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Number 1 Shimbun

New Members in December and New Books in the Library


New Members





ALEXANDER LENIN is the chief of the representative office in Japan of the Russian daily newspaper, Rossiyskaya Gazeta. He was born in the western part of the country in the Kaliningrad region. He started his career as a Moscow-based correspondent with the newspaper Zavtra in 2008. He joined Rossiyskaya Gazeta in 2013. He lives in Tokyo with his wife and son.



KAZUO NAGATA joined the Yomiuri Shimbun in 1987 upon receiving a B.A. degree in international politics from Tokyo’s Aoyama Gakuin University. Since then he has worked as a staff writer for the Daily Yomiuri (now the Japan News), and held a number of posts at the Yomiuri Shimbun, including as the Brussels bureau chief, correspondent at the Washington bureau, New Delhi bureau chief and Bangkok bureau chief among other posts. He was also a political news reporter, covering the Prime Minister’s Office and the Liberal Democratic Party. He became a senior research fellow of the Yomiuri Research Institute in February 2015, where he follows developments in Asia, Europe and the United States.




PETER LYON is an Australian motor journalist, author, columnist, TV personality and racing driver. Based in Tokyo for over 27 years, he contributes regular car-related stories to eight international publications, including Car and Driver (U.S.), Auto Express (UK) and (Australia). He also writes in Japanese for two local monthly car magazines and co-hosts and co-writes Samurai Wheels, an English-language TV series introducing Japan’s car culture on NHK World. He has published two books in Japanese, including Flashing Hazards in 2014. Lyon has also raced cars since 2000, with a 4th-in-class finish in Germany’s Nurburgring 24-hour endurance race in 2010. He is chairman of the World Car Awards and a juror in the Japan Car of the Year Awards.




NAZAFARIN MARZAKHALILI is an editor, reporter and announcer for NHK World’s Persian Radio. From 2000 to 2008 she was a reporter, feature writer and columnist for Iran Daily, Iran’s leading English-language newspaper. From 2007 to 2010, she worked at Iran’s national Radio and Television as editor and reporter for local and international broadcasts, covering news stories such as the Green Movement in Iran, nuclear negotiations between Iran and the 6 powers, as well as other political news. She joined NHK World in 2010 as a Tokyo-based correspondent. Since 2010, she works with BBC Persian Radio-TV and the Tajiki language online service of Radio Free Europe as an expert in Japan affairs. She also works as a translator for news, features and literature.


Machiko Chiba, Machiko Cooking Studio
Susumu Sakamoto, Freelance


Christopher Domitter, Bayer Holding Ltd.


ASSOCIATE MEMBERSYukari Ezoe, Ricoh Company, Ltd.
Kiyoshi Hashimoto, Ricoh Company, Ltd.
Midori Ibuka, YKK Corporation
Noriko Koyanagi, HABA Laboratories
Minoru Masubuchi, Japan Securities Finance Co., Ltd.
Haruo Murakami, JECC Corporation
Kiyohisa Nanri, Cova Japan Co., Ltd.
Kenji Oiwake, Wasco Japan
Yukihiro Terada, International Development Center for Japan Inc.
Takehiko Watanabe, Atena Corporation

Takaaki Maeda, Yadoumaru Project Co., Ltd.
Keizo Nagai, Mitsubishi Ore Transport Co., Ltd.




New Books in the Library

A Spy Among Friends: Kim Philby and the Great Betrayal

Ben Macintyre


Gift from Frankie F. L. Leung


Getting Over It! Why Korea Needs to Stop Bashing Japan

Sonfa Oh; Ichiro Otani (trans.)

Tachibana Publishing

Gift from Hiroyuki Fujita

Hong Kong Arts

Shiori Ito


Gift from Shiori Ito


Shin Taiwan shi

Joe Hung

Joe Hung

Gift from Joe Hung


The Coming War

Todd Crowell

Thistle Publishing

Gift from Todd Crowell


Masaaki Hatsumi Dojo Art

Masaaki Hatsumi; Steve Olsen (introduction and photography)

Steve Olsen

Gift from Masaaki Hatsumi


Chinese Politics in the Era of Xi Jinping: Renaissance, Reform, or Retrogression?

Willy Wo-Lap Lam.



Grassroots Fascism: The War Experience of the Japanese People

Yoshimi Yoshiaki; Ethan Mark (trans.)

Columbia University Press


The Innovators: How a Group of Hackers, Geniuses, and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution

Walter Isaacson

Simon & Schuster


Deng Xiaoping: A Revolutionary Life

Alexander V. Pantsov; Steven I. Levine

Oxford University Press


The Silver Spoon: Memoir of a Boyhood in Japan

Kansuke Naka; Hiroaki Sato (trans.)

Stone Bridge Press


Club News



A photo of SEALDs members at a Club conference shows that the new, larger banner also extends behind groups

The Club has a new press-conference backdrop. The old one was past its use-by date (with more-than-frayed edges) and has been gently retired. The new version is the culmination of two years’ effort that started with adapting the pen-and-quill icon (which, nevertheless, remained essentially unchanged). Designed by Number 1 Shimbun art director Andrew Pothecary, the new backdrop features a repeated pattern of the Club’s full name – in English and Japanese – and the pen-and-quill with the abbreviated “FCCJ” that is becoming more of the Club’s “brand.” Former president Lucy Birmingham oversaw its making. Daisuke Katogi of Tsutaya printers undertook the job of stitching the banner – and, in fact, was the man who had stitched the previous one.




The Nov. 18 launch of a new program series, “Startups Meet the Press,” featured an very impressive first guest: Mark Makdad (right), co-founder of Moneytree, which was named Japan App Store’s Best of 2013 and 2014. The startup, with its development of an app capable of providing users with a comprehensive look at personal finances, has created waves in the finance industry and convinced three of Japan’s megabanks to join in an unprecedented simultaneous investment program. This program will feature leaders in the startup sector, giving journalist members exclusive face-to-face access with some very unique industry figures. Watch the events schedule on the website for upcoming speakers.




The gathering pictured here and officiated by two Shinto priests is the Jichinsai, or groundbreaking ceremony, for the new Mitsubishi building that will be the next home for the FCCJ. More than 100 people were invited to the event, which began promptly at 10:00 a.m. on Nov. 11, 2015. FCCJ General Manager Tomohiko Yanagi attended the event. First Vice President Peter Langan also attended as FCCJ President Suvendrini Kakuchi was out of the country.


Exhibition: They Touched My Heart


photographs by Derrick Woolacott

IN JANUARY 1946, SERGEANT Derrick Woollacott was a 22-year-old photographer for the Royal Air Force, stationed in Iwakuni. This exhibition displays a selection from a series of 100 personal photographs taken in and around Hiroshima Prefecture in that year. As a young airman, fresh from the War in Southeast Asia, he was completely overwhelmed by the beauty and dignity of the Japanese people, an experience that changed his life forever.

His images – all presented in full negative, uncropped – focus on Japanese people going about their lives and include stunning portraits of mothers and children, fishermen and farmers, taken mere months after the destruction of Hiroshima. While many were published at the time, and he won first, second and third prize in a photographic competition in the Mainichi English edition in October 1946, this is the first time that they have been seen in public since 1947.


Several of Derrick Woollacott’s Japanese photographs were published in England in 1947. He was an Associate of the Royal Photographic Society and made his living as a professional photographer until the late 1970s when he started to work on various inventions for photographic processing and printing. He died in 1991. His daughter, Valerie Neale, is researching his photographic history in Japan and Southeast Asia in 1945-6, and has written an as-yet unpublished book about these years. She will attend the opening reception of this exhibition on Dec. 7 at 7pm.



Rumor and Humor from North Korea



There's more than meets the ear

behind the jokes and gossip of those

who've escaped from Kim Jong-un's regime.

by Sandra Fahy


GIVEN THE BOMBASTIC STYLE of its official pronouncements, North Korea has long been low-hanging fruit for comedians looking for a quick nibble. On the other hand, anyone attempting serious analysis faces the huge barrier of the country’s inaccessibility. But while few pundits tend to place stock in rumor as a measure of conditions in the country, or imagine life on the ground there to be funny, if you ask defectors about gallows humor in their homeland or listen closely as they recall popular rumors, their words offer deep insight into North Korean life.

In 2005, I began recording the oral accounts of dozens of North Korean defectors who had survived the 1990s famine. I had moved to South Korea in order to learn Korean and compile their testimonies in the original language. I was curious to know how they interpreted their experience of suffering: who the North Koreans saw as being responsible, what they saw as the solution to the problem and how they had discussed the hardship they were undergoing at the time in a place that controls everything, including speech.

The hundreds of hours of testimonies are a formidable testament to the complex situation during and after the 1990s famine. There are long blanks in the recordings where I was simply watching tears fall. Expletive-laden shouting revealed their frustrations regarding the leadership’s culpability for murder-by-neglect.

Those were expected. But in letting the talk run a little longer, in asking unexpected questions about rumor and humor, my interviewees began to recall the agile word-play shared between their fellows and the whispered rumors that drifted among them: a new metric for political violence.

Their jokes played on syllabic twists; tiny linguistic windows of breathing room. Always dark, they obliquely critiqued social inequalities and government-directed absurdities. “Pap mŏgŏsŏyo?” (“Have you eaten rice?”) is the traditional greeting on both sides of the DMZ. But after the North Korean government “recommended” that people eat what it called “substitute foods” such as bark, grass and roots, the expression changed to “Taeyoung mŏgŏsŏyo?” or “Have you eaten the substitute?”


“We called the men ‘daytime light bulbs,’” one told me.

“You have no use for a light bulb

during the day, do you?”


One young woman recalled a common phrase that captured the absurd and unequal access to food: “The secret police eat secretly, and the security police eat securely,” she told me. In Korean, this quip has an unmistakable poetic rhythm bearing the caustic sarcasm refreshingly along, showing the sharp eyes (and ears) of North Koreans.

As with famines throughout history, the relations between men and women grew tense. Defunct factories turned the men out and many, depressed and embarrassed, took to drink. Women were forced to bring household items to the black-market to make ends meet, while security police, seeing the women as benign, turned a blind eye. The wives did all the work, I was told, and they became the lifeline for the family. “We called the men ‘daytime light bulbs,’” one told me. Thinking my Korean had failed me, I asked her for clarification and she said, “You have no use for a light bulb during the day, do you?” Then she added, “We also called them bow-wow, because they were always barking for something.”

During times of socio-economic stress, rumors also take on a frequency and a currency of their own. Stories about disappearances and cannibalism became part of daily talk. Trying to determine the veracity of such stories is impossible, but they are clearly a measure of the severity of the suffering. They indicate what was possible to conceive because the situation was so dire. “I heard that someone saw a finger-tip floating in the soup at a black-market stall,” said one defector, a middle-age woman with a raspy voice and strong North Hamgyong accent.

But speaking directly about being hungry in North Korea, I learned, was more dangerous than starvation itself. Using the word “hunger” was forbidden; the word “pain” was used instead. If you didn’t make this linguistic adjustment, bad things could happen. “My neighbor went around complaining she was hungry,” said another middle-aged woman from Chongjin, “The next day she disappeared, taken off somewhere.”

Is it true that people were “disappeared” simply for complaining of hunger in North Korea? It is impossible to know for sure, just from this exchange. But again, the fact of the rumor’s existence points to what the people saw as “conceivable.”

It is easy to write-off North Korea as either a place that is fodder for late-night TV hosts and Hollywood parodies or a closed kingdom behind an opaque curtain. But carefully listening to North Koreans, and asking provocative questions about seemingly banal daily chatter, can offer us new methods to define the lives of the country’s citizens and measure the difficulty of daily existence.

Sandra Fahy is assistant professor of anthropology at Sophia University in Tokyo, Japan. She is the author of Marching through Suffering: Loss and Survival in North Korea (New York: Columbia University Press 2015), the subject of her FCCJ Book Break on Jan. 18.


Profile: Sandra Mori



This long-time Member "fell into"

the journalism business

while still at school.

by Mary Corbett


he saddest day of Sandra’s 11-year-old life came in 1946 when her parents announced that the family would soon move across the world to Japan, where her father would be working for the Allied Occupation’s Public Health and Welfare section.

Plotting scenarios of escape filled her time throughout the long drive from her home in Monrovia, California, to Seattle, and continued aboard the USS Mercy on a storm-tossed, three-week journey across the Pacific. But her trepidations vanished when a snow-covered Mt. Fuji rose in its full magnificence over the waves on the final day of her voyage, guiding the ship to port, and the young girl to a new life in Japan.


By the time she was 17,

she was filling her days with writing assignments

and her evenings with classes

at Sophia University.


The war-battered country was only beginning to find its footing. Soon after the family’s arrival, Sandra first set foot into the old Tokyo Press Club with her parents as guests of a friend. Set amidst grand stone columns, the Club’s lobby was brimming with the activity of “important-looking people,” and it made a deep impression on the little girl. It wasn’t a place for children, but Sandra remembers occasions when some friendly journalists would set up a projector and entertain them with movies on the roof.

Other than one brief period in high school when she temporarily returned to the U.S., Sandra has spent her entire life in Japan. The Club has featured large throughout those years.

Sandra found herself “falling into” journalism at a very young age. By the time she was 17, she was filling her days with writing assignments and her evenings with classes at Sophia University. Some of her early pieces were for A-No-Ne, one of the first weeklies to highlight trends and entertainment spots around Tokyo.

WHILE STILL AT SCHOOL she began working at the Japan Times, where she found herself editing Donald Richie’s columns – a particular claim to fame – and “working side-by-side with one of the former Tokyo Roses.” She still managed to find time for other work, including a stint as an extra in Japanese films, and once struck up a flirtatious friendship with Toshiro Mifune, who was in the midst of filming Seven Samurai on a neighboring set. “He loved pulling my pony tail,” she says.

In spite of the crazy, busy days, Sandra found time to go dancing . . . a lot. Tokyo didn’t offer much in the way of entertainment during the ’50s, but universities and clubs, like Ginza’s Kinbasha, held nice tea dances where young men and women, some accompanied by mothers eagerly scouting good marriage prospects for their children, could meet over ¥300 coffee and cake. It was quite a sum in those days.

It was on one of these occasions that a handsome young man approached Sandra for a dance. Seinosuke Mori had a reputation as the dapper waka danna (young lord) of Ginza and – like Sandra – a passion for dance. It was magic at first sight for the young couple. But “respectable” Japanese families would not permit their young to date foreigners in those days; neither was Sandra’s father enamored by the young Japanese man.


This postwar Romeo and Juliet saga was to last for six years as they dated on and off. The walls of the Capulets and Montagues finally came tumbling down when news broke of the Crown Prince’s engagement to elegant commoner, Michiko Shoda. Suddenly, the idea of “romantic love” swamped the old traditions, and marriage fever hit with such force that Sandra and Seinosuke could hardly find a wedding ceremony location when their parents’ blessings were finally given. They settled on the picturesque Shitaya Shrine, and the bride looked exquisite in full wedding kimono.

SANDRA RETURNED TO WORK soon after her marriage. The Mainichi Daily News came calling with an offer for a weekly column, and other publications like Nikkan Sports and Shukan Bunshun followed. Foreign publications, including Asia Travel Trade and Travel & Leisure, also sought her talents.

Sandra says she covered mostly soft news like travel and other “women’s features,” but she had her share of adventures covering other interests. Through her father’s military connections, she once interviewed a North Korean contingent in town for a trade show and scooped the story of how they were exporting goods to Japan, which were then relabelled as Japanese products for export to the U.S.

It was the first time in print for what had been an apparently open secret, and Sandra remembers with enormous pride when Sam Jameson of the Los Angeles Times called to congratulate her. Scenes like that and heroic moments on the FCCJ Board – such as the time she led the resurrection of the Alley Cats softball team after it had been cut in a big budgetary sweep – color the vivid tapestry of her Club memories.

Sandra remains active today on the Entertainment Committee, hosting dignitaries and celebrities at some of the Club’s biggest events. While a member of the FCCJ since 1969, it was only upon retirement from the Mainichi in the late 80s that her writing portfolio turned predominantly international. She promptly became a Regular Member, telling a bemused Bruce Dunning from CBS in the application interview that it was to fulfill her greatest dream of sitting at the Round Tables in the Correspondents’ Corner.

That’s exactly where you’ll still find her on many days, holding the community together with her inimitable laughter and sparkling eyes.

Mary Corbett is a writer and documentary producer based in Tokyo, and a board member of the FCCJ.


What's Ahead for Japan's Armed Forces

 No1-2015-12SDFThe fog of war: a Maritime Self-Defense Force ship during a review in October.

A look at what changes are in store

as restrictions loosen

on Japan's military activities

by Todd Crowell


n October, the U.S. Navy rolled out the red carpet (literally) as Prime Minister Shinzo Abe set foot on the aircraft carrier U.S.S. Ronald Reagan, the first time that any Japanese premier had visited a U.S. naval vessel at sea. Clothed in a flight jacket covering his pin-striped suit and accompanied by his deputy Taro Aso and Defense Minister Gen Nakatani, Abe toured the ship, sat in the cockpit of an F-18 fighter and chatted with American officers, including the Chief of Naval Operations, America’s senior sailor. Earlier, Abe had reviewed the naval regatta from the bridge of a Japanese destroyer, where he later gave a succinct version of his military credo: “No country can protect itself on its own.”

The naval review, held every three years since 1860 and revived in 1957 with the rebirth of the Japanese navy now called the Maritime Self-Defense Force in keeping with the country’s American-written constitution – was the first major display of Japanese military might since the passage one month earlier to permit collective defense. Pride of the fleet was the recently commissioned “helicopter destroyer” Izumo, the largest warship Japan has built since World War II. The spirit of a reinvigorated partnership was evident in the words of Vice Admiral Nora Tyson, commander of the Third Fleet, which is based on the U.S. West Coast. The review was a “symbol of the ties between Japan and the U.S.,” she said.

Collective defense, the right to come to defense of allies and close partners, is dear to the prime minister, who steadily pushed through the legislation while taking hits to his popularity. In his first term (2006-2007) he formed the Advisory Panel on the Reconstruction of the Legal Basis for Security to propose new laws. It languished under his successors and the Democratic Party of Japan government, but was revived with a vengeance after Abe’s party won a landslide general election victory near the end of 2012.

Until the new law’s passage, Japanese soldiers

were legally constrained from coming to the aid

of other peace-keeping contingents,

even if they came under attack

The new laws are complicated, but are likely to impact Japan’s freedom of action in four areas: 1) participation in peace-keeping operations in the Middle East and globally; 2) in the response to a closing of the Straight of Hormuz shutting off Japan’s main source of petroleum; 3) dragging Japan into the South China Sea conflict in support of allies like the U.S. and “close partners” such as the Philippines and 4) in support of American military “assets” under attack, which could be defined as naval vessels close to Japan or to American bases as far away as Guam.

Ever since 1991, when Japan sent troops to Cambodia to help supervise that country’s first free elections, more than 8,000 Japanese servicemen have taken part in several global peace-keeping operations under U.N. auspices. It currently has about 350 ground self-defense force engineering troops deployed in South Sudan. The Maritime Self-Defense Force now takes part in anti-piracy patrols in the Gulf of Aden along with other nations, such as China and South Korea, with a permanent base in Djibouti, Japan’s only overseas military post.

However, until the new law’s passage, Japanese soldiers were legally constrained from coming to the aid of other peace-keeping contingents, even if they came under attack by terrorist groups or anybody else. This came to a head in 2013 when South Korean troops protecting refugees in Bor, the capital of Sudan’s Jonglei province, were running short of ammunition and asked Japan to lend them some bullets (Japan was the only readily available source of the correct caliber.) Abe was willing to comply with the request even though it was then technically illegal under the previous interpretation of the Constitution. He proposed to justify his decision by saying it was an “emergency,” but another source was eventually found, taking Abe off the hook.

WHILE YOU SHOULDN’T EXPECT to see Air Self-Defense Force F-15’s taking part in any bombings of Iraq and Syria, other military operations in the Middle East could become possible under the new rules. The one most often mentioned would involve sweeping maritime mines at the entrance to the Gulf of Hormuz, should they be planted by Iran to block petroleum shipments. Under those circumstances, Tokyo could argue that since 80 percent of Japan’s petroleum is imported, blocking shipments threatens Japan’s existence, thus making it an action of valid self-defense.

In fact, the Japanese navy actually swept mines in the northern reaches of the Persian Gulf in the aftermath of the 1991 Gulf War. However, that was after a ceasefire was agreed. Under the new rules this presumably could take place during hostilities.

The U.S. is eager to draw on Japanese capabilities in maritime mine warfare. With some 30 specialized vessels, Japan has considerable experience and capabilities in this arena of conflict, while the U.S., which tends to neglect mine warfare for sexier weapons such as aircraft carriers, has tended to neglect it.

But with the South China Sea getting hotter with Washington’s stance of confronting Beijing over its territorial claims, could Japan be drawn into the imbroglio? The legislation speaks of helping allies and “close partners” under attack. “Close partners” could be defined as countries like the Philippines or Australia, in which negotiated defense agreements allow Tokyo to, among other things, give the Philippines patrol vessels or to sell submarines to Australia. Philippine President Benigno Aquino III heartily supported the new security legislation. “We welcome the passage of legislation on national security,” said presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda.


Washington and Manila are pushing Tokyo

to take part in regular patrols over the contested

Spratly Islands in the South China Sea


 The new security laws and the new Guidelines for U.S.-Japan Defense Cooperation that were negotiated last spring in anticipation of the new laws’ passage this past summer remove some of the geographical constraints on defensive cooperation. The U.S.-Japan partnership is no longer limited to “areas around Japan.” “The alliance will respond to situations that have an important influence on Japan’s peace and security. Such situations cannot be defined geographically,” says the newly approved guidelines for military cooperation with the U.S.

Washington and Manila are pushing Tokyo to take part in regular patrols over the contested Spratly Islands in the South China Sea, where China is turning tiny artificial islands into military bases. Manila has even offered bases for Japan. And Vice Admiral Robert Thomas, then commander of the U.S. 7th Fleet based at Yokosuka said earlier this year: “I think that [Self-Defense Force] operations in the South China Sea make sense in the future.”

So far, Tokyo has not committed itself to taking part in any such patrols. The pressure could be hard to resist should Washington send naval vessels into waters that Beijing considers part of its own territory to challenge China over territorial claims in the South China Sea (see box).

The new laws and guidelines permit Japan to help protect the “assets” of its allies and close partners. Some would argue that this merely codifies something that is unofficially already in place. Erik Slaven, Asia correspondent for the Stars and Stripes newspaper, surveyed American ship captains, and, to a man, they said they believed that Japan would come to the aid of an American ship under attack and sort out the legal questions later. “If it came to breaking the law or breaking the alliance, they would break the law,” he said.

PUTTING THIS ALL TOGETHER would seem to herald a significant shift toward a more militaristic Japan. That certainly is how many would interpret it. The New York Times in an editorial warned that Abe was getting “dangerously close” to changing the constitution by his own fiat rather than going through a formal amendment process, especially after Abe told a parliamentary session that changing the government’s traditional interpretation “rests with me.” Three prominent jurists, including, embarrassingly to Abe, one appointed by his own government, declared the legislation unconstitutional.

However, it is worth noting what isn’t changing as a result of the new security measures. Japan will still deny itself “offensive weapons,” which are defined as being able to project power abroad. These include long-range bombers, aircraft carriers, inter-continental ballistic missiles, nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines and, of course, nuclear weapons – all of which China possesses – and, probably, cruise missiles.

Defense appropriations have been increasing under the Abe administration, but have not broken the unofficial one-percent-of-GDP barrier, and the number of men and women in uniform has been static for years. Tokyo is not obliged to support the U.S. in any and all conflicts. The recently concluded defense guidelines with the Americans are just that: guidelines, not a mutual defense treaty.




ANGERED BY CHINA’S INCREASING encroachments and island-building on features that the Philippines claim are theirs in the South China Sea, Manila dispatches a converted coast guard vessel supplied by Japan plus a contingent of marines to retake Scarborough Shoal, occupied by China in 2012. As it approaches the shoal, the vessels are fired on by an armed Chinese Coast Guard ship patrolling the waters around the shoal, causing it to retire to the Zambales naval base on Palawan. Manila invokes the 1951 treaty of mutual defense with the U.S., saying it is under attack and asking it to come to its aid. Washington dispatches a destroyer to show solidarity with the Philippines. When it arrives, the American destroyer captain finds three Chinese naval vessels lurking nearby. It radios Honolulu, the headquarters of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, for instructions.

The captain is ordered to sit tight. In the tense standoff, Washington consults with Tokyo over any logistical support. It asks that elements of the Japanese navy be ready to come to its aid if shooting breaks out. In the past, the question would not have arisen as it was understood that assistance of this kind was limited to “areas around Japan,” such as a conflict in Korea or around Taiwan, not somewhere as far distant as the South China Sea. But as part of its defense reforms enacted in spring of 2015, Japan has dropped the geographical limits to its cooperation with the U.S. or other close friends. In the best case, the ships eventually withdraw without further shots being fired, but this imagined scenario shows how easily Japan could be dragged into conflicts in the South China Sea.

Todd Crowell is the author of The Coming War between China and Japan, published by Amazon as a Single Kindle.


Mr. Abe and His "100 Million"

 No1-2015-12KatoThe minister in charge
Katsunobu Kato, appointed to lead the “100 million” effort.


Why is Japan's prime minister using wartime

propaganda buzzwords to promote his social

and economic programs?

And why should the world care?

by Michael Cucek



magine German Chancellor Angela Merkel announcing a new set of national economics, labor and natality initiatives that proudly promise to preserve 80 percent of the current population without immigration, increase the size of the economy by a third in five years and turn back the clock on sex, work and marriage to the 1970s. Imagine that the program is called the “Arbeitszeit macht Freizeit” (“Work Time Makes Free Time”) Program, that she is appointing a special cabinet minister with that title and is insisting that there is no resemblance between the program’s name and the notorious “Arbeit Macht Frei” slogan hanging over the gates at Auschwitz.

Then imagine that Angela Merkel, rather than being a former East German citizen from a Protestant church family with no ties to the Nazi era (which she is), instead is the scion of a leading Third Reich family – Albert Speer’s eldest granddaughter, perhaps – and a well-known apologist for the excesses of the Nazi state.

The world would likely have a nervous breakdown.

Yet the world’s financial and political commentators merely shrugged when on Sept. 24 Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe unveiled his “Ichi oku so katsuyaku” (100 Million Making Eye Opening Efforts As One” initiative – a.k.a. The New Three Arrows of Abenomics.) Two weeks later, when he introduced his new Cabinet, it included Katsunobu Kato in a newly created position in charge of driving the program.


What is stunning is the decision to use the

historically fraught number 100 million (ichi oku)

as his target population level.

One cannot fault the overall goals of the New Three Arrows. After all, Japan’s current population level of 127 million is unsustainable when the number of births per woman is at 1.42 and immigration is a negligible force. Indeed, the population is already dropping, last year by 268,000. If no special measures are taken, the population will fall below 100 million somewhere around the year 2050 and decline to around 80 million by the millennium. Japan’s relative and absolute economic power will decline in step, leaving the country a still populous but minor player at the end of the century.

That the ambitious Mr. Abe wants more for his country than a slide into sleepy irrelevance is not surprising. What is stunning is the decision by Abe, the grandson of the wartime government’s munitions minister and a known admirer of Imperial Japan, to use the historically fraught number 100 million (ichi oku) as his target population level.

ANYONE WITH A PASSING knowledge of pre-1945 propaganda can rattle off a string of ichi oku phrases, none of which invokes happy memories. There is the commandment for ideological unanimity – Ichi oku isshin (100 Million Persons: One Mind”) – or the encouragement to press forward with the war effort – Susume ichi oku hi no tama da (“Forward The 100 Million Balls of Flame!”). There is the call for to be prepared for extermination of every single Japanese citizen in the final defense of the country: Ichi oku gyokusai (“100 Million Crushed Jewels”).

In his speech announcing Japan’s surrender, Emperor Hirohito thanked the ichi oku shusho (“the 100 million commoners”) for their efforts, vain as those efforts turned out to be. And most disturbingly, there is the infamous call of Prince Higashikuni, the interim prime minister after the surrender, for an Ichi oku so zange (“100 Million Reflecting Upon Their Responsibility as One”) – as if the Japanese people were collectively responsible for the country’s descent into war rather than the nation’s leaders – where Higashikuni’s phrase is the same ichi oku that appears in Shinzo Abe’s new program.

Ever since announcing the new program and ministerial post, Abe has been denying any link between his 100 million population goal and the wartime propaganda use of that number as a shorthand for “all Japanese.” Mr. Abe’s protestations, however are undercut by the peculiar and inaccurate official government English translation of ichi oku so katsuyaku as “Promoting Dynamic Engagement of All Citizens.” If there is nothing wrong with saying “100 Million As One” in Japanese, why does the English translation not use that phrase as well?


Abe also maintains open ties to the revisionist and

denialist Nippon Kaigi, and addressed that

organization’s mass meeting

via video message

If the use of the 100 million figure is dog whistle politics – a signal sent out to those whose political ears are set to hear a specific pitch – it is not as if Abe’s continuing allegiance to Japan’s revisionist right is a secret. While he has suspended his annual pilgrimages to Yasukuni Shrine in order to secure summit meetings with Chinese President Xi Jinping and South Korean President Park Geun-hye, he still sends cash donations and presents to the shrine during its spring and autumn festivals and on Aug. 15, the anniversary of Japan’s acceptance of defeat in World War II.

Abe also maintains open ties to the revisionist and denialist Nippon Kaigi (Japan Conference), and addressed that organization’s “Let’s Revise the Constitution – the Great Gathering of the 10,000” mass meeting at the Nippon Budokan via video message on Nov. 10. He also tucks into his schedule meetings or visits, such as pilgrimages to Ise Shrine or paying respects at the grave of anti-Tokugawa activist Shoin Yoshida, that appear benign but which revisionists can read as quiet assurances that the hard right’s longtime champion still holds their issues and values close to his heart.

IS IT WRONG FOR Abe to pander to the revisionists or blend his economic revival and social inclusion programs with elements of his romantic view of pre-1945 Japan? Not necessarily. A politician has to demonstrate his gratitude to the knot of loyalists who have been with him from the very beginning, granting them some measure of their wishes and taking stances they will applaud. He cannot turn his back on his original supporters, even if he has since supplanted them with richer and more socially acceptable backers – a political reality the great political satirist Molly Ivins summed up in the phrase, “You gotta dance with them what brung you.”

The revisionists “brought” us Shinzo Abe – at least the first Shinzo Abe premiership of 2006-7. Ignoring them and their issues would represent a risky bet by the prime minister on the economy’s performing above trend or his new friends in big business staying as close to him in the future as they are now.


Many of the changes the Abe Cabinet and the LDP

have been molding into legislation are,

from an international perspective,

socially liberal and market-oriented transformations.


Affixing revisionist labels on ambitious economic and social engineering changes could also represent clever political salesmanship on Abe’s part. Many of the changes the Abe Cabinet and the Liberal Democratic Party have been molding into legislation are, from an international perspective, socially liberal and market-oriented transformations. These would be inimical to the party’s core support among economic and social conservatives, who have taken Mr. Abe’s campaign slogan Nippon o torimodosu (“We Will Take Japan Back”) at face value. By applying a gloss of pre-war Imperial Japan on these programs, Abe is ostensibly shielding them from the automatic rejection they would have received were they presented as liberal or neo-liberal reforms.

A noble reading of the intentions of Mr. Abe and his allies would be that they are plastering a disingenuous pre-1945 “100 Million as One” label on their plans for a post-industrial, post-mercantilist 21st-century democracy in order to sell what would otherwise be unsaleable. However, for that reading to be plausible, the reforms themselves would have to be honest and profound – so much so that it was worthwhile for the government to lie about their true nature in its sale pitch.

THIS IS PRECISELY THE point where the generous view of the Abe administration falls apart. The New Three Arrows of Abenomics – a 600 trillion yen economy by 2020, 1.8 births per woman by 2025 and the zeroing out of persons leaving the workforce to care for an elderly relative (currently over 100,000 workers per year and rising) – are unachievable. Economists and business writers have scoffed at the proposal to increase the nominal GDP 22 percent in five years—though a recent proposed revision of the calculation of GDP figures seems to have lowered the bar.

As for 1.8 births per woman, the last time that happened was back in 1984 – and even that figure was a fluke. One has to go back to 1977, when the marriage, development and labor environments were so different as to be those of another country to get a realistic sustained rate of 1.8 births per Japanese woman. As for the third proposal to zero out the number of job leavers due to eldercare – without the mass immigration of healthcare workers the promise is beyond absurd. The very oldest members of the postwar baby boom generation that dwarfs all its predecessors are not even 70 years of age yet. Many of these boomers indeed are already the stressed-to-the-breaking point caregivers of the relatively tiny generation of their parents. When the boomers themselves become the cared-for rather than the care-giving, the loss of only 100,000 workers a year to eldercare will seem a dream by comparison.

What then are we to make of the “100 Million Making Eye Opening Efforts As One” initiatives? Why go to all the trouble of associating them with the pre-war Japanese imperial state when they are not even realizable? And what kind of modern democratic government has a core policy program whose goals are not just difficult but impossible to achieve?

The answers to these questions may be simple ones. Mr. Abe and his government face a national election in 2016 – far enough in the future that the wide-ranging protests against the security bill and the little sense of any opposition that they seemed to engender will very likely have faded from the public’s memory. If the pure fantasy of these initiatives and their unrealistic goals succeed in stupefying the non-aligned voters into a lethargic state, the ruling coalition may conceivably be able to motivate its base and seize control of both Houses of the Diet, setting the stage for revision of the Constitution – Mr. Abe’s well-known, long-cherished goal.

Michael Cucek is a Tokyo-based consultant to the financial and diplomatic communities and author of the Shisaku blog on Japanese politics and society.


The Most Important Cosmic Particle You've Never Heard Of


The inside story. Above: the reactor interior revealed this year by the KEK method. Below: an image of the reactor’s design for comparison.
Both images supplied by Tepco.


They are tiny, fast and versatile;

and they could make a huge difference

in decommisioning the

damaged nuclear plants..

by Sonja Blaschke


he image is blurry, underexposed and out of focus: One cannot make out much more than a long object rising up out of the semi-darkness. What appears to be just an amateur photographer’s snapshot taken at night under difficult lighting circumstances, however, actually took one month to create – and the technology behind it is the result of years of intensive research and a massive amount of investment. What the image shows is something that no one will be able to see with the naked eye for a very long time: the inside of the damaged reactors of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant.

Since the March 11, 2011 earthquake and tsunami knocked out the power supply and led to multiple core meltdowns in the plant, thousands of workers have been struggling non-stop to bring the situation under control. Large amounts of radiation have been released into the environment, and parts of the plant are so highly contaminated that workers can only work there for a couple of minutes without risking radiation sickness or death.

One of the biggest hurdles in decommissioning the damaged plant is that no one knows exactly where the molten fuel rods are. Some could be at the bottom of the reactor vessel. Others might have fallen into the containment vessel. But Dr. Haruo Miyadera, a young Japanese scientist working in the U.S., realized that locating the fuel would accelerate the clean-up process considerably. So just one week after the disaster he boarded a plane home with an idea of how to do just that.


One of the biggest hurdles in

decommissioning the damaged plant

is that no one knows exactly where

the molten fuel rods are.

At the time of the triple disaster the 38-year-old Miyadera had been part of a group of researchers at the renowned Los Alamos Nuclear Laboratory (LANL) in New Mexico. The team was developing detectors using cosmic particles called muons for imaging techniques, under their leader, Dr. Christopher Morris. Morris is one of the pioneers in muon research, which has changed quite a bit since the discovery of the particles in the mid-20th century.

Muon tomography is used in situations where conventional techniques like Roentgen X-rays cannot be used – such as when the object is too big or may not be manipulated. The applications are extremely diverse. These elusive cosmic particles have been used to search for secret chambers in the famous Egyptian pyramids of Giza and to “see” magma bubbles in active volcanoes in Japan.

And to search for nuclear weapons at major U.S. ports. “After 9/11, people became worried about terrorism,” the 68-year old Morris says. “Imagine someone wanted to smuggle nuclear weapons in a cargo container filled with frozen peas. Due to the aerial mass it would be impossible to produce an X-ray of the container.” Muons were the solution.

Since all that can be done without handling or manipulating the object being scanned, Miyadera wondered whether the technique could be used to detect molten fuel in a damaged nuclear reactor. “Lots of people were speculating. We thought that the planning must be done based on real data, not just speculation,” Miyadera says.

MUONS ARE “BORN” 10 kilometers above the earth, where cosmic rays, mainly protons, react with the atomic nuclei in the atmosphere. They are similar to electrons, but 200 times more massive. They look like a dot and do not have an inner structure. But since muons are electrically charged, they are easy to detect.

Every minute, 10,000 muons pound each square meter of the earth at slightly under light speed. They shoot through human tissue as if it does not exist, because our atomic nuclei are too light to divert them from their path.

But when muons hit objects with heavy atomic nuclei, like plutonium and uranium, they are scattered or absorbed. They lose energy and speed, and scientists can deduct from their behavior what kind of object they have encountered.

Dr. Alexander Merle, a particle physicist from the German Max-Planck Institute for Physics in Munich, makes the basic principle easily understandable. “Imagine,” he says, “a muon as a tennis ball that hits an object and ricochets off at a certain angle. If you were to repeat this experiment with many tennis balls you would be able to deduce the form of the object they are hitting.”


Muons shoot through human tissue

as if it does not exist,

because our atomic nuclei are too light

to divert them from their path.

Miyadera, the young LANL scientist, was not the only one to think of muons as a possible solution to locating the reactor fuel. Teams of researchers at Japanese universities and research institutes also began to develop radiation-resistant muon detectors after the Fukushima accident. The detectors that existed at the time were unusable, as the thick concrete and steel walls of the reactor pressure vessel would have diverted the muons. That would make it impossible, for example, to distinguish between uranium and water in the core.

The teams produced several workable detectors. The blurred picture of the inside of the Fukushima reactor shown on these pages was the result of a muon tomography done in spring 2015 by the Japanese High Energy Accelerator Research Organization, known as KEK, which operates Japan’s biggest particle physics laboratory in Tsukuba. It collaborated with the University of Texas. Based on these images and further measurements, the researchers concluded that no nuclear fuel remains in the No. 1 reactor. Measurements on the No. 2 reactor, done by Nagoya University also using the conventional transmission method, yielded similar conclusions.

While these experiments offered the first insight into the damaged reactors, however, they left much to be desired with regard to image quality. “Even for experts, it is difficult to recognize much,” said LANL scientist Morris.

AND THAT’S WHERE MIYADERA reenters the story. Since his return to Japan, he had been working on demo versions of a detector. Despite meeting some skepticism both in the U.S. and Japan, his mock-up project ended up being funded by the operator of the damaged plant, Tokyo Electric Power Co. (Tepco).

But when it came to realizing the project, he ran into roadblocks: “We tried to get funding from the Japanese government, but there was no mechanism to fund an American laboratory, at least not at this scale.” Neither would the U.S. lab be able to gain access to the detailed drawings of Fukushima Daiichi that were necessary for moving the project forward. So when Toshiba, a major nuclear industry supplier, showed its interest in collaborating with LANL, Miyadera decided to move into the private sector.


“We tried to get funding from the

Japanese government, but there was

no mechanism to fund an American

laboratory, at least not at this scale.”

As a result, the detector development, aimed at delivering images 10 times more accurate than previous results, has become a national project. The Japanese government is providing 50 percent of the funding, with the other 50 percent coming from participating companies, including Toshiba, under the umbrella of the International Research Institute for Nuclear Decommissioning (IRID) founded in August 2013. The installation of the detectors at Fukushima Daiichi will be financed by Tepco.

To achieve the higher image quality Miyadera and his colleagues were striving for, they came up with an algorithm that reduces gamma ray noise during the measurements. “This algorithm was based on previous Toshiba technology,” says Miyadera, “but it was specifically developed for the use at Fukushima Daiichi.”

The algorithm was then combined with special muon detectors provided by LANL. Unlike previous detectors, they do not measure the transmission of muons, but track their paths before and after traversing the reactor core. They record the muons’ entry and exit angles, which are directly related to the atomic number of the object. In this way, the researchers can distinguish between the heavy atomic nuclei and the light atomic numbers of the reactor’s building elements, a distinction that wasn’t possible using the KEK method.

THE BREAKTHROUGH WAS ANNOUNCED this past summer at a press event at the Toshiba research center in the Isogo industrial belt south of Yokohama. In one of the halls, the researchers had set up the detectors, measuring eight meters wide and eight meters deep and weighing some 20 tons.

According to Toshiba, the devices can detect objects as small as 30 centimeters. Unfortunately for the several dozen journalists who had gathered to watch the demonstration, there would be no live test, thanks to a software glitch that they had not been able to fix in time.


Following setbacks, the development of the Toshiba detector is now complete. When the first measurement using their muon scattering method can be done depends on another measurement on site using KEK’s muon transmission method in March 2016. After reviewing those results Miyadera and his colleagues will study how and when to proceed using their own, more time-consuming, but also more sensitive detector. Once the timing is set, the detector – which will be disassembled for transport by ship – will be reassembled on site. Some of the tools necessary for this process are still being developed.



Every day, between 10 and 200 workers

will be needed, in addition to the

scientists who will be observing and

analyzing the experiments.

They will also need to build a steel shield to protect the detector from radiation when it’s placed next to the reactor building. “The detector can only be operated in an environment under 50 microsieverts per hour, but in the area in front of the No. 2 reactor the radiation can reach 700 microsieverts per hour,” Miyadera says. “In the turbine building the radiation is only 25 microsieverts per hour, so no shielding is necessary.” In the future, he is thinking about building detectors from scratch, so that they can withstand even higher radiation.

The first task will be focusing on the lower part of the reactor building, where they expect to find some of the molten nuclear fuel. For this, the detectors will be set up 50 meters apart on the same level, one on the outside of the reactor building, the other in the turbine building itself.

For the second set of measurements, the detector on the outside of the reactor building will be raised 10 meters, increasing the measurement range to include the reactor core. “Our detectors are 50 times bigger than those used by KEK to measure the No. 1 reactor,” says Miyadera. “And the bigger the detector, the more data, the better the image quality.”

One of the biggest challenges, according to Miyadera, is to schedule the muon tomography into the complicated decommissioning schedule. Another is to find enough workers to carry out the measurements. Every day, between 10 and 200 workers will be needed, in addition to the several scientists who will be observing and analyzing the experiments. And Miyadera estimates that the Toshiba-LANL team will need around six months to analyze the results of each set of measurements.

If the measurements go well and meet the expectations of everyone involved in the project, the study could have a huge impact on the decommissioning of the Fukushima reactors. Tepco now estimates that it will take some 40 years to complete, but thanks to muon tomography this could be shortened by up to 10 years, say the scientists.

Encouraged by the quick progress his young Japanese colleague has made, Morris remains very confident, convinced of the power of muon tomography. “It sounds like magic,” he says, “but it actually works.”

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.



Thanks for the Memories, Bob!



World-famous comedian Bob Hope spoke to a full house at a Club professional luncheon on Dec. 17, 1972. On the way to his last performance for U.S. troops in Vietnam – his ninth consecutive Christmas appearance there – he took time to answer questions from Tokyo correspondents. At least one query, no doubt, would have been in regard to his support of President Nixon’s bombing of North Vietnam to force acceptance of U.S. peace terms, for which his usual response was to cite his responsibility to lift the troops’ spirits. Hope and then-FCCJ President Mack Chrysler (U.S. News & World Report) can also be seen in a photo on the wall of the Club’s entrance.




OB HOPE WAS BORN Leslie Townes Hope in England in 1903 and emigrated with his family to the U.S. at the tender age of five. He was a busker and a boxer before becoming a comedian – and dancer, actor, singer and eventually an author (and golfer). After an early career in vaudeville and on Broadway, he gravitated to radio in 1934 and switched to television in the 1950s. His film career spanned more than 50 productions, including The Paleface, one of my favorites, and the series of “Road” films with Bing Crosby and Dorothy Lamour. He hosted the Academy Awards 14 times from 1941 to 1978.

He is remembered by millions in the U.S. for his many USO tours for military personnel, and a 1997 act of the U.S. Congress signed by President Bill Clinton named Hope an “Honorary Veteran.” From the Vietnam and later wars he was faulted for supporting the government in these conflicts, but from an overall perspective his underlying support appears to have been more for those serving in the military.

He died on July 27, 2003 at the age of 100. His signature song, “Thanks for the Memory,” which he first sang together with Shirley Ross in a film in 1938 and then used to close his many shows, is still remembered with nostalgia by his fans.

— Charles Pomeroy



Tales from the Round Tables: The Centurions


HERE’S A LITTLE HOLE in the heart of the Club these days, especially around the Open Table on the far side of the Main Bar. That’s where Chuck Lingam has held court for 50 years; a welcoming face that bore witness to an impressive sweep of history, from life in India under colonial British rule, to landing as a 21-year-old in Nagasaki in 1935, and the subsequent series of roller-coaster transformations of his adopted homeland.

FCCJ has always had a roster of legends who straddled those different times and different cultures. It was only last year that we lost former FCCJ president John Rich, who became a journalist after fighting in WWII. Rich went on to cover the rise of Mao Zedong, the Korean War and a lion’s share of the world’s most coveted headlines all the way through to the Gulf War, where, at 73, he distinguished himself with his usual world-class reportage as the oldest correspondent.


She put the phone where

they could hear the first shots being

fired outside her window.


We had London-born journalist Ian Mutsu, a charter member of the Club, born to the Japanese count who masterminded the Great Japan Exhibition of 1910 in London and his English wife. Ian, who boasted foreign minister Munemitsu Mutsu for a grandfather, was family friends with Ichiro Hatoyama and a host of other postwar lions of Japan. He then went on to form a film company that dominated the documentary and newsreel market through which the world learned about Japan. Many in the Club still remember his towering influence on the international news scene, remaining a resonant voice and the Club’s resident dandy well into his 90s.

The FCCJ is now 70, so it’s no wonder we are losing some of our greatest storytellers. Chuck entertained us all with his tales from his 100 years on earth, but left us just short of his 101st birthday party – one that we were all looking forward to attending. He must be laughing with mock envy in heaven at the news that arrived just a few weeks later from our sister correspondents’ club in Hong Kong, where our old friend, the British journalist Clare Hollingworth, was celebrating her 104th birthday in style.

Clare will probably never be surpassed for making the most impressive debut ever as a correspondent, scooping the start of WWII in 1939 when she followed a hunch and stumbled upon Hitler’s tanks moving onto the Polish border. Just one week into her job at the UK’s Telegraph, she attempted to report the developments to the British Embassy – only to be lectured on how negotiations were still ongoing. At which point she put the phone where they could hear the first shots being fired outside her window. A war was being launched, and with it, a legend.

When not in the trenches, Clare was often dressed to the hilt, hobnobbing with diplomats and spies at dinner parties, like the one at which expected guest Kim Philby didn’t show. Not long after, the story of his defection to the Soviet Union broke. All in a day’s work for Clare.

Hollingworth was an inspiration for generations of journalists and an exceptional raconteur who kept FCCJ friends enraptured whenever she stopped by. The lines between “good” and “bad” appeared clearer in her heyday. Countries still fought “good” wars, and with that came the heroics, the pride and the great tales we still keep hearing at the Round Tables.

Every time we lose legends like Chuck Lingam, John Rich and John Roderick, all the questions we might have asked linger like sweet memories of a world we know only vicariously, but vividly, thanks to the people who lived them.

It would be worth asking the FCCHK to put us on their guest list for Clare’s 105th.

      The Shimbun Alley Whisperers




Special Photo Feature: 70th Anniversary Party



The FCCJ's 70th Anniversary Party was held at the Palace Hotel (above) on Friday, Oct. 30 to great success. The 430-some attendees enjoyed the celebration. Club President Suvendrini Kakuchi opened the even with remarks and a toast (below).




1st Vice President Peter Langan had the first dance with Guest of Honor, Her Imperial Highness Princess Takamado (above), who also gave an address on the occasion (below).



70th Anniversary committee co-chair Yoshio Murakami, Suvendrini Kakuchi and ex-officio Lucy Birmingham with HIH Princess Takamado (above). Among the guests were tattoo maestro Horiyoshi II and his son Souryou (below).



FCCJ staffers Chung Kyon Suk (left) and Reiko Saito sold raffled tickets (above) while music was provided by the Mike Price Band and its singer Arge Fine and harpist Kaoru Arai-Colucci (below).




Guests took to the dance floor with the music of the Mike Price Band (above). TV personality Kuroyanagi Tetsuko was there, (below) here photographed with Turkish Airlines Tokyo GM Mustafa Dokmetas, whose company provided the top of prize of 2 economy-class tickets to anywhere Turkish Airlines fly.



The Turkish Airlines prize was won by John R. Harris (above). Among other prize winners were FCCJ Members Larry Cisar and Kunio Hamada (below) with compere Committee Member David Satterwhite .



And a good time was had by all (below).


New Members in November & New Books in the Library


Regular Members


WATARU SAWAMURA is editor-in-chief of morning edition of the Asahi Shimbun. Born and raised in Tokyo, he joined the paper in 1986 and has held various positions including New York correspondent, London correspondent and Paris bureau chief. From 2009 to 2011, he served as foreign editor, supervising the company’s 30 foreign bureaus and 50 correspondents. From 2011 to 2013 he was appointed as European editor (in London) responsible for covering European issues and the London Olympic games. From 2013 to 2014, he was a visiting professor at Tsinghua University’s Journalism School in Beijing.


PATRICK WELTER has served as economics editor, reporter and editorial writer for the German daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, since 2002. From 2007 till 2009 he was based in Tokyo, and after five years in North America, he returns to Tokyo for a second term. He began his journalism career in 1995 with Handelsblatt, the German financial daily, after researching economic policy at Cologne University. As Northeast Asia correspondent he covers politics and economics from Japan, Korea and Taiwan. He also contributes to the Swiss daily newspaper Neue Zuercher Zeitung. Besides his work as journalist, Patrick has published scholarly articles on economic policy seen from an Austrian point of view, and published a book on the IMF in 2004. He collaborated with the German economist Clemens Fuest on several studies on economic freedom.


Hiroshi Ohno, Advance News Co., Ltd.
Mie Ido, Office Mie Ido



Naoki Mori, Edit Inc.



Abolfazl Amouei, Embassy of the Islamic Republic of Iran
Sergio Inclan, Embassy of Mexico
Andrew Joyce, Metlife Insurance K.K.
Chieko Gyobu, Panasonic Corporation
Katsuyoshi Iwata, Nippon Steel & Sumikin Technology Corp.
Tomoyuki Sugiyama, Kyowa Shipping Co., Ltd.
Toshio Takahashi, TM Best House K.K.
Junichiro Toda, Toda Ship Co., Ltd.Tetsuo Kanno, WACOM Co., Ltd.
Masao Nagamatsu, Lush Japan Co., Ltd.
Yasuhiro Shimizu
Toshihisa Shibata, VIXI Corporation, Japan
Yasuaki Wakui, Kuraray Co., Ltd.



Isao Saito, U & IHR Consulting





New in the library


The Complete Ninja: The Secret World Revealed

Masaaki Hatsumi

Kodansha USA

Gift from Kodansha USA


Excess Baggage: A Novel

Karen Ma

Sinomedia International

Gift from Suvendrini Kakuchi


Seimei no mori Meiji Jingu (Forest of Life Meiji Jingu)

Yasuhiko Ito; Takehiko Sato (photo)


Gift from Yasuhiko Ito


Chihososei jireishu

Naikaku Kanbo Machi-Hito-Shigoto Sosei Honbu Jimukyoku

Gift from Fumio Takahashi


AIDS chiryoyaku o hakken shita otoko Mitsuya Hiroaki

Yoshio Hotta

Bungei Shunju

Gift from Yoshio Hotta


Gaikoku Tokuhain Kyokai juchin ga hannichi chukan no sagi o abaita

Henry Scott Stokes; Hiroyuki Fujita (trans. and comp.)

Goku Shuppan

Gift from Hiroyuki Fujita


Jinshu senso race war: taiheiyo senso mo hitotsu no shinjitsu

Jerald Horne; Hideaki Kase (ed.); Hiroyuki Fujita (trans.)


Gift from Hiroyuki Fujita


Kiri no naka no CIA

Seiji Yamaoka

Seiji Koho Center

Gift from Koichi Ishiyama


Rengokoku sensho shikan no tettei hihan!: sengo 70-nen no byokon o kensho suru

Henry Scott Stokes; Genki Fujii; Hiroyuki Fujita (ed. and trans.)


Gift from Hiroyuki Fujita


At Kasetsu: Our Temporary Housing

Masaharu Fujishima; Rie Sakakibara (trans.)



In Manchuria

Michael Meyer



Kwaidan: Stories and Studies of Strange Things

Lafcadio Hearn

Stone Bridge Press


Sixty Seconds That Will Change the World: Coming Tokyo Earthquake

Peter Hadfield

Pan Books


Yurei: The Japanese Ghost

Zack Davisson

Chin Music Press


Shonen kozoku no mita senso: miyake ni umare ichi shimin toshite ikita waga shogai

Kuni Kuniaki

PHP Kenkyujyo


Kokkai benran: 2015-8 (volume 138)

Shuhari Initiative


Kuroshio bunmeiron: minzoku no kiso to genryu o omou

Kobo Inamura


Gift from Kobo Inamura


Ransho: sandaime Horiyoshi no sekai

Masato Sudo


Gift from Shogakukan



Osame Ohara (photos); Kuzu Ohara (haiku and text)

Seseragi Shuppan

Gift from Kuzu Ohara


Children in the 70 Years Since World War II: A news agency as eyewitness

Shimbun Tsushin Chosakai/ Kyodo Tsushinsha

Shinbun Tsushin Chosakai

Gift from Takashi Fujita (Kyodo News)


Compound Cinematics: Akira Kurosawa and I

Shinobu Hashimoto; translated by Lori Hitchcock Morimoto



Kimono: A Modern History

Terry Satsuki Milhaupt

Reaktion Books


Nagasaki: Life After Nuclear War

Susan Southard



Statistical Handbook of Japan 2015

Statistics Bureau, Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications


Japan Company Handbook (Autumn 2015)

Toyo Keizai Inc.



Exhibition: "ANIMA + ART = ANIMART



by Takehiko Kamei

AT A TIME WHEN the world is confronted with numerous disasters, we should look back over our national histories to revive memories of what I call ANIMA, which has been shared by humanity since ancient times and expresses its desires and hopes for peace through art. In my capacity as an artist – and as a member of the human race – I have carried out a variety of creative activities, both in Japan and abroad that I call ANIMART. For this exhibition, I show works that present an image of spiritual peace and prayer.

After working for Suntory, Takehiko Kamei was one of the founding members of SUN-AD Co., Ltd, where he worked in advertisement production. In 1965, he moved to Toronto to concentrate on anime and painting. He was also the art director for Art Canada magazine. Kamei then traveled the U.S. and Europe exhibiting his art, which has received various awards internationally.



Reporting Tragedy: Rules and Risks

 No1-2015-11JulianInterviewing Syrian refugees on a UK TV news program.



At a recent forum on global media,

researchers and reporters shared thoughts

on how to deal with covering tragic events.


by Julian Ryall


OURNALISTS NEED TO interview the displaced, the distressed and the denied with a special kind of care, believes Gavin Rees, executive director of the Dart Centre Europe. And that applies whether the subjects are refugees from the conflict in Syria, survivors of a terrorist atrocity or someone who has gone through a natural disaster such as 3/11.

“As journalists, we were told in the past that you wrote down what you were told by the interview subject and that you were then good to go,” said Rees, speaking at a symposium in Bonn that was part of the Global Media Forum 2015 organized by German broadcaster Deutsche Welle. “But when you are dealing with people who are vulnerable, then different rules have to apply. Someone who has been the victim of a sexual assault, for example, is not in the same place as a clued-up politician.”

That need to tread carefully and slowly is invariably at odds with the demands of a news desk. “You’re on a tight deadline, but how do you get the correct information?” Rees asked. “A journalist needs to be very careful about spending enough time with a person to make sure they get enough context and to make sure their report is correct.”


"You need to build a relationship

with this person and develop a sense of trust

that will give them a sense of safety.”


Dr. Iris Graef-Calliess, the head physician at Germany’s Center for Transcultural Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, said studies indicate that asking a survivor of war, tragedy or natural disaster to go back over their experiences can activate – or reactivate in someone who is recovering – post-traumatic stress disorder, depression or psychotic disorders.

“You have to do all that you can to reduce stress levels in anyone you are interviewing,” she said. “Emotional support is very important; you need to build a relationship with this person and develop a sense of trust that will give them a sense of safety.”

