Category Archives: Contemporary Culture

Johnny Be Bad: A rare interview with Japan’s boy Idol-maker and pederast

(special contribution from Steve McClure)

This out of print book allegedly details the sexual abuse committed by Idol-Maker Johnny Kitagawa towards the young men in his stable and beyond.

Editor’s note: Japan’s most beloved pederast (a male who sexually assaults young men) , Johnny Kitagawa, died last week. He was an idol maker, the brains behind such super male idol bands as SMAP, Kinki Kids, and an entertainment legend. He was also so powerful that the seedy and dark side of his life was swept under the table even after his death.

There were some in the media that dared challenge the sleazy smooth Svengali. Weekly magazine, Shukan Bunshun ran a series of well-researched articles in 1999 describing how Kitagawa systematically abused young boys. Kitagawa then sued the publisher for libel but despite the testimony of alleged rape victims interviewed for the piece, the Tokyo District Court ruled in his favor. They ordered the publisher to pay 8.8 million yen in damages to Kitagawa and his company in 2002.

However, The Tokyo High Court overturned this decision in July 2003. They concluded that the allegations were true. “The agency failed to discredit the allegations in the detailed testimony of his young victims,” ruled the presiding Judge Hidekazu Yazaki. The case stood. The story was barely a blip in the Japanese media horizon. In an entertainment world where Johny’s stable of young boys was a prerequisite to ratings success, his ‘indulgences’ weren’t deemed worthy of reporting.

Johny granted few interviews–here is the story of one of them:

My interview with Johnny

By Steve McClure

It was only after I’d interviewed Johnny Kitagawa that I realized I’d scored a bit of a scoop.

“You interviewed Johnny? That’s amazing – he never does interviews,” my Japanese media and music-biz colleagues said. “How on earth did you manage to do that?”

It was 1996 and I was Billboard magazine’s Japan bureau chief. I was hanging out with an American producer/songwriter who had written several hit tunes for acts managed by Kitagawa’s agency, Johnny’s Jimusho. 

“Want to hear a funny story about Johnny?” Bob (not his real name) asked me. 

“Sure,” I said. 

“Well, the other day, Johnny told me he’d discovered a promising male vocal duo. I asked him what they were called.

“‘I’m going to call them the Kinki Kids,’ Johnny told me.

“I told him that ‘kinky’ means sexually abnormal in English slang.

“‘Oh, that’s great!,’ Johnny said. 

Bob and I laughed. 

“Say, Steve, would you like me to set up an interview with Johnny for you?” Bob asked. 

I told him that would be swell. 

Some days later I was informed that Kitagawa would grant me an audience at his private residence. I was enjoined not to reveal where the great man lived (it was Ark Hills in Akasaka, for the record).

I showed up at the appointed day and hour, and rang the doorbell of the condo high up in one of the Ark Hills towers. A browbeaten middle-aged woman answered the door. Evidently a domestic of some kind, she said I was expected and asked me to come in. She led me into a garishly decorated living room full of Greek statuary, Louis XV-style furniture and sundry examples of rococo frippery. There were no Ganymedean cup-bearers offering libations or any other signs of sybaritic excess.

I was ushered into the presence of the pop panjandrum. Johnny was sitting in an armchair beside a window with a stunning view of Tokyo. He was small, bespectacled and unprepossessing. If you saw him in the street, you’d never imagine he was the notorious and feared Svengali who had a stranglehold on the geinokai (芸能界/Japan’s entertainment world). 

After we exchanged pleasantries, I got down to business. I asked Johnny about his early life in Los Angeles. “My dad ran the local church,” he told me without elaboration in a quiet, rather high-pitched voice. I later found out that Kitagawa père had been the head of a Japanese American Buddhist congregation in L.A. 

Johnny was equally vague about when he first came to Japan. He reportedly arrived while serving as an interpreter for the U.S. military during the Korean War. 

This set the tone for the rest of the interview – it was hard to get a straight answer out of Johnny, at least when it came to his personal history. He was more interested in talking about all the boy bands he’d groomed and propelled to stardom during his long and extraordinarily successful career.

Johnny told me how he got his start in showbiz when he saw some boys playing baseball in a Tokyo park, and later molded them into a pop group called The Johnnies. That set the template for the rest of his career – scouting for boys and using them as raw material as his pop production line churned out an endless succession of unthreatening quasi-androgynous male idol groups. 

A classic showman, Johnny said he was more interested in live performances than records. He made his mark with coups de theatre like having ’80s male idol act Hikaru Genji do choreographed routines on roller skates. 

“Once you release a record, you have to sell that record,” Johnny said. “You have to push one song only. You can’t think of anything else. It’s not good for the artist.” The Johnny’s stable of acts has nonetheless racked up dozens of No.1 hits over the years. 

Johnny’s English, like that of many longterm expats, was quaintly fossilized. I could hear echoes of ’40s and ’50s America when he said things like “gee,” or “gosh” when answering my questions. 

Soon after the interview began, the browbeaten obasan put a steaming dish of katsu-curry in front of me. I begged off, explaining that I’d just eaten lunch. This didn’t prevent the arrival of another dish soon after: spaghetti and “hamburg” steak, as I recall. Hearty fare for starving young idol wannabes was my take on the menu chez Johnny. 

Having decided that “Are you or have you ever been a pederast?” might be somewhat too direct a question to put to the dear old chap, I lobbed a series of softball queries with the aim of establishing a friendly rapport. But even the most gently tossed questions elicited amiable but frustratingly vague answers from Johnny.

In the silences between his frequent hems and haws, the wind whined like a sotto voce banshee through the slightly opened window.

