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Number 1 Shimbun

NUMBER 1 SHIMBUN 2016

NUMBER 1 SHIMBUN 2016 (116)

Children categories

January 2016 (10)
January 2016

 

 No1-2016-01cover 

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January 2016

 

2015 by the Numbers
       

Monkeying Around:
FCCJ Correspondents Predict the Year Ahead


Listening with Pen and Paper
A deaf mother and politician is breaking new ground . . . by Sonja Blaschke

 

Profile: Stefano Carrer
 The Il Sole 24 Ore correspondent . . . by Tyler Rothmar

 

Into the Valley of the Trolls
Is online harassment just part of the job? . . . by David McNeill

 Pakkun's View from the Inside
Stories from a gaijin talento . . . by Julian Ryall

A Messy Maul for Japan's Rugby PR
Eddie Jones' last words in Japan . . . by Fred Varcoe


Exhibition: Art is Mirror Reflecting Nature
 by Taiyo Keita

 

From the President    Suvendrini Kakuchi    

Club News

New Members/New books in the library

  

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February 2016 (10)
February 2016

 

 No1-2016-02Cover 

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February 2016
       
From the Archives:
Seidensticker-sensei

by Charles Pomeroy

Collections: David Bowie in Japan


I Testified for Sankei in a Seoul Courtroom

by Donald Kirk

 

The Many Lives of Yuri Kageyama
The veteran AP reporter has a multifaceted creative side . . . by Tim Hornyak

Profile: Gregory Clark
 Former diplomat and journalist tells his own story . . . by Gavin Blair

U.S. Military Newspaper Still Publishing in Japan
The Stars & Stripes meets the emperor . . . by Mark Schreiber

 In Need of a Career Boost?
Some tips on fellowships and other funding . . . by James Simms


Exhibition: Into the Heart of the Arctic
 by Yoichi Yabe

 

From the President    Suvendrini Kakuchi    

Club News

New Members/New books in the library

Statement by the so-called "Ex-Presidents" Group

  

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March 2016 (11)
March 2016

 

 No1-2016-03Cover 

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March 2016
       
From the Archives:
Sadako Ogata, Humanist Extraordinaire

by Charles Pomeroy

Collections: Fukushima by the Numbers

Life Behind Walls
How massive slabs of concrete affect Tohoku communities . . . by Sonja Blaschke


Return of a Perilous Beauty
The state of reconstruction as seen by a local resident . . . by Charles Pomeroy

Is Coal the Answer to Japan's Nuclear Aversion?
 What's behind the mad rush to old fuel . . . by Gavin Blair


When the Big One Comes
Tokyo's earthquake manual . . . by Geoff Tudor

 Fukushima Students Turn to Science, Shun Hysteria
Kids take research into their own hands . . . by Julian Ryall

 Profile: Shiuan Sheng Fang
by Suvendrini Kakuchi

 

Exhibition: Road to Recovery, Five Years & Counting
by Shinpei Kikuchi

 

 

From the President    Suvendrini Kakuchi    

Club News

New Members/New books in the library

 

  

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April 2016 (9)
April 2016

 

 No1-2016-04Cover 

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April 2016
       
From the Archives:
Neil Armstrong: The Eagle Has Landed

by Charles Pomeroy

Is Twitter for the Birds?
How journalists can use (or be used by) the ubiquitous SNS . . . by Richard Smart


Face-off
The government's game of chicken with the media . . . by David McNeill

Profile: Anna Fifield
 The Washington Post's Tokyo correspondent . . . by Lucy Alexander


Rewind: Looking Back with Our Favorite Local Cinema
The Club's Film Committee marches on . . . by Karen Severns

 Journalism in Flux: The Global View
A panel of ex-Tokyo correspondents take the stage . . . by Justin McCurry

Exhibition: Color Harmony Kataezome Art by Shinpei Kikuchi

 

From the President    Suvendrini Kakuchi    

Club News

New Members/New books in the library

 

  

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May 2016 (9)
May 2016

 No1-2016-05Cover 

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May 2016
       
From the Archives:
Kiichi Miyazawa's Travails

by Charles Pomeroy

  
Collections:
Kyushu Earthquakes by the Numbers

 
Wreckage . . . and Recovery
Photographs in the wake of the Kyushu earthquakes

State of the Art
 An FCCJ photography roundtable  . . . by Tim Hornyak


Taken
A portfolio of FCCJ Member's photographs

 Profile: Bob Kirschenbaum
The founder of photo agency PPS . . . by Bob Neff


Exhibition: Ise Jingu and the Origins of Japan 
by Miori Inata

 

From the President    Suvendrini Kakuchi    

Club News

New Members/New books in the library

 

  

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June 2016 (11)
June 2016

 

 No1-2016-06Cover 

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June 2016
       
From the Archives:
The Digital Duo

by Charles Pomeroy

  
Collections:
Climate Change and Japan

 

ON PRESS FREEDOM


Fighting Back
 
New skills are needed by today's journalists . . . by William Horsley

South Korea's Internet Crackdown
 Journalist's court fight with the censors . . . by Julian Ryall


Standing Tall
Japan's most fearless publications . . . by Gavin Blair

The State vs. the Japanese Press
UN rapporteur finds lack of independence . . . by Justin McCurry


Profile: Said Karlsson
by Tyler Rothmar

Flotsam, Jetsam and Uncle Sam
Taisho-era con men . . . by Peter O'Connor

 

A Tale of Too Many Cities
Yubari's Mayor has a problem . . . by Dan Sloan

 

 

Exhibition: Forest  photographs by Hisashi Mochizuki

 

From the President    Suvendrini Kakuchi    

New Members/New books in the library

  

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July 2016 (10)
July 2016

 

 No1-2016-07Cover 

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July 2016
       
From the Archives:
"The Greatest" in Action

by Charles Pomeroy


When the World Was Watching

Behind the scenes at the G7 summit . . . by our correspondents

Profile: Lucy Alexander
 A free-lance journalist on and changing roles . . . by Tyler Rothmar


My Two (Foster) Sons
A volunteer parent on her experience . . . by Caroline Parsons

Rescue Squad
Fixers with a focus on Tohoku . . . by Lucy Birmingham


Trump'd!
The Mogul and the Japanese Media . . . by Mark Schreiber

Exhibition: On the Water  photographs by Rai Shizuno


From the President   
Peter Langan  

Club News 

New Members/New books in the library

 

  

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August 2016 (8)
August 2016

  No1-2016-08Cover 

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August 2016
       
Collections:
71 Years after Hiroshima and Nagasaki


What's the Fuss?

