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

‘White Day’: a new poem from ume’SHHU

It’s been several months since we announced the publication of the Japanese angsty poetry collection, Molasses and Shochu, but we wanted to share this new addition by Phoebe Amoroso also know as ume’SHHU.

For those of you who are not familiar with long-standing Japanese tradition, Valentine’s Day here is celebrated by women giving chocolate to men, sometimes out of obligation aka 義理チョコ (giri-choco), and sometimes, containing trace amounts of menstrual blood. On March 14th, men reciprocate by giving white chocolate to the women they fancy or who bestowed chocolate upon them.

Although, as you will see, the complexity of this poem, written by Ms. Amoroso, briefly touches upon these cultural traditions. They are important confectionary artifacts that have existed many decades after being created by Japan’s male-dominated cocoa industry and society at large. Please see the annotated version in the hardback edition of the book to deepen your understanding.

This chocolate isn’t black
Nor as large as I had hoped.
Every March 14th
Is my Friday 13th.
I have no lover 
To sweeten the occasion. 
Ever hoping for a Melty Kiss
But forever doomed 
To Crunky Balls from the conbini–
I had, after all, merely been convenient.
There is no sugar coating that fact. 

Even though, Japan
Has resigned me to smaller portions
I was not expecting this starvation.
I stared at the wrapper on my desk
And wondered how obligation could be so bitter.
Unwrapping the white KitKat
I held every total loss,
My palm sticky.

White chocolate should not exist.

Japan adds Narnia, Syriana, Trumpistan and 16 more actual nations to its expanding no-entry list

From July 1, Narnia, Mordor, and Covidia will be among the 144 nations and regions affected by Japan’s entry ban*

The citizens and dwellers of Narnia, Syriana, and Trumpistan have already been banned from entering Japan due to COVID-19. Covidia, is being considered for the ban as well.

DOMEIDO NewsFlash: The Covid-19 problem continues as the world enters into a hot and humid summer. Even though Tokyo has completely reopened—albeit with a small spread of coronavirus due to the deplorables working in the night-trade— and residents are now able to travel between prefectures, Japan is not yet ready to open its doors to international visitors. Japan will also not let back in permanent residents who lived here and left, or admit anyone who might possibly be harboring the coronavirus, unless they are Japanese citizens. 

Starting Tuesday, Japan will ban entry to non-citizens arriving from an additional 19 nations, including Narnia, Syriana, and Trumpistan. This brings the total of number of nations and regions in Japan’s no-entry list to 144. Covidia, the renegade province of China, is also under consideration for the ban. The Deep State was scheduled to be banned but no one is sure exactly where it’s located.

Some of Japan’s choices have resulted in intense criticism from outside of this island country, which was created by the Gods. 

Foreign media pointed out that while Narnia is a temperate forested land, with talking animals that live in quaint houses and behave like people, and the land is populated by wicked witches, magic users, it also has had no reported cases of coronavirus since May 1st. This representational monarchy is also a fictional place. Syriana, is also a fictional nation modeled after Saudi Arabia and the subject of a suspense thriller starring a slovenly George Clooney, who put on weight for his role as a burnt-out CIA agent in the critically acclaimed film. Trumpistan is a satellite of Russia, ostensibly independent, carved out of what used to the United States of America. 

At a press conference today, acting Foreign Minister, television comedian, Hitoshi Matsumoto, shushed complaints that Japan was closing itself off from the world. He also responded to criticism that Japan should not be naming fictional nations for the entry ban. 

“I have heard the grumblings coming from Mordor, but we are not swayed in our decision. Of course, we have refused to let in anyone from the south of Mirkwood, so obviously the Mordorians are not happy either but Japan stays resolute,” Matsumoto said.

Matsumoto suggested that if other nations would falsify their data, like Japan, deliberately keep PCR testing low, and find the right scapegoats within their own nations, they could produce statistics that would allow Japan to reopen its borders to them—while saving face, but not necessarily saving lives.

