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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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


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

And find new episodes every week at Japanbyrivercruise.com

Japan’s Death Wish Resurges Like A Plague

by Kaori Shoji

Suicides in Japan are like wildfires in California: tragic, inevitable and seemingly unsolvable. According to the National Police Agency, 1805 people killed themselves in September and suicides amongst women were disproportionately rising.

Still, cases of people offing themselves had gone down in the past 10 years, and 2019 closed out the year with 20,169 cases – the lowest number of deaths since 1978 when the government first started keeping records, and minus 10,000-plus cases during the early naughts. Strangely enough, though the Japanese government is secretive and reticent about almost every other glitch found in the archipelago, they’ve always been upfront about the nation’s suicide rate. Few countries in the world are so ready to reveal the numbers but not in Japan. 

Suicide has never been taboo here. Back when Tokyo was called Edo and the nation was closed off to foreigners, the suicide rate in this city was said to be twice what it is now, among a population of a mere one million, which is one-fourteenth of what it is today. 

There was a collective mentality that dying by one’s own hand is the best and most effective way to make a statement or erase problems, and the legacy still holds. 
Popular belief has it that every Japanese person goes through life knowing at least one person who committed suicide. (I myself have known six, but that’s fairly common.) 

This year, suicides were low until June, but from July to August, the figures kept climbing. This was more or less in the cards – some experts had predicted as early as March that under the Covid-19 pandemic, more people will kill themselves than be killed by the virus. In August alone, 1854 people took their own lives of which 119 were women under 30 years old. This figure is alarming, but mainstream media seems too distracted to shed much light on why this is happening. Those who bothered however, tracked down Dr. Toshihiko Matsumoto, a psychiatrist who works almost exclusively with suicidal patients. According to Matsumoto, there had been an increase in young women with suicidal tendencies since Golden Week (early May), and those who couldn’t make it through the spring drove themselves over the edge during the summer. 

Matsumoto said that in Japan, women commit suicides for different reasons from men. “Men’s problems almost always stem from work or the workplace, whereas women are much more social and are apt to encounter snags in their personal relationships. In pre-pandemic days girls could meet their friends for coffee, and just vent. But they were deprived of this pastime during the stay-home period. When the only people you see are family, there’s a lot of material for depression.” He has a point. Most Japanese daughters are diligent and dutiful, but they’re not ready to discuss life problems with mom and dad. “They don’t want to let their parents down,” explained Matsumoto, a logic that in itself is a breeding ground for suicidal thoughts. 

Another factor triggering the suicides of young women could be the recent wave of self-inflicted deaths among actors/performers. These were celebrities who seemingly had everything to live for, and still chose death as a way out. In late May, professional wrestler Hana Kimura (22) was found dead in her home after being plagued by social media bullying. In July, the body of Haruma Miura (30) – one of the most popular actors in the industry, was found in his kitchen. After Miura came the death of actress and model Sei Ashina (36). The most recent shocker is the death of Yuko Takeuchi (40), an A-list actress whose career spans 25 years, and who had just remarried a co-star in February. There are five deaths so far, and only one of them left a note – actor Takashi Fujiki (80), whose body was found in a cheap, tiny apartment in Nakano ward.

Media analysts have mostly steered clear of the topic, fearful of stepping on the landmines strewn about on social media. Even a polite statement may be construed as offensive, hurtful or most damning of all – inspire others to die by their own hand. 

Misako Noguchi, who has worked as a casting director for the past 30 years, says that she has never seen anything like it. “No matter how bad things got in the real world, it was very rare for performers to die of their own accord. The repercussions of something like that on the larger society would be enormous, and most stars were aware of that.” Noguchi says she blames Covid-19 – “when a performer is forced to stay home for weeks and months on end, it takes a huge toll on their mental health. I myself was going crazy, trapped inside the four walls of my apartment, broke and depressed. Imagine how a big star like Yuko Takeuchi would feel. She was used to being under the spotlight 12 hours a day, surrounded by cameras and people. Then suddenly, bang! Work dried up. She couldn’t even go outside.” 

