All posts by Angela Erika Kubo

Shukan Bunshun to release audio of Yamatani interview

Weekly Magazine Shukan Bunshun first reported Eriko Yamatani’s ties to members of the Zaitokukai last month. When a reporter with the magazine questioned Yamatani about her ties to the Zaitokukai, Yamatani responded, “What is Zaitokukai? How do you write the characters for it?” When shown a group picture she took with former members of Zaitokukai, which included Shigeo Masuki, who claims that he has known Yamatani for more then a decade, Yamatani stated that she did not know the people in the picture.

The Zaitokukai has close ties with Nihon Seinensha, a right-wing group that is closely connected to the Sumiyoshi-kai.  According to police sources, leaders of the Zaitokukai have in the past openly associated with members of Japan’s major crime families and continue to do so. Moreover, some of the former Zaitokukai members pictured with Yamatani, including Masuki, have a crime record. This is problematic, because Yamatani is the minister in charge of the police force in Japan.

At a press conference at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan on September 25th, Yamatani stated, “In regard to my exchange with the weekly magazines, that is not true,” a lie that Shukan Bunshun intends to reveal in tomorrow’s issue, which the Japan Subculture Research Center has obtained an exclusive copy of before it hits stands tomorrow morning.

Bunshun, which decided to question Yamatani again about why she said that the weekly magazine’s report was false at FCCJ, reported that Yamatani said that the part of the report that was false is Masuki’s claim that they have known each other for over 20 years.

That argument, Bunshun points out, falls short because at the FCCJ, Yamatani had also stated (and Jake Adelstein and I have attended the press conference and can confirm that she said this), “I did not say that I did not know (Zaitokukai).”

Bunshun challenges Yamatani to show proof that this statement is true. They have proof of their own: the audio recording of their interview with her when they first questioned her about her knowledge of Zaitokukai. Bunshun will upload this to their website at 5 A.M. Japan time and have a Japanese proverb to pass on to her:

“Yamatani, he who lies will steal. (山谷国家公安委員長、嘘つきは泥棒の始まりですよ。)”


Japan’s Summer 2014 must-have Cool Biz items: white pants and fans all over your body

The Summer’s almost over but it’s still hot enough to want to stay cool. While there are many items to choose from to stay cool this summer, this year’s “Cool Biz” trend is white trousers, according to monthly magazine Nikkei Trendy. (Editor’s note: And hey they are also great for keeping you from catching Dengue fever from those local mosquitoes!) 

The “Cool Biz” campaign was started in 2005 by the Ministry of Environment under the Koizumi cabinet as a way to reduce electric consumption by turning off or turning up the air conditioning by a few degrees. Government workers were allowed to wear short-sleeved shirts and leave the heavy jackets and neckties at home.

Following the 2011 earthquake and nuclear disaster at the Fukushima Dai-ichi Power Plant, the Japanese launched the “Super Cool Biz” campaign and encouraged the country’s salarymen to ditch the hot clothing as a way to cut down on energy use.

While white pants are light and airy enough to fight the sweltering heat inside the office, they’re sleek enough to be professional enough for any business meeting. If you’re conservative, a light blue shirt or a thin navy blue blazer go well with white slacks, but if you feel a bit more daring, a red jacket contrasts well with white.

Japan Subculture Research Center editor-in-chief, Jake Adelstein, prefers to wear a jinbei  (甚平)during the summer to work. The outfit doesn’t seem to be keeping him cool, however, because he has been constantly complaining about the hot temperature in the workroom of the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan and has been fighting another journalist for control of the thermostat all summer. Jake could switch the jinbei bottoms for a pair of white slacks, but the top, which shows off his disgustingly hairy chest needs to be replaced for something more work friendly.


The JSRC’s personal must-have cool biz item is a chilled bottle of Zima. The drink contains so little—or maybe even none—alcoholic content that it won’t make any of us too drunk to finish up an article. Jake can sometimes be found sipping on a bottle of Zima while wearing a jinbei, sometimes raising questions over his masculinity.


Another must-have “cool biz” item this year are the undergarments and shirts produced by DEOEST, a combination of the word “deordorant” and the “-est” used at the end of superlative adjectives. The clothing is made from cloth using the latest nanotechnology and is designed to neutralize the bad smells caused by sweat and underarm body odor.

