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. 😉)

The Way of the Sword Requires a Ton of Sacrifice/ZAN movie review

by Kaori Shoji
You don’t know cool until you’ve seen ZAN (international title: “Killing”). A period action film set in the late Edo Period, ZAN is everything that The Last Samurai is not: minimalist, unpretentious and totally unsentimental. Back in Old Japan, sentiment was often a luxury few people could afford. It was hard enough to secure things like food and basic comforts, and the situation was harder for the samurai because they had to keep up appearances as the authoritative class.
(C)SHINYA TSUKAMOTO/KAIJYU THEATER

“I want you to think about all the mistakes you’ve made in your life up to this point,” he tells his bleeding victim. “You have plenty of time for reflection until you finally manage to die.”
ZAN notes that a samurai was defined by two things: 1) his sword and 2) his ability to kill others with that sword. The film also makes no bones about the incredible pain and grossness that accompanies a sword fight. It’s not like a TV period drama where one swish of a katana brings on instantaneous death–the process takes hours or even days of intense suffering. In one scene, after a close battle a samurai slices off the arm of an opponent, right from the shoulder. “I want you to think about all the mistakes you’ve made in your life up to this point,” he tells his bleeding victim. “You have plenty of time for reflection until you finally manage to die.”

Chilling. Isn’t it? ZAN is a lesson in Edo Period brutality and despite the obvious disregard for period detail (like speech patterns and vocabulary) it all feels eerily true. No one cracks a smile, wears make-up or even changes out of soiled kimonos. The sky is heavy with perpetual rain, the houses are pitch dark, cramped and dingy. The threat of pain and death is ever-present and the only respite is sex, or more often, masturbation. Something has got to give, but you sense right away that the giving isn’t going to be happy.

ZAN is directed by Shinya Tsukamoto – arguably the most innovative auteur working in the Japanese flm industry today, and distinctive for working solo. An indie wunderkind, he directs, writes his own screenplays, works on his own production designs and acts in crucial roles, in his own and other peoples’ films. Tsukamoto even auditioned for Martin Scorsese’s Silence and got the part of Mokichi. Rumor has it Scorsese thought Tsukamoto “looked familiar,” as the American director is a fan of his work, but didn’t believe that a man of Tsukamoto’s repute would actually show up for an audition. Scorsese was later flabbergasted to learn the truth and professed to be “in awe” of Tsukamoto – at least that’s the story floating around in the Japanese movie industry.

But it’s easy to believe that Scorsese was impressed because as an actor, Tsukamoto radiates a macho allure that’s hard to resist. In the movie, he plays an older samurai named Sawamura, a mysterious vagabond traveling from village to village in search of talent. Sawamura has an agenda – to form a platoon of free agent samurai and offer their services to some powerful lord. The era is late Edo, when the whole of Japan was in the fever grip of confusion and intrigue, all the while being pressured by Europe and the US to open up the nation, after nearly 260 years of isolation. Against this backdrop, hordes of samurai were fired from their clans and left to fend for themselves. Many of them were recruited as foot soldiers by the Tokugawa shogunate and its supporters that were anti-foreigner and desperate to preserve the status quo. Sawamura’s own political views are unclear but most likely he has none. Like many unemployed samurai at the time, gaining a steady position was the biggest priority and as a samurai, that meant killing people with his sword. “I want to do my part in these chaotic times,” he explains.
(C)SHINYA TSUKAMOTO/KAIJYU THEATER



Sawamura’s statement reveals the Edo samurai mind-set: Fighting for a cause or a political slogan was tacky. Killing to assert one’s identity as a samurai, was more like it. He wanders over to a village on the outskirts of Edo and observes a young samurai, Tsuzuki (Sosuke Ikematsu) having a mock sword battle with farmer boy Ichisuke (Ryusei Maeda). Tsuzuki had been hired on a farm in lieu of food and board, and had been giving katana lessons to Ichisuke whenever they had a moment free from working the rice paddies. Tsuzuki is an excellent swordsman and under his tutelage, Ichisuke has acquired a lot of skill. Sawamura wastes no time in recruiting them both, and proposes leaving for Edo in two days. Ichisuke is keen to go but Tsuzuki is inexplicably reluctant. The presence of Ichisuke’s sister Yu (Yu Aoi) is part of the reason – Tsuzuki always masturbates to the sight of her bathing and the story suggests he is a virgin. Could it be that he’s also a virgin as a murderer, and for all his grace and expertise with the sword, Tsuzuki has never brought his blade down on another man’s flesh?

