Sometimes, a picture is worth a thousand words. Of course, if it’s a thousand words of bullshit–the picture isn’t actually that useful. Hopefully, this is worth at least 800 words.
Understanding organized crime in Japan isn’t always easy. It gets more and more difficult as time goes by and the yakuza move underground. The first anti-organized crime laws in Japan went on the books in 1992. (暴力団対策法). Yakuza groups could no longer openly display their group emblems or their names. So what they did is incorporate themselves, setting up companies or associations, creating what Takashi Arimori called “The Yakuza Company” aka “front companies.” As the anti-organized crime laws have gotten stricter, these front companies have evolved and the yakuza associated businesses have diversified.
Last year, in Tokyo and in Okinawa, organized crime exclusionary laws (暴力団排除条例-boryokudan haijojorei) went into effect, thus making all of Japan a lot less yakuza friendly; it’s the start of the Big Chill. The laws vary in the details, but they all criminalize sharing profits with the yakuza (aka Japanese mafia) or paying them off. The laws were designed to help crush the front companies and cooperative entities that increasingly bring in major revenue for organized crime.
In other words, if you pay protection money to the yakuza, or use them to facilitate your business affairs, you will be treated as a criminal. You may be warned once, your name released to the public, and fined or imprisoned, or all of the above, if you persist in doing business with the yakuza.
However, what is particularly vexing to the yakuza, is that any payments to the yakuza are criminalized. For example, if the yakuza are blackmailing you or extorting cash from you and you pay them off, you are no longer a victim–you are also a criminal under the new laws. Thus, for most people the benefits of throwing yen at the yakuza to keep them quiet start to fade. Blackmail/extortion is a huge money maker for the mob in Japan. Roughly 45% of all people arrested for the crime (恐喝/kyokatsu) in Japan are yakuza members (circa 2010). Hush money is big business but only when people will pay you to hush up. When they start going to the police as soon as you try to shake them down, the business model falls apart.
To give you an idea of the scale of organized crime front companies in Japan, in Tokyo alone, there were over 1,000 at the end of 2010. And those are simply the ones that the police were able to identify. If you include new venture companies that were bankrolled by the yakuza behind the scenes, the numbers go even higher. A noted economist once called the yakuza Japan’s second largest private equity group. It makes sense. Yakuza are gamblers and there is no greater gamble than betting on a new company or business model. Of course, if you own a number of auditing firms, securities companies, and have the capital to manipulate stock prices—it helps get the company off the ground successfully. Sometimes an organized crime group will raise up a company, pull back, and make sure they get a steady kickback. Most of the time when the yakuza bank roll a company, they nurture it until it’s successful, often breaking the law in the process–pump up the stock prices, sell at a profit—and then loot the company out of all its assets before it goes under and start all over again.
Goodwill Group. Ltd,, a temporary staffing agency/rest home manager, now delisted, is a prime example of what was once considered a great promising young company eaten alive by the yakuza. Whether the yakuza were on board from the beginning or not is unclear–but they were involved in feasting on the flesh of the corpse–that’s for certain. Suruga Corporation is another example of a yakuza front company that got its wings clipped. Recently, the Inoue Kogyo case showed how the Yamaguchi-gumi can profit from a cooperative entity. The police and the regulatory authorities have been clamping down on the nine-fingered economy increasingly since 2008, but the yakuza connections don’t always surface. For the authorities, if they can put the firms out of business–that’s enough.
Note: We’d like to thank Mr. Wilcox for his submission to the blog. While some of this material has appeared elsewhere, Mr. Wilcox has also found an abundance of interesting quotes and references that are enlightening and informative. Normally, I’d edit out the few nice things Mr. Wilcox has to say about me personally, but I’ve decided to print the article as is. Please pardon me. Also a per the course these days, the views expressed by Mr. Wilcox do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of JSRC. It is an opinion piece that makes its point well.
Thank you for your understanding. –Jake and the JSRC team
“End of the day, factory whistle cries, Men walk through these gates with death in their eyes” – Bruce Springsteen, Factory (1)
“Bring us the living dead. People no one will miss.” – Fukushima official’s request to Yakuza (2)
“TEPCO’s involvement with anti-social forces and their inability to filter them out of the work-place is a national security issue … Nuclear energy shouldn’t be in the hands of the yakuza. They’re gamblers and an intelligent person doesn’t want them to have atomic dice to play with.” – Japanese Senator (3)
The technological issue of nuclear energy is intertwined with the exploitation of human labor in a hierarchy of interests, and how human labor is expended is an economic and moral issue. The Grand Scientific Project from the time of Francis Bacon up to the Manhattan Project of Oppenheimer and Fermi has been a dangerous gamble for humanity even though the advertised purpose is that progress is good.
The exploitation of labor at nuclear plants depends on the tools of social engineering, of government, mass media and schools. This is the hidden and shameful side of today’s materialist society and belies our complicity in a criminalized culture.
Inefficient and corrupt employment practices at the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant (FNPP) are prolonging the disaster. Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco) outsources 90 percent of the work to subcontractors, mainly utilizing Japan’s criminal syndicates, “the Yakuza.” Japan is still a middle class society and most people will not volunteer for nuclear work. Japan risks running out of workers who have not exceeded their legal radiation limits.