Johnny did tell me that he received 300 letters a day from guys wanting to sign up with his agency. I wasn’t sure if he was boasting or bored. 

The time came to leave, and Johnny accompanied me to the door. “Come back anytime,” he said with a friendly smile as he waved me goodbye. 

As I made my way down the hall to the elevators, I saw the finely chiseled profile of a young man peeking from around a corner, looking in my direction. He caught a glimpse of me and retreated. I resisted the temptation to tell him the katsu-curry was getting cold. 

Sadly, I didn’t take up Johnny on his kind offer to come up and see him sometime. 

Childhood Sexual Assault Survivors Call For Action and Policy Changes Ahead of Hiroshima G7 Summit

In a move considered well overdue, Japan is raising the national age of consent from 13 years old to 16. Japan has the lowest national age of consent among G7 countries, and has faced criticism for years, even being subject to a UN recommendation in 2008 that the penal codes should be revised.

It is worth noting that in most places in Japan, 13 years old is not the effective age of consent. There are overlapping laws, national and local, that make the actual age of consent higher in most of Japan. In Tokyo, for example, the Youth Protection Laws put the age of consent at 17. Other prefectures can determine their own ages for consent, usually around 16-18. National laws prohibit an adult to “cause a child to commit an obscene act,” with a child being defined as anyone under the age of 18. 

However, these laws can be vague in application. And age of consent laws are still not sufficient for protecting children or bringing justice to those who have experienced childhood sexual abuse (CSA). 

A March 2nd press conference hosted by the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan (FCCJ) was held with speakers currently advocating for CSA survivors. They have compiled recommendations to put forward for the upcoming G7 summit in Hiroshima this year – to amend the statute of limitations on sexual assault cases, and to establish a survivor council by 2025 to reflect survivors’ experience into Japanese government. 

Ikuko Ishida, the founder of Be Brave Japan, was groomed and sexually abused by her middle school teacher starting from when she was 15 years old. He had taken her out, told her that he was in love with her, and convinced her to start a relationship with him that continued until she was 19 years old. When she recognized it as childhood sexual abuse years later, she was met with little help from officials in her hometown of Sapporo.

The statute of limitations on sexual assault has been extended to 5 years in Japan, but it isn’t enough for cases of childhood sexual abuse. Robert Schilling, former Interpol head of the Crimes Against Children unit, co-founder of Brave Movement in the United States, and survivor of CSA, said “Based on the cases that I’ve investigated, victims come forward somewhere between the age of 28 and 32 years old because you’re trying to process what has happened to you, and you don’t even believe in yourself anymore.” 

It is common for survivors of CSA, like Ishida, to not recognize the experiences in their childhood as CSA for any number of reasons, and many are unable to seek help– or justice– until it is too late. 

This is why Ishida and members of Brave Japan are recommending that the statute of limitations for CSA should be at the very least extended, ideally to 30 years,  if not abolished altogether. 

Ishida faced pushback from the Sapporo authorities when she first sought help in her case. But she unexpectedly, she was also met with less than sympathetic responses from those closest to her, who believed that she couldn’t have been abused because it was a romantic relationship – despite her age and the age of the perpetrator.

The idea of sincere love between a child and an adult is ignorant of uneven power dynamics that come with such an age and developmental gap. Further, the positions that predators may take up to give them access to children – such as teaching or childcare – add yet another layer of inequality to their relationship.

Yet “sincere love” and “the self-determination of children” persist as a counterpoint even within the Japanese government. As recently as 2021, 56-year-old Representative Hiranao Honda (also of Sapporo) suggested that it would be “strange” if he were arrested for having a romantic and sexual relationship with a consenting 14-year-old child. 

It is clear that there is a disconnect between survivors’ lived experiences and the public perception of childhood sexual abuse and grooming cases. As Ishida noted, sexual assault is commonly viewed as something that is perpetrated by force by an adult man to an adult woman. Cases where the genders, scenarios, and ages are different are not so easily understood by those with a narrow understanding of sexual assault. 

The proposed survivor council aims to represent survivor perspectives in the lawmaking and regulatory process. Said Schilling, “They need to listen to what we need. Having a survivor’s council…that’s more helpful than the government telling us ‘This is what we’re going to do for you’”. 

The 49th G7 summit will be held in Hiroshima, Japan from May 19th to May 21st.

The mysterious beauty of Reylia Slaby’s World


Reylia Slaby, born in Japan and well-known for the mysterious and otherworldly vistas that dominate her photography, is having her first solo exhibition from March 25th. A perfect chance to see the art and meet the artist. Details below

MARCH 25th – APRIL 16th, 2023
Image art from Tokyo Private Eye (Tokyo Detective) to be published on March 28th 2023 (Marchialy) photo by Reylia Slaby, limited © Jake Adelstein
Gallery Information:
東京都世田谷区池尻2-7-12 B1F
B1F 2-7-12 Ikejiri, Setagaya-ku, Tokyo, Japan
Tel.03-6413-8055 (SUNDAY)

Japan Goes Up in Smoke

I hail from a family of smokers. My parents, their siblings, my cousins, my grandparents. New Years’ family get-togethers were marked by cramped living rooms dense with smoke, full ashtrays waiting to be emptied and rows of beer and sake bottles on low tables. In high school I would come home to find my mother on the couch, inhaling a Caster with her legs crossed and brow furrowed. In these moments she didn’t want to talk or hear about my day. She wanted to be left alone with a thin trail of smoke curling into the air; the unmistakable signal that she had pulled down the shutters and did not wish to be disturbed.

In 1989 when Japan became No.1 (go ahead and laugh) the smoking rate in Japan was around 31% which meant that just about one in three Japanese adults had a cigarette jammed in their mouth. That seems huge but not as much as the year 2000 when the smoking rate hit 33%.