BuzzFeed wants to shake up Japan's media . . . by Richard Smart

The "Feeling a Little Bit Better" Election
 An analysis of the recent upper house election . . . by Michael Cucek


Profile: Martin Hladik
Former kayaker turned photographer . . . by Andrew Pothecary

Death by Firing Range
A 1957 military crime and the uproar around it . . . by Mark Schreiber


Lessons of the Dhaka Tragedy
What we can learn from it . . . by Monzurul Huq

Seeking to Create a "Normal" Nation
Defending the Nippon Kaigi . . . by Julian Ryall

Exhibition: Kao
photographs by Shintaro Shiratori


From the President   
Peter Langan  

New Members/New books in the library

  

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September 2016 (7)
September 2016

  No1-2016-09Cover

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September 2016
       
Collections:
Disability in Japan

From the Archives:
Ted Kennedy, "Lion of the Senate," visits Hiroshima
Charles Pomeroy

The proposed plan for the new home of the FCCJ
The first look at what might be in store in 2018


Profile: Hans Greimel

Reporting on Japan's auto industry . . . by Julian Ryall

Whatever happened to the Panama Papers?
The follow-up to the uproar seems relatively tame . . . by Gavin Blair


Exhibition: FantaSea
photographs by Sachi Murai


From the President   
Peter Langan  

New Members/New books in the library

  

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October 2016 (9)
October 2016

   No1-2016-10Cover

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October 2016
       
Collections:
Newsprint Numbers

From the Archives: "Doomsday" Cold Warrior and Futurist Herman Kahn
by Charles Pomeroy

The Independent, RIP
A eulogy by a former stringer . . . by David McNeill


The Future of the Media is You(Tube)
There's a huge audience for Japan vloggers . . . by Richard Smart


Newsflash or False News: The Abdication of Emperor Hirohito
Political games and media manipulation in postwar Japan . . . by Eiichiro Tokumoto

Profile: Robin Harding
The FT's Man in Japan . . . by Gavin Blair

 

From Russia with Love
Looking back at a fascinating life . . . by Geoff Tudor

 

Exhibition: Tsukiji Fish Market
photographs by Shun Kato


From the President   
Peter Langan  

New Members/New books in the library

  

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November 2016 (11)
November 2016

   No1-2016-11Cover

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November 2016
       
Collections:
Childcare Numbers

From the Archives:
"Le Bulldozer" visits the Club
by Charles Pomeroy

The Troublesome Task of Covering Kim
Reporting on North Korea . . . by Andy Sharp


Behind the negotiations for the Kuril Islands
A history of confusion and obfuscation . . . by Gregory Clark

Profile: Motoko Rich
The new bureau chief of the New York Times . . . by Tim Hornyak

Beyond the Nobels
Japan has its own share of science prizes . . . by Jerry Matsumura


Red-light Reading Matter
A new bookstore opens in Yoshiwara . . . by Mark Schreiber

Turning Down the Heat
Sir David King's press conference . . . by Julian Ryall


Exhibition:
The People and the Forest

photographs by Yasuo Ota


From the President    Khaldon Azhari 

Club News

New Members/New books in the library

  

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December 2016 (10)
December 2016

 

   No1-2016-12Cover

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December 2016
       

The battle for press freedom on Okinawa
The struggle continues . . . by Jon Mitchell


Profile: Ken Moritsugu
AP Tokyo's bureau chief . . . by Tyler Rothmar

 The making of a Twitter documentary: The last wish of Mr. Hata
Using a short form media for an in-depth story . . . by Ian Thomas Ash

 

An evening with Donald Keene
One of Japan's most cherished authors visits the Club . . . by Suvendrini Kakuchi

Behind bars in Iraq
A journalist returns with his story . . . by Julian Ryall

No sympathy for Park's pickle
A former Seoul bureau chief on the South Korean president . . . by Julian Ryall


Exhibition:
Tannery

photographs by Akihito Yoshida


From the President    Khaldon Azhari

 Letters

Club News

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New Members

REINSTATEMENT (REGULAR)

No1-2016-12Brad

BRADLEY MARTIN has been a Regular Member off and on for four decades, and has resumed his membership after two years’ teaching journalism in the United States. A former Club director at large, secretary and vice president, he is a freelancer currently reporting and writing (once again) for Asia Times with two more books in the pipeline.

 

REGULAR MEMBERS

No1-2016-12Kitagata

KAZUYA KITAGATA is the chief editor of the foreign news section of the Jiji Press news agency. He has been with the company for 34 years. After domestic posts, he was sent to Vienna in 1990. Since then, between he has interspersed posts at home with time as the chief correspondent in Moscow, where he watched the political movement in Russia, and as bureau chief of the Jakarta and Manila offices, covering regional issues. He was named to his present post in May.

 

No1-2016-12Nakajma

SHINICHIRO NAKAJIMA is the manager for International Affairs at the Yomiuri Shimbun. He joined the paper in 1993 after graduating from Waseda University. Nakajima was with the International News Department, assigned to Rio de Janeiro from 2004 through 2007. He was named Deputy Manager in the Administration Department in September 2014, and assumed his present position last June. His hobbies are the piano and listening to jazz and Brazilian music.

 

PROFESSIONAL/JOURNALIST ASSOCIATE MEMBERS


Peter Durfee, Nippon Communications Foundation
Ryuichi Teshima, Nippon Communications Foundation
Sadafumi Tani, Nippon Communications Foundation

 

REINSTATEMENT (P/J ASSOCIATES)

Emiko Doi, Nippon Communications Foundation

ASSOCIATE MEMBERS

Brian Lee, Line Corp.
Hitoshi Ariwaka
Tomoko Fukumoto, Genetic
Nobuo Hatae, OOCL
Tatsuo Maeda
Takuya Nomura, Knowledge Capital
Gotaro Ogawa, Kohlosha
Icho Saito, Line Corp.
Atsuo Suetsugu, Hi-Bridge
Shuichi Taniguchi, Tsukuba Golf Course Co., Ltd.
Yoshihiro Yano, Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association, Inc. (JAMA)

 

 

New in the Library

 

Nihon wa tero
o soshi dekiruka

Keiichi Yoshikawa

Kindaishobosha

Gift from Keiichi Yoshikawa

 

Kojin o kofuku ni shinai Nihon no soshiki

Hajime Ota

Shinchosha

Gift from Hajime Ota

 

The Osamu Tezuka Story: A Life in Manga and Anime

Toshio Ban and Tezuka Productions;
Frederik L. Schodt (trans.)

Stone Bridge Press

 

Inventing the Way of the Samurai: Nationalism, Internationalism, and Bushido in Modern Japan

Oleg Benesch

Oxford University Press

 

Contemporary Japan

Duncan McCargo

Palgrave Macmillan

 

Japan, a modern history

James L. McClain

W.W. Norton & Co.

 

Japan, Russia and their Territorial Dispute: The Northern Delusion

James D.J. Brown

Routledge

 

Club News

 

No1-2016-12Exh3

PRESS TOUR TO TOHOKU, HAKODATE WITH HOKKAIDO BULLET TRAIN

IN CONJUNCTION WITH THE start of the first leg of the Hokkaido Bullet train between Aomori and Hakodate, the Special Projects Committee arranged a press tour to Aomori and Akita in the Tohoku region and Hakodate in Hokkaido from Oct. 31 to Nov. 2.

Escorted by a matagi (a traditional bear hunter), six journalists took a short trek in the 12 Lakes area in a nature reserve, where they could admire the autumn leaves in the beech and maple forests for which the region is famous. They could also experience the sight of the season’s first snows in the local mountains.

In Hakodate’s Morning Market the party could experience the unique squid-fishing pool where visitors can fish for live squid. The price tag per creature depends on the market supply and is usually in the range of ¥800 to ¥1,000. Bad weather had prevented the local fishermen from sailing and had driven up the prices. Party member Hui Zhao caught a specimen costing ¥1,600, which was then cut, roasted and eaten by the FCCJ members.

In comparison to the rural farming villages of Tohoku, Hakodate – which was one of the first international treaty ports opened at the end of the Tokugawa government – shows a turn-of-the-century sophistication thanks to its churches and western-style restaurants.

The press visit was supported by the Japan Tourism Agency (JTA), the tourism arm of the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism.          – Haruko Watanabe

 

THE MEMBERSHIP MARKETING COMMITTEE’S “HIDDEN GEMS”

 

IN 2017, THE FCCJ will start a new initiative: “FCCJ in-house Networking,” bringing together working journalists and PR officials of associated member companies. It is the brainchild of the Club’s Membership Marketing Committee, of which I – PR director at Wacom, Co. Ltd. – am a member.