Considered to be “Japan’s largest organized crime group” — who are on the radar of the US Treasury Dept. (another big crime group) (4) — the Yakuza offer a service to society by sopping up its losers and giving them a dodgy occupation.
Journalist, Jake Adelstein, an expert on the Yakuza, risked his life as a reporter on the crime beat in Japan. Not because of shoot outs or knife fights, but because he had to take up smoking cigarettes in order to fit in with police and yakuza! These short video interviews offer a useful introduction into how the Yakuza operate (5; 6). Tepco’s relationship with the Yakuza is a cesspool of corruption from the highest to the lowest levels in its organization. “A senior National Police Agency officer, speaking on grounds of anonymity said, ‘TEPCO has a history of doing business with the yakuza that is far deeper than just using their labor’ ” (Op. cit. “The Yakuza and the Nuclear Mafia”).
Adelstein notes that the Yakuza has 86,000 members in Japan, of the 22 major organizations the “Yamaguchi” has almost half of all members. The Yakuza are:
“[c]riminal trade associations legally recognized by the Japanese government … They exist out in the open. The Japanese government regulates them and there are laws restricting their behavior but as criminal organizations themselves they are not banned. It is very difficult for the police to do an investigation that goes all the way up to the top. It’s problems within the Japanese law itself. There’s no plea bargaining, very limited wire tapping, no witness protection program … no undercover work allowed. The Japanese police are never able to destroy the Yakuza” (Op. cit. interviews).
“[T]he nuclear business-industrial-political and media complex in Japan known as the ‘nuclear mafia’ … [the nuclear industry] is a black hole of criminal malfeasance, incompetence, and corruption’ …. The government tacitly recognises their existence, and they are classified, designated and regulated. Yakuza make their money from extortion, blackmail, construction, real estate, collection services, financial market manipulation, protection rackets, fraud and a labyrinth of front companies including labour dispatch services and private detective agencies. They do the work that no one else will do or find the workers for jobs no one wants …. The Fukushima plant is located in the turf of the Sumiyoshi-kai, which is the second largest yakuza group in Japan with roughly 12,000 members” (Op. cit. “How the Yakuza went Nuclear”; “The Yakuza”).
Without the dregs of society to do the dirty work, modern society could not exist its present, most hypocritical form. Most people do not want to get dirt under their fingernails and prefer to apply nail polish or chat on their iPhones.
Working in nuclear power plants in Japan is not considered an honorable and elegant trade, like cabinet making or industrial design, but a brutal, labor intensive experience. While the Yakuza organization itself is an evil, the workers themselves can be considered heroes. The amount of excruciating heat, hard work, physical and mental stress and radiation they endure is inhuman. Even working at a normally functioning reactor is not easy or safe work but the FNPP is highly radioactive.
Fearless Reporter Tells All
Adelstein reviews an astounding new book, “The Yakuza and the Nuclear Industry,” by undercover Japanese reporter, Tomohiko Suzuki (Op. cit. “The Yakuza”). Suzuki truly risked his life, due to radiation exposure and possible threats, to bring us the details from the Nuclear Hell Zone. The book reveals scandalous information such as that mentally handicapped people are recruited to work in the nuke plants by the Yakuza. Suzuki compares the Yakuza with Tepco:
“Yakuza may be a plague on society … but they don’t ruin the lives of hundreds of thousands of people and irradiate the planet out of sheer greed and incompetence.”
Having lived in Tokyo for many years, I concur. I am not a fan of Yakuza culture and can see in my daily experience that the Yakuza have a degrading effect on society. But as long as you don’t mess with them– they won’t mess with you. In this way, the streets of Tokyo remain fairly safe.
Suzuki points out that “Japan’s nuclear mafia … [is a] conglomeration of corrupt politicians and bureaucrats, the shady nuclear industry, their lobbyists” with the Yakuza at the center. Is Suzuki implying that the Yakuza run the Nuclear Mafia? It is certainly true that Tepco could not fulfill a nuclear workforce without them. According to Adelstein:
“As the scale of the catastrophe at Fukushima became apparent, many workers fled the scene. To contain the nuclear meltdown, a handful of workers stayed behind, being exposed to large amounts of radiation: the so-called ‘Fukushima Fifty.’ Among this heroic group, according to Suzuki, were several members of the yakuza …. ‘Almost all nuclear power plants that are built in Japan are built taking the risk that the workers may well be exposed to large amounts of radiation …. That they will get sick, they will die early, or they will die on the job. And the people bringing the workers to the plants and also doing the construction are often yakuza’ (Op. cit. “How the Yakuza”).
The very workers who are attempting to shore up the situation at FNPP, many of whom are Yakuza, are being blamed by local people in Fukushima for the disaster. A recent survey reported that 30 percent of 1,495 workers at the site suffer from severe mental health issues. The survey does not even include the most exploited workers at the site (7).