In 2002 I was trying to quit smoking for maybe the third time in my life, meeting with mixed results. I didn’t particularly love the taste of cigarettes but everyone I knew had a pack stashed in pockets or in chic little backpacks. I was one of 11.3% of Japanese female smokers. For males, it was close to a whopping 48%. Overall, the smoking rate in Japan came up to nearly 28%, significantly less than two years ago — though you couldn’t really tell by all the smoking in public.

Chilling with a cigarette outside a tobacconist/coffee shop

For many of us cigarettes were a mental prop or psychological crutch depending on how many packs you consumed in a day. In 2002 nearly 50% of Japanese male smokers reported that they went through just one pack a day, while women reported they got through a pack every three days. For me it was more like a pack a week, though I still couldn’t seem to wean myself off for good. One Sunday afternoon I was with friends in a bar in the San Francisco Mission and when I went outside for a smoke, the cute blonde guy behind the counter came out to do the same. We chatted and he invited me to a party that same night, both of us hiding our smiles behind the thin, elegant plumes of smoke that hovered briefly before trailing upwards into an overcast sky. Such incidents made it hard to quit cold turkey. What was I going to do when I wanted to realign or take a break from the conversation? How was I going to meet cute blonde guys working behind the bar?

2002 was also the year the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare introduced the Health Promotion Act, which stipulated among other items that smoking was harmful to one’s health and secondary smoke had links to cancer. It was a pretty ineffectual way to get people to discard their cigarette habit. Few paid attention to this Act (as opposed to a law) which was basically the Japanese government’s way of saying “okay, we realize smoking is bad and all that and yeah, we’re going to do something about it. But not today.”

Still, it was time to break up with nicotine. A year later in 2003 in Boston, a couple of weeks into a sizzling hot summer, the city announced the implementation of an indoor smoking ban. None of my friends believed it. The next night we went to this hipster club called Avalon and were shocked – shocked! – to see bouncers confiscating cigarettes at the doors.

Back in Tokyo, smokers were still free to do as they pleased, whether on the streets or at home with their kids. JT (Japan Tobacco) however, took it upon themselves to educate their customers on the perils of secondary smoke and to mind their cigarette manners in public places. Chiyoda ward was the first to ban smoking while walking on the streets and the other wards gradually fell in line. The major newspapers decried that the Japanese were far behind the west in dealing with health issues and released a slew of reports about cigarettes and cancer. I helped a reporter friend research and write some of the articles. While we pulled up the numbers and argued about findings, this friend had a Seven Star dangling from the corner of his mouth the whole time. It never occurred to me to point that out.

I was also hired by a cafe in Shibuya to design their matchbook covers. I put a temporary ban on my personal smoking ban and spent a lot of time in smoke-filled meetings. Matchbook cover design was a thing back then, and the cafe’s policy was to provide great coffee, great music and a chill ambience that suggested cool girls always chose matches over lighters.

In 2007 the cafe went bankrupt and was replaced by a convenience store where people bought coffee from the machine by the cash register and plastic, 100 yen lighters to light up their cigarettes. By this time there were far fewer smokers – only 24.5% of the populace. The media reported that it was the first time since WWII that the numbers were so low. On the streets the smokers were forced into tiny cubicle-like spaces. In cafes and restaurants, they were restricted to smoking areas. Actually, this met with a lot less resistance than expected. The hands that once held cigarettes were now clutching their cellphones, soon to be replaced by the new iPhone.

Thirteen years later in 2020, smoking in Japan was 20% and though the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare insisted that this was an all-time low, in 2017 the number came in even lower at 17%, according to privately conducted studies. Interestingly, 2017 is missing from government-issued reports on smoking. The MHLW has insisted that 20% is actually a good number since it’s the global median rate on smoking worldwide. More importantly, this number is below China and the US, which makes the country look good on the health and fitness front. Which is what the Health Promotion Act originally wanted to achieve in the first place: raise awareness about public health issues.

So far, so stable? But as with so many other things, COVID has thrown a wrench in the works. Because of the high levels of stress and anxiety during the first year of the pandemic, smokers have taken to smoking more than they used to. Several surveys indicate that many who had quit relapsed on their habits. The numbers are creeping up again, especially among men. As of 2021, 27% of Japanese men smoked, and that number didn’t include smokers under 18 years of age.

Now in 2023 I’m surrounded by smokers again. In Asakusa where I work during the day, smokers congregate in back alleys and street corners to chat and puff away. Coffee shops doubling as tobacconists are still doing business like it’s 1980. The smoking areas in heavy-duty train stations like Shimbashi and Shinjuku are packed with people of all genders sucking and puffing on tobacco products of all kinds.

Smoking spaces, like this one outside Shimbashi Station, are getting more crowded by the day

Right now, heated tobacco products (HTPs) are trending, encouraged by JT (Japan Tobacco) that endorses HTPs as the ‘polite’ and ‘good-mannered’ way to smoke because of the near-zero secondary smoke. Before HTPs became the socially acceptable way to inhale tobacco, secondary smoke was deemed a leading carcinogen and in 2020, the MHLW upgraded the Passive Smoking Prevention Act from a ‘guideline’ to a ‘rule.’ This pressured offices and public spaces/venues to up their game on smoking bans; not so much for the benefit of the smokers’ health but for the well-being of non-smokers. But despite the fact that heated tobacco products may only be marginally less harmful as regular cigarettes to bystanders and smokers alike, they’ve been given special treatment by the Japanese government. You can see this in the way HTPs are treated and accepted as accessories, with non-smokers often standing right next to people sucking away at their little HTP cases. While we can assume harm reduction is the intended goal, one has to wonder if the health of Japan Tobacco is more important than the health of Japanese citizens.

