Award-winning indie Japanese film, STAY, showing tonight in Tokyo, prior to Amazon Japan release

TOKYO – November 6, 2020 The award-winning independent motion picture STAY by filmmaker Darryl Wharton-Rigby will screen at the Legacy Foundation Japan’s Legacy Lounge on Sunday, November 8 at 6pm prior to its November 17 release on Amazon Japan.

“I am excited to that STAY will finally be seen by audiences in Japan,” said Wharton-Rigby. “When I started filmmaking, I never imagined I would make a film in Japan. From Baltimore to Tokyo – What an incredible journey.”

STAY “a touching romance” follows the story of a couple who fall passionately in love over a weekend; Ryuu, a Japanese man who is a recovering addict, and Hope, an American enjoying her last days in Japan. The film features emerging Japanese star, Shogen and introduces British model/actress, Ana Tanaka. 

Lensed by photographer Jeremy Goldberg and a score by Himaness, STAY, Wharton-Rigby’s second feature film, was shot on the Tokyo streets in 15 days, guerrilla style, a technique the filmmaker has used throughout his career. 

“We have believed in this film and are excited to come home to Japan,” says Executive Producer, Christopher Rathbone. “Given the global festival acceptance and the awards won, STAY has been a real crowd pleaser. Audiences really like this film.”

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

The Legacy Foundation Japan Legacy Lounge is located on the 9thfloor of 2-chōme-8 Azabujūban, Minato City, Tokyo 106-0045, which is above Soul Food House..

NEWSFLASH: Japan calls the US Election by issuing “President Biden Burger”

IT’S OFFICIAL! A Japanese diner, TSUNAMI NAVY BURGER, located near the US military base in Yokosuka, calls the election for Biden w/ release of the Biden Burger: 600 grams, full of Philadelphia Cream Cheese (thanks Pennsylvania) and ¥1980 ($18). The diner might retire its predecessor, the fatty, artery clogging Trump Burger–but the jury is still out.

This gourmet delight was modeled on the Philadelphia Cheese steak sandwich. It contains a generous thick patty of beef, onions, peppers, paprika, sautéed mushrooms, lots of Philadelphia cream cheese–in a nod to Biden’s home state, Pennsylvania, which may have ensured his victory, and sprinkled with potato chips for a salty accent and a better mouth feel. It’s the taste of victory.

The Trump Burger which has been served since 2016, is a heart-clogging blend of peanut butter, soft-boiled egg, two bacon strips, Sloppy Joe sauce (ahem), cheddar cheese, lettuce, onion, tomato with a tiny USA flag on top (probably made in China).

The deadly Trump Burger. It may taste good going down but the heartburn lasts four years.

Head down to TSUNAMI NAVY BURGER to celebrate if you’re a Democrat or to cheer yourself up if you’re a Trumper. Bon Appetit!

Face savouring food
The Election of the 46th US President Commemorative Biden Burger. The secret to its deliciousness are the old-fashioned potato chips, solid beef, and liberal amounts of Philadelphia Cream Cheese and brotherly love.

Take A Riverboat Cruise To Snarky Japan–You’ll laugh, learn, possibly get seasick. It’s the podcast you shouldn’t miss…or the boat you shouldn’t miss. Maybe both.

The Japan By River Cruise podcast will take you on a wonderful snarky journey through current Japanese events and the culture. Laugh and also grow wiser.

Japan By River Cruise presented by comedians Ollie Horn and Bobby Judo, is a weekly podcast about the surprisingly fascinating, tumultuous, and often cutthroat world of the modern river cruise industry in Japan, as well as its 1200-year history–and current events.  Each week, the show invites guests with particular insight into Japanese culture, politics, or history to talk about all of the latest developments in the Japanese news, but also river cruises*.

(Editor’s note: As of November 2nd, 2020, almost all river cruises are currently suspended due to the outbreaks of COVID19 that took place on yagatabune (屋形船) which were considered hotbeds of infection, until the foreigners were blamed, and then even after Governor Yuriko Koike tried to blame all infections on ‘the night village’ aka people working in the adult entertainment industry–host clubs, massage parlors, hostess bars–these boats still got a bad rep. River cruises are expected to pick up again when Japan finds a way to test as few people for the virus as possible while raising the capacity of people they could test, if they actually wanted to test them).


Past episodes have delved into the Suga and Abe administrations with investigative journalist Jake Adelstein and former LDP aide (and alleged sycophant–just kidding, he’s not) Derek Wessman. We looked into the behind the scenes of being a pop-idol in Japan with former-idol Amina Dujean, talked about the Japanese reception of BLM with author and activist Baye McNeil, and also discussed river cruises.


Whether it’s business culture with consultants like Rochelle Kopp, Japan-based travel influencing with YouTuber Currently Hannah, language learning with Japanese teachers like Akiko Kitamura, or river cruises with all of the guests, the show explores topics that Japan residents, tourists, and admirers alike can enjoy. It’s all done in a light, comical format that will make you laugh, and also might get you a ten percent discount on your next Japanese river cruise. Plus, many of the speakers are eloquent and would never write a run-on sentence.