ZAN twists and writhes its way to a bloody climax and by then you become well aware of the wondrous weirdness of the samurai. They are darkly backward in their thinking, swayed by a single desire to assert their samurai identity, which is on par with the will to kill. It overrides all other desires – for happiness, for justice, even for survival. It depicts not the noble samurai of Japanese fiction and The Last Samurai, but the samurai as they really were: bloody, brutal, barbaric and with no notions of the word Bushido(武士道). Bushido, both the word and the concept of a noble samurai were retroactively imposed upon the Edo-era culture by the writer Inazo Nitobe in 1900. His book Bushido: The Soul of Japan, written in English, was aimed at Western audiences, and tried to elevate the popular image of Japan. (The “Cool Japan” strategy of 1900).

In ZAN, the opening of Japan to the West and the subsequent demolishment of the samurai was just around the corner, but Tsuzuki and Sawamura are locked into an existence that no one, not even themselves, could fully comprehend or accept. They take us to a place that defies logic and explanation, to a time when such things were beside the point. It’s only when the lights come on that we take stock of what Japan has lost in the wake of modernization and wonder briefly whether the trade-off was completely worth it.

Now playing in Japan. Click here for showtimes and venues are here

Editor’s Opinion: Yet, are the samurai really missed? ” For the peasants and underclass who were often brutalized by the samurai, probably not. Samurai could legally murder the lower class of merchants, farmers, prostitutes, etc–kirisutegomen–for being impolite or simply being annoying. The movie reminds us that maybe for the rest of us, the cutting down of the Samurai was a boon to Japan, not a curse. What do you think?

タイトル:『斬、』

読み方:ざん

公開表記: 11月24日(土)よりユーロスペースほか全国公開!

クレジット:

監督、脚本、撮影、編集、製作:塚本晋也 

出演:池松壮亮、蒼井優、中村達也、前田隆成、塚本晋也

2018年/日本/80分/アメリカンビスタ/5.1ch/カラー 

製作:海獣シアター/配給:新日本映画社 

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.

 

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)。

Japan’s Secret Shame (The Story Behind The Story)

Shiori Ito is a brave journalist who has taken on Japan’s rape culture and has pursued justice in her own case. The BBC released a documentary “Japan’s Secret Shame” about Japan’s lack of ability to deal with sexual assault in the country and why her accused assailant was allowed to walk away, even after an arrest warrant on charges of rape were issued by the police. The documentary is hard to view outside of the UK, so if you’d like to know mere, here’s everything you should know until it’s released here. Many of these articles were written for The Daily Beast, which has been supportive of the investigative journalism behind these stories.
Also, it should be noted that weekly magazine, Shukan Shincho (週刊新潮), was the first periodical to write about this story and pulled no punches in accused the administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of blocking a rape investigation.
Below is a list of articles that we’ve written on the case, some at a time, when no other major news media outlet would touch the story.
The stories are in chronological order here and the final entry is being updated when possible.
The cover-up (June 2017)
Shiori Ito came forward to talk about her rape and the lack of investigation of sexual assault in Japan.

Help Support Japan Subculture Online. Reporting on the strange side of the Rising Sun since 2007!

Gentle reader,




Welcome to our semi-annual pledge drive. Japan Subculture Research Center (@japankenkyu) was founded in 2007 by Jake Adelstein and many contributors to expose the hidden side of Japan – its underground economy, its transient and strange trends, its robust sex trade, wacky politics, corruption, social issues, many subcultures, yakuza, host clubs and hosts, Japanese cinema and all the other intriguing and seedy aspects that keep the country running. Balancing commentary, reporting and dark humor–we’re the kakekomitera (駆け込み寺) aka “last resort” of some news stories that no one else will touch. We’ve covered rebel graffiti artists, crusading lawyers, and some real heroes.

