Category Archives: Contemporary Culture

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.

Happy New Year Japan! Don't bite off more than you can chew–it could be fatal. A Special Holiday Public Service Announcement

It’s that time of the year again, where Family Mart employees don their Santa suits, KFC production goes into high gear, eager bargain hunters start planning their January 2 sale strategy, and families across the country worry about having to launch their fingers down a loved one’s throat to dislodge unfortunate New Years mochi.

Yes, those sticky race cake treats essential to every Japanese holiday celebration are, according to the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare, one of the biggest dangers to the young and elderly over New Years. In the four years leading up to 2010, the Tokyo Prefecture Fire Department reported that, out of 4,719 choking incidents, 606 occurred in January, when mochi is most often consumed. Also, a 2006 MHLW survey of fire departments and emergency centers found that over 20 percent of the 803 calls received about choking incidents involved mochi–figures they estimate represent a mere 22 percent of the total population.

But how to remove sticky mochi that’s lodged in grandpa’s throat when a good whack on the back has failed? By vacuum cleaner, of course.

Although not officially recommended by any emergency services, the vacuum cleaner rose to popularity after a series of New Years incidents where the elderly were saved by quick-thinking relatives willing to jam a hose down their throat. A popular emergency suction nozzle especially for mochi rescues exists that can easily be attached to any commercially available vacuum cleaner, though the thin, narrow nozzle that comes with most machines will reportedly work in a pinch.

As an aside, the Heimlick Maneuver isn’t often mentioned in advice for the lay-person, and “Heimlick Maneuver choking” brings up a mere 1,320 results on Google Japan compared to the 51,300 for “vacuum cleaner choking”.

Of course, some people do survive without a vacuum cleaner or CPR.  Luck helps.

One ex-yakuza boss recalled his near-death experience with mochi. “I’ve almost been killed several times in my life, but the closest I ever got to dying was when I was 16 and almost choked to death on a mochi right before hatsumode. I crammed a whole one into my mouth and then wasn’t able to swallow it or spit it out. I couldn’t breathe and then I passed out, still poking at the mochi with my fingers in my mouth—I woke up to find that I’d puked it out. The luckiest day of my life. That stuff isn’t fit for human beings. Deadly shit.”

Still, if you don’t have luck, it pays to suck. Keiko Musashi, 34, a physical therapist in Tokyo, tells how here grandmother was saved fifteen years ago.“Obaasan had bad teeth and she loved mochi. On the third day after New Year’s,  she ate one too many ozoni and started choking. We could see the edge of the mochi in her throat. We pulled the end and only a bit came out. She was turning blue and then my Mom remembered seeing a public service announcement (PSA) on television about what to do. So she grabbed the vacuum cleaner hose, turned it on and stuffed it in to Grandma’s throat and jiggled it around until she sucked up the mochi. Mission accomplished.”

To this day, Ms. Musashi and her mother refuse to buy a cyclone-type vacuum. “If it doesn’t have a hose, it’s not good.”

So if you do insist on eating those foul Japanese delights this New Year’s day and before or after your first visit to the local shrine—at least you make sure you have an old-fashioned vacuum cleaner (掃除機) nearby. Even if no one chokes to death, it’ll be handy in starting the New Year with a clean house.

Tale of the celebrity cannibal

The Korean custom of eating dogs is something that on occasion mistakenly gets loaded on to the Japanese. To the French and Dutch in the summer of 1981, mention of the Japanese likely brought to mind one individual who ate a completely different type of meat–human.

Issei Sagawa had just completed a semester of study at the Sorbonne Academy in Paris, France, when he invited his Dutch classmate Renée Hartevelt to dinner. Sagawa shot and killer her, then spent the next three days eating her body. He was caught trying to dump her remains in a lake, and investigators discovered further remains still in Sagawa’s fridge. According to his testimony, Sagawa had found Hartevelt to be incredibly beautiful and he wanted to “absorb her energy” in order to compensate for his own “weak, ugly, and small” stature.

Sagawa was found to be legally insane, but was released into the hands of the Japanese authorities. After being examined by psychologists, who found him to be sane but “evil”, he was released.

The folks over at VBS TV have just released a short documentary on Sagawa (part 1 and 2). For those unfamiliar with Vice Mag and VBS TV, I warn you that it’s not for the faint of heart and NSFW.

Perhaps as an unfortunate testament to the Japanese penchant for the unusual, Sagawa now lives as a minor celebrity. He’s also a painter according to this macabre YouTube clip, and he tries to persuade potential clients that he has better and more delicate taste than Hannibal Lecter. Somehow his blood-red shirt doesn’t put us at ease.

