popular among the men who run Japan . . . and I think this sort of bold leadership matters.”

 

Bremmer’s discussion ranged far and wide across issues that are impacting the international situation. And although he agreed that the world faces plenty of major challenges, “we are not on the precipice of World War III,” he said.

We face increasingly large numbers of geopolitical brushfires and when they get really big, countries get together to stamp on them,” said Bremmer, who has written nine books and whose organization is presently in 90 countries around the world.

That is precisely because they are not viewed as a lot of risk to the global economy, whether that is Ebola in some of the poorest and least-developed countries in the world, whether it is the Ukraine or the Middle East,” he said. “The fact of the matter is that the markets are not paying much attention.”

Julian Ryall is the Japan correspondent for the Daily Telegraph.

 

 

Lee Mingwei Makes You Part of His Art

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"The Moving Garden"

 

The works of this New York-based, Taiwanese artist

are all about participation, and his most notorious

installations are now on display at the Mori Art Museum


by Jonas Pulver

photos by Martin Hladik

 

What if an artwork could leave its location and spread throughout a whole city? What if you could be part of this creative process? Well, it does and you can, with a visit to an exhibition at the Mori Art Museum.

It starts with flowers, one of which Taiwanese-born artist Lee Mingwei invites you to pick from the black granite vases of his piece, “The Moving Garden.” All he requires in return is a promise that you will offer it to a complete stranger on your trip home.

The idea seems quite simple,” says Lee, “but the result is, in fact, very complex. While holding the flower you may start wondering: How should I greet the person I want to give the flower to? What words should I use? Is she going to like it? If you hesitate more than three seconds, the person will probably be gone.” Creation as shared value and generosity, as a way to engage interaction and nurture participation: that’s what Lee’s installations are all about.

The most evocative ones make up the very first large-scale retrospective exhibition of the New York-based artist, being held at the Mori in Roppongi until Jan. 4. Born in 1964, Lee Mingwei has been attracting international attention since the late 1990s, with works displayed in preeminent American museums as well as at biennales in Venice and Lyon. He admits that the participatory nature of his material makes it challenging for the curators.

_MG_0431_copy.jpg"The Mending Project"

 

Usually, when a show opens, it is 100 percent complete,” he says. “In my case, however, only 40 percent is set. There are so many moving parts, so much left to uncertainty. It is like an organism that will be awakened by the public.” “The Mending Project, for instance, consists of a table to which visitors bring pieces of garment (or even their favorite stuffed animal) to be sewed and repaired by the artist himself or a member of the museum team. As work progresses, spools of thread affixed to the walls form a network of colorful, physical and symbolic relations between the museum, the clothes and their owners.

My works are very much about the viewers. Their history, emotions and memories literally become the content of my pieces,” Lee explains. “Viewers become part of the work, and the use of open-ended structure is an invitation for them to do so.”

Unlike conventional paintings or sculptures, Lee Ming-wei’s installations do not deliver their essence through their visual dimension. “What you see is not what you get,” he says. “The physical material is only a portal to another experience of reality.” These features climax in works such as “The Dining Project” or “The Sleeping Project,” for which Mingwei eats and even sleeps at the museum with complete strangers, outside opening hours. A lottery box allows you to apply for participation in the performances.

 

Chance, randomness: Lee Mingwei pushes

the envelope that is the legacy of major

20th-century art figures such as Yves Klein,

Allan Kaprow or John Cage

 

Eating and sleeping are everyday actions,” says Lee. “However, when they are put in the framework of an institution, it changes their meanings. The fact that the performances can be witnessed by no one challenges the very mechanism of the museum.”

Chance, randomness: Lee Mingwei pushes the envelope that is the legacy of major 20th-century art figures such as Yves Klein, Allan Kaprow or John Cage, who deconstructed and questioned the necessity of representation, expression and even intention as constitutive elements of their artistic approach. The Mingwei show cleverly puts into perspective some drawings realized by the inspired fantasist John Cage during a stay in Kyoto; “Where R=Ryoanji” randomly circulates around the 15 stones of the famous zen garden, attesting the attraction for Asian culture among Western artists of the 1960s and 1970s. Interestingly, Lee Mingwei, like John Cage, is an avid reader of the I Ching, the famous Chinese Book of Changes. “Fate, chance and uncertainty define how the world functions,” he believes.

 

_MG_0600.jpg

 

While Asian and Western influences inform Lee Mingwei’s style, he doesn’t consider it relevant to identify with either. “In reviews, Western journalists mainly focus on my proximity with Zen Buddhism,” he says, “while the Asian media talks more about the conceptual, aesthetic dimensions of my practice. I guess both groups exoticize me in a way that makes me understandable for their audience.”

Lee Mingwei has taken the opportunity of his Tokyo show to connect to Japan – his grandparents were educated in Tokyo in the 1930s – yet it is by no means a discourse on national identity. Instead, it is a device to foster connections, affinities and gift offerings. The installation “Constellation of Water,” commissioned by Mori, consists of two pieces of furniture that belonged to Mingwei’s grandmother.

“There’s a chair and a table on top of a very peaceful grass lawn facing the breathtaking panoramic view of the Tokyo skyline,” he says. “If you sit down, you can drink a glass of water that’s been prepared for you by the previous person.” Past, modernity and transmission: Lee Mingwei sees “Constellation of Water” as an occasion “to consider how we can pursue the adventure of our life. Usually, people walk out of a museum with more answers than when they entered. I would like the visitors to leave my show with more questions.”

And, eventually, with a flower in their hand.

Jonas Pulver is a columnist and freelance journalist for the Swiss newspaper Le Temps and Swiss National Radio Espace 2.

 

 

Mythbusting the Tanaka Confrontation

p10.jpg

Prime Minister Kakuei Tanaka speaks to Club members on that infamous day in 1974.

 

 

An investigative journalist turns his focus to a subject still

guaranteed to spark hot debate at the tables of the Club.


by Eiichiro Tokumoto

O

One of the most famous and controversial events in this Club’s history was the press luncheon for Prime Minister Kakuei Tanaka. Held 40 years ago on Oct. 22, 1974, the event helped trigger a storm of criticism over Tanaka’s shady financial dealings that led to his resignation soon thereafter, making the FCCJ a forum that altered Japan’s politics.

It was famous, of course, because of the result – the fall of a powerful man. It was controversial because there were a number of differing accounts as to what happened and an equal number of theories as to why.

Among politicians of the postwar period, Kakuei Tanaka was atypical to the extreme. From the tenure of Shigeru Yoshida just after World War II, many of Japan’s prime ministers were graduates of the University of Tokyo who had served in the bureaucracy before moving into politics. Tanaka, however, was born to an impoverished farming household in Niigata. Soon after completion of his primary schooling, he worked as a laborer on road construction before running his own construction firm in Tokyo while still in his twenties.

 

He was referred to in such terms as

"the computerized bulldozer"

and enjoyed a high degree of public support.

 

Elected to the Diet soon after the war, he had held cabinet positions as minister of posts and telecommunications and finance before being elected prime minister in July 1972. He was referred to in such terms as “the primary school graduate who became the people’s prime minister” and “the computerized bulldozer,” and enjoyed a high degree of public support.

On the day Tanaka visited the FCCJ, however, he was in an exceptionally irritable mood. The November issue of the monthly magazine Bungei Shunju, which had been released just 12 days earlier, contained an investigative report by freelance journalist Takashi Tachibana titled “A study of Kakuei Tanaka – his money and political connections.”

 

The article provided details of how he accumulated enormous personal assets during his rise in politics, including records from real estate registries that pointed to suspicious transactions. Using multiple dummy companies, he had allegedly turned over properties for massive profits. While serving as minister of finance he cut in his crony, financier Kenji Osano, on sales of government-owned land. The huge profits from these deals, Tachibana alleged, were used to fund Tanaka’s political activities.

In the question and answer session at the FCCJ luncheon, Tanaka was besieged with questions from foreign correspondents regarding the article. Clearly aggravated, he rose from his seat five minutes before the event was scheduled to end and walked out, together with his secretaries. For a serving prime minister to cut short a press event was regarded as extraordinary.

Up to that point, Japan’s vernacular newspapers had been hesitant in their coverage of the Bungei Shunju article, but nearly all of them ran accounts of what transpired at the FCCJ press event. Tanaka’s wheeling and dealing quickly emerged as a major political problem and on Nov. 26, he announced his resignation.

Even 40 years later, memories of the luncheon live on in the form of legend, rumor and conspiracy theories. To this day, some believe the event was manipulated by people seeking to drive Tanaka out of politics.

 

MYTH 1: FLUSTERED AND UNPREPARED?

One widely discussed theory is that Tanaka was flustered, and had been completely unprepared for the hard-hitting and confrontational questions over his shady dealings.

Was there any truth to the assertions? Gerhard Hielscher, who, as the Club’s 2nd Vice President, was seated next to Tanaka on that day, recalls, “Just before the luncheon, we received a request from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs asking about what kinds of questions would be posed to Tanaka, and I replied that I supposed some would include questions about the political funding problem. As I was seated to Tanaka’s immediate right, I could see that when he replied to the questions about the funding problem he referred to notes. So it would be a lie to say he became flustered because of the unanticipated questions.”

 

MYTH 2: A TAIWANESE-LED CONSPIRACY

One of the persons who maintained the attacks on Tanaka were conspiratorial was Akiko Sato, his secretary of many years. In a book titled My Kakuei Tanaka Diary, she wrote:

“Even while saying ‘I don’t feel like doing it – I don’t want to go,’ Tanaka nonetheless felt he should speak at the FCCJ. There was word going around that the criticism over financial impropriety had been started by a Taiwanese reporter. Was this the price Tanaka was forced to pay for his having restored diplomatic relations with mainland China?”

 

Why this rumor could find fertile ground is understandable given the global politics of the times. Immediately after his assuming the post of prime minister in July 1972, Tanaka had visited China, met with Mao Zedong and Premier Zhou Enlai, and in a joint statement announced restoration of diplomatic ties. For the next two years and five months, Tanaka’s success in restoring ties with China continued to reflect well on his government. At the same time, however, this had led to a severance of ties between Japan and the Nationalist Chinese on Taiwan, infuriating pro-Taiwan factions within the Liberal Democratic Party.

So is there any truth to Sato’s suggestion that it was a reporter from Taiwan with resentment toward Tanaka who ignited the hostile questions? The answer can be found in the audiotape of the Tanaka luncheon, which is stored in the FCCJ library. Following are excerpts from that event related to the Bungei Shunju article.

Sam Jameson [Los Angeles Times] “In the U.S., the Senate is questioning Mr. Rockefeller about his personal wealth. Do you think that this sort of activity – asking a politician to account for his personal fortune – is appropriate in Japan as well? If not, why not? If you do think it is appropriate, would you comment on the Bungei Shunju article?”

 

Is there any truth to the suggestion

that it was a reporter from Taiwan who

ignited the hostile questions?

 

Don Oberdorfer [Washington Post] “Do you plan to take any other kind of action with respect to the article that appeared in the magazine?”

Matthew Seiden [Baltimore Sun] “Just to make sure we understand your last statement. I believe you said “as reported in the Bungei Shunju article, my sources of income and my income tax statements have all been made public.” Does that mean that you’re not denying but confirming the accuracy of the Bungei Shunju article? The question is a serious one. Are you denying it or saying it’s accurate?”

Gerhard Hielscher (Suddeutsche Zeitung) and Peter Crome (Frankfurter Rundschau) also posed questions concerning the article.

So while Sato may be forgiven for characterizing the questions as hostile it is clear that not only was the questioning not launched by a Taiwanese reporter but that no journalist from Taiwan even asked questions.

 

Sam Jameson discussed the reasons he brought up the subject at a lunch prior to his death last year. “Although the magazine had gone on sale about two weeks earlier, Tanaka himself had not made a single comment about it. That being the case, it was natural for me to ask him directly. I had only intended to ask him an extremely simple question.”

 

MYTH 3: THE AMERICANS WERE BEHIND IT

The dearth of reporters fluent in the Japanese language sowed the seeds for another conspiracy theory. Ukeru Magosaki, a former Japanese diplomat who headed the Foreign Ministry’s Intelligence and Analysis Bureau, said that he felt that the bringing up of the Bungei Shunju article was “an exceedingly inexplicable move.”

In his book, Sengoshi no Shotai (“The Truth behind Postwar History”), Magosaki wrote that the U.S., angry over Japan’s restoration of diplomatic relations with China, was keen to do a political hatchet job on Tanaka. “Many foreign reporters could not read Japanese. It seemed strange that five reporters in succession posed questions that had not appeared in any newspaper in Japan.” (Magosaki’s book also cites portions from Tanaka’s secretary Akiko Sato’s book, but omits the part in which she floats the idea of a Taiwanese reporter being responsible.)

He has a point. Given the language level of the foreign correspondents at the time, their knowledge about a dense 40-page article in a monthly magazine does seem mystifying. What was the truth?

 

It is clear that even foreign correspondents

incapable of reading the original article

would have known about its contents.

 

In fact, in the lead up to Oct. 22, the date of the Tanaka luncheon, Japanese newspapers had made few references to the Bungei Shunju article. However, Japan’s English-language newspapers had run detailed summaries of the article. On Oct. 14, eight days before the luncheon, the Japan Times reported on the article. The Asahi Evening News of Oct. 19 ran a similar story under the headline “Article on Tanaka’s Money Sources Shocking Tories,” which noted that the Bungei Shunju article had been taken up at the Executive Board meeting of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party.

Likewise, the Mainichi Daily News of Oct. 20, under the headline “Watergate, Japanese Style?,” introduced Tanaka’s questionable land dealings and other details from the magazine’s article. And on Oct. 21, one day before the luncheon, the Asahi Evening News ran a translation of the parent publication’s “Tensei Jingo” (Vox Populi, Vox Dei) column, which remarked that the Bungei Shunju article should be taken up more.

It went on: “If the contents of the article consist of facts, we do not want such a person as our prime minister. If they are not facts, shouldn’t Prime Minister Tanaka personally explain his innocence?”

From this, it is clear that even foreign correspondents incapable of reading the original article would have known about its contents. And they would have been aware that Tanaka’s “money politics” could lead to major political problems. That being the case, the press conference was simply about foreign correspondents asking the questions that Japanese reporters wanted to ask Tanaka in the first place.

 

Ironically, the day following the FCCJ press event, Japanese-language newspapers began running the Bungei Shunju article in its entirety. On Nov. 11, members of the prime minister’s press club began firing questions at Tanaka over financial irregularities. He was to announce his resignation just 15 days later.

From these events, foreign correspondents were viewed as courageous journalists in pursuit of the truth, while Japanese reporters were criticized for being cowed by political power. Such a viewpoint, however, is an oversimplification. Former Kyodo News Agency reporter Kotaro Nogami, who attended Tanaka’s luncheon at the FCCJ, was to admit in Political Reporter, his memoirs, that political reporters at the time were confronted with a serious dilemma.

 

That luncheon clearly highlights the relationship

between Japanese politicians and the mass media

and the role played by foreign correspondents

in Japanese society.

 

The fact was that it just wasn’t possible for a reporter to closely cover an influential politician and at the same time pursue how he raised huge amounts of political funds,” Nogami wrote. “To pose such a question would only set off Tanaka’s ire, and afterwards it would become more difficult to obtain unrehearsed, off-the-cuff remarks related to politics.”

That luncheon of 40 years ago clearly highlights the relationship between Japanese politicians and the mass media, the dilemmas that political reporters confronted, and the role played by foreign correspondents in Japanese society. Kakuei Tanaka passed away in 1993 at the age of 75, but the photo from that event still adorns the wall in the entry hall to the club. Certainly for the FCCJ he will be remembered as one of the greatest newsmakers of his era.

Eiichiro Tokumoto, a former Reuters correspondent, is an author and investigative journalist.

 

Profile: Akiko Ryu Innes-Taylor

   DSC_1145mono.jpg

One of the Club's first directors to come from

the ranks of the Associate Members brings an

impressive career and a fresh way of thinking to

her new position at the FCCJ.


by Lucy Alexander

 

I

n a club run by foreign journalists for foreign journalists, the contribution of Japanese Professional Associate Members can sometimes be overlooked. Yet one wouldn't want to underestimate Akiko Ryu Innes-Taylor, head of global communications for Otsuka Pharmaceutical, who was elected to the FCCJ board in July. A 51-year-old motorcycle enthusiast and single mother, Ryu has smashed many conventions of Japanese corporate life.

Now she is on a mission to modernize the Japanese public relations industry, starting with the “hacks and flacks” of the FCCJ. “Global media is essential for the Japanese government and companies,” she said. “Getting to know foreign journalists is very important and that’s why the Club is useful. These journalists create Japan’s reputation abroad. Corporate communications people in Japan tend to be very reserved, but passivity never creates a good reputation. We have to speak out.”

She believes that the Club can offer “freedom” to Japanese members, “a neutral space where they can hear what the global community outside Japan is talking about. Not information adapted for Japanese people, but instead very honest feedback about the country.”

Japan’s particular tendency towards insularity and fondness for the controlled message can result in press officers who see it as their job to block the foreign press. “There is a barrier between Japanese companies and foreign journalists,” said Ryu. “Japanese people read Japanese newspapers and we know what’s the norm with interviews and articles. But when it’s international media we don’t really know what a normal discussion is. So if we are asked for an interview, it’s more difficult to predict whether its going to be positive or not.”

 

Japan’s particular tendency towards insularity

and fondness for the controlled message can result

in press officers who see it as their job

to block the foreign press.

 

The problem is exacerbated, she says, by the “immaturity” of the Japanese communications industry. “The position of PR people in most companies is much lower than is usual globally”, she said. “They are focused on internal communications. In the U.S., it’s not about making brochures, it’s about making a corporate reputation. I think the Club offers a very good chance for communicators to see that gap and to try to minimize it.”

Ryu’s first job was as a pharmaceutical researcher at Otsuka, after a degree in medical nutrition at Tokushima University on Shikoku. “I was very fat in high school, so I was interested in healthy living,” she said. Aged 26, she met her husband, a Canadian kayaker 17 years her senior, at a bikers’ gathering in Yamanashi Prefecture. They were married within six months. “My father was shocked by the age difference, and because my husband had one eye and walked with a stick – he had an artificial hip,” she said. “He looked like Captain Hook.”

 

Two children and a happy career at Otsuka followed. “When I took maternity leave in 1991,” she said, “I was the first woman in this country to ever do so. The government had not yet introduced it and the company did not have a system, so I said I would quit my job. The company said, ‘OK, we will start offering maternity leave.’”

She believes that companies must have specific policies for promoting women. Akihiko Otsuka, the company chairman, started a women’s forum in 1990. “At the time, the company could not hire talented men, because they all went to Takeda,” she said. “So Mr. Otsuka looked at overseas markets, saw that lots of women were active in those companies, and decided to hire women. Otsuka now has six female operating officers.”

Otsuka is best known for its “nutraceuticals” range of health supplements, which includes Pocari Sweat. “Ten years ago, our position was about 12th in Japan,” said Ryu. “Now we are second. Our drug Abilify is the number one prescription drug for schizophrenia in the United States.”

 

"I want women members,

including professional associate members,

to be able to learn from each other."


DSC_1135mono.jpg

 

In 1996, after 10 years at Otsuka, Ryu decided to make a break. “I was approached by a headhunter and asked if I wanted to work for an international company. I thought I would try, but it was a big failure.” The job, at JWT, the advertising agency, was unsuited to her. “The headhunter apologized and helped me find a better job.”

Three years at Mars Japan followed, before Ryu left to care for her husband, who was recovering from a hip operation. A job at Bluebell, a French luxury goods company, followed. “After five years there, my husband got colon cancer, so I left again,” she said. After a stint as president of Sisley Japan, the French cosmetics company, she returned to Otsuka six years ago, and is now a senior operating officer. “Hanging onto one company is not really a good idea,” Ryu said. “You have to promote yourself and you never develop your skills or increase your income.”

 

In 2008, during her time at Sisley, her husband died. “It was the worst time of my life,” she said. “My boys were still in junior high school. It was very good that I had my own income. I really encourage women to have a job because you never know what will happen.”

In her new role at the FCCJ, Ryu intends to encourage women’s networking. “I want women members, including professional associate members, to be able to learn from each other. What interests me about the international women leaders who visit the Club is that they’ve never thought of quitting their jobs, and working is so natural. It’s not the same in Japan, but under [Prime Minster] Abe’s leadership I think women’s advancement will now slowly begin to move ahead.”

Lucy Alexander is a freelance journalist and correspondent for the Times.

 

 

Sink the Asahi!

  p6.jpg

How a highly respected newspaper ended up

in the crosshairs of rabid rivals, righteous revisionists

and a terribly talkative Texan.


by David McNeill & Justin McCurry

B

Before this year it is doubtful that many Japanese knew the location of Glendale, Calif. – an L.A. suburb with a population of 200,000 known for animation production, a large Asian population and the Big Boy fast-food chain. That has changed, thanks to an unimposing bronze statue of a young woman installed last year in a local park that has become a microcosm of the toxic history war between Japan and South Korea.

The statue was meant to commemorate the suffering of women herded into wartime Japanese brothels – and to symbolize justice denied. Since the unveiling, however, the city has been targeted by Japanese diplomatic protests, hundreds of angry letters and a lawsuit demanding its removal.

The dispute took a farcical turn on Oct. 21, when the city council heard testimony from long-winded rightist video blogger Tony Marano. Marano travelled hundreds of miles from his home, presumably on his own dime, and took time off from warning against nefarious communists, Koreans who “eat dogs off the street” and President Obama’s plan to turn America into a Muslim nation, to pick up the cudgel against the hated memorial.

 

The dispute took a farcical turn

when the council heard testimony from long-winded

rightist video blogger Tony Marano,

the "Texas Oyaji"

 

Known among nationalist circles here as the “Texas Oyaji,” Marano appeared to believe he was speaking on behalf of an entire country as he told the council that the statue “has been perceived by Japan and by the people of Japan as an insult and a sleight to their honor.” He urged the council to demonstrate that the city was not “bashing” Japan.

How did it come to this – a nondescript community on the edge of Los Angeles’ massive urban sprawl becoming the focus of a struggle between two East Asian nations for the world’s sympathy, if not its conscience?

Apparently, if rightist revisionists are to be believed, the Asahi Shimbun is to blame – for this, as well as for the entire globally accepted history of the Japanese military’s involvement in forcing women into sexual slavery during World War II.

It began when Japan’s second most-read newspaper ran a series of articles in the 1990s on comfort women, with one of its sources a man named Seiji Yoshida. In the revisionist narrative, that triggered the 1993 Kono Statement that acknowledged the army’s role and eventually led to the U.S. House Resolution 121 of 2007, calling on Japan’s government to “formally acknowledge and apologize in a clear and unequivocal manner” for the sordid episode.

So when the Asahi belatedly apologized for the series in August, admitting that Yoshida was discredited, it opened the door to a parade of chest-thumping revisionists. [See “The Asahi’s Costly Admission,” Number 1 Shimbun, Sept. 2014].

The criticism of the paper began at the top. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe repeatedly hauled the newspaper over the coals for its coverage. “Many people were hurt, saddened and angered by the Asahi’s false reports,” that “damaged our honor around the world,” he said.

 

So when the Asahi belatedly apologized for the

series in August, it opened the door to a parade

of chest-thumping revisionists.

 

The Sankei and the Yomiuri showed no mercy in their attacks. Even the Japan News, the English-language edition of the Yomiuri, ran close to 50 articles, editorials and guest columns in late summer and fall on the rival paper’s woes, including a four-part series in which it claimed that “the Asahi’s stories on the comfort women issue over the decades have been a significant factor in the entrenchment of the distorted view that ‘the Japanese military systematically and forcibly took away women to serve as comfort women’ for its soldiers.”

TWISTED FACTS, TWISTED WORDS

In fact, the Kono Statement was the product of years of campaigning by Korean and other former military sex slaves. Likewise, the discredited Yoshida memoir and Asahi’s reporting of it had nothing to do with Resolution 121 – so said the group of experts who helped write it. The scholars were moved to make this clear after the Mainichi newspaper reported exactly the opposite after interviewing them. “All of us were astonished,” they recall.

“We had unequivocally told the reporters that the Yoshida memoir and Asahi’s reporting of it were not factors in the consideration, drafting, or defense of the [resolution],” they said in a statement. “We emphasized that one discredited source would not form the basis of research for Congress.” In fact, they said, “There was ample documentary and testimonial evidence from across the Indo-Pacific region to support the fact that Imperial Japan organized and managed a system of sexual slavery for its military as well as for its colonial officials, businessmen and overseas workers.”

The odd sense shared by the Resolution 121 experts that the Mainichi reporters had made their minds up before they walked through the door, is one we recognize. After the Asahi’s retraction, we were approached by several Japanese news organizations asking the same question: Wasn’t the Asahi coverage of the comfort issue a major influence on reporting by foreign correspondents?

 

 

We both have a clear answer: no.

Neither of us had even heard of Yoshida

until this year.

 

We both have a clear answer: no. Neither of us had even heard of Yoshida until this year. Over the last decade, however, we have interviewed many of these women first hand, in South Korea and elsewhere. We have visited the House of Sharing, a museum and communal refuge for surviving comfort women outside of Seoul.

The eight residents include Kang Il-chul, who still bears the physical scars of the two years she spent working in a Japanese military brothel in occupied northwest China, thousands of miles from her home in the southern half of the Korean peninsula. “I was put in a tiny room and made to sleep with about 10 to 20 soldiers a day,” Kang said.

When confronted with claims that no evidence exists that she and her contemporaries were coerced, she leaned forward to reveal the wounds on her scalp – the result, she said, of frequent beatings by the military police.

Kang, who married a Chinese man after the war, did not return to South Korea until 2000. “To hear Japan’s leaders accuse us of being liars makes me sad and angry,” the 87-year-old said in 2012.

An unofficial campaign of intimidation has been launched against ex-Asahi journalists. This campaign has precedent: ultra-rightists targeting “anti-Japanese elements” in the media murdered Asahi journalist Tomohiro Kojiri in 1987. The main target this time is Takashi Uemura, a former Seoul bureau chief now vilified for his comfort women coverage.

An article in the weekly magazine Shukan Bunshun, expressing disbelief that he was to be employed at Kobe Shoin Women’s University, triggered a tsunami of hate mail. “As soon as the story came out, 200 messages a week flooded into the university office,” Uemura said.

 

 

The hate trail followed him,

this time including a threat

to blow up the university.

 

He negotiated a settlement with the school, then retreated to his native Sapporo, where he found part-time work at Hokusei Gakuen University. The hate trail followed him, this time including a threat to blow up the university. As the No.1 Shimbun goes to press a suspect is in police custody for making that threat, and Uemura has managed to hang on to his job.

WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE?

Where might all this be heading? A national “anti-Asahi Shimbun” committee, led by lawmaker Nariaki Nakayama, discussed plans at its inaugural conference to widen the boycott and haul Asahi editors and journalists before the Diet. The Texas Oyaji stepped forward with a claim that the Asahi dishonored many members of the former Japanese Imperial army by labeling them as “sex offenders.”

Yoshiko Sakurai, a high-profile revisionist, added an ominous note. “I believe the people at the Asahi perhaps fail to comprehend what a real national crisis their decades of shoddy reporting has brought about,” she blogged. “In all candor, I am tempted to say that there really is no medicine that can cure the Asahi.”

And just when it seemed that the Yomiuri might have tired of pounding its rival, it published a 24-page online pamphlet titled “Myth and Truth in East Asia” in late October that again took the Asahi to task. And the Sankei publishing group announced that it wasn’t ready to retreat from the attack with an entire issue of the magazine Seiron devoted to more Asahi-bashing.

All this, along with a boycott campaign led by the Sankei, has taken its toll. The Asahi’s circulation is down by 770,000 since November 2013.

It is unreasonable to expect newspapers to resist the temptation to crow about errors made by a rival publication. The same would almost certainly happen in the UK, even among respectable broadsheets. But in their sustained criticism, the Sankei and Yomiuri appear to be doing the bidding of the revisionist movement.

Revisionists, however, deny they are trying to crush the paper. “I hope we can force the Asahi to change its stripes and admit its past mistakes,” says Tony Kase, collaborator with Henry Scott Stokes on the recent revisionist bestseller Falsehoods of the Allied Nations’ Victorious View of History, as Seen by a British Journalist. He says he has “many dear friends” at the Asahi. “It did many good things, including supporting our last war in liberating the rest of Asia.”

In the spectrum of difficult choices facing Japan’s liberal flagship, reverting to its flag-waving, wartime incarnation might seem the least palatable. Whatever its editors decide, however, the nationalist knives are out.

In fact, there are signs that criticism of the Asahi is transforming into a sustained campaign to discredit the Kono statement, as the region prepares to mark the 70th anniversary of the end of WWII next summer.

In October, Abe was quoted saying that, “baseless, slanderous claims that the entire nation regarded [women] as sexual slaves are being made all over the world.” And his administration has demanded changes to a 1996 report by the UN commission on human rights – known as the Coomaraswamy Report.