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Over the years, articles posted on this website have become books, like Outsiders Among Outsiders and we are pleased to also feature the witty essays and review of Ms. Kaori Shoji, including her seminal short-fiction series, The Amazing Japanese Wife

We would like this summer to support two interns so that we can post more original material and also revamp the layout. We’d like to add a current events section, more book reviews, more informative and provocative essays about Japan, and fund some investigative journalism. Ambitious yes, but we have lofty goals here at JSRC. Please read our manifesto: If you love Japan, make it better. Our mission statement.

Meanwhile, as part of this year’s pledge drive, we are giving away to the lucky two readers who donates before Thursday (drawing by lottery) free tickets to to see Shoplifters with English subtitles and a Q & A, by the director Hirokazu Kore-eda. Your contributions are greatly appreciated, however small or large.

The business friendly Japanese government fails to deal with preventing Death By Overwork. In January, the Labor Ministry did put signs saying” Stop Karoshi” urging an end to death by overwork, “for a society where people can continue to labor”.

If your motto in life is “one good deed a day” (一日一善), here’s your chance to get those good karma points.

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宜しくお願いします!

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Nazis, Goebels, His Secretary and Nippon. An Austrian Documentary Reminds Us Of Japan’s Failure To Reconcile History

She’s old, really old. You could describe her as an ancient relic. But at 103 years old, Brunhilde Pomsel seems strong, confident, even blase. Pomsel is the centerpiece of the stunning documentary, A German Life (released in Japan as Goebbels to Watashi ) in which she recounts the years she spent in the employ of the Third Reich, as a personal secretary to Joseph Goebbels. Shot in a gradations of black and gray, A German Life, highlights her still soft hair and the brightness of her eyes. What you’ll notice however, are the deep crevices crisscrossing her face, an incredibly creasy visage that make her look like some kind of exotic deepwater fish. Only once does her confidence falter, and that’s when she’s asked to recall whether she was aware of the existence of the concentration camps. “I didn’t know it,” she says but her voice lacks conviction. “I wasn’t guilty of that, but if I was, then the whole of Germany during the reign of the Third Reich – was guilty.”

The film will resonate with many viewers in Japan, not least because Germany was an Axis partner in WWII, but for the radical difference in the way the two nations have dealt with their wartime legacies of shame and humiliation. For many Japanese, the war years are a receding memory, most often romanticized and tinged with sentiment, as in The Eternal Zero. The stories told in the media or retold by our elders, have always varied little, summed up in a singular theme that combines victimization and valor. In this theme, the atrocities committed by the military in Asia, are glossed over. After all, the Japanese starved, Japan went through unspeakable deprivation, was relentlessly firebombed and then the Japanese people had two nuclear bombs dropped right on their heads for good measure. Whatever terrible things the Japanese military did in China and Southeast Asia, was paid for with our own suffering. We’ve checked off the items on our rap sheet of atonement. So let’s agree to sweep all that stuff under the futon and get on with the business at hand, shall we?

A German Life, which tells the story of Goebbel’s secretary and seems to explain how Germany allowed the Nazis to rise up and get away with what they did, opens on June 16th in Japan.

This particular logic (or lack thereof) has come to define the collective memory in the 7-plus decades after the Japanese surrender. It wasn’t really our fault, but the fault of the entire era, and the unstoppable war machine! Compare this mind-set to Germany. They also suffered from the air raids and bombings and went through hell. But they are also a people unafraid to rub their faces in the shit pile of defeat. To this day, they are still examining what exactly happened, and why. New revelations of Nazi atrocities are being unearthed all the time, to be dissected and discussed. The Germans have not averted their gaze from the past, rather they’ve been pretty relentless in their cause to track down and then lay bare the gruesome details of their own crimes. Consider the meticulously categorized displays at the Auschwitz Memorials. The unforgiving precision that characterize the guided tour of those Memorials. The sheer number of movies and documentaries that have come out about the camps and the Third Reich. Or the revived public interest in Sophie Scholl, the young political activist who was guillotined for her fierce anti-Nazism.

“For all that, I believe that Germany is experiencing an eerie deja vu of the Nazi years,” said Florian Weigensamer, one of the four-man directorial team behind A German Life. Weigensamer was in Tokyo to promote the film, along with another director Christian Krones, who is also the founder of Blackbox Films and Media Productions. Blackbox engineered the whole endeavor that is this movie and other award winning documentaries. Krones and Weigensamer have been colleagues and friends for over 20 years and they’ve dedicated a good chunk of their professional lives to the excavation of some of humanity’s most complex problems. (One of their recent projects is a documentary called Welcome to Sodom that examines Ghana’s burgeoning waste problem, born of discarded home appliances.)