The risk a journalist runs of failing to take such steps is that they will get the story wrong. “One symptom of PTSD is memory dysfunction, meaning that they just don’t remember important facts,” Graef-Calliess said. “And demands for more information, for more details can act as a trigger for re-traumatization.”

She recommended using sensitivity, delicacy and giving the interview subject “enough space and time” to explain their experiences in their own words. “And never cut someone off when they are recounting an experience that was the most awful of their lives; it makes you look as if you don’t care,” she added.

Mani Yassir Benchelah, a Turkish filmmaker, has spent a good portion of the last three years documenting the lives and losses of refugees from the civil war in Syria and the subsequent emergence of ISIS. “I learned to keep the interviews short and stop whenever I sensed they were becoming uncomfortable,” he said.

“I only interviewed children when their parents agreed that they were ready to handle the questions and when they were in a place where they felt safe to express their feelings. I had to step back and practice ‘good listening.’”


Despite all the precautions, however, the softly-softly approach does not always work. In one of Benchelah’s documentaries, a young Syrian boy stutters and his facial spasms become increasingly pronounced as he talks about being pursued by soldiers who “want to kill us all.”

Rees believes that open-ended questions are often the most effective in such situations as they give the speaker the chance to relate their experiences or, if they are uncomfortable, to redirect the conversation in a less threatening direction.

And such tactics are not merely for the sake of people who have been through traumatizing experiences, Rees added. “It is also a question of self-care for a journalist. The way that you cover harrowing stories will help you maintain your resilience and stop your own personal health from suffering from everything that you have seen.”


The Centre has drawn up a list of steps that

media workers can take, including eliminating

needless repeat exposure and never passing on

potentially shocking material


Just as the people affected by tragedy and disaster will be affected for the rest of their lives, studies have shown that journalists who have reported from war zones and the scenes of natural disasters will also carry those memories with them. Unsurprisingly, photographs and video footage often serve as the trigger, with the American Psychiatric Association setting new guidelines in 2013 on post-traumatic stress disorder to recognize that immersive work with traumatic imagery is a “specific risk factor for journalists.”

To reduce the trauma load, the Dart Centre has drawn up a list of practical steps that media workers can take to ease the pressure, including eliminating needless repeat exposure and never passing on potentially shocking material to a colleague without a warning. They also recommend frequent breaks and creating “distance” from the images being viewed by focusing on certain details, such as clothes, instead of faces.

Ironically, given Japan’s experiences in March 2011, the Dart Centre suggests that journalists “think of traumatic imagery as if it is radiation, a toxic substance that has a dose-dependent effect. Journalists, like nuclear workers, have a job to do: at the same time, they should take sensible steps to minimize unnecessary exposure.”

Julian Ryall is the Japan correspondent for the Daily Telegraph.


Profile: Leo Lewis



The Financial Times' correspondent

has been reporting on business and finance

in Japan and China for 13 years.

by Tyler Rothmar


eo Lewis, currently Tokyo correspondent for the Financial Times, grew up in England and hails from a family of academics. He was first drawn to Japan, he says, “for the worst reasons: video games and anime. Growing up in Oxford in the ’80s, you had these glints of Japanese culture which were impossibly exotic, and for the smallest reasons.”

Nobody could tell him, for instance, that the mysterious giant white vegetables one pulled from the ground in Super Mario’s second electronic adventure were in fact a kind of daikon radish. There he was surrounded by the finest academic minds, he recalls, yet it was up to him to unearth the solutions to this and other Japanese riddles.

Work on an undergraduate degree in oriental studies with a focus on economics afforded Lewis his first trip to Japan in 1994, where he spent a term studying at a local university in Minoh, near Osaka. Later, when a brief professional foray into the world of finance failed to scratch his creative itch, Lewis decided on journalism, leading to further study and a degree in the subject from City University London in 2000.


Nobody could tell him, for instance,

that the mysterious giant white vegetables

one pulled from the ground in Super Mario’s

second electronic adventure

were in fact a kind of daikon radish.


The journalistic bent that has led him to report on business and finance in Japan and China for 13 years and counting is perhaps an expression of the genes of his maternal grandfather, an Arabist and Turkologist “who did the same thing when he was my age,” Lewis says. “He disappeared and became a specialist in a part of the world that, at the time, people didn’t really know very much about.” Lewis sees himself in a similar light, as someone who helps to inform and challenge what are sometimes outdated opinions about the workings of Asia’s largest economies.

Although he writes on a variety of topics, financial journalism is closest to his heart. “When it’s done well,” he says, “you overlay a narrative and treat it as any other kind of journalism, in that you’re telling a story. The numbers are there as props and background, because at heart, you’ve got people making mistakes and errors and strokes of genius. There are petty arguments and big discussions about strategy and little ones about where to have the coffee machine. That’s business, whether it’s Google or a tiny Japanese construction company. It’s a series of stories.”



Lewis spent seven years from 2003 in Tokyo reporting for the Times before moving to Beijing in late 2010. He uses the word “brilliant” to describe his time there as bureau chief until April 2015, and likens it to being in the U.S. during the formative 1920s.

The breakneck speed of change, he says, was such that a massive cohort of newly white-collar Chinese were the first of their lines to buy cars, and did so almost simultaneously, meaning the rules, etiquette and future norms of the road were being formed before his eyes. “I don’t like to use the word, and it’s a shame there aren’t more synonyms, but I was using ‘unprecedented’ in copy all the time, because it really was,” he remembers.

NOW BACK IN TOKYO with the Financial Times, Lewis is genuinely excited to be reporting on a pivotal moment for a Japan that “cannot be the same place it has been,” he says, citing not only the increasing counterweight of China, but a demographic bind at home that many have seen coming but is only now becoming constrictive enough to force action.

Lewis acknowledges many of the criticisms of the current administration, but recognizes in Prime Minister Shinzo Abe a man “who has spotted that none of Japan’s issues are answerable without very substantial change.”

He feels Abe’s actions stem from a notion that the country does best “when it’s instilled with a kind of ‘ganbare Nihon’ nationalist fervor,” and that this constitutes “a fundamental misapprehension of what it is that gets Japanese people up in the morning.”


The leader who can harness whatever drives

the average person will be successful,

but that engine is not nationalism, especially not

for the younger generation, he feels.


Labor in the 1950s, he says, was for many a kind of atonement for the war, and as conditions improved over the decades before the bubble, “hard work became the currency, literally, of national gratitude.

“The problem is that work has lost the capacity to be either of those things anymore, and that is what Abe and this economy are dealing with.” The leader who can harness whatever drives the average person will be successful, but that engine is not nationalism, especially not for the younger generation, he feels.

Whatever eventuates, Lewis will surely be covering it in the pages of the FT, the purchase of which by the Nikkei group is likely to be finalized as this issue of No. 1 Shimbun goes to print. “Projects where both sides can see the value of cooperation have been identified in substantial number,” he says. “Some of those are already underway, and I’m delighted to say the Tokyo bureau is a big part of them, but I’m afraid you’ve caught me just a few weeks before we feel that warm glow.”

For Lewis, the thrill of spotting someone absorbed in his printed work on the train easily outstrips a glance at online traffic stats. He can still remember his first byline in the UK national press, a piece for the Independent for which he’d secured a choice quote on a hot-button topic of the day. “I remember thinking, ‘This is great. Everyone just says what they think! My career is going to be easy,’” he laughs. “And then of course I came to Japan, where nobody says what they think.”

Tyler Rothmar is a Tokyo-based writer and editor.



How the News Media Sees Okinawa


Islands in the streaming news
Okinawa Governor Takeshi Onaga meets the press.


As the face-off between the prefectural and central

governments continues, the good news

is that press interest has increased

and coverage has improved.


by Michael Penn


he confrontation between the leaders of the U.S.-Japan alliance and the prefectural government of Okinawa over the relocation of the U.S. Marine airbase at Futenma and the plan to construct a new airbase at Henoko has many dimensions – political, military, legal, historical, ethnic and economic. These have affected the way that it is covered by the local and global news media.

Okinawa Governor Takeshi Onaga is clearly aware of the importance of reaching out to the foreign media – as demonstrated by his late-May visit to Washington DC, his September speech at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, and, indeed, by his two press conferences this year at the FCCJ. Onaga understands that shaming the Japanese government before the eyes of the international community is one of the key weapons at his disposal.

But keen awareness of the potential power of the media is also to be found on the other side of the political spectrum as well. Novelist and former NHK board member Naoki Hyakuta declared to admiring conservative lawmakers at a ruling party study meeting in June that the two major newspapers of Okinawa should be “crushed” in response to their support for the anti-base political views. In central Naha even now one can find a handful of activists outside these newspapers’ headquarters making similar calls.


Onaga understands that shaming the

Japanese government before the eyes of

the international community is one of the

key weapons at his disposal.


Ryukyu Shimpo and Okinawa Times dominate the newspaper landscape in Okinawa. With two major newspapers grappling with one another within a relatively isolated prefecture, it might be expected that one of them would naturally trend more to the liberal side and one represent more conservative voices. In fact, however, both papers are deeply committed to their anti-base movement. While there is indeed some portion of the Okinawan population that is pro-base, or at least not very concerned about the U.S. military presence, it would appear that this constituency is not large enough to support a major newspaper.

It should also come as no surprise that among print newspapers in any language, it is only the Ryukyu Shimpo and Okinawa Times that treat Henoko base construction as an issue of deep concern and seriousness. Without a doubt they offer the most regular and detailed accounts of the confrontation, and they are an essential source for anyone closely following developments on the ground.

For every other print media outlet in whatever language, the Futenma relocation drama is a peripheral matter, usually updated only when a major political figure makes a key statement or when an event of special significance takes place.

CONSERVATIVE NATIONAL NEWSPAPERS LIKE the Yomiuri Shimbun and the Sankei Shimbun have never wavered in their commitment to seeing the U.S. Marine airbase be built. For them it is a simple issue of national security and a commitment made to the U.S. allies. In the case of the Yomiuri, one editorial could stand in for a hundred others, as the message is always that base construction is necessary and anyone opposing it is both irresponsible and obstructionist. As they put it on Oct. 14: “The relocation to the Henoko district is the sole, realistic option chosen following many years of discussions among the Japanese and U.S. governments and local governments of Okinawa. Onaga continues taking his noncompliant stance, providing no alternative plans whatsoever.”

The more liberal national dailies

like the Asahi Shimbun and the Mainichi Shimbun,

however, could probably be best

defined by their wavering.

For the far-right Japanese media, the answers are also very simple. They insist that the anti-base movement does not represent the views of the majority of the Okinawan people, but rather are led by a handful of mostly Communist political activists from the main islands. They also believe that hidden Chinese agents and their collaborators are secretly guiding the anti-base movement.

The more liberal national dailies like the Asahi Shimbun and the Mainichi Shimbun, however, could probably be best defined by their wavering. They are certainly willing to give some space to anti-base views in their pages, especially in recent months, but they tend to be much more lukewarm than the local Okinawa papers. For example, these national newspapers appear to take more seriously the view that U.S. military bases are needed in the southwestern prefecture as an element of deterrence policy vis-a-vis China.

In contrast, the dominant view within Okinawa itself seems to be that China should be seen more as a trading partner than as an inevitable military threat. Governor Onaga himself made this point at his most recent press conference at the FCCJ – and it is often forgotten that Onaga hails from the more conservative political camp within his prefecture and was formerly a leader of the local chapter of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party.

THE INTERNATIONAL NEWS MEDIA on the whole tends to show a reasonable degree of sympathy toward the Okinawans in their struggle to prevent the construction of the airbase at Henoko, though until recently there has also been a notable lack of interest in truly grasping the details of the situation.

Much of the international coverage of the Okinawa issue seems to be driven not by the unique history of the Ryukyu Islands (which is clearly central to Governor Onaga’s view), but rather to each specific media outlet’s general attitude towards the global military posture of the United States. Those international media that are most alienated from U.S. military actions in Iraq or Syria or Yemen, for example, also tend to paint the most negative pictures of the current situation in Okinawa.

An example of this latter approach can be found at RT, the English-language global news service of Russia. In an early-June report on the Okinawa issue, all of the analysis and commentary came from perspectives strongly critical of the United States. The quotation from Nago Mayor Susumu Inamine described the U.S. approach as “typical of colonial policies.” The one international expert introduced in the piece, the New Zealand-based Tim Beal, stated that U.S. bases in Okinawa really have little or nothing to do with any concern in Washington about the defense of Japan.


There are also those . . . whose views are

nearly identical to what is expressed

in the Yomiuri Shimbun, or occasionally

even further to the political right.


Since the Henoko base issue has been in the headlines off and on for some years now, the quality of the international reporting has clearly been improving. An increasing number of foreign journalists are actually visiting the sites of the confrontation and listening directly to the voices of the Okinawans. Interviews with Okinawa-based officials and analysts are now common in news features, and understanding of the local perspective has deepened considerably compared to five or ten years ago.

Direct experience in Okinawa, however, does not always lead in the direction of increased sympathy for the protesters. There are also those – usually associated with U.S. government policymaking circles or the military – whose views are nearly identical to what is expressed in the Yomiuri Shimbun, or occasionally even further to the political right.

One of the more active media commentators of this kind is Robert D. Eldridge, an author of several books related to Okinawa and for some years an official spokesman for the U.S. Marines.

When Governor Onaga made his visit to Washington DC in late May, Eldridge wrote a piece in the Washington Times to introduce him to American policymakers. Eldridge explained that Onaga had been elected “on an anti-base platform dominated by the organizational might of the Communist Party” and that the Okinawa governor “has been groomed for a long time by Chinese leaders” – echoing the claims of the Japanese far right.

Eldridge is also an outspoken critic of the Ryukyu Shimpo and Okinawa Times, describing them as “biased” in their coverage of the U.S. military and accusing them of consistently “focusing on the negative and sensational.”

Eldridge extends his critique to “the national and international media stationed in Tokyo.” Commenting on Naoki Hyakuta’s declaration that the Okinawan newspapers should be “crushed,” Eldridge observed:

“What was most surprising, however, about the ‘Hyakuta Incident’ was not his comments. Nor was it the strongly negative reaction of the two Okinawan newspapers – issuing a protest statement, partnering with their business allies such as the Asahi Shimbun to condemn Hyakuta in their editorials, and speaking before gatherings of their recent allies in the Foreign Correspondents Club of Japan. Rather, it was the slowness of people to realize that the media itself was crudely violating a private citizen’s freedom of speech, all in the name of protecting free speech and a free press.”

LIKE EVERY OTHER CONFLICT in the world, control of the narrative is a crucial element of the struggle for all interested parties.

The Okinawan opponents of the construction of an airbase at Henoko want to tell the story of their people’s unique history: their non-Japanese past, their horrific sacrifice in the Pacific War, their decades spent as a military colony of the United States, and the disproportionate burden of hosting U.S. forces that they carry even today. They insist that their experience teaches them the value of peace, and they don’t believe that the Chinese government has any intention to invade.


Mainstream conservatives sometimes acknowledge

that Okinawa is disproportionately burdened,

but for them these grievances must take

a back seat to the larger alliance priorities.


For mainstream conservatives on both sides of the Pacific, the salient narrative is about the U.S.-Japan alliance – how it protects Japan’s national security, deters potential aggressors, and serves as a necessary hedge against the growing power and aggressiveness of China. Mainstream conservatives sometimes acknowledge that Okinawa is disproportionately burdened, but for them these grievances must take a back seat to the larger alliance priorities. It’s regrettable, but that’s the real world, they assert.

The far right, mostly but not exclusively main-island Japanese, is nearly obsessed with the China threat. They depart from mainstream conservatives by denying that the majority of Okinawans oppose the construction of the Henoko airbase or are suffering significant burdens. They believe that leftist radicals are perpetrating a fraud by sending a handful of professional agitators out to the beach to stage protests, that are then are covered by treasonous journalists. They see the shadowy hand of China everywhere.

Most of the international media picks from among one or more of these three broad narratives in their reporting on the Okinawa issue, although general attitudes toward U.S. power on the global stage also creep in from time to time.

Michael Penn is president of the Shingetsu News Agency.



Memories Are Made of This




The 1966 Fodor's guidebook is a benchmark

for five decades of change

by Mark Schreiber


o tweak his involuntary memory, French author Marcel Proust would bite into a small spongy cake called a “petite Madeleine de Commercy.” While considerably less prolific than Proust – despite having been blessed with a longer lifespan (Proust died at 51) – I recently found another way to unleash a flood of fond memories, by skimming through the 1966 edition of Fodor’s Guide to Japan and East Asia.

The 750-page monster, printed in Japan, sold for just $6.95, and I certainly got my money’s worth. Starting with an initial nine-day visit to Japan in December 1965, it was to serve as my guidebook over the next several years in Japan, Hong Kong, the Philippines, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand and South Vietnam.

I recently found a nearly mint copy of Fodor’s for $4.99 on Upon opening it to the section on Japan, I was magically whisked back to the evening of Wednesday, Dec. 22, 1965. I’d turned 18 just a month earlier, and was accompanying my parents and younger brother on a propeller-driven DC-6 aircraft flying from Kadena Air Base, Okinawa to Tachikawa Air Base in western Tokyo. The carrier was a front company for the Central Intelligence Agency called Southern Air Transport, whose initials, its passengers would acerbically remark, stood for “Sorry About That.”

The Japan I found back then is well described in the 34-page essay that makes up the opening section of Fodor’s. It was written by someone I would meet in person years later, and whose writings I would see a great deal of: Edward Seidensticker.


“Within seconds of his arrival,

the visitor to Japan is immediately aware

of one essential fact about the country.

It is crowded."


Given his impressive academic and literary credentials I suppose Seidensticker found writing it a rather easy task. Titled “Japan: A crowded, lonely land,” his essay begins: “Within seconds of his arrival, the visitor to Japan is immediately aware of one essential fact about the country. It is crowded. Whether he comes by ship or by plane, he finds himself immediately in the middle of the world’s greatest jumble of humanity, the Tokyo metropolitan complex. Other cities rival Tokyo in size, but none approaches it in noise, in bustle, in the rip and swirl of its roiling sea of bodies.”

On page 67, he justifies his title thusly: “The most obvious characteristic of the Japanese brings us back to the beginning: that they appear in crowds, and when they move they move in crowds, as if impelled by a terrible fear of being alone. . .

“Although a Japanese is seldom alone, it may be said that he is frequently, perhaps even characteristically, lonely. Japan is not a society of relaxed, easy associations. . .

“All in all it is a chilly, fragmented, constricting world.”

Some readers may recognize other names among Fodor’s team of contributors: Peter Robinson, former correspondent for the Sydney Morning Herald and Financial Times, produced articles on Food and Drink, Dining out in Tokyo and Hokkaido. Maggy Burrows, a native of New Orleans, wrote about shopping. Others included Francis King (Kyoto), Robert C. Fisher (Kyushu) and James Kirkup (Tohoku).

Robinson’s writing on cuisine comes across as enlightened, considering attitudes that prevailed at the time: “One of the greatest of Japanese dishes – and one which seems to worry Westerners, at least before they taste it, most of all – is raw fish. . . . Many foreigners who live in Japan feel that sushi is Japan’s greatest contribution to gastronomy; even those who don’t particularly like it, agree that it is much better than its ingredients . . . would indicate.”

He also writes: “Noboribetsu and other Hokkaido spas are among the relatively few remaining in Japan where mixed bathing between the sexes is common. However, many Western visitors will be surprised by how modest Japanese men and women can be with only a tiny wash towel. The prurient will find little of interest while the modest will probably be too overcome with shyness to experiment with mixed hot springs bathing. For the remainder, it should be an interesting and happy experience.”

Although it is not attributed, Robinson may have also produced this unabashed advisory. “A few years ago, when prostitution was legal in Japan, certain districts were set aside for it – famed Yoshiwara was one. Such areas no longer exist, but the ladies of the profession are still plentiful. . . . Arrangements vary, but the usual procedure is to make a private deal with your companion, to escort her to a hotel [in addition to] the hotel bill, perhaps another two thousand yen, and her ‘present,’ perhaps three thousand if you wait until breakfast to reward her. Obvious newcomers may be asked for twice as much. It will all be done with the peculiar Japanese women’s charm, however, and your companion will explain everything to you without any apparent embarrassment.”


The prurient will find little of interest

while the modest will probably be too overcome

with shyness to experiment with

mixed hot springs bathing.


Robinson’s son Mark recalls his late father as “an extremely fast and prolific writer.”

“One thing about dad,” he says, “was he had no cultural chauvinism and very little ego. He simply accepted and enjoyed Japan for being different, and he carried very little Australian ‘baggage.’”

The ‘66 Fodor’s also contains several curious references that I confess to having no memory of whatsoever. One is its reliance on directions using the old street signs dating from the occupation period, with numbered streets and avenues designated “A,” “B,” “C” and so on.

Surprisingly, the section on Tokyo carries scant mention of the huge changes the city had undergone prior to the 1964 Olympics. And I was somewhat amazed to see that Japan’s vaunted shinkansen warrants all of one sentence: “The latest word in streamlined speed by rail was introduced in 1964 with the opening of the New Tokaido line, offering one of the world’s fastest services between the cities of Tokyo and Osaka.”

From the guide, it seems that Yasukuni Shrine, located on a street labeled “T” Avenue on the map, had yet to take on its present-day political overtones. “Explore the shrine. . . You may walk about quite freely, though no one enters the actual shrine building. Indeed at any shrine, if the spirit moves you, you may toss a few copper coins in the box before the door, clap your hands to wake the gods within, fold them in prayer, bow your head for a moment and wish for something. The Japanese about you will be pleased and amused if you do this in your best Shrinemanship manner.”

My reacquaintance with the guidebook I’d relied upon half a century ago reminded me of how much Tokyo’s skyline has changed. Take this passage: As you approach the northern end of the palace grounds, you will see on your right, one of Tokyo’s first skyscrapers, the home of the Reader’s Digest and the Mainichi, one of Japan’s leading newspapers. Construction began in 1964.”


Also celebrated in Fodor’s but no longer with us

are the glitzy Akasaka night clubs like the Mikado

and the New Latin Quarter


Today, The Mainichi Shimbun “skyscraper” is still occupied by its original tenant (although the Japanese edition of Reader’s Digest is long gone). It stands all of nine stories high.

The photos in the book also reminded me of so many everyday things that have vanished, like three-wheeled trucks steered by handlebars, and Rabbit-brand motor scooters. The military payment certificates (MPCs) I spent on the U.S. military bases – are long gone; but then so are ¥100 and ¥500 bills.

Also celebrated in Fodor’s but no longer with us are the glitzy Akasaka night clubs like the Mikado (which I visited twice and came away unimpressed) and the New Latin Quarter, in the basement of the Hotel New Japan, whose main claim to fame was that 39-year-old pro wrestler Rikidozan was fatally stabbed there by a gangster in December 1963. The hotel was permanently closed after a fire in February 1982, but the club survived until May 27, 1989.

I returned to Okinawa on New Year’s Day, 1966, and nine months later was back in Tokyo to study at International Christian University. Through sheer persistence I became more adept at the language. The head of my host family patiently drilled me how to read Japan National Railways’ massive monthly train schedule, which served as my Rosetta Stone to wander around the country. By the time I’d turned 21, my travels had taken me, with Fodor’s in hand, from Sapporo to Fukuoka and many points in between.

In his wisdom, Seidensticker wrote in his Fodor’s essay, “No one can honestly ask a stranger to come have a look, and expect him to derive much pleasure from his first impression. The visitor must rather be asked to stay until he has the feel of the place.”

I’m happy I took that advice to heart.


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





Studying in Japan:

The Japanese language has been called by one linguist, “the best excuse I ever knew for studying Spanish,” but if you wish to take the plunge. . . .


We recommend that you send your Kodachrome and Ektachrome film to regular processing stations of the Kodak Company. You can arrange to have the film returned to your home address or anywhere else.

Overseas Calls:

To call the United States. . . from Tokyo, dial 109 and tell the operator your number. Waiting time will be about 10 minutes. Charges to the US are ¥3,240 for 3 minutes on weekdays, ¥2,430 on Sundays.


Price range should be about $8 to $14 per person, with two meals. . .we have tried whenever possible to find quiet places where organized tours do not stay. The price range here will be from $4 to $6, with two meals included. . . but you may find more expensive rooms if you desire.


Fares run from ¥10 and up according to distance


Taxis are cheap, and by reputation, suicidal. The old resident, however, ignores the usual effect of a Keystone Kops movie chase at headlong speed. He knows that for the most part the drivers have an uncanny skill and a way of repealing certain laws of physics, such as the one about two objects occupying the same space at the same time.

Motoring in Japan:

The roads of Japan are slowly improving, but it is still a grueling experience to travel any distance by private car. Because of the extremely heavy traffic, the narrow roads and the absence of safety law enforcement, it is strongly recommended that you do not attempt to drive yourself outside of the major urban areas. It goes on to mention that rental rates are usually about $7.50 per day, including gas and oil.



Tales from the Round Tables: Lost and Found in Translation


IN TOKUGAWA-ERA JAPAN, traders from the Netherlands had convinced the shogun that the world spoke Dutch, so when the Black Ships came crashing through the isolationist tranquility the first emissaries dutifully took their best Dutch interpreters to meet with Commodore Perry. The ensuing maneuvers, involving Dutch, Chinese and whatever other modes of communication they could draw from, were to lay the foundation for modern Japanese diplomacy, leaving us pondering what may have been lost in translation that day.

The 1930s and ’40s brought an isolationism of another form which left Japan woefully under-equipped to deal with the Second Coming of the Americans. Not only had English not been taught, it was forbidden, and the FCCJ founders had a heck of a time fighting over the handful of employable Japanese staff that could get beyond “May I help you?” In the end, however, the linguistic heroics of a number of FCCJ luminaries helped pave the short track to Japan’s economic miracle, not to mention ensuring the accuracy of the biggest stories filed by our correspondents.

One such legend, Sen “William” Nishiyama, was born in the U.S., to a samurai scholar who had sailed across the Pacific and chose to stay. There, he grew up speaking English, only making his way to Japan after his father’s death in 1936. His Masters in engineering promptly led to work on technical translations and further polishing of his already impressive Japanese skills.


To this day, Nishiyama is considered

by many to be the father of

simultaneous interpretation in Japan.


We’ve found little evidence to suggest there was any talent in Tokyo to rival him in those days, and the first real challenge may have manifested when another FCCJ legend, Ichiro Urushibara, began working summer jobs for the Occupation Forces in Tokyo as a trusted interpreter.

Nishiyama later found employment with the U.S. Embassy, where he honed his skills in the art of cross-cultural communications. To this day, he is considered by many to be the father of simultaneous interpretation in Japan. Many politicians and industry leaders came to him for guidance in building their bridges to the world, including a young Yasuhiro Nakasone – later to serve as prime minister – whom Nishiyama accompanied and coached on a trip across the United States.

Urushibara, too, worked for the GHQ. But both soon branched out into the burgeoning markets generated by new opportunities pouring in through the outbreak of hostilities in Korea. Urushibara went on to find yet another career in the entertainment industry as a bilingual radio host pioneer.

But in the midst of a heady interest in internationalization, another giant entered the field, though of a rather different ilk. Unlike Nishiyama and Urushibara, Masumi Muramatsu was born and raised in Japan. But his uniquely entrepreneurial spirit grew amidst the ruins of a defeated Japan, as he found a job as a clerk-typist for the Occupation Forces, taught himself English, and by the 1950s was recognized as one of Japan’s top simultaneous interpreters. He later made his mark as the founder of Simul International.

Each of them helped interpret the live transmission of the Apollo missions, which came to exemplify the highest elite status for interpreters in Japan, and virtually every head of state, newsmaker and celebrity visiting Japan would bid for their services.

Long-time FCCJ member Rick Dyck recalls the special relationship his Harvard professor and mentor Edwin O. Reischauer enjoyed with Nishiyama, as something similar to his famous marriage to Haru Matsukata. Born in Japan to American missionaries, Reischauer’s profound grasp of Japanese was put to good use for the U.S. military during the war, and later on during his stint as U.S. ambassador to Japan.

Since both Nishiyama and Haru were raised in thoroughly American environments, Reischauer was always quick to fill them in on Japanese historical context at every opportunity, including for the public speaking engagements at which Nishiyama would be interpreting. In the Reischauer household, the thoroughly American Haru, Dyck remembers, would serve corn flakes and scrambled eggs, when all Edwin and the children wanted was miso soup.

As FCCJ celebrates its 70th anniversary, one can only wonder how the aspirations of the generations inspired by these great interpreters have nevertheless left Japan as cellar dwellers in English proficiency amongst the economic powers of today.


      The Shimbun Alley Whisperers



From the Archives: Furry Friends in the Spotlight




The animal-loving duo of Siegfried Fischbach and Roy Horn appeared with their feline co-stars at the FCCJ on Jan. 31, 1989. The two entertainers had become famous in Las Vegas for their work with white tigers and white lions, and were on an international tour. Seated calmly at the table is Naoaki Usui (McGraw-Hill), who had been president of the Club for the previous administrative year.

BOTH ORIGINALLY FROM GERMANY, Siegfried Fischbach and Roy Horn combined animals and magic in a show that became popular across Europe. The two entertainers then took their act to the U.S., where both eventually became naturalized. Their elaborate show was a perennial favorite in Las Vegas, first at the New Frontier Hotel and Casino until 1988 and then at the Mirage Hotel from 1990 until October 2003.

During a show at the Mirage that October, Roy Horn was bitten on the neck by a seven-year-old male white tiger named Mantecore, and despite suffering from severe blood loss, insisted that no harm should come to the tiger. Horn later claimed that he had passed out as the result of taking a hypertensive medication and the animal had accidentally severed an artery while trying to drag him to safety.

The injury resulted in the closing of the show. By September 2005, however, Roy Horn was again able to walk without aid, and in February of 2009 the duo staged a final benefit appearance with Mantecore.

Siegfried & Roy retired from show business in April 2010. Four years later a press release reported the death of Mantecore at the age of 17.

Charles Pomeroy



FCCJ Exhibition

20151004 Yusuke Hanai 500

Board shorts
Sept. 05 - Oct. 02, Main Bar

Since I was a very young boy, I have always loved to draw, but becoming an artist or an illustrator never even crossed my mind. My friends and I used to draw caricatures of interesting people that we encountered in our daily lives, and shared these images amongst ourselves for a laugh. I discovered surfing when I was in high school, when the older neighborhood surfers took me to the beach. The surfers that I encountered were all quite unique, extremely funny and sometimes utterly ridiculous. These strange characters fascinated me. They became the subject of many of my drawings.

This show is the interesting, and often ridiculous aspects of surfing. I have learned so much from surfing and surfers and so there exists a plethora of interesting themes to work from. I love their individuality, how they live life with a passion, how they care about the environment, how they carry a sense of adventure, how they care deeply about their friends, how they care about their local environment, and how they try not to get caught up dragged into the system. This exhibition features illustrations I made for Surfer’s Journal along with other recent pieces.

Yusuke Hanai has been exhibited in Australia, Brazil, California, London, New York, Paris, and Tokyo. His artwork is featured in BEAMS, VANS, NIXON, GRAVIS...etc.

The Exhibitions Committee


FCCJ Exhibition



FCCJ archive photos

SEVEN DECADES OF PHOTOGRAPHY from the Club will be featured on the walls of the Main Bar this month – remembering the people that have appeared and the news that they have made. Collating, organizing – and digitizing – the collection of 70 years of photographic record is a work (not quite yet) in progress. But in the meantime, celebrate the anniversary with imagery to complement and expand on the stories extracted in this issue. For example, it’s already 30 years since the then-Crown Prince and Princess danced in public for the first time – at the FCCJ’s 40th anniversary. Take the opportunity to look back . . . and take steps to the future.


The 2010s



“But nothing I had seen in those first few days prepared me for
the stop after Kamaishi. When I saw Otsuchi, my mind went blank”

– Chang-Ran Kim
Vol. 43, No. 4
Apr. 2011






Zone of Misery


A young lad is walking along the road with a shovel, holding a bankbook covered with sand that he apparently dug out of the debris. We are parked by the side of a road in what is left of the town of Rikuzentakata in Iwate Prefecture, and photographer Rob Gilhooly is interviewing a middle-aged couple and their son as they pick through the remains of their home. They have scraped together a pathetic plastic bag full of mementoes of their life before the Great Tohoku Earthquake.


They see the boy walking down the road – they call him Ito-kun – and beckon him over. He smiles a hello, and they say they’re delighted to see him safe and sound, and ask where his parents are. The boy says he has just come from their funeral rites. There is silence. And then he adds that he hasn’t been able to find his younger brother either. I can’t stand it any more, and – to my shame – I turn from that young boy and move a few paces away. I can’t do this any longer. I need to get out of the zone of misery that has engulfed northeastern Japan.


Those very thoughts, however, trigger an overwhelming sense of guilt. I’m lucky, because I can get out, and that’s not my home that has been reduced to splinters and shards of plastic and glass.


– Julian Ryall
Vol. 43 No. 4
Apr. 2011


The 1960s

The 1970s

The 1980s

The 1990s

The 2000s

The 2000s



“Any journalist who has spent time in Tokyo will have at least heard about
the practice of self-censorship among major media organizations.
It is a subject the Number-One Shimbun has touched on before
and to which it will no doubt return”

      Justin McCurry
Vol. 37, No. 9
Oct. 2005



The vanishing foreign correspondent

Journalist Jill Carroll, studying foreign news coverage for a report published by the Shorenstein Center at Harvard University last fall, found that the number of U.S. newspaper foreign correspondents declined from 188 in 2002 to 141 last year. (If you include the Wall Street Journal, which publishes editions in Europe and Asia, the decline was from 304 to 249.) . . . After Sept. 11, 2001, there was nearly universal acknowledgment that Americans would be better off if we knew more about the world. Yet by 2004 the percentage of articles related to foreign affairs that American newspapers published on their front pages had dropped to “the lowest total in any year we have ever studied,” according to a report by the Project for Excellence in Journalism and Rick Edmonds of the Poynter Institute. (It was 14 percent, down from 21 percent in 2003 and 27 percent in both 1987 and 1977.)

– Fred Hiatt
Vol. 39 No. 3
Mar. 2007


Free at last, say foreign

journalists, freelancers

Like a surgeon gingerly tinkering with a sclerotic heart, Japan’s new government has spent its first months in office dithering over where to put the scalpel. Finance bureaucrats, the bankrupt construction state, pensions, military bases in Okinawa; the patient is ailing badly, but the Democrats have yet to make deep incisions. In one area of direct relevance to the foreign press, however, they have been praised for making real progress.

In September, new Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada announced what amounted to a minor tremor beneath the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Henceforth, foreign journalists, along with genuine freelancers and writers from magazines and cyberspace, will be allowed to attend his regular briefings. Instead of waving MOFA press cards to get in, applications can now be made online. “This is a matter of the public’s right to know,” Okada announced at the first test of this approach on Sept. 29, before proceeding to give a master class in how to host an open press conference.


The foreign minister fielded questions . . .

with answers that were crisp, clear

and free of MOFA bureaucratese.


Over 50 minutes, the foreign minister fielded questions on Okinawa, the U.S.-Japan alliance, tension with Washington and the Democrats’ battles with the bureaucracy with answers that were crisp, clear and free of MOFA bureaucratese. Okada carried on talking until he had exhausted his inquisitors, at one point ignoring official hints to wind up. More than half the questions came from the once lowly ranks of cyber scribes, who couldn’t seem to believe their luck. “That was unexpected,” Taro Kamematsu, an editor from Net-based news site J-cast, said afterward.

For years, foreign journalists and Japanese freelancers have been banging on the door of the government demanding to be let in and given the same access as their Big Media counterparts in the TV stations, wire services and daily newspapers. The weaknesses, if not corruption, of the system were clear to many, including, it seems, Okada. As members of exclusive press clubs tied umbilically to the ministries on which they reported, Big Media journalists were accused of being too close to their quarry and at times of colluding with them. Now, at a stroke, that exclusive privilege has ended.

– David McNeill
Vol. 41 No. 11
Nov. 2009


Club history

Amazing discovery in bar


NO. 1 SHIMBUN ALLEY, JAPAN—While conducting surveys for this summer’s renovation, architect Naomi Sato’s crew uncovered a rare find wedged between aging pipes in the bar – a scroll dating back to the 17th century.

Archivists who have seen the document believe it might be a rare interview with Shintaro Tokugawa, grandson of Ieyasu and brother of Shogun Iemitsu, who expelled the “barbarian foreigners” in 1639.

The scroll is still undergoing carbon-test dating and chemical analysis to verify its authenticity. But Murray Sayle, who was around back then and still remembers such things, says, “It’s mystifying how this document could find its way to the FCCJ. I’ve heard of slow mail, but this is ridiculous.”

– Roger Schreffler
Vol. 32 No 3, Apr. 2000




Club history

Storm over sumo lunch

The professional luncheon on Jan. 21 featuring former sumo wrestler Keisuke Itai has triggered off a media storm that is still rumbling around the tightly controlled world of Japan’s national sport.

The ex-komusubi revealed nearly 20 names, including that of incumbent Yokozuna Akebono, as those who regularly rigged matches for a fee. Scores of Japanese reporters attended the luncheon (without paying), and the following morning newspapers and sports publications prominently headlined the story.

– Vol. 32 No. 1
Jan. 2000



Abe: “I’m not qualified to be Prime Minister”


After Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Shinzo Abe accompanied Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi to Pyongyang for the summit with North Korea leader Kim Jong Il on Sept. 17, he was dubbed a potential future prime minister of Japan.

He became an overnight star after he came into sharp focus over his strong handling of the destiny of the five Japanese nationals who were kidnapped by North Korea in the 1970s. These abductees, held against their will, trained North Korean spies in Japanese language and customs.

The 48-year-old Abe spoke about this situation at the FCCJ on Dec. 16.

“I’m not qualified to become prime minister,” Abe said. “And I’m not the hero. The real heroes are the abductees and their family members.”

      Catherine Makino
Vol. 35 No. 1
Jan. 2003




From skeptic to proponent

It is fashionable to speculate about the death of newspapers at the hands of the internet, but it took the writing of a blog to make me understand something else – how formulaic and conventional much newspaper writing has always been. Over the past 200 years, the various kinds of articles – 800-word news piece, 1,000-word op-ed, 1200-word feature – have become genres, as restrictive in their way as a sonnet or a limerick. As foreign correspondents, we lead interesting, unusual and privileged lives. But most of what we know, think and feel, the texture of our days, has no place in a newspaper. . . .

We are in the early stages of a dramatic transition; where the rise of the internet will lead newspapers is difficult to say. For the time being, on-line journalism has less prestige than that of print, although in ten years this may well have reversed. My guess is that there will always be physical newspapers, but that they will eventually have the same relationship to online journalism that radio has to television, with a diminished audience, but a loyal one.


For the time being, on-line journalism

has less prestige than that of print,

although in ten years

this may well have reversed.


One happy consequence, and part of the logic of blogging, will be to undermine the bogus cult of “objectivity” which afflicts American journalism in particular, and makes much of it so bloodless. Perhaps blogging will restore to journalism its connection with the literary tradition from which it originally emerged, among the pamphleteers and controversialists of 16th century England.

Daniel Defoe would have had a weblog, if he’d been born 300 years later, and so would Dr. Johnson and Jonathan Swift. William Blake would have had an extravagant multi-media website, and George Orwell would have been a furious blogger, although clueless about the technical aspects. All of them would have relished the lightness and directness of the form, and its supple power, perfect too for foreign correspondents – in Asia, but not of it, looking out at the world from inside a soap bubble twenty floors up above east-central Tokyo.

– Richard Lloyd Parry
Vol. 37 No. 4
Apr. 2005



Church and State

It was supposed to be a sacred occasion, but it suddenly became rather political. The chief priest at the Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo had performed the rites of the Shinto spring festival and was emerging from the inner sanctuary, or Naijin, when he paused to offer thanks to those participating. Suddenly, he turned to the subject of Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi’s repeated and controversial visits to the shrine, where the souls of so-called “war criminals” are enshrined, along with those of countless other war-dead.

The most recent of these visits was on January 14 and the hostile reaction it provoked from Japan’s near neighbors, China especially, led a special panel to recommend that a new and secular national war memorial should be built in Japan. Koizumi has delayed action on this because of fierce opposition from within his LDP; and the chief priest, Tadashi Yuzawa, made it clear there are strong objections also within the Shinto community.

“We oppose this,” says the chief priest, suddenly shedding his mystical aura. It would, he insisted, result in a “loss of national pride,” especially among young people. He noted that lawsuits were launched opposing the switch to a secular venue for commemorating Japan’s war dead and expressed gratitude to those promoting them. What he did not mention was the larger legal or constitutional question of the separation of Church and State, an issue that seems to be characteristically fuzzy in Japan. . . .

      Anthony Rowley
Vol. 35 No. 2
Feb. 2003



A Rough Guide to computers

There’s never been a better time to buy a portable computer. They have overtaken desktop PCs in sales, so prices are competitive and designs plentiful. Probably the biggest task you face is deciding which type of portable to buy. . . .

While overkill for run-of-the-mill writing work, photojournalists and FCCJ Associate members involved in advertising, graphic design and marketing could find a laptop to be the most useful computer when on the road. Pricewise, figure paying between ¥200,000 and ¥300,000.

– John Boyd
Vol. 41 No. 4
Apr. 2009


The 1960s

The 1970s

The 1980s

The 1990s

The 2010s

The 1990s

 No1-2015-1090scover“Suddenly the Club is big news, with the mayors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki
appearing . . . and the Aum Supreme Truth people meeting reporters at the FCCJ”
– cover of Vol. 27, No. 4,
Apr. 1995



Japan: hardly a feminist hell

It’s a chicken-or-egg question. Certainly the old-boys’ network in Japan remains a powerful barrier that has shut women out and discouraged them from striving for the top – notwithstanding the successes of such women as Chiaki Mukai, the astronaut, or Takako Doi, the Socialist politician. Yet if working women want to get ahead, they also have to pay their dues and not use their gender as an excuse to shirk responsibility.

One thing seems clear. If you ask me which gender seems more free and happy in Japan today, I would say women. . . .

The very fact that women are still shut out of the major corridors of power – and thus social expectations to endure exam hell, enter the top corporations and become working drones – seems, in one sense, their liberation. They seem less molded, more free to enjoy and develop other aspects of themselves and their lives. As a result, they strike me as better balanced and more expressive.

– Teresa Watanabe,
the Los Angeles Times
Vol. 26 No 8, Aug. 1994



A drink for a friend

No1-2015-10AndersonA toast: Club Members celebrate Terry Anderson's release, Dec. 4, 1991

An extraordinary man, Terry Anderson – even though he insists he isn’t. I saw him at the FCCJ, a returned-to-life survivor of 2,455 days in the hands of terrorists in Lebanon.

I bought him a drink that had been deferred for 13 years, recalling the man I knew then, admiring the remolded being I know now.

I met him first, those many years ago, at the home of Max Desfor, AP photo chief for Asia. Terry was just in from Detroit, where he had reported the disappearance of Jimmy Hoffa and the rise of a ruthless successor.

Good guy, Terry – engaging knowledgeable, easy to like. He reveled in his trade and was superbly efficient at it. I saw a young guy full of middle-aged experience – six years in the Marine Corps, time in Nam, cynical about Washington politics and State Department policy, tolerant even then of the gravest human faults.

I would long recall the last time I saw him, even the day – May 31, 1979. . . . How could Terry and I have known that, from that time on, time would be spun in a berserk centrifuge and we were moving into an age of violent and inspiring change.

How could Terry have foreseen himself in a dark room in Beirut, talking knuckle-rap code to Terry Waite, an Anglican churchman isolated in the next room?


Terry Anderson – held on iron leash,

denied light and knowledge for months,

not even told what the world knew –

that his father and brother had died.


I could only think back to that drink-deferred day – that some other time. . . . [After an interview] Terry proposed a quick-drink trip to the officers club.

“Can’t, buddy,” I told him. “Gotta get back to Tokyo. Some other time.”

That never happened. Terry moved on. I was in Seoul when I heard a radio bulletin. A name I knew had been seized and added to the hostage pile.

Terry Anderson – held on iron leash, denied light and knowledge for months, not even told what the world knew – that his father and brother had died.

Seven years, lost and stolen – except Terry couldn’t look at it that way.

“No, I didn’t lose them. I loved them. I was there. I learned things, about myself and other people. I’ve changed in some ways, I hope for the better. I’m not going to let go of the things I got out of it.”

Chained and beaten, fed off the floor, heaped with every kind of physical and spiritual abuse – how could any man, even one hardened in the Marine Corps mold, have retrieved life and self?

No ordinary man could have done this.

Wrong, said Terry.

“It is amazing what ordinary people can do. That’s just part of the human spirit.”

I took a few minutes of Terry Anderson’s never-look-back future, putting that drink down beside him.

“I guess,” he said, “it’s going to be a long afternoon.”

And a long life, Terry, to a man who can know it as few other men do.

– Hal Drake, Pacific Stars and Stripes
Vol. 24 No. 8
Aug. 1992




Confessions of a tabloid journalist

The ethics thing. I studied ethics at school. At the time I thought it was a rather irrelevant, impractical subject. But how was I to know I’d be working for Fleet Street, where your ethical standards are constantly assailed from all manner of subtle angles? Now I wish I’d studied harder.

Take dolphins, for example. Some Japanese eat dolphins, and find them rather tasty. In Britain they eat all manner of disgusting things, but the British pantheon of hypocrisy enshrines dolphins, along with whales, seals and various other wildlife not commonly found around the British Isles, as things which only a rank barbarian, or outright murderer indeed, would eat. Being self-righteous about another country’s eating habits is bashing at the most visceral level, of course.

One day a publication yet more scurrilous than the Mail rings me up and asks if I can find some Japanese people eating dolphins.


We are Malthusians in a carnivorous world.

Fish eat water weed, dolphins eat fish,

Japanese fishermen club dolphins on the head

and then get kicked in the privates by the tabloid newspaper

at the head of a cruel eco-system.


I found them. I picked up a girl at the dolphin counter in the supermarket; I got myself invited to a dolphin-eating party; stories and pictures were front-paged all over Britain a few days later. The story was entirely true. It was also the best-paid story I ever wrote. I threw up. We may have no conscience, but some of us have queasy stomachs.

The day after that story ran, I visited a friend who works for a Japanese tabloid. “Look at this,” he said, and showed me that day’s page 2. “British article runs trumped-up story about dolphin-eating,” said the headline. “Can you believe it?” he said. “What a pack of lies.” I had no comment.

We are Malthusians in a carnivorous world. Fish eat water weed, dolphins eat fish, Japanese fishermen club dolphins on the head and then get kicked in the privates by the tabloid newspaper at the head of a cruel eco-system. Then the Japanese tabloids prey on the pickings.

– Tom Gill,
Vol. 22 No 1, Jan. 1990



1992: The New List

What is hot and what is not in Tokyo, Japan


The Hanada Brothers

Rie Miyazawa

Kiichi Miyazawa

Calpis Water

Sun-blocking hose

Narita Express

California wine

Foreign beef

American football

Safe sex

Meiji milk stock



Karaoke box

New World Order

Yoshiaki Mori



Chiyonofuji, Onokuni

Akina Nakamori

Toshiki Kaifu


Leather skirts

Limousine Bus

Beaujolais Nouveau




NTT stock



Pub crawling

Global partnership

T. Boone Pickens




Why Japan crashed

We Americans invariably tend to imagine Orientals as wise, patient and cunning. In movies and on television, the Japanese especially seem cool and calculating, in counterpoint to the plodding Americans.

Such images, reinforced by the success with which the Japanese sold us everything from automobilies to television sets, made it easy to imagine several years back that we faced a future controlled by the clever Japanese. In early 1989, columnist Jack Anderson darkly warned: “From Manhattan to Waikiki, they have bought up prime real estate and started up new plants. Japan is building a sub-economy in America that is outproducing the regular economy.

“This could also lead eventually to the collapse of American manufacturing. It also gives Japan a dangerous measure of control over our economy. Every so subtly, control is shifting from Washington to Tokyo.”

Such ominous prophecies were echoed by pundits from left to right, from liberal investment banker Felix Rohatyn to conservative publisher Malcolm Forbes, from journalists like Susan and Martin Tolchin to erstwhile strategist Edward Luttwak: The United States was facing a people who combined wisdom and cunning with an unbreakable national discipline that made Japan the tidal wave of the future. . . .

      Richard Pyle, AP
Vol. 18 No. 2
Feb. 1996



Bush’s Collapse Triggers Tape Turmoil

The complete, vivid videotape of President Bush throwing up all over Prime Minister Kiichi Miyazawa was available that same night but U.S. and Japanese TV news editors did not know it existed for at least 48 hours, No. 1 Shimbun learned.

What most viewers saw on Jan. 8 was the unauthorized and abbreviated coverage by NHK, of the American leader on the floor at the state banquet, being treated for nausea and stomach flu.

Two days later, Tom Reid, the Washington Post bureau chief, reported that the entire sickening series of events had been captured on tape. “President Bush reeled, vomited, passed out and toppled from his chair in a faint,” Reid reported. “The tape, which shows a frightened Barbara Bush leaping to assist her husband, was viewed by the WP. It has not been broadcast in Japan or the U.S., and officials of the network that was responsible for filming the dinner denied that such a tape existed. . . .

“[The] tape was shown in London on Channel 4,” [ABC-TV’s John] Herrick said. . . . For a few days no one realized the British station had a world-wide TV beat. In any case, ABC got the tape and showed it in the U.S. That led the Japanese networks to protest that the Americans had scooped them with the full, disgusting footage. . . . So, to salvage international cooperation, the full tape was released to the Japanese networks – and finally the populations of both nations were able to watch Bush do his number on Miyazawa.

Footnote: According to Reuters, Barbara Bush said she knew the president wasn’t seriously ill because, while he lay on the floor, she heard him say to Miyazawa, “Why don’t you roll me under the table and I’ll sleep it off while you finish dinner.”

– Our Video Correspondent
Vol. 24 No. 1
Jan. 1992





A journalist’s primer on word processors

Nowadays, computer memory is cheap and plentiful. Consider the Tandy 100 with 0.022Mb of memory.

– Tom Koppel
Vol. 22 No. 4
Apr. 1990


The 1960s

The 1970s

The 1980s

The 2000s

The 2010s


The 1980s


No1-2015-1080scover“ ‘Because of fog, the plane for Sakhalin may not be able to take off today.’ . . .
Outside, it was overcast. There was no plane in sight waiting for any fog to lift”
– Mary Ganz, first Western
reporter in Sakhalin, Vol. 20 No. 9,
Sept. 1988



A new type of Brother

This story is being written on yet another devilishly clever Japanese product. It weighs all of two kilograms, runs on four flashlight batteries, prints 132 characters – that’s 44 more than an ordinary typewriter – and is as quiet as a desktop calculator, which it also happens to be.

“Those bastards have done it again,” was the response of a veteran American reporter, who begged me to sell him the demonstrator model for which I had gladly forked out the full price. The product went on sale in Japan, Canada and the U.S. just before Christmas.

The Brother EP-20 Personal Printer threatens to do to portable typewriters what the Sony transistor did to the vacuum tube radio.

The machine has a memory function which allows the writers to make corrections on a liquid crystal screen instead of making mistakes on paper. This gem costs all of ¥48,000, which according to the built-in calculator, comes to $195.90 at present rates of exchange.

– Andrew Horvat
Vol. 14 No. 12
Dec. 1982



No Shakespeare festival

The King broods in his castle, an aging despot corrupted by power and besieged by physical ailments. His scheming, avaricious wife and the general who is his most trusty crony may have conspired to murder the pretender to the throne.

Now, challenged by the pretender’s widow, they try desperately to keep matters from unraveling into the worst of all possible nightmares.

As the King cowers inside the moat, his two most trusted allies hatch new plots against him, and the nation’s religious leader rallies the people in the name of God to help overthrow the tyrant.

The King has threatened repeatedly to crush his enemies. But with his very survival at stake, he must decide whether to retaliate. His power is eroding. He fears the judgment of history. He hesitates . . . and then it is too late. The King flees and his crown is claimed by – who else but the widow of the man whose murder began it all?

MANILA—The hundreds of journalists who spent February in the Philippines are to be excused if they thought they’d blundered into a Shakespeare festival. But no question: the fall of Ferdinand Marcos and the triumph of Corazon Aquino must rank as one of this century’s great political dramas, one about which even the most calloused reporter could hardly be cynical.

When it was all over, one heard Richardo Cruz, cab driver No. 1 at the Manila Hotel, say: “We owe you foreign journalists a lot. Without you, none of this would have happened.

Such comments were heard often in the aftermath of the “people’s power” revolution that vaulted an obscure 53-year-old housewife into the presidency of the world’s 16th-largest nation.

– Richard Pyle
Vol. 18 No. 2 
Feb. 1986


Plus ça change?

Abe says he’ll do his best

On Sept. 4 [1985] . . . four representatives of the foreign press were invited to the Foreign Ministry for a meeting with Shintaro Abe, the foreign minister. The meeting lasted about 30 minutes. Below is a transcript of some of the exchanges that took place through an interpreter. . .

Abe: Freedom of the press is one of the basic principles of democracy in Japan, and any restrictions or limitations on the activities of foreign correspondents might be perceived as a symbol of the closed character of Japanese society, which would be very undesirable. . . .

Before I entered politics I myself was working as a reporter for about ten years and I belonged then to various kisha clubs. Of course, individual reporters are free to do their work as they please, but the kisha clubs themselves are managed very strictly and are organized in a very old-fashioned way. When I was working inside them I felt myself that the system should be reformed quickly. I remember that when I was young I and some others used to talk about improving the kisha club system, but the system was very strong, with a very long history and traditions going back as far as the Meiji Era.

The press is supposed to uphold the banner of democracy and freedom, and from that point of view the kisha club system is misguided. . . .

I have traveled around the world a great deal, but I have never seen anything like our kisha club system anywhere else. But I think things will get better now.

– Vol. 17 No. 8
Aug. 1985




China’s Sankei syndrome

China’s refusal of visas to two Sankei Shimbun newsmen due to accompany Prime Minister Zenko Suzuki on his visit to China early this fall seems to have been a singular non-event in the Japanese newspaper world. No official protests are known to have been made, either by the Foreign Ministry or the Japan Newspaper Publishers & Editors Association, and even the Sankei seemed resigned, terming the incident “deeply regrettable” in a nevertheless strongly worded editorial. . . .

The Sankei – which has an office in Taipei – is the only major Japanese daily without a bureau in Beijing. Maybe because, as one observer said, “the Sankei prefers printing the kind of juicy gossip that can be picked up in Hong Kong or Taiwan to the official pronouncements handed out in Beijing.”

– Vol. 14 No. 11
Nov. 1982



Club history


Equal to equality? The inimitable Murray Sayle, adventurer/raconteur/correspondent, tries to redress (or undress) the balance between the appearance of many topless women within the pages of the early No. 1 Shimbun. History will record his success or otherwise.

– Vol. 15 No. 4
Apr. 1983




Plus ça change?

Kisha clubs present problems for photographers too

How can I adequately describe the kisha club system in Japan without using such words as “medieval,” “byzantine” or “antiquated.” It is difficult for the Western mind – and especially the American mind – to grasp. We are talking about a tight group which is expected to pretty much print as gospel what is handed out to them by the news source. One veteran photographer who learned I was writing about press access in Japan joked, “Gonna be a short story, huh?” Photo District News recently asked the Foreign Press Center here in Tokyo what a visiting photographer can expect these days in terms of access to news events. The answer was terse. “Not much.” (Gee, thanks a lot.) “Generally speaking, freelance photographers have a hard time.” (Hit me again.)

– Sonia Katchian
Vol. 20 No. 2,
Feb. 1988


The verdict

[From the courtroom at the announcement of the verdict of
former Prime Minister Kakuei Tanaka’s trial for the Lockheed affair]

Iwould hesitate, then jump from my seat, run down the hall and scramble down seven flights of stairs. . . . I leapt on a waiting motorcycle and raced to the Denki Building where, within minutes after the verdict, I was at the lobby tobacco shop phoning the world’s largest news organization with an exclusive English-language eyewitness account.

I was put on hold. Our Tanaka guilty bulletin was already out, quoting Japanese reporters seen dashing out of the courtroom on live television. All I had to offer the watching world were a few notes, later to be distorted in transmission, describing the look of defiance on Tanaka’s face as he slowly sat down after learning he had been sentenced to four years in prison.

By 10:20 a.m. I had gone to the 20th floor and executed my duties as a pool reporter by typing out three sloppy pages of notes and eating a free hamburger.

Later, when I returned to the courtroom to relieve Nancy Ukai, the other pool reporter whose lyrical notes were to put my terse scribblings to shame, my interest in the proceedings had shifted from hard news to soft pornography. While the long row of defendants frustrated my perspective of Tanaka, I had a clear and unobstructed view of Mieko Enomoto [the former wife of defendant Toshio Enomoto, Tanaka’s former secretary] in the spectators’ gallery.