 

There are signs that criticism of the Asahi

is transforming into a sustained campaign

to discredit the Kono statement

 

Japan thinks that, by damaging the credibility of the Coomaraswamy Report, it can change the perception in the international community that the comfort women were sex slaves,” Han Hye-in, researcher at the Academy of East Asian Studies at Sungkyunkwan University, told the South Korean Hankyoreh newspaper.

In response, perhaps the last word should go to Yu Hui-nam, a House of Sharing resident who was 16 when she was taken to work in a brothel in Osaka. “I was ashamed and humiliated,” she said of her initial refusal to return to South Korea after Japan’s defeat. She revealed the truth about her past only when other former comfort women started coming forward many years later.

“We were snatched, like flowers that have been picked before they bloom.”

David McNeill writes for the Independent, the Irish Times, the Economist and other publications and is a coordinator of the electronic journal www.japanfocus.org. Justin McCurry is the Japan and Korea correspondent for the Guardian and Observer newspapers in London. He contributes to the Christian Science Monitor and the Lancet medical journal, and makes regular appearances on France 24 TV.

 

From the Archives: Dynamic Duo

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Pink Lady wowed members of the FCCJ on the evening of December 6, 1978, at the peak
of their career. Adding a glamorous dimension to Club events, their appearance followed
those of such illustrious entertainers as Bob Hope, Danny Kaye, and Marcel Marceau.
(Photo from FCCJ Archives)

 

PINK LADY, A DYNAMIC pop music duo named after the cocktail drink (according to a 1979 article in Look), was formed by two Shizuoka high-school classmates in the mid-1970s. While in their late teens, the two girls, Mitsuyo Nemoto (“Mie”) and Keiko Masuda (Kei”), appeared on a Japanese TV talent show and won the top prize as well as a recording contract. A meteoric rise followed, resulting from a string of catchy pop songs to a disco beat, accompanied by synchronized dance steps and sexy costumes. By the end of the 1970s they had nine No. 1 hits – five of which were million-selling singles – as well as a film that became a box-office hit.P

At their peak in 1978, Pink Lady appeared in their first concert in the U. S., followed by a short-lived NBC-TV variety show in 1980. But less visibility at home and declining interest in disco music hurt their record sales, as did their refusal in 1978 to perform on NHK’s annual New Year’s Eve music program, Kohaku Uta Gassen (“Red-and-White Song Contest”), in favor of hosting their own TV special on another network with disastrous results. A later switch to a style with greater appeal for adults missed the mark and the duo disbanded in 1981.

They continued independently with successful careers as singers and actresses. In 2005, the duo held a farewell tour in Japan, then made a comeback in 2010 with the release of re-recorded versions of their past hits. A concert tour followed in March, 2011, marking the 30th anniversary of their official disbandment.

Pink Lady will be long-remembered for being only the second Japanese act to have a single (“Kiss in the Dark”) achieve “Billboard Top 40” fame, following Kyu Sakamoto and “Sukiyaki” in 1963.


-- Charles Pomeroy

 

 

Tales from the Round Tables: "Dikko" Hughes Meets James Bond

 

by the Shimbun Alley Whisperers

 

WHEN AUSTRALIAN RICHARD HUGHES first landed here in 1940, he found ambassadors still needed reminding that Shanghai was not in Japan and the Emperor did not sleep at the Grand Shrine of Ise. He wasted no time proving his journalistic credentials, though, being first to alert his homeland that Japan was to forge an alliance with Germany.

One cringing misadventure often recalled with much hilarity was how in 1947 he became the only journalist ever appointed FCCJ general manager. He was selected by what he called a ‘drunken and uproarious endorsement’ by his peers, a mixed membership of the world’s best and bravest journalists, along with ‘the world’s most plausible rogues and magisterial scoundrels.’

FCCJ was in those days a lively establishment, which the reluctant manager said had the ‘features of a makeshift bordello, inefficient gaming-house and black market centre,’ not to mention ‘the aspirations and pretensions of an outpost of the free world in a defeated oriental state.’ Still, Hughes managed a coup when he convinced General MacArthur to help coax the FCCJ’s landlord, Mitsubishi, to repair exploding basement lavatories and crumbling steps in the five-storied, brownstone building at No. 1 Shimbun Alley.

 

Everyone assumed he was a double agent,

so it was no surprise when Ian Fleming,

his close friend and former editor, came to Japan

in search of color and inspiration

for his next novel.”

 

“‘News and revelation, scandal and fact’ were always on tap at the FCCJ bar, where the GM no doubt polished his already considerable intelligence-gathering skills. Though the ‘eccentric experiment,’ as he liked to call his tenure, came to an end in less than two years, Hughes went on to make his name in a string of international scoops, highlighted by the exclusive interview in Moscow with the British defectors Donald Maclean and Guy Burgess.

Everyone assumed he was a double agent, so it was no surprise when Ian Fleming, his close friend and former editor at the London Sunday Times, came to Japan in 1962 in search of local color and inspiration for his next novel about James Bond, agent 007.

Fleming and ‘Dikko’ spent two glorious weeks visiting the most idyllic shrines and temples tucked away in the scenic hills of Kyoto and Fukuoka, hot springs, villas with secret corridors riddled with trap doors, tea houses of ill repute, all the while ‘staying loyal’ to local saké every evening. Fleming was particularly eager to meet pearl divers, as he had already decided his next 007 heroine would be an ama, so off they went to Mikimoto’s pearl farm.

Hughes noted that Fleming never developed an affinity for eating and sleeping on tatami, but writes of his consuming admiration for Japanese simplicity and the genuine pleasure
he drew from the most mundane chance encounters.

Fleming had a bad heart, but against the doctor’s orders, always travelled with his own bottle of bourbon. This was better for the heart than scotch because ‘the ‘muscles expand under bourbon, Dikko, but they contract under Scotch.’ Hughes wasn’t impressed by Fleming’s science, but wishfully reasoned that bourbon must then also be correcting the ill effects of the copious volume of nicotine Fleming was inhaling. It didn’t quite deliver, though, as Fleming died just two years later of a massive heart attack shortly after the fruit of their journey was published.

The much anticipated novel read rather like a travelogue, with a somber and curiously introspective tone. When the film producers flew out on their reconnaissance, however, they found Tokyo resplendent from five years of Olympics construction madness, and promptly shifted the storyline to highlight the state-of-the-art tech gadgetry that now came to define Japan.

 

Fleming had a bad heart, but against

the doctor’s orders, always travelled

with his own bottle of bourbon.

 

Fleming never saw the film, nor the New Otani Hotel that rose from its ancient gardens like a metaphor for Japan’s global ambitions. But it’s doubtful he would have been happy with the liberties his erstwhile good friend Roald Dahl took in writing the script. Still, You Only Live Twice, starring Sean Connery and actress Mie Hama as the beautiful ama, was a huge international hit, and cemented James Bond’s popularity in Japan.

The book and film just added to Hughes’ growing fame. For being Fleming’s loyal guide and key Japan source, the FCCJ’s short lived GM was honored in perpetuity as Dikko Henderson, Bond’s British contact
in Tokyo, (played in the film by Charles Gray).”


 

Club Notes

JOIN THE MOVIE COMMITTEE …

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. . . at 7:00 pm on Tuesday, Oct. 14 for Nuclear Nation II, the second chapter in Atsushi Funahashi’s eye-opening documentary series on Fukushima’s nuclear refugees. As in the first chapter, the film patiently observes the ongoing fates of evacuees from the tiny town of Futaba, who were forced to move to an abandoned high school in Saitama following the 3/12 meltdown. Mayor Katsutaka Idogawa, a former cheerleader for nuclear power who began questioning his convictions in the first film, is under fire for refusing to support the co-opting of Futaba’s farmland as a dumping ground for nuclear waste. We watch with increasing stupefaction as the government continues to ignore his demands for empathy and the information vacuum continues to suck hope from the survivors. There is increasing desperation among the 600 residents still in the school, bickering over differing levels of resident compensation, and finally, a new mayor. But whither Futaba? Nuclear Nation II subtly highlights the unanswered questions about the true costs of nuclear energy and capitalism.
(Japan, 2014; 114 minutes; Japanese with English subtitles.)                                        

— Karen Severns

 

New Members in October

 

REGULAR MEMBERS

 

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YUMI KAWABATA is a freelance automotive and environmental journalist. She received a Masters of Engineering from Gunma University and worked as an engineer for three years before switching to automotive writing and editing for Navi and Car Graphic. After seven years, she expanded her focus to include international automotive and environmental publications. She specializes in hybrids, electric vehicles and environmental solutions for the automotive industry. She is also a jurymember of the Japanese Car of the Year awards and is a member of the Automotive Journalists Association of Japan.

 

THOMAS STALDER is the correspondent for Swiss National Radio + TV SRF.

 

PROFESSIONAL JOURNALIST ASSOCIATE MEMBERS


Hugh Thomas Ashton, Self Employed
Nazafarin Mirzakhalili, NHK
Michiko Hasegawa, Saitama University

 

REINSTATEMENT (PROFESSIONAL/JOURNALIST ASSOCIATE)
Yukari Tatsuno, Freelance

 

ASSOCIATE MEMBERS
Alexandra Siddall, Australian Embassy
E. Keith Henry, Asia Strategy
Toshio Inagi, Kowa Co., Ltd.
Shioe Ogiwara, Shioewa Inc.
Ryo Sakai, Toyota Motor Corporation

REINSTATEMENT (ASSOCIATE)
Makiko Horiuchi, Horiuchi Law Office

 

Exhibition: Noren

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A Collaboration by Kontetsu and Shin Nakamura

 

NOREN IS PART OF Japanese culture and tradition. The fabric partition has been used as signage or interior division. The first known usage of the word noren was in Zen textbooks in the Kamakura era. In the Edo era, with progress in dyeing and weaving technology, noren became widely used by the general public. Inside or outside, ordinary or extraordinary, noren gently provides a separation of space. Today, with a need for more global understanding and respect for diversity, we aim to take the notion of noren, swinging and swaying, as an alternative to building walls of separation. This is the “yura-yura” concept – a project involving various members in dyeing, design, weaving and photography.

Kontetsu and Shin Nakamura are 3rd and 4th generation members of Nakamura Inc., producers of kimono. Recently Kontetsu had been planning traditional-culture events aimed at the next generation, and Nakamura Inc. is promoting projects for a new standard for noren.

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The WAW Factor

 

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A student addresses the media; Akie Abe; Akie Abe’s husband, PM Shinzo Abe;
IMF CEO Christine Lagarde.

 

 

 Here's how to promote the Japanese

prime mini . . . I mean,

Japanese women. 

 

by Sonja Blaschke

O

n Sept. 12, the first day of the World Assembly of Women (WAW), the speaker was sharing some of her intimate family moments. “When we were on summer holiday, I cooked,” she said, “and my husband cleaned the dishes.” She paused for emphasis, then added, “He also took the trash out.” Her words were met with thunderous, show-stopping applause that filled the event hall and washed over the man in question sitting in the front row. The speaker was Akie Abe, and the man lauded for his help with household chores was Shinzo Abe, the prime minister of Japan.

The clapping was initiated by Akiko Yamanaka, moderator of the WAW’s “Special Talk Session.” “I was proud to introduce Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at his policy speech at the General Assembly of the United Nations last year,” her statement in the WAW booklet reads. While Yamanaka was introduced as “Visiting Professor at Cambridge University,” she is not only a fellow member of the LDP, but once served as the director general of the party’s Women’s Bureau, and is the former Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs.

 

The speaker was Akie Abe,

and the man lauded for his help

with household chores was Shinzo Abe,

the prime minister of Japan.

 

Party politics could go a long way in explaining why, rather than directing the conversation between the two women on stage – Akie Abe and Cherie Blair, founder of the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women and wife of the former British Prime Minister Tony Blair – Yamanaka kept directing questions to the prime minister sitting in the audience. Instead of presenting the two women as successful and influential individuals engaged in interesting activities, she reduced them to the role of “wife of . . . ” In doing so, Yamanaka passed up the chance to set a business-like tone for two days of speeches, panels and discussions in working groups among women from 25 countries in favor of harmless gossip. It made Japan appear provincial rather than international.

Things didn’t get better. In his own opening speech, Abe listed examples of companies improving their stance in promoting women to high positions. He spoke proudly of the computer company that collaborated with a jewelry brand to change the design of a laptop upon the suggestion of a female employee, so that it could be opened without ruining elaborately manicured fingernails. The rest of Abe’s speech focused on his record of actions taken to raise the lot of women in Japan and what he’s got planned for the future – like pledging “to eliminate the word ‘childcare waiting list’ from the Japanese lexicon.”

Still, his words left many attendees impressed, especially those from outside of Japan, who were very likely the main target. Many of the mostly female speakers were surprisingly enthusiastic in thanking the prime minister and his wife for spending quite some time at the conference, and many attendees were also appreciative. “The WAW Conference for me was a clear demonstrable conviction of the government of Japan to see it did not lose the economic strength of its women,” said Zia Mody, a corporate attorney who attended from India. “The personal commitment of Prime Minister Abe reinforced this.”

 

The only speaker who gave the impression

that she was able to see behind all

the clichéd phrases

was Christine Lagarde.

 

“There should be more heads of state like Abe”, said Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Executive Director of UN Women. She somewhat half-jokingly lamented, however, that Abe had stolen some limelight from her organization by giving away in his speech that UN Women was opening an office in Japan.

The only speaker who gave the impression that she was able to see behind all the clichéd phrases was Christine Lagarde. In her keynote speech, “The Economic Power of Women’s Empowerment,” the Managing Director of the IMF made a point of convincing male decision makers to promote women not for the sake of equal human rights, but because it could help their companies perform significantly better, lift the economy and give “Abenomics” a push.

She repeated her widely quoted remark of 2012 that Japanese women could save Japan, and that gradually raising the country’s female labor force to the average level of the G7 could raise income per capita permanently by four percent. Raising it to participation levels of Northern Europe would give Japan a further four percent. “Overly ambitious – perhaps, for now,” she added with a smile. She packaged uncomfortable topics like immigration in words of praise of Japan’s hospitality.

Several speakers praised Abe for recently appointing five female ministers. They might have been less enthusiastic had they known that some of them have a track record of being extremely conservative and actually obstructing gender equality. One opposes sex education at schools. Another wants the abortion law tightened. And the timing of their appointment a week before WAW was certainly not coincidental.

WAW was supposed to highlight women, their plights and their achievements and create public attention domestically and internationally. While it provided opportunities for the invited women to network, it also felt like a well-choreographed PR event to promote PM Abe as a modern statesman abroad. In that sense, it was successful; it even convinced some of the Japanese attendees of his sincerity. One, however, was less enthusiastic. Ayako Shiomura, whose speech earlier this year at the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly was interrupted by sexist remarks, said that Abe had tried to ignore the issue at the time. Now, Shiomura says, it is one thing to talk about the promotion of women. But it will take another ten years for true change to materialize.

Sonja Blaschke is a German freelance journalist writing for publications in Germany, Austria and Switzerland. She works as a producer for TV filming in Japan.

 

 

South Korea vs. the Sankei

  Sankei's Seoul Bureau Chief Tatsuya Kato is being

investigated for an article on the South Korean

president, but what is his crime?


by Max Kim

Barred from leaving South Korea, Japan’s Sankei Shimbun Seoul bureau chief Tatsuya Kato was summoned twice in August by prosecutors as they investigated defamation charges rising from his controversial Sankei article that questioned President Park’s whereabouts during the April Sewol ferry tragedy.

The Supreme Prosecutor’s Office recently announced its plans to prosecute Kato for criminal defamation, but with the presidential office avoiding getting directly involved and foreign press slamming South Korea for violating the freedom of speech, it remains unclear how the legal proceedings will unfold going forward – or to what extent they actually can.

 

With the foreign press slamming

South Korea for violating the freedom of speech,

its unclear how the legal proceedings will unfold.

 

Though a similar editorial in the local newspaper Chosun Ilbo – which Kato cited as source material – had already raised the same questions, his article raised noticeably greater furor in the Korean public. It was enough to prompt an angry conservative civilian-group leader to submit a bill of indictment directly to the Seoul Prosecutor’s Office.

And because defamation law in Korea allows authorities to investigate a supposed offense even without the affected party’s involvement, President Park herself is conspicuously distanced from the case.

 

Somewhere along the way, it became a diplomatic issue as well, when Yun Byeong Se, South Korea’s foreign minister, unexpectedly pursued the issue with Japan’s Fumio Kishida at a recent ASEAN Regional Forum in Myanmar. The question on everyone’s minds, however, is: will criminal defamation charges against Kato actually hold up in court?

Those who say “no” roundly point to the fact that Kato’s article heavily borrows from the earlier Chosun Ilbo editorial. They ask, if the insinuations that landed Kato in hot water aren’t even really his, why is he alone being summoned for investigation? This is the grist of the Sankei’s defense, and though both Korean and foreign commentators have also raised this question, authorities are tight-lipped on the subject.

The president’s chief secretary Kim Ki-Chun’s evasive reply when asked about President Park’s absence – “I don’t know about her exact whereabouts at the time” – is credited by observers as the event that launched the situation into greater (and more scandalous) public scrutiny.

 

Though the rumors remain

unconfirmed, their truthfulness

may be beside the point.

Kato’s primary source material, the July 18 Chosun Ilbo editorial titled “The rumors surrounding the president” by Choi Bo Sik, is the notable example. In analyzing Kim’s ambiguous response, Choi explained it as “an attempt to protect the President.” But from what?

Kim’s editorial hinted at an answer, stating, “There are rumors going around that the president was with a certain partner at an undisclosed location,” and later naming recently divorced Jeong Yoon Hwe as the “character in the rumors.” Though the rumors that fueled so much speculation remain unconfirmed, as far as Korean defamation law is concerned, their truthfulness may be beside the point. Experts on the sidelines agree that, considering the derivative nature of Kato’s article, the crux of the defamation case is intent – rather than the truth about President Park’s whereabouts.

 

A 1998 Supreme Court decision reads, “Even when the alleged fact is not proved to be true, but the presenter believes that the alleged fact is true and has substantial reasons to believe so, the action shall be deemed to have no criminal or reckless intent.”

Neither article, however, claimed any of these rumors were true – simply that they existed. The grist of Sankei’s own defense is that Kato merely paraphrased points already raised by the original Chosun Ilbo column, which itself refrained from making claims about the rumors’ truthfulness.

Although those who support prosecuting Kato insist that the intent behind reiterating these rumors was indeed malicious, some others counter that it’s an argument that’s difficult to prove with the available facts. “It’s plain to see that the [Sankei] article didn’t actually make the conclusion that President Park met this other man – it merely raised the question,” says Yonsei University criminal law professor Park Sang Gi. “You could ask whether, if these allegations turned out to be false later on, Sankei could be held liable for failing to factually back up their report. But as the article itself shows, they simply reported secondhand that these rumors are circulating in Korea – they didn’t fabricate facts out of malice.”

"They simply reported that

these rumors are circulating in Korea --they

didn't fabricate facts out of malice."

Like many others who don’t support prosecution, Park also says the media’s interest in these rumors is simply a matter of course. “Unless someone can prove the author’s libelous intent, it’s hard to call this a valid case of defamation,” he says. “Raising these types of questions is part of the press’s fundamental purpose and intrinsic function.”

 

And as critics of President Park’s seven-hour absence have noted, there is a strong case for the legitimacy of airing out this particular rumor, since it concerns an incident that resulted in the death of nearly 300 students. The 1998 Supreme Court ruling also includes a provision protecting reports about public affairs, stating that,
“the action has no illegality when the alleged fact is related to a public matter.” “The question of President Park’s whereabouts is an issue is of public significance. It’s not just a matter of the president’s privacy,”
says Park.

And while the argument rages in the media, the presidential office appears to be shrewdly detaching itself from the case. Earlier this year, Cheongwadae (the presidential office) representative Yoon Doo Hyun had stated that the “Cheongwadae will fully follow through with all civil and criminal charges.” But more recent comments indicate a change of heart: “We are going to carefully observe the legal process initiated by a third party.”

As defamation laws in Korea stipulate that an offense will go unpunished only if the victim explicitly requests it, the presidential office’s comments can only be construed as an implicit go-ahead.

However, with President Park’s mysterious absence still unexplained, the presidential office’s lukewarm stance, and mounting criticisms of the discriminatory investigation, even critics of Kato have suggested the possibility of a diplomatic solution.

Max Kim is a freelance journalist and cartoonist based in Seoul. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

 

Full-court Press

 

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 A controversial government minister comes to

the Club to make her case -- but the journalists

in the audience have other ideas.


by Julian Ryall

I

f Eriko Yamatani arrived at the FCCJ thinking that she would be fielding the sort of softball queries she usually faces from kisha kurabu correspondents covering the issue of Japanese nationals abducted by North Korea, she was very quickly disabused of that notion. As soon as the question-and-answer session began, the focus of the Sept. 25 press conference switched to her knowledge of and support for Zaitoku-kai, an ultra-right group infamous for its hate speech demonstrations against Korean residents of Japan, and to her relationship with Shigeo Masuki, a former senior official of the group.

Yamatani’s efforts to defect the questions with a disarming smile, combined with her nonchalant dismissal of a Shukan Bunshun story – in which she claimed not to be aware that Masuki was involved with Zaitoku-kai, despite an accompanying photo of the politician with Masuki – failed to dissuade the foreign press from its line of questioning. She did, however, pointedly thank a Japanese journalist from NHK for giving her a brief respite by asking her about upcoming negotiations with North Korea about the fates of the missing Japanese nationals.

 

The focus quickly switched to her knowledge of

and support for an ultra-right  group

infamous for its hate speech demonstrations.

 

It had all started so well for the minister, appointed by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in his cabinet reshuffle in early September to a position that also encompasses the National Public Safety Commission and oversees the activities of the police. In her opening comments, Yamatani had underlined her long track record of trying to secure the freedom of Japanese nationals abducted by North Korea and to protect human rights.

She was a speaker at a United Nations symposium earlier in September and demanded that Pyongyang be held accountable for its human rights abuses. “We believe there is increasing attention being focused on this topic around the world and we want to take advantage of that momentum,” Yamatani added.

She also held aloft a large picture of Megumi Yokota, abducted in November 1977 at the age of 13, and insisted that the Japanese government would continue to put pressure on North Korea to “ensure a comprehensive resolution to this issue.”

Yamatani probably wished she had devoted more time to her presentation than to answering questions from the press, with Richard Lloyd Parry of the Times first up to ask her how long she had known Masuki, how many times she had met the former Zaitoku-kai official and whether she would be willing to “reject unconditionally the organization, the policies and sentiments which it represents.”

My electoral district is basically the entire nation and, as a result, I travel throughout the country and I meet many people,” Yamatani said. “I did not know that Mr. Masuki is related to the Zaitoku-kai organization.”

Asked when she first met Masuki and how many times they have met, Yamatani claimed she has “no specific memory” of when or how many times she has met him. Avoiding a condemnation of the Zaitoku-kai, she said, “I do not believe it is appropriate to make specific comments about different organizations."

 

Yamatani added that any illegal activities

should be subject to "the appropriate procedures"

by the police and the courts.

 

Pressed on the point by Jake Adelstein, who pointed out that hate speech has been identified by the United Nations, the U.S. State Department and Japan’s National Police Agency – which Yamatani heads – as an issue that Japan needs to address, the minister claimed that “wa” is of great importance in Japanese society. “Japan has a long history of placing great value on the idea of wa, or ‘harmony,’” she said. “Japan has a long history of respecting the human rights of every single individual.”

Suggesting that groups that are behind hate speech that encourages discrimination “cannot be tolerated,” Yamatani added that any illegal activities should be subject to “the appropriate procedures” by the police and the courts. Responding to a question about the right-wing attacks on Japan’s liberal media, primarily the Asahi Shimbun, and the suggestion that the government is encouraging that hounding of the left-of-center media, Yamatani insisted that “freedom of the press very much exists in Japan.”

One of the oddest answers was to a question by a TBS radio reporter who asked the minister about a previous written reply she had given to the broadcaster. According to the reporter, when asked what kind of organization she thought the Zaitoku-kai was, she had replied that it was trying to heighten awareness of the “special privileges” that Koreans receive. When he asked what special privileges she was referring to, Yamatani dodged the question by admitting to the reporter that her answer probably consisted of copy taken directly from the Zaitoku-kai website.

 

Yamatani dodged the question

by admitting that it was copy

taken directly

from the Zaitoku-kai website.

 

A rather stunning admission, but with time running short at the end of the press conference, and Yamatani clearly keen to get to her next appointment, she declined to reply to some follow-up questions concerning Japan’s international reputation should the government, and Yamatani in particular, continue to face questions about protecting the human rights of foreign residents of Japan.

She also failed to reply to a query suggesting that, in her position as a senior member of the government, she should have been aware of the policies and attitudes of Zaitoku-kai and that the failure to do so should have been sufficient for her to tender her resignation.

Julian Ryall is the Japan correspondent for the Daily Telegraph.

 

 

The Enduring Legacy of a Song-writing Enigma

 

No1-10-2014Rodgers.jpg
 

 Meet Japan's all-time favorite American tunesmith,

though no one knows his name.


by Mary Corbett

J

apan’s love affair with the music of one of America’s most prolific composers started in earnest with the arrival of the U.S. Occupation forces in 1945. Today, despite changing musical tastes and a huge generation gap, the country’s airwaves continue to be filled with the sounds of his catchy classics, like “Shall We Dance,” “Blue Moon” and “My Favorite Things” – to name just a few of his eminently hummable tunes.

Richard Rodgers’ songs are arguably the best-loved foreign tunes of all time in Japan. What is particularly impressive is that the public actually knows the lyrics to some of them – in both original and translated versions – in a nation of very few English speakers. Stop shoppers on the Ginza, or salarymen in Shimbashi, and chances are pretty good that they will be able to sing a full verse and beyond of “Do Re Mi,” from The Sound of Music. How many Americans could do that?

The closest non-Rodgers contender of frequently sung foreign songs (after eliminating “Happy Birthday” for essentially having only five words), might be “Jingle Bells,” except that very few Japanese who claim to know it can actually sing the lyrics beyond the first line.

But while the music is ubiquitous, his name is not. Though many of Rodgers’ melodies are recognized national treasures, an online search in Japanese will have you digging through pages of an eminent British architect, and more recently, an American football player from the Green Bay Packers, before coming across the most popular and esteemed Broadway name of all time.

 

Want more proof that he’s the most popular songwriter no one’s ever heard of? Go to a match at FC Tokyo, a top J League soccer team, and you’ll hear the rousing chorus of a stadium full of fans singing their anthem “You’ll Never Walk Alone,” entirely in English. They took their cue, of course, from the legendary Kop’s fans of Liverpool Football Club. And, like most fans around the world who’ve had this sing-along melody deeply embedded in their passionate football memories, the FC Tokyo fans believe it is a song written by the Liverpool band Gerry and the Pacemakers in the 1960s. Not true. This, also, is a Rodgers’ creation.

 

 FC Tokyo Fans believe the song was

written by the Liverpool band Gerry and the

Pacemakers. Not true.

 

The song was played endlessly on Japanese television after the Tohoku Earthquake in 2011 as leading foreign-based soccer players’ messages of encouragement poured in from around the world. Still, most football fans have yet to discover that the song was written by Rodgers and his lyricist partner, Oscar Hammerstein, for the musical Carousel in 1945. In fact, even FC Tokyo officials were surprised to find the true roots of what they thought was a quintessentially English anthem. “It’s amazing to discover the Broadway origins of the world’s most famous football song,” says Nobuki Kobayashi, an executive of FC Tokyo. “We’re eager to share this, with a special focus on Richard Rodgers, with our fans in the coming season.”

So perhaps Japan can be forgiven that none but the most devoted fans of stage musicals know the name Richard Rodgers, or the even more widely recognized brand of Rodgers & Hammerstein.

 

In the U.S. and much of Europe, the two need little introduction. They were the unsurpassed masters of the blockbuster hit musicals and led the charge of revolutionizing the musical genre from showcasing thinly plotted vaudevillian tunes in the 1920s into a new era of powerful social commentaries and Pulitzer-winning storylines such as South Pacific (spun together from the novel Tales From the South Pacific by the FCCJ’s own James Michener), Carousel and The Sound of Music.

All of the above musicals are popular in Japan, and rare is a season when one of them, along with other R&H favorites like Oklahoma and The King and I are not being staged somewhere by the nation’s most popular troupes, Gekidan Shiki and Takarazuka. This isn’t the biggest musical theater market in the world, but within its select pool, R&H reign shoulder to shoulder with the king of modern musicals, Andrew Lloyd Webber. As popular as Lloyd Webber and his creations Cats and Phantom of the Opera may be, however, you won’t find many people on the streets of Tokyo able to hum along, let alone sing the lyrics, to any of his songs past the opening, “Memories . . .”

 

Rodgers' jazz songbooks are performed

by everyone from Ella, Frank and Louis

to Eric Clapton and Alicia Keys.

Even Lady Gaga.

 

The startling volume of Rodgers’ much-covered hits can be partly attributed to his extraordinary longevity, the start of which predates his partnership with Hammerstein by a couple of decades. Rodgers’ very first mega-hit was “Manhattan,” written with his Columbia University sempai Lorenz Hart in 1925, soon after leaving school, and it launched them quickly beyond Broadway into the popular music stratosphere.