New episodes stream every Friday and the show is available on all major podcast platforms, including Spotify, iTunes, and Google Podcasts.
Upcoming shows will discuss the “invention of the Samurai Way,” developments in Japanese cuisine, Japan’s struggles with Western-style diversity and inclusion training, and….boats. 
You can listen to a short collection of the highlights of previous episodes here: https://jbrc.link/trailer

And find new episodes every week at Japanbyrivercruise.com

The (Homoerotic) World of Tom of Finland: Reality and Fantasy opens September 18th. First time Tom shows in Japan!

Tom of Finland (1920-1991) was a pioneer in LGBQT and homoerotic art, blazing a trial in Finland and his works have been shown all over the world. From today September 18th, his work will be exhibited for the first time in Japan (ever) at Parco Shibuya. In a country where alternative sexuality is still barely recognized and some politicians spew homophobic bile, it’s a small accomplishment that the show is being held.

The exhibition will only last until October 5th.

The show has taken nearly years to put together, was delayed by COVID19, and ran into numerous obstacles along the way; thanks to the collective efforts of all involved, including the Embassy of Finland, the show is finally taking place. The whole story behind the curtains is told eloquently in this piece by Justin McCurry in The Guardian

I almost gave up’: Tom of Finland exhibition to finally open in Japan

Be sure to try the Tom of Finland vodka. The hard stuff.

The exhibition will show that his work was a catalyst for social change and acceptance of homosexuality while celebrating sensuality and the beauty of the male body. The curator of the exhibit and director of The Container, Mr. Shai Ohayon points out that Japan is still very much behind in the recognition of gay and LGBQT rights.

(From the press release) “Historically, the images highlight milestones and artistic stylistic developments in Tom’s life and practice—starting with his 1940s and ‘50s paintings in gouache, of men in stylish attire and uniforms, such as sailors, soldiers and policemen, in fantastic and romantic compositions, influenced by his army service in Finland—to his stylized depictions of leathermen and muscle men in the ’60s and ’70s”

The exhibit is being sponsored by: The Finnish Institute in Japan. Finnish Institute in Japan. The Container (art gallery) and PARCO.

The exhibition was designed to coincide with Tom’s 100th birthday anniversary and features a selection of 30 historical works, ranging from 1946 to 1989. They span the artist’s entire professional career, and highlight both his artistic versatility and present his identity as an LGBTQ legend who paved the way for LGBTQ rights worldwide and helped to shape gay culture.

2020/09/18~2020/10/05 Reality & Fantasy: The World of Tom of Finland at GALLERY X (B1F, Shibuya PARCO) https://art.parco.jp/

Open hours 11:00-21:00 *Last entry time 30mins before close *Close at 18:00 in 10/05 Admission is 500 yen.

*Pre-school child not allowed in

A documentary on the importance of Tom of Finland and the meaning of his art will also be shown at at two different theaters during the exhibition. “Award-winning filmmaker Dome Karukoski brings to screen the life and work of one of the most influential and celebrated figures of twentieth century gay culture: Touko Laaksonen, a decorated officer, returns home after a harrowing and heroic experience serving his country in World War II, but life in Finland during peacetime proves equally distressing. He finds postwar Helsinki rampant with homophobic persecution, and men around him even being pressured to marry women and have children. Touko finds refuge in his liberating art, specialising in homoerotic drawings of muscular men, free of inhabitations. His work – made famous by his signature ‘Tom of Finland’ – became the emblem of a generation of men and fanned the flames of a gay revolution.

Movie Screenings:

Tom of Finland (2017), directed by Dome Karukoski

from 2020/09/18~2020/09/24

White Cine Quinto

(8F, Shibuya PARCO)

https://www.cinequinto.com/white/

From 2020/09/25~2020/10/08

Shibuya Uplink

安倍総理の”辞任劇”の真相。勇退ではなく訴追からの逃亡

この記事は米最大級のニュースサイト「The Daily Beast」(ディリー・ビースト) に8月28日掲載。日本語版に当たり有志の協力に感謝。なお原文の直訳ではないのでご了解下さい。

日本国首相・安倍晋三総理は8月28日、辞任を発表しました。健康上の理由とされるが、もう一つ、理由がある。劣悪で不健全な環境の刑務所暮らしを思って怖気づいているのだ。

記者会見で安倍総理は辞任の理由として潰瘍性大腸炎の辛い病状に言及したが、支持率が急落し、自らの関わる刑事事件の捜査が進む中での辞任である。それ以外の事件の再捜査を求める世論も高まっている。

安倍総理は辞任したのではなく、逃亡したのだ。

安倍総理は、公職選挙法違反で検察の捜査下にある。そして同様の公職選挙法違反で、安倍総理が自ら抜擢した前法務大臣(河合克行被告)は目下、東京地裁において公判中である。この公判では、安倍総理がこの事件にも関与していたことを示す証言も出るかもしれない。