Outside ‘glo,’ a popular heated tobacco shop

Smoking doesn’t seem to be going away anytime soon. It’s a highly emotional product and smokers smoke out of sentiment as much as for that hit of nicotine. Why else would people want to bond with a co-worker standing over an ashtray? I know some women who shun remote work just to be able to get out of the house so they can meet up with others in their office building, chatting inside small, crowded smoking spaces. As my friend Sachi said the other day, “Maybe I’ll even find love in a smoking room.”

Egoism and Love: Not mutually exclusive

Egoist. The title seemingly belies this love story. From the vantage point of today’s incessantly narcissistic and increasingly toxic dating/relationship culture, Egoist is the exact opposite of what it claims to be. Directed by Daishi Matsunaga and based on an autobiographical novel penned by author Makoto Takayama (who championed gay rights and same sex marriage) before his death in 2020, Egoist is a beautifully crafted tale with empathetic and highly sensual performances from veteran Ryohei Suzuki and the up-and-coming Hio Miyazawa. Together, they create a gay relationship that’s sexy, nurturing, endearing, supportive and all the other adjectives often missing from on-screen stories about heterosexual love. In Japan, hetero love stories are often cynical, snarky or curiously asexual. 

For the past 20 years or so, the Japanese film industry seemed to revel in convincing us that hetero love is destined to become abusive, fade out or end in disaster. That same industry though, is much kinder to gay lovers. Egoist is no exception. “I don’t know what love is,” confesses the protagonist in one scene and the mother of his boyfriend replies: “That doesn’t matter. My son and I both felt your love and that’s good enough for us.” 

Ryohei Suzuki, who has carved out a career playing imminently likable, stand-up kind of guys, takes on the role of gay fashion mag editor Kosuke. Kosuke loves designer clothes, good coffee, interior decor and retro diva music. He’s an unabashed hedonist who also knows exactly how attractive he looks. When he visits his childhood home in a small coastal town in Chiba prefecture, the boys that used to make fun of his “gayness” in junior high have turned into paunchy, middle-aged men while Kosuke gives every indication that he has just been transported from Paris Fashion Week. But a night out with his gay buddies convinces Kosuke that he needs to work on his body more and hires the highly recommended, 24-year old Ryuta (Miyazawa) as a personal trainer. The two connect from the get-go with Kosuke telling Ryuta what a beautiful face he has, and Ryuta returning the compliment with praises of the older man’s “wonderful physique.” Miyazawa’s performance here is playful and innocent while his pale skin and dewy eyes distract Kosuke from finishing his sit-ups. 

You know the pair are going to hook up (it happens after the second training session) and in no time they’re red hot lovers. But their relationship switches lanes from sheer pleasure to anxious-about-money. Ryuta has been supporting a sick mom (Sawako Agawa) for close to a decade now, dropping out of high school to work and bring home the miso. Kosuke for his part, lost his mom to illness when he was 14 and has been missing her ever since. “I’m so envious that you get to do things for your mom,” he says to Ryuta and after making passionate love in Kosuke’s tastefully decorated apartment, presents Ryuta with an expensive treat to bring home to his mother. 

So far, so devoted and charming. So we’re thrown when the relationship takes a nose dive and Ryuta tells his lover that “this is the last time I can see you.” Turns out Ryuta has been a sex worker as soon as he quit high school, to supplement whatever meager wages a teenager can make. Ryuta tells Kosuke that he has developed feelings for his lover that gets in the way of his professional sex work, so he has to end it. Kosuke is devastated. After cyberstalking Ryuta, Kosuke makes him an offer: he will pay a monthly 100,000 yen to be Ryuta’s exclusive client. It’s on Ryuta to make whatever extra money he needs to support his mother. 

Ironically, the 100,000 yen Kosuke intended to be an equalizer in their relationship tips the scales in a disastrous direction. To show his gratitude to Kosuke, Ryuta quits sex work and personal training for other gigs, like sorting industrial waste during the day and washing dishes at a restaurant by night. Ryuta is so tired that when he goes over to see Kosuke he falls asleep without having sex. His hands – once so soft and pale, become hard and scarred from all the manual labor. And then Ryuta’s mom collapses from back pains and is taken to the hospital. Kosuke steps in and promises to help again this time by buying a car for Ryuta so he can drive his mom to doctor’s appointments. 

Director Matsunaga guides the story through each tier of the Kosuke/Ryuta dynamic, lingering on and dissecting the crucial moments that mark all the things that could have been, but never came to pass. At times, these are so wrenching I had to avert my gaze from the screen and clutch at my hands. 

With its cold, often harsh lighting and unapologetic close-ups, Egoist feels like a documentary about the ties that bind and keep us together but how those same ties can destroy the very thing we cannot live without. Kosuke’s love for Ryuta was real and yet Egoist tells us how he pushed his young lover to the edge by pressuring him to adopt an over the top work ethic – all in the name of a maternal bond that he himself was missing. 

Takayama’s original novel addresses this issue head-on by having Kosuke suffer through bouts of self-doubt: does he really love Ryuta or is he a raging egoist? Or maybe the act of loving someone is just a way of loving oneself? Kosuke has plenty of time to stew in his angst. He’s always gazing in the mirror or selecting the shirt du jour from his splendid closet, just as obsessed about looking sharp as he is about showing some love for Ryuta and his mother. In the meantime, Ryuta is swabbing dishes, bent over a dirty sink. 

