Hey, Baby? You’re fired, don’t come back. Maternity Harassment (MATAHARA) and The Working Woman in Japan

Fighting Against Maternity Harassment is a grass roots effort
Fighting Against Maternity Harassment is a grass roots effort

 

Working at one of Japan’s megabanks, a workplace notorious for old-fashioned male attitudes, it wasn’t uncommon for Mrs X to be told, “Don’t you dare get pregnant!” or “If you get pregnant, we won’t give you any work!” from her colleagues.*

It was then that she became pregnant from her long-term partner. Unmarried unsure of how her workplace would react, she consulted with one of her colleagues.”It was then that a manager from another department heard from chance. He got angry and said, ‘Quit messing around! I will never allow the pregnancy of someone who isn’t married. If what you’re saying is true, then I will not treat you like a human being!'” she told JSRC.

“Eventually I couldn’t stand the atmosphere and fear in the workplace and chose to abort (the child).”

The Peeling Face Of Womenomics 

Japan faces a tough hurdle of an aging population coupled with a low birth rate. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe took office in 2013, pledging to solve the low birth rate and impending labor crisis, embraced a policy dubbed “womenomics,” and reviving the economy by raising the number of women in leadership positions to 30 percent by 2020. A pledge he has since backed away from.

It’s a hard task, considering that Japan’s business world is dominated by deep-rooted sexist attitudes that favor male workers over females and women, who are considered a bad investment due to the belief that they’ll quit when they marry and have children. Japan ranked 101 out of 142 assessed countries in 2015, according to a study released by the World Economic Forum.

And if a woman does become pregnant, while working, some are subjected to what the media has dubbed matahara (マタハラ).

According to Japanese Trade Union Confederation, matahara is an abbreviation of “maternity harassment.” The word refers to mental or physical harassment that some workingwomen go through when they announce to their colleagues that they’re pregnant or after they come back to the office from maternity leave. Some women come back to find themselves demoted or receiving a pay cut. In the worst-case scenario, some are even pressured to quit or fired. Harassment comes not only from men in the office but other women as well—sometimes out of irritation that their workload will increase, sometimes out of a kind of jealousy.

Prime Minister Abe’s former education advisor, Ayako Sono, infamous for publishing a column in a major Japanese newspaper advocating apartheid as part of immigration policy, said that “maternity leave is an unfair burden on Japanese companies” while still advising education policy.

Under the Equal Employment Opportunity Law, employers are required to pay consideration to pregnant women by offering them shorter work hours or flexible work schedules. They’re also banned from firing or demoting expectant mothers due to pregnancy and required to give them maternity leave. (Men are also technically allowed to take maternity leave as well to help in the first few weeks after a child is born.)

In practice, however, the law is hardly followed—and the local courts are hardly sympathetic. A physical therapist in Hiroshima was stripped of her job title and her managerial allowance following her second pregnancy—and her request for a “lighter workload”–in 2008. The woman, who had been working at the hospital since 1994 and was promoted to vice-director of her department in 2004 was told that there were no vice-director positions available when she came back. She sued her employer for violating Article 9.3 of the Equal Employment Opportunity Act and Article 10 of the unwieldy Act on the Welfare of Workers Who Take Care of Children or Other Family Members Including Child Care and Family Care Leave and gender discrimination.

The Hiroshima District Court and High Court rejected both of her claims on February 23 and July 19, 2012, with the District Court arguing that “the plaintiff never objected to the shift to a lighter workload.”

It took until October 2014 for the Supreme Court to strike down the decisions make in the lower courts. The Yomiuri Shimbun reported that the Supreme Court ordered the woman’s former employer to pay 1.75 million yen in damages. The court sent the case back down to the Hiroshima High Court, arguing that the proceedings regarding the necessity for a demotion were insufficient.

Maternity harassment sometimes extends outside of the workplace. The Japanese Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare has been producing pregnancy badges since 2006 that say “I have a baby in my stomach” for expectant mothers to wear on public transportation to let other passengers know that she is pregnant.

A large percentage of the Japanese male public is unaware about these badges. A government survey released last September revealed that over 60 percent of Japanese men had  never heard about the badges, Jiji press reported.

In some instances the badges have instead become a source of trouble, even harassment for the women who wear them. One Mainichi Shimbun reporter who followed an expectant mother on her daily commute and found that even though her source stood in front on the priority seats—special seating on the train reserved for elderly, disabled, and pregnant passengers—other passengers rarely stood up to give up their seats.

Other expectant mothers wearing the badges have alleged on social media websites such as Twitter that they had experienced verbal and physical harassment from strangers such as being  elbowed or knocked down.

One anonymous poster on an online forum wrote  in regard to the pregnancy badges, “Do [these badges] mean ‘I want you to reward me because I’m pregnant’? I just think it’s strangely brazen.

So Abe faces a tough task in changing business and societal attitudes towards women in order to solve the country’s labor shortage, especially when members of his very own party display the same chauvinistic attitudes that pressure women in the corporate world to leave their careers.

The policy has failed horribly. Of the record five female ministers appointed to Abe’s second cabinet to set an example, two resigned in the same day due to misuse of campaign funds. Two other female ministers came under fire for links to extreme Nazi groups.

Deputy Prime Minister—and Shinzo Abe’s second-in-command and a likely candidate for being the next Prime Minister—Taro Aso said at a speech in December of 2014  in Sapporo, “There are many people who are creating the image that (increasing numbers of) elderly people is bad, but more problematic is people who don’t give birth.”

The Abe government even abolished the babysitting discount ticket system,  the Sankei Shimbun reported. The tickets, which were distributed to 3, 000 people through 1, 300 companies, allowed working women to place their sick children, who are unable to attend a daycare when ill, with babysitters for a discounted price.

On March 31st 2015 the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare decided to consider the termination of a female worker’s employment within one year after the end of her maternity leave as “illegal” and issue warnings to companies who violate this law.

“In regard to companies that violate the law, we will provide administrative guidance to rectify the situation by advising them, then guiding them, and then making recommendations. If they do not follow our recommendations, we will publish their company name,” said Hitomi Komorizono, an official from the Equal Employment Opportunity Policy Division of the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare.

However, the move still has victims doubting that it will change the situation.

“I don’t think that just because this notice came out the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare, that things will improve,” says Sayaka Osakabe, a former victim of maternity harassment who founded an online network for other victims called Matahara.net.

“However, because of this notice, I think that it will be easier for female workers to raise their voices.”

During a session of the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly, when Ayaka Shiomura was giving a speech on women’s issues, members from the Liberal Democratic Party section of the room yelled out jeers telling her to “hurry up and get married” and “why can’t you have babies?”