Krones is the oldest and most experienced member of Blackbox but he stresses that there’s no corporate hierarchy at work. “I like to take a democratic approach to filmmaking. No orders are issued top-down. There are no one-man decisions. We hold extensive meetings and discuss the film process every step of the way, like a real democracy.” And he added with a chuckle, “We do this because the film industry tends to be very dictatorial and we are very sensitive to anything that smacks of dictatorship!”

The directors of “A German Life”

Blackbox is an Austrian company as are Krones and Weigensamer. Because they don’t carry German passports, the pair say that their gaze on WWII and the Nazi atrocities are a little distanced. “We were both born many years after the war,” said Weigensamer. “And growing up, I remember my own family didn’t really talk about the war unless it was to say that we were victimized. In this way, I guess we are a lot like the Japanese.” In 1938, Austria was forcibly annexed to Germany in what was known as the Anschluss, and according to Krones, it “laid the groundwork for turning a blind eye to Nazi atrocities. The Nazis held Austria in a grip of terror and the Austrians felt powerless. They descended into denial, and most people just tried to make it through the war years without getting killed.” Weigensamer nodded in assent, but said, “And now we are seeing the rise of neo-Nazis, and the end of tolerance for refugees and outsiders.” Indeed, Krones said, “When we first started filming ‘A German Life,’ I thought, we would be talking about something that was past and over with. Now I feel like I’ve gone back in time, and traveled to a future where the nightmare is beginning all over again.”

As for Brunhilde Pomsel, she comes off as neither a tragic heroine or an evil monster but a woman with exceptional secretarial skills and a breathtakingly banal personality. Astonishingly, before taking up her duties for the Third Reich, Pomsel had worked in a Jewish insurance company in Berlin while having a side gig in the afternoons working for an official in the Nazi Party. Her lover and fiance was half Jewish. (In the film, she has a silver band around her ring finger.) He was killed in Amsterdam in 1942. Her best friend was a young Jewish woman named Ava, who died in one of the camps. All around her, Jewish people were being taken away, ostensibly to a place of “re-education,” and she didn’t think to question what this may really mean. Her take on Joseph Goebbels is that he was “so dapper, so dashing! The cut of his suits was perfect.” Pomsel even remembered how Goebbels’s children would come to pick him up at lunchtime so that they could all walk home together for the midday meal.

Pomsel apparently compartmentalized all that into her life, and shut out whatever she deemed unworthy of attention. She never stopped to examine the contradictions of her thoughts or her actions. She simply wanted to perform her duties well, and then go home.

“The thing is, she was very likable,” described Weigenhamer. “She was articulate, self-sufficient and loved going to the theatre. She took very good care of herself and liked to have a good time. At first I thought I liked this woman but the more time I spent with her, the more I got to hate her.” Krones said: “What struck me was her incredible selfishness. I honestly got the feeling that she was alone because she didn’t want to share her life with anybody. She enjoyed living. But as in the war years, she wanted her life to be hers alone. And this mentality, this wish to shut out others – is part of what made Hitler successful.”

Brunhilde Pomsel died last year, at the age of 106.

The film opens in Japan on June 16th. Editor’s note: ironically, the current government of Japan doesn’t only have a desire to revise history and bury Japan’s war crimes, the Prime Minister and his cabinet have a great fondness for the Nazi Party and their political strategies. History does repeat itself.

 

Update! Larceny Is Part of Family Love in Cannes Winner “Shoplifters”–Showing With English subtitles on June 21 (木)

『UPDATE: There will be a showing of the film with English subtitles at 7pm on June 21, at the Roppongi Hill Cinema. There will be a Q & A with the director afterwards. Details of the showing are after the review』

The titular family in “Shoplifters” give a new slant to the term “living in squalor.” (The film is partially based on true events)  Their house looks more like a bizarre crime scene than an actual dwelling for normal people but – and this is a crucial point in “Shoplifters” – the family is HAPPY. They enjoy the kind of freedom that one rarely sees in Tokyo families. The 10-year old son doesn’t go to cram school (or any kind of school for that matter). The dad is not an over-worked salariman whose only solace is the company drinking party. The mom couldn’t care less about keeping up with the Tanakas. And grandma – she’s an entertaining but cantankerous piece of work who drives well-meaning social workers up the wall.