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If you want to keep your nether regions and ass cool this year, you can buy a cushion for your desk chair that comes with a small fan attached to it. While necktie fans were popular last year. This year is all about cooling the entire upper body with dress shirts that have fans attached to them. There are even helmets that come with fans if you work outside in the heat at a construction site—but can also be used in the office if a big earthquake hits Tokyo this summer.

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But really, if you’re going to waste that many batteries, or if you’re going to use your computer’s USB port to power any of those items (which requires electricity), you might as well go ahead and turn on the damn air conditioning.

Updated: Dengue fever toll rises in Japan; Yoyogi Park Is The Epicenter & Now Closed

Update: September 4th 2014 

The Tokyo Metropolitan Government closed  of Yoyogi Park today (September 4th) after confirming that mosquitoes taken for sampling earlier  this week were carrying the dengue virus.

As previously reported, Japan faced its first dengue outbreak caused by domestic mosquitos in over 70 years. A teenage female and two of her classmates, all of whom had never traveled outside of Japan, contracted the disease while they were practicing a dance routine in Yoyogi Park. The park was closed off last Thursday so that the park could be sprayed with insecticides, leading to a surge in shares for insecticide makers in the stock market.

Tiger mosquitos, or aedes albopictus, carry the dengue virus. Source: Wikimedia Commons
Tiger mosquitos, or aedes albopictus, carry the dengue virus. Source: Wikimedia Commons

The Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare along with the Japanese media are now reporting more confirmed victims of the recent dengue outbreak who were bitten by mosquitos in Tokyo’s Yoyogi Park. Public broadcaster NHK reported that three more people have fallen ill, one from Nigata Prefecture who visited Yoyogi Park on a school trip and two more from Kanagawa Prefecture. The Mainichi Shimbun also reports that more than ten other people who had visited Yoyogi Park last month have also fallen ill due to being bitten by mosquitos that carry the dengue virus.  The Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare is expected to post the most recent test results on their web page  tonight or tomorrow.

For our previous article on this topic, please check here.

Kyoto court dismisses Yahoo! defamation lawsuit

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The Kyoto District court dismissed the case of a 40-year-old male who sued Internet search giant Yahoo! Japan for defamation because his name and articles concerning his past arrest showed up on the search engine.

According to court documents, the man was arrested for violating the ordinance against disturbing the peace in 2012 and was found guilty in April 2013, according to the Mainichi Shimbun. A quick Yahoo! Japan search of his name reveals past news articles concerning his arrest.

Presiding judge Akiyoshi Tsugamura said, “Yahoo! is just automatically showing they whereabouts and existence of the websites that have the man’s name on it and a portion of the article through its search results. They’re not stating the fact of his arrest themselves.” He also did not recognize the man’s claims as an infringement of human rights.

The man argued that he only carried out a minor crime, and the display of his arrest record in the search results would harm his chances of getting reemployed.

The man appealed the Kyoto District’s Court verdict at the Osaka High Court on August 14th, according to the Yomiuri Shimbun.

Yahoo! Japan isn’t the only search engine to find itself handling defamation lawsuits. Last April the Tokyo District Court recognized a lawsuit from a man who claimed that Google’s autosuggestion function fell under defamation. The court ordered the company to pay the man 300, 000 yen in damages. However, the Tokyo High Court overturned the verdict in January of this year.

NHK apologizes for asking tough questions


The cabinet office lodged a complaint with NHK over tough questions asked during a television interview with Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, according to weekly magazine Friday.

The article, released this week, claims that Abe’s office forced NHK to “prostrate itself (土下座)” after Suga appeared on a television program called “Close up Gendai” that was aired on July 3rd to talk about Japan-North Korea talks and collective self-defence, a topic that has sparked protests in recent months.

When the topic changed to collective self-defense, female newscaster, Hiroko Kuniya (57) asked, “Wouldn’t Japan become involved in other countries’ wars?” and “It is O.K. to change the reinterpretation of the constitution so easily?”

After the television show, a secretary waiting on the set complained about the content of the program, according to an anonymous NHK employee interviewed by Friday. The secretary complained that some of the questions Kuniya asked had not been among the ones submitted beforehand.