It’s a tough spot for Japanese women. On one side of the spectrum they’re being punished in the workplace for giving birth to children. On the other side they’re being told to breed. Either way, simply existing as a woman in Japan seems to be considered an inconvenience. The lack of affordable day care is another problem altogether.

Is it any wonder the number of women giving birth declines?

* Previously published on September 16, 2016.

 

 

 

 

In Japan, Hamster Asses Are Cute. Cute my ass, hamsters are homicidal rodents.

Wake up: Hamsters Aren’t Cute; They’re Homicidal Misandrist Cannibals

For some people in Japan, fondness for the rear ends of hamsters have been around for a while, but it was only until recently that the world discovered that there are Facebook pages, Twitter account, and even published photobooks of hamster asses that people go “ooh” and “aww” over. The trend, “hamuketsu,” is a mash-up of the words “hamster” and “ketsu,” which means “ass.”

These hamsters aren's so cute when they're eating their children or the female kills and devours her mate.
These hamsters aren’s so cute when they’re eating their children or the female kills and devours her mate.

Screenshot 2015-07-06 13.10.55

In the last few years, a succession of picture books dedicated to hamster ass have been published with titles such as Hamuketsu , Hamuketsu so Cute that you will Faint in Agony, and Original Hamuketsu . If you want to read more about—or view—some hamster ass, you can even purchase a book in English.

While some people in Japan want to lay their eyes on a piece of what they think is cute hamster ass, little do they know the origin  of these creatures. For Jewish biologist, Israel Aharoni, taking these creatures from the hills of Aleppo, Syria and bringing them back to laboratories was a difficult task in which he almost failed at. As soon as he placed them in a box to take them back to Jerusalem, the mother started to devour her children.

“I saw the [mother] hamster harden her heart and sever with ugly cruelty the head of the pup that approached her most closely,” Aharoni wrote in his memoirs.

He made it back to Israel with nine out of the eleven hamsters surviving. At the lab, five of the creatures chewed their way through the wooden cage and escaped, never to be found. Then there were four—until the large remaining male hamster devoured a female. Desperate to save the remaining three, Aharoni’s colleague, separated the hamsters temporarily. He then prepared a cage, and inside placed a female hamster and her brother. The brother then chased around his sister. Putting it nicely in Aharoni’s colleague’s words, God “nudged a single wheel of the uncountable wheels of nature—and a miracle happened.”

But really, what happened was that the brother raped his sister, and from that incestuous union spawned millions of hamsters that now populate cages around the world and pose for ass pictures.

You know what’s cute Prairie Voles. They’re loving monogamous rodents. As noted in the article,  What Rodents Tell Us About Why Humans Love. Check out this excerpt. Notice the casual reference to the vile hamster.

Astonished, he took his findings to Sue Carter, a colleague at the University of Illinois who was working on hamster endocrinology. Female hamsters routinely slaughter and eat their sexual partners. “That’s what I thought was normal,” Carter recalls. She was unprepared for the voles’ attachment to their partners, or what turned out to be long-lasting and passionate mating sessions (“We had to put them on time-lapse video. No one could sit there for 40 hours!”).

Next time, you’re fawning over a cute hamster butt, look closely and you may notice the blood stained hairs that are probably the trace evidence of their cannibalized lover or children after passing through their digestive system into a smelly pile of hamster shit.
Cute, my ass!
Screenshot 2015-07-06 13.10.55

 

 

 

 

Japanese Thugs In Osaka Learn That Crime Does Not Pay…if you post yourself on YouTube committing the crime

Two thugs in Japan’s Osaka area have learned that not paying for your light cigarettes is a heavy crime, and that crime doesn’t pay, especially if you upload your footage of you committing the crime onto YouTube.

Osaka Prefectural police arrested Goh Nakamura, 39, and Fumiaki Nonaka, 46  for threatening staff at a convenience store located in Ibaraki, Osaka and thus extorting six cartons of cigarettes worth 26,700. They are questioning two of the lovely ladies that were also with them at the time of the crime.  Nakamura is known to have associates with the local mob but is not a mobster himself.

The penalty for extortion in Japan is up to ten years in jail.

According to the Osaka Ibaraki  police, Nakamura and the other suspects had allegedly visited the store on and off since dawn on September 8, requesting that the staff put water into plastic bottles and taking videos of the manager with a smart phone. When the manager protested, Nakamura said, “You touched my cell phone with your dirty hands,” and struck the manager.

Both suspects recorded video that they later posted on YouTube of themselves and several other people arguing with the manager of the convenience store and then making the entire staff perform dogeza (土下座). Dogeza is the rarely performed act of prostrating oneself on the ground in order to apologize for a serious misdeed and to beg for forgiveness in Japan.

The owners of the convenience store visited the Ibaraki* police in Osaka on the 8th and submitted a damage report the next day. Meanwhile, one of the unrepentant thugs posted a video of their escapades for the world to see. Within hours the video went viral and good samaritan detectives on 2 Channel, Japan’s most used internet bulletin board, and other websites, tracked down the extortionists in an impressive collective web sleuthing effort. The jig was up.

Eventually, one of the thugs, hoping to get a lighter sentence—which is guaranteed if you turn yourself in before the cops have launched a full investigation—then turned himself in to the cops for extortion. They all face several years in jail for 6 cartons of cigarettes.

The Osaka police are still investigating the whereabouts of the other suspects shown in the video.

Not only were the hooligans responsible for this crime idiots, they have exceptionally poor taste in cigarettes. They are now facing several years in jail for making off with 3 cartons each of Lark and Marlboro Lights.

They should have picked Lucky Strike. It’s the tobacco of choice for the fortunate criminal.

*Please note that Ibaraki  (茨木) is a city in Osaka. It is also the name of Ibarki (Ibaragi/茨城) prefecture, which has the lowest ranking brand image of all 47 prefectures in Japan. It would be a shame if the crime was mistakenly reported as something that happened in Ibaragi. They don’t need anymore bad publicity. Ibaragi gained some notoriety last year when they launched a PR campaign with the slogan: “いばらぎ ♥ なめんなよ”.  Roughly: “Ibaragi: Don’t f*ck with us.” The campaign characters were two comedians dressed like juvenile delinquents from another era.

