The 99% has a Very Different Meaning in Japan

By Henry Rogers

Japan has an astonishing 99% conviction rate for suspects going to trial. This has caught the attention of the Human Rights Watch, and the organization has built a report over the past three years examining this astonishing–and concerning–statistic. Titled Japan’s “Hostage Justice” System, the report analyzes the cultural, legal, and systemic issues that lead to injustice. The group has turned over the report to the Japanese authorities and it contains a long list of solutions. Human Rights Watch released this report yesterday on the 25th and held a press conference at the Foreign Correspondence Club of Japan (FCCJ).

The contents of the report

The report breaks down the main reasons for the high conviction rate. These reasons boil down to the denial of bail, coercion of confessions, and the lack of access to lawyers.

Japanese law declares that all accused persons are eligible to apply for bail once it is decided that they will be going to trial and when they are released from the pre-indictment period. When the police arrest a citizen, they are legally allowed to hold that citizen for 23 days until they must release them or decide to take them to trial. The issue with this is the rampant abuse of a loophole used by investigators and prosecutors. Police will split charges up or bring multiple individual charges against a person, but they will only charge them once the 23-day period is up. This allows them to recharge a person and hold them for an additional 23 days. They police are allowed to do this until they run out of charges. Some people are held for hundreds of days– and denied bail the entire time.

Even if a person is no longer trapped in the limbo of this pre-indictment period, they will still struggle to make bail. Judges will typically deem a person “a risk to destroying evidence” and deny their claim for bail. The report explains that around only 30% of defendants are granted bail.

The case of the prosecution in Japan is almost always built upon the confession of the accused. This is partially because prosecutors will only take open-and-shut cases to trial, but mainly because it is ingrained in the legal culture. Investigators know this and getting a confession is essential to their cases. This pressure on confessions has led to a terrible situation where coerced false confessions are common.

The limit to an interrogation is stated in Japanese law as not being allowed to be an “unreasonable” amount of time. This is extremely ambiguous, leading to the abuse of long interrogations. In an attempt to gain a confession during these interrogations, prosecutors and investigators have used intimidation, threats, verbal abuse, and sleep deprivation.

A major issue that plagues the system is prosecutors and investigators tampering with the confessions. A 2011 Supreme Court survey of prosecutors found that one-fourth of them had at one time altered something a defendant wrote or said.

All of this coercion might be avoidable if defendants were given proper access to their lawyers. But during the interrogation, the defendant is not allowed to have a lawyer in the room to advise them or even observe. Building a strong legal defense is made even harder as prosecutors have the ability to legally withhold evidence from the defense.

The report explains that for real progress to be made, the government must pass strong reforms. Some of the changes detailed include allowing lawyers into the interrogation room, holding interrogators accountable, and not allowing police to rearrest defendants.

The press conference

The FCCJ held an hour-long press conference with three esteemed guests: Shinobu Yamagishi, the former president and CEO of the Pressance Corporation who who has fought against this abusive system; Kana Sasakura, a professor and faculty of law at Konan University as well as the executive director of Innocence Project Japan; and Swaroop Ijaz, senior counsel to the Asia Division of Human Rights Watch.

All three guests were involved in the development of this report, and spoke about the contents of the report as well as additional insights. Dr. Sasakura made a valuable contribution when she explained that of the last 25 cases that have been exonerated by retrial, 21 were found to have false confessions.

As for former CEO Mr. Yamagishi, he was arrested by the Japanese authorities and charged with embezzlement. He was then held for 248 days before finally being released in August of 2020. He spoke about the terrible conditions that he was forced to suffer and the “mental anguish” that he experienced.

But he also told the press that he was doing great now and had become wiser and stronger from this difficult experience. He also said, light-heartedly, that he was baffled that the prosecutors had a 99% conviction rate at all. In his words, those investigating him did not know what the real world was like and knew nothing about business, resulting in a shoddy investigation.

Yamagishi was found not guilty on all charges.

When asked about what his top tips were for surviving the Japanese justice system, Yamagishi simply responded, “Never give up.” He then recommended those struggling in the process to find something interesting to do — his own method was to tease the guards outside his cell, he joked.

After this the guests answered any questions the crowd had for them and the meeting came to an end.

The full report, Japan’s “Hostage Justice” System, can be found online.

Beyblades X Will Rock Your World!

Beyblades: A toy, or much more?

By Henry Rogers

Two children sit in a dark basement with stern looks on their faces. Between them sits an arena, a place where only one victor will be decided. Three, two, one, and boom, they’re off. The clash of metal and screams of encouragement fill the air. As the dust settles there is only one left standing.

What is this? What are these children doing? They are playing Beyblade: an international phenomenon that has been bringing children joy since the late 90’s.

Beyblade is made by the Japanese toy conglomerate Takara TOMY, which you might know for its plethora of toys ranging from Beyblade to the Game of Life. TOMY has just announced a new generation of Beyblade which they plan on using to revolutionize the “gear sports” industry.

Gear sports are defined by TOMY as “a competition that requires players to improve their skills, such as practicing shooting and acquiring knowledge of customizations and reconfigurations using gear with meticulous setup possibilities.” While the idea of Beyblade becoming a sport may seem ridiculous to some, it is not to those who attended the Paris World Championship in 2018. 

Poster for the Paris world Championship Tournament in 2018

Beyblades are spinning tops made of plastic and metal designed for children ages six and up. The goal of the game is to be the last top still standing. The players simultaneously launch their Beyblades into an arena (often sold separately) and gain points if they knock out, knock down, or even explode the other top. As TOMY explains, Beyblade requires “heart, technique, and physical strength.” The mechanism to launch the Beyblade has the grip of a gun and a long plastic tab, which, when pulled, causes the toy to launch into the arena at a high-speed toward its opponent.

The tops themselves vary in looks as well as ability. Currently there are four categories of Beyblades: attack, stamina, defense, and balance. Each one is designed to have its own play style and an opposing style that counters it. With its strengths and weaknesses, the Beyblade that a player chooses is very important to the game. For example, the defensive Beyblade has features such as sloped sides to deflect blows, but its heavy frame causes it to struggle to push other Beyblades out of the arena.

While the Beyblade is relatively new the concept is not. The spinning top game is based off of the traditional Japanese game beigoma. This traditional game was extremely popular in the early 20th century but fell off as new toys entered the post-war market. Beyblade is the clear continuation of this traditional game as beigoma uses metal (or even earlier seashell) tops to battle. What is interesting is that since beigoma tops were manufactured in a time where metal tops came with imperfections, the players would customize them. They would use wax, lead, and other materials to balance their tops in an attempt to gain an edge. These early customizations are most likely an inspiration for the wide range of customization and flexibility within modern Beyblade.

Beigoma tops with the string used to spin them.

There have been three generations of Beyblade stretching back to the initial launch in 1999. The first generation holds the product name “Beyblade,” followed by the “Metal Fight Beyblade” seven years later in 2008. The third and most recent rendition is the “Beyblade Burst,” which hit stores in 2015.  Why is this important? Well, because TOMY has just announced the fourth generation: “BEYBLADE X.” 

From a product standpoint the company will be releasing 12 new products on the market at launch on July 15th, 2023. This will include four new Beyblades: the Dran Sword, Hells Scythe, Wizard Arrow, and Knight Shield. This new generation is set to have the X(extreme) Dash gimmick. This is boasted to enable special moves “just like in anime.”

BEYBLADE BX-02 Hells Scythe

The company is planning on doing more with this launch than just release the next generation of their product. They want to change the culture. TOMY is attempting to do this through one main goal: the development of gear sports. This is being pushed through media sponsored by TOMY, such as new manga that will be released monthly and a new animated show set to release later this year. On top of this, Beyblade is pushing into the realm of active media, collaborating with the video game Roblox to bring Beyblade into the digital world. While at the same time showcasing Beyblade battles in real time through XR (extended reality) with the help of Litpa Inc.

The corporation has released a short movie which encompasses the new competitive spirit they are trying to bring to Beyblade. The short film is directed by Kosei Skine, a decorated short film creator. The movie is described as: “an edgy and unique world of gear sports.”

Following the roll out of the Beyblade-X campaign and the push for gear sports, TOMY will be holding a “Masters Tournament” this winter. This is the suspected culmination of the gear sports campaign. There have been many Beyblade tournaments in the past, most notably the 2018 World Championship in Paris, but the masters tournament is attempting to be the greatest. The event is boasting “large and luxurious” prizes in an effort to drum up more competition than ever.

TOMY is expecting this new generation to be quite profitable, as past rollouts have been, with the previous generations bringing in around a couple billion yen each, each one surpassing the previous. With the BX-07 start dash kit costing 5,720 (tax included) while including everything a player, needs this prediction should not be far off.

BX-07 start dash kit

Will this new generation of Beyblades change the game? Will gear sports take over as TOMY is pushing for?

We won’t know the answers to these questions until July 15th. But what we can be certain of is that Beyblade has a great past. We’re excited to see what it does in the future.

What happened this last weekend at the G7 Summit in Hiroshima?

by Henry Rogers and Jake Adelstein

The 2023 Hiroshima G7 summit ended yesterday against the backdrop of the first-ever city to be destroyed by an atomic bomb. The summit covered a wide array of ideas and policy initiatives from the war in Ukraine to the vulnerability of the global south.

The member nations reaffirmed their support for democratic Ukraine in the war with Russia. President Biden promised to allow Ukraine to have fourth-generation fighter jets such as the F-16 and the other G7 nations promised to help. Ukraine’s European allies have announced the formation of a coalition to donate these planes. As to who will be donating and how many is yet to be announced, but who will be training these pilots has been publicly decided. Denmark and the United States have already committed to teaching Ukrainian pilots.

Severe sanctions, such as banning Russian diamond sales, were agreed upon to isolate Russia further and hold the nation’s government accountable for the war. The G7 acknowledged that Russia has been utilizing sanction dodging techniques partially nullifying previous sanctions. They urged countries not to participate in these techniques and have created targeted sanctions to counter them.

 Strong protests were lodged against economic coercion by China and support for Taiwan was reaffirmed. The G7 created a China communique with leaders saying they will not attempt to block China’s development and do not want to de-couple from China. However, the member nations agreed on a strategy of de-risking. This approach will come in the form of bolstering non-Chinese supply chains and working to develop resources and technology without reliance on China.

After a surprise in-person visit by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, Biden pledged almost 400 million dollars worth of security assistance. This includes new technology, vehicles, and ammunition. All on top of the new policy allowing fourth-generation fighters to be donated to Ukraine.

Zelensky’s surprise in-person visit allowed him to meet with countries that have stayed neutral in the war, such as India and Brazil. Zelensky told the press that he had a very productive meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India. The Ukrainian prime minister explained that while he was not able to meet with Brazilian President Lula, he was able to speak to all of the attending countries and get his message across.

The summit was not just significant politically but symbolically as well. This was the first time many of the member nations ever had a leader visit the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park. Before the summit began Kishida brought them together at the site, and they paid their respects to those killed in the world’s first atomic bombing.

It was a reminder of the terrible cost of nuclear war at a time when Russia is threatening to use tactical nuclear weapons. And while Russian troops are using a seized nuclear power plant in Ukraine as a shield. While at the same time, in the east nuclear pressure is heightened by the Chinese and North Koreans. Each building up and modernizing their nuclear arsenals.

Kishida ended his summary speech on a hopeful note. 

“There is a difference between dreaming and ideals. Ideals are within our reach. All of us are now citizens of Hiroshima, we should take practical steps, step by step, toward the ideal of our children, grandchildren, and descendants to live on a nuclear-weapon-free earth.”

Zelensky, ended his final speech today on a defiant note– one that also underlined the fears that Russia might play the nuclear card. 

“I was very touched by the photo of the Hiroshima citizen who perished after the explosion and only his shadow remained on the ground. Russia wants us to be gone and wants our country to be a shadow like that. But that will never happen.” 

What is the G7, and why is it in Hiroshima?

The Group of Seven, or G7 for short, is an international organization made up of the top seven economies in the world, excluding China and India. The G7 has no established office or leader, and the head of the organization rotates between the member states. The leader of each of these states is that countries representative to the G7 and the head of the delegation that travels to the yearly summit. The yearly summit is held by whichever member is the current chairman. The members who attend are the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Italy, Germany, Japan, and Canada. 

On top of these members, the European Union is a non-enumerated member and has participated in summits since 1977. The G7 was first started in 1973 with only four members under the name the Liberty Group, then adding Japan and morphing to the group of five later that year. The group quickly grew to seven nations adding Italy in 1975 and Canada in 1976 as they were the next largest economies. The group did not and has not added a member since Russia joined the group in 1998 growing it to the group of eight. This group has shrunk back into the group of seven as Russia was expelled post its 2014 invasion of Crimea. 

While there are only seven member states and one non-enumerated member there are many other nations in attendance. The Members often invite nations from around the world. This year, Japan invited South Korea and Australia to the Summit this year as the members discussed Indo-pacific security, as well as India and Brazil for the discussion of aiding the global south.

The G7 was started as a purely economic forum, but as it is made up of some of the most influential nations in the world, it has morphed into passing more broad policy initiatives. This year at the Hiroshima Summit was no exception. The summit took place in Hiroshima because Fumio Kishida, Japan’s prime minister, is the current chairman of the G7 and a resident of Hiroshima. But he did not choose the once-decimated Japanese city because it was his childhood home. He chose Hiroshima because it is the first city ever to be decimated by a nuclear weapon. He felt that it was the best location to discuss one of the main aspects of this year’s summit: nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation.

Kishida’s closing comments

via 岸田文雄 [@kishida230]

         The Hiroshima Summit was very important for Prime Minster Kishida, and in his closing speech, he covered why.