Acting Prime Minister Aso (pronounced like asshole without the ‘L’)  Taro, corrected earlier statements that citizens from Okinawa would also be banned from Japan. “It appears that Okinawa, while not part of the mainland, is also part of Japan. Therefore, we will allow people from the islands into Japan, provided they have their Ryukyu passport and a bank statement.” 

While it appears that Japan is closing its borders tighter than ever, there were also signs that the nation is showing flexibility. Starting July 4th, anyone from Disneyland may enter Japan after agreeing to a two-week quarantine and showing they possess a Duffy Disney Bear as proof of citizenship in that country. 

Prime Minister Aso also denied rumors that hosts in Kabukicho were being rounded and exiled to Sadogashima along with hostesses, sex workers and other denizens of “the night village”. 

“If we exiled all the scapegoats, then who are we going to blame for our very low but still unacceptable coronovirus case count,” he pointed out. He added, “By the way, in about another week we are expecting a huge outbreak from the Black Lives Matter march and from everyone who tweeted mean things about Abe on twitter.”

Japan is warning citizens that social media, when used to criticise the government, breaks down social distancing and spreads coronavirus. 

Japan is expected to relax the restrictions for entry after having exhausted all possible scapegoats for continued infections within Japan. 

“We are going to need a fresh group of people to blame eventually. Then we’ll let you uncivilized barbarians who have a low mindo (民度) back into our land.”

Aso assured the foreign press, “I expect before the 2021 Olympics, that all entry bans and the coronavirus will vanish.” 

*This article is printed with permission of Domeido News Agency (同盟童通信), a fictional news agency that brings you the latest in news parodying Japanese news but really not that much of a parody.

Singing The Terrace House Blues In Japan

They say it takes more than a death to change the world but perhaps that’s not true in the case of 22-year old Hana Kimura (木村花). She was a professional wrestler and one of the cast members of Terrace House, the now defunct reality TV franchise that first launched in 2012 and went on for eight seasons. For the uninitiated, Terrace House follows the relationship dynamics of three boys and three girls as they live as housemates in a posh seaside house with a terrace. Hana-chan as she was called, starred as herself – an up and coming wrestling star with pink hair who was eager to get ahead in the entertainment industry. In an episode aired on March 31st, Hana-chan unleashed her anger over a laundry mishap committed by a fellow (male) housemate. The two made up, but the whole thing exploded right in Hana-chan’s face.

Hordes of Terrace House fans posted Hana-chan hating comments – upwards of 300 a day – and many demanded that she either leave the show or die, immediately. It’s said that the Covid-19 induced isolation further drove Kimura over the edge. Alone in her home, she couldn’t help but read and obsess over the hellish comments on social media, directed straight at her. 

On May 23rd, Hana Kimura was rushed to the hospital after friends found her lying on the floor in her apartment, but it was too late. The details of her death have not been disclosed, but she left a note, apologizing to her friends and thanking her mom for “bringing me into this world.” Astonishingly, the anonymous cyber bullies who were at least partly responsible for her death resumed their bashing, accusing her of being ‘weak and needy’ and ‘not cut out to endure the hardships of working in the entertainment industry.” 

All that hate though, faded away after Fuji Television Network, the creator of the Terrace House franchise pulled the plug on the show five days after Hana-chan’s suicide. Minister of Internal Affairs and Communications Sanae Takaichi is now pushing for a law to hunt down those who post hate comments, and slap them with fines or worse. Even Prime Minister Abe has moved on the issue, remarking that “hateful comments on the Internet have the power to do irreparable damage, and they should be stopped, if possible.” Since then, things have been pretty quiet. Hana Kimura’s critics have seemingly disappeared off the face of the Net at least for now, and news commentators are continuing to express their ‘profound regret’ over her death. 