The prefecture of Ibaragi has absolutely nothing to do with this appalling crime in Osaka's Ibaraki City. Confused. Just remember, Don't F*ck with Ibaragi Prefecture. なめんなよ
The prefecture of Ibaragi has absolutely nothing to do with this appalling crime in Osaka’s Ibaraki City. Confused. Just remember, Don’t F*ck with Ibaragi Prefecture. なめんなよ

Japan wrestles with 1st dengue fever outbreak since 1945; US warns Americans to avoid bloodsuckers

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

 “Bone Break Fever” 

On September 5th,  the US Embassy declared Tokyo “a dengue fever zone” and urged Americans staying in Japan to take precautions as the number of those infected within the country passed fifty. There has not been an outbreak of dengue fever in Japan since 1945. The Tokyo Metropolitan government, after finding mosquitoes carrying the disease in Yoyogi Park, closed down the facilities and is spraying the area with insecticide. The park appears to be the epicenter of the outbreak but the government is also investigating possible infections originating from neighboring prefecture Kanagawa and other parks in the greater Tokyo area. Shinjuku Chuo Park has been designated another hot-spot.  Meanwhile, reports of the problem and images of men in Hazmat suits spraying the park are dominating Japan’s evening news but no one is sure how the outbreak began or if it can be contained.

Dengue fever, while no Ebola, can be fatal in severe cases, and has been the cause of 131 deaths in Malaysia so far this year . The US Embassy Tokyo in their email warning issued to US citizens in Japan noted, “Dengue fever is a viral illness transmitted by the Aedes aegypti and A. albopictus mosquitoes.  These mosquitoes bite during the day, most commonly at dusk and dawn.  According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), symptoms of dengue may include vomiting, high fever, severe headaches, pain behind the eyes, extreme muscle and joint pain, rash, and mild bleeding (mild to severe or easy bruising).  There is no specific treatment or vaccine for dengue fever.” People were advised that wearing long sleeved clothing and using insect repellant are ways of avoiding infection.

Who is Patient Zero? 

The awareness of the problem began last month when a girl in her teens, who is currently unnamed in Japanese media reports, exhibited a high fever, pain behind the eyes and other symptoms. She, “Patient zero”, was admitted to a hospital outside of Tokyo on August 20th. The mystery: she had never set foot outside of Japan, a country that hasn’t had a dengue outbreak in more than 70 years. Japanese citizens and visitors to the country have caught the disease outside of Japan; last year there were 249 confirmed cases. Dengue, a tropical disease transmitted through mosquito bites, cannot spread from human to human, leading the Japanese Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare to concludethat the female must have caught the disease from a mosquito within the country.

Patient Zero lives in Saitama, a prefecture that borders northern Tokyo and commutes to a school within Tokyo according to the Ministry of Health. On August 28th the Japanese government announcedthat two classmates of hers, a female and a male both in their twenties, had also contracted the disease. Like the first victim, both of them had never set foot outside of Japan.The three had contracted the disease in Yoyogi Park, a popular and iconic Public Park located within Tokyo. From the beginning of this month until August 20th, the three of them had been practicing a dance routine in the park and had likely been bitten by mosquitos several times. After determining the park was the epicenter of the outbreaks, the Tokyo government began spraying the park with insecticide but has now closed almost all of it to the public.Yoyogi Park is a tourist mecca in Japan, located next to Meiji Shrine, and on the weekends is mobbed with performance artists, bands, and college students. Meiji Shrine has also begun to limit access to the shrine and may possibly be closed down in the weeks to come. As of September 7th, the number of Japanese citizens diagnosed with Dengue Fever who did not contract it overseas has risen to 73, according to the Ministry of Health.

While dengue is a disease commonly contracted by those who are in tropical regions, Koichi Morita, the director of the Institute of Tropical Medicine at Nagasaki University, put forth a theory as to why the disease has suddenly shown up in Japan for the first time in years.

“A person who got dengue fever abroad likely came to the park, and a mosquito sucked that person’s blood, contracted the disease, and passed it on to another person,” he said in an interview with NHK, Japan’s public television network.While Morita stressed that an investigation would have to be made into which mosquitos can carry the disease, he said that by October the mosquitos will die off and although they will lay eggs, it is highly unlikely that the disease would continue to spread.

The number of patients in Japan with dengue fever has been steadily growing over the last few years as more Japanese tourists visit Bali, Vietnam and other countries where the disease is prevalent. These tourists may also be vectors for not only the disease but the insects that carry it.

On July 31st, the Asahi Newspaper reported that at Narita Airport and other places, there has also been non-native mosquitoes found that could easily harbor the virus. The Japanese government is concerned that the mosquitoes may be coming back with the travellers or on board the airplanes. A spokesman for the Ministry of Health noted that global warming may have contributed to the outbreak.

The Japanese government and US Embassy have noted that there are no fatalities yet and are urging people to remain calm but be vigilant.

The bright side of the outbreak (not really) 

There is also a bright side to the story, depending on your occupation–mosquitoes are not the only bloodsucking animals in Japan. According to Bloomberg news, shares of insecticide makers surged in trading when the first cases were confirmed and have continued to go up. That’s great news for investment bankers, stock traders and others in the financial community paying attention to the news. There’s a Japanese saying, “The misfortune of others is the taste of honey” but for savvy investors, the taste appears to be a bit more like DEET. Perhaps, the taste of DEET is a bit sweet as well—but only if you also like the taste of misfortune.

 

The original posting of this article was on August 31st, 2014. 

Here it is below.

Japan is in shock over its first outbreak of dengue fever in 70 years, as evidence mounts that the cause is local mosquitoes rather than overseas infections. There is a bright-side to the story, however, according to Bloomberg news, shares of insecticide makers surged in trading yesterday on the Tokyo stock exchange. There’s a Japanese saying, “The misfortune of others is the taste of honey” but for savvy investors, the taste appears to be a bit more like DEET.

According to the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare earlier this month as girl in her teens, who is currently unnamed in Japanese media reports, exhibited a high fever and other symptoms of dengue. The mystery: she had never set foot outside of Japan, where the disease not been found in decades. Dengue, a tropical disease transmitted through mosquito bites, cannot spread from human to human, leading the Ministry to conclude that the female must have caught the disease from a mosquito within the country.

According to the CDC, “dengue virus is a leading cause of illness and death in the tropics and subtropics. As many as 400 million people are infected yearly.” Dengue is rare in the United States; it is endemic in parts of Puerto Rico, Latin America, and South East Asia. The virus can induce Dengue hemorrhagic fever, which at its worst can result in bleeding, circulatory failure, shock, and death.

The female, whose exact age was not given, lives in Saitama, a prefecture that borders northern Tokyo and commutes a school within the city, according to the Ministry of Health. On August 20th, she ran a sudden high fever and was immediately admitted to a Saitama hospital.

