The jury is in: Japan’s new jury system is a farce.

This news story slipped under my large nose in the last few days of earth-shaking quake related news. On March 30th (2011) the Tokyo High Court overturned the not-guilty verdict of a 60 year-old office worker accused of smuggling in meth-amphetamines and other crimes. He was the first person to be found completely innocent under the new lay-jury system to have his not-guilty conviction overturned. He was found innocent in June of 2010. This time the prosecutor friendly court, which was not burdened with a jury, sentenced him to ten years of hard labor and a fine of six million yen.

In Japan, the lay-jury system, which pairs civilians with a judge or judges,  was supposed to put a check on prosecutorial abuse and judicial arrogance by involving ordinary citizens in the process so that a more reasonable and fair verdict could be given. (Japan has a 99% conviction rate for criminal cases*). Unfortunately, in Japan de facto double jeopardy exists and on the flimsiest of claims the prosecution can appeal a verdict, so in reality, you can be tried for the same crime twice, even three or four times. Considering the unlikely odds of ever being found innocent, this makes actually walking away free after being prosecuted about as probable as TEPCO getting the Fukushima Nuclear Reactor working again. While the first trial in major cases may be held in front of a lay-jury, the appeal is your standard one judge court or panel of judges court.

The Tokyo High Court ruled that the defendant’s claim to not knowing he was carrying drugs was not credible. However, one has to wonder how credible the prosecution is in Japan after one of their ace prosecutors was recently arrested and charged for forging evidence. Justice in Japan is a long way off. I suppose that in time of instability like these days, we should be happy that the Japanese criminal justice system still functions on the basic principle we’ve all come to know and love in Japan: presumed guilty until proven guilty.

*It should be noted that the conviction rate in Japan is only 99% because prosecutors will only take slam dunk cases. According to researchers like David Johnson, author of The Japanese Way of Justicemany cases brought to the prosecutors are never pursued or “suspended” in perpetuity.  Our legal philosopher and ace reporter, Stephanie Nakajima, will be doing a follow-up on this story in the near future.

UPDATED: The Supreme Court overturned the conviction and upheld the original not guilty-verdict in February of 2012 stating, “If a second trial is held on the basis that the facts were mistaken in the first trial, you have to take into account logical and experiential rules and prove concretely that there were irrational mistakes.” The Supreme Court upheld the original verdict of the lay jury and for the first time put a check on the prosecutor’s wanton use of appeals on every rare not-guilty verdict they encountered.

The Japanese Way Of Justice by David Johnson is still an amazing treatise on the power of the prosecution in Japan’s legal system.

Nuclear Ginza: Japan's secret at-risk labor force and the Fukushima disaster

Back in 1995, the UK’s Channel 4 produced a 30-minute documentary on Japan’s nuclear industry and how they use disadvantaged people, including burakumin and other day laborers, to do manual labor inside their power plants. And by inside, I mean inside. Some were forced to work right next to the room where the core was kept, in the dark and drenched in sweat; one man tells how he was forced to mop up radioactive water with towels.

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

(via The Atomic Age, thank you to Shihoku Fujiwara of Polaris Project for the link)

One would like to think that things have changed over the years, but even now in Fukushima, reports are being published that tell how people are being lured with offers of up to ¥400,000 per day to work at the nuclear reactors–many of whom are victims of the tsunami. Because of high radiation levels the amount of time each person can spend inside is limited. TEPCO confirms they’re working with outside agencies to secure enough workers to keep operations running, but refused to comment on how much each person is being paid.

Years of Disaster Drills Prevents Tsunami Deaths At Iwate Prefecture Junior High and Elementary Schools

Despite the fact that Unosumai Elementary School in Iwate-ken was engulfed by a tsunami (津波・tidal-wave), every one of the 350 students who were in the building at the time managed to escape, according to an article in the Asahi Shogakusei Shinbun published on March 24th.

When the ground started shaking, the students initially all ran to the 3rd floor of their school. However, when they saw the middle school students next door congregating in the playground, without waiting for instruction from their teachers, they ran down the stairs, met up with the 212 middle school students, and all together ran one kilometer to a nursing home on higher ground. From the safety of the hill, they watched the tsunami swallow their schools.

The site of both schools, approximately 130 miles (or 210 kilometers) north of Sendai

Both schools are situated on Ootsuchi Bay

Of the 3,000 junior high and elementary school students in the district, only five are missing, four of which were absent from school that day.