The conservative wool suit was to offset the saucy image

she’d created by baring her breasts

in a recent issue of Japan Penthouse.


I can’t tell you what color tie Tanaka was wearing or whether it hung several inches below his belt as is his custom, but I can tell you that Mieko had her hands clasped on her knee as she crossed her shapely legs. Her fingernails were painted gold. Ms. Enomoto, who attained instant tarento status when she ratted on her ex-husband in a dramatic 1981 court session, first captured my attention upon entering the courtroom about 15 minutes before the session began.

A tall siren in a plaid suit whose neck was clamped in a white brace, she probed about with a hungry gaze, as though searching for a cinematographic “cute meet.” The neck brace, one could deduce from local reports, was for a case of whiplash she sustained in a recent traffic accident. The conservative wool suit was to offset the saucy image she’d created by baring her breasts in a recent issue of Japan Penthouse.

Now, as her ailing ex-husband sat rigidly listening to the lengthy and detailed text of the verdict – he had his wrists slapped with a one-year suspended sentence – Ms. Enomoto sat poised, but hardly alert. Her bovine brown eyes fought off sleep. For her, as for many in the courtroom, the grand finale was getting bit dull.

Tanaka himself made little effort to conceal his impatience with the formalities of justice. Judge Mitsunori Okada tried to read the ruling as quickly as possible, but it took more than 1½ hours. Tanaka for his part struck a series of theatrical poses with an air of restlessness and defiance. One moment he would freeze with his jaw resting in a palm and his elbow propped on the table as he gazed thoughtfully at his closed fan; then he would rock back in his chair and roll his neck with his eyes closed. He was a lion in a cage, captured but not tamed by the court.”

– Karl Schoenberger,
Vol. 15 No. 11,
Nov. 1983




Fear and loathing in the people’s paradise

PYONGYANG—The government interpreter shifted uncomfortably on the wooden pew of the Protestant church built here as a showcase to North Korea’s supposed freedom of religion. The Rev. Pak Chun Gun leaned forward in his seat, listening politely to the insistent question of the American reporter.

“Who is more important?” I asked the pastor. “President Kim Il Sung, or God?”

The interpreter, an advanced English-language student at Kim Il Sung University, regarded me with a look of blank innocence.

“Who’s God?” he asked.

      Richard Read
Vol. 21 No. 9
Sept. 1989


The 1960s

The 1970s

The 1990s

The 2000s

The 2010s


The 1970s


“In some distant day, when this Indochina War can perhaps be
put in some sort of perspective, students of Journalism may be
able to chronicle the work of the thousands of
Men and Women who covered the conflict”

– Edward Q. White,
Vol. 4 No. 11, Nov. 1972

Club history

Club votes to move

With a target date at the end of the year, the Club will relocate atop the new Yurakucho Denki Building. The move was overwhelmingly approved by the general membership on Monday, Oct. 13.

Not that it was overwhelmingly welcomed. The move was accepted as inevitable. Those members who had taken advantage of an opportunity to inspect the proferred premises were impressed by the view from on high. . . .

Dissenters found the present Club comfortable and convenient, and concerned that reliance on elevators would discourage patronage. Supporters felt the new plant would be a magnet for increased patronage, especially at night.

      Irwin Chapman
Vol. 7 No. 10
Oct. 1975


Plus ça change?

A new boom in making weapons

Some of the statements of Mr. Yasuhiro Nakasone, Defense Agency Director, have stirred the weapons industries to such an extent that it is now referred to as the danyaku buumu. Nakasone is a long-time advocate of Japan’s rearmament. . . . He is of the opinion that Japan’s diplomacy in the international arena will not be effective unless it is backed up with military power.

      Sivapali Wickremasinghe,
Vol. 3. No. 4
Apr. 1970


Bomb at our door

It was just after I had come downstairs to the Club office that it happened. [The bombing of the Mitsubishi Heavy Industries’ head office by the East Asia Anti-Japan Armed Front.] The loud shock of the blast left little doubt in my mind that something very serious had occurred, either a bomb or a gas explosion. Everyone around me seemed stunned and not a little frightened. I was told later that several correspondents upstairs listening to Foreign Minister Toshio Kimura immediately jumped up and ran out.

I dashed out the side door and ran toward the street. . . . I ventured out from behind the edge of the building, crossed the street and started down the sidewalk toward the smoke. Several jagged pieces of glass hurtled down, smashing into the sidewalk only a few feet behind me. Instinctively, I ran into the middle of the street and continued to the next block. Just ahead of me was Happy Mayger with his camera and one of Ian Mutsu’s MGM cameramen, Kakun Sho, grinding away with his movie camera. . . .

Then I saw it. The lifeless body of a naked man lying in the gutter, one leg completely blown off. It was a shocking sight to see a human being smashed and torn like that. It was impossible to make out a face. I turned away and noticed a man lying in the street, obviously badly injured, with someone trying to lift up his head. Another covered him with a coat. . . .

An American businessman named Garfield Becksted said he’d been crossing the street coming up from the Club when the bomb went off. “I saw a Japanese woman lying on the sidewalk across the street. I rushed over and tried to take her in my arms, but she died before I could do anything,” he said.

– Andy Adams
Vol. 6 No. 9,
Sept. 1974

No1-2015-10BombClose call: Club secretary Sam Jones was on the scene
to take this photo, which was used in Number 1 Shimbun



Plus ça change?

The Okinawa story after the reversion

They say if you drive north of Koza and Kadena Air Base, Okinawa is really quite nice – green mountains, white sand and blue seas. But in the 20-mile-long strip south to the concrete-block capital of Naha, you have to endure the incredible congestion of the grittiest, sultriest urban military sprawl this side of Norfolk, Virginia. It’s the worst of Japan and America combined. . . .

The setting is hardly scenic. Some 600,000 of the 900,000 Okinawans are jammed into the strip, cheek by jowl with the U.S. Army’s logistics depot, most of the 80,000 Americans, cheap California dependents’ housing, used car lots, root beer stands and enough saunas and steam baths to accommodate the U.S. Marines.

Maybe the Japanese can do something with the place. The Americans certainly haven’t. The town planners missed the boat, or weren’t invited, when the boom got underway in the 1950s. Everyone admits that the bases monopolize the best land, but no one knows what to do. . . .

Maybe it will all be transformed in the post-reversion, non-nuclear world.                                        

– John M. Lee
Vol. 4 No. 3
May 1972


Emperor meets press


Emperor Hirohito of Japan, seated in the splendor of an audience room in the Imperial Palace a few weeks ago, defended his role before and during World War II as that of a constitutional monarch. . . .

The meeting with foreign newsmen, which officials of the Imperial Household Agency emphasized was an audience and not a press conference, was limited to the media of nations the Emperor and Empress visited on the trip that was the first for a reigning emperor ever outside of Japan.

But the event in itself, like the journey through Alaska to Europe, was another indication of an increasingly self-confident Japan that is groping to find better communications with the rest of the world.

Until now, the Emperor’s contacts with the foreign press have been limited to private audiences with senior news executives and an occasional audience in which correspondents were merely introduced to him. He also saw two American correspondents briefly just after WWII. Japanese newsmen see the Emperor briefly once or twice a year.

But today, in the spacious audience room known as the Shakkyo-no-ma, with the ornate picture of a red-maned noh actor hung in the background, was the first time the Emperor permitted questions to be directed at him from foreign correspondents.


The Emperor said today:“At that time, some of the leaders

of the government were missing,

so I had to act decisively on my own.”


Under the rules set up by the Imperial Household Agency, the questions were submitted to the Emperor beforehand. But newsmen were allowed to ask one follow-up question to each prepared question.

It was in response to those that the gentle and dignified Emperor was spontaneous and forceful. In one such answer he added to the historical record of the prewar and wartime period.

He recalled what is known here as the “Ni-ni-roku jiken,” an incident of Feb. 26, 1936, in which fanatic young army officers seized downtown Tokyo, held it for three days, and assassinated four government leaders.

Many historians have credited the Emperor for having ordered vacillating generals to put down the coup, but have lacked firsthand evidence. The Emperor said today: “At that time, some of the leaders of the government were missing, so I had to act decisively on my own.”

Similarly, near the end of WWII in 1945, the Japanese government was split between those who wanted to surrender and those who wanted to fight to oblivion. . . . He said today: “At the time of the end of the war, Prime Minster Suzuki left everything to my discretion, so I had to make a decision. But that decision was taken at the responsibility of Prime Minister Suzuki.” The Emperor indicated that he considered both actions within his prerogatives as a constitutional monarch.

      Richard Halloran
Vol. 3 No 12
Dec. 1971



Heigh ho, heigh ho . . . The press pack are taken to the Imperial Household
for a first-ever meeting with the Emperor and Empress



Plus ça change?

Confessions of a female chauvinist

I hate men:

When the spokesman at a press briefing says, “My, we have many lovely ladies among us today.”

When the maitre d’ rushes up to me and says, “I’m sorry but this table is for the working press.”

When another reporter asks me, “Where are you going today, to a fashion show?”

When they say, “When are you going to get married?|”

When they ask, “Isn’t it too hot to wear slacks?”

When I am taking pictures of a demonstration and male demonstrators smile at me.

A wire service’s Tokyo bureau, with its cross cultural representation of chauvinists, is to women’s liberation what the aborigines of Australia are to anthropologists – one of the last vestiges of primitive society where sexual equality is concerned.

– Kathy Talbot
Vol. 7 No. 9


The 1960s

The 1980s

The 1990s

The 2000s

The 2010s


The 1960s


“Newspapers must not be run behind closed doors.
They must face the masses, and must have the general orientation
and at the same time be fresh and lively”

– editor John Roderick quotes Mao Tse-tung,
first edition of No. 1 Shimbun, Sept. 1968


Club history

Press clubs, pros and cons

Kisha (press) clubs, not the sources or the media, determine who covers the news, what questions are asked in many cases, what information is released to the public and generally, how news media conduct their news-gathering operations. The press clubs are able to enforce their will because the sources cooperate with them and do not violate rules the clubs set down. Some officials and politicians complain privately that unless they go along with the clubs they will be attacked publicly. In reality, the clubs are so close to their sources that most of what is printed is just what the sources want printed.

      Richard “Dick” Halloran,
Vol. 1 No. 4
Dec. 1968


Why No. 1 Shimbun?

In the days immediately after World War II, most of Tokyo lay in ruins. Street addresses – in a country which never had them anyway – were a problem. What was to be the address of the newly established Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan? One of the many geniuses in our membership back then hit upon the happy solution, “No. 1 Shimbun Alley.” Despite three moves, the post office continues to deliver mail and telegrams to us promptly if it carries that address. Since shimbun, as anyone here for 15 minutes could tell you, means “newspaper,” what better name for our paper than No. 1 Shimbun?

Vol. 1 No. 1
Sept. 1968



“Femen” ja nai:
A news skit at the Club’s 23rd anniversary party – perhaps the only time
topless women in the Club’s early days actually carried a message.

Vol. 1 No. 4
Dec. 1968



Two hours with a Nobel Laureate

Yasunari Kawabata is known for being taciturn. At first, one is struck by his apprehensiveness, which, for an interviewer, would seem to foreshadow a difficult and evasive conversation. Yet after an exhaustive day, disrupted by friends and run-of-the-mill interviews with dozens of Japanese journalists, he willingly saw me for an interview which was to last a quarter of an hour and, at the most, a half hour. It lasted two hours.

Mr. Kawabata said: “I considered for a moment refusing the Nobel Prize because I was judged on translations, which are excellent by the way . . . and though the Nobel Prize is a very great honor for an author, an honor to which I had aspired without believing I would achieve it, it is also, perhaps, a very heavy burden.

“But through me, I felt that the Nobel Academy wanted to render homage to our tradition, to the Japanese sense of beauty, and especially to honor all Japanese literature. Until now, it hasn’t been appreciated abroad, but perhaps, at last, it may shine thoughout the entire world.

“I feel nevertheless that I owe a great deal to my translators; also to Yukio Mishima, who didn’t receive the Nobel Prize last year because of his youth, but who has drawn attention to Japanese literature. It’s a pity . . . he’ll have to wait longer.


"Through me, I felt that the Nobel Academy wanted

to render homage to our tradition,

to the Japanese sense of beauty,

and especially to honor all Japanese literature."


“. . .what I’m looking for particularly is to beautify, embellish death. But death here doesn’t have the same meaning as in Christian Europe. The Japanese tradition isn’t immoral. It’s amoral. It is synonymous with nothingness.

“The Japanese – whose culture has been shaped by Zen – are particularly absorbed by the idea of nothingness, or rather by its contemplation. It is comparable to Western nihilism, but there is a great difference between the two conceptions. In the East, nihilism is a type of philosophy which seeks harmony between man, nature and nothingness.”

Kawabata regards affectionately a figurine in Haniwa earthenware on a lacquered table and points it out to me. It dates from the Fourth Century after Jesus Christ and he emphasizes that it is purely Japanese, preceding by two centuries the appearance of Chinese civilization on the Japanese archipelago.

He admires its simplicity and at the same time its great warmth. The hollow openings that form the eyes and mouth invite the eye to plunge into the interior, into the emptiness and obscurity, into nothingness.

“All my life is a search for beauty and I will continue searching for it to the moment of my death.”

– Jean-Francois Delassus
Vol. 1 No. 3
Nov. 1968



Club history

To the Moon and back

Members and their guests were glued to the television sets (20 of them, all color,
provided by Toshiba and Sony) in the main bar, stag bar, dining room and corridors
as moon man Neil Armstrong put down the earth’s most celebrated foot on the lunar
surface. Others clustered around teletypes in the library to read
the running accounts by AP, Reuters and UPI.

Vol. 2 No. 8,
Aug. 1969




Honda has no fears

What new developments are on the drawing board in [Honda founder] Soichiro Honda’s lab? “That’s a secret,” says Honda. . . . I asked whether a completely automated brake is still a pipe dream for now. “Why?” asks Honda. “You can’t say it’s impossible.” Then he goes on about an electronic beam, a sort of radar system that not only would sound the alarm when a vehicle approaches, but would make the necessary corrections in the car. “That at least would be one situation the driver wouldn’t have to worry about,” he remarked.

– Thomas Ross,
Vol. 2 No. 1
Jan. 1969


The 1970s

The 1980s

The 1990s

The 2000s

The 2010s

Think Ink!





THE FRONT PAGE OF the first issue of the No. 1 Shimbun, which appeared in September 1968, featured the following message from then-President Henry Hartzenbusch:

For a bunch of foreign correspondents to undertake to publish a monthly newspaper is, I believe, the height of reckless courage. . . . Try to imagine how critical a readership composed exclusively of newspapermen – and their friends – is likely to be! . . . So for this first issue of No. 1 Shimbun I can only salute the courage – or should I say the reckless foolhardiness – of the editors. And hope that no one will venture with gun or horsewhip into the sacred inner sanctum to show them how a paper ought to be put together.

Thankfully for the Club, there have been enough “foolhardy” souls over the years willing to maintain the publishing record of the No. 1 Shimbun on a regular basis, while upholding the mission defined by its first editor, China expert and AP man, John Roderick: to give Club members “a chance to read, appraise [and] enjoy the journalistic accomplishments of our brethren.”

And luckily, despite the always-spirited membership and their widely diverse opinions, weapons have never become part of the editorial process.

On this occasion of the Club’s 70th year, we present a small but representative selection of excerpts from articles that have appeared in the No. 1 Shimbun, celebrating the contributions of the many members – editors, writers and photographers – who have helped keep the publication lively, interesting and relevant through changing times and an evolving media world.



The 1960s

The 1970s

The 1980s

The 1990s

The 2000s

The 2010s



Origins: Remembering a difficult birth


No1-2015-10MacLetterThank you note: 76 journalists signed a letter of appreciation to Gen. Douglas MacArtur--
before they realized strings were attached to access.

A tough post-war battle over censorship between

correspondents and the Occupation authorities

led to the formation of one of the world's

great press organizations.

by Eiichiro Tokumoto



t 8:50 a.m. on Sept. 2, 1945, under gray, overhanging clouds, a U.S. navy launch made its way across the waters of Tokyo Bay. Its passengers – a party of 11 men making up the Japanese delegation to the surrender ceremony – wore anxious expressions as they pulled up alongside the U.S.S. Missouri. Headed by Foreign Minister Mamoru Shigemitsu, the group was met on the deck by awaiting representatives of the U.S., Great Britain, the Soviet Union, China and other Allied nations. As a multitude of American sailors looked on quietly, General Douglas MacArthur, Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers, began his speech.


“We are gathered here, representatives of the major warring powers, to conclude a solemn agreement whereby peace may be restored. . . . It is my earnest hope, and indeed the hope of all mankind, that from this solemn occasion a better world shall emerge out of the blood and carnage of the past. . . .”

Shigemitsu and a senior member of the Japanese military affixed their signatures to the surrender document, followed by various national representatives. After six years almost to the day, the Second World War was brought to an end.

On Sept. 3, the day after the ceremony, General MacArthur received a letter of thanks, signed by 76 correspondents from the Associated Press, CBS, the BBC, Reuters, the Soviet news agency TASS and others. This letter is now in the Hoover Institution Archives at Stanford University in California.


If the reporters expected MacArthur's

staff to change their ways,

they soon learned otherwise.

“Dear General MacArthur,” the letter read. “We would like to express our appreciation of the arrangements for the coverage of yesterday’s surrender ceremonies. We wish to thank you. We wish to thank Brigadier General Diller, and we wish to congratulate Lieutenant Colonel Powell and others of the press relations staff for the work and forethought that so effectively anticipated the varying needs of writers, photographers and broadcasters. . . . Rarely has so large a body of newsmen been accorded the chance to see history at such close range unfold.”

The letter clearly conveyed the enthusiasm of having witnessed an historical event, but ironically it was this letter that was a critical shot in an ongoing battle between MacArthur and correspondents, as well as being a catalyst in the creation of the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan.

As the head of GHQ, MacArthur forcefully proceeded with the demilitarization and democratization of Japan. His aim was to reform the political system, including the constitution, as well as the economic and education systems. But throughout the general’s military campaign in the Pacific, he had strictly controlled press reports, and if the reporters expected MacArthur’s staff to change their ways, they soon learned otherwise.

THE HEADQUARTERS WAS QUICK to censor any negative media reportage of Occupation policies, and Occupation authorities saw strict regulation of the press as part of the job. One reporter who personally experienced this was Keyes Beech, correspondent for the Chicago Daily News (and also president of the FCCJ from July 1948 to June 1949).

In his memoir, Tokyo and Points East, Beech wrote that in the beginning GHQ accorded journalists the same treatment as high-ranking military officers, providing them with lavish homes with servants. At that time, Japan was described as “the only place where a reporter can live like a publisher.” But Beech also found disadvantages to such deferential treatment, “an invisible price tag on this luxury.”

“It was never mentioned, but it was always there,” he wrote. “The price was conformity to the MacArthur doctrine that everything in Japan was perfect . . . the point was that if you accepted these things from MacArthur the Good Provider – and you had no alternative but to accept them if you wish to remain in Japan – you were not supposed to criticize. That was almost literally biting the hand that was feeding you . . . . Correspondents were supposed to be content with the handouts. Questions that went beyond the handouts were unfriendly.”


"During four years of life under MacArthur

I learned to dislike dictatorships, no matter how benevolent.

And MacArthur was a very benevolent man."


One day, Beech approached Major General Hugh Casey, MacArthur’s chief engineer, and asked him how much the Occupation was costing both American and Japanese taxpayers. When pressed for details, Casey replied in an irritated tone, “I don’t think the people of Chicago are interested in such details.”

Beech wasn’t about to let it go. “I replied with equal irritation that I did not propose to tell Casey how to build a bridge and that I did not want him to tell me what might be of interest to the people of Chicago. . . . from this and similar experiences during four years of life under MacArthur I learned to dislike dictatorships, no matter how benevolent. And MacArthur was a very benevolent man.”

But reporters like Beech were in the minority; most were content to follow the GHQ line.

“. . . most correspondents in Tokyo – and I refer specifically to the major news agencies – dutifully fed the MacArthur line to American readers word for word, even though they often knew that what they were sending was not the truth or at least not the whole truth. Their justification was objectivity. In short, MacArthur had said it, and even if what he said was an outright lie it was not their responsibility to contradict him.”

BUT WHEN CENSORSHIP RULES stayed draconian despite the war’s end, protests eventually began to gather steam. And what eventually sparked a revolution was the Oct. 12, 1945 announcement that a “quota system” would be put into effect, with the aim of reducing the number of foreign correspondents. The various news bureaus were assigned a quota for the number of reporters they could bring in, and the correspondents were reverted to civilian status, effectively giving GHQ control over their food, housing and transportation. The person who put the new system into practice was none other than the same Brigadier General LeGrande A. Diller who the correspondents had mentioned in their thank you letter following the surrender ceremony. Soon they began to refer to the high-ranking officer with the less flattering nickname of “Killer” Diller.

According to former United Press correspondent William J. Coughlin’s book, Conquered Press, Gen. Diller threatened the reporters: “We are getting tough. And we are going to get tougher. We are not going to let you give MacArthur’s critics in the States any ammunition. . . . Don’t forget the Army controls the food here.”

That was the final straw. The infuriated reporters met in a conference room at the Radio Tokyo building to discuss ways they could defy the military’s efforts to stifle their reporting. They decided, wrote the New York Herald Tribune’s Frank Kelley and the London Daily Telegraph’s Cornelius Ryan in their book, Star-Spangled Mikado, “to officially notify the Supreme Commander that the association would set up its own press hostel and provide accommodation, no matter how bad, for all correspondents ‘whatever his creed, race or color,’ arriving in Japan.”


Hughes described the club as “the liveliest and

least conventional residential club in the world”

and “makeshift bordello, inefficient gaming-house

and blackmarket centre.”


They arranged to rent the Marunouchi Kaikan, a five-story building in the Marunouchi district, from its owner Mitsubishi. In October 1945, the Tokyo Correspondents’ Club, the forerunner of the FCCJ, was founded. It consisted of a dining room and bar on the ground floor – nicknamed No. 1 Shimbun Alley – and upstairs, a room for press conferences as well as sleeping facilities. When the Club opened for business in November, the membership was approximately 170 reporters.

Australian correspondent Richard Hughes agreed to work as the General Manager for a salary of $80 a week plus free board and half-price on drinks. In those days, the club was a place where foreigners and Japanese were free to come and go. In his personal memoir, titled Foreign Devil, Hughes described the club as “the liveliest and least conventional residential club in the world” and “makeshift bordello, inefficient gaming-house and blackmarket centre.”

Wrote Hughes: “We had a mixed membership of war-weary correspondents, the world’s best reporters and combat photographers, liberal, conservative and radical commentators, and some of the world’s most plausible rogues and magisterial scoundrels. . . . No one can pretend to be uninformed in a press club. News and revelation, scandal and fact – bizarre and blue-bolted – are always on tap at the bar – at first or second hand.”

According to Hughes, the most popular bedroom among correspondents was Room 7 on the fourth floor. “I have a waiting list of seven residents who wish to transfer to Room 7. . . . This popular room overlooks the large windows of the showers and two bedrooms in the Soviet women’s billet next door. The Russian girls seldom draw the blinds.”

IT WAS NOT ONLY GHQ that attempted to influence stories by press club members. In January 1949, the Times correspondent Frank Hawley covered the political situation following Japan’s general election. On Feb. 26, British political representative in Japan Sir Alvary Gascoigne received a letter from Prime Minister Shigeru Yoshida via Yoshida’s secretary. According to declassified documents of the British Foreign Office at the National Archives in London, the letter contained a protest over Hawley’s article.

“My attention has been called to certain recent articles in the Times, in which I and my party are represented as being ‘opposed to the Allied Headquarters policy’ and harboring a ‘dislike of the ideals of Anglo-Saxon democracy’. . . . I regret that such absurd, malicious and grossly distorted notions about my party, which are circulated for propaganda by our political enemy, should have been swallowed by the Times correspondent here, and accepted by Times editors in London.”


"This popular room overlooks the large windows

of the showers and two bedrooms in the

Soviet women’s billet next door.

The Russian girls seldom draw the blinds.”


In his own report to the Foreign Office in London, Gascoigne showed a deep understanding of the role of the press and how to deal with them. “I am not, of course, replying to this letter on paper,” he wrote. “I have simply told Yoshida’s Private Secretary to remind his chief that the press in the United Kingdom is entirely free and that what is written in the Times is not necessarily connected in any way with the trend of official thought held in London. . . .  I mean to show Yoshida’s letter to Frank Hawley, the local Times representative, next time he comes to see me. But I shall do so of course in jocular fashion and with no show of attempting to influence him one way or the other.”

Recently the government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in particular, have shown dissatisfaction over articles written by foreign correspondents, and been criticized for their attempts to intervene on the articles’ contents. But perhaps it’s a bit unfair to single out PM Abe for such efforts. Since its founding in 1945, the FCCJ has always been something of a gadfly toward the powers that be, including GHQ.

Arising from the ruins of Tokyo 70 years ago this month, the Tokyo Correspondents Club and the subsequent Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan has been the home away from home for legions of distinguished journalists, spawning many dramas and legends. Along with the stories they filed, the old black-and-white photos adorn the club’s lobby as a testament to their presence.

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



Club Premises: On the move

 No1-2015-10Move2The view from the 20th: Looking from the current Club at the preparatory work
being undertaken for the new building.


A report on where things stand in negotiating

a new location for the FCCJ

by Peter Langan



fter about 40 years in its current location in Yurakucho, The Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan plans to move to a new home several blocks up Nakadori in the direction of Tokyo Station to a brand new building to be constructed by the Mitsubishi Group. Those familiar with the area will recognize it as the site of the former Tokyo Kaikan.

For those Members who couldn’t attend the Town Hall event at the FCCJ on Sept. 8 to explain some of the proposed floor plans for the new Club, this article is an attempt to fill in some of the blanks, answer some questions and hopefully generate more debate among the membership about what they want their new Club to look like and what do they want to get out of it. (On these points Anthony Rowley has kindly agreed to pull together a survey of the membership to gather more feedback, so please expect that questionnaire to drop into your email box at some stage.)

The proposed move-in date to the fifth and sixth floors of the new building is October 2018. That may seem a long way off, but it’s only about 37 months and counting. The new FCCJ will be about 22 percent larger overall than the current Club. It will look out onto Nakadori and Kajibashidori. We are working on a design that will create a light-filled main bar and dining area that will occupy the corner of the fifth floor looking diagonally across to what’s colloquially known as the Marunouchi brick building across the street. This floor running along Kajibashidori will also have an open veranda area with views of the Imperial moat and grounds at one end.

The cover of Number 1 Shimbun in 1975.

A lot of time, meetings and report-writing have already gone into this project in the past year and more by members such as Martin Koelling, Kurt Sieber, Michael Penn, Michael King and many others. And the House & Property Committee has been holding meetings twice a month with Mitsubishi and its interior design unit, MEC Design International.

These meetings have mostly been brainstorming sessions on floor plans that would best serve all the various functions of the Club: its core press conferences, its bar and banqueting, work pods for journalists, an audio-visual editing room, a safe and efficient environment for staff and a wonderfully well-stocked, comfortable library. Other possibilities include a separate wine bar and a new membership class that would give journalists the option of having a private office space inside the club. We are investigating the potential demand for the latter among Regular Members.

The FCCJ will have exclusive elevators from basement parking areas to the fifth floor, where the main reception will be and the entrance to press conferences, bar and dining areas, as well as other rooms for meetings and smaller banquet places. The elevator to the sixth floor will open into areas to include the journalist work pods, the library and staff offices, along with the proposed locations for the Sushi Bar and Wine Bar.

We are at the point where we will have made some decisions by the end of September on a number of key issues: The location of the kitchen, the location of interior stairs connecting the two floors (this is inside the Club itself; of course, elevators outside the Club premises will also connect the fifth and sixth floors) and the main press conference/banqueting area.

The next most immediate goal is to find and hire a project managing company to represent the FCCJ and ensure that our plans and needs for the new Club are fully communicated to Mitsubishi, and to monitor the construction process. The H&P Committee have now shortlisted two project managers out of five interviewed and are close to making a decision to get one of them hired in the coming weeks, pending Board approval.  

Many other items and suggestions came up from staff and members at the Town Hall meeting that we have already relayed to Mitsubishi, and we intend to have more Town Halls on the new Club as the project proceeds. Please do try to attend at some time so the new Club can reflect as much as possible what the members want.

We want the new Club to capture and retain the FCCJ’s history and traditions for all members. It will also need to meet the evolving needs of journalism as technology changes the way content is delivered.

Meantime, if any members have any queries or suggestion about the new Club, please let General Manager Tom Yanagi know and he can forward to the H&P Committee. We have an exciting three years ahead.

As with the Yurakucho Building location, discounted parking will be available. The location is a 4-minute walk from the Chiyoda Line’s Nijubashimae Station and the Hibiya Line’s Hibiya Station, 5 from Yurakucho Station and 9 from Tokyo Station.

Peter Langan is the chair of the FCCJ House & Property Committee.



New Members in September



UWE SCHWERING is the Tokyo bureau chief and correspondent for ARD German Television, the nation’s biggest public broadcaster, covering Japan, South and North Korea, Taiwan, the Philippines and Pacific Islands. Schwering holds a master’s degree in German, Politics and Geography. He started his career as a freelancer for Westdeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung (WAZ) before joining NDR in Hamburg in 1994, where he worked as a domestic reporter. In 2000, Schwering moved on to the foreign department, becoming editor and reporter for “Weltspiegel,” the renowned foreign affairs program. After a London assignment (2003 to 2008) he became head of NDR’s foreign desk and member of the newly founded pool of reporters for investigative feature films and documentaries.




JEFFREY QUIGLEY is the chief editor for Japan and South Korea at, where he writes primarily about IT startups and venture capital. Born in New Jersey and raised in Upstate New York, he covered the HIV/AIDS crisis in Urumqi, China for the Philadelphia Inquirer while still an undergraduate at La Salle University in 2007. He relocated to Japan in 2009, spending two years on the JET Program in Hokkaido before settling down in Tokyo. He was an editor at the Diplomat’s Tokyo bureau before joining TechinAsia in April 2014. He’s also a contributor to the ACCJ Journal and his work often appears on



Eiji Isshiki, Dwango
Takashi Ugajin, Dwango



Jeong Jiun, Embassy of the Republic of Korea



Shota Ishii, State Street Global Exchange
Eiji Kiyone, Mainichi Broadcasting System
Itsuki Kurosu, Toyota Motor Corporation
Naoya Kitamura, Kaga Electronics Co., Ltd.
Tetsuo Kanno, Wacom Co., Ltd.
Mayuko Machida, Gurunavi, Inc.
Masaharu Shirasugi, Intelligent Wave Inc.
Sohei Takatsuki, International Education Centre & Co., Ltd.
Hisao Taki, Gurunavi, Inc.
Kazuhito Yoshihara, UBP Investments Co., Ltd.



Ryusuke Matsui, Citibank Japan Ltd.

Exhibition: "Board Shorts"



artwork by Yusuke Hanai


SINCE I WAS YOUNG, I have loved to draw, but becoming an artist or an illustrator never crossed my mind. My friends and I drew caricatures of people who we encountered in our daily lives, and shared those images among ourselves for a laugh.

I discovered surfing when I was in high school. The surfers I encountered were all unique, funny and sometimes utterly ridiculous. The characters fascinated me and became the subject of my drawings.

Now, I make my living as an illustrator. In the beginning, my drawings were heavily influenced by surfing and surf culture in general, but lately, I have expanded into other subjects and genres.

Surfer’s Journal Japan recently asked me to draw a series of single-panel illustrations for each issue. My subject matter is the interesting, often ridiculous, aspects of surfing. I have learned so much from surfing and surfers. I love how they live life with a passion, care about the environment, have a sense of adventure, care deeply about their friends and how they try not to get caught up or dragged into the system.

In this exhibition, I have displayed the illustrations from the Surfer’s Journal along with a few of my recent pieces.

Yusuke Hanai found passion in art after discovering Grateful Dead album cover artwork. He left Japan for the U.S. in 2003 to study illustration at the Academy of Art College, San Francisco. He was invited to participate in the 2007 Happening in New York City. Yusuke continues to capture the hearts of many people worldwide and has exhibited in Australia, Brazil, California, London, New York, Paris and Tokyo. Yusuke currently lives in Japan.


My Lawsuit vs. the National Diet Press Club


No1-2015-9DietHajime Shiraishi outside the National Diet Press Club building.

Two years after being denied access to a building

shared by media organizations,

a journalist tries to keep her case alive.



by Hajime Shiraishi



HE FOUR-STORY NATIONAL DIET Press Club Building, located in the middle of the Kasumigaseki government district and a stone’s throw from the prime minister’s residence, was built in 1969 with a budget of ¥600 million allocated by the House of Representatives. If rents were to be charged to its occupants, it would very likely see revenues of ¥8 billion per year, but the newspapers and TV stations that belong to the Kokkai Kisha Kurabu, the National Diet Press Club, have had the use of its spacious rooms measuring as large as 100m2 for free over the past 45 years.

In September 2012, I filed a lawsuit against the national government and the Reporters’ Press Club concerning this building.

Earlier that year, on July 6, I had hoped to do an internet broadcast of a demonstration to be held in front of the prime minister’s official residence, opposing the restart of the Ohi nuclear reactor. Reporting for OurPlanetTV, I was headed for the rooftop of the Reporters’ Club Building, where I thought I could get a superb birds-eye view of the anti-nuclear power demonstrations. Some two weeks earlier, Tokyo Shimbun had run an impressive full-page photograph shot from the same location.


While the facility was government-owned,

the reporters’ club had de facto control over its use,

and it was dead set against use of the building

by an interloper.


I was stopped and refused admission at the building’s entrance. “Today, no media other than National Diet Press Club members can enter,” said the custodian, Toshiyuki Saga. “You don’t qualify.” Though I protested, in the end I was unable to gain access.

I consulted an attorney, who used a variety of measures in attempting to negotiate with the office of the House of Representatives, which owns the building, and the club, but was ultimately unsuccessful. While the office of the House of Representatives made an effort to recognize my right to use the roof, it was the club that held the key to the solution, and they were opposed. While the facility was government-owned, the reporters’ club had de facto control over its use, and it was dead set against use of the building by an interloper. Its authority, it seems, effectively supercedes that of the law concerning government property.

Arguing that banning my entry to shoot a protest demonstration constituted an intrusion on media freedom, as well as discrimination against internet media, I sued the state and the kisha club in September 2012.

At a hearing, Mr. Saga, who blocked my entry, and who is himself a former political journalist for Kyodo Tsushin, argued that the club was looking out for its members. “For 120 years, since Meiji times, it was not the practice for anyone to relinquish their own vested interests,” he testified, adding that, “Internet media is in competition with television, and magazines compete with newspapers.”

We have submitted evidence that we believe demonstrates how the National Diet Press Club engages in discriminatory practices as well as how the building’s operators engage in preferential operations. One thing of interest that has come up during the trial is the ambiguous manner in which the building is run.

On one hand, the government has argued that the roof of the reporters’ building is dangerous, and that is has thereby prohibited all photography from the roof, including by members of the club. Paradoxically, the reporters’ club argues that it controls the roof, which it can use “appropriately.” In other words, the two plaintiffs in my lawsuit are arguing from diametrically opposed positions.


Unfortunately, in March of this year, the Tokyo High Court declined to hear our case. The decision, which disregarded the contradictory positions on utilization of the roof, merely stated that OurPlanetTV had no right to its use.


The building represents the single most convenient

channel between the government and the mass media,

and for political journalists is second to none

in terms of its proximity to the center of power.


The court also ruled that while Mr. Saga’s treatment was discriminatory, the National Diet Press Club itself had no “illegal motives.” In other words, since the club stated that it had no “illegal motives,” this made it true – an extremely peculiar decision on the part of the court.

At the end of May we appealed this decision to the Supreme Court.

During the period when the Democratic Party of Japan was in power we saw changes in attitudes toward the press. Press conferences by ministers were made more open, and the closed nature of reporters’ clubs underwent considerable liberalization. Yet the National Diet Press Club maintains its dogged refusal to allow access to the roof of its building, with its ideal bird’s-eye perspective.

The building represents the single most convenient channel between the government and the mass media, and for political journalists is second to none in terms of its proximity to the center of power.

It is to be hoped that the Supreme Court, one of the three pillars of a government that maintains separation of powers, will understand the significance of the problem and issue a fair judgment regarding Japan’s media.

Hajime Shiraishi outside the Diet Reporters’ Club

Hajime Shiraishi is the director of OurPlanetTV, a non-profit, alternative news site.


What's Ahead for the Financial Times?



The sale of the business paper

has observers feeling hesitant

about what it all means.

by Justin McCurry



ULY’S SHOCK ANNOUNCEMENT THAT the Financial Times had been sold to the Nikkei Group raised questions about the Pink ‘Un’s future as part of an organization that is respected for its command of the minutiae of stock markets and Bank of Japan Board meetings, but which rarely sets pulses racing in the Fleet Street tradition.

In many ways, Nikkei was the safest of two possible suitors, the other being Axel Springer, publisher of the German tabloid Bild. After all, the FT and Nikkei’s flagship paper serve a similar readerships and a belief in the virtue of free markets.

Nikkei’s chairman and chief executive, Tsuneo Kita, quickly promised that in his hands the FT’s editorial integrity would remain intact. “We share the same journalistic values,” he told reporters In Tokyo. In an email to employees, Nikkei management said it was not planning job cuts and that the FT would “continue to enjoy complete editorial independence and freedom, just as all news organizations should have.”


But as FT staff gathered around TV screens

to digest the news,

some could barely conceal their disquiet.


The email continued: “We want the FT to be extremely profitable, and we want to achieve this through investments that lead to more customers and exciting new products, not through a reduction of the workforce.”

But as FT staff gathered around TV screens to digest the news, some could barely conceal their disquiet. Former Tokyo correspondent Ben McLannahan tweeted from New York: “Nikkei CEO: ‘we share the same journalistic values’. Really.”

His colleague in Washington DC, Alice Ross, noted: “Smug colleague is sending emails in Japanese #sigh.”

In contrast to the chatter in FT bureaus, Nikkei insiders say there has been surprisingly little newsroom discussion in Tokyo. Reflecting the sort of prudence that critics say informs much of the Nikkei’s solid, if slightly dreary, coverage, reporters and editors here appear to be biding their time until the US$1.3bn cash buyout is formally completed, pending regulatory approval.

BUT ONE JOURNALIST INVOLVED in Nikkei’s English-language operation cautioned against the idea that the new arrangements would see the editorial heart ripped out of the FT by risk-averse Japanese managers. “I think those fears are exaggerated,” the journalist, who did not wish to be named, told the No.1 Shimbun. “I doubt that Nikkei would have spent that much money on the FT simply because they wanted to change it.”

In buying the FT from Pearson, Nikkei has given notice of its intention to appeal to a wider, international readership, in contrast to its Japanese rivals, which appear content to soldier on in the domestic market, despite falling readership and ad revenue.

The deal was probably the best way Nikkei could realize its international ambitions without having to develop a strategy of its own from scratch, said Philip Brasor, author of the Media Mix column for the Japan Times.

“I don’t necessarily see a clash,” he said. “The FT’s reputation is pretty solid internationally, and I can’t imagine Nikkei wanting to mess with it. Nikkei’s ‘problem,’ if you want to call it that, is that its own ability to break news early is based on its close association with business insiders, but Nikkei’s content is also considered dull, the kind of stuff you have to read in school because it’s required.”


Perhaps too much is made of the Nikkei’s failure

to uncover the Toshiba accounting scandal, given that

all major Japanese media organizations were

guilty of falling asleep on the job.


Brasor, though, isn’t convinced that Nikkei’s stated laissez-faire attitude towards editorial policy will last. “The Financial Times staff seem to be relieved they weren’t bought out by a more similar media company, such as Bloomberg. But I wonder if in the long run Nikkei won’t try to change the FT workplace, especially if they see it as an investment first,” he said.

Perhaps too much is made of the Nikkei’s failure to uncover the Toshiba accounting scandal this summer, given that all major Japanese media organizations were guilty of falling asleep on the job. And it was the monthly business magazine Facta, founded by a disgruntled former journalist for the Nikkei, not the FT, which broke the news of similar corporate wrongdoing at Olympus in 2011.

Nevertheless, there is no question that the two organizations hail from very different journalistic traditions – the cut-throat, irreverent approach of many British journalists, and the more methodical, risk-averse methods preferred by their Japanese counterparts.

But that doesn’t necessarily guarantee a clash of newsroom cultures, according to one journalist familiar with reporting in both countries. “The Nikkei doesn’t do anything to separate itself from a Japanese system that we know to be inherently suppressive of real journalism,” the journalist said on condition of anonymity. “So I wouldn’t single the Nikkei out as not sharing the FT’s values. I would say that the Japanese system of journalism, on the whole, does not resemble the system of journalism in which the FT evolved.

“In end, I think Nikkei are quite pleased they have now got something that’s going to be a mischief-maker. They want it to be a mischief-maker. They don’t want to be known as something that harmed the FT brand. It’s like if Yamaha bought Harley-Davidson, and decided that chrome was a bit too much. No one would ever take Yamaha seriously again.”

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.



Asian Sports That Should Be in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics


This month, the IOC must decide which sports to add

to the 2020 Tokyo Olympic schedule.

Japan obviously is cheering for baseball.

There are a few other Asian sports that should be considered –

but very likely won’t be.


by Todd Crowell
illustrations by Andrew Pothecary




Highly popular in India, Bangladesh and Iran, Kabaddi is an indoor sport in which two teams send “raiders” into the opposing side and win points by tagging opposition players. It may have peaked as a global sport in 1936 when it was a demonstration sport at the Berlin Olympics. There is already a Kabaddi World Cup, invariably won by the Indian team.*




Although the differences are fairly subtle to those not schooled in the martial arts, sport ju-jitsu is not the same as judo. Its practitioners insist it is a separate sport altogether and should be recognized as such. Ju-jitsu has deep roots in Japan, going back at least to the fighting techniques of 16th-century samurai warriors. (Judo evolved from ju-jitsu at a later date.) Both disciplines manipulate an opponent by using their force against them, but judo puts more emphasis on throws. It was a demonstration sport in the 2009 Asian Games.



Dragonboat Racing  

A team paddling sport with ancient pedigree – though it has become popular only in the past two or three decades. It got its boost in Hong Kong where the annual Dragonboat Festival in mid-summer is a major event, with dozens of contests held along the coastline. The boats are richly decorated, usually with a dragon head at the front and a dragon tail at the rear. It differs from crew in that the contestants use paddles, not oars, and the coxswain beats cadence with a drum.*



Muay Thai

This is what most of the world calls Thai boxing. In addition to gloved fists, Thai boxers kick with their bare feet. The fighter utilizes punches, elbows, knee strikes, in all about eight legal points of contact that are mostly prohibited in regular boxing. Thailand’s most important 19th century monarch, King Chulalongkorn, took a personal interest in the sport, helped boost its popularity and established its rules. A favorite for movies featuring various martial arts stars.*




This is a little unfair as Xiangqi is a board game, which are not played in the Olympics. But it is a medal sport in the Asian Games where it is one of three recognized board games; the other two are chess and weiqi (igo in Japanese). It is literally called the “elephant game” in Mandarin; the animal is featured on some of the pieces (and is known in the West as Chinese chess). It is a two-person strategy game, popular throughout the Chinese world and Vietnam. It is played with round disks, and the object is to capture the king. The Asian Xiangqi Federation bestows the title of grandmaster. A World Mind Sports Games Championship, a kind of cerebral Olympics, and which features Xianqi, began in 2008.*



Sepak takraw

Popular in Thailand and throughout Southeast Asia, the term Sepak takraw comes from the Malay for “kick” and the Thai for “ball.” Takraw is similar to volleyball as it is playedwith a net, but it is also similar to soccer in that players (save for the server) cannot use their hands. The sport requires great agility, with players sometimes doing a full flip after spiking the ball. Origins of the sport go back centuries in Thailand, which hosts the annual world championship.*




Pétanque is a variation of bowls, in which players stand in a circle and throw a metal ball to a small wooden one. It is mainly a French game, but it is played in parts of Southeast Asia – especially Laos and Vietnam – because of past colonial influence. The 2007 World Pétanque Championship was held in Pattaya, Thailand, and it is part of the Asian Games.*




Literally, “martial arts,” in Mandarin. It is now considered a competitive sport on par with other offshoots originating from martial arts such as judo or taekwondo, and it is said to be China’s most popular sport. The rules were codified in the early years of the People’s Republic as basically a judged sport, where the players are graded on various moves, kicks and throws. The International Wushu Federation organizes the World Wushu Championship tournament held every two years. Efforts to make wushu an Olympic sport have not been successful so far, but there is a head of steam behind it, which makes wushu the mostly likely non-Japanese prospect on this list to be approved.*




An umbrella term for a variety of competitive martial arts forms that have evolved in Malaysia and Indonesia (where it is called Pencak Silat). There are, in fact, more than a hundred known silat styles in the region, some involving the use of bladed weapons such as the kris. It is a recognized sport in the Asian and Southeast Asian Games.*




Aside from vistas of Mount Fuji, cherry blossoms and sushi, nothing says “Japan” so much as sumo. Two behemoths enter the ring, psych each other out and then spring forward, grappling and pushing until one of them falls or is pushed outside the ring. It is over in a few seconds. It has never caught on globally aside from occasional foreign exhibitions and isn’t even in the Asian Games. But it has become a kind of international sport with the influx of foreign wrestlers, led in the 1980s by Hawaiian-born Konishiki, the first foreign ozeki, and Akebono, the first foreign yokozuna, or grand champion. Mongolians currently dominate even though professional sumo is not played in Mongolia.

* Played in the Asian Games

Todd Crowell is the author of the Dictionary of the Modern Asian Language.


Profile: Daniel Eskenazi


Setting up shop in Tokyo as a freelancer

was a challenge for this Swiss journalist,

but not an impossible one.

by Tyler Rothmar


ong before he became a reporter covering business and economics, Daniel Eskenazi had an interest in people and their stories.

A French-speaking Swiss, Eskenazi was born in Lausanne and grew up in Geneva. A first close encounter with mass media came during his study of sociology and anthropology at the University of Lausanne, for which he travelled to Gabon to produce a paper on the role of radio in Gabonese culture and its link to oral tradition. While he did some writing for radio during that time, he was primarily working towards a critical understanding of the media’s role in society and censorship.

“Much of the culture that was in the tribes before, the telling of ancestral stories or announcements of deaths in the community, was broadcast on the radio,” he recalls. Even the televisions were used as radios – people listened to them as they went about their day, but few watched.

After returning to Switzerland and briefly considering a career in anthropology, he settled on journalism “because it gives you a chance to travel, and you don’t have to be always in front of your desk.” In 1999 he began working for Swiss national radio in Geneva for a stint of hands-on training. “I was the last guy who got to cut the tape on the reel-to-reel. Very soon after, it all became computerized,” he remembers.


He freelanced with several organizations covering

the economy and finance, and noticed that the economy beat

was a path less trodden among his peers. “


Eskenazi began to learn the ropes during the two-year period in which Swiss journalists are expected to apprentice with a media outlet. He freelanced with several organizations – including the Swiss publications Banco and Bilan – covering economy and finance, and noticed that the economy beat was a path less trodden among his peers. “The competition was not so hard compared to writing about politics, and many of the people who actually study economics in school don’t end up working as journalists,” he says.

A three-month contract for Swiss newspaper Le Temps in Geneva in 2003 eventually led to work as a contract correspondent in Zurich covering economy and finance in 2004. He covered mainly industry and start-ups, he says. “I’m always interested in new companies and how people make that transfer from university studies to entering the business market.”

As his girlfriend had lived in Japan since 2011, three years ago Eskenazi decided to close the gap of their long-distance relationship. “I thought Tokyo would be a good destination, and I had already been here once for work, covering the airline industry, so I came over.”

Setting up shop as a freelancer was a challenge, he says, but after the Tohoku earthquake and Fukushima nuclear disaster, and the later launch of the prime minister’s “Abenomics” plan, there was an appetite in Switzerland for stories about Japan. Eskenazi continues to freelance for Le Temps, Bilan, and Efficience 21, and says there is still competition among French-speaking correspondents covering Japan, especially now that interest in disaster-related stories clusters chiefly around the March anniversary. As a result, he has expanded his repertoire by exploring video and photography and establishing a blog.

“I decided to start the blog almost out of frustration, because sometimes you want to sell an article but they don’t want it. So I said, ‘Okay, I’m going to write it, so at least it will be on my blog rather than on my hard drive.’” Eskenazi is now studying photography, a facet of his work that can also be found on his blog when it isn’t being sold along with his articles. “In this way I’ve been expanding my journalistic knowhow,” he says.


“In Europe, if a company is having problems,

they want to address it. Here, it seems

many are afraid of the questions they will face

from the foreign press."



Joining the FCCJ was one of Eskenazi’s first moves after arriving in Japan, and he can be found working on the 19th floor most days, a habit he formed early on to avoid the noise of building construction beside his home. “The Club is quiet and a great place to get access to people and news,” he says, “and the library staff are very helpful.” Eskenazi has all but given up his study of Japanese, and will have to be content with speaking French, English, Spanish and German. “I’m okay with it,” he laughs.

He is active at the FCCJ as a member of both the Special Projects (SPC) and Professional Activities (PAC) committees, and would like to see more PAC events with CEOs. “In Europe, if a company is having problems, they want to speak about it, to address it. Here, it’s the opposite, and it seems many are afraid of the questions they will face from the foreign press. They want to have rules and know the questions in advance.

“We were lucky with animator Hayao Miyazaki,” he continues. “We arranged a press conference in his studio, and it was amazing.” Eskenazi wonders if the compromise of hosting press conferences at company HQs might help to land events with the CEOs of Toyota, Sony and Fanuc, but thinks it will take time. Meanwhile, he will continue to look for the human connection in stories about business, finance and green energy. “I’m always more interested in the stories than the numbers,” he says.

Tyler Rothmar is a Tokyo-based writer and editor.


Parsing the Prime Minister


The world’s media reacts to PM Shinzo Abe’s address

on the occasion of the end of WWII.

Was it worth the eight months of nail biting?



Abe Focuses On Japan’s “Lessons Learned”

To be sure, the Abe Statement will be scrutinized – and undoubtedly criticized – in the days to come for what he did not say. Before that conversation unfolds, it would be wise to identify what he did say. First, Abe reinforced his country’s commitment to regional reconciliation and the principles of peace outlined in Article Nine of the postwar constitution. Second, he spoke of the “quiet pride” of those postwar Japanese who rebuilt their country, and outlined their continued desire for shared peace and prosperity with their Asian neighbors. Finally, he has also done what no previous prime minister has done – acknowledged with gratitude the tolerance of the very people Japan harmed most deeply in last century’s war, and credited them with his nation’s postwar recovery.

– Sheila A. Smith, the Diplomat


With WWII Statement, Japan’s Abe Tried To Offer Something For Everyone

In his highly anticipated speech Friday marking the 70th anniversary of Japan’s World War II surrender, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe stopped short of delivering a full-throated apology for his country’s wartime actions – and ended up fully satisfying no one. . . . Harumi Arima, an independent political analyst, said Abe’s 25-minute statement could have been condensed into 30 seconds.

“It would have been so much simpler for them to agree to if he stuck to the key words as requested,” he said. “He squeezed every possible thing into the statement, but that blurred the focus and made me wonder what he really wanted to say.”

– Anna Fifield, the Washington Post


N. Korea Slams Abe Statement For Lack Of Apology

Japan is talking about the future and responsibility and contribution in the international community, without making an apology and reflection on having not yet liquidated the monstrous crimes and unspeakable damage done to the Korean people. It is an unpardonable mockery of the Korean people and an act of deceiving the international community.

– Korean Central News Agency (North Korea)


Japan’s Abe Stops Short Of Apology For World War II

“History is harsh,” he said.             – AP


Japan WW2: PM Shinzo Abe Expresses “Profound Grief”

Mr Abe walked a careful line, maintaining previous apologies, but also saying future generations should not have to go on apologising endlessly. He did not deviate from the now standard wording of Japan’s official apology, but also sought to cast Japan’s 20th-Century history as anti-colonial. Japan’s defeat of Russia in 1905 had, he said, encouraged many people under colonial rule from Asia to Africa.

He also made it clear he thinks the world cannot continue demanding apologies from Japan forever.

– Rupert Wingfield-Hayes, BBC News


Shinzo Abe Divides Our Region With A Rewrite Of Japan’s War History

Initial English-language media responses to the Abe statement have been muted. Many quote Abe’s expression of “profound grief” and “eternal, sincere condolences,” and his repeated references to the need to “engrave the past in our hearts,” but some suggest that he did not go far enough with his apologies. The White House promptly issued its own statement welcoming Abe’s “commitment to uphold past Japanese government statements on history.” These responses fundamentally misinterpret the nature of the Abe statement. This is not a well-meaning but cautious expression of regret for the war. It is a radically different take on the war which rewrites Japan’s modern history. Japan’s most prominent right-wing revisionist, Fujioka Nobukatsu, certainly got the point: he describes the statement as “nicely crafted,” and expresses his personal sense of relief on reading it.

– Teresa Morris-Suzuki, the Age (Australia)


Abe Stops Short Of Offering Fresh Apology For War

Japan’s prime minister Shinzo Abe has expressed remorse for the Second World War in an ambiguously worded statement that will do little to dispel lingering resentment over his country’s actions. . . . “The Abe administration doesn’t think there was anything wrong that Japan did in the war – they just think it was unfortunate that they lost,” said Tessa Morris Suzuki, a professor of modern Japanese history at Australian National University. . . . Mr Abe reluctantly inherited the Murayama Statement, issued in 1995, which carried a “heartfelt apology” and stated that Japan had engaged in a “mistaken national policy.” The prime minister’s own statement, which included references to the millions of Japanese deaths in the war, was nearly three times longer, reflecting his divided loyalties, said Andrew Gordon, a professor of history at Harvard University.

– David McNeill, the Irish Times


Abe “Drowns” Apology In Long Lecture

The tiresome political game forced Abe to say “apology” and “aggression” and several other magical words that he originally wished to exclude, so it seemed he decided that they should come in a lengthy historical lecture by Professor Abe. The statement will hardly have the major influence on developments in the region that some had feared and others had hoped for. In the end, it drowned in its own (many) words.

– Asger Christensen, on Danish radio’s “P1Morgen”


Japanese PM Shinzo Abe Makes Guarded Statement On Wartime Aggression; China And South Korea Remain Sceptical

– The South China Morning Post


Shinzo Abe Echoes Japan’s Past World War II Apologies But Adds None

[Abe] said Japan had practiced “aggression,” a term first used by Mr. Murayama that is disputed by Japanese rightists. Mr. Abe himself had previously questioned the labeling, but it has become too integral to Japan’s position to cut without being accused of revisionism. Along with “colonial rule,” “remorse” and “heartfelt apology,” it was widely seen as an unavoidable term. Thomas Berger, a historian at Boston University, said Mr. Abe’s “sprawling, four-page history lesson” risked giving the impression that he was trying to dilute Japanese responsibility by portraying the war as a “kind of historical tsunami for which no one should be blamed.”

– Jonathan Soble, the New York Times


Abe’s Watered-Down Apology Fails Sincerity Test

The tuned-down apology is not of much help to eliminating Tokyo’s trust deficit. It fails to firm up – if not serving to further undercut – the credibility the Abe government needs to put Japan’s interaction with its Asian neighbors back on track. Thus the “normal country” dream Abe has long been trumpeting gets no closer. The way leading to that goal cannot be paved by reluctance to extend an unalloyed apology for the atrocities committed by imperial Japan.

– Tian Dongdong, Xinhua


An Apology On Points

Abe said that the positions by the previous cabinets would remain unshakable into the future. “Japan has repeatedly expressed the feelings of deep remorse and heartfelt apology for its actions during the war.” Thus, Abe once again used a trick he often uses. While he says that he upholds the apologies of his predecessors, he carefully avoids uttering them himself.

– Patrick Zoll, Neue Zürcher Zeitung (Switzerland)


For Japan’s Abe, A Delicate Balancing Act In Expressing “Profound Grief’ For WWII

As he began working his way through his long-awaited speech marking the 70th anniversary of Japan’s World War II defeat Friday, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe did as many had predicted, expressing “profound grief” over the loss of life and “sincere condolences” to the victims. But sorry, it seemed, was still the hardest word.

– Justin McCurry, the Christian Science Monitor


S. Koreans “Disappointed” With Rhetoric, Absence Of New Apology In Abe Statement

Yang Sun-im, president of the Association for the Pacific War Victims, said Abe might as well not have issued a statement at all. “When he says the future generations won’t have to apologize, he’s essentially saying they can start another war,” Yang said. . . . “Abe is turning his people into warmongers.”