Nuclear Situation Deteriorating
Akio Matsumura is a renowned Japanese diplomat and “founder and Secretary General of the Global Forum of Spiritual and Parliamentary Leaders on Human Survival.” He sounds like the right man for the job to tackle the Fukushima nuclear disaster. Unfortunately, his warnings are falling on deaf ears. In a recent column he reported that the “Skilled Veterans Corps for Fukushima, along with 700 members, want to help clean up” the FNPP. Most of the volunteers are in their older years so getting cancer is not as great of a threat, whereas younger workers could die prematurely. The group’s representative, Mr. Yamada, “doesn’t believe TEPCO has the technological capabilities to deal with the long term issues. TEPCO, he says, doesn’t believe this either. TEPCO’s plan, according to Yamada, is to contain the radiation in the next 40 years. He estimates they will need 50 years or perhaps much longer.”
Matsumura thinks more aggressive actions won’t be taken:
“Regrettably I do not expect much of an outcome. After 17 months, the situation is worsening and unless Japan requests the independent assessment team and guarantees a huge budget to carry out the team’s technical advice, the US government will not step in” to help (8).
US nuclear policy is equally dangerous, thus, a safe and speedy resolution to what appears to be an insurmountable problem is not on the horizon. Tony Boys worked as an interpreter for nuclear expert, Dr. Chris Busby, on his visit to Japan last year. Boys told me:
“They may be ‘rebuilding’ at the FNPP, but I don’t think that solves the fundamental problem. You know how the Japanese love to do something cosmetic to make things look good because they don’t know how to really do it properly, but have to do ‘something’ ? Well, I think that’s largely what is going on at the site.”
Radio host, Jeff Rense, whose website has studiously reported on the nuclear catastrophe and all of Japan’s botched policies, told me that “everything they do is horrendous.” For example, Japan’s decision to ship contaminated Fukushima soil all the way across the country is truly stupefying (9).
Prime Minister Noda recently rejected protester’s requests to shut down the nuclear reactors. As the Metropolitan Coalition Against Nukes told Noda in a face to face meeting, “[w]e the people do not believe you” regarding his empty promises to phase out nukes in the future. The Nuclear Mafia are restarting reactors even though they are unnecessary for electricity production. An overwhelming majority of people want to abolish nuclear power (10; 11; 12). Having contaminated the world with quadrillions of becquerels of radiation (petabecquerels), Tepco is under a pseudo nationalization process that funnels tax money into their pockets yet maintains their autonomy (13).
A common practice among workers in nuclear plants is to hide their real exposure rate of radiation. Because there are legal limits of radiation exposure, workers will take off their dosimeters, or cover them with lead. In normal times in Japan workers could also migrate from one plant to the other without indicating previous work experience, and work “under the table.” How long it takes to get sick and or die from such a practice is anyone’s guess.
If the “living dead,” the people “no one will miss” and the dregs of society can’t be coerced into sacrificing themselves, how about top Tepco executives or pro nuclear professors from Tokyo University for a helping hand? Good idea! But first you will have to chase them down on the golf course. NHK reports that:
“[M]any workers crucial to the effort are reaching the limit for radiation exposure …. University of Tokyo Professor Kazumitsu Nawata warns of the consequences of losing nuclear plant workers with necessary expertise. He says young workers must be trained due to the need for massive manpower to fully bring the Daiichi plant under control.”
Is Professor Nawata volunteering other’s children for this dirty job, or maybe his own children would prefer to work in the High Sievert Zone? Tokyo University bears a heavy responsibility for the current catastrophe for its role in legitimizing the Nuclear Mafia.
A notable percentage of workers are leaving once they have reached the legal radiation limits. Of the 3,000 daily workers, “[s]ome of the firms have adopted stricter exposure standards … so that they do not breach the limit and become unemployable” (14).
A number of recent incidents have highlighted the scandal over worker safety, including:
* Over 140 workers have been found to have used fake names when getting jobs doing reconstruction work and are presently unaccounted for (Op. cit., “The Yakuza”).
* Workers have purposely left integral dosimeter off their person while at work. “Tepco is pushing the responsibility to their sub-contract companies but has no solution for the shortage of nuclear workers” which indicates “major staffing problems” at the plant (15; 16).
* Some workers themselves think the only solution to shoring up the plant will be “human wave tactics” as were employed at Chernobyl (17). If that is the case, where will the necessary workforce come from? In order combat the dwindling labor force, Tepco and subcontractors are knowingly telling workers to fake their radiation data. The practice is “believed to be part of a widespread practice at the plant” (18; 19; 20).
Former General Electric nuclear plant inspector, a whistle blower who previously exposed dangers at the Fukushima plant–that were ignored–Kei Sugaoka, admitted that he had heard of young workers in the Taiwan nuclear industry dying from cancer due to radiation. When he worked in Taiwan he says “[t]hey made us wear lead vests to falsify radiation exposure … All the lead did was cover our dosimeters” (21).
Despite the need to quickly resolve the situation, workers are given weekends off, but are also being recruited for decontamination in the 20 km zone. Speculation is that restart of other reactors in Japan will worsen the worker shortage. Japan seems to be going in too many directions at once (22; 23; 24).
