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“A Man” Takes Imposter Syndrome To New Dimensions

by Kaori Shoji

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

メモ・原文の記事の抜粋は丁寧に訳されたので紹介しました

by chocolat viennois 

嘘つきの安倍晋三には、こんな豪華な葬儀はふさわしくない

デイリービーストの追悼記事「嘘つきの安倍晋三には、こんな豪華な葬儀はふさわしくない」 殺された元総理は、日本を「真実を伝えることを知らない国」にした責任がある。thedailybeast.com/former-japanes…

thedailybeast.com/former-japanes…Master Liar Shinzo Abe Doesn’t Deserve This Lavish Funeral

衝撃的な暗殺事件の直後、安倍晋三はその国際的な政治家としての手腕に賛辞を送られている。残念なことに、この賞賛は彼の国内的な遺産とは対照的である。公的な場における真実に対してとても冷ややかで、日本ではほとんどの人が政府の言うこと信じない。/2

安倍元首相と自民党の多くの議員が、韓国を拠点とする問題あるカルト集団、統一教会と密接な関係にあったことが死後に発覚し、自民党にダメージを与えている。現首相の岸田文雄氏の支持率は36%にまで落ち込んだ。奇妙なことに、安倍元首相を暗殺した犯人に対する国民の支持と共感さえ高まっている。/3

首相として、また自民党の党首として、安倍首相は日常的に行政に圧力をかけ、自分の望む結果を出させていた。特に、レーガノミクスを手本にした財政政策である「アベノミクス」の成功を証明することに熱心であった。/4

官僚たちは、その結果を改竄することに全力を尽くした。2018年12月労働省は長年に渡り雇用データを改竄していたことが暴露され、それにり日本の賃金は上昇しているように見えていたが実際は低下していた。/5

データの偽造は単なる見栄の問題ではなく、結果として2000万人以上の人々が労働に関するの手当を過少に支払われていたのである。/6

2019年1月、保守系新聞の日本経済新聞とテレビ東京が世論調査を行ったところ、5人に4人近くが公式統計を信用しなくなったことが判明。/7

そして2021年、安倍首相が大嫌いなリベラル派の朝日新聞が、国土交通省が安倍政権時代を中心に8年近くにわたって工事請負金額の数字を改ざんしていたことを明らかにした。この違法行為により、内閣府が発表する「月例経済報告」などの重要な指標を作成するための重要な経済統計が歪められた。/8

アベノミクスが実際に機能したかどうかは、膨大なデータを検証し、修正する必要があるため、わからないかもしれないが、彼の在任中に実質所得が減少、貧富の差が拡大したことは確かだ。/9

ここ数カ月の円安は、日本政府のデータにほとんど価値がないことを国際投資家がやっと認識したことと関係があるのかもしれない。/10

保守的な自民党のルーツは冷戦時代にさかのぼる。左翼政党が政権を取れないようにするため、CIAが日本に干渉し、財政的にも政治的にも大きな恩恵を受けていたのである。/11

自民党は数十年にわたり政府の主要政党であったが、決して統一された存在ではなかった。現在でも、中道右派から右翼民族派まで、さまざまな派閥が政権を争っている。各派閥はカリスマ的リーダーを中心に、末端のメンバーが忠誠を誓う。/12

安倍首相は細田派を実質的に率い、冷酷なまでの後援とライバルの排斥を繰り返して、細田派を支配的な派閥にした。2014年、2期目の首相就任時には、政府の重要な委員会や国家安全保障会議、日銀、原子力規制委員会などの主要機関のトップに側近を指名し、権力を強化した。/13

2014年には内閣人事局を創設、政府・公務員の人事権を拡大した。さらに国営放送のNHKの役員に取り巻きを任命、尊敬される公平な報道機関であったNHKを「安倍テレビ」と広く揶揄されるようなものに変え、メディアへの影響力を利用し自分の政党内の潜在的なライバルをその場にとどまらせたのである。/14

(森友文書の詳細の記述は割愛)2018年5月、大阪の山本真知子特捜部長が関与した38人の容疑者について不起訴処分と発表し彼女は詳細の説明や質問への回答を拒否。数ヵ月後、山本は昇進し別の地検に異動。疑問のある決定について尋問される可能性があったのに検察審査会の手が届かなくなった。/15