辞任に追い込まれるまで刑事捜査の手から自分を守ろうとする安倍総理の骨折りは水泡に帰した。

ある自民党の重鎮が匿名を条件にデイリー・ビーストに語った。「安倍総理が検察庁に自分の選んだ検事(黒川弘務元検事)を送り込めていれば、今も権力にしがみついていただろう。安倍総理が警察庁の次期長官に選んだ中村格(元警視庁刑事部長)は今月になって候補を外されたから、安倍総理は検察にも警察にも検挙される可能性があると恐れている。辞任することで疑惑の目から逃れることができる」中村氏は安倍総理と親しいの伝記作家による強姦事件の捜査を打ち切らせた警察庁の高官である。

法務省の情報筋がデイリー・ビーストに語った。「手打ちがあった模様だ。安倍総理は『社会的制裁』に甘んじて辞任し、数々の刑事事件に関与する安倍総理への取調べは終わる」元特捜検事の郷原信郎氏は「安倍総理の関与が争点となるであろう刑事事件の公判が始まったその週に辞任するのは偶然とは思えない」と言う。

The Tweet of Defeat  (政権打倒のツイート)

同情を買うように辞任することで、「安倍晋三物語」は美談として語られるが、一冊の本でも読めばいかに腐敗した政権が一目瞭然です。

今年に入り、世論調査で安倍政権の支持率は27パーセントまで下がった。これからしばらく日本国内の報道では、なぜ安倍総理の権力掌握と世論の支持が衰えたのか様々に論じられるだろう。今年は確かに失態続きだった。安倍総理は五輪開催の願望に取り憑かれ、東京が安全だと見せるために新型コロナウイルスの脅威を無視した。各家庭に2枚のマスクを配るという政策は、マスクが足りないときに計画されたが、高くついた失敗に終わった。マスクは小さすぎて汚れており、配られるのも遅かった。このマスクは日本語でアベノミクスのように聞こえる「アベノマスク 」として嘲笑された。アベノミクスとは金融緩和と財政再建という想像上の「矢」から成る安倍総理肝煎の財政政策であったが、再建は成らず政策は完全な失敗だった。

安倍総理は日本の「検査しなければわからない」というコロナ対策が素晴らしく上手くいったと主張したが、その後この対策は失敗し、感染率は再び急増した。これはGo To Travelという間違った英語名の旅行促進キャンペーンの実施を安倍総理が頑なに推進したことで拍車がかかった。このキャンペーンは結局、感染流行が再燃して多くの人がGo To Quarantine (検疫へ)という意味になってしまった。

安倍総理の人気を損なったのはコロナウイルス感染症流行への対応の失敗ではなく、感染症流行の最中に自分の権力を固めようと試みたことだった。ツイッターでは数ヶ月前に#さよなら安倍総理 というハッシュタグがトレンド入りした。

安倍総理時代の終わりの始まりは5月のとあるツイッター投稿だった。日本の主要メディアをコントロールすることにあれほどの労力を費やした首相がソーシャルメディアによって引き摺り下ろされたのは皮肉なことだ。

5月9日の夜、35歳の会社員の女性のツイートが世論の異議申し立てに火をつけた。普段は政治に関わらない日本のセレブや元検事らによってツイートの嵐は激化し、自民党員さえも異議を表明した。

ツイートの内容は些か単調なものだった。しかしその「検察庁法改正案に抗議します」というハッシュタグで、5月14日までに800万ものツイートが投稿された。

ここに至る伏線はこうだ。

アベノミクスは失敗に終わり、大手企業が儲かり、庶民への「ドリップ」は無かった。

安倍総理は徐々に政府機関や公共放送のNHK、そして報道機関に統制を加えるようになった。2014年には内閣人事局を設置し、何百人ものトップ官僚の任命に内閣が権限を持つようになった。野心的な政府職員は注意深くなり、以来、安倍総理の機嫌を損ねず気に入られるように努めてきた。安倍総理は直接自分が頼まなくても公務員が醜聞をもみ消すよう奨励した。またメディアに飲み食いの接待をして機嫌をとり、気に入らないことがあると容赦無く締めつけてきた。日本の報道の自由ランキングは安倍総理が首相になった当時は世界22位だったが、現在では66位だ。

コロナウイルス流行が始まった頃、安倍総理と自民党は非常時に内閣が絶対的権力を掌握できるような憲法改正に向けて画策した。その動きは失敗し、保守系雑誌の『プレジデント』でさえこれを火事場泥棒のようなあざとさと書いた。この夏、安倍総理が検察庁を支配下に置こうとしたのは、やりすぎもいいとこだったのだろう。

Fatally Wounded  瀕死の重症

検察官らに対する動きは1月31日、安倍総理内閣が日本で検事総長に次ぐ検察ナンバー2である黒川弘務検事長の定年延長を決定したときに始まった。黒川は安倍総理および菅義偉内閣官房長官に非常に近いと言われていた。報道は黒川を「安倍総理政権の守護神」と呼んだ。

検察官の大多数は法によって63歳で退官するよう求められているが、黒川は留任を許された。安倍総理はこれについて、定年延長を可能とするよう法律の解釈変更を行ったので問題なしと説明した。野党や法学者に加え、世論もこれには猛反発した。

