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The mysterious beauty of Reylia Slaby’s World


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

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

Japan Goes Up in Smoke

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

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

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

Chilling with a cigarette outside a tobacconist/coffee shop

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Outside ‘glo,’ a popular heated tobacco shop

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

The Evaporated: 神隠し(かみかくし)Gone with the Gods –On Air now

December 12 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?

The Evaporated: 神隠し/Gone With The Gods is 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 ride 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. Sponsored by Sony Music Entertainment.

New episodes will be released one per week. For those who can’t wait, subscribe or try The Binge. See below. Listen to it wherever you get your podcasts.

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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


Egoism and Love: Not mutually exclusive

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For the hundredth time, it’s Suntory time

There’s no greater testament to the power of Japanese whisky than just sitting in Suntory Hall. The February 1st press conference celebrating the 100th year anniversary of Suntory whisky took place in what was supposedly the smaller event space, despite what the seemingly endless number of journalists in the room would indicate. Each attendee, including myself, was greeted with a bottle of water (Suntory water, of course), a few paper packets, a gift bag— and two small tasting glasses of Suntory Yamazaki 12 and Hakushu 25, neatly covered by little embossed plastic lids. 

Suntory is a Japanese institution in every sense of the word. It’s a household name, it’s a multinational giant, and it’s been a trailblazer in the field of Japanese alcohol culture for, you guessed it, 100 years. (Actually, if we consider their port wine genealogy dating back to 1899, it’s more than 100 years – but 100 years for whisky.)

While competitors might try their best to subvert this, when you think of Japanese whisky…well, Bill Murray may have said it best. It’s Suntory time. And the same goes for the ubiquitous highball. Ordering a highball at an izakaya conjures up usual images of cold, thick-handled glasses as well as the iconic yellow label design of Suntory Kakubin whisky. And this is no accident or lucky coincidence. 

A highball is very simple– it’s just whisky and soda water. It was one of the most popular drinks in Japan in the 1950s because it went well with Japanese bar foods and had a fashionable, cosmopolitan (and dare I say manly) air to it salarymen enjoyed. But over the years, the variety of alcohol served at izakayas and bars around Japan grew. That same appeal that the highballs and whisky in general had to that older male population led to a sharp drop in its public image to the younger crowd, which had more options and were thus free to distinguish themselves from the ojisan (Japanese old man) vogue. But between 2007 and 2009, highballs started to have a resurgence in popularity, and Suntory was the company that led this “highball boom”. 

To understand the boom, you need to understand drinking culture in Japan. You don’t drink at home with your friends, you go out to the bar and drink. You go from bar to bar on your first, second, third and possibly fourth dates. You go to the bar with your entire office after work. You go to the bar to close deals with business associates. You don’t want to get too drunk, but you also don’t want to be caught without a glass in hand. Enter the dilemma –  how do you go about drinking for hours with people you want to make a good impression on without getting so shit-faced that you jeopardize your professional, romantic, and public standing? 

It’s no surprise that draft beers between 4 and 5 percent alcohol are hugely popular to meet this demand. As are the endless varieties of chuhai (shochu and soda water, among other mixers). And Suntory realized that maybe the way to get Japanese people interested in whisky again wasn’t by pushing whisky itself but by pushing highballs as an option of a low-alcohol, low-calorie drink that people could drink for a good long time without embarrassing themselves in front of a cute girl or their office manager.

And, what singular drink can span the range of dirt-cheap to top shelf in quite the way that whisky highballs can? You can split any good whisky with soda water if you want to and price it accordingly. In the mid-2000s Suntory introduced Toki whisky, a new whisky blended specifically for highballs, to the global (particularly American) market. It was wildly popular, and distinguished Suntory as the leading authority on Japanese whisky and highballs simultaneously. It had a significant impact not only on their global marketing, but also was a plus for their domestic marketing aimed at younger drinkers. There’s nothing quite like international recognition to raise the national spirit (pun intended). Domestically, Suntory rebranded its Kakubin whisky to be the iconic yet affordable whiskey for highballs. They introduced highball dispensing machines to make a stupidly easy drink to make in the first place even easier for fast-paced izakayas to serve by the 100s per night. To get highballs out at an even greater scale, they started to distribute canned highballs, of which Suntory today makes 13 different types. 