On August 28th the Japanese government announced that two classmates of hers, a female and a male both in their twenties, had also contracted the disease. Like the first victim, both of them had never set foot outside of Japan.

According to public broadcaster NHK , the three are believed contracted the disease in Yoyogi Park, a popular public park located within Tokyo. The park is next to Meiji Shrine as well, one of the most popular tourist venues in the city. From the beginning of this month until August 20th, the three of them had been practicing a dance routine in the park and had likely been bitten by mosquitos several times. Over thirty other students had also been present at the practice, but at this moment none of them are exhibiting any symptoms of dengue fever.

The park has since been closed off so that any mosquitos in the area can be exterminated with pesticides. A sample of the mosquitos collected show that none of them contain the dengue virus. The images of men in Hazmat suits spraying the park were featured as top news in Japan yesterday and today.

The number of patients in Japan with Dengue fever has been steadily growing over the last few years as more Japanese tourists visit Bali, Vietnam and other countries where the disease is prevalent; over 200 were recorded last year. On July 31st, the Asahi Newspaper reported that at Narita Airport and other places, there has also been non-native mosquitoes found that could harbor the virus. The Japanese government is concerned that the mosquitoes may be coming back with the travellers or on board the airplanes.

There are also native mosquitoes in Japan that can harbor the virus. If these mosquitoes bit an already infected person, they could easily transmit it to others. The Japanese government is hoping that by October the Dengue carrying mosquitos will die off and although they will lay eggs, that it is unlikely that the disease would spread. This will not be welcome news for those investing in Japanese insecticide makers but maybe next summer, their long-term investments may pay off —if there is another outbreak.

 

Hello Kitty isn’t a cat?

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Japan’s most beloved icon, Hello Kitty, is not a cat. Or is she? We don’t even know her nationality. Is she British or Japanese? Is she human? Or is she perhaps the daughter of a survivor of the Island of Dr. Moreau?

A recent report in the Los Angeles Times which quoted an anthropologist as saying she was told by Sanrio that one of Japan’s most beloved mascots, Hello Kitty, is not a feline (Felis catus) left fans reeling in shock.

Christine R. Yano, an anthropologist at the University of Hawaii and author of Pink Globalization: Hello Kitty’s Trek Across the Pacific, which was published last year by Duke University Press, told the Los Angeles Times, “…Hello Kitty is not a cat. She’s a cartoon character. She is a little girl. She is a friend. But she is not a cat. She’s never depicted on all fours. She walks and sits like a two-legged creature. She does have a pet cat of her own, however, and it’s called Charmmy Kitty.”

The revelation caused a wave of shock and disbelief—and ruined childhoods—throughout social media that has even captured the attention of Japanese national broadcaster, NHK.

“Hello Kitty is a character born in the motif of a cat, but is a 100% anthropomorphic girl. We welcome this understanding of Hello Kitty by people throughout the world,” said Sanrio when reached for comment by NHK.

Even Peanut’s character, Snoppy, took to Twitter to confirm that he was, in fact, a dog and not a little boy.

Yano also told the Los Angeles Times that Hello Kitty is British and was created during a time in which Japanese women were fascinated with British culture.

They loved the idea of Britain. It represented the quintessential idealized childhood, almost like a white picket fence. So the biography was created exactly for the tastes of that time,” said Yano.

Sanrio’s official biography of Hello Kitty also confirms her as being British. However, according to an article in the Atlantic Wire written by Jake Adelstein, Hello Kitty’s Guide to Japan in English and Japanese (ハローキティの英語で紹介する日本) written by Koji Kuwabara suggests differently. In the book, which explains Japanese culture, Hello Kitty is seen showing her American boyfriend, Dear Daniel around Japan and inviting him into her home, in which the floor is covered with tatami mats, and introducing him to her family, who all reside in Japan. In the book, Hello Kitty demonstrates such a wide knowledge of Japanese culture and customs that the reader can’t help but assume that she is, in fact, Japanese.

“That’s the kind of stuff the Chinese say when they pirate our national treasures and goods. It’s outrageous. And unforgivable,” said Tatsuya Nakajima, the leader of right-wing group Junshinkai when asked what he thought about the idea that Hello Kitty wasn’t Japanese.

Because Hello Kitty has pointed ears, whiskers, and a fluffy tail, it’s easy to understand why people would question the idea that she isn’t a cat. Japan Subculture Research Center staff lend their voices to the debate.

Angela Erika Kubo: I honestly don’t give a fuck. I honestly doubt that there is any sort of plastic surgery or genetic manipulation out there that can turn a little girl into a furry creature with no mouth. It’s no wonder Hello Kitty weighs three apples—she’s so severely malnourished since it looks like she’s unable to eat. Also, the fact that Hello Kitty owns a cat herself doesn’t mean anything. Humans keep monkeys as pets and genetically both species are remarkably similar.

Jake Adelstein: I believe that Hello Kitty is not a cat. She is a human being with cat DNA and represents a failed attempt by the Japanese government, the Ministry of Health & Welfare, to create a new breed of Japanese woman who would be silent, fecund, and give birth to litters of Japanese cat people, thus solving Japan’s declining birth rate and growing rat problem at the same time. If you’re familiar with the history of Japan’s biological warfare unit and how they all went to work for the Ministry of Health after “the reverse course” during the occupation—it’s all very clear. Technically, I would classify her as Homo catus.

Japan’s Most Infamous Toy Robot Thief Confesses: “I stole it & sold it to buy monster dolls”

Junkies and drug addicts usually steal and sell goods to buy hard drugs, but for one Japanese otaku, his theft was fueled by a different sort of addiction. However, when he shoplifted a toy robot from the wrong guys, he became one of peaceful Japan’s most wanted criminals.

Memo: A condensed version of this article was also cross posted on Kotaku.com  August 25th, 2014

Last week, on August 19, police arrested 50-year-old Kazutoshi Iwama for shoplifting a “priceless” wind-up tin robot, Tetsujin 28 (鉄人28号) from a toy and manga goods store—-after a two-week manhunt that became the talk of the Internet and headline news in Japan.

For those not familiar with Japanese manga, Tetsujin (literally “Iron Man”)  is a giant robot who first appeared in a manga written and illustrated by Mitsuteru Yokoyama, which was popular in the 50s. In the original story, the robot was developed in the final days of WWII by Japan’s Imperial army as a secret weapon to help the empire win the war. After the war, numerous heroes and villains fought for possession of the remote control that would allow anyone to use the giant robot, for good or evil. Finally, he comes under the control of a young private detective, who uses Tetsujin 28 to stop crime and fight other robots. Sometimes, Tetsujin 28 and his boy master even worked with the Tokyo Metropolitan Police.