行政は一歩も引かなかったが、後になって検察庁法の改正案を提出した。これが黒川を留任させ、検事総長を交代させるための道を開くことを後付けで正当化する措置とみなされた。

松尾邦弘元検事総長ら検察OBは法務省に対し、意見書を提出し、その中で、今回の法改正は安倍総理政権が検察を政権の意のままに動く組織に改変させようとする動きであると明確に表明した。意見書は「法が終わるところ、暴政が始まる」というジョン・ロックの言葉を引用していた。

安倍総理はこの法改正案を国会で擁護し、「内閣によって恣意的な人事が行われるという懸念はあたらない」と述べたが、世論調査ではわずか16パーセントの人しかその言葉を信じなかった。

例によって安倍総理は、これまでの評判の悪い法制定の時と同じように法案を強行採決するつもりだった。

5月18日には、安倍総理内閣の支持率は34パーセントにまで急落した。同じ日に自民党はこの法案審議を延期することに同意した。

その夜、600人を超える弁護士らが、桜を見る会のパーティー開催に公的資金を不正使用したとして、安倍総理に対する告発状を東京地検に提出した。

安倍総理の拙い判断には不運が続いた。週刊文春が黒川が記者と明らかに違法である賭け麻雀を常習していたことを報じた。黒川は訓告を受け、辞表を提出して辞職を認められた。

8年近く政権が続き、安倍総理は思い上がり、昨年には国会で「私が国家ですよ」と宣言した。安倍総理は長い間勝ち続けているが、運が永遠に続く人はいない。検事らを堕落させようとするこの法改正の企ては、戦争映画の大作のタイトル『遠すぎた橋』をもじると「遠すぎた法案」ということだろう。この法案は後に丸ごと廃案となった。

Already on Trial?  すでに公判中?

安倍総理が直面する問題は現在行われている「桜を見る会疑惑」の捜査だけではない。

親しい友人であり支持者でもある人物の注目の公判に、安倍総理は引きずり込まれている。この6月、衆議院議員の河井克行被告(57)と妻で参議院議員の河井案里被告(46)は広島県で数百万円の現金を政治家や支持者に手渡した疑いで起訴された。これは2019年7月の参院選において票の取りまとめをした見返りであったとされている。安倍総理は2019年9月に河井克行被告を法務大臣に指名した。克行氏は10月31日に辞職した。

2人の公判は今週始まった。

自民党本部は河井案里の選挙運動資金として1億5千万円を提供しており、その一部は地元の政治家らが票の取りまとめをするよう買収するのに使われたのだろう。もし安倍総理自身が自民党総裁として巨額の資金提供を承認したのであれば、安倍総理は世間の注目を浴びるだろう。

元東京地検特捜部検事の郷原信郎氏はデイリー・ビースト紙に次のように語った。「河井夫妻の公判では安倍総理の関与が示されることは、検察側の冒頭陳述から明らかだ。安倍総理自身が抜擢した前法務大臣が他の政治家の買収に深く関わるというのは常軌を逸している。もし安倍総理が刑事責任を回避できるとしても、この件に関して道義的責任を負う。」

郷原は、安倍総理が首相の職に留まることができないのは、この公判に巻き込まれるのかどうか、巻き込まれるとしたらそれはいつなのか、分からないことのストレスも一因であると見ている。

安倍総理の足元では3番目の火種、すなわち森友学園問題もくすぶっている。2017年、9億5600万円相当と評価された国有地が右翼の学校経営者に1億3400万円で売却されたことが明らかになった。この取引には安倍総理首相と妻昭恵からの催促があったとされる。そもそもその学校は安倍総理晋三記念小学校と命名されることになっていた。

このスキャンダルが明るみに出たとき、財務省官僚は安倍総理関与を隠すために文書の改竄を行った。国家公務員の赤木俊夫氏は言いなりになることを拒絶して2018年3月に自ら命を絶って抗議した。赤木氏は告発文を残し、それを今年になって妻が公開した。日本の世論の70パーセント以上が森友加計問題の再調査を求めている。

He didn’t learn  安倍総理は学ばない

安倍総理はこの夏、記者会見や国会審議の一切を避けて事実上1ヶ月に渡って姿を消していた。そして今、安倍総理は自分を取り巻くスキャンダルについて論じることを容易に避けることができる。安倍総理は今週、汚職事件への自らの関与について質問が出ないように時期を見計って公然と病院を訪れた。安倍総理が河井夫妻の公判開始の前日である8月24日に慶應大学病院を訪れたことで、世間の注目は事件への安倍総理の関与から安倍総理が首相を続けられるかに移った。

安倍総理の大逃亡はカルロス・ゴーン前日産会長の高飛びほど劇的ではないが、勇敢な大奮闘だ。

安倍総理は日本の憲政史上最長在任の首相となったが、これほどの長期政権でこんなにも成果がないのは前代未聞である。もし安倍総理がなんらかのレガシーを残したとしたら、それは数々の評判の悪い法案を成立させ、それが今や地雷のように存在していて、いつの日か日本のはかない民主主義を吹き飛ばしかねないということだ。その中にはSF映画の『マイノリティ・リポート』から抜け出してきたかのような共謀罪法、報道と内部告発者を弾圧して黙らせるための、ジョージ・オーウェルの世界を思わせる秘密保護法、そして表向きは平和主義的な日本が戦争を遂行できるようにする安保関連法がある。