At this point, most Japanese have struck a deal with Covid-19. We’ll wear masks, disinfect vigorously and try to avoid crowds. Just please let us return to a semblance of normalcy. But for some Japanese, it may be too little, too late. Now mental health professionals fear that suicide rate will soar again in December – traditionally a month when many Japanese seek escape from year-end financial troubles by taking their own lives. Unemployment and failed businesses could push more people over the edge, and unlike the summer months, the deaths are expected to occur among people in their 40s to 60s.  

It seems mind-numbingly strange that in a country famed for longevity and its super-aged society, suicides should be a leading cause of death. As Dr. Matsumoto says, “maybe what this society needs now isn’t protection measures but far less social distancing and more non-essential excursions.” 

Maybe non-essential excursions are what we really need in life?
Artist:Utagawa Kokunimasa
Title:Beach Party (1893)

*****

If you’re considering suicide or know someone who is, this site in Japanese offers a number of ways to get counseling.

https://www.mhlw.go.jp/mamorouyokokoro/

In case of an emergency, please call 119 in Japan for immediate assistance. The TELL Lifeline is available in English for those who need free and anonymous counseling at 03-5774-0992. You can also visit them at telljp.com. For those in other countries, visit www.suicide.org/international-suicide-hotlines.html

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

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

The exhibition will only last until October 5th.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*Pre-school child not allowed in

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

Movie Screenings:

Tom of Finland (2017), directed by Dome Karukoski

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

White Cine Quinto

(8F, Shibuya PARCO)

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

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

Shibuya Uplink

安倍総理の”辞任劇”の真相。勇退ではなく訴追からの逃亡

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

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

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

安倍総理は辞任したのではなく、逃亡したのだ。

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

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

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

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

The Tweet of Defeat  (政権打倒のツイート)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ここに至る伏線はこうだ。

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

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

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

Fatally Wounded  瀕死の重症

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Already on Trial?  すでに公判中?

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

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

2人の公判は今週始まった。

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

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

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

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

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

He didn’t learn  安倍総理は学ばない

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

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

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

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

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

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

惜しまれることもなく。

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

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

Is there really no discrimination or racism in Japan?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Unemployed in the Pandemic: First-Hand Accounts from Hello Work

by Farrah Hasnain

The COVID-19 outbreak has hit Japan hard as of late. Classrooms remain empty after spring break, restaurants begin to provide take-out, and factories stall upcoming projects. The number of workers who are predicted to lose their jobs due to the novel Coronavirus was projected in the upwards of 1,021 people last month, according to the Ministry of Labor. Prime Minister Abe did declare a State of Emergency on April 7th, and the Ministry of Finance announced that ¥100,000 would be given to residents (and eventually confirmed that foreign residents were included) but some experts argue that this declaration occurred too late.

While April would normally be the start of new jobs for many in Japan, this April seems to have an opposite turnout for most job-seekers. Lines outside of Hello Work* buildings all over the country would be twice as long as lines for masks outside of drugstores. Certain locations have also reduced the amount of staff members on-duty, causing longer waiting times at local Hello Work branches.

(Hello Work is an employment service center operated by the Japanese government, under the auspices of the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare. Its main role is to help connect job seekers to companies in need of skilled labor.)

In early April, I became a part of this statistic. My 6-month contract at a city hall in Osaka was not granted for renewal, and the job openings for tourism and English education in the area seemed to have vanished as the governor also declared a state of emergency. I decided to reach out to Hello Work to see if I was eligible for any benefits and to search for jobs through their system.

I arrived on a Thursday morning around 11AM. The line encircled the entire building and moved slowly. There was little distance between us and we stood outside of the building for about two hours. Bottles of hand sanitizer were available to use before entering the building. It reminded me of Disneyland for a brief moment.

 

Once I entered the Hello Work office, I was greeted by an energetic staff member. Everyone in the office, including the job-seekers, were wearing masks. We were told to sit two to three seats apart from each other, and the seats for the computer lab were 1 seat apart. There appeared to be no multilingual support at this Osaka branch. Many of the people in the room appeared to be elderly or recently graduated from university. Some of the job-seekers previously worked in factories or in retail.