The Nuclear Workforce
French sociologist, Paul Jobin, “began research on Japanese and Taiwanese nuclear plant workers in 2002, mainly at Fukushima Daiichi,” and he did follow up interviews after the Fukushima disaster in 2011.
Jobin notes that:
* Subcontracting labor at nuclear plants in Japan began shortly after their creation, in the mid-1970s. “In France, this trend would develop after 1988, reaching a rate of 80% by 1992.”
* “According to NISA’s data, in 2009, Japan’s nuclear industry recruited more than 80,000 contract workers against 10,000 regular employees.”
* Part time employment is carried out in order to limit labor costs “whether in France or Japan, the nuclear industry nurtures a heavy culture of secrecy concerning the number of irradiated workers.”
* Before the Fukushima disaster, “only 9 former workers received compensation for an occupational cancer linked to their intervention in nuclear plants.” This number is probably far lower than the real number of those who suffered from working at NPPs.
* “[S]tatistics from TEPCO (dated November 30, 2011) reported 3,745 workers on the site in March (about 1700 TEPCO employees and 2,000 subcontractors), and 14,000 for the time from April to October. The overwhelming majority … were subcontractors.” But even these figures may not include many low level but highly irradiated workers.
* Radiation exposure depends on one’s status in the hierarchy. Tepco executives and high or mid level engineers are spared exposure, while “there is systematic camouflage of the collective radiation of the most exposed front line workers.”
* Since March 11, 2011, Jobin estimates “that around 30,000 workers have been exposed to significant levels of radiation, some for a few days, many for more than one month” (25; 26). How many of these workers are desperate or “mentally handicapped” to begin with? No wonder they are being used by the Nuclear Mafia as disposable work-bots. Hiroaki Koide, nuclear reactor specialist at Kyoto University says “[t]he truth of the matter is that the subcontract workers don’t really know the dangers of radiation and they don’t know how to protect themselves.” For example, wearing protective masks are so uncomfortable that many workers remove them during their work shift (27). How many health issues have been caused as a direct result of the work? In one case, the worker had been exposed in less than a year to levels far beyond what is considered normal lifetime background radiation. He suffered a heart attack (28).
Worker Rights Advocates Fight For Social Justice
Hifumi Okunuki is an expert in labor law and spends much of her time fighting for the rights of Fukushima’s forgotten heroes. She notes that “the working conditions at Fukushima No. 1 are an emergency within an emergency” and that “special laws should be promulgated to guarantee the safety and fair treatment of the workers.”
“Japan’s Labor Standards Office has thus far recognized only 10 cases of radiation sickness caused by working conditions due to the inherent difficulty in proving causation in individual cases …. Management faces quite serious, possibly criminal, liability if while understanding the risk radiation exposure poses, they endanger those working on-site through a complicated web of outsourcing. Article 87 of the Labor Standards Law holds firms that outsource responsible for workplace safety and sanitation for workers employed by their subcontractor …. Illnesses caused by radiation exposure from nuclear power plants are covered by Japan’s Act on Compensation for Nuclear Damage.”
Unsurprisingly, the Japanese justice system which plays an integral role in siding with the Nuclear Mafia has “yet to see a major court case over radiation-related deaths” (29).
A new report from the venerable non governmental organization, Citizens Nuclear Information Center (CNIC), in Tokyo, highlights the FNPP worker issue. One whistle blower reported that in years past:
“Worker accidents are usually covered up inside the nuclear plant. Even if workers suddenly fall ill, they are not allowed to call an ambulance. In my case, after having been left unattended for three hours, I was taken to hospital in a colleague’s car. I therefore suffered aftereffects later and became physically handicapped. Of all accidents occurring in the nuclear power station, 90% were concealed.”
However, thanks to growing international attention, some of the conditions at FNPP have slightly improved. “Currently, ambulances are allowed to come into the nuclear power station and there is a doctor onsite 24 hrs a day“ (30).
Tepco’s Blind Eye
According to CNIC (Ibid.), the system for employing nuclear workers relies on an economically pyramid shaped, “multi-layered structure” of contractors and subcontractors which makes profits for executives and employees. Investigations have revealed the “[p]resence of subcontractors affiliated with crime syndicates and their employees.” In the year 2000 it was known that “350 companies were involved” at the FNPP and that many of the Yakuza employees or subcontractors are presently involved in the clean up operations.
* “Under the utility, there are plant makers, subsidiaries of TEPCO and the plant makers, large, medium- and small-sized construction and repair companies, independent master carpenters and plumbers.”
* The Yakuza enforce a severe hierarchy “between the group leader and the members” which is akin to the military and effective for getting dangerous work accomplished.
* “[I]n 2006, TEPCO reportedly attempted to drive the gangsters … out of the plant.” The Yakuza said: “Do it if you think you can.” Tepco blinked.
* ‘[P]olice arrested leading members of a gangster group affiliated with the Sumiyoshi-kai crime syndicate based in Nihonmatsu, Fukushima Prefecture’ who were ‘charged with violation of the Temporary Staffing Services Law.’ A president of a local company who ‘was deeply involved in the staffing of the nuclear power station and was the president of the local chamber of commerce and industry, as well as a member of the Fukushima Prefecture Nuclear Power Plant Town Information Council’ was arrested on suspicion of ‘illegally possessing a gun.’