That said, a certain apprehension hangs in the air; it seems that the Abe Administration is milking the Terrace House tragedy to its own advantage. In the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, PM Abe’s popularity has hit an all-time low and the belated delivery of two “Abenomasks” per household that he promised back in March, has become a running joke. It seems that most things he does these days is being ridiculed. The death of Hana Kimura may have been a welcome respite from having to deal with the social ills spawned by the lingering coronavirus, and the pile of political embarrassments racked up during the nation’s 49-day shut-down. Moritomo scandal, anyone? 

it seems that the Abe Administration is milking the Terrace House tragedy to its own advantage.

In the meantime, media pundits are pointing out that both the Abe Administration and the Japanese populace should have their minds on other, more relevant issues, like the racial protests tearing the US apart, and now raging in Europe as well. 


Political columnist Takashi Odajima observed in Nikkei Shimbun that the pandemic has afforded the US an opportunity to take a hard look at social injustice, while in Japan that same pandemic has given the government an excuse to cover things up. “In Japan, the government hides its scandals and inconvenient truths under the masks they insist on wearing,” he wrote. 

You don’t have to be a pundit like Odajima, to get that sinking feeling: once again, Japan lags way behind the west when it comes to grappling with stuff that truly matters, in spite of, or maybe because of, an ongoing pandemic. While we’re still wrapping our faces and panicking about the number of new infections cropping up in Tokyo (more than 10! How horrifying!), protesters across the Pacific are risking their lives for racial justice. The comparison is scathingly humbling. Gosh, we’re small. And scared shitless of direct conflict. 


Odajima pointed out that the Japanese are hopelessly bad at arguing a point,  or any form of adverse social interaction unless it’s done among family members. He’s right. The bad stuff happens mostly at home and behind closed doors. In some cases they continue for years before anyone finds out. There’s anonymous groping on trains, and faceless bullying on the net but public protests in broad daylight rarely occur unless the protesters are hiding their faces behind masks. This explains why Hana-chan got so much flack – she dared to express rage over public airwaves, in her own name. And though it’s been pointed out that the show’s producers obliquely coerced her to do so, many Terrace House viewers were too naive to see the difference between the ‘reality’ of reality shows, and real life. 


Maybe that’s just the way the Abe Administration wants it. Passive silence behind masks is vastly preferable to outright self-expression, in whatever situation. Imagine if the Japanese took to the streets to protest income inequality, the plight of temp workers, foreign laborers, and single mothers, domestic violence and rampant child abuse–just a few items off the top of an endless list?  


The truth is that at this point, the nation needs many more Hana Kimuras–brave enough to express anger and negative feelings without fear of being punished for it. Hopefully, we can do that better, once the masks come off.

Hana-chan, Japan needs you.

Japan’s Monster Mermaid Amabie is Here To Save You From COVID19! (Maybe)

People have different ways of dealing stress and fear, especially during a protracted battle with a worldwide pandemic. Some Japanese are claiming that superstition saved us (as opposed to the two cloth masks per person promised by Prime Minister Abe), along with praying at Shinto shrines and guzzling detoxifying green tea.

As fears over a Covid-19 ‘infection explosion’ very gradually recede in the rearview mirror, more people are in a mood to agree with these theories.

Your lucky lady

After all, rural and traditional Japan remained largely unscathed by Covid-19, and these are the areas where people routinely visit local shrines, carry omamori (お守り・talismans), ask for ‘oharai’ (お祓い) –which is the practice of having a Shinto priest chase out bad spirits and demons lurking in one’s immediate vicinity, and down a lot of tea after the ceremony.  If you get a Buddhist priest to do it, it’s yakubarai (厄払い). Add to that list, the drawing of an Amabie and posting it on social media. You may have just the armor needed for pandemic warfare. 


A what? An Amabie (pronounced ama-bi-eh) is a yokai (妖怪)which can be translated as apparition, phantom creature or monster. She has the appearance of a three-legged mermaid with a beak in lieu of a mouth and she’s been around since the mid-19th century, according to Edo-Period documents. Though the typical Japanese yokai is often grotesque and loves to play pranks on humans, the Amabie is a beach chick that emerges from the sea to foretell epidemics. If you carry around her picture, she can ward off mass contagion and the effect is doubled if you draw it yourself. A lot of people in Japan and elsewhere have tried their hand at drawing Amabie, and she now has a definite presence on social media, on #Amabiechallenge and others. 