1) One Big Happy Family – clockwise from right, Mayu Matsuoka, Kirin Kiki, Lily Franky, Jyo Kairi, Miyu Sasaki and Sakura Ando.
Title: The Shoplifters
©️2018 Fuji Television GAGA AOI Pro.
Distributed by GAGA

Amid the filth and debris they huddle together for warmth and comfort. At mealtimes, they poke chopsticks into ramen tubs and food cans. The catch in this cozy utopia is that they must steal almost everything they need. The other catch is that dad has just kidnapped a 5-year old girl named Yuri. She had been neglected and abused by her biological parents, so the dad just had to rescue her. “We’ll return her to her folks in the morning” he says, but then he doesn’t and Yuri joins their little clan, adding another item to their history of crime.

“Shoplifters” just won the Palme D’Or at the Cannes Film Festival – a first for a Japanese director in 21 years. The last time this happened was back in 1997, when Shohei Imamura came out with “Unagi,” and put leading man Koji Yakusho’s name on the international map. In Japan however, “Unagi” didn’t exactly break box office. It was artsy, dark and posed too many philosophical questions. While these ingredients worked wonderfully at Cannes, the general feeling in Japan was that everyone would rather watch Keanu Reeves.

“Shoplifters” is another animal. Keanu Reeves isn’t in it (too bad) but the director is Hirokazu Kore-eda: a constant contender at Cannes and other major international film festivals for the past two decades. He’s also a former TV documentarian with a shrewd sense of business. Shohei Imamura was an auteur of the old school, but Kore-eda has a nose for what sells. In his films, art never overwhelms commercialism and on the other hand, it’s not all business either. Kore-eda knows that in the international market, the biggest appeal of a Japanese film is its Japanese-ness and in “Shoplifters,” he adopts a Zen-like approach, letting the characters do their thing at their own pace, in their own space. A lot of things are unexplained or left for the audience to surmise. And pretty soon, the squalor of that awful house starts to grow on you. The ancient and no doubt odorous tatami mats, the wild, unruly shrubbery that grow all over the garden, the stained and mildewed bathtub – somehow, these things begin to assume a patina of Japanese charm. After all, we’re so used to seeing spanking clean Japanese homes inhabited by perfectly manicured people, at least in the media and after awhile, the hypocrisy of this set-up just gets to you. Such a house and family appear in the story for about 5 minutes and the contrast between them and the Shoplifters is jarring.

The Shoplifters’ house is a real one, sleuthed out by Kore-eda’s staff who combed the northeast wards of Tokyo for weeks before hitting upon the perfect specimen. Surrounded by high rise apartment buildings on all sides, the house is a tiny, crumbling Showa era relic. In the movie, it belongs to the grandmother, Hatsue played by Kirin Kiki. Divorced before becoming a widow, Hatsue still keeps her ex-husband’s photo on the ‘butsudan (miniature buddhist shrine)’ and takes out his pension every month to supplement her own. It’s the only steady source of income the family has, since the mother Nobuyo (Sakura Ando) and dad (Lily Franky) earn minimum wage doing part time work and even that’s jeopardized when their employers install a workshare program. “What’s work share?,” asks the son and the dad’s response – “ahhhm, it’s when you share the work.” It also means less pay and less income to share with the family.

Nobuyo’s younger sister Aki (Mayu Matsuoka) works at a ‘JK (short for ‘Joshikosei, which means high school girl) sex shop, which entails dressing in a school uniform and opening her legs in front of a two-way mirror. Aki’s wages are 3000 yen per session and upon hearing this, grandma Hatsue lets out a sigh of real envy. “That’s such a well-paid job!”

Of course, even working an honest job at minimum wage or a shady job at 3000 yen per hour, isn’t enough for a family to survive on and so shoplifting supplements their income. The movie was partly inspired by real events.

Partners in crime – the son Shota (Jyo Kairi) cases the joint with dad Osamu (Lily Franky).
Title: The Shoplifters
©️2018 Fuji Television GAGA AOI Pro.
Distributed by GAGA

The film is full of dark humor but it is also a biting criticism of modern Japan. Kore-eda is not a fan of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. The film references how the rights and wages of workers keep deteriorating and a growing number of people live in poverty, while “Abenomics” only benefits the elite.