NHK President Katsuo Momii allegedly apologized to Suga, and the upper management of NHK launched an investigation to discover the person responsible for slipping in the pointed questions, according to Friday.

“That’s completely different from the truth. It’s an awful article,” Suga said at a daily press conference on Friday.

Despite Suga’s denial of the contents of the Friday article, NHK’s Board of Governors contains members close to the Abe administration. Three of the five members who were handpicked by Abe last November include close supporters of Abe such as Naoki Hyakuta, conservative philosopher Michiko Hasegawa, and Katsuhiko Honda, who used to tutor Abe in his elementary school days.

The NHK Board of Governors has the power to choose the president of the broadcaster. Their choice was Katsuo Momii, a close friend of Deputy Prime Minister, Taro Aso, who shares Abe’s revisionist views.

High court upholds hate speech ruling

Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

The Osaka High Court upheld a previous lower court ruling banning the use of hate speech by an anti-Korean group which had been holding rallies in front of a Korean school in Kyoto.

The court ordered ultra right-wing group Zaitokukai (在特会), whose name translates to Citizens against the Special Privileges of the Zainichi, to pay ¥12.26 million in damages to the school and banned the group from holding hate-speech rallies around the school. 

Presiding judge, Hiroshi Mori said that Zaitokukai’s activities “fall under discrimination, and is unworthy of protection under the law.”

According to the courts, between 2009 and 2010 eight Zaitokukai members had used a loudspeaker in front of the Korean school, yelled out abuse such as “Koreans should be disposed of in health centers!” and accused the students of being the children of North Korean spies. The lower court ruled last October that the group’s actions fell under discrimination–the first racial discrimination ruling against the group.

The group appealed the ruling, arguing that their rallies fell under free speech and that the amount of compensation they were required to pay to the school was too high.

Last year the group gained attention in the media for holding anti-Korean protests in the middle of Shin-Okubo, a district in Tokyo near a Korean neighbourhood known for a large concentration of Korean restaurants and shops. Members of the group were seen chanting slogans and holding up signs that were considered discriminatory.

According to the Zaitokukai’s website, the group boasts around 14, 500 members and oppose the permanent residency status given to ethnic Koreans in Japan, many of whom descended from labourers who were forcibly brought to the country during World War II.

Sexist jibes at Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly Spark & Ignite Protests

A post that was meant to to show Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's support for women, due to some bad English usage with a different meaning when read as Japanese, ended up saying, "Hey all you women in Japan, drop dead!"
A few days after the debacle,  a post that was meant to to show Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s support for women, due to some bad English usage with a different meaning when read as Japanese, ended up saying, “Hey all you women in Japan, drop dead!”

“Can’t you make babies!?”—

A online petition calling for punishment of a Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly  member who hurled sexist comments at a fellow female assembly member gathered more than 32, 000 signatures throughout Japan in under 24 hours.  The petition was posted on, a website which provides a platform for citizens to gather signatures and support for popular causes..

Ayaka Shiomura,  35-year-old woman from the Your Party, and elected member of Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly, was calling for support for women who are infertile or need assistance while pregnant or raising children in a session of the assembly, and was interrupted with jeers and insults from fellow assembly member. The jibes came from someone in the seats reserved for Japan’s ruling party, the  Liberal Democratic Party members.  The insults included such gems as: “You should hurry up and get married!” “Can’t you have babies?”

The remarks brought up bad memories for some of the population as it mirrored the infamous 10 Precepts for Marriage issued by the Ministry of Health and Welfare in 1939 under the Imperial Japan regime. The guidelines concluded with the infamous line: 産めよ殖やせよ国のため (For the sake of the country, give birth and grow the population). These guidelines were based on similar ones issued by the Nazi regime.

It’s no secret that many of the privileged old men in the LDP view women as being primarily vehicles for siring more young Japanese men to ensure Japan can take care of its elderly and keep out foreign workers. 

The petition is the fastest growing on Japan ever, according to Emmy Suzuki Harris, Campaigns Director for Japan at

But according to the creator of the petition, who is a man who does not want to have his name published, the signatures are not enough.

“Why?” he said, “Something that the citizens cannot really forgive happened. However, to see people in other regions showing the same anger at what happened touched and reassured me.”