And that’s soon to be 14. To celebrate the 100th anniversary of Suntory Whisky, the Hakushu canned highball goes on sale June 6th, 2023, for 600 yen a pop. 

And if you’re willing to fork over the cash, the special 100th anniversary edition bottles of Yamazaki and Hakushu, as well as the 12-year-aged versions of both, go on the market this April for a limited time. Be warned – as one attendee bravely noted, bottles from Suntory’s premium whisky lines are notoriously difficult and expensive to acquire, and I can’t imagine these will be any easier. 

That may be the lasting legacy of Suntory– a whisky for any occasion, for anyone. The highball is the everyman’s cocktail. Simple, delicious, and versatile. And when you drink one, something magical happens: you get more interested in the star of the cocktail. You start to look for the best whiskies, you start to build preferences. 

With the help of the humble highball, whisky culture flourishes. Suntory is free to go off and invent meticulously blended premium whiskies, ready to be received by a public with a newfound appreciation for the drink. And it helps that the quality of Suntory’s most accessible (read: cheapest) whiskies are still leagues above anything I’ve ever skimmed off my father’s emergency bourbon stash. Imagine how good the good stuff is.

Their premium whisky, painstakingly crafted with what the pamphlet describes as among the best water in Japan, using carefully selected malt, surrounded by dense, lush, forest, literally serenaded by birdsong (there’s a bird sanctuary at the Hakushu distillery where they feed the birds surplus grains)…I forgot where that sentence was going. That’s how good it is. 

Suntory celebrates its 100th anniversary this year. May many more follow.

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

by Kaori Shoji

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Recent threats against FOreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan (FCCJ) and the history of media intimidation

by Robert Whiting (reprinted with permission)

TOKYO — Over a recent early weekend, there were a series of threatening calls made in English and Japanese to the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan. The caller threatened to blow up the FCCJ and to harm two journalist members, including Jake Adelstein (author of Tokyo Vice and host of The Evaporated podcast series) for being ‘anti-Japanese’ and one other journalist, who’s name has been kept out of the press at her request. The FCCJ contacted the police, who responded swiftly. They traced the caller and quickly arrested the individual responsible — a woman with extreme right-wing and nationalist views.

The FCCJ issued a statement of gratitude to the police and instituted security measures for both staff and members. The organization thanked the police for their prompt and efficient response.

The FCCJ, established in 1945, exists, the statement said, “to provide foreign correspondents and other journalists with broad access to news sources in Japan and overseas, to defend the freedom of the press and the free exchange of information, and to promote friendship, harmony, and mutual welfare in both professional and social relations among foreign and Japanese journalists … We will not be swayed by terrorism or threats.”

This is not the first such incident for the FCCJ. 

Longtime FCCJ member Mary Corbett remembers the Club received calls not to show ‘The Sun,’ the 2005 Russian film about the meeting between MacArthur and Emperor Hirohito, when no other theater would dare screen it, for fear of violence from right wing extremist over its portrayal of Hirohito.

Andrew Horvat, FCCJ president 1988-1989 had his own problems with ultranationalists, as he recalled in a recent e-mail:

When I was president in 1988/89 I also received threats from right wingers but they were cleverly worded so that the police could not take action as the threats were veiled but of course quite clear to both parties.

“One of our members, Bob Whymant, had written a piece on Emperor Hirohito, who at the time was on his deathbed. Whymant recalled in detail allegations against the emperor regarding his role in WWII that the Japanese right had found offensive. One of the national dailies contacted me for a comment and I naturally defended the right of foreign correspondents to raise issues of concern to their readers. (I said that even though I personally disagreed with Whymant’s piece.) After that came the cleverly worded messages from self-styled defenders of Japan’s honor. I believe I received more than one such message … One of mine encouraged me to pack up and return to my country. The message, however, came from an ultra-right group so it was quite obvious that they had other than my airline reservations in mind.

“In addition, you may recall the attempted murder at the Club of the Japanese translator of Salman Rushdie’s Satanic Verses. I was at this conference and saw Tokyo’s finest tackle the knife-wielding would-be killer to the ground, disarm him and remove him from the room in a matter of seconds. Unfortunately, the translator, Professor Hitoshi Igarashi was later killed apparently by an assassin responding to a fatwah. 