In other words, not only did our hapless thief steal a valuable toy robot, he practically stole a police mascot. No wonder the store, Mandarake, which claims to be the largest manga and anime shop in the world, got pissed off—as Kotaku previously reported. They took matters into their own hands and on August 5th, they posted a fuzzy picture of the decidedly un-ninja-like thief on their website and demanded that he return the toy by the August 12th or be exposed to the world.

WARNING: This is a message to the criminal who stole the wind-up walking Tetsujin 28 toy from the 4th floor at 5pm on August 4th. If you do not return it by August 12th we will remove the mosaic and show your face to the world.

Return Tetsujin 28 evil-doer and all might be forgiven.
WANTED: If you’re the guy who stole the wind-up  Tetsujin 28 (robot toy)– Give it back or else!

It was the comic book world version of a WANTED: DEAD OR ALIVE poster. It caused major controversy in Japan for possibly advocating vigilante justice and/or “invasion of privacy.” Talk shows debated it, newspapers wrote it up. (Yes, it’s a little hard to believe, but while police shoot alleged thieves to death in the streets of the US, in peaceful Japan, overzealous store owners seeking to catch shoplifters are causing controversy.)

This photo of the slightly chubby robot toy thief was posted by the Mandarake store. They threatened to expose his face to the world if he didn't return the  wind-up robot by August 12th. He couldn't; he'd already sold it for 65,000 yen to buy more monster figurines.
This photo of the slightly chubby robot toy thief was posted by the Mandarake store. They threatened to expose his face to the world if he didn’t return the wind-up robot by August 12th. He couldn’t; he’d already sold it for 65,000 yen to buy more monster figurines.

When Mr. Iwama was caught, he initially denied involvement in the crime, but when confronted with hard evidence, he eventually fessed up saying, “I shoplifted in order to get money to buy monster action figures,” according to the Asahi Shimbun.

“I love the sort of monster figures and dolls that appear on Ultraman, and I wanted to buy more with the money I made from the action figure [I stole],” explained Iwama, who has been working a series of part-time jobs. According to the police, Iwama says that he noticed the glass case holding the robot was unlocked and stole it on impulse. He then sold the robot to another manga goods store for 64,000 yen ($640) several days later. The police tracked him down from that sale. When they searched Iwama’s home in Chiba, Japan, they found a large collection containing dozens of monster action figures. Police are now investigating to see whether other stolen nerd contraband is in the collection.

Iwama claims that he did not know of the public threat made by the company until after he sold the item. He reportedly told the police, “I didn’t hear the news about my picture being posted until after I’d sold it. I wanted to return it then but I couldn’t.”

On the other hand, Mandarake’s stunt raised questions of whether or not they were committing a crime themselves amongst the legal community and has created a lively on-line debate.

“Under the provisions of the Penal Code, it’s criminal intimidation if you threaten someone, even if it’s to take back a legitimate loan,” said Hisashi Sonoda, a criminal law professor from Konan University Law School, according to the Sankei Shimbun.

A Tokyo police officer in the criminal investigative division told Japan Subculture Research Center on background, “Technically speaking, the way the store handled it could have constituted criminal intimidation but no sane police officer would want to take that case. And I doubt any prosecutor would actually file charges. The wording of their warning could have been a little better.”

The detective also noted that if the store had exposed an innocent man, they could be held liable for criminal defamation, which is a crime punishable with time in jail.

Masuzo Furukawa, the president of the company that owns the “Mandarake” chain stores, told Japan Subculture Research Center prior to the arrest via email, “Our basic principle is ‘condemn the offense, but not the offender,’ but if he doesn’t return the stolen item we will release his photograph and take actions to identify the criminal.” Mr. Furukawa stated to the press after the arrest that shoplifters should beware, and that in the future the store may take similar measures.

However, due to pressure from the police, Mandarake later decided to not release the man’s photo. The Tokyo Nakano Police Department allegedly said that the store’s threat and the media attention surrounding it had “hindered the investigation” and they asked the shop to leave matters in the hands of the police.

Speaking of police, according to the National Police Agency, shoplifting in Japan is a persistent problem. Although shoplifting incidents have slowly decreased since its peak of 158,020 cases in 2004, in 2013 there were 126,386 cases that amounted to more than 2 billion yen in damages. There were 85,464 people arrested in 2013. 37.7 percent of them were over 65. Many elderly cite economic hardships or debt as a reason for stealing, with many of the items being inexpensive items such as groceries and daily necessities.

While the store was unable to carry out their own comic-book justice by unmasking the criminal, the media attention surrounding the story serves as a warning to toy robot-stealing bandits everywhere: stealing from otaku is a bad idea. Not only may you be publicly shamed, you might also get arrested—even after Mandarake decided not to release Mr. Iwama’s photo, Japan’s television media had no problem broadcasting the unpixelated photo after his arrest. If anything, he should at least be grateful that the owners of the store didn’t have a life-sized Tetsujin 28 robot hunt him down… because the days when a smart otaku can make their own killer robots may not be that far away.

And finally, it should be noted, that despite the Japanese police’s concern for privacy and their admonishment to Mandarake to not release the photo of the culprit—when he was caught, the information was quickly leaked to the Japanese press—many of whom photographed Mr. Iwama and then posted his photo all over the internet. And justice for all?

 

 

 

After months of debate, Japan’s court tell stalking victim, “We won’t protect you”

 

Ikumi Yoshimatsu has become the voice of many women in Japan who have suffered stalking in silence. The Stalker Zero campaign was launched with Prime Minister Abe's wife.
Ikumi Yoshimatsu has become the voice of many women in Japan who have suffered stalking in silence. The Stalker Zero campaign was launched with Prime Minister Abe’s wife.

 

After seven months of deliberation, Japanese courts rejected a request for a restraining order filed by Ikumi Yoshimatsu, the first Japanese woman to be crowned Miss International in 2012.

In December of last year, Ms. Yoshimatsu filed criminal charges against one of Japan’s most powerful talent agency executives, Genichi Taniguchi, for allegedly stalking and harassing her. The management of the pageant, The International Culture Association, ordered her to skip the succession ceremony and “play sick and shut up” out of fear of scandal.  Genichi Taniguchi is an executive in the Burning Productions group which been accused of having ties to organised crime, specifically the Yamaguchi-gumi.