After about an hour, it was my turn. Since my previous contract was only for six months, I was unable to receive any benefits. But the staff member who assisted me thoroughly searched and found about fifteen jobs that I could apply for. The process itself took about 10 minutes. I turned around and saw the computer lab filled to the brim with anxious job-seekers. Most of them has 0 search results, and the staff would try their best to experiment with different search entries to find a match.

 

 

Hello Work branches all over the country seem to be facing the same dilemma. For many newly unemployed residents in the Chubu region, they faced the most difficulty with their former employer. “I did not know much about the paperwork I needed to file for unemployment”, said Guillerme Okada. “At the factories, we were suddenly told that we couldn’t work anymore. I had to ask several of my friends first.” Okada had brought someone with him as an interpreter to explain to his Japanese supervisor that he needed to give documents for Okada to receive unemployment benefits. “It is a common issue with factory workers in this area. If I struggle to get legal documentation, I struggle to trust this system. I came with my interpreter to Hello Work, but there were two already available to help me. I had a lot of support from my community and from them during this time.”

Other employers would also push back start dates and avoid paying the contracted salary despite the legal 60% minimum requirement. Maria M., a Tokyo resident, would get last-minute notices and conflicting information about her start date and paycheck.

“I had already given my previous job a month’s notice and quit to start this new one. I was supposed to start during the first week of April but they changed it. It’s at a store so telework is impossible.”

About four or five days later, she was asked to Skype with the human relations chair. Her hiring date was moved to May 15th with no pay in advance. She contacted the labor bureau about her situation. “They confirmed that my company was responsible for me. My friends [who also worked at the company] said that they were receiving part of their salary in April. When I told my employer that I contacted the labor bureau, they quickly agreed to offer me part of my contracted pay.”

During these uncertain times, it may be difficult to navigate unemployment and economic stability on top of acquiring the basic necessities for surviving the pandemic. As the numbers of infected individuals steadily increase, the ratio of available job positions drop to its lowest level in three years. However, with the national and local government bringing out new sources of financial aid for individuals and businesses alike, there is room for growth in the economy and policy change.

 

Japanese study finds positive correlation between BCG vaccine and slowing down Coronavirus

For those of you who are very interested in the coronavirus in Japan

There are many reasons that the numbers have been low so far but why aren’t there more people ill and more people dying? A 100-year-old vaccine may be part of that answer.

In Japan, there’s no visible coronavirus epidemic because the government won’t test you for it?

On March 18th, the Japan Medical Association announced that there were 290 cases of doctors deciding that a patient needed to be tested for coronavirus, and even then the patients were not tested. The term used by JMA “不適切事例” literally translated means “inappropriate/unsuitable cases”.

The government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe seems intent on keeping the official numbers of infected down and that means not only making the standards for getting a test very high (for example, you must have a fever of over 37.5 degrees Celsius for four days) but it also seems to be actively discouraging tests.

Japan tests roughly 117 people per million for coronavirus as of March 19th. South Korea tests 6148 people per million. Do the math.

Japan’s testing for coronavirus falls severely behind many other countries. see https://ourworldindata.org/covid-testing

Nathalie Kyoko-Stucky interviewed one woman who was denied testing in Tokyo. This is her story.

Patient Zero, age 31 is a project manager in Japan working for an IT firm. She asked for her name to be omitted and some details of her story obscured for fear of being stigmatized socially. She lives in Tokyo.

“I started to feel very tired March 7th and had a low fever of 37.2. Thought i was just tired from work. On Monday, I felt really tired at work and on Tuesday, I struggled to go to the office and only stayed 2 hours and came home. Tuesday night, I started to get a cough and by 10pm I felt i was getting sick and my fever was 37.5 degrees.

Wednesday morning I woke up feeling sick and extremely tired and had a fever of 38 degrees.

Over the next few days, I stayed in bed sick. I started feeling a pain in my chest and it was getting painful to breathe. On Saturday, I called the Coronavirus hotline because by that point I had fever over 37.5 for 4 days. 

I called them because I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t want to go to a normal hospital and accidentally spread it so I called for advice. 

The lady told me that the Shinagawa Healthcare Center (品川保健所)is closed on the weekend, and I should call them on Monday when they opened. 
But, she said if I became sicker, I should just go to the hospital. 