“The police promised to step up surveillance of the Club and I think they did increase their patrols but of course they were conscious that in a democratic society you don’t want to see uniformed police standing around at the entrance of a news organization.”

The FCCJ was not be the only target of extremists over the years; The Mainichi Shimbun was attacked by yakuza for publishing reports detailing their activities. In 1994, a 44-year old captain in the Tosei-Kai, a Tokyo based ethnic Korean gang, named Hiroji Tashiro stormed into the Tokyo headquarters of the Mainichi and fired three .38 bullets into the ceiling. Tashiro was upset with an article published by the Mainichi’s weekly magazine that described the Tosei-kai as “over the hill.”

In 1987, a reporter for the Asahi Shimbun Kobe office was shot and killed by a right wing extremist who was angered by a story the reporter had written which described Japanese discrimination against members of the Korean minority in Japan. Another employee in the office was injured in the attack. Typed letters were later sent by the assailant’s group claiming responsibility.

There are thousands of right wing extremists active in Japan, many aligned with underworld gangs, and are notable for the use of black buses and loudspeakers which they use to espouse nationalistic causes. A favorite target is the Russian Embassy in Japan protesting over the Kuril Islands and other territories seized by Russia after WWII had ended. In 1990, a right wing fanatic hit the mayor of  Nagasaki Hitoshi Motoshima in the back after the mayor stated that recently deceased Emperor Hirohito supported the war.  

The largest ultranationalist group is Nihon Kaigi, which has approximately 40,000 members, including many prominent political figures. Nihon Kaigi denies Japan’s war guilt and aims to revise Japan’s Constitution, Article 9 of which forbids the maintenance of a standing army, among other things.

The assassination of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in July revealed the deep influence of the Unification Church on the Japanese conservative government, an anti-communist tool employed by the CIA/ KCIA/LDP alliance that helped shape post-war  politics in Japan. 

In the latest FCCJ episode, over the weekend of Dec. 10-11,  six separate calls were made in English and Japanese to the front desk reception.

Two days before the latest threats against the FCCJ, a press conference was held by Jake Adelstein and other reporters to announce the release of “The Evaporated”—a podcast about missing people in Japan.

Their articles are rubbish,” she said in one call, according to a source, “and they should leave Japan or go to Korea. “

Said another, “I am personally against FCCJ activities because it was established by MacArthur in GHQ,”and still another went,“The staff members at the reception desk should quit because the FCCJ is an anti-Japanese organization.”

Police were able to identify the suspect because recordings left on the front desk answering machine showed the phone number from which the calls had been made. Under questioning, the suspect said she did not actually intend to blow up the Club.

Says Adelstein of the recent threat, “If you don’t address social problems or recognize they exist, nothing changes. I love Japan and many Japanese people are hard-working, honest, and polite. That doesn’t mean the society doesn’t have problems, such as child poverty, gender inequality, discrimination against: the handicapped, women, foreigners, especially Korean-Japanese — powerful organized crime, nuclear dangers, staggering injustice in the legal system, repression of the free press, sexual assault on women with impunity for many assailants, rampant labor exploitation, death by overwork, and political corruption. Ignoring the problems doesn’t make them better. If people are offended by that, they should rethink their love of Japan.”


Whiting, Robert Tokyo Underworld, Pantheon, New York, 1999

Samuels, Richard (December 2001). “Kishi and Corruption: An Anatomy of the 1955 System.  Japan Policy Research Institute.

Weiner, Tim (2007). Legacy of Ashes. Doubleday. ISBN 978-0-385-51445-3. (Dr. Jeffrey M. Bale),the%20U.S.%20intelligence%20agencies%20or%20the%20Korean%20government

 “Church Spends Millions On Its Image” by Michael Isikoff, The Washington Post, September 17, 1984; Page A01. (Wiki)

“A Man” Takes Imposter Syndrome To New Dimensions

by Kaori Shoji

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


by chocolat viennois 


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

























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

chocolat viennois 


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

outstanding tokyo English Standup comedy This Friday!

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

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

And guess what? 

Everyone had a good time.

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

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

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