Living Without A Data Plan In Japan: Roaming Free But No (Data) Roaming

by Flory Leow

“You want a no-data plan? We have one, but it’s almost the same price as having data…”

Sayonara 24/7 Chained To The Phone Life

Last week, I walked into a U-NEXT store to check out smartphone plans. I’ve had a Japanese flip phone since 2013, and I wanted to see if I could buy a SIM-only plan from them instead. This is when I learned that no salesperson today is prepared to deal with customers who want data-free plans. The assumption is that everybody wants mobile data — the more, the better.

I walked out of U-NEXT without buying anything. Data is cheap, but you can’t put a price on attention and presence.

The cost of data has fallen considerably over the last few years. Even here in Japan, where the de facto cartel has kept contract prices and cancellation fees high, you can, at the time of writing, sign up for a u-mobile 1-year contract for a relatively low monthly sum of JPY1,360 per month for 3.3GB of data with no cancellation fees after one year.

(The salesperson really tried to upsell that data plan to me.)

Prices never used to be this low. When I lived in Tokyo from 2012–2013 as an exchange student, your options for mobile data plans were 2-year contracts with hefty cancellation fees for breaking them a year in. The only option at the time that didn’t involve a cancellation fee was a Softbank prepaid flip phone. I took it. Public WiFi was virtually nonexistent back then. I recall mild inconveniences, but nothing particularly terrible.

Moving back to Japan in 2015, I continued using the same phone and number. Barring a period of around 6 months where I owned a company-sponsored smartphone with data, I have not had mobile data since 2015.

Everyone I have talked to about this has bemoaned their various states of addiction to their phone, for whatever reason; very few do anything about it. Fortunately, I have not really needed to do anything — doing nothing to change my data situation is exactly what’s keeping me sane.

It’s hard to say without data (ha!), but it seems that owning a smartphone these days equals having a data plan. It is inescapable, maybe even inevitable. There’s plenty of talk about switching off the phone, but few discuss the merits of actually forgoing mobile data altogether. Most articles indexed on Google talking about this are dated to several years ago. (See Further Reading below.) But given the conversations and growing awareness surrounding internet addiction, I think eliminating mobile data should be one choice in an arsenal of options to manage the time we spend on our phones.

It’s a weakness

Not having mobile data began as an exercise in moderate frugality [1], but as the years went on it became more about preserving my sanity, preventing myself from free-falling into constant swipe-mode. Airplane mode isn’t enough for me because it’s too easy to switch back to cellular mode. My last job left me so addicted to looking at email that every instinct in me now has to fight the constant and imaginary demands on my attention, to consciously stop myself from reaching for the phone. I fail at this dozens of times a day, sometimes stopping at just lighting up the phone screen with the home button.

I then imagine how much worse this would be if I had mobile data and did this outside my apartment. So every year I wonder if I will succumb and pay for the convenience of a data plan; every year I find myself increasingly unwilling to do so.

A decision like this puts me in good company. Evgeny Morozov, for instance, locks his phone and ethernet cable in a timed safe on weekends instead of wasting willpower and energy on “having the internal conversation.” A dear friend, Kate, has no data plan. Kat, another close friend, has begun switching her phone off for a day or two a week.

Everyone I have talked to about this has bemoaned their various states of addiction to their phone, for whatever reason; very few do anything about it. Fortunately, I have not really needed to do anything — doing nothing to change my data situation is exactly what’s keeping me sane.

Presence

I think I’m lucky: most of my friends are great at being present. They turn their phones face down, or keep them in their bags. I hear this is becoming rare, which feels like a deep loss. Mobile data has, in the last few years, reduced everyone’s collective ability to be present in the moment.

I’ve sat at dinner tables where everyone’s face is lit by the glow of a smartphone screen as they post something to Instagram, reply to a WhatsApp message that just flew in, or deal with an ‘urgent’ work email (which is never really all that urgent; such is the tyranny of capitalism). I have watched people I have been just a little in love with read emails on their phone or scroll through Facebook, while we’re out somewhere in the city, and have felt my heart break a few hundred times. I can see the involuntary twitch of their hands reaching for their phones when we talk.

It happens to me too. When I’m in a place with WiFi, I am more distracted, more prone to flipping my phone open. Some part of my brain is low-key reminding me that I have messages to reply to, emails to send, Instagram feeds to check. I have frittered away hours and hours scrolling and swiping. I am also a bit shit at being present in the moment even without my phone. The only time I can’t look to my phone is when I’m outside in the world without data.

None of this is to say that having mobile data makes everyone automatically become a little bit shit. But the ubiquity of mobile data has made it easier for otherwise lovely people to disregard social courtesies. It helps people justify scrolling through their phone at the dinner table because everyone else is doing the same thing.

The other part of being present when I’m out is seeing the world in ways I might otherwise never notice if I’m walking around staring at a screen. I might never have begun photographing doors, or plants. I might have been too busy uploading photos to social media to pay attention to the mountain in front of me. I like to think I’m better than that — but I’m not.

Why I don’t need mobile data

A few things make it easier for me to opt out of mobile data:

I don’t have a job that requires me to look at emails 24/7. No watching the stock market, or employers who breathe down my neck asking me if I’ve seen this thread. No customers who want urgent answers to their trivial questions. And so on.

It’s quite the opposite: I focus substantially better when writing in completely disconnected environments.

(Yes, I think I’m very lucky — and I wish everyone else could have something like this, obviously.)

I read, write, and speak fluent Japanese. Which means no need for Google Translate. Navigating Tokyo is not an issue.

I don’t have kids. I mean, people have raised children for centuries without mobile data, but modern parents seem to think that constant connectivity is necessary for parenting. (Another kettle of fish altogether. Please talk to someone else about this.)

I have high-speed WiFi at home. This is something I’m lucky enough to be able to afford, and it’s also necessary for my work. Given the choice between mobile data or an internet connection, I’d choose the latter every time.

There’s free, public WiFi all around Tokyo. Yes, really! See the last section of this piece.

The truth is that I am as addicted to social media as the next Instagram junkie. I’m not proud of this, but it’s true. I find myself reaching for my phone every few minutes; on the train I sometimes even open apps that I know won’t load just to quell my dopamine-addicted brain. It’s precisely because I know myself too well that I continue choosing not to have mobile data instead.

(Plus, that’s an extra $15 a month I can spend on runny eggs — which give me more pleasure and joy than any amount of feed-refreshing ever could.)

But but but

Isn’t it inconvenient? Sometimes. But that’s all it is — an inconvenience. I don’t miss having it when I’m outside. If I need it, WiFi access is available at home, at cafes, in train stations. Plus, public WiFi is great for accessibility across socioeconomic classes, and for tourists.

Sure, I’m an impatient motherfucker and rage as much as anyone else at certain inconveniences. But if there’s anything Japan’s million bureaucratic procedures has taught me, it’s to be patient with inefficiency. I don’t love inconvenience, but the cost of convenience is so much higher. Tim Wu says it more eloquently than I can.

What if we’re meeting and I’m running late? I don’t usually know when a friend’s running late, so I just have to trust that they show up, whether it’s on time or a few minutes late. That’s what we all used to do pre-smartphone. Again, much depends on having a reliable public transportation system. I remember it being significantly more difficult to be punctual in Malaysia.

If someone flakes on me and decides not to show up, that reflects badly on them. The upside is that this encourages specificity in deciding on meeting points (“Let’s do Exit B6 at Ginza Station, I’ll be above ground at the fire hydrant”) but also weeds out flaky people who you probably shouldn’t be friends with. If they can’t respect your time, they don’t deserve it.

Besides, if they really need to contact you, that’s what a phone number’s for. I hope I have your numbers for when the next earthquake hits.

What if you need to look something up? What burning fact would I need to look up right away that I couldn’t look up later? Do we really need to watch that video right now? See also: delayed gratification.

But you’re using your phone outside? Like on the train? Yeah, I’m usually reading articles I’ve saved to Pocket, writing/taking notes on strange people around me, or editing photos.

What about Google Maps? Look up routes and directions before setting out. Offline maps are useful and work well. There’s also something to be said for looking at the scenery around you instead of at your blue-dot-self moving around on a screen.

 

There have definitely been times when my offline maps stopped working while I was on the move, or things didn’t update. So I also like asking strangers for help, or looking at area maps in the neighborhoods. Talking to people! What a novel concept.

Uber? Grab? Lyft? Thankfully, none of these exist in Japan. Tokyo’s incredibly efficient public transportation system eliminates the need for ride-sharing apps… for now.