He expressed his resolve to pursue the idea of a nuclear-free world. The prime minister declared, “We are all citizens of Hiroshima,” calling for an end to nuclear weapons.

And in an apparent jab at Russia and its nuclear threats over the invasion of Ukraine, Kishida said: “The use and the threat of using nuclear weapons to change the status quo by force are unacceptable.” And “As the G7, we will make efforts to bring about a just and lasting peace to Ukraine as soon as possible.”

The Prime Minister exclaimed, “We will aim for the complete denuclearization of North Korea,” as the small authoritarian nation is now and has been a direct threat to Japan with its young nuclear program.

Furthermore, as the novel coronavirus subsides, he confirmed solidarity to prepare for the next infectious disease crisis. He announced his intention to contribute a total of 7.5 billion dollars to the public and private sectors of Japan in the field of global health.

He expressed his intention to promote efforts to strengthen the economic resilience and economic security of the international community. He also discussed the inclusion of invited members and how the G7 was going to attempt to include them and the global south more. This inclusion is in part because of the vulnerability of the global south and its underestimated importance to global policy.

Kishida ended his speech by stressing the importance of upholding international law. 

Masks are off at Tokyo’s best fetish party, Department H (unless you’re into that)

Just when you thought it was time to take off your masks, it might be time to put them back on — the crazier and wilder the better– at Tokyo’s best modern day masquerade ball. 

Department H is, broadly writ, a fetish party that takes place on the first Saturday of every month in eastern Tokyo. The party doesn’t start until midnight, about when the last trains leave Uguisudani Station, and it goes on at least until the first trains just before 5 AM. Basically, once you’re there – you’re good as stuck.

Those who dress for the theme get a nice discount on the entry fee, so naturally, the conbini next door looks like Halloween in Shibuya with slightly more latex, harnesses, and exposed skin. 

It seemed like a good sign that the day I went happened to land on April Fool’s Day. Early on, a kindly tour guide of sorts found me in the crowd. Newcomers and casual attendees are more than welcome at Department H, but the regulars can still spot a newbie among the familiar faces (or familiar costumes). An older, skinny Japanese man in a trucker hat spotted me, said hi, and struck up a conversation. He looked like he had just gotten back from a job operating heavy machinery with his old flannel button down and well-worn jeans.

It seemed rude to ask but at some point we got to the topic of the dress code. He complimented my outfit, I thanked him, and finally asked the burning question I had since I saw him in all his trucker hat glory: did he usually not dress up?

He leaned in and said matter-of-factly, “Actually, I’m wearing women’s underwear.” 

Trucker Hat has been coming to Department H regularly for the past 10 years, only a fraction of the 30-odd years that the event has been active. The pandemic has squeezed the event—most nightlife was shut down altogether at the beginning of the pandemic, and even when the clubs opened back up, they were still required to maintain less than half of the pre-pandemic maximum occupancy levels. And even after crowd restrictions were lifted to pre-pandemic levels, attendance remained low. 

But on this day, business was booming and the floor was packed. “It’s good to see Department H busy again—this is one of the busiest nights I’ve seen in a while.”

The open borders into Japan are a likely boon for the event, as Department H is a bit of a destination for the tourist looking to go off the beaten path. 

This night alao happened to be the first Department H after the national mask mandate was lifted. Still, around a quarter of the people were wearing masks, and of those, many had incorporated them into their costumes. For an event like this masks seemed to serve a variety of purposes: fashion, anonymity, and of course, health. 

Some details about the early history of Department H were beyond what he could confidently tell me, so he introduced me to a veteran member of the staff. She was in drag and double masked, and she had the wires for her walkie-talkie clipped onto her bright red, sporty dress.

She explained to us that the founder, Gogh Imaizumi, lived in the United States for a number of years and was struck by New York nightlife in the 70’s and 80’s, particularly the BDSM clubs. 

(Gogh, by the way, is a talented visual artist and designs the posters for the event in his signature pop-art/comic book style. He even had a design collaboration back in 2018 with Zima, which happens to be the alcoholic beverage of choice for JSRC editor-in-chief Jake Adelstein. After a long, dark, mournful period where it was pulled from shelves, I stumbled upon it at a random Famima just today!)

When Gogh moved back to Japan, he decided he wanted to bring a piece of the club scene back to Tokyo. Department H started to become a regular event in the early-to-mid 90’s in Shibuya until it moved to its current home, the opulent-bordering-on-garish Tokyo Kinema Club in love hotel spangled Uguisudani.

Our history lecturer

Tokyo Kinema Club is unassuming from the outside. After the bouncer checked our IDs, a drag queen in a cowboy hat ushered us into the elevator that took us up to the actual entrance. Inside, just about every surface you can cover is covered with red and gold jacquard print up until a pale marble wall that curved around the spiral staircase where I had met my new friend. I had gotten so caught up talking that I hadn’t had a chance to actually go upstairs.

I said goodbye to Trucker Hat to go explore some more and thanked him for his hospitality. He thanked me for talking with him and that he hoped to see me again. 

Before I headed upstairs he asked me “Would you let me give you the underwear I’m wearing? As a present.” 

To date and with no trace of irony, this is one of the nicest gestures I have ever received from a stranger. I did decline – there wasn’t a lot of room on the clothes I was wearing to stash a pair of underwear without losing them, and I don’t really know what I’d do with them once I got home. But he let me take a picture of him to remember him by and we went our separate ways. 

For me, it was back to the spiral staircase upstairs to the balcony area. There’s cushiony seats and booths upholstered in that same red and gold pattern from downstairs, arranged around white tables with a few ashtrays placed on top of each one. The ashtrays were filling up and the smoke was thick, especially as the night progressed. When I arrived there was only a slight haze in the air but by 3 AM it was getting difficult to see more than a few feet in front of me. 

There were various groups set up at the bigger tables showing attendees the ropes for an array of kink-related activities: how to properly care for latex, how to arrange and wear leather harnesses, safe practices for kinbaku (shibari bondage–literal ropes). 

But once the stage lights change and the performances start, all eyes move downstairs. Drag artists emerged from behind a gold curtain and floated down a flight of stairs, taking turns strutting down the catwalk extending into the audience. The balcony is the best place to sit down and watch the show, but the floor is where the energy is. 

Following that was a lively wrestling match between two people in lizard masks which supposedly turned into a softcore sex show. Unfortunately I just barely missed the plot twist while watching a small group of people clad in leather harnesses and G-strings form a human pyramid. 

I re-joined the crowd when the samba dancers took the stage, all feathers and neon and rhinestones in a blur. 

But some of the best costumes were those that were off stage. Someone everyone noticed was a man whose self-made outfit was constructed with a dizzying variety of underwear. He was covered in a patchwork of satin, frills, ribbons, and appliqués, with an elaborate, towering headpiece of hanging underwear fixed to the top of his head.

He wears this to every Department H he goes to, although naturally the outfit has gone through many iterations of improvements. Somehow, he had gotten tiny lights to shine through some of the fabric, which rendered the overall effect a bit like that of a bioluminescent jellyfish.

I also met a middle aged, long-haired, bespectacled man in a robe holding a candelabra. He was with an exceedingly normal-looking middle aged woman at a booth selling items made by artists in the community. He had tapped me on the shoulder—“You’re a photographer? Would you mind taking photos of my band at our next gig?” He introduced himself as Sato, and on top of apparently being a guitarist for a band with fellow middle aged men, he worked this booth with the other woman every month. I told him that I’m not an actual photographer to which he was completely unfazed and undeterred so I gave him my contact info. Why not?

In exchange I asked him for a portrait and if I could use it for my article. He deadpanned “I will do anything for public attention” and swiftly, expertly, struck a few poses.

By the way, in order to move between the upstairs and downstairs floors, you had to walk by an exhibitionist sitting in a folding chair on the landing. He was very happily working his way through a case of sounding rods. From what I could tell by looking at the open case whenever I passed by over the course of the night, he had made some good solid progress on increasing the rod diameters. Good for him! 

As a high traffic area, the landing seemed to attract other exhibitionists. Inside of a glass case built into the wall that might have once been an aquarium was a person leisurely masturbating. And standing a few feet away was a man wearing just a thin pair of shorts, a face mask, and a sign around his neck in English that read “Ladies, please Squeeze my balls”.

In very large characters across his torso he had the same message written in Japanese. Near his waistline where it said “下さい” there were two arrows pointing down with a heart doodled between them which, reading into it, may have represented either love, goodwill, or his balls. 

He was rather soft-spoken and used polite, genial Japanese. I apologized for my less polite Japanese, and when I explained that I was from the United States, he lit up (as much as someone can under a full mask). He had visited San Francisco some years back and loved it. He went sightseeing during the day and went to kink events on some nights, but the highlight for him was walking around the city with his full getup on— shorts, mask, sign, Sharpie. It was a pleasant surprise to find that many people were interested and were happy to fulfill his request. The ones who weren’t interested just looked the other way– no big deal. He’s planning another trip this year.

Department H is a major hotspot fetish party in Tokyo (and Japan in general; some make the pilgrimage from outside of the city), but with that comes a broad range of kinks and fetishes among the attendees. In fact, he went on to explain, it’s actually quite rare to find someone who shares any overlap with you. So while it seems like Department H is a paradise for people with non-normative sexual interests, the lack of specificity can make the party lonely at times. He shared with me that, despite all of the people walking by him, there weren’t many people who had talked with him aside from a few of the other regulars. Tokyo is a big city, but he believes that the kink community is smaller, and the interests are somewhat less diverse. 

That being said, he emphasized that Department H was always full of the nicest people, and I had to agree. I can’t say I’ve ever been out to a club or party where I felt as comfortable as I did at Department H. 

Shyly, he asked me if I would want to squeeze his balls. I felt a little bad saying no, but he brightly said that it was OK—not everyone is into everything, and everyone has different comfort levels. 

In fact, everything at Department H seemed to follow an underlying condition: only if you want to. I found myself in a crowd, forming a circle around a salaryman on the floor and a purple-haired woman whipping him with a cat o’ nine tails. After he had had enough, another man, this time with his shirt off, took his place and knelt on the ground. His back was already covered in fresh welts from a previous session earlier in the night. 

Another circle formed around a man who was getting slapped in the face by one woman and getting his groin stepped on by another with the toe of her very large platform stilettos, with an intentionality and seemingly practiced technique that eluded me. The man next to me must have read my mind because he started to explain to me the best practices for stepping on someone’s genitalia. A few others in the circle, noticing our conversation, pointed at me and pointed at the man on the floor and asked me if I’d like a turn. Pedagogically, I found this rather sound: after theory comes the supervised practical.

As you might have already guessed, this would be my third time declining an offer at Department H. And like the previous two times, I was feeling a impolite—and once again, no one seemed offended. They made the universal sequence of gestures for “no worries!” and  “let us know if you change your mind!” and shifted their attention right back to the groin-stepping, this time with the needle-point heel of the shoes. 

Stealing from my roommate’s analogy, the closest experience I’ve had to this is when I was the new kid at school during recess on my very first day. Some kids asked me if I wanted to play pretend, a few asked me if I wanted to play kickball (ha ha), and someone asked me if I wanted to give each other Indian sunburns (terrible name, by the way) under the slides. Even though I ended up doing something else each time, I could always go back and ask “hey, can I join?” if I wanted to—and they’d almost always be happy to get another person in on the fun. 

Learning isn’t all fun and games: Around 5 AM I said my goodbyes but quickly discovered that my wallet was missing. I bounced from staff member to staff member to figure out what happens to lost items and where the closest police station was that I could go to. It was a process that, at 5 in the morning, felt not entirely dissimilar to facing the ghosts of Christmas past, present and future. Or fighting seven evil exes. For me the number was smack in the middle with five very kind and well-meaning fetish party workers.

(There are two police stations, almost precisely equidistant from the venue. None of us could figure out which one was the one the organizers would hand any lost and found items over to, if at all. I gave up.)

I left a little after 6, blinking into the terrible morning sunlight. I was worried that someone at Department H had stolen my wallet, and worse: that they had put a stain on my otherwise wholesome night at the fetish club. 

It was in my roommate’s bag all along.

A different kind of Tokyo film festival

A 2-day international film festival is taking place this weekend in Tokyo, featuring short films from Japan, Norway, Kyrgyzstan, and more. Damah International Film Festival moved to Tokyo in 2019 in preparation for the 2020 Olympics, but got its start in Seattle in 2001.

But the festival draws more than tourists, short film enthusiasts, and ex-pat cinephiles. Despite being a minority religion in Japan– anywhere from 1.5% of the population or less— the film festival is vying to capture the attention of Japanese Christians.

The face of Damah and one of seven co-founders is Mark Joseph, an American producer born in Tokyo to a missionary family. As Joseph explained in a 2019 interview with the Japanese site Christian Shimbun, the original inspiration behind the film festival was to highlight storytelling through film with a particular interest in those with moral or spiritual lessons like those shown in the Bible. In fact, this ethos is the namesake of the festival; damah, in Hebrew, translates to “parable”.

Damah itself has no official religious requirements for the films nor the filmmakers, but Joseph expressed hope that the festival would inspire Christians in Japan to explore and develop their capabilities in film and other creative outlets.

The organizers seem to understand that a film festival with religious overtones has the potential to limit interest and accessibility for the event, as the website bears no mention of these elements that inspired the festival in the first place. Instead, Damah is simply an event where people can go to watch films with conclusions that lean toward being inspirational and reflective, even heartwarming.

Damah International Film Festival takes place May 13th to May 14th at Hibiya Convention Hall. All films are subtitled in English.