現安倍政権は2006年から2007年の惨憺たる第一次安倍政権に続く2度目の任期だった。安倍総理が返り咲くことができたのは、右翼の神道カルトである日本会議の支持によるもので、日本会議は安倍総理以後も末長く国会においても強力な威力を発揮し続けるだろう

歴史を忘れるものはそれを繰り返す羽目になる、と言われる。おそらく安倍総理の愚劣さの根源には、本人が有名な歴史修正主義者であり戦争犯罪者の孫であること、そして第二次世界大戦時に日本が行った残虐行為を決して認めることができないでいることが挙げられる。安倍総理が指名した政治家や仲間の多くがヒトラーを称賛していた。安倍総理は躍起になって過去を否定しようとしてきたあまり、自分自身の歴史からすら学ぶことができないようだ。だから安倍総理の人生は失敗の繰り返しにしかすぎないなのだ。

安倍総理は2007年に辞めた時とほぼ同じやり方で官邸を去る。自分の取り巻きがらみのスキャンダルに足をとられて政権運営が覚束なくなり、人気もなく、無能で的外れだとみなされて去るのだ。

惜しまれることもなく。

「晋ちゃん珈琲」は報道の自由・男女平等・人権・平等な社会などを大切にする人は毒。裕福な人及び晋ちゃんの友達に絶品。「美味しいコーヒー」は否めないが、日本社会の庶民なら後味が悪い

THE BADGER AND THE STARS (a poem)

by Shoko Plambeck
The day my birth records were sent to a Shinto shrine
my father skinned a badger and hung its coat above my crib.
The tale of my birth supposedly unfolds like this:
The day I was born the stars were restless
and the earth was tossing a blizzard thick as cream
through the Nebraskan plains.
My father was on his way to work in his red Chevy
when he came across a dash of brown,
obscured by the snow like a fainting spell.
He shot it, thinking it was a soft furred marten,
but what he killed instead was a badger.
The badger of the plains. Symbol of earth, grounding
and consistency; finding her in such weather conditions
was like the moon waxing when it should wane.


Still, he put the creature in the back of his truck.
When he got to work, there was a call from my mother:
It’s two months early, but I’m going into labour.
My grandparents got the same call and flew in from Japan.
When my obaachan first saw me she announced,
This girl will be named Shoko, spirit in flight,
and years later when I moved from place to place,
hobby to hobby, man to man,
she’d lament naming me so irresponsibly.
In a shoebox, I went home.


The badger skin was nailed above my crib
and my birth records were sent to the monk at the family
Shinto shrine. The results came weeks later. My mother read
as I drank eagerly from her; she herself was a dark star
but at twenty-four she could not even imagine
what that would mean. Only years later
would she say that the badger had to be a mother
and the unimaginable must have happened
to make her split into the fatal snow.


My mother read: The child will need to seek grounding.
In the moment she was born the stars were restless
and they will reverberate through her blood forever.
Before she could read any further,
my grandmother snatched the fortune out of her hand
and read: bright as Sirius, inconstant as Mercury.

******

This poem was originally posted in Matador Review but was reposted with permission of the author.

Shoko Plambeck is a writer, traveler, and poet. She studied English literature at Temple University in Tokyo and the  University of Vermont. She currently lives in Japan but can’t wait to move back to the US to be with her cockatiel and poetry books again. 

‘White Day’: a new poem from ume’SHHU

It’s been several months since we announced the publication of the Japanese angsty poetry collection, Molasses and Shochu, but we wanted to share this new addition by Phoebe Amoroso also know as ume’SHHU.

For those of you who are not familiar with long-standing Japanese tradition, Valentine’s Day here is celebrated by women giving chocolate to men, sometimes out of obligation aka 義理チョコ (giri-choco), and sometimes, containing trace amounts of menstrual blood. On March 14th, men reciprocate by giving white chocolate to the women they fancy or who bestowed chocolate upon them.

Although, as you will see, the complexity of this poem, written by Ms. Amoroso, briefly touches upon these cultural traditions. They are important confectionary artifacts that have existed many decades after being created by Japan’s male-dominated cocoa industry and society at large. Please see the annotated version in the hardback edition of the book to deepen your understanding.

This chocolate isn’t black
Nor as large as I had hoped.
Every March 14th
Is my Friday 13th.
I have no lover 
To sweeten the occasion. 
Ever hoping for a Melty Kiss
But forever doomed 
To Crunky Balls from the conbini–
I had, after all, merely been convenient.
There is no sugar coating that fact. 

Even though, Japan
Has resigned me to smaller portions
I was not expecting this starvation.
I stared at the wrapper on my desk
And wondered how obligation could be so bitter.
Unwrapping the white KitKat
I held every total loss,
My palm sticky.