* “Workers hired by the lowest-level subcontractors were paid only around 5,000 yen [$60] per day, and were not covered by social insurance or employment insurance …. the current average daily wage is said to be 8,000 yen, although TEPCO pays 60,000-70,000 yen per capita to the principal subcontractor.” Everyone in between ‘takes a cut from the worker’s wages.’
In other words, it’s an economic racket. Although an “effective” system, “[i]llegal acts, such as the forgery of health reports … and not allowing workers to subscribe to health insurance and employees’ pension plans, are rampant,” but are tolerated by Tepco. This draws into question how effective such workers can be given the intimidation of violence from Yakuza bosses and the poor working conditions. The “problem is still beyond TEPCO’s control because the subcontractor system is deeply multi-layered and complex, and because the yakuza are so deeply entrenched in the system.”
The 1995 documentary film, Nuclear Ginza, is valuable for its historical perspective on nuclear workers in Japan (31). Corruption, payoffs and coverups were the norm, then and now. As one worker whose health was damaged said,
“The big companies treat workers like objects or tools to be thrown away when no longer needed. Japan is considered a rich advanced and democratic country but its just an illusion I think.”
A Buddhist monk, Mr. Nakajima, who had worked for years to help the plight of workers noted that “[u]nfortunately in Japan, the sad reality is that democracy has been destroyed in the areas where nuclear power exists.”
Streets Of Fire
Adelstein and Suzuki (Op. cit.) supply additional information of a particularly lurid and grim nature:
* Yakuza have a saying: “When a man has to survive doing something, it’s the nuclear industry; for a woman, it’s the sex industry.”
* One mid-level executive in the organization even defends the role of his members in the Fukushima disaster. “The accident isn’t our fault,” he said. “It’s TEPCO’s fault. We’ve always been a necessary evil in the work process. In fact, if some of our men hadn’t stayed to fight the meltdown, the situation would have been much worse. TEPCO employees and the Nuclear Industry Safety Agency inspectors mostly fled; we stood our ground.”
* “Organized crime groups from Kyushu are bringing workers as well. Many of the workers are homeless people, debtors to yakuza loan sharks, or former yakuza who have been expelled from their group.”
* Tepco refuses “to name the companies they use for outsourcing labor, background security checks, and general security at the nuclear power plants.” Recall Tepco’s feigned ignorance about government investigator’s accusations against them for “collusion.” Such bland dismissals on the part of Tepco are curious in light of the voluminous evidence to the contrary. The Tepco president’s denials of any collusion is an obvious lie (32; 33).
* “Suzuki discovered evidence of Tepco subcontractors paying yakuza front companies to obtain lucrative construction contracts; of money destined for construction work flying into yakuza accounts; and of politicians and media being paid to look the other way.”
* “His fellow workers, found Suzuki, were a motley crew of homeless, chronically unemployed Japanese men, former yakuza, debtors who owed money to the yakuza, and the mentally handicapped.”
* “Suzuki claims the regular employees at the plant were often given better radiation suits than the yakuza recruits. ‘Almost every day a worker would keel over with heat exhaustion and be carried out; they would invariably return to work the next day. Going to the bathroom was virtually impossible, so workers were simply told to ‘hold it.’ ’ ”
* “According to Suzuki, the temperature monitors in the plant weren’t even working, and were ignored. Removing the mask during work was against the rules; no matter how thirsty workers became, they could not drink water.”
* “The risk of radiation exposure was 100 per cent. The masks, if their filters were cleaned regularly, which they were not, could only remove 60 per cent of the radioactive particles in the air.”
* “Suzuki found people who’d been threatened into working at Fukushima, but others who’d volunteered. Why? ‘Of course, if it was a matter of dying today or tomorrow they wouldn’t work there,’ he explains. ‘It’s because it could take 10 years or more for someone to possibly die of radiation excess. It’s like Russian roulette. If you owe enough money to the yakuza, working at a nuclear plant is a safer bet. Wouldn’t you rather take a chance at dying 10 years later than being stabbed to death now?’ ”
Faced with an ongoing radioactive nightmare which is contaminating Japan’s food and water supply, what should be done? The Nuclear Mafia’s ethos is silken sewn into the socio-political Kabuki theater of a post modern Japanese society, which seems helpless to save itself. Maybe Ambassador Matsumura, with his international political connections of good will, and the Skilled Veterans for Fukushima would be good people to turn to for advice.
An article which appeared last year in the December 16 issue of “Kinyobi” weekly written by Minoru Tanaka, resulted in a punitive lawsuit against him. The article called the head of a group of nuclear industry related companies, Shiro Shirakawa, a “fixer.”
In Japan a “fixer” is said to be “a behind-the-scenes person who gets paid for mediating with anti-social forces or covering up scandals, or arranging profitable business deals with dubious methods.” It has a generally negative connotation.