赤木正子さんは、夫の死をめぐって国に損害賠償を求め提訴した。昨年12月、政府は賠償請求に応じ、訴訟を打ち切った。/16

腐敗と不信の毒は日本企業にも回っている。安倍政権下の2015年に発覚した日本史上最大の不正会計問題で、東芝の関係者は誰も起訴されていない。/17

昨年、日本の経済産業大臣は、日本の原子力産業にとって重要な役割を果たす東芝と役人が結託し、外国人投資家に関する機密情報を共有したとき、自分の省は何も悪いことはしていないとあっさりと宣言した。/18

安倍元首相が「息を吐くようにウソをつく」という名言も登場。オリンピック招致の際「福島はアンダーコントロールされいてる」とうそをつき、首相就任8年目の2020年のクリスマスに桜を見る会で公費を不正に使用したことを認め、安倍は国会で118回も嘘をついたことを告白し、謝罪した。/19

しかし、安倍元首相は何ら責任を問われることはなかった。彼は犯罪者として訴追されることもなく、また彼をかばった人たちも訴追されることはなかった。/20

だから、真実を語れない日本政府が存在するのだ。嘘は報われ、真実を語ることは罰せられる。政府は都合の良い事実をでっち上げ、都合の悪い事実を隠し、信じてもらえることを望み続けるだろう。それが安倍元首相のレガシーである。/21

安倍元首相は、戦後憲法を破棄し、戦前の帝国憲法を基にした憲法を制定し、日本を再び軍事大国にする、という大望を抱いたまま首相を退いた。/22

それは、元法務大臣の長勢甚遠が2012年に宣言した、「基本的人権、国民主権、平和主義」を剥奪するものである。/23

法学者のローレンス・レペタは、安倍首相が採用しようとしている新憲法は、言論の自由の保護を排除し、普遍的人権を放棄し、個人の自由よりも公の秩序を重視し、首相に「非常事態」を宣言し憲法上の権利と法的手続きを停止する新しい権限を与えるだろうと指摘した。/24

退陣後も、安倍首相は党に絶大な影響力を行使し続けた。殺害された時も、自民党と自分の派閥のために選挙活動を行い、その影響力を行使していた。その影響力は、安倍首相の死後間もなく行われた総選挙の結果によって、さらに増幅された。/25

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

chocolat viennois 

@la_neige_fleur

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

outstanding tokyo English Standup comedy This Friday!

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

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

And guess what? 

Everyone had a good time.

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

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

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

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

The people of Nara mourn the senseless death of Shinzo Abe

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

It was a shock to everyone when the unthinkable occured.  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

神隠し(かみかくし)Gone with the Gods (an original Podcast) coming IN 2022

People have a habit of vanishing in Japan—even hundreds of years ago, it happened often enough that myths were created to explain these sudden disappearances. 神隠し (kamikakushi)–to be hidden by the gods. Even now, every year over 80,000 people are reported missing. And that may be the tip of the iceberg–because only family members can make those reports. If your girlfriend, high-school buddy, co-worker just evaporates one day–you can go to the police but unless you can prove foul play, they may not even open a file on the case.

There are so many types of missing people in Japan, that there are different words used to describe them. But unfortunately, defining a vanishing doesn’t make people rematerialize.

Even now, every year over 80,000 people are reported missing in Japan. And that may be the tip of the iceberg

If someone you knew and loved went missing one day – with no warning, no explanation, and no evidence – who would you turn to in order to find the truth?

If you were the one looking for that person, what would you do if you found out an entire infrastructure exists, designed for the express purpose of helping people — like your loved one — vanish into thin air?

Would you try to find someone who doesn’t want to be found? Would you judge the person for disappearing in the first place? Would you enroll in private eye school?

Who else has gone missing … and why?

神隠し/Gone With The Gods will be a multi-faceted deep dive into the phenomenon of Japan’s johatsu, or “evaporated people” — citizens who choose to just vanish from their lives–and those who do so without a choice. Some of the “evaporated” are escaping dire circumstances (debt, abuse, threats of violence), but others are ashamed of how their lives have turned out, or shackled by conformity. They want to start over. And in Japan, there’s a way. It’s a cultural phenomenon.

But it might also be the ultimate cover up. Jake Adelstein, author of Tokyo Vice, The Last Yakuza, and I Sold My Soul For Bitcoins joins forces with Shoko Plambeck, model, actress and former journalist lured back into the trade by the promise of solving some great mysteries of her homeland. And of course, sound engineer/journalist and aspiring private detective, Thisanka Siripala. Together they will take you on a midnight escape into the shadows of the rising sun. We consult experts, ex-yakuza, retired police officers, the employers of the missing, and talk to those who decided to vanish and those that helped them do it.