On Sunday there was still no improvement. I had pneumonia when I was in high school and my body felt similar to that time so I was a bit worried. So I called the hospital and told them my story and that at the minimum I wanted an x-ray. They told me, “Okay please come in.”

At the hospital they asked if I went to an onsen, had overseas travel, or if was in direct contact with a COVID-19 patient. I said no.

Luckily my x-ray came back clear for pneumonia, but the doctor diagnosed me with pleurisy. 

Note: (Pleurisy (PLOOR-ih-see) is a condition in which the pleura — two large, thin layers of tissue that separate the lungs from the chest wall — becomes inflamed. Also called pleuritis, pleurisy causes sharp chest pain (pleuritic pain) that worsens during breathing. It can be caused by viral infections, pneumonia and other conditions

I felt the doctor was kind but his hands were tied.

On Monday, my fever was will going between 37.5-38, and my boyfriend called the health care center. It took hours to get through because the phone line was always busy.

After getting through to someone and explaining the situation, the women answering the phone said she can’t authorize a test because I have not traveled abroad and I have no direct contact with a COVID19 patient.

Her advice was, ” If it is still bad or gets worse in a few days, go back to the hospital and beg the doctor himself to call the healthcare center and request a test for me.

At that point I realized it’s impossible to get a test. I didn’t want to risk going outside and accidentally infecting someone. 

Unfortunately, the part which is most frustrating for me now is that I don’t know if I actually have it or not.I was considering trying to go back to the US to help my mother who is in her seventies, but I cannot risk going back and spreading it to her. 

Luckily today, on March 21, it was the first day that I haven’t had a fever since March 7. I lost my voice and talking still irritates my lungs but most of the chest pain is gone. 

So I had fever for 14 days. It’s very surreal.

I was so surprised why they set up the hotline to call, but advice from both numbers was “just to go the hospital”.

I expected they would tell me where to go for example or perhaps advise me to stay home in quarantine. 

What’s the point of a hotline if the advice is “just go to the hospital”?

Personally that made me feel like there is not much fear about it spreading in the medical establishment. This worries me.

Also as a side note, I had been extra careful , carrying hand sanitizer everywhere I went and also never was outside without a mask. I even was using taxis the majority of the time to avoid the train. 

****

This is just one example of a person who most likely should have been tested for the virus and was not. If you have experienced something similar, please write us with the heading CVTESTS at japansubcultureresearchcenter@gmail.com

The Art of Sakoku(鎖国) – Keeping Cool and Aloof Behind Closed Doors in Japan (for future reference)

by Kaori Shoji 

A priority item on the agenda of the first Shogun of Japan, Tokugawa Iyeyasu when he seized power in 1603, was to limit foreign travel to Japan. He issued several orders like the ones we’re seeing around the world at this moment: urging the Japanese to stay put in their own communities and urging all foreigners to get the hell out. By foreigners, Iyeyasu specifically meant the European missionaries who were spreading ideas – like a virus!  – about an omnipotent God that transcended traditional Japanese values. They also extolled the virtues of non-violence and giving to the poor; two factors that the new Shogun viewed as particularly harmful to his authority. The ‘aliens’ had to go, and those who didn’t, were eventually executed or banished to Dejima Island, off the coast of Nagasaki. Iyeyasu’s son and grandson tightened the screws on the lockdown as they in turn, became the Shogun. Japan effectively bolted its doors to the outside world and  Sakoku*・鎖国(shutting down the country)’ went into effect. 

Initially, other clan lords were skeptical about this sakoku thing. Before Iyeyasu came along, Japan had a fairly robust import/export system, supported by a prosperous merchant class in Osaka. Without inbound travelers and foreign business, these merchants were sunk, as was the burgeoning currency economy. But Iyeyasu shrugged off their complaints and worries. He chose reclusive isolation over commerce and progress, and for the next 265 years, Japan became a ‘hikikomori (shut-in)’ in the global community. Everything passed us by: the Industrial Revolution and the locomotive, colonialism and corsets, Mozart and coffee, the printing press and chocolate. Everything. 