The Japanese family has cultivated a certain image – that they revere their elders, that fathers work themselves to the bone, that the kids are models of scholastic excellence and good manners. In real life, that image is shattered again and again – consider that 1 out of 6 children live in poverty while the number of abused kids have been on the rise for the past 20 years. In the movie, Yuri’s biological mom is beaten by a rat of a husband and she takes out her anger on her daughter. And for all the love they show the son, the Shoplifter parents think nothing of depriving the boy of his future by keeping him home and teaching him to steal. The son, played by Kairi Jyo, is a compelling figure to watch – he loves the couple who have raised him, but at the same time he knows theirs is not a sustainable relationship. They have good times together but the son comes to realize that they’re bound more by crime and money than blood and love.

So, like a Bruce Springsteen song, it had to end. For me, the final scenes were blurred by a blizzard of tears, triggered by a longing for a raucous, uproarious, hugger-mugger childhood that never happened.

Shoplifters (万引き家族) opened nationwide in Japan on June 8th. 

The English subtitled screening and Q&A session of “Shoplifters” will be taken place on Thursday, June 21st.

【Date】Thursday, June 21st
【Time】19:00~(Q&A session after the screening)
【Venue】TOHO CINEMAS ROPPONGI HILLS
【Guest (tentative)】Kore-eda Hirokazu (director)

<How to buy the ticket>
・By PC & smart phone : Ticket site will be opened from Saturday, June 16th 0:00 at internet ticket vit (https://www.tohotheater.jp/vit/)
・Ticket counter at the theater : Ticket will be on sale from the opening on Saturday, June 16th at the theater (if the tickets are available.)

<Price>
Standard price *This film is rated PG12
※Additional costs will needed for Premium box seats. Please check the theater website.
※Movie tickets can be used.
※Free admission tickets can not be used.

<Caution>
※The screening is with English subtitles.
※Press will cover the Q&A and there will be a possibility that the audience could be on camera.
※The guests and Q&A session are tentative and are subject to change without notice.
※Reserved seating only and the ticket is for only 1 screening. You must obtain the seat for this screening to attend the Q&A.
※Resale is strictly prohibited.
※No camera (including by phoens) shooting or recoding are strictly prohibited.
※Once paid, ticket fees are non-refundable/non-changeable.

 

Shonen: How A Young Japanese Gigolo Learns To Love Life Via Hard Work (film review)

You’ve heard that foodie movies trigger your appetite. Love stories trigger tear ducts. Documentaries will cause political rants. In that vein, “Shonen,” a film about a male prostitute pleasuring his women clients with relentless energy and single-minded dedication, will…

Okay, well “Shonen” doesn’t exactly have that effect, because as a line in this brilliant film goes, “women are not simpletons.” Still, some segments were evocative.

For Japanese women viewers, the film may be a catalyst for some um, deeply stirred soul searching, if only because most Japanese women are conditioned from birth to cater to the needs of others, specifically men and ignore some basic physical needs of threir own. Confusing women further is the mixed and murky, societal message. Yeah, women are taught to appease and please men but at the same time we’re constantly warned against casual sex, couched in terms to make us feel like either victims (rape! groping! being dumped before marriage!) or sluts (self-explanatory). Men called all the shots and were the enemy but women couldn’t live without them because we’re women. It’s an image that Japan’s male-dominated culture has thrived on. As for sexual pleasure equally enjoyed by both parties? Ahhh, didn’t get the memo on that one.

(C)石田衣良/集英社 
2017映画『娼年』製作委員会  
●公開表記: 4月6日(金)、TOHOシネマズ 新宿 他 全国ロードショー
●公式HP: http://shonen-movie.com/ Twitter @shonen_movie
●企画製作・配給: ファントム・フィルム  ●レイティング: R18+

“Shonen” however, urges women (and by implication, men) to explore their pleasure spots and revel in the fleeting moment because hey, what’s wrong with things being a little transitory sometimes? And to ease any apprehensions, the film proffers a cute young guy, not so much as a seducer but a persuader or a guide, who happens to be unclothed for the majority of the film’s nearly two hour duration. Not surprisingly, the screening room was crammed with women and more were waiting in line on the sidewalk, only to be turned away with promises of additional screenings the following week. Months before “Shonen’s” official release date was announced, online rumors heralded it as the Japanese “Fifty Shades of Gray,” but with a much better cast and specially tailored for a female audience.