The Unbearable Pathos Of Poop (Okiku’s World film review)

by Kaori Shoji

Poop is the main thing that remains in the mind after watching Okiku And The World. Lots and lots of poop. Ninety-nine percent of the film was shot in black and white which alleviates much of the shock of witnessing poop in almost every scene but there’s no getting away from the frequency of its appearance and the sheer volume of its…portions. We see mounds of it up close. We see it flung about on a dirt road. We see it overflowing from a public toilet after a long spell of rain. Poop and more poop. Just deal with it, I guess. 

Holy shit! There’s so much poop in this movie!
Click here to see the trailer and learn more about the film

Okiku’s World is director Junji Sakamoto’s 30th feature and as he said in an online interview, he wanted to “do something different” this time. He wasn’t kidding. Sakamoto’s first period film marks an occasion in which the protagonists are two young shit collectors and the dirt-poor daughter of an ex-samurai. The shit collectors swill poop out of public toilets (there are two in every alleyway), pay the landlord for the pile(s) and sell them to farmers who then use the poop to fertilize their vegetable crops. The daughter of the ex-samurai who has no marriage prospects, teaches young children to write at a nearby temple. Her father farts at dawn every morning, then goes out to the toilet to relieve his bowels. A few feet away, the daughter, who had been rudely awakened by the sounds emitted by her deadbeat dad, squats on the ground to wash her face in a basin of water. It’s a testament to Sakamoto’s filmmaking prowess that he somehow manages to make this scene aesthetic while gently emphasizing the awkwardness of their conversation (“Why do you always fart at dawn, father?” “I really don’t know.”) 

There’s nothing remotely glossy about Okiku’s World, immediately setting it apart from most period films set in Japan. And despite deploying the biggest names in Japanese cinema, the most oft-repeated word in the dialogue is ‘kuso’ which means ‘shit.’ 

We see the internationally renowned Haru Kuroki who stars in the titular role of Okiku. There’s Okiku’s love object Kanichiro as newbie shit collector Chuji. His real-life father and multiple award winning actor Koichi Sato plays Okiku’s deadbeat dad Gembei. And then there’s Sota Ikematsu who plays Yasuke, a veteran shit swiller who shows Chuji the ropes of the job and likes to wax philosophical about poop and life and how it’s all connected. 

Ikematsu is prized by Japanese auteurs for his willingness to be nitty-gritty, unpretty and uncouth. You may have seen him in another period movie called Killing (Zan) back in 2018, in which he played a cowardly samurai masturbating to the sight of a young woman bathing. In Okiku’s World he spends the entire movie swilling shit, cracking jokes about shit and occasionally getting shit dumped all over him. 

I’m using ‘shit’ here as a direct translation of ‘kuso’ but Linda Hoaglund, who created the brilliant English subtitles, chooses ‘poop.’ It adds to the quaintness and comedy of Okiku’s World but also takes something away from the dismal darkness that permeated Japanese society in these times. The story is set in the late Edo Period around 1851, two years before the Black Ships came to Japanese shores and the Tokugawa Shogunate along with the entire samurai class, went through a string of anxiety attacks before finally opening up the country a decade or so later. Through it all and no matter what else was happening in government and society, someone had to swill out the shit and transport them to the farms. 

In the Japanese business world, glorifying the Edo Period (1603-1868) has always been a trendy pastime, the notion being that Japan’s capitol city of Edo (now inner city Tokyo) was a thriving, prosperous and completely circular society that ran on a state-of-the-art recycling system with workable plumbing. Edo was supposedly an SDGs expert’s wet dream. There was zero trash and nothing was wasted, least of all human excrement which was an important commodity. In the film, people are constantly haggling with Yasuke and Chuji to pay them more for their feces because “we eat better stuff and our shit is worth more,” ignoring the labor of swilling it out and carrying it on their shoulders, in buckets balanced on either end of a long pole. Should Yasuke and Chuji trip, slip or otherwise lose their balance, the term ‘losing one’s shit’ or ‘caught in a shitstorm’ take on a whole other meaning. 

This is Yasuke and Chuji’s whole life – swilling and carrying shit, every single day, until they die. They were absolutely essential in a society ruled by a samurai class who for the most part, weren’t essential at all. Death was often the samurai’s only justification for life – they could prove their worth by dying at their own hand or be struck down by colleagues, as in the case of Gembei. Okiku tries to prevent this fate but she too, is injured during the attack. Months later, she recovers but her father is long dead and her vocal cords are permanently damaged. 

Okiku’s World comes off as Orwellian but it’s never dystopian. There’s something marvelously farcial and liberating about the lives of the three protagonists. Yasuke and Chuji’s existence may be mired in excrement but they’re definitely onto something as they observe: “You shove food in the top hole and it comes out as shit from the bottom hole. Without us, the whole of Edo will sink in shit!” 

As for Okiku, liberated from the patriarchy and the world of the samurai with the execution of Gembei, finally acquires the kind of freedom that Edo women in her class rarely knew. She was free to live alone, free to have a job and to have a boyfriend of sorts. It doesn’t matter what she and Chuji are to each other exactly. They have no future or even the past. There is only the knowledge that no matter what happens, there will be shit to swill and tomorrow, there’ll be more of the same. None of the trio will likely live past 25. But when they are together, they bask in the moment and their youth as something incredibly precious. 

The Japanese take toilets very, very seriously, attesting to the cleanliness of the public toilets in Tokyo and the rest of the nation. Deep in our hearts we know that romance and love and lofty, political ideals cannot exist without a flush toilet in the general vicinity. It’s time to stop glorifying the Edo Period and see it for what it was: a pile of shit unless someone took the trouble to swill it all out. 

Tokyo Private Eye (東京探偵) the sequel to Tokyo Vice was published on March 28th 2023, with Marchialy (France). English version next year!

photo by Reylia Slaby


Investigation, Damnation, and Salvation In The Land Of The Setting Sun

Tokyo Detective (Tokyo Private Eye) the sequel to Tokyo Vice was published by Marchialy (France) on March 29th this year. The English version is coming in 2024.

The book opens on one of the most devastating days in Japan’s history, March 11, 2011, which left thousands dead and missing—and culminated in a triple nuclear meltdown. Our protagonist and narrator Jake Adelstein, seasoned American journalist turned private eye, who has brought back bags of supplies from the US to be taken to the disaster area by yakuza friends–discovers he’s having a meltdown of his own: liver cancer. 

Join Jake as he takes us back on a journey and recounts the events leading up to the disaster, the 2009 publication of his memoir TOKYO VICE: An American Reporter On The Police Beat in Japan, and how he became a corporate gumshoe. He picks up where he left off,  chronicling his other career, battling the yakuza and criminals as a due diligence investigator while battling his own worst enemy: himself.  Previously the only American journalist to have been admitted to the insular Tokyo Metropolitan Police Press Club, Jake covered extortion, murder, and human trafficking–fighting to make Japan recognize the problem. No longer a reporter but still trying to be a knight in dingy armor, he realizes that even a paladin has to earn a living. And instead of having 10 million readers now he’s writing reports that will only be read by three corporate executives.

This sequel to TOKYO VICE is written as a stand-alone volume and provides an in-depth history of the inner-workings of crime in Japan, and not just the gangsters. With each job assignment Jake learns more about industries rife with financial fraud, anti-social forces, corruption, and fraudulent bookkeeping–and how to spot a business that no client should engage with. 

The book is divided into three parts coinciding with the breakdown of Jake’s personal life in parallel with Japan’s meltdown and an in depth analysis of how the Yakuza operate: UNUSUAL EVENTS, MELTDOWN, and THE FALLOUT.

UNUSUAL EVENTS sets the stage for the state of Japan leading up to the meltdown. The yakuza, like many criminal organizations, were not born out of thin air. Their ranks have come from members of society who do not feel like they have a place.  Those marginalized by society such as the Korean-Japanese and burakumin, among others, were not given many opportunities by society, and were drawn into a life of crime.  

But it’s a high level of crime now. In fact, one day Japan’s equivalent of is taken over by a Yakuza front company. Information is king. 

Jake transitions into a career as a detective introducing a team of characters ranging from fight-til’-the-death former prosecutor Toshiro Igari to brave right-hand researcher and human trafficking victim advocate, Michiel Brandt. He makes new friends and enemies along the way–while dealing with the PTSD from the events that took place in Tokyo Vice by self-medicating with sleeping pills, booze, casual sex and clove cigarettes.

Learn how gangsters were gradually ousted from the financial markets by the due diligence of  dedicated investigators, rebel cops, and new laws.

Meanwhile, TOKYO VICE  is published but an old foe resurges — the ruthless yakuza Tadamasa Goto.  If Tokyo Vice was Jake’s attempt to ruin and get his nemesis ‘erased’– Goto outdoes him with the publication of his autobiography, Habakarinagara, loaded with veiled threats.  When Jake asks his mentor, Igari Toshiro, to help him take Goto to court, Igari bravely agrees but….. 

MELTDOWN lands us in a disrupted Japanese society. Jake learns he has liver cancer while Japan is in the midst of a nuclear meltdown. His “best friend forever” Michiel is diagnosed with leukemia for the fourth time while the corruption of the Japanese nuclear industry comes to light. 

Jake, hired to find out whether Tokyo Electric Power Company is responsible for the accident and what that would mean for investors, returns to his investigator roots with a renewed attitude to not give up and seeks out a new enemy to vanquish.

In chapters from the  FALLOUT like The Nine Digit Economy: How The Yakuza Turned Japan’s Stock Market Into Their Casino, he shows how and why the authorities felt that anti-social forces threatened the very foundations of Japan’s economy. 

Jake gets ahold of the most dangerous photo in Japan, showing the Vice President of Japan’s Olympic Committee with the head of the Yamaguchi-gumi, Japan’s largest yakuza group, but can he break the story before his own knees get broken? And in the process of reporting on the Olympics discovers that the biggest gang of all in Japan may be a political party, founded by war criminals including former Prime Minister Abe’s grandfather, yakuza, ultra-nationalists and funded by the CIA.

What’s the difference between the Liberal Democratic Party politicians and the much-feared Yamaguchi-gumi thugs? It may only really be the badges they wear on their lapel. 

While the book can be an enriching companion and sequel to TOKYO VICE: An American Reporter On The Police Beat in Japan, TOKYO PRIVATE EYE: Investigation, Damnation, and Salvation In The Land Of The Setting Sun is a memoir that can stand alone recounting the years 2007 to 2014 through the eyes of an intrepid reporter and gumshoe with three decades spent covering the dark side of the sun. 

Not only is it a riveting memoir about the life junctions we all face, including grief and career changes, but it also provides a working knowledge of Japanese organized crime, political corruption, the process of corporate investigations and shows the collusion between mafia, state, and business that led to a nuclear disaster.  It also shows that Japan’s biggest problems are not necessarily the fading yakuza. 

Early reviews have been positive. (Translated from French Into English)

Jake Adelstein has been a journalist in Japan for 30 years and this is his fourth book. If it is called Tokyo Detective, it is because the author had a career as a private detective where he investigated financial companies in Japan for other companies who wanted to have themselves if they risked compromising with yakuzas. He also tells us here about big scandals like the nuclear mafia, collusion in the organization of the Tokyo Olympic Games, financial schemes of all kinds with their (terrible) consequences and more private events like his cancer or the loss of close friends. A form of melancholy runs through the book, which also has a lot to contribute to help put the madness of this world into perspective.It’s a difficult book to qualify but an exciting read for anyone who wants to learn about the reality of Japan while discovering it from a very human point of view.

It is an understatement to say that Jake Adelstein immerses us in the heart of Japan and more particularly of its underground universe with its mafias, its front companies or its rogue politicians and magistrates. He dissects all the levels of corruption in Japanese society to make it a solid thriller bordering on documentary as the details of Japanese society abound.

It’s very simple, the writing is a mixture of in-depth knowledge of Japan and a certain perfectly Western irony. If the author benefits from the knowledge acquired during his years there, he does not hesitate to remind us of the complexity of this Japanese society even through the eyes of a seasoned “Gaijin” like him. from DayFr Euro

TOKYO VICE has been adapted for television into an eight episode straight-to-series on HBO Max starring Ansel Elgort playing Jake Adelstein. The series also stars Ken Watanabe and is written and executive produced by Tony Award-winning playwright J. T. Rogers (Jake’s high school senpai)  with Endeavor Content serving as the studio. Michael Mann directed the pilot episode and served as executive producer.  The second season is currently filming in Tokyo

Jake Adelstein is one of few experts on Japanese organized crime and the underworld. A former special correspondent for the LA Times, he has written for the Times, the Washington Post, the Japan Times and Vice. His other two books, Le Dernier Des Yakuzas (2017) J’ai Vendu Mon âme En Bitcoins (2019) with Nathalie Stucky, have both been published by Marchialy in France, his “third home.” He currently writes for the Daily Beast, the Asia Times, Tempura in France, and ZAITEN.

Jake Adelstein has published three books with Marchialy in France. They’re not just his publishers, they’re family.

     *Press release cover photo by Reylia Slaby 

Lessons Learned From Encounters With Clickbait Journalists

In the yakuza world they say, “As soon as you get to the top, someone will try to kick you down.” The world of journalism is, sadly, surprisingly similar. Not that I’m a top world-class journalist, but apparently successful enough that it generates envy and a certain amount of trolling. I anger weeaboos and historical revisionists. 

(For the French Translation go to Comment gagner un combat perdu d’avance contre les auteurs de pièges à clics ?)

In the yakuza world they say, “As soon as you get to the top, someone will try to kick you down.” The world of journalism is, sadly, surprisingly similar. You can’t let yourself get kicked too much, but there’s no point in fighting the same fight over and over again. Like a good private eye, you have to remember who your client is and focus on getting your job done, rather than your rivals. 😉

Mostly I blow off the trolls and misanthropes but I’m a little tired of it.