This school district had been particularly well-equipped for such an event. Teachers brought in hazard maps created using data from the 1993 Hokkaido tsunami and held disaster preparedness classes for the students. The principal of the elementary school credits the fortunate outcome to the young students’ understanding of both the gravity of the situation and the immediate action required.

Unosumai Elementary School students in a class on tsunami procedure

Although students go through emergency drills a few times a year, they are taught to remember three main things:

1. If the ground starts shaking, don’t go back to your house; run to high ground.

2. Don’t necessarily follow the hazard map; examine the current situation, consult with others, and make the best judgment.

3. Help others.

The Asahi article suggests one bear in mind two other qualities of tsunami: first, even if the tremors felt are relatively minor, a large tsunami can still develop; and secondly, that a tsunami can come in not just one large wave, but several phases; so even if the water does recede, one should never return to one’s house for supplies or possessions.

Jake’s note: These grade-schoolers were better prepared for disaster than the government of Japan. I wish we could replace Prime Minister Kan Naoto with the Unosumai School Principal.

Tohoku disaster: How to help

As I’m sure everyone is aware, Japan was hit by a massive M8.8 earthquake off the coast of Sendai on March 11. As aftershocks still rock most of Honshu, the resulting tsunami, fires and explosions have already entrenched many northern prefectures in death and destruction. There are also food, water and electricity shortages throughout many areas in Iwate, Fukushima and Miyagi prefectures.

For those who are interested in contributing to relief and recovery efforts, below are some of the organisations that are taking donations:

The American Red Cross is accepting a minimum of $10 to support disaster relief efforts by the group in Japan and affected areas of the Pacific.

Global Giving will let you donate on the website or send them a text to contribute funds towards their earthquake and tsunami relief fund.

The Salvation Army are reportedly asking for financial donations and have sent teams from the US to join those already in Japan.

Save the Children has dispatched an international support team to help staff in Japan, and say donations will go to relief efforts.

International Medical Corps has put together teams and supplies to work with partner groups in Japan, and is asking for donations to help throughout the region.

Operation USA is looking for financial donations, “bulk quantities of disaster-appropriate supplies”, and air mile donations through United Airlines Charity Miles program at www.united.com.

Shelter Box is accepting donations, but I’m not sure if you can donate specifically to relief efforts in Japan or not.

Charity Navigator gives ratings to these organisations and more. Make sure your money goes where it counts!

The Coast Guard Agent Who Tried To Rescue Japan: A Humble Hero

Mr. Masaharu Isshiki (一色正春元海上保安官), the former Coast Guard official who released a classified videotape of the Chinese boat incident on Youtube last December, held a press conference at the FCCJ on February 14th. The tape provided clear evidence that the Chinese vessel acted as the aggressor in the situation. This is a revelation that embarrassed the Japanese government, as it potentially bolsters previous accusations that Japan acquiesced to China’s might for fear of economic repercussions.

Masaharu Isshiki, the former Coast Guard agent who blew the whistle on the Senkoku Incident. He has become a folk hero in Japan

Isshiki, who had been studying since he was 15 for the career he has just sacrificed, likened the role of the Coast Guard to a “national border guard”; the Guard is responsible for patrolling Japan’s vast territorial waters and executing rescue operations. Upon delivering a few ceremonial opening statements and a brief description of his duties while a Coast Guard official, he immediately breached the problem of Japan’s several territorial disputes with other nations, and in particular the most recently problematic claim over the Senkaku islands; “a certain nation has begun to take action in that area…some people can say this country has even started an invasion process”. While withholding clearly articulated reasons, he said that this threat essentially led him to release the video. When pressed further to defend his defiance of orders, he stated: “it became clear what I should do when I weighed that fact (that it was a government directive) against the fact that this is something that would benefit the Japanese people”.

Isshiki also expressed concern over the growing number of residents who, if Japan is apprehended by force, see themselves as willing to resort to the use of force as well. On this point he lingered, strongly affirming his “deep-seated belief” that if a party has territorial claims that “words and evidence” should be used to solve the issue; “as you know, the world has experienced great tragedies in the past and as a result (we) have put together different ways to resolve international conflicts without resorting to force”, he says, citing the International Court of Justice as an example.

Isshiki ended his speech with two requests for the foreign press. Firstly, that if a conflict arises between Japan and another nation that “not only are the reasons of the other country” covered by the media, but also “the thoughts of the Japanese population on the matter”. He points out that the humble and reserved nature of the Japanese people, often considered “a beautiful part of the national character”, has been misconstrued by the international community as an inability to assert their own rights and claims, which “has led to unfortunate interpretations of Japan in the past”.