Rodgers had both the artistry and pragmatic craftsmanship to ride the tide of evolving tastes right until his death in 1979. Though many of the Rodgers and Hart stage productions of the 1920s and 30s didn’t transition well beyond WWII, the musicals left a legacy of indelible classic songs, such as “My Funny Valentine,” “Blue Moon,” “Isn’t It Romantic” and “This Can’t Be Love” (a huge Nat King Cole hit).

These form the core of Rodgers’ jazz songbooks performed by everyone from Ella, Frank, Louis, Elvis and Miles Davis to more recent recordings by Eric Clapton, Rod Stewart and Alicia Keys. Even Lady Gaga can be heard belting out an impressive version of “The Lady Is A Tramp” with Tony Bennett in a recent album (and a must-see video). Rodgers’ music translates as well commercially across generations as it does culturally.

 

Rodgers & Hammerstein’s big break in Japan was undoubtedly the arrival of The Sound of Music in 1965, and the film’s upcoming 50th anniversary celebrations being planned around the world may finally impress the august composer’s name into Japan’s collective memory.

TV and magazine crews, including a top-rated Japanese talk show, have been flying into Salzburg from all over the world in recent weeks to recapture the magical opening scene of Julie Andrews running up the hills made famous by the movie. And a number of tribute concerts and events are being planned in Tokyo to commemorate the half-century of its enduring popularity next year.

One interesting side note is that long before the movie’s opening in Japan, one of The Sound of Music’s songs had already topped the local music charts, thanks to the passion of Peggy Hayama, a jazz star and huge Richard Rodgers fan. She often performed “With A Song In My Heart,” a favorite standard by Rodgers & Hart, so after a concert in Los Angeles to commemorate the centennial of Japan-U.S. relations in 1959, Hayama was persuaded by friends to fly to New York to see the Broadway production of The Sound of Music, starring Mary Martin, the season’s phenomenon that everyone was raving about.

 

It was over 50 years ago, yet the elation of the opening scene was “so exquisite, though very different from the film version,” that she still remembers it as a thrill that was to change her life. At intermission, noting that everyone was humming the “Do Re Mi” song, recalls Hayama, “I was rushing around the lobby to buy every souvenir and sheet music being sold to take home with me.” That night, she began translating the song into Japanese, and by the time she landed back in Tokyo, the finished translation was ready to be presented to NHK, where it quickly found its way onto the premiere song program of its day, “Min-na no Uta.” The song became an overnight sensation, and a beloved “Japanese classic” was born.

 

Japan Rail chose "My Favorite Things"

as the theme song for a massive promotional

campaign for Kyoto in 1993.

 

So why wouldn’t the composer of all these classics that the Japanese have taken to their hearts have far greater public recognition, if only for the fact that he was the first person ever to win an Emmy, a Grammy, an Oscar and a Tony (in record numbers), not to mention his Pulitzer. It isn’t as though there is some collective effort to deny the man his rightful place in the local music pantheon. In fact, many high-profile artists and influential producers here are ardent fans.

Shall We Dance” was the theme song and inspiration for the movie of the same title by director Masayuki Suo, which took the world’s film festivals by storm and was later followed by a Hollywood version starring Richard Gere and Jennifer Lopez. Top stage producer Amon Miyamoto took on the task of re- translating all of Hammerstein’s lyrics when he directed his much acclaimed stage production of The Sound of Music.

 

And, finally, nothing illustrates the hypnotic power of Rodgers’ song-writing abilities like its appeal to advertisers. Rodgers’ tunes have graced the television commercials of some of Japan’s biggest advertisers, including Suntory (“Shall We Dance”), Kirin (“You’ll Never Walk Alone”), and Family Mart (“Happy Talk”), to name a very few. Japan Rail chose “My Favorite Things” as the theme song for a massive promotional campaign for Kyoto in 1993 that was to be a teaser in the lead-up to the city’s 1200-year anniversary celebration of its founding the following year.

The public response was so impressive that the tune from The Sound of Music has become the virtual “Song of Kyoto.” Some 21 years later, it is still being used for the breathtaking commercials, renewed every three months to showcase the ancient city in all its glorious seasonal colors, each time with a dramatically different musical arrangement.

But it just may be Rodgers’ unparalleled versatility and the diverse timing and paths through which the songs entered the fabric of Japanese society that have confused the awareness of his amazing story. While his songs are broadcast, played, recorded, sung, hummed and performed in clubs and karaoke joints across the breadth of Japan, the enigma of Richard Rodgers, the most popular American songwriter that nobody knows, remains just that. How he would feel about it is anyone’s guess.

Mary Corbett is a writer and documentary producer based in Tokyo.

 

 

Tracking Southern California's Elusive "Bullies"

 No1-10-2014Bullies.jpg

Sitting comfortably? The “comfort women”statue in Glendale, California


 

 When media and politicians use serious claims

of bullying to buttress their political argument,

should they be allowed to hide their sources

behind anonymity?

 

by Mark Schreiber

J

apan observers would agree that much of the debate over contemporary events in the country remains internalized, never emerging from the confines of the language barrier or beyond geographical boundaries. But one topic – the alleged bullying of young Japanese students overseas – did receive coverage by domestic and international media alike.

Because of its shocking subject, the story was not only picked up by numerous media, but led a number of reporters, including this one, on a quest to shed light on its veracity. Unfortunately, none of us were able to discover the source, or to debunk the claims (proving a negative is tough stuff without cooperation). But the story’s shelf life as a popular meme is instructive in a number of ways.

The story began as a claim of blowback from the July 2013 erection of a “comfort woman” memorial in a park in Glendale, California. An article appeared in the Yukan Fuji last Nov. 5 titled “Open letter to Yohei Kono on the comfort women issue: ‘Did he know of the falsified survey contents?’” For those monitoring the right’s discontent, there was little new. The article attacked the 1993 “Kono Statement,” an acknowledgement of the Japanese government’s culpability over the sex-slave issue and de-facto apology by Yohei Kono, then-Cabinet Secretary in the Miyazawa cabinet. But what caught the eyes of many readers was when it went on to tie Kono’s remarks to bullying and harassment of Japanese children by Koreans in Glendale, as alleged by members of the women’s patriotic group, Nadeshiko Action.

 

"Why the heck innocent Japanese children

are bashed [sic] because of disinformation?"

her letter demanded.

 

According to the group, the Yukan Fuji wrote, “Japanese children were being called ‘rapists’ by Americans” and that “children hesitate to use the Japanese language in public out of concerns for their safety.” The paper reported that one Ikuyo Toyota, president of the “Mothers’ Association Protecting Japanese Children,” had even sent an open letter to Kono. “Why the heck innocent Japanese children are bashed [sic] because of disinformation?!” the somewhat clumsy English translation of her letter demanded.

 

 

The following month, perhaps in reaction to the reportage by Yukan Fuji, Glendale’s sister city of Higashiosaka announced the suspension of its home-stay visits planned for the following March by students from a local public high school, a program that began in 1996. The city gave its reason as, “the possibility the students will be drawn into a political problem. We are uncertain of the local circumstances and it is difficult to ascertain their safety.”

The name of Ikuyo Toyota was to surface once again in a column by Miki Otaka that touched on the bullying in the February issue of Seiron, the Sankei’s monthly opinion magazine. But the woman herself was elusive to the point of invisibility. No interviews or photographs of her have ever appeared in the media, and attempts to locate the association that she claimed to represent were unsuccessful. It’s as if she had fired off a volley at Yohei Kono and then vanished, guerrilla-like, into thin air.

The next media reference to bullying appeared in the Sankei Shimbun of Feb. 15, under the headline “‘Spit in ramen’ ‘Rice served cold’ . . . The harassment of Japanese in the U.S. over the comfort women.”

 

It was as if she had fired off a volley

at Yohei Kono and then vanished,

guerrilla-like, into thin air.

 

At a Feb. 25 press event at the FCCJ, two female politicians, Tomoko Tsujimura of Komae City and Yoshiko Matsuura of Tokyo’s Suginami Ward, members of the “Japan Coalition of Legislators Against Fabricated History” who had recently returned from a trip to Glendale to register their protest against the statue, made similar assertions.

Japanese schoolchildren are suffering from bullying by Koreans,” said Matsuura via an interpreter. “Some of them told us they feel anxiety because they must hide being Japanese. Korean people are presenting this as a human-rights issue, but this can only lead to a new conflict of racial discrimination.” The women’s claims were repeated verbatim in stories filed by AP, Time, the Japan Times and the South China Morning Post.

 

 

In its May issue, Seiron magazine ran a 5-page article by lower house Diet member Mio Sugita of the Japan Restoration Party titled “Zaibei hojin ga Kankokujin ni kurushimerareru genkyo” (The main source of what’s causing Japanese in America to be harassed by Koreans).

Before departing Japan I had obtained information that local Japanese children had been subjected to vicious bullying, so I expected during my visit to meet with the victims’ parents,” wrote Sugita. “However, this is a very delicate matter, and for a variety of circumstances the parents were not able to come to the meeting place; I suppose they were hesitant out of fears that it would make the situation worse by turning it into an uproar. Instead I was informed of the details by Mr. Takao Naito, an instructor at a local Japanese school, that the bullying was a fact – that Japanese children had been spat upon or struck for the sole reason that they were Japanese.”

My interest was further piqued by an article written by Tato Takahama in the May issue of Sapio, a monthly published by Shogakukan. When it comes to attacking the two Koreas and China, Sapio is known to pull no punches. But the article on the lawsuit filed over the comfort woman statue in Glendale made no mention of the bullying.

 

I was intrigued by this discrepancy between

politicians' claims of bullying

and the apparent inability to substantiate them.

 

I fired off a mail to Takahama, who is based in Southern California, to ask him why. In a nutshell he told me that he had investigated but failed to come up with a primary source.

I subsequently learned via the grapevine that at least two Japanese journalists in California had also been unsuccessful in tracking down any conclusive details. And efforts by a local American reporter for Glendale’s News-Press had also proved fruitless.

I was intrigued by this discrepancy between politicians’ claims of bullying and the apparent inability of locally based writers to substantiate them. Equally curious, with two exceptions, media coverage of the bullying allegations was confined to two newspapers and two magazines belonging to the Fuji-Sankei group.

My inquiries to individuals in Glendale who should have some information or insight continued to come up blank. “This is not true,” Sebastian Puccio, coordinator for the Glendale Unified School District, wrote me. “We are not aware of any incidents of students of Korean ethnicity confronting students of Japanese ancestry in this district, nor would this be tolerated.”

David Monkawa, a Glendale resident and member of the Nikkei for Civil Rights and Redress organization, wrote that he had also made inquiries, but with no success. “Sgt. Thomas R. Lorenz, Public Information Officer of the Glendale Police Dept., stated these statements are ‘100 percent fabricated,’” said Monkawa, who ended up believing that Glendale “should have the Human Rights Commission issue a stern statement exposing these lies.”

A Japanese residing in Los Angeles made a number of telephone calls on my behalf. A teacher at a school for Japanese children told him that the school had heard about the bullying story and had sent out a note asking for parents to report any incidents, but no one did. Inquiries to the Little Tokyo Service Center (LTSC), which serves as a sounding board for the Japanese community in Southern California, said they had no information on “Ikuyo Toyota” or her organization.

 

"We actually met with the mothers

of the victims, who met with us since we are

government representatives,"

Matsuura asserted.

 

I also met with legislators Tsujimura and Matsuura on April 28, to request more information. Both assured me that their claims were authentic. “We actually met the mothers of the victims, who met with us since we are government representatives,” Matsuura asserted. “They don’t want to be identified as victims. We met with four mothers, but did not photograph them. We conducted a survey and have revised it so as to conceal their personal identities. The drafts have been locked away in a safety-deposit box.”

What’s preventing these victims from coming forward? Japanese, explained Tsujimura, have a strong propensity to exercise gaman (forbearance), making them averse to airing their misfortunes in public. Fear of possible retribution also made them unwilling to disclose their names or other details.

 

Then the wind changed direction. On June 13, Shukan Kinyobi magazine ran an article by Emi Koyama, a resident of Seattle who had also apparently been struck by the seriousness of the claims. “My inquiries to the Glendale police and Glendale school board failed to find even a single complaint,” Koyama wrote. “Moreover, there has not been a single [locally published] article reporting bullying of Japanese children. Naturally, the lack of complaints isn’t proof that no bullying occurred, but I suppose it can at least be taken to mean that it did not occur extensively.”

And in its Aug. 29 edition, Tokyo Shimbun devoted most of a two-page spread to the bullying story, under a headline that read, “Right-wing forces provoke concerns.” It reported that upon hearing rumors of harassment, the websites operated by the Japanese embassy and consulates in Los Angeles and other cities requested Japanese nationals in the U.S. to come forward with information. They received no responses.

A day later, the Tokyo Shimbun article was the target of a half-hour salvo by the Sakura Action group on YouTube, under the title, “Tokyo Shimbun – is it really true Japanese in the U.S. aren’t being victimized?”

 

The Japanese embassy and consulates

in LA and other cities requested nationals

to come forward with information.

They received no responses.

 

The story of bullying of Japanese in the U.S. reached as far as Australia where it was also raised as an argument against a comfort women memorial that was being proposed in the Sydney suburb of Strathfield. A letter dated April 10, in response to an earlier article on the OurStrathfield website, carried a message from Yukari Suzuki, a self-described Japanese mother living in California, “where a ‘Comfort Woman Statue’ was installed in 2013. Please read it and send it forward to your friends and families,” Suzuki wrote.

"Japanese residents in the United States, including young children of 6 or 7 years old, are now experiencing unreasonable hardships caused by the misunderstandings and the racial discrimination toward Japanese people. Not only Koreans and Chinese but also some Hispanics and Caucasians are looking down to Japanese and Japanese-American people. I feel greatly wronged about it as my family and I were not even born at the time of the WWII. Do we really want this kind of ethnical [sic] troubles in the future?"

 

In the end, I’ve given up on substantiating or refuting the allegations. Obtaining the names of victims and details of the alleged bullying has proved to be as hard as finding the Yeti.

If anything, there is some irony in the assertion that victims who’ve suffered won’t come forth to testify about their suffering because of cultural reasons. One might be tempted to point out a similar unwillingness to air even more shameful treatment by those who worked in the comfort women stations.

I found it doubly ironic that Japanese politicians working tirelessly for the retraction of the Kono Statement – due to its “unreliable and unverified testimony” – offer no more than vague testimony regarding bullying in Glendale, and stonewall attempts at verification. As elected officials, they must surely recognize the need for transparency in public discourse. Their unwillingness, or inability, to persuade even a single bullying victim in Glendale to come forward and identify the tormentor(s) weakens their credibility and damages their cause.

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

 

 

Profile: Tim Hornyak

 

No1-10-2014Hornyak.jpg
 

 This Canadian correspondent's interest in

Japan was stoked by a childhood fascination

with its popular culture

and technology


by Dan Slater

A

nybody who has an interest in Japanese robots should recognize the name Tim Hornyak.

The Canadian is the author of a well researched and beautifully illustrated book, Loving the Machine: The Art and Science of Japanese Robots, which you can consult in the FCCJ library. Written in 2006, the book analyzes Japan’s fascination with humanoid devices starting with the mechanical toys of several centuries ago to the cutting edge “partner robots” of today.

The 41-year-old is also Tokyo correspondent for technology newswire IDG News Service, a position formerly held by Martyn Williams, FCCJ president in 2008/9.

Hornyak’s interest in Japan was stoked by a childhood fascination with its popular culture and technology. William Gibson’s science fiction novel Neuromancer was also an influence, as were countless Japanese films and cartoons.

 

His book on robots was partly inspired

from an incident when he briefly mistook a female

android for a real person

 

But his first encounter with Asia was South Korea, where he journeyed in the mid-90s soon after graduating in English Literature from McGill University in his native Montreal, Canada. In 1999 he made the inevitable jump to Japan. He first worked as an editor at Kyodo News and NHK for a few years while contributing to the Lonely Planet guidebook series on countries such as South Korea, Canada and Japan.

He was able to establish himself in tech journalism with the successful reception of his book. It was partly inspired by an uncanny experience he had at a major robotics exhibition in 2005, when he briefly mistook a perfectly groomed female android for a real person. The shock impressed him so deeply that he decided to write about it, describing in the process many of the cultural and psychological issues surrounding man’s acceptance (or not) of android partner robots. This is one of the hottest issues in the commercial applications of robotics today, and it affects everything from healthcare to warfare.

 

Despite the recognition that Japan has made some significant contributions to many tech sectors, including robotics, Hornyak is not confident that the country will continue to play a large global role.

Time and again, he points out, Japan has invented a great technology like i-mode and failed to globalize it. The sheer size of the economy means companies believe they can avoid the challenges of international growth by focusing on the large domestic market, he argues, unlike tiny South Korea which, historically often crushed between its giant neighbours China and Japan, has been forced to compete on the larger stage. Samsung has consequently easily taken the crown of best Asian tech company from Sony and is now vying with Apple for the world title.

The same is true in robotics. While Japanese firms were producing tantalizingly cute but commercially useless figures like Asimo and Aibo the dog, a U.S. company produced a visually uninspiring but best-selling robotic vacuum cleaner. Drones make up another area where Hornyak finds it difficult to explain the Japanese absence.

 

Time and again, he points out,

Japan has invented a great technology

like i-mode and failed to globalize it.

 

This ability to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory does not mean the country is denuded of possibilities. But it does mean that Japan is being forced away from directly servicing the consumer, usually the most profitable part of the pie, as Apple and Samsung have proven. He cites Toshiba’s recent decision to downsize manufacturing of its popular PCs and to focus manufacturing further upstream as another example.

Having said that, Japan still garners steady interest in the tech sector as a futuristic, quirky and interesting country for technology, says Hornyak. Fujitsu, for example, has retooled some old electronics factories to grow vegetables with very low levels of potassium, for the use of patients suffering kidney ailments. And the country has its share of eccentric inventors, such as Kenji Kawakami, whose Chindogu, or “strange tools,” include a toilet plunger-style suction tool for commuters to attach to the carriage roof and hang on during rush hour.

His experience of journalism has clearly been positive; it has granted him the chance to do what many young people dream of: to meet interesting people, to go to exotic countries and, best of all, to get paid for doing it.

But he says the media industry is getting much tougher, with journalists being mercilessly squeezed to generate higher productivity. “All the different print, TV and radio media are coming to form one medium, namely Internet journalism,” he says. “Today, journalists need to master video and photography skills – and even be able to write simple computer code.”

The technology is moving so fast, he says, that all the knowledge he picked up in journalism school is laughably out of date, such as using razor blades to cut magnetic tape while editing radio documentaries.

 

“I understand the old distinction

between ‘Church and State,’ as it were,” he says,

“but I think journalists have to be realistic.”

 

Hornyak believes that the only way journalists can survive today is not only to master those skills but also to think more broadly about their craft. He sees an inevitable blurring between public relations, other forms of writing and journalism, simply because the latter these days pays so poorly and infrequently. Indeed, he estimates that 50 percent of his classmates from journalism school now work in PR. “I understand the old distinction between ‘Church and State,’ as it were,” he says, “but I think journalists have to be realistic.”

He is also concerned about the torrents of unverified information that the Internet generates and praises the ethics of his employer IDG. “Primary sourcing is just not used by many bloggers and online commentators, leading to wrong information being endlessly repeated,” he says. “At IDG, we’re taught not to rely on press releases or website comments alone, but to verify the underlying story whenever possible by confirming with primary sources.”

In 2009, Hornyak took his freelance career home to Canada where he wrote for CNET News among others, before returning again to Tokyo 2013 with IDG. Now living on the edge of one of Tokyo’s most natural habitats where he’s settled after his recent marriage, it looks as if his roots in the country are only meant to grow.

Dan Slater is a Tokyo-based writer and consultant. You can see his blog at www.thedelphinetwork.com

 

 

Behind the Wire

 

  img002_2.jpg

Digging deeper. U.S. Marines unearth barrels of suspected Agent Orange at
MCAS Futenma in the early 1980s.

 

The challenges of reporting military contamination

on Okinawa are being overcome with

collaboration, new technology and

determined investigators.


by Jon Mitchell

M

 

ilitary installations are dirty places.

In the U.S. alone, there are almost 40,000 sites polluted by the Pentagon – more than 140 of which are so contaminated they have been placed on the Environmental Protection Agency’s Superfund list of areas in need of federal remediation. Military pollutants include depleted uranium, chemical weapon waste, trichloroethylene, PCBs and pesticides. At USMC Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, for example, between 1953 and 1987 water contamination exposed hundreds of thousands of troops and their families to industrial solvents and other chemicals – forcing the government to enact special legislation in 2012 to aid survivors.

Given the extent of military contamination and its damage to human health, there is a compelling public duty for journalists to report the problem. However a number of challenges stand in our way. The Pentagon, citing national security concerns, can block the release of environmental surveys, and barbed wire and armed guards impede access to contaminated sites. Moreover, many service members with inside knowledge of pollution are afraid of speaking to the press for fear of reprisals.

 

The Pentagon,

citing national security concerns,

can block the release

of environmental surveys

 

Such obstacles to reporting are exacerbated in Japan. The Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) absolves the U.S. military from all responsibility to clean up its bases, so Japan’s tax payers fund 100 percent of remediation costs following the return of base land to civilian usage. Furthermore, the U.S. military is not required to grant local officials access to installations even when the safety of civilian neighbors is at risk. In August 2013, for example, after a USAF helicopter crashed near a dam providing water to the local Okinawan community, USFJ denied prefectural government officials entry to the site.

 

As the host of more than 30 U.S. military bases, Okinawa bears the burden of the Pentagon’s presence in Japan. It also suffers from the pollution. When the whole island was under U.S. jurisdiction between 1945 and 1972, it was the storage site of approximately 1200 nuclear warheads and 13,000 tons of chemical weapons.

Yet, to date, the Pentagon has never conducted comprehensive environmental surveys of its bases on Okinawa; often the true extent of military contamination only becomes apparent after the return of land. Examples include Onna village, where high levels of mercury and PCBs hindered plans to redevelop military land returned in 1995, and Chatan town, which had to postpone a road-widening project last year because of dangerous levels of lead found on former USFJ property.

More than 250 U.S. veterans are suffering

from illnesses they believe

are caused by their exposure

to Agent Orange

 

For the past four years, I’ve been investigating U.S. military contamination on Okinawa and its risks to local residents, service members and their dependants. In 2012, Defoliated Island, a TV documentary based upon my work won an award for excellence from Japan’s Association of Commercial Broadcasters and this month will see the publication of my Japanese-language book – Chasing Agent Orange on Okinawa.

Although Washington denies it stored Agent Orange on Okinawa during the Vietnam War, more than 250 U.S. veterans are suffering from illnesses they believe are caused by their exposure to it. They claim to have transported, stored, sprayed and, in some cases, buried Agent Orange on Okinawa. They have photos of barrels of defoliants on the island and even the U.S. military cites a stockpile of 25,000 barrels on Okinawa prior to 1972.

As an environmental contaminant, what makes Agent Orange particularly worrisome is its persistence. In South Vietnam, there are still around 30 dioxin hot-spots on land formerly used by the U.S. military during the war; the Vietnamese Red Cross estimates the number of people sick from exposure exceeds 3 million.

 

As well as unearthing the secret history of Agent Orange on Okinawa, the book explores ways new technology can be harnessed for collaborative investigative journalism at a time when newsrooms have slashed their budgets for such reporting. During the past four years, a diverse group of people – military whistleblowers, former C.I.A. staff, veterans and environmental scientists – have pooled their skills to surmount the barriers to access on Okinawa erected by the Pentagon. Okinawan journalists have played especially decisive roles in this collaborative process. The island has a strong history of investigative journalism and reporters have often won national prizes for their work; in particular, Natsuko Shimabukuro, the Ryukyu Asahi Broadcasting director of Defoliated Island, contributed vital knowledge, energy and connections to the hunt.

 

The nerve gas dumped almost half a century ago

poses a very real risk

to coastal communities

on the island today

 

One illustration of how this collaborative approach bore fruit was the investigation into a leak of nerve agent that occurred at Chibana Ammunition Depot in 1969. By bringing together U.S. veterans, Okinawan journalists and archive reports, it was possible to triangulate a previously unreported dump of tons of sarin gas in Okinawa’s seas. At the time, such disposal was standard operating procedure for the U.S. military – but it had never admitted to the practice on Okinawa. According to chemical weapons experts, the nerve gas dumped almost half a century ago poses a very real risk to coastal communities on the island today.

With a majority of Okinawans opposed to the large number of bases on their island, the Pentagon seems determined not to give residents more reason to resent its presence – and it has mobilized its PR machine to rebut my research. In February 2013, it released a nine-month-in-the making counter-report on my coverage that concluded there was no proof Agent Orange was ever stored on the island. The report failed to note that the author hadn’t bothered to visit Okinawa or interview any of the veterans alleging exposure – nor did the report mention that his previous research had received funding from the manufacturers of Agent Orange.

 

The report’s conclusion was predictable. The U.S. military has had more than half a century of practice in obfuscating about Agent Orange; in the 1970s when U.S. Vietnam War veterans first started developing symptoms of defoliant-related illnesses, the government accused them of suffering from drug addiction or sexually-transmitted diseases. It still refuses to help the millions of dioxin-poisoned Vietnamese survivors. However what surprised me more than the Pentagon’s response was the reaction of some elected officials on Okinawa who declined to support health surveys of former base workers and displayed reluctance to act on veterans’ accounts of a large cache of defoliants buried beneath Chatan Town.

With officials unwilling to take action, the task has been taken up by civic groups – in particular, the Citizens’ Network for Biodiversity in Okinawa.

“Okinawa Prefecture has not been addressing contamination issues seriously,” says Dr. Masami Kawamura, director of the network. “It always looks to the Japanese government – not to Okinawan people – which means they are unwilling to play a role in overseeing Tokyo’s policy.”

A system to review and oversee the process of the government’s investigation and remediation needs to be established,” says Kawamura. “And through studying their actions, we should raise Okinawan people’s consciousness of contamination issues with the goal of building the capacity for clean-up.”

In the U.S., too, there appears to be growing awareness of the poisonous legacy on Okinawa. In August, the Congressional Research Service cited an article I’d originally written for the Japan Times featuring whistleblown military documents that suggested officials had hidden massive PCB contamination at Kadena Air Base in the 1980s. Also, despite the Pentagon’s counter-report, one seriously ill U.S. veteran was able to win his claim in October 2013 for exposure to Agent Orange on Okinawa by citing military documents discovered by myself and fellow researchers – and that case looks likely to open the floodgates for further wins.

 

Meanwhile, last year Washington and Tokyo announced that they would consider amending SOFA to allow more access for civilian authorities to survey U.S. bases prior to their return; the latest in the ongoing series of talks was held in September.

With concerns about military contamination so high, on Nov. 1 and 2 an international symposium titled “Agent Orange and the Politics of Poisons” will be held at Okinawa Christian University. Gathering experts from Canada, Vietnam, the U.S. and Japan – as well as survivors of military contamination – the symposium is the first of its kind to be held on Okinawa.

Okinawan people absolutely have a right to know where Agent Orange and similar pollutants were buried on their land,” says Dr. Daniel Broudy, chair of the symposium’s organizing committee. “The symposium will draw attention to the reasons why, under the present SOFA, the people of the prefecture are dealing with the ongoing defilement of their land and water. We would ultimately like to create an ongoing public dialogue about military contamination . . . so the U.S. government will no longer be able to ignore the just demands of people living here.”

 

Journalists have a responsibility

to force transparency from both the Japanese

and U.S. authorities

 

In the coming years, a number of U.S. bases on Okinawa are slated for closure, including parts of Machinato Service Area, one of the Vietnam War-era stockyards most often cited by veterans as an Agent Orange storage site, and ultimately MCAS Futenma. Many in the prefecture have pinned their hopes on the economic benefits brought by re-development of this land. Okinawa is Japan’s poorest prefecture; the U.S. military takes up 10 percent of the land (18 percent of Okinawa’s main island) but contributes less than 5 percent to the economy.

To what extent military contamination hobbles these ambitions looks likely to be one of the most urgent issues facing the island in the years to come. Journalists have a responsibility to force transparency from both the Japanese and U.S. authorities in order to ensure a safe environment for all residents – regardless of which side of the wire they live on.

Jon Mitchell is an Asia-Pacific Journal associate who writes regularly for the Japan Times. He is the author of Chasing Agent Orange on Okinawa, published this month.

 

On Oct. 30th, Jon Mitchell, Drs. Daniel Broudy and Masami Kawamura will speak at a FCCJ press conference titled “Collateral damage: Agent Orange, military contamination and Okinawa.” The international symposium, Agent Orange and the Politics of Poisons, will be held at Okinawa Christian University Nov. 1 & 2. Details at their website.