According to Mr. Tanaka and other sources, this year, Mr. Shirakawa sued Tanaka for libel. He sued Tanaka only, not the publisher. Shirakawa demanded Tanaka 50M yen in damages and 7.5M yen of attorney fees as well as placing apology ads in morning editions of three major papers: “Asahi Shimbun”, “Mainichi Shimbun”, and “Yomiuri Shimbun.” The total amount demanded was 67M yen including the payment for the ads.
Mr. Shirakawa has been referred to as “a fixer” in many publications and Mr. Tanaka and Reporters Without Borders believe that the lawsuit is a SLAPP (strategic lawsuit against public participation) and threatens press freedom in Japan. See RSF press release.
The next proceeding is scheduled on September 3 starting at 10:45 am in the Tokyo District Court room No. 615.
The article written by Minoru Tanaka asserts the following:
Mr. Shirakawa has connections with key figures of nuclear businesses, such as Hiroshi Arakawa, the former chairman of TEPCO. Mr. Shirakawa himself operates multiple nuclear-related corporations that offer security service for nuclear plants, leasing, and construction business. In the past he was reported to be suspected of asking gangsters to stop publication of materials, as well as diverting to politicians part of huge profits gained by land transactions. Furthermore, Nishimatsu Construction “gave a loan” to New Tech which is deeply connected to Mr. Shirakawa, using Mr. Shirakawa’s home and land as collateral. A year and a half later, the loan had been cleared.
After the loan was seemingly repaid, according to the registration certificate, the company New Tech received a loan of 700M yen from Shinginko Tokyo bank last October with the same collateral and paid back shortly.
Mr. Shirakawa, according to the article, is connected to Diet Member Kamei Shizuka, as well as a former high-ranking police officer, and his network of connections has allowed him to become a huge profiteer in the nuclear industry using dubious methods.
RSF (Reporters Sans Frontières) or RWB (Reporters Without Borders) reaffirmed its support for Minoru Tanaka and condemned the judicial harassment against him. “It is clear from the exorbitant amount of damages demanded by the plaintiff that the lawsuit’s aim is to silence Minoru Tanaka by crushing him morally and financially.” RSF’s statement says.
The History of Shukan Kinyoubi/週刊金曜日 Weekly
The Shukan Kinyoubi began publication in 1993. It has taken the stance of criticizing the powers that be and taking on the authorities. It is left of center. Therefore long before the Fukushima accident, the publishers have taken a firm stance against the nuclear industry and the so-called “nuclear village.” The nuclear village aka The nuclear mafia refers to the intertwined nuclear industrial complex made up of power companies, politicians, bureaucrats, gangsters and fixers.
Its publisher, Mr. Hajime Kitamura, spoke at the press conference last Friday. Among the 29 staff members of the publication, half of them are involved in editing, and most of the content of the publication are provided by outside contributors who write for the magazine. “We expected Shirakawa to sue the magazine for writing a story about him.” However, to the surprise of the publisher, he just sued the writer, Mr. Tanaka, and not the magazine.
“This is completely unforgivable” Kitamura said, “because when an individual writer is sued, they have to hire a lawyer, pay the lawyer fees themselves, and since they have to prepare for a trial and the legal proceedings, they lose the precious time they could spend doing their job. This is clearly a vicious law suit, and a SLAPP case, if the magazine was sued, of course we have our own lawyers that we could use.”
Shukan Kinyoubi （週刊金曜日） has been sued three previous times, once by the consumer finance company Takefuji, and won the case. In Japan’s civil code, it is possible to sue an individual journalist. Hiro Ugaya, was the first case of a journalist sued individually, not for the article he wrote, but for the comments he gave in a article on a company called Oricon, about 3 years ago. There is no union of journalists or newspapers in Japan, and there is no insurance to protect the reporters neither, unlike in Germany, for example. In Germany, it is not possible to sue a reporter for the content of his/her article, because somebody in the newspaper is already designated to be responsible judicially.
“If this kind of thing continues to spread, individual writers will all refrain from writing anything being problematic. And it will be a huge minus for magazines like our own, which take on the authorities and the powers leading this country.”
Hajime Kitamura, publisher of Shukan Kinyoubi (Friday Weekly)
After 3.11, some of the magazines have been very critical of the nuclear industry. They ran stories in which they called the people of the industry “war criminals,” and they haven’t been sued, because the Japanese mainstream media, up to now, has been criticizing the surface of the nuclear invested interests, but Tanaka’s article is more in depth, and gets behind the scene, and seemingly names the people who have made profits from their unsavory ties to the nuclear-industrial complex.
Mr. Hajime Kitamura, the publisher of Shukan Kinyoubi, used to write in the national news department of the Mainichi Newspaper. He said that the major newspapers in Japan now tend to avoid problematic topics. “If there are some risks of being sued in court, then they won’t touch the story. I’m not saying that the reporters on the ground level are bad, but the reality is that the people in upper management are basically telling the reporters not to write anything that can get the newspaper sued, and that stops and frustrates the young reporters from writing about certain topics.”
According to Minoru Tanaka, currently, Nihon Television is the most pro-nuclear broadcaster and Fuji TV is also doing similar pro nuclear broadcasting. Shirakawa’s older brother used to be a Fuji TV board member, he stated.