Strangely enough, the Amabie has become a thing that may actually work. As of May 20th, the Japanese government has lifted the State of Emergency order for most of the nation, excluding the Tokyo metropolitan area. But the capitol city has been reporting less than 20 new infection cases for a week. Day care centers are talking about reopening as early as the 25th. Some local bars are welcoming customers again, even if masks are mandatory and draft beer is a thing of the past. Yes, the economy is in shambles and there’s nothing on TV but at least we’re seeing a light at the end of the tunnel. 

This isn’t the first time modern Japan has turned to superstition and yokai for solace and guidance. The late manga artist Shigeru Mizuki, creator of the mega hit yokai manga series  Ge ge ge no Kitaro (Spooky Kitaro) had always held that the yokai was what kept Japan from teetering over the edge into the abyss of disaster. Without their presence and powers, he said, the archipelago would just be a dreary sinkhole of greed and corruption. The yokai is a familiar figure in Japanese folklore, and some date back a thousand years. Some function as avatars for Shinto gods. Others do mischief and love to disrupt people as they go about their lives. The yokai can be friendly too, and will make good companions, as long as you respect tradition, revere nature and refrain from harming others. 


Mizuki hails from Tottori prefecture, a very traditional region that has racked up a total of three– count ’em three!–Covid 19 infection cases and zero deaths so maybe his take on the yokai was right. Mizuki’s own illustration of the Amabie has been posted on social media since mid-March, courtesy of Mizuki Production, and apparently this has been printed out and carried inside wallets or folded into omamori sachets. A friend of mine in Tottori reports that local reverence for Mizuki has soared, and the 800 meter long “Mizuki Shigeru Road” in his hometown of Sakaiminato, which is marked with yokaistatues and merchandise shops, has seen a lot of (masked) tourist action. These people hang out bv the various yokai figuresto take photos, and leave little notes of prayer for the pandemic to end. 

Shigeru Mizuki died in 2017 at the age of 93 but if he were around today, he would no doubt have had plenty to say about the government’s handling of the pandemic. Mizuki was a WWII veteran who lost an arm in combat in Papua New Guinea, and the harrowing experience shaped his views on authority and Japanese society. After the war Mizuki struggled to survive before settling down to write manga, which he continued doing right up until his death. For many years, he could barely make ends meet but his career took off when the Kitaro series hit prime time TV in the late 1960s. However, success didn’t turn his head or soften his judgement on what he saw as crimes committed by the Japanese government, be it throwing the nation into war, or going whole hog on nuclear energy. His manga was never cute or very accessible – they depicted the Japanese as desperate and conniving, with caricatured features like bad teeth, squinty eyes and terrible posture. His portraits of the typical Japanese male were so unflattering they resembled the Yellow Peril posters propagated by the US military during WWII. According to Mizuki, the only way these unattractive Japanese could achieve a slightly higher level of humanity, was to befriend a yokai

Mizuki’s drawing of the Amabie though, is soft and friendly-looking. She really does seem concerned about the welfare of this archipelago. It’s not a bad picture to carry around, especially in a time when everyone is masked and avoiding eye contact as if the very act of acknowledging another person is a risky undertaking. If a picture of a three-legged mermaid is going to make people feel better about each other, it should probably be framed and put up inside the Diet building. 

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.

 

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

This Sunday February 23: Paint The Town Lime With An Art Workshop and Fine Wine

Sunday Lime and Paint at Soul Food House

Are you looking for something to do that might help you meet people, create art, and perhaps get to know your date a little better? Then come Lime this Sunday.

“Lime”- A Caribbean word meaning “Hang out” or “a relaxed gathering”.

Add painting and you have “Lime and Paint.