 

 

From the Archives: The Nobel Peace Prize Prime Minister

 

  archive_sato.jpg

Prime Minister of Japan Eisaku Sato being honored by a black-tie dinner at the FCCJ on
Dec. 4, 1967. A frequent speaker at the Club, he was PM from November of 1964 to July
of 1972. Smiling with him in this photo is Al Kaff of UPI. Kaff was then FCCJ President
and Club stalwart, long active both as a board member and as a skit writer for our
anniversary parties from 1952 until 1975. Note the old “Press Club Tokyo” speaker’s
stand still in use. (Photo from FCCJ Archives)

 

 

by Charles Pomeroy

O

UR GUEST OF HONOR was no stranger to the Club. Eisaku Sato’s first official appearance at the FCCJ had been much earlier, on July 6, 1958, as finance minister, when he established good relations with the foreign press. His next appearance came as prime minister on Feb. 11, 1965, some six months after the 1964 Tokyo Olympics had symbolized Japan’s recovery from the war and emergence as an economic power.

It was at the Club’s 20th anniversary party in October that year that he endeared himself to the foreign correspondents by saying he would make the prime minister’s office more accessible to them. Alas, Japan’s bureaucracy proved to be less cooperative, and his next visit was to be the black-tie dinner in 1967, as shown in the photo, right, and then in June of 1969 when he addressed a Professional Dinner.

 

He became a joint-recipient of the
Nobel Peace Prize for having
signed the nuclear arms Non-Proliferation
Treaty (NPT) in 1970.


Sato and his wife also helped the Club celebrate its 25th anniversary at two parties – a small one on the Club’s premises in November of 1970 and a gala event at the Hotel New Otani on Jan. 15, 1971.

Although Prime Minister Sato maintained good relations with the foreign press, the same was not true of their domestic counterparts, and declining popularity led to his resignation in July of 1972. In 1974 he became a joint-recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize for having signed the nuclear arms Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) in 1970.

On a historical note, Eisaku Sato was the younger brother of former Prime Minister Nobusuke Kishi, the grandfather of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Al Kaff (also pictured)died in October of 2011.

 

 

Tales from the Round Tables

 

by the Shimbun Alley Whisperers

IT WAS JUNE OF 1955, and novelist James Michener was at the FCCJ to meet up with an old friend for lunch. Michener already had a Pulitzer Prize under his belt for his novel, Tales of the South Pacific, one of a string of bestsellers that were adapted into smash Broadway and Hollywood hits. Hot off the more recent success of Bridges at Toko-ri and Sayonara, he could be forgiven for strutting even in the days when the Club boasted quite a roster of news and literary giants. He had also just married his Japanese-American paramour, Mari Yoriko Sabusawa, a noted translator and activist, so his life was on a bit of a roll.

 

The two types of men she avoided
were diplomats – “because of their stuffiness” –
and professors – “because of their dullness.”

 

Yet his lunch date that day certainly could hold the floor with him, or anyone else in this august watering hole. Sitting across the table from him was Haru Matsukata, who wrote for the Saturday Evening Post. She was the first full Japanese member of the Club and held the position of secretary on the board of directors. As the granddaughter of Meiji prime minister Prince Masayoshi Matsukata, she came from great wealth and an aristocratic background. Her mother, Miyo, was born in the U.S. to a wealthy silk merchant, and had returned reluctantly to Japan after meeting her husband while he was studying at Yale. Rebelling against the rigidities of an aristocratic life in Tokyo, Miyo had insisted that her children be tutored in English under the teachings of Christian Science. So Haru and her five siblings had all attended the American School In Japan.

The planets must have been aligned that day. As Michener glanced around, who should he see across the dining room, but another old friend who had just recently returned to Japan. What the novelist did next precipitated the most famous romance in the annals of Club history: he introduced his lunch guest to his recently widowered friend, Harvard scholar Edwin Reischauer.

"Or should we say, reintroduced, as Edwin, who was born in Tokyo, had overlapped with Haru at ASIJ, though their six-year age difference meant Haru could only have admired the handsome athlete from afar. Many Club members had heard Haru frequently declare that the two types of men she avoided were diplomats – “because of their stuffiness” – and professors – “because of their dullness.”

But perhaps a good meal and good conversation had weakened her defenses, for something clicked, and within months Edwin and Haru were married, with Haru flying off to Harvard with her new husband to play the eminent professor’s good wife and mother to his teenage children.

 

They were to help steer the two nations
through the most difficult turbulence
in the post-Occupation years.

 

"She was not to return to Tokyo until 1961, this time as the ultimate diplomat’s wife after JFK appointed Edwin to the coveted post of ambassador to Japan. Like the marriage, the appointment was a complementary match, as he brought Japanese language and cultural fluency unprecedented in the history of U.S.-Japan diplomacy while her astute instincts and prominent family connections facilitated his entrée into the most influential tiers of society. The two of them were to help steer the two nations through the most difficult turbulence in the post-Occupation years.

Given the formidable influence that the Haru-Edwin team was to wield in academia and U.S.-Japan relations over the next four decades, one has every right to believe that Michener’s magic touch as a matchmaker equaled his talent for writing best-selling books.”

 

 

New Members

REGULAR MEMBERS

 

Tim_Hornyak.jpg

TIM HORNYAK is the Tokyo correspondent for IDG News. Hornyak first came to Japan in 1999, joining Kyodo News’ copy desk while freelancing for publications such as Scientific American. He later worked at NHK News and continued to write about technology and travel, co-authoring guidebooks to Japan and Tokyo for Lonely Planet. He is the author of Loving the Machine: The Art and Science of Japanese Robots, which was the subject of an FCCJ book break. While living in Canada from 2009 to 2013, Hornyak wrote for CNET News’ high-profile technology and culture blog Crave before joining IDG News for another stint in Japan. Hornyak was raised in Montreal and enjoys skiing, hiking and onsen.

 

Maha_Matsumura_02.jpg

MAHA MATSUMURA is a reporter for Al Jazeera Network (Doha). Although one of her parents is from Syria and the other from Japan, she decided to settle in Tokyo for the last decade. In 2010, she joined the world of media as a correspondent for Dubai’s MBC channel. Time has allowed Matsumura to successfully forge trustworthy and dependable relationships across various fields.

 

Stephen_Ross.jpg

STEPHEN C. ROSS reports, produces, shoots and edits video news for broadcast and online media organizations. Ross is a 1986 graduate of Columbia University and from 1994 to 1997 a “JET” (Japan Exchange & Teaching Program Fellow). He previously reported for CBS affiliate station KOLN-TV in Nebraska's capital city, for Turkish-owned Ebru News in New York City, and other stations. Ross was a Donald T. Sheehan International Fellow to the 2011 Wharton Seminars for Business Journalists, and recipient of the Gold Award in the 2013 Stanford University US-Asia Technology Management Center's “Untold Story in Innovation” journalism award competition.

 

REINSTATEMENT (REGULAR MEMBERS)

Asger_Christensen_2.jpg

ASGER R. CHRISTENSEN is correspondent for Orientering and contributor of news and analysis to a broad range of the Danish Broadcasting Corporation (DR) platforms and other Danish and Scandinavian news media. He was an active member of the FCCJ from 1989 until 1995 as correspondent for the Danish daily Politiken and other Scandinavian media. After returning to Denmark in 1995, he was foreign editor of daily Aktuelt, and the leading Danish news agency, Ritzau. Until last year he was employed by DR, as well as working as chief editor of the radio news background program Orientering and Online frontpage editor of the DR website. He is a senior fellow at the Nordic Institute of Asian Studies.

 

PROFESSIONAL/JOURNALIST ASSOCIATE MEMBERS


Deborah Ann Desnoo, Plug In, Inc.

Roger Sherrin, Roger Sherrin Global Professional Coach

Ewerthon Tobace, BBC Brazil

Saori Tanaka, MID Academic Promotions Inc.

 

ASSOCIATE MEMBERS

Casey Wahl, Wahl & Case K.K.

Romen Barua, Wahl & Case K.K.

Jarrod Stenhouse, Destination Asia

Kazuyuki Suzuki, Mitsubishi Corporation

Motohide Takeda, Mitsubishi Corporation

Akiko Kudo, NTT Communications Corporation

Keiji Ushiyama, GENEQ Corporation

Takakazu Ikeda, Tokai Bussan Co., Ltd.

Kenji Omoto, Sankyo Corporation

Yoshikazu Nakajima, Hakutsuru Sake Brewing Co., Ltd.

Kazuhide Matsui, MARS Company

Takikazu Shibazaki, Kawasaki Flora Auction Market Co., Ltd.

Takeshi Masuda, Nomura Co., Ltd.

Masahiro Nakagawa, Nomura Co., Ltd.

Masakazu Ota, Model Language Studio

Satoshi Takahata, Saga Forest Carriers Intl. Tokyo Inc.

Kazuo Ohmori, Sumitomo Corporation

Yoshihiro Nishihara, Sony Life Insurance Co., Ltd.

Eriko Hishinuma, Hishinuma Associate

Toshichika Zaima, Universal Communication Design Association

Sonoko Suzuki, Kyoto University of Art and Design

Yutaka Shimazaki, Marubeni Corporation

Norio Hirokawa, Hiro Co., Ltd.

 

REINSTATEMENT (ASSOCIATE)


Isao Saito, U & IHR Consulting

 

Club Notes

FCCJ YOUTUBERS

No1-9-2014Youtube.jpg

On Aug. 7, a delegation of FCCJ Members were led by YouTube’s Soraya Umewaka through the facilities of the YouTube Space Tokyo studios on the 29th floor of Roppongi Hills. The studios are free for YouTube users with over 100 subscribers to their channel. Since the FCCJ channel has over 1,000 subscribers, Members are able to make use of the production space and equipment. The video must be approved by the Web Committee, be related to news in Japan and be uploaded first to the FCCJ channel. For more information, email the Web Committee via the front desk.

 

 

JOIN THE MOVIE COMMITTEE . . .samurai_poster.jpg

. . . at 6:30 pm on Thursday, Sept. 18 for Takashi Koizumi’s first film in five years, A Samurai Chronicle, followed by a Q&A with the writer-director and his star, Koji Yakusho. Based on the Naoki Prize-winning novel by Rin Hamuro, it is a film of autumnal magnificence, both in its stunning scenery and its sublime performances. Set at the end of the Edo period, it is the elegiac story of a samurai’s final three years before he must keep his promise to commit seppuku as punishment for a crime he committed seven years before the tale begins. But it is also a detective story and a love story, with strong messages about fatherhood, community and honor. Koizumi was the longtime assistant to Akira Kurosawa and the director of the award-winning After the Rain (2000) and Best Wishes for Tomorrow (2008), which he cowrote with Roger Pulvers. (Japan, 2014; 129 minutes; Japanese with English subtitles.)

Karen Severns

 

Exhibition: "Patterns" by Torin Boyd

No1-9-2014Exhibition.jpg

THIS SERIES OF IMAGES was taken over several years and is the result of a subconscious effort: that is, I never actually sought to create a body of work in which patterns and shapes were a common denominator. That all changed one day in 2003 when I was editing my work to build a new portfolio. In looking over my many images, I realized I’d been utilizing patterns on a regular basis for both my professional and personal work. I had developed a photographic style without even knowing it.

Presented at the FCCJ is a selection of what I feel are my best pattern images. They span over two decades with many being taken while on assignment for such publications as National Geographic, Newsweek, U.S. News & World Report, Time, The New York Times and the JAL in-flight magazine. Several are images that never made it to print and are being shown for the first time.

American photojournalist Torin Boyd has been based out of Tokyo since 1986. He has worked in over twenty countries and throughout the 1990s was a contract photographer for U.S. News and World Report. He has co-authored two books on Japanese photographic history.

 

 

 

 

No1-9-2014Exhibit3.jpg

Remembering Jim Frederick

 

  Jim_Frederick.jpg


by Toko Sekiguchi

B

efore he became the renowned author of one of the most important books to be written about the war in Iraq, Jim Frederick was an accidental Tokyo bureau chief.

When he arrived in Tokyo in late 2002 at the ripe old age of 31, it was as Time magazine’s roving Asian business correspondent. He was still in the process of relocating from New York where he was a senior editor at Money magazine, to Time’s Asian headquarters in Hong Kong.

Jim was brought in to do a story on Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi’s bank reforms – parachuting in to interview a few people, write up the story, expecting to return to furnish his still-empty Hong Kong apartment within a week.



Jim saw the mess and got to work

repairing the bureau while reclaiming Tokyo’s

rightful place in Time’s coverage.


Instead, Jim stepped into a bureau in flux. Time’s Tokyo bureau had been chief-less for months, staffed mostly by stringers and crippled by rivalries among trial bureau chiefs. At their best, foreign bureaus, with their size, distance from the politics of the mothership and proximity to their subjects, can be homey, efficient and exciting places to work. But back then we more resembled Heart of Darkness than anything else.

As an interned-turned-stringer, I was at the end of my rope. In the post-9/11 world of international journalism, Tokyo was far off the grid, and full-time employment seemed just as distant. I was working several jobs to make ends meet, and the frustration of being mixed up in the politics of a giant machine that wouldn’t commit to me was overshadowing the joy of reporting for one of the world’s most iconic news organizations.

Jim saw the mess and while fully intending to return to his new life in Hong Kong, got to work repairing the bureau while reclaiming Tokyo’s rightful place in Time’s coverage. With the authority and compassion of a seasoned manager, Jim convinced me, along with another stringer, to keep the faith until the company freed up the budget to get us fully on board. One week turned into two, then a month, then three months – somewhere along the way, Jim accepted the interim bureau chief position and pretty soon Time stopped looking for a new bureau chief altogether.

 

Jim won exclusive access to the most sought-after

story of the time in Japan – an interview with

U.S. Army sergeant Charles Jenkins

 

For the next four years, Jim, with his youthful Midwestern optimism, turned us cynical stray-cat like stringers into loyal, committed staff reporters, and Tokyo became known as a close-knit, highly functional bureau genuinely passionate about redefining Japan coverage. He was one of those rare journalists who relished being boss – and was damn good at it. That he wrote fantastically about Japan’s show business, Edo-period Buddhist art and Bank of Japan’s monetary policy goes without saying. Jim was also a natural leader, who led not only by example but was also deeply caring, generous with his time and energy to anyone who asked.

 

Outside of the office, Jim was the life of the party. He was a Time bureau chief of yesteryear – tall, handsome and infinitely charming, he entertained sources and any colleagues who came through Tokyo alike, treating them like kings and queens. Jim could drink most anyone under the table and often did, sending them home with massive hangovers and unforgettable – albeit fuzzy – memories. I’ve yet to meet another foreign correspondent who can disarm foreign ministry officials to a point where they insisted on showing us the “Japanese salaryman way of drunkenness,” tying their neckties around their heads in a posh Roppongi restaurant in the wee hours of the night.

Jim won exclusive access to the most sought-after stories of the time in Japan – an interview with U.S. Army sergeant Charles Jenkins, who spent half a century in North Korea before being released in 2004 to Japan, the home country of his wife who was snatched off the shores of Sado Island by North Korean kidnappers. Jim left Tokyo in 2006 to become a senior editor in London, but the relationships he cultivated in the U.S. military ultimately led to his 2010 masterpiece, Black Hearts: One Platoon’s Descent Into Madness in Iraq’s Triangle of Death.

Much has been written about the importance of Black Hearts, most recently in Jim’s obituaries in the New York Times and the Washington Post. When I first heard that he would be spending months in Iraq to write an immensely difficult book about the war, what I remembered was one of the first conversations I had with Jim in 2002 about where he saw himself in 10 years. Non-profit PR, or consulting, maybe. Perhaps still in journalism. But definitely not in some war zone, Jim said.



The relationships he cultivated ultimately led

to his 2010 masterpiece, Black Hearts:

One Platoon’s Descent Into Madness

in Iraq’s Triangle of Death.

 

In the same stretch of conversation during his first weeks in Tokyo as the reluctant interim bureau chief, I often asked him what kept him from abandoning a messy situation to pick up where he left off in Hong Kong. Jim said he couldn’t leave knowing that he was in a position where he could right the wrongs. Sometimes duty calls and you have to rise to the task. Jim always went over and beyond, redefining the role for those who came after him.

 

Jim took the helm of Time International after the publication of Black Hearts. To those who knew him, it wasn’t all that surprising that his frustration with that position – of not having the freedom to use his power for good – led him to leave the prestigious role in 2013, and take his bride and soul mate, Charlotte, on a year of traveling the world.

During the 12 years that I knew him, Jim had checked off a great deal of what was in his bucket list – including an extended stay in Tokyo with Charlotte to experience the city in a way that his work got in the way of doing 10 years ago.

One day before he passed away from a heart attack while on his exercising machine at the tender age of 42, Jim wrote on his Facebook wall that he and Charlotte were starting a media consulting company called Hybrid Vigor Media. Life suited Jim so well. I’m honored to have known and worked with him, and still a little angry about the injustice of having to sum it up.

Toko Sekiguchi reported for Time magazine from 2001 to 2007. She currently works as a Tokyo correspondent for the Wall Street Journal.

 

 

The Doctor is Out

 

  askenovfrompdf.jpg

 

Dr. Eugene Aksenoff led a remarkable life

of assistance to the down-and-out

and the glitterati alike. Upon his passing,

everyone has a story

 


by Tim Hornyak

I

thought it wise to get some vaccinations before my first trip to rural Thailand. I’d heard the place for that in Tokyo was the International Clinic in Roppongi, and was amazed to find it in a prewar house squeezed into a cramped corner lot shaded by persimmon, fig and avocado trees. Inside the house was a smiling man who seemed to come from another world.

Dr. Eugene Aksenoff sat at his large wooden desk in front of walls covered with hundreds of photos of smiling children, his young patients from Japan and overseas. I was astounded when he told me he’d come to Japan before the end of World War II, before Donald Richie and every other old-timer gaijin I’d met.

So it is understandable that Aksenoff’s passing on Aug. 5 at age 90 came as a shock to the foreign community in Tokyo. Having been in Japan for over 70 years, he was like a beacon for residents and visitors alike.

 

“He used to take care of all kinds of people

who didn’t have any money – young fashion

models who came here and got sick,

laborers, anybody.”

 

He was the sort who made you feel better the moment you entered the office,” says Kyodo News editor Darryl Gibson, who was once treated by the doctor for an infected wound from diving. “Even if he did nothing other than listen to you describe an ailment and tell you not to worry, you immediately felt better.”

“He was one of the nicest men you could ever meet,” agrees Bill Hersey, longtime social columnist for Tokyo Weekender magazine. “He used to take care of all kinds of people who didn’t have any money – young fashion models who came here and got sick, laborers, anybody.”

 

The unheralded, day-to-day care of people at the International Clinic didn’t make Aksenoff famous – it was his status as doctor to the stars. Among the photos tacked to the walls of his office is a snapshot with Michael Jackson, one of many celebrities who benefitted from Aksenoff’s hotel house calls over the years.

His priority was kids, very old people, and very sick people. But for most of the hotels in Tokyo, he was the doctor,” says Rumi Yamamoto, a nurse who worked with Aksenoff for 21 years, and helped him treat such VIPs and their families as Steven Seagal, Stevie Wonder, Rhianna, Oasis, KISS and jazzmen from Blue Note Tokyo. Frank Sinatra, John Wayne, Madonna, Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie and Lady Gaga were also Aksenoff patients.

The doctor would answer urgent calls from hotels at all hours of the night, Yamamoto recalls. He was so dedicated to his work that when he was discharged from the hospital for his own ailments in his later years, he would immediately return to his clinic. In the end, in fact, his staff were lifting him up the front steps in his wheelchair.

 

After Japan seized Manchuria and created

the puppet state of Manchukuo in 1932, Aksenoff’s

father made some Japanese acquaintances

through raising horses.


As Yamamoto sits at Aksenoff’s desk beside a shelf full of books in English, Japanese, German and Russian, she pulls out more mementos: a letter of thanks from Jacques Chirac when he was mayor of Paris, a copy of Aksenoff’s Japanese medical license from 1951, and a young Aksenoff in a cadet-style school uniform in the 1940s.

The way Aksenoff would tell the story, his parents were White Russians who had fled Russia to Harbin, China where Aksenoff was born in 1924. When he was about five years old, a European doctor treated him for a cold. He was so deeply impressed by the man’s kindly manner and the cleanliness of the hospital that he resolved to become a doctor himself one day.

After Japan seized Manchuria and created the puppet state of Manchukuo in 1932, Aksenoff’s father made some Japanese acquaintances through raising horses. One of them was Count Yoshitaka Tsugaru, a Japanese noble who invited Aksenoff fils to Japan to study medicine.

 

Aksenoff found himself one of the few Caucasians in Tokyo during the war, which he spent studying Japanese at Waseda University and medicine at Jikei University. He paid for his tuition by playing captured American pilots in propaganda films. After the war ended, he worked with the U.S. military as a translator, did a stint at Seibo Hospital and helped establish the Tokyo Medical and Surgical Clinic before opening his International Clinic in 1953.

Though Aksenoff was actually a stateless person who never took Japanese citizenship, the Russians who filled his practice during the Cold War drew the attention of U.S. and Japanese authorities and he was soon suspected of being a Soviet spy. According to author Robert Whiting, Japanese intelligence agents arrested him for espionage because he’d been seen with a transmitter bearing markings that resembled Cyrillic. But he was released a week later when a Toshiba engineer explained that the symbols were Toshiba’s markings for digital equipment and the transmitter wasn’t a Soviet radio at all. Aksenoff took it all in stride.



Japanese intelligence agents arrested him

for espionage because he’d been seen

with a transmitter bearing markings

that resembled Cyrillic


He was a generous person,” says Whiting. “He and Nick Zappetti, who ran Nicola’s pizzeria nearby, had a deal whereby if a patient was down and out and couldn’t pay, Aksenoff would treat him for free and send him down to Nicola’s for a free meal.”

There seem to have been as many tales surrounding Aksenoff as his patients. One thing that friends agree on is the doctor’s golden character.

He was so kind to everyone he met. Everyone came to him because they wanted to see him and hear his stories,” says Dr. Grant Mikasa of the American Clinic Tokyo, a former colleague. “That’s why he lived so long.”

Tim Hornyak is Tokyo correspondent for IDG News Service.

 

 

Grappling with Kim

 No1-9-2014Inoki.jpg

A former wrestler turned politician,

Antonio Inoki is trying to pin down the most difficult

opponent of his career: Japan-North Korea relations

 

by Julian Ryall
 

A

ntonio Inoki is preparing some gags for his North Korean hosts when he arrives in Pyongyang to jointly host a two-day international wrestling event at the end of August.

After all, the former professional wrestler who has turned his hand to politics told a large audience at the FCCJ on Aug. 21 that laughter can be used to help bring down barriers and encourage friendship. Warming to his theme, the 71-year-old Inoki recounted a previous occasion on which he tickled Pyongyang dignitaries’ sense of humor, back in 1995, shortly after North Korea had fired missiles in the direction of Japan.

After letting out one of his trademark yells to get everyone’s attention, Inoki informed his hosts that while North Korea may have missiles pointed at Japan, it also has very beautiful women. Therefore, he went on, Japanese men were pointing their missiles back at North Korea.

 

“It is very important to go to North Korea,

to have a drink with them

and to be able to talk things through,”

Inoki did not recount whether the North Koreans provided anything more than polite laughter in return. But he really does need to work on his jokes if he is going to achieve his stated aim of using his own brand of diplomacy to enhance understanding between North Korea and Japan and promote peace.

Inoki, who entered politics in 1989 and is a member of the conservative Japan Restoration Party, has visited North Korea on 29 previous occasions. In 1995 he took part in a bout against Ric Flair, the American wrestler, at a wrestling extravaganza that was held in Pyongyang.

Confessing that he is “a little low on vitality” now, Inoki emphasized that he believes sporting diplomacy can heal old wounds. “For many years, I have been working towards world peace through sporting exchanges and, in diplomacy, I believe the most important factor is trust,” he said.

Inoki believes that communication is also required. “It is very important to go to North Korea, to have a drink with them and to be able to talk things through,” he said. “In that way we can learn about each other and understand each other better.”

The wrestling tournament is scheduled to take place at the 20,000-seat Ryugyong Chung Ju-yung Stadium in Pyongyang on Aug. 30 and 31, with wrestlers from France, Russia, Brazil and China taking part.

That will make it a fraction of the scale of his last wrestling endeavor inside North Korea, the 1995 tournament that attracted an estimated 340,000 spectators. The stadium used in 1995 is now being renovated and the event is required to stay within the bounds of the international sanctions that are still being imposed on North Korea, Inoki said. The sanctions are primarily financial, meaning that many of those involved in the trip are doing so on a voluntary basis.

It is not known whether North Korean leader Kim Jong-un will attend the event, although he has in the past shown a desire to be associated with famous sporting figures. In January, retired NBA star Dennis Rodman caught the world’s attention when he arranged an international basketball match to celebrate Kim’s birthday and declared the dictator to be his “friend for life.” Rodman also sang “Happy Birthday” to Kim ahead of the exhibition game and apparently partied on the dictator’s private island.

Inoki’s visit comes after the Japanese government eased some of the sanctions imposed during the 1990s in an effort to force Pyongyang to abolish its nuclear weapons and missile programs as well as to return dozens of Japanese nationals kidnapped by North Korean agents.


Ideally, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe

would himself go to North Korea to meet Kim

and solve many of the two nations’ problems


The issue of the abductions is finally being discussed and I believe that it is important for both sides to have meaningful discussions to truly know each others’ thoughts and hearts,” Inoki said. “This is how we can achieve peace.”

Ideally, he added, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe would himself go to North Korea to meet Kim and solve many of the two nations’ problems, although he admitted that the time might not yet be ripe for so dramatic a step. “Sporting exchanges have been connected with peace for a long time, so this sort of approach is already well understood,” Inoki said. “These are the sorts of channels that nobody can oppose.

One door has to stay open,” he added. “For many years, all the doors between North Korea and Japan have been closed, but I believe we only live once and I need to continue to keep this door open through sporting exchanges.”

Julian Ryall is the Japan correspondent for the Daily Telegraph

 

 

Obscenity, Thy Name is Vagina

  panties.jpg
White out: Koppu no Fuchiko, a popular 5cm-high character in various poses to fit on the lip of a cup,
is available from “gacha” toy-vending machines.

 

Anyone who’s attended a Japanese festival

that celebrates the penis would be shocked

at the recent heavy-handed police

crackdown on female genitalia


by Andrew Pothecary

 

T

here was no warning. On July 12, artist Rokudenashiko, whose real name is Megumi Igarashi, found 10 members of Tokyo’s police force at her door and herself arrested for distributing obscene material. The main target of their visit were CAD files from which applicants to her website could purchase and print a 3D model of her vagina*.

She was using this process to crowd-fund further work, but until then there had been no hint of approbation from the authorities regarding her art, nor had she considered it bordering on the illegal. She assumed herself to be making pieces about society’s attitudes toward female genitals, not anything obscene. As she said at a press conference at the FCCJ on July 24, “It may be obscene if you are depicting something actually engaging in sexual activities, but I’m just presenting a part of my body just as it is. I don’t think that is obscene.”

The taboo, the transgressive, or merely the human body itself has been a favored subject for artists through the ages. What is obscene, or the reaction to what is obscene, in art usually involves three considerations: what people generally deem so (from individuals to the wider society); what is acceptable under the law; and – a sometimes non-compatible combination of those – what is actually enforced. There can be confusion along the way among any of these.



I’m just presenting a part of my body just as it is.

I don’t think that is obscene.”

 

What gave Rokudenashiko’s story legs (so to speak) is the continuing confusion over obscenity here. Japan is, after all, the historical home of explicit shunga, Ai no Corrida (the 1970s real-sex feature film) and Takashi Murakami’s sperm-shooting boy sculpture. Not to mention the proliferation of hentai manga, Lolita fixations or fetish pornography.

And the confusion isn’t necessarily recent. Shunga have had many ups and downs since the 1722 Japanese edict banning them from being published without permission, but now they are part of art exhibitions. Though the sex act was being reenacted in strip clubs in many cities around Japan, in 1976, Ai no Corrida director Nagisa Oshima not only had to shoot his actors’ sex scenes and process the film in France, but Japanese audiences had to take tours to Guam to see the unedited version. To this day, it is impossible to view the film without mosaic – or pretty much at all – in Japan. (I saw it uncut in 1978, in the UK, and it didn’t receive an official certificate there either until 1991.)

 

That certainly makes shunga and Ai no Corrida both very Japanese – although both were made against out-of-step obscenity laws and remain more readily available abroad.

To a foreign audience, Rokudenashiko’s arrest made yet another “weird Japan” story, even becoming fodder for a significant segment of the popular U.S. comedy program The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. Stewart contrasted Rokudenashiko’s criminalized genitals to the Kanamara Festival, where the penis is celebrated in public with erect models. As Stewart pointed out, there’s a legend behind this festival of successfully dominating a vagina dentate (a castrating, toothed vagina).

Rokudenashiko addressed this seeming acceptance of the penis at the Club: “I think there is hypocrisy . . . I was arrested because some people have a bad image of the word ‘vagina,’ that it is something bad that should not be given attention. Such social notions are based on men’s viewpoint and there is a lack of independence of the women’s viewpoint.” She noted also how the Japanese slang word for vagina (manko) is often bleeped from TV.Is the vagina particularly hidden in Japan? If so, that would make the UK Independent’s report even more odd: seemingly oblivious to this aspect, it referred to the vagina and artwork as “p***y” and “p***y boat” – suggesting some hiding is not just in Japan (or just about the law).