Maybe ride-sharing apps would be useful in more remote areas where there are fewer train stations. But then again, they probably wouldn’t be operating in those areas, and I’d still have had to walk for miles along Route 207 from Nagasaki to Saga prefecture just to find a bus heading to Tara. (True story. I don’t think having mobile data would have changed anything, except I’d have spent more time complaining about it to friends online — and maybe found a bus slightly faster.)

What if you need to drive? On the off-chance that I ever sit behind a steering wheel in Japan, I hope the car comes with sat-nav. Otherwise it’s back to pre-2007 days of parking by the roadside flipping through a map book.

What if you’re in the countryside? Even better! I can switch off! Researching stuff to do before you travel/leave your accommodation, or just using whatever WiFi is available there. I’m usually visiting someone who knows the area (and probably has mobile data, let’s be real.) There were also a couple of times I thumbed rides in Hokkaido and Aomori when I was stranded and couldn’t figure out buses.

I remember Couchsurfing with a couple in Aomori City back in 2013. They lived, insofar as was possible, a very off-grid lifestyle — no internet (they’d check their email at Internet cafes), only flip phones (one of the few things they used electricity for), no refrigerator, no washing machine. We’re no longer in touch, but it left a huge impression on me.

The only times I’ll have mobile data are when I travel to places I’m unfamiliar with and where I don’t speak the local language(s), like Morocco or Thailand; or, when I’m back in Malaysia and rely on Grab to go places. Even then, it’s optional. I went without a data plan in Busan because most cafes had free WiFi and I spent most of my time with a friend living there. It’s quite fun muddling through menus and going through the usual motions of cross-cultural communication — hand gestures, smiles, everything you need for your fellow human beings.

And so it is

Frankly, I like not having data. I like being able to say no to looking at emails. I love having my mind back, wandering into other connections and thoughts without the constant drip of stuff from the internet. I love looking at my friends when they talk.

The Dance of The Data Free

If you have mobile data and like it, good on you. I don’t wish to suggest that living without mobile data is a viable choice for everyone, nor do I want to sound like I’m preaching some ‘elite’ hippie lifestyle from a pedestal way up high. There are plenty of reasons to have mobile data — war refugees using social media to keep in touch; not being able to afford high-speed internet at home (though given the price of mobile plans in Japan this is pretty much similar); work conditions (which is a problem with society at large).

But if you think you can’t go through daily life without mobile data, you are wrong. We’ve survived for millennia without it, and when the next natural disaster in Japan knocks out mobile data providers for a bit, it’ll be useful to have actual phone numbers or to be okay with being a little disconnected for a while.

A Short List of Free Public WiFi Places in Japan (Mostly Tokyo)

Tokyo is a pretty great place to live without mobile data these days if you already have an internet connection at home. Try the following:

  • Tokyo Metro stations. Very rarely, the internet is down, and I feel a flash of irritation — and then I chide myself and take out the Kindle instead.
  • Starbucks. They’ve eliminated registration — hurray!
  • JR stations. It’s patchy and sketchy, but many major JR stations in Tokyo now have free WiFi (under the JR East Free WiFi network)
  • Some libraries, like the Hibiya Library with its characteristically low-security password (numbers 1 through 9. FIGHT ME HIBIYA STAFF). The Tokyo Metropolitan Library’s WiFi has so far been unreliable.
  • Some cafes have it. But it doesn’t really matter if they don’t.
  • 7–11 and Lawson’s have reliable WiFi. Accessing Family Mart’s WiFi requires a lengthy registration process before you can even go online, and it’s slow as hell. Don’t bother.

Yes, it’s all unsecured WiFi. Don’t buy stuff with your credit card, use it only when you need to, don’t register with your real email address, and all that.

A Lonely Footnote

[1] JOKES, I spend all my money on food.

Further Reading

Flory Leow is a sporadic writer, photographer, foodie and student of history living in Tokyo and blogging here and there. This article was previously published on her blog and has been reprinted here with her kind permission. 

Rock Out To Feed The Hungry! Monday, December 3rd–Improve your karma instantly by coming

In Tokyo, about two million people live below the poverty line. That means many families find it difficult to put food on their tables. The need is especially great during the holiday season, when many other residents are enjoying festive meals and celebrations.

For the second-straight year, Tokyo-based indie rock band Instant Karma is teaming up with the Second Harvest Japan food bank to help feed the less fortunate. The band is holding a night of music and fun at Ebisu’s What the Dickens pub on Monday, December 3, 2018.

Instant Karma–the band that rewards your good intentions with good music and a chance to do some good in this world.

Admission to the event is free, but attendees will be encouraged to make donations to the food bank which, in turn, will use the money to provide meals and food for those in need.

“We wanted to do something for others over the holiday period,” says Instant Karma guitarist/vocalist Mike de Jong. “Nobody should go hungry over the holidays.”

The band will play three sets of music, combining popular cover songs with originals. All four band members have agreed to turn over their payment for the night to the charity.

The Second Harvest food bank was established in 2002. The non-profit organization works with community groups to gather and distribute food to people across the country.

Last year’s Second Harvest event at What the Dickens raised several thousand yen for the charity. This year, organizers and participants are hoping for even better results.

“Last year’s show was a lot of fun. But it was more of a year-end party for volunteers,” says de Jong. “This year, it will strictly be a fundraiser. So even though it’s a Monday night, please come out and support people who need our help.”

Have one drink, make one donation, do one good deed, Instant Karma!

Contact: Mike de Jong at Instant Karma
MDMedia20 [@] gmail.com for more details. (Remove the brackets in the  address above when you send an email. 😉)

“I Know Your Name….” Sex-work and blackmail in Japan

“I know your name.”

photo by ©Jake Adelstein

I shuddered while reading the first line of this email on my mobile, I remember dropping it on my bed in disbelief. This wasn’t the usual time-waster, this wasn’t the usual sex pest abusive messages that escorts usually got.

“I know your name it’s ______ and you’re a student at _____ University”.

My heart stopped. I don’t use my first legal name anywhere online, nor do I tell people it. The only person who would know my entire legal name would be someone with access to official documents about myself. Like a professor.

“If you don’t send me nudes, and whatever the hell else I might want. I’ll expose you. I’ll tell everyone at University about you. I’ll tell your talent agency about you.”

Plenty of people within the entertainment industry moonlight as sex workers, including now famous A-list Hollywood actors. The difference between myself and them was that I was an idol. An idol in Japan is a young person active as a singer, as a dancer and most importantly a talent, whose biggest attribute is Disney’s Mickey Mouse Club-esque squeaky clean nature and hopefully manga-like cute cuddly shining eyes, perpetually open wide.

“If you don’t send me nudes, and whatever the hell else I might want. I’ll expose you. I’ll tell everyone at University about you. I’ll tell your talent agency about you.”

In Japan, I had come to meet a few idols who worked jobs as hostesses, girls bar work, erotic massage and for escort services. I even knew a guy who knew a guy who claimed to be the Papa-San or “sugar daddy” of a lesser known ***48 member. As common as this tends to be, it obviously is a liability for talent agencies.

For lack of more eloquent words, I was scared shitless. Whoever this person was had leverage on me as a student, as a migrant and as someone in the entertainment industry. However, I was more afraid that if I heeded his orders it would quickly elevate to more unscrupulous demands.

So, I ignored it. I ignored it for as long as I could. Until two weeks later he sent information about fan event I would be holding with something threatening along the lines of:  “It would be a shame if I came here and showed everyone your ad. You’re a dirty whore! Muahahahahah” The original email was worded differently, but the meaning was clear.

He was trying to exploit my latent feelings of shame around the sex work I was doing at the time  and the stigma society has around sex workers and migrant sex workers. As dumb as this is, I ended up sending him a few recycled lewd photos. I was too afraid of the repercussions…or maybe I have a humiliation kink I can’t admit yet. Even though I can dryly laugh about the situation now, it was horrifying when it was happening to me.

He predictably took it up a notch. “Go to coordinates _____ and there’s a vending machine. Put ¥20,000 (roughly $180) under it. Don’t look around or ask questions. If you don’t want this option you can give me blowjobs every week but you will remain masked the entire time”

20,000 yen it is, I decided. I kept being urged by friends to report this to the police. Despite what I said in my twitter post in Japanese, I didn’t. Well technically I didn’t. I’ll get back to that. I couldn’t report it to the police because what I was doing to earn money was probably way outside of the kind of work my visa would allow.