In the end though, you get the feeling that Kosuke is not nearly as egocentric as Ryuta’s own mom. The woman doesn’t lift a finger to help her son though she must know how tired he is. It’s also baffling that she never stopped her son from dropping out of high school or how unconcerned she was about Ryuta’s future when he was a teenager. That’s child abuse right there. 

Lovers shouldn’t be held responsible for one’s happiness and well-being. But parents are accountable for how their kids fare as adults. Ryuta’s mother, egoist that she is, refuses to even acknowledge that. 

Samurai play soccer and other fairy tales: Japan and the world cup

by Kaori Shoji

When the professional soccer league of Japan aka ‘J-League’ officially came into existence in 1993 it was a huge deal. Suddenly, everyone was talking about rules and bandying about phrases like ‘offside’ and ‘middle shoot.’ Suddenly, soccer players – from 13-year olds dutifully kicking the ball around on their school grounds during their extra-curriculars, to bona fide club players with their own harem of groupies (that’s what they were called back then) – were sizzling hot. Everyone it seems, wanted to be them, date them or use them for some kind of leverage. In the early naughts an older co-worker sidled up to me one afternoon in the company corridor and told me with a mix of swagger and sincerity that if I played my cards right, ie., slept with him–he was willing to take me to a J-league game. We could watch Kazuyoshi Miura who at the time, was playing for Vissel Kobe. I recall taking a full 2 minutes before coming to my senses and declining politely. What can I say, tickets for a J-League game were impossible to get and prohibitively expensive. Two minutes mulling it over was allowed, right? 

Kazuyoshi Miura’s name still strikes a chord with many Japanese regardless of their level of soccer passion. In our collective consciousness he was the first Japanese guy to leave these shores on his own and make a lasting, positive impact on the international pitch. 

Captain Tsubasa was the ideal Japanese soccer athlete in old Japan. “The ball is my friend.”

Now, more than 300 Japanese players are spread out over 57 nations across the globe. Seventy-four of them play for Europe’s most prestigious clubs. Nearly every one of them are English speakers and a sizable number can even give interviews. Not so in the 1990s when Miura was making his presence felt. Japanese men’s reputation overseas was dismal. They were deemed bad at communication, self-assertion, personal grooming. They hovered between bad and awful on the dating scale. Japanese soccer was dismal. The team seemed to have little strategy other than passing the ball around like a hot potato, waiting for something to give. It wasn’t until 1998 that Japan qualified to play in the World Cup. In 2002 when the host countries were Japan and South Korea, we made it to the knockout stage for the first time ever. 

Miura enjoyed being called ‘Kazu’ for most of his career but for the past decade he has insisted on the alias of ‘King Kazu.’ At 55, he’s the world’s oldest professional player and has a spot in the Guinness Book of World Records. Last year he scored a goal in a J-1 match, among players less than half his age. 

Miura was the first Japanese soccer player with guts and bravado and a mouth to match his outsized ego. At his favorite cafe in Omotesando, the baristas have strict orders to inscribe ‘King Kazu’ on his customized lattes and god forbid they should ever forget. He never had the suave sophistication of Cristiano Ronaldo but he knew what it meant to be assertive on the global stage, how being hot was almost the equivalent of having talent, on or off the pitch. Kazu was the first Japanese male to show us that the worth of a Japanese male didn’t have to be found in stupidly long working hours but having a good time and looking great. His message was electrifying and soccer fans or not, we were hooked. 

Fast forward to 2022 and the World Cup in Qatar. If you’re anything like me the World Cup takes over a huge chunk of your waking hours or in this case, the hours (12 midnight and 4AM specifically) when people are usually in their beds. The day after a Japan game, the people I met at work walked around like zombies, bumping into file cabinets and yawning behind their masks. We would rub our eyes, laugh together and share that special rush of adrenaline shared by soccer fans. We won! We won! 

Call it escapism, defeatism, a refusal to face my personal problems. Call it what the hell you like, just don’t come between me and my game. When it comes to soccer, my mindset is similar to Renton’s in  Trainspotting when he says “Whew! I haven’t felt that good since Archie Gimmell scored against Holland in 1978!” 

I only know Archie Gimmell from news archives but I feel the exact say way about Ritsu Doan who, on December 1st 2022, scored a goal against Spain that ultimately led Japan to the knock out stage. Spain! Let me repeat, that’s Spain, the country that won the World Cup in 2010 and owns the best club teams in the world. And before that, in the first game in the group league, Japan beat Germany in what can only be described as a miraculous wet dream come true. 

That kind of rush is rare though it’s just a thin trickle of joy compared to how Doan felt when he scored that goal. In a time-freeze, parallel, reincarnated universe (I have no idea what this means other than it sounds right) I am a 24-year old Japanese soccer player, beautiful and slender, with dyed blonde hair and no tattoos and impeccable locker room manners and a disarming, lopsided smile I reserve for my girlfriend and mom. 

I don’t see myself as a forward. No, I think I’m a center mid-fielder who shoots out like a star when the going gets tough and work my magic to turn the game around. I am there, in Qatar. Every single fiber of my body is concentrating on the ball and the geometry of connecting the passes to outwit the enemy, pushing the game to gain a little more distance and secure a little more space. I can feel every stride of my long legs as the ball jumps and rolls just a few feet away. I can hear the crowds scream and cheer in ecstasy. It’s in this moment that I know – there is nothing else than this and nothing else matters. I know, with a shock of unwavering certainty, that this is what I exist for and what I’m meant to do with my one wild and precious life. 