“I’m deeply angry not only as an individual, but as a male. Because pressure and discrimination against women is, in fact, always pressing on men a different way of living at the same time.”

“These sort of taunts fly around and there are assembly members who laugh in an assembly where members who say ‘we’ll promote the social advancement of women!’ or ‘we’ll work firmly toward providing child care support!’ gather,” Shun Otokita, a colleague of Shimomura’s, wrote on his blog. “This is the reality of the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly in the capital of our country.”

The secretary-general of the LDP assembly members, Osamu Yoshiwara said that it wasn’t in his position to confirm whether or not it was a member of his party who yelled out the comments, but he asked assembly members to behave in a “in a dignified manner.

The Mainichi Shimbun reported that Yoshiwara said that he hadn’t heard the comments and suggested, “How about each assembly faction makes sure its members don’t make rude comments.”

Shiomura wrote on Twitter, “I will take taunts about my policies, but I don’t think this is something you should tell women who are suffering.”

Japan is also very far behind in terms of gender equality. Japan was ranked 105th last year in  the  2013 Global Gender Gap Report, which  ranks women’s equality in 136 countries. Under the Shinzo Abe (LDP) administration, Japan’s ranking in press freedom has already fallen to near Uzbekistan levels.

Shiomura is reportedly going to seek punishment for the person who yelled the comments at her.

Taunting and yelling out abuse isn’t uncommon during parliament sessions in Japan, as evident in this video and this video.

Japan on the whale path again; kills 30 minke in latest hunt



The Japanese Fisheries agency announced that the results of the April-June whaling season in the northwest Pacific Ocean. 30 Minke whales were killed in the name of “research.” Media sources have come out with headlines such as “Japan Kills 30 Whales in 1st Hunt Since ICJ Ruling.” It should be noted, however, that there is no connection between the International Court of Justice ruling from this March and the recent hunting season. The ruling only covers hunts in the Antarctic area and does not extend to Japan’s hunting activities in other parts of the world. Japan has not violated the court ruling at all—but it’s still dubious that these hunts are done purely for scientific research. Of course, maybe Japan’s theory of a valid scientific study requires you kill whatever you are researching and then eat it.

For more information on Japan’s whale hunts you can check some of the recent articles in The Daily Beast written by JRSC reporters.

Court Rules Japan Can No Longer Slaughter Whales in The Antarctic

Welcome to Japan’s Whale Week, Featuring Curried Whale Meat And Exploding Harpoons

I’ll Have the Whale, Please: Japan’s Unsustainable Whale Hunts

Photo from Wikimedia Commons

Get ready to dance in the streets–Japan to revise anti-dance laws! (Maybe)



The Japanese government will submit a bill to revise the controversial laws regulating dance clubs this fall in a special Diet session, the Mainichi Shimbun reported.

National Public Safety Commission Chair Keiji Furuya told reporters after a Cabinet meeting that the government will soon establish a group of experts at the National Police Agency to discuss the issue. Furuya said that the proposed revisions to the current Entertainment Business Law will reflect the recommendations submitted by a government committee which asked the government to relax the laws.

In Japan it’s technically illegal to dance past midnight or 1 A.M. at an establishment that serves alcohol under an outdated law called the Law on Control and Improvement of Amusement Business. The law requires businesses who wish to operate as nightclubs to register and forbids the establishment of clubs that have “dancing which results in the disruption of public sexual morality.”

For years the police have turned a blind eye to all the nightclubs which had been operating illegally, but starting in Osaka in 2010, the police had been arresting nightclub owners for breaking the law. The crackdown moved to Tokyo after a man was clubbed to death in the VIP section of a nightclub by members of a gang called Kanto Rengo in front of hundreds of dancers. Since then, several nightclubs in the area were closed down.

In April the dance laws were challenged when an Osaka court acquitted Masatoshi Kanemitsu, the owner of a nightclub called NOON, of charges of “corrupting sexual morals” and violating adult entertainment laws. Kanemitsu’s lawyer, Kenichi Nishikawa, told the Daily Beast: “It was a victory for common sense and freedom to dance. It is historic and significant, and while not finding the current laws unconstitutional, the courts ruled both that the police were too broadly interpreting the laws and that dance in and of itself is not a corruptor of public morals. Nor does it make people throw off their clothes.”