 I’m 54. In many ways, I’ve been dealing with it since I started the job in 1993 when I knocked on a door at a crime scene and the housewife that answered insisted that as a gaijin, I obviously couldn’t be a reporter, and that I must be there to sell newspapers. So it goes. This month, on April 15th, marked 30 years since I started as a journalist in Japan. 

I still love my job. I’m happy to have moved on from primarily covering yakuza to Japanese politics, although the transition wasn’t hard. Japan is a one-party democracy and the ruling party, the Liberal Democrat Party (a misleading name) was founded with yakuza money by war criminals Kodama Yoshio and Kishi Nobusuke. The latter of the war criminals deserves an honorable mention for being Shinzo Abe’s grandpa.

I have taken breaks from journalism. I spent 2006 to 2008 working on a study of human trafficking commissioned by the US State Department, which of course, involved looking into how organized crime profited from it and who they paid off and chummed around with to get away with it. Not surprisingly Shinzo Abe was one name that certainly came up. But that’s another story. You can read the report

Not all yakuza are bad people but in general they’re bad for society. The average age of a yakuza is now about 51. Their numbers have been declining steadily since October 1st 2011. On this date, the organized crime exclusionary ordinances—which forbid doing business with the yakuza– went into effect nationwide.   

We’re fading out together. I write about them less and less. In my fourth book, Tokyo Detective, published in France the day after my 54th birthday, I try to explain why the Japanese mob is doomed and how it happened. 

I really enjoyed the book tour. I love France and I love the way they really take journalism seriously and their love of books and the crime and true-crime genre. Japan and France are weirdly similar in some ways (not a lot) but even in France (怨恨–grudges or envy) seem to really bring out the worst in people. 

Last autumn 2021, out of the blue, I got a surprisingly hostile letter from a French journalist and seemingly self-declared expert on Japan. 

He’s an expert on Japan because his wife is Japanese—and who can argue with that? 

He may not be able to read or write Japanese but his wife can. He might even be very handy with Google Translate. 

The gist of the letter was pretty much as follows. I’ll paraphrase. 

”I read your book, Tokyo Vice, and it’s fiction. You never covered organized crime. I know Japan. I even signed up for the database of your old newspaper, the Yomiuri Shimbun. I did a database search and there were only 150 articles with your name on it! Only two mentioned yakuza (organized crime)—so you must be lying.” 

And at that point, I was still wondering—-am I dealing with a well-meaning idiot or a malicious idiot? One never knows and I like to be charitable. 

I explained to him that in general, especially from 1993 to 2005, reporters at the Yomiuri Shimbun didn’t get bylines. Especially on stories printed on the National News Section (shakaibu/社会部). In fact, most of the time, you only got your name put on an article if it was an explainer, opinion piece, feature, or if it involved overseas news. Those were the unwritten rules. Anyone who did a cursory look at the National News pages from 1993 to 2005 would get it. 

Because I have been trolled many times before by journalists or bloggers who want to make a name for themselves by stepping on my face (metaphorically), I sent him a list of prepared links, and access to a folder with hundreds of pages of material in Japanese and English so he could verify my career path and my background himself. Some of it was redacted to protect sources. But it was clear that he didn’t do his homework. Instead he sent a weirdly aggressive misleading letter to an organization he felt certain would have bad things to say about me: my former employer. 

His editors at Le Point, which is an excellent news magazine, to their credit, supposedly told him “You’re obsessed and there’s no story to be written. Get off your vendetta and get back to work.” But he’s obsessive and having been told to drop the story, he gave the memo to someone else. Sort of like an arsonist who fails to start a fire, and hands the matches to his buddy. 

It’s a little unethical to ask questions using the name of your newspaper and pass that on to another organization—because they don’t know all the details. It’s at the very least irresponsible.

But everyone in this business knows, if you’re going to write less than savory things about someone, the best way is to find a probable enemy of that person and ask. Then you can blame any slander on them. “Just reporting what I was told but didn’t verify.”

Here’s the list of questions they asked and my answers. I doubt they’ll share either of them with you — my guess is that they realized too late how stupid, lazy, and vindictive they come off as in context. 

Some of these questions could have been answered easily if they had done their research– I’ve already answered them on the record elsewhere. 

The problem with clickbait journalists is they use negative scoring. Every right answer is thrown out and they will only leave the questions you can’t answer, didn’t answer, are imposssible to answer or won’t answer to make you look bad. 

I get these questions over and over. Pardon my caustic notes under them, I couldn’t help it. I hope they’re at least entertaining.

The Penultimate Guide To Lazy Questions I’ve Already Answered Redux 

Prove to me that you did all the things written in your book thirty years ago or that happened twenty years ago. 

Man, can you prove what you had for breakfast three weeks ago? How about three years ago? Fortunately for you I am an information hoarder so if you looked at the files I sent you in September of last year, you’d be able to answer a lot of those doubts yourself. 

If you were seriously interested you could have started here with this article published on one of the best cultural and news sites about Nippon–Unseen Japan:

The article title:

Tokyo Vice’s Jake Adelstein: Everything You Wanted To Know (But Were Mildly Afraid To Ask)

But you’re lazy. And you’re only going to cherry-pick the things that I can’t answer and ignore every “correct” answer that I make to your barrage of questions. 

Because if you admit you were wrong, you look stupid. And your goal is to make me look stupid. And since you have the forum, like in a casino, you’re the house.  I guess we can see who’s going to win. 

Provide me with your police sources, your newspaper contacts and twenty people who can verify your entire career.

First of all, I wouldn’t do it if I could. My time at the Yomiuri has been fact-checked by the Washington Post, The LA Times, 60 Minutes and The New Yorker—I’m not doing it again. Your job is to look for them—you’re the person with a point to prove.I started working in 1993 at 24. Many of my sources, contacts, people who could vouch for me were twice my age then. Some have sadly died. In a ten-year period a lot of people pass away–we are mortal beings. In a 30-year period–a lot more people die. 

I can’t answer every single question I get nor am I bound to do so. I don’t remember everything that happened 30 years ago. There are many people who could’ve vouched for me 20 years ago, maybe 10 years ago, but a lot of them are dead. 

I’m many things and a self-professed paladin but I’m not a necromancer. 

For those of you who didn’t read a lot of Conan The Barbarian growing up, a necromancer is someone who can revive the dead or get information from them. It shouldn’t be confused with a neuromancer—a sort of cyber-wizard who might appear in a William Gibson. 

BUT, if you wanted to actually put some work in, you could verify a lot in the documents which were posted online here, with a link to more in this article, Tokyo Vice (The Book): Everything You Wanted To Know but Didn’t Ask Because You Were Too Busy Watching The Show

Of course, you’ll provide documents to refute our accusations and translate them for us. 

Of course, you’re out of your mind. Of course not. If I’m going to translate something I usually get paid for it. Translate it yourself or find someone competent to do it, and translate it with context and without malice. Referring you back to this folder again. My editor Amy Plambeck suggested: Get your wife to translate them! 

You say that the book, Tokyo Vice, was never published in Japan because it was too dangerous, but even after the danger is gone it still isn’t published. Why?

Why don’t you hire someone to at least do a Google Search in my name on Amazon? If you’re going to suck up my time, do the bare minimum of homework. 

I rewrote the book, using the original documents, with a second party checking on them for me, and it was published as トウキョウ・バイス: アメリカ人記者の警察回り体験記 in May of 2016 on Amazon. Audible also released the book, spending a considerable amount of money and time making the production using several voice actors. 

The Japanese version has a four star rating. I’m sure you haven’t read it. 

I’m sure you’ll find the worst review to quote in your hit piece. May I suggest the one star review I got because someone couldn’t figure out how to download it? 

Let me ask the same stupid question in a different way. For the first book Tokyo Vice, when Mr. Adelstein was questioned about the non publication in Japanese, he explained that this was the consequence of risk assessments by the legal department of his Japanese publisher. The latter would have feared “a bomb” and thus canceled the Japanese release, did you have confirmation of this version? 

As mentioned before, the reader’s report in Japanese was posted online here 

Trust me, it’s there. You just need to search, kid. 

Why don’t you dance your fingers across the keyboard and check. And if you want to verify the report’s  authenticity—that’s your job! Find people from Kodansha International, which is no longer in existence. Good luck! It won’t be easy unless you’re just shiftless and don’t attempt it.. 

Your articles are full of anonymous sources so you must have made them up!

Unfortunately, in Japan, especially concerning police matters, anonymous or unnamed sources in articles are the norm. 

Especially if it’s investigative journalism and not an official announcement. 

The Japanese civil servants laws make it a punishable crime for any official, including police officers, to share confidential information obtained on the job. Police can be and have been fired for talking to reporters and/or third parties and in some cases prosecuted. This is why in a typical week, The Mainichi Shimbun, a paper in Japan, might use the phrase “according to sources close to the investigation” or “investigative sources” over 20 times. With yakuza, getting named as a source, it might cost them not only their job but their life as well.  

Any self-respecting journalist in Japan who doesn’t mention this has deliberately omitted important details and has questionable motives or is an idiot or doesn’t read Japanese newspapers. But now you know. Ideally, when possible, I like to get on the record quotes or at least some agreement for attribution. 

The last time I put a magazine in touch with a detective I knew, their fact-checker called him at work, identifying the name of the publication. He was almost fired as a result. Of course, the person making that call didn’t understand the repercussions of identifying a police officer as a source, or didn’t care.

What about the other books, did the same process take place each time?

Dude, I never wanted to publish The Last Yakuza in Japanese. I need a few more people to pass away before that’s a good idea. I never thought I Sold My Soul For Bitcoins would sell in Japan but I might try. Tokyo Detective, might be published after the Tokyo Vice manga is printed.

You never really passed an examination at the Yomiuri and your claim that you got hired because you excelled in the translation section is a lie. 

Jesus Christ, I posted the exam results online months ago. Thank god I kept this crap around for years. Also, I never claimed that the sole reason I was hired was due to my excellent translation ability. It certainly helped. On the score sheet given to me by the newspaper, I was number one among all applicants in 英語問題 (English Problems)—which means translating from Japanese into English and from English into Japanese. 

You were not the foremost expert on organized crime during your time in Tokyo at the Yomiuri. In fact, you barely even covered the subject. You are not an expert on the yakuza. 

I never claimed to be “Tokyo’s best expert on the yakuza” unless I was drunk or jet-lagged. In brief, BEFORE I went to Tokyo, I spent about 6 years in Saitama, over three years covering the yakuza (1993-1996). In fact from 1994 to 1996, I was in charge of covering the Organized Crime Countermeasures Division 1 and 2. Even at the Prefectural Politics level I covered organized crime, especially relating to the collapse of the Saitama Shogin bank. if you want confirmation—-haul ass to Saitama and ask around. From 1999 to 2000, I covered the 4th Police District, which includes Kabukicho, Japan’s redlight district. I worked on two series for the National News Department about crime in Japan. One became a book called 組織犯罪 (Organized Crime). From 2003 to 2004, I was assigned to the Metropolitan Police Department covering the newly formed 組織犯罪対策部 (Organized Crime Control Bureau). Specifically, I was in charge of Organized Crime Control Division 5 (Drugs and Guns) and OCDB Special Squad, doing credit card crime. Most of that is detailed in Tokyo Vice, if you read it. Even after leaving the Metro post in 2005 back to the regular National News Department still assisted on crime coverage. From 2006 to 2008, I worked on a study of human trafficking in Japan for the US State Department  and guess who’s heavily involved in that? 

But seriously, do your homework. Start here:

I’ve posted about 160 documents which translate into hundreds of pages of material in Japanese and English in the hopes that people who want to know more about Japan, police, yakuza and the background to my books are elucidated. You actually have to read them, though ↓

The Tokyo Vice and Tokyo Detective Sources Materials For The Curious

There are many journalists who are well-versed in organized crime in Japan more than myself. A few outstanding individuals come to mind. Isano Masakatsu (磯野正勝) who was first a police reporter than a yakuza reporter. Noboru Hirosue aka “Professor Yakuza.” Atsushi Mizoguchi. Tomohiko Suzuki. Masami Kimura (Farewell Yamaguchi-gumi: The Half-Life of Tadamasa Goto). And of course, the legendary and perhaps first yakuza reporter (reporter on the yakuza) Reikichi Sumiya (RIP).

However, becoming an expert on the yakuza (a misleading term for the 23+ organized crime groups in Japan with different emblems, revenue streams, bosses, and history) actually also involves a certain amount of academic study and collecting materials as well. Over the years, I’ve obtained about 40 videos of succession ceremonies and funerals which kindly often name the yakuza on the screen. I’ve read over 200 books. I’ve spent hundreds of hours with organized crime cops, yakuza (who were yakuza at the time) and retired yakuza. I’ve made databases of their front companies and organizations. I’ve kept 14 years worth of yakuza fanzines– all of which I read. 

In fact, I was once weirdly written up and praised for my fair coverage in a yakuza fanzine, the best of the monthlies, Jitsuwa Document.  Great photos, lovely haiku, and always a section of tattooed men and women showing off their colors. 

So, in short, yes I know a lot about the yakuza and have covered them, written about them, dealt with them, and avoided them whenever possible for decades. And they were a huge part of what I covered while I was at the Yomiuri, from my Saitama days and even after. 

Do I need to chop off a pinkie for you to recognize that I might know my subject matter? 

You were never under police protection. Prove that you were. 

Have a look around the folder above.  And also—-do you even know what the term means? Police protection in Japan (警察保護対象)in practice means the police patrol your house on a regular basis and are on the lookout for anything suspicious or unusual. In the good old days, they’d leave a yellow post-it in my mailbox with the police mascot, Pipo-kun, on it, telling me that everything was okay. 

Sometimes the notes read, “Please sort your garbage better.”“You left the door unlocked.”

I hired an ex-yakuza to be my bodyguard and driver in 2008. He worked for me until 2015. It helped me feel safe. The cops from the Kitazawa Police Station and him got along great most of the time. 