He prefaced his second request by noting the increasing presence of international journalists in Japan’s media landscape; “many Japanese have started looking to the foreign media to find out about events in their own country”, citing as an example last year’s demonstrations, which many national media outlets chose not to cover.

He observes that the Japanese are awakening to the impartiality of certain news organizations, and becoming more aware of their many new source options. He presented this as a business opportunity for the foreign press, encouraging them to gain the respect of the people by providing consistently objective reporting.

After this, questions were taken, many too inane to be reported here. Isshiki-san was clearly more intelligent and witty than many of the reporters who spoke to him, cracking jokes and asking some reporters to break down the questions into ones that were possible to answer. It should be noted that Japanese governor Ishihara Shintaro, who attended with his entourage spoke publicly to him saying: “As a representative of the Japanese government, I’d like to express my greatest respect and appreciation for your actions. A person who acts on behalf of the Japanese people…should not be subject to persecution of the government.”

When a press member in her question referred to his actions as “heroic”, Isshiki made mention of it in his response, saying he didn’t think what he did merited the description; “I didn’t risk my life to do this. I like my life.  I don’t want to risk it so easily. Some years ago, most Japanese ago would consider this a normal response and I am slightly concerned that the Japanese people have begun to lose that sense of normality. What I desire more than anything is for Japan to become a country where this kind of action is considered the right thing do by any concerned citizen.”

Isshiki’s book, to which he directed pesky reporters several times during his speech, Why I Did This: The Confessions of Senkoku 38 (何かのためにの告白)is now on sale. It’s worth a read. The final three lines of his book are a moving call to social action.

It’s time to throw away the idea that “as long as I’m okay, that’s enough.” It’s okay for people to live only for themselves, but it’s also a good thing to live for some higher purpose.  If everyone who reads this book, comes away with a little sense of that, and lives that way, maybe things will change.

First-ever arrest of Japanese national for making child porn abroad

Police made their first-ever arrest of a Japanese national for producing child pornography while overseas apprehending a 64-year-old man for taking nude photos of a 15-year-old girl while in the Philippines.

According to those close to the investigation, the man was a frequent traveller abroad, having spent a total of at least 1,000 days in countries such as the Philippines since 2005. While the statute of limitations on child pornography cases is just three years, police made the decision to pursue the case after determining that the passage of that time limit ceases while the suspect is out of the country.

The suspect was discovered thanks to his blog, on which he frequently posted details of his trips abroad, on multiple occasions uploading nude photos of girls who appeared to be under 18.

Police investigations revealed that sometime around November 7, 2005, the suspect paid money to a Philippine girl he knew was under 18, photographing her in the nude at a hotel on Mindanao Island and saving the photos to an SD card with the intent of sharing the pictures with an unspecified number of people.

In March of last year, police raided the man’s home in the Tokyo bed town of Chofu, discovering photos of what appeared to be a different underage girl on a computer in the house. Investigators are currently working to uncover whether or not the suspect may have committed similar offences on separate occasions.

Read the original article here.

Kyoto Prefecture to become the first to ban child pornography, while Japan's Ruling Party does nothing.

You read that right! Kyoto Prefecture announced plans to roll out a policy that will officially outlaw the possession and acquisition of child pornography, with plans to enact the regulations some time this year. Kyoto will be the first prefecture in the country to create and enforce such a regulation.

Possession of child pornography is currently legal under Japanese law, as long as there is no intent of sale or distribution. Child prostitution and pornography laws currently only outlaw the creation and distribution of pornography featuring those under 18 years of age.

Kyoto Prefecture’s new regulation will require owners to dispose of all media containing sexual depiction of youth under the age of 18, and the government is currently considering penal regulations if such requirements aren’t followed. Possession of pornography featuring children under the age of 13 constitutes child sexual abuse, and will become an automatically jailable offense. Anime, however, is not covered by the new law.

The proposed legislation was part of Kyoto governor Keiji Yamada’s manifesto during the April 2010 race for governor. The regulations were proposed in a report authored by an investigative commission of nine experts, including academics, experts in law and experts in child welfare.