Paul Simon once sang, “50 Ways To Leave Your Lover” but in Japan there are more than “50 Ways To Leave This World” and manuals that will show you the way. But they can also teach people how to make someone vanish and never be found. We’ll explain how that works as well.

This podcast will be brought to you Campside Media, “The New Yorker of True-Crime Podcasts” who produced critically praised works like Suspect, Chameleon: Hollywood Con Queen

Is there someone in your life, in Japan, who has vanished without a trace or even with a trace, but can no longer be found? Share your story with us at Gone@campsidemedia.com

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Tokyo Comedy Bar Opens In Shibuya

Tokyo Comedy Bar launches in Shibuya by Phoebe Amoroso

After the past couple of years, we could all do with more laughs. Yet when Ben “BJ” Fox proposed opening a comedy venue in the middle of a pandemic, many people thought he was having a laugh – and not the right kind. It’s a fact he acknowledged at the venue’s opening night last Friday, describing the project self-deprecatingly as a midlife crisis. 

There’s nothing sexier than a hard tall and thick hot mike.

The audience, however, was gleeful and, as comedy-lovers, presumably grateful too. Tokyo Comedy Bar becomes the city’s only stand-up comedy club, bringing shows nightly to the heart of Shibuya. From roast battles and improv to hosting international comedians, the venue has big ambitions, impressively offering shows in both English and Japanese. As the name cunningly suggests, it’s also a bar, boasting craft beers on tap, and there’s no obligation to stay for a show.

We caught the late show of Tokyo Comedy Bar’s English two-part opening event, with BJ Fox MC-ing a line-up of six comedians. Admittedly, we were a little sceptical whether they could all deliver, but we were proved wrong; the laugh-a-minute from the audience was evidence enough that these performers knew their crowd, tackling everything from politics to sexuality, and especially life in Japan. 

Jon Sabay kicked off the evening, riffing on expats versus immigrants drawing on his own family history, and then educating us on the true signs of whether someone is a gaijin. Up next, Bill Miller began his set by taking on Japanese apartment sizes in some near-the-bone humour that definitely wouldn’t make it onto NHK. A shout-out must also go to the musically talented Ruben VM for highlighting the most endangered species in the world in his song “Extinction,” and getting us all to sing a truly heart-warming song about nationalism. 

Good beer, good cheer

With both opening shows sold out, it’s going to be exciting to see how Tokyo Comedy Bar will develop the city’s stand-up scene and whether it’ll bring fresh comedic talent to the stage. One thing, however, is for certain: after two years of almost all events being cancelled in the city, the venture couldn’t be further from a midlife crisis. It’s post-pandemic therapy, and long may it continue. 
For the full event schedule, check Tokyo Comedy Bar’s website or Instagram.

BJ Fox Welcomes you!

Japan: The Shape Of Things To Come? Find out this Sunday (May 15)

Join some of the greatest experts on Japan to discuss the future of this island nation.

This coming Sunday (May 15, starting 10am), sees a unique event at the Yokohama campus of Meiji Gakuin University and online via Zoom, called THE SHAPE OF THINGS TO COME, marking the international departmen’s ten years of teaching global and transcultural studies.

Predicting the future is a lot harder than learning to make sushi

This one-day symposium features a panel of star speakers who will try to predict what will happen in the next ten years in Japan, East Asia, and the World. The star speaker is MUHAMMAD YUNUS, winner of the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize, known as “banker to the poor”, live by Zoom link from the Yunus Centre, Dhaka, Bangladesh . The event also features Alex Kerr, author of books such as Lost Japan and Dogs and Demons: The Fall of Modern Japan, noted professional economic journalist, Rick Katz, Hiroko Takeda author of The Political Economy of Reproduction: Between Nation-State and Everyday Life (2005) and co-editor of The Routledge Handbook of Contemporary Japan (2021) along with Kyoko Hatakeyama(Professor of International Relations, University of Niigata Prefecture), David Leheny, Masafumi Iida, Eric Zusman, Mika Ohbayashi and Hiroshi Ohta.