Your book Tokyo Vice is full of errors and mistakes!

The book is full of typos. A high-school student once sent me a carefully outlined, underlined and highlighted edition of the book with all the grammatical errors etc.

 I have deliberately changed details in some parts. 

If you read pg 331, Notes On Sources and Source Protection, you’ll find at the very bottom. “I’ve gone to great lengths to protect the names of sources in this book. I have changed names, used nicknames, altered nationalities and identifying details and more. I’ve tried to keep a good balance between obscuring and misleading, and I hope that has worked.” 

I’ve protected sources and also people who’s lives I didn’t feel deserved to be ruined.

Sometimes, I have failed. In 2004, there were a series of deaths and drug overdoses in Roppongi, related to one dealer. The victims were high-profile individuals and the my scoop made the front page. One of the victims, an investment banker, survived. But then, partly due to my sharing of information, he was named in a British paper and killed himself. I never felt there was a need to name him. Yes, he’d broken the law but he’d only hurt himself.

So, maybe you feel that my efforts to protect sources are unimportant. I beg to differ. PS. Read the whole page and you’ll be a little wiser! 

You’re a terrible Zen Buddhist priest. You’re not serious about your practice. 

Yes, I’m a terrible Zen Buddhist priest. I would like to plead that one thing distracting me from my spiritual development is having to spend time dealing with little weasels who expect me to drop everything so they can write a lopsided polemic about me and maybe become famous. Or infamous. 

The unnecessary ambush journalism practices also remind me that I’m still not doing very well in keeping the 9th grave precept: do not give into anger. Honestly, dudes, you piss me off. That’s a spiritual defeat on my part. I’m trying to do better. 

Anyway, this is one reason I’m writing to you here. I have other things I’d like to do. 

Go read the documents. 

Why are you such a publicity hound?

Because it’s better to be a barking mutt than a dead dog. Everybody notices if the barking dog suddenly vanishes. A senior yakuza journalist (a writer who specializes in covering organized crime) once gave me this lovely advice. “When you’re forgotten, you may be gone altogether. You may forget about the articles you wrote that pissed them off; they will not. Stay in the public eye.” The Japanese mafia groups don’t behave like the Mexican mafia—killing critics without hesitation—but they do attack journalists and their families. Yakuza journalists who are forgotten die lonely deaths. 

Why does your former employer say mean things about you? 

I had a great experience at the Yomiuri and there are many wonderful reporters still working there. I’m grateful for working there. But in November 2011, in an op-ed for Yukan Fuji, wrote that the de-facto Emperor of Yomiuriland, the Rupert Murdoch of Japan, Tsuneo Watanabe was “a cancer at the Yomiuri.” 

The article was in defense of my mentor and former Hidetoshi Kiyotake. In the piece,  I also referred to Mr. Watanabe by his nickname, Nabetsune. And I compared him to a yakuza boss. 

In fact, I wrote:“…Chairman Watanabe is relentless in crushing those he views as his enemies. He uses all kinds of power, including the media, politicians, police, and lawyers, to crush them…”

Perhaps, this was unwise. There may be other reasons I’m not going to be throwing the first pitch at a Yomiuri Giants game anytime soon.

*Note: In saying Yomiuriland,  I am referring to the Yomiuri media and business empire, which includes a baseball team, not the actual Yomiuriland which is a great amusement park. 

The Yomiuri Shimbun National News Department still does amazing news reporting. 

I demand you verify your entire work history of the last 30 years in 48 hours.

I demand you give me the power of time travel. 

Here is a two page densely written memo in Japanese which consists of questions sent to X from Z and their answers.. You have ten minutes to read it, that should be enough. So what do you say? 

It’s enough to skim it, notice that it’s not addressed to anyone, it’s not signed by anyone and there’s no information on who actually sent it. I’ll need ten days to verify it’s real, if you can at least tell me who Z is. 

What’s your position on the Tinseltown Reporter article written about you? 

I’ve posted it here—but in brief, I think it’s a shoddy piece of work. It was refuted by people who were allegedly interviewed for it and there were numerous material omissions. Please compare the published version and the final version online. It had to be amended, altered and corrected several times and the ending was completely rewritten. What does that tell you? 

Why is this article called “Lessons Learned From Encounters With Clickbait Journalists?

In general, when a bad media organization or a reporter with a chip on his/her shoulder guns for you—you can’t win. Yellow journalists will come up with a conclusion and a headline first and cherry-pick information to match it. 

Occasionally, you’ll also run into what we call “dark journalists” who wittingly or unwittingly do a smear campaign on behalf of the people you’ve pissed off.

Karen Attiah at the Washington Post has been the subject of such polemics, with the Saudi Arabian government orchestrating it behind the scenes. 

How dare you accuse us of being yellow journalists before we’ve written our incendiary click-bait polemic! 

Don’t get upset! I didn’t even name you (yet). Maybe you’re just misguided and overworked so you don’t have time to do fact-finding. 

“Yellow journalism” refers to media reporting which places sensationalism over facts. Then in Japan there’s the term “dark journalist”  which is a general term for a journalist who makes a living by demanding money for stories about corporate scandals and the like. They are often paid to bury a story, instead of writing it. 

Both kinds of  journalists are rather unscrupulous.  Someday, there will be a Tucker Carlson School of Journalism which lays out all the tricks of the trade, but until then, here’s a few things that strike me as yellow journalism practices with a few examples. Maybe you can learn not to do these things. 

There are good ways to write an article if you’re really interested in the truth. But if you’re from the Tucker Carlson School of Journalism and you’ve already written your headline—it doesn’t matter. You just keep the facts that fit your headline and throw out everything else. 

If your headline is “Jake Adelstein is a fraud and exaggerated his work and his career” and your thesis is  “He never really covered organized crime at the Yomiuri Shimbun and he doesn’t know what he’s talking about” — then you’ll omit anything that casts doubt on that premise and highlight what might support it. 

There are other techniques used by journalists with an agenda or clickbait lottery dreams that work well and are hard to fight. 

They pretend that what they know is a lie might be true. 

They learn how to use misrepresentation and material omission to make a point. 

If you want to destroy someone’s credibility, it’s not hard. The first thing you need to do is misrepresent the facts and commit a series of material omissions. A misrepresentation, as you know, is a false or misleading statement or a material omission which renders other statements misleading, with intent to deceive. A material omission is basically leaving out anything that makes your case look weak or shows you’ve messed up. 

So that’s why it can seem like unwinnable war if an unscrupulous reporter goes after you—it’s not hard to shape a negative story or discredit someone  if you’re not interested in the truth.

You just start with a conclusion, one that will get clicks on your little article. Write a sensational headline. 

Only report things that support your conclusion and the headline and ignore everything else. 

Omit any trace of you asking a mistaken question that is answered correctly. Talk to the enemies of the person you’re attacking–they’ll provide you with nasty things that you can’t write. Just add it as hearsay. Never question the motives of the people giving you what you want to hear. Ask leading questions that put words into the mouth of your victim and hope they fall for it. Don’t add details or facts that weaken your case. 

Ambush the writer/celebrity and don’t give them ample time to respond—if you can trick them into making an off the cuff comment, you’ve won. 

If a clickbait journalist guns for you, how do you win? 

As Lao Tzu, the Taoist philosopher, once said:

“Credible words do not sound pretty, pretty words are not credible.

A nice person is not good at arguing, a person who is good at arguing is not nice.

A person who has real knowledge does not show off,

A person who shows off does not have real knowledge.

Great men do not accumulate things for themselves.

The more they do for others, the more they have,

The more they give to others, the more they get.

The law of the heavens is to benefit everything without harming it,

The law of great men is to do things for the world without fighting for the credit.”

–Translated by Xiaolin Yang, Chapter 81 (Tao Te Ching) 

The only way to win, and it’s still a scorched victory is to not engage seriously with the enemy. You tell the truth, put out the facts, share your materials as best you can, and hope that people who really care will take some time and decide for themselves. 

If we use the examples of clickbait journalists as 反面教師 (Hanmen Kyoshi)—those who teach by their bad example, how can I be a better journalist or foreign correspondent?

Don’t come to a conclusion before knowing the facts. Don’t shape a story to meet a headline. 

Do your job and look for verification of what people tell you from at least three reliable sources. 

Learn to work with other journalists. Share information. 

You also must do a lot of reading. 

If you have documents you can’t read, find a competent translator. Google Translate is not that. 

Meet with people from many professions, listen to what they have to say, read the books and articles they write. Cultivate sources and protect them after you’ve spoken with them. 

When an article is finished, try to send a copy to the people you interviewed. 

Remember the kindnesses paid to you and try to reciprocate. That’s just basic human decency. 

If you find your premise is incorrect, drop the story. Move on. 

Don’t name your sources if that will get them put in jail. Know the laws of the country you’re working in. 

Find stories worth writing.

It’s easy to write a story nit-picking about someone’s career or their resume. Easy to do. But for example, what about the bribery scandal involving Japan’s Olympic Committee and the 2020 Olympics? The French authorities were investigating diligently. Japan’s Olympic Committee Chairman had to resign—and is almost hiding out. Yet, when France won the 2024 Olympics, the investigation appeared to stop. 

That’s a story worth doing. 

The terrible Fukushima nuclear disaster—what really happened? What else did TEPCO cover-up? What is actually going to be in the tons of contaminated water they dump into the ocean? That’s a story with a huge environmental impact. 

Of course, a story like that takes time, money, effort. And TEPCO definitely won’t do the translation for you. 

And finally, check out my amended Rules For Journalists and see if it helps. 

What should a good journalist do when publicly attacked? 

Hidetoshi Kiyotake, my former supervisor at the Yomiuri, gave me some good advice which I will share with you. 

He was almost sued into bankruptcy by the Yomiuri Shimbun after criticizing the paper. He said at a press conference on November 25th 2011, that the CEO of the company told him, “You’re now in all-out war with the newspaper. You’ll be destroyed.”

He survived and went back to journalism and became a successful author. His latest book is already being turned into a  TV drama.  Here was his advice to me last year.

“If you’re going to be an investigative journalist here, you have to make up your mind and be ready [for what comes]. You must endure unreasonable criticism, and continue to fight. 

In Japan, reporters who reveal their sources are scorned and cannot continue to do proper and decent reporting. That’s why you must keep your important sources anonymous. This often leads to investigative journalists having to go it alone, feeling isolated. You just have to believe in yourself and your friends and hang in there.”



Is there anything else you’d like to bitch about? 

Nope, I’d just like to thank all the solid editors, mentors, fact-checkers and journalists I’ve worked with over the years as well as some wonderful sources. It’s been a great three decades. Thanks to Christopher Dickey (RIP), Ky Henderson, Jason Mojica, Howard Rosenberg, Rieves Weidman, Emil Pacha, Cyril Gay, Gabriel Snyder, John Pomfret, Randy Schmidt, Hidetoshi Kiyotake, ZAITEN Editor Kitahara. And thanks to all the people who’ve actually read my work and took the time to read this.

I’ll probably do this another 30 years. My dad is 85 and still an acting medical examiner. It’s a family tradition to work forever. 



Final notes:

I’ve uploaded a huge numbers of articles that I wrote or helped write during my time with at the Yomiuri and and supplementary files for those who want to know more about Tokyo Vice, Tokyo Detective or crime in Japan—here in the archive. It’s a shame that often we didn’t get credited for our work and articles were unsigned. I did cut out and save a large number of what I wrote and helped write. When putting them together recently I looked at my diary, my notes, and relied on memory–although some articles were written over 20 years ago, so if I am off here and there, go easy on me. While sifting through the files, I was delighted to find a document by my supervisor complimenting me, Murai-san, and Hirao-san for our long running work on one of the most important yakuza investigations in recent years from 2003 to November 2004. It was the Kajiyama Susumu case. He was called the Emperor of Loan Sharks. It’s a chapter in Tokyo Vice. Our work was recognized and we were nominated for an internal award. It was significant. It helped spur changes in the law to target money laundering by the yakuza and others. It made the police examine how to compensate the victims with the seized money. The joy of good reporting is making a positive difference.

Comment gagner un combat perdu d’avance contre les auteurs de pièges à clics?

S’il y a une maxime de connue chez les yakuza, c’est bien « Dès que tu arriveras au sommet, quelqu’un essaiera de t’en faire tomber. »

L’univers du journalisme est, malheureusement, très comparable au leur. Pas que je sois l’une des meilleures plumes du monde, mais j’ai un succès suffisant pour attiser la jalousie et un « trolling » assez conséquent. J’agace pas mal les weabs (fans du Japon) et les révisionnistes.

La plupart du temps, j’ignore les trolls et les haters, mais j’en ai un peu assez.

S’il y a une maxime de connue chez les yakuza, c’est bien « Dès que tu arriveras au sommet, quelqu’un essaiera de t’en faire tomber. »L’univers du journalisme est, malheureusement, très comparable au leur

J’ai 54 ans et de bien des façons j’ai dû faire avec toutes ces embrouilles dès mes débuts. En avril 1993 par exemple, quand j’ai toqué à la porte d’une scène de crime et qu’une dame a insisté sur le fait que je ne pouvais pas être reporter, car gaijin (étranger), et que j’essayais juste de lui vendre des journaux. Et cela continue.

Ce mois-ci, le 15 avril, marquera les 30 ans de ma carrière de journaliste au Japon. J’aime toujours mon travail, et je suis ravi d’être passé des yakuzas à la politique japonaise, même si la transition n’a pas été difficile. Le Japon est une démocratie à parti unique et le parti au pouvoir, le Parti libéral démocrate (un nom bien trompeur), a été fondé avec l’argent des yakuzas par les criminels de guerre Yoshio Kodama et Nobusuke Kishi. Ce dernier mérite une mention toute particulière, car il est le grand-père de Shinzo Abe.