 

OBSCENITY AS A HOLE

When the original women’s kabuki was banned for being too erotic in 1629, men took over female roles in what could be taken as an example of putting men first when it comes to public morality. But if the sidelining of the woman’s parts (and women’s parts) is something that began 400 years ago with the manning-up of kabuki, perhaps a lingering effect backs Rokudenashiko’s argument.



The male sculpture is anatomically all there

and virile, while the female sculpture seems

to confuse sex with breast milk

Another example might be found in a couple of celebrated artist Takashi Murakami’s sculptures, which add to the confusion over Japan’s legal approach to what can be made and displayed without being arrested. His 1997 “My Lonesome Cowboy” is of a larger-than-life-size, naked manga-inspired man gripping an erection spurting a spiraling swathe of ejaculate. Murakami wasn’t arrested (nor should he have been) and the piece was displayed to the public in galleries in Japan and worldwide. His female equivalent was “Hiropon,” who spurted an equally copious rope of milk from her oversize breasts. She was naked too, but her pudenda were featureless. The male sculpture is anatomically all there and virile, while the female sculpture seems to confuse sex with breast milk, as she has nothing between her legs.

 

However, before we think that it’s only vaginas that are the problem, let’s not forget the 2013 arrest of Tokyo-based photographer Leslie Kee after an exhibition of male nudes and its accompanying book. What upset the moral powers at that time were penises.

In fact, Kee, too, had no idea that what he was doing was illegal, he simply also wanted to explore the usually hidden. In an interview in Bouin Artinfo he said, “I appreciate the beauty and strength of a natural man. Most of my commercial and fashion works are retouched – I have never seen an unretouched photo in a beauty campaign. However, for “Forever Young,” I try to keep them un-retouched and uncensored.”

The fact that both artists – and anyone else in Japan – could be unaware of illegality is born out simply enough by the uncommented-upon appearance of the August 2014 mainstream art magazine Geijutsu Shincho. Its cover feature was “Female and male nudes.” Among works inside by Munch, Lucien Freud and Ryoko Kimura, there is a reproduction of a work by artist John Curran entitled “Deauville:” it is a couple masturbating each other, she gripping his erection, he inserting fingers into a clearly and realistically painted vagina. As far as I know, nobody has been arrested for distributing obscenity for this.

While Rokudenashiko has been released (although her case is not closed), Kee was not so lucky: he was fined ¥1 million, though fortunately escaped a maximum two-year jail sentence.

 

NEW LAWS AND OLD ATTITUDES

If the police charge was about distributing CAD files, the media story was about double standards. With possession of child pornography having been criminalized in Japan only the month before, the Guardian’s Justin McCurry, for example, was one who noted calls for another new law: “Commentators have pointed out the hypocrisy of her arrest, which comes soon after Japanese authorities resisted pressure to ban pornographic images of children in manga comics and animated films.”

However, in the light of Kee’s and Rokudenashiko’s arrests, are calls to increase opportunities for artists to be arrested the way forward? After all, editors of manga publications have been prosecuted for selling and distributing material that has been deemed obscene under the existing law. Instead of adding to the confusion with new laws, why not focus on the need to understand what exactly is obscene? What about referencing societal attitudes to bring clarity to what people generally deem offensive – that third strand to defining obscenity?


Instead of adding to the confusion

with new laws, why not focus on the need

to understand what exactly is obscene?


In September 2009, for example, the respected Japanese design magazine Idea published a special issue dedicated to manga and anime. Included was a four-page look at 61 covers of the manga LO. (LO is short for Lolita Only: the first issue’s ad copy could be translated as, “So they're children. Do you have a problem with that?”) As a designer from the UK, the fact that a manga like LO exists was odd enough. Most of the covers were merely fully clothed schoolgirls, meaning you can decide if you have a problem with that. But there were plenty of swimsuited poses where an innocent “eye” becomes questionable – and even a nude with budding pre-pubescent breasts where the question stared out from the cover.

To neutrally celebrate its design and art in a publication that I was involved in would be unthinkable to me – at least without comment. (It’s quite obviously not that the UK has some moral high ground on pedophilia – in fact, it’s dealing with the fallout of a major pedophile scandal right now – but that such everyday societal acceptance often goes unchallenged in Japan.)

 

Questionable attitudes are not limited only to manga and anime. Only last month I turned on commercial TV to find a game show featuring many foreign “talents” intent on identifying who among a group of women in a schoolroom set was actually the junior-high-school girl and who were adults. To my eyes this was far more obscene than an adult woman artist exploring ideas of the body.

Developing general attitudes can help in leaving artists freer to explore the taboo without arrest – by deciding what is just unacceptably offensive and what is more clearly an arrestable obscenity.

Should an adult woman artist be locked up for six days, at times handcuffed in hot and airless rooms, when she was unaware that she had transgressed the law, only that she wanted to transgress repressive attitudes to the adult vagina (pixilated in imagery of real sex and AKB’d to oblivion in popular culture)? Doesn’t this confirm to us that the real obscenity is not the image of a part of the body, or even its associations with sex, but the arrest itself?

*Although this story is often about hidden female genitalia, everyone and Rokudenashiko herself refers to her works as about the vagina, when in fact it is mostly the vulva she has been dealing with. However, for simplicity, I’ve continued the nomenclature.

Andrew Pothecary is a freelance graphic designer and the art director of Number 1 Shimbun.

 

The Asahi's Costly Admission

 No1-9-2014Asahi.jpg
 

The Asahi Shimbun this month retracted some of its core

historical coverage of the comfort women issue,

a long expected but still stunning admission

of editorial failure.

Can the paper recover from the damage?


Nobody knows what Seiji Yoshida really did during World War II. A sort of reverse Walter Mitty, Yoshida wrote a confessional memoir called Watashi no Senso Hanzai (“My War Crimes”) detailing his role in rounding up 200 women on Jeju Island for Japanese military brothels. In the 1980s, all the big Japanese daily newspapers wrote about his sensational claims. The problem is, they weren’t true.

The Asahi newspaper, true to its reputation for liberal journalism, gave Yoshida more space than most. Starting in September 1982, Yoshida was featured in over a dozen articles through to the 1990s, by which time historians had smelled a rat. By the time of his death in 2000, his story was widely considered bogus, even among Korean and Japanese scholars on the left.

But it wasn’t until Aug. 5 of this year that the Asahi finally came clean, retracting 16 articles and running a two-page spread explaining its decision. “We have judged that Mr. Yoshida’s statement, in which he said that he took comfort women by force from Jeju Island, was fake,” it told its 20 million readers. The newspaper had been “unable to see through” Yoshida’s “fraudulent testimony,” it admitted ruefully.

Conservatives took to the airwaves

the day after to gloat over the humbling

of Japan’s liberal flagship.

The Asahi did its best to minimize the fallout, publishing the admission during the O-bon holidays to avoid being savaged by Japan’s right-wing weekly magazines. The reaction from those who have long disputed claims of organized military involvement in rounding up “comfort women,” however, was swift and predictable.

Conservatives took to the airwaves the day after to gloat over the humbling of Japan’s liberal flagship. An editorial in the Yomiuri newspaper said the Asahi’s coverage had helped fuel anti-Japan sentiment in South Korea, and was the basis of “misperception of Japan” throughout the world. It again demanded a retraction of the 1993 Kono Statement (named after then Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono) admitting organized military involvement in rounding up the sex slaves.

asahi_spread.jpg

The Asahi’s spread apologizing for its coverage.

 

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told the Sankei newspaper, which has led a two-decade campaign against the Kono Statement, that “many people had suffered” because of the Asahi’s reporting. Shigeru Ishiba, the secretary general of the ruling Liberal Democrats, said the Diet might have to “discuss” the Asahi’s reporting. Many conservatives called for a nationwide boycott of the newspaper.

Right-wing critics trace the pitched political battles over the comfort women issue back to the Asahi’s coverage, and by extension blame the newspaper for Japan’s diplomatic deep freeze with South Korea. Takaaki Mizuno, a veteran Asahi correspondent who now teaches at Kanda University of International Studies, scoffs at that view. He points out that there were many soldiers’ accounts predating Yoshida’s memoir.

I always say, Japanese journalists should be ashamed that we didn’t report it until 1991,” Mizuno says. “It is common sense that there were other accounts because there were so many former soldiers with experience of ianfu (comfort women).” He says that’s why so many ordinary Japanese people contributed up to $6 million to the 1995 compensation fund, which was set up by Japan following the Kono investigation. “They felt guilty about what happened, and sympathy toward the women,” he says.

In 1997 the Asahi tentatively admitted it could not verify Yoshida’s testimony. At least one former journalist closely associated with the paper’s coverage was hounded out of an academic position in Kobe and now lives and teaches in distant Hokkaido. That might explain why the Asahi is reluctant to officially explain the background to the retraction, though some journalists at the paper agreed to discuss it off-the-record.

 

He says that’s why so many ordinary Japanese

contributed to the 1995 compensation fund,

which was set up by Japan

following the Kono investigation.


According to one editor, the Asahi dispatched reporters to Jeju to retrace Yoshida’s account, essentially a formality before so much doubt had already been sown. The issue, he said, had clearly become an impediment to reporting at the newspaper. “Readers were calling in and asking us about it. Journalists were being questioned about it repeatedly on reporting assignments,” he recalls.

Eventually, under pressure from revisionists in the Abe government, something had to give. “The Sankei was running articles about this once a week,” says the editor. The Yomiuri too had become more aggressive. “We felt we were being pushed into a corner.” The departure of most of the reporters and senior editors who had been associated with the comfort women coverage provided the opportunity for a clean break.

In August, the newspaper’s senior management rounded up mid-level editors and said the paper was going to bite the bullet. “They were told that it couldn’t be avoided any more,” says the editor. The reaction, he says, was “relief.” Morale was high, despite the inevitable blow to the paper’s prestige. “It was good to have it solved,” he says, but admits: “It should have been done much earlier.”

There are few precedents for such a high-profile mea culpa. In 1989 the Asahi was forced to apologize after admitting that one of its photographers had defaced a coral reef near Okinawa. The newspaper had used the incident as a pretext to launch a crusade against environmental vandalism.

Perhaps the biggest postwar newspaper scandal involved the Mainichi. In 1972 its reporter Takichi Nishiyama obtained proof that Japan had secretly agreed to absorb $4 million in costs for the reversion of Okinawa to Japanese rule. Nishiyama was convicted of revealing state secrets, sacked and hounded from his profession. In 2006 the Mainichi finally claimed vindication when a retired senior diplomat with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs confirmed the secret transaction.

 

She says the government has worked hard

to bring the Yomiuri, the Sankei

and even state broadcaster NHK

onside on the issue.

The Nishiyama episode is often cited as an example of how the Japanese state successfully deflected a potentially serious political scandal by blaming the messenger. Some analysts see parallels in the Yoshida case, which they say has also been skillfully used by conservatives to deflect from the larger discussion about war crimes.  

Abe and the government knew this was a weakness and they exerted all their pressure on the Asahi,” says Kaori Hayashi, a media specialist at the University of Tokyo. She says the government has worked hard to bring the Yomiuri, the Sankei and even state broadcaster NHK onside on the issue. “They have now got rid of the Asahi as a problem.”

Editors at the Asahi say they hope the Aug. 5 review will draw a line under the Yoshida episode and clear the way for a more mature public discussion about the comfort women issue. But Koichi Nakano, a political scientist at Sophia University, says that’s unlikely. “It’s going to provide ammunition for both camps and polarize the issue further,” he says.

A few days after the admission,

about 40 LDP lawmakers met

to pressure the government

into releasing a new statement.

The people who want to look at the facts would say, ‘Well, the Asahi went wrong there but the understanding of the comfort women is not affected by this review,’” Nakano says. “But it gave more ammunition to right-wingers, who pick whatever argument suits their purposes.” Mizuno agrees. “What conservatives are trying to do is not just target the Asahi,” he says. “Their real target is Kono, [former Prime Minister Kiichi] Miyazawa and liberals in the LDP.”

The bottom line, say most, is that the Asahi’s retraction has added a great deal of momentum to the push to reverse the Kono Statement. A few days after the admission, about 40 LDP lawmakers, led by Keiji Furuya, chairman of the National Public Safety Commission, met to pressure the government into releasing a new statement.

The decision in the mid-1990s to include references to wartime sex slaves in Japanese high school textbooks was the trigger for a backlash among Abe, Furuya and other conservatives, who formed a Diet lobby group to remove them (Abe has been careful to distance himself from the group but is still a core advisor). A rewrite or retraction of the statement, probably on the 50th anniversary of the normalization of diplomatic relations between Japan and South Korea next year would be considered a major political victory.

We would like to wrap up our discussions in a way that a new statement could be issued based on new facts,” Koichi Hagiuda, acting secretary general of the group, told the Yomiuri. Any attempt to tamper with one of the core documents of Japan’s postwar Asian diplomacy is likely to have explosive consequences, but that is unlikely to deter the LDP conservative wing, says Mizuno.

The problem is that right-wingers don’t care about facts.”

David McNeill writes for the Independent, the Economist, the Chronicle of Higher Education and other publications.

 

Dr. Fadi Salameh of Al Jazeera

 No1-9-2014Fadi.jpg

A Syrian physician turned journalist talks about

covering kidnapping and disasters,

and dealing with the pull of home.


by Monzurul Huq

S

yrian Fadi Salameh became a journalist by pure coincidence. “I came to Japan for post-graduate studies in gastroenterology,” he says. “I was supposed to return home, where I was a practicing physician. But sometimes things happen without giving you any hint of where they might lead.”

Fadi is a familiar face these days in the Arab world. He covers Japan and East Asia for the Arabic-language Al Jazeera TV news channel, the Qatar-based network that has recently become an alternate source of news not only for the Islamic world but also for many developing countries where people are tired of watching the images brought to their homes by Western TV channels.

His conversion began while he was halfway through his PhD thesis at Tokyo Medical and Dental University, when he was asked to work as a free-lance contributor for the Arabic news channel APTN. He accepted, and continued to work as a freelancer while finishing his schooling. When Al Jazeera started its own Tokyo Bureau in 2004, it was looking for an Arab journalist fluent in Japanese; Fadi was their natural choice.



He became a regular face on Al Jazeera TV news

covering the dispatch of

Japanese SDF troops to Iraq.

Soon after he began at the network, a group of Japanese was kidnapped in Iraq. As part of his reporting from Tokyo, he interviewed then-Japanese foreign minister Nobutaka Machimura, who appealed to the hostage-takers for their release. Al Jazeera’s focus on the issue probably had an effect on the eventual release of the kidnapped Japanese, allowing Fadi to taste for the first time the satisfaction of doing something for those in trouble.

That same year, Japan decided to dispatch Self-Defense Forces to Iraq. Fadi was again asked to follow the development from Japan and once again became a regular face on Al Jazeera TV news covering the dispatch of Japanese SDF troops to Iraq. These two events committed Fadi firmly to TV journalism; he was drifting further and further from his medical profession.

Fadi has been stationed in Tokyo since, while also covering events in South Korea. When a group of Koreans were kidnapped in Iraq in 2004, Fadi was asked to relocate to Seoul to report the initiatives that had been taken by the South Korean government to ensure their release. It was there that he interviewed then South Korean foreign minister Ban Ki Moon, who has since become Secretary General of the United Nations. During his 10 years with Al Jazeera, Fadi has covered all the important developments in Japan.



“At the evacuation centers I saw

how calmly Japanese people were reacting

to the situation,” he says.

“There were few signs of panic or despair.

His first taste of covering disaster was in 2007, when he went to Niigata prefecture to report on the situation after the Kashiwazaki earthquake. The earthquake temporarily shut down Kashiwazaki-Karuiwa nuclear power plant and people from the affected areas were being evacuated to temporary shelters. Covering that disaster helped Fadi get to know Japanese people better. “At the evacuation centers I saw how calmly Japanese people were reacting to the situation,” he says. “There were few signs of panic or despair. They also talked without any hesitation, which as a journalist I’ve found extremely satisfying since we always try to get the opinion of the people who are at the center of any happening. A group of old people were even smiling at me as I filmed them.”

The experience of covering that early disaster prepared Fadi for the much larger disaster that hit Japan in March 2011. After calling Al Jazeera to ask to go on the air while the ground was still trembling (and being refused; no one knew how serious it was yet), Fadi was among the first group of foreign reporters to head for the disaster area. At Fukushima Prefecture’s Iwaki city the next day, he found the city hall completely empty and realized that the people had already been evacuated. The people he met were all talking about evacuation centers and hinting about the gravity of an accident at Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant.

As a former physician, Fadi realized at once the sense of urgency and tried to approach the power plant. Finding all the roads blocked, he went to a hospital where he was able to interview doctors. One of the doctors told him that he had already sent his family to Tokyo, a strong signal of the seriousness of the situation. Fadi feels that being a doctor helped him in the coverage of the Fukushima disaster. “Doctors tend to look behind the symptoms to find out what was wrong with a patient,” he says. “I also tried to look at the hidden side of the story behind the nuclear accident to get a clearer picture of what really was happening. Talking to doctors and people who had been evacuated was very helpful.”



Fadi feels that being a doctor

helped him in the coverage of

the Fukushima disaster.


His knowledge of the Japanese language gave Fadi an edge over other reporters sent from various corners of the world to report on the disaster. At evacuation centers he not only mingled with the evacuated, he also stayed with them, sharing the same food and often sleeping on tatami floors.

Covering Japan for a decade has given Fadi a broad expertise – in Japan and in journalism. However, he feels that 10 years has given him a good grasp of the depth of this vocation, and believes that it’s probably time to go back to the world of his training.

The media in Syria has long been controlled by the government,” he says. “The country is going through many changes and so is the media. Still, if I go back to Syria, I’ll probably practice again as a physician. After all the destruction my country has gone through, people need someone with medical training more than someone walking around with a camera.”

Monzurul Huq represents the largest-circulation Bengladeshi national daily, Prothom Alo. He was FCCJ president from 2009 to 2010.

 

 

A Lesson in Gambling from South Korea

  AP20098363495.jpg 

The only casino in Korea open to the country’s citizens

has helped to revitalize a whole region.

But there are costs, and the experience

can provide some lessons for Japan

by Patrick Zoll

 

T

he four huge wheels on the tower over the mine head stand silent. Slowly rusting away, the industrial monster is a witness of times long gone by. Once the landmark of Jeongseon’s flourishing local economy, today it is nothing more than a symbol of the city’s rise and fall. The coal mine, opened shortly after the Korean War in the South Korean province of Gangwon, saw its heyday in the 1970s when it fueled the country’s economic miracle. Jeongseon’s population reached 100,000 people and the region was doing so well, people say, that even the stray dogs were fat.

The decline of the coal mine began in the 1980s and by 2000 it had closed down for good. Jeongseon’s population collapsed to one-fifth of its peak. “The local people begged us to do something – anything – to secure the survival of the city,” says Kim Su Bog, the region’s chief for culture and tourism. “We were so desperate, we even considered applying to host a nuclear-waste disposal site.”

But a different solution was found for Jeongseon, and its glittering tower of glass and steel rises over the huge dump behind the mine. Next to it stands a building that faintly resembles a castle from a Disney movie. The strange-looking complex is Kangwon Land, South Korea’s only casino that is open to its own citizens.

 

“Can you lend me one million won?”

I hear one gambler asking another

in the men’s room.


On an average Monday afternoon the casino is busy. Most of the 200 tables for blackjack, baccarat and roulette are open for gamblers to place their bets. The 1,000 slot machines are well attended too. Some 7,000 gamblers can try their luck at any one time, and the casino’s representatives say that on weekends the number of visitors often rises to 10,000, meaning a reservation is required for a seat at the tables. The casino will stay open until 6 a.m., but even at this early hour someone already seems to have used up his daily budget. “Can you lend me one million won?” I hear one gambler asking another in the men’s room.

Jeongseon seems to have hit the jackpot: The casino resort has added 3,000 jobs, and another 2,000 are said to have been created at local businesses and suppliers. The municipality receives the equivalent of ¥1.5 billion per year, and a social fund of the casino distributes another ¥600 million per year – some, for example, to former miners suffering from silicosis. Furthermore, casino guests spent ¥1.8 billion at local hotels and restaurants. The local population is now stable at around 15,000 people, and almost every family has some sort of economic link to the casino.

In Japan, as well, economic considerations are one of the main driving forces for legalizing casino gambling. Experts estimate the market’s potential for the country at ¥4 trillion. (For comparison, the Pachinko industry had a turnover of ¥19 trillion in 2012.) Prime Minister Shinzo Abe intends to draw on Singapore’s experience in bolstering tourism with integrated casino resorts, Japanese media reported after he visited two casinos during his visit there in May.

 

He pulls some wrinkled photos

from his shirt’s pocket. One shows a man in a car,

his head twisted strangely backwards.


By 2020, when the Tokyo Olympics take place, Japan wants to reach its goal of attracting 20 million foreign visitors per year, compared with 10 million in 2013, and such Singapore-style integrated casino resorts – including hotels, conference centers and shopping malls – are seen as a substantial contribution to that goal. Proponents of the plan hope to get relevant legislation passed in the fall Diet session. Among with lawmakers from other parties, Abe’s LDP is behind the plan. But the party’s coalition partner New Komeito is hesitant, voicing concerns about side effects such as gambling addiction.

Back at South Korea’s Kangwon Land, the casino’s representatives insist that the negative effects are well controlled. The casino’s own Addiction Care Center is tasked to take care of those who have trouble controlling their gaming habit. “We have a responsibility to our citizens”, says Kang Sung Gunr, the center’s head. Each year, 3,000 visitors are banned from entering the casino, either because they ask for it themselves or because family members approach the casino. In extreme cases, Kang says, the center also covers rehabilitation therapy at a hospital. In order to ensure that the local residents do not become addicted, they are allowed to visit the casino only on a single, pre-determined day each month.

Nothing but lies!” fumes Bang Eun Geun. He pulls some wrinkled photos from his shirt’s pocket. One shows a man in a car, his head strangely twisted backwards. “He killed himself on the casino’s parking lot,” says Bang in an accusing tone. The priest has devoted his life to working with addicts. At least once a week someone takes his life, Bang says, “because they don’t see another way out of gambling debts.”

Officially there were 42 suicides in the area in 2013. Kang considers this figure far too low. In his eyes the preventative measures the casino takes are a joke: “All they want is to get the people back to the casino again as soon as possible.” Many of the addicts are from the local population, he says; those who want to gamble, simply change their official residence, an easy move in South Korea. The priest talks himself into a frenzy, pointing with his index finger and thundering with a powerful voice as if preaching from the pulpit: “Casinos are a total disaster for Korea.”

National statistics support the priest’s view. Over 7 percent of the nation’s adult population, or almost 2.7 million people, show signs of gambling addiction, says Seo Yong Seok, expert advisor at the National Gambling Control Commission. This percentage is two to three times higher than in other countries that publish similar statistics. One possible explanation, Seo says, is the extremely competitive nature of Korean society. The addiction figures cover all legal forms of gambling in Korea, including horse, bicycle and motorboat racing, lottery, sports toto and bullfights. The casinos generate one third of the industry’s yearly turnover of 19.5 trillion won (nearly ¥2 trillion). The Korean players at Kangwon Land alone bet as much money as visitors to all of the other 16 casinos together, which are open to foreigners only.


The shop owners do not like to talk because

it is technically illegal to lend money

to someone

if the lender knows that

it will be used for gambling.


Those who oppose opening casinos in Japan, warning of the dangers of gambling addiction, have reason to worry. According to recent figures published by the Ministry of Health, more than 5 million Japanese, roughly 5 percent of the adult population, are addicted to gambling. Among men the addiction rate is nearly 9 percent.

According to the Nikkei newspaper, the current plan is to allow foreign visitors to enter the casinos for free while charging Japanese citizens an entry fee of several thousand yen – a restriction meant to prevent gambling dependence among locals. It’s a two-tier system that is modeled after Singapore’s approach, where locals are charged 100 Singapore dollars, roughly ¥8,000. The Ministry of Health, in fact, is said to be opposed to allowing Japanese citizens to visit the casinos.

In Sabuk, the area of the city closest to Kangwon Land, another side effect is visible: pawn shops clustered around the central roundabout. “We lend money for gold, jewelry, cars,” the signs read. Business is not good, insiders say, since the government has tightened regulations. The shop owners do not like to talk because it is technically illegal to lend money to someone if the lender knows that it will be used for gambling.

One woman, however, who took over her shop not long ago, does not mince her words. “I was cheated,” she says angrily. “The former owner sold me the shop with false promises of easy profits.” To her, it is obvious what people do with the money they get: “They go straight to the casino.” People are crazy about money, she says, showing a golden Rolex someone left as collateral. “I have seen people who pawned their shoes and went to the casino in slippers.”

Jang Jae Sam also uses the word “crazy.” It is crazy, he says, how people in Sabuk have changed in the 15 years since the casino opened. Jang is the head of a local church, and remembers this as a very safe, almost naïve, community. “Now all you see is motels, pawn shops, massage parlors and girly bars,” he says. Unlike the critical Bang, the priest who works with the addicts, Jang has mixed feelings about the casino, and admits there has clearly been a positive effect on the local economy.


For Japan on the other hand,

it remains to be seen

how much of the international casino business

it can attract.

Despite the big economic rewards Jeongseon is enjoying currently, the town is worried about its future. It is possible that soon one will hear “rien ne va plus” at the casino. Kangwon Land’s license will expire in 2025, and locals fear that the license for accepting South Korean gamblers could go to a casino closer to the capital of Seoul – only a three-hour-drive away, and the present source of the majority of the casino’s gamblers.

To avoid getting caught in another downward spiral, Jeongseon is trying to diversify. Kangwon Land already includes a conference center and a ski resort, and a water park is under construction. Only four years from now the alpine disciplines of the Pyeongchang 2018 winter Olympics will be held in Jeongseon.

In fact, Kangwon Land’s model these days looks very similar to the Singaporean one that Japan is considering. Would the resort work without a casino? How many of the 3 million visitors would come back? Those are questions Jeongseon is worrying about.

For Japan on the other hand, it remains to be seen how much of the international casino business it can attract. Many casinos in East Asia aim for the same clientele that Japan will be eager to welcome, namely Chinese tourists. One reason for the creation of Kangwon Land was to make sure that Korean gamblers spend their money within Korea, rather than taking it abroad to gambling paradises like Macao or Las Vegas. More casinos in East Asia do not necessarily mean more gamblers. And competition is growing – Taiwan, for example, has legalized casinos on outlying islands in order to support their economy, even if development has been slow.

But the industry is upbeat about Japan. Big international casino operators are eagerly waiting to enter this new market, and major domestic Pachinko operators are also eyeing this business. According to latest reports, about 20 municipalities around the country are interested in hosting a casino resort. However, unlike South Korea’s Jeongseon, the Japanese frontrunner is anything but an economically destitute area: the city of Osaka, one of the major economic hubs of Japan, has staked its claim, and would like to build a casino on the man-made island of Yumeshima. Other leading candidates are Okinawa, following a strategy to become a major destination for foreign tourists, and Yokohama, where large cruise ships often make a stop.

If everything goes according to plan, the first casinos will open in time for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. But before that, the necessary legal groundwork has to be laid. Legislators “must examine the various real-world problems and challenges related to casinos being encountered overseas,” the Yomiuri Shimbun wrote in an editorial in June. And it added that hasty enactment of the bill must be avoided. One will see if the Diet takes the time for these deliberations or if it will ram through the legislation as has happened with other legislation that was dear to Abe’s heart, such as the secrecy law.

Patrick Zoll is the East Asia Correspondent for the Swiss daily Neue Zürcher Zeitung. He covers Japan, the Korean peninsula and Taiwan.

 

 

From the Archives: The General

 

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On his first visit to the Tokyo Correspondents Club at a luncheon on March 17, 1947, General Douglas MacArthur calls for the Occupation to be brought to an early end. From the left are Eddie Tseng (China News Agency), George McArthur (AP), General Douglas MacArthur, Tom Lambert (AP), (unidentified), Bill Costello (CBS), and Robert Guillain (AFP). The reproduction above is from the autographed print in the FCCJ’s archives. (U.S. Army photo)

 

M

ACARTHUR’S ON-THE-RECORD statement at the Club (the forerunner of the FCCJ), saying that it was time for an end of the Occupation, was only one part of his message. He further called for a peace treaty to be negotiated, stating that the military task had been completed, the political phase was approaching completion and that continuing the Occupation would have negative effects on Japan’s economic recovery. It was a turning point that resulted in the San Francisco Peace Treaty of 1952, which brought the Occupation of Japan to a formal end.

Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers (SCAP), MacArthur had declined earlier invitations to speak at the Club to avoid setting a precedent. In fact, his first invitation had been to attend the Nov. 1945 formal opening of the Club in the five-story Marunouchi Kaikan, located between SCAP’s headquarters in the Daiichi Seimei building and Tokyo Station. Though repairs had yet to be completed on the war-scarred building, it went on to provide hostel services for some 170 correspondents, who called it “No. 1 Shimbun Alley” for the next ten years.