It will be an interactive event, with 15-minute presentations and equal time for free discussion. This is a great chance to get into conversation with some elite experts on Japan and broaden your own knowledge of the country and Asia. Admission is free and open to all, but prior registration is required.


Click here for the Online program here:


Click here for the Online registration

The full press release is below:

A Symposium commemorating the Tenth Anniversary of the Foundation of the Department of Global and Transcultural Studies, Meiji Gakuin University

SUNDAY MAY 15, 2022, MEIJI GAKUIN UNIVERSITY YOKOHAMA CAMPUS

As our department marks ten years of teaching global and transcultural studies, the world appears to be balanced on a knife edge. Internationalism is locked with nationalism, secularism with religious fundamentalism, democracy with authoritarianism, tolerance with intolerance. The Corona Pandemic has ushered in a new and frightening era of massive biohazards, while Russia’s attempted invasion of Ukraine has raised the specter of a return to Cold War type confrontation. Casting a long shadow over these massive ideological struggles is climate change, thought by many experts to be close to a tipping point from which will flow disastrous consequences for humanity and the natural environment.

This symposium will commemorate the tenth anniversary of the Department of Global and Transcultural Studies. It will be an opportunity to step back, take a deep breath, and survey the world and the prospects for the ten years to come. Each of our speakers will be invited to gaze into their crystal ball and forecast how global affairs will develop in the next ten years. We hope to examine their predictions ten years later, when the department celebrates its 20thanniversary.

Keynote speaker

Muhammad Yunus (2006 Nobel Peace Prize winner)

PROGRAM

9:30am: Doors Open; Registration

9:50am: Welcome and Opening Remarks by Leo Murata (president of Meiji Gakuin University)

10am

Panel 1: Prospects for Japan

Chair: Prof. Tom Gill (Meiji Gakuin Dept. of Global and Transcultural Studies)

Japan’s economic, social and demographic challenges for the next decade.

Alex Kerr (long-term resident of Kyoto, known for books such as Lost Japan and Dogs and Demons: The Fall of Modern Japan)

Richard Katz (economist, New York correspondent of Toyo Keizai; will join online)

Hiroko Takeda (Professor of Political Science, Nagoya University)

11:45am

Panel 2: Peace and Security

Chair: Prof. Kōki Abe (Meiji Gakuin Department of International Studies)

Prospects for peace and security in East Asia in the shadow of China-US competition.

Masafumi Iida (Professor, National Institute of Defense Studies)

Kyoko Hatakeyama (Professor of International Relations, University of Niigata Prefecture)

David Leheny (Professor of Political Science, Waseda University)

1:15pm: Lunch (Please bring your own lunch. Alternatively, there are two convenience stores and one small restaurant near the campus.)

2:15pm

Panel 3: Renewable Energy/Environment

Can Japan meet its ambitious carbon reduction targets for 2030, and if so, how?

Chair: Prof. Paul Midford (Meiji Gakuin Dept. of Global and Transcultural Studies)

Eric Zusman (Senior Researcher, Institute for Global Environmental Studies)

Mika Ohbayashi (Director, Renewable Energy Institute, Tokyo)

Hiroshi Ohta (Professor, Waseda University School of International Liberal Studies)

4:00pm

Panel 4: Careers in the Coming Decade

Chair: Prof. Takayuki Sakamoto (Meiji Gakuin Dept. of Global and Transcultural Studies)

Seven of our graduates will discuss prospects for the fields in which they are working.

11KC1020 Rina Takeda, Sony Music Solutions Inc.

13KC1031 Kaji Deane, automotive distributor

13KC1045 Megumi Miura, project manager, Amazon Japan

14KC1018 Ruxin Wei, systems engineer, Intelligent Wave Inc.

15KC1025 Jinzaburo Tasaka, web designer, SoftBank

15KC1026 Yumi Tajima, fashion merchandiser

15KC1504 Vladislav Lushchikov, restaurant manager

5:45pm

Introduction of Prof. Muhammad Yunus by Prajakta Khare (Associate Professor, Meiji Gakuin Dept. of Global and Transcultural Studies)

6:00pm

Keynote Address

Professor Muhammad Yunus, winner of the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize, “banker to the poor”, live by Zoom link from the Yunus Centre, Dhaka, Bangladesh

“Global Economic Inequality: Now is the Time to Redesign”

Q&A moderated by Prajakta Khare

6:45pm

Yokohama International Study Association (YISA) – Officers of the Meiji Gakuin alumni association will explain the association’s activities and how to get involved in them.