Later that day I looked up the coordinates to the vending machine where I was instructed go leave the cash. I wanted to sarcastically reply, “which vending machine” because in Japan there’s a vending machine on every street corner, sometimes on every floor of a building. The coordinates were smack dab deep in Dougenzaka, Shibuya’s red light district, also known as “Love Hotel Hill’.. It’s a bit like all of Roppongi but without drunk expatriate asshole merchant bankers. It’s also a bit like the East side of Ikebukuro but without the old men holding hands with high school girls openly. It’s a bit like Ueno but Dougenzaka doesn’t reek of piss. You get the idea. Dougenzaka is a red light district. It has the neon lights, beat cops, happening bars, love hotels and all the trimmings. But it tends to be a bit quieter than the others. Somewhere nicely in between the gaudiness of Kabukicho in Shinjuku and the tawdry sleaziness of Uguisudani.

He wasn’t the most intimidating guy to bring along, however he had a penis and he was Japanese.

I decided, that I would pay him once but no more after that I told myself. Going with me was a male friend. By friend, I meant a guy who was a part-time host at a host club and part time nursery school teacher who I had friend-zoned. I don’t like host clubs or hosts, both are painfully boring to me. I’ve never understood the appeal to the host system. I’ve had this theory, since most of the women patrons of host clubs are also sex workers, who have to deal with assholes all day, hosts allow them to try their hands at the dynamic themselves. Something like “reverse sexism”. As I said, I don’t like hosts but this guy was different. He was a total geek.

He was a Kaiju (怪獣) and Kamen Rider (仮面ライダー) nerd, totally into the world of Japan’s  superheroes and super monsters, and quite small in stature. He wasn’t the most intimidating guy to bring along, however he had a penis and he was Japanese. If the situation became out of hand, those two important factors would be all that would matter with having an ally on my side.

As we toddled down the dark Dougenzaka alley trying to find the exact location of the vending machine from the email, Kaiju-host told me “I don’t feel so well about this.” Well no shit Sherlock. Neither did I, but in my mind if I gave this guy money he’d lay off for enough time for me to figure something clever out.

“I think this is it!” We walked near a vending machine similar to one I had seen on Google maps. The location was a far cry from the neon lights and drunks bumbling out of Izakayas. The only illumination about was from that vending machine; the neon glow lit the alley like a lighthouse far in the distance. I wish I could say something more meaningful or prolific about that, but I can’t. Just know the place was really damn dark and the only light was from a metal box with drinks inside of it. I would definitely feel more afraid being alone there. I remembered the line from the email: “Don’t look around or hang about too long!” I wondered whether or not this idiot was hiding somewhere in the darkness with a trench coat on and a seventies porn mustache ready to pounce.

I slid the envelope containing the ¥20,000 under the vending machine.

“Man! T–t-this is crazy!!!”

As Kaiju Host whimpered I wondered to myself why I brought him, of all people, as some sort of security. Then I quickly reminded myself he was Japanese with a penis, and the professor harassing me was most likely American or Canadian, based on his writings. In my mind if the police had any questions, providing this idiot actually did pounce in a trench coat, me being a whore was cancelled out by having a Japanese person with me and maybe I would have a fair chance.

I went home that night and emailed the idiot professor who somehow thought 20,000 yen was a lot of money to blackmail someone for.

“I’ve given you the money. Please leave me alone”

I stupidly assumed all was well the next day when he responded,  “Great. I’ve got it. I won’t bother you anymore.”

And then silence. I assumed silence was great in this case, until two weeks later when I was contacted again. I know the readers are probably wondering where this story ends, if it’s fake or if I’m really all that stupid for continuously giving into his demands. I’d say a bit of the latter is true.

“You know…I’m starting to think you should um, come to a love hotel once a week or so and give me a free blow job, while wearing an eye mask so you won’t know who I am.”

And I ignored them. The emails got more and more harassing with every day, with about fifty or so emails sent every single day over a week’s time.At this point, I confided with a few friends about what I should do. Whether Japanese or not they all had a theme

“Go to the police. He will lose his job, everything. It’s illegal!”

“Dude this is how people get killed. You need to tell the police or I will!”

As much as I wanted to, as much as I told myself to do so- I couldn’t. I knew the score. Women are stalked in Japan all  of the time and police often do nothing until it’s far too late for the woman. Women have been stalked, beaten and even murdered with the Japanese police and media blaming her post-mortem for “leading him on”. It wasn’t until 2014 that Japan’s stalking laws drastically changed, society will take longer however. So to say I was hesitant on contacting authorities at all in an understatement.

So I did the best next thing.

I impersonated a police officer. This guy seemed like an idiot, so I figured it wouldn’t be too hard to fool him. I searched online for Japan’s laws on stalking and internet harassment. “Bingo!” I found a long bill of text and decided to use it. There was a lot of complicated wording in it, but it didn’t matter as long as it looked official to scare him.

I took time to translate the text, because I imagined this guy as one of those Western men in Japan who took zero time to learn anything beyond “Areegatoe” and broken pick up lines to use on obviously resisting Japanese women.

“Haha” it was so funny how official the penal code looked. I even added in Japanese and English: THIS IS AN OPEN POLICE INVESTIGATION. LAW ENFORCEMENT ARE LOOKING INTO YOUR ACTIVITIES AND HAVE TAKEN CONTROL OF THIS ACCOUNT.

He responded almost instantaneously, “I’m sorry can we reverse this somehow? I was just kidding.”

Thankfully, I never heard from him ever again. But it still haunts me. My legal name isn’t public knowledge and it isn’t something I even used within university. This was someone with access to my legal documents, my Instagram, my twitter and was most likely a lecturer, as he claimed himself. Everyday at University from that point, I wondered, “Is it him?”

The university I went to wasn’t renowned for having a great administration or anything. There were so many strange people there. I had far too many theories on who it might have  been and far too many unusual suspects.  Maybe you don’t have sympathy for me because you don’t like sex-workers and don’t believe people should have the right to full autonomy of their bodies. But the sin of having consensual sex, for money shouldn’t be one that has so much shame attached that it could lead to someone in authority blackmailing a student.

A part of me laughs a bit though, at the entire experience and wondering if he was scared shitless for a few months worrying if it was the day law enforcement would come question him. Or maybe he didn’t care at all.

At least he left me alone.

 

Hey Fellas, Wanna be a “Guyjin” Idol In Japan? Read the story so far and then think on it…

by James Collins

On a typical day in December 2016, while drinking beer and eating yakitori in a smoke-filled Izakaya somewhere outside of Tokyo, I confessed my idea of creating Japan’s first all foreign male idol group to my girlfriend. Fashioned after the ubiquitous AKB48 idol group, I called the group Guyjin48, a play on the Japanese word gaijin, which means foreigner. The group would have members from all over the world, which would sing songs entirely in Japanese. The idea had struck me shortly after moving to Japan in 2013 while surfing for Japanese music on the Internet. It was my first time being introduced to the concept of Japanese idol music, but for some reason I felt compelled to try and create a group of my own, regardless of the fact that I had absolutely no experience in music production. My girlfriend liked the idea and the next day we created a logo, wrote out the concept, and created our first help-wanted ad looking for future foreign idols of Japan.

The guyjin idol band that could have been

The concept of the Guyjin48 project evolved over a period of three years, mostly from observing Japanese society and learning about the many pressing issues the country is dealing with, i.e. their greying population and the dire need for foreign labor. So the group went from being simply an act of curiosity to having an actual message and becoming more of a conduit for creating meaningful conversation, even if at surface level it appears to simply be only a bunch of foreigners singing idol music. Japan needs diversity. Japan needs to learn how to play nice with their impending deluge of foreign immigrants. Not exactly the most popular conversation right now, but one that must be had in my opinion. Like medicine-coated in sugar in order to make easier to swallow, I thought pop music might make the conversation a little easier to have.

A couple weeks after announcing the project, Crunchyroll, a widely used Japanophile website created an article based on the little information we had on the internet, and within hours the article had been translated into several languages. Other articles popped up here and there and it seemed there was a thirst amongst niche groups of foreigners who relished in the idea of finally being able to become a real idol in Japan. We began receiving multiple applications a day from people all over the world wanting to join the group, mostly from Indonesia. We also got our first bit of negative attention from the western community who claimed I was a disgusting racist for using such an offensive word as the group name.

It has almost been two years since starting the project with absolutely no experience and very little money. We have since changed the name to COLORFUUUL, we were able to team up with DJ Shinnosuke from the hip-hop group Soul’d Out, and I have finally been able to meet people in the industry and have started to see support from certain media outlets.

Despite all of this, and despite the fact that we have been able to create an album, created original dances, and already have multiple performances and interviews lined up, we recently have had a pretty big setback. Three out of the five original members of the group decided to leave, all within a matter of a few days. So we are once again looking for people to help us make this project a reality.  (Editor’s note, there has been at least one successful foreign idol in Japan, Ms. Amina Du Jean) who retired last year.)

So lonely….