I became an Associate Member of FCCJ in May 2015 in order to develop and strengthen Wacom’s relationships with the foreign media. Club programs, such as “Meet the Press” – the series of speeches by bureau chiefs of the leading foreign media – are useful in that respect as we can get acquainted with the people involved in the program. Building on this momentum, the MMC is planning to begin a new initiative called “FCCJ in-house Networking” between working journalists and PR officials of associated member companies.

Specifically, this program offers a platform for match-making among journalist members, their colleagues and company PR representatives. Company PR officials will speak about their company’s business and products/services so that journalists can get in-depth, first-hand information direct from the source. Each session, which will last from one to one-and-a-half hours, will consist of presentations and Q&A sessions with representatives from two or three companies.

There are many opportunities in Japan, “hidden gems” one might call them, waiting for discovery by journalists. Some of them, the MMC believes, might be right under our noses, within the walls of the Club itself. – Ted Kanno

 

SPECIAL CAMPAIGN OFFER FOR NEW ASSOCIATE MEMBERS

The FCCJ is offering a special deal for new Associate Members. From the beginning of September to the end of the year, those joining are eligible for a ¥100,000 DISCOUNT off of the regular fee of ¥300,000.

If successfully approved, the applicants will be able to enjoy all the member benefits: attendance at all the major press conferences and professional and social events; dining services at the Main Bar, Pen & Quill Executive Dining area and the Masukomi Sushi Bar; special discounts on sports, arts and cultural events; free wi-fi, half-price parking, the Club’s monthly magazine; and access to reciprocal press clubs around the world.

Present members can also benefit. A ¥20,000 restaurant voucher will be given to those who introduce successfully approved new Associates. For more information, or to pick up an application form, go to the front desk.


 

 

Exhibition: Tannery

No1-2016-12Exh2

photographs by Akihito Yoshida

THERE IS A SOUTHWESTERN district of Dhaka, the capital city of Bangladesh, called Hazaribagh that is known for its densely concentrated oxhide processing. Ninety percent of domestic oxhide production comes from Hazaribagh and is exported worldwide.

Japan is the biggest importer of oxhide from Bangladesh, mainly in the form of about four million pairs of leather shoes per year.

While the oxhide industry is the second biggest source of foreign currency after the textile industry, according to international environmental watchdog Blacksmith Institute, Hazaribagh is one of the 10 most toxically polluted areas in the world.

There are 150 to 200 oxhide factories with roughly 20,000 workers who handle the toxic chemicals with bare hands and feet. There are no safety regulations. Unfiltered incinerators and dumping of unprocessed chemical materials and hazardous waste are common sights. Workers who spend substantial amounts of time here have all sorts of physical problems and a short life expectancy.

I headed to Hazaribagh to bear witness to the conditions of the workers in the oxhide industry.


Akihito Yoshida taught Japanese for a year at a university in Thailand followed by six years in a Kyoto elementary school. He started a career in photography in 2010. He has published two books, Brick Yard (2014) and Tannery (2016) and has won several photographic awards.

No1-2016-12Exh

 

 

No sympathy for Park's pickle

 

 No1-2016-12Kato
Tatsuya Kato, speaking at the Club.

 

A former Seoul bureau chief who was on the sharp end of South Korea's defamation laws may have touched upon the president's biggest taboo.

 

by Julian Ryall

B

Y THE TIME THE printed edition of this magazine reaches its readers, South Korean President Park Geun-hye may very well have been impeached, forced to step down and be facing criminal charges for a snowballing corruption scandal. But Tatsuya Kato, the former Seoul bureau chief for the Sankei Shimbun, has little sympathy for Park’s plight.

Kato was targeted by the Park administration after writing a story that repeated local media reports about the president’s whereabouts on the day of the sinking of the Sewol ferry in April 2014 – a tragedy that claimed the lives of 304 people, the majority of whom were high school students. As well as quoting from South Korean media, Kato’s sources also claimed that Park was with a man on the day of the disaster and only reappeared to take charge of the situation seven hours later.

Kato was charged with defaming the president. Although he faced an 18-month prison term if found guilty, he opted to fight the case rather than publish a retraction and an apology.

And as he continued his examination of goings-on in the Blue House, Kato told a press conference at the FCCJ on Nov. 16, his reservations about the people exerting pressure on Park’s administration quickly grew. “My suspicion was that she was just making statements and comments according to whatever her close and powerful advisor was instructing her to say,” Kato said.

 

Although he faced an 18-month prison term if found guilty, he opted to fight the case rather than publish a retraction and an apology.

 

“Today, the Park administration and her close friends and family members are under investigation for having access to state secrets,” he continued. “My personal impression is that their influence has been the cause of the president’s unique world view.” A name that has dominated South Korean headlines for the last month is that of Choi Soon-sil, who is being questioned by authorities over her alleged access to secret state documents and of using her close friendship with the president to convince many of the nation’s biggest companies to pay vast sums of money to foundations set up in her name.

Kato said he first came across Choi’s name in the summer of 2014, coinciding with the start of the “500 days in which I was in a battle with the Park administration.” Initially, senior Blue House staffers took exception to Kato’s reporting, but he claims the Park administration later commissioned a citizens’ group to carry out various kinds of harassment before he was formally charged with defaming the president.

AFTER KATO REFUSED TO retract the article and issue an apology, he was indicted by local prosecutors. “For those of us familiar with Japanese democracy, a court is usually seen as a place to objectively make judgments based on law and evidence, a place for finding out the truth and delivering justice,” he said. “However, in my opinion, the Seoul central district prosecutors’ office seemed to see court as a place to punish and condemn this unfavorable Japanese journalist rather than to serve as a place of judgment and fairness.

“For me, the thought that a nation state could see an article in a foreign language and for a foreign audience as a threat and to use that as justification to prosecute a single journalist seemed fundamentally removed from modern values.”

Addressed as “suspect Kato” throughout the investigation and court proceedings, Kato was asked why he had written about the president and her close friends, who his sources were and whether he had “conspired” with left-wing media in Korea “to draw out the president’s personal relationships with ill-intent. “These questions were asked so many times, I gradually realized that I must have hit upon President Park’s biggest taboo, which had previously been a secret.”

That taboo was her lack of a grasp on important events going on around her government and her inability to formulate or carry out policies. One example of President Park’s inability to make a decision for herself and her reliance on Choi Soon-sil, Kato suggests, is on the question of free speech. Questioned repeatedly on her position on the matter, “she never once made her own statement on the issue,” Kato said.

 

Addressed as “suspect Kato” throughout the investigation and court proceedings, Kato was asked why he had written about the president and her close friends.

 

He added that more than one source has confirmed that Park was also taken aback when she was informed that Kato was still in South Korea. “The fact that the president of Korea was not aware of the details of the case, a case that much of the world was focusing on with criticism and concern, was very troubling and shocking to me,” Kato said. “And this is what led me to my conclusion that the president was not receiving accurate information regarding political issues. She was disconnected. I concluded that she has no initiative when she makes statements but is merely following a scenario written by other advisors or puppet-masters.”

The judge hearing the case eventually acquitted Kato, saying that his coverage had been “inappropriate” but insisted there was a need to protect freedom of speech.

Given his passport back, Kato returned to Japan in April and is now senior writer on social issues for the Sankei Shimbun.

Julian Ryall is Japan correspondent for the Daily Telegraph.

 

 

 

Behind bars in Iraq

 No1-2016-12Tsune
Kosuke Tsuneoka speaking at the Club.

 

For a Japanese journalist, an Islamic State logo leads to misunderstanding and incarceration in the dangerous region outside Mosul.


by Julian Ryall

F

ROM THE VERY OUTSET of his press conference at the FCCJ in November, Kosuke Tsuneoka went to great lengths to make it clear that he is not an Islamic State sympathizer and that he deplores the extremist group’s interpretation of Islam.