– The Korea Herald


Abe: We’ve Said Sorry Enough Times

As social media users across Asia were quick to point out last night, some of the key expressions of atonement and apology in the Murayama apology were expressed indirectly or in the past, rather than the present, tense. . . . The prime minister referred in euphemistic terms to the so-called “comfort women”, many of them Korean and Chinese, who were forced to work in frontline brothels. . . . “It shows the pain and confusion of the speech writers,” said Koichi Nakano, a professor at Sophia University, and an outspoken critic of Mr Abe. “On the one hand, they are trying not to apologise, and on the other, not to make this too obvious.”

– Richard Lloyd Parry, the Times, (UK)


Abe Statement Fails Sincerity Test

“I would not rate Abe’s statement below 50 on a scale of 1 to 100 although I understand it was not fully satisfactory,” said Yeoul-soo, a professor of international political science at Sungshin Women’s University. “It’s regretful that he did not issue his own apology over Japan’s wartime past.”

Lee Myeon-woo, a senior researcher at Sejong Institute, agreed. “Abe included all four terms that we deemed essential – colonial occupation, invasion, regret and apology – in his statement but it was uncertain whether he was being sincere in his remarks,” he said.

– The Korea Times


Abe: “Profound Grief” For WWII, But Japan Can’t Keep Apologizing



Abe Statement Was Vague In All The Wrong Places

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe made a hash of his long-anticipated statement on Friday commemorating the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II. He was vague where he needed to be forthright – on colonialism, aggression and the “comfort women” system – and came up short in expressing contrition by outsourcing his apology to his predecessors. As a result, the Abe statement represents significant backsliding from those issued by former prime ministers Tomiichi Murayama and Junichiro Koizumi in 1995 and 2005 that helped Japan and its victims regain some dignity. Furthermore, Abe expressed perpetrator’s fatigue, calling for an end to apology diplomacy. But a recent NHK poll suggests that only 15 percent of the country oppose apology while 42 percent support such gestures, so, yet again, Abe is out of touch with Japanese sentiment.

– Jeff Kingston, the Japan Times


Abe’s “Remorse” For Japan’s Misdeeds Falls On Deaf Ears In Korea

Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe might have been better off saying nothing than to indicate on the eve of the 70th anniversary that Japanese are fed up with having to apologize and apologize for their role in that terrible period. Abe in his statement no doubt intended to show how deeply he regretted whatever Japan had done during the war and the colonial era, but many Koreans see his remark that Japan “has repeatedly expressed the feelings of deep remorse and heartfelt apology for its actions during the war” as suggesting Japanese are tired of saying the same thing.

– Donald Kirk, Forbes


Who Needs Yasukuni?

 No1-2015-9AbeCucekRegrets? I’ve had a few. But then again . . .
PM Abe giving his speech for the anniversary of the end of WWII.
He didn’t visit Yasukuni shrine.


There's a reason Shinzo Abe has given up

performing one of his most symbolic acts.

And it might not be what you think.

by Michael Cucek


Something very odd has occurred in the world of Japanese politics: For over a year and a half, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has managed to avoid visiting Tokyo’s Yasukuni Shrine, which hosts the spirits of those who died in military service to the Emperor. After a lifetime of faithful pilgrimage, the supposed arch-hawk Abe hardly speaks of the place, the purportedly irreplaceable heart of his revisionist, militarist agenda.

To be sure, Abe is not alone in his sudden seeming loss of passion. In fact, this year’s fraught 70th anniversary of the end of World War II passed without incident or much enthusiasm by many in the political spectrum. Only three members of Abe’s staunchly conservative Cabinet, all women, paid their respects in person at the shrine. Only one member of the Liberal Democratic Party’s directorate, policy chief Tomomi Inada (again, a woman) visited. And although around 60 or so members of the Diet took part in the famed “Let Us All Pay Our Respects At Yasukuni” mass visit, that was a big drop from the 83 members who attended in Abe’s first year in office.


There is an explanation that requires that he be neither

a Machiavellian prince nor a run-of-the-mill political hack:

Shinzo Abe does not visit Yasukuni

because he has found something better.


Three days after the anniversary, Abe’s spouse Akie did pay her respects at the shrine. Possibly it was a means of compensating for her husband’s absence. More likely it was to provide her with political cover: her love of all things Korean and her opposition to many of her husband’s security initiatives have made her a target of Japan’s xenophobic and paranoid rightists.

Abe himself, however, came only as close as the official end-of-war memorial service with the Imperial Couple at the Budokan, a 300-meter walk from the main torii gate of Yasukuni. Representing Abe in spirit at Yasukuni on Aug. 15 were a masasaki altar decoration and a sum of money, hand delivered by his protege Koichi Hagiuda, the militant of the House of Representatives widely described as the mouthpiece for Abe’s true feelings.

This cooling attitude toward Yasukuni seems hard to fathom, given what is allegedly known about the prime minister. Prior to his return to the premiership in 2012, Abe famously expressed regret that he had failed to pay his respects at the shrine during his first term (2006-7). After Abe’s reelection, doppelganger Hagiuda warned the press that Abe needed to do a Yasukuni visit every year.

ABE DID MANAGE TO stay away from the war memorial for 365 days. The hope inside the Abe circle may have been that the governments of China and South Korea would recognize his sacrificing of his vow to visit and, in return, would reward him with invitations to meet presidents Xi Jinping and Park Geun-hye. After a full year of waiting in vain, though, Abe went ahead with a visit, despite having received explicit warnings against doing so from the Obama Administration.

Since that provocative Dec. 26, 2013 visit, however, Abe has stayed away, despite a lack of U.S. pressure (having been ignored by Abe once, the U.S. government is likely reluctant to test his resolve again). He has done so despite continued cold shoulders from the leaders of South Korea and China.

Conventional explanations for this seeming about-face are that Abe is a pragmatist and a politician. The former argues that Abe has a calculating nature and is able to restrain himself when a visit would damage the national interest. The latter argues that Abe is congenitally dishonest, willing to make solemn vows in order to win an election, but able to forget them once he is in power.



Yasukuni’s dilemma is that it is burdened with the spirits

of 14 convicted Class A war criminals.

This isn’t a problem when it comes to Ise.



There is, however, an explanation that requires that he be neither a Machiavellian prince nor a run-of-the-mill political hack: Shinzo Abe does not visit Yasukuni because he has found something better. A lot better.

Namely, the Imperial Shrines at Ise.

Yasukuni’s dilemma is that it is burdened with the spirits of 14 convicted Class A war criminals who were either executed by the Allies or died in prison prior to their convictions. This isn’t a problem when it comes to Ise, where the enshrined spirit is Amaterasu Omikami, the Sun Goddess and – according to tradition – the progenitor of the unbroken Imperial Line.

For centuries, the chief priestess at Ise had to be an imperial princess. From the Meiji Restoration until the Occupation the reigning emperor was the shrine’s chief priest. Even today, the chief priest at Ise is a relative (adopted) of the Emperor. Ise is also the assumed home of the Mirror, one of the three Sacred Treasures (the others being the Jewel and the Sword) of the Imperial House. The red sun on Japan’s official Rising Sun flag, the visual analog of the circular Mirror, is the symbol of Amaterasu herself.

As such, participating in rites at Ise swaddles the celebrant in Imperial symbols, and in a way that the Imperial Family cannot disdain, as it has disdained Yasukuni since the 1979 enshrinement of the Class A war criminals.

ISE’S RELATIONSHIP TO THE Imperial House has allowed it to hover above the separation of church and state arguments that have bedeviled efforts to win official status for Yasukuni. Indeed, the very first church/state dispute of the Occupation Period was over Ise, when Japanese officials asked whether or not the Showa Emperor could travel to the shrines to inform his illustrious ancestor of the outcome of the war. (Occupation authorities approved the visit under the legal fiddle that the Emperor was acting on his own in a private capacity).

Mie Prefecture, the home of the Ise Imperial Shrines, is also the prefecture in question in the Supreme Court’s Tsu decision of 1977, which ruled that public officials could have Shinto priests perform rites at the groundbreakings for public buildings on the assertion these were not just religious but social rites. (In his one published book, Atarashii Kuni e [“Towards a New Nation”], Abe makes mention of the Tsu decision.)

Ise is unique among Shinto shrines for its fabulously expensive (¥57 billion) Sengu rite, in which the main buildings of the shrine are torn down and reconstructed of new materials at a new location on a 20-year cycle. While the budget for the rite is officially from a shrine fund and public donations, the biggest donor is often the Imperial House, which means that to a certain extent all of Japan’s taxpayers are donors.


He followed up his hatsumode with his first

press conference of 2014, conducted at the visitor’s center

within the shrine’s precincts.


Felicitously for Abe, the most recent Sengu cycle ended and began in October 2013. He and his Cabinet took advantage of the wiggle room created by the Tsu decision in dramatic fashion, with Abe and eight of his Cabinet members looking on as the shrine’s contents, including presumably the Mirror, wended their glorious way from the old shrine to the new one.

A few months later, Abe was back, this time for his hatsumode, the first shrine visit of the New Year. He followed up his hatsumode with his first press conference of 2014, conducted at the visitor’s center within the shrine’s precincts. In January this year, Abe repeated the pattern, doing hatsumode and conducting his first press conference of the year at the shrine.

ABE’S MOST STUNNING ACT of elevating Ise to official status, however, was selecting a nearby resort to be the site of the 2016 G7 Summit. Prime Minister’s Residence officials urged the governor of Mie to apply to have the prefecture host the Summit even though the official application period had expired. In announcing the success of the belated Mie bid, Abe expressed the hope that world leaders would visit the Imperial shrines, taking Abe’s dodgy stance toward Article 20 of the Constitution out of the realm of domestic administration and into international politics. (The article reads: No religious organization shall receive any privileges from the State, nor exercise any political authority. No person shall be compelled to take part in any religious act, celebration, rite or practice. The State and its organs shall refrain from religious education or any other religious activity.)

Aside from its associative, legal and international political advantages over Yasukuni, an infatuation with Ise befits Abe for another reason. Though he exhibits many different nationalist facets, he is most attuned to what political scientist Takashi Inoguchi has termed “imperial nationalism” – the faith that Japan is special because it is a racially homogenous island nation steeped in rice agriculture. As Abe writes in his 2013 book Atarashii Kuni e:

“The country called Japan has been from time immemorial a Mizuho no Kuni (‘land of abundant rice plants’), where we rose every morning, cultivated our fields with sweat running down, taking water and divided its use amongst us and when Fall arrived, celebrated, with the Imperial Family as the center, the Festival of the Five Grains.” (emphasis added)

With an unproblematic devotion to the Amaterasu cult at Ise offering a direct line to the Imperial House and thus essential center of Japan, who needs Yasukuni?

Michael Cucek is a Tokyo-based consultant to the financial and diplomatic communities and author of the Shisaku blog on Japanese politics and society.



From the Archives: Japan's Donald Trump


Shintaro Ishihara, Director-General of the Environment Agency, addresses FCCJ Members on May 23, 1977. Seated to Ishihara’s left is Bill Shinn (Sisa News Agency), then President of the FCCJ, and checking his notes to the right is Peter “Shin” Higashi (AP). That’s former FCCJ president Lee Chia (China News Agency) seated on the far right. All three were Club stalwarts, referred to many times in our history book, Foreign Correspondents in Japan.

SHINTARO ISHIHARA WAS FAMOUS as an author whose novel, Season of the Sun, launched him on his writing career and garnered for him Japan’s top literature award, the Akutagawa Prize, in 1956. His younger brother, Yujiro, appeared in the movie version, and both became famous as icons of the youth culture of the time. As author and adventurer, Ishihara produced a wide range of works – almost 40 books – but he is better known to journalists for co-authoring, with then-Sony Chairman Akio Morita, The Japan That Can Say No. Written in 1989, it was translated into English in 1991.

Ishihara even served briefly as a war correspondent, with a stint in Vietnam from late 1966 to early 1967 for the Yomiuri Shimbun. That experience turned his attention to politics and he subsequently served in the Diet from 1968 until 1995, where he became a controversial figure with rightist tendencies. His early political career ended abruptly, however, with his resignation following the Aum Shinrikyo subway attack in Tokyo.

But Ishihara soon re-entered politics, serving as governor of Tokyo from 1999 until his resignation in 2012 to head his own political party, the Sunrise Party of Japan. Plans to coalesce with other small parties then foundered on policy disagreements. Ishihara went on to form the Party for Future Generations, but he was defeated in 2014 and retired from politics, but not before giving journalists an endless amount of controversial, jaw-dropping comments during his many appearances at the Club.

During Ishihara’s governorship of Tokyo he showed up to push for Tokyo as the venue for the 2016 Olympic Games. A friendly question was put to him by Sam Jameson, long-time Bureau Chief for the Chicago Tribune and then the Los Angeles Times, who in earlier years had played poker with Ishihara. There was no sign that Ishihara remembered those earlier days, and Sam did not bring it up either.


— Charles Pomeroy

Tales from the Round Tables: Bare Breasts, the Prince and the Chindonya



ITH THE CLUB’S 70TH Anniversary fast approaching, the Round Table has been abuzz with memories of FCCJ celebrations past.

In the postwar frontier days of impoverished Japan, shortages of just about everything were a daily reality. That we were so resourceful in producing entertainment on a legendary scale in those bleak days is testament to the esprit de corps and rugged survival instincts of the early Members. No curtains to hide the drab windows? No problem: plenty of parachute cloth available. Music entertainment for the big opening? Hallelujah! The kind folks at NHK have a piano they’re willing to lend.

On that august occasion, however, we seemed to have given NHK the wrong date, so the movers showed up again before the big event to collect the broadcaster’s treasured instrument. What ensued was a hilarious Keystone Cops hide-and-seek, with Members scrambling to hide the piano on one of the elevators, traveling up and down as the exasperated movers searched floor to floor in the other. NHK went home empty handed that day, but 600 grateful guests and organizers made sure they became part of the Club’s party lore.


The 40th anniversary found itself in the annals

 as the occasion that saw then Crown Prince and Princess

dance in public for the first time.


Gems like this fill the pages of Foreign Correspondents in Japan, the Club’s history lovingly compiled for its 50th anniversary celebration. Chief editor Charles Pomeroy reminisces with particular fondness about the skits that were regularly put on by correspondents at these parties. Lou Cioffi, the ABC bureau chief in the late ’60s, starred in a perennial favorite, parodying the Armed Forces Radio and Television Service (AFRTS) as FARTS. Bursting with raw thespian and comedic talent, Club stalwarts led the charge with side-splitting, irreverent renditions of everyone from MacArthur and Mao Tse-tung to Castro. Jazz luminaries Dolly Baker and Helen Merrill dazzled the crowds.

Another popular act was the Two Bares, an attractive Japanese girl duo that graced the parties intermittently from the ’50s well into the ’70s, with – you guessed it – no tops. Sandra Mori is still crazy for the Moonshots, the feel-good band that regularly played for the anniversaries and still appears at our Saturday Nite Live events to this day. “They represent the kind of tradition that is so important to our Club,” she says.

The 40th anniversary found itself in the annals of Japan’s history as the occasion that saw then Crown Prince and Princess dance in public for the first time. What made the party “one of the happiest memories of my life in Japan” for key organizer Geoff Tudor, however, was something that brought a smile to the faces of the imperial couple. Geoff had hired a chindonya troupe, street musicians in loud kimonos, wigs and heavy Kabuki-esque make-up, to march around the ballroom of the hotel to promote raffle ticket sales.

The wailing tunes, backed by drums, gongs and bells, were commonplace on the streets back then, most often as attention grabbers for store and event openings. When the Imperial Household Agency informed Tudor that the Crown Prince and Princess would be attending, there was concern that the garish entertainment might be disrespectful, so Tudor consulted with the Agency, only to be told, “It is your party. We are the guests.”

The anniversary was a stunning success. At the end of dinner, Tudor was called to the top table to hear a very happy Crown Prince complimenting him on the entertainment. “I have never seen chindonya before,” the prince said. “I thought they were fascinating. Thank you very much.”

Of course, the prince is now emperor, but the FCCJ remains the place where His Imperial Majesty learned of a street tradition beyond the reach of his palace life. If the Imperial Household Agency would permit, Tudor would be delighted to be forevermore, ‘By appointment, supplier of chindonya to the Emperor of Japan.’


– The Shimbun Alley Whisperers



New Members in August


Regular Members


TADAKAZU KIMURA is a freelance journalist and former president and CEO of the Asahi Shimbun. Kimura graduated from Waseda University with a degree in Political Science and Economics. He studied U.S.-Japan relations as a visiting research fellow at Columbia University’s East Asian Institute in 1994. He worked as a political news writer for more than 30 years, and served from 1994 to 1997 as a political correspondent in the Asahi’s Washington, DC bureau, covering the Clinton administration. Between 2000 and 2005, he worked as an Editorial Writer, a Political News Editor, and Managing Editor in the Tokyo Headquarters. In 2006, he was appointed as the European General Bureau Chief. Kimura was also the first Editor-in-Chief of the Globe, a feature and analysis magazine founded in 2008. As president, he led the Asahi Shimbun’s collaboration with the Huffington Post to launch their Japanese edition in 2012. His publications include Seisaku Keisei (“Strategy Formation”), published in 2010.

Professional/Journalist Associate Member

Minoru Okada, Freelance

Associate Members

Masami Abe
Fuminori Kawamura, Mitsubishi Corporation
Eiji Kojima, Edo Press Japan, LLC
Teruki Morohashi, Japan Industrial Partners, Inc.

Reinstatement (Associate)

Shigenobu Nishida, Nipponseiro Co., Ltd.




Club News

Nikko Study Tour



In conjunction with the 400th anniversary festival of the founding of the Nikko Toshogu Shrine, the Special Projects Committee organized a study tour to Nikko on July 18. A total of 41 FCCJ members, including families and children, representing 10 countries participated.

Nikko Toshogu Shrine was first established on April 17, 1616 to enshrine Ieyasu Tokugawa, the founder of the Tokugawa Shogunate and the Edo Government.

The final construction, with lavish details and decorations, was completed in 1636.
The was shrine registered as a UNESCO world heritage site in 1998.

On the special train departing from Shinjuku, tour participants were entertained by the daimyo, resident ninja and princesses from the theme park, Edo Wonderland Nikko Edomura.

— Haruko Watanabe


FCCJ 70th Anniversary Celebration Gala Dinner


The Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan turns 70 this autumn and plans to hold a 70th Anniversary Celebration Gala Dinner at the Palace Hotel Tokyo on Friday, Oct. 30.

About 500 people will attend, mostly Club members and their guests. So mark your calendar, and sign up when registration opens at the Club on Sept. 1. Ticket price is ¥19,000 per person. Black tie
is optional

A feature of the FCCJ Gala Dinner will be a combination of Door Prizes and a Grand Prize Draw held during the festivities. These attractions will highlight the corporate and community support for the Club’s illustrious role over the past seven decades and our ongoing historical role.

Party organizers are seeking support from FCCJ members and others and would be very happy to receive donations of prizes.


If your company or organization is interested in reserving a group table for your colleagues, clients and guests – at special rates – there are corporate sponsorship packages available.

• An “Early Bird” offer ending Sept. 4 (Fri) is ¥280,000 for a group table reservation. This includes 10 seats and a full-page advertisement in the Number One Shimbun.

• From Sept. 5 (Sat), the table rate is ¥350,000, with 10 seats and a full-page advertisement in Number One Shimbun.

The deadline for advertisements is Sept. 14.

The Club is truly grateful for the support of our many corporate members to date. This is an ideal opportunity for sponsors to show continuing support for the FCCJ as the Club enters its 8th decade in Japan.

For additional information, contact the FCCJ Membership office.

Tel: 03-3211-3161     Fax: 03-3201-0677     E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.



New Membership Program

The Club is pleased to offer a new membership option for Associate Members who belong to a company or organization. This option allows Associate Members to appoint a replacement from within their company. This program only applies to organizations with two or more FCCJ members. The number of members can be increased at anytime, and the membership term limit is five or ten years.

For more information contact the Club office at 03-3211-3161 or
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .



New in the library

Mashi: The Unfulfilled Baseball Dreams of Masanori Murakami, the First Japanese Major Leaguer

Robert K. Fitts

University of Nebraska Press


East Asian Strategic Review 2015

The National Institute for Defense Studies

The Japan Times

Gift from the Publisher


Kiko bungaku meisakusen CD (Audio) Vol.1: Tayama Katai

Edited by Nihon Rodokujin Kyokai

Kokusho Kankokai

Gift from Osamu Sato


Kiko bungaku meisakusen CD (Audio) Vol.2: Tayama Katai

Edited by Nihon Rodokujin Kyokai

Kokusho Kankokai

Gift from Osamu Sato


Kiko bungaku meisakusen CD (Audio) Vol.3: Tayama Katai

Edited by Nihon Rodokujin Kyokai

Kokusho Kankokai

Gift from Osamu Sato


Kiko bungaku meisakusen CD (Audio) Vol.4: Tayama Katai

Edited by Nihon Rodokujin Kyokai

Kokusho Kankokai

Gift from Osamu Sato


Kiko bungaku meisakusen CD (Audio) Vol.5: Hayashi Fumiko, Ishikawa Takuboku, Kunikida Doppo, Omachi Keigetsu, Yanagi Muneyoshi, Yangida Kunio

Edited by Nihon Rodokujin Kyokai

Kokusho Kankokai

Gift from Osamu Sato



Eri Hotta and "Japan 1941"


Eri Hotta at the FCCJ


The author of an acclaimed book on Japan's entry

into WWII discusses the causes and dismisses any

comparison to today's government actions.


by Suvendrini Kakuchi



EST-SELLING AUTHOR ERI HOTTA was the guest of honor at a Book Break held by the Library Committee in July to discuss her book, Japan 1941: Countdown to Infamy. It was an extremely timely subject, coming as it did in the midst of the Abe administration’s push to enact bills that would effectively change the nation’s interpretation of the peace clause, Article 9, in the Japanese Constitution.

Hotta was born in Tokyo and educated in Japan, the United States, and Britain. She has taught at Oxford, in Tokyo and Jerusalem. She is also the author of Pan-Asianism and Japan’s War, 1931-45.

In your book you describe how the leaders in Japan in 1941 knew that the odds were stacked against the country if they were to go to war with the United States. Why, then, did they take the decision to bomb Pearl Harbour?

A: The attack was carried out without a formal termination of diplomatic relations by Japan, let alone a declaration of war. But Prime Minister General Hideki Tojo described the Japanese offensive as a desperate, defensive battle: Japan (he believed) was the victim of Washington’s unwillingness to yield an inch on its demands – including the Japanese withdrawal from China and a rejection of Japan’s puppet government in Nanjing. The official rendition of events reveals that Japanese leaders at that time harboured deep-seated feelings of persecution and wounded national pride.

In my book, I point out how the leaders were torn about going to war. Take Tojo for example. In public he appeared gung-ho but, in fact, he felt uncertain about going to war because he was rationally aware of the small possibility of a Japanese victory. Prince Konoe, who was the prime minister until mid-October, and almost everyone else in the top leadership felt the same. Yet surviving records show that they were responsible for making a conscious and collaborative decision to go to war with the West having talked themselves into believing that they were victims of circumstances.


Abe can afford to continue his strong posturing

because Japan, the most loyal Cold War ally in the region,

remains under the U.S. umbrella.


They were guilty of negligence concerning what would happen after the initial offensive. It was a huge national gamble that risked the lives of people and those in the countries Japan had attacked and invaded. The tragic irony is that Japanese culture, with its intrinsic preference for consensus and harmony – however superficial – could not help encourage honest discussion at the critical junctures.

Q: Seventy years after the defeat, are any lessons to be learned as we watch the debate on new security bills in the Japanese Diet?

A: I don’t see an illuminating comparison between the crisis enveloping Japan in 1941 and what is going on now under the leadership of Prime Minister Abe, despite his support of revisionism and nationalism in order to, as he puts it, bring back Japan’s confidence. Abe can afford to continue his strong posturing because Japan, the most loyal Cold War ally in the region, remains under the U.S. umbrella. Everyone takes for granted that there will be no full-fledged war.

But Abe’s tough talk is highly problematic. He paints an idealized portrait of Japan’s imperialistic past in which his grandfather, Nobusuke Kishi, played no small part. He denies historical interpretations that, inconveniently, do not fit his version. That kind of intellectual inflexibility, presented as a national norm by a top political leader of a state, is highly misleading and does great disservice to Japan.

Q: How do you view Abe’s and other political leaders’ visits to Yasukuni, Japan’s war shrine? The reasoning by Japanese leaders is that it is a visit to pray for peace. How would you explain this complex approach?

A: I wouldn’t say it’s a complex approach, but a wrong-headed one. Japan’s ultranationalistic discourse on its war past is based on two ideologies – a nostalgia for the military past and the peace that we have enjoyed for the last 70 years. There is no direct causal link between war and peace in this situation.

The tendency of the ultraright to insinuate that many people died in order to safeguard Japan’s interests and peace misses the point. The truth is that too many died, civilians and those fighting overseas, and Japan lost the war despite of all those deaths. Peace might have come without those deaths and losses, and without having fought the illogical, unwinnable war.

It is an uncomfortable question because it cuts to the heart of war responsibility – that is the original war responsibility of who started/condoned the war, and whether the war could have been avoided altogether. After the war, some conservative aspects of the old order – most notably the imperial system – were perpetuated and further buttressed by the U.S. Cold War policy for the sake of stability. This also made it difficult for post-war Japan to face up to these difficult questions.

Q: Then what would you say would constitute a real apology from Japan for its war of aggression in Asia?

A: The key obstacle in Japan to any kind of reconciliation, in a general sense, is that history is too bothersome to think about. We have the presumption that so long as we can chant pacifist mantra, we have successfully made ourselves a peace-loving nation and we are off the hook from examining our more unsavory past. In a more official sense, there are lessons to be learned from post-war Germany. Willy Brandt spontaneously fell on his knees in front of Warsaw Ghetto Uprising memorial and this moment is still remembered as an apology for the past.

Suvendrini Kakuchi is a correspondent for the UK-based University World News, with a focus on higher education issues.



Still Angry After All These Years

No1-2015-8MiyazakiHayao Miyazaki: despair and hopelessness won’t last forever



FCCJ journalists made the trek

to the lair of Hayao Miyazaki

for an exclusive press conference


by David McNeill


GENIUS RECLUSE, ÜBER-PERFECTIONIST, lapsed Marxist, Luddite; like the legendary directors of Hollywood’s Golden Age, Hayao Miyazaki’s intimidating reputation is almost as famous as his movies. And for a long time Japan’s undisputed animation king was known for shunning the media. So it was a surprise when he agreed to an exclusive press conference with FCCJ journalists.

There were, however, some reliably eccentric catches. Miyazaki would not come to us – we would have to go to him in his leafy lair in Western Tokyo. The director dislikes the center of the city and rarely travels there, said his handlers at Studio Ghibli. He was also averse to electronic gadgets, iPhones, strong lights and microphones, along with journalists with the major Japanese media.

Miyazaki broke millions of hearts last year when he announced his retirement, though the 74-year-old workaholic still goes to the studio every day. “All that’s changed is that I come in 30 minutes earlier and go home 30 minutes later than I used to,” he said. Ghibli still churns out short films, but Miyazaki no longer puts the studio on the line with the expensive, extraordinarily labor-intensive features that won him global fame.

Many of Miyazaki’s movies are paeans to the natural world and coded warnings about its perilous state. He admits to hating most contemporary popular culture, particularly from the United States. His final film, The Wind Rises, is widely regarded to have also made explicit his long-time antiwar politics and his concern that Japan is drifting from its post-war pacifism.


“I want to convey the reality of what is happening

on Okinawa today – that most people there

do not want those bases,”


Before its release, he declared his support for Japan’s war-renouncing Constitution, saying he was “disgusted” by plans to change it. At a time when revisionist voices on the war seem to be in the ascendant, and liberal voices falling silent, he is also sharply critical of the behavior of the Japanese Imperial Army, saying he felt “hatred against Japan” when he learned what it had done in China. “I am taken aback by the lack of knowledge among government and political party leaders on historical facts,” he said.

It’s not surprising, then, that Miyazaki began with Okinawa. It is home to a bitter dispute over the construction of a new offshore base that is part of American military plans to contain China. In May, he became the most high-profile backer of the Henoko Fund, which aims to collect donations to stop the base from being built, and it was this new role that the director wanted to discuss. “I want to convey to as many people as I can the reality of what is happening on Okinawa today – that most people there do not want those bases,” he said.

MIYAZAKI WAS INITIALLY RELUCTANT to be a figurehead for the Henoko struggle but relented when he considered the years of injustice suffered by Okinawans. “I feel there are no apologies in the world that would make up for it, so I thought the least I could do was this.” As for China, its rise is “Japan’s greatest political challenge,” he said. But trying to contain it with military force was “impossible.” “It is that understanding – that such things are impossible – that led to the creation of our pacifist Constitution.”

Miyazaki was critical of the culture of waste and consumerism in Japan and contemptuous of plans to restart the nation’s reactors this year. “We are a land of volcanoes and earthquakes. Of course we should scrap our nuclear plants.” He laid the blame for many of Japan’s problems with the current crop of what he called “low-level” politicians. “They now have nothing to hold them back so their true colors are showing. It’s sad to have to say that.”


He laid the blame for many of Japan’s problems

with the current crop of what he called

“low-level” politicians.


The director reserved his strongest invective for the government of Shinzo Abe, which was trying to bulldoze a clutch of security bills through parliament as he spoke (the bills have since passed the lower house and will likely be passed into law in September). Miyazaki called that attempt “foolish” and took aim at the prime minister himself. “He probably wants to leave his name in history as a great man who changed the interpretation of Japan’s Constitution. But it’s despicable.”

He said he had little expectation in Abe’s upcoming statement on the 70th anniversary of World War II but offered his advice anyway. “He should include a very clear admission that Japan inflicted great suffering on China. There is a lot of political horse-trading going on over the wording of the statement but I think it should be above politics. It should be a simple expression of remorse for the terrible things that Japan did in the past. I know many want to forget but it cannot be forgotten.”

Despite his sometimes pessimistic diagnosis of contemporary Japan, Miyazaki sounded an upbeat note on the future. “We are a people that live on a small island on the far reaches of a corner of the Earth. I believe we do possess the wisdom to live in our corner of the world in peace.” He said the failure of the Democratic Party (DPJ) liberal project, and the decisions to backtrack on Okinawa and hike the consumption tax had left many Japanese feeling “despair, hopelessness and distrust.”

“But that won’t last forever.”

David McNeill writes for the Independent, the Economist, the Chronicle of Higher Education and other publications. He has been based in Tokyo since 2000.


Profile: Waichi Sekiguchi, the Nihon Keizai Shimbun (Nikkei)



The highlights of this journalist's long career

includes interviews with such luminaries as

Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and Larry Ellison.

by Gavin Blair


ver the course of a 33-year career with the Nikkei, Waichi Sekiguchi has covered some of the biggest technology and economic issues of recent decades – questioning Bill Clinton about U.S.-Japan trade at the height of bilateral friction, interviewing Steve Jobs about the rise of mobile devices and charting the growth of the Internet.

A career in the fourth estate was not his first choice, however. “My wife, my girlfriend at the time, didn’t want to live the life of a diplomat’s wife, so she convinced me to be a journalist,” he says. “I knew I wanted to do something international, such as working in the foreign service.”

Born in Saitama, Sekiguchi graduated from Hitotsubashi University in 1982 and joined the Nikkei the same year. His English abilities facilitated him going to Harvard University in 1988 on a Fulbright Scholarship as a visiting research fellow on intellectual property trade issues between Japan and the U.S. “I had a chance to look at Japan from another country,” he says.

The road to English competency, though, was not an easy one, recalls Sekiguchi. “Until about age 16, I was not good at English. At Urawa High School, there was a Japanese teacher of English who had studied in Australia, and taught us to communicate, rather than the usual rote learning for university entrance exams.”

It was a turning point, though he failed an exam to do a year of high school abroad. Joining the English-speaking society at university helped, but it was the stretch at Harvard that cemented his fluency. “The first six months were really hard, but by the time I got back to Tokyo, I could write articles in English for the Nikkei’s English-language publication, the Japan Economic Journal.”

ANOTHER EVENT THAT CONTRIBUTED to Sekiguchi’s interest in America was the Japan-America Student Conference (JASC). Started in 1934 by young people from the two countries concerned about deteriorating bilateral relations, the JASC is a program whereby students spend a month exchanging ideas and learning about each other’s homelands. Halted by Word War II, it started up again in the mid-1950s. Sekiguchi joined the program in Japan in 1979, travelling to the U.S. for the first time to attend the following year. JASC became an introduction not only to America, but also to his future wife, whom he would meet there. Decades later, Sekiguchi’s son also took part in the program.  

Back in Washington from September 1990, Sekiguchi covered trade-related news, from legal issues to technology, during the heady bubble days when the Japanese media would send upwards of 30 journalists to cover events such as trade talks. “It’s changing now because the Japanese media can’t afford it,” he says. “Even at the Nikkei we’ve shifted our focus toward Asia away from the U.S. and Europe.”

With few of the Japanese journalists assigned to Washington at the time able to communicate smoothly in English, he found himself often called on to ask questions at press conferences, including one to Bill Clinton on the U.S.-Japan trade deficit. The president’s somewhat flippant response led to the exchange being broadcast on CNN and NHK.


“Even at the Nikkei we’ve shifted our focus toward Asia

and away from the U.S. and Europe.”


After returning to Japan in 1994, Sekiguchi was appointed “captain,” or group leader, of a team covering electronics companies, Sony in particular. He was also assigned to cover the internet, a newly burgeoning field, which required regular visits to Silicon Valley for interviews with such luminaries as Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and Larry Ellison.

“I remember interviewing Steve Jobs in 1999, shortly after NTT DoCoMo had launched its i-Mode service,” Sekiguchi says. “I asked him whether mobile phones would be an important internet device in the future, but he said he thought the screens were too small and were only suitable for reading the odd email. He was a genius, though, and changed his mind a few years later.”

HIS LONGER-FORM WRITING includes the book Pioneers of the Personal Computer Industry, detailing the sometimes overlooked contributions of Japanese engineers and companies to the birth and development of the PC field. He also authored a short book titled Savvy Search Techniques and contributed a chapter to Reimagining Japan, the book released by McKinsey after the triple disasters of 2011.    

The way that Japanese electronics companies have found themselves trailing their American rivals following the shift from hardware to software could be repeated in other manufacturing areas such as autos – with the rise of electric vehicles – and the Internet of Things, worries Sekiguchi.

The Nikkei's Waichi Sekiguchi with Apple's Steve Jobs

Becoming a senior staff writer in 1996, he went on to write editorials from 2000 until earlier this year. He has also spent 20 years appearing on television as a weekly analyst on the Nikkei BS and cable channels and three years as an English-speaking commentator on NHK World.  

Sekiguchi also finds time to teach technology and innovation as a visiting professor at three universities: Meiji, Waseda and Hosei Business School, as well as conducting research at the Center for Global Communications (GLOCOM) of the International University of Japan. In addition, he acts as an IT security advisor to the National Police Agency and a board member of IT-related organizations run by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry and the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications.

His three adult children were all born in the States, have Western-sounding names and U.S. citizenship. None, though, have shown an inclination to follow Sekiguchi into his chosen profession, nor did he encourage them to do so.




Exhibition: "Evidence Nagasaki: Within 1km of Ground Zero"



photographs byAkira Matsumura


T HAS BEEN SEVENTY years since the second atomic bomb was dropped, and Nagasaki now looks no different from other cities. My previous photo-book, Common Nagasaki (Mado-sha), documented the effects the atomic bomb left behind in current-day Nagasaki. Much about the atomic bomb tends to be forgotten, seen as the things in the past. Media coverage of the atomic bomb is now more or less limited to the actual anniversary, mainly to the news report on the day’s ceremony. For this work, “Evidence NAGASAKI,” I photographed the atomic bomb remains and relics that were within one kilometer of the hypocenter at the time of the bombing. I sincerely hope these various close-up photographs will be remembered as the evidence for generations to come.

Akira Matsumura studied photography at Nihon University, and worked for the Mainichi Shimbun from 1965-2005. He has won the Tokyo Press Photographers Association Award, has had a number of exhibitions and published several photo books, including Evidence NAGASAKI. After the newspaper, he taught at the Zokei Art College (Kyushu) and opened Matsumura Akira Photo School in Fukuoka.








The Moment the World Went from Great War to Grand Peace


 The imperial rescript ending the war

was a momentous occasion,

and the press had to scramble

to express its import.

by Mark Schreiber


t is, unmistakably, Japan’s most famous radio broadcast of all time.

The first hint of it came on Aug. 14, 1945, during NHK’s 9pm news broadcast, when listeners were told to expect an important announcement “at noon tomorrow.” Some time after midnight on Aug. 15, 1945, Japan’s Information Bureau began distributing copies of an imperial rescript to the media, with the stipulation that the contents were not to be conveyed to the public until after the NHK broadcast at noon.

The broadcast began with NHK announcer Nobukata Wada saying, “From now, there will be an important broadcast. All listeners are requested to stand. This is an announcement of great importance.” Then Hiroshi Shimomura, head of the Information Bureau, came on the air, informing listeners that they were about to hear the “jeweled voice” of the emperor.

Preceded and followed by the national anthem, Kimigayo, the emperor’s speech (see box) lasted 4 minutes and 37 seconds of the 37-minute, 30-second broadcast. The rest consisted of commentary to explain the essentials of the speech, which few Japanese were able to comprehend, and a summary of the news.



Caught on film: In 1995, the Hokkaido Shimbun admitted that the photo of the boys
listening to the emperor's broadcast was staged.


WE REMEMBER MANY EVENTS of 1945 through iconic photographs and films whose contents are recognizable at a glance. One would certainly be Joe Rosenthal’s shot of U.S. Marines raising the U.S. flag on Iwo Jima on Feb. 23 of that year. Another famous photo, the towering mushroom cloud over Hiroshima on Aug. 6, was shot by 2nd Lt Russell Gackenbach aboard the B-29 observer plane, Necessary Evil. A week later Alfred Eisenstaedt snapped V-J Day in Times Square, capturing a sailor and nurse celebrating the war’s end in a passionate embrace.


All of these photos would appear to validate an old Chinese adage adopted in Japanese that goes Hyakubun wa ikken ni shikazu (“Seeing something once is better than hearing it 100 times”). But when clouded by preconceptions, seeing – not to mention hearing – can be deceptive. Which may be the case with the still photos and films in which distraught Japanese are shown kneeling in the gravel at the Kyujo-mae Hiroba, on the east side of the imperial palace, in response to the emperor’s address.

So how could the caption writers

get it wrong?


These iconic images are often described as being shot during the broadcast, and a quick perusal of the internet as well as email inquiries to journalists and academics shows that this is what many believe. But while the captions to these scenes outside the palace may give the mistaken impression that those in the photo were listening to the broadcast at that very moment, they couldn’t have been. No loudspeakers were mounted in the plaza. And Sony didn’t even exist at the time, so had yet to build their ubiquitous transistor radios.

How could the caption writers get it wrong? Newsreel footage – in both Japanese and foreign documentary films – probably added to the confusion, as a sound track of Emperor Hirohito’s speech accompanies the scenes of people kneeling outside the palace.

INTERESTINGLY, SOME WRITERS HAVE been trading accusations over the images and when they were shot for a number of years. In Hachigatsu Jugonichi no Shinwa (“The myths of August 15,” published in 2005), author Takumi Sato exhaustively researched the events of that day, how they were reported in the media both in Japan and abroad, and their influence on how people remember the war.

Sato also presents other revelations of photo fabrications, one of which did not come to light until more than 50 years later. The Hokkaido Shimbun, for example, finally came clean in its edition of Oct. 8, 1995, admitting that the photo that appeared in its Aug. 16, 1945 edition was staged. The photo showed four schoolboys in Sapporo City, three standing with heads hanging in apparent dejection while a fourth knelt on the ground, his head cradled in his hands.

Seiroku Sato, one of the standing boys, was shown holding his school cap while appearing to use his right sleeve to wipe away tears. Sato told the newspaper that when he first saw himself in the photo he “wanted to run away and hide,” and that it “caused him to feel anguish for the next 50 years.”

"Did Japan win the war?"

Sato asked the cameraman.

"No, we lost," came the reply.


The kneeling boy, Hiromichi Kato, recalled playing with his friend Sato on Aug. 15, when they were approached by a photographer. Neither boy thought anything untoward about it at the time. “He said he wanted to take our photo, and led us to a radio tower about 50 meters away,” said Kato. “Did Japan win the war?” Sato asked the cameraman. “No, we lost,” came the reply.

Kato also claimed to have no recollection of two other boys having posed in the photo; efforts by the newspaper to identify them were unsuccessful. The Hokkaido Shimbun conceded it was a common wartime practice for newspapers, which were under control of the military, to run composite photos “to bolster readers’ fighting spirit.”

In the February 2005 issue of monthly magazine Bungei Shunju, Hideaki Kase claimed that the article appearing on the back of the Asahi Shimbun’s single-sheet Aug. 15 edition was likely to have been written well before the broadcast.

By far the longest story on the page, its headline read: “Continuously grasping the gravel, bowing toward the palace with only tears. Ahh, eight years of war that have gouged out hearts to their very depths.” The body text overflowing with emotional language and sentiment, it reads more like a cri de coeur than a terse news report aiming to meet a tight deadline.

ASAHI, HOWEVER, DENIED ANY foul play. In a history of the company published in 1995, two editors involved in the production of that issue recalled that the veteran reporter who covered the event, the late Takuro Suetsune, galloped back to Asahi headquarters – at that time located beside Yurakucho Station – dashed off his piece, and let the editors do the rest. Thanks to their advance knowledge of the noon broadcast contents, the Asahi and other newspapers had held back their deliveries until early afternoon.

There is some logic to Kase’s contention that Suetsune may have written at least part of the story in anticipation of the broadcast. Newspapers have a history of preparing stories in advance for publication following the lifting of an embargo. So it is very likely that this one was already edited and typeset, along with the full text of the Emperor’s rescript – bearing the date Aug. 14, 20th year of Showa – and that’s what appeared at the top center of the Asahi’s front page on Aug. 15.

Kase wrote that while he was in the process of publishing a year-long series on the postwar period in Shukan Shincho magazine from May 1974, he received a letter from one Shozo Hanada, at that time a school instructor in Aomori. Hanada allegedly informed him that on Aug. 14, he had been dispatched to make a business call to Hitachi, which was located on the 6th floor of the Meiji Life Insurance Building, not far from the palace. “Afterwards I thought that since the palace was close by, I would go there and pay my respects,” Hanada wrote in the letter. “Just as I approached the Nijubashi I was accosted by a cameraman wearing an armband who said, “I want to take photos, so would you prostrate yourself in a kneeling position?

“When I looked back at him, the cameraman was wiping away tears with his sleeve, and I thought, ‘There’s something strange going on.’ I asked him to send me a copy but he said it was special and not the type that could be given away. ‘But if you come to our office at noon tomorrow I might be able to let you have one.’” After the emperor’s broadcast, however, Hanada said he had fled from Tokyo without a copy.

According to Sato’s book, the Asahi did admit that the photo of an indeterminate number of people, both standing and kneeling outside the palace, appearing under the caption “Subjects pray for continuation of the national polity and weep in apology” in its Aug. 15 Osaka edition had been telefaxed from Tokyo at 5:25 the previous evening. Obviously, even before seeing the rescript, the media had gotten wind that something big was imminent. What they knew, when they obtained it, and the ways they conveyed it to the nation is a story that deserves further investigation.

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


The Imperial Rescript, August 15, 1945


To our good and loyal subjects -- After pondering deeply the general trends of the world and the actual conditions obtaining in our empire today, we have decided to effect a settlement of the present situation by resorting to an extraordinary measure.

We have ordered Our Government to communicate to the Governments of the United States, Great Britain, China and the Soviet Union that Our Empire accepts the provisions of their Joint Declaration.

To strive for the common prosperity and happiness of all nations as well as the security and well-being of Our subjects is the solemn obligation which has been handed down by Our Imperial Ancestors and which lies close to Our heart.

Indeed, We declared war on America and Britain out of Our sincere desire to ensure Japan’s self-preservation and the stabilization of East Asia, it being far from Our thought either to infringe upon the sovereignty of other nations or to embark upon territorial aggrandizement.

But now the war has lasted for nearly four years. Despite the best that has been done by everyone – the gallant fighting of the military and naval forces, the diligence and assiduity of Our servants of the State, and the devoted service of Our one hundred million people – the war situation has developed not necessarily to Japan’s advantage, while the general trends of the world have all turned against her interest.

Moreover, the enemy has begun to employ a new and most cruel bomb, the power of which to do damage is, indeed, incalculable, taking the toll of many innocent lives. Should We continue to fight, not only would it result in an ultimate collapse and obliteration of the Japanese nation, but also it would lead to the total extinction of human civilization.

Such being the case, how are We to save the millions of Our subjects, or to atone Ourselves before the hallowed spirits of Our Imperial Ancestors? This is the reason why We have ordered the acceptance of the provisions of the Joint Declaration of the Powers.

We cannot but express the deepest sense of regret to Our Allied nations of East Asia, who have consistently cooperated with the Empire towards the emancipation of East Asia.

The thought of those officers and men as well as others who have fallen in the fields of battle, those who died at their posts of duty, or those who met with untimely death and all their bereaved families, pains Our heart night and day.

The welfare of the wounded and the war-sufferers, and of those who have lost their homes and livelihood, are the objects of Our profound solicitude.

The hardships and sufferings to which Our nation is to be subjected hereafter will be certainly great. We are keenly aware of the inmost feelings of all of you, Our subjects. However, it is according to the dictates of time and fate that We have resolved to pave the way for a grand peace for all the generations to come by enduring the unendurable and suffering what is unsufferable.

Having been able to safeguard and maintain the structure of the Imperial State, We are always with you, Our good and loyal subjects, relying upon your sincerity and integrity.

Beware most strictly of any outbursts of emotion which may engender needless complications, or any fraternal contention and strife which may create confusion, lead you astray and cause you to lose the confidence of the world.

Let the entire nation continue as one family from generation to generation, ever firm in its faith in the imperishability of its sacred land, and mindful of its heavy burden of responsibility, and of the long road before it.

Unite your total strength, to be devoted to construction for the future. Cultivate the ways of rectitude, foster nobility of spirit, and work with resolution – so that you may enhance the innate glory of the Imperial State and keep pace with the progress of the world.


Masato Harada and "The Emperor in August"

Face Off: The emperor and advisors in a scene from The Emperor in August

A star-studded film portrays the frantic 24 hours

leading up to Emperor Hirohito's surrender speech.

The film's maker wants it to be a spark that

gets people thinking of Japan's future.

by Gavin Blair



he still thorny issue of Emperor Hirohito’s responsibility for the Pacific War is at the heart of Masato Harada’s The Emperor in August. The film, with the Japanese title Nihon no Ichiban Nagai Hi (Japan’s Longest Day), is set for release on Aug. 8, a week before the 70th anniversary of the end of the war. Based on Kazutoshi Hando’s nonfiction novel Nihon no Ichiban Nagai Hi, the film focuses on the final 24 hours of the war, as a group of army officers who want the country to continue fighting attempt a coup to prevent the broadcast of the emperor’s surrender address to the devastated nation.

The production features such Japanese cinema stars as Koji Yakusho (Babel, Memoirs of a Geisha) as General Anami, Tsutomu Yamazaki (Departures) as Prime Minister Kantaro Suzuki and Masahiro Motoki (Departures) as the young Emperor Hirohito, as they deliberate over accepting the Potsdam Declaration calling for Japan to surrender.

Harada’s experiences watching movies in the postwar period shaped a love of American cinema. “I was born in 1949, just after GHQ opened up the Central Distribution Company to release films. When they started it, they contacted local theaters and 32 of them around the country became Central Theaters. And one of them was in Numazu, where I was born,” says Harada, who is probably best known outside Japan as an actor – the villain Omura in The Last Samurai.

The first movie Harada saw was Fred Zinneman’s The Search, at age five, at Numazu’s Central Theater, turning him into a big Montgomery Clift fan. “I also grew up with Japanese jidai-geki [samurai period dramas] and Westerns. I couldn’t read the subtitles and could only understand what was happening if my mother, who used to take me, would explain. That was how I was exposed to American culture.”


Harada is probably best known

outside Japan as an actor – the villain

Omura in The Last Samurai.

Working at the inn his mother owned were several maids who had experienced the war and talked to him about the town being machine gunned by Mustang P51s and bombed by B-29s. “The B-29s which came to bombard Tokyo or Nagoya, left from Saipan, and the P51 fighters were stationed on Iwo Jima; they would join up over Numazu and head for Mt. Fuji. On their return, if they had any bombs left, they would drop them on Numazu.

“Yet those maids, who had experienced all that, took me to see those war movies and were big fans of Gregory Peck and John Wayne,” recalls Harada, who says he found himself rooting for the Allied forces in the films. “When I saw Sands of Iwo Jima and John Wayne’s character Sgt. Stryker was shot, I screamed. I hated the Japanese soldiers. That’s how I grew up.”

FINDING JAPANESE WAR MOVIES to be overly sentimental and melodramatic, Harada has similar feelings about an earlier version of Japan’s Longest Day, made by director Kihachi Okamoto in 1967. He insists that his is not a remake of that film, which he has a number of misgivings about. “The first time I saw the Kihachi Okamoto version, when I was 18, I was expecting a lot, as I was a big fan of Okamoto and grew up watching war movies,” says Harada.

Okamoto’s Japan’s Longest Day, he says, “had over-the-top characters throughout the film.” “Even the Mifune portrayal of General Anami was that kind of over-the-top character; it was the usual Mifune. And Anami wasn’t shown as a husband or father, so I felt there was something wrong. I also had one big question even back at 18: where was Tojo at the end of the war? I always believed he was responsible for everything.”  

In Japanese films of the 1960s, the emperor’s face couldn’t be clearly shown, so in the Okamoto version, only long shots or those of the back of his head were used, Harada points out. “I realized everything had changed when Alexander Sakurov’s The Sun (a biographical film of Emperor Hirohito dealing with the end of the war) was shown in Japan in 2006.”

The atmosphere at The Sun’s first screening was extremely tense, recalls Harada, with the audience and distributor expecting demonstrations or worse by nationalists. The portrayal of the emperor by Issey Ogata featured a mumbling style of speech that Hirohito developed later in life, but hadn’t acquired at the end of the war. Harada was unimpressed by what he calls a “caricature” of the emperor and also had mixed feelings (despite “not being a royalist”) about him being shown in such a personal, close-up fashion.


In Japanese films of the 1960s, the emperor’s face

couldn’t be clearly shown, so only long shots

or those of the back of his head were used,

Harada points out.


He decided at that time to tackle Japan’s Longest Day and began to read all he could on the protagonists of the events in the final days of the war.

“I was ready to take on the film if I could get the greenlight from one of the major studios, but nothing happened,” he says. “Then, in the autumn of 2013, I was talking future projects with two producer friends when they mentioned that in two years it would be the 70th anniversary of the end of the war. One of them was a Toho producer, and since the original film was produced and distributed by Toho, I asked him about the rights. He checked on the spot and said that Toho wasn’t thinking of redoing it.”

Realizing this was a chance he couldn’t pass up, Harada got an initial greenlight from Shochiku two months later. He began writing the first draft in December 2013 and proposed combining the Japanese title of the original with a new English name, to come up with Nihon no Ichiban Nagai Hi – The Emperor in August, partly to differentiate it from the Okamoto version. He worked nights on revisions to the script at his Kyoto hotel, after days spent wrapping up the shooting of his film Kakekomi.

After Toho got word of the project and the cast Harada had assembled, the company realized it had let a big opportunity slip through its fingers. One reason for Toho’s initial reluctance may have been that there weren’t any particularly significant movies made for the 50th and 60th anniversaries, suggests Harada. “Maybe Toho believed that it wasn’t appropriate to make any kind of big war film for the 70th anniversary; nobody knew two years ago that the Abe regime was going to go in this direction.”

No1-2015-8EmpAug2Masato Harada directing the actor Masahiro Motoki in the emperor's role


ANOTHER FACTOR IN HIS wanting to make the film is what he believes are misunderstandings in two acclaimed American nonfiction books that focused on the life of the emperor. One was John Dower’s Embracing Defeat, the other Herbert Bix’s Hirohito and the Making of Modern Japan, which won the Pulitzer Prize in 2000 and 2001, respectively. Both of these dealt with the question of the emperor’s responsibility for the war.

Bix’s basic position was that the emperor was responsible for the war because he was the only free man in Japan at the time. “That was not true, and it’s why I wanted to make this film: he was not free. When he used the phrases, ‘enduring the unendurable and suffering what is insufferable,’ I believe he was talking about himself.”

“We have a particular word in Japanese, sojo suru or joso suru, that means ‘report to the emperor.’ The generals at the time reported what they were doing to the emperor, and then went back and did what they wanted to do. It was what we call ‘shouting at the shrine wall.’ He was supreme commander, but as a constitutional monarch, he could only approve of what they were doing. He was against the invasion of China in the 1930s, but they went ahead with it anyway.”


When he used the phrases,

‘enduring the unendurable and suffering what is insufferable,’

I believe he was talking about himself.”


The 1967 version didn’t portray the ambivalence of the protagonists’ feelings, believes Harada. “In great American and European movies, the characters such as Lawrence of Arabia or Marlon Brando’s boxer in On the Waterfront have that kind of ambivalence. I think one of the reasons Kurosawa’s films were accepted by foreign audiences is that his characters also had that kind of ambivalence.”  

The portrayal of Kantaro, Anami and the emperor as a family, with the general as the elder son, the emperor as the younger and the prime minister as the patriarch, was something Harada says he wanted to emphasize, particularly in the scene where the young monarch is asked for an imperial decision on ending the war. The dialogue “Gun o nakushite, kuni o nokosu” (get rid of the military, save the country) is crucial to the film, according to Harada.

HARADA BELIEVES THAT THE film is particularly relevant given the 70th anniversary, the reform of the pacifist Constitution and the direction of the current government. He is concerned, however, that the ambivalence he deliberately aimed for may be misinterpreted in some quarters. “The Abe regime is changing Article 9 of the Constitution because they say it was imposed by America; I completely disagree with that position. There will be a screening for politicians at the end of July, and I wonder how they will view this film and if they will try and distort my intention.”

He is also worried that years of glossing over the events of WWII have left a generation unaware of its importance. “When I was in high school, the teachers just skipped over contemporary history, the war and its aftermath,” he recalls. “In the mid-70s, people were worried that the college kids then didn’t even know America and Japan had fought a war.

“Well, those kids are now the mothers, fathers and teachers of today’s generation, and they don’t seem to care about what direction Japan will take. With the Abe administration lowering the age of voting, it’s time for young Japanese to start thinking about how this country was made. I hope this film will become one turning point for them to start thinking about where they came from and where they’re going.”

The Emperor in August will be shown at the FCCJ on Aug. 3, at 6:30 pm

Gavin Blair covers Japanese business, society and culture for publications in America, Asia and Europe.



The Secret Journey of General Tojo's Ashes

No1-2015-8SugamoClass A accomodation: U.S. Army guards in Sugamo Prison, December 1945.

Why were the remains of Japan's former leader spirited

away in the middle of the night?

And where were they taken?

by Eiichiro Tokumoto


he weather was frigid and overcast, threatening snow. On the evening of Dec. 22, 1948, shortly before Christmas, a large phalanx of men had gathered outside the gate of Tokyo’s Sugamo Prison. The crowd was made up of journalists and exhausted photographers who’d been staked out there for over ten days. It appeared nearly all of them were nursing small bottles of whiskey or other types of liquid sustenance.

Midnight passed, and still they waited. Shortly after 2:00 am, two large-canopied army trucks emerged from the prison’s main gate, escorted by jeeps of the U.S. Military Police. Immediately, the men came to attention as a successive burst of camera flashes lit the scene. One excited Japanese reporter sneaked up to peek into the bed of one of the trucks and shouted, “Kanoke da! Kanoke da zo!” (Coffins! They’re coffins!).

The trucks sped into the night with their jeep escorts fore and aft, as a few of the excited reporters took off in pursuit. One of the jeep drivers was Tokyo Correspondents’ Club (the precursor of the FCCJ) member Richard C. Ferguson of ACME News Pictures. Seated beside him in the passenger’s seat was his friend, Sun News Photo Agency photographer Koji Shiroyama. The trucks they pursued were carrying the corpses of seven Class-A war criminals, including that of former Prime Minister Hideki Tojo, who had been hanged ninety minutes earlier.


One excited Japanese reporter sneaked

up to peek into the bed of one of

the trucks and shouted,

“Coffins! They’re coffins!