If you think you can dance, sing, and have what it takes to be a foreign idol in Japan, then you might be what we are looking for. Auditions will be held at the end of October, so if you are interested please send applications to:

contact@jamtinpro.com

This is a chance to not only be part of a project attempting to pave the way for the foreign idol community but also to do your part in spreading a message of diversity and acceptance in Japan. Then maybe one day we can all hang out at that one place in Golden Gai that still doesn’t allow foreigners at the moment.

 

 

COLORFUUUL: 日本初全メンバーが外国人男性の

アイドルグループは募集中。

 

2016年12月、東京を離れてある居酒屋で私は焼き鳥と酒を堪能しながら、日本初全メンバーが外国人男性のアイドルグループを作りたいという思いを彼女に明かした。近年人気を博した国民的アイドルグループAKB48と同じように、グループの名前をGuyjin48にしようということも決めていた。Guyjinは外人という言葉をもじっており、外国人と英単語の男子という二つの意味がかけられている。日本に住んでいる各国からのメンバーを集めて、日本語の曲を歌わせるという構想を持っていた。2013年に来日してから当分の間日本の音楽シーンについて調べていたのだが、AKB48の存在を知ってからは、彼らの外国人バージョンのグループを作りたいと強く思うようになった。なぜそのようなアイディアをとっさに思いついたのかは今でもよく覚えていないが、プロデューサーとしての経験ゼロの私であったがすぐに挑戦する気持ちがみなぎっていた。彼女に相談すると、「いいアイデアだね。やってみよう」と賛成してもらい、次の日からすぐにロゴやコンセプト、求人告知を製作することに一緒に取り組んだ。

 

Guyjin48のコンセプトは3年間ずっと磨き続けてきた。最初は面白半分のような計画であったが、日本社会を観察し日本が今直面している色々な問題を知っていく中で、もっと社会貢献を目的にしたものにしようと考えるようになった。表面的にはただの外国人アイドルグループに見えるかもしれないが、彼らの活動を通して、日本社会の問題を提起することができる有意義な会話を生むことができることを目標とした。日本はもっと多様性に寛大な社会になるべきである。近年増え続けておりこれからもその数の増加が予想されている、日本国内の外国人労働者を含めた在日外国人と日本人がより仲良く,お互いのことを理解し合える環境を作っていくべきである。なかなか取り掛かりずらい問題ではあるが、東京オリンピックの開催やグローバル化が進む昨今の世の中で、早急に取り組まなきゃいけない問題であるのではないかと個人的に思う。堅苦しい話題であるかもしれないが、だからこそGuyjin48のようにポップな音楽を通して問題提起をすることが効果的であると信じている。

 

Guyjin48のコンセプトを発表した2週間後、「Crunchyroll」という英語圏の日本マニアの方向けのウェブサイトにグループのことを取り上げて頂き、数時間のうちに色々な言語の記事があちこちに拡散された。その時点で、日本で本格的なアイドルになりたいという夢を抱く外国人の数はとんでもないことが分かった。それから絶対グループに参加したいとアピールする応募者たちから毎日たくさんのメールを受け取り、また興味深いことに過半数はインドネシア人であった。Guyjin48のコンセプトへの反響は大半がポジティブなものであったが、そうでないものも少数ではあったが存在した。「外人」いう言葉は、一部の西洋人には非常に攻撃的に受け取られてしまい、彼らからの反応は喜ばしいものではなかった。このような反応は最初から危惧していた要素ではあったが、一部の人からは予期していなかった厳しい言葉も浴びせられてしまった。

 

経験とお金を全く持たずしてGuyjin48のコンセプトを発表してからほぼ2年が経過した。誰のことも傷つけないようにグループの名前をCOLORFUUULに変更して、元SOUL’D OUTのShinnosukeさんに作詞作曲をして頂き、業界の方とも顔を合わすようになり、メディアにも時おり出して頂けるようになった。

 

順調にみえたグループであったが、最近大きな挫折を経験することになってしまった。初のアルバムを製作し、三曲分のダンスも作り、ライブやインタビューもこれから何本も入っていたのだが、5人いるメンバーのうちの3人が突然脱退してしまった。したがって、日本初の全メンバー外国人男性アイドルグループを実現するにはまた新たなメンバーを募集しなくてはならないことになってしまった。

 

そこで歌とダンスに自信があり日本でアイドルになれる資質を持ち合わせていると思う方は、ぜひメンバーに応募していただきたい。10月下旬にオーディションを行う予定があるので、応募したい方はcontact@jamtinpro.comまでメールを送ってください。日本に住む外国人にとっては、日本のアイドルの世界への扉を開くムーブメントに参加するだけではなく、日本国内の多様性と日本に滞在している外国人への寛容性を高めようというメッセージを広めるチャンスでもある。興味がある方はぜひ応募してください。よろしくお願い致します。

Heal your heart and body with FYE workshops: Find Your Element in Fall 2018

Tokyoites, as much as we love Japan, it’s a stressful place. If you don’t know the language, even more so. And actually, sometimes knowing the language makes it even worse. If you’re looking for some spiritual healing, relaxation, leadership skills and/or guidance try attending the  Find Your Elements Workshops already underway this fall .

Find Your Element Workshop ’18 Fall Season〜 A 12-Week Program for Inner Discovery and Inspiration will feature some great speakers, teachers, and philosophers. Unmask your true self! Learn to be a pirate! Get some tips on healthy eating for sound mind and body.

 

Arjen Kamphuis, a Dutchman, went missing in Norway on August 20. Help find him.

Arjen Kamphuis, “free software advocate, sailor, carpenter, geek and damn proud of it” was last seen in Bodø, Norway on August 20th. He has long blonde hair and glasses. He is 47-years old, 1.78m tall and has a normal posture. He was usually dressed in black and carrying his black backpack. He is an avid hiker. Arjen is a Dutch citizen and did not arrive back home in The Netherlands. If you have any information, please write:

FindArjen@gmail.com

Arjen Kamphuis ble sist sett i Bodø, Norge den 20. August. Han har langt blondt hår og briller. Han er 47 år gammel og er 1,78m lang. Han er vanligvis kledd i svart og har store med seg sin svarte ryggsekk. Arjen er nederlandske turgåere på ferie i Norge.

FindArjen@gmail.com

Arjen Kamphuis was last seen in Bodø, Norway on August 20th

Sayonara, Robuchon-san: A Eulogy to Japan’s Beloved French Chef

The news shook the world of Tokyo’s French cuisine, but the iconic Chateau Restaurant Joel Robuchon in Ebisu, was open for business. Diners clinked their glasses in honor of the late Joel Robuchon, the world famous chef who took “nihonno furenchi (French food in Japan)’ to a new level. In early August, Joel Robuchon succumbed to his battle with cancer. He was 73 years old – young by Japanese standards and way too young for people like Kazunari Mizuki, who had studied under the great master for 2 years before working as an entree chef at the Hotel Okura. “I never got a chance to say goodbye,” he said, his eyes getting moist. “Many of us in this business revered him so much. Without Joel-san, the French restaurant scene in Tokyo would never have gotten to this point.”

The finest coffee ice cream dessert ever.
Every dish, delicious and beautiful. A feast for the eyes and the palette

Indeed, Robuchon’s famed Chateau Restaurant (opened in 1994) was one of the first establishments in Tokyo to earn Michelin’s 3-star rating and the Chateau building itself has come to represent the wealth and glamour of Japan’s capital city. It’s also a pilgrimage site for Japanese couples. In a city notorious for workaholic singles and a rapidly aging population, the Chateau is the one place where men confer with the restaurant staff weeks in advance to orchestrate the perfect marriage proposal and the presenting of the ring. No woman can possibly say ‘no’ to a Robuchon proposal. The very fact that the occasion happened HERE of all places, makes her that much more precious, or at least worthy of a 80,000 yen dinner course and a sizable bling.

The food – though formidable, is almost beside the point. Joel Robuchon taught the Japanese that French cuisine wasn’t about food per se, but the experience as a whole. Everything from the decor to the lighting and wine selection to the impeccable service, should be a reflection of Robuchon’s personal philosophy: never settle for anything less than state of the art.

Presentation matters

He also had a deep respect for Japan and Japanese cuisine. He lauded the soy sauce as “one of the greatest culinary miracles” according to an interview he gave on Fuji Television, and even developed a special shoyu to accompany western dishes. Four months before his death, he had collaborated with sake maker “Dassai” to open a Japanese/French restaurant in Paris. One of his best friends was Jiro Ono, sushi master extraordinaire and owner of “Sukiyabashi Jiro’ in Yurakucho.