J’ai fait des pauses dans le journalisme. J’ai téléchargé un grand nombre d’articles que j’ai écrits ou contribué à écrire pendant mon séjour au Yomiuri, ainsi que des fichiers supplémentaires pour ceux qui veulent en savoir plus sur Tokyo Vice, ici dans les archives. Il est dommage que souvent nous ne soyons pas crédités pour notre travail et que les articles ne soient pas signés. J’ai découpé et conservé un grand nombre d’articles que j’ai écrits ou que j’ai contribué à écrire. En fouillant dans les dossiers, j’ai eu le plaisir de trouver un document de mon superviseur me félicitant, ainsi que Murai-san et Hirao-san, pour notre travail de longue haleine sur l’une des plus importantes enquêtes sur les yakuzas de ces dernières années, de 2003 à novembre 2004. Il s’agissait de l’affaire Kajiyama Susumu. On l’appelait l’empereur des usuriers. C’est un chapitre de Tokyo Vice. Notre travail a été reconnu et nous avons été nominés pour un prix interne. C’était important. Il a contribué à faire évoluer la législation pour cibler le blanchiment d’argent par les yakuzas et d’autres. Elle a incité la police à examiner comment indemniser les victimes avec l’argent saisi. La joie d’un bon reportage fait une différence positive.

De 2006 et 2008, j’ai travaillé pour une commission d’étude du gouvernement des États-Unis sur le trafic d’êtres humains au Japon, ce qui impliquait bien sûr d’étudier comment le crime organisé en tirait profit et qui les yakuzas soudoyaient pour échapper à la justice. Comme on pouvait s’y attendre, le nom de Shinzo Abe est ressorti. Mais c’est une autre histoire, et vous n’avez qu’à lire le rapport.

Tous les yakuzas ne sont pas mauvais, mais en général, ils sont un danger pour la société. L’âge moyen d’un mafieux japonais est aujourd’hui d’environ 51 ans. Leur nombre n’a cessé de diminuer depuis le 1er octobre 2011, c’est-à-dire depuis que les ordonnances d’exclusion du crime organisé qui interdisent de faire des affaires avec les yakuzas sont entrées en vigueur dans tout le pays.

Nous disparaissons donc ensemble. J’écris de moins en moins sur eux. Dans mon quatrième livre, Tokyo Detective, publié en France le lendemain de mon 54e anniversaire, j’essaie d’expliquer pourquoi la mafia japonaise est condamnée et comment cela a commencé.

J’ai vraiment apprécié ma tournée promotionnelle en France pour ce livre. J’aime ce pays, et j’aime particulièrement la façon dont ils prennent le journalisme au sérieux, ainsi que leur amour des livres et des polars. Le Japon et la France se ressemblent étrangement à certains égards (très peu cependant), et même en France la rancune et l’envie (enkon ; 怨恨) semble faire ressortir les pires instincts de chacun.

À l’automne 2021, j’ai reçu un message étonnamment agressif d’un journaliste français et spécialiste autoproclamé du Japon. Il est spécialiste du Japon parce que sa femme est japonaise ; comment lutter face à cet argument d’autorité ?

Il ne sait donc ni lire ou écrire le japonais, mais sa femme, elle, sait. Et il se peut même qu’il soit très doué avec Google Translate.

L’essentiel du message était à peu près comme suit. Je paraphrase :

« J’ai lu votre livre, Tokyo Vice, et c’est de la fiction. Vous n’avez jamais enquêté sur le crime organisé. Je connais le Japon. Je me suis même abonné à votre ancien journal, le Yomiuri Shimbun. J’ai effectué des recherches dans leurs archives et je n’ai trouvé que 150 articles portant votre nom ! Seuls deux d’entre eux mentionnaient le crime organisé (les yakuzas) ; vous devez donc mentir. »

À ce moment-là, je me demandais encore si j’avais affaire à un abruti bien intentionné ou à un abruti malveillant. Comme on ne sait jamais, j’ai préféré lui offrir le bénéfice du doute.

Je lui ai expliqué qu’en général, surtout entre 1993 et 2005, les articles du Yomiuri Shimbun n’étaient pas signés. Surtout ceux publiés dans les pages d’actualités nationales (shakaibu ; 社会部). En fait, la plupart du temps, votre nom n’était mentionné que lorsqu’il s’agissait d’un article d’analyse, d’un éditorial, d’un article de fond ou d’une actualité concernant l’étranger. Telles étaient les règles non écrites. Quiconque a jeté un coup d’œil, même rapide, aux pages des actualités nationales de 1993 à 2005 le sait bien.

Comme j’ai déjà été vigoureusement attaqué auparavant par des journalistes et des blogueurs qui veulent se faire un nom en me piétinant (au sens figuré, bien sûr), je lui ai envoyé une liste de liens que j’ai sous le coude et je lui ai donné accès à un dossier contenant des centaines de pages de documents en japonais et en anglais, afin qu’il puisse vérifier par lui-même mon parcours professionnel et mes antécédents.

Certains documents ont par ailleurs été caviardés pour protéger mes sources. Mais il est évident qu’il n’a pas daigné jeter un œil dessus. Au lieu de cela, il a envoyé un message trompeur et bizarrement agressif à une organisation dont il était certain qu’elle aurait de mauvaises choses à dire à mon sujet : mon ancien employeur.

Ses supérieurs au Point, qui à sa décharge reste un excellent magazine d’information, lui auraient dit : « Tu es obsessionnel et il n’y a pas de papier à en tirer. Laisse tomber ta vengeance personnelle et remets-toi au travail. »

Mais je l’obsède et, après avoir pourtant reçu l’ordre de laisser tomber, il a passé le relais à quelqu’un d’autre. Un peu comme si un pyromane qui ne parviendrait pas à ses fins donnait ses allumettes à un ami.

Poser des questions pour une publication et transmettre le tout à une autre manque un peu de déontologie ; l’autre journal ne connait pas toute l’histoire ni le contexte. C’est même un minimum irresponsable.

Mais tout le monde dans ce business sait que si vous voulez écrire des choses peu flatteuses sur quelqu’un, le mieux est d’interroger l’un de ses ennemis potentiels. Vous pourrez alors lui attribuer toute calomnie avec nonchalance an argumentant ne faire que rapporter ce qu’on vous dit, mais sans rien avoir vérifié.

Voici la liste des questions posées et mes réponses. Je doute qu’ils les partagent avec vous ; je crois qu’ils ont réalisé trop tard à quel point elles sont bêtes, paresseuses et vindicatives dans un tel contexte. Il aurait pu d’ailleurs s’éviter la peine d’en poser certaines s’ils s’étaient correctement préparés, puisque j’y ai déjà répondu ailleurs.

Le problème des journalistes spécialisés dans le piège à clics (ou clickbait) est qu’ils utilisent un système de validation négative. Toutes les bonnes réponses sont rejetées et ils ne garderont dans leur papier que les questions auxquelles vous ne pouvez pas répondre, auxquelles vous n’avez pas répondu, ou auxquelles il est impossible de répondre dans l’unique but de vous torpiller.

J’ai répondu à ces questions à maintes reprises, alors pardonnez mes quelques sarcasmes, je n’ai pas pu m’en empêcher (j‘espère au moins qu’ils seront divertissants).

Le guide ultime des questions faciles auxquelles j’ai déjà répondu – version abrégée

Prouvez-moi que vous avez fait tout ce qui figure dans votre livre il y a vingt ou trente ans.

Allons bon… Pouvez-vous me prouver ce que vous avez mangé au petit-déjeuner il y a trois semaines ? Et pourquoi pas il y a trois ans ? Heureusement pour vous, je suis un archiviste compulsif et si vous aviez regardé les fichiers que je vous ai envoyés en septembre de l’année dernière, vous seriez en mesure de répondre à beaucoup de vos interrogations par vous-même.

Mais vous êtes paresseux. Et vous ne sélectionnerez que les questions auxquelles je ne peux pas répondre tout en ignorant copieusement l’ensemble des réponses “correctes” que j’apporte à votre déluge de questions.

Car si vous admettez que vous avez eu tort, vous aurez l’air bête. Et votre but reste de me faire passer moi, pour un idiot. Vous avez le contrôle. Un peu comme dans un casino, vous distribuez vous-mêmes les cartes. On peut donc parier sans trop de risque sur qui est le mieux placé pour gagner.

Fournissez-moi la liste de vos sources policières, de vos contacts dans les journaux et de vingt personnes qui peuvent témoigner de la réalité de l’ensemble de votre carrière.

D’abord, je ne le ferais pas même si je le pouvais. Mon passage au Yomiuri a été fact-checké par le Washington Post, le LA Times, 60 Minutes et le New Yorker et je ne me plierai pas à cet exercice à nouveau. Votre travail consiste d’ailleurs à les rechercher, ces personnes. C’est vous qui avez des choses à démontrer. J’ai commencé à travailler en 1993, à l’âge de 24 ans. Beaucoup de mes sources, de mes contacts, et des personnes qui pouvaient se porter garantes de moi avaient alors deux fois mon âge. Certaines d’entre elles sont malheureusement décédées. En dix ans, beaucoup de gens disparaissent déjà, nous sommes des créatures éphémères. Alors, après 30 ans…

De plus, je ne peux pas répondre à toutes les questions et je ne suis pas tenu de le faire. Je ne me souviens pas de tout ce qui s’est passé il y a 30 ans. Beaucoup de gens auraient pu se porter garants de moi il y a 20 ans, voire 10 ans, mais beaucoup d’entre eux ne sont plus parmi nous.

Je suis un tas de choses, parmi lesquelles un paladin autoproclamé, mais je ne suis pas nécromancien.

Pour ceux d’entre vous qui n’ont pas lu « Conan le Barbare » dans leur enfance, un nécromancien est quelqu’un qui peut ressusciter les morts ou en obtenir des informations. Il ne faut pas le confondre avec un neuromancien, une sorte de cyber-mage qui apparait dans un livre de William Gibson.

MAIS, si vous vouliez vraiment bosser, vous pourriez vérifier beaucoup de choses dans les documents en ligne ici :

Et bien entendu, vous me fournirez tous les documents nécessaires pour démentir mes accusations et vous me les traduirez.

Et bien entendu, vous délirez. Bien sûr que non. Si je traduis quelque chose, en général c’est que je suis payé pour. Traduisez-les vous-même ou trouvez quelqu’un de compétent pour le faire, mais faites-le en prenant en compte l’époque et le contexte, sans mauvaises intentions. Je vous renvoie donc à nouveau à ce dossier.

Ma rédac-chef Amy Plambeck a une petite suggestion : Demandez donc à votre femme de les traduire !

Vous dites que Tokyo Vice n’a jamais été publié au Japon parce que c’était trop risqué, mais même après tout danger écarté, il n’y est toujours pas édité. Pourquoi ?

Pourquoi n’embauchez-vous pas quelqu’un pour faire une recherche avec mon nom sur Amazon ? Quitte à me faire perdre mon temps, faites un minimum d’efforts.

J’ai réécrit le livre en utilisant les documents d’origine en collaboration avec quelqu’un qui a tout revérifié. Il a été publié sur Amazon Japan en May 2016 Audible a également dépensé un argent fou pour en faire une version audio avec plusieurs acteurs.

La version japonaise est notée quatre étoiles. Je suis certain que vous ne l’avez pas lue tout comme je suis certain que vous en sélectionnerez la pire critique pour votre article. Puis-je vous suggérer celle à une étoile du type qui n’a pas compris comment télécharger le bouquin ?

Permettez-moi de reposer la même question imbécile, mais d’une manière un peu différente. Pour Tokyo Vice, quand on vous a interrogé sur l’absence de publication japonaise, vous avez expliqué que les risques étaient considérés comme trop grands par l’éditeur japonais. Il aurait eu peur d’une « bombe » et en a donc annulé la sortie. Avez-vous de quoi prouver cette version ?

Comme indiqué précédemment, le rapport en japonais a été mis en ligne ici

Croyez-moi, il est là. Il suffit de chercher.

Pourquoi ne pas laisser vos doigts danser sur le clavier pour vérifier ? Et si vous souhaitez vérifier l’authenticité de ce rapport, c’est à vous de le faire ! Retrouvez donc ces employés de Kodansha International, qui n’existe plus. Bonne chance ! Ce ne sera pas facile ! À moins que vous en soyez tout bonnement incapable et que vous n’essayiez même pas.

Vos articles sont remplis de sources anonymes, vous devez donc les avoir inventées !

Malheureusement, au Japon, et surtout en ce qui concerne les affaires policières, les sources anonymes ou non nommées dans les articles sont l’usage, surtout s’il s’agit de journalisme d’investigation et non de déclarations officielles.

Les lois japonaises de la fonction publique punissent tout fonctionnaire, policiers compris, qui partageraient des informations confidentielles obtenues dans le cadre de son travail. Des policiers peuvent être licenciés pour avoir parlé à des journalistes et/ou à des tiers et, dans certains cas, ils sont aussi poursuivis en justice. C’est pourquoi au cours d’une semaine tout à fait banale, le Mainichi Shimbun, un des grands quotidiens japonais, va utiliser plus de 20 fois l’expression « selon des sources proches de l’enquête » ou « sources d’enquête » dans ses pages. Dans le cas des yakuzas, être cité comme source peut leur coûter non seulement leur emploi, mais aussi leur vie.

Tout journaliste au Japon qui se respecte qui ne le prend pas cet aspect en compte l’omet délibérément et a des motivations douteuses, ou ne lit jamais la presse japonaise, ou n’est qu’un idiot. Mais maintenant, vous savez. Dans un scénario idéal, lorsque c’est possible, j’aime obtenir des déclarations officielles ou au moins un accord pour l’attribution de la citation.