White chocolate should not exist.

Sadogashima in a time of COVID19

From Island to Island: Sadogashima in a time of Covid19

by Louise Claire Wagner

Anything and other than expected. A journey to some parts of Sadogashima

*This articles is reposted with permission from https://www.louiseclairewagner.com

When years ago, I first took notice of Sadogashima’s existence, I was instantly intrigued by the idea to visit there one day on my own. Though, I could not really tell why. For sure, pictures of the landscapes and the curiosity to discover the local culture played a part, howbeit Japan counts numerous astonishing places, and ultimately, I have to admit that it was above all the idea to break away which allured me as much. Indeed, I associated physical and mental distance with Sadogashima; disconnection, not with Japan, but somehow with the world. Before undertaking my journey, I had only briefly read some background information and not made any particular travel plan, as I wished to leave freedom to my own perceptions. However, and despite the aim to head out without any expectations, I quickly got confronted with fact that I had unconsciously and unwillingly pictured this place as well as my stay. 

Seemingly small, Sadogashima, located off Niigata, is the largest island in the Sea of Japan. Its area is approximately 855 square kilometres and its coastline stretches around 280 kilometres. The population was at about 56,000 in the end of March 2018. Although I knew about this, I still couldn’t get rid of the idea that Sadogashima had to be compact and it was only through several walking and bicycle tours, and the distances together with the (hilly) relief put my physical capacities to the proof, that I finally started to agnise the island’s vastness. 

Excavations from ruins indicate that Sadogashima has been inhabited for about 10,000 years. It was one of Japan’s independent provinces in the Nara Period, and early designated an island of exile. Beginning in AD 722 with Hozumi Asomioyu, further exiles included figures such as the former Emperor Juntoku in 1221, the Buddhist monk Nichiren in 1271, and Zeami Motokiyo in 1434, a Noh actor and writer, all of whom expressed critical opinions about the respective then-ruler. Today, many people ascribe the miscellaneous population and the cultural richness of the island to the prior exiles. Sadogashima is also known for its gold production, and back in the days, it was notably the shōgun Tokugawa Ieyasu who promoted the development of gold and silver mines by placing them under the direct control of the Tokugawa Shōgunate. The prosperity attracted diverse workers and resulted in a rapid rise of the island’s population, which reached a peak of 125,597 in 1950. The mines were operated from 1601 until 1974 and definitely closed in 1989. With a remarkably rich, diverse and well-preserved environment, Sadogashima was the last natural habitat of the internationally protected wild Japanese Crested Ibis (Toki) which became endangered and went extinct in 2003.

Sadogashima (2019 ©jakeadelstein)

However, artificial insemination started in 1999 and after 2000, baby birds were raised with increasing success and released back into nature.

Today, the main industries on the island are agriculture and fishing, and although for me everywhere on the archipelago fish and seafood has so far been delicious, the incredible freshness and quality of Sadogashima’s catch (combined with a glass of local sake) was so tasty that I had to enjoy it for every single dinner.

A cup of sake at a shrine 2019 ©jakeadelstein

When some weeks ago, I boarded the ferry that brings one within two and a half hours from Niigata Terminal to Sadogashima Ryōtsu Port, I immediately was captivated by the particular atmosphere and intrigued by some other passengers. There were few people; a group carrying music instruments, some families, a young couple with camping equipment; a couple with numerous stuffed manga characters (that got carefully installed along one of the ferry’s windows), as well as several dispatched individuals whose actions did occur rather incomprehensible to me… But this was only the beginning of my reflection upon the island’s curious population.

©louiseclairewagner ”Upon The Sea of Japan 2″

The accommodation I stayed at disposed a very small number of rooms, some shared facilities including a charming and neat salon and kitchen, and (just as I had pictured !) a large terrace with ocean view. There I was, the sea in front of my eyes, fairly disconnected, and incredibly happy. 

At my arrival, most of the other rooms were occupied by a Japanese three-generation family who enjoyed dinner at the first floor-situated gourmet restaurant. Besides some words and friendly gestures, we did not further communicate though. 

The following day, after returning from a long trip to the very south of the island, I met two young women who had planned to eat downstairs the accommodation and stay overnight. When they told me that they both lived on Sadogashima, and one of them only few minutes away from the accommodation, I was rather surprised and wondered why they would book a room although they could practically walk home. Anyway, I didn’t want to be unpolite or intrusive and therefore just imagined possible reasons. As they proposed, I joined them later for some delicious fish, seafood and sake at a nearby izakaya. We shared very pleasant moments, and I ended up being kindly invited to have lunch with them the next day. 

No sooner said than done, we were headed to a local restaurant. When in the end of the lunch, one of the staff pulled down her mask, smiled, and asked me if I remembered her. I was rather perplexed : it was the middle-generation mother who stayed at the same accommodation as me two nights before. The girls explained that her family owned the restaurant we had eaten lunch at and that she lived nearby. 