FOLLOWING JAPAN’S SURRENDER IN August 1945, the Occupation commenced under the Supreme Commander Allied Forces, General of the Army Douglas MacArthur. From his General Headquarters in Yurakucho, the general oversaw the huge job of Japan’s demilitarization and democratization. One event under his administration captured the world’s attention: the International Military Tribunal for the Far East, also referred to as the Tokyo War Crimes trial.

The instigators of Japan’s acts of aggression from the time of the so-called Manchurian Incident to the Pacific War were put on trial in the name of international justice. By the time the proceedings came to a close, they amounted to 416 court sessions over a two-and-a-half-year period from May 1946.

The Tokyo tribunal and the trials of the former Nazi leaders in Nuremberg, Germany, were described as “the trials of the century.” At their conclusion on Nov. 12, 1948, Australian judge Sir William Webb pronounced the death sentence on seven defendants, including former PM Tojo, former Foreign Minister Koki Hirota and Army General Iwane Matsui.

The executions of the once-powerful men were carried out under the orders of Gen. MacArthur at Sugamo Prison on Dec. 23. (Coincidentally – or perhaps not – it also happened to be the 15th birthday of Prince Tsugu, who from 1952 became known as Crown Prince Akihito, and from 1989 became the present emperor.)

Of course, the members of the newly established Tokyo Correspondents’ Club had covered the court proceedings in much detail. So it was no surprise that on the evening of Dec. 22, both at the Club and outside the prison, the main topic of conversation was where the remains of Tojo and the others would be transported, and how they were to be disposed of.

In fact, few were to know what really happened until Koji Shiroyama published his memoirs some five years later.


All that remains: The trucks carrying the ashes appeared in the Nippon Times.


WHEN THE TRUCKS HAULING the bodies left the prison, they took National Route 1 in the direction of Yokohama, with Ferguson and Shiroyama among the several reporters’ vehicles in pursuit. One of the jeeps abruptly stopped and two MPs got out, brandishing their rifles. They shouted out a command to “Halt!” – which was cause enough for most of the reporters to turn back. But Ferguson and Shiroyama disregarded the command and continued following the trucks.

But somewhere along the way they lost the trail, and things looked bleak until they came up with the idea to stop at a local police station and ask for directions to the local crematorium. After a Japanese detective pointed out that one was nearby, atop one of Yokohama’s many hills, the two hopped back in their jeep and made a beeline for the spot. Just as dawn was breaking, they ascended the slope of a hill, where they noticed gray smoke being emitted from a tall chimney. The trucks and MP’s jeeps that managed to elude them earlier were parked in front of the building, which turned out to be the Yokohama Municipal Crematorium in Kuboyama.


“The lid on the pot labeled ‘Tojo’ was open . . . .

Through the smoke could be seen

fragments of white bone.”


The two observed as the Japanese crematorium staff loaded what looked like cinerary urns onto the trucks. After the trucks – and their jeep escorts – roared away in a cloud of dust, the two men walked into the building. The staff seemed to think Ferguson was a member of the U.S. military and the two men went along with it. When the staff made no move to stop them, the two began snapping photographs of the scene.

As Shiroyama wrote in his memoir, “Above eight pots lined up at the crematorium was a blackboard, on which the names ‘Tojo,’ ‘Kymura’ and so on appeared in strangely spelled Roman letters. I was so excited I could feel my heart beating as I released the shutter, again and again. “The lid on the pot labeled ‘Tojo’ was open, and flames could still be seen rising from the few remaining embers. Through the smoke could be seen fragments of white bone.”

The pots, however, were largely empty, so there was no mistake about it: the trucks had carried off the ashes of the seven Class-A war criminals. But where and how were those ashes disposed of? At the time it was all treated as a closely guarded secret; even now, the facts are cloudy. So why was GHQ so uneasy about the location of the remains?

THE REASON FOR THEIR concern can be found in the declassified records of GHQ. Two months after the signing of the San Francisco Peace Treaty, in November 1951, a Japanese man, who appeared to be acting on behalf of Tojo’s wife, petitioned GHQ for the return of the seven executed men’s ashes. The record of a meeting of the G2 Military Intelligence Section, General Staff, held on Nov. 26, 1951, contained this passage:


“. . . it was the consensus of this group that any such action would be extremely inadvisable for the following three reasons: a. Such action would be in effect reversing ourselves in our long established policy re war criminals; b. We would be providing a made-to-order rallying point and cause for a resurgent Japanese ultra-nationalism; and c. We would probably alienate more Japanese than we would possibly win to our side, since it is believed that the majority of Japanese at present consider TOJO (and probably the others as well) as a betrayer rather than as a hero . . . it was suggested that if an answer is made to this request the answer should take the line that the remains of the persons involved were irretrievably destroyed.”

In the view of GHQ then, Tojo and the other Class-A war criminals were viewed as a threat even after their deaths, and the whereabouts of their remains had to be treated as a closely guarded secret.


Katsuko resolutely refused to pose, saying,

“I cannot turn my back toward my dead husband.”


Returning to Tokyo from the Yokohama crematorium, Ferguson and Shiroyama drove to Tojo’s residence in Setagaya Ward. Ferguson presented his business card to one of the family’s maids, and Tojo’s wife, Katsuko, invited them into a tatami-floored reception room, where she gave them an exclusive interview.

According to Shiroyama, Ferguson seemed quite agitated. In a low voice he repeatedly said to his fellow photographer, “Please tell her to forgive me. Again, please tell her to forgive me.” To which Katsuko Tojo firmly replied, “It’s not personal. Please do your job.”

Ferguson and Shiroyama requested Katsuko and Tojo’s son and daughter to pose for a photo before the family’s Buddhist altar, but Katsuko resolutely refused, saying “I cannot turn my back toward my dead husband.” Then the two explained to the family what they had witnessed at the Yokohama crematorium, while the family listened in silence, their heads hanging in resignation.

Shiroyama was later to admit in his memoir, “I felt very bad for not having taken even a small amount of his ashes from the pot and bringing it to them.”

SO WHAT WAS THE final destination of the remains of the Class-A war criminals? A hint to the answer may be found in a dispatch from UP (the forerunner of UPI) filed immediately after their executions by longtime FCCJ member and UP correspondent at the time, Ian Mutsu, who wrote:

“Wood and coal fire in seven rusty ovens consumed the remains of the former top-ranking leaders of Japan amid surroundings that offered no more dignity than a common garbage incinerator. . . . The strictest security regulations were applied to guard the bodies en route and also at the American cemetery.

“A truck, presumably carrying the ashes of the seven executed Class-A war criminals, left the Yokohama Municipal Crematorium under jeep escort in the direction of the United States Army Cemetery at Yaguchidai, Naka Ward, Yokohama.”

The location of the U.S. Army Cemetery at Yaguchidai was some 4.3 kilometers away from the crematorium. It is currently the site of the Yokohama Country & Athletic Club (YCAC), a membership sports club originally founded by British residents in 1868. Immediately following the war’s end, the club’s land was requisitioned by GHQ for use as a U.S. Armed Forces Cemetery.

At some point, rumors began circulating among members of the club that the remains of Tojo and the others had been disposed of in a marshy area on YCAC property. Today, longstanding YCAC members familiar with the story will tell you the remains were scattered in what is now a parking lot adjacent to the tennis court.

The two organizations, the FCCJ and the YCAC, now maintain a reciprocal arrangement. There may be some irony in the fact that while members of the former pursued the remains of the Class-A war criminals 67 years ago, it was the latter that provided the place where their ashes were laid to rest.

The former site of the Sugamo Prison gallows can be visited in a small park just north of Ikebukuro’s Sunshine 60 complex. It is marked with a stone bearing the inscription, Eikyu heiwa wo negatte (“Wishing for eternal peace”).

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



From the Archives: A Surprise Visit from the General



General Douglas MacArthur made his first – and only – appearance at the Tokyo Press Club (the forerunner of the FCCJ) at a luncheon on March 17, 1947. He had declined earlier invitations, but initiated this one in order to convey his message that the time had come for an end to the Occupation and for a peace treaty “as soon as possible.” It would take four years to enact a peace treaty; the Occupation formally ended on April 28, 1952. From the left are Eddie Tseng (CNA), George McArthur (AP), General MacArthur, Tom Lambert (AP), Unidentified, Bill Costello (CBS), Robert Guillain (AFP), and Unidentified. (U.S. Army photo)




HIS SIGNED PHOTO OF MacArthur symbolizes both the ending of hostilities and the beginning of a peaceful Japan under a new Constitution. MacArthur reputedly had thorny relationships with the press, as described in our history book, Foreign Correspondents in Japan, but chose the Club to make this historic announcement. (A more detailed description of the event can be found in the book.)

While leading United Nations forces during the Korean War, friction with President Truman over limiting that conflict to the peninsula on which it was being fought resulted in MacArthur’s dismissal as SCAP (Supreme Commander Allied Powers) in April of 1951. This was received with great dismay in Japan, where he was highly respected. From the Emperor on down through both houses of the Diet to the man on the street, the reaction was one of sympathy and sorrow. More than 200,000 lined the streets along the route to Haneda airport early on the morning of his departure to wave goodbye.

Although he was not to oversee the end of the Occupation, MacArthur had brought sweeping political, economic, and social change – and thus a new beginning – to Japan. He left an indelible mark.

   Charles Pomeroy




Tales from the Round Tables: Taste Buds Have Memories, Too



ONG BEFORE TOKYO COULD boast the highest concentration of 3-star Michelin restaurants in the world, few dining spots were as beloved for the atmosphere and eclectic food as the FCCJ. Of course, there was little competition for the Tokyo Press Club when MacArthur first came ashore with his feisty army of war journalists. Most didn’t have access to the Occupation’s tasty American eateries, so it was left to the loving efforts and ingenuity of early members to disseminate their traditions from home to the Club’s kitchen – where the average cook would never have seen a pizza, much less tasted one.

Legends abound of Club classics which long graced our menu. The original vichyssoise recipe – now a perennial bestseller – was contributed by a CBS correspondent. Ambassadors would come to teach how their favorite dishes should be made, and often sent their chefs for special evenings. The international atmosphere was unparalleled in Tokyo, and people came from far and wide to enjoy and learn.

By the 1950s, the likes of James Michener,

Ian Fleming, hacks and spies galore

had to wait in line for a coveted seat

in our dining room.

The FCCJ was also by far the most popular watering hole in Tokyo, and by the 1950s, the likes of James Michener, Ian Fleming, hacks and spies galore had to wait in line for a coveted seat in our dining room. That’s about the time when the Correspondents’ Tables were first introduced to allow journalists up against a deadline to grab a table and catch a quick meal. Along with the Open Table for solo diners, this also served to free up other tables.

In the 60s and 70s, Tokyo’s landscape changed dramatically as it became Asia’s dominant economic hub, and the throng of war journalists gave way to a new wave of finance and culture writers. We began to take some more interest in fine wines, and Fernando Mezzetti of La Stampa made arrangements to send a young Chef Takagi to Italy for training. Members still remember fondly the fruits of his devoted studies, and how much he instilled in the other cooks after his return.

But such increasing sophistication did nothing to dampen our taste for the new and the exotic. Charles Pomeroy still can’t forget the Western-style “sushi sandwich” on rye with cottage cheese and smoked salmon, or the Correspondents Soba, which he recalls as being more of a ramen with chicken on top.

 Our pastrami-on-rye competed with the best delis in town, and no one came close to our legendary rack of lamb. Some can’t forget the freshly-baked apple pie served hot with cheese on top. Others recall Pio d’Emilia’s delectable family pasta recipe. Such remembrances at the Round Table had many wishing to taste them once again.

Andrew Horvat took us up a notch in elegance under his 1988-89 presidency when he invited Hungarian Zsigmond Szabo, sous chef at the Duna Intercontinental Hotel, to be guest chef for three months. Some remember imaginative creations like chilled soup with peach and spices, and dining room sales shooting up 300 percent. Horvat also brought the exacting professional standards of Al Stamp to our kitchen, known, amongst many firsts, for introducing the sushi bar.

A recent Sunday Brunch hosted by Hanif brought back many of the favorites he has served over the decades and proved to be one of the most popular dates ever. So let’s hear it for something classic, something new, always unique and international. To new F&B Chair Bob Whiting, that sounds like an enduringly winning formula. Now the hunt is on to retrieve the treasure trove of FCCJ’s crown jewels hidden away in the dusty mazes of our collective memories and overflowing archives.

– The Shimbun Alley Whisperers


New Members in July

Regular Members

writes for the Financial Times about Japanese companies and technology from Tokyo. She is a native of Vancouver, Canada, and earned her Master of Arts degree from the University of Chicago. She began her career at the Tokyo bureau of Associated Press, covering Japanese politics, before moving to Kyodo News where she reported market and corporate news. She then spent four years as a Tokyo correspondent for the Wall Street Journal and Dow Jones Newswires covering the technology sector, M&A and markets before joining the FT in 2014.

has been the Sankei Shimbun’s senior reporter for diplomatic issues since 2012. He joined the Sankei after graduating from Rikkyo University in 1981. After years of experience as a reporter for the city news desk covering the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department and the National Tax Agency, he studied at Duke University and Columbia University, both in the U.S. He was assigned to the foreign news desk before becoming Moscow Branch chief reporting on the status of the northern islands and the changes taking place in the Russian government from 1997 through 2000.


Joji Harano, Nippon Communications Foundation

Yoshimi Kobayashi, Hilton Resorts Marketing Corporation
Ai Niimiya
Jiro Okada
Tetsuro Uemae, LIM Global Advisors Ltd.

Club News




. . . on Tuesday, July 14 for Shinya Tsukamoto’s grisly, gripping masterpiece, Fires on the Plain, followed by a Q&A with the filmmaker-star. In this 70th anniversary year of WWII’s end, fiercely independent, iconoclastic filmmaker Tsukamoto has refused to buckle to the white-washers of history. His provocative new adaptation of Shohei Ooka’s 1951 novel Nobi only slightly exceeds Kon Ichikawa’s 1959 film in its brutality and hell-on-earth savagery. Both draw directly from the horrific source material — but Tsukamoto’s is a perfect reinterpretation for our time; an intensely visceral reminder of the utter obscenity of war: Kill or be killed, eat or be eaten. This is absolutely essential viewing, not only for those too young to remember Ichikawa’s film, but for everyone who believes that Japan can best honor its Pacific War veterans by refusing to turn away from the truth of their experiences. (Japan, 2014; 87 minutes; Japanese/Filipino with English subtitles)

— Karen Severns





Mirai o tsukuru kigyoka (Insights to the Japanese Entrepreneurial Mind: 20 Japanese Startups and Their Journeys to Success)

Casey Wahl

Cross Media Publishing

Gift from Casey Wahl


Japan 1941: Countdown to Infamy

Eri Hotta

Alfred A. Knopf

Gift from Eri Hotta


Changing the Conversation: The 17 Principles of Conflict Resolution

Dana Caspersen

Penguin Books


The Good Shufu: Finding Love, Self, and Home on the Far Side of the World

Tracy Slater

Putnam Adult


Working Skin: Making Leather, Making a Multicultural Japan

Joseph D. Hankin

University of California Press


Fragrant Orchid: The Story of My Early Life

Yamaguchi Yoshiko, Fujiwara Sakuya ; translated by Chia-ning Chang

University of Hawaii Press



Exhibition: "Oyako (Parents & Children)" by Bruce Osborn


Parent: Yuichiro Miura/professional skier

Child: Gota Miura/professional skier

Three years after this photo was taken, they climbed Mount Everest. Yuichiro was then 80 years old
and holds the record as the oldest person to successfully reach its summit.


I BEGAN TAKING PHOTOS of Japanese parents and children as a way of looking at both Japanese culture and changes from one generation to the next. In the 33 years since starting, I have shot thousands of oyako and the project has grown in ways I never expected. In 2003, my wife and I started Oyako Day, which is celebrated on the fourth Sunday of July. On Oyako Day, I take photos of a hundred families in an all-day, super photo session. July 26 will be our 13th Oyako Day event. Photos in this FCCJ exhibition feature well-known parents and children from an ongoing series for the Mainichi Shimbun.


Bruce Osborn’s work has appeared in numerous publications and adverts, and he has received a number of awards. He has published several books, and also shoots commercials and music videos. In 2014, a documentary was made about the Oyako project. See more at

Born to Be a Saké Maker

For goodness sake: Born saké's company president,
Atsuhide Kato, pictured at this year’s “Hacks & Flacks” in the Club


Running a saké brewery requires a firm grasp

of tradition and a postive view of the future.

by Suvendrini Kakuchi


NE OF THE FCCJ’S closest friends and biggest admirers is Atsuhide Kato, the 11th-generation president of Katokichibei Shoten, makers of the exclusive “Born” brand of saké produced in the small town of Sabae, nestled in the mountains of Fukui Prefecture. Club Members will easily recognize Kato, who proudly attends the annual FCCJ New Year greeting party in January – “Hacks & Flacks” – that draws close to 600 guests representing the communications departments of top corporations, diplomats and other important figures of the Japanese establishment to rub shoulders with the members of the press.

Not only does Kato kindly donate the large traditional straw-wrapped barrel of Born saké to the FCCJ for the occasion, but he and his wife, dressed in their lineage happi, personally attend to the guests, ensuring they are treated to a never-ending supply of the high-grade beverage. Guests line up not only to drink some of the varieties of the magical brew he brings to the party, but also to listen to Kato explaining the long history and the devotion that goes into the brewing process.

The secret to the success of Kato’s line of saké is first and foremost the ingredients: basically the exclusive use of premium-grade junmai rice that is the most highly polished in the world, pure natural underground water native to the region and original yeast. But he proudly hails the staff and the rice farmers from Hyogo who supply the brewery – the people who belong to the Katokichibei family, and share a deep, unshaken faith in the final product.

Born saké is known throughout the industry for the strict and meticulous quality control standards that go into its production. It is aged at ice-cold temperatures until optimum maturation is reached – something that takes from one up to 10 years – then shipped chilled to preserve the integrity of the saké. The process has developed over a long history – in fact, Kato’s forefathers started brewing saké in 1860 under the “Koshinoi” label. In 1926, the saké was selected to serve the Showa Emperor for special ceremonies.

The name “Born,” the brainchild of the present master, means “purity” and is also linked, says the owner, to the concept of “creation” and a “futuristic vision.” The brand has received numerous prestigious awards – among them a triple gold medal for 2012 Born saké that was awarded by the International Wine Challenge and the Internationals Sake Challenge associations in a competition with 170 other brands. Kato also represents the face of the Japanese national drink culture to the whole world as he now regularly accompanies the Japanese prime minister, Shinzo Abe, on his overseas trips to pour Born saké at official parties.


Kato also regularly accompanies the

Japanese prime minister, Shinzo Abe,

on his overseas trips to pour

Born saké at official parties.


One of the reasons Kato continues to collaborate with the FCCJ is that he believes strongly in the Club – and the role, he says, that the institution symbolizes. Its birth in 1945 as a landmark in Japan’s postwar democracy is well known. But Kato believes the FCCJ must maintain its respected reputation as the place for dynamic international journalism in Japan, therefore playing a key role in ushering in necessary changes to sustain the economy and culture. “I am not against promoting change for the better despite the long tradition I represent,” says Kato. “In fact, a lot of my energy is in producing new products and ways of drinking it.” Recently, Born is regularly served in large wine glasses, according to Kato. “In contrast to small saké cups, I believe raising a wine glass to our mouth and nose is a better way to savour the fragrance of saké.”

Bringing Born saké to the FCCJ therefore represents a deeply embedded hope for the future for Atsuhide Kato. Remember that earnest wish when he hands you the next glass of one of the world’s finest sakés at the next FCCJ event.


Suvendrini Kakuchi is a correspondent for the UK-based University World News, with a focus on higher education issues.


Kazuo Shii and the Logic of the "War Bills"


Kazuo Shii at the Club in June

The president of Japan's Communist Party

took a (sometimes humorous) scalpel to the

administration's proposed security bills.

by Michael Penn



NE OF THE GREAT anomalies of the Japanese political world is the continued existence in 2015 of a remarkably vibrant communist party. In the rest of the democratic world, communist parties either changed their names or else they disappeared altogether. But not in this country.

The Japan Communist Party remains proud of its name and its tradition. It is by far the oldest of the still-functioning Japanese political parties, having been founded in 1922. That makes it more than three decades older than the Liberal Democratic Party. Moreover, the JCP is showing renewed electoral strength in the Abe era. In some public opinion polls it has been registering support levels that put it third, behind only the LDP and the DPJ. It is also the only opposition party that has been gaining seats since Shinzo Abe came to power. For example, in the unified local elections this April, the JCP saw advances that gave them representation in all 47 Japanese prefectural assemblies for the first time in their long history.

The gravity-defying success of this opposition party and the Abe administration’s strong desire to reshape Japan’s postwar security policies made this a particularly opportune time for Party Chair Kazuo Shii to come to the Club to discuss his party’s views.


In some public opinion polls it has been

registering support levels that put it third,

behind only the LDP and the DPJ.


At the top of the agenda are the eleven bills that the Abe government calls the “Legislation for Peace and Security” and which the critics, including Shii, call the “War Bills.” Collectively, these bills, if passed, would drastically expand the Japanese government’s ability to deploy the Self-Defense Forces to overseas missions, even in cooperation with foreign military actions.

With its long and tenacious commitment of support for the Japanese Constitution of 1947 and the pacifist ideals that it represents, the JCP is arguably the staunchest opponent of Abe’s security legislation. But since the ruling coalition of the LDP and Komeito holds firm majorities in both houses of the Diet, the main weapons that Shii and his colleagues can employ to defend their positions are the facts and logic that can devastate the Abe administration in parliamentary debate, and thus hopefully swing public opinion behind them.

“If an overwhelming majority of the public raises its voices against this legislation,” Shii told the gathered journalists, “then the ruling coalition will not be able to force through its passage in spite of their parliamentary majority.”

Shii spent much of his opening statement making a series of incisive and often humorous observations about the arguments being employed by the Abe administration in support of their “War Bills.” He suggested that the government was forced to employ tortured logic and to create entirely new legal concepts that no one had ever heard of. He asserted that they couldn’t even be translated into English very effectively.

One example Shii gave was the administration’s concept of “rear area support,” which is apparently supposed to reassure the Japanese public that any operations that the Self-Defense Forces would conduct together with foreign militaries would only take place at a safe distance from the hostilities.

“In English there is only the word ‘logistics’ – roughly equivalent to the Japanese word heitan, which they don’t use. In the concept of logistics, however, there is no distinction between ‘rear’ and ‘forward’ support, but simply overall logistical support,” Shii observed.

“We are debating concepts here

that are used nowhere else in the world,”

Shii commented.


The most amusing example that Shii posited was the Abe government’s concept of “the use of weapons.” The prime minister argued in Diet debate that should the Self-Defense Forces come under attack while providing “rear area support” for a foreign military force, that it would be perfectly allowable that they have recourse to “the use of weapons” to defend themselves. At the same time, however, Prime Minister Abe staunchly refuses to acknowledge that “the use of weapons” can be regarded as a practical synonym for “the use of force” – which is, of course, explicitly banned by Japan’s Constitution.

Shii noted playfully that he went to the Foreign Ministry and asked them if there was any place in international law or in the understanding of foreign nations that a distinction is drawn between “the use of weapons” and “the use of force” in military conflicts. Naturally, the Foreign Ministry confirmed that there was no such international understanding.

“We are debating concepts here that are used nowhere else in the world,” Shii commented.

In later parts of his presentation, Shii also highlighted problems he perceives in the subservience of Japanese foreign policy to the U.S., and in Abe’s unwillingness or inability to publicly acknowledge that Japan had ever committed a war of aggression or even “made a mistake” in launching the Pacific War. These factors, too, undermine trust in the government’s policy direction, he said.

Shii concluded, “The biggest problem with the Abe administration is that they only discuss military issues and they have absolutely no diplomatic vision. This sets up one national military against the other and leads to a cycle of negative developments.”

Michael Penn is president of the Shingetsu News Agency.


An Extraordinary Life

At the Club with Yuko and Ichiro Urushibara


Ichiro Urushibara's story reads like a gallop

through the rise and fall of Imperial Japan right through

its postwar economic miracle.

by Mary Corbett



hat Ichiro Urushibara’s journey through life would take a tumultuous route was perhaps first ordained when his father, Mokuchu, joined the delegation to the Great Japan Exhibition in London. The year was 1910, less than a half-century after the fall of the Tokugawa shogunate and only five years after Japan marked its dramatic debut into the inner corridors of world power through its victory in the Russo-Japanese War.

The elaborate exhibition offered the British public a chance to catch a glimpse of Japan’s arts and crafts, swords, temple gates, gardens – and the woodblock art of Mokuchu Urushibara, who demonstrated his technique each day to rapturous audiences. And while the sight of 36 half-naked sumo wrestlers may have raised Edwardian brows, it did nothing to inhibit the exhibition’s popularity, with one Sunday near the end of its run seeing an estimated 500,000 visitors. All told, between May and October, some eight million people swarmed to the site at Shepherd’s Bush. (In an intriguing small-world aside, it was Count Hirokichi Mutsu, then a diplomat at the Court of Saint James, and father of FCCJ legend Ian Mutsu, who is widely acknowledged as the impresario behind the sensational success of the exhibition.)


The sight of 36 half-naked sumo wrestlers

may have raised Edwardian brows,

but did nothing to inhibit the exhibition’s popularity


The welcome was enough to convince the woodblock artist Mokuchu to settle in London, where he went on to make quite a name for himself in the art world. Credited with introducing Japanese color print-making techniques to Europe, many Mokuchu Urushibara works remain today in the collections of famous museums.

It was in London that he and his Japanese wife welcomed their son Ichiro into the world in 1930. The Great Depression wasn’t the easiest of times to be growing up but – thanks to his father’s growing fame – Ichiro could count luminaries like the artist Sir Frank Brangwyn, a frequent collaborator with his father, and art scholar Laurence Binyon among those close to the family from his earliest days.  

But it was unlikely that he or anyone else suspected the twists and turns his life would take. The first clouds began to gather over the clan’s comfortable existence in England as the Nazis extended their reach across Europe. The Japanese exodus from England started in 1939, but the Urushibara family stayed on, even as they witnessed the German Blitz on the city of London. But the signing of the Berlin Pact between Japan, Italy and Germany was to seal their fate, and by the end of October, 1940, the family was boarding a Japanese ship in Galway Bay to “return” to a country the children had never seen.

As Ichiro Urushibara tells the story one recent afternoon over a cup of tea at the FCCJ, it is but one of many pages from his childhood memories. The uprooting from the Englishman’s life Ichiro had once assumed was his by right, however, must have been particularly jarring. The family could take little with them. But at least, he says, “the large, brightly illuminated Japanese painted flags on the ship guaranteed us free passage through an Atlantic swarming with trigger-happy U-boats.”

Urushibara saw a lot of the world as the ship made its way to his ancestral homeland. After a brief stop in Bermuda, the ship travelled to New York, which Ichiro remembers as a dazzling city of lights – “with no rationing!” – and more ice cream than he and his sister could have ever imagined in wartime Britain.


Urushibara remembers cheering along with classmates

when it was announced on the radio

that Pearl Harbor had been attacked


Soon he was “home,” living in Setagaya and trying to assimilate. Urushibara makes little issue today of the prejudice toward the returning Japanese his family encountered. “We rarely mentioned we had dual nationalities, though, or that we spoke English,” he says. “That would have been asking for trouble.”

On Monday, Dec. 8, 1941, Urushibara remembers cheering along with classmates when it was announced on the radio that Pearl Harbor had been attacked, and that Japan was at war with the U.S. But as the war escalated and the population suffered from increasing shortages of almost everything, Mokuchu’s hybrid woodblock art, which had found such favor in Europe, became but memories of a vanished world.

In the last desperate days of Japan’s disastrous Pacific campaign, even Ichiro’s then 56-year-old father was drafted. The elder Urushibara escaped the clutches of combat when a friend secured him a job in a factory, and Ichiro is convinced that even at 14, he would have been next had the war continued.

But the U.S. incendiary bombing campaign of March 1945, in which 100,000 people reportedly were killed in a single day, took care of what little Tokyo had left to fight for. “We were at our house in Setagaya when the first of the bombs fell on March 10,” says Urushibara, “and we could see the downtown skies turn bright red. But that wasn’t the end of it. On May 25, the raids came much closer, but when we started to evacuate, we saw that skies around us were ablaze in all directions. We thought, “First, the Blitz, then repatriation to the opposite end of the world. Now this. We said, ‘What the hell,’ and just stayed at home.”

And a good thing they did. While they were kept busy putting out fires while the bombs dropped all around them, their house miraculously survived, though nothing else beyond three doors down made it through the conflagration. In the process, Urushibara became a bit of a local hero, as his hand-built battery-operated radio was the only source of updates on raids through numerous power outages. “I was shouting, ‘The Americans are coming, the Americans are coming!’ around the neighborhood.”



Valuable works on paper: A woodblock print by Mokuchu Urushibara and a letter of thanks for a folio of prints from British Prime Minister Winston Churchill


And come they did, in the form of the Occupation, an initially much-dreaded event that was to launch Ichiro’s life on a new trajectory. Unable to afford finishing high school, Urushibara’s bilingual skills even at 14 were good enough to immediately land him a job during his middle school summer holiday as an interpreter at the Ernie Pyle Theater, on the site of the Takarazuka Gekijo in Hibiya, which was a theater for the Occupation forces. The pay was okay, and the food “incredible.

The new Japan rising from the ashes was short of English-language expertise, and offers came pouring in from all corners. He did one stint in the Civil Censorship Detachment, poring over documents in order to enforce MacArthur’s “Thou Shalt Not Speak Ill of the Allied Powers” rule. He began working for commercial radio broadcasters under the name “Ken Tajima,” to separate it from his business and political endeavors, which included work for multinational firms such as Toyota, Time-Life and Hill & Knowlton, as well as the private office of a secretary to a prime minister.

Somehow, he also managed to become the nation’s most trusted interpreter as well, lending his impressive talents to high-profile conferences and events. His diverse careers saw him travel to 51 countries.

Still fresh in his memory is the series of broadcasts he did for TBS, simultaneously interpreting the conversations between the astronauts and control on the Apollo missions. He remains very proud of having been the only simultaneous interpreter doing the Apollo 11 to 17 moon landings who converted the astronauts’ measurements to metric in the live simultaneous interpreting.

But it was through his work at the U.S. Embassy that Ichiro met Yuko, a radio program producer in his department. Elegant, and a rare female university graduate in that era who spoke refined English, thanks to her English literature studies. Yuko’s father and grandfather were viscounts and prominent ministers under the Meiji and Taisho Emperors, and Yuko chuckles as Ichiro recounts the early days of their courtship under the guarded eye of the distinguished family. Though somewhat dubious about the prospect of their daughter marrying a repatriated “nobody” from a former enemy country, the family’s prewar lifestyle and affinity for western culture probably made it easier to reconcile their daughter marrying a “commoner.”


Ichiro even appeared stateside in a

Schlitz beer commercial, with Yuko

making a guest appearance in kimono.


By the time the Olympics rolled around in 1964, “Ken Tajima” and Ichiro Urushibara were both bona fide stars. Ichiro even appeared stateside in a Schlitz beer commercial, with Yuko making a guest appearance in kimono.

An afternoon with the Urushibaras is a unique and deeply penetrating glance into the clash, demise and eventual synthesis of samurai, Empire and afternoon tea. Raised by parents determined to produce good British citizens, Ichiro knew little Japanese into his teens, while Yuko, through her aristocratic connections, went through Gakushuin, where she was sempai, by one and two years, respectively, to Yoko Ono and the Emperor.

I still have the birthday book autographed by Yoko,” she says of those privileged pre-war days. Also to be found in the pages is the signature, “Akihito,” from none other than the current emperor.

The Urushibaras’ memories from their multiple careers still astounds. Ichiro met Fidel Castro in Havana, and can recall an impressive list of the world’s greatest celebrities like Sammy Davis Jr., Connie Francis and Pat Boone who sought a spot on his popular radio shows. Yuko also had her fair share of exposure to celebrity through her father being a great fan and benefactor of baseball. His friendship with baseball legends Lefty O’Doul and Lou Gehrig, in particular, gave Yuko the chance to meet the biggest stars of the day – players like Joe DiMaggio and Shigeo Nagashima.

Ichiro wishes his father, who died in 1953, could have lived long enough to have enjoyed those heady days of his successes. He still holds dear a letter from none other than Winston Churchill, thanking Mokuchu for sending him a set of woodblock prints based on Brangwyn’s sketches. “The letter was dated Aug. 12, 1940, in the midst of the worst days of the war,” he says. “You would have thought Churchill was rather preoccupied. We were all moved. It still makes me so happy to remember that my father received a letter from 10 Downing Street in recognition of what he had achieved in England.”

The letter arrived just weeks before the Urushibaras left for Japan. Today, after 75 years, and celebrating 50 years at the FCCJ last year, Urushibara is still admitting to not feeling entirely Japanese nor British. “Neither fish nor fowl,” he says.

Others might call him a global citizen before his time.

Mary Corbett is a writer and documentary producer based in Tokyo. She is a board member of the FCCJ.

Profile: Shig Fujita



The long-time entertainment columnist recalls his years

rubbing shoulders with the greats --

like  Nat King Cole

by Charles Pomeroy

Former readers of the Asahi Evening News (AEN) will immediately recognize the name of Shig Fujita as its longtime entertainment columnist. But Shig was far more prolific during his 52 years with AEN, writing on a variety of other subjects and translating editorials. He was also the correspondent for Billboard from 1980 to 1990, and wrote for the Chicago-based Bowlers Journal from 1967 to 2000. Not to speak of the half-dozen books he translated or his work for graphic design and PR companies that also valued his talents.

So how did Shig – short for Shigeo – come by his bilingual abilities? Born in Kagoshima in January, 1922, he was taken at age two by his immigrant parents to Seattle, where he spent his childhood and received his early education. Unfortunately, U.S. immigration laws of the time made it almost impossible for Asians to become citizens, which led to his return to Japan after high school in 1939. “I still remember that 13-day trip; I was seasick for seven,” he says. Shig was welcomed back to Japan by his uncle, who lived in the Meguro district of Tokyo.

Shig began attending Waseda University in 1940. To cover expenses during those student years, he worked in the “radio room” at Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA). There, he and his colleagues monitored Allied broadcasts, mostly the BBC, and he eventually concluded that Japan was losing the war despite the government’s “telling the people that Japan was winning.” So when he was drafted into the Japanese Army in December, 1943, he was expecting certain death. But following an initial assignment to the Kagoshima 45th Regiment, he was transferred in March, 1944, to Fukuoka, where his knowledge of English was put to use at a POW camp. He served there until the end of the war.


When he was drafted into the

Japanese Army in December, 1943,

he was expecting certain death.


Meanwhile, on the other side of the Pacific, his family had been moved to an internment camp. The forced relocation even included Shig’s two younger brothers – who had been born in Seattle and were U.S. citizens. Ironically, one later served in the U.S. Army and was in the Philippines when the war ended.

After release from military service in December, 1945, Shig returned to Tokyo, where a chance meeting with former colleagues from the MOFA radio room led to work with their newly formed “Radio Press.” This independent agency supplied news gathered from shortwave broadcasts to government offices. He worked with them until he was hired in May, 1948 by a graphic design company, Philip Beaufoy Associates, where he worked for several years prior to joining the Asahi Evening News, “two months after its founding in 1952.”

Shig’s name came to be associated with entertainment news throughout the foreign community thanks to his column, “Hi Notes – Brite Lites,” which ran from 1956 until 1993. From 1957 to 1998 he also translated Asahi’s well-known commentary, Tensei Jingo (the Japanese version of Vox Populi, Vox Dei). And his views on the local entertainment scene were quoted in such major publications as Time magazine and the Christian Science Monitor.

As if that were not enough, from 1962 until 1994, Tele-Press Associates, a PR company with major clients such as Nippon Steel and Taisei Corporation, also brought Shig’s talents into play. There, his job was mostly writing monthly newsletters in English for clients. At one point in this phase of his life he had four jobs plus book translation and other assignments, “resulting in 17 tax statements,” says Shig. That led to a tax office query, “Which is your main job?”

Shig joined the FCCJ as an Associate Member in 1962 after signing up with Tele-Press. In 1980, after being named Tokyo correspondent for Billboard, he applied for a change to Regular status, but was turned down because he worked for a Japanese newspaper and lacked the required three years of service as an overseas correspondent. They had failed to take into account that he was not a regular employee of AEN, but a part-time contributor. But Shig has no regrets and to this day continues to pay his dues, although now at the reduced rate for a senior member.


At one point in his life he had four jobs

plus book translation and other assignments,

“resulting in 17 tax statements.”


During Shig’s long career he missed few, if any, of the many entertainment celebrities who visited Japan from overseas from the 1950s until his retirement in 2005. Among the more memorable was Nat King Cole in May, 1961. “His visit lasted for a week, and I was with him every day . . . taking a total of 246 photos,” says Shig. “He was a heavy smoker,” Shig elaborates, “smoking continually even during rehearsals . . . and he died at a young age.” Sammy Davis, Jr. was another that Shig remembers well. Since Sammy had made his 1950s debut in New York City’s Copacabana, Shig recalls accompanying him on a visit to the upscale Akasaka version of the same name.

Shig has been married for 68 years to Toshiko . . . “known to everyone as ‘Tosh’ just as I am called ‘Shig’ instead of Shigeo,” he says. They have one son and one daughter, both of whom have made him a grandfather. (This year he also became a great-grandfather.) Unfortunately, Tosh’s ill health in recent years has required institutional care, but Shig visits her frequently, usually every third day.

Shig also manages to frequently attend our movie nights . . . look for a craggy 93-year-old with a cane.

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



Just Doing Its Job: Tokyo Shimbun Points to the Truth


The FCCJ's Freedom of the Press Award-winning paper

says its role is to be a watchdog

on behalf of its readers.

by David McNeill


he shopworn truism – “truth is the first casualty of war” – is often dusted off by reporters covering conflict zones, but rarely in peaceful, orderly Japan. Yet this was the phrase that Kengo Suganuma, chief editor of Tokyo Shimbun, reached for when he accepted an award last May for “publication of the year” from the FCCJ’s Freedom of the Press Committee.

Japan is “in a situation that is essentially a war on the truth” under the Liberal-Democratic (LDP)-led government, Suganuma told his audience. Though he didn’t cite examples, he was probably thinking about the attempt to neuter NHK, the nation’s most powerful broadcaster, by stuffing its board with conservative allies led by President Katsuto Momii, a friend of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

Then there was the LDP’s demand for “fair and neutral” reporting by the media during campaigning for last December’s general election; the bullying of critical shows such as NHK’s “Close-Up Gendai,” the assiduous wining and dining of media bosses, the apparent strong-arming of Asahi TV’s “Hodo Station” to dump political critic Shigeaki Koga; and the passage of the new state secrets law, which critics say is a blunt instrument for pummeling bureaucrats and journalists into toeing the official line.  

To radical conservatives in the Abe camp, these are all simply attempts to recalibrate the “left-leaning” media. At a junior LDP lawmakers’ study session at LDP headquarters on June 25, some of the attendees urged a further step. Blaming the media for the public’s “lack of understanding” about the government’s security legislation, they proposed leaning on advertisers to smother negative media coverage and “smash” Okinawa’s two leading newspapers.



Monitoring power: Chief Editor Kengo Suganuma in the Tokyo Shimbun offices.

In this struggle for ideological turf, Tokyo Shimbun is hardly as embattled as its much larger national rival, Asahi Shimbun, which has lost hundreds of thousands of readers since admitting reporting errors last year, but it too has taken flak from nationalists angry at its anti-government, “left-leaning” coverage. That’s a description Suganuma emphatically rejects.


We don’t think of ourselves as ‘left’ or ‘right,’” he says during an interview at the company’s offices overlooking Hibiya Park. “We think of what we do as monitoring power, looking at the powerful from the position of the bottom, or from the perspective of people with no power.” Newspapers should be watchdogs on behalf of readers, he adds. “We’re not ‘anti-Abe’ – we’re just doing our job.”

A shift in priorities

Suganuma dates the shift in his newspaper’s priorities to the Fukushima nuclear crisis, when it earned a reputation for independent reporting and scrutinizing official claims. He compares 2011 to Japan’s wartime era, when military dispatches (daihonei happyo) lying about the doomed war effort were carried word-for-word in the national media. “Throughout the war, newspapers reported exactly what they were told and that’s why the war went the way it did,” he says.

The newspaper’s approach since then has been straightforward, says its editor. “We try to tell things as they are,” even if it upsets people in power. The same strategy animates its reporting of the government’s security bills, the American base issue on Okinawa and the secrecy law, which it firmly opposed (Japan’s most-read newspaper, the Yomiuri Shimbun, backed it).

On nuclear issues, it has consistently taken a more critical line than its rivals. In April it scooped them with a story – obtained via the information disclosure law – about how the foreign ministry had secretly simulated an attack on a nuclear power plant that would likely kill 18,000 people from radiation poisoning. The report predicted that the attack would cut power to the plant, triggering a meltdown and hydrogen explosions – roughly what occurred in Fukushima.

The newspaper covers the bitter dispute over replacing Futenma Air Station on Okinawa more extensively than its much wealthier national rivals. “Tokyo-based newspapers don’t give a voice to people in Okinawa,” he explains. “It’s the same with Fukushima, Article 9 of the Constitution and other issues. If you look at it from that perspective, we are for the position of ordinary people, not the powerful. We want people to not give in to intimidation and keep challenging power.”

Tokyo Shimbun’s relative independence is partly thanks to its regional roots. As part of the Chunichi group, headquartered in Nagoya, it has traditionally had less access to the halls of power in Nagatacho and Kasumigaseki, says Tatsuro Hanada, a media specialist at Waseda University. That gives it a different viewpoint than the obsessive Diet-watchers in its national rivals – and the press clubs on which they so heavily rely.

The national media tend to spend a lot of time in the corridors of government and report on what they’re doing,” agrees Koichi Nakano, a political scientist at Sophia University. “Tokyo Shimbun does less of that so it’s less good at covering what the government is up to, but better at reporting society and social issues.” Thus, much of its coverage since the return of the LDP government in late 2012 has been on the sometimes ugly impact of Abenomics, the economic creed named after the prime minister, rather than its political and economic nuts and bolts.

Tokyo Shimbun is also one of the very few Japanese publications to tackle the influence of Nippon Kaigi, perhaps Japan’s most powerful right-wing political lobby. The group has over 230 local chapters, 38,000 fee-paying members and a network that reaches deep into Nagatacho. About a third of the Diet and over half the 19-member Cabinet are members of the group’s parliamentary league. Prime Minister Abe is the group’s “special advisor.”


Tokyo Shimbun is also one of the very few Japanese

publications to tackle the influence of Nippon Kaigi,

perhaps Japan’s most powerful right-wing political lobby.


Given this hefty firepower, it is “absolutely normal” to write about Nippon Kaigi, says Suganuma. But he is reluctant to speculate on why it is considered journalistically off limits by his newspaper’s rivals. He says political reporters, paradoxically, don’t have a lot of interest in covering the group because they’re too busy reporting the daily machinations of the Diet. Tokyo Shimbun’s report on Nippon Kaigi was researched and written by a team of roving reporters.

Division in the newspaper market

Tokyo Shimbun cannot hope to match the clout of the liberal Asahi Shimbun. Its morning circulation of roughly 500,000 is a fraction of the Asahi’s 7.2 million, and about a third of the Sankei Shimbun, the national newspaper on the other end of Japan’s political spectrum. Still, its post-Fukushima penchant for poking a stick in the eye of the powerful has earned it new fans. Indeed, activists have formed a support group to increase its subscriptions.

Suganuma says circulation is slowly declining but claims his newspaper has picked up 10,000 - 20,000 new readers every year since the 2011 disaster. Many are in their 40s or 50s and some had given up reading newspapers for years, or had never read one at all, he says. “Of course we’ve lost people too, as older readers pass away, but we’re encouraged by this growth.” In these straitened times, it helps that the newspaper is slightly cheaper too – about ¥3,350 per month as opposed to ¥3,950 for the Asahi.

All this is happening against a difficult background for newspapers. General daily circulation in Japan fell by over 4 million over the decade to 2013, according to the Japan Newspaper Publishers and Editors Association. Tokyo Shimbun is doing better than most, says Hanada. “I think the newspaper’s change was not only an editorial policy but a market-led policy,” he says. “Since the decline of the Asahi began, I have heard many people say they would like to change to the Tokyo Shimbun.”

This relative success is part of the post-Fukushima polarization of the Japanese newspaper market, explains Kaori Hayashi, another media specialist at the University of Tokyo. “This phenomenon was triggered first by debates over the use of nuclear energy. But since then, we see the market being divided: Yomiuri, Sankei, the Nikkei and NHK on the right, and the Asahi, the Mainichi and Tokyo Shimbun on the left.”


“Someone in the government has told sources

not to talk to us,” he says. “Information goes instead

to the Yomiuri and the Sankei.”


This division can be seen over the entire national agenda – Okinawa, the Constitution and politics in East Asia,” she continues. Hayashi says Suganuma’s newspaper appeals to liberal intellectuals in Tokyo, particularly because its opinionated approach is very different from the “conventional, rather arid style of Japanese journalism.” The Asahi used to enjoy this position, she says, before it began pulling its punches.

The backlash against Tokyo Shimbun’s editorial policy has been fairly light. The radical right seems to have concentrated, instead, on bringing down the hated Asahi. One of Japan’s largest-ever lawsuits has been launched against the liberal flagship and conservative politicians have discussed plans to haul Asahi editors and journalists before the Diet.

By contrast, Tokyo Shimbun has escaped relatively unscathed, says Suganuma, though he laments how official sources have dwindled under the Abe regime. “Someone in the government has told sources not to talk to us,” he says. “Information goes instead to the Yomiuri and the Sankei.”

Unlike television, he says, newspapers are lightly regulated. In effect, print holds the line on press freedom. “The media is definitely going in the wrong direction,” he says. “Over the last four years, we seem to be going back to the wartime era, when the media was not reporting what was really happening. We want to revive its role of really telling the truth.”

David McNeill writes for the Independent, the Economist, the Chronicle of Higher Education and other publications. He has been based in Tokyo since 2000.




Taxing Issues


Japan is looking to close tax loopholes

as a way to boost revenues.

A new law targets locals and foreigners alike.

by Gavin Blair


new law that came into effect on July 1 means that those with financial assets exceeding ¥100 million could be subject to an “exit tax” of a little over 15 percent if they leave Japan. The rules were designed to prevent wealthy Japanese moving to low-tax territories in order to realize capital gains and avoid high rates of inheritance tax. However, they also apply to foreigners on spousal visas or permanent residency holders who have been living in Japan for five of the last 10 years. Combined with new international initiatives on sharing of financial information and the prospect of Japanese accountants having to report the tax planning advice they give their clients, the savings situation for foreign residents of Japan looks set to undergo some major changes.

Given the dire straits of Japan’s public finances, with slim prospects of improvement being delivered by a shrinking tax base, it is little surprise the government is making efforts to close loopholes and steer more of the country’s still considerable wealth into its coffers. But the Abe administration is also making a lot of noise about attracting overseas investment and businesses to Japan, and that could be hampered by the prospect of an exit tax payable by foreigners when leaving the country.

The plan for the exit tax went from idea to legislation in an unusually short time, given the glacial pace at which initiatives often move in Japan. Some observers believe that in the rush to slam the door on yen escaping to lower-tax pastures, all the implications were not fully considered – one of those being the considerable number of non-Japanese potentially affected.

A statement issued by the Ministry of Finance noted that according to its own estimates the new law would affect a total of only approximately 100 people, Japanese and foreigners combined.

“The Japanese government says that the exit tax should only apply to a very limited number of people, but I think that is unrealistic. I’ve already found a number of my clients who will be affected,” said a partner at a Tokyo accounting firm, who asked not to be named in order to protect the identity of the company’s customers.


The plan for the exit tax went from

idea to legislation in an unusually short time,

given the glacial pace at which initiatives

often move in Japan.

The government failed to get the message out that similar rules are already in effect in a number of other major economies, or to get sufficient information out in a timely fashion about the new Japanese rules, according to the partner. “And although the tax now only applies to financial assets like stocks and bonds, people are worried it may be widened in the future to include things like property,” he added.

Following lobbying by groups representing overseas business interests in Japan, foreign residents have now been given a five-year “grace period” before they will become liable for the tax
in July 2020, points out Marcus Wong, partner at Pricewater-
houseCoopers’ Tokyo office. “The clock on that five years residency in Japan starts ticking on July 1, 2015,” he notes, and suggests “there is plenty of time to plan.”

Those who leave Japan and intend to return are required to put up collateral that would cover the exit tax. If those assets are then sold, however, they become liable to pay the exit tax plus a small amount of interest. For assets that are held on to, a report must be filed on them every year to the Japanese tax authorities.

“One thing that is sometimes missed is that the exit tax of 15.315 percent [the odd percentage is accounted for by the supplementary portion for Tohoku reconstruction] also applies to gifting or the bequest of financial assets to non-residents of Japan,” adds Wong.

This means that a foreign resident of Japan who wants to give shares or other financial instruments to offspring, or anyone else, in their home country as part of their inheritance planning, will find those assets are potentially liable for the exit tax.

With the Japanese tax authorities set to begin looking at foreign residents in July 2020, and assessing whether they have been a holder of a spousal or permanent-resident visa for a total of five of years during the last 10, changing visa status is one option, according to Hans-Peter Musahl, partner at Ernst & Young Tax Co. in Japan. “If they give up their permanent residency in 2015, then they would not have been resident for five years in 2020,” points out Musahl.


The issue of overseas assets is one

that is set to loom larger for many people

in the coming years


One misconception that has arisen around this issue is that if a foreign resident is married to a Japanese national then they would be deemed to be on a spouse visa; that is not the case. Nevertheless, giving up a spousal visa or permanent residency will not solve every tax problem.

“Even if you give up your permanent residency, you are still liable to pay tax on income from assets overseas if you have been resident in Japan for more than five years,” says Musashl.

The issue of overseas assets is one that is set to loom larger for many people in the coming years, particularly for those living and working in countries other than the one they were born in. As people, capital and assets have become far more mobile in recent decades, it is no secret that many companies and individuals have gone to considerable lengths to take advantage of this.

“As of 2014, foreigners who have stayed in Japan five years and own foreign-located assets worth more than ¥50 million must file foreign asset statements,” says Musahl, who notes that this year it became a criminal offence to either not file these statements or file them inaccurately.

While similar forms do exist in other countries, the Japanese versions require reporting a wider range of assets as well as details such as the names of stock brokerages and the original costs of shareholdings, according to PwC’s Wong.

Japan has been updating tax treaties, including or strengthening the parts around cooperation on collection of taxes, as well as implementing self-reporting of overseas and worldwide assets for domestic filings, notes Wong. “These two forces are working together: the international agreements that Japan could utilize if they want to find out more information and also the domestic self-reporting requirements now for taxpayers,” says Wong. “I’m sure that with the advances in technology, the sharing of information will become easier.”

The authorities of many OECD member countries have already started sharing data on financial income and assets, points out E&Y’s Musashl. “The Japanese fiscal authorities will join this automatic information-exchange process in 2018 and be able to reassess income tax going back up to five years,” he says.


The authorities of many

OECD member countries have already

started sharing data

on financial income and assets


The U.S. Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FACTA) set the ball rolling for international cooperation on financial information disclosure in 2010, with Japan agreeing to comply in June 2013. Since then, more than 60 countries have joined an OECD-led initiative based on its Standard for Automatic Exchange of Financial Information in Tax Matters, with more than 90 expected to be signatories by the time it is implemented.

At June’s G7 summit, the participating countries’ leaders issued the following statement: “We commit to strongly promoting automatic exchange of information on cross-border tax rulings. Moreover, we look forward to the rapid implementation of the new single global standard for automatic exchange of information by the end of 2017 or 2018, including by all financial centers subject to completing necessary legislative procedures.”

Japan is set to introduce its “My Number” system, the local version of a social security or national insurance number, by the end of this year. This will be used to facilitate the automatic international sharing of information linked to bank accounts, holdings of stocks and bonds, as well as any property registered in people’s names.

The first port of call for people affected by any of these changes is usually their accountant. However, the way that accounting firms in Japan operate may be about to undergo a major change. “New measures are being discussed by the government that would force accounting firms to explain to the Japanese tax office what kind of advice they have given clients to help them reduce their tax exposure,” explains the partner at the Tokyo accountants who does not wish to be identified.

The discussions about the new rules were covered on the front page of the Nihon Keizai Shimbun at the end of May, and have accountants concerned about how it will affect their ability to do business, according to the partner, who is worried a new law could be on its way sooner rather than later.

“The exit tax was passed in six months, so if they are eager to pass these new rules, they could come in just as quickly.”

Gavin Blair covers Japanese business, society and culture for publications in America, Asia and Europe.


From the Archives: Iron Ladies


 No1-2015-7MeirIsraeli Foreign Minister Golda Meir (above) spoke at the FCCJ on Jan. 19, 1962. Seated to her right is Club President John Randolph (AP), noted for his Korean War reporting and bravery, and to her left is Igor Oganesoff (Wall Street Journal).

Indira Gandhi (below), India’s Prime Minister, spoke at the FCCJ on June 27, 1969, some seven years after the appearance of Golda Meir. Seated next to her is Club President Henry Hartzenbusch (AP Bureau Chief) who was an innovative and tireless contributor to improving the Club. No. 1 Shimbun came into existence during his administration, as described in our history book.



BOTH GOLDA MEIR AND Indira Gandhi were exceptional speakers, and both were exceptional leaders who guided their respective countries through exceedingly difficult times. They proved themselves as equally competent and ruthless as men in winning political office, in achieving their goals – and even in going to war when they deemed it necessary. The rise at the national level of such effective female leaders, joined in 1979 by Margaret Thatcher of the United Kingdom, established a standard to which later female leaders would aspire. 

In her remarks at the Club in 1962 concerning Israel and the Arab states, Golda Meir emphasized that more needed to be done in education and in developing agriculture and industry, not the “nonsensical” waste of manpower and money spent on armaments and planning destruction. Meir went on to become Israel’s fourth prime minister (1969-1974). She was the fourth woman in the world to achieve such a high office and was known as the “Iron Lady” well before Margaret Thatcher was given the same epithet. Meir died of lymphoma in 1978.


Golda Meir [spoke about] the “nonsensical” waste

of manpower and money spent on

armaments and planning destruction.

During an official visit to Japan as India’s first woman prime minister, Indira Gandhi spoke at the FCCJ three years after assuming her high position. Although her remarks are not recorded in our history book, she no doubt explained the reason for her good-will visit to Japan, and no doubt was bombarded by questions concerning a split in her political party and her recent success in putting down a Communist uprising in her country. Indian media and diplomats were impressed with the way she spoke and responded to questions with “supreme confidence,” said one Indian diplomat, Prem Budhwar in his book, A Diplomat Reveals. Gandhi served her first term as Prime Minister until 1977, and a second term from 1980 until she was assassinated by her Sikh guards in 1984 following destruction of a Sikh temple by the Indian military.

The historical contributions of these two leaders are well known, but one commentator pointed out that one thing they shared was a lack of brothers. Golda Meir had five of her eight siblings die during her early childhood in Russia. And Indira Gandhi was the only child of Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s first Prime Minister. The absence of brothers during childhood, he suggests, meant that they lacked contrasting gender experiences at home and grew up assuming equality with boys. Thatcher also shared this lack of male siblings, but never spoke at the Club.


Charles Pomeroy


Tales from the Round Tables: Crashing the Glass Ceiling



OTWITHSTANDING OUR CHERISHED past cluttered with Stag Bars and topless dancers, some formidable reputations were forged by women correspondents at the FCCJ from the very early days.  

Long before she found her second life as the face that graces the jacket of the Club’s history, Foreign Correspondents In Japan, Marguerite Higgins was an ace correspondent covering WWII and Korea. Not satisfied with being the first, or only, woman at anything, she was focused on being the best, and her heated rivalry with Homer Bigart became a gold mine of headlines for the Herald Tribune, for which they both worked.

Mary Ann Maskery of ABC News effortlessly broke through the glass ceiling to become the very first of our three women presidents to date in 1984. Another sign of the changing times was the transition of the name of the “Stag Bar” to “Shimbun Alley Bar” in 1990, after a naming contest won by the talented Daniella Kaneva of the Bulgarian News Agency.

Sandra Mori, the only member today who can claim to having been in every club house the FCCJ has ever had, modestly says she covered mostly “soft topics,” but still can recall countless narrow escapes from riots in Kashmir, or dodging bombs going off at a bazaar in Zamboanga, and once had to be smuggled across the Cambodian border to Thailand rolled up in a carpet to hide her famous red hair, à la Lara Croft.