The new law seems a bit fuzzy. One major problem with current legislation is the lack of specifics in what constitutes child pornography. While some content is very explicitly pornographic, Japan’s large junior idol industry exploits a grey area in the law by purporting to be art while washing their hands of any additional connotations images of scantily-clad children may have–and how those images may be used by other individuals. According to the Kyoto Shinbun, the report points out that the law would need to distinctly define what is covered under the law, for example just explicitly sexual acts, or things alluding to or involving genitalia.

The fact that anime is exempt from the law should be a point of debate as well, and is quite a large statement in the wake of Tokyo’s move to restrict the sale of anime, manga and games containing sexual images of those under 18. The simple “slap on the hand” given to first-time offenders is also questionable, and at this stage the proposed law is dubiously flimsy. It is however a step forward and much more than the Japanese national government is doing. Currently, there is not even a bill in committee to ban child pornography possession.

Additional observations from Jake:

In addition to being an editor for this website and a writer, I’m also a board director of the Polaris Project Japan, an organization which helps human trafficking victims, works to stop the sexual and labor exploitation of women, children, and foreigners, and has been lobbying the Japanese government to make possession of child pornography a crime for several years. I am also the police liaison for the organization, which means that when we have a good tip on a human trafficking organization or child pornographers, Shihoko Fujiwara, the director of Polaris Project Japan and I collect the data and information and bring it to the police. I spent over a decade covering the Japanese police force as a reporter and understand what they need to make a case. There are many detectives who are enthusiastic about cracking down on human trafficking and child pornography. One tip which we took to the police last year resulted in the arrest and indictment of a child pornographer and the dismantling of a pedophile network.

However, what was a major obstacle in the initial investigation is that the police felt that they could not get a warrant to search the home of the child pornographer if he only possessed it. They needed proof that he had been selling the materials to get a search warrant. One detective explained it very simply, “Possession is not a crime. Therefore, even if we suspect someone is involved in producing and distributing it but only know that they possess it, we can’t make a raid. We can’t seize the computer or materials that would help us track down the source of the child pornography or help us rescue the victims.  Even if possession was made a crime with no punishment other than a fine, it would immensely aid our investigations. We detest the stuff and the victimization of children as much as anyone does. Even more. However, our hands are tied behind our back. The FBI and other federal agencies pass on over a hundred tips to the National Police Agency each year about child pornography issues. Maybe one or two actually turn into prosecutable cases. Since Ando Takaharu became head of the National Police Agency, we’ve been getting more support on those investigations but they’re still very difficult.”

On February 15th, I went to  a hearing on child pornography in Japan, at the National Diet Lower House Member’s Building, as a board member of Polaris Project Japan.  Bradley Myles, the CEO of Polaris Project (Washington DC)  attended as did members of UNICEF and two senators from the Diet. We made a strong case for the criminalization of simple possession.Myles was very succinct, stating: “The actions of any country, including Japan, play an important role in the global effort (to eliminate child pornography) and when possession of these images is legal in Japan, it creates a gap and an impediment to the entire international effort to police the problem.” He advocated that Japan make possession a crime punishable by a fine and jail time.

Japan and Russia are the only remaining G-8 countries that defends the ownership of films of real children (not manga) being molested for personal enjoyment. I was hoping to ask some pointed questions after his speech, but  the Diet members skipped out halfway through the meeting and were not available for the Q & A that followed. Personally, it says a lot to me about how seriously the Japanese government takes this problem.

Perhaps, making an appearance at the beginning was the best that the senators could do.  However, when one of the Diet members made the remark, “It’s hard to find a balance between freedom of expression and criminalizing the possession of child pornography”, I felt like puking. Pardon me. Films of children being sodomized, gagged, tortured, raped and abused on film for the sadistic entertainment of others are not “freedoms of expressions” or “works of art”–they are evidence of a crime and a clear violation of decency. If you can stomach it, read the testimony of children who were used in child pornography to understand how deeply it hurts them, even years later while the films still circulate.  These films are also certainly a violations of Japan’s laws on personal privacy, if you want to get into the finer legal problems. As such, the only people who should have child pornography in their possession are the police. As long as the purchase and possession of child porn are not crimes, there will be a demand for them and there will be anti-social elements who make money off feeding that demand, some of them yakuza, some of them simply sociopathic entrepreneurs. Japan continues to be one of the largest producers and suppliers of child pornography in the world.