Before Joel Robuchon arrived on the scene, the Japanese and French cuisine had an amicable if overly polite, relationship. In prewar days, it was customary for master chefs of the Imperial Household to train in Paris, working their way up from scullery boy to line chef at various establishments. The young Emperor Hirohito was said to have treasured his chef, and counted on him to produce French dinners that would melt the hearts of visiting western dignitaries, even in the midst of rising political tension that preceded WWII.

Back then, only the top tier of the elite could hope to sit down to a full course French dinner and many Japanese had no idea what a fork and knife even looked like. It wasn’t until after the Japanese surrender and the late 1950s, that well-to-do families began dining in Tokyo restaurants, cautiously tasting dishes that vaguely resembled French cuisine.

Fork and knife, not needed, the meat is so tender.

In 1978, 33 years after the Japanese surrender, Joel Robuchon was appointed master chef at the Hotel Nikko de Paris (now the Novotel Paris Centre Tour Eiffel) Coincidentally, Robuchon himself was 33 years old, a still-young chef on the brink of success. That he chose a Japanese hotel to work his magic before opening his own restaurant (the legendary Jamain) three years later, speaks of his enduring love for this country. Robuchon opened restaurants all over the world but has said in numerous interviews that he genuinely enjoyed working with the Japanese, because “we share an innate respect for food and nature.”
Merci, chef. We shall miss you.

ナチス時代へ逆戻りする日本。共謀罪法案は安倍政権のタイムマシーン?

(帰って来たヒトラーの日本版が実録映画かもしれない)

もしナチスと日本帝国が第二次世界大戦を制していたら。想像しただけで恐ろしい話だが、21世紀の日本において、それを実現しようとする動きがある。舵を取るのはもちろん、釈放されたA級戦犯岸信介の孫である安倍首相だ。いよいよ憲法改正の時期を2020年と明言した首相だが、『我が闘争』を教材認定してみたり『ヒトラー選挙戦略』に推薦文書を寄せる大臣らを内閣に置くなど、ナチスへの肯定的な姿勢を無視することは難しくなってきた。

5月3日首相自らが明らかにした2020年の憲法改正だが、ナチスがワイマール憲法を都合よく改正していったように日本が誇る戦後の平和憲法を一新するつもりのようだ。それに向けての一歩として共謀罪法案が衆議院にて可決され、現在参議院審議中である。この法案は日本帝国の暗黒時代ともいえる1925年から1945年の間、日本を恐怖に陥れた治安維持法の再来と言われ、国会前デモや専門家を含め反対する声は数多く上がっている。治安維持法は、制定された当初は共産主義や反政権派を取り締まるためのもので一般市民は対象とならないとされていたが、いつの間にやら政府批判を口にする者は夜の内に消え、二度と姿を見ることはなくなったという。今回の共謀罪は「テロ等準備罪」とされ、あくまでもテロに及ぶ犯罪組織を取り締まるためのもので一般人は対象とならないとされているが、法案内に記載されている277の違法行為は解釈によっては容易に範囲を一般人に広げることが可能といえる。この危険性を察知した国連人権理事会のケナタッチ特別報告者からも法案の人権侵害の可能性を懸念した書簡が首相宛に届いている。

しかしこの警告に対して安倍首相は外務省を通じて「強く抗議した」との報道。批判には国内はもちろん、国外からであっても耳を傾けない強硬姿勢を見せている。

政党をナチスになぞらえるのは最も安易な政治批判とされているが、 安倍政権とナチスの共通点を見て見ぬふりすることは日に日に難しくなってきている。安倍政権がナチスへの敬意を公言しているからなおさらだ。 ナチスと戦前軍国独裁主義への異様な憧憬は政権発足当初から確かにそこにあった。

2013年夏、かねてから失言でメディアを賑わしてきた副総理そして財務大臣である麻生太郎が支援者へのスピーチ内で「ある日気づいたら、ワイマール憲法が変わって、ナチス憲法に変わっていた。誰も気づかないで変わった。あの手口に学んだらどうか」発言している。

また、安倍内閣の高市早苗総務大臣と稲田朋美政調会長に関しては日本のネオナチと呼ばれる山田一成とのツーショット写真が露呈した。そして高市総務大臣はさらに『ヒトラーの選挙戦略』に推薦文を寄せていた事が発覚し、海外メディアを賑わせたが国内メディアは目を瞑った対応となった。

公にナチスをお手本にしているようでは、類似点を指摘されるのも仕方のないことだ。

追い打ちをかけるように、安倍首相は国際的にも非難される在特会との関係が知られる山谷えり子氏を国家公安委員会委員長に任命。首相自身、そしてその他の閣僚たちからも在日韓国人への差別に異論を唱える声は聞こえてこない。そして政府は4 月にはヒトラーの『我が闘争』は教材使用に適切と認定した。野党の質問に対し、「仮に人種に基づく差別を助長させる形で使用するならば、同法等の趣旨に合致せず、不適切であることは明らかだ」と述べるにとどまった。

この件に関して当初主要メディアは報道を自粛したようで取り上げられることは少なかったが、世論の猛反対によってやっと取り上げられた模様だ。そして松野博一文部科学相は4月25日の閣議後記者会見に「人種に基づく差別やジェノサイド(大虐殺)は絶対に許さないという意識を定着させるため、教育の充実を図っていく」と強調したが、これまでの安倍政権の姿勢を見ると今ひとつ説得力に欠けて見えることは否めない。

また今年に入って政権は、特攻隊の思想の源となった教育勅語も再導入を検討していることを発表。明治天皇に1890年に制定された教育勅語は、最大の善行は天皇のために命を捧げることと国民を諭すものだった。そしてそのイデオロギーが原動力となり後の神風特攻隊、人間魚雷、沖縄の集団自決などの悲劇が起きたといえるだろう。戦後、1948年に衆議院決議にて「これらの詔勅の根本的理念が主権在君並びに神話的国体観に基いている事実は、明かに基本的人権を損い、且つ国際信義に対して疑点を残すものとなる」という言葉と共に失効が認定されたのだ。それにも関わらず再来の危機が目前まで迫ってきている。戦前回帰を求める軍国主義者にとっては「進歩」の一年といえる。銃剣も体育の種目として再び導入されることとなっており、戦前教育復活に予断がない。

また、安倍政権はこれまでに繰り返し、ナチスを見習うような節を見せている。自民党のマニフェスト自体が、戦前の帝国主義の復活を謳うものといっても過言ではない。神の子孫である優れた大和民族がアジアを制し、下位に当たる他のアジア民族を労働や性の奴隷として使う、といったところか。

直近で日本が直面している危機といえば先述の共謀罪強行採決だろう。現在参議院審議のこの法案だが、正式には「テロ等準備罪」。曖昧な名称だが、その内容も不透明な部分が多々あり、二人以上の人間が犯罪を犯す準備行為に及んだ場合、実際に罪を犯していなくても罰せられるというものである。しかしこの「等」そして「準備」という文字は何を指しているのだろうか。その定義の決定権は政府にあるというのである。つまり、一般市民のいかなる日常行為も犯罪行為になり得る危険性を孕んでいるのだ。

現段階で277の犯罪が対象とされており、切手の偽造、無免許で競艇レースに出ることなどが含まれている。しかし改正によっていくらでも項目は後から追加できる。

政府は採決を進める理由として2003年に国会承認した国際連合条約(TOC条約)に批准するために共謀罪が不可欠であると主張。しかしこれは国民を煙に巻く口実でしかない。

ジャパンタイムズによれば(http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2017/03/25/national/media-national/how-the-word-terrorism-can-help-pass-a-bill/#.WRqYg1N96SM) 既に日本弁護士連合会からこれを論破する声が上がっている上に、国連関係者からも「この条約はテロに特化したものではない。主要な目的は人身売買、麻薬取引や資金洗浄など国家間の犯罪の防止を強化することだ。」との指摘もある。

政府は「テロ」と「2020オリンピック」という二つのキーワードを駆使して、「世界一安全な国造り」を推し進めようとしているのだ。そして首相らが描く安全国家の完成形は、国民を常に監視下に置き、政府の管理のもと反対意見を徹底的に排除する社会だろう。

これでは治安維持法の再来と言われても無理はない。1925年に制定されたこの法律は戦前の日本において、政治的弾圧の最も効果的な手段だったと言われている。制定当時は共産主義を取り締まるための法律であり、一般市民は対象とならないとされていたものの、気づけば一般市民の監視、逮捕が日常茶飯事になっていたという。

憲法学者の飯島滋明教授は何ヶ月も前に共謀罪への警笛を鳴らしていた。「この法案は我々の憲法の最も重要な三つの原理に背く可能性がある。基本的人権の尊重、平和主義、国民主権の三原理を疎かにすればまた暗黒時代に逆戻りしてしまう。これは治安維持法の現代版である。」