The same evening, I crossed paths with three older women, who were calmly sharing some citrus fruits in the common living room. Although already tired, I could not decline their invitation to join them for a little talk. When they told me that they just finished dinner at the restaurant downstairs, that they would stay for a night at the accommodation, yet that they all lived on the island, I started to really wonder about Sadogashima’s curious inhabitants, their tendency to eat out during the week and their way to treat themselves by combining gastronomic pleasure with an overnight stay. 

“On The Edge” ©louiseclairewagner

The last day before heading back to Tōkyō, I had a pleasant conversation with the proprietor of the accommodation, who generously gave me a voucher for a future stay. When I told him about my amazing yet peculiar experience with all the locals, he mentioned that this may not happen a next time and finally unveiled the secret: because of COVID-19, Sadogashima had launched a campaign for its inhabitants, in order to stimulate the tourist industry and local economy. 

As mysterious it seemed, as simple it was. I had to smile. About the situation and about myself. About how we imagine things if we don’t know and don’t ask. About the curiosity of life, and the beauty of the unpredictable… Had I maybe imagined myself alone on a deserted island or amidst some stranded tourists, but hardly surrounded by these nice new acquaintances. 

I would be lying if I said that it was love at first sight, and Sadogashima probably counts amongst the places which require not only time but also an open mindset in order to be enjoyed. Nevertheless, its particular atmosphere, the pureness of nature and honesty of people caught me, and it was with a nostalgic feeling that I left the island behind. When on the way back I found myself all alone on the large deck of the ferry towards Niigata, I had surprising sensations, feelings of energy and enthusiasm, and finally understood why I had been intrigued by Sadogashima for so long. Very differently than expected, it seemed that I precisely found what I had hoped for.

Addendum

Certainly, there are many more aspects of the island that I could and should discover, but this shall remain for the future. Now I know some locals I sincerely wish to meet one day again, and not to forget, I still have my voucher.

For the original artwork and more musings on Japan, life and art please go visit LCW: Louise Claire Wagner

Born and raised in Basel, Switzerland, Louise Claire Wagner is based in Tōkyō, Japan and is an award winning photographer.

The Imperatrix of Tokyo Reigns Forever: Koike is here to stay

Four seconds, after the counting of the ballots. That’s how long. 


Four seconds in, and Tokyo governor Yuriko Koike knew she had won the Tokyo gubernatorial election for the second term. Her aides said later that it was more like two and a half seconds; a historical, landslide victory with nearly 60% of the vote in her name. The other candidates were dead in the water before they realized what hit them. Koike’s contender candidate Taro Yamamoto, an actor turned politician whose ideas for government reform made significant waves in the Lower House elections last year but who lost to Koike by over 3 million votes, told the press: “Mt. Yuriko was higher than I thought. I just couldn’t climb over it.” 

If Yamamoto’s statement sounds rude or vaguely sexual, don’t worry – he probably intended it that way. Yuriko Koike was and continues to be, the first woman governor of Tokyo and her term in office has been defined by a lot of ruffled feathers in the male-dominated world of Nippon politics. Not just because she’s a woman, a fact which many older Japanese men still have trouble wrapping their minds around, but because Yuriko Koike has never ceased to remind everyone of her femininity.

It all seems a bit Marie Antoinette-ish. Let them refrain from everything. Let them stay home and  Zoom their lives away while wearing face masks in the clammy Tokyo heat. 

At age 67, Koike is well-preserved, perfectly coiffed and shod in a way that would earn applause from Carrie Bradshaw.  She never loses her cool, raises her voice or looks harried. Her thirst for designer hand-bags is legendary, and rumor has it she keeps a room designated solely for the purpose of storing her darlings. Other rumors swirling inside the corridors of the Tocho building, says that she’s an old-fashioned gal who got to where she is today, by sleeping around with the right men yesterday. Or that she often treats her male staff as if they were hosts working in her own private host bar. 


Ouch. That’s not nice, Yuriko-san,  considering you’ve been waging war on host bars since day one of the pandemic. Most of these bars are located on YOUR turf in Shinjuku ward and yet you refer to them as “places of the night” that must be “refrained (your favorite word)” from visiting more than a few times a year. It all seems a bit Marie Antoinette-ish. Let them refrain from everything. Let them stay home and  Zoom their lives away while wearing face masks in the clammy Tokyo heat. 

Excuse the tone – I’ve just read through Jotei (Queen) – Yuriko Koike, the unauthorized biography by Taeko Ishii that came out on May 29. As of July 6th, the day after Yuriko Koike won her second term, the book had sold over 200,000 copies. “It’s not a flattering portrait of Koike-san,” said Ishii in an online interview. “It’s frightening to think that ultimately, this woman won’t rest until she becomes the next Prime Minister. Who put her in this position? We all did. Japan put her in this seat of power. It’s the culture of old Japanese men, who will empower women only if they’re attractive and will bend to their will. It’s the culture of Japanese women who believe that women politicians are clean and selfless and will battle old men politicians on their behalf. The whole of Japanese society created Yuriko Koike, Tokyo governor.” 
Ishii’s book is densely researched, especially in regards to Koike’s past. The governor has an impressive CV – for a long time, she had told the press that she had graduated from the University of Cairo in Egypt, at the top of her class and was fluent in Arabic. Based on an interview with Koike’s old roommate in Cairo, Ishii writes that Koike quit the university after two years and only pretended to have graduated. Her knowledge of Arabic is sketchy at best, and that she had told this friend, “I’m going to write an autobiography but I won’t include you because then people will know I lied.” 