*Writer’s Note – Contrary to the belief that the Tokugawa Shogunate coined the term ‘sakoku’ which literally means a ‘country in chains,’ it was actually invented by German explorer Engelbert Kaempfer in the late 17th century and later translated into Japanese.

In the meantime, the Japanese got a lot of practice on keeping calm and carrying on behind closed doors, in spite of or because of everything happening in the larger world. Sure, sakoku sucked in a hundred ways but it also created a uniquely weird culture that continues to enthrall or amuse people all over the world. Iyeyasu’s capital city of Edo – now called Tokyo, was a haven of stability and prosperity with an unparalleled ecological and recycling system. 

The sakoku mind-set made all this possible – a willful and deliberate closing of the shutters to the outside world while making sure that plenty went on inside. Call it aloofness, coldness or a thick-skinned pragmatism. In times like this, such traits can come in pretty handy. 

You may have heard that the Japanese aren’t very expressive – well that’s just not true. The Japanese are THE LEAST expressive people in Asia which probably makes us the most rigid people on the planet. Long before this virus thing the Japanese have been wearing masks – as a prevention against all ills including a bad skin day and questionable breath. The mask was also fashionable among teenage girls, as hiding their mouths made them feel more attractive. (Kissing with masks was a real thing in the early aughts too, because many young couples deemed it erotic.) We were also adamant about washing hands, gargling and refusing to eat off communal plates. 

Smiling and laughing in public, talking to strangers, physical displays of affection – these things are normal in western cultures but they’ve never taken off here unless it became a fad. Like being friendly to foreigners and embracing diversity was a fad that many Japanese felt pressured into doing because hey, globalism and the Olympics 2020. But now COVID-19 has given the Japanese a very good reason to go back to the way we were. Unrelenting, inexpressive, rigid and distanced. It’s all cool. Show me a person with a secret stash of face masks and 30 rolls of toilet paper and I’ll show you a model Japanese citizen.

As for touching one another,  it’s a whole other issue unto itself. The Japanese just don’t do this, and never had. Though many of us love the idea of casual cheek kisses a la Francaise, we just couldn’t muster the courage to try it on a Tokyo street. Now, we don’t have to pretend anymore. Social distancing may be a new and scary concept for the west but to us, it’s very familiar, like our parents to whom we pay the obligatory visit over New Year’s. 

Speaking of which, I don’t ever remember being hugged by my late father, who devoted much of his life to wedging a good, 1.7 meter distance between himself and the rest of the world. It wasn’t just him of course, many Japanese males can’t bring themselves to get close to anyone they know, which paradoxically explains why there’s so much groping on the trains. But the virus has resolved that snag–what with schools closed and people ordered to work remotely, the morning trains are far less crowded and consist mostly of masked salarymen clutching phones with one hand and briefcases in the other, studiously avoiding all eye and physical contact. 

You might say the Japanese are good at this. There is little of the sense of deprivation and loneliness that say, an American person might feel about the loss of casual physical contact. We’re not touching, we’re not smiling, but who’s to say we’re not having fun underneath our face masks?

Editor’s Note: And judging by the hanami crowds this weekend and in accordance with the Ministry of Health’s “Let’s go outside!” admonitions, it seems like Japan’s 鎖国(sakoku ) period may end very soon.

Just for the record, while big concerts and public events are not happening, there’s still plenty going on in Tokyo and most restaurants and department stores have stayed open. Other venues include: 

1) Shinjuku Gyoen Park 
Located in Sendagaya, this place is heavenly for a stroll among the greenery and themed gardens. 

2) Oedo Onsen Monogatari 
The popular bathhouse in Odaiba is alive and doing good business, along with the fancy La Qua Spa in Tokyo Dome

3) Tokyo Tower and Shibuya Sky 
In case you want look down on the city and laugh at its petty problems. 

4) Tama Zoo 
The animals are fine and chilling out. We should do the same. 

5) Fujikyu Highland Amusement Park 
Scream your head off on the roller coasters, at least until 3PM when the place closes. 

6)Brick

Most bars are open but this place in Ginza is a personal favorite, with one of the finest selection of whiskeys in Tokyo. 

END