このように、なんとも恐ろしい共謀罪法案の強行採決だが、これは戦後の平和憲法を取り壊し、戦前の日本を取り戻すという政府の最終目標に向けての序章でしかない。

一つ確かなことは、安倍政権は有言実行であるということだ。

少し遡ってみよう。

2013年の麻生大臣のナチス失言のあと、安倍政権は世論の大反対を押し切り特定秘密保護法を押し通した。これは文官、公務員が特定秘密を漏洩した場合10年間、また記者や一般市民が特定秘密を露呈、もしくは特定秘密について質問した場合5年間の服役が課せられるといった内容の法律である。ここで注目すべきは、どの情報が特定秘密に分類されるのか政府が公開しなくても良いという点だ。(http://www.japantimes.co.jp/opinion/2014/12/13/commentary/japan-commentary/abes-secrets-law-undermines-japans-democracy/#.WRLR1lN96SM)

これでは、無実な一般市民が特定秘密について質問しているとは知らずに、自身が犯した罪さえ分からないまま罰せられるというケースも起こりかねない。カフカ小説のようなシュールな話だがこれが現実になりうる未来が日本を待ち受けている。

さらにこの特定秘密保護法の採決は日本が海外にて戦争に参加することを可能にしてしまった。昨年の明仁天皇の生前退位表明を、平和主義を守り抜こうとする天皇の政府への抗議として捉える世論は少なくない。天皇が現状の憲法の絶対的支持者であり、戦時中の日本軍の数々の悪行を悔いているということは確固たる事実なのだから。

戦後70回目の憲法記念日でもあり、共謀罪採決に国が揺れる5月3日、 安倍首相は極右翼神道カルトである日本会議が主催した会見にて2020年1月までに憲法改正を目指すと発表した。国民の反発はすぐに聞こえてきたがもちろんおかまいなしだ。

ここまで来れば自民党の憲法改正案は日本が戦争国家になる以上の危険を孕んでいることが明快である。安倍首相は2012年の自民党改正案発表時に改正案に「緊急事態要項」 が含まれることを明らかにした。これは国家への外部攻撃、内乱や自然災害が起きた場合、内閣の承認を得て緊急事態を宣言できる権限を首相に付与するというものである。さらに、内閣が通常の法案採決の過程を経ずに、法律と同じ効力を持つ法令を発令することも可能となる。首相は国会を通さずに予算を採択することもできる。

日本の法律学者ローレンス・レペタ教授は、これはナチスの戦略から直接引っ張ってきた手段だと言う。具体的には、ワイマール憲法にあった緊急事態要項を巧みに使いドイツ国会議事堂の放火を受けて「首相や官僚の暗殺を企てたり協力した者は処刑、もしくは終身刑または15年以上の服役に処すと宣言した。さらには国会議事堂の放火魔が共産主義であったという事実を捏造し、共産党を禁止し全国選挙の出馬候補者全員に逮捕令状を出した。企てる、協力するという行為は警察や検察によっていとも簡単に捏造された」。

調査報道に定評のある『報道ステーション』でも、政府批判を理由に古舘伊知郎氏が降板になる前にこんな特集を組んでいた。2016年3月16日に放映されワイマール憲法から学ぶ、自民党憲法草案緊急事態条項の危うさ』と題された特集は自民党提案の「緊急事態要項」とワイマール憲法第48条内の緊急事態事項の類似点を検証したもので、2016年ギャラクシー賞を受賞している。特集内ではドイツの憲法学者がこれら二つの要項は本質的に同じであると明言し、ナチスがこの憲法の欠陥を乱用して権力を拡大していったことを見れば、日本も改正案を持って進めばこの先同様の危険が待ち受けていると警告している。

森友学園問題から国民の気をそらすために安倍首相が憲法改正時期を発表したのではないかとする声もある。

しかし、そうであれば、安倍首相率いる自民党がまさにナチスのように巧みにメディア操りプロパガンダを刷り込んでいるといえるのではないか。まずは報道の自由を制限し、政府の動きを国民が把握できないようにする。そしてあとはやりたい放題。2011年には報道の自由ランキングで世界11位だった日本だが、たった6年で72位にまで急落している。

ヒトラーにゲッペルスがいた。トランプにはバノン、ルパート・マードックが付いている。そして安倍首相には世界最大購読数を誇る読売新聞、そして読売王国の帝王渡辺恒雄が付いているのだ。

その癒着ぶりは、国会答弁で憲法改正について問われた安倍首相が「自民党総裁としての考え方は相当詳しく(インタビューに応じた)読売新聞に書いてある。ぜひそれを熟読して頂いてもいい」と発言したことからもありありと伺える。

安倍首相と仲間たちが作り上げたプロパガンダマシーンは準備万端だ。自民党はネット上での反対意見を糾弾するサイバーパトロール隊に報酬を与えて、ソーシャルメディアにもプロパガンダ拡散を推し進めている。そして首相の旧友である籾井氏を会長に任命した国家放送NHKは、今ではすっかり安倍テレビと化している。朝日新聞によれば、党内での異論もすべて弾圧に成功してきたため、党員もみな「ビッグ・ブラザー」に怯える日々だという。

これで日本会議の望む憲法を実現する要素はすべて揃った。

日本は来た道を着々と遡って、過去へと突き進んでいる。そして安倍首相は祖父、岸信介の叶わぬ夢を掴み取る寸前まで来ている。戦犯として逮捕されながらも裁判にかけられなかった岸は後に首相となり、帝国主義の復活を謳った。そしてそれは その夢は安倍晋三の原動力となっている。共謀罪法案の採決は自民党が2012年から静かに構築してきた軍国主義タイムマシーンのソフトウェアだったのだ。

歴史は繰り返すというが、日本では歴史改ざんを繰り返した挙句、過去から学ぶことができず今に至ってしまったようだ。それがこの世界の宿命なのか。民主主義を犠牲にしてまでも自身の意思を突き通した者が君臨する新たな時代。トランプ、プーチンそして安倍。「悪の枢軸」ならぬ「エリートの枢軸」誕生なるか。

しかし、安倍総理や自民党の老害幹部は歴史から学ぶことができなくても、歴史の大切さが分かる偉い人はまだ存在する。国家神道の復活を夢見る日本会議が、尊敬しているであろう偉人だ。

それは天皇陛下。

2015年の新年挨拶を改めて取り上げましょう。

「本年は終戦から70年という節目の年に当たります。多くの人々が亡くなった戦争でした。各戦場で亡くなった人々,広島,長崎の原爆,東京を始めとする各都市の爆撃などにより亡くなった人々の数は誠に多いものでした。この機会に,満州事変に始まるこの戦争の歴史を十分に学び,今後の日本のあり方を考えていくことが,今,極めて大切なことだと思っています。

この1年が,我が国の人々,そして世界の人々にとり,幸せな年となることを心より祈ります

合掌

 

(この記事はThe Daily Beastの英文記事に基づいて書かれ、趣旨翻訳)。

STAY: An African American Film Director Works Towards Finishing A Feature Film in Japan With Crowdfunding

TOKYO – July 16, 2018 Filmsnoir Motion Pictures and Fusion For Peace Productions are proud to share their rewards-based crowdfunding campaign for the independent motion picture STAY, shot in Tokyo by award-winning filmmaker Darryl Wharton-Rigby. The campaign seeks to raise 1500000\ ($15K) to complete final post-production in preparation for distribution and to raise awareness of their collective efforts to change the landscape of the Japanese Film Industry, as Wharton-Rigby is only the second African American to produce a feature film in Japan, in its 100+ years history. To date the campaign has secured over 600000\ ($6K) from supporters on Makuake, the Japanese crowdfunding platform. With just 9 days remaining, in this all of nothing effort, the producers are urgently pleading with the public to support their efforts.

“We are extremely grateful for the contributions we’ve received in response to the crowdfunding campaign for our feature film Stay. Because of generous donations, we are currently close to reaching 40% of our objective,” comments Executive Producer, Christopher Rathbone. “We believe in this film and are excited by the possibilities. Given the global festival acceptance rate and the awards won, STAY has great potential. With continued support, we can maintain this momentum and raise enough funds to complete the project in preparation for distribution and the Japanese premiere.”

The campaign seeks to build a community committed to film diversity and offers a variety of rewards including chopsticks, key chains, posters, screenplay copies, digital downloads, film credits, invitation to private screening as well as lunch with the director and film and it’s star, Shogen.