Come join (Lee-Ann), hang out in a artsy colorful environment, learn a little about some amazing artists, and create your own art piece while enjoying drink of your choice

THEME: Teamwork

You’ll create your individual painting with a partner. Perfect for date/ friend/ family night.

If you wish to fly solo also doable.
Come make a new friend or bring one. A drink of choice as usual is included and after you may purchase others throughout the evening, mingle with people, paint, laugh and enjoy the artistic lime. Appetizers should be ordered at the start so they will be ready for the break. Thank you.

For those who don’t know Lee-Ann’s background, she’s been an artist at large for over a decade, specialized in glass art for nine years now, and has taught art for over 14 years in Japan. She’s warm and witty and a wonderful guide for would be artists and those who need to brush up.


Doors Open: 16:00 – Come in, Relax and meet new friends

👉🏽

16:30 START- We will have a brief introduction on glass art and then get right into our creation.

👉🏽

There will be a break in which you can get more drinks.

👉🏽

Finish our masterpiece.
19:00/ 19:30 clean up and END but please feel free to stay and Lime a.k.a socialize

🦒

No experience necessary!

Masterpieces made in previous classes

Come Join The Fun! All the details for booking are below.

リーアンさんと一緒に黒人歴史月間の絵画を描いてみませんか?そして1日を楽しく過ごしてみませんか? 経験不要。

皆様の参加お待ちしております。

16:00から参加可能です

16:30時からセッション開始

BOOKING:
There are only 20 spaces so be sure to reserve your spot
SEND HER A MESSAGE with YOUR NAME, PAYMENT OPTION and CANVAS CHOICE
SEND YOUR PAYMENT (A/B/C) to Japan Post Bank or Shinsei
BY 2/18

If you have any questions please mail me at Lime And Paint

.
Once confirmed I will prepare the materials for you. We can’t confirm a spot until payment is made.

Japan Post Bank
Branch number 17730
Account number 9942301
ハスラム リーアン

SHINSEI BANK
Branch 柏 (Kashiwa)
Account number 0321491
Account Type 普通
Lee-Ann Haslam

【料金】大人 3 options. All include one drink ticket.
A. ¥5000 per Adult- includes a paint board/ canvas (your choice), paint, brushes etc. Just come as is everything will be provided.

B. ¥4000 per Adult- for those fellow artists who have their own brushes, paints and paint board/ canvas.

*kid friendly but please let me know so I can prepare.

⭐️

Discount available for parent and child and couples, please ask.

PLEASE NOTE

🖌

Everyone is unique and each painting will reflect that. Let’s embrace it. Have fun, talk, laugh, Drink, create.

【内容】 Includes

・絵画レッスン ・ワイン(白、赤 etc…) The painting lesson with a glass of Red or White wine (or other alcohol of your choice from a list provided)
OR
・(コーヒー、お茶、ジュース etc… )For those drinking Non-alcoholic Beverages coffee, tea, juice etc…

・絵のお持ち帰り . Take home your own art piece

Any questions please feel free to message me.

*Strict no refund policy. You may attend the next event.

Any questions? Feel free to ask

Lee-Ann Haslam

Japanese prosecutors arrest Mickey Mouse in daring Tokyo Disneyland Resort raid; CE0 Duffy says, “He’s no mouse; he’s a rat.”

TOKYO–Mickey Mouse, the Chairman of Tokyo Disneyland Resorts Worldwide (TDRW), and his number two, Donald Duck, were arrested today by Tokyo Special Prosecutors on charges of accounting fraud, as they arrived on a private magic carpet at the Tokyo Disneyland Resort around midnight on January 10th.

Mickey Mouse in a Japanese jail where he will reside for the next 23 days, or until he is rearrested next month.
“He’s no mouse; he’s a rat,” said CEO Duffy in a press conference today.