Qu’en est-il des autres livres, votre processus a-t-il été le même à chaque fois ?

Mon gars, je n’ai jamais voulu publier Le Dernier Yakuza en japonais. Il faudrait qu’il y ait encore quelques décès pour que ce soit une idée viable. Je n’ai jamais pensé que J’ai vendu mon âme en bitcoins se vendrait au Japon, mais je devrais peut-être tenter le coup. Tokyo Detective, j’essaierai peut-être de le faire publier, mais après la sortie de Tokyo Vice en manga.

Vous n’avez jamais vraiment passé d’examen au Yomiuri et l’affirmation selon laquelle vous avez été embauché parce que vous étiez excellent en traduction est un mensonge.

Bon sang, j’ai mis en ligne les résultats de l’examen il y a des mois. Dieu merci, j’ai gardé ces conneries pendant des années. Par ailleurs, je n’ai jamais prétendu que la seule raison pour laquelle j’ai été engagé était mon niveau en traduction. Même si cela a certainement aidé. Sur les résultats qui m’ont été remis par le journal, j’étais le meilleur de tous les candidats en « questions d’anglais » (eigo mondai ; 英語問題), c’est-à-dire en traduction du japonais vers l’anglais et de l’anglais vers le japonais.

Vous n’étiez pas le plus grand spécialiste du crime organisé lorsque vous travailliez au Yomiuri à Tokyo. En fait, vous avez à peine abordé le sujet. Vous n’êtes pas un expert des yakuzas.

Je n’ai jamais prétendu être « le meilleur expert de Tokyo sur les yakuzas », à moins d’avoir été ivre ou d’être en plein décalage horaire. En bref, AVANT d’aller à Tokyo, j’ai passé environ 6 ans à Saitama, dont plus de trois ans à couvrir les yakuzas (1993-1996). En fait, de 1994 à 1996, j’étais chargé de suivre les Unités 1 et 2 de lutte contre le crime organisé. Même quand j’ai couvert la politique régionale, j’ai couvert le crime organisé, et en particulier tout ce qui concernait l’effondrement de la banque Saitama Shogin. Si vous voulez une confirmation de tout cela, allez à Saitama et demandez autour de vous. De 1999 à 2000, j’ai suivi le 4e district de la Police de Tokyo, qui comprend Kabukichô, le quartier chaud bien connu. J’ai travaillé sur deux séries sur la criminalité au Japon pour le service des actualités nationales du Yomiuri. L’une d’entre elles est devenue un livre intitulé Crime organisé (soshiki hanzai ; 組織犯罪). De 2003 à 2004, j’ai été affecté à la Police de Tokyo pour couvrir le nouveau Bureau de contrôle de la criminalité organisée (ou Organized Crime Control Bureau/OCBD ; 組織犯罪対策部). Pour être plus précis, j’étais chargé de la division 5 (drogues et armes à feu) et de la brigade spéciale de l’OCDB chargée de la lutte contre la criminalité liée aux cartes de crédit. La plupart de ces activités sont décrites dans Tokyo Vice, si vous donnez la peine de le lire. Même après avoir quitté mon suivi de la Police de Tokyo en 2005, je suis retourné aux actualités nationales, où j’ai continué de couvrir ce qui avait trait à la criminalité. De 2006 à 2008, j’ai travaillé pour une commission d’étude du gouvernement américain sur le trafic d’êtres humains au Japon, et devinez donc qui est très impliqué dans toutes ces affaires ?

Mais sérieusement, faites vos devoirs. Et commencez par ça :

What I’ve Learned In The 30 Years Since I Became A Reporter: The 12 Rules Of Being A Good Journalist In Japan

J’ai mis à disposition environ 160 documents, soit des centaines de pages de données en japonais et en anglais, dans l’espoir que les gens qui souhaitent en savoir plus sur le Japon, la police, les yakuzas et tout le contexte dont traitent mes livres puissent être éclairés. Il faut faire l’effort de les lire, cependant ↓

Les documents sources de Tokyo Vice et Tokyo Detective pour ceux que ça intéresse

De nombreux journalistes connaissent mieux que moi le crime organisé au Japon. Quelques personnalités remarquables me viennent à l’esprit. Le journaliste Masakatsu Isano (磯野正勝), qui a d’abord suivi la police avant de suivre les yakuzas. Hirosue Noboru alias « Professeur Yakuza ». Atsushi Mizoguchi. Tomohiko Suzuki. Masami Kimura (Farewell Yamaguchi-gumi: The Half-Life of Tadamasa Goto). Et bien sûr, le légendaire et peut-être premier reporter à s’être penché sur le sujet, Reikichi Sumiya (RIP).

Cependant, devenir un expert des yakuzas (le terme est trompeur puisqu’il désigne plus de 23 groupes criminels organisés au Japon, avec des emblèmes, des sources de revenus, des chefs et une histoire différents) implique aussi de procéder à des recherches académiques et de rassembler un sacré corpus de documents.

Au fil des ans, j’ai obtenu une quarantaine de vidéos de cérémonies d’intronisation et d’enterrement qui mentionnent souvent le nom du yakuza à l’écran. J’ai lu plus de 200 livres. J’ai passé des centaines d’heures avec des policiers spécialisés en crime organisé, des yakuzas en activité et des yakuzas à la retraite. J’ai créé des bases de données sur leurs sociétés-écrans et leurs organisations. J’ai conservé 14 ans de fanzines de yakuzas, que j’ai tous lus.

En fait, j’ai même été très étrangement félicité pour ma couverture impartiale du sujet dans un fanzine yakuza, Jitsuwa Document qui est sans doute le meilleur de leurs mensuels ; ils ont de superbes photos, de jolis haïkus, et une rubrique bien remplie d’hommes et de femmes qui montent leurs tatouages.

En bref, oui, je connais bien les yakuzas, j’ai écrit sur eux, j’ai eu affaire à eux et je les ai évités autant que possible pendant des dizaines d’années. Et ils ont constitué une part importante de ce que j’ai couvert lorsque j’étais au Yomiuri, dès mon passage à Saitama et encore par la suite.

Dois-je me couper l’auriculaire pour que vous reconnaissiez que je connais peut-être un minimum mon sujet ?

Vous n’avez jamais été sous la protection de la police. Prouvez-le-nous si c’était bien le cas.

Jetez un coup d’œil dans le dossier ci-dessus. D’ailleurs, savez-vous au moins ce que ce terme signifie ? La protection policière au Japon (keisatu hogo taishô ; 警察保護対象)signifie en pratique que la police fouille chez vous quotidiennement et qu’elle est à l’affût de tout ce qui est suspect ou inhabituel. À l’époque, ils laissaient dans ma boîte aux lettres un post-it jaune sur lequel figurait la mascotte de la police, Pipo-kun, pour me dire que tout allait bien.

Parfois, les messages indiquaient : « Veuillez mieux trier vos déchets » ou « Vous avez laissé la porte ouverte. »

J’ai engagé un ancien yakuza comme garde du corps et chauffeur en 2008. Il a travaillé pour moi jusqu’en 2015. Cela m’a permis de me sentir en sécurité. Les policiers du commissariat de Kitazawa et lui s’entendaient bien la plupart du temps.

Tokyo Vice est truffé d’erreurs et de fautes de frappe !

Le livre est truffé de fautes de frappe. Un lycéen m’a un jour envoyé une édition du livre soigneusement annotée, avec toutes les erreurs grammaticales soulignées et surlignées, etc.

J’ai délibérément modifié des détails dans certaines parties. Si vous lisez attentivement la page 331 et sa « Notes sur les sources et la protection des sources », vous trouverez qu’il est précisé tout en bas que je me suis donné beaucoup de mal pour protéger les noms des sources dans ce livre. J’ai changé les noms, utilisé des surnoms, modifié les nationalités ou les détails qui pourraient aider à les identifier, etc. J’ai essayé de maintenir un bon équilibre entre la dissimulation et la tromperie, et j’espère que cela a fonctionné.

Vous estimez peut-être que mes efforts pour protéger mes sources ne sont pas quelque chose d’important. Je ne suis pas de cet avis.

P.S. Lisez donc toute la page et vous gagnerez en sagesse !

Vous êtes un piètre prêtre bouddhiste zen. Vous n’êtes pas sérieux dans votre pratique.

Oui, je suis un très mauvais prêtre zen. J’aimerais préciser que l’une des choses qui empêchent mon développement spirituel reste de passer du temps à gérer de petites fouines qui s’attendent à ce que je laisse tout tomber dans la minute pour qu’elles puissent publier une polémique bancale à mon sujet et peut-être en devenir (tristement) célèbres.

Les guets-apens journalistiques me rappellent également que je n’applique pas encore très bien le 9e précepte : ne pas céder à la colère. Franchement, les gars, vous m’énervez. C’est une défaite spirituelle pour moi. Mais j’essaie de m’améliorer.

Quoi qu’il en soit, c’est l’une des raisons pour lesquelles je vous écris ici. J’ai mieux à faire.

Allez lire les documents.

Pourquoi recherchez-vous tant la publicité ?

Parce qu’il vaut mieux être un cabot bruyant qu’un chien mort. Tout le monde remarquerait la disparition soudaine de celui qui aboie. Un journaliste chevronné spécialisé dans le crime organisé m’a un jour donné ce charmant conseil : « Quand on vous oublie, il se peut que vous disparaissiez complètement. Vous avez peut-être oublié les articles que vous avez écrits et qui les ont énervés, mais pas eux. Restez dans l’œil du public ». Les mafias japonaises ne se comportent pas comme la mafia mexicaine -qui tue leurs détracteurs sans hésitation- mais elles s’en prennent aux journalistes et à leurs familles. Les journalistes spécialisés qu’on oublie meurent dans la solitude.

Pourquoi votre ancien employeur parle-t-il tant en mal de vous ?

J’ai eu une très bonne expérience au Yomiuri et de nombreux journalistes fantastiques y travaillent encore. Je suis reconnaissant d’avoir pu y écrire. Mais en novembre 2011, dans un éditorial pour Yukan Fuji j’ai écrit que l’empereur du « Yomiuriland », Tsuneo Watanabe, le Rupert Murdoch du Japon, était « le cancer au Yomiuri ».

L’article prenait la défense de mon mentor et ami Hidetoshi Kiyotake. J’y désignais également M. Watanabe par son surnom, Nabetsune, et je l’ai comparé à un chef de yakuza.

J’ai même écrit très exactement « Le président Watanabe s’acharne à écraser ceux qu’il considère comme ses ennemis. Il utilise tous types de moyens, qu’il s’agisse des médias, des hommes politiques, de la police, ou de ses avocats, pour les écraser. »

Ce n’était peut-être pas judicieux.

*Note : en parlant de Yomiuriland, je fais référence à l’empire médiatique et commercial Yomiuri, qui inclu une équipe de base-ball, et non pas au Yomiuriland à proprement dit, qui est un grand parc d’attractions.

Le service des actualités nationales du Yomiuri Shimbun continue de réaliser des reportages remarquables.

J’exige que vous justifiiez l’ensemble de vos antécédents professionnels de ces 30 dernières années dans les 48 heures.

J’exige que vous me donniez le pouvoir de voyager dans le temps.

Voici deux pages en japonais, extrêmement denses, qui listent les questions-réponses entre X et Z. Vous avez dix minutes pour le lire, cela devrait suffire. Qu’avez-vous à en dire ?

Cela suffit pour le parcourir, pour remarquer qu’il n’est adressé à personne, qu’il n’est signé par personne et qu’il n’y a aucune information sur l’expéditeur. J’aurais tout de même besoin de dix jours pour vérifier son authenticité, si vous pouviez au moins me dire qui est Z.

Que pensez-vous de l’article du Tinseltown Reporter qui vous a été consacré ?

Je l’ai publié ici, mais pour la faire courte, je pense qu’il s’agit de travail bâclé. Des passages ont été réfutés par des personnes qui auraient été interviewées dans le cadre de cet article, et il comporte de nombreux oublis. Comparez donc la version publiée à sa version définitive en ligne. L’article a dû être modifié et corrigé plusieurs fois, jusqu’à être complètement réécrit. Quelles conclusions en tirez-vous ?

Pourquoi votre article s’intitule-t-il “Comment gagner un combat perdu d’avance contre les auteurs de pièges à clics” ?

En général, lorsqu’un mauvais média ou un journaliste qui a une dent contre vous s’en prend à vous, vous ne gagnerez pas. Les journalistes sans déontologie (ou yellow journalist) commenceront par établir une conclusion et par choisir un titre, puis ils sélectionneront les informations qui les arrangent pour valider leur théorie.

De temps à autre, vous croiserez aussi des « dark journalists » qui, volontairement ou involontairement, mèneront une campagne de diffamation pour le compte des personnes que vous avez mises en colère. Karen Attiah, du Washington Post, a fait l’objet de telles polémiques, orchestrées en coulisses par le gouvernement saoudien, par exemple.

Comment osez-vous nous accuser d’être des « journalistes jaunes » avant même que nous ayons écrit notre polémique piège à clics !

Ne vous énervez pas ! Je ne vous ai même pas nommé (pour l’instant). Peut-être que vous êtes simplement mal inspiré et bien trop surchargé de travail pour avoir eu le temps de vous renseigner.

Le « journalisme jaune » fait référence aux reportages des médias qui privilégient le sensationnel aux faits. Au Japon, on parle aussi de « dark journalist », soit un journaliste qui gagne sa vie avec des articles sur des scandales d’entreprises ou autres, mais qui sont souvent payés pour enterrer une histoire plutôt que de l’écrire.

Ces deux types de journalistes ont assez peu de scrupules. Un jour, il y aura une école de journalisme Tucker Carlson qui expliquera toutes les ficelles du métier, mais d’ici là, voici quelques exemples de ce qui me semble être des pratiques de “journalisme jaune”. Peut-être pourrez-vous apprendre à ne pas les suivre.