The General had apparently refrained from visiting the Club until he had something important to communicate to the correspondents.

— Charles Pomeroy

 

 

Chokan Taro and the Last of the Paperboys

by Dan Sloan
 

 "I'm used to the rain and storms,

but still I'm sleepy in the early morns"
-- Shimbun Shonen, 1965

O

NCE, LONG AGO, IN a suburb not far away, an army of youth with entrepreneurial and social skills, as well as a commitment to service and the literal value of news, delivered the world’s greatest print and photographic journalists to the far corners of driveways, or – if tips were lean and weather inclement – to mailboxes.

This calling, whose followers included at least three U.S. presidents, a Nobel Prize winner, John Wayne, Wayne Gretzky, and millions of pre-teens (including your humble scribe), was purportedly first heard by a 12-year-old Ben Franklin, who hand-delivered copies of the Boston Gazette.

Young Ben and we chosen many toiled under a moniker that hid the truly transformative nature of the vocation, dubbed “Paperboy,” but ultimately a laser photo of genders, ages and nationalities.

Fast forward 240 years: a U.S. stamp in 1952 commemorated the “Free Enterprise” of carriers whose bags and baskets daily bore the news, turning the cherubic kid on street corners shoutin’ “Extra, extra” into a movie cliché, as youth empowerment found literal road traction.

Now, even more print media face

existential questions about utility,

and the once ubiquitous job of delivery is

rapidly facing Smithsonian status.

By 1992 the New York Times reported that at least 550,000 people were engaged in the delivery profession across the U.S., but noted a decade-long move to adult carriers, as the job evolved into a late-career income option.

And then, depression set in, as newspaper nations began going digital. Now, even more print media face existential questions about utility, and the once ubiquitous job of delivery is rapidly facing Smithsonian status. A video of a newspaper bag-toting youth bicyclist being used in a parental abuse case would be no surprise.

That would be the story in most developed nations except Japan, where long ago Chokan Taro’s wheels of progress moved to a motorbike, and the printed word remains nearly as mighty as the sound-byte.

The Japan Newspaper Publishers & Editors Association estimates that of an approximate 47 million combined daily newspaper circulation in 2013, over 95 percent were home delivered. The rate of subscriber households stands at a stupefying 0.86, as a graying population continues to expect their daily amid rain, storms or barking poodle, by morning coffee.

That means employment in Japan for over 356,000 “delivery agents” (the name sounds more elite), over 40 percent of who are women, and 7,500 of whom are students. This also implies that the motorbike gearshifts I have heard at 4:30 a.m. for years are not soon likely to go the way of my former afternoon employer, the Richmond News Leader, which made its last rounds on May 30, 1992.

And while it is indeed “good news” to learn the fraternity and sorority still exist and grow, it is with undeniable nostalgia that “paperboy” now is more a standard of professional deportment of an independent, prompt, engaged and media-oriented workforce, who – alas – may be heading into middle age, but – by damn – still get the promised delivery there on time, come snow, sleet or technological obsolescence.

Dan Sloan is a former president of the FCCJ, Editor-in-Chief of the Nissan Global Media Center, and still owed money by Mrs. Kielpinski on Windsor View Drive.

 

 

Exhibition: Saltwater Sky

 

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Photographs by

MITSUYUKI SHIBATA

 

Shibata's romantic, emotional photographs have been embraced by the world of surfing and the world at large. He has published several books, from one of which – Saltwater Sky (Bueno Books) – these photos are taken. While Shibata has worked extensively in advertising, he has also contributed his eye to film-making. Living in Hayama, he remains a dedicated surfer to this day and continues to center his life and work on the sea.

 

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New Members in August

 

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KIMIKO AOKI is an executive producer at NHK Enterprises. She has previously held positions as chief editor of the program NHK World Newsline, London bureau chief, New York correspondent, Hiroshima correspondent and managing editor of the NHK Kaigai Network.

 

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KEN MORITSUGU has been named Japan bureau chief of the Associated Press. Born in Montreal, Moritsugu is a naturalized U.S. citizen who holds an undergraduate degree in economics with a certificate in East Asian Studies from Princeton University. Moritsugu started his reporting career for the Japan Times in 1984. He later was a reporter at the St. Petersburg Times and Newsday, an economics correspondent in Washington for Knight-Ridder and a New Delhi-based freelance journalist. Since joining the AP as enterprise editor based in Bangkok in 2007, Moritsugu has overseen major projects and in-depth, investigative and data journalism throughout the Asia-Pacific region.

 

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SAKI OUCHI has been the chief manager, international affairs at the Yomiuri Shimbun since Sept. 2013. She joined the paper in 1986, after graduating from Tokyo University. Ouchi has mainly worked in the International News Department, with posts to Washington from 1992 to 1996, Geneva from 1999 to 2003, and once again to Geneva from 2008 before being transferred to London in 2009. Upon returning to Tokyo in 2012, she was Deputy Editor at the International News Desk.

 

PROFESSIONAL/JOURNALIST

ASSOCIATE MEMBER
Akihiro Miyata, Ray Productions

STATUS CHANGE (FROM ASSOCIATE TO PROFESSIONAL/JOURNALIST ASSOCIATE)
Takeya Yamasaki, International Eye, Inc.

ASSOCIATE MEMBERS
Takashi Usuki, Japan Post Bank Co., Ltd.
Akio Makiyama, Forum for Urban Development Co., Ltd.
Ichiro Miyake, Standard & Poor's
Ratings Japan K.K.
Masahiro Fukuzawa, Takaoka Toko Co., Ltd.
Noboru Otani, Espritline Inc.

REINSTATEMENT (ASSOCIATE)
Akira Kamiya, Mitsubishi UFJ Securities Holdings Co., Ltd.

 

 

 

The Prime Minister's First Line of Defense

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Chief Cabinet Secretary Suga defended

the administration’s policies

in a long awaited visit to the Club

 

by Justin McCurry

 

Who among the FCCJ’s journalist members have not lost count of the number of times they have mentioned Yoshihide Suga in the 18 months since Shinzo Abe became prime minister?

Whether described as Japan’s top government spokesman or, more formally, as chief cabinet secretary, Suga is the public face of the Abe administration: a conduit for his boss’s conservative project, and his first line of defense against public and media criticism.

In early July, and after much persuasion, Suga agreed to pit himself against FCCJ journalists. For a seasoned politician with a reputation for unflappability, however, it was surprising that his office requested that at least some of the questions be submitted in advance to allow him to “prepare properly.” Surely Suga and his handlers knew what was coming. In the end, over the course of an hour on July 11, he was asked about collective self-defense, North Korean sanctions and the parlous state of Japan’s relations with China.

He began his FCCJ appearance by outlining the government’s priorities: breathing life into the economy, speeding up recovery in the region hit by the March 2011 triple disaster, and addressing the “severe” security environment in the Asia-Pacific.

He had praise, too, for the current Cabinet’s longevity – 500 days with no change in personnel – in stark contrast to the ministerial chaos that marred Abe’s ill-fated year in power from 2006. And he said the three “arrows” of Abenomics had “drastically improved” the health of the economy, with six consecutive quarters of growth and a ratio of job openings to job seekers at its highest rate for more than two decades. “Unless we have a robust economy we can’t provide the population with social security benefits,” he said. “And we can’t pursue our diplomatic aims or provide the reconstruction funds we need.”

He dismissed criticism of the third and, as-of-now, the least aerodynamic of Abenomics’ three arrows: a program of structural reforms that includes raising the status of women in the job market and entering the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade agreement. The administration, he said, had been courageous enough to take on vested interests that had for decades resisted long-overdue reform of the agricultural and energy sectors.

But he was less ebullient when confronted over the most contentious decision of Abe’s time in office: lifting the ban on collective self-defense. Why, he was asked, had Abe not shown the strength of his convictions and pursued outright revision of Article 9 of the Constitution? “Our priority is to ensure the peace and safety of the Japanese people,” he replied. “When Abe returned to power he was concerned with the government’s ability to protect the country’s people, and asked experts if the current legal framework was capable of meeting that challenge.”

While critics accused Abe of abusing the coalition’s majority to push constitutional revision through the backdoor, Suga played down claims that Abe now has carte blanche to send Japanese troops to fight alongside allies overseas.

Instead, the shift on security was a necessary adjustment that reflected the changing nature of the dangers facing Japan’s citizens, 1.5 million of whom live overseas, with a further 18 million venturing abroad on holiday every year. “That’s the kind of globalized world we are living in. The security environment is much more severe, so we thought it appropriate for the government to show its fundamental thinking on security,” Suga said.

He was challenged on a 2009 Liberal Democratic Party proposal stating that sovereignty lies with the people in any decision related to the Constitution. “The Cabinet took into account the severe security environment and the responsibility of the government to secure the safety of the nation and its people, and to do that we have the right to use minimal self-defense,” he said. “That’s no different from previous government’s interpretations [of the Constitution], which is why we saw no need for constitutional reform.”

Asked why the government had ignored opinion polls showing that a majority oppose collective self-defense, he said: “Abe feels strongly about honoring his commitments, and from the outset one of those was establishing a more thorough system of crisis management. The government has a clear responsibility to guarantee the safety of its people, regardless of ups and downs in the opinion polls.”

Days before Suga’s FCCJ appearance, Japan relaxed some unilateral sanctions against North Korea after concluding that Pyongyang was serious about determining the fates of at least a dozen Japanese citizens abducted by the North in the 1970s and 80s. Suga was asked if Abe was considering a repeat of Junichiro Koizumi’s 2002 mercy mission to Pyongyang, which resulted in the return of five abductees and their families.

The door has opened just a bit,” he said of the fledgling rapprochement with Pyongyang. “We judged that the [North Korea abduction investigation] committee was serious, with the power to investigate government bodies, which is why we relaxed some sanctions. We are committed to bringing all of the abductees home.

As speculation mounts that Abe will hold a rare meeting with his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, on the sidelines of the APEC summit in Beijing in November, Suga simply repeated the official position on sovereignty of the Senkaku Islands – that historically and based on international law, the territory is Japanese. “Having said that, we are the second- and third-biggest economies in the world, so we have a responsibility to ensure the peace and prosperity of the Asia-Pacific. Because of that, the door to dialogue to us is always open.”

Justin McCurry is Japan and Korea correspondent for the Guardian and the Observer. He contributes to the Christian Science Monitor and the Lancet medical journal, and reports on Japan and Korea for France 24 TV.

 

 

Tokyo Star-Crossed

 

The intriguing twists and turns

and compelling characters of a "local"

bank's ups and downs.

 

by Peter McGill

 

Not many hearts will start pounding faster upon hearing that CTBC of Taiwan has bought Tokyo Star Bank, despite the fact it is the first foreign acquisition of a non-bankrupt Japanese bank.

And not many journalists will get late-night calls for copy, even though financial historians may also wish to note that it is the first time a foreign bank, as against a group of foreign investors, has bought a Japanese bank.

But is it important? Of course! Fascinating? That depends on where you start to look. . . .

In fact, when I peered behind the drab official curtain, a strange drama was revealed. The cast includes a Japanese banker besotted by France who was a friend of Jacques Chirac and was brought down by speculative hubris, and a squeaky-clean Mormon who succeeded him.

There’s plenty of action in Taiwan with a Chinese merchant opening the gates of Taipei to Japanese soldiers, being richly rewarded for his allegiance, and eventually being elevated to the House of Peers. One of his many offspring then co-founds a major Taiwanese bank and becomes a pillar of Taiwan society. Alas, his wayward son and heir brings disgrace on the bank and family through insider trading, flees to Japan to escape arrest, and then returns to face justice and a lengthy prison sentence.

In the final act, all the wildly disparate strands come together, and everyone concerned, not least the Japanese and Taiwanese authorities, slam shut the bin of history and affect a broad smile.

 

THE TALE BEGINS IN Japan with a timber dealer’s son named Shoichi Osada. In 1949, he used the profit from selling family timber to the national railways to found Tokyo Shokusan Mujin, a kind of loan cooperative. Mujin date back to the 14th century, and traditionally were rotating credit associations, in which a group of people make regular deposits and take turns to win the pot, usually by drawing lots.  The link to gambling ruffled the puritanical sensibilities of Gen. Douglas MacArthur’s Occupation advisers, and a 1951 law converted the mujin into mutuals. Osada’s Tokyo Sogo Bank later demutualised in 1989 and was renamed Tokyo Sowa Bank.

Osada had only an elementary school education, but was the unchallenged ruler of Tokyo Sowa, first as its president, then as chairman. During the asset bubble of the late 1980s, the bank poured vast amounts of money into Kanto real estate. At its peak, it had a balance sheet of ¥2.27 trillion and earned the sobriquet of  “the bank of Ginza and Akasaka.”

 

The Awashima Hotel had 200 staff for 138 guests,

a wine cellar stocked with 4,000 choice bottles,

its own concert hall

and an ocean aquarium.

 

In 1984, Osada bought an uninhabited island in Suruga Bay with stunning views of Mount Fuji. There, he set about building one of the most expensive hotels in the world. The Awashima Hotel had 200 staff tending to the needs of no more than 138 guests, a wine cellar stocked with 4,000 choice bottles, its own concert hall and an ocean aquarium. Art works from Osada’s personal collection, said to include 1,000 Impressionist paintings, lined the walls.

VIPs were ferried to the island in Osada’s luxury yacht to be wined and dined at the bank’s expense. Along with Tokyo Sowa customers came Ministry of Finance bureaucrats, Japanese politicians, and French celebrities, most notably Jacques Chirac, mayor of Paris from 1977 to 1995, then president of France until 2007.

 

MYSTERY AND RUMOUR SURROUND Chirac’s relationship with Japan, a country he visited 54 times in 37 years. The French press suggested that the love affair went beyond Japanese art and sumo to include a “family entourage.” In 2006, two investigating French magistrates (juges d’instruction) found a note from the French external security service, the DGSE, implying that Chirac once had ¥7 billion in a secret account opened at Tokyo Sowa in 1992. Chirac denied the allegation.

Osada claimed to have been friends with Chirac for “half a century” and in May 1995 was the first Japanese businessman invited to the Elysée after Chirac’s inauguration. In gratitude for his services to France, he was awarded the Légion d’Honneur.

 

An auction was won by Texan vulture fund Lone Star,

with a bid of ¥40.3 billion.

The Japanese taxpayer had to stump up several times more.

 

But after Japanese land and property prices started to tumble in 1992, Sowa Tokyo found itself in trouble. In spite of two capital infusions in 1998 and 1999, and a desperate attempt to keep the bank afloat by cavalier lending to loan sharks, many linked to the yakuza, the bank collapsed in June 1999 with a capital deficit of ¥102.2 billion. One year later, Osada and another four senior executives of the bank were charged with fraud in trying to conceal the crater. In 2003, Osada was handed a three-year suspended prison sentence.

The carcass of Tokyo Sowa drew intense bid interest, thanks to the prospect of generous inducements from the Japanese government. An auction was won by Texan vulture fund Lone Star, with a bid of ¥40.3 billion. The Japanese taxpayer had to stump up several times more. The Deposit Insurance Corporation made a grant of ¥762.6 billion to recapitalise the new bank, while the state’s Resolution and Collection Corporation paid ¥502.7 billion book value for Tokyo Sowa’s bad loans, of which it later recouped just ¥124.2 billion.

 

LONE STAR RENAMED THE bank Tokyo Star and for its head chose Todd Budge, a former Mormon missionary who was fluent in Japanese. In 2003, he became the first foreign – and at the age of 43, by far the youngest – president of a Japanese bank.

Budge helped restore what he once called “this incredible train wreck” to profitability, and wrote a book in Japanese called You Can Do It about his philosophy of “empowering” customers. Cynics would retort that Japanese taxpayers had cleared away much of the Tokyo Sowa wreckage beforehand, while closing most of its branches and getting rid of many of its staff performed wonders on the profit-and-loss statement.

Lone Star listed Tokyo Star on the Tokyo Stock Exchange in October 2005 and sold one-third of its holding for ¥85.4 billion.  Looking for an exit, Lone Star agreed to sell its remaining 68 percent of the bank to Japan’s first, and largest, private equity group, Advantage Partners, at the height of the leveraged buyout boom in December 2007.  The next year, Advantage Partners made a tender-offer bid and bought all outstanding shares in Tokyo Star for ¥250 billion. Advantage Partners borrowed the ¥170 billion needed to buy Lone Star’s majority stake from Lone Star and a group of banks.

 

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 Jacques Chirac (above) denied he had ¥7 billion in the Tokyo Sowa Bank.

Todd Budge (below) helped restore the "train wreck" Tokyo Star Bank

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Richard Folsom, the co-founder of Advantage Partners, graduated from Brigham Young University the same year as Budge, and the pair had also worked together at Bain, the American management firm that employed Mitt Romney, a fellow Mormon and the Republican challenger to Barack Obama in 2012. When Advantage Partners took over Tokyo Star, Budge became chairman until he retired three years ago. He is now president of the Mormon Mission in Japan.

Advantage Partners intended to repay money borrowed to buy Tokyo Star with dividends to be paid by the bank. The plan was hatched just as the financial crisis broke. As bad debts began to multiply, Tokyo Star started losing money and stopped paying dividends, causing Lone Star and the other creditors to seize all of the bank's equity in 2011. The price CTBC is now paying for Tokyo Star, ¥52 billion, is just one-fifth of what Advantage Partners paid for the bank only eight years ago.

CTBC, which used to be called Chinatrust, is Taiwan’s largest privately owned bank. Koo family interests, collectively, rank as the biggest shareholder and still wield considerable power in the boardroom. The Koo’s are one of Taiwan’s five wealthiest families, and partly owe their good fortune to an astute move by the patriarch, Koo Hsien-rung, who sided with Japan in its war with Qing dynasty China at the end of the 19th century. On June 6, 1895, Koo opened the main gate to the city of Taipei and welcomed Japanese troops. Japan was duly grateful and rewarded Koo with some lucrative monopolies. In 1934 the Showa emperor made him the first non-Japanese member of the House of Peers in Tokyo. One of his grandsons is Richard Koo of Nomura Research Institute, possibly Japan’s most famous economist.

Chinatrust was co-founded by Jeffrey L. S. Koo, “father of the credit card” in Taiwan, and chairman of the bank until his death in 2012. Eldest son Jeffrey Koo Jr., a former fashion model with a master’s degree in business administration from Wharton, was vice chairman and heir-apparent until he engulfed the bank in scandal.

 

Koo resigned as vice chairman of Chinatrust

the day after prosecutors issued a warrant

for his arrest, and fled to Japan.

 

In 2004, Chinatrust attempted to take over Mega Financial, a banking group controlled by the Taiwanese government. Taiwan’s financial regulator discovered that Koo Junior had instructed the Hong Kong branch of Chinatrust to buy $390 million of notes issued by Barclays that converted into shares of Mega Financial. These notes were then sold at a steep discount to a paper company called Red Fire Developments, capitalized at $1.

Koo reaped a windfall profit of $30.47 million through Red Fire’s illegal trading, which he then had wired to offshore companies. When rumbled, he returned $20.9 million to Chinatrust but kept the rest in a Hong Kong front company controlled by his family. Most of this money was funnelled to the family of Chen Shui-bian, Taiwan’s president from 2000 to 2008, as “political donations.”

Koo resigned as vice chairman of Chinatrust the day after prosecutors issued a warrant for his arrest, and fled to Japan. In November 2008, however, he flew back to Taipei in his private jet and was handcuffed on arrival. Koo was later found guilty of fraud and embezzlement. Three other senior executives of Chinatrust also received jail terms.

Chen Shui-bian and his wife were found guilty of corruption and are now in prison. Koo is appealing his conviction to Taiwan’s Supreme Court.

The scandal has given new meaning to the corporate motto of CTBC, now the proud owner of Tokyo Star Bank: “We Are Family.”

Peter McGill is a former Tokyo correspondent of the Observer and former president of the FCCJ.

 

 

 

War of Words

 

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 Ought versus Is at the heart of the language wars


by John Boyd

It’s a war that’s been waged for the past 350 years – the battlefield: our English language. Over the centuries, opponents and their motivating passions have frequently changed. In recent times the struggle has been taken up by prescriptivists, a varied group of writers, editors, educators and pundits who prescribe how English should be used based on their rules of grammar and usage. Challenging them are descriptivists, led by linguists who scientifically study the language and describe, without making value judgments, how it is used. The war, at its most fundamental level, is a struggle of ought against is.

One of the first to fire a recorded broadside against alleged faulty English usage was esteemed poet and writer John Dryden. In a 1672 criticism of the works of earlier poets such as Shakespeare and Ben Johnson, Dryden was able to “find in every page either some solecism of speech, or some notorious flaw in sense.” He went on to point out several of these solecisms, including, “The preposition in the end of the sentence; a common fault with (Johnson).”

 

A preposition is a perfectly fine way to end a sentence or clause with,

so rely on your native ear when making

the kind of choice I’m speaking of.

 

No matter that respected authors from Chaucer onwards had employed this idiomatic construction in their works. No matter that Dryden gave no reason for his reproach. When viewed through the prism of Latin, the language of learning and refinement, ending a sentence with a preposition apparently appeared coarse and in erroneous. This notion took hold when language commentators and grammarians following on from Dryden denounced its use and created a new grammatical “rule” to follow, one that continues to plague folks even now.

Inevitably, this affection took on the role of a shibboleth, a way for the educated class to mark themselves from the plebs; and it is still used as a grammatical gotcha today by their ever-watchful descendants, who write letters badgering editors when they spot its use in print.

Sure, it can sometimes be inelegant to end a sentence this way; but often it is the sensible selection, even mandatory, as in, “Besides their use as museum pieces, what else are the FCCJ’s old PCs good for?” A preposition is a perfectly fine way to end a sentence or clause with, so rely on your native ear when making the kind of choice I’m speaking of.

Much the same criticism can be leveled against other contrived rules handed down to us by the 18th- and 19th-century Latin-loving grammarians. One notable example is the potty proscription against splitting infinitives.

Unlike Latin, it has always been natural for English to separate the to from the plain verb with an adverb. A fine contemporary example is the intro to the Star Trek TV series: “To boldly go where no man has gone before.” By comparison, “To go boldly” lacks the brio and rhythm of the original. Linguist and author extraordinaire David Crystal in The Fight for English explains why the split infinitive complements the beat of English:

It is a construction which has been in the language for centuries. It is popular because it is rhythmically more natural to say. The basic rhythm of English is a “tum-te-tum” rhythm – what in the main tradition of English poetry is called an iambic pentameter, with strong (stressed) and weak (unstressed) syllables alternating.

The curfew tolls the knell of parting day …

To boldly go” is the resonant, impactful choice, so trust your native ear for English, not the tone-deaf flappers covering fossilized minds.

The American bible for latter day prescriptivists is the oft-cited The Elements of Style by William Strunk and E.B. White – a university professor and a writer born in 1869 and 1899, respectively. It has sold over 10 million copies and celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2009. Such celebrations prompted Professor Geoffrey Pullum, linguist and co-author of The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language, to pen “50 Years of Stupid Grammar Advice.” In criticizing Elements he says, “Its advice ranges from limp platitudes to inconsistent nonsense. Its enormous influence has not improved American students’ grasp of English grammar; it has significantly degraded it.”

In particular, Pullen discredits the authors’ denigration of the passive construction, as they are “so grammatically clueless that they don’t know what is a passive construction and what isn’t. Of the four pairs of examples offered to show readers what to avoid and to correct it, a staggering three out of the four are mistaken diagnoses.”

One such example: “There were a great number of dead leaves lying on the ground.” As Pullum notes, this has no sign of the passive in it. A passive construction commonly employs the object of an active sentence as its grammatical subject, typically followed by a “be”-verb and a past participle. So we have the active “People on the left hate Rush Limbaugh” construction becoming “Rush Limbaugh is hated by people on the left” in the passive.

Elements’ harmful influence doesn’t end at the walls of ivory towers; mistaught students graduate and enter the wider world citing and praising this fraudulent little tome. So we get novelists as prolific as Stephen King, in his instructutional On Writing, making this blanket statement in italics: “You should avoid the passive tense. I’m not the only one who says so; you can find the same advice in The Elements of Style.” This is an amusing example of prescriptivists’ over-generalized proscriptions, for like the two misguided authors of Elements, King ignores his own silly advice and begins On Writing with, “I was stunned by Mary Karr’s memoir, The Liar’s Club.”

Rather than shun the passive, consider it a useful construction that can improve the effectiveness of your writing in several ways, one example being, “This passionate defense of the passive is written by John Boyd,” when I want to gobsmack you with my name. Hence all good writers, including King and White, use it some of the time.

Now, Elements is messing up folks on the other side of the Atlantic. In Britain, Neville Gwynne, author of the best selling Gwynne’s Grammar, has incorporated it into his primer, modestly subtitled The Ultimate Introduction to Grammar and the Writing of Good English. Alas, it reached No. 1 on the Times best-seller list last summer.

Lamentably, Gwynne and similar self-appointed pundits are too often feted and fawned over in the media. The publicity has helped them create a thriving publishing industry that exploits the linguistically insecure, when in reality their writings belong in the fiction section. Conferring esteem on them has lent unwarranted authority to their pedantic carpings and cavilings, such as when condemning “hopefully” and “data is” in, “Hopefully, RIKEN’s data is correct this time.” So it is hardly surprising that a myth-informed public has doubts about the “proper” use of English.

Prescriptivists typically respond to these criticisms by claiming descriptivists accept whatever has been written as correct, and therefore don’t ascribe to any rules or standards: the “anything goes” charge. Gosh! So that’s why this error-strewn, unreadable denouncement of petty prescriptivism lacks clarity, logic and accuracy! Actually, unlike the pundits, linguists hold to standards that are intellectually honest, for they acknowledge that any standard is but a snapshot, a contemporaneous description of a language variety in a particular point in time. This is why my granddaughter won’t hold to the same standard of English I hold to because the language is always in flux.

To judge the descriptive method for yourself, purchase a copy of Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary of English Usage. In examining language disputes, it uses an evidence-based approach employing the great historical dictionaries, works of distinguished authors, writers and speakers, and many notable usage commentaries from different periods. The historical background of a dispute is presented along with examples old and new of its usage to enable the reader to reach a considered conclusion.

In dealing with data/datum, for instance, MWDEU notes it wasn’t until the end of the 19th century that data meaning facts and figures became established and was used both as a plural noun (like earnings) taking a plural verb, and as a mass noun (like information) taking a singular verb. Its earliest recorded use as a mass noun with a singular verb was in 1902, and this form was common enough to incur the full weight of prescriptivist opprobrium in the 1920s.

The dictionary goes on to give examples of how the mass noun/singular verb construction has been only partly “corrected” by automaton editors, resulting in the new plural verb disagreeing with the original modifier:

much of the data are still tentative – James Q. Wilson, N.Y.Times, 6 Oct. 1974 (the singular modifier much with plural verb shows that some copy editor routinely corrected the verb without thinking)

The modifier has been overlooked precisely because it is standard, and saying “many of the data” would be jarring to the ear. MWDEU provides two similar miscorrected examples to show this is no isolated occurrence. Even general publications, then, rather than employ the same standard of English used by their readers and writers, engage in knee-jerk editing, only to make an embarrassing mess of what were perfectly fine constructions to begin with. Instead of taking a stand on what is long-established mainstream usage outside the science community and certain specialist journals, publishers acquiesce – perhaps out of fear of being labeled unprofessional – to an insensible few who noisily pronounce on how English ought to be used; in doing so, they keep alive one more zombie rule that gnaws away at their readers’ confidence in speaking and writing.

Such is the influence of an intolerant, pedantic minority; a minority that loves its own variety of the language, but can abide no other.

John Boyd strings for IEEE Spectrum magazine and covers sci-tech-biz news and events for a variety of publications.

 

 

Profile: Kazuo Kobayashi of NHK

 DSC_9190.jpg
 

 Retired from a remarkable career,

this former Moscow correspondent shares

his moments in the sun --

and one of sneaking through a graveyard in the dark

 

by Anthony Rowley

It is tempting to refer to Kazuo Kobayashi as “Scoop” Kobayashi, except that the title does not sit well on a man of such gentlemanly – one might say statesmanlike – demeanor. And yet the scoops this veteran broadcast journalist achieved during his long career with NHK were many and remarkable.

Few journalists could hope to have a one-and-a-half-hour interview with
Russian president Vladimir Putin, as Kobayashi did, or a “history-making” meeting with former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev. And sneaking at crack of dawn into the funeral of another former Soviet leader, Nikita Khrushchev, is not exactly an everyday occurrence.

Despite having undergone treatment for a bout of lymphoma, the 74-year-old Kobayashi was in remarkably fine fettle at his home in Kawasaki recently. The warmth of his welcome was infectious, as was the rich chuckle with which he punctuates tales of his experiences.

“The feeling of the human being is fed by the counterpart,” he noted over tea in a home adorned with paintings and other memorabilia of the years he spent in Russia for NHK. “If you like people, they like you,” he said – something borne out by many famous people’s reaction to him.

Kobayashi’s precise recall of dates is remarkable. One of them is the day his love affair with Russia and the Russian people (who he says are often “irrational, impulsive and unpredictable” compared to the rational and predictable Japanese)began: Oct. 4, 1957 – the same day Russia launched the Sputnik space craft.