Tsuneoka – who had only arrived back in Japan two days previously after being detained for 12 days by Kurdish forces close to the Iraq city of Mosul – was keen to set the record straight after a “stupid” error of judgment was compounded by some inaccurate reporting by local journalists that was repeated by international media. And, given that he intends to return to the war-torn region to continue to file reports for Japanese media, the 47-year-old Tsuneoka said it is important that his name is cleared.

“I was shocked at some of the reporting by the local Kurdish media that was then repeated in English and other media,” Tsuneoka said. “The reports claimed that I had been working as an interpreter for Islamic State and that I had been awarded a medal for my work with them.

“This is completely false information,” he said. “And if it continues to be reported and then becomes accepted as accurate, then that would be extremely unfortunate.”

Tsuneoka’s story is, nevertheless, a remarkable one. He has visited areas of Syria and Iraq controlled by Islamic State on three occasions, building sufficient rapport with some of the organization’s leaders to be invited to visit the caliphate’s self-declared capital of Raqqa in Syria in September 2015. At the end of that reporting trip, aboard a bus heading towards the Turkish frontier, he fell into conversation with a Russian IS fighter. At the end of the journey, the Russian gave him a key holder bearing the logo of Islamic State.

 

“Obviously, I was suspected of being an IS member who was trying to sneak into the news conference.”

 

Tsuneoka thought nothing of the gift and said he was interested in following up on a future visit to see if IS was manufacturing tourist trinkets and if it might make an interesting story. He kept the key holder on his latest visit to the region and, unthinkingly, had it in a pocket of his backpack when he tried to enter a press conference given by Iraqi President Fuad Masum, outside Mosul.

The unmistakable logo triggered an immediate reaction from the security officials surrounding the venue and Tsuneoka was handcuffed and taken into custody for interrogation by Kurdish intelligence officials. “Obviously, I was suspected of being an IS member who was trying to sneak into the news conference,” he said, adding that he had been “completely idiotic.”

THAT IDIOCY WAS MADE worse when local media reported that the key ring was, in fact, a medal that Tsuneoka had been awarded by Islamic State for acting as an interpreter on a previous visit. He vigorously denies that claim, although he confirms that he did visit IS-held areas with a Japanese academic who had been asked to attend a hearing of an IS court and to interpret proceedings.

The Kurdish authorities were not taking any chances with Tsuneoka and transferred him to Erbil, where he was questioned for two days by security officials. “I didn’t feel the need to hide any information or refuse to answer their questions, particularly those about my history of reporting from the area,” he said. “For the first hour or so, it was very tense, but after that the atmosphere changed and became almost genial – to the point where we were laughing together.”

His interrogators were particularly amused by an exchange of messages between Tsuneoka and a Chechen commander fighting for Islamic State that he had met on a previous trip. With neither of the men speaking much of each other’s language, they had been forced to communicate in basic English. That led to a bizarre exchange in which the Chechen fundamentalist had messaged “I love you” to Tsuneoka, to which he had replied, “Me too.”

 

It was an anxious further five days before the official was able to secure Tsuneoka’s release, on condition that he return to Japan on temporary travel documents.

 

Given that he was getting on so well with his captors – they had told him that they did not consider him to be a “dangerous individual” – Tsuneoka said he assumed that he would be released very soon. The Kurdish intelligence officers said they just wanted to check the contents of his mobile phone.

Instead, it was a week before the door to his room was unlocked and an official of the Japanese embassy in Baghdad was ushered in. Tsuneoka was informed that he was not completely in the clear and that the Kurdish officials were taking a hard line on his activities. It was an anxious further five days before the official was able to secure Tsuneoka’s release, on condition that he return to Japan on temporary travel documents and that his passport would be posted to him 17 days later.

Kurdish officials did confirm that he would be permitted to return in the future if their investigation cleared him. Tsuneoka is unequivocal on that score. “I want to make it clear that I am not and never have been a member of IS and that I am not a supporter of IS,” he said. “I am a Muslim . . . but my Islam is not their faith.”

Julian Ryall is Japan correspondent for the Daily Telegraph.

 

 

 

An evening with Donald Keene

 No1-2016-12Keene
The eminent professor and author stopped by the Club to discuss his most recent book.

by Suvendrini Kakuchi

T

HE CLUB WAS GRACED last month by one of Japan’s finest men of letters when Donald Keene stopped by for a Book Break hosted by the library. There he presented his latest book, The First Modern Japanese: The Life of Ishikawa Takuboku, about one of the country’s most beloved poets of the early 20th century.

The 94-year-old shared with attendees the beauty of Takuboku’s tanka poetry, while using his research to illustrate a poet that emerged as a sensitive individual documenting interesting times. The honest views of Takuboku, an atheist despite belonging to the family of a Buddhist priest, that are expressed in his poetry and diaries are greatly admired in reticent Japanese society.

“Takuboku’s poetry reveals that he belonged to a world that was unlike that of other tanka poets,” said Keene. “Rather than the beauty of flowers, he wrote on subjects such as emptiness and death. Composing in truth was more important to him than beauty.”

Keene explained how Takuboku kept diaries in Roman letters that recorded his love for his wife despite his numerous affairs, his deepening sensitivity to his environment as he grappled with tuberculosis, and his frustrations with the changes in a 20th century Japan that was ambitiously on the road to becoming a world power. He covered Takuboku’s despair and his individuality: one revelation was that Takuboku continued to refer to Russia as a world power that was superior to Japan despite its defeat by the Japanese military – a brave opinion during a time when the Meiji government was celebrating the victory as a landmark in Japan’s march into modernity. Takuboku’s storied career, however, was a short one, Keene explained. The poet died at the age of 26.

It was an evening of fascinating story-telling and treasured insights, the results of Keene’s undying love for Japanese literature. He has an equal affection for the country, having recently become a Japanese citizen – a decision taken to show solidarity soon after the March 11, 2011 major earthquake and tsunami that devastated the northern coasts and shook the national confidence of Japan.

Keene first arrived in Japan as a translator with the American GHQ and was based in Okinawa, where he collected the testimony of Japanese soldiers. In subsequent writing and interviews, Dr. Keene recalls how that work awakened him to the poignancy of a fallen nation – captured young soldiers talked of the brutality of war and their longing for peace. Listening to their tortured accounts opened his eyes to the reality of war, and he remains a staunch pacifist to this day, often using his clout to speak up for the pacifist Constitution.

After retiring from teaching at Columbia University for six decades, Keene now lives in Komagome with his adopted son, a well-known shamisen artist. He is a cultural treasure and a bridge between Japan and the U.S., with his views widely sought by academics and experts in both countries.

Suvendrini Kakuchi is the Tokyo correspondent for University World News.

 

The making of a Twitter documentary: The last wish of Mr. Hata

 No1-2016-12twit4Mr. Hata's memorial photograph

Using the strict limits of a social media platform to tell a long-form story means breaking new ground in grappling with technical, ethical and emotional issues.

 

by Ian Thomas Ash

F

rom my chair by the door, I looked up from my camera across the barbershop at Mr. Hata as he sat in the barber chair, having his hair dyed. Mr. Hata wanted to look his best. He was in the last stages of throat cancer, and was preparing to meet his estranged son for the first time in over 30 years.

I had already taken a few dozen photographs of Mr. Hata since picking him up at his home that morning, and was using the waiting time at the barbershop to review them before making a selection to publish on my Twitter account. If all went well, over the next few days I would effectively be live-tweeting an extremely personal and difficult story, something I had never done before. If it did not, my documenting could negatively affect the reunion while the Twitterverse looked on. With Mr. Hata not far from his deathbed, there would be no second chances.