Of course I know it’s futile to try and coax non-soccer enthusiasts to enter this zone. Jake Adelstein, who owns and runs this site and who very, very reluctantly agreed to assign this essay, said: “Who cares about the World Cup? I think it’s a sham. You better hand this in before the year is out because in a few more weeks it will be a distant memory, if that.”  (Editor’s note: Did this happen in the same year as the 2020 Olympics? I can’t remember anymore)

But. And still. My retort is that if the World Cup is a sham, it’s a gorgeous one. Let me turn a blind eye to the white supremacist bullshit that reigns inside FIFA despite the fact that the majority of the most talented players are people of color. Or the fact that Qatar built its stadiums literally on the backs of imported slave laborers and has a financial vice-grip on some of Europe’s most revered club teams. Or that events like the World Cup and the Olympics are notorious for leaving behind a legacy of corrupted officials and ecological disasters. Football is a bad match with anything else. Any discussion other than the game and the players can lead to violence or destroyed relationships. 

As a Japanese, I’m privileged in that my country’s brand of soccer has been linked more to pop culture than politics. To the majority of Japanese over 15 and under 60, soccer will always be tied to the manga/anime series Captain Tsubasa penned by Yoichi Takahashi, in which the sweet, clear-eyed titular characters’s signature line is: “The ball is my friend!” After delivering this line Tsubasa runs onto a pitch that’s always green, under a sky that’s forever blue and cloudless. 

(Editor’s note: “The ball is my friend“? Only makes sense if Tsubasa had monorchism, or a terrbile soccer injury?)

Captain Tsubasa convinced generations of Japanese kids that playing soccer was a worthy life endeavor if not the only thing in their lives that will remain pure and unsullied well into adulthood. That’s a mirage in the desert but I know more than a few men who refer to  CTsubasa as the series is affectionately called, as the one manga that saved them in their darkest hours. 

With the World Cup in Qatar it was  Blue Lock, the definitive modern soccer manga now turned into an anime series, that so far has sold over 16 million copies. “Blue Lock” is much more attuned to today’s soccer and the World Cup than Captain Tsubasa–less innocent and more pragmatic. The author Muneyuki Kinjyo stresses that soccer calls for only one thing: victory. And for Japan to get past the knockout stage, the team must want that win and sacrifice everything to get it, even their personal integrity. This stuff moves me to tears, in much the same way that Maya Yoshida, captain of the Japan team, said in an interview after the win over Germany: “We’re here to win. That’s all we’re thinking about right now.” 

For many Japanese, soccer and soccer manga run together on the same pitch. The teams and players blur and blend into each other in a glorious, nerdy, pop-culture experience that has nothing to do with Hollywood and everything to do with growing up in Japan. This is ours. And we’ve finally come to a point where it’s okay to let it all hang out.ブルーロックキャプテン翼

“A Man” Takes Imposter Syndrome To New Dimensions

by Kaori Shoji

Three minutes into A Man, you already know that Rie (Sakura Ando), who is minding her mother’s stationery shop in rural Miyazaki prefecture, will be dating the guy (Masataka Kubota) who walks into her shop one depressingly rainy afternoon. Rie is a single mom, having divorced her husband some years ago and she’s living with her young son and widowed mother. You can tell Rie doesn’t have much joy in her life. You can tell that this guy – Daisuke – has even less joy, even emotionally stunted. Of course, they hit it off. Then it’s three years later and Daisuke and Rie are married, with a new baby in their family. Life seems to be going incredibly well for them until Daisuke is killed in an accident. At the one-year memorial, his estranged older brother turns up from Gunma prefecture, clear across on the other side of Japan. Rie shows him Daisuke’s photo and he immediately says: “Who is that? That’s not Daisuke at all. That’s a completely different man.” 

Memo: Spoilers ahead. Read at your own peril but stay if you want insight into the greater themes of the book and movie.

An occurrence like this happens more often than you may think, even in a super-ordered and family-oriented society like Japan. According to the Metropolitan Police Agency, between 80,000 and 90,000 people disappear annually in Japan, and those are just the numbers based on reports filed by their families. Many of these missing persons end up as suicides or like Daisuke, goes off the radar to live a completely different life. Legally, if a person has gone missing for 7 years the spouses and families become eligible for their life insurance. This is why some people opt to disappear instead of committing suicide, the reasoning being that after seven years at least their families will get a substantial payout whereas most life insurance policies have a suicide clause. 

The reasons for disappearing varies but in many cases, money is a key factor. Debt, bankruptcy or sheer poverty. In Japan, once a person slips up financially, the odds of resurfacing are dismally low. It’s often simpler to disappear, change your name and assume a new identity, which is what Daisuke seems to have done. 

In Japan, sometimes people vanish to resurface as someone entirely different. Of the 80,000 people reported missing each year, how many of them are truly missing?
A Man (ある男)
©2022 “A Man” Film Partners

Based on the bestseller novel by Keiichiro Hirano and directed by Kei Ishikawa, A Man explores the world of identity scams, imposter syndrome and the ‘oyagacha phenomenon (the notion that one’s birth parents are like a box of chocolates; you just don’t know what you’re getting until it’s too late) that has become a reason and excuse for many of the ills of the Japanese existence. Failed in the university entrance exams? Failed in multiple relationships and can’t get married? Failed to land a high-paying job and now life is screwed? It all has do with oyagacha and how, if you don’t have the right lineage, you may as well give up and wallow in misery. 

Daisuke suffers from oyagacha on turbo wheels. His past is revealed in tragic, harrowing increments by Kido (Satoshi Tsumabuki), a lawyer whom Rie hired to look into her late husband’s past. Understandably, she wants to know the real identity of the man she married and loved for the past three years. Intriguingly, Rie’s mother and son, now a teenager, doesn’t oppose her in this quest to dredge up what is effectively a pile of dirty laundry. In real life if something like this got out in a rural area, Rie’s son will be bullied relentlessly at school and her mother will be forced to close down the family stationery store out of shame. Yes, it’s that bad. 