She once had to be smuggled across

the Cambodian border to Thailand

rolled up in a carpet


Granddaughter of Meiji-era PM Prince Masayoshi Matsukata, and graduate of the American School in Japan, few were as well versed and highly educated in both cultures as Haru Matsukata. By the time James Michener introduced her to eventual husband Edwin Reischauer, she was writing for the Saturday Evening Post and already the first Japanese full correspondent member of the FCCJ, not to mention a rare female director on the Board. Those must certainly have been some heady days in the Club bar, especially after Edwin was appointed ambassador to Japan by JFK.

Amongst the many women who made the leap from correspondents’ assistants to ace journalists, no FCCJ member became more famous in the Japanese media than Atsuko Chiba. Upon her breast cancer diagnosis, Chiba chronicled her intensely personal journey in the weekly Bungei Shunju, and then in a book which triggered a much-needed public debate in 1981.

Supported throughout by Norman Pearlstine, her mentor at the Wall Street Journal, and friends such as Mike Tharpe and Charles Pomeroy, she helped break open the secrecy in Japan’s patient-doctor relations.

Following close behind her in making the transition from foreign newsroom to Japanese media star, was Yoshiko Sakurai, who went on to anchor news at NTV for many years and remains a member today.

And finally, there is Claire Hollingworth, never a full FCCJ member, but a high-profile Asia hand who was a treasured “Visitor Member” on her regular visits, and who turned 100 a couple of years ago. Young Claire followed a hunch and ventured to the Polish border to witness the Nazi invasion, giving the Daily Telegraph the first headline heralding the start of WWII. The best part is, we hear she is still holding court at the Hong Kong FCC, dispensing war stories and wisdom to her admirers.

Incredible role models, all . . . and certainly not just for women.


– The Shimbun Alley Whisperers



New Members in June



YUKI HASEGAWA became the Chief Manager for International Affairs for the Yomiuri Shimbun in January 2015. Hasegawa joined the Yomiuri Shimbun in 1989, after graduating from International Christian University in Tokyo. She has spent most of her career in the International News Department, assigned to Manila from 1997 to 2000, Geneva from 2003 to 2005, Cairo from 2005 to 2008, and was Cairo Bureau Chief from 2009 to 2012. From 2013 until her recent assignment as Chief Manager, she was the Kofu Bureau Chief in Yamanashi Prefecture. Her hobbies include trekking and diving.



Takanori Eto, AICJ Ltd.
Hiroyuki Fujiwara,
Japan Beer Journalists Association
Rika Oishi,
Hokkaido Valley LLC
Emi Shimoyama Watabe, Freelance



Naomi Hatakeyama, Doree Kami Japan Co., Ltd.



Richard W. Bell, ISC Corporation
Tsutomu Horiuchi, Mori Building Co., Ltd.
Kosuke Hirai, Fuyo Kosan Ltd.
Tetsuya Minato, Mol Logistics Co., Ltd.
Ryoko Ota,
Yamaha Motor Co., Ltd.
Shingo Ogawa, Mitsubishi Corporation
Yuki Uchiyama, WEIC
Noriko Uebo
Fumikazu Yoshida
Takao Yoshizawa,
Fuji Patent Law Firm

Club Notes



Join the Film Committee . . . .

. . . at 6:00 pm (one hour earlier than usual) on Tuesday, June 9 for a sneak preview screening of Oscar-nominated documentarian John Junkerman’s important new film, Okinawa: The Afterburn. The director, who will be on hand for an English-only Q&A session after the screening, has created award-winning titles like Power and Terror: Noam Chomsky in Our Times and Japan’s Peace Constitution. Junkerman and his producer Tetsujiro Yamagami now explore the past, present and future of Japan’s southernmost prefecture, illuminating its troubling history of ongoing occupation, human and civil rights violations, and dogged resistance. This sobering documentary comes not a moment too soon, as the United States, with the active support of the Japanese government, begins construction of its huge new Marine base in Henoko despite determined protests against it. Today, the U.S. military occupies nearly 20 percent of Okinawa, accounting for 74 percent of its military presence in Japan.


(Japan, 2015; 148 minutes; Japanese/English with English subtitles)                      

   Karen Severns


 New Books in the Library

The Honda Myth: The Genius and His Wake
Masaaki Sato;
translated by Hiroko Yoda with Matt Alt
Gift from Kosuke Matsumura

Matsushita Leadership: Lessons from the 20th Century’s Most Remarkable Entrepreneur
John P. Kotter.
Free Press
Gift from Kosuke Matsumura

Reaching Out to Field Reality: Meta-Facilitation for Community Development Workers
Nobuaki Wada; Toyokazu Nakata
Mura no Mirai
Gift from Mura no Mirai

An Introduction to Japanese Society
Yoshio Sugimoto
Cambridge University Press
Gift from Yoshio Sugimoto

Intimate Rivals: Japanese Domestic Politics and a Rising China
Sheila A. Smith
Columbia University Press
Gift from Todd Crowell

Japan in Peril: 9 Crisis Scenarios
Rebuild Japan Initiative Foundation
CLSA Books
Gift from Yoichi Funabashi

North Korea Confidential: Private Markets, Fashion Trends, Prison Camps, Dissenters and Defectors
Daniel Tudor;
James Pearson
Gift from James Pearson

Japan and the Shackles of the Past
R. Taggart Murphy
Oxford University Press
Gift from Richard Taggart Murphy

If There Were No Japan: A Cultural Memoir
Roger Pulvers
Japan Publishing Industry Foundation for Culture
Gift from Roger Pulvers

Moshi Nihon to iu kuni ga nakattara
Roger Pulvers
Shueisha International
Gift from Roger Pulvers

Shi no fuchi o mita otoko: Yoshida Masao to Fukushima Daiichi genpatsu no 500-nichi
Ryusho Kadota
PHP Kenkyusho
Gift from Ryusho Kadota

Sekai nenkan 2015
Kyodo Tsushinsha
Gift from Kyodo Tsushinsha

Higashi Ajia senryaku gaikan 2015
Boeisho Boei Kenkyusho
FCCJ Press Conference (April 9, 2015)

A Sociology of Japanese Youth: From returnees to NEETs
Edited by Roger Goodman, Yuki Imoto and Tuukka Toivonen.

Taiheiyo senso no nikusei vol. 3 & vol. 4 (Sengo 70-nen kikaku Bunshun magazine book)
Bungei Shunju
Japan Company Handbook: Spring 2015
Toyo Keizai

Kyoto: An Urban History of Japan’s Premodern Capital
Matthew Stavros
University of Hawai’i Press

I Want to Kick You in the Back
Risa Wataya
One Peace Books

Manchu Princess, Japanese Spy: The Story of Kawashima Yoshiko, the Cross-Dressing Spy Who Commanded Her Own Army
Phyllis Birnbaum
Columbia University Press

Japanization: What the World Can Learn from Japan’s Lost Decades
William Pesek
John Wiley & Sons

Exhibition: "Japan" by Naoko Honjo



IT IS SOMETIMES EASY for us to forget the precious beauty of the country in which we live. While I can appreciate countries I have yet to visit, I count myself lucky to be able to travel around Japan and capture many beautiful images. With this exhibition, I want to share my view of Japan as a “toy box” containing lots of treasures.



Naoki Honjo graduated with a Media Arts degree in Tokyo. He has participated in numerous exhibitions. His first photo book, small planet, received the 32nd Kimura Ihe Award in 2006. His works are in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and The Museum of Fine Arts in the U.S.





PAC Event Round-Up

 May saw a wide variety of newsmakers

speaking from the Club’s dais,

covering everything from administration politics

to the sex industry.


by Daniel Leussink

Ichiro Fujisaki:

Japan Ready for Defense Guidelines



HERE IS ENOUGH TIME left to win the people’s understanding of the process the Japanese government used for coming up with new U.S.-Japan defense guidelines.

That was the message of Ichiro Fujisaki, former Japanese ambassador to the U.S., who spoke at the FCCJ on May 14. Among his other statements was his contention that moving Okinawa’s Futenma base to Henoko is the only solution for the Okinawa base issue, that Japan will be careful in deploying military forces to the South China Sea and that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s recent visit to the United States was a success.

Fujisaki was Japan’s ambassador in Washington for about four-and-a-half years leading up to 2012, and has been teaching at Sophia University in Tokyo since 2013.


There's only one solution to the issue

of U.S military bases, said Fujisaki . . .

building the Henoko replacement


Fujisaki said he is aware of criticism directed at Abe in the wake of his April visit to the U.S., after telling Congress his government is determined to enact the upgraded security legislation by summer. “If we have two or three months, that is enough for people to learn about this process,” he said.

The process includes advice from an outside panel, the 2014 Cabinet decision pursuing changes in defense, the agreement between Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party and its coalition partner Komeito, and the arrangement for presenting legislation for the new defense guidelines to parliament this session.

There’s only one solution to the difficult issue of U.S. military bases in Okinawa, Japan’s southern island prefecture, said Fujisaki, and that is building the Henoko replacement facility. “I have also heard that [Okinawa] Governor Onaga will be visiting Washington, but I think the U.S. government position is very clear.”

Fujisaki has been involved with the relocation of the contentious American marine base at Futenma from his time as a political minister in the Japanese embassy in the U.S. from the middle of the ‘90’s. He has attended the meetings of seven Prime Ministers – Mori, Koizumi, Fukuda, Aso, Hatoyama, Kan and Noda – with two U.S. Presidents – Bush and Obama – over the past 15 years.

When asked how Mr. Onaga will be treated in the United States,” Fujisaki replied, “I don’t know. It’s totally on the American side to decide and I don’t think the Japanese side will ever say anything about that.”

Fujisaki used the metaphor of a swinging pendulum to describe U.S.-China relations. On the positive side, there are big economic opportunities, the control of North Korea and United Nations’ cooperation, while on the negative side, there are the Chinese military buildup, the issue of human rights and the Taiwan problem.

China’s airstrip construction in the South China Sea should not be allowed to become a fait accompli, said Fujisaki, though avoiding a specific definition of the kind of role Japan should play in the waters.

“If it is a military role, I think we’ll be very careful,” he said, while also saying it’s necessary for Japan to keep showing an interest in the things that are happening in the area.



Okinawa Governor Takeshi Onaga:

U.S. military bases no longer an economic benefit


MAY 20 SAW THE appearance of Okinawa Governor Takeshi Onaga at the Club, and he did not mince words, stating that locals will try to block construction of the contentious United States military base at Henoko Bay.

Regardless of whether Japan and the U.S. are fixated on building it, “the new Henoko base can’t be built,” Onaga said. “It’s not possible.”

The 64-year-old governor spoke about Okinawa’s complicated issues – the base situation, history and the economy – ahead of his visit to the U.S., which started on May 27. After giving a 15-minute talk, Onaga answered questions from foreign correspondents and Japanese journalists.

The event had 141 attendees, making it the busiest professional luncheon of the year after Bank of Japan Governor Haruhiko Kuroda’s Club appearance in March. Onaga stayed 10 minutes longer than planned.

The LDP-led government has been intent on building a replacement facility for the Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, a U.S. marine base in a densely populated part of Okinawa, on a pristine bay in Nago city on the northeastern coast. Onaga, a former Naha city mayor, won a popular mandate against the relocation plan in November 2014. (He also was the campaign manager of his predecessor, Hirokazu Nakaima, who ran against the base relocation in 2010, then changed his mind under pressure from the central government.)


"The new Henoko base can't be built,"

Onaga said. "It's not possible."

Onaga said that Nago Mayor Susumu Inamine and he have the authority to obstruct base construction, saying reclamation of land for the replacement facility would be an immense, destructive operation because of the amount of work required. It would include a year of 100,000 trips by 10-ton trucks just for landfill, said Onaga.

During the luncheon, the governor also reported that a recently launched fund to support action against the relocation to Henoko Bay had already collected more than ¥200 million, with about 70 percent of the donations coming from “mainland” Japan.

Onaga attacked the logic used by Prime Minister Abe’s government in promoting the relocation. Onaga pointed out that his prefecture presently hosts 73.8 percent of U.S. military bases in Japan. And even if all the bases south of the U.S. Air Force base at Kadena are closed as planned, this number will be reduced by a mere 0.7 percent.

He also claims that U.S. military bases are no longer an economic benefit, but instead have become the biggest impediment to Okinawa’s economic development. Presently, the bases account for 4.9 percent of Okinawa’s gross development product, compared to about 15 percent of GDP at the time of the prefecture’s reversion to Japan in 1972 and about 50 percent of GDP at the end of the Second World War, the governor said. The Okinawan economy has reaped far more economic benefits from redevelopment of former military sites than they did when the U.S. military occupied them, the governor said.

Onaga said he hopes to strengthen Okinawa’s ties with Asia, and spoke positively about his April visits to China and Taiwan. He said he’s trying to attract investment from Chinese and Taiwanese businesses in order to support the local economy. In China, State Council Premier Li Keqiang responded positively to his request to set up a charter flight connection between Okinawa and Fuzhou.



Yumeno Nito:

Increase awareness of juveniles in the sex industry



YUMENO NITO, 25, IS an outspoken activist fighting abuse of teenage girls in Japan’s notorious entertainment industry. She appeared at the FCCJ on May 22, where in front of a small but attentive audience she called for more awareness of the dangers faced by young people.

“Japanese society in general needs to understand that we’re not an advanced nation in terms of our understanding of child prostitution and human trafficking,” she said, citing reports by the U.S. State Department in June 2014 and the United Nations.

Nito, a high school dropout and Meiji University graduate, is founder of Colabo, a support center where troubled girls working in the joshi kosei (or “JK”) business can go for advice and talk with a counsellor about their problems or just get a meal.


"We're not an advanced nation in

terms of our understanding

of child prostitution."


Nito said she goes out on the streets of Tokyo regularly to stay on top of the way the industry is evolving and to get in touch personally with girls working in the JK business. In 2014, she talked with 84 girls who were victims of human trafficking, she said.

About a third of the girls in the JK business come from good families and are attracted by the high pay of job offers appearing on social media sites, according to Nito. The remaining two-thirds of the girls have been abused, or come from troubled families.

Nito estimates that about 5,000 girls in Tokyo alone work in the business, although she admitted official data – governmental or police – doesn’t exist. She’s not sure of the share or percentage of girls that are under-age. She stated that many JK businesses employing schoolgirls are operating in a legal grey zone, making it hard for the authorities to crack down on them for violations of Japan’s strict labor and adult entertainment laws, while the businesses themselves are constantly evolving new business models to stay a step ahead of law enforcement.

“Quite often, even if the police want to do something, they can’t,” she said. “This is something that I’ve heard directly from the police.”


Daniel Leussink is a Dutch freelance journalist in Japan.


Honoring Press Freedom



The first annual FCCJ Freedom of the Press Awards

celebrated people and organizations that continue to

take on difficult and sensitive issues.


by Julian Ryall


The Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan recognized and applauded the men, women and media organizations that have been at the forefront of the fight for media freedom in Japan over the last year, with the inaugural FCCJ Freedom of the Press Awards.

Held at the Club on the evening of May 22 and organized by the Freedom of the Press Committee, the timing of the ceremony was appropriate, coming just days after Reporters Without Borders released its annual World Press Freedom Index. Japan slipped two places in the organization’s rankings to 61st place, putting it immediately below South Korea and lower in the rankings than Papua New Guinea, Mongolia, Romania and Burkina Faso.

In its report, the organization concluded, “Investigative journalism, public interest and the confidentiality of journalists’ sources are all being sacrificed by legislators bent on ensuring that their country’s image is spared embarrassing revelations.”

“This has to be the most important event that the Club stages this year simply because of the threats to the freedom ofthe press in Japan today,” said FCCJ President Lucy Birmingham.


"We hope this will encourage them

to strive even harder

for the truth.”


“Japan remains one of the most important democracies in the world and the situation here is better than in most countries, but the recent Reporters Without Borders rankings should be seen as a warning of the significant threats that exist in our industry,” she said. The sweeping new state secrets law that was enacted by the government is “cause for serious concern,” Birmingham pointed out, along with the worsening trend for self-censorship among Japanese reporters that prevents the media here from taking on important issues like they used to in the past.

Part of the aim of the FCCJ’s annual awards is to encourage the media here to once again taken up sensitive issues that ask questions of the government, bureaucracy and big business, Birmingham added. “If reporters can see that their bravery and their work are being celebrated, then we hope this will encourage them to strive even harder for the truth.”

Six judges drawn from the newspaper, magazine, television news and filmmaking sectors were asked to weigh 50 names that were put forward for awards, finally selecting nine individuals and companies to receive the attractive engraved glass awards.

FACTA magazine, which followed up on the story of accounting chicanery at Olympus Corp. in 2011 with a series of probing stories this year, took the Investigative Journalism Award, along with the editorial team at the Asahi Shimbun responsible for “The Prometheus Trap” column that dissects goings-on in Japan’s nuclear industry.

The third award for investigative reporting went to Jason Clenfield of Bloomberg for his coverage of unfair working conditions for part-time employees.


Peter Langan described Clenfield –

who spent many months working on the coverage –

as “one of those really annoying reporters

who refuse to give up on stories.”


Clenfield was unable to attend the awards ceremony but Peter Langan, bureau chief for Bloomberg in Tokyo, accepted it on his behalf and described Clenfield – who spent many months working on the coverage – as “one of those really annoying reporters who refuse to give up on stories.”

The Lifetime Achievement Award went to Jon Mitchell, the British journalist who has extensively covered issues relating to U.S. military bases in Okinawa, including the presence of Agent Orange in the prefecture. “A lot of the mainstream Japanese and international media ignore what goes on in Okinawa, but I promise to do all that I can to continue to tell the truth about the good people of Okinawa who live there and the violations that continue to go on,” Mitchell said.

The three winners of the Friend of the Free Press Award included Shigeaki Koga, the former bureaucrat who has become a regular visitor to the FCCJ in recent months as a result of his no-punches-pulled criticism of the government and industry.

In an opinion article in the New York Times the previous day, Koga concluded that, “The [Shinzo] Abe administration’s treatment of journalists is worthy of an authoritarian state, not the liberal democracy Japan is supposed to be.”





Speaking after the awards ceremony, Koga said he was “very honored” to receive the award, adding that he found it encouraging because the rest of Japan’s media had queued up to criticize him after he spoke out. “If the FCCJ had not taken my case and given me chances to express my opinions, then there would probably have been no discussion in Japan at all of press freedom,” he said. “The fact that this issue is now being discussed is because foreign media covered it and then the Japanese media were forced to write about it.”

Koga said he has not been able to detect any significant changes in large media organizations’ approach to their duty of free and fair reporting, although he did confirm that individual journalists of many of those companies have been in touch with him to ask for advice on how they might be able to bring about improvements.

“I hope this award will provide encouragement to other journalists and, if that happens, then I will be even more gratified than I am now,” Koga added.

The penultimate award was for a journalist killed in the line of work, with Kenji Goto receiving the 2015 honor. Captured in Syria in February by fighters from the Islamic State, Goto was beheaded after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe pledged financial support to countries in the Middle East struggling to combat the extremist group.

After a moment’s silence in memory of Goto requested by Jake Adelstein, who chairs the Freedom of the Press Committee, the final award was presented to the Tokyo Shimbun as Publication of the Year.

Accepting the award, Chief Editor Kengo Suganuma cited the truism that in war, the first victim is the truth and pointed out that Japan is presently “in a situation that is essentially a war on the truth. We are encouraging our reporters to go out and tell the truth, we are receiving a lot of support from our readers and that keeps us going, so I accept this award on behalf of all our readers and I promise that we will do our best to continue to tell the truth in the future,” he said.

Before the buffet meal, Adelstein proposed a toast to “freedom of the press and the truth – and may both survive.” ❶

Julian Ryall is the Japan correspondent for the Daily Telegraph.


The Winners

The Japan Investigative Journalism Award (three winners)

FACTA. FACTA won for its consistently good investigative articles touching on taboo subjects in Japan.

Asahi Shimbun for its “The Prometheus Trap” column. The newspaper won for its long-running investigative series on safety, problems, cover-ups and corruption in Japan's nuclear industry.

Jason Clenfield, of Bloomberg News. Jason has been recognized for his coverage of Miho Marui’s fight against unfair working conditions at KDDI, which further highlighted many of the problems associated with Japan’s labor laws.


Lifetime Achievement Award  (one winner)

This award is given to a journalist or individual who has dedicated their life to promoting freedom of the press and freedom of speech.

Jon Mitchell. Mitchell writes for the Japan Times and numerous other publications. He has spent years covering problems concerning Agent Orange in Okinawa and issues surrounding the U.S. bases in the prefecture. The judges concluded that Mitchell has “created an outstanding and important body of work.”


Friend of the Free Press Award  (three winners)

Candidates for this award must be based in Japan and can include lawyers, activists, whistleblowers, those working on a campaign for freedom of the press and others.

Shigeaki Koga. A former bureaucrat with the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, Koga has openly criticized the government’s attempts to suppress free speech and has provided insightful criticism of the government and industry in Japan.

Koichi Nakano. A professor of politics at Sophia University, Prof. Nakano has provided sharp and useful analysis on Japanese politics for many years, without fear or favor. He is happy to discuss taboo subjects that other academics fear to speak about.

Michael Woodford. The former CEO of Olympus Corp., Woodford blew the whistle on false accounting practices at the company and encouraged greater transparency in Japanese corporate governance.


Fallen Hero Award  (one winner)

Kenji Goto. Executed by Islamic State in February, freelance journalist Goto was a reporter who went were few others dared to go because he believed that people should know the truth of what was happening in the Middle East and other war zones.


Publication of the Year (one winner)

Tokyo Shimbun. The newspaper has consistently provided excellent coverage of nuclear issues, political scandals and corruption during the last year. The editors of the paper have fought hard for the cause of press freedom and they encourage investigative journalism in every department.




The Judges


Yuko Ando, a veteran news editor and anchor for Fuji TV.

Hitomi Kamanaka, a filmmaker who has won acclaim for her documentaries on the problems of nuclear power and radiation.

Hideko Kataoka, the long-time photo editor for Newsweek Japan.

Hidetoshi Kiyotake, a former journalist with the Yomiuri Shimbun
and author.

Minoru Tanaka, an investigative reporter who has written extensively about Japan’s nuclear power industry.

Yu Terasawa, an investigative journalist with a particular focus on

covering the police.




For Christ's Sake


In Occupation-era Japan, Club member

Patrick O'Connor wore two hats:

journalist and priest.

by Eiichiro Tokumoto

At the end of the Second World War in August 1945, the occupation of Japan commenced, under the command of GHQ (General Headquarters). Journalists from various countries began arriving in Japan, and the Tokyo Correspondents’ Club, the forerunner of the FCCJ, was organized in October of the same year. It was located in the old five-story Marunouchi Kaikan building, an address whimsically nicknamed No. 1 Shimbun Alley.

Though the bombings had left much of Tokyo in ruins, the press club was equipped with a bar, dining room, and accommodations facilities, and various people, Japanese and foreigners of all stripes, poured in and out of its doors throughout the day. John Morris, a British correspondent for the BBC, described the club in his memoirs titled The Phoenix Cup, as “a cross between a waterfront sailors’ bar and a brothel.”

“Drunken brawls were frequent,” wrote Morris. “And there were occasions when firearms were discharged in the lounge. But at this time conditions were quite abnormal. There was absolutely nothing to do in Tokyo after dark, and drink was plentiful and cheap.”

The sleeping rooms had an occupancy of five persons, but Morris found it difficult to maintain privacy, as some members brought girls into the rooms. “It is very easy to appear priggish in these matters,” he wrote, “especially to Americans, whose attitude to sex is so different from our own . . . but I do feel very strongly that the sexual act is something which should only be performed in private.”


Drunken brawls were frequent,”

wrote Morris. “And there were occasions

when firearms were discharged

in the lounge.


Given the moral atmosphere of the premises, one of the more unusual presences was Irish correspondent Patrick O’Connor, a reporter for the National Catholic News Service, who also happened to be an ordained priest. United Press correspondent Albert E. Kaff, who was later to serve as Club president from July 1967 to June 1968, was quoted in the Club history book Foreign Correspondents in Japan as saying, “Father O’Connor sometimes objected to the profanity and sex stories that he heard in the Club’s lounge and its adjoining bar. So, in an effort to rehabilitate his colleagues, the good father presented the Club with a Bible…”

Born in Dublin in March 1899, O’Connor had studied English literature, philosophy and other subjects at the National University in Ireland, and was ordained into the Society of St. Columban in 1923. He subsequently began writing for The Far East, a leading Catholic news magazine, and months after the end of the war, in January 1946, came to Japan as the National Catholic News Service’s Far Eastern correspondent. He was to file many stories about the country under the Occupation, one of which was to have unexpected results. The particulars of this story can be found in documents at the Rockefeller Archive Center in Westchester County, New York.

On Jan. 25, 1951, John Foster Dulles, a special envoy of President Harry Truman, arrived at Haneda airport. Dulles, who was to be appointed Secretary of State in the Eisenhower administration, came for the purpose of negotiating, together with General Douglas MacArthur, a peace treaty with Japan. Also disembarking from the plane with Dulles was a handsome American, John D. Rockefeller III, a member of the wealthy Rockefeller family, whose role in the Dulles mission was to serve as a cultural advisor.

During his stay in Japan, Rockefeller met with various Japanese intellectuals, such as authors, academics, religious leaders and others. Upon his return, he produced a report that proposed cultural exchanges between the U.S. and Japan.

On Feb. 22, immediately after the American contingent’s departure, O’Connor filed a story from Tokyo about Rockefeller’s meetings with several Christians in Japan – none of whom, as it turned out, were Catholic. The story was to appear in several Catholic publications under the headline, “No Catholics among ‘religious leaders’ consulted on Japan visit by J.D. Rockefeller 3d.”

By the middle of the following month, the New York-based National Conference of Christians and Jews sent a letter to Rockefeller, based on O’Connor’s article, requesting clarification. Rockefeller promptly consulted with people in his circle and John Foster Dulles, and on March 20, sent a letter to O’Connor in Tokyo.


O’Connor filed a story about Rockefeller’s meetings

with Christians in Japan – none of whom,

as it turned out, were Catholic.

“Readers of your article may assume that I deliberately refrained from talking with any Catholics during my stay. Such was not the case. I should have welcomed Catholic representatives in my discussions . . . I should appreciate now an opportunity to obtain a representative viewpoint of your Church on the problem of cultural exchange and if it is possible to send your views to me, or arrange to have them sent by another representative Catholic, I should be sincerely grateful.”

So Rockefeller was clearly disconcerted by O’Connor’s article. Was O’Connor satisfied with this clarification? O’Connor’s reply, dated April 7, provides a hint to his reaction. He wrote:

“I recognize, of course, that you did not intend to slight the Catholic Church in Japan, or elsewhere. But the omission occurred and I felt that it deserved to be reported. I reported it objectively, without ascribing any motive . . . Your aides in the Diplomatic Section of GHQ should have had no difficulty in identifying the members of the missionary group. . .”

Concerning Rockefeller’s request to provide advice related to cultural exchanges between Japan and the U.S., O’Connor added, “I am not qualified to speak as a representative of the Catholic body in Japan. My function is that of a correspondent in the Far East for the Catholic press.”

But was this, in fact, really the case? According to documents in the Catholic University of America’s archives in Washington D.C., it is obvious that O’Connor was active at that time as a lobbyist for the Catholic Church in Japan.

For example, when two American Catholic bishops, John F. O’Hara and Michael J. Ready, visited Japan in July 1946, O’Connor prepared materials and arranged for the two bishops’ press conference. He also argued in support of a plan to use religious agencies within Japan for the distribution of supplies sent by religious agencies in the U.S., and sent Gen. MacArthur a long memo concerning this. And he made a request to the Japanese government for a larger allocation of newsprint to be supplied to a Catholic newspaper.

Catholic officials in the U.S. seemed to be happy with his double career. A 1948 document found in the National Catholic Welfare Council collection at the Catholic University of America’s archives states: “His news dispatches have been of highest caliber, but even more important have been the ‘side-jobs’ he was able to do for the Church.”

In the excerpts of his report that accompanied the above document, however, it becomes clear that there were some in the news business who wondered about his ability to operate both as a cleric and a newsman. O’Connor noted that there were those who were suspicious of his activities: “Everybody, Communists included, knew that I am a priest. The combination of priest and correspondent was unprecedented apparently, and occasionally I could sense some doubt or suspicion in some Americans – was I really a correspondent or an ecclesiastical agent using the status of a correspondent for some ecclesiastical stratagems? This suspicion may linger with some leftist newspaper men.”


Though not a Catholic, MacArthur viewed

the practical use of the Christian religion

as one method for democratizing Japan.


O’Connor wore two hats, so to speak: that of a foreign correspondent and that of an agent for the church. As far as GHQ policies were concerned, the advantages of this arrangement outweighed the disadvantages. Though not a Catholic himself, MacArthur viewed the practical use of the Christian religion as one method for democratizing Japan. In fact, in December 1945, at a meeting with Archbishop Paul Marella, the Apostolic Delegate to Japan, MacArthur had remarked:

“The Japanese people are witnessing a shattering of their faith in their gods and looking for something new to fill the vacuum created by the abolition of Shintoism as their state religion. To me it seems as if the Catholic Church alone can offer the Japanese people something to fill this spiritual vacuum. The organization of the Church, its moral teachings and its ritual are perfectly suited to the Japanese character and I would welcome any assistance given me by the American Hierarchy. . . .”

How much MacArthur’s appreciation of the Church helped O’Connor in his reporting (and lobbying) duties is hard to ascertain. MacArthur’s propensity for avoiding direct contact with the mass media was well known, and during his tenure in Japan he only visited the press club on a single occasion in March 1947. But O’Connor was one of a miniscule number of correspondents who were granted an exclusive interview with the General.

Patrick O’Connor died in July 1987 at the age of 88. What became of the copy of the Bible he presented to the Club, in the hope of reforming his wayward colleagues? Alas, according to the Club history, “. . .for several years the Good Book was prominently displayed next to rows of bottles on the back bar . . . But few of his colleagues asked the bartender to hand them the Bible.”

Nevertheless, Kaff recalled, “No one was offended by his evangelism in the Press Club bar, and Patrick always remained a member of the gang, well liked and admired.” ❶

Eiichiro Tokumoto, a former Reuters correspondent, is an author and investigative journalist. The Bible in this story is missing from the library shelves, so he asks that anyone with knowledge of its whereabouts contact the FCCJ librarian.



Profile: Charles A. Pomeroy


The author of Tsunami Reflections recalls his years

as a Navy airman, translator, correspondent

and woodblock artist.


by Gavin Blair


or a 17-year-old who had been through a Depression-era childhood, punctuated by frequent moving around and the eventual break-up of his family, the U.S. Navy seemed like a ticket to another world for the young Charles A. Pomeroy. Partly inspired by tales of exotic places in the wartime adventures of his new stepfather, whom he convinced to adopt him so that he could sign the papers allowing Pomeroy to enlist, military service did indeed turn out to be his passport to a different world.  

“That was the smartest move I ever made in my life,” is how Pomeroy describes the decision he took back in 1947.

Only a few years later, while still a teenager, Pomeroy found himself part of one of the first naval aviation squadrons deployed in the Battle of Pusan Perimeter.

“I was by the pool in Hawaii on June 25, 1950, after being given the day off after a night-training flight, when I heard the [Korean] war had started,” recalls Pomeroy, whose squadron was then sent to Guam’s Andersen Air Force Base for deployment. “We knew something was up when we landed and were greeted by a pickup truck from which flight crews were served cold beer. That was most unusual in a Navy setting.”

Pomeroy’s squadron was soon sent into action, given orders to “stop anything that was coming south,” referring to the North Korean forces that were then in control of most of the peninsula. The military command, however, was worried about the danger of the cutting-edge technology in their Lockheed P2V Neptune planes falling into communist hands – one had been shot down – and they were subsequently restricted to reconnaissance missions. Nevertheless, among the 79 missions that Pomeroy flew during the conflict were a number when his plane came under fire, including an encounter with a North Korean anti-aircraft ambush that downed his wingman.


Pomeroy’s squadron was soon sent into

action, given orders to “stop anything

that was coming south”


The wingman’s crew ditched their plane off the coast and escaped into their life rafts. Pomeroy’s crew held off the enemy patrol boats intent on capturing the airmen, until the arrival of a British light cruiser, the HMS Kenya. Short of fuel, they headed back for Japan and landed at Iwakuni, an airbase in Yamaguchi Prefecture.

“We jettisoned everything we could,” Pomeroy remembers. “We came straight in and landed, and once we pulled off the runway, the starboard engine cut. We taxied in on the port engine; that was all the fuel we had left.”

FThe war also provided his introduction to Japan, where much of the U.S. military operation was based. “I remember walking down to the hangar on my first morning and an obaasan who was crossing the road said ‘Ohayo gozaimasu’ to me. That was my first exposure to the spoken Japanese language.”

After the Korean War ended, Pomeroy landed a posting to the Naval Attaché in Rome; years later he was to hear that it was thanks to the fact that the man giving out the assignments was the pilot of the downed plane in Korea, who recognized his name. In Rome, he studied Italian and Japanese, rode a Vespa, learned to make a martini, dated members of a visiting Takarazuka troupe and enjoyed the early days of la dolce vita. A Japanese diplomat he met there suggested he attend university in Tokyo, which eventually led to him graduating with a degree in Japanese language and Asian history from Sophia University in 1962.


“It’s not so much a book about the tsunami,

but about life in Japan in a small port town,

family relationships and

how real people live in Japan.”


Pomeroy began working as a translator and freelance writer for local publications. One of his translation jobs led to a long-standing fascination with Japanese woodblock prints, which he had to learn in order to complete the translation. A Sophia connection at the FCCJ led to work as a correspondent covering the healthcare industry, a field that was to remain his mainstay until retirement in 2004. With bilingual correspondents a rarity in those days, Pomeroy was offered a position in the Tokyo bureau of UPI, but he declined. He was happy with his niche, which allowed him to meet top medical professionals as well as travel around Japan.


In the ensuing decades, Pomeroy found time to write a number of books, as well as compiling Foreign Correspondents in Japan: Covering a Half-Century of Upheavals: From 1945 to the Present, a history of the first 50 years of the Club, with leading members writing about a decade each.

FFollowing his retirement, Pomeroy moved to his wife’s hometown of Otsuchi in Iwate, where they had built an expanded family home with a studio to indulge his passion for woodblock printing. March 2011 changed all that. Pomeroy and his wife happened to be in Tokyo when the earthquake and tsunami struck, killing members of their family, destroying the house and devastating the town. They are waiting for the ground in the town to be raised by 2.5 meters before rebuilding their house in 2018.

At the end of 2014, Pomeroy published Tsunami Reflections – Otsuchi Remembered, a book he authored about the experience. “It’s not so much a book about the tsunami, but about life in Japan in a small port town, family relationships and how real people live in Japan.”

The summer after the tsunami, flowers began to grow around the ruined house. “We knew they were the flowers that Yuji had brought over from next door when we were first doing the garden,” Pomeroy says, recalling his wife’s brother-in-law, who perished in the disaster. “We took some of them back to Tokyo with us and put them on our veranda.” He says a reader of his book emailed him to say how struck she was by the symbolism.

“It was symbolic: life goes on.” ❶

Gavin Blair covers Japanese business, society and culture for publications in America, Asia and Europe.



Keys to the Citi


An American megabank gives up its attempt

to inject some pizzazz

into Japan's Galapagos market.


by Peter McGill

One of my first dispatches from Japan was about a visit in late 1981 to a large branch of the Dai-ichi Kangyo Bank in central Tokyo. In the back pocket of my jeans a £1 banknote from England had miraculously survived a washing machine and tumble dryer. At the time, £1 was worth more than ¥400, so I decided to exchange it. In Hong Kong, where I had previously been living, it would have taken a few minutes. At DKB, then Japan’s largest bank, it ate up close to one hour.

Upstairs in the foreign exchange department, where I was the sole customer, forms were completed in multi-coloured duplicates and passed on little trays between serried rows of female staff. My flattened £1 note was meticulously measured with a ruler, held up to the light to view the watermark, and finally checked against photographs of UK currency. Only after all suspicions had been laid to rest, and a male manager seated at the back had granted consent with his hanko, were £1 note and the appropriate form returned to the counter, where, after deductions, I received almost nothing at all.

Traditional ways survived long after banking giants like DKB went up in smoke in the financial conflagration that followed Japan’s great asset bubble. At Narita Airport in 2010, four old men and one woman were squeezed into a tiny foreign exchange booth of Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation. (The president of Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group was not amused by my description a few days later during an interview.) Five years on, foreign visitors still cannot use their debit or credit cards to withdraw yen from Japan’s three biggest banks – Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ, Mizuho and SMBC. The Big Three charge their own customers for using an ATM outside of normal hours. Checkbooks are granted only to an elite few. Transferring money to other domestic accounts often incurs a charge. After a slow start, Internet banking has taken off, but remains far less widespread than in many other advanced nations.

All it needed was to pamper the Japanese

consumer, through flashy innovations like

multi-currency accounts,

24-hour ATMs

and cash cards that could be used abroad.

Is it any wonder that American colossus Citigroup once dreamed of conquering this banking Galapagos, with its fabled hoard of household assets guarded by slumbering dragons? All it needed was to pamper the Japanese consumer, which is what Citibank Japan went on to do so admirably – through flashy innovations like multi-currency accounts and checkbooks, 24-hour ATMs and cash cards that could be used abroad. By some measures it has worked a treat. A network of only four branches back in 1990 grew to 32, while the number of customers multiplied 37 times to 740,000.

So why on earth did the first American bank in Japan (the International Banking Corp., which Citi later acquired, opened its doors in Yokohama in October 1902) announce last Christmas Day that it was throwing in the towel, and selling its Japanese retail business to SMBC?

Banking hanky-panky

Part of the problem was with persistent run-ins with Japanese regulators over shockingly lax compliance. The plan was to attract affluent Japanese into making deposits, and then aggressively sell them high-margin financial products. In several cases, Japanese customers were misled into buying expensive, complex or risky derivatives they either didn’t need or didn’t understand. Another big issue was money laundering. It was not only cosmopolitan sophisticates who were drawn to Citibank’s offerings, such as the CitiGold account for customers with more than ¥30 million to deposit, but the kind of Japanese one associates with punch perms and missing pinkies, or at least their accountants.

 In September 2004, the Financial Services Agency withdrew Citi’s private-banking license to service high net-worth individuals. Three senior Citigroup executives in New York and twelve executives of Citibank in Japan lost their jobs in the scandal. The following month, Citigroup CEO Charles “Chuck” Prince came to Japan to publicly apologize. He very reluctantly bowed deeply from the waist, together with Douglas Peterson, the new head of Citibank Japan.

Anger had been mounting for months about the behavior of foreign banks in Tokyo. A share flotation in February of Shinsei Bank, headed by a former CEO of Citibank Japan, made billions of dollars in profit for a group of mainly American investors who had bought the failed Long-Term Credit Bank on highly favorable terms from the Japanese government. The Carlyle group called it the “most successful” leveraged buyout in history but Japanese critics said the taxpayer had been fleeced. Then, in June, a Japanese employee of Credit Suisse was arrested for allegedly helping a yakuza launder ¥9.4 billion from loan sharking. The money was transferred to an account at the Zurich head office of Credit Suisse via Tokyo, Hong Kong and Singapore. The Swiss and Japanese governments decided to split the 61 million Swiss francs (¥7.9 billion) found in the account, which was traced to Susumu Kajiyama, a loan-shark king serving seven years in Japanese prison. The Credit Suisse employee, Atsushi Doden, was acquitted.

“We are not a territory of the United States,”

Masuzoe fumed.

As a torrid year drew to a close, Citibank Japan CEO Peterson became the first foreigner to testify before the Financial Affairs Committee of the Upper House of the Diet on Nov. 30. He was subjected to a xenophobic rant from Yoichi Masuzoe, who is now governor of Tokyo.

“We are not a territory of the United States,” Masuzoe fumed. “It’s not acceptable to show the kind of arrogance whereby you do anything you please in Japan. We are an independent country and our rules are the rules.”

“Private banking in this country is very difficult because you may be dealing with the criminal element,” Eisuke Sakakibara, former vice finance minister for international affairs, memorably told the New York Times. “I’m not saying that all rich people in this country are shady, but a substantial portion of rich people in this country are engaged in some kind of shady business.”

So too, evidently, was Citibank. The FSA slapped more penalties on the bank in 2009 and 2011 for lax internal controls related to money laundering and selling of financial products. The third rash of scandal led to emergency talks in Tokyo and New York between the FSA and Vikram Pandit, successor to Prince as Citigroup CEO, and to Citibank Japan being placed under direct supervision of head office.

Some perspective is needed here on Citibank’s violations in Japan. What has been revealed pales in severity compared to the involvement of Japanese banks and securities houses with organized crime during and after the asset bubble.

Sumitomo Bank became embroiled with yakuza during its takeover of scandal-ridden Heiwa Sogo Bank (which used to have a branch on the ground floor of the Yurakucho Denki Building), and even more deeply through the yakuza looting of Itoman, a textile trading company that the bank rescued in the 1970s.

Blue-blooded Industrial Bank of Japan became a national laughing stock for lending billions of yen to the owner of an Osaka restaurant frequented by the Yamaguchi-gumi, who claimed to receive her stock investment advice from a porcelain toad.

In 2013 it was the turn of Mizuho President Atsushi Sato to apologize for his bank extending 230 loans to the yakuza.

The road to the sale

Citigroup famously was one of the biggest casualties of the 2008 global financial crisis that emanated from the United States. Citi owned about $43 billion in mortgage-related assets that became massively devalued when the sub-prime housing market collapsed. The U.S. government bailed-out Citi in November with a $45 billion investment that gave it 34 percent ownership until all its shares were sold in 2010.

The bank already had been tarnished by its role in aiding bankrupt energy giant Enron manipulate its financial statements, with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission accusing Citi of committing fraud. One of its telecom analysts also helped inflate the mobile/dotcom bubble at the end of the 1990s.

A New York Times investigation in 2008 highlighted the bank’s chaotic and “pell-mell” management style. It singled out advice given by Robert Rubin, who joined Citigroup after serving as Treasury Secretary in the administration of Bill Clinton, that Citi needed to take more risk, be more aggressive and expand in capital markets.

A New York Times investigation in 2008

highlighted the bank’s chaotic and

“pell-mell” management style.

In Japan, that was exactly what Citi did in 2007 by acquiring Nikko Cordial, one of the old “Big Four” Japanese brokerage houses, for ¥920 billion. Nikko Cordial had been gravely weakened by an accounting scandal, and was at risk of losing its trading license. The deal was completed in 2008, just before the global financial firestorm nearly destroyed Citigroup.

After the government bailout, Citi began offloading Japanese assets almost immediately. Its 64 percent stake in Nikko Asset Management was sold to Sumitomo Trust & Banking for ¥75.6 billion; NikkoCiti Trust went to Nomura Trust & Banking for ¥19 billion, while Nikko Cordial was snapped up by SMBC for ¥774.5 billion in May 2009.

The main reason Citigroup put its pioneering retail bank in Japan on the block is because it lost money. Wafer-thin interest rates and intense competition have made domestic lending a profitless chore. Japanese banks, awash with cash from deposits and selling truckloads of government bonds to the Bank of Japan, are more eager to expand abroad. Citibank Japan was small in scale compared to its main rivals and had the added burden of expensive staff and branches, such as one in the heart of Ginza.

Selling-out may be a no-brainer for accountants. However, from the viewpoint of national prestige and U.S.-Japan relations, ending over a century of retail banking in what is now the world’s third-largest economy is an embarrassment. After all, the other 10 markets in which Citi is pulling the consumer-banking plug are either impoverished basket cases, such as Egypt, Peru, El Salvador and Guatemala, or former communist economies like Hungary and the Czech Republic.

SMBC is at pains to assure

that most Citibank Japan products and services

will remain the same

under the new ownership.

For Sumitomo Mitsui, however, the acquisition brings prestige and a well-heeled Japanese and expat clientele to whom it can try to peddle SMBC Nikko’s own financial products. SMBC will merge Citibank Japan into its private banking unit, SMBC Trust, the new name for Société Générale’s former Japan private banking business, which SMBC acquired from the French bank in 2013. (SMBC Trust should not be confused with Sumitomo Mitsui Trust Bank, buyer of Citi’s Diners Club credit card business in Japan, which claims to be completely independent, and once rejected a merger offer from SMFG.)

To deter any exodus of coddled customers, SMBC is at pains to assure that most Citibank Japan products and services will remain the same under the new ownership. Cash cards will still work at Citibank ATMs overseas, free of charge. Foreign currency deposits and mutual funds will still be available, as will discounts and other benefits, tiered to account balances.

Prestige and cross-selling opportunities are all well and good, but the main reason why SMBC is buying a money-losing bank for about ¥40 billion is more calculating and cold-blooded.

SMFG is by far the most exposed of the three megabanks when it comes to funding international business. Inside Japan, the banks suffer from a glut of deposits, but offshore the problem is reversed. For SMFG’s international business the loan-to-deposit ratio is 160 percent. Roughly ¥1 trillion of Citibank Japan’s ¥2.44 trillion of deposits are in foreign currencies that will strengthen the funding base of SMBC’s foreign lending. Such considerations matter, just in case financial markets suffer another massive heart attack and wholesale money markets suddenly seize up.

Nowadays it’s all about prudence; a virtue to which Citi too often was a stranger.

Peter McGill writes for Asiamoney magazine and is a former president of the FCCJ.




From the Archives: The Activist Actress


Is Henry Hartzenbusch (AP) explaining the possibility of hostile questions to a bemused Jane Fonda? What Henry actually said remains unknown, but our guest speaker – a civil rights advocate and out-spoken opponent of the Vietnam War – was no doubt anticipating some contentious queries. On Dec. 21, 1971, Fonda – along with 14 members of Free Theater Associates – brought her anti-war message to the Club. (Henry had been Club president in the 1968-69 administrative year and oversaw the birth of
No. 1 Shimbun, under the guidance of AP colleague John Roderick.)

THE DAUGHTER OF ACTOR Henry, Jane Fonda became famous in her own right as an award-winning actress, workout maven and activist. But even her position as one of the most influential women in America did not erase her past actions as a young revolutionary in the minds of some Americans, especially among Vietnam veterans. Following several years in Paris, whe began her anti-war activities around 1967, including participation in demonstrations, radio broadcasts, and theater.

It was as part of the Free Theater Associates (FTA) that she and her associates were invited to the Club. Together with Donald Sutherland – known for his film appearances in MASH and then Klute (in which he co-starred with Fonda) – she and others in the group had launched controversial anti-war “cabarets” near military bases in the U.S. as well as Okinawa, Tokyo, and Manila in 1971. The fact that FTA stood for both “Free the Army” and “F**k the Army” makes clear their message. The following year the infamous photo of her sitting on a North Vietnamese anti-aircraft gun was taken during a research visit to Hanoi, which earned her the epithet of “Hanoi Jane.” She later spoke of her regret for that photo, saying, “It was a huge, huge mistake.”

A film of their anti-war tour, called F.T.A., was released in 1972, but it quickly disappeared after only one week in theaters. News reports say it presented the full range of anti-war themes through biting skits, strong language, and disturbing images, as well as political satire revealing the realities of war and the absurdities of military life. In effect, it was a counter to the standard USO programs made famous by such celebrities as Bob Hope. The film is now available on YouTube.

Charles Pomeroy



Tales from the Round Tables: Swinging for the Fences


HE FCCJ ENJOYS QUITE a place of honor in the annals of Tokyo’s international sports scene, and not just for the impressive roster of uber-legends that have graced our corridors: Pele, Shigeo Nagashima, MaoAsada, Maradona, Carl Lewis and Tommy Lasorda. Club archives brim with contests of athletic prowess, including some that could outshine a United Nations initiative for fostering international good will.

In June of 1962, UP’s legendary Ernie Hoberecht, alongside fellow news luminaries, took on a Gaimusho team which starred then Foreign Minister Zentaro Kosaka, in a game of baseball. Records show we lost 15 -12 – though it is important to note FCCJ could well have taken the game if not for the extreme thirst of the players in the 5th inning precipitating a beer break from which they never returned. Such are the vagaries of serious competition.

There were no beer breaks for the more serious Alley Cats, the pride of the FCCJ during the years that the Club sponsored the mighty softball team. Donald Kirk was one of the founders of the team, and as he recalls in our history book, from its inception in 1972, it included an impressive list of journalist/athletes like Normal Pearlstine, who went on to be Time’s ed-in-chief, Sam “the galloping daruma” Jameson of the Los Angeles Times, the UPI’s Shiro Yoneyama as well as some FCCJ staff, like former chef Fumio Okuda. Some of the legendary managers included Ron Yates of the Chicago Tribune, Andy Adams of Sumo World, John Wells, Kirk himself and Pat Killen, who revived the team in 1988.

Killen led the team to two championships of the Tokyo International Softball League, with members including Glenn Davis, Dan Sloan, George Faas, Bruce Rutledge, Roger Schreffler and Jim Clark. Dan Sloan remembers it as a team of great friends who were good athletes, as opposed to their fierce rivals from the Global moving company, who were good friends who were great athletes. Pat Killen’s unforgettable managerial memory is of a routine grounder followed by a long series of errors, leading to four runs being scored against his team on the play – and leaving him scratching his head in disbelief.

Sadly, the Alley Cats are no longer connected to the Club and the team includes no active journalists or FCCJ members. Given Japan’s increasing love affair with soccer, it’s not surprising that the Club’s football team, the FCCJ Spirit, has now taken up the banner against opponents such as politicians and bureaucrats – though it must be said, with questionable success.

A recent futsal match against Japan’s politicians kept the FCCJ Spirit’s perfect record intact with a fifth consecutive loss. With what star player Julian Ryall reported as a carefully selected squad of the “elderly, the walking wounded and the not very good,” enormous confidence at the outset had deteriorated to considerable “wheezing and puffing” by the end of warm ups, and even the heroics of goalkeeper Shinichi Nakajima, FCCJ General Manager Tomohiko Yanagi, Toru Fujioka, Toshi Maeda and Captain Andy Sharp could not fend off the fearsome attack of the LDP members. While shocking rumors of a proposal for weekly training sessions have not been verified, Captain Sharp is reportedly very optimistic about the team’s prospects – having nowhere to go but up.

These years leading up to the Tokyo Olympics seem like a good time for the making of new sports legends.


The Shimbun Alley Whisperers


New Members in May



KATSUHIRO ASAGIRI is President of IPS Japan, a member of the Inter Press Service Group. Asagiri obtained his Master’s degree in Development Administration from Western Michigan University. In 1992, he was appointed staff writer and editor on development related issues for a monthly magazine. From 2002-2004, he was Deputy Secretary General of the WYPS Japan office, organizing international symposia on themes such as interfaith dialogues and preparing to launch IPS Japan. He is also president of Global Cooperation Council for Asia-Pacific and Tokyo correspondent and Bureau Chief of InDepthNews Asia-Pacific.



SHINICHI HISADOME is the director of the International News Desk at the Tokyo Shimbun. He joined the paper in 1984 and started his career as a reporter on city news. He mainly worked in the Economic News Desk before being transferred to the International News Desk with posts to Washington from 2005 to 2008, and once again from 2011 to 2013. Upon returning to Tokyo in 2013, he was named Deputy Editor at the International News Desk.



KAORI HITOMI manages the TV operations of AP Tokyo since last November. She has been with the TV section of Associated Press for over 17 years, first as a field producer based in Tokyo, then overseeing news planning of the TV operation in Asia and Pacific region – based in Bangkok and covering the world from Antarctica to Afghanistan – covering such news stories as the late 90’s Asian economic crisis, the World Cup held in Japan and South Korea, Japan-North Korea abductee related issues, the 3/11 disaster in Japan as well as various political events.



ITSUO KUMAKURA is an editorial writer for the Chunichi Shimbun and Tokyo Shimbun. He joined the Chunichi Shimbun in 1982 and worked as a journalist in branches in Hamamatsu, Gifu, and Nagoya, before joining the foreign news department of the Tokyo Shimbun in 1994. He was posted to Bonn, Germany, between 1995 and 1998, and returned to the foreign news department before a second posting to Germany, this time to Berlin in 2004. From 2010 to 2014, he held a position in the foreign news department.



Terri Nii, KNT Co., Ltd.
Kikumi Nakazawa
Keiji Nakamura, Fukushima Television
Hideki Oe, Office Libertas Co. Ltd.
Shuichiro Ueyama, Ueyama & Associates, Inc.



Toshio Goto, Japan University Of Economics
Naoto Konishi, Poletowin Pitcrew Holdings, Inc.
Fumiya Kokubu, Marubeni Corporation
Toshiaki Otsuka, Nippon Medical School
Masataka Sase, Japan Corporation Center, Petroleum (JCCP)
Yuji Takei, Swift Japan Ltd.
Kurodo Yoshida, Nichizei Business Service Co., Ltd.
Takahiro Yamashita, Yamashita Office Co., Ltd.

Hirokatsu Ichimiya, Makino Memorial Hospital

Club Notes




William Mallard, the deputy bureau chief of Reuters’ Tokyo office was the guest at the first “Meet the Press” event at the FCCJ on Tues., April 21. Some 50 attendees showed up to listen to Mallard’s description of his work leading one of the most vibrant and influential foreign newsrooms in Japan. After his address, he stuck around to answer a barrage of questions, ranging from how to deal with unconfirmed information to the monetary value of up-to-date news items.

This was the first of what will be a series of such events meant to throw light on the cutting edge of the journalism industry from the men and women on the frontlines.





Some people, including Prime Minister Abe, may say there’s no evidence, but I’m alive. I’m the evidence. To say evidence doesn’t exist is absurd.”

Former “comfort woman” Bok-tong Kim, responding to deniers of official involvement in the sexual
slavery system

at the FCCJ,
April 24, 2015


Exhibition: "Tombo" by Hiroshi Tanaka


THERE ARE OVER 200 species of tombo (dragonfly) in Japan. The popular insect is the subject of children’s songs and is considered good luck because it only flies in a forward direction. The theme of photographer Hiroshi Tanaka’s series is “the view from a child’s perspective.” “Instead of using a net,” Tanaka says, “I capture tombo with my camera.”

Hiroshi Tanaka spends his weekdays as a businessman and his weekends as a photographer. He has exhibited at the Kashiwazaki City Museum and the Museum of Modern Art. More of his work can be seen at

All That Glitz!


Reon Yuzuki in "Dear Diamond!!"


One of Takarazuka's top otokoyaku calls

it a day with an extravagant

goodbye show.

by Haruko Watanabe


ool Japan comes in many forms. Its unique content includes traditional Kabuki, where all the actors are male, Bunraku puppet theater, the drama of Noh, modern manga, the culture of anime and cosplay. Also included is the spectacular, glossy Takarazuka all-female revue, where some of the girls will be boys.

Now in its 101st year, the Takarazuka Company has been running a special double bill in their Tokyo Theater featuring 16-year veteran top otokoyaku (“male” star) Reon Yuzuki, taking her final bow with her musumeyaku female partner of six years, Nene Yumesaki. Running from March 27 to May 10, the unique double production features spectacular stagings of an historical drama, “Like a Black Panther” and a gorgeous musical review “Dear Diamond!!” Like all recent Takarazuka productions, all the shows have been sold out.

The Yuzuki-Yumesaki duo took the leading roles of Napoleon Bonaparte and Josephine in “Napoleon, the Man Who Never Sleeps” in March, 2014, a specially commissioned musical commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Takarazuka’s founding. Demand for tickets was intense.


The origins

In 1913, Ichizo Kobayashi, founder of Hankyu Railways, was looking for a way to bring more visitors – by Hankyu trains, of course – to the newly established Takarazuka hot-spring resort near Osaka. It seems that hot spring water alone was not enough to bring in the public, so the Kansai entrepreneur sought another solution – and hit on the idea of all-female musical review. He emptied the swimming pool, installed seats, started the Takarazuka Review and never looked back. Since then, the Review has grown in stature to become a domestic theatrical giant and has traveled far afield. The Tokyo Theater opened in 1934.

A unique characteristic of Takarazuka Review is that all the performers are graduates of the Takarazuka Music School. They study ballet, dance, singing and other cultural programs for two years. The entrance examination is more selective than Tokyo University’s as the success ratio is one in every 26.6 applicants.

Currently there are five troupes comprising the Hana (Flower), Tsuki (Moon), Yuki (Snow), Sora (Cosmos) and Hoshi (Star) troupes. Yuzuki has been the top star in the Hoshi (Star) troupe for six years with Nene Yumesaki as her musumeyaku partner. (In addition to the five troupes, there’s an elite squad of veteran performers in a special division who join any troupe as needed.)

With 400 performers and directors, composers, musicians and back-stage technicians for lighting and set changes, the total company includes 1,000 professionals. The quick set changes for which the Review is famous are only possible with such a professional team.