The young Kobayashi had already decided by then that he wanted to be a journalist – “by the persuasion of my teacher” – but he did not know how to go about it. “Suddenly I decided that if I studied Russian I could become a correspondent there.” He duly enrolled in the Russian faculty of the Tokyo University of Foreign Studies.

Kobayashi joined NHK and in 1970 was appointed Moscow correspondent. “It was a sensation, as I was the youngest [NHK] foreign correspondent.” He was determined to make his mark and not rely on rewriting Tass news agency reports. But when he got to Moscow, he discovered that under the Communist Party regime it was difficult to do anything else.

I was very frustrated and so I spent every night in the Bolshoi Theater and at concerts where I got acquainted with a lot of artists, including [cellist and conductor Mstislav] Rostropovich and ballerina Maya Plisetskaya,” he said. “It was a treasure, but the work was very frustrating.”

Then, in 1971, an unusual opportunity arose. He learned through Reuters that Nikita Khrushchev, the former Soviet leader and successor to Joseph Stalin, had died in a suburb of Moscow. “It was because of Khrushchev and Sputnik that I became a journalist, so I felt I had to cover his funeral.”

 

“Every broadcaster in the world asked for it

but NHK was scared since I didn’t have permission

and refused to sell it.

They showed it only that once.”

 

 

But how? Official permission would almost certainly not have been given. “So I went to the cemetery in the dark of early morning with my Bell & Howell movie camera. I put it under my coat and waited.” At dawn, a lot of policemen and soldiers came and surrounded the cemetery to keep out journalists among others. But Kobayashi had seized the opportunity and was already inside.

He shot film of the sparsely attended funeral without sound. “To send it back to Tokyo I would have to get customs declaration and permission from the ministry of radio and TV,” he said. “But I would never get permission.” Luckily the governor of Kagoshima Prefecture happened to be visiting Moscow and agreed to spirit the film back to Tokyo.

NHK “developed it and showed it on the 7 p.m. main news,” recalled Kobayashi. “Every broadcaster from all over the world asked for it but NHK was scared since I didn’t have permission and refused to sell it. They showed it only that once.”

 

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Kobayashi with Gorbachev (above) and Putin (below)


The Khrushchev incident taught Kobayashi that, “in Russia everything is ‘impossible’ but everything is possible.” He was transferred in 1972 to Vienna to cover the Balkan and East European countries but returned to Moscow to spend a total of 14 years covering the two regions. Then, in Oct. 1986, came another big chance. Once again, Kobayashi (who had learned fluent Russian by then) seized it.

Mikhail Gorbachev, then General Secretary of the Communist Party, met with then-U.S. President Ronald Reagan in Reykjavik, Iceland, for a “Star Wars” summit. The talks did not go well, leading U.S. Secretary of State George Schultz to declare that they had “collapsed,” whereupon Reagan and his entourage returned home. But Kobayashi stayed on for a press conference given by Gorbachev. “This was my chance to talk to him,” he said.

Kobayashi had previously interviewed Gorbachev for documentaries and knew him to be a man of “big vision.” So when he asked a question of the Soviet leader he emphasized that “the world is worried” by the collapse of the arms talks. Gorbachev responded by insisting, “This is not the end but the beginning of a new stage,” which Kobayashi transmitted to NHK. Upon arriving back in Washington, Reagan duly changed his message after hearing this more positive view. “I am very proud that I made history,” said Kobayashi.

He officially retired in 2000, and began an academic career as a professor in the political science faculty of Sakushin Gakuin University. But he had long wanted to meet President Putin. “On May 24, 2003, the Russian ambassador called me at home and said, Do you have time to come to Moscow? The president is ready to meet you.’ So on May 26 I met him at his official residence in the suburbs of Moscow.”

The two men got along very well and photographs of the meeting show a remarkably relaxed and smiling Putin, who gave Kobayashi a highly unusual one and a half hours of his time, and even made visiting Chinese President Hu Jiantao wait.

While relations between Russia and Japan have not been as smooth as Kobayashi’s encounters with Soviet and Russian leaders, Kobayashi believes that the Northern Territories issue could be solved if only PM Shinzo Abe showed a “warmer” approach to Putin. Putin and Hu resolved the territorial issues between Russia and China on a leader-to-leader basis. Kobayashi believes the same could apply to Russia and Japan, if only Abe understood Russia better.

Anthony Rowley, a former President of the FCCJ, is currently Tokyo Correspondent of the Singapore Business Times and Field Editor (Japan) for Oxford Analytica.

 

 

Tokyo Games

 

akasakamitsuke.jpg
Tokyo under seige: Olympian-scaled construction work in the middle of the city.
 

 The 1964 Summer Olympics changed not only the landscape,

but the very soul of Tokyo.

Mary Corbet wonders if the 2020 version

will have the same impact.

 

The 1964 Olympics, Japan’s startling return to the world’s center stage after the devastation of defeat, celebrates its 50th anniversary this October. Though it was already a favorite hub for many foreign correspondents in 1959, when the host city was selected, the choice of the war-scarred, ramshackle megalopolis over Detroit, Brussels and Vienna struck many as the height of folly, comparable today to picking Qatar as a summer venue for the FIFA World Cup.

Though Tokyo boasted a population of nine million people at the time and was still growing, little more than 20 percent of its residents enjoyed the luxuries of flush toilets, the rest having to be serviced by the ubiquitous “honey trucks” of old gaijin lore. Add to that the dearth of English speakers, the lack of hot water, the bad roads, few hotel rooms – and it’s no wonder that foreign observers on the ground were scratching their heads over the IOC’s overwhelming vote of confidence in Japan’s ability to pull off what would have to be the most dramatic urban transformation in Asian, perhaps world, history.

Hours after the IOC’s announcement on May 26, 1959, the Olympic flag was raised in Tokyo, heralding the start of the metamorphosis that turned the ancient city into a gargantuan 24/7 construction site for the next five years. FCCJ members and cohorts were front row witnesses to the unfolding drama.

First off the block was the official return to Japan of the Washington Heights property, a 920,000-square-meter U.S. military-housing complex, to make way for the
building of the Olympic Athlete Village. Today the land has become part of Yoyogi Park and the NHK headquarters complex. Its return certainly served to deepen Japan/U.S. friendship, but must have also been a great relief for some to see the barbarians at the gates of Meiji Shrine finally decamp. Other land was set aside all across Tokyo for the new Shuto Expressway, Monorail, new rail lines and stations.

Then construction went into immediate hyper-overdrive.

 

BOB WHITING ARRIVED IN Japan just as noise and air pollution levels were hitting historic heights, and recalls his surprise at seeing oxygen cylinders being sold in vending machines, people overcome by the fumes and electronic boards around the Ginza announcing not only time and temperature, but off-the-charts carbon monoxide and sulphur dioxide readings.

Many recall the buzz and energy of the time and the excitement of the collective wave of anticipation. But it couldn’t have been much fun for residents who lived over, under, and through those birthing pains. Imagine Akasaka as one of the frenetic hubs of a New Japan in the making. Shuto Expressway going up overhead, infrastructure works beneath. Drills, car horns, blazing lights and action all through the night – every night.

 

Less than two years before the opening,

Mr. Otani decided after the start of construction

that he wanted to add a

revolving restaurant on top.

 

Yonetaro Otani watched the urban miracle unfold from his home on the hill, an old samurai mansion with magnificent gardens and moat, which he then converted into the dazzling New Otani Hotel – joining the construction rush of the Okura, Hilton and Prince hotels in anticipation of 30,000 foreign visitors. With less than two years to go before the Olympic opening, logistics must have been difficult enough without Mr. Otani deciding after the start of construction that he wanted to add a revolving restaurant on top. His wish that every diner would have a chance to see Mt. Fuji was fortunately realized, though at great effort and additional expense, and the Blue Sky Lounge became an instant landmark. Also helping to meet construction deadlines was the revolutionary all-in-one “unit bathrooms” – 1,085 of which were lifted into place by crane. The finished hotel was a virtual metaphor for overcoming obstacles once thought insurmountable.

 

ginza1.jpg
Ginza crossing in 1958 (above) and 1962 (below)

ginza2_copy.jpg

 

Club stalwart Ichiro Urushibara, born in England to a father who had originally travelled to London for the Great Japan Exhibition of 1910, had been forcibly repatriated to Tokyo in 1940 after Japan signed the treaty with Nazi Germany. It felt like cruel fate at the time, but by the 60s, he was a pioneer bilingual radio broadcaster. He can still remember the hopeless congestion and noise on the roads as he drove from studio to studio. It didn’t help that parking lots were still rare.

Learning English had become a national mission, and for one of his many hit radio programs at Bunka Hoso, Urushibara penned a “phrase of the day” six days a week to accompany the countdown to the opening of the Tokyo Olympics. He even appeared in a U.S. television commercial for Schlitz beer – in which popular American sports commentator Tom Harmon expressed great relief that Schlitz was available in Japan, as Urushibara’s elegant wife, Yuko, made a guest appearance in her kimono, dutifully delivering the cold brew. Never mind that Schlitz wasn't available in Tokyo and they had to put a Schlitz label on a Kirin beer for the scene.

Suddenly, everyone wanted to be seen here, even as the benevolent local bureaucracy found it necessary to ask residents to “Please refrain from urinating on the streets,” or “Do not go to the new Haneda Airport in pajamas and haramaki,” in order not to give visitors a negative impression of Japan.

 

The total cost of the 1964 Olympics was estimated to be 10 times that of the Rome games in 1960, and that didn’t include most of the Shinkansen construction cost. Five days before the opening, Sports Illustrated magazine highlighted some issues that remained even after an estimated $1.9 billion had been spent to “dress up ugly old Tokyo.”

There are 26,753 cab drivers ready to solve the insanities of the Tokyo address system for English-speaking visitors – house No. 14 might be next to house No. 13, but it also might be next to house No. 36. Twenty of the 26,753 cab drivers speak English.
. . . In Tokyo, some 6,600 athletes will be housed at the Olympic Village, which cost more to build and renovate than was spent on the first nine Olympics together.”

 

 

The world landed at the dazzlingly refurbished Haneda Airport,

to a landscape featuring a futuristic monorail,

Tokyo Tower, Tange’s architectural masterpieces,

and on-time trains that people could set their watches by.

 

Many think the actual total cost was even higher, equivalent to the nation’s annual budget, but few would debate the spectacular success of the newly democratic Japan’s postwar debut: the world landed at the dazzlingly refurbished Haneda Airport, to a landscape featuring a futuristic monorail (mysteriously dead-ending in Hamamatsu-cho), Tokyo Tower (completed in 1958), Tange’s architectural masterpieces, and on-time trains that people could set their watches by. Rikio Imajo, then a photographer working for UPI, remembers making a pre-opening, media-only run on the just-finished Ginza-Haneda portion of the Shuto Highway. The ¥50 toll, it was proudly pointed out to him, would be decreased as the cost of construction was gradually paid off, and the elevated road would eventually be free. He is still waiting.

Opening Day, Oct. 10, 1964, unfolded under a sky so blue it was as if “the best of the world’s autumn skies have been brought to Tokyo today,” went an oft-quoted NHK broadcast. Across that sky, the Blue Impulse acrobatic Self Defense Force pilots created the five magnificent rings that were transmitted to the world via satellite for the first time in Olympic history, all in full color. Yoshinori Sakai, born in Hiroshima on the day the bomb was dropped, and himself a leading runner who had narrowly missed Olympic selection, carried the sacred flame up the stairs to light the Olympic torch. It was an Olympic opening that enthralled the world, and is still remembered by many as one of the best ever.

Domestic television ratings predictably went through the roof, with neighbors and extended families crowding into the few homes fortunate enough to have color televisions. Highest on record was the women’s volleyball final, in which the Japanese “Witches of the Orient” beat the Russians. Americans did exceptionally well. Gene Saltzgaver, who had just left the Far East Network and was helping to cover the games for the Asahi Evening News, remembers that the “Star-Spangled Banner” was Japan’s most popular song in the autumn of 1964. The U.S. flag went up so often that all of Tokyo seemed to be humming it – even a Japanese copy boy in the AEN newsroom, who was whistling the tune rather loudly to the great amusement of everyone on the news desk.

 

Future Japan national soccer team manager

Ivica Osim was on the pitch

as a young standout for Yugoslavia.

 

Abebe Bikila, already a living legend after his barefoot gold-medal marathon in Rome, defended the title in convincing fashion, and was arguably the most venerated athlete of 1964. All of Japan fell in love with the graceful Vera Caslavska, the all-round gold medalist who represented the end of the age when gymnastics was more elegant ballet than the teenage acrobatics it has since become. Dutchman Anton Geesink won the gold in judo’s open weight division the first time it was contested in the Olympics. The shock to the nation’s psyche in what many thought was an unlosable sport, was deep, but that soon was replaced with profound respect and affection for Geesink, which was never forgotten.

 

AP64102305821.jpgNippon wins the gold in volleyball. (And confuses some foreigners who thought the country was called Japan.)

There were future legends galore: Joe Frazier arrived as a reserve and ended up winning the heavyweight boxing gold, going on to become heavyweight boxing champion of the world and creating the sport’s Golden Age with Muhammad Ali. Bob Hayes easily took the 100-meter sprint gold in borrowed shoes, then came from five runners back to propel the U.S. team to a 4 x 100 gold in what still may be the fastest relay split ever run, including Usain Bolt’s time at the 2012 Olympics. And it was run on a wet, ripped-up cinder track, no less. (Bullet Bob’s speed took him to a Super Bowl ring with the Dallas Cowboys and into the NFL Hall of Fame, revolutionizing the entire game of American football in his wake.) Future Japan national soccer team manager Ivica Osim was on the pitch as a young standout for Yugoslavia.

Former Business Week Bureau Chief and FCCJ president Bob Neff was a 17-year-old senior at the American School in Japan, who headed to the Olympic stadium with his friend after they learned NHK wasn’t going to televise the men’s basketball final. Of course, all tickets were sold out, but bemused guards and officials pretended to believe Neff’s story of them having just arrived from Haneda and not being able to find their tickets. Neff watched the finals shoulder to shoulder with basketball dignitaries and VIP guests. On the floor that night leading the U.S. to another gold was Princeton star Bill Bradley, who was to go on to win two NBA championships with the Knicks and three terms in the U.S. Senate.

The most prolific journalist perhaps, was the Club’s own Vivienne Kenrick, a popular interview columnist at the Japan Times. While covering the games for AP, Reuters and the Japan Times, she was also the local liaison officer for the British equestrian team, keeping an eye out for the well-being of officials, athletes and horses. Apart from daily filings throughout the equestrian events, her daughter Miranda recalls Vivienne writing a dozen stories in the lead-up, and perhaps just as many immediately after the Games – including interviews with a barrage of medallists and a full spectrum of Olympic luminaries, like then JOC chairman Prince Tsuneyoshi, father of the current JOC chairman. Miranda can still remember the dizzying energy she felt as she watched a gray town magically transformed into an international hub pulsating with Japan’s new glamour and sightings of the world’s top athletes.

 

Asked what they wanted to eat,

he was bemused by their collective call for ordinary “toast!”

and promptly sent out for six toasters

 

Kenrick wasn’t the only one looking after the British sports mission. Chris MacDonald, widely recognized for his role in helping raise Japanese soccer to world standards and a Japan Soccer Hall of Famer, looked after the young arrivals while running around preparing Japanese soccer officials and refs, who had little experience in world-class tournaments. He even took to the microphones for the Olympic matches.

Renowned dentist Dr. John Besford, himself a two-time Olympic swimmer, was “uncle” to the swim team and took the whole group for a break at his beachfront villa. Perhaps the Olympic Village food was a tad too posh for the homesick swimmers. Asked what they wanted to eat, he was bemused by their collective call for ordinary “toast!” and promptly sent out for six toasters, which were then scattered throughout the house, as there wasn’t enough voltage in any single outlet to power the appliances.

Besford’s trusted assistant, Teruko Fukasawa, was seconded to the British delegation headquarters in the Village as an interpreter, and recalls the wonderful camaraderie and excitement that permeated Tokyo throughout the entire Games. Besford’s dental practice was at the center of Tokyo’s expatriate life, so – unlike most Japanese at the time – she was familiar with the celebratory traditions and drinking customs of Europeans.

But she is still laughing at just how much scotch and gin were consumed in the headquarters’ lounge upstairs at the former U.S. Air Force residence. “Every day there were occasions which warranted multiple trips upstairs, whether it was a medal, a qualifier, or even a disappointment,” she says. “I remember being surprised at the number of cases [of alcohol] which came in the delegation’s cargo, plus a huge supply of tonic water, which apparently wasn’t available in Tokyo.”

The food on offer during the Olympics was of extraordinary gourmet standards and presentation at a level never experienced in an Olympic Village before or since. Japan showcased its very best to press, visitors and athletes alike, and the reaction was the start of the world’s love affair with Japanese food and food culture. Never mind the visitors’ bewilderment over Japan’s favorite offerings of mysterious “Viking Food” and “snails” (sazae). The Imperial and New Grand hotels led teams of the nation’s best-known chefs running four 24-hour restaurants on the premises, something the athletes still rave over today.

Olympians were equally impressed by a range of firsts, including the full computerization of results by IBM and electronic timing by SEIKO. In fact, the Tokyo Olympics are remembered by many as the first time finishes weren’t endlessly contested.

 

Held in October to avoid the swelter of August

and typhoons in September,

Tokyo 1964 was one of the coldest Summer Olympics ever

 

Long jump gold medalist Lynn “the Leap” Davies, now president of UK Athletics, has been to nine Olympics since 1964. Even from his privileged, multi-faceted vantage point, the Tokyo Games were the only ones that rate alongside the London Games of 2012 as the absolute best. He remembers the thoughtfulness of cleaning staff who wore masks to protect athletes against infection, and bicycles that were freely distributed and could be dropped anywhere in the Olympic village at the athletes’ convenience. It took a few times of missing the shuttle bus for foreign athletes to realize what “on time” meant in Japan – such was the clockwork precision of everything in the Village.

Held in October to avoid the swelter of August and typhoons in September, Tokyo 1964 was one of the coldest Summer Olympics ever – on a par, ironically, with the average temperatures at the recent Sochi Winter Olympics. So cold, in fact, that Davies chuckles as he recalls rather modestly that it may have given UK athletes, used to training on cold, rainy tracks, a big advantage. No such luck should be anticipated for the next Tokyo Games, to be held from July 24 to Aug. 9.

Tokyo’s biggest omotenashi challenge in 2020, in fact, may be none other than to keep athletes and spectators alive in mid-summer conditions. As host cities now have little voice in the choice of dates, the next Tokyo Olympics are on course to becoming the hottest ever.

 

BILLY MILLS IS ONE who has no doubt Japan will deliver another memorable performance. His love affair began the day he arrived in Tokyo, and was enhanced, of course, by his gold medal in the 10,000 meters. It was a historical performance still considered one of the most exciting finishes in Olympic history, competing, as it was, for space on the front pages of the world’s newspapers on the same day as the equally dramatic ouster of Soviet premier Krushchev.

On his last day in Japan, Mills went to the U.S. motorpool to arrange transportation for him and his wife, Patricia, to the airport, only to be told that all vehicles assigned to the team were being used by officials for sightseeing for the rest of the day and that he should find his own way to the airport. Mills apologetically approached the Japan Olympic Committee desk to ask for help. He had just paid a rather large sum of money to check Pat out of the Palace Hotel, where she had been staying throughout the Olympics, and had no cash left to pay for transportation.

pan_am_athlete.jpgBilly Mills and his wife experience omotenashi

Something may have been lost in the translation, but the officials looked aghast, and started running around with great urgency. The next thing they knew, Billy and Pat were being shown, with profuse apologies and deep bows, into a glittering limo, and to their eternal surprise, seen off with great ceremony in a full motorcade.

Only in Japan,” many still say with awe today. May the same omotenashi spirit guide the world to fall in love with Tokyo all over again in 2020.

Mary Corbett is a writer and documentary producer based in Tokyo.

 

 

 

Shinjuku Man: Suicide, the State and the Media

 

shinjuku_man.jpg
Police watch an unknown man address people in Shinjuku before his self-immolation.

 

 Philip Brasor reports on the media coverage of

a man who set himself on fire

after condemning the Abe administration's

stance on collective defense.

 

U

NTIL THE GREAT EAST Japan Earthquake, social media didn’t have much purchase on Japanese life. But disasters are transformative, and social media came into its own after the tsunami and meltdown. People wanted to know what was going on, and the newspapers and TV weren’t supplying them with information as quickly and straightforwardly as they wanted.

When a besuited middle-aged man set himself ablaze on a pedestrian overpass outside Shinjuku Station on June 29, there were no reporters or camera crews on hand, but there were thousands of witnesses, many with mobile devices. By the time the national newspapers reported it on their websites several hours later, people online had already seen raw video of the incident from every conceivable angle. The newspapers’ sketchy web reports and the cautious TV bulletins seemed inconsequential in contrast. Except for the Asahi and Sankei papers, all mentioned that the unidentified man protested Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s plan to allow Japan’s Self-Defense Forces to participate in collective self defense (CDF) despite Article 9 of the Constitution, but they didn’t elaborate.

That evening, social media were abuzz with talk of why the press was not treating the story with the gravity it deserved. A man had set himself on fire in one of the busiest public places in the world. Wasn’t it news? Many suspected that the media didn’t want to publicize what appeared to be a political act, but most did report it, and the next morning all the “wide shows” covered the incident fully, even the political angle, in a manner some might find sensational. But there was one gaping hole in the coverage: NHK, the nation’s public broadcaster, didn’t mention the incident on its news programs that night or the next day.

 

That evening, social media were abuzz

with talk of why the press was not treating the story

with the gravity it deserved.

 

Some who consider NHK to be the propaganda arm of the government said the anti-militarization component of the story made NHK nervous. But others believed the broadcaster’s restraint had more to do with self-imposed guidelines regarding the reporting of suicides. Since 2000, the World Health Organization has been urging media outlets throughout the world not to cover suicides in a sensational manner and not to air or publish related death scenes or suicide notes, because troubled individuals are sometimes pushed over the edge when these stories become news. NHK may have felt a responsibility to hold back on the story.

In his Independent Web Journal, reporter Yasumi Iwakami rejects this theory, pointing out that NHK does cover suicides, including the recent case of a policeman in Fukushima. What made that story newsworthy and the Shinjuku incident off-limits? A number of people on Twitter have said that the man in Shinjuku, who survived, may be mentally ill, so it would be unethical to report on his situation. This argument takes for granted the notion that a person not in his right mind is incapable of rational thought, so his reason for setting himself on fire was not newsworthy.

Iwakami claims that NHK “admitted” to holding back on the story for political reasons, but he provides no attribution and there is no other available source for the claim. He describes NHK, perhaps facetiously, as being a “state broadcaster” (kokuei hoso) rather than a “public broadcaster” (kokkyo hoso). According to Tokyo Shimbun, NHK does not publicly discuss how it determines news coverage. In any event, the broadcaster’s decision to not air the story can’t help but be political. According to the Chunichi Shimbun, the man climbed up on the pedestrian overpass at Shinjuku Station’s south exit with two containers of flammable liquid and talked for more than an hour about how Japan had enjoyed 70 years of peace thanks to Article 9 and how politics should be kept out of education. Then he quoted Akiko Yosano’s antiwar poem, “Don’t Lay Down Your Life.” When police and firemen tried to bring him down, he set himself on fire.

The man’s psychological state, however empirically you assess it, becomes incidental at this point. He chose to draw attention to his statement in the most shocking way imaginable. Symbolism was paramount. Many foreign media, such as Reuters, picked up the story as an international news item and used it as a means of explaining the Abe administration’s decision on CDF. Other foreign media outlets, such as AP, mentioned that while suicide is relatively common in Japan, suicide for political reasons is rare, and cited novelist Yukio Mishima’s suicide in 1970 after a failed coup attempt as the most famous example.

 

By staging his demise in one of

the most public places in the world,

the symbolism would have its intended effect

 

But Mishima killed himself the old-fashioned way, by means of ritual disembowelment, not with fire. We associate self-immolation with spiritual-minded martyrs in Vietnam and Tibet protesting oppressive regimes. The Shinjuku man may indeed have been mentally ill. As of this writing he is still in the hospital, and though his name has not been revealed, several media have reported that he is in his 60s, unemployed, and lives alone in an apartment along the JR Saikyo Line. Tokyo Shimbun quoted a neighbor as saying he keeps to himself. But whatever his state of mind, it’s safe to assume he knew what he was doing: By staging his demise in one of the most public places in the world, the symbolism would have its intended effect, even if it wasn’t covered by the mass media, because now there are other ways to spread news.

It’s impossible to measure what effect the act had on the consciousness of his fellow Japanese, but it didn’t stop the Abe Cabinet from authorizing CDF. By all rights the story is over, but this sort of incident can take on a life of its own. Thich Quang Duc set himself on fire in Saigon in 1963 to condemn the persecution of Buddhists by the government of Ngo Dinh Diem, but that demonstration subsequently became a powerful symbol with regard to America’s involvement in the Vietnam War. Only time will tell if the Shinjuku man’s act will take on a similar meaning, but for what it’s worth, Akiko Yosano’s poem has gone viral.

Philip Brasor is a freelance writer who lives in Chiba Prefecture. This article first appeared in the Japan Times.

 

 

New Members in July

 

NEW MEMBERS

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JÜRGEN HANEFELD is the new East-Asia correspondent for ARD German Radio, a network consisting of non-commercial and non-governmental television and radio stations throughout Germany, which runs studios all over the world. Jürgen was born in Hamburg and started his journalistic work while studying at the universities in Mainz and Göttingen. Initially specializing in travel and traffic, he changed his main interest to reporting on foreign politics. He lived in Singapore and Amman (Jordan) for several years and worked as travelling correspondent in India and Africa. From Tokyo, Hanefeld covers current affairs in Japan, the two Koreas and Taiwan as well as some of the Pacific Island States.

 

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HAU BOON LAI is the Japan Correspondent for the Straits Times. After a stint in the Japan bureau from 1999 to 2003, Boon Lai left the paper to pursue other interests – including small ventures to feed his entrepreneurial spirit and a spell as an educator – but discovered that none of it compared with the satisfaction of being at the forefront of news coverage. Boon Lai rejoined the newspaper in 2011 and was posted for a second time to Tokyo, in September 2013. He is here as he believes that Japan – despite being in the midst of what is described as over two decades of stagnation – is still a force to be reckoned with.

 

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KAZUTAKA SATO is a reporter and video/photo journalist who was born in 1956. He has covered war zones such as Bosnia, former Yugoslavia, Kosovo, Chechnya, Africa, Indonesia, Central Asia and more, and has received a number of awards, including the Vaughn/Ueda Prize. He was shooting a documentary in Afghanistan on 9/11 and covered the resulting events leading to the fall of Kabul. He reported from Baghdad as special correspondent for NTV in 2003, at the time of the U.S. invasion. His documentaries include Winter of Sarajevo and A Civil War without End: Afghanistan for NHK.

 

PROFESSIONAL/JOURNALIST
ASSOCIATE MEMBERS
Hiroyuki Tomimatsu, West Wing Asia Inc.
Yumiko Yokota, Sakura Financial News, Inc.

ASSOCIATE MEMBERS
Gregory Poole, Doshisha University
Matthew S. Sussman, Japan-U.S. Educational Commission
Jason Hurst, International Solution Group
Richard Berger, Canon Inc.
Miko Kitano, Austrian Mint Japan Office
Hiroshi Sekiguchi, Kousokuya Inc.
Kazunori Hori, Hong Kong Tourism Board
Tetsuo Motoi, Soka Gakkai
Nana Itagaki, Fujifilm Corporation

REINSTATEMENT (ASSOCIATE)
Hisaji Sonogi
Katsumi Yoshitake, NSK Ltd.

 

Club Notes

G&T NITE . . .

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Mari Keniry, visitor Hsu Kai Chun from Taiwan and Mary Corbett were part of the crowd that showed up at the Club on June 6 for the “Tanqueray Gin & Tonic Nite.” Mari is holding the “copa”-style glass, which has become de rigeur for G&T aficionados. Mary wrote the story on the popular drink which appeared in the May issue of this magazine, and came up with the idea for the special event.

 

KEEPING AN EYE OUT . . .

The May issue of the trendy global magazine, Monocle, featured a story on Asia's remaining foreign correspondents' clubs — Tokyo, Bangkok and Hong Kong — with the lion's share of pages devoted to our FCCJ.

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Exhibition: Sumi-E -- India and Japan

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Artwork and text by Yoko Koyano

 

Ever since I fell in love with India 30 years ago, I’ve thought of it as my spiritual home.

I have visited the holy city of Benares at least once every year. There, sitting on the bank of the Ganges. I scoop up a handful of the holy water, the Gangajal, and after using it to prepare my sumi ink, I draw the people and the landscapes of that beautiful land.

Of course, I also draw Japanese motifs, and in this exhibition I have included paintings depicting ojizousama (stone Buddha statues in the shape of a child) and rakan (achiever of Nirvana).