But in A Man, her family is actually supportive of Rie and by implication, the lawyer Kido. This is because Hirano is an advocate of the ‘bunjin’ or the ‘dividual,’ as opposed to the individual. Every one of Hirano’s books have dealt with the ‘bunjin’ in one or another, as a way to survive in modern Japan. The idea is to have multiple personalities, each specific to dealing with people and situations in the outer world. Instead of being locked into a restricting and uncompromising ‘me,’ multiple personalities enables the person to become more relaxed and fluid in their approach to life. Hirano has argued that the ‘bunjin’ method could be the only means to escape from ‘oyagacha.’ And by constantly updating the many bunjin in your mental stable, you can finally tell fate, destiny and parents to go f#ck themselves. 

After Kido’s investigations, it turns out that Daisuke was a young boxer named Makoto Hara. Hara was his mother’s maiden name. Makoto/Daisuke grew up in an orphanage because his mother abandoned him after his father was arrested for a triple murder and put on death row. If anyone had the right to complain about oyagacha, it was Makoto/Daisuke, for his upbringing was nothing short of a horror show. He got into boxing because he wanted to batter himself to the point of becoming unrecognizable. In one scene, Makoto weeps that he wants to tear off his face because it resembles his father’s visage. 

The more Kido digs into Makoto/Daisuke’s past, the more dirt he shovels up about the thriving identity business where desperate people buy and sell their birth names as a means to escape their lives. Initially Kido is mildly repelled by the identity scam game before getting becoming inordinately fascinated. That’s because Kido himself is a victim in the ‘oyagacha’ game – he’s a third generation ‘Zainichi (Japanese Korean resident)’ – and likely to be reminded of his ancestry more often than he’d like to admit. His in-laws for example, have no qualms about making racist remarks right in his presence, then following up with “but you’re third generation so of course you’re practically one of us.” 

The ending scene is both poignant and abrasive. Kido has finally put Makoto/Daisuke’s case to rest but in the process, discovers that his own reality has become skewed and uncomfortable, like a once-beloved jacket that no longer fits. The story however, doesn’t leave Kido stranded. Now that Kido knows the ins and outs of the identity scam game, he too, can choose to disappear and become a completely different someone else. Before the ending credits roll, we see that the temptation is already there. 

[嘘つきの安倍晋三には、こんな豪華な葬儀はふさわしくない」 殺された元総理は、日本を「真実を言えない国家」に改悪した


by chocolat viennois 


デイリービーストの追悼記事「嘘つきの安倍晋三には、こんな豪華な葬儀はふさわしくない」 殺された元総理は、日本を「真実を伝えることを知らない国」にした責任がある。……Master Liar Shinzo Abe Doesn’t Deserve This Lavish Funeral

























自民党はついに、安倍元首相の夢であった憲法改正を実現するための参議院の議席を確保したのである。しかし、果たしてそうだろうか。墓の向こうでも、安倍首相は自民党を支配しているように見える。/endchocolat viennois ☕

chocolat viennois 


Medical worker. My partner holds Ph.D. in immunology and can give me advice. ショコラ・ヴィエノワです。長いんでノワで。誤字多めですのでご容赦を。日本のインフォデミックがひどいので海外のツイートを雑に訳したり。たまにお料理やハムスターの写真も。Follow on Twitter

outstanding tokyo English Standup comedy This Friday!

Tokyo’s English Stand-Up Comedy scene continues to grow as comedian Yuki Nivez prepares to host the fourth show in her series, Not Just a Diversity Hire.
Designed as an inclusive, misogyny-free comedy zone, Yuki first came up with the concept while performing regularly at stand-up shows around the city.
From the NJaDH About section:
The “Not Just a Diversity Hire” Comedy Nights began when founder Yuki Nivez realized the demand for a comedy space that was free from misogyny, for both performers and audience members. She wanted to be able to take to the stage without having to hear that she was “the diversity hire”. But she was also constantly hearing from audience members, especially women, that they couldn’t enjoy themselves because of the sheer number of jokes or performances that, often unconsciously, created an environment of hostility towards women.

Yuki believed that comedy was supposed to be about having a good time and while openly aggressive or intentionally triggering comedy was uncommon, she saw how there was an entire segment of the audience that wanted to enjoy comedy without having to confront the same sexism that they had to endure during their day-to-day life. Without seeking to censor the comedy of others, she decided to see what would happen if she curated a line-up and a space where the audience and the performers could feel free from those attitudes for an evening.

And guess what? 

Everyone had a good time.

Since then, the show has grown to offer an inclusive venue to comedians of all kinds, but especially to those who know what it’s like to be treated as “the diversity hire.” While spectators can continue to rely on not having to hear misogynistic material, performers can expect a friendly audience who will let them be comedians and not categories.

Yuki’s goals for the future of NJaDH will continue to be comedy without misogyny, and inclusion without tokenism.

About the next show:
The next Not Just a Diversity Hire show on September 30th is a special edition, featuring Bobby Judo (flying in from Kyushu!), Yuki Nivez, Freddy Slash’em and Mx Terious.
The show will be followed by a panel discussion joined by guest speakers: Film director Lilou Augier, and creator of Femin Tokyo Podcast, Samantha Lassaux.
Panelists will share experiences that run the gamut from lamentable, to laughable, to learnable.
Don’t miss the chance to meet the performers, mingle, and share your thoughts and questions as well!
Info and tickets:Time: Friday, September 30th 19:30 pmLocation: Hypermix, MonzennakachoTickets:

In peaceful Nara, The violent Death of ex-Prime minister Abe leaves residents shocked and saddened

The people of Nara mourn the senseless death of Shinzo Abe

Many mourned the violent death of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Japan yesterday–whether they supported him or not, the people of Nara recognized that the loss of human life is always tragic. 

reporting by Himari Shimanz, Beni Adelstein. Cameron Seeley also contributed to this report.