STAY, a touching romance, the story follows a couple who fall passionately in love over a long weekend.  Ryuu is a Japanese man who is a recovering drug addict, and Hope, is an American enjoying her last days in Japan. The film features emerging Japanese star, Shogen and introduces British model/actress, Ana Tanaka. Lensed by photographer Jeremy Goldberg, STAY, Wharton-Rigby’s second feature film, was shot on the Tokyo streets in fifteen days, guerrilla style. It’s a technique the former Homicide: Life on the Street writer has used throughout his career.

“Shooting STAY in Tokyo on the BlackMagic Pocket Camera made us virtually invisible and allowed us to capture the city up close and personal. We shot on train platforms and trains, Tsukiji Fish Market, ramen shops.  Everywhere,” explains Writer/Director Darryl Wharton-Rigby. “Every day was something new and challenging. We were constantly on edge. I really wanted STAY to feel like it was made by a Japanese filmmaker,” says Rigby.

For the black filmmaker, who lives with his family in Saitama, Japan, this story is personal as his father supervised recovery houses in Baltimore where he grew up. However, after reading aboutthe plight of those dealing with recovery in Japan, he decided that Tokyo would make an interesting backdrop for STAY, while simultaneously promoting diversity and inclusion in the Japanese film industry.

To learn more about Wharton-Rigby’s journey and to make a donation to the crowdfunding campaign by July 26th visit Makuake or go to the link here:https://www.makuake.com/en/project/stay/.

Rape in Japan is a crime but justice is rarely served. A Non-Arrest & Shiori Ito’s Full Statement

(originally posted in October 2017. periodically updated)

Japan’s ruling coalition, headed by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, has been mired in scandal for several weeks amid allegations Abe personally bent the law or broke it to benefit his political cronies and friends. Even a senior member of Abe’s own Liberal Democratic Party says, “There is nothing this administration wouldn’t do to crush its enemies and reward its pals.”

But new allegations have raised the possibility that the administration may have gone so far as to quash a rape investigation on behalf of a close friend of Abe: the dapper, hipster-bearded broadcast journalist Noriyuki Yamaguchi, who also penned two laudatory books on the prime minister

The story became national news on May 29 when a 28-year-old journalist named Shiori Ito held a press conference at the Tokyo District Court as she sought to reopen the closed investigation into her case….(Click here for part one: Is Japan’s Top Politician Behind a Shameful Rape Cover-Up  and for the follow up Japan’s Big #MeToo Moment) . She did not win a reopening of the case but filed a civil suit at the end of September. Last March, the civil courts did essentially find a man guilty of rape and fine him for damages—after police failed to file charges in time for a criminal case to be possible. Shiori Ito also came forward with her full name and published a book, Black Box, referring to the fear of sexual assault victims to come forward in Japan, (only 1 in 5 do, and half of cases resulting in arrest are dropped by prosecutors) and the government and police discouragement of sexual assault investigations and their refusal to discuss why they drop cases, even to the victims. Shiori Ito has gained a groundswelling of public support in recent months. 

There is dispute to what happened and Noriyuki Yamaguchi has categorically denied raping Shiori Ito, “I have done nothing to touch the law.” And this month, he has even published a long rebuttal implying that Shiori Ito is a tool of shadowy anti-Abe political forces in ultra-right magazine, Monthly Hanada  (月刊花田). The editor of Hanada is famous for having okayed publication of an article denying that there were gas chambers at Auschwitz, implying that there was no holocaust. However, there is on undisputed fact: an arrest warrant on charges of rape (準強姦) was issued for Yamaguchi, only to be revoked by a political and personal friend of the Abe administration, Itaru Nakamura. See below. 

The Non-Arrest of Shiori Ito’s Alleged Rapist (an annotation in The Daily Beast)

The arrest warrant for Noriyuki Yamaguchi was reportedly pulled by Itaru Nakamura, the acting chief of the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department Investigative Division at the time, on June 8 2015.

The chief detective waiting to arrest Yamaguchi, the alleged rapist, informed Ito over the phone, “We have to let him go. The arrest has been stopped from above. I’m terribly sorry. I didn’t do enough.”

Itaru Nakamura is a more important figure than his title as an acting police chief might suggest. He is also a former political secretary to Cabinet Minister Yoshihide Suga and a friend of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. He immediately moved the investigation from the original police department, Takanawa PD, to the police headquarters so that it was under his control.

The prosecutor who had signed off on the arrest warrant was taken off the case. The new detectives handling it drove Shiori Ito to a lawyer to convince her to make a settlement with the accused and drop charges, a highly unusual move.

The Daily Beast has tried to reach Nakamura for comment several times with no luck.

Nakamura is currently the chief of The National Police Agency Organized Crime Control Division, which gives guidance on the controversial and Orwellian criminal conspiracy laws that the Abe administration ramrodded through the parliament.

“I’ve sent him letters,” says Ito. “I’ve tried to meet him now six times––the first time I’ve ever done a stakeout. He won’t talk to me. I just want him to look me in the eye and tell me why he stopped the arrest and scuttled the investigation.” She even once chased him as he ran to his chauffeured car–only to be nearly ran over as he sped away.

Only in Japan do rape victims have to chase the police to seek justice. In a better world, the cops would be actively chasing the suspected rapist.

It is possible that Prime Minister Abe, his second in command, and Nakamura may be pursued in the Japanese Parliament by opposition party members seeking the truth. But don’t hold your breath. Many are reluctant to open the black box. If #metoo (#私も) ever starts trending here, it would do a lot to pry the lid open. Shiori Ito has at least made a dent in it…..and her press conference is something that says a lot about how things still work in Japan. 

For reference purposes, here is the text of her speech, translated from Japanese, with some editing for clarity.

 

Thank you for coming today.

Shiori Ito has come forward to talk about her rape and the lack of investigation of sexual assault in Japan.

 

First of all, I would like to address why I decided to hold this press conference.

Two years ago, I was raped. Going through the subsequent procedures, I came to the painful realization that the legal and social systems in Japan work against victims of sex crimes. I felt strongly about needing to change this adverse structure, and decided to go public with my case.

I will go into details later, but in the beginning, the police would not even let me file a report on this case. They told me that it was difficult to investigate sex crimes under the current law. Also, the person in question, Mr. Yamaguchi, was the Washington Bureau Chief of Tokyo Broadcasting System (TBS) at the time, and a public figure. During the investigation, I received insults that were unbearable as a victim.

However, my intention is not to criticize the entire police force. The Takanawa Police eventually became sympathetic to my situation and worked hard to investigate this case. Thanks to their efforts, investigations were completed and an arrest warrant was issued. But just as the warrant was about to be executed, the then-Chief Detective ordered investigators to call off the arrest. I question the existence of a police organization that allows such unforgiveable circumstances to transpire.

I also question the procedures that sex crime victims are required to undergo at hospitals in order to receive treatment and examinations, as well as the insensitivity of organizations that provide information for victims. A fundamental change needs to be made to this structure.

On the legislative level, the Diet is currently prioritizing discussions about conspiracy laws over the proposed bill to revise rape crimes, whose content is also something that we need to reconsider to ensure that they are truly satisfactory.

I hope that by talking about my experience publicly, I will help improve the current structure and start discussions that will lead to changes. This was my motivation behind making this announcement.

This afternoon, I made an appeal to the Committee for the Inquest of Prosecution about my case being dropped.

I will omit details of the incident itself, as it would be difficult to read them aloud. Please refer to the handouts for details. What I can say is that a sexual act was committed against me, unrelated to my will, against my will. I will talk about the events that ensued after the incident.

Circumstances of the Incident

 

I met Mr. Yamaguchi, then TBS’s Washington Bureau Chief, in the fall of 2013, when I was studying journalism and photography at a university in New York. I met him a second time in the US, but we did not engage in any deep discussions on either occasion.

 

After I graduated, I aspired to work as a freelance journalist because I wanted to lend an ear to unheard voices, and to listen to their stories over long period of time. But upon returning to Japan at the beginning of 2015, my parents convinced me to first work at a company for a few years. In March of the same year, I emailed Mr. Yamaguchi to ask if there were any openings at the TBS Washington Bureau, because he had previously told me that he could arrange for me to work there. And when I was interning at Nippon Television’s New York Bureau, there were people who had been hired locally. So I didn’t question Mr. Yamaguchi’s offer.

 

Mr. Yamaguchi’s replies were positive about my employment: “You could start working here while we look at getting you hired you officially;” “The biggest barrier will be the visa, but TBS could help you get one.”

 

After several email exchanges, he said that he would be coming back to Japan for business and asked me to meet him. We agreed to meet on Friday, April 3, 2015.

 

At the time, I was working as an intern at Reuters. I had to work late, and ended up being late for my meeting with Mr. Yamaguchi. When I called, he reassured me and told me that he would go ahead and start eating without me. This conversation led me to believe that someone else was joining us, as I had never met him alone before.