7pm

Vote of thanks by Prof. Aoi Mori, Dean of the Faculty of International Studies, Meiji Gakuin University

May the Force Be With You (May 4th) Zen Wisdom From Star Wars! The Dao of Jedi

May 4th has become an iconic day for Star Wars fans across the universe.  “May The 4th Be With You” becomes “May The Force Be With You” quite nicely.  (If you already knew this, stifle that groan young Jedi, some of us didn’t know). And on this day, what better time to introduce one of the stranger and more delightful books to come out this year in Japan: Zen Wisdom From Star Wars (スター・ウォーズ 禅の教え エピソード4・5・6). It’s written by noted Soto Zen Buddhist priest, Shunmyo Masuno (枡野 俊明) and takes scenes and dialogue from the good episodes of the series to illustrate Zen Buddhist sayings and wisdom. (A full review will come later this month).

Zen Wisdom From Star Wars
Zen Wisdom From Star Wars

The book is well-written, with just enough English sprinkled in to make the book semi-accessible to those who can’t read Japanese or are still struggling to do so.  The books works better than you might imagine.

Zen Buddhism, was heavily influenced by Taoism, and George Lucas freely admits to having borrowed heavily from Taoism, Zen Buddhism, and Japanese culture in the creation of the Star Wars mythos.

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The book includes such pearls of wisdom as:

山川草木悉皆成仏 (Sansen Somuku Shikkai Jobutsu)/Everything is filled with the light of life (Everything has Buddha-nature).

安閑無事 (Ankan Buji)/Feel gratitude for everything no matter how small. Or rather: appreciate peace and quiet, health and safety. Because that won’t last forever. For example, affordable health care in America? Gone. (安閑無事が懐かしい)

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閑古錘 (Kankonsui)/Maturation and calm come as you accrue diverse experience.

Well, remember that Star Wars is just fiction, but good science fiction, and the words of wisdom in the movie were not said by Taoist sages or Jedi masters but written by screenwriters. However, if you want to know the philosophy and sayings that inspired the film, this book is a good place to start.

Or better yet, buy yourself a copy of The Tao Te Ching, and substitute the word “Force” everytime it mentions “Tao”.  According to the Star Wars English Japanese Dictionary, the Force (フォース) is all the energy derived from every living thing. The Tao, which is often described as being indescribable, is close to the same thing.

So for your further education, here are few words from The Force Te Ching

Force Te Ching

by Yoda- chapter 81

Truthful words are not beautiful.
Beautiful words are not truthful.
Good men do not argue.
Those who argue are not good.
Those who know are not learned.
The learned do not know.

The Jedi never tries to store things up.
The more he/she does for others, the more he/she has.
The more he/she gives to others, the greater his/her abundance.
The Force of The Light Side is pointed but does no harm.
The Force of the Jedi is work without effort.
(adapted from the Tao Te Ching translation by Gia-fu Feng and Jane English)

So until next year, May the Force Be With you!

フォースと共にあれ!

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The 11 Rules Of Being A Good Journalist In Japan

When I was just starting as a reporter in 1992, a veteran reporter at the Yomiuri Shimbun gave me some valuable advice on being a good journalist, specifically being a good investigative journalist. I’ve never forgotten it but in the 30 years since then, times have changed. This is the first revision I’ve ever done of the rules. Think of this as the 2022 edition, a three decade late update.

The job is hard but often rewarding.

One thing that hasn’t changed in Japan are the laws related to civil servants.

The laws here in Japan basically state that if a public official (police officer, bureaucrat etc) shares confidential information with a third party, they are committing a crime. They can be fired or prosecuted. This happens. If it’s a state secret they may be sentenced to five years or more in jail.  This is why newspaper articles in Japan abound with anonymous sources dressed up with phrases like, “according to someone close to the investigation” or “government sources”.  Japan’s press freedom ranking in 2010 was 11th in the world, now 66th out of 180 countries. Protecting sources gets harder all the time.

So keeping that in mind, here’s the list again with three new rules and here’s a little background. 

I interned at the Yomiuri Newspaper briefly in 1992 before starting as a regular staff reporter in 1993. When I was visiting legendary crime reporter, Inoue Ansei at the police press club, took me up to the coffee shop, ordered us some green tea, and asked what I wanted to do at the Yomiuri.