Japanese politicians’ ties with the nuclear industry
Minoru Tanaka said that Mr. Yoshito Sengoku, the number two in the (JDP) Japan Democratic party’s political strategy, went to Fukui prefecture and gathered together all the DPJ politicians. He told them that they needed to support the restart of the Oi nuclear reactors, and at a press conference, he said that “stopping Japan’s nuclear generators would be an act of suicide.” Mr. Sengoku used to be a member of Japan’s Socialist party but he became close to Japan’s nuclear industry.
Minoru Tanaka said that there is an entire nuclear tribe of politicians feeding off the nuclear industry, it is not just limited to the LDP, also includes the Koumeito, (also known as the Clean Government Party, a political league, which is supported by the religion group, Sokagakkai), and the DPJ as well.
The state of Japanese journalism
“Up until the 1980’s, I felt that the reporters on the ground level were really making efforts to get controversial stories into print. Rather than becoming weak in dealing with the political powers, I think they became weak in dealing with the public powers and the authorities. And part of the reason for this is that reporting became more a business model than about communicating facts,” says Mr. Kitamura.
He also said that, until the 1980’s, if journalists were writing about a big advertiser like TEPCO, and people at the top said “don’t complicate things,” there was opposition to that kind of interference in reporting, but this resistance has continued to weaken. He added, “When middle management loses its nerves, there is a sort of self-restraint imposed within the newspapers not to handle articles that criticize corporations.” However, it depends on which media, which television etc. He said that he still believes that the Mainichi and Chunichi/Tokyo Newspaper are doing solid investigative journalism.
TEPCO has an advertising budget of about twenty-three or four billion yen ($230 to 240 million) a year. A lot of that was to keep the media under control. For example, the rubble problem was featured in a two pages color advertisement in the Asahi shinbun. That probably cost forty to fifty million yen, according to Mr. Hajime Kitamura. “Usually the newspapers should refuse that kind of advertisement from a company, but they become tempted and attracted by the advertising money.”
The “Yoshiwara Bento” and the honey traps for the journalists
According to Mr. Kitamura, TEPCO entertained clients at Soapland, the sexual service parlors in Japan. The term of “YoshiwaraBento” (Yoshiwara being the Edo period’s red light district and Bento, being the word for “lunch box”) is a crude term to explain the practice that certain Japanese businessmen have to take their clients to a fancy club, for dinner and drinks and then take them to Soapland. The power companies and allegedly even The Nuclear Safety Agency and other associations involved in the nuclear industry have a long a history of wining and dining people in the media to make sure that the myth of nuclear safety is properly communicated to the public.
According to Hajime Kitamura, there are two ways they deal with the media: once a month, the association of electric power providers gives a press conference with the general press. They use “honey traps” or get the reporters involved with other scandals to make sure that they stay under control. The other thing they do is to use DENTSU, Japan’s largest advertising agency, to indirectly threaten the publishers by saying “if you want TEPCO’s advertising, can’t you do something about this article?”
The mainstream media does not support individual victims of SLAPP
“I do not think that this is a lawsuit about the facts, because almost the entire content is based on public publically available information. The attack made by Shirakawa is on the term ‘fixer.’ It is a very vague attack. I believe that Shirakawa has launched this lawsuit to make me suffer as much economic damages as he can,” Minoru Tanaka stated at the conference.
There are a growing number of people supporting Tanaka today, because it is not only his problem, but the problem of freedom of press in Japan. Many reporters think that there should be some kind of laws put in place to limit or suppress these kinds of SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation). Right now, large corporations and religious groups are able to make these frivolous lawsuits at will with no constraints. He added that one of the reasons that the support for him is not widening at a rapid pace is because of the existence of the press club or the Japanese Kisha Kurabu system. “The major media outlets that are part of the press club system do not welcome freelance or individual writers because they want to monopolize information for themselves. They are not very supportive of individual journalists,” Minoru Tanaka elaborated.
*The editors at Japansubculture Research Center in an effort to avoid giant lawsuits would like to reiterate that the statements and opinions in this article are those of third parties and do not represent the opinions or assertions of this slightly meek and poorly funded project.
If you speak out, sometimes you are heard. That’s the first step.
On Wednesday, Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda finally met with a dozen anti-nuclear activists. It was a victory for the protestors, who have railed against the restarting of Japan’s nuclear reactors, for months, with increasing public support and growing numbers of sympathisizers. However, while Prime Minister Noda did meet with them, he seemed more concerned about his talking points than what they had to say. He and the government of Japan now hear the rising anti-nuclear sentiment but its doubtful that they are really listening. The wealth and influence of Japan’s nuclear power industrial complex has a much louder voice, one that seems capable of drowning out the roar of dissent. However, one of the protestors summed up the meeting very optimistically, “Half of Japan is opposed to the restarting of the nuclear reactors. They were started anyway. But now the government is began to listening to the voices of opposition. Democracy has also been restarted.”
Whether the Government of Japan or Prime Minister Noda is really paying attention to the message of the anti-nuclear movement is hard to say.
(Note: The rest of this article first appeared in the Daily Beast/Newsweek on August 19th and has been slightly revised. Please follow the link at the bottom for the full article.)