Hiroko Tabuchi, ace reporter of the New York Times, offered very insightful commentary as I was live tweeting the conference. By no means was she defending child pornography, she has written very balanced articles on the problem but she did point out, “The Government cites concerns people could be prosecuted for mistaken downloads, being sent files unknowingly etc.”  I would have to agree with that point. I can easily see how the law could be abused to frame people for a crime and its the kind of thing a smart yakuza would do to take down a nuisance–unilaterally send them  numerous pictures of child pornography and then immediately call the police and “inform” on the victim. Teenagers being arrested on child pornography charges for sending nude pictures of themselves to friends or their consensual partners is a clear example of law enforcement being poorly applied, and deeply flawed laws.

The law can be written requiring a burden of proof that the individual actively downloaded or bought the child pornography, repeatedly, with full knowledge of what they were buying. An exemption can be made for underage children who send naked pictures of themselves willingly to their friends or lovers.  I would also suggest possession be made a crime punishable by  a substantial fine or jail time rather than mandatory jail time. By giving the police and prosecution some leeway, it would encourage the possessor of the materials to cooperate with the investigation.  Even just making possession a simple crime punishable by a fine would be enough to let the police seize evidence in cases and capture the makers and distributors of the child pornography rather than just the end users.

If the Democratic Party of Japan has any decency they will at least put forth a bill to committee to ban possession of child pornography. There is not even a bill under debate at present–in effect, they are doing absolutely nothing. Judging by their failure to rid themselves of Ozawa Ichiro, their loyalties seem to be more about their own interests rather than the public good. Many of their financial supporters are people in the adult film and anime business producing neo-child pornography. The DPJ should be aware that Japan’s failure to act on the problem is an international embarassment. I guess that’s the best way to end these comments, with a little Japanese vocabulary lesson that I hope the Democratic Party of Japan would take to heart. “恥を知りなさい”(haji wo shirinasai). Be ashamed of yourselves.

Jake Adelstein, board director, Polaris Project Japan

Prosecutors demand jurors pull the trigger in shooting trial

The master demonstrates how to properly fire an airsoft gun at a 'gun bar' in Roppongi, Tokyo. Most Japanese rarely come in contact with firearms, much less get the opportunity to shoot one. (Photo by Sarah Noorbakhsh)

Monday saw the opening of a trial against ex-yakuza boss, Takashi Kajiwara, who was accused of attempted murder in the March 2009 shooting of an acquaintance. The defence asserted during the hearing that Kajiwara had lay a finger on the trigger and simply squeezed the grip, accidentally causing the gun to fire.

Prosecutors retaliated, saying that it would take a single finger 4-10 kilograms of pressure to pull the trigger on that specific model of gun, and that it couldn’t have been an accident. The prosecutors then presented two weapons of the same type used in the crime, and in an unprecedented move said they would like the jury to try pulling the trigger themselves to decide. The defence has objected, telling the Asahi Shinbun that each gun is different, and the two presented in court may require more force than the one used in the crime. The judge will determine whether or not to grant to the prosecution’s request and let jurors give the guns a squeeze.

Ex-Yamaguchi-gumi member Takashi Kajiwara, 47, is accused of shooting a man in the head on the street in Osaka’s Nishi Yodogawa-ku on the evening of March 25, 2009. The man sustained serious injuries, as did another Yamaguchi-gumi member when he tried to stop Kajiwara from firing but was beaten with the gun. The second member, Hitoshi Tomioka, 45, was brought to the hospital for injuries he sustained during the beating, and was later arrested after a blood test came up positive for stimulants.

In Japan, where firearms are illegal except for use in hunting and sport, and for police officers, most people have never seen a real gun, much less fired one. The lay judge system is relatively new as well–having been implemented in May 2009–and if the judge grants the prosecution’s request it will be an extremely novel, and potentially high-profile, landmark event.

Underage Japanese girls learning to sell themselves online

The plague of child porn has in recent years been facilitated by the spread Internet, writes the Yomiuri in an article sourcing our favorite Polaris Project pundit, Shihoko Fujiwara.

“One of the reasons for the increase is due to the crackdown [by authorities], but another is that a growing number of children have become involved in the business through the widespread use of the Internet,” she said.

According to Fujiwara, a 14-year-old second-year female middle school student was forced to sell sexual services by her classmates and the scene was filmed by male customers.

A female student, 15, who attends a public high school, sold a nude image of herself through an Internet message board to raise money to go to university, as she is unable to depend on her parents financially. She contacted Polaris after a man who purchased the image threatened to meet her in person and another demanded she send more images.