Yoshimatsu, who alleges that Pearl Dash President and talent executive Genichi Taniguchi harassed and intimidated her for months, told the Japan Subculture Research Center, “I’m personally disappointed with the court. It’s taken them months to decide not to do anything at all. I’m lucky in that I have the support of my fans and I have people to watch over me—most stalking victims don’t have that luxury. As we’ve seen time and time again, when stalking victims go to the police or the courts, by the time something is done–it’s often too late. Several women have been killed even after going to the police about their stalking problems. I wish the courts would stand in the shoes of women and men who are harassed and intimidated by the stalkers pursuing them. But Japan’s judges are said to be the upper elite, removed from general society, and really unable to understand the concerns and fears of victims. Where are victims of stalking supposed to find safety if both the courts and the police refuse to act?”

In a statement released on her blog today, Yoshimatsu wrote, “During these seven months, the exchange I had with the courts felt like a trial. A temporary injunction is not a trial.”

Yoshimatsu, who filed for the temporary restraining order in January, wrote that despite the “difficult trauma” that it put her through, she had to transcribe audio recordings, organize e-mail exchanges, and put together discarded contracts in order to prove her point to the court.

After submitting the documents to the court, she would receive a rebuttal statement from Taniguchi’s side, which required her to put together a counter statement against that. For months, this pattern continued, according to Yoshimatsu.

An e-mail sent to Pearl Dash requesting comment has not yet been answered. Calls were made but the office, representing Mr. Taniguchi, said that the questions were too vague to answer and chose not to make a rebuttal to Ms. Yoshimatsu.

Yoshimatsu’s experiences gathered support within Japan and abroad and led to the launch of an anti-stalking campaign on Change.org addressed to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe that gained more than 131, 000 signatures and support from First Lady Akie Abe.

According to an August 10, 2014 editorial in the Yomiuri Shimbun, it’s easy to stalkers to track down their victims, simply by requesting their victim’s residence certificate at a city hall or ward office or just simply due to the carelessness of public servants. For example, the former lover of a female hired a private investigation company that called the city tax division pretending to be the female’s husband and obtained her address. The former lover then stabbed his victim to death.

Despite her failure to get a temporary restraining order against Taniguchi, Yoshimatsu indicates that she will continue to fight against the treatment shown to stalking victims in Japan.

“I cannot forget the many messages sent from victims to my blog and Facebook. I hope that by working hard, victims who are about to give up will be about to have some courage and strength,” Yoshimatsu said in her statement.

Japanese Giant Robot Thief is Caught

Update August 19, 2014: The toy store thief has been arrested. The president of the company which runs the store issued a statement on August 19th saying, “We would like to thank the media who brought up the Tetsujin 28 theft incident. It became a hot topic and attracted a lot of interest, and because of that the police put their dignity on the line to investigate the crime. The culprit was successfully arrested, and the goods will probably be returned. This is all thanks to everyone and I am really grateful. Thank you very much.”

 

Sometimes, to catch a toy thief, extreme measures are required. We can only ask ourselves –what would Tetsujin 28 and his boy detective master do in a similar case…

 

****

“If you don’t return the wind-up robot, we’re going to expose you as a thief to the world.”

Most leave the punishment of criminals to the police, but one toy and comic book store in Japan has decided to take the law into its own hands and see justice done—or maybe give a thief a chance to redeem himself. “Mandarake”, a used anime and manga (Japanese comics) goods chain of stores is threatening to publicly release the picture of a man who allegedly shoplifted a rare wind-up robot doll from the store. They have given him fair warning and posted the equivalent of a WANTED poster on-line

On August 4th, the thief stole a tin wind-up toy robot valued at 250, 000 yen ($2,500) from a Mandarake store in Tokyo’s Nakano ward. The company, Mandarake, which owns the store put up a public notice on its website which said that if the thief did not return the item within a week from the day it was taken (August 4th) they would show his face to the world.

The deadline is midnight August 12th Japan time.

The store already posted a blurred image of the man (taken from a security camera) on their web page (see picture) and if their demands are not met they will would remove the mosaic from his face and reveal his identity.

The shop’s stunt raises questions of whether or not they are committing a crime themselves, amongst the legal community and has created a lively on-line debate.

“Under the provisions of the Penal Code, it’s criminal intimidation if you threaten someone, even if it’s to take back a legitimate loan,” said Hisashi Sonoda, a criminal law professor from Konan University Law School, according to the Sankei Shimbun. A Tokyo police officer in the criminal investigative division told JSRC on background, “Technically speaking, the way the store is handling it could constitute criminal intimidation but no sane police officer would want to take that case. And I doubt any prosecutor would actually file charges. The wording of their warning could be a little better.” The detective also noted that if the store exposed an innocent man, they could be held liable for criminal defamation, which is a crime punishable with time in jail. In fact, even if the man is guilty, in some cases it could still be considered defamation under the current law.

Despite the risks involved, the company intends to carry out their warning if the goods aren’t returned.

Return Tetsujin 28 evil-doer and all might be forgiven.
Return Tetsujin 28 evil-doer and all might be forgiven.
警告 8月4日17時頃 まんだらけ中野店4F変やで25万円の野村トーイ製 鉄人28号 No.3 ゼンマイ歩行を盗んだ犯人へ_Page_2
You can ride but you can’t hide from a giant robot. (Okay, he stole a mini version of it it but still. This is the crime in action. The face of the wind-up robot doll thief will be revealed on August the 13th. Unlesss

 

“We are really just hoping that the thief will return the stolen goods,” Masuzo Furukawa, the president of the company, told the JSRC via email. “Our basic principle is ‘condemn the offense, but not the offender,’ but if he doesn’t return the stolen item we will release his photograph and take actions to identify the criminal.” He said that they had footage of the suspect stealing the robot and there was no doubt that they had the right man.

A source familiar with the investigation said that they suspect the suspect likely stole the figure because he is an avid fan who could not afford the doll but desperately wanted it. It would now certainly be an item hard to resell.

The toy is a model of Tetsujin 28. Tetsujin is a giant robot, who first appeared in a manga written and illustrated by Mitsuteru Yokoyama, which was popular in the 50s. In the original story, the robot was developed in the final days of WWII, by Japan’s Imperial army as a secret weapon to help the empire win the war. After the war, numerous heroes and villains fought for possession of the remote control that would allow anyone to use the giant robot, for good or evil. Finally, he comes under the control of a young private detective used Tetsujin 28 to stop crime and fight other robots. Sometimes, Tetsujin 28 and his boy master even worked with the Tokyo Metropolitan Police.

Speaking of police, according to the National Police Agency, shoplifting in Japan is a persistent problem. Although shoplifting incidents have slowly decreased since its peak of 158, 020 cases in 2004, in 2013 there were 126, 386 cases that amounted to more than 2 billion yen in damages. There were 85, 464 people arrested in 2013. 37.7 percent of them were over 65. Many elderly cite economic hardships or debt as a reason for stealing, with many of the items being inexpensive items such as groceries and daily necessities. The plump young man in the photo released by Mandarake doesn’t appear to be starving.