Il y a plusieurs bonnes façons d’écrire un article si l’on s’intéresse à la vérité. Mais si vous êtes de l’école Carlson et que vous avez déjà écrit votre titre, peu importe ! L’essentiel est de garder les faits qui correspondent à votre titre et de jeter tout le reste.

Si votre titre est « Jake Adelstein : la grande imposture » et que votre thèse est qu’il n’a « jamais vraiment couvert le crime organisé au Yomiuri Shimbun et il ne sait pas de quoi il parle », omettez tout ce qui pourrait jeter le doute sur cette affirmation à l’emporte-pièce et mettez au contraire en évidence tout ce qui pourrait la soutenir.

Il existe d’autres techniques pour les journalistes ayant des motifs ultérieurs ou qui fantasment de pouvoir signer un clickbait qui cartonnerait. Elles sont très efficaces et difficiles à combattre : ils avancent que ce qu’ils savent pourtant être un mensonge « pourrait » être vrai ; ils apprennent déformer des faits et omettre des documents pour faire valoir leur point de vue.

Détruire la crédibilité de quelqu’un, n’a rien de difficile. La première chose à faire est de déformer la réalité des faits et de mettre sous le tapis tout un tas de documents. Une déclaration mensongère est, comme vous le savez, une déclaration fausse ou trompeuse voire une dissimulation d’éléments qui produira d’autres déclarations mensongères. Le tout dans un but de manipulation grossière.

C’est pourquoi le combat peut sembler perdu d’avance si un journaliste peu scrupuleux s’en prend à vous. Il n’est pas difficile d’élaborer un scénario erroné ou de discréditer quelqu’un si la vérité ne vous intéresse pas.

Il vous suffit de commencer par une conclusion, une conclusion qui permettra de n’obtenir des clics sur votre petit article de rien du tout, puis de trouver un titre racoleur.

Ne rapportez alors plus que les éléments qui apportent de l’eau à votre moulin et ignorez tout le reste.

Effacez toute trace de vous questions fallacieuses auxquelles des réponses correctes ont été rapportées.

Parlez aux ennemis de la personne que vous attaquez ; ils vous diront des choses désagréables que vous ne pouvez pas vraiment écrire. Ajoutez leurs déclarations en précisant qu’il s’agit de ouï-dire.

Ne mettez jamais en doute les motivations des personnes qui vous disent exactement ce que vous voulez entendre.

Posez des questions orientées qui mettront des mots dans la bouche de votre victime et espérez qu’elle tombe dans le panneau.

N’ajoutez pas de détails ou de faits qui affaibliraient votre argumentaire.

Prenez l’écrivain/la célébrité en embuscade et ne lui donnez pas le temps de répondre ; si vous pouvez l’amener à faire un commentaire spontané, vous avez gagné.

Si un journaliste spécialisé dans le piège à clics vous prend pour cible, comment vous en tirer ?

Comme le philosophe taoïste Lao Tzu l’a dit :

« Les mots crédibles ne sont pas beaux, les mots beaux ne sont pas crédibles.

Une personne gentille n’est pas douée pour l’argumentation, une personne douée pour l’argumentation n’est pas gentille.

Une personne qui a de vraies connaissances ne se vante pas,

Une personne qui fait de l’esbroufe n’a pas de vraies connaissances.

Les grands hommes n’accumulent pas de choses pour eux-mêmes.

Plus ils font pour les autres, plus ils ont de choses,

Plus ils donnent aux autres, plus ils reçoivent.

La loi du ciel est de profiter de tout sans nuire,

La loi des grands hommes est de faire des choses pour le monde sans se battre pour le mérite. »

-Traduit par Xiaolin Yang, chapitre 81 (Tao Te Ching)

La seule façon de gagner, et il s’agira toujours d’une victoire à l’arraché, reste de ne pas traiter sérieusement avec l’ennemi. Dites la vérité, exposez les faits, partagez vos documents du mieux que vous pouvez, et espérez que les personnes qui s’intéressent vraiment à la question prendront le temps de se forger un avis d’elles-mêmes.

En prenant les journalistes spécialistes du piège à clics comme exemples à ne pas suivre (hanmen kyôshi ; 反面教師), comment pourrai-je devenir meilleur journaliste ou correspondant à l’étranger ?

Ne tirez pas de conclusion avant de connaitre les faits. Ne façonnez pas une histoire pour la faire correspondre à un titre.

Faites votre travail et cherchez à vérifier ce que les gens vous disent auprès d’au moins trois sources fiables.

Apprenez à travailler avec d’autres journalistes. Partagez l’information.

Vous devez aussi lire beaucoup.

Si vous avez des documents que vous ne pouvez pas lire, trouvez un traducteur compétent. Google Translate n’est pas une solution.

Rencontrez des gens de professions variées, écoutez ce qu’elles ont à dire, lisez les livres et les articles qu’elles écrivent. Multipliez vos sources et protégez-les après leur avoir parlé.

Lorsqu’un article est terminé, essayez d’en envoyer une copie aux personnes que vous avez interviewées.

Souvenez-vous des faveurs qui vous ont été faites et essayez de rendre la pareille. C’est du savoir-vivre de base.

Si vous constatez que votre hypothèse est erronée, abandonnez l’histoire. Passez à autre chose.

Ne donnez pas le nom de vos sources si cela peut les conduire en prison. Apprenez les lois du pays dans lequel vous travaillez.

Cherchez des histoires qui valent la peine d’être écrites.

Il est facile d’écrire un article en pinaillant sur la carrière ou le CV de quelqu’un. Très facile. Mais par exemple, qu’en serait-il du scandale de corruption impliquant le Comité olympique japonais et les Jeux olympiques de 2020 ? Les autorités françaises ont enquêté avec diligence et ke président du Comité olympique japonais a dû démissionner et se cache presque. Pourtant, lorsque la France a remporté les Jeux olympiques de 2024, l’enquête a semblé s’arrêter. C’est une piste qui vaut la peine d’être creusée.

Ou alors, concernant la terrible catastrophe nucléaire de Fukushima : Que s’est-il réellement passé ? Qu’est-ce que TEPCO a dissimulé ? Que contiennent réellement les tonnes d’eau contaminée déversées dans l’océan ? Toute cette histoire a un impact énorme sur l’environnement.

Bien sûr, de tels articles demandent du temps, de l’argent et des efforts. Et TEPCO ne fera certainement pas la traduction pour vous.

Et pour finir, jetez un coup d’œil à mes “Règles pour les journalistes” modifiées et voyez si elles peuvent vous aider.

Que doit faire un bon journaliste lorsqu’il est attaqué publiquement ?

Hidetoshi Kiyotake, mon ancien supérieur au Yomiuri, m’a donné de bons conseils que je vais partager avec vous.

Il a failli être mis en faillite par le Yomiuri Shimbun après avoir critiqué le journal. Il a survécu à cette épreuve, est retourné au journalisme puis est devenu un auteur à succès. Son dernier livre est déjà adapté en série télévisée.

« Si tu veux être journaliste d’investigation ici, tu dois être sûr de ton choix et te tenir prêt [à faire face à ce qui en découlera]. Tu devras supporter des critiques fantaisistes et continuer à te battre.

Au Japon, les journalistes qui révèlent leurs sources sont traités par le plus grand des mépris et ne peuvent pas continuer à faire des reportages corrects. Tu devras protéger l’anonymat de tes sources principales. Cela conduit souvent les journalistes d’investigation à faire cavalier seul et à se sentir isolés. Mais il suffit de croire en soi, de faire confiance en ses amis et de s’accrocher. »*


Y a-t-il autre chose dont vous aimeriez vous plaindre ?

Non, j’aimerais juste remercier les rédacteurs en chef, mes mentors, les fact-checkers et les journalistes sérieux avec qui je collabore depuis des années ainsi que mes fantastiques sources. Ces trois décennies ont été formidables. Merci à Christopher Dickey (RIP), Ky Henderson, Jason Mojica, Howard Rosenberg, Rieves Weidman, Emil Pacha, Cyril Gay, Gabriel Synder, John Pomfret, Randy Schmidt, Hidetoshi Kiyotake, le rédacteur en chef Kitahara. Et merci également à tous ceux qui ont lu mon travail et qui ont pris le temps de lire ceci.

Je continuerai sans doute 30 ans. Mon père a beau avoir 85 ans, il est toujours médecin légiste en activité. C’est une tradition familiale de ne jamais s’arrêter.


Note: This is a rough translation of an essay. It may differ in parts from the original. Apologies for any confusion.

From the pioneer of J-Pop to serial predator: Johnny Kitagawa’s legacy of exploitation and control

East Asian popular culture is on the rise, spearheaded by the global phenomenon of the Hallyu wave. K-pop idol music has played a critical part in this: it’s experienced a slow and steady rise since its conception in the 80’s, and its expansion to the international market has been a strategic and intentional one. Today, Korean idols and idol groups are luxury global brand ambassadors, they have photo spreads in the glossy pages of every country’s Vogue – and sometimes they’re even invited to speak at the UN. 

The House of Boy Love (out of print) was a shocking expose of the sexual exploitation and abuse of young men by Johny Kitagawa.

Japan has had its own long history of idol groups, predating Korean idols in their modern iteration, but with one major difference: fame for Japanese idols is remarkably domestic. 

Some argue it is because the Japanese media executives and marketing strategists are failing to move with the times, or because the J-pop landscape is profitable and self-sufficient enough as is within Japan. But the history of Japanese idol groups itself might be the reason for J-pop staying within the borders, particularly that history surrounding the despotic idol industry titan Johnny Kitagawa. 

In 1962, Kitagawa founded the idol management and training company Johnny’s and Associates, and debuted his first idol group, simply called Johnny’s, soon after. Over the next 60 years (Johnny’s later iterations remain an entertainment industry mainstay today) Johnny’s and Associates would crank out hit after hit, star after star. 

Armed with the massive success of his Johnnies, as the male idols are called, Kitagawa was able to exert monopolistic control over the male idol entertainment industry, with his influence extending to independent media. It was simple: the public couldn’t get enough of the Johnnies, and if the networks and magazines were on the outs with Kitagawa, they’d be blacklisted from ever working with the idols. They couldn’t risk that loss. 

In 1999, the extent of Kitagawa’s media manipulation abilities were demonstrated when the weekly magazine Shukan Bunshun broke what should have been a career, not to mention industry, destroying story. Johnny Kitagawa had been sexually abusing his performers, most of whom had entered his company at a very young age. Accusations ranged from power harassment to undressing and bathing trainees to rape. There were credible testimonies and multiple victims. 

This should have been a massive story across all news outlets. The founding father of the J-pop idol system as the country knew it was a sexual predator and a pedophile. The Johnny’s empire was how Kitagawa was able to establish proximity to and authority over children who were entirely at his mercy in this heavily competitive industry.

Despite this, the company was able to file a libel lawsuit against the magazine and won an 8.8 million compensation from the magazine, albeit temporarily. In 2003, the Tokyo court reversed the decision due to the overwhelming evidence against Kitagawa and his company. But Kitagawa had such a tight grasp over Japanese news media that even after all of the court proceedings, scandal, and damning evidence, no news outlet published anything about the case. 

Not to mention, the only use of the evidence against Kitagawa was to exonerate the Shukan Bunshun of libel charges. In all the following years up until his death in 2019, Kitagawa himself was never charged with any of the crimes detailed in the testimonies. 

Kitagawa, though notoriously private and strict when it came to reporters, was brazen in the casual sexualization of his performers. In 1996, an American producer and songwriter had tried to explain to Kitagawa the connotations associated with the English-stylized name of the company’s upcoming group, KinKi Kids. 

As told to former Billboard bureau chief and JSRC contributor Steve McClure by the songwriter, “I told him that ‘kinky’ means sexually abnormal in English slang. ‘Oh, that’s great!,’ Johnny said.” 

KinKi Kids remains one of the most popular music acts in Japan. They hold the Guiness World Record for most consecutive #1 singles since their debut in 1997. In fact, Kitagawa revolutionized the way music was marketed in Japan, and to this day Johnny’s groups are popular in Japan. It is a tragedy that such a significant part of music history is credited to a predator who never saw accountability in his lifetime, and whose legacy is still not being challenged by the Japanese news media who are still under the Johnny’s and Associates influence. 

Kitagawa has been shrouded in self-imposed mystery and rightful controversy, but is also on the receiving end of admiration by those who are fans of Johnny’s idols. However, there is some indication that the Kitagawa’s legacy will be corrected to include the power harassment and sexual abuse for which there are countless testimonies of him committing. Last month, the BBC released a documentary on Johnny Kitagawa called Predator. Filmmakers interviewed those who came forward about the abuse they faced at the company, perpetrated by Kitagawa and enabled by those working under him.

And just this week, Kauan Okamoto, a musician and former member of Johnny’s Jr, also came forward as a victim of sexual assault by Kitagawa. He had been invited to stay at Kitagawa’s home numerous times, and on the evening after his junior high school graduation, Kitagawa allegedly went into Okamoto’s room and performed oral sex on him while Okamoto pretended to be asleep. The next day, Kitagawa gave him 10,000 yen (around 100 dollars) without explanation.

The abuse continued for four years.

It was open knowledge among the Johnny’s Jr members that Kitagawa was a serial predator and pedophile. Okamoto believes that as many as 100 boys who had stayed over at Kitagawa’s home were also sexually assaulted.

Okamoto is not taking legal action, but instead hopes that coming forward publicly might encourage those who have remained anonymous or those who have not come forward at all to do the same.

A guide to the Japanese underworld, Japanese pop-culture, yakuza and everything dark under the sun.