 

That night, he was already eating at one of his favorite restaurants, a kushiyaki place in Ebisu. I had 5 brochettes, two glasses of beer, and a glass of wine. At the restaurant, he made small talk and didn’t discuss the visa, which was supposed to be the objective of our meeting. He said, “There are other restaurants I need to pop by in Ebisu. I’ve made a reservation for the next restaurant, where I want to have a proper meal. Let’s have a quick bite here, and go to the next place together.” The next place was another one of his favorite restaurants, this time a sushi place.

 

At the sushi restaurant, he said, “I’ve heard good things about you and want to work with you.” An hour or so after we had arrived at the second restaurant, I suddenly felt dizzy and went to the bathroom, it was my second time to go to the bath room at this place. The last thing I remember is leaning my head against the water tank. I don’t remember anything else after that. As far as I can remember, I shared two servings of sake with him at the sushi restaurant. Prior to this incident, I had never lost my memory from drinking alcohol.

 

Investigators later told me that I left the sushi restaurant with Mr. Yamaguchi around 11PM. He apparently took me to a hotel in Minato Ward. According to the taxi driver who drove us to the hotel, I repeatedly asked to be dropped off at the nearest station. But Mr. Yamaguchi said, “Don’t worry, I won’t do anything. We’ll just talk about work,” and instructed the driver to head to the hotel. According to the driver’s testimony, I wasn’t able to get out of the taxi on my own, so Mr. Yamaguchi had to carry me. This scene was recorded on the hotel’s security camera. I plan to submit these testimonies and evidence to the Committee for the Inquest of Prosecution.

 

At 5AM the next morning, I regained consciousness. I was lying naked in a hotel bed, face up with Mr. Yamaguchi on top of me. I will refrain from providing explicit details, but what I can say is that a sexual act was committed against me, unrelated to my will, against my will.

 

After the Incident

 

Several hours after the incident, I went to see a gynecologist in my neighborhood. Mr. Yamaguchi had not used any contraception, and I did not know what do. As soon as I entered the consultation room, the gynecologist asked, “What time did you make the mistake?” without even looking at me. I was then given a pill and told to take it outside. That was it. I could not bring myself to explain my situation to someone so mechanical. So I decided to call a nonprofit that supported victims of sexual violence, hopeful for an introduction to another medical facility.

 

However, the person who took the call said, “I would like to interview you first.” I was devastated. I barely had the strength to get up from my bed, and had called in desperation. But the first word I heard from this organization was “interview.” I’m certain that other victims with similar experiences would be deprived of any will power at this point. What is critical at this stage is not an interview, but an introduction to a medical institution for an examination.

 

At first, the police would not let me file a report. Investigators repeatedly tried to convince me not to file and said things like, “This kind of thing happens often, but it’s difficult to investigate these cases;” “This will affect your career;” “You won’t be able to work in this industry after this;” and “All the effort you’ve made so far in your life will go to waste.”

 

I pleaded investigators to check the footage from the hotel’s security camera, and that by doing so, they would see that I was telling the truth. When they finally did check the footage, they agreed to handle this incident as a case and start investigating.

 

On June 8, 2015, several investigators were waiting for Mr. Yamaguchi at Narita Airport. Equipped with an arrest warrant, they were going to arrest him upon his arrival in Japan on charges of incapacitated rape. However, this arrest warrant was never executed.

 

At the time, I was in Germany for work. Immediately prior to the scheduled arrest, one of the investigators had contacted me to say, “We’re going to arrest him. Please return to Japan immediately.” So I was preparing to come back when I received another call from the investigator. Even now, I have vivid recollections of this call: “He just passed right in front of me, but I received orders from above to not make the arrest,” “I’m going to have to leave the investigation.”

 

Why did this happen? Surprisingly, the then-Chief Detective had ordered the arrest to be called off. In an interview with Shukan Shincho, this Chief Detective admitted that he had “given orders to cancel the arrest.”

 

Japanese laws do not protect us. The investigation agency has the authority to suppress its own arrest warrants. I will never forget the sense of helplessness I felt that day.

 

After the incident at the airport, the police sent criminal papers to Mr. Yamaguchi on charges of incapacitated rape. But on August 2, 2016, the prosecution decided to drop charges against Mr. Yamaguchi due to insufficient suspicion. This process took over 1 year and 4 months. The investigations revealed evidence of me being dragged into the hotel through testimonies from the taxi driver and the hotel bellman, as well as footage from the security camera. DNA test results also provided additional evidence. I could not accept the case being dropped, and conducted my own inquiries. And today, I finally made an appeal to the Committee for the Inquest of Prosecution.

 

I want to ask a question to all people living in Japan. Are we really going to continue to let this happen?

 

For the past two years, I often wondered why I was still alive. The act of rape killed me from the inside. Rape is murder of the soul. Only my body was left, and I was overwhelmed by the feeling that I had become a shell.

 

After the incident, I concentrated on seeking the truth as a journalist. I had no other choice. I felt like I would be mentally crushed if I considered myself a victim. Focusing on work was a way for me to protect myself.

 

I then came across a photo documentary of rape victims and their families by Mary F. Calvert in a World Press Photo exhibit. In the exhibit, there was a diary of a woman who had been raped. In this diary, there was a drawing of wrist cutting, accompanied by a message that said, “If only it was this easy.” In the end, this woman killed herself.

 

I understand this woman’s pain. She doesn’t exist in this world anymore, but I witnessed those photos and received her message. And this is what I thought: “I have to reveal the horror of rape and the enormous impact it has on the victim’s life.”

 

Becoming a rape victim myself made me realized just how small our voices are, and how difficult it is to have our voices heard in society. At the same time, I recognized the need to face this issue as a journalist. If I hadn’t been a journalist, I may have given up. I know there are countless women who have gone through the same experience, leaving them hurt and crushed. I know that, both in the past and still today, many of these women have given up.

 

How many media outlets have published this story? When I saw Mr. Yamaguchi repeatedly broadcasting his side of the story through his powerful connections, I couldn’t breathe. Where is the freedom of speech in this country? What are the laws and media trying to protect, and from whom? That is the question I want to ask.

 

I have travelled to over 60 countries, and have been asked if I have ever been in a dangerous situation. My travels have included interviewing the guerrilla in Columbia, going to the cocaine jungle in Peru, and other areas that would be considered dangerous. But I am sad to say that the only time I actually encountered real danger was in Japan, my homeland, which is considered a safe country. I wholeheartedly wish that no one else has to experience what I went through.

 

This could happen to you, your family, your friends – it could happen to anyone. If we remain silent and ignore this opportunity to change the legal and investigation systems, each and every one of us will be approving these crimes to continue.

 

That is all from me. Once again, thank you for your time.

 

 

 

Chronological order of events:

 

April 3, 2015                          Met Mr. Yamaguchi

20:00               Entered kushiyaki restaurant

21:40               Entered sushi restaurant

 

April 4, 2015   5:00                 Woke up in pain and realized that I had been raped. Memory

lost half way in sushi restaurant

April 9, 2015                          Consulted Harajuku Police Station

April 11, 2015                        Interview with lieutenant from Takanawa Police Station

(currently at Metropolitan Police Headquarters) at Harajuku Police Station

April 15, 2015                        Watched security camera footage with aforementioned

lieutenant at Sheraton Miyako Hotel

April 30, 2015                        Filed criminal complaint at Takanawa Police Station

Beginning of June 2015           Collected evidence such as: testimony from taxi driver,

testimony from hotel bellman, investigation results from DNA sample collected from underwear. Arrest warrant issued. (Due to the possibility of the rape being filmed, confiscation of Mr.

Yamaguchi’s computer was also a requirement)

June 4, 2015                           Informed about the scheduled arrest of the accused upon his

return to Japan at Narita Airport; requested to return from Germany

June 8, 2015

Informed by lieutenant that he had gone to the airport, but that the arrest had been cancelled due to orders from above. Also informed that the lieutenant had been relieved from this case. Subsequently, the case was transferred from the Takanawa Police Station to the First Section of the Metropolitan Police Department

August 26, 2015                     Criminal papers sent to Mr. Yamaguchi

October 2015                         My first interview with prosecutor

January 2016                         Mr. Yamaguchi’s interview with prosecutor

June 2016                               My second interview with prosecutor

July 22, 2016                          Charges dropped against Mr. Yamaguchi

 

Editor’s note: Mr. Yamaguchi has categorically denied all charges and his rebuttal can be read on his Facebook page and in the article linked above. This was originally published on June 18th, 2017 and was slightly updated on October 24th.