The sayonara show

“Like a Black Panther” is an extravaganza written by Yukihiro Shibata, a veteran in-house director/writer. Directed and choreographed by Tamae Sha, a former otokoyaku performer, it is a dramatic vehicle to present the sleek and dynamic image of Yuzuki, whose character has been described as “black panther-like.” There is spectacular dancing, passionate singing, sinister intrigue and unrequited romance in the classic Takarazuka formula. The plot features Yuzuki in the role of Count Antonio de Odalys, a Spanish naval hero, who – upon returning from a three year mission, finds Caterina, his former lover - played by Nene Yumesaki –and is caught up in romance and political intrigue. Yuzuki also portrays the king of all gems in “Dear Diamond!! The Eternal Brilliance of 101 Carats,” written and directed by Daisuke Fujii.


Yuzuki and Nene Yumesaki



Japanese women love Takarazuka for its brilliant stage presentations and the sleek, charming and handsome otokoyaku actors, who – although female - represent the ideal male in comparison to the reality of less sexy boyfriends or dull husbands. Yuzuki’s sayonara performances showcase the talents of this star performer and also provide an outstanding example of the typical Takarazuka glitzy style.

When I asked her what her plans were after graduating – whether would she take a break before tackling female roles, she was non-committal. She replied that since she has been playing male roles so intensively she could not think of tackling other roles right now.

Haruko Watanabe is former Tokyo Bureau Chief of the Press Foundation of Asia and producer of “the Women Pioneers” video series.


The First Steps on a Dangerous Road?


Shigeaki Koba at the FCCJ

A former bureaucrat throws light on the cozy relationships

between government and the media industry.

by Julian Ryall


higeaki Koba was on the fast track at the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry until he spectacularly stepped out of line. Watching his press conference at the FCCJ on April 16, one can only wonder why he ever had the notion that he would make a good straight-laced, toe-the-line bureaucrat.

This is a man who appears determined to be the nail that sticks up, and he has long been persona non grata at the ministry since making his opinions on the government's personnel policies quite clear. Now – refreshingly – he wants to stub the toes of both sides in the growing debate over the government meddling in the media and the fact that large parts of that industry roll over to have their tummies tickled in return.

I believe very strongly that Japan has a fairly high degree of freedom of expression and freedom of the press,” Koga said. “I also believe that democratic values and democratic systems are fairly well-rooted in Japan.”


Any media that gives in to pressure so easily

or is effectively bribed is not providing

much of a service to the public.

And you just knew that a “but” was coming. “Having said that,” he continued, “I am always concerned about what might happen in the future and, even given these freedoms and principles, it is possible that a dictatorship or something approaching a dictatorship could emerge in Japan in the future.”

Koga fears that the first step on that disastrous road would be for the government to build close working relationships with the media, which they have largely done in recent years. “On the one hand, they can apply pressure, which could be in the form of a threat to take away a broadcaster's license, and on the other they can offer rewards if a media company is cooperative,” Koga said. Yet any media that gives in to pressure so easily or is effectively bribed is not providing much of a service to the public, he believes.

“AAnother thing that I have seen in recent months that causes me great anxiety is the fact that top executives at the very large mass media companies seem to be coming very close on a personal basis to members of the government,” he said. “They seem to be cozying up to the people in power.

This seems a rather immature way to do business, but some of these executives now feel very proud of themselves and their close ties with members of the government,” he added. “They feel as if they are at the heart of power.”

The problem, of course, is that while the executives are playing golf or having dinner with members of the Cabinet, their journalists might hesitate to ask the tough questions on a story if the answers might ruffle political feathers and, by extension, cause problems for the people who pay their wages. “Unfortunately, we are not seeing the media fight back,” Koga added. “We are basically seeing the media trying to accommodate the pressures and the system of rewards that are being directed their way.”

The third nail in the coffin of a free and fair press, Koga believes, comes when the media is not even aware of the stories they should be chasing. “I think we are very fast reaching a crisis situation in the media,” he said.


“I think that ability to be aware

of important issues and to follow up

on them is being lost.”


Japan has already experienced the application of government pressure and provision of rewards, followed by the media pulling its punches on the sensitive stories. The third step, which is under way, is “frightening,” he said.

After talking to reporters and producers at television companies, Koga realized that the media is “not even aware that it is exercising self-restraint” in what it reports. “This goes to the very heart of what a journalist is,” he said. “The most important ability or function of a journalist is to be aware that something is wrong, that there is an issue, and then to have the courage and ability to follow up and do investigative journalism. I think that ability to be aware of important issues and to follow up on them is being lost.”

And while broadcasters rely on the government for their licenses – a system hardly designed to encourage a campaigning and free broadcast media – Japanese newspapers and magazines are equally not immune from official pressure. The government is presently re-examining the resale system, under which papers and magazines are sold at a fixed price and cannot be discounted.

Being too vocal in their criticisms of the powers-that-be might encourage the authorities to abolish the resale system; and not all the newspapers and magazine might survive the subsequent shakeout across the industry.

Inevitably, a public that is not informed of the important issues of the day is not equipped to make informed decisions when elections come around, Koga insists. “The government cannot apply direct pressure to the public, but if the public is not given access to a great deal of information by the media, which is exercising self-restraint, then eventually the information that the public does receive will be the information that is convenient for the people that are in power,” he said. “Without even knowing it, the people are going to be brain-washed,” he added.

That is when the specter of a dictator could hang over Japan, he said.

Julian Ryall is the Japan correspondent for the Daily Telegraph.



Pioneer or Destroyer of Traditional Values

Hiroko Mauhara (left) and Koyuki Higashi (right) celebrate the ward's ruling with Fumino Sugiyama, a
transgender man planning on marrying.


Shibuya ward and its mayor lead the way

in giving rights to the LGBT community.

by Suvendrini Kakuchi


espite a wedding held in 2013 that announced to friends and family their commitment to each other – as couples have done for centuries – Hiroko Masuhara and Koyuki Higashi say their union remains on the social fringes. Though they live as a lesbian couple, “We yearn to be recognized legally as a married couple. Because that is what our relationship is,” said Masuhara in an interview.

A giant leap toward their long-held dream took place when Tokyo’s Shibuya ward announced a landmark ordinance to issue “ proof of partnership” certificates that would register unions between members of gay couples. Spurred on by plucky Mayor Toshitake Kuwahara, the law passed in the local assembly on March 31, making the ward the first in Japan to officially accept registration by non-heterosexual couples.

There is still a long way to go in terms of reaching equal legal status with heterosexual counterparts on such rights as family inheritance or adoption of children. Yet the move has been widely celebrated by Japan’s lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgender (LGBT) community.


“Shibuya is a diverse community that includes

foreigners and young people

who seek a change from the monolithic standards

of the older generation.”

We are absolutely delighted with the new legislation. It is a step towards legal acceptance and a symbol of hope for sexual minorities that makes Japanese society more tolerant and diverse,” explained Masuhara.

As Mayor Toshitake Kuwahara explained at the FCCJ in March, the motive for the change he has ushered in is simple – he is working to meet the needs of the rapidly changing population of Shibuya ward as well as Japan. “Sexual minorities face painful discrimination, such as not being able to rent accommodations. They are viewed as different in a Japanese society that wants to believe it is homogenous. As a result these people are seen as a threat to a carefully protected status quo,” he told the press.

Kuwahara has been mayor since 2003 and obviously seen first hand the social transformation through the years. “Shibuya is now a diverse community that includes foreigners and young people who seek a change from the monolithic standards of the older generation. To cope, there is a vital need to build empathy in order to make Shibuya a peaceful and vital place,” he said.

Shibuya ward promotes its official image as a youth- and fashion-centered area in Tokyo; it is also home to a large gay bar district. The mayor believes the new certification extended to the LGBT community – which includes special consultation services and penalties for companies that do not cooperate – will facilitate badly needed public understanding to support the legislation.

But, as expected, lining up against him are Japan’s influential conservatives. The Liberal Democratic Party is leading the pack, with party members opposing the proposal during the voting in the Shibuya assembly elections last month. Sadakazu Taniguchi, a powerful politician and secretary general, referred to his own value system as he declared that Shibuya ward is encouraging social disorder by eroding Japan’s traditional family values. Other revisionist groups issued statements pointing out that legally accepting same-sex marriages will reduce Japan’s birth rate because these unions will not procreate.


He describes the resistance from conservatives

as a clash between cultural diversity

and a nationalist ideology.

Social experts point out that the embattled mayor’s situation epitomizes the deep-rooted contradictions in Japanese society. “What is notable in Japan is that opposition against the rights to sexual minorities is not based on religious beliefs as has been the case in Western or other countries,” says Professor Kimio Ito, who teaches gender at Kyoto University. “In fact, television regularly features popular gay or transsexual personalities and there are also sexual minorities in politics.”

But this does not mean Japan is progressive, says Ito. He describes the resistance from conservatives as a clash between cultural diversity and a nationalist ideology that promotes the racial homogeneity myth that is carefully propagated by the government through education. “Japanese society is built around this nationalist psyche and that has made it difficult for the country to accept differences and a true sense of modernity,” Ito says. “Our so-called tolerance is superficial.”

Indeed, LGBT rights proponents view their fight to bring change as linked closely to the national debate about how to develop a dynamic Japan, something that is also championed by the current government as imperative to maintain global competitiveness.

For example, Maki Muraki of Nijiro Diversity says that the advocacy NPO supporting LGBTs focuses on education programs, which she says is the key to bring change. “An educated public that is aware of the issues can foster understanding and empathy,” she says. “This is the best way to combat harassment and develop the concept of diversity.”

Currently her clients include Japanese companies where employees are made aware of the social discrimination issues faced by people such as transvestites, who might be afraid of using public toilets because of being identified. “Our study programs reveal that the Japanese have not been exposed to close discrimination,” she said. “These issues are invisible in Japan because nobody dares to discuss them. Television features only humorous cases.”

Meanwhile, other wards in Tokyo are also becoming emboldened to take steps to accept sexual minorities. Transgender assembly politician Ai Kamikawa is leading the way to recognize gay relationships through certification in Setagaya ward, one of Tokyo’s largest. Whether the momentum from Shibuya’s legislation will have an effect has yet to be seen.

Suvendrini Kakuchi is a correspondent for the UK-based University World News, with a focus on higher education issues.



A Nomadic Affair: The Taiwan Foreign Correspondents' Club

Left to right, Club treasurer Debra Mao, Taichung mayor and vice chairman of the ruling Kuomintang Jason Hu, the author
Jane Rickards, Club activities chairperson Lloyd G. Roberts.

Advocating for members or hosting politicians,

this Taipei-based Club's lack of a home is more

than made up for with its energetic programs.


by Jane Rickards


n the first Thursday of each month, a small group can be seen huddled in one of the many bars dotted across Taipei. It may be in the glitzy surrounds of a five-star hotel. Or it may be a tiny one hidden in one of Taipei’s many winding back alleys, amid Chinese apothecaries, hawkers’ stands and hordes of motorcycles. But the crowd is always more or less the same – including a smattering of academics and Sinologists, journalists from Taiwan’s English-language media, public relations executives, economists and the odd politician pressing the flesh.

But the most important component of these gatherings is the group of foreign correspondents whose Club hosts these events. Their aim is to foster intelligent discussion about events in Taiwan, a tech powerhouse in a strategic regional location and yet one of Asia’s most under-reported nations.

The Taiwan Foreign Correspondents’ Club is a largely nomadic affair, formed in 1998, and armed only with a charter, a tiny budget and a list of members. Unlike the foreign correspondents’ clubs in Hong Kong and Tokyo, the TFCC lacks a clubhouse and other lavish assets. Taiwan’s diplomatic isolation means the Club will never be a hub for correspondents across the region.

Many TFCC members have complained that with China’s spectacular economic rise and new status as a world power, Taiwan continues to drop off the mental radar of foreign editors, even though it still remains one of the region’s most dangerous flashpoints and its vibrant multicultural democracy deserves attention in its own right. Taiwan’s status in Beijing’s eyes as a renegade province to be retaken – by military force if necessary – makes the island a freelancer’s paradise when cross-Strait tensions rise.


Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou speaking to the Club earlier this year.

One of the reasons why the Club cultivates the foreign correspondent community is to help ensure that Taiwan’s story is told accurately with reporting that is set to international standards. But Taiwan’s existential concerns are not the only concerns of Club members. The vibe of the Club is casual in the extreme and annual membership is relatively inexpensive: it only costs NT$3,000 (almost US$100) to purchase individual membership. It is also relatively easy for expatriates to become associate members.

Currently the Club has 28 correspondent members. Although many of them have full-time jobs, they tend to be either with wire services such as Bloomberg and Reuters or Asian English-language media, such as Kyodo News and Channel News Asia. There are also 26 associate members and eight corporate members that include the Australian Office Taipei and the British Trade and Cultural Office, the de facto embassies for the two countries.

TFCC members are relatively young, with most correspondent members under the age of 50. Taiwan may not be a top posting for experienced correspondents, but it is often a place where Mandarin Chinese speakers get their first break in journalism or where young reporters in wire services start their climb up the career ladder before eventually moving to China.

Lloyd Roberts, PR manager for the Eiger law firm and the current TFCC Activities Chairperson, has served on TFCC committees for around seven years and has resided in Taiwan for over two decades. He notes that the gender and ethnic mix of the Club have both slowly changed. When the Club was founded in 1998, it consisted mostly of white men. “Even though it was the 1990s, it was a man’s game,” Roberts says, adding he thinks this was not due to overt sexism, but more because there were not many Western women in Taiwan at the time.


It is often a place where Mandarin Chinese

speakers get their first break in journalism

or where young reporters in wire services

start their climb up the career ladder

 Women’s participation has since increased. Last year, for the first time in the Club’s history, women were elected to all three of the TFCC’s top committee posts only open to correspondent members: treasurer, vice president and president. Localization is another trend. A few of the Club’s original founders possessed no Asian language skills but now it is rare to encounter correspondent members who are not fluent in Mandarin Chinese. “You see a lot more Taiwanese American and Taiwanese reporters than before,” Roberts says. Despite this, the lingua franca of the Club has remained English.

The five-member TFCC committee headed by the President uses the Club’s tiny budget from membership dues to organize various events, including Happy Hour – usually held on the first Thursday of each month – and press events with speakers that recently have ranged from Taiwan’s President Ma Ying-jeou to the White Wolf, a former leader of the Bamboo Union, one of Taiwan’s most notorious triads.

Government officials, business leaders and other speakers rarely use TFCC events for breaking news or communicating establishment policies. But it is still relatively easy for the Club to obtain speakers from the highest levels of Taiwanese government. Foreign correspondents are respected and officials like to use any opportunity they can to raise the island’s international profile.

While there is an abundance of information available in Taiwan’s freewheeling democracy, much of the Chinese-language print media tends to be parochial, shamelessly sensationalistic and often given to scurrilous rumor-mongering. Frequently, as was the case when President Ma spoke to the Club a few weeks ago, correspondents use these TFCC press events to ask speakers questions of interest to the international community that are rarely addressed in press briefings with local journalists. For example, at the recent briefing President Ma was asked by a Reuters reporter to clarify Taiwan’s claims in the South China Sea.

Correspondents use these press events

to ask questions of interest to the international

community rarely addressed in press briefings

with local journalists.

Roberts points to the arduous and unpaid work of the committee members as the reason the Club has continued to flourish all these years. “It says something that we have got this far without fancy clubhouses,” Roberts says. (As Vice President of the TFCC and then President, I can also personally confirm the responsibilities involved in a TFCC post are close to becoming a full-time job.)

The Club also advocates for its members. Some vestiges of the former martial law regime still remain in the form of over-regulation and other minor forms of government interference. Martin Williams, Asia Editor for the industry publication Gambling Compliance and TFCC President from 2012-2013, says one of the biggest challenges of his presidency was maintaining a cordial but effective relationship with the government while defending members’ rights.

One issue he recalls involved government discrimination against journalists from greater China. The Club’s loose definition of a foreign correspondent is any journalist who writes for publications outside Taiwan. So while the TFCC defines journalists who work for media organizations from Hong Kong, Macau or China as foreign correspondents, the Taiwanese government, officially known as the Republic of China, defines them as Chinese compatriots. During William’s tenure, the government refused admission to journalists from Greater China at an event it sponsored for introducing correspondents to Taiwanese Cabinet ministers and their staff. Williams successfully negotiated at length for their admittance. Over the years, there have been other battles with the government over red tape issues.

Relations between correspondent members and associate members are cordial. Roberts notes several reasons why associate members join the Club. First of all, he says, social networking is a draw. The Club’s membership fees are much more affordable than other expat organizations, such as the American Chamber of Commerce in Taipei, where joining fees stand at almost US$500 and annual dues US$900.

And one other social event the TFCC organizes, the annual Christmas party, has now become “legendary,” Roberts notes. There are expensive raffle prizes galore, including the latest smartphones and other gadgets donated by Taiwan’s tech companies. “It’s the only expat party in town that is kid-friendly . . . with a Santa,” Roberts adds.

Associate members may also be aspiring journalists wanting to make industry contacts, and Roberts notes that diplomats like to join the Club “to keep abreast of Taiwan’s political situation.” Associate member Michael Boyden, the managing director of Taiwan Asia Strategy Consulting, says the Club’s speakers give him ideas for finding speakers to address his company’s own forums.


There are increasing numbers of bloggers,

stringers and other part-time journalists

who mingle writing with other occupations.

The challenges the Club faces are the same as nearly every other FCC in the region. Journalism is in a considerable state of flux, media organizations are cutting budgets and the numbers of correspondent members have been slowly but steadily dwindling over the years. The Financial Times eliminated its full-time Taiwan correspondent at the end of 2013, for example, and the Associated Press eliminated the position of Taiwan bureau chief and two correspondent positions, leaving behind a few stringers, photographers and local news researchers. This in turn corrodes the Club’s tiny budget needed for organizing social events.

Meanwhile, there are increasing numbers of bloggers, stringers and other part-time journalists who mingle writing with other occupations. The TFCC’s charter defines correspondent members as those that satisfy the committee that their professional duties are representing the foreign media in a journalistic capacity. The Club’s charter also says it will be dissolved if numbers of correspondent members fall beneath 15. The TFCC’s future challenge will be broadening its definition of a foreign correspondent sufficiently to keep the Club alive without deprofessionalizing the industry.

The dwindling correspondent numbers are also due to Taiwan’s unique political situation. After the fiercely confrontational pro-independence President Chen Shui-bian was voted out in 2008, tensions with China subsided. President Ma then sought economic integration with China, signing 21 cross-Strait agreements. The resulting calm seems to have convinced many foreign editors (fortunately not my own) that in terms of regional political news, Taiwan is much less important.

One Taiwan bureau chief a few years ago even told me he thought I should go home as Taiwan and China were heading towards a convergence and there would be far fewer opportunities to write for the international press. Now that President Ma’s KMT has been drubbed in municipal elections last year at the hands of the pro-independence DPP, a DPP presidential victory seems probable. Tensions with China could rise again, attracting the attention of foreign editors once more. “The irony is that if the cross-Strait situation deteriorates dramatically, the Club could find a few more members,” Williams concludes.

Jane Rickards was Vice President, then President of the TFCC in 2014. She is a stringer for the Economist.



Profile: Asger Røjle Christensen


A Danish journalist returns to Japan

with an enthusiastic view of social media.

by Gavin Blair


ournalism has swallowed me up.”

Once an idealistic, young student with dreams of changing the world, Asger Røjle Christensen says his chosen profession, for better or for worse, has left him with very few political opinions, subjugated by his passion to “observe and communicate what I see.”

Growing up north of Copenhagen, he spent five years “studying but not finishing a degree in history,” before taking the entrance examination for the school of journalism in Aarhus, then the only one of its kind in Denmark. Those five years spent with history books were not wasted, however. Christensen describes much of the work that has been close to his heart, including two books, as being “in the field between history and journalism.”

His long connection with Japan was triggered by “one of life’s accidents” in the summer of 1984. When he and some friends travelled to China, the country that had originally captured his imagination, they bought cheap air tickets that came with a two-and-a-half-day layover in Tokyo. Worried about the cost of the notoriously expensive city, he got an introduction to a young, Danish-speaking Japanese woman who could help him navigate Tokyo on a budget.


He describes much of the work that has

been close to his heart, including two books,

as being “in the field between

history and journalism.”

I met her and I’ve been married to her now for almost 30 years,” says Christensen. “Since then I made Japan my focus, both working here as a correspondent, and back in Denmark working as a foreign editor and at other positions for 18 years.”

He first began working as a correspondent in Japan in 1989, primarily for the liberal broadsheet Politiken, and joined the FCCJ that same year. Surrounded by experienced foreign correspondents and “still young and easy to impress,” Christensen says he was inspired by the atmosphere at the Club, “the discussions and the access to the pool of ideas here. It gave you the sense that this job we do is serious and important.”

Covering the last months of the bubble economy, and its subsequent painful unraveling, Christensen says the 1993 political reforms garnered surprising amounts of interest at home in Denmark, where he found himself making a presentation on the subject to a packed, excited room. Within a couple of years, however, a sea change occurred. In the aftermath of the Kobe earthquake and the sarin gas subway attacks, he recalls, “the whole discussion became very pessimistic, and Japan began to disappear from the headlines around the world.”

Concerned that he might find himself jobless in Japan, he elected to head back to Denmark, where he found a position as foreign editor at Aktuelt newspaper, followed by a post at the Ritzau news agency. This was followed by a stint editing radio at the public Danish Broadcasting Corporation (DR) and then as an online news editor for the same organization from 2006 to 2013.


“I increasingly found myself wondering,

‘What am I doing here?’

Although I felt I was doing my job well,” he says, “I increasingly found myself wondering, ‘What am I doing here?’ I was watching all these young people coming out of journalism school who were very conscious of using content across the various platforms. I began to think that those with journalistic sense would be able to do my job in three months’ time, so if I wanted to continue to work full time in journalism, I should go back to doing something that only I can do.”

In November 2013, Christensen decided to do just that: he returned to Tokyo to once more cover Japan for Danish-language media, including various DR platforms. With renewed global interest in Japan driven by geopolitics, pop culture, the upcoming Olympics and the aftermath of Fukushima, Christensen believes he picked a good time to be back.


An enthusiastic user of social media, Christensen launched his own pay-site six months ago, offering analysis of Japanese news to those Danes interested enough to pay 500 krona (about ¥10,000) annually for the service. While he emphasizes that it doesn’t generate an income large enough to live on, it makes a little more money than he’d expected. Since coming back to Japan he has also led study tours for Danish journalists and business people, utilizing the knowledge of the country he has built up over three decades.

Christensen has written one book on the way Japan has handled its wartime past, which was used at universities in Denmark, and another on the Japanese woman kidnapped from Copenhagen by North Korean agents; to Christensen’s regret, neither has yet been published in English or Japanese. He says the first book (the title of which translates as ‘Apologies in Japanese’) is now out of print, though due to the Abe regime’s revisionism, it is now also out of date.

Interpreting what is happening in Japan for readers and listeners back in Denmark remains his true passion. He cites recent articles he has written trying to explain the popularity of Abe among a certain section of the Japanese population as a good example of this challenge, despite provoking some angry reactions accusing him of being a supporter of the current government.

There are many interpretations and nuances, but as a journalist you have to choose one angle. So take one that is well-researched, that you are certain about, but that is different from what your readers or your listeners believed about this country or this issue when they got up this morning. From a journalistic standpoint, that’s much more interesting.”

Gavin Blair covers Japanese business, society and culture for publications in America, Asia and Europe.



The Japan Times' Slimming Program




Can the country's most prestigious

English-language daily survive and retool

for the global marketplace?

by David McNeill


apan’s premier English-language newspaper appears to have gotten lighter. In April, the Japan Times shrunk on some days by nearly 15 percent, going from a skinny 14 pages to an anemic 12. For the same price (¥210), readers got more wire copy and less content written by the newspaper’s journalists and contributors. Features, the community pages, stage and movie reviews have been trimmed.

Some Japan Times staffers have greeted the changes with dismay. Following its redesign and decision to tie up with the International New York Times In 2013, a rare bout of optimism broke out at the paper. But that seems to have dissipated as some editors are now questioning the wisdom of reducing original content to help the 118-year-old title survive. “It seems to smack of desperation, and fly in the face of the strategy announced only 18 months ago,” said one.

(Full disclosure: I am a contributor to the Japan Times.)

Edan Corkill, one of the paper’s two managing editors, rejects such criticism. While admitting that the last few years have been “really tough,” Corkill insists that the size of the Japan Times has always fluctuated. (For the record, the average page count, excluding Sundays, has gone from 13.84 in January to 12.3 in April; all but three of the papers – 23 of the 26 – have been 12 pages).

In the five years leading up to 2014,

newspaper circulation fell

by over 10 percent in North America . . .

Even Corkill admits, however, that print circulation is unlikely to grow “particularly strongly.” That may be an understatement: The paper’s website cites 45,000 print copies a day, down from 74,000 in 1991. The real circulation, minus giveaways, may be significantly smaller.

The same trend, needless to say, is being seen across most of the developed world. In the five years leading up to 2014, newspaper circulation fell by over 10 percent in North America, 20 percent in Australia and Oceania and nearly 25 percent in Europe, according to the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers. Print advertising worldwide declined 13 percent over the same period.

British newspaper sales shrunk by 8 percent last year; in the once lucrative UK Sunday market, total circulation was down by nearly half, to 6.7m from about 12.8m a decade ago. The picture is similar in the Unites States: Print-ad revenue at the iconic Washington Post slumped by a head-spinning 61 percent between 2007 and 2013.

The print bloodbath in the more affluent countries is slightly counterbalanced by newspapers’ popularity elsewhere: Print circulation actually rose 2 percent globally in 2013 – mainly thanks to rising circulation in Asia. And once online readers are factored in, overall readership is growing: Globally, around 2.5 billion people read newspapers in print, another 800 million of them on digital platforms.

Digital editions gaining weight

This, of course, means that digital is increasingly driving strategies. Newspapers have learned to retool for their online readership, creating some unlikely winners and losers. Three years ago the New York Times was toppled from its perch as the world’s biggest newspaper website (according to Net analytics company comScore) by Britain’s right-wing Daily Mail, with its frothy diet of celeb pictures and human interest stories.

The battle to survive is increasingly hard-shouldered, with the most successful publications outgrowing their national roots. Two-thirds of the Guardian’s readership is now outside the UK, thanks to its expanding online presence. In fact, in 2012, the once crusty daily became the world’s third-most-read newspaper website (after the New York Times and Huffington Post) with over 30 million readers.

There are other reasons for this success. The Guardian’s decision to adopt a “digital first” strategy in 2011 contributed to its exploding online readership. The British online news sites have proved particularly popular in America, where what the Economist calls their “po-faced” rivals tend to be more skittish about political leanings. As Fox News discovered, many “Americans like their news sources to have a political slant,” said the London weekly.


The ones that are doing well have a distinctive

online identity. U.S. readers of the Guardian

know they’ll be served a serious,

left-leaning view of the world.


The economics of going global are not hard to figure out. With so much news now available for free, and print sales plummeting, the alternative is to cast the online net wider for readers of the same content. But here the biggest problem, notoriously, is how to monetize all those millions of eyeballs. Online income is a fraction of its hardcopy alternative: about one-fifth of total revenue for the most successful titles; in most cases far less. The ones that are doing well have established a distinctive online identity. U.S. readers of the Guardian know they’ll be served a serious, left-leaning view of the world.

So whither the Japan Times? The paper still easily outshines its main print rival, the Japan News, reborn two years ago from the former Yomiuri and widely seen as an unabashed cheerleader for the Liberal Democratic Party. Virtually all the content is translated from the staid parent paper, and its coverage of historical issues may be unpalatable to foreign readers.

Last year, for example, the Yomiuri parent apologized to its 10 million readers for using the term “sex slaves” in dozens of articles about the so-called comfort women since 1992.

The Japan Times’ more critical distance from the government could plausibly give it a better chance in the global-brand stakes. And indeed, like its far bigger British rivals, readership abroad is growing: 60 percent of the total traffic to the website is now from outside Japan. The newspaper says 30 percent of digital subscribers pay in dollars; the remainder pays in yen. It’s safe to say that, like most news titles, more people are reading than ever before – even if they’re not paying for it.


Mobile traffic to the website

has tripled since the overhaul,

says Corkill.

The newspaper’s management accepts that the web is key. Last year it adopted a digital-first policy, following a major design overhaul of its website so that it can now be viewed on mobile devices. This year it hired a full-time employee to handle social media.

Mobile traffic to the website has tripled since the overhaul, says Corkill. “We’re hoping the website will become a platform for revenue right through to 2020.” He adds.

While the newspaper claims eight million page views per month, it is cagey on the number of subscribers who have signed up since it introduced a metered pay-wall in November 2013. Corkill says paying subscribers doubled in the last fiscal year, and is growing month-on-month. Page views dipped slightly for a few months after the pay-wall was introduced but rebounded and “are now higher than they were during the period Jan-Oct 2013.”


Staying more attractive than competition

The online paper may soon have some serious domestic competition. In April, a subsidiary of Fuji Media Holdings bought GPlus Media Co., the company that operates the Japan Today website. As I write, it’s unclear what changes the powerful new owners (overseers of the Fuji TV network and affiliate of the Fujisankei group) will bring, but it will almost certainly mean a grab for the sort of readers who hang out on the Japan Times website.

The April editorial changes at the struggling paper, however, have brought mixed reviews among staff. Critics say the online service suffers when print copy is cut. “People were quite upset by the cuts but they don’t want it to get any worse,” said one. “We’re just worried about what will happen down the road.” On the features side, the impression of many at the paper “is that a lot of those [original content] stories attract readers on the web as well,” said the source. “Cutting those pages may hurt readership.”

Given that the paper comes bundled with the INYT, and that the Japan Times’ strongest suit is its “Japan-focused original content,” said another former staffer, “it does seem a shame to cut sections with original content rather than the pages of foreign news wire copy.” The content that is being cut is largely generated by freelancers, however, “which is obviously more expensive to produce, so the motivation is pretty clear to see.”

A third source agreed, saying the newspaper’s management had an “obsession” with running large amounts of foreign news wire copy. “Bending over backwards to satisfy a dwindling number of older readers of print . . . and embassy types” with outdated national-day features was also a mistake, said the source.

Corkill calls the assumption that people buy the newspaper for original content, however, “flawed.” He cites a readers’ survey last year that found world news was the second-most popular section. “We have a wide variety of readers and we respond to what they tell us,” he says. “Stock pages were very unpopular so we cut them.” He says "last year represented the turning of a corner for us. We were not in a place that was sustainable. But we are now laying the foundations for the future.”

The market verdict on the April changes

has yet to be seen,

but not everyone is unhappy.

The newspaper has been a subsidiary of Nifco, which makes plastic parts for cars and homes, since 1996. The chairman of both, Toshiaki Ogasawara (84), has never publicly wavered in his commitment to the Japan Times stable, which includes a book publisher, a weekly, a tabloid targeting English learners and several new titles.

The market verdict on the April changes has yet to be seen, but not everyone is unhappy. “The thinking is that younger readers don’t buy newspapers, and I’m not sure that’s an incorrect assumption,” said the former staffer. But he also suspects that older readers will be more sensitive to the perception of shrinking value, “and so it could backfire quite badly.”

Some members of upper management are actually very smart and resourceful,” he continues. “But other key management members unfortunately don’t seem to understand much about quality journalism, nor business for that matter. They’re also not very good at drawing on the ideas of their staff, effectively bringing in outside help or making changes to struggling departments such as sales.”

It’s sad to see them repeatedly making bad decisions, especially as the Japan Times really is a special and important publication, with a very strong niche and the potential to fill it brilliantly.”

That seems to represent the dominant view. Most associated with the venerable newspaper wish it the best, while hoping that it is not fluffing its chance to become a global brand.

David McNeill writes for the Independent, the Irish Times, the Economist and other publications and is a coordinator of the electronic journal


Kabukicho Confidential

 No1-2015-5BullBrett scandal . . . the Tokyo Reporter photographed on the mean (or is that clean?) streets of Kabukicho.

Brett Bull serves up tales of

vice and iniquity

every week on Tokyo Reporter.

by Tim Hornyak

I’m in a dive bar in Kabukicho, Japan’s largest red-light district, drinking beer with a man who devotes much of his free time to writing headlines like “Japan’s taxi drivers rate raunchiest rides on their peter meters.”

Brett Bull is a muckraking writer and translator, a connoisseur of Japan’s gutter press and the juicy smorgasbord of immorality it serves up. We’re discussing the fate of a 26-year-old hostess whose body was fished out of the Sagami River. There was a boyfriend who began stalking her. A nasty breakup. And signs of head trauma on the corpse.

True-crime cases like hers are Bull’s stock in trade. His online alias, Tokyo Reporter, is also the name of his website that chronicles all manner of Japanese vice and crime. The site overflows with titillating articles about corrupt politicians, small-time hoods, fallen porn stars, gangsters and a seemingly endless parade of businesses getting busted for prostitution – typically for pimping out joshikousei, euphemistically “JK,” or underage girls.

Its success can be attributed in part

to Bull’s choice of material -- a mix of

mainstream Japanese news sources

and tabloids


Tokyo Reporter mostly consists of news translated from Japanese sources – straight news and material from weekly tabloid magazines. Some of the posts are truly stranger than fiction. In April, Tokyo Reporter ran a story from the Kanagawa Shimbun newspaper about a former Yokohama school principal who was arrested for child pornography in the Philippines. What made the bust extraordinary, though, was this: “A search of the suspect’s home by investigators revealed approximately 400 albums containing 147,600 photos showing him performing sexual acts with more than 12,700 females.”

Like much on Tokyo Reporter, it boggles the mind.

But there’s huge appetite for such lurid tales from Japan’s seamy underworld. The website, the only one of its kind in English, regularly draws about 70,000 unique visitors a month and has over 38,000 followers on Twitter.

Its success can be attributed in part to Bull’s choice of material. As its editor and chief writer, he relies on a mix of mainstream Japanese news sources and tabloids such as Shukan Jitsuwa, Shukan Taishu and Shukan Asahi Geino. As faithful readers of the Number 1 Shimbun know, however, stories in Japanese weeklies can be pure hokum (see Mark Schreiber’s August 2013 cover story on the fictitious eyeball-licking craze). So Bull ensures there are multiple sources confirming most of the serious news he posts.

I try to pick stories that I think are based on reality,” says Bull. “I try to avoid stuff that’s ridiculous, and I try to focus on stories where I can link back to an original Japanese article.”

The tabloids sometimes break news, he says, but mostly embellish stories from mainstream press such as the Asahi, Mainichi or Yomiuri newspapers. He points to the murder of the hostess as an example – the weeklies added detail to the story after it broke.

The fact that she was found floating in the river was covered by all the major news outlets. The tabloids just take that and build it up by talking to some investigator.”

Bull does sometimes indulge in some of the more outlandish tales from the tabloids, but these tend to be the kind of material that the magazines recycle: stories, for instance, about Chinese tourists visiting soaplands in Yoshiwara, Korean prostitutes flooding into Japan or the antics of drunken foreigners in Kabukicho and Roppongi.

The tabloids have certain themes that recur every year, such as taxi drivers who take out the fare in trade from female customers,” he notes wryly. Another example is recurring tales of erotic hijinks among hanami revelers during spring cherry blossom season.



Nearly everything is fair game

in the magazines,

but one taboo is AKB48,

he notes.



The tabs are often completely derivative of one another. As Bull thumbs through an issue of Shukan Jitsuwa, pausing to chuckle at the ads for artificial vaginas molded from the genitals of famous porn stars, he notes that the magazines he reads all ran stories on the centenary of the Yamaguchi-gumi crime syndicate. Yakuza, like porn stars, are often treated like heroes by the gutter press, which seems to elevate them as rebels who have freed themselves from the strictures of orthodox Japanese society.

Nearly everything is fair game in the magazines, but one taboo is AKB48, he notes. Such is the economic and political power of the all-girl band, which had revenues of over $200 million in 2011 from CD and DVD sales alone, that few media outlets will run muckraking stories on them. In 2013, for instance, Tokyo Reporter posted a story based on a Shukan Jitsuwa article which stated that AKB48’s management agency was trying to cover up the arrest of the mother of an AKB48 member for sex with a minor. The scandal received limited coverage due to pressure from the management company, Shukan Jitsuwa alleged.


Bull is well aware that his risqué translations might incur the wrath of Japanese nationalists who bristle at perceived insults to Japan’s honor. After all, an online campaign by zealots forced the now-defunct Kodansha International to pull from the market its highly amusing Tabloid Tokyo series of books of translated gems from the weeklies. But he hasn’t been the target of any pushback so far.

Tokyo Reporter stories end with a disclaimer that says in part: “Every effort has been made to ensure accuracy of the translations. However, we are not responsible for the veracity of their contents. The activities of individuals described herein should not be construed as ‘typical’ behavior of Japanese people nor reflect the intention to portray the country in a negative manner.”

Bull, 46, is a native of Newport Beach, California. Surprisingly, journalism is only a part-time avocation; he has an office job with a Japanese construction company that often takes him on overseas trips. Regardless of where he is, he manages to write a Tokyo Reporter newsletter and update the website every week, while microblogging on Twitter.


If you clean up Kabukicho,

you remove the reason

to come to Kabukicho.”


Bull has no formal background in journalism, but he has done freelance articles for the Japan Times, Variety, the New York Times and other media. He has interviewed ex-gangsters, right-wing extremists and porn stars on set.

Oddly enough, it was his day job that got him interested in Tokyo’s demimonde of vice. His colleagues would bring him out to hostess clubs, where he got to chatting with the girls. He found them surprisingly down to earth, and became interested in who they were as real people. That sparked his passion for reading more about those who inhabit those strata of Japanese society. He began writing for a friend’s website and eventually decided to launch Tokyo Reporter in 2008.

I really like reading news, and I do this kind of news because I think nobody else is doing it in English,” he says. Collaborators have come and gone; currently Bull works with two other translators on the site, which earns enough in ad revenues to cover the server bills.

Recently, Bull has focused on the cleanup of Kabukicho, a slow but ongoing process that echoes the sanitization of Times Square in New York. The establishment of Robot Restaurant, a family-friendly eatery with over-the-top mechatronic attractions, and the recent opening of the Shinjuku Toho Building, topped with a giant statue of Godzilla, have injected a Disney element into sin city. Developers are keen to banish the seedy image and aggressive touts; “safety” is the new watchword. Meanwhile, fewer and fewer Japanese are patronizing its nightspots. Kabukicho has totemic value for Bull, and he views its changing character wistfully.

All the old theaters have closed. There is a push to clean it up, and I assume more blocks will be demolished. I do think part of it is economic, but Japan seems to be getting less tolerant of this kind of stuff. The Internet has changed things too. Many people around here have said to me, ‘If you clean up Kabukicho, you remove the reason to come to Kabukicho.’”

Shinjuku’s fabled fleshpots may dwindle, but vice will never fade from Japan. And Tokyo Reporter will be there to chronicle it.

Tim Hornyak is Tokyo correspondent for IDG News Service, a global information technology newswire.



From the Archives: Max and "Mr. Clean"


 Deputy Prime Minister Takeo Miki, the “Mr. Clean” of Japanese politics who would succeed Kakuei Tanaka as Prime Minister the following December, being introduced by FCCJ president and photographer Max Desfor (AP) at an FCCJ luncheon on July 31, 1974. Max was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for his photo of refugees scrambling over the remnants of a destroyed bridge that spanned the Taedong River, taken on December 4, 1950. Another photo in which Max appears (page 49 of the Club’s history book) shows what it was like covering the Korean War at that time.


akeo Miki was no stranger to the FCCJ or to politics. Educated at both Meiji University and the University of California, he served in the Diet from 1937 until his death in 1988, even winning a seat during the war years when he opposed Tojo’s military government. Although he had held ministerial posts from 1947, it was after he became Minister of Foreign Affairs in 1966 that his relationship with the Club blossomed – as he became “our official godfather” (the Foreign Ministry was the sponsor of the FCCJ). The highlight, no doubt, was a reception on the evening of May 25 of 1967 to celebrate the completion of the Club’s renovation in which he was our guest of honor.

Takeo Miki’s appearance at the professional luncheon on July 31 was special, however. He had just resigned from the Tanaka Cabinet over alleged financial irregularities by the Prime Minister, igniting a chain of events that led to Tanaka’s downfall (in which a major link was his appearance at the FCCJ on October 22). Miki succeeded to the post of Prime Minister in December, but his attempts at reform of the LDP ended in failure and two years later, in December of 1976, he resigned to take responsibility for the LDP’s loss of power.

As for Max Desfor, his fame did not end with the Korean War photos, which followed his recording of other historic events, including the landing of the Enola Gay after the bombing of Hiroshima and the Japanese surrender on the USS Missouri. He went on as a widower to remarry in 2011 at the age of 98 to a widowed lady of 92. Max turned 100 in 2013 and is still going strong, living in the Washington, D.C. area.

- Charles Pomeroy



Tales from the Round Tables: Herding the Alley Cats


he FCCJ founders who came ashore with MacArthur were a sturdy bunch of war correspondents, with a pronounced propensity to speaking their minds (very loudly and with infinite faith in libation to enhance the process). Their legacy lends tremendous color and unique substance to our annals, but one can only surmise the difficulties managers had even attempting to herd such a colony of feral cats over the years.

Opening the Club in what was a bombed-out shell of a city meant there was no ready pool of managers to oversee Tokyo’s sudden internationalization under the Occupation. An advertisement for staff in 1945 brought a line of 2000 jobseekers that stretched all the way to the Central Post Office, most of whom had little other than enthusiasm to show on their resumes with not a stitch of English.

Among the hires in the first year was young Kotaro Washida. Freshly discharged from the Japanese Army in the Philippines, and with a few language lessons behind him, Washida was hired as a night switchboard operator, but quickly moved up the ranks to become the senior Japanese manager. Another manager who worked his way up to the top was Hajime “Jimmy’ Horikawa, who started as a night elevator boy in 1949 while still in high school for a salary of ¥330.


Stamp was also widely credited

with sowing the seeds of

Japan’s wine boom


One manager who didn’t have to start at the bottom was Al Stamp, who served from 1988 until 1996. Thanks to his gruff demeanor and short temper as the well-known proprietor of the extremely popular Mr. Stamp’s Wine Garden, Stamp may not have struck most as the first choice for being the welcoming face in a membership club. But newly elected President Andrew Horvat’s priority was to introduce professional practices to save the Club from the years of cost and inventory control abuses that were bleeding it to the point of extinction.

Stamp’s credentials were indeed impressive: master’s degree in hotel management from Cornell University, graduate studies in constitutional law at University of Tokyo, excellent Japanese and a proven restaurateur. Highly respected as a wine advisor, Stamp was also widely credited with sowing the seeds of Japan’s wine boom – through his restaurant and by introducing the likes of fabled Chateau LaTour to a fledgling market. He most certainly didn’t need the GM post to claim further bragging rights.

Though there was predictable resistance at the outset, results were almost immediately tangible. Former GM and current advisor Akira Nakamura remembers Stamp introducing a game-changing structured management, with a personal style that was extremely demanding but always fair. He taught F&B staff to read spreadsheets and engaged them in a collective pursuit of excellence. He raised the benchmark for food and service, introduced fine wines, started a sushi bar in the Club and restored its financial viability.

Members’ favorite Mohammed Hanif has many a good Stamp episode to share, and enthusiastically credits the manager’s willingness to listen as a reason for his not quitting at a time of dissatisfaction.

He also brought professional civility with a display of great charm to his interactions with members that surprised even his most ardent fans from his restaurant. It seems he not only knew his wines, but had an equally honed ability to herd cats.

      The Shimbun Alley Whisperers






特派員生活のあいだに体験した、安倍政権による報道機関への抑圧の一例を紹介した記事であり、外国特派員協会会報誌「Number 1 Shimbun」ウェブ版に2015年4月1日付けで掲載されたところ、短期間に大きな反響を得たものです。現在の日本におけるジャーナリズムが直面している危機的状況を把握する一助として、ゲルミス氏の了解を得て日本の読者のために全文の日本語訳を掲載いたします。


旅支度を整え 私は日刊紙フランクフルター・アルゲマイネ・ツァイトゥング紙での5年を越す特派員生活を終え、このたび帰国の途につく。


日本の政治的エリートたちが認知していることと海外のメディアで報じられていることとの間のギャップが大きくなりつつあり 在日外国人ジャーナリストたちにとって問題を引き起こしはしないかと危惧している。もちろん、日本は報道の自由がある民主主義の国であり、おぼつかない日本語しかできない外国人特派員でも情報にアクセスすることは可能だ。しかし、このギャップは安倍晋三首相のリーダーシップのもとで行われている変革、つまり歴史を修正しようとする右派的活動によるものである。日本のエリートたちにとって、海外のメディアによる反対的な見解や批判 -これからも続くとみられる- に向き合うことが困難ならば、それは問題になりえるのではないか。



私の立場をはっきりさせておこう。着任以来5年経って、私のこの国への愛、愛情はゆるぎないもので 実際、すばらしい人々との出会いにより 募るばかりだ。特に東日本大震災以後、私の記事を読んでくれた日本人の友人や読者のほとんどが私の書いた記事に愛情を感じると言ってくれている。















私が去るにあたってのメッセージとしては − ほかの人とは違っていて、私は日本における、言論の自由に対する脅威を感じてはいない。民主党政権のときより批判的な声はずっと静かになってきてはいるけれど、それは確かに存在していて そしてそれは おそらく以前よりより多い。

日本の政治的エリートたちの閉鎖的なメンタリティーと、政権指導者たちに海外メディアとオープンな議論をする危険を冒す能力が欠如していることは、実は報道の自由には影響を与えない。情報を集めるための取材源は他にもたくさんあるのだ。しかしこのことは、民主主義の下では政府が政策を国民に、そして世界に向かって説明する義務があることを 政府がほとんどわかっていないことを明らかにしている。

自民党の報道部には英語を話す人を置いていないことや、外国人ジャーナリストには情報を提供していないということを聞かされても、私はもう、おかしなことだとは思わない。また、よく海外出張すると公言している今の首相が、外国特派員協会で私たちと話すためにほんのちょっと足を運ぶことすらしないとしても、変なことだと驚くことはない。実のところ、私は今の政府が外国の報道に対してだけでなく、自国国民に対しても、いかに秘密主義であるかを知って ただただ悲しいのだ。



カーステン・ゲルミス、フランクフルター・アルゲマイネ・ツァイトゥング紙 元東京支局長(2010-2015) 外国特派員協会理事


Club Notes



British journalist Robert Whymant, who died tragically in the Asian tsunami of 2004, was a Tokyo correspondent of the Guardian, Daily Telegraph and the Times, and author of an acclaimed biography of Soviet master spy Richard Sorge. Each year a dinner is held in London in his memory. This year’s brought together four Tokyo colleagues of Whymant – Bill Emmott and Hugh Sandeman (both ex-Tokyo correspondents of the Economist), William Horsley (ex-BBC) and Peter McGill (ex-the Observer) – as well as Mainichi Shimbun European bureau chief Takayasu Ogura, Japan fund manager and writer Peter Tasker, author Justin Wintle, and head of the Commonwealth Journalists Association Rita Payne. Clockwise from left are Wintle, Sandeman, Ogura, McGill, Horsley, Tasker, Emmott and Payne.

   Peter McGill

New Members in April




ERICH BONNERT is a freelance business and technology journalist from Germany. After several years in editorial positions at a computer magazine in Stuttgart, he became a freelance reporter in 1996 and moved to the U.S. He reported from Silicon Valley as a correspondent and columnist for the German business weekly Wirtschaftswoche until 2002. He continued to write for tech and business publications such as Heise in Germany, Cash in Switzerland and Monitor in Austria. Erich has been working in Japan since 2014. His work has appeared in Technology Review and VDI Nachrichten, among others. He lives in Tokyo with his wife and daughter.



TSURUO MOCHIZUKI has been the deputy managing director of NHK World since June 2014. After entering NHK in April 1983, he has held posts as a business and economic news correspondent, a Washington-based economic correspondent, and bureau chief of NHK’s Seoul office from May 2000. He became the international news editor in Tokyo in 2004. He was head of the general bureau for Asia, based in Bangkok, and the head of the general bureau for America, based in New York, prior to his present posting.



GAKU SHIBATA is an international news editor at the Yomiuri Shimbun. He joined the paper after graduating with an economics degree from Keio University in 1987, and worked as a staff writer for political news, as a correspondent based in Okinawa and Washington, and as an editorial writer. He was the Washington bureau chief and general American bureau chief from 2011 to 2013.

Kosei Kobayashi, Sekai Bunka
Publishing, Inc.
Kaoru Nagai, ALC Press Inc.
Kota Otani, LINE Corporation

Kamal Attanayaka, M.K. Trading Company
Warren A. Stanislaus, Rebuild Japan Initiative Foundation
Hiroshi Kimura, L&J Law Office
Shigeru Makino, Fairness Law Office
Akio Matsubara, Toyoda Gosei Co., Ltd.
Hajime Takatsuji, Yamadaya Manjyu

David G. Fisher
Rike Wootten, Gotairiku Partners
Yaeko Sagawa, Sakura Golf Co., Ltd.


Exhibition: Kiyosato Museum of Photographic Arts

Ryo Kameyama; Katanga Province in the Congo: The Aftermath of War Surrender, Mai Mai local militia (2006)


Selection from the Young Portfolio Acquisitions

KIYOSATO MUSEUM OF PHOTOGRAPHIC ARTS (K’MoPA) opened in Yamanashi Prefecture in 1995 and has since focused much of its activity on its project, “Photographs by the Next Generation: Young Portfolio.”

This is a cultural program aimed at helping the youth of the world through photography, to present young people with a challenge, to pass on the fundamentals of photography itself and to open up a future for young people and photography.

The Museum invites young people (up to the age of 35) to submit works. It acquires and exhibits the best – presenting young people’s talent and true worth to the world.

Over the last 20 years, it has received a total of 112,259 works by 9,466 people from 74 countries, with 5,460 works acquired for the collection. This FCCJ exhibition consists of photos from some of the Japanese photographers among the selected.

All the works acquired can be viewed on the Museum’s website:

Kiyosato Museum of Photographic Arts is supported by a grant from the Shinnyo-en Foundation.


No1-2015-4Exhib2Mariko Sakaguchi, One Hundred Views of Bathing (2010)



No1-2015-4Exhib3Takuma Imamura,From Rikuzentakata: Yuki Araki (10) who wants to become a
professional baseball player or run a bar (2012)


Those exhibiting are: Issui Enomoto, Miyoko Ihara, Takuma Imamura, Ryo Kameyama, Kenji Kawamoto, Ken Kitano, Tomoaki Makino, Mariko Sakaguchi, Noboru Taguchi, Hisako Sakurai and Kaori Yoshihara

Remembering the Subway Horror



Atsushi Sakahara at the FCCJ

Two decades after a religious cult released sarin

in the Tokyo subway, one of the victims

is still searching for answers

by Julian Ryall


wenty years is a long time. But to documentary filmmaker Atsushi Sakahara, the morning commute he took on March 20, 1995, will stay with him forever.

I remember getting in the third door from the front of the first carriage after the train pulled in at Roppongi Station,” Sakahara told a press conference at the FCCJ on the eve of the 20th anniversary. “I was holding a newspaper and I saw a free seat and I moved towards it, but I saw a folded newspaper on the floor leaking a clear liquid. I nearly stepped on it. I sensed concern in the other passengers and I turned around and went the other way down the carriage.”

Not sitting down probably saved Sakahara's life. “I remember very clearly that I was reading an article about the arrest the evening before of a senior member of the Aum Shinrikyo cult when my eyes began to feel strange,” he said. “I could not focus.”


Thirteen commuters and station workers died

after members of the cult calmly pierced sachets

of sarin gas with the sharpened tips of umbrellas.


Unable to shake his sense of unease, 48-year-old Sakahara opened the connecting door to the next carriage and stepped through. A couple of people followed him, including a pregnant woman. “I heard someone behind me say a man in the other carriage had lost consciousness and I looked through the window at him,” he said. “As we came into Kamiyacho Station, some of the passengers carried him and another man off the train. I heard that one of them later died.”

As it has done every year since the attack, Japan marked the anniversary of the day on which domestic terrorists in the guise of a religious group launched a series of coordinated attacks that shook the nation’s sense of security.

Thirteen commuters and station workers died after members of the cult calmly pierced sachets of sarin gas with the sharpened tips of umbrellas. A further 6,000 people required hospital treatment for the effects of the gas, devised by the Nazis during World War II.

The attacks were, however, the final throes of an organization that had for more than two decades been convincing the young and the gullible that its leader, the half-blind former yoga instructor Shoko Asahara, was a reincarnated god.

It wasn’t their first criminal act. Asahara's followers had previously abducted and murdered a lawyer fighting the cult through the courts, along with his wife and their infant son. And they had plans for more: the cult had purchased assault rifles and a Russian helicopter and was allegedly attempting to obtain the components for a nuclear weapon, while its chemists began manufacturing sarin and VX gas in 1993.

Eight people died in an attack in June 1994 targeted at the judges hearing a case against Aum in the city of Matsumoto. When the cult realized in early 1995 that a raid on its headquarters was imminent, it went on the offensive. The subway sarin attack was reportedly designed to destabilize the government and cause sufficient chaos to enable Asahara to seize power.


"Members who cling to Aleph are “weak humans.

They are in a kind of loop where they think or pretend

that they are doing something good.”


Survivors reacted in different ways, says Sakahara. He resigned from his job at an advertising agency and moved to the U.S., where he completed an MA and produced a documentary, titled Bean Cake, that won a Palm d’Or at Cannes in 2001.

But he was unable to escape his past even after moving halfway across the world. He met a Japanese woman and planned marriage upon their return to Japan. Just days before the ceremony, she revealed that she had been a member of Aum Shinrikyo whilst at university. The marriage went ahead, but they were divorced within 18 months.

Today, he is close to completing a new documentary movie that focuses on Hiroshi Araki, the head of public relations for Aleph, a splinter group that emerged after the cult was aggressively targeted by the authorities but still swears allegiance to Asahara. Sakahara has been given rare access to the interior of one of the facilities still used by followers of Aleph.

A brief clip from the film, titled A Picture, showed members of the cult sitting on tatami mats and praying before an image of Asahara – who is on death row along with 11 other members of Aum after being convicted of a raft of crimes. Sakahara says he is motivated by the desire to foster understanding of the victims of Aum’s attacks, who he believes have been marginalized and forgotten by a society that prefers not to think of the events of 20 years ago.

Equally, he believes followers of the cult that carried out the attack were victims. “Who listens to them,” he said, “carefully and without prejudice? How much do people really know about what happened?”

Members who cling to Aleph are “weak humans,” he added with a shrug. “They are in a kind of loop where they think or pretend that they are doing something good. That is why I embarked on this endeavor, this documentary.”

People ask me if I am some sort of fan of Aum and my response is ‘of course not,’” he said. “My message is that I want to believe in fellow humans. Even if people kill each other in the name of religion, in the name of a country or a race, I still want to believe in the goodness of humans.”

Julian Ryall is the Japan correspondent for the Daily Telegraph.




The Foreign Correspondents' Club of Thailand

Making news: then education minister Chaturon Chaisaeng at the FCCT

Surviving the winds of wars in Southeast Asia

by Dominic Faulder


he Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand’s informal origins date from the mid-1950s, when a group of correspondents and media types gathered at Mizu’s Kitchen on Patpong Road. There were airlines, trading companies, restaurants and other businesses in the vicinity then, a far cry from today’s moth-eaten nightlife haunts. Mizu’s, however, survives to this day, its tablecloths stiffened by the sizzling juices of countless Sarika steaks.

The history of the Club is the sum of its members – a long list of characters who have played fascinating parts, large and small, in the reporting of Southeast Asia. The FCCT’s principal founder, Jorges Orgibet, had rolled up in Thailand with the U.S. Office of War Information at the end of World War II and set up the U.S. Information Service office. A journeyman journalist and public relations man who in 1953 served as the first bureau chief for AP, Orgibet never left. He expired at the Bangkok Nursing Home in 1986.

Alex Wu, a Chinese-language editor with USIS, and Prasong Wittaya of United Press, who served several terms as the Club’s president, also played key roles.

There was Alexander MacDonald, the station chief after the war of the OSS, the forerunner of the CIA. MacDonald founded the Bangkok Post in 1946, but was chased out of Thailand by 1955 before the FCCT really got going. Darrel Berrigan, the founder of a competing English-language newspaper in the late 1950s, the Bangkok World, played a bigger role. Berrigan also had a wartime intelligence background and was well connected in influential Thai circles, having worked with the Free Thai movement, Thailand’s wartime anti-Japanese maquis. Berrigan filed for U.S. papers, including the New York Times, and was president in 1957. He was murdered in October, 1965, apparently the victim of a homosexual tryst that went wrong.

The Oriental, a historic riverside hotel, was a place that everybody passed through – Somerset Maugham, Eleanor Roosevelt, Gore Vidal, Jackie Kennedy, James Michener, Grace Kelly, Peter Ustinov, and half the world’s royalty. In the 1970s, it also provided the FCCT with its most glamorous setting, and its location helped make it part of the city’s expatriate hub.