Indeed, only the bravest of Japanese men could sit through “Shonen” without feeling massively out of place, unwelcome, inadequate and dismally uncomfortable. The warning is written into the title: the kanji character “sho” means prostitute and the “nen” points to a young male, and in this case he’s played by none other than resident sweet boy-next-door Tohri Matsuzaka whose adorableness is matched by a good-sport, non-threatening vibe. The movie shows us that both traits are assets in the world of male prostitution because the work is One client is a 70 year old lady in a kimono (played by Kyoko Enami, who’s actually 76). Another is an older, wheel-chair bound husband (Tokuma Nishioka) who requests Ryo to rape his young wife (Kokone Sasaki) in an onsen (spa) inn, so he could video-tape the whole thing and watch it later.

In one scene, Matsuzaka’s character Ryo is recruited by the glamorous Shizuka (Sei Matobu) into her “club” of male prostitutes. Ryo assumes he is to have sex with Shizuka, but in fact, he’s ordered to perform with Sakura, a young deaf woman who happens to be Shizuka’s daughter. After it’s over, she quietly places a 5000 yen bill on the bed, telling him matter-of-factly: “your sex was worth 5000 yen.” And then Sakura plonks down another 5000. “She’s taken a liking to you,” says Shizuka, indicating that he passed the test. As far as job interviews go, this is probably more pleasurable than most and the initial pay isn’t bad: 10,000 yen an hour and any tips are Ryo’s to keep.

Just in case you’re shocked, shocked!, like Claude Rains in “Casablanca,” male prostitution in Japan has been around as long as female. Historians have written that the original kabuki actors were homeless gay prostitutes, performing on the banks of Kyoto’s Kamo River by day and selling sexual favors by night. Currently, the rumor is that there are 30,000 “hosuto (escorts)” working in Tokyo and roughly 40% are into prostitution as side hustles. Tokyo’s male escort industry is ruthless – stories abound about how they will bleed their female clients dry and when the money runs out, sell them off to Chinese sex traffickers.

“Shonen” isn’t a sweat and tears documentary about the underside of Tokyo’s sex industry. It is in fact, a fairy tale that showcases the sexual prowess of Tohri Matsuzaka, who at 29 can play an alluring 20 year old who routinely cuts classes at a posh Tokyo university.

(C)石田衣良/集英社 
2017映画『娼年』製作委員会  
●公開表記: 4月6日(金)、TOHOシネマズ 新宿 他 全国ロードショー
●公式HP: http://shonen-movie.com/ Twitter @shonen_movie
●企画製作・配給: ファントム・フィルム  ●レイティング: R18+

The very first scene shows Ryo hard at it, grunting and gyrating on the splayed body of a young woman moaning with pleasure at appropriate intervals. It’s a one night stand and the girl leaves in the morning after ascertaining that she just did it with a guy from a top-ranking university (“Wait till I tell my girlfriends!”) but Ryo can’t get no satisfaction. Later, when he meets Shizuka for the first time, he describes the sexual act as a “hassling exercise routine with all the moves already mapped out.” But as soon as he’s paid by his first client, Ryo feels more alive than he ever did. By turning his back on the normal world of sex with girlfriends, one door closes but a new one opens, one that inducts Ryo into the business of pleasuring women. It’s to director Daisuke Miura’s eternal credit that none of it is demeaning for any of the characters, even though he defies every taboo in the book of mainstream filmmaking. Audiences may find hard to stomach how Shizuka deploys her daughter to test the sexual abilities of new recruits, as she stands not three feet away, watching impassively with arms folded over her chest like an inspections officer.

In the end, a certain melancholy hangs in the air like an invisible pinata. Ryo couldn’t enjoy sex when it was free, but as a source of employment and act of labor, he begins to love it, and commits to the job like any dedicated salariman. He couldn’t be bothered to talk or be civil with casual girlfriends but with clients, he’s willing to have meaningful conversations and be kind, considerate and gentlemanly. Is work the all-controlling, always-defining core of Japanese life? One of the questions to ponder, in the midst of all that panting.