“Well,” I said, “I’m interested in investigative journalism and the side of Japan I don’t know much about. The seamy side. The underworld.” I told him that my father was a country coroner and that crime and the police beat had always interested me.

He recommended I shoot for Shakaibu (社会部), the national news section, which was responsible for covering crime, social problems, and national news. 

Inoue put it this way: “It’s the soul of the newspaper. Everything else is just flesh on the bones. Real journalism, journalism that can change the world, that’s what we do.”

I asked him for some advice as a reporter. 

“Newspaper reporting isn’t rocket science,” he said. “The pattern is set. You remember the patterns and build from there. It’s like martial arts. You have kata [the form] that you memorize and repeat, and that’s how you learn the basic moves. It’s the same here. There are about three or four basic ways to write up a violent crime, so you have to be able to remember the style, fill in the blanks, and get the facts straight. The rest will come.

“There are eight rules of being a good reporter, Jake.

Let me tell you kid. There are eight rules you gotta know to be a good reporter in this town (1992)

One. Don’t ever burn your sources. If you can’t protect your sources, no one will trust you. All scoops are based on the understanding that you will protect the person who gave you the information. That’s the alpha and omega of reporting. Your source is your friend, your lover, your wife, and your soul. Betray your source and you betray yourself. If you don’t protect your source, you’re not a journalist. You’re not even a man.

Two. Finish a story as soon as possible. The life of news is short. Miss the chance and the story is dead or the scoop is gone.

Three. Never believe anyone. People lie, police lie, even your fellow reporters lie. Assume that you are being lied to and proceed with caution.

Four. Take any information you can get. People are good and bad. Information is not. Information is what it is, and it doesn’t matter who gives it to you or where you steal it. The quality, the truth of the information, is what’s important.

Five. Remember and persist. Stories that people forget come back to haunt them. What may seem like an insignificant case can later turn into a major story. Keep paying attention to an unfolding investigation and see where it goes. Don’t let the constant flow of breaking news make you forget about the unfinished news.

Six. Triangulate your stories, especially if they aren’t an official announcement from the authorities. If you can verify information from three different sources, odds are good that the information is good.

Seven. Write everything in a reverse pyramid. Editors cut from the bottom up. The important stuff goes on top, the trivial details go to the bottom. If you want your story to make it to the final edition, make it easy to cut.

Eight. Never put your personal opinions into a story; let someone else do it. That’s why experts and commentators exist. Objectivity is a subjective thing.

And that was it. I haven’t grown much wiser over the years but as the media landscape and technology have changed, I think it’s time to add three more rules.

“But 30 years later, in 2022, I think we need three more rules in addition to the big 8.”

And here they are:

Nine: Share your data. The internet is a vast and endless storage hub. If you’ve written something the world should know–put up supporting data and documents on the web, maybe in a dropbox file that anyone can access. Use hyperlinks. Knowledge empowers everyone. Be sure not to reveal sources but share the intel you have;  some of your readers may even return the favor. 

Ten: Seek information. Learn every means possible of ferreting information from the web and from public sources. Social media can be a cesspool but it can also be a wonderful way to find information, collaborators and whistleblowers. Ask questions. Post your query and post a way to contact you, and welcome what comes.

Eleven: Protect Your Sources–And Protect Yourself.  In the modern world, when people don’t like the message, they attack the messenger. This wasn’t the case back in 1992 when Yomiuri reporters didn’t get bylines. Individual reporters were rarely attacked because no one knew who wrote the stories. Now they do. You will make enemies because of this.  To paraphrase a detective I admired, “An investigative journalist without enemies, isn’t investigating hard enough”. 

You’ll find that enemies (people who wish you harm) include people who don’t like what you’ve written, or what you are going to write, and sadly,  other journalists who are professionally jealous or hold a grudge.  Protect your reputation.  It’s not just a matter of your big fat ego: if people don’t feel you’re credible,  the good work you do won’t be read or won’t be taken seriously. 

When you know someone is gunning for you, be proactive. The person on the defensive always looks guilty. Anticipate attacks, undercut them, and prepare your rebuttal.

A few footnotes and some final advice. 

There are many interesting ways to share data and also learn to collect information more efficiently. Please have a look at the Investigative Reporters and Editors (IRE) website. “IRE is a grassroots nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the quality of journalism”–they say and they’re worth joining. The AAJA (Asian American Journalists Association) also offers valuable training and advice.  Another great source for learning how to get your message out and get read by many people is The Journalists’ Resource, which has a self-explanatory name. 