Without the advice of an editor or a plan for how to tell the story – things I usually rely on when working as a documentary filmmaker – I began my first tweet: For the next 3 days, I’m going to tell you a story as it unfolds. It’s about family, love, life, death, and, I hope, redemption.

I HAD FIRST MET Mr. Hata five months earlier, while working on a documentary for NHK World called Dying at Home, about a home doctor in a small town in Tohoku. Mr. Hata was one of the patients, and I had grown quite close to him during production. I continued to visit him and his wife after filming was completed, often spending the night at their home. When I would arrive, they always greeted me warmly with a home-cooked meal.

The couple had no children, but she still called him “father.” And when Mr. Hata would voice concerns about my lack of job security, and tease me for being too skinny and not being able to “drink like an adult,” he really seemed like a dad.

It was on one of my visits, when his wife was not around, that Mr. Hata told me that he had a son from a previous relationship. His name was T, and Mr. Hata had not seen him in over three decades. Now he told me that he wanted to see his son before he died.

Mr. Hata’s son has an unusual name, so I was able to find him through a computer search in only five minutes (and which is why for privacy reasons I decided to go with “T.”) A bigger challenge was getting a reply to my messages. I tried Twitter, Facebook and Instagram before finally hearing back from him. Not knowing what he’d been told growing up, I had debated about how to refer to the man who was searching for him. I settled on referring to him as “a man who says he is your relative,” accompanied by a photo.

 

Now he told me that he wanted to see his son before he died.

 

T replied, saying that he had no memory of the name or face of the man, but that he would ask his mother. Adding to the difficulty, I had agreed to let Mr. Hata tell T that he was dying, so I was trying to impress upon him that time was limited without being able to tell him why.

At first hesitantly, eventually they began communicating directly. I was encouraged when I saw that T had tweeted the following on his account: Emailed father who abandoned me at 3. A film director found me. Thought he was dead, yet he’s alive. But he’s got little time left. Trouble sorting my feelings.

Plans for a reunion soon followed.

SHORTLY BEFORE THEY WERE to meet, Mr. Hata said to me almost teasingly, “You want to film our reunion, don’t you?” Not wanting to alter their time together, I told him that I’d let them have their privacy and hear about it later. But just prior to the day of the event, I received a call from Mr. Hata. He had become much weaker and could no longer drive. He needed someone to help with his carefully planned agenda, to pick up T and his family at the station and take them all up to a hot-spring resort for the weekend.

While I felt saddened hearing of the loss of his independence, I was also grateful for the opportunity, since I felt an enormous responsibility as the one who had “found” T. And to be completely honest, I must also admit that a part of me thought it would be a real opportunity. I boarded a bullet train and headed for Tohoku armed with two cameras – one for film and one for photos.

In the two weeks since I had last seen him, Mr. Hata had become visibly weaker. Still he insisted on following the itinerary he had planned, including staying at different hotels and visiting several tourist spots. It became clear that it would be impossible to film while helping out. At the risk of sounding insensitive, while not attending the reunion would have been hard, being there but not being able to film felt like torture.

 

Twitter would give me the ability to curate which moments I shared and offer context that a live-feed couldn’t, yet still lend the kind of immediacy and inclusion that audiences these days desire.

 

I don’t exactly remember where the idea to “live tweet” the reunion came from, but it was definitely a Plan B after filming. Live streaming was another idea, but that would have been exploitative, too much like reality TV. With Twitter, choosing photographs and written words would give me the ability to curate which moments I shared and offer context that a live-feed couldn’t, yet still lend the kind of immediacy and inclusion that audiences these days desire.

Whichever platform I chose, I was aware that there were ethical questions concerning the posting of the reunion in real time, and I knew if I made any major missteps along the way that there was the strong possibility of a harsh backlash.

The morning of the reunion, I explained to Mr. Hata as simply as I could – he did not use social media or a computer – that I wanted his permission to photograph and share the reunion with my followers. He agreed to allow me to do this up to when we would meet T, but I would need his son’s permission after that. Without knowing whether I would end up leaving my readers with a frustrating cliffhanger, I started tweeting.

 



No1-2016-12Twit
Mr. Hata grabs a smoke at the barbershop.

AFTER DECIDING TO FOCUS on photographs rather than video, the next issue was how to live-tweet the photos. For higher quality use in the future, I wanted to use my proper still camera, but there was no way to easily transfer the photos to my phone or iPad in real-time. In the end, I decided to shoot twice: once with camera, once with phone. For shooting with the phone, I used an app with a silent mode to minimize any disturbance of the environment (in Japan, phones are required to emit a sound when photographs are taken). In the end, nearly all of the photos I published over the three days were taken with the phone, with almost no editing.

Another technical issue came up in a comment from a follower on Twitter, saying that it was difficult for viewers who became aware of the story in the middle to find out where to begin reading. Someone suggested that – rather than sending individual tweets – I post all the follow-up tweets as a “reply” to my first tweet so they would remain in one chronological strand. (Later I found out about Storify, where tweets and other social media can be curated into a single piece.)

The only gauge for knowing if I was telling the story in a way that people would react to was the response from Twitter followers. The first one I received was about six hours after my first tweet, when AP reporter Yuri Kageyama tweeted to her followers: Amazing Tweets. This is what Twitter should be about. Follow Ian #ShoutOut for a universal story. A personal story.

Around the same time, a filmmaker friend living in Istanbul wrote to say how affected he was by the story and how it was causing him to reflect on his own relationship with his son. Encouraged by these comments from respected colleagues, I headed to the station with Mr. Hata to meet T, who gave me permission to continue the photo documentary, with the sole caveat that I not publish photos of his wife and daughter.

After dinner, Mr. Hata invited T back to his room for drinks where they had an intimate, and sometimes difficult conversation. "Having kids is easy," he said. "Raising them is not."

So I was able to tweet their reunion as they got to know each other again. After dinner, Mr. Hata invited T back to his room for drinks where they had an intimate, and sometimes difficult conversation. Mr. Hata told T about the last time they had spoken on the phone: T was around five years old and he had pleaded with his father to come home. “Please come back, daddy!” he’d said. “I’ll wait for you one trillion ten thousand years!” Mr. Hata looked at T. “Having kids is easy,” he said. “Raising them is not.”

THERE WERE OTHER EMOTIONAL episodes over the next few days: The photo I took of the two of them under some cherry blossoms – the first to catch them both smiling; the time they spent looking over photos as Mr. Hata asked T to choose which one should be displayed at his funeral; when I asked T to help me wake Mr. Hata from a deep sleep, and he gently placed his hand on his shoulder and called, “Father.”

One night after Mr. Hata went to bed, I shared with T some of the enthusiastic comments the story of their reunion was receiving from people all over the world. With film-making, you only learn about the audience’s reception a year or more after it is made, but in this case the reaction was instantaneous. In real time, people were sending words of encouragement and T and I were able to immediately respond with words of gratitude for their support. It was thrilling, nerve-wracking and humbling.

Reactions from around the world flooded in and my follower count soared. Compared to an average month, the engagement rate on my Twitter account doubled that month and statistics for retweets, likes and replies went up an average 10-fold. I became more conscious that what I was producing was being “consumed.”

This affected how I told the story, such as how much personal information I chose to share with the public. I consciously decided not to use their full names, the names of the places where they live or even the circumstances under which the father and son were separated. And yet, because of the personal nature and immediacy in how I shared the story, I think most readers did not realize how much was not shared and instead were simply engaged in the story.