The hours are ticking away. Will the thief do the right thing and turn back in the toy—taking advantage of a generous offer—and follow the righteous path of a superhero and reform his thieving ways. If anything, he should at least be grateful that the owners of the store didn’t have a life-sized Tetsujin 28 robot hunt him down—because those days of killer robots may not be that far away. In any event, all will be revealed on by August 13th, and for one toy thief—this 13th may be a very unlucky day indeed.

Update: Due to pressure from the police, “Mandarake” decided to not release picture of the male thief’s face, the Asahi Shimbun reported on August 14th. The Nakano Police Department allegedly said that the store’s threat and the media attention surrounding it “hindered the investigation” and they asked the shop not to make the suspect’s face public.

A female claiming to be a friend of the male suspect also allegedly called the store approximately 7 P.M. and asked whether the store would really forgive the suspect if he returned the item by 8 P.M. No return was made.

While the store was unable to carry out their own justice by unmasking the criminal the media attention surrounding the story serves as a warning to robot-stealing bandits everywhere.

“We’re struggling to respond to everything. I think it raised a problem, but the response was greater than expected. From now on it will be difficult for us to respond by making the photo of the face public,” the Asahi Shimbun quoted public relations director, Katsuya Nakamura.

 

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe plagiarizes himself: If you can recycle nuclear fuel, why not speeches?

If you felt a sense of déjà vu when listening to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe give a speech at the ceremony commemorating the 69th anniversary of the Hiroshima nuclear bombing on August 6th, you’re not alone. Parts of Abe’s speech are nearly identical to the one he gave last year, the most notable different being that he changed “68 years ago” to “69 years ago.” I decided to take a page out of Abe’s book and copy and paste his speeches. Paragraphs that are similar to each other have been made bold below. Both speeches were taken from the Prime Minister’s cabinet website. Although the middle of both speeches differ from each other, the second to last paragraph of this year’s speech, in which Abe gives his condolences to those who suffer from nuclear radiation-related diseases and calls for the abolition of nuclear weapons, in particular is only a rewording of at the same idea conveyed in last year’s speech.

Editor note: There is indeed, as Ecclesiastes once noted,  nothing new under the (land of the rising) sun

Prime Minister Abe has a habit of repeating himself, which isn't great when people are actually paying attention. So much for that "heartfelt" speech.
Prime Minister Abe has a habit of repeating himself, which isn’t great when people are actually paying attention. So much for that “heartfelt” speech.

 

平成25年8月6日

広島市原爆死没者慰霊式並びに平和祈念式あいさつ

広島市原爆死没者慰霊式、平和祈念式に臨み、原子爆弾の犠牲となった方々の御霊に対し、謹んで、哀悼の誠を捧げます。今なお被爆の後遺症に苦しんでおられる皆様に、心から、お見舞いを申し上げます。

 68年前の朝、一発の爆弾が、十数万になんなんとする、貴い命を奪いました。7万戸の建物を壊し、一面を、業火と爆風に浚わせ、廃墟と化しました。生き長らえた人々に、病と障害の、また生活上の、言い知れぬ苦難を強いました。

 犠牲と言うべくして、あまりに夥しい犠牲でありました。しかし、戦後の日本を築いた先人たちは、広島に斃れた人々を忘れてはならじと、心に深く刻めばこそ、我々に、平和と、繁栄の、祖国を作り、与えてくれたのです。蝉しぐれが今もしじまを破る、緑豊かな広島の街路に、私たちは、その最も美しい達成を見出さずにはいられません。

 私たち日本人は、唯一の、戦争被爆国民であります。そのような者として、我々には、確実に、核兵器のない世界を実現していく責務があります。その非道を、後の世に、また世界に、伝え続ける務めがあります。

昨年、我が国が国連総会に提出した核軍縮決議は、米国並びに英国を含む、史上最多の99カ国を共同提案国として巻き込み、圧倒的な賛成多数で採択されました。

本年、若い世代の方々を、核廃絶の特使とする制度を始めました。来年は、我が国が一貫して主導する非核兵器国の集まり、「軍縮・不拡散イニシアティブ」の外相会合を、ここ広島で開きます。

今なお苦痛を忍びつつ、原爆症の認定を待つ方々に、一日でも早くその認定が下りるよう、最善を尽くします。被爆された方々の声に耳を傾け、より良い援護策を進めていくため、有識者や被爆された方々の代表を含む関係者の方々に議論を急いで頂いています。

広島の御霊を悼む朝、私は、これら責務に、旧倍の努力を傾けていくことをお誓いします。

 結びに、いま一度、犠牲になった方々の御冥福を、心よりお祈りします。ご遺族と、ご存命の被爆者の皆様には、幸多からんことを祈念します。核兵器の惨禍が再現されることのないよう、非核三原則を堅持しつつ、核兵器廃絶に、また、恒久平和の実現に、力を惜しまぬことをお誓いし、私のご挨拶といたします。

平成二十五年八月六日 内閣総理大臣・安倍晋三

平成26年8月6日

広島市原爆死没者慰霊式並びに平和祈念式あいさつ

広島市原爆死没者慰霊式、平和祈念式に臨み、原子爆弾の犠牲となった方々の御霊に対し、謹んで、哀悼の誠を捧げます。今なお被爆の後遺症に苦しんでおられる皆様に、心から、お見舞いを申し上げます。