And some final advice. There are many types of journalism in the world: sports journalism, entertainment journalism, gaming journalism and they’re all valid forms of the art and wonderful vocations. Investigative journalism, by its very nature, involves writing things that the powers that be don’t want written. This will make people angry. You can’t avoid it. You should always try and weigh the public’s right to know something versus the damage that it will do to the life of an individual. If you’re not a full-time staffer, who’s assigned to cover this or that story, then you have the ability to decide what is and what is not worth writing. So choose wisely but if it’s important, write it.

Hidetoshi Kiyotake, my former supervisor at the Yomiuri, gave me some good advice which I will share with you. 

If you’re going to be an investigative journalist here, you have to make up your mind and be ready [for what comes]. You must endure unreasonable criticism, and continue to fight. 

In Japan, reporters who reveal their sources are scorned and cannot continue to do proper and decent reporting. That’s why you must keep your important sources anonymous. This often leads to investigative journalists having to go it alone, feeling isolated. You just have to believe in yourself and your friends and hang in there.

****

(調査報道記者として不公平に叩かれる宿命について)腹を据えて、理由のない批判に耐え、戦わなければならない。日本では情報源を明かすような記者は軽蔑され、まともな取材を続けられない。だから、重要な情報源は匿名にならざるを得ないのだ。そのために調査報道にあたる記者はしばしば孤立する傾向にある。自分や友人を信じて、頑張るしかないよ。

Protecting Sources & Risking Lives: The Ethical Dilemmas of Japanese Journalism

“1. Write the truth by any means possible.  2. Protect your sources. 3. If you can’t write the story, without protecting your sources, find new or different sources– or drop the story. There’s always another news story, people only have one life. That’s Japanese Journalism Ethics 101”senior national news editor, 1999 

(This article was originally published in September of 2012)

In 2012, Japan’s largest newspaper, the Yomiuri Shinbun, forced a national news reporter to resign after he mistakenly sent an email which revealed the identity of his police contact. The police officer had been an informant on links between the Fukuoka Police and the yakuza. The detective who was outed  later tried to kill himself. Here are the details:

At the Fukuoka bureau of the Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper in July, a reporter resigned after leaking confidential information related to an assistant inspector who had been arrested for accepting bribes from organized crime members.

Shukan Bunshun (Aug. 30) reveals that a police superintendent who served as the reporter’s source attempted suicide the following month.

On July 20, reporter Masahiro Goto, 33, disclosed the identities of his sources after he mistakenly sent an email containing his reporting to multiple news organizations while he was attempting to contact his editorial colleagues.” –English translation from Tokyo Reporter

The reporter made a careless mistake.  The cost was great for himself and for the courageous officer that was speaking to him. You might ask yourself, but why would the whistle-blowing cop try to commit suicide?

The answer isn’t as simple as fearing reprisals from his fellow policemen or great shame; the answer is because he may possibly face criminal charges for talking to the reporter. Because in Japan, if you are a public servant, and this includes police officers, leaking information to the press can be prosecuted as a crime. It’s a violation of the Civil Servants Act (国家公務員法100条また109条 and possibly 公務員法60条−62条). The law states that a public servant may not release secrets gained during the course of his work, and he/she can be sentenced to up to a year in jail and or a 500,000 yen fine if they violate the law. (国家公務員に対し、「職務上知ることのできた秘…  守秘義務に背いた者には、1年以下の懲役または50万円以下の罰金が科されます) What is considered “secret” is pretty much whatever the government wants to consider “secret”. The Japanese courts and prosecution have some latitude in disputing the classification.

If a public official talks to reporters or releases information without permission they can be lose their jobs and be prosecuted for violations of the civil servants laws.  In other words, if I named my all my sources, I could cost them their jobs and get them thrown into jail. I’m not willing to do that. Source confidentiality is an even more sensitive issue when involving articles about the yakuza. Revealing a source could cost them their job, their finger, or maybe even their life.

Even whistleblowers are subject to possible prosecution. Here is one example. Fortunately it did not end in actual criminal prosecution but this is one of the few cases reported in English.