 

No1-2016-12Twit3
Mr. Hata with his son T on an unscheduled hospital visit.

 

Which leads to another issue: how much to share what you are doing with your subject. Generally speaking, I would suggest that having your protagonist be so aware of the documenting process could negatively affect what it is you are documenting, so while I would encourage the filmmaker/journalist to be honest about what they are doing, I would also discourage them from sharing how their story is being received while it is still happening. That being said, I think one of the reasons T was so open and seemingly unaffected by the whole process was because he is a writer himself.

AT THE RISK OF sounding overly dramatic, the adrenaline rush of live-tweeting this reunion between a dying father and son was thrilling in a way that I have seldom felt when filming an interview – when I know that I can always rephrase my question, and that there will be time to edit and refine the story. But I would also caution against telling a story utilizing this method simply because one “wants to.”

There is a most appropriate way to tell every story; and only certain stories truly lend themselves to being told in real time on a public platform such as Twitter. As story-tellers, we must be aware of the potential damage we could cause to the people we are documenting and must proceed with caution, understanding that once something has been tweeted, it cannot be undone.

After the reunion with T, Mr. Hata’s health continued to decline. I traveled between Tokyo and his home in Tohoku as much as possible, shooting film as well as just being with him. My role had already evolved from filmmaker to friend, and during the last week of his life, I became one of his caretakers, helping to bathe and care for him.

I also continued to tweet the story of Mr. Hata until, three weeks to the day of his reunion with T, he died in his sleep.

Ian Thomas Ash is an award-winning documentarian based in Tokyo who is in production for two documentaries, one about terminal care in Japan and the other the third installment of his series on Fukushima post 3/11.

His tweets of Mr. Hata’s last wish can be seen at https://storify.com/DocumentingIan/mr-hata-and-t-a-reunion-after-30

No1-2016-12Twit2
Mr. Hata and the author.

 

 

Profile: Ken Moritsugu

 No1-2016-12Ken
The Tokyo bureau chief for AP comes from a family of journalists, and has travelled the world for his craft.

 

by Tyler Rothmar

T

he career of Ken Moritsugu, the Associated Press Japan bureau chief, has seen him live and work all over the world, and the story of his many professional moves is bound together by a natural curiosity and dedication to his craft.

Ken was born a third-generation Japanese Canadian in Montreal, but moved to Philadelphia at the age of two when his father Henry, also a journalist, took a job at the Inquirer. The family later moved to New York, where Ken grew up, and where Henry remains an editor on the news desk of Long Island’s Newsday at the age of 82.

Although journalism seems to run in the Moritsugu family (his uncle Frank still writes for Canada’s Nikkei Voice at 94), Ken says it wasn’t always a clear choice. “But certainly it was always part of my life growing up. When I was a kid, my dad would bring me to the newsroom and the linotype operators would give me a little piece of metal with my name on it,” he recalls.

Moritsugu worked on the newspapers of his junior high and high schools in Long Island, and soon after he entered Princeton a rival interest in physics finally lost out to journalism. He majored in economics while stringing for area newspapers, interned at the Boston Globe and the Washington Post, and did a brief internship in Japan, reporting on the pharmaceutical market for a large firm.

No1-2016-12Ken2

"It was sort of an exciting, frothy, intellectually stimulating time to be in Japan."

 

He moved to the Japan Times in Tokyo in 1984, becoming a reporter on what was then the Political/Economics desk. He stayed for three years, covering Japan’s trade relations with the U.S. and Europe. “It was the period of intense Japan-U.S. trade friction, the peak of the ‘Japan is No. 1, Japan is taking over’ era,” he says. “When you’d go out with people, you would debate what was Japan’s role in the world. It was sort of an exciting, frothy, intellectually stimulating time to be in Japan.”

Moritsugu was then accepted to a five-month internship at the European Community, the forerunner to the European Union. He left Japan in the fall of 1987, traveling by ferry to Shanghai, then from Beijing to Moscow through Siberia by train. He rode the rails through Europe and was proud when he made it to London without resorting to an airline. Once in Brussels, he interned in the EC press office, preparing news releases and background information for the press corps.

In retrospect, he says, his early days of travel and living abroad gave him fresh eyes on the U.S.: “America can be a very insular country, simply because of its size and dominance. It allowed me to see my own country in a different light.”

He returned home in 1989, this time to the St. Petersburg Times in Florida, where he covered “an unending supply of wild and crazy and woolly stories” in the local government, police and the courts. Three years later he left for Paris on a nine-month journalism fellowship before returning to Long Island for a six-year stint as a reporter at Newsday.

WHILE MORITSUGU LIKES THE writing process, what he really enjoys is the dialogue and ideological exchange of fieldwork.

While reporting for Newsday in Rwanda following the ethnic violence between the Tutsi and Hutu, he interviewed an old man who had lost his house in the violence, but was rebuilding. “He said, ‘You want to see it?’ and I said sure – and he took off uphill at an incredible pace,” he remembers. Though half the old man’s age, he struggled to keep up on what turned out to be an impromptu mountain tour. Moritsugu cites the episode as an example of the unexpected joys of his trade.

“Reporting from afar is one thing, but to be on the ground and hear people’s stories – there’s always a backstory that makes a black-and-white issue much grayer,” he says.

Moritsugu married Carmen Chan in 1999 and in 2000 joined the Knight Ridder newspaper chain in Washington D.C. as a national and economics correspondent. The couple moved to northern India in 2004, where Chan ran an NGO’s public health program. Working out of Delhi, Moritsugu strung for Knight Ridder, covering such stories as the Indonesian tsunami, and wrote for publications including USA Today and Congressional Quarterly.

He joined the AP in Bangkok in 2007 as enterprise editor, heading large-scale projects and features such as “China’s Reach,” a data-driven, multifaceted look at that nation’s growing clout. In 2013, Moritsugu was named chief of the AP’s Tokyo bureau, where he works to orchestrate text, photos and video for the internet’s shifting formats. While there are fewer chances as chief to engage in the on-the-ground reporting that he loves, Moritsugu says he enjoys exploring new ways of telling stories with his team, and he’s grateful for the influence the profession has had on his life.

“Journalism is challenging. The pay is not great, but it’s really given me this wealth of experiences in life, this incredible opportunity to go to so many places and meet so many people and learn so much about the world. And I’m just thankful and grateful as a person to have had that opportunity,” he says.

Tyler Rothmar is a Tokyo-based writer and editor.

 

 

The battle for press freedom on Okinawa

 

No1-2016-12Oki3USMC Criminal Intelligence Division
documents reveal surveillance of
Okinawans and journalists.

 

Far from the Tokyo media, journalists on Okinawa must struggle with authorities and the U.S. military to get their stories told.


by Jon Mitchell

 

I

n a park near the seashore in Naha City stands the Memorial to Fallen Journalists, a stone slab carved with the names of the 14 Japanese reporters – 10 of whom worked for the island’s former Okinawa Shimpo – who died during the Battle of Okinawa. Among the copy the reporters filed before dying were articles with headlines such as “Grenade charge on enemy camp” and “Advance on Shuri thwarted by heavy resistance,” stories which glorified the combat and misled readers into believing the Japanese military was winning the war.

Missing from their reports was the reality of what was actually happening on the ground: the slaughter of Okinawan children drafted into the Imperial army; Japanese troops forcing civilians from their shelters instead of protecting them; the execution of Okinawans suspected as spies for speaking their own language.

By the end of the three-month battle, more than a quarter of the civilian population was dead and the cultural heritage of the former Ryukyu Kingdom was all but obliterated. As a result of this collective trauma and the role of their peers in romanticizing the militarism that destroyed their island, subsequent generations of Okinawan reporters developed a strong pacifist streak.