(Full article here)

The piece goes on to explain how Web sites are providing the base for a new kind of enjo kosai-esque self-exploitation, allowing teenagers to receive money for posting nude photos of themselves according to customer demands. As with many online trends in Japan, the child pornography is often shot and distributed via mobile phone, making it difficult for parents to discover what’s happening.

The typical image of child pornography is that of the vile act of photographing juveniles in sexual situations either against their will or unbeknown to them, but in this case kids are often voluntarily participating in the system. While there’s much spoken about laws in the article, when children are willing to victimize themselves for money, there needs to be effort put into prevention on both sides.

Tokyo LGBT community and supporters protest Ishihara’s homophobic comments

By Mizue Watanabe★

Tokyo’s LGBT community and its supporters held a lecture event January 14 to address the homophobic statements made in early December by Tokyo Governor Shintaro Ishihara. The two-part event saw politicians, LGBT activists, and even an openly gay manga artist speak to an audience of over 350 people, the majority of which were Japanese.

The meeting was held in reaction to comments made by Ishihara December 3 during a statement regarding a bill to put more stringent regulations on anime and manga. He said that “Homosexuals have been appearing on television as if it were no big deal. Japan is becoming too unregulated.” When a journalist from the Mainichi Shimbun asked Ishihara for clarification on these comments on December 7, Ishihara elaborated: “I feel that [homosexuals] are missing something. Maybe it has something to do with their genes. I feel sorry for them as a minority.” Recalling his experience observing a gay pride parade in San Francisco, Ishihara added that, “I saw the pride parade, but I just felt sorry for them. There were male pairs and female pairs, but I felt that something was missing.”

Perhaps reflecting the peripherality of LGBT issues in mainstream consciousness, only the Mainichi, the Asahi Shimbun, and the Tokyo Shimbun reported these comments.

The Association to Protest Governor Ishihara’s Homophobic Comments hosted the lecture event as a protest against the governor’s discriminatory remarks as well as a show of solidarity among the LGBT community and its supporters. The first part of the event featured a panel discussion of LGBT activists and community advocates discussing their reactions to the governor’s comments. This was followed by informal statements by three municipal politicians, including Aya Kamikawa, an assemblyperson for Tokyo’s Setagaya ward and the first openly transgender politician to be elected in Japan. The second part of the event focused on some of the daily struggles of the LGBT community in Japan, and featured manga artist Taiji Utaguwa’s rendition of recent gay history as well as a “close talk” with two gay couples.

Although serious in nature, the event involved light-hearted moments as well, such as when the opening discussant unleashed two giant balloon balls reading Ishiharasumento-kin (“Ishiharassment” Germ) into the audience. “Please be careful everyone, they’re highly infectious!!” she yelled, to the audience’s delight. Many of the participants, however, spoke of their serious concern with the governor’s comments, noting their distress that these comments were being made from the governor of Japan’s largest and most cosmopolitan city. One activist compared Tokyo to Paris and Berlin, which both have openly gay mayors.

A common sentiment among participants was that Ishihara’s statements make light of the difficulties that many LGBT individuals struggle with in their day-to-day lives, including within the home, at school, and in the workplace.

Although a date has not yet been set, an event organizer announced that the protest against Governor Ishihara’s statements would continue with a public demonstration scheduled for March.

Ironically, Ishihara’s remarks came during Human Rights Awareness Week in Japan, held annually from December 4 to December 10. Activists have pointed out that although the Tokyo Metropolitan Government had listed “eliminating discrimination based on sexual orientation” and “eliminating discrimination based on gender identity disorder” as two official goals, the comments by Tokyo’s highest elected official make a joke of this.

Since his election as governor of Tokyo in 2001, Governor Ishihara has become notorious in the domestic and international press for a string of disparaging comments, attacking women, the disabled, foreigners, and even – perhaps most bizarrely – the French language.

In May 2001, when addressing the issue of crimes committed by non-Japanese residents of Japan, Ishihara suggested that, “Foreigners have criminal DNA.” However, despite Ishihara’s tendency to couch his prejudicial views within “biological” terms, neither of these comments is known to have any scientific validity.

*For an amusing commentary on Ishihara’s commentary, check out this clip by transvestite celebrity, Matsuko. 「石原都知事は狂っている」(Governor Ishihara is crazy!)

Tranvestite Celebrity Matsuko on Ishihara's homophobic comments and attempts to censor manga, "He's crazy!"

★Watanabe Mizue is a sociologist researching human rights issues in Japan writing under a pseudonym. JSRC would like to thank her for contributing this article.