 69年前の朝、一発の爆弾が、十数万になんなんとする、貴い命を奪いました。7万戸の建物を壊し、一面を、業火と爆風に浚わせ、廃墟と化しました。生き長らえた人々に、病と障害の、また生活上の、言い知れぬ苦難を強いました。
 犠牲と言うべくして、あまりに夥しい犠牲でありました。しかし、戦後の日本を築いた先人たちは、広島に斃れた人々を忘れてはならじと、心に深く刻めばこそ、我々に、平和と、繁栄の、祖国を作り、与えてくれたのです。緑豊かな広島の街路に、私たちは、その最も美しい達成を見出さずにはいられません。
 人類史上唯一の戦争被爆国として、核兵器の惨禍を体験した我が国には、確実に、「核兵器のない世界」を実現していく責務があります。その非道を、後の世に、また世界に、伝え続ける務めがあります。
私は、昨年、国連総会の「核軍縮ハイレベル会合」において、「核兵器のない世界」に向けての決意を表明しました。我が国が提出した核軍縮決議は、初めて100を超える共同提案国を得て、圧倒的な賛成多数で採択されました。包括的核実験禁止条約の早期発効に向け、関係国の首脳に直接、条約の批准を働きかけるなど、現実的、実践的な核軍縮を進めています。
本年4月には、「軍縮・不拡散イニシアティブ」の外相会合を、ここ広島で開催し、被爆地から我々の思いを力強く発信いたしました。来年は、被爆から70年目という節目の年であり、5年に一度の核兵器不拡散条約(NPT)運用検討会議が開催されます。「核兵器のない世界」を実現するための取組をさらに前へ進めてまいります。
今なお被爆による苦痛に耐え、原爆症の認定を待つ方々がおられます。昨年末には、3年に及ぶ関係者の方々のご議論を踏まえ、認定基準の見直しを行いました。多くの方々に一日でも早く認定が下りるよう、今後とも誠心誠意努力してまいります。
広島の御霊を悼む朝、私は、これら責務に、倍旧の努力を傾けていくことをお誓いいたします。結びに、いま一度、犠牲になった方々のご冥福を、心よりお祈りします。ご遺族と、ご存命の被爆者の皆様には、幸多からんことを祈念します。核兵器の惨禍が再現されることのないよう、非核三原則を堅持しつつ、核兵器廃絶に、また、世界恒久平和の実現に、力を惜しまぬことをお誓いし、私のご挨拶といたします。

平成二十六年八月六日
内閣総理大臣・安倍晋三

For those who cannot read Japanese, you can take a look at the English translations of the speeches, which are also similar to each other. The italics are parts of his speech that are almost the same as the year before.

Address by Prime Minister Abe at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Ceremony

Wednesday August 6, 2014

Here today, on the occasion of the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Ceremony, I reverently express my sincere condolences to the souls of the atomic bomb victims.  I also extend my heartfelt sympathy to those still suffering from the aftereffects of the atomic bomb.

On this very morning 69 years ago, a single bomb deprived well more than 100,000 people of their precious lives.  It destroyed some 70,000 buildings and swept away the entire area through its hellish fires and its blast, turning the area to ruins.  Those who survived were forced to endure unspeakable hardships of illness and disability and tribulations in their daily lives.

The enormous price that was paid should be regarded as an immense sacrifice.  However, our forebears who built post-World War II Japan had etched deeply upon their hearts that they must never forget the people who perished in Hiroshima.  It was in this spirit that they created, and then bequeathed to us, a homeland of peace and prosperity.  We cannot help but find the most beautiful form of achievement in the streets of Hiroshima, full of greenery, where the continuous chirping of cicadas breaks the silence even now.

As the only country in human history to have experienced the horror of nuclear devastation in war, Japan bears a responsibility to bring about “a world free of nuclear weapons” without fail.  We have a duty to continue to convey to the next generation, and indeed to the world, the inhumanity of nuclear weapons.

Last year at the High-Level Meeting of the United Nations General Assembly on Nuclear Disarmament, I declared my determination to achieve “a world free of nuclear weapons.” The draft resolution on nuclear disarmament submitted by the Government of Japan had more than 100 co-sponsor states for the first time and was adopted by an overwhelming majority.  Working towards the early entry into force of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty, Japan is also advancing realistic and practical nuclear disarmament by directly urging the heads of state and government of relevant nations to ratify the Treaty and through other such efforts.

In April this year, the Non-Proliferation and Disarmament Initiative Ministerial Meeting among foreign ministers was held here in Hiroshima.  From this site of an atomic bombing, our thoughts were sent out powerfully to the world.  Next year will be the milestone year of the 70th year since the bombing, and the Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, which is held once every five years, will also be convened.  We will advance our efforts to realize “a world free of nuclear weapons” still further.

There are individuals who are still now enduring pain and suffering caused by the atomic bombing and waiting to be recognized as having an atomic bomb disease.  At the end of last year, the Government conducted a review of the criteria for granting recognition, bearing in mind the discussions held by relevant persons over three years.  The Government will continue to make good-faith efforts to enable a large number of people to receive such recognition as soon as possible.

This morning, as we mourn the souls of the victims in Hiroshima, I pledge that I will redouble my efforts to carry out these duties.  I would like to conclude with my heartfelt prayers once more for the repose of the souls of the victims.  I would also like to extend my best wishes to the bereaved families and to the atomic bomb survivors.  I will close my address with a pledge that Japan will firmly uphold the “Three Non-Nuclear Principles” and spare no efforts in working towards the total abolition of nuclear weapons and the realization of eternal world peace, so that the horror and devastation caused by nuclear weapons are not repeated.

Shinzo Abe
Prime Minister of Japan
August 6, 2014

This isn’t the first time Abe has recycled speeches. Users online have remarked that Abe also used the same phrases at a memorial service for dead soldiers in Okinawa two years in a row.

With a long succession of prime ministers who rarely last more than a year, perhaps Abe didn’t expect to be in office for so long and didn’t think of setting the time aside to prepare something more original. More likely, he was being lazy.

****

Editor note 1: Maybe he just hates 1) remembering Japan lost the war 2) Japan might have won the war if they’d built their atomic bomb earlier 3) He thinks this whole Hiroshima thing is a pain in the ass because it really reminds people of how dangerous and destructive nuclear power is and that the Fukushima meltdown mess is an ongoing disaster. This isn’t helping him and his pals at TEPCO or his LDP cronies with a lot of TEPCO and KEPCO stock.

Editor note 2: I’m not entirely unsympathetic to the man. After writing about the yakuza for 20 years, I run out of ways to discuss them without some repetition–but then again, I’m not expressing my ‘heartfelt’ sympathy to them or their victims either.

Abe tells women to “shine,” but, really, he meant “die!”

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 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 blog post written by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to show his support for women backfires when people pointed out that the English word “shine” can actually be read as the Japanese word for “drop dead (死ね)!”

The blog was coincidentally released shortly after a scandal in which members of Abe’s political party yelled sexist comments at the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly where Your Party member Ayaka Shiomura was giving a speech on the difficulties of women raising children in Tokyo.

As reported in The Daily Beast, the public is demanding the resignation of the members who called out, “Hey you, should hurry up and get married!” and “Can’t you have babies?”

The heckling and slurs all came from the seats of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) faction, which is the ruling party in the Tokyo Assembly and in the nation. The Cabinet Office declined to comment about the incident, saying that they “are not in a position to do so.” However, Prime Minister Abe is definitely in a position to comment. He is not only the leader of Japan, he is also the Director-General—the sosai —of the LDP. It looks like deeply-rooted misogyny is hard to hide.