 

Like the shiisa deities guarding the rooftops of many Okinawan homes, the island’s media are keenly aware of their role of protecting the public’s right to know.

 

During the 70th anniversary of the Battle of Okinawa last spring, this spirit was clearly on display when members of the media gathered at the Memorial to Fallen Journalists, united by the vow that never again would they wield their pens or cameras in support of war.

Not only is this conviction rooted in the experiences of 1945, it has been reinforced in the following decades as Okinawan reporters bore witness to a litany of human rights abuses by the U.S. military on their island: the displacement of 250,000 residents to build bases; rapes and murders; hit-and-runs, aircraft crashes and environmental degradation. Then there has been the political oppression, as first Washington and then Tokyo attempted to oust local leaders who dared to speak out against these violations, like Naha Mayor Kamejiro Senaga, ex-Governor Masahide Ota and the current Governor Takeshi Onaga.

I HAVE BEEN REPORTING on Okinawa for seven years. But during this very short period, I’ve uncovered U.S. military malfeasance ranging from revelations the Pentagon was on the brink of nuking then non-aligned China during the Cuban Missile Crisis and the Cold War storage of tens of thousands of barrels of Agent Orange on the island to, more recently, alliances between the U.S. Marines and Japanese neo-nationalist groups and the military orientation lectures which teach new arrivals that Okinawans have “double standards” and their complaints are “self-serving.”

It is the responsibility of the Japanese government to hold Washington to account for such injustices. Instead, it allows the U.S. to act as though they still own the island as they did between 1945 and 1972.

Fortunately, like the shiisa deities guarding the rooftops of many Okinawan homes, the island’s media are keenly aware of their role of protecting the public’s right to know. They act as vocal critics of U.S. military misdeeds and Tokyo’s refusal to spread the military presence more evenly throughout Japan. However this work has brought Okinawa’s media – and me – under fire from a variety of quarters.

LDP members have a history of lashing out against Okinawa’s newspapers. In 2000, Yoshiro Mori, then Secretary General of the LDP and current Olympic czar, accused the local dailies of opposing the nation and being dominated by the Japan Communist Party. In 2006, present Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike, in her role as Minister of State for Okinawa and Northern Territories Affairs, labeled the Okinawa media “anti-U.S.” Most famously, last year, Naoki Hyakuta, the former board member of NHK, called for the destruction of the two papers.

No1-2016-12Oki
The Memorial to Fallen Journalists in Asahigaoka Park in Naha City.

 

SUCH ATTITUDES HAVE TRICKLED down to impact the daily work of Okinawan journalists. In August, Japanese riot police physically prevented two reporters from covering demonstrations against the construction of U.S. Osprey pads in the northern Yanbaru jungles. In October, PM Abe’s Cabinet ruled the police action “appropriate” – setting a very dangerous precedent for future interference in journalists’ work.

I first experienced a backlash against my own reporting in 2013, when the Pentagon released a nine-month investigation to discredit my research into the storage of Agent Orange on Okinawa. More recently, in the August edition of the Japanese right-wing magazine Voice, dedicated to the theme of exposing the “Enemies of Japan,” an eight-page article focused on my work; the author lamented how the Japanese government had failed to censure me for my reporting.

But these petty harassments pale in comparison to what was revealed in U.S. military police documents that I received this autumn via the Freedom of Information Act. One of the reports, dated June 9, contained my photo, profile and notes about a lecture I’d given near Camp Schwab, Nago City. Furthermore, in a move apparently designed to prevent my ability to file online FOIA requests, my home IP address has been blocked from accessing USAF websites.

 

The surveillance and blockage of my IP address are designed to obstruct my work as an investigative journalist – and are clear violations of press freedoms.

 

To find out who’d ordered the block, I filed a conventional FOIA request and, following a 10-week tussle, finally received a stack of internal emails exchanged between senior military officers. Although it seems the USAF had withheld the documents related to the period the block was first enacted, what the papers did contain were accusations that I was “hostile,” “adversarial” and “non-cooperative.”

Everyone is entitled to his or her opinion – and I’m sure my editors have called me far worse in their own emails – so I take these officials’ comments as a sign I am doing my job well. However, the surveillance and blockage of my IP address are designed to obstruct my work as an investigative journalist – and are clear violations of press freedoms.

THE FREEDOM OF THE Press Foundation, whose board includes Daniel Ellsberg and Edward Snowden, condemned the military’s actions against me. “Whether inside or outside the United States, the U.S. military should not be surveilling journalists and writing up intelligence reports on their lawful activities, full stop,” said Executive Director Trevor Timm. “By doing so they are imperiling journalists in their home countries and sending a dangerous message about press freedom abroad.”

On Oct, 23, Reporters Without Borders issued a statement that slammed the U.S. military and the Japanese authorities for their pressure on the Okinawa media. The statement topped the front pages of the Okinawa Times and Ryukyu Shimpo and made the national NHK morning news. Sankei Shimbun, whose own former Seoul Bureau Chief was supported by RWB after being indicted in South Korea for defaming the president, also reported the statement – albeit with an emphasis on Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga’s denials that the government suppressed Okinawa press freedoms.

The rest of the national media and the Japan-based international media chose not to report the statement. This is nothing new. For all too many Tokyo-cocooned journalists, what happens on Okinawa stays on Okinawa.

Nowhere is this gap more obvious than in recent coverage of the contamination at Tokyo’s Toyosu fish market vis-a-vis the contamination on Kadena Air Base, central Okinawa. While the discovery of arsenic and chromium at Toyosu dominated nightly news shows and newspaper columns for days, little to no coverage was afforded to discoveries in January that Kadena had polluted the drinking water sources for seven municipalities – including Naha – with high levels of the contaminant, perfluorooctane sulfonate.

 

For all too many Tokyo-cocooned journalists, what happens on Okinawa stays on Okinawa. Nowhere is this gap more obvious than in recent coverage of the contamination at Tokyo’sfish market vis-a-vis the contamination on Kadena Air Base.

 

Neglect of Okinawan issues by the mainland Japanese media allows misinformation to fill the void. Alongside a host of anonymous bloggers and Twitter users spreading deceit is the publishing arm of the Happy Science cult, whose founder is well-known for interviewing such eminent spirits as Jesus Christ, Socrates and George Washington. A book published last year included an equally shocking scoop, as he channeled the spirit of Okinawan Governor Takeshi Onaga (still living, of course), confirming what many rightists had suspected all along – that the governor has close ties to the Chinese Communist Party and is intent on bringing the island under the protection of the People’s Army.

In June, the U.S. military added its own spin to the cacophony when it called claims that more than 75 percent of its bases were located on Okinawa – a figure calculated by land area – a “common misperception.” Instead, it said, the true number was 39 percent because only 33 of the total of 85 American bases located in Japan were there. Many, including Onaga, who called it a manipulation of the truth, met the statement with derision.

No1-2016-12Oki4
Japanese riot police guard USMC Osprey construction sites in northern Okinawa.

THE AMATEURISM OF THE military’s attempt to shape public opinion was surprising. Given the Pentagon’s average annual PR budget of more than $600 million, it ought to have come up with something a little slicker. Just look at its collaboration on Hollywood blockbusters such as Hurt Locker and Zero Dark Thirty (where the CIA even served as script doctors).

Switch on FOX News or CNN and the lines between news and Pentagon PR blur, too. For journalists and their bosses, military-related stories are very attractive. Fly-bys and bang-bang make great TV and offer a shortcut to the awards ceremonies. As news companies slash budgets and the U.S. government offers subsidized, but restricted, access to the military, the lure of glorifying the military will continue to be irresistible, creating the danger that journalists may become much more reluctant to report on the next My Lai, Haditha or Abu Ghraib.