Yoko Koyano started her sumi-e career in 1977. Since her first visit to India in 1980, she has been making Indian-themed work and has exhibited in over 10 Indian cities. Her work has also been used as titling for Japanese TV shows and plays.

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The Assembly Woman vs. the Dinosaurs

 

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Ayaka Shiomura at the FCCJ

 

 

Will the sexist heckling of Ayaka Shiomura

increase mistrust

in Abe’s “Womenomics” campaign”?

 

by Julian Ryall

 

I

t was not just the casually sexist remarks that were bandied about as she addressed the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly chamber on June 18 that angered Assemblywoman Ayaka Shiomura. That was naturally bad enough, she told a press conference at the FCCJ six days later, but it was compounded by the subsequent sniggering and the wink-wink, nudge-nudge among members of the male-dominated chamber.

Then, despite following the appropriate procedures for a filing a grievance in the chamber, its guardians informed the Your Party politician that nothing could be done against the perpetrator – or perpetrators – as she had no evidence to identify her heckler. “They concluded by saying that as the person responsible could not be found, they could not therefore take any further steps,” Shiomura said. “The end result, as far as they were concerned, was that there was no problem and that nothing had occurred.”

But Shiomura, a 35-year-old politician serving her first term in the assembly, refused to allow the men who rule the chamber to wash their hands of the matter quite so easily. Thanks, in part, to a similar sense of displeasure among the domestic media, combined with her own Twitter and Facebook messages, sufficient pressure was brought to bear to force one of her hecklers to come forward.

 

Shiomura refused to allow the men

who rule the chamber

to wash their hands of the matter quite so easily.

 

Akihiro Suzuki, 51, a member of the Liberal Democratic Party, apologized on June 23. He admitted interrupting Shiomura’s speech on support for women trying to become pregnant or struggling to raise children by saying, “Can’t you even have babies?” Other comments – “You’re the one who should get married first” and “She must be single” – also were heard coming from the LDP’s seats in the chamber.

Sadly, Shiomura said, that is the sort of place the debating chamber of the nation’s capital has become. “There are not so many female politicians, and I can’t deny that it is difficult for a woman to work in this kind of environment,” she said. “This is very much a world that is dominated by men. It is an environment in which men feel free to say whatever is on their minds,” she said. “And that is the basic problem that has caused this to happen.”

Shiomura said she had “braced herself” before making what was to be her maiden speech in the chamber as there had been similar catcalls when she had participated in an earlier debate. But the volume that the heckles were delivered at and the “old-fashioned thinking” shocked her. “It was so unexpected in this modern age, it was not something that I had prepared myself for,” she said.

Then things got worse.

I thought that since there were people around me, they must have heard the comments and would be similarly shocked,” she said. “But the response of the chamber was just a great deal of laughter. The moment had become enjoyable for this audience. I felt tremendous sadness and the beginnings of anger.” That sense of injustice was deepened by the chamber declining to make any effort to investigate the matter.

 

The Mainichi Shimbun commented,

“. . . what the man shouted at Shiomura has

disturbingly deep roots."

 

The majority of the mainstream Japanese media sided with Shimura’s frustration, claiming such outbursts have no place in society, let alone in Tokyo’s decision-making chamber. The Mainichi Shimbun commented, “More than merely ill-mannered and graceless, what the man shouted at Shiomura has disturbingly deep roots. This most recent incident is a sign of just how late in coming is any truly radical change in prevailing attitudes to women,” it said in an editorial.

Some of the tabloids preferred to use the opportunity to rake some muck, with Shiomura being asked to respond to suggestions in the weekly Shukan Bunshun that she was involved in an affair with another member of Your Party. The allegations are “groundless, she replied.

Tokyo Sports also quizzed Shiomura about a comment she made on a TV show in 2007 confirming that she took
¥15 million from a man as compensation for ending their relationship. That exchange involved “wit,” she claimed, unlike the heckles in the chamber, which were “just sexual harassment that was like bullying.”

Sidestepping a question at the FCCJ event about whether she forgave Suzuki for his comments – Shiomura would only say that her feelings are still “complex” – she did express fears for the success of the government’s policy of greater opportunities and equality for Japan’s women.

I think that what Prime Minister [Shinzo] Abe says about women in society here is correct, that he wants to reinvigorate the role of women and to enable them to display their skills and power. But if we look at the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly we see a place that is filled with people who do not think along the same lines at all,” she said.

When we have assembly members and administrators whose thinking is so old-fashioned, I have to ask how we can truly create the policies and realize the dream of empowering women.”

 Julian Ryall is the Japan correspondent for the Daily Telegraph.

 

Yu Terasawa is an Information Hero

 

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Yu Terasawa at the FCCJ

 

 

Reporters Without Borders shines a light

on the efforts of an indefatigable journalist

to expose corruption

and improve media-watchdog abilities

 

 

 

by Suvendrini Kakuchi

 

I

n a country where the act of merging with the crowd is almost a religion, internationally recognized freelance journalist Yu Terasawa doesn’t seem to mind being outside the congregation.

It’s been that way since his college days. Over a two-decade long career, this plucky journalist has investigated and systematically exposed wrongdoing in the halls of two of Japan’s institutional goliaths – the impenetrable police system and the equally lofty mainstream media.

Highlighted in his reports, published in weeklies like Spa! or Friday, are cases of blatant police corruption that are rarely documented elsewhere in the mainstream media. Terasawa contends a key reason for the media silence is the well-entrenched kisha “press club” system that relies on embedded journalists from the established media to cover the top ministries. Having reporters embedded in the government bureaucracy results in a news flow of information that has been released through a single, narrow prism, and leads to self-censorship from a fear of losing access.

 

Terasawa was named one of 100 Information Heroes

from around the world,

selected by Reporters Without Borders.

 

This has led to international criticism, not only for restricting access for overseas news organizations, but also for creating cozy relations between the press and bureaucrats and endangering the peoples’ right to important information. “By restricting the rights of freelance journalists to press conferences or other meetings with officials, the Japanese press has lost the diverse opinions and depth that is crucial to responsible media reporting,” Tersawa said during a recent interview.

This past May, in a tribute to his dedication to investigative reporting, Terasawa was named one of 100 Information Heroes from around the world, selected by the France-based Reporters Without Borders. Speaking at the FCCJ, the 47-year-old reporter described his roller-coaster life fighting discrimination, and his years battling court cases. In one case filed in 2004, he demanded ¥2.4 million compensation for being refused a seat in the Tokyo District Court’s press gallery – typically reserved only for the court’s kisha club members. After arguing that the practice is against the constitutional protection of press freedom, Terasawa lost when the judge ruled media access to court proceedings does not fall under press freedom.

Undaunted, he presses on. In June, Terasawa and 43 other freelancers will attend the first trial in a case they have filed against the recent Act on the Protection of Specially Designated Secrets. The controversial law gives the heads of administrative organs the legal right to restrict information to the public.

Terasawa views the new law as sealing the fate of freelance reporters. “What makes insiders talk to freelancers is that they are fed up with the pressure in Japan to conform,” he says. “These courageous people are the lifeline for the fledging investigative community that plays such a crucial role of balancing the spoon-fed Japanese media.” Indeed, the tragic case of exposure to dangerous radiation levels among Fukushima residents after the 2011 nuclear accident reflects the pathetic state of the Japanese media due to the lack of access to independent information. Official statements and press releases downplayed the extent of radiation contamination, a situation the government has defended as necessary to avoid panic and social upheaval.

Terasawa’s focus on police corruption has also led him to tackle the deep-rooted practice of amakudari in the police organization. His reporting has forced high level police officials to resign after being exposed for cases of bribery and sexual harassment, including rape. “My long years in this murky world have led to some eye-opening experiences,” he said.

 

He makes it a point to have his byline appear,

in comparison to the usual anonymous reportage

that appears in much of the mainstream media.

 

One of his landmark series pried open the lid on a carefully protected system of police administrations using public money to hire automobile-towing companies operated by former police officials, and documented the pressure on police officers to follow an unspoken system with unwritten rules for collecting a pre-decided budget from speed fines. “The unfortunate victims pay speed fines plus towing fines that can be as much as double the original penalty,” Terasawa said. “I found out that the extra towing fine is to support companies established by former police officers.”

Terasawa has made a tireless commitment to transparency in his investigative reporting, and makes it a point to have his byline appear, in comparison to the usual anonymous reportage that appears in the mainstream media. He says the international reward he has received is in stark contrast to the brickbats hurled at him in Japan. “I face constant threats from unknown callers, have been violently assaulted by police offices, and had my car smashed,” he said. “I’ve also been arrested and thrown in jail simply because I was asking too many questions.”

A few months ago, in April, Terasawa and some like-minded colleagues launched the Free Press Association. The organization invites their own news sources to speak to an audience of journalists that include bloggers, internet media reporters and other interested parties.

Finally, the discussion turned to a key obstacle to investigative reporting in Japan: the country’s public aversion to controversy and pride in social harmony. It is a trend that has forced citizen-led protest movements to the fringes, and little remains of the attitudes that led to the massive protests in the 1960s against the U.S.-Japan security pact. A sprinkling of that past seemed to emerge in the anti-nuclear protests, when people enraged by government attempts to minimize the dangers of radiation took to the streets following the Fukushima meltdowns. But, as Terasawa explains, the public focus remains on finding stable jobs in established organizations, rather than changing their country’s opacity. This leaves the mainstream press happily ensconced in their press clubs while freelancers like Terasawa chip away at their stone walls in their desire to find – and report – the truth.

Suvendrini Kakuchi is a reporter for Inter Press Service, an international wire service, and a regular commentator on Asian issues for Japanese publications and television.

 

A-Whaling We Will Go

 

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Joji Morishita at the FCCJ

 

A government spokesman looks at the bright side

of the recent court ruling

against Japan's "scientific hunt"

 

by Julian Ryall

T

Joji Morishita, Japan’s representative at the International Whaling Commission, caught the assembled press somewhat wrong-footed when he appeared at the FCCJ on June 10 and declared that the recent decision by the International Court of Justice forbidding Japan from carrying on its “scientific whaling” program in the Antarctic Ocean was not such a bad thing after all.

The ruling has been hailed by critics of Japan’s stubborn insistence on its right to carry out both scientific and, ultimately, commercial whaling operations, but Morishita dismissed suggestions that the court had put a final nail in the coffin of the whaling industry here. “I felt that the ICJ decision actually was good for Japan,” he said. “And as the days have passed, that impression has been strengthened.”

 

“I felt that the ICJ decision actually

was good for Japan,” he said.

 

Morishita went on to dissect passages in the court’s ruling that Japan is interpreting as being supportive of its policies, including part of paragraph 56 that states that the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling was concluded “to provide for the proper conservation of whale stocks and thus make possible the orderly development of the whaling industry.”

Japan understands this phrase, which dates from the signing of the convention in December 1946, to mean that the “object and purpose” of the agreement is to harvest whales commercially. Other fragments of the ruling confirm that lethal methods of scientific whaling are not forbidden, while the court also recognized that the sale of the by-product from the scientific slaughter is not sufficient on its own to invalidate the Japanese program. Consequently, a narrow reading of the ICJ’s ruling has left Japan with a loophole.

Morishita saved the Japanese government’s trump card for last, highlighting paragraph 246 of the court’s decision. This states: “It is to be expected that Japan will take account of the reasoning and conclusions contained in this judgment as it evaluates the possibility of granting any further permits” to conduct whaling.

Armed with this perceived backing for a resumption of its scientific whaling program, Morishita said the government has set in motion the procedures to win approval from the International Whaling Committee to restart operations in the Antarctic Ocean as soon as next year. “For fiscal 2015, we will submit a new research project for the Antarctic Ocean that will reflect the court’s ruling,” he said.

The new plan must be submitted to the scientific commission of the IWC six months ahead of the next scheduled meeting of the organization, which is scheduled for May of next year. “For Japanese nationals, the whaling dispute is often regarded as an attack on Japan from outside,” Morishita said.

 

“If people in India tried to impose their

way of treatment of cows on the rest of the world

and [prohibit] eating hamburgers at McDonald’s,

what would happen?”

 

Whaling is often criticized as evil, barbaric and inhumane and [some say] that it is wrong [that whaling] survives in the 21st century,” he said. “If whaling involved over-exploitation or non-controlled activities, then Japan should expect to be blamed, but what we want to achieve is sustainable whaling, with catches within a sustainable number.”

And even though few Japanese consume whale meat today, the government is sticking to its contention that whale is an important part of Japan’s food culture. “Even if some country thinks that whales are special or sacred, as long as whales are sustainably utilized then that view should not be forced on others,” he said. “If people in India tried to impose their way of treatment of cows on the rest of the world and tried to promote the prohibiting of eating hamburgers at McDonald’s, what would happen?”

Morishita’s comments at the FCCJ coincided with the government-backed “whale week” at Japanese restaurants, with Yoshimasa Hayashi, the minister of agriculture, forestry and fisheries, photographed enthusiastically tucking into a bowl of whale meat. “Whaling and whale-meat cuisine is an important part of Japanese culture,” Hayashi said. “I would like to proactively provide information about it to the public widely and deepen the understanding for the whaling.”

Equally, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told a parliamentary commission in Tokyo on June 9, “I want to aim for the resumption of commercial whaling by conducting whaling research in order to obtain scientific data indispensable for the management of whale resources. To that end, I will step up further efforts to get understanding from the international community.”

The reaction from environmental groups was predictable and swift. “If Prime Minister Abe genuinely seeks understanding from the international community, complying with the judgment of the World Court would be a good start,” said Patrick Ramage, head of the International Fund for Animal Welfare’s whale program.

What is ‘regrettable’ is that the respected leader of a great nation would suggest, in 2014, that Japan’s cultural relationship with whales is defined solely by eating them,” said Ramage. “Claiming an attack on one’s culture in an attempt to preserve the narrow interests of a small cadre of government bureaucrats is beneath the stature of a world leader such as Prime Minister Abe.”

 

The reaction from environmental groups

was predictable and swift.

 

Ramage suggested that the “zeal” with which the fisheries ministry is now promoting the consumption of whale is little more than “a cheap political stunt” designed to draw attention away from “his failure to adequately address the needs of Japan’s agricultural and fisheries sectors.”

As the world continues to turn away from whaling, photo ops such as the one showing Minister Hayashi chowing down on whale meat will only undermine Prime Minister Abe’s goals to double the number of foreign tourists to Japan,” Ramage said. “The ‘Cool Japan’ that Prime Minister Abe so badly wants to sell to the rest of the world will fail if Japan continues to pretend that eating whales somehow protects and promotes its proud cultural heritage.”

Julian Ryall is the Japan correspondent for the Daily Telegraph.

 

 

 

The Battle with Polio Still Rages

 

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photos and text by Allison Kwesell

 

Rotarian Susumu Asada (above) knows how to hold a child, with steady and firm hands, so they feel safe. When he looks into the eyes of the children he immunizes against polio, his thoughts travel to his own grandchildren in Japan, and he imagines them in the same situation. Polio is a highly contagious virus that attacks the spinal cord primarily in children under five, and can cause complete paralysis.

In 1985 there were 125 countries where polio is endemic; now there are only three – Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria. However, eradicating polio from India
is considered the largest step in defeating the disease globally. India is now
marking its third year as a polio-free country, a huge leap in changing the world for the better.

The following pictures were taken during volunteer trips to India to photograph Rotary International’s PolioPlus drive. Since 1985 The Global Polio Eradication Initiative, spearheaded by national governments, the World Health Organization, Rotary International, the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the United Nations Children’s Fund, has committed to eradicating the disease from the globe.

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Handprints and crutches line the walls of an integrated school for differently abled children in New Delhi, India

 

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Volunteer Naoko Kurauchi demonstrates proper administration of the oral polio virus vaccination to Kusi Wajeer, 2, in Madipur, India

 

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Asha Natur, 21, stands outside of her home in Kusumpur Pahari, Delhi’s largest slum

 

Allison Kwesell is a graduate student at International Christian University, majoring in Japanese and media studies. She is interested in a career as a documentary photojournalist.

 

Bumpy Yellow Paths and Platform Doors

 

 

A salute to creativity and innovation

 

 

by Alexandra Juhasz

 

T

here are several common eye diseases; some are very serious, and can eventually lead to blindness if neglected. For the safety of the blind, bumpy yellow paths have been installed at major train and subway stations in Japan to guide them or show them where the platform ends. There are also platform doors functioning as safety barriers to keep people from falling onto the tracks.

One does not need to be visually impaired to get into an unpleasant situation at stations – even people with proper eyesight in Japan fall off rail platforms or bump into things while mesmerized by their own smartphones. In most cases, they walk away unharmed – though some suffer from a red face. They certainly don’t have to pay with their lives. Yet, imagine such an irresponsible scene in nature, such as a zebra that is paying all its attention to the grass around its hooves. It’s a story that would certainly end tragically if there were a lion around.

Our world is changing more rapidly than anything witnessed by previous generations. We have to be watchful and adaptable if we are to keep up with this extraordinary lightning-fast transformation of our everyday lives. We should also be aware that, due to the current economic situation, the dominant social psychology is considerably pessimistic, which darkens people’s future and generates dreamless youngsters in large numbers.

We don’t have to be helplessly lost in the dark because – luckily – there are many “bumpy yellow paths” and “platform doors” prepared for us in our society. If we don’t want be attacked by a hungry lion, we would be better off focusing our attention on the world around us, and not just on our own toes.

BRINGING THE OLYMPIC FIRE FROM SOCHI TO JAPAN

A 39-year-old truck driver in Tokyo named Kobayashi recently found a way to use a “yellow bumpy path” and experience the global happenings more intimately. “I usually listen to the radio when driving long distance to kill time,” he says. “I first got to know about the Sochi Winter Olympics last December when a radio news program was introducing Sochi city and the Olympic mascots. I like manga and animation, so I wanted a mascot figure for myself.”

Kobayashi soon found out that the mascots were not on sale in Japan; if he wanted one, he would have to purchase it from overseas. That gave him an idea! By the time the opening ceremony of the 2014 Winter Olympic Games was aired on Feb. 3, 2014, he already had several mascot items and other Russian souvenirs listed on his Yahoo! Auction booth for sale.

 

What Kobayashi did required neither

special knowledge nor a university degree;

it was simply a matter of

envisioning new possibilities

 

On his tablet, he points at a picture of a 28cm animal toy. “I never thought that a mascot with the Sochi logo would be worth ¥25,000 to somebody,” he says in an excited voice. “But that’s what it actually went for.”

The demand was there and he was ready to deliver. Within 10 days he sold all of his 50 items and generated as much profit as two months’ worth of his salary, simply because no one else offered such items in Japan at that time. As Olympic fever increased in Japan, more people visited his auction booth, and his items were viewed by thousands of visitors a day.

We can’t control the color of our skin or tomorrow’s weather,” he explains. “But there are things we can change here and now.”

What Kobayashi did required neither special knowledge nor a university degree; it was simply a matter of envisioning new possibilities. Inspiration came from a conversation heard on the radio. He simply summed up the situation, then actively used tools that already existed in Japanese society – the internet, a smartphone camera, a language translator program, the shipping services at convenience stores, etc. – and let the media do the rest for him.

The Sochi Olympics taught me how to walk with my eyes and ears wide open, and I enjoyed it,” he says. “The most difficult part was convincing my elderly mother that the money which I sent home was earned through hard work done in a modern style.”

Amidst all the uncertainties of the modern world, we must be agile and able to adapt quickly. However, most of us don’t have the time to read the newspapers from top to bottom, or watch numerous television channels to look out for upcoming trends. Nor do we have the knowledge to simply understand and foresee the direction the economy is heading.

Taking the initiative to make things happen and to look into the near future in terms that are within our control are choices we can make. Practicing small acts of change in everyday life, like Kobayashi did, renews the self. He is proof that anyone can find their own news with which they can step out of the comfort zone and start walking on the “bumpy yellow path.”

Alexandra Juhasz, from Hungary, is a student at the Sanno Institute of Management in Tokyo. She is interested in a career in science journalism. The article was edited for publication.

 

 

Outwitting Al Qaeda in a Changing World

 

A call for rethinking education in areas of conflict

 

by Elliot Silverberg

 

When the conflict in Syria began, Farah was just five years old. Today, she is eight. Were Farah living anywhere but in war-torn Syria, she would have been in her second or third year of elementary school. Instead, Farah spends her days helping her father, a rebel commander, run his makeshift bomb factory. She scavenges the charred, corpse-strewn streets for spent rockets whose fuselages can be salvaged, and pours combustible materials into canisters that serve as improvised explosive devices. The work is fraught with danger, but she is no stranger to death and destruction.

Farah’s horrifying experiences, recounted in the PBS Frontline program “Children of Aleppo,” are typical of Syrians her age who, were it not for the brutal conflict tearing their nation apart, would only have had to contend with the common fears of an ordinary schoolchild. Stranded in a harsh land amongst harsh people, children like Farah are consumed by the struggle to survive; inevitably, the urgency to take part in the violence becomes too great to shrug off. Theirs is a tale of uncertainty and upheaval that is repeated countless times elsewhere: in nearby Iraq and Lebanon; in Afghanistan and Pakistan; in Chechnya and the Balkans; in Somalia, Sudan and the Central African Republic – indeed, in any land ravaged by war.

 

Prosecuted to devastating effect

in Afghanistan and Iraq, the Freedom Agenda

has since misfired and,

in many instances, backfired.

 

In 2013, the Norwegian Refugee Council’s Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC) estimated that the previous year saw 28.8 million people, of whom at least half were women and children, displaced by war and civil unrest. The IDMC suggested that this figure, the highest ever recorded, could be explained by an increasing incidence of intrastate violence in Latin America (+3.1 percent), sub-Saharan Africa (+7.5 percent), and the Middle East and North Africa (+39.9 percent).

Wars, once conducted between sovereign nations, are increasingly orchestrated by non-state actors: small, isolated groups of ideologically charged irregular troops whose scare tactics (assassinations, kidnappings, hijackings, suicide bombings, etc.) have branded them terrorists. Accordingly, the incidence of interstate wars plummeted in the 1990s after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, and again in the early 2000s. This astonishing transformation came to a head a year-and-a-half ago when the 2012 Heglig Crisis, a six-month-long border war between Sudan and South Sudan, was the only declared interstate war in the entire world.

The international community’s counterterrorism efforts, which for the most part run parallel to the U.S.’s counterterrorism efforts, have been counterproductive to say the least. Aggressive military intervention and fragmented nation building have been mainstays of the war on terrorism. During its occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq, for instance, the U.S. placed great emphasis on security and defense, but little on education and infrastructure. The idea, as presented by President George Bush in his supercilious “Freedom Agenda,” was to systematically de-radicalize and democratize Al Qaeda-influenced regions by browbeating dissenters into fitting the mold of what is regarded as proper in Western society. Bush failed to consider, however, that the people whose lives America interfered with would not take kindly to any such patronizing displays of paternalism. Prosecuted to devastating effect in Afghanistan and Iraq, the Freedom Agenda has since misfired and, in many instances, backfired.

Consider that, according to the Global Terrorism Database, there were approximately 102,616 terrorist incidents between 1980 and 2012. Of these, 62,775 (or 61 percent) took place before the attacks of September 2001, for an average of roughly 2,900 incidents-per-year. Since 9/11, however, that average has risen to well over 3,500 incidents-per-year. There are, in effect, more terrorists now than there were 13 years ago.

If violence continues to spread across the world and the international community continues to intervene, chances are an entire generation of young children like Farah, the vivacious yet uneducated Syrian girl whose rebel father runs a bomb manufactory, will become resentful malcontents, ripe pickings for Al Qaeda and Company. Just as Somalia’s uneducated, impoverished and war-weary youth were incited to band together as Al-Shabaab (“The Youth”) and take up arms against the West after the Al Qaeda-affiliated group Al-Ittihad Al-Islami preyed on their fears and frustrations through the 1990s, so too are today’s youth falling under the spell of Al Qaeda. The extremists are winning the hearts and minds of the vulnerable, thereby once again outwitting the suited denizens of Foggy Bottom.

 

The international community

cannot neglect to acknowledge the cultural

and ethnic plurality

of today’s globalized world

 

If the international community intends to strike back against Al Qaeda and its associates, it must prioritize education. However, it cannot neglect to acknowledge the cultural and ethnic plurality of today’s globalized world and the variety of education systems. To do otherwise would repel the would-be beneficiaries of any attempt to promote education, thereby further empowering Al Qaeda and rendering the effort pointless. The authors of a UNESCO report entitled “Rethinking Education in a Changing World,” prepared last February for a meeting of senior experts on education policy, are of the same opinion: “The relationship of power between knowledge systems in the North and South needs to be recognized. . . . Alternative traditional knowledge systems need to be recognized and properly accounted for, rather than be relegated to an inferior status.”

Malala Yousafzai, the world-renowned Pakistani schoolgirl and education activist who nearly died for her cause, puts it differently (and quite eloquently) in her bestselling autobiography I am Malala: “Education is neither Eastern nor Western, it is human.

Human and humane. An admirable sentiment indeed, one that all of us should keep close in mind as we collectively strive to overcome our more base instincts in the pursuit of world peace.

Elliot Inoue Silverberg is an undergraduate student at Oregon State University who is interested in a career in journalism. This article was edited for publication.

 

 

Profile: Martin Fackler of the New York Times

 

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 This Iowa-born correspondent found his calling

at a table of yakuza mistresses

that helped make

journalism a lot more fun.

Well . . . that's kind of what happened.

 

by Lucy Alexander

 

Martin Fackler, Tokyo bureau chief of the New York Times, decided he enjoyed journalism one night in 1998, in the ballroom of the Imperial Hotel. Then a lowly stock-market reporter for Bloomberg, he found himself at a birthday party for “the number two guy of the Inagawa-kai,” the yakuza gang then based in Roppongi.

 It was a wild ride,” he recalls. “The tables were arranged in a hierarchy: in the center were the bosses, and the next table was for the mistresses, all in tight leopard skin with long fingernails. For some reason they put me at that table. I kept my hands on the table all night.” On the next table were the police, followed by lesser ranks and far-right groups. “They played The Godfather theme over and over again.”

Fackler’s entrée into Japan’s demi-monde came about thanks to his coverage of the March 1997 sokaiya extortion scandal, when a corporate racketeer was exposed as having been extorting money from all the major brokerage companies. “My beat morphed from stocks to the underworld,” he said.

Sokaiya are extortionists. The more infamous they are, the more money they make. So they were always very happy to be quoted. It’s actually a lot easier to talk to gangsters in Japan than it is to talk to people like [Toyota President Akio] Toyoda. They are far more open.” Drinking sessions with gangsters “made journalism a lot more fun,” said Fackler. “I didn’t want to go back to stock reporting after that.”

It was certainly a long way from Fackler’s early years in a trailer park in Iowa, while his father studied at medical school. After a peripatetic upbringing, one brother became a hedge-fund manager, one an itinerant musician (“a denizen of the night”), while Fackler was drawn to Asia and to academia, studying Chinese language and history at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire. In 1986 he won a Japanese government scholarship to study Japanese at Keio University, and after graduating began a PhD program in modern Japanese and Chinese history.

But after a couple of years I started getting antsy,” Fackler said. “What’s my trajectory? Six years to get a PhD and then a job in Kansas, getting paid $35,000 a year teaching a bunch of undergrads who don’t care.” He decided to switch to journalism, having been told “it was like permanent grad school – you ask questions and write papers. The only difference is that people read what you write.”

 

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So he applied to the Tokyo bureaus of the major newswires and was offered the stock-reporting job at Bloomberg in 1996, aged 29. “I put aside my academic treatises on the Ching dynasty and Manchu warriors and became a financial journalist.”

In 2000 he moved on, working for AP in Beijing and Shanghai. “The Shanghai bureau is the best job in China. All the busy work’s in Beijing so I was doing a lot of fun social features.” A stint for the Wall Street Journal in Tokyo followed, before he was approached in 2005 by the New York Times – “the paper I grew up reading; it was where I wanted to work.”

 

"I was told [journalism] was like

permanent grad school – you ask questions

and write papers. The only difference

is that people read what you write.”

 

Fackler is currently the only writer covering Japan for the world’s most famous newspaper, and he operates 14 hours ahead of his editors. “You’ve done a whole day’s work, and at about the time you want to go to sleep, your bosses are waking up with fresh ideas they want to discuss. Then they want to talk to you again at 6am before they go to press.”

Married, with two children aged 15 and 10, he finds the work takes a heavy toll on his family life. “I was going to go camping with my son a couple of weekends ago, and I had to cancel because I just can’t go off into the wilderness with no phone reception,” he said. “It’s hard for my wife to have a full-time job because I can never commit to being around. I might be gone tomorrow for months, if something big happens.”

Having been both a wire reporter and a long-form writer, Fackler feels that newspapers need to choose which service they want their correspondents to provide. “On the one hand they want you to act like a wire service, on the other hand they want you to differentiate yourself from commodity news, which means you have to have value-added.”

This “schizophrenia” means that writers’ time is used very inefficiently. “I’m constantly putting aside bigger projects to do small stuff that ends up getting one paragraph in the paper,” he said. “And at the end of the day, your career is not based on your coverage of spot news, it’s based on the memorable stories.”