Yesterday’s announcement is a victory for anyone who just want to go out for a night of fun. While it’ll be several months before you can go out in the streets and celebrate with a dance, Japanese politicians are beginning to realize that the dance laws won’t help out the country as the 2020 Olympics approaches.

Picture from Let’s DANCE

Put Tokyo in your pocket: Lonely Planet’s Pocket Tokyo is a great guide book

Tokyo may look small and insignificant on a map, but not even a week, much less an entire year, is not enough to explore what the city has to offer. Pocket Tokyo, published by Lonely Planet and written by fellow Japan Times food page contributor, Rebecca Milner, is a detailed guide that helps clueless and cultured shocked visitors find their way out of Narita Airport and into the city.

Most of the guide is divided into sections on different neighborhoods in central Tokyo such as Tsukiji and Ginza, Shibuya, and Shinjuku. These sections are lists of the most notable restaurants, shops, and tourist sights in the area, along with a short description under each place name. Although Milner’s descriptions are no more than two or three lines long, she brilliantly conveys in that short space the atmosphere of each sight just as well as, if not better than, any local in Tokyo. The shop names are also written in Japanese, perhaps to help out visitors when they stop to ask for directions. Each place is also shown on a detailed map of the area in each chapter.


“The biggest challenge is definitely deciding what makes the cut! I always wind up over researching and having heaps more places that I want to include—especially restaurants,” author Rebecca Milner told The Japan Subculture Research Center in an email.


In addition to a list of the best sights in each area, there is also a small box labeled “Understand” in each section of the guide that gives explanations on aspects of Japanese culture on everything from love hotels to religion to the Yasukuni Shrine controversy. There is also helpful advice scattered throughout the book. The best one: toward the back there is a tip on how to save money in this expensive city. Even I, a born and bred Tokyoite found the tip a helpful reminder that I should start putting those money-saving techniques into practice.

The best part of the guidebook is the handy Tokyo Metro map in the back, which shows all the station and line names in clearly printed English. The subway system in the city is difficult to navigate even for locals, and there are a variety and combination of routes that can be taken to get to the same destination.

There are two big issues with the guide. One is the size and the shape of the book. Previous editions of the Pocket Tokyo books were slimmer and taller to better fit in one’s back pocket. The latest edition by Milner is wider: ideal for slipping in a small purse, but for tourists who are going out to see the sights without any bags, the guide might be a nuisance to carry in one’s hand.

Another more serious issue is that there is no information on Western Tokyo. Although Central Tokyo certainly has an abundance of temples, restaurants, museums, and other major tourist attractions, the area outside of the 23 wards shouldn’t be entirely dismissed. For example, Kichijoji deserves some attention, especially because it has been voted the No. 1 place in Japan where people want to live since they started the poll in 2004. The area, known to be a popular hangout for the youthful, artistic crowd, is also home to must-see spots such as Inokashira Park, a zoo and Ghibli Museum next door in Mitaka. There are also other areas beyond Tokyo that visitors who want to avoid well-trodden tourist hotspots may want to see.

"I too am a fan of the Chuo Line—neighborhoods like Nakano, Koenji, and Kichijoji. But the Pocket Guide is designed to be a concise look at the city so it focuses on the main, central neighbourhoods," explains Milner. "Though I did manage to squeeze in Shimokitazawa!"

Despite these two shortcomings, you can’t beat Rebecca Milner’s guide to Tokyo. If you want to know more about the areas west of Shinjuku that are less traveled by tourists, check out Lonely Planet’s Tokyo City Guide, which Rebecca  Milner co-authored with Tim Hornyak the year before.

“There’s more coverage of the neighborhoods west of Shinjuku—including Kichijoji and the Ghibli Museum, plus bars and restaurants out that way—in that guide,” says Milner. “There’s more stuff east of the river, in places like Fukugawa, too.”

Her knowledge of the bars and restaurants in the city puts me to shame, since I happen to be a bar writer myself. If you read the guide from cover to back you’ll be able to navigate Tokyo just like a local in no time.  In fact, you may even get to know amazing places in your own neighborhood. I did.