With PM Abe racing to send Japanese troops to fight overseas for the first time in more than 70 years, the question of whether we will have enough courage to refuse to pick up our pens – and iPads – in support of those conflicts will be one we’ll need to ask ourselves very soon. The answer will shape the future of Japan for decades to come.

Jon Mitchell is a correspondent for Okinawa Times and regular contributor to the Japan Times. Last year, he was awarded the FCCJ's Freedom of the Press lifetime achievement award for his coverage of Okinawan human rights issues.

 

 

Letters

 

THANKS FOR THE TENTATIVE preview of the new club layout in the September issue. While acknowledging that tastes are bound to differ, I’d like to raise some caveats.

Some of the pictures show seating that looks more fashionable than comfortable. A club, being a home away from home, should emphasize comfort. In particular, a foreign club in Japan should avoid investing in typical domestically produced furniture that is made with the typical Japanese body mass in mind. The commodious Main Bar chairs of two generations ago should be the ideal. I have retained one and Geoff Tudor has several if anyone cares to look. You can sit in them happily for hours on end. Check dimensions including table height to make sure we can all fit in without economy class syndrome.

Particularly alarming features in the preliminary pictures are low-backed pieces – such as the reception area couch and the clearly anti-comfort stools surrounding the library’s “wires table.” (What is that, by the way?) As for stools in particular, I suspect most members would prefer to keep their feet on the floor – although well-designed medium-to-high-backed stools along the bar, with well designed foot rails, shouldn’t be a problem.

The library, I must say, bears no resemblance to any library I’ve ever used. Perhaps it’s partly the lighting effects used by whoever produced the picture, but I’m afraid it comes across like an airport duty free shop. Where are the books? Am I right in gathering that one would have to leave the library lounge and go next door to find bookshelves?

Finally, while the Japanese contemporary motif in one version of the reception area is reasonably attractive (much more so than the “straightforward modern” alternative), to my taste there is still too much contemporary styling throughout. Perhaps placing club memorabilia on the walls will help to distinguish our premises from the typical Tokyo commercial space, but I’d suggest avoiding the heavy reliance on earth tones and sharp lines punctuated by electronic visual devices that the pictures reveal. Give us some primary colors (red chairs?) and some rich paneling.

Anyhow, to those who have been working hard on this, many thanks for a promising start.

Bradley Martin

 

 

IN RESPONSE TO OUR president’s November column concerning the club’s move to new premises, I would like to thank Mr. Azhari for informing the membership of the seriousness of the problems the club faces.

To this end, I have a number of questions I hope the president or board could answer.

1) I have seen nothing in No. 1 Shimbun or in any notice sent to the membership about an internal report that the club will become ‘insolvent’ if it proceeds with the project. Can the president or board confirm?

2) Records show that the board in office in spring 2015 committed the club to 30% additional floor space, thus 30% higher rent, with no plan for increasing membership. I was told early on that the additional floor space would be assessed at the ‘same per tsubo (3.3-sq.m.) rate’. Which means, based on our current rent budget: We will have to pay an additional ¥25 million or more in annual rent, which exceeds yearly proceeds generated from the ¥1,000/month special levy.

Please provide details of the business plan justifying the 30% increase. I found nothing in board meeting minutes except a short note on Feb. 12, 2015, the day that the ‘pre-lease’ agreement was approved, that a “detailed evaluation of the financial implications is still needed” There is no record of that evaluation.

3) Separately, I was told that Mitsubishi Estate would be responsible for constructing a new restaurant, bar and kitchen. The problem: We know that the current outsourcing operation isn’t working. One rarely sees correspondent members in the bar and almost never in the dining room. The club pays its outsourcing partner 90% of all bar, restaurant and banquet proceeds including even for our speaker luncheons. If we include indirect costs such as our reception staff, the net payout approaches 95%.

Has the board found a replacement for IRS, the Tokyu Hotel group subsidiary, that has substantially failed to deliver a consistent product at affordable prices?

4) At the same Feb. 12, 2015 board meeting, it was reported that the move would require “a substantial number of additional members.” By my count, we must raise the current total by 10% (150 associate members) to cover the ¥25 million in additional rent charges. The club lost members in the most recent fiscal year.

On what basis does the board believe that it can increase membership by moving from a top-floor Ginza location with a view of Tokyo’s skyline to a 6th floor(?) off-Ginza location with no view while, at the same time, changing the membership composition to more females (currently fewer than 10%), younger members (fewer than 5% under 35), foreign members (fewer than 20%), and journalists (fewer than 10% full-time)?

5) I have heard scuttlebutt that the current floor plan will create operational problems for whoever we choose to run our bar and restaurant. Is this true? Contrary to what many people think, the FCCJ is primarily a restaurant operation. An estimated 90% of revenues including fees paid to the club’s outsourcing partner and associate member dues are related to the club's food and beverage operation. The project has no chance to succeed if the club doesn’t upgrade our F&B operation. And that begins with service and the menu, whatever the board thinks will attract new members.

6) Does the club have the management capability to handle a project of this nature and scale. When the club undertook the 1993 bar renovation, we had a general manager, Albert Stamp, who held an MBA from the Cornell School of Hotel Administration, one of the best in the world. When the club rebuilt its kitchen in 2001, the board had no one of that caliber to assist us. The result: there were major design flaws and we purchased, in some cases, the wrong equipment.

Again, Khaldon, thank you for your report.

Roger Schreffler

Former FCCJ president (1999-2000)

 

 

RESPONSE

1) & 2) The Finance Committee authorized the Treasurer to make a report at the last two GMMs informing members that the Club can not afford the huge increase in rent that previous BODs committed us to at the new Fuji Bldg. Nor can the Club afford projected moving costs. We have a Special Levy to take care of that but that doesn't mean we actually have that money because we are in deficit even with said special levy. We also sent a letter to all 2,000 members asking members for ideas, donations – eg. purchase chairs and wall plaques with individual members’ names attached – and we got zero response.

3) A New FB contract from next September 1, 2017 will help put us into the black and cover our present costs, but not the increased rent when we move in October 2018. We have to ask Mitsubishi to give us reduced or deferred rent and seek additional sources of revenue beyond the usual calls for increasing members and dues (which not everyone supports). Then we might be okay.

In regard to the search for a new provider, we have six FB candidates we have been talking to for months. We gave an RFP (in early November) and are anticipating their proposals in December. IRS has also been given the RFP. We want to choose one of the candidates by the end of the year. We have to inform IRS whether or not we will continue with them by February.

4) There is no way of telling whether or not the club will lose members by moving to the new site because of the less convenient location, or gain members because we will have a new facility. That is in the realm of fortune telling.

5) Floor design in new bldg. is still being evaluated. But FB candidates have expressed dissatisfaction with it.

6) Our FB candidates have expertise. Reps of different companies we are talking to have degrees from same Cornell School of Hotel Administration Al Stamp attended. The chosen FB candidate will take over August 2017 and continue on in new building.

Also Rod Lucas and I talked to a consultant who told us one good thing we can do about furniture is have our present round tables and armchairs refurbished. Would cost an estimated ¥50,000 per armchair. Consultant said we should be careful of new furniture made in China that would likely be unsuitable for larger Western bodies and be cheaply built. He said our furniture may be old but some of it is still very strong. The GM is considering other options, such as donations from major hotels. (Suggestions welcome).

I believe the design of the FB facility at the new Fuji Bldg is flawed.

Robert Whiting

Treasurer,

Finance Committee Chair

 

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