There are other examples of Koike’s brazenness. When victims of the Hanshin Earthquake back in 1995 came to her for help at her office, Koike started painting her nails, and then told them to leave. When the late Shigeru Yokota, father of Megumi Yokota who had gone missing when she was 13 years old, suspected of being kidnapped by the North Korean government, held a meeting with her present, Koike shed tears as she listened to his story. After it ended, she left and then came back for her precious handbag. Her words were, “Oh good, there it is. I thought my bag had been kidnapped!” 


Ishii calls Koike “a monster” but from Koike’s point of view, that title may have just as well have gotten her re-elected. Koike has thrived on negativity, in particular the sexist, ageist jibes aimed at her by fellow politicians and the public. Four years ago when she was running for governor, Shintaro Ishihara – himself Tokyo’s ex-governor, called her “an old woman with too much make-up. Who would vote for her?” In that instant Ishihara dug himself into a hopelessly deep grave, and Yuriko Koike won the election. 


This time around, it was former Livedoor CEO Takafumi Horie, who did the honors. Horie is he head of his own political party, and had called for a complete reopening of the metropolis plus an acknowledgment from the Tokyo metropolitan government that they had been mistaken in installing “severe” shutdown measures during April and May. To this end, Takafumi Horie sent three contenders into the gubernatorial race, but in total vain. His public image went down the tubes too, after he publicly called Koike “a piece of shit” when she called out for limited entry to Tokyo supermarkets, to avoid congestion at the cash registers. 


Ishii points out that Koike will be in power for as long as Japanese male politicians refuse to hold any meaningful political discussions with women in politics without resorting to gender issues, ageist issues and just plain mud-slinging. Koike may have showed these old men who’s in charge, hah! But after that personal triumph, she has left Tokyo staring into an abyss. She seems to have no real plans for the bad stuff: rising infections, the scaled-down but still expensive Olympics slated 12 months away, joblessness and bankruptcies and a floundering economy. What now, Yuriko-san? The answer surely, is not in your handbag. 

*Editor’s Note: This was originally published at “The Empress of Tokyo Reigns Forever” but Kaori Shoji, the author, had some misgivings. ‘As a Japanese, I’d prefer not to refer to anyone as Empress unless they’re a part of the Imperial Family. Which is why I used the word Queen instead.’ However, queen is not quite a proper translation for 女帝 (jotei) so we used the term Imperatrix instead which has a closer meaning to the title of the book about Ms. Koike, and sounds a little like Dominatrix, which is also a nice fit for Madame Koike.

Reflect on Racism, Diversity & Inclusion in Japan this Wednesday! (10am Japan time/Tuesday 6pm to 8pm USA/PST)

Is there really no discrimination or racism in Japan?

This is a question that the creators of Japan’s beloved feminist podcast, SuperSmashHoes Podcast, and writer Yukari Peerless decided it was high time to ask. In a time when racism and police brutality in the United States have drawn global interest in the Black Lives Matter movement and the problems of intolerance all over the world, it’s certainly a question worth asking. Join Reflection on Racism, Diversity & Inclusion in Japan to find out more. Much of the discussion will be in Japanese but hopefully accessible.

Super Smash Hoes Podcast, hosted by Erika X and Fahreen Budhwani, and Yukari Peerless working with other NGOs have invited a group of experts and Japan hands to discuss issues of discrimination and racism in the shadows of the rising sun. Panelists include award-winning documentary film maker Miki Dezaki, Japan’s first black idol and sex worker rights advocate Amina du Jean, and Aerica Shimizu Banks,an engaging public speaker on the topic of diversity and an advocate for women of color who has accomplished much in her career. The speakers will talk about their own personal experiences with racism, ignorance, and prejudice and how to combat it.

If you wish to join the livestream, you are requested to contribute ¥1,000 yen which will be donated to two anti-racism charities. One is the Anti-Racism Information Center. The Center is an NGO that combats hate speech and raises awareness of the problems with xenophobia and misconceptions about race in a civil society.The other group is Save Immigrants Osaka which supports foreign immigrants detained in Osaka immigration center. https://www.facebook.com/saveimmigrantsOsaka/

Date: Wednesday, June 24
Time: 10am – 12pm Japan time (6pm – 8pm PST Tuesday June 23)

The Format:
Round table discussion. It will be a “Webinar” on Zoom. The audience can watch but will be muted during the webinar. After the panel discussion, they will open up the floor and the audience can ask questions.

Admission: 1000 yen to a Paypal account. 100% to be donated to a charity.

Here is the registration link: https://bit.ly/June24reg

And while you’re here, for more on feminism, human rights, and subcultures in Japan, be sure to check out SuperSmashHoes podcast.