Flowers, tea and beers, as is customary in Japanese culture, laid by the public mark the site where Shinzo Abe was fatally shot. Yesterday, we paid a visit to the site ourselves to see all those who made trips from near and far to commemorate Abe’s passing. The overwhelming feeling on the day was that of sadness, with flowers periodically being taken away to make room for the endless flow of offerings. Even for those unfamiliar with his political work, many were sad to hear the news of his passing.  One of the many who stopped to add to his growing memorial told us, “I’ve known Mr. Abe as the leader of Japan for most of my lifetime. Because of that, regardless of how his politics were, whether his politics were good or bad, it is really sad for someone who had taken on such responsibility and come this far to pass away. I know every person has their own opinions but I think that it comes down to an individual having passed away.”

  A young girl, fighting back tears, expressed a similar sentiment noting how such a tragic incident could come out of nowhere, and she felt it was her obligation to pay her respects.

In Nara, a prayer for the departed Shinzo Abe photo by Beni Adelstein

Many expressed shock at hearing the incident had taken place in Nara, a small Japanese city with significantly under 500,000 residents. One man from Osaka told us: “Nara is generally a safe place. Incidents don’t usually happen much in Nara. Places like Osaka, where we’re from, is where you see more incidents. We’ve never heard of any incident as big as this happening here in Nara.” Another local resident felt similarly; “I grew up in Nara and for anything like this to happen here is a shock to me.”   

It was a shock to everyone when the unthinkable occured.  

Man on motorcycle drives up to the scene of the crime to lay flowers down for the deceased
photo by Beni Adelstein

At 11:30 am July 8th, former Prime Minister Abe was shot from behind at a campaign rally outside the Yamato Saidai-ji Station in Nara. He went into cardiac arrest and showed no vital signs. After four and a half hours of medics trying to resuscitate him, Shinzo Abe, Japan’s longest serving Prime Minister, at age 67, was officially pronounced dead at 5:03 pm yesterday as the result of two gunshot wounds. The alleged attacker, 41 year old Tetsuya Yamagami, was arrested on site and was found with a handmade firearm.  In Japan, a country with some of the world’s strictest gun’s laws, gun violence is extremely rare, let alone political assasination attempts; the most recent one having occurred in  2007 when Nagasaki mayor Icho Ito was shot by a member of a yakuza group, the Yamaguchi gumi. This is actually not the first incident Abe has been the recipient of violence from the yakuza, and in 2000, the Kudo Kai perpetrated an attack by throwing firebombs at the former prime minister’s office . At this point, it is unclear whether or not Yamagami has affiliations with the yakuza but it is a possibility worth being looked into.

 Regardless of the motive, this incident is unexpected and quite perplexing. As one Japanese reporter puts it, “Guns are rarely the weapon of choice, let alone a handmade one. The use of guns is uncommon even among yakuza related incidents.”  Officers who raided the man’s residence later that day found more crude electrically fired weaponry, including explosives and what appear to be nine and five barreled shotguns. All nearby residents were evacuated. Yamgami has confessed to the assasination of Abe and is awaiting prosecution.

Not only has the shooter left us with many unsolved questions, but also the security team for Abe is an issue being raised. Abe’s security, one passerby noted there was less security presence on the day than when Abe had been the sitting Prime Minister. “Mr. Abe visited my hometown too. That time he had a lot more bodyguards surrounding him because he was still prime minister. But now that he’s stepped down, his security team has gotten much smaller.” Another Osaka native pointed out, little to no security presence is not uncommon for politicians in Japan, “If it had been a politician without as much fame, there wouldn’t have been much security at all. At most you might see supporters standing by a no-name politician. It was only because it was Mr. Abe that there was even the smallest presence of security guards and police.” 

While events unfolded on the day in only a matter of minutes, the significance of his death is likely to send ripples through the Japanese political system that will stand the test of time.  Shu Kanazawa spoke to us after leaving flowers on Abe’s memorial. He expressed  thanks to Abe for his work in politics and concern regarding the efficacy of his contemporaries policies. “As prime minister of Japan, you aren’t doing your job right if you don’t have your foreign policy together. Until now, the only prime ministers who were competent in foreign diplomacy were Mr. Koizumi and Mr. Abe. In that sense, I am really grateful for his work.” On the other hand, Abe’s control of the conservative Liberal Democratic Party as well as his deep ties to extremists right-wing groups have made him a controversial figure. He is also reviled by some for the role he played in largely limiting freedom of press rights in Japan. Views on “Abenomics” his fiscal policies aren’t singular either and he has been linked with questionable political and financial scandals.  Yet, at the end of this eventful day, people came together to commemorate and mourn the loss of a leader who made a substantial impact in Japan and on a global scale.  How Abe’s death might alter the climate of Japanese politics is not certain, however, the mourning and gift-giving are certain to continue for days, if not weeks.  

The once peaceful and ordinary square around Yamato Saidai-ji station now marks a historical event that has left the nation with disbelief, grief, and shock.

Nara, once the capital of Japan, is a city known for its greenery, rolling hills,  ancient Buddhist temples, friendly residents, slow-paced, languid, and peaceful life. It’s the last place one would expect Japan’s longest reigning Prime Minister to meet a violent end. The two shots fired that day will echo in the minds of the people there for many months or years to come. 

In the peaceful city of Nara, former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, met a violent end. Whether they supported him or despised him, many of the residents mourned his loss.