The mostly undistinguished correspondents of the day basked in the hotel’s reflected glory. After all, except for the occasional half-baked military coup or unexplained killing, including that of King Ananda Mahidol in 1946, Thailand itself seldom amounted to much of a story.

On one celebrated occasion in 1971, Foreign Minister Thanat Khoman was addressing the Club when a call came through informing him that Field Marshal Thanom Kittikachorn, the prime minister, had just staged a coup against his own government. Thanat announced the putsch and continued urbanely, unaware that his was one of the guillotined cabinet heads.

Bangkok remained a media backwater throughout the growing U.S. military presence from the late 1950s and into the core Vietnam War years; Hong Kong played a much bigger supporting role for international media operating in Indochina. This all changed, however, in mid-1975 – when Phnom Penh, Saigon and Vientiane fell to communist forces in quick succession. Many evacuated bureaus were transplanted to Bangkok, which became the watchtower for Indochina and closeted Burma, playing much the same role as Hong Kong did for China-watchers after the communist takeover in 1949.

Bangkok became the watchtower for Indochina

and closeted Burma, playing much the same

role as Hong Kong did for China-watchers

after the communist takeover in 1949.


Ironically, it was the end of the Vietnam War that really filled the Club with war correspondents, giving it a new edge and confirming it as the largest press club in Southeast Asia, which it remains. After the Khmer Rouge wiped out his Phnom Penh bureau, Denis Gray began the longest stint ever as an AP bureau chief in Bangkok, running well over 30 years. Gray, who now lives in northern Thailand’s Chiang Mai, served as Club president on a three occasions and, as all presidents do, doubled his day job with no added pay.

The legendary Australian cameraman Neil Davis was one of the great Indochina correspondents to take up residence in Bangkok, and was president in 1981. Immensely popular and widely respected, Davis and his soundman, American Bill Latch, were killed by wild gunfire from tanks during an attempted coup in September 1985.

No one was ever charged in their killings, and there was international outrage that something so minor should have claimed their lives. The Club was split as never before – or since – over how to respond to the tragedy, the 30th anniversary of which will be marked later this year.

Surviving friends of Davis and Latch include Indochina veterans Derek Williams of AsiaWorks and formerly CBS, and James Pringle, formerly with Reuters and Newsweek. Another close friend, John McBeth of the old Far Eastern Economic Review visits the Club whenever he is in town from Bali, where he retired with his wife Yuli Ismartono of Jakarta’s Tempo and another old FCCT president.

The Itinerant Club is on the Road Again

After The Oriental, the FCCT sought a roof of its own, moving through a succession of premises, mostly hotels, that all had drawbacks. In 1981, the Club was located in The Oriental Plaza, a charming Thai “colonial” building resting on traditional solid teak piles. It was near The Oriental and the Chao Phraya river once more – but this time without a view. Located far from any news bureaus, the Club was on the wrong side of Bangkok’s diabolical traffic, and attendance suffered.

In 1984, the FCCT relocated to an eyrie atop The Dusit Thani, one of Bangkok’s leading hotels, with a breathtaking city view across Lumpini Park. Unfortunately, many correspondents were loath to traipse through a five-star hotel lobby to reach the Club, particularly with so many other more diverting watering holes available.

During the giddy, greedy 1990s, the hotel’s management imagined it could use the clubhouse, a firetrap with access only by a single wooden staircase, more lucratively as a function room. The Club balked at paying higher rates and moved out. If the old clubhouse, which had hosted Robin Williams, Khieu Samphan, William Golding and the Dalai Lama, is haunted by any of the great personalities who visited, only the janitors of the storeroom it has become would know.    

   In 1995, the Club moved for a while down to the bottom of Silom Road, the supposed Wall Street of Bangkok, to the Jewelry Trade Center, which developers hoped to establish as a media building. This did not happen, and once again the location near the river dented patronage badly.

Staying Relevant while Treading Carefully

In 1997, the Thai economy crashed and over 50 financial companies were put out of business permanently by fierce IMF rescue strictures. With the country in hock, rents in prime locations also crashed. The Maneeya Center near the Rajaprasong Intersection, home to the famous Erawan Shrine and the longest traffic light in the world, suddenly found itself with acres of empty floorspace.

The FCCT moved into a penthouse floor with access from a corridor already filling up with foreign media offices. The Maneeya today houses AsiaWorks, the BBC, ABC, ITN Channel 4, NBC, InFocus, Al Jazeera and the Financial Times, among others. This guarantees the FCCT constant journalist traffic, imbuing it with the feel of a genuine press club. It has a good bar and decent enough kitchen but makes no pretensions to emulating the grandeur of its counterparts in Hong Kong or Tokyo – nor the fakeness of the “FCC” in Cambodia, a bar and restaurant with one of the best views in Asia but no hacks.

The FCCT’s membership hovers around the 800 mark, about a tenth of who are correspondents, an endangered species these days. Apart from those working for wire services, the number of fully employed and decently remunerated correspondents can be counted on two hands. But Thailand also has a large journalist community composed of freelancers and others working for local media organizations. When combined, the professional component of the Club’s membership is almost one-fourth – probably higher than in most press clubs. But it has been declining. Between 2007 and 2011, the combined total fell most dramatically from 233 to 184, though it has leveled out; the Club’s overall membership actually rose in 2014.

The Club supports an annual photo contest, has photojournalism exhibitions each month and runs a number of regional media education funds. It continues to support the publication and distribution of highly regarded journalism manuals in the regional vernaculars. It is heavily used for book launches and press conferences. Monday nights are film nights when the FCCT shows mostly foreign films that would not normally find a screen in Bangkok. Organized by Indian journalist Lekha Shankar, the evenings are particularly popular in the diplomatic community, and often double as embassy nights.

The FCCT has welcomed most Thai prime ministers since the late 1970s to give high-profile keynote addresses. The Club’s flagship event, however, has long been its Wednesday night programs when panelists set forth on issues of topical interest. As anyone who was watched Bangkok’s parliament in session will know, debating seldom amounts to much, and this shortcoming has contributed to the exceptionally vicious and polarized national politics seen over the past decade.


The Club is routinely accused of being red by those

on the yellow side, and yellow by those on the red

side, so it must be doing something right.


So the FCCT has always had a useful role to play as a forum. Sadly, with street politics at times literally right on its doorstep, it has in recent years sometimes been hard to guarantee the safety of speakers. The Club is routinely accused of being red by those on the yellow side, and yellow by those on the red side, so it must be doing something right.

The FCCT regularly speaks out on press and freedom of speech issues. This can make life uncomfortable under a prickly regime in a culture unable to differentiate critique from criticism. Indeed, Thailand has been marching backwards through all the freedom indexes lately. The Club has done what it can to help correspondents and journalists who fall foul of Thailand’s defamation laws, but a number have nevertheless been forced out of the country. The oppressive local legal restraints include the infamous law of lèse-majesté. It is intended to protect the monarchy from hurt, but survives in a uniquely extreme form that perversely has done much damage to the institution.

Lèse-majesté, defamation and libel continue to be punished as criminal offences. In 2009, a vexatious complaint of lèse-majesté was lodged against the entire 13-member board at a local police station, but went nowhere. The FCCT’s current president, BBC correspondent Jonathan Head, has in the past been the target of lèse-majesté complaints, though thousands of such complaints have been made against ordinary Thais with much more serious consequences.

Soon after the May 22 coup last year, ousted education minister Chaturon Chaisaeng requested a press conference at the FCCT to surrender himself to military authorities. He was arrested by helmeted soldiers in a media blaze soon after concluding his talk. Three weeks later, deputy army spokesman Colonel Weerachon Sukhondhapatipak was sitting in the exact same place explaining the military’s perspective.

The FCCT wouldn’t have it any other way.

Author, editor and journalist Dominic Faulder was a special correspondent with Asiaweek until its closure after 9/11, and was FCCT president in 1990 and 1991.



Profile: Suvendrini Kakuchi



This Sri Lankan journalist has made Tokyo her

home for many years, and remains committed to her

role as a bridge between nations.

by Monzurul Huq


ournalism in South Asia has always been a risky profession. Most of the countries of the region have gone through periodic phases of strict media control, a situation that takes away much of the charm from an enjoyable profession. Intimidation from powerful groups with strong political connections has always been a part of life. The result was that – for many – journalism was not a preferred career choice, especially two or three decades ago. Of course there were exceptions, and Suvendrini Kakuchi, known to Club members and friends as “Drini,” is one.

Drini was born in Sri Lanka to a mixed Tamil-Sinhala family with a deep history in the legal profession, and a number of famous lawyers in her extended family lineage. As Drini was sent to study law at the university, it was taken for granted that she, too, would end up being a lawyer. But she had another desire that she kept to herself.


When Drini was asked by the editor to follow the

traditional path she refused: she intended to write on

politics, the economy and other mainstream issues.


I wanted to be a journalist, so I escaped,” says Drini. “I decided to take time off and go to Japan for higher studies.” Japan at the time was already gaining media attention throughout the world for its rapid economic progress and also for the generous assistance Tokyo was extending to the developing world. She thought that knowledge of Japan would provide her with a better chance of finding a job in the media. And on return, she found a position as an apprentice reporter for the Ceylon Observer, the oldest surviving English-language daily in South Asia.

It was a time when newspaper reporting was the exclusive domain of chain-smoking men working in smoky newsrooms over the non-stop clacking of manual typewriter keys. For women who ventured into the world of journalism in those days, the preferred assignment was to the lifestyle pages, focusing on fashion, celebrities and new trends. But when Drini was asked by the editor to follow the traditional path she refused, saying that she intended to write on politics, the economy and other mainstream issues.

Her wish was reluctantly granted and she was given access to the newsroom. But in the exclusive male-dominated surroundings, Drini’s appearance was something that many of her senior colleagues thought would be a brief one. She was not taken seriously, including by the editor who assigned her, along with a senior reporter, to cover defense-related issues. She believes the editor probably wanted to show the young female aspirant the rough and tough world of journalism – and to test her resolve.

But Drini enjoyed the work of assisting the senior journalist, the first crack in opening the door to the unknown world of her dreams. One of her first assignments was to help cover the visit of an American naval vessel anchored in Colombo. Focusing on defense-related issues eventually broadened her interests, as she learned about the suffering of women and children in conflict situations. It was a time when the ethnic division in Sri Lanka was widening, dragging the country eventually into a long civil war.


“I covered parliamentary debates on the Sri Lankan

conflict and developed political contacts,

which is essential in our profession.


Covering the many issues at such an intense time period taught her to practice a kind of journalism that was completely new not only for her, but also for many of her colleagues in the profession. Her days at the Ceylon Observer gave her the confidence and the early experience that serves her well now. “I was there for four-and-a-half years,” she says. “Towards the end I covered parliamentary debates on the Sri Lankan conflict and was able to develop various political contacts, which is essential in our profession. It was really a good foundation and it formed my ideas about journalism.”

The civil war was intensifying when she received an invitation to a media fellowship in Japan. After completing the program, she was accepted as a staff writer for the Japan Times. She later joined Kyodo News, where she covered various issues including Japanese politics. She considers her time in the English-language Japanese media as a period of great experience that helped her formulate the ideas of what she intended to do in journalism in days ahead. She left the profession for a while to give birth to her second child, but returned to journalism as the Japan correspondent for Inter Press Service (IPS), a specialized news organization focusing on development issues and developing countries. During her stay at IPS, she received a Neiman Fellowship at Harvard University, in which she specialized in ethnicity.

Her long association with development issues led her to return to Sri Lanka in 2007, where she worked for the next three years for Panos – a UK-based media training organization – training young journalists there and in Bangladesh. She returned to Japan in 2010, resuming her work as IPS correspondent. Her long career with IPS came to an end recently as she joined University World News.



After a career spanning three decades in Sri Lanka and Japan, Drini intends to put her valuable expertise to work for the benefit of both the countries. She sums up her next steps: “I have an assignment to write a book about diversity in Japan. And, with the war now over in Sri Lanka, my dream is to become a bridge between Japan and South Asia, bringing good things about Asia to Japan and telling people back at home about the good things that are happening in Japan.”

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




By official request: While at the FCCJ, Yuichi Sugimoto shows the ministry's order confiscating his passport.

Can the government take away a journalist's

passport--and the right to do his job?

by Gavin Blair


fter covering conflicts and humanitarian disasters around the world for more than two decades, freelance cameraman Yuichi Sugimoto suddenly found himself unable to leave his own country. Forced to surrender his passport on Feb. 7 by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to prevent him traveling to Syria, the Niigata native was told not to expect that it would be returned. Aside from being somewhat reminiscent of the Sakoku Edict of 1635 that largely isolated Japan for more than two centuries, his case raises questions about freedom of the press, freedom of movement and whether the holding of a passport is a right or a granted privilege.

The root of Sugimoto’s woes lay in an interview he gave to a local Niigata newspaper at the beginning of February, during the course of which he told the reporter he intended to visit Syria again to cover the conflict there. A couple of days later he was contacted by a Ministry of Foreign Affairs official, citing the article and asking if he was planning to visit Syria. Sugimoto says he explained he had travelled to the region numerous times, and that he wouldn’t be going to areas controlled by the so-called Islamic State. With memories of the murder of fellow freelancer Kenji Goto still raw in the national psyche, the official asked him not to travel to the region; Sugimoto explained his intentions were unchanged.


A lengthy to-and-fro ensued about his

intentions to travel, culminating with the demand

that he surrender his passport.


Returning to his apartment on the evening of Feb. 7, he noticed a group of men standing in a nearby parking lot. The men approached as he reached his front door and identified themselves as foreign ministry officials accompanied by local police officers. Once inside his apartment, a lengthy to-and-fro ensued about his intentions to travel, culminating with the ministry officials’ demand that Sugimoto surrender his passport. After being repeatedly threatened with arrest and shown a document from Minister of Foreign Affairs Fumio Kishida ordering the confiscation of his passport, Sugimoto complied.

One of the officials, a deputy director of the consulate division of the ministry, told Sugimoto the confiscation of his passport was permanent and under no circumstances would he get it back.

On Feb. 12, Sugimoto held a press conference at the FCCJ, where he recounted what had happened. He said he believed this was the first case of the Japanese government confiscating the passport of a journalist in the post-war era. “I’m concerned that this could set a very bad precedent in this country . . . affecting the freedom to report news,” said Sugimoto.

Sugimoto declared his intention to fight the government in the courts to get his passport returned and asked the assembled foreign correspondents whether their own governments would take similar actions. A number of members of the assembled media told Sugimoto that the authorities in their home countries would be either unable or unwilling to confiscate the passport of a journalist, though some later conceded they were unaware of the legal specifics.

Under the Japanese Passport Law, there is a provision that allows the government to confiscate a passport if it will protect the holder’s life, though Sugimoto pointed out his intention was to travel to Kobani, an area controlled by Kurdish fighters who have conducted a number of press tours for foreign journalists.

Kazuko Ito, a Tokyo-based lawyer and head of Human Rights Now in Japan, is fully supportive of Sugimoto’s position, but has concerns about the implications of a ruling against Sugimoto, particularly given the current political climate.

I have no doubt that this is a violation of the Constitution. It is a violation of the freedom of the press, as well as freedom of movement, both of which are are guaranteed by the Constitution. However, it is not predictable how a court, and eventually the Japanese Supreme Court, might rule,” said Ito. “To date, I have not learned of any constitutional precedent for confiscating the passport of Japanese national.


Sugimoto firmly believes his rights have been

infringed by an unconstitutional confiscation.


If there is any chance that the court would rule that the state does have authority to restrict overseas activities, we have to think about the implications for other journalists and humanitarian workers in deciding whether to pursue litigation on this,” she said. “No matter whether the Sugimoto case is going to be a legal fight or not, our society should raise its voice against such interventions against the individual freedom by the government.”

Sugimoto firmly believes his rights have been infringed by an unconstitutional confiscation. “It’s written in the Constitution that citizens have the right to travel, but that is being ignored. I understand if Japan went to war, for example, that the interests of the nation would come first, but this is everyday life,” said Sugimoto. “It’s as if there is no Constitution.”

The Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs has taken my job and my life work,” he said. “These are basic human rights. The foreign ministry is not thinking about Japanese citizens, it is thinking about the ministry. This was a kind of performance in the wake of Goto-san being murdered.”

Although he was told that the confiscation was permanent, ministry officials have since told him he may now apply for a new passport, which he was in the process of doing at the time of writing. Ministry officials have since inferred to Sugimoto that he likely will be given a new passport, though he says they wouldn’t give him a definite answer.

By coincidence, on the same day as Sugimoto’s FCCJ press conference, in Britain the Counter-Terrorism and Security Act 2015 (CTSA) received Royal Assent, allowing authorities to confiscate the passports of UK citizens suspected of attempting to travel abroad for the purpose of engaging in terrorism-related activities. The CTSA was passed as part of the response to more than 600 Britons having traveled to fight with religious extremists in Syria.


"If Kenji Goto had somehow come out alive

with a story about Isis, he would have been

regarded very differently,” Parry said.


Even for suspected terrorists, there are time limits and restrictions on confiscations under the CTSA, in contrast to the threat Sugimoto faced of permanent deprivation. A spokesperson for the Home Office in London said that while the new rules didn’t distinguish between professions, there were no circumstances in which a journalist would have their passport confiscated unless they were planning to engage in terrorism.

The Times’ Richard Lloyd Parry noted, “At the time of the 2002 World Cup [hosted by Japan and South Korea], it became clear how few categories of people could be deprived of their passports in Britain. You can take it away from someone because you suspect that he might in the future perpetrate acts of football hooliganism – but not murder or rape, for example.”

Journalists take risks on occasion, which sometimes produce valuable results, and sometimes not, pointed out Lloyd Parry. “Often the difference between wisdom and foolishness, success and failure, is very hard to judge and measure, even with hindsight. If Kenji Goto had somehow come out alive with a story about Isis, he would have been regarded very differently,” he said. “No one – certainly no government – is entitled to make that judgment on journalists’ behalf.”

Lloyd Parry believes that no British leader would dare try anything like the confiscation of Sugimoto’s passport. “It would bring a storm of anger and denunciation which no government would wish to provoke,” he said.

Some of the public’s reaction in Japan to the murders of Kenji Goto and his friend Haruna Yukawa has been less than sympathetic, while Sugimoto has faced criticism for wanting to travel against the advice of the government. Lloyd Parry pointed out the very different reaction to the exploits of extreme skier and mountaineer Yuichiro Miura, who is lauded despite engaging in high-risk activities that endanger his teams and potentially, rescuers.

Such rescue efforts are immensely expensive. Mr. Miura has no serious scientific purpose – it is just for glory,” he said. “And yet when he plans such undertakings, he is cheered, and when he comes home they pin medals on his chest.”

If the U.S. government were to confiscate passports of its journalists, the reaction would be far more vocal than it has been in Japan, believes Martin Fackler of the New York Times. “It would also be ineffective, as so many foreign correspondents for U.S. media are non-U.S. citizens,” he said.

I know plenty of journalists who have gone to places like Cuba and North Korea to report, including myself,” Fackler said. “We certainly don’t hide the fact that we have gone since we use the dateline in our stories. It never occurred to me that the government might try to stop me by confiscating a passport.

And given that the U.S. has already declared that it won’t pay ransom for citizens who are kidnapped, it has essentially washed itself of responsibility for us if something happens. Maybe that makes it unnecessary to grab passports. The government can just say it was our fault for being there,” said Fackler.


I know plenty of journalists who have gone

to places like Cuba and North Korea to

report, including myself,” Fackler said.


Despite receiving some anonymous phone calls from people accusing him of being a traitor, Sugimoto said local people have been overwhelmingly supportive, some even stopping him on the streets of Niigata to have their picture taken with him.

The Japanese media, however, has been muted in its response. NHK Niigata made a 30-minute program about Sugimoto that was due for broadcast on February 13. That didn’t happen. “Being a public broadcaster, NHK has delayed showing the program as they would get complaints about it,” said Sugimoto.

While the media companies that Sugimoto worked for over the years have reported on his case, none have come out in open support of him. But Sugimoto says that some of them have recently bought video footage and still photographs that he shot previously in Syria and Turkey.

I don’t know whether you’d call it support, but it’s better than not having any money,” said Sugimoto.

Gavin Blair covers Japanese business, society and culture for publications in America, Asia, and Europe.



Scooping the General


Emperor of the Occupation: General Douglas MacArthur


How a journalist infuriated MacArthur

by breaking the story of the real authors

of Japan's Constitution

by Eiichiro Tokumoto


n the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II, various issues regarding post-war history are being debated around the world. Among them is one of the most contentious subjects in Japan: the Constitution – its creation, its value and its future. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who has long advocated a departure from traditional post-war government policy, has regularly pushed for revising the Constitution. While campaigning in the general election that brought him to power for the second time in 2012, Abe went as far as remarking, “It’s a disgraceful Constitution. Speaking frankly, that’s because it was not written by Japanese.”

Of course, the document also has its defenders, who say it was the basis for the many years of peace and prosperity the county has enjoyed in the post-war era. But, irrespective of the position people take toward the Constitution, no one can doubt the impact it has had on the nation.

The process by which Japan’s Constitution was created was bizarre right from the start. For six years and eight months of U.S. Occupation following the country’s defeat in August 1945, the country was being run by the GHQ – General Douglas MacArthur’s General Headquarters. During this period GHQ oversaw not only the demilitarization of Japan, but the reform of its governance: the democratization of its political, economic and social systems. The trump card in this massive process was overseeing the drastic revision of the Constitution of the Empire of Japan (also referred to as the Meiji Constitution) that dated back to 1890.

The U.S. involvement began on Feb. 3, 1946, when Courtney Whitney, GHQ’s Government Section Chief, issued a top-secret order to his assembled subordinates. He’d been ordered by General MacArthur, the “Supreme Commander,” to produce a draft of a new constitution.

Two days earlier, the Mainichi Shimbun had scooped its competitors with a story featuring the proposed constitutional revisions of the Japanese government committee led by the legal scholar Joji Matsumoto, who’d been appointed to the post by the Cabinet in October 1945. MacArthur’s GHQ was dismayed, calling it overly conservative and nothing more than a rewording of the old Meiji Constitution. Particularly infuriating were passages concerning the status of the Emperor, which remained nearly unchanged.

Whitney assigned the staff of GHQ’s Government Section to form committees to produce the various sections of the constitution: legislative, judicial, the role of the Emperor, and so on. Huddled in the Dai-Ichi Life Insurance Building and working around the clock, the staff completed a draft in just over a week. This was a top-secret project even within the GHQ.

Inconsistent with Japanese Tradition”

On Feb. 13, Whitney handed the MacArthur-approved typewritten draft – in English – to Prime Minister Kijuro Shidehara’s Cabinet. It included sections that ensured civil liberties, strengthened parliamentary control and, in a move that remains controversial today, renounced war. The draft shocked the officials, with Foreign Minister Shigeru Yoshida complaining that it was inconsistent with Japanese tradition.

The government was told that if the new draft was not accepted, the Americans would take it directly to the people, sidelining the entire Japanese political structure. In the end, they had no recourse and the draft was accepted at an extraordinary cabinet meeting on March 6. None of this back-room maneuvering was reported by the Japanese press.

General MacArthur wasted no time in issuing an announcement, which read, “It is with a sense of deep satisfaction that I am today able to announce a decision of the Emperor and Government of Japan to submit to the Japanese people a new and enlightened constitution which has my full approval.” With nearly the entire Japanese population oblivious to the document’s real authors, the Diet’s deliberations on ratifying the constitution commenced.


The government was told that if the new draft

was not accepted, the Americans would take it

directly to the people, sidelining the

Japanese political structure


In the midst of the process, on July 3, a shocking article appeared in the Christian Science Monitor. The headline of the scoop read: “Democracy Levied On Fumbling Japan While Premier Waits.” The text underneath reported that it had not been the Japanese government that was responsible for producing the new constitution, but American staff at the GHQ.

It read: “New details of how Japan’s new draft constitution was prepared by the Government Section of the Allied Headquarters and imposed upon a reluctant Japanese Government, whose own fumblings had failed to satisfy American occupation authorities, were disclosed today to this correspondent.

As one of the most historic developments of the occupation, it sheds additional light on the manner in which the form, if not the feeling, of democracy is being brought to Japan.

It is, moreover, a significant chronicle of how for the first time in history a democratic character has been given to a nation not because its people had any special yearning for the Western style of democracy but virtually because they had no choice in the matter.”

The article continued: “Through skillful manipulation of the Japanese press, it was made to appear that the initiative for this bold step had come from within the walls of Tokyo’s Imperial Palace.”

The author of the article was one Gordon Walker, the Christian Science Monitor’s Chief Far Eastern correspondent and a member of the Tokyo Correspondents’ Club (forerunner of the FCCJ). After joining the paper in 1933, he had worked as a war correspondent in the Pacific theater, in places like New Guinea and the Philippines.

MacArthur and his GHQ went ballistic over how the top secret project was leaked, particularly to a foreign correspondent. The GHQ went so far as to send military police to the Correspondents’ Club looking for Walker, but nothing came of the search, and calmer heads must have prevailed in cooling down the agitated response.

Gordon Walker’s “Deep Throat”

So how was Walker able to obtain the inside details of the constitution’s revision, and who was his source? His “Deep Throat” was a 30-year-old Japanese woman named Haru Matsukata, who was then working as an assistant at the Monitor’s bureau.

Born in Tokyo in 1915, Haru Matsukata was the granddaughter of Meiji-era statesman Masayoshi Matsukata. She attended the American School in Japan, and later graduated from Principia College in Illinois. Following the war’s end, she was offered a job by the Occupation, but turned that down to put her language ability to work as Walker’s assistant at the Monitor. As she was to later write in her autobiography, Samurai and Silk, “I accepted Gordon’s offer as being more likely to permit me to renew my youthful hopes of working for better understanding between Japan and America.”

Haru had obtained the inside information from her friends, including her relative Saburo Matsukata, who worked as chief editor of the Kyodo News Agency. Translating the information into English, she passed them along to Walker. One of these was an item about the writing of the Constitution. As Haru reminisced in her book: “I remember how nervous I was about passing this information on to Gordon, since I knew MacArthur and his staff would be furious with the contradiction of a fiction the Americans were to maintain stubbornly for years. Despite my fear, I decided to let the cat out of the bag because this was indeed a major falsehood that merited exposure.”

Walker wrote follow-ups about the Constitution on July 11 and 29. In them, he used the word “fiction” to describe the official story about the writing of the draft, further infuriating GHQ. At the time, GHQ’s Public Relations Office categorized correspondents as loyal or critical, depending on whether they praised or criticized Occupation policies. The former were accorded special privileges, such as opportunities for exclusive interviews with Gen. MacArthur; the latter were subjected to blatant discrimination and harassment. Walker was clearly one of the latter, and – in one instance – was denied reentry after leaving Japan for an assignment in China.

The G2 Military Intelligence Section, General Staff, also monitored reporters at the press club, and investigated their political beliefs and known associates. A secret G2 report dated Feb. 27, 1947 noted that Walker was “one of the most active members of the leftist clique at the Correspondents’ Club.”


The Military Intelligence Section also monitored

reporters at the press club and investigated

their political beliefs and known associates.


Haru Matsukata was also to feel the repercussions after her name appeared on GHQ’s blacklist for having been Walker’s informant. One day, she met Jiro Shirasu, an old family friend and close aide to Shigeru Yoshida, who at the time held the post of Vice President of the Central Liaison Office. This acted as the liaison organization between the GHQ and the Japanese government.

Shirasu, who sat at the central switchboard to the secrets of the two governments, blurted out to Haru, “I am greatly shocked that you, a granddaughter of Prince Matsukata, are a communist.” Haru began to realize that her journalistic activities were affecting her whole family. She wrote: “So I severed my connections with the press, taking a position at the Swedish legation until the end of the occupation. . . .”

Despite the “fiction” of its creation, the new Constitution was eventually promulgated on Nov. 3, 1946, and went into force from May 3 of the following year. And Walker? He went on to cover the civil war in China, the Korean War and other stories in Asia during in the 1950s. He died in 1959 at age 42.

Haru Matsukata returned to journalism after the Occupation ended in 1952, and became the Tokyo office manager of the U.S. weekly, the Saturday Evening Post. She was also the first Japanese woman to be elected to the Correspondents’ Club board of directors. In June, 1955, during lunch at the Club, she met future U.S. Ambassador to Japan Edwin Reischauer, and they were married in January of the following year.

No1-2015-4ConstitutionJack Russell's first visit to the Correspondents' Club was
as an armed MP, sent to arrest a journalist. He later
became FCCJ president (above).


One other person who was caught up in the drama of those days in 1946 was a young GI in the military police assigned to GHQ. Jack Russell was later to work as a Tokyo correspondent for NBC, and served as FCCJ president from July 1980 to June 1981. During a panel discussion in July 2005, held in observance of the 60th anniversary of the end of the war, Russell recalled his days under MacArthur.

My first entry into the Press Club was in 1946 with a .45 strapped to my side, hunting down a correspondent. His name was Gordon Walker, who worked for the Christian Science Monitor. MacArthur was trying to hang this guy, as he didn’t like what Walker was writing about the Occupation.”

Russell, as it turned out, didn’t take Walker into custody.Of course, as my father was a newspaper man, I was going to cover this guy up anyway,” he confided, to approving laughter from the audience.

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



On My Watch



Island hopping: The author on a South Korean junket to Takeshima that got him
called into the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.


Confessions of a foreign correspondent

after a half-decade of reporting from Tokyo

to his German readers


by Carsten Germis


y bags are packed, as the song goes. After more than five years as the Tokyo correspondent for the German daily, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, I will soon leave Tokyo for home.

The country I’m leaving is different from the one I arrived in back in January 2010. Although things seem the same on the surface, the social climate – that has increasingly influenced my work in the past 12 months – is slowly but noticeably changing.

There is a growing gap between the perceptions of the Japanese elites and what is reported in the foreign media, and I worry that it could become a problem for journalists working here. Of course, Japan is a democracy with freedom of the press, and access to information is possible even for correspondents with poor Japanese language skills. But the gap exists because there is a clear shift that is taking place under the leadership of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe – a move by the right to whitewash history. It could become a problem because Japan’s new elites have a hard time dealing with opposing views or criticism, which is very likely to continue in the foreign media.

The Nikkei recently published an essay by their correspondent in Berlin about the February visit to Japan of German Chancellor Angela Merkel. He wrote: “Merkel’s visit to Japan was more conducive to criticism of Japan than friendship. With Japanese experts, she discussed her country’s policy to end nuclear power. She talked about the wartime history when she visited the Asahi and when she met with Abe. She also talked with Katsuya Okada, president of the DPJ, the largest opposition party. . . . Friendship was promoted only when she visited a factory run by a German company and shook hands with the robot Asimo.”


The country I’m leaving is different

from the one I arrived in

back in January 2010.


That seemed harsh. But, even accepting the premise . . . what is friendship? Is friendship simply agreement? Is not true friendship the ability to speak of one’s beliefs when a friend is shifting in a direction that could cause him harm? And surely Merkel’s visit was more complex than just critical.

Let me make my own stance clear. After five years, my love and affection for this country are unbroken. In fact, thanks to the many fine people I’ve met, my feelings are stronger than ever. Most of my Japanese friends and Japanese readers in Germany have told me they feel my love in my writing, especially following the events of March 11, 2011.

Unfortunately, the bureaucrats at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) in Tokyo see things completely differently, and it seems some in the Japanese media feel the same way. To them I have been – like almost all my German media colleagues – a Japan basher capable of only delivering harsh criticism. It is we who have been responsible for, as the Nikkei’s man in Berlin put it, the two countries’ bilateral relations becoming “less friendly.”


Changing relations

The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung is politically conservative, economically liberal and market oriented. And yet, those claiming that the coverage of Abe’s historical revisionism has always been critical are right. In Germany it is inconceivable for liberal democrats to deny responsibility for what were wars of aggression. If Japan’s popularity in Germany has suffered, it is not due to the media coverage, but to Germany’s repugnance at historical revisionism.

My tenure in Japan began with very different issues. In 2010, the Democratic Party of Japan ran the government. All three administrations I covered – Hatoyama, Kan and Noda – tried to explain their policies to the foreign press, and we often heard politicians saying things like, “We know we have to do more and become better at running the country.”

Foreign journalists were often invited by then Deputy Prime Minister Katsuya Okada, for example, to exchange views. There were weekly meetings in the Kantei, the PM’s residence, and officials were willing to discuss – more or less openly – current issues. We didn’t hesitate to criticize the government’s stance on certain issues, but officials continued to try to make their positions understood.

The rollback came soon after the December 2012 elections. Despite the prime minister’s embrace of new media like Facebook, for example, there is no evidence of an appreciation for openness anywhere in his administration. Finance Minister Taro Aso has never tried to talk to foreign journalists or to provide a response to questions about the massive government debt.

In fact, there is a long list of issues that foreign correspondents want to hear officialdom address: energy policy, the risks of Abenomics, constitutional revision, opportunities for the younger generation, the depopulation of rural regions. But the willingness of government representatives to talk with the foreign press has been almost zero. Yet, at the same time, anyone who criticizes the brave new world being called for by the prime minister is called a Japan basher.


Anyone who criticizes the brave new world

being called for by the prime minister

is called a Japan basher.


What is new, and what seems unthinkable compared to five years ago, is being subjected to attacks from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs – not only direct ones, but ones directed at the paper’s editorial staff in Germany. After the appearance of an article I had written that was critical of the Abe administration’s historical revisionism, the paper’s senior foreign policy editor was visited by the Japanese consul general of Frankfurt, who passed on objections from “Tokyo.” The Chinese, he complained, had used it for anti-Japanese propaganda.



It got worse. Later on in the frosty, 90-minute meeting, the editor asked the consul general for information that would prove the facts in the article wrong, but to no avail. “I am forced to begin to suspect that money is involved,” said the diplomat, insulting me, the editor and the entire paper. Pulling out a folder of my clippings, he extended condolences for my need to write pro-China propaganda, since he understood that it was probably necessary for me to get my visa application approved.

Me? A paid spy for Beijing? Not only have I never been there, but I’ve never even applied for a visa. If this is the approach of the new administration’s drive to make Japan’s goals understood, there’s a lot of work ahead. Of course, the pro-China accusations did not go over well with my editor, and I received the backing to continue with my reporting. If anything, the editing of my reports became sharper.

The heavy handedness has been increasing over the past few years. In 2012, while the DPJ was still in power, I took a junket to South Korea, interviewing former comfort women and visiting the contested island of Takeshima (Dokdo to Koreans). Of course it was PR, but it was a rare chance to see the center of the controversy for myself. I was called in by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for a meal and discussion, and received a few dozen pages of information proving that the island was Japanese.


But things seem to have changed in 2014,

and MoFA officials now seem to

openly attack critical reporting.


In 2013, with Abe’s administration in charge, I was called in once again after I wrote about an interview with three comfort women. This also included a lunch invitation, and once again I received information to help my understanding of the prime minister’s thoughts.

But things seem to have changed in 2014, and MoFA officials now seem to openly attack critical reporting. I was called in after a story on the effect the prime minister’s nationalism is having on trade with China. I told them that I had only quoted official statistics, and their rebuttal was that the numbers were wrong.


My departing message

Two weeks before the epic meeting between the Consul general and my editor, I had another lunch with MoFA officials, in which protests were made of my use of words like “whitewash history,” and the idea that Abe’s nationalistic direction might “isolate Japan, not only in East Asia.” The tone was frostier and, rather than trying to explain and convince, their attitude was angrier. No one was listening to my attempts to explain why German media are especially sensitive about historical revisionism.

I’ve heard of an increase in the number of lunch invitations from government officials to foreign correspondents, and the increased budgets to spread Japanese views of World War II, and the new trend to invite the bosses of foreign correspondents deemed too critical (via business class, of course). But I would suggest the proponents tread carefully, since these editors have been treated to – and become inured to – political PR of the highest caliber and clumsy efforts tend to have an opposite effect. When I officially complained about the Consul’s comments about my receiving funds from China, I was told that it was a “misunderstanding.”

So here’s my departing message: Unlike some of my colleagues, I do not see a threat in Japan to freedom of reporting. Though many critical voices are more silent than during the DPJ administration, they are there – and perhaps in larger numbers than before.

The closed-shop mentality of the Japanese political elite and the present inability of the administration leaders to risk open discussion with foreign media doesn’t really affect press freedom; there are plenty of other sources to gather information. But it does reveal how little the government understands that – in a democracy – policy must be explained to the public. And the world.

It doesn’t strike me as funny any more when colleagues tell me that the LDP doesn’t have anyone in the press affairs department who will speak English or provide information to a foreign journalist. Nor does the fact that the present prime minister, who claims to be well traveled, has declined to make the short trip to speak to us at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club. In fact, I can only be saddened at how the government is not only secretive with the foreign press, but with its own citizens.


It doesn't strike me as funny any more

that the LDP doesn't have anyone in the press affairs

department who will speak English.


In the past five years, I’ve been up and down the Japanese archipelago, and – unlike in Tokyo – I’ve never had anyone, from Hokkaido to Kyushu, accuse me of writings that were hostile to Japan. On the contrary, I’ve been blessed with interesting stories and enjoyable people everywhere. Japan is still one of the most wealthy, open nations in the world; it’s a pleasant place to live and report from for foreign correspondents.

My hope is that foreign journalists – and even more importantly, the Japanese public – can continue to speak their minds. I believe that harmony should not come from repression or ignorance; and that a truly open and healthy democracy is a goal worthy of my home of the last five great years.

Carsten Germis was the Tokyo correspondent of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung from 2010 to 2015 and a member of the Board of Directors of the FCCJ.



Tales from the Round Tables: When the Dollar Ruled


 by the Shimbun Alley Whisperers


here never was a luckier generation than that which knew Japan in those years,” reminisced James Michener with great affection in a 1951 Number 1 Shimbun article. Post-war Japan was emerging as a critical ally of the United States in the region, and with the outbreak of the Korean conflict, the economy was finally beginning to show signs of a recovery. Occupation-era restrictions and rules for travel were being relaxed.

If you could ignore the city landscape still hideously pockmarked by the incendiary bombings in the final chapter of war and the suffering from chronic shortages of daily necessities, Tokyo offered some of the world’s best hospitality and charm – which made it a favorite hub for many correspondents who were flocking in those years to the still very exotic East.

It sure didn’t hurt that things were enchantingly cheap, particularly for those earning dollars – easily increased if one played the currency manipulations on the streets. Even more heavenly was life for those correspondents who had access to “the golden P.X. on the Ginza,” as Michener described the U.S. Occupation retail outlet. It peddled “full meals at thirty-five cents, haircuts at fifteen cents, shoeshines at five cents and Kodak film at twenty cents,” not to mention bourbon, steaks and silk stockings far beyond the wildest fantasies of most Japanese. “The more daring of us lived mainly on the Japanese economy,” he adds, “and to do so on American incomes was an experience.”


He needed all his strength to remain standing

when a well-dressed lady from the friendly establishment

delivered the bill


But then again, not everything was cheap even back then. There were the famously beckoning houses in Tokyo where beautiful women made every customer feel they were God’s chosen (which, of course, many of the Western journalists were already inclined to believe during their time in Asia). One such legendary establishment was Miyoshi. Guests were welcomed with lavish entertainment in a large tatami room, after which a beautiful attendant would lead the way across a pond and into a small guest room where “she would see that her guest was properly bathed, helped into a starched yukata, and bedded down in a comfortable futon,” according to the annals of the FCCJ.

So just imagine how sumptuous the reception would have been for an injured hero like UP’s Bob Vermillion when he returned to Tokyo for R&R after breaking his leg jumping with the paratroopers during the Munsan operations in the Korean War. He made a beeline to Miyoshi for his R&R. So impressed was he by the hospitality that he invited a bunch of FCCJ friends over for some memorable evenings. When he finally reported back to the office after a few weeks, friends and colleagues commented how he looked like a new man.


He needed all his recovered strength to remain standing when, a few days later, a well-dressed lady from the friendly establishment delivered the bill for his stay to his office. He paid the whopping bill, which was enough to buy a small house. His boss, Ernie Hoberecht, was not amused.

There were no such financial concerns for Errol Flynn. The action hero and global heartthrob was introduced to Miyoshi by a very tipsy Vermillion, who happened to jump into Flynn’s limousine outside the Club one night after mistaking it for a cab. Club legend has it that Flynn liked Miyoshi so much, he moved his entire crew into its surroundings for the duration of his movie shoot, with – the Round Table recalls – no qualms whatsoever about the price.



From the Archives: Ready to Return




Drawing the second largest audience in the Club’s administrative year of 1980-81, the Dalai Lama
assured members on Nov. 12, 1980, that he eventually expected to return to Tibet “. . . when the people
there were happy and content.” Only Prime Minister Zenko Suzuki had attracted a larger attendance
some two months earlier. That’s Jack Russell (NBC News), President of the FCCJ, in the
foreground. Ed Reingold (Time), who succeeded Jack as president, is visible to the far left.


BORN LHAMO THONDUP ON July 6, 1935, he became Tibet’s spiritual and political leader as the Dalai Lama in 1950 at age 15, but invasion by the People’s Republic of China (PRC) cut his rule short later in the same year. He and thousands of his followers established a separate government in Dharamsala in northern India in 1959 after a failed uprising by the Tibetan people. Later efforts to make Tibet a self-governing democratic “sanctuary,” with the PRC responsible for foreign policy and defense, were unsuccessful.

Unable to achieve rapprochement with the PRC, the Dalai Lama continued to dedicate his life to peace and reconciliation, traveling the world to meet world leaders and to conduct lectures, conferences, and workshops. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989 for supporting nonviolence and global environmental protection. Health concerns led to his semi-retirement in 2008 and in 2011 he gave up his position as Tibet’s political leader.

One description that sums up the Dalai Lama nicely was found in this bio ( and reads…

Dalai Lamas are believed to be the reincarnation of Avalokitesvara, an important Buddhist deity and the personification of compassion. Dalai Lamas are also enlightened beings who have postponed their own afterlife and chosen to take rebirth to benefit humanity. “Dalai” means “ocean” in Mongolian (the name “Gyatso” comes from the Tibetan word for ocean). “Lama” is the equivalent of the Sanskrit word “guru,” or spiritual teacher. Put together, the title of Dalai Lama is literally “Ocean Teacher,” meaning a “teacher spiritually as deep as the ocean.”

--by Charles Pomeroy



New Members in March





HUI ZHAO has recently moved to Tokyo as Japan correspondent and representative of CBN Weekly, a business magazine in China published by the Shanghai Media Group. She covers business stories involving technology, design and fashion companies and start-ups in Japan. Hui was previously Chief Editor of CBN Business Review at CBN Weekly, and Managing Editor at MONEY+, a financial magazine from the same SMG Group.


Ryuji Nakamura, Jakarta Shimbun
Takashi Kawakami, Takushoku University


Hisakatsu Koyama, Daito Trust Construction
Satoshi Kakuda, Alabama Department of Commerce
Ryuichi Honda, Mitsubishi Corporation
Hiroyoshi Kitamura, American Home Assurance Co., Ltd.
Ryuji Iwata, CLC Inc.


Exhibition: "Before--3.11--After": What the Fukushima Nuclear Explosion Did to Our Beloved Rose Garden





-organized by Hisako Matsuda and Maya Moore


AS WE APPROACH THE fourth anniversary of the Tohoku earthquake, tsunami and nuclear meltdown, the general reaction – both in Japan and elsewhere – is that of disinterest. That is perhaps the most distressing co aspect for the victims of that tragic day, since little about the events has faded from their memory. So it is of vital importance to think about what it is like to lose one’s family, home, livelihood and dreams.

This exhibition gives a unique and personal perspective to the ongoing suffering of the many residents of Fukushima who are now refugees within their own country. The contrast between the magnificent, vibrant rose blossoms in their prime, and the haunting images of the present Futaba Rose Garden, located just eight kilometers from the nuclear plant, is nothing short of shocking. In their silent way, the roses represent the profound anguish of all the victims of 3.11.

The photographs were taken by non-professionals: the garden shots by Katsuhide Okada, the owner of the Futaba Rose Garden, and the individual roses by members of the Yokohama Photographers of Roses. Their love of the subject matter makes these photographs all the more poignant.

Hisako Matsuda is a photography graduate and photographer for the Japan Kennel Club who runs a private photo studio specializing in portraits and animals. She produced “Our Beloved Rose Garden” exhibitions across Japan.

Maya Moore is a former journalist and anchor for NHK, TBS and PBS. She is a facilitator for the Tohoku Virtual English Class Project for elementary schools in Ofunato, Iwate. She is the author of The Rose Garden Of Fukushima. (Available at FCCJ.)






Photojournalist Yuichi Sugimoto makes his case at the FCCJ.


A Japanese photojournalist who had his passport

confiscated on the grounds that he was planning to cover

the conflict in Syria says he intends to take the

government to court.

by Julian Ryall

YUICHI SUGIMOTO SAID IN a press conference on Feb. 12 that the actions of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs are “unacceptable” and that they set a “dangerous precedent” for other journalists and photographers who feel it is their duty to report on events happening in other parts of the world – even if there is a degree of danger involved.

Under duress, Sugimoto handed his passport over on Feb. 7 to officials of the passport division of the ministry – who visited him at his home in Niigata Prefecture and were backed up by police officers. The ministry officials acted just six days after extremists belonging to the Islamic State released footage of the execution of Kenji Goto, another freelance journalist, in Syria. A few days previously, the same group had released a video showing the decapitated body of Haruna Yukawa.

I know that the government has issued an advisory against Japanese people travelling to Syria and is providing information on the dangers of the region, but that is an advisory and not a binding order,” Sugimoto said.


He insisted he is being deprived

of his right to travel

and his ability to earn a living.


I never had any intention of going to parts of Syria that are controlled by the Islamic State and I was hoping to take part in a press tour organized by local Kurdish groups of the recently liberated town of Kobani,” he added, emphasizing that he has extensive experience operating in conflict zones after covering wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Palestine and the former Yugoslavia during his long freelance career.

With his passport confiscated – and Sugimoto quoted the ministry official who took it as saying “it is inconceivable that your passport will be returned to you” – he insisted he is being deprived of his right to travel and his ability to earn a living. “I have been told this is the first time since the end of the war that the government has confiscated the passport of a journalist. I feel this sets a very dangerous precedent for all Japanese journalists because it takes away our freedom and right to report the news,” he said.

Sugimoto finished his speech with a plea to the foreign correspondents present to give him advice on how to respond to the Japanese government's draconian decision and whether withdrawing a journalist’s passport would be considered appropriate in their countries.


Pio D’Emilia made it quite clear that such a measure would be unacceptable in Italy.

No, it’s not possible,” he said. “In Italy, every citizen has the constitutional right to have a passport.” The only situation that Italian authorities can use to withhold or withdraw a passport from one of its citizens is if he or she has been convicted of a crime, he said.

Richard Lloyd Parry, of the Times of London, echoed the conviction that the British government attempting a similar tactic would be unthinkable. “If this happened in the United Kingdom, there would be a huge, huge controversy – but I get the impression here that there are quite a lot of people who believe it is wrong because they say it is meiwaku [inconvenient] to other people.”

Sugimoto conceded that his determination to fight for his right to travel and work overseas has not been entirely welcomed, with some people calling his home and accusing him of being a “traitor,” although the vast majority of the messages he has received have been supportive.


[Though some have accused] him of being

a "traitor," the vast majority of messages

have been supportive.


The situation regarding the provision of passports to French journalists wishing to work in parts of the Middle East that are considered dangerous is similar to that in Italy and Britain, according to Joel Legendre, from French broadcaster RTL.

What I hear from France is that we can go there if we are going to work and we are not a member of Isil,” he said. “I also understand that the delivery of passports in many countries is very different from Japan; in Japan it looks as if they are ‘granted’ rather than being ‘owned.’ In France we have a passport, but there is a difference legally speaking.”

The journalists’ perspective on the situation was tempered by comments by Rasromani Khalil Hassan, the ambassador of Bahrain, who called on Sugimoto to put himself in the shoes of the Japanese foreign minister, who has a duty to protect the country’s nationals – particularly given the executions of Goto and Yukawa in recent weeks.

Sugimoto replied that if he were the minister, then he would make the dangers clear to the journalist, but that the final decision should not be in the hands of the politician.

The Japanese government does not appear to be in a mood to back down, however, with Yoshihide Suga, the chief cabinet secretary, telling a press conference a few days earlier that it has a duty to protect the lives of Japanese nationals.

Julian Ryall is the Japan correspondent for the Daily Telegraph.


Confessions of an Instant! News! Celebrity!



When an unsuspecting Tokyoite answered his phone

on March 11, he stepped into the dazzling light

of the 24/7 media machine.

Matt Alt reports from Tokyo

I am not a news correspondent. Yet there I was on March 11, 2011, describing the Tohoku earthquake on millions of American TV screens. I was among the very first on the ground in Japan to do so, just 45 minutes after the first tremors subsided. Already shocked by the earthquake and horrified by the first images of the tsunami slamming the Tohoku coastline, I remained utterly unaware of the media maelstrom I was about to be swept up in myself.

CNN was the first to call. At the time, my wife Hiroko served as the local editor for the Japanese-language edition of their now-defunct travel and lifestyle website. That she might get such a call at a moment of crisis had crossed our minds, though for a news media that “covers the world,” one would expect that we’d be farther down the go-to list. Hiroko’s English is borderline native, but she is more comfortable behind a screen than on one. And so it was that I found the phone thrust at me, listening to her editor tell me I’d be getting a call from Atlanta soon.

Within minutes, I did. Almost instantly, call waiting rang. This one was from CNN New York. A heated discussion ensued between the two cities over who had “dibs” on me and my story. What the hell did I know? I toggled back and forth trying to make heads or tails out of the situation as the dueling producers grew more and more agitated. Eventually the matter was settled when one began a countdown and suddenly I found myself untethered, floating on live television with nothing but anchorwoman Rosemary Church’s questions to guide me.


A heated discussion ensued between the two cities

over who had "dibs" on me and my story.


She had to ask surprisingly few. The sole direction her producer had given me was to “just keep talking.” This I did, pacing the living room of our house. I’ve been told, by a variety of people, that I talk too much, and too loudly. Suddenly my twin Achilles’ heels were transformed into assets. Listening to the recording years later – it’s on YouTube, of course – even I am surprised by how I sound, as though another person took over for the duration.

There’s a unique cadence to television reports, a rhythm of stresses and pauses that seem designed to convey authority – even when there is none. I found myself uncontrollably sliding into this linguistic lifejacket as I bobbed among the airwaves, following the directive to Keep Talking and praying my delivery didn’t sound like parody. I worried that I’d be asked some technical question about volcanology or regional demographics or some other field in which I had even less expertise. But for better or for worse the question was the simple news staple: how did it feel? I would answer that question over and over and over again, over the next 72 hours.


Anderson Cooper was worried about me

The phone began ringing the moment CNN hung up. It wouldn’t let up until the first overseas journalists landed in Japan several days later. I’m not sure how the producers got my number so quickly. But they were hungry for content and had found someone who could give it. My sole qualifications were having endured a rough shake for approximately two minutes and the ability to speak English.

My Twitter feed exploded. I went from a handful of followers to thousands in the blink of an eye. My Facebook and email inboxes flooded with friend requests and letters from well-wishers, old friends and old teachers from college and high school. Former neighbors phoned my parents after decades of having fallen out of touch. In the internet age it’s hip to run down “old-fashioned” media, but this response was a fascinating lesson in the incredible power and reach of mainstream television.

Interview requests continued to arrive via email and cell phone. I tried to respond to as many as I could. It would be easy to claim I did this for some higher purpose. The real reason was far simpler. It was cathartic. Talking kept me from thinking. Thinking about what was going on up north, about the overheating reactors, about how many people had died. How many of the victims had seen it coming? How many had just gotten home from the grocery store, as I had been when the quake hit Tokyo? How many still needed help when I was chatting away with news celebrities?


Anderson Cooper asked,


if I was “in a safe place”

(I was in my living room).


The next week was a blur of virtual “green rooms” and wee-hour Skype appearances. We took to unplugging the phone whenever we needed rest. An alphabet soup of media organizations deluged my inbox with Urgent Interview Requests for the internet, radio, and TV. CBC. NBC. CBS. Even the Oprah Winfrey Network. The absurdities piled up. One show subtitled me a “survivor.” Anderson Cooper asked, repeatedly, if I was “in a safe place” (I was in my living room). Once a nobody, suddenly I was going toe-to-toe with correspondents of major news organizations.

Things hit a personal low point about a week later. By this time, news of the reactor meltdowns completely dominated the coverage. Hiroko and I scrutinized the news for scraps of usable information while bookmarking websites and Twitter feeds of locals with Geiger counters. At times the radiation angle reached a hysterical pitch; you’d be forgiven for missing the fact that tens of thousands of people had been literally wiped off the face of the planet days earlier. The domestic sources were doing a decent job of covering things, or as decent a job as anyone could given the slim details Tepco and the government were doling out to the world, and if for whatever reason you didn’t trust them, a small army of foreign journalists had “parachuted” into Japan for their own countries’ piece of the action.


The end of the affair

I was asked by several foreign news organizations to go up north as a fixer. The work wasn’t unfamiliar to me; I’ve field-produced segments for various organizations, albeit under less stressful conditions. But going closer than one needed to the steaming husk of Fukushima Daiichi seemed like utter folly, even before I discussed it with my wife, even before my parents phoned to politely request I stay put. Later I heard about someone who’d said “yes.” A major TV news organization had him set up a triage area in an emergency shelter. They weren’t triaging for injuries. They were triaging for people who were more likely to burst into tears on camera. It was about this time that I decided I’d had enough.

But for whatever reason – lack of sleep? Inertia? Vanity? – I allowed an MSNBC producer to coax me into appearing on Chris Matthew’s “Hardball.” It would require getting up at 5:30am for his live stateside broadcast. Hiroko and I were stretched thin, dealing with the aftershocks, the temporary food shortages, and now the threat of fallout from the reactors. One last time, I thought, and then I’m done. There are more important stories than some white guy who “suffered” two minutes of shaking. At 4:30, I began going down the final checklist with the producer. That’s when the direction came: “Just tell him what it was like when the tsunami hit Tokyo.”

I reminded her, not for the first time, that a tsunami had not hit Tokyo. It had hit many hundreds of kilometers north. A pregnant pause ensued. Presently I was told Chris’ current guest was running over and I wouldn’t be needed after all, so sorry to trouble you.


I reminded the MSNBC producer,

not for the first time,

that a tsunami had not hit Tokyo.


It’s a testament to the gutting of foreign news bureaus that someone like me even found a place in the media spotlight in the first place. But putting aside the lack of “boots on the ground,” the fact was nobody really knew what was going on at the time. The areas most affected by the disaster were all but cut off from the outside world, and the Fukushima reactors represented a classic “black box” situation in that nobody save for Tepco had any eyes and ears inside. (To a certain extent, not even they did.) Updates were sporadic, but the insatiable need to feed America’s 24/7 TV news cycle demanded daily, sometimes hourly scoops. A media baby crying for food, a change or simply attention.

This isn’t to say there wasn’t solid reporting going on during the crisis, though most of it was in print, and the majority of that by the rarest of beasts, the resident bilingual journalists. As a “civilian” stuck in the thick of it, the pieces that stung most were punditry crafted purely to stoke emotional responses at an already emotional time, while the best focused on attempting to convey facts, such as scientific or historical background, expanding on official releases, or the plight of those who had lost their homes or families. Often, chaotic situations unfold in dangerous locales of the sort only specialized correspondents are willing to go; a chaotic situation in a country as safe and easily accessible as Japan represented a Petri dish for the best and worst journalism had to offer.

In the end I was really only active for less than a week, filling the gap until the “name” journalists hit the ground themselves. As soon as the pros arrived, the requests dried up. I’ve never heard back from the army of producers and reporters who’d had me fill their Urgent Requests. I had no expectations or desire to turn a crisis into a career, but even I was a little shocked at how quickly and totally the spotlight shifted. It was an odd mix of relief tinged with withdrawal. The attention had been fleeting, but incredibly intense. For a brief moment I had reached millions more than I ever had with my own books, articles, translations, and television projects, a thrilling prospect for any content creator. That was the sense of loss. But of course, it wasnt ever really about me. Thus the relief.

Today only a handful of YouTube videos remain as evidence of my little foray into the mass-media spotlight. Which is as it should be. Because in the end, none of the stress or sleepless nights I went through hold a candle to that of the people who lost family members and homes to the tsunami and nuclear disasters. Still, I’m honored to have had a tiny part in giving the world a window into a desperate situation in its earliest hours.

Matt Alt is a Tokyo-based writer and translator. He is the co-author of Yokai Attack! and other books on Japanese culture.



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