 Senkaku video leak probed as a crime/Kan offers apology as prosecutors open investigation (11/09/2010) 

In the case above a Coast Guard officer who leaked footage of a Chinese “fishing vessel” attacking or ramming into a Japanese Coast  boat, was under a criminal investigation for a violation of the laws mentioned above. The officer released the footage out of good conscience, because he felt the Japanese public wasn’t getting the true story of what happened because the Japanese government was kowtowing to China. He even reportedly sent a copy of the video to CNN on a memory stick, but CNN didn’t examine the data or choose to ignore it.

For releasing the video, the Coast Guard officer was put under criminal investigation. It was only because of massive public support and sympathy that the case was dropped. Technically, it’s illegal to share any secrets or information that a public servant has access to in the course of this work. This law applies to police officers and all government employees. Violators of the law, those who have talked to the press on the record, or off the record, and then been exposed—have been fired, prosecuted or both.

Thus in Japan, many news reports read, “The Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department said…” “Sources close to the investigation revealed…”  The number of cases where a police officer makes a comment on the record, in his own name ,are extremely rare. Essentially, in less an individual receives approval at the highest levels,  to make a comment on the record is risky. Comments made on background can be career destroyers if the source is found out, and may also subject them to criminal charges.

Even when a source is willing to go on the record, as in the case of a whistleblower, an experienced reporter knows that they may be subjecting their source to vicious reprisals. This is not unique to Japan. This happened to my own father, who refused to keep quiet about what appear to have been a nurse who was a serial killer at the Veteran’s hospital where he worked.  It was a shock to me that the world worked like this but sometimes good deeds really are punished.  I’d like to see that courage and the pursuit for justice are rewarded and that the people with a conscience in the world don’t suffer. Of course, I know that’s idealistic.

Whenever possible, I try to name sources and put as much factual data into a story as I can but I’m always aware that the costs for the source are almost always greater than my own. It’s not a crime to name a public official as your source; the person named may become a criminal under Japanese law. That doesn’t seem like justice to me nor does it seem like ethical journalism.

Journalists aren’t saints and I’ve known a number of them who’ve betrayed their sources for “a really big story.” Sometimes they’ve claimed that the public right to know outweighs the safety and welfare of the individual. I’ve known other journalists who bitterly complain when scooped and demand from the officials to know who leaked information to their rival reporter. Usually the journalists that do these things are border-line sociopaths. I don’t know what the US standard is on this but in Japan, if you’re any kind of a responsible journalist you don’t burn your sources nor do you ask others to do the same.

I’ve been writing about the Japanese underworld since 1993. I’m very well aware of what can happen to someone who writes the wrong thing or someone who has their cover blown. Sometimes they get hurt, sometimes they get fired, sometimes they suffer punitive damages, sometimes they go to jail,  sometimes they “commit suicide”, and sometimes they just vanish.

That’s another high cost of being an investigative journalist in Japan–if the bad guys don’t like the message, they attack the messenger. If they can’t attack the messenger, they attack the people he loves. In January of 2006, the son of an investigative reporter, Atsushi Mizoguchi, was stabbed by members of the yakuza. The court found two of the yakuza involved guilty and sentenced them to hard labor for assault, noting, ” (they) attempted to violate the right to free speech and expression through the cowardly means of attacking a family member. It had a major impact on society.” Mr. Mizoguchi had written articles critical of their boss. Mr. Mizoguchi himself was literally stabbed in the back in 1990 after writing a book about the Yamaguchi-gumi, Japan’s largest crime group,  that was not well received. The assailants were never caught.

If you’re going to write about crime or corporate malfeasance in Japan, you always have to consider the risks to your sources, your friends, and yourself. And then you do the best you can. You try to do as much good as you can and as little harm as possible. As I get older, I often seem to find that when I weigh the value of writing a “scoop” versus the damage that it might do to an innocent person, and the relevance to public welfare, that I often drop the story. As my mentor said many years ago, there are many, many stories; people only have one life.

I don’t know why other people continue to be investigative journalists in Japan. It’s an increasingly difficult and painful occupation. You stand to lose much personally and gain little.  The case of Minoru Tanaka is a sad reminder of how the court hammer is increasingly used to bludgeon journalists into silence. Write the truth, and be sued into oblivion. That’s the reality independent journalists here are facing.

Why do I continue? I do it because I love the work and because I like Japan. This is my home. And I continue to be an investigative journalist because I believe that the role of journalism–at its best–is to uncover the truth that people should know, to see that justice is done when the authorities fail to carry it out, to protect the weak from the strong, and by doing this, make our society a better place to live.