Deai kissa matchmaking cafes more than just a meet n' greet

In the wake of the September murder of a 22-year-old university student by a man she met at a deai kissa, or matchmaking cafe, the Mainichi ran an article (Japanese here) that takes a look inside the very same venue where the pair met. The cafe is still running business as usual, still turning a blind eye to the interactions between customers in their “meeting rooms”. The Mainichi article gives attention to two potential sides of the deai kissa coin, interviewing both a woman who waits for a customer looking to negotiate, and another who visits to escape the doldrums of life as a telephone receptionist.

But what really goes on in a deai kissa? Are the clubs as management makes them out to be–innocuous meeting places for would-be couples–with a stray shady deal happening now and then, or are they knowingly operated as hotbeds for prostitution?

Continue reading Deai kissa matchmaking cafes more than just a meet n' greet

Singing cops throw away retirement plans to serenade fellow seniors

Could we somehow combine the two?

From the sugary sweet yet sexy AKB48 to… retired cops?! Yasushi Akimoto, the producer and director famous for pandering to the desires of millions of 40s and 50s-ish salarymen in a socially-acceptable way with the infamous Akiba-kei idol group, has set an October date for the debut of his next project: OJS48.

News of OJS48, whose letters stand for “OJi-San,” hit the Japanese media Tuesday. A bit of a misnomer, the group is formed by only 16 members but includes retired cops and detectives from across the country who call various departments of the police force their alma mater, from a force kendo instructor to a cop who worked the organized crime beat. Their debut single, “Shinkokyu” features main vocals by 63-year-old ex-Osaka detective Mitsuo Nakatani, who now works as a security guard in a shopping center and for the past year has been basking in the spotlight of an Akimoto-produced solo single. Interested parties can get a sneak peak of the signature OSJ48 tune on their Web site as well as catch a glimpse of the NPA “old boys” that have replaced days of shogi in the park with dreams of stardom. Those eager for a further listen can not only download the track early on iTunes, but also let everyone within an earshot know of their new “boom” with a “Shinkokyu” ringtone.

Unsurprising in a country full of endless entertainment tie-ups, the group is actually part of Akimoto’s new business venture of the same name as the single. The “Shinkokyu Club” is a community site started by the entrepreneur and pitched as a portal to help those in their Golden Years to make the most of their leisure time. “Why not stop now and then and take a deep breath?” the site proposes. After a glimpse up the frilly skirts of the AKB ladies, some Shinkokyu Club members might need to pause and take quite a few deep breaths.

It’s often joked that those gearing up to retire within the next ten or fifteen years are arguably the target audience for sultry teeny boppers AKB48, the similar NMB48, and actually-of-age SDN48. While a grey-haired troupe of senior discount card holders seems like a sudden and unusual jump, Akimoto could be hoping to spread his assets by mining a similar audience from a different angle. The producer’s first effort at a male idol group, OJS48 is obviously of a generation or two older than Japan’s other well-known artists within the Johnny’s empire. But despite the rising elderly population in the country, until now Japan has yet to give birth to much new entertainment oriented towards the demographic.

Will old folk shell out part of their pension to listen to retired police officers croon about the bitter-sweetness of life? Or will the sounds of these weathered veterans catch on amongst a younger crowd, in a sort of pop-enka revival that would ironically make OJS48 irresistible to the ABK48 crowd? Tie-ups, crossovers, graduation ceremonies, World Cup theme songs, products at 7-11–it will be interesting to see of OJS48 will be able to rock the idol formula used by the younger generation and put more money into Akimoto’s pockets.

Shafuu 101–Choosing a company for the new generation

Learning Japanese business culture is always a hot topic for those looking to deal on this side of the Pacific, but little do many know that Japanese young adults are almost just as confused by the the traditions and hype surrounding the complex world of Japanese shafuu.

In Japan, corporate culture amongst established companies is not something that is organically developed or that reads from the pages of a self help book. Traditionally there have been two kinds of companies: 体育会系 (taiikukai-kei, sports-oriented) and 文化系 (bunka-kei, liberal arts-ish). From the definition it’s likely easy to grasp the general concept, and while bunka kei companies are more desirable for those calm, artsy types who enjoy having a life outside or work, taiikukai-kei are renowned for providing the motivated with high-energy, aggressive environments in which they can shoot for the stars–but often not, because unlike Western companies, until recently most traditional taiikukai-kei companies feature lifetime employment systems, 年功序列 (nenko joretsu, seniority by length of service) and all those other ultra-Japanese business practices that have gradually become archaic. Taiikukai-keihere) companies are also renowned for they way they treat employees, going beyond the typical forced overtime and into the realms of abusive language and behavior to subordinates and even reports of regulated haircuts for new hires. (Read more about company culture and how it’s begun to affect young people

For May, perhaps to give April’s new hires a belated heads up that they may have made a bad decision, magazine Zaiten has a special feature on “Real Job Hunting,” featuring a fantastic chart, translated below:

Continue reading Shafuu 101–Choosing a company for the new generation