Mickey Mouse, “The Cheese and Expenses Eater” once considered a hero in Japan for his successful turnaround of Tokyo Disneyland when it was threatened with bankruptcy thirty years ago, had no comment about the arrest. This may be because he was immediately thrown in a cage, where he will be held for twenty-three days, where he will be interrogated without a lawyer from morning until night, without being informed of the charges against him, kept in solitary confinement and will be urged to confess to his crimes before being rearrested, while the prosecutors obliquely threaten his family and friends. The Tokyo Prosecutors are already preparing an arrest warrant for Minnie Mouse–according to official unofficial leaks to the Japanese press.

CEO Duffy, once considered Mr Mouse’s protege, held a press conference this morning where he decried his boss as a traitor and maniacal dictator who desperately needed to be removed for the greater good of TDRW (Tokyo Disneyland Resorts Worldwide) and Japan.

“He’s no mouse,” said CEO Duffy, “He’s a rat. We’ve already spent the yen equivalent of 100 million dollars on an internal investigation to determine that Mr Mouse has eaten several cheese dogs at the park without paying. Although, the blow to our public image may cost us the yen equivalent of $900 million, we feel that every yen spent or that will be spent was worth it.”

Duffy would not answer questions as to whether Disney executives, specifically The Beagle Boys, had made a plea bargain with the prosecutors prior to the arrest. Some of his answers were unintelligible, as he kept eating cheese dogs through most of the Q & A.

Justice Minister Minnie Mori in a hastily released statement said, “I realize that to many children Mickey Mouse is a hero but not here. The real heroes here are the daring prosecutors that have devoted a year of their time to catching this dastardly threat to Japanese corporate elites and Japanese sovereignty.”

The hastily prepared statement released today in 37 languages, had special praise for Japan’s once respected Office Of The Special Prosecutors.

“These heroes, the special prosecutors could have wasted their time going after the executive at TEPCO, who’s criminal negligence probably made them responsible for the worst nuclear accident of the last decade . Or the bureaucrats who forged and destroyed public documents related to the Moritomo Gakuen project, which would have needlessly embarrassed the Abe administration. (And really, the public doesn’t have the right to know…anything) They could have indicted Prime Minister Abe’s biographer on charges of sexual assault, or executives at Takata Airbags for making defective products that killed people, or gone after Toshiba, but that would have been cowardly pandering to public opinion and not serving the greater interest of the Liberal Democratic Party nation.”

“I can personally assure you that Mr Mouse will go through a farcical trial after several arrests and spending months in jail, only to be convicted in our incredibly just and fair system with its 99% conviction rate. It is a system where above all else, we completely respect the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which says that the accused is presumed guilty until proven guilty innocent.*”

At the cursory press conference, when questioned by the foreign media about the treatment being given to Mr Mouse, with the presumption of guilt, the pre-trial incarceration in a solitary jail cell and other issues, Minister Mori refused to comment. When asked what was the evidence of financial fraud, Minister Mori just giggled and ate a cheese dog.

When a reporter from the New York Times, speaking out of turn, yelled “Don’t you feel that the harsh treatment might be violating his human rights?” Mori had a snappy comeback.

“What human rights? He’s a fucking mouse.**”

The article posted above is satire. Any resemblance to events related to the Tokyo Prosecutor and Nissan’s disastrous collusion in prosecuting Carlos Ghosn are purely intentional. Japan’s current Minister of Justice stated twice, tweeted once and posted on Facebook the words ˆ無罪の証明” stating that the accused must prove their innocence in Japan, which is the reality. In theory, the prosecutors must prove guilty, or the accused must be found not guilty and go free. In Japan, once you are arrested you can be held up to 23 days without being charged. Those who assert they are innocent are often held for months and sometimes years before their trial, a system called “hostage justice“. Nissan has now spent close to $200 million pursing a case against the CEO that rebuilt the company. The amount of funding Ghosn is accused of putting into his own pocket is less than $20 million–assuming that there is any merit to those claims by Nissan executives. In consideration of the drop in share value, the pubic relations fiasco, and the amount of money already spent on this debacle, the whole thing seems to be a great example of poor cost performance.

** “I was taught yakuza and foreigners have no human rights,” said a former prosecutor who also authored 検事失格.