Still….it’s hard to ignore more than 20,000 anti-nuclear protesters at your front door. It’s even harder in a country like Japan, where more often than not repressive tradition and political apathy combine to stifle social protest. So after Yoshihiko Noda, Japan’s unpopular prime minister, found his home surrounded by thousands of protesters for weeks on end, he seems to have finally got the message.
Last week the prime minister agreed, albeit reluctantly, to meet with representatives of Japan’s increasingly vocal and influential citizens network “Metropolitan Coalition Against Nukes” (MCAN).
According to an opinion poll conducted by the Mainichi Shimbun, a major Japanese daily newspaper, almost half of Japan now sympathizes with the protesters. That statistic is all the more remarkable in a country which hasn’t seen mass social protest since the early 1960s. But the anti-nuke coalition besieging the prime minister’s home and other government sites is nothing if not broadbased, a characteristic summed up by the characters of its two leaders: a tattooed female artist and fashion designer and an ultra-conventional looking, soft-spoken white-collar worker. How did this dynamic duo come together and “politely” make themselves a force to be reckoned with? And will they really make a difference? No one knows, of course, but in the past few months Japan’s leaders have learned conclusively that these two cannot be easily ignored.
On March 11, 2011, an 8.9 magnitude earthquake and a subsequent tsunami left thousands dead in Japan and caused a triple meltdown at the Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Power Plant, managed by Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO). The Japanese government and TEPCO for months afterward denied a meltdown had taken place and then later blamed the accident on “an unprecedented and unforeseeable tsunami,” which knocked out the power to the plant.
he report officially confirmed the Japanese people’s worst fears and added impetus to a growing anti-nuclear movement.The loosely structured network of groups opposed to nuclear energy in Japan known as “Metropolitan Coalition Against Nukes” (MCAN),was founded in September last year.
The leader of the group is an outspoken tattooed female artist and fashion designer who choses to be referred to by her adapted name, Misao Redwolf. (Don’t dare ask her age, because she will just glare at you fiercely.) Redwolf says, “I organized anti-nuclear protests for more than five years now, but nobody knew about our movement simply because we never received media coverage before.”
Redwolf, noting that many small groups of protesters were scattered around Tokyo, decided to bring together all the organizations to fight for the same cause. “And so we founded the MCAN.”The protest organizers always make sure to thank the police officers for their hard work—with a polite bow and traditional greetings—when the event is done.
The first anti-nuclear demonstration in front of the National Diet building and the prime minister’s residence took place on March 29, 2012. Almost every Friday evening, between 6 and 8 p.m., protesters meet in front of the prime minister’s residence to protest the government’s decision to restart two reactors at the nuclear power station Oi, which belongs to Kansai Electric Power Company (KEPCO), in the Fukui prefecture.
“The protests cannot change the decisions of the politicians,” Redwolf says, “but if our voices can reach the ears of the lawmakers at the Parliament (the Japanese Diet) and influence their decisions, then we will win a unique battle.”
Her major ally in winning that battle is the mild-mannered, clean-cut, and soft-spoken Norimichi Hattori, the group’s spokesman, who has captured the hearts of the Japanese public and the media.A consultant for a small company that manufactures carrying bags for children, Hattori, 36, was not an environmental activist before the meltdown contaminated his home with radioactivity. In April 2011, he first got involved in small anti-nuclear protests. In September, after meeting with Redwolf several times, he became MCAN’s spokesman.
His black hair is cut straight and short, and even in summer he wears a white shirt and a dark suit. He looked like any Japanese “salary man” (white-collar worker).
Hattori lives in Matsudo City, in the Chiba prefecture. In mid-March 2011, heavy rains carried the radioactive particles emitted by the explosion at the Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Power Plant to his home. As a result, his home has become a so-called “hot spot”—a place where sediments containing radioactive fallout tend to accumulate via rainwater and other factors. click here for the rest of the story…
*most of this article was originally published in The Daily Beast/Newsweek on August 19th)
The US State Department released their annual Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report today (June 19th 2012) and once again Japan was ranked as a 2nd tier nation. It barely escaped being placed on the watch-list for a 2nd time, according to some sources. Human trafficking in Japan not only includes sexual slavery, a government sponsored intern system for foreign workers has also received heavy criticism as virtual slavery, unchecked and almost condoned by the Japanese government. Human trafficking provides a significant source of revenue for organized crime and yakuza involvement in the business remains strong. Ironically, as it becomes more difficult to bring in foreign laborers for the sex industry, increasingly young Japanese girls are being targeted and exploited by the traffickers, some as young as 13 years. Yet, only about 80% of the Japanese population is aware that domestic trafficking is a reality in Japan.
The Polaris Project Japan and the Solidarity Network With Migrants Japan held a seminar at the Foreign Correspondent’s Club on the same day and summarized the findings of the report as follows:
1. Lack of comprehensive anti-trafficking laws，and lack of any visible efforts toestablish one
2. Japan is making only slight progress in protecting women and children from forced prostitution，there seems to be little effort aimed at forced labor，male victims， etc.
There were 619 cases of child prostitution，45 cases of trafficking adults last year.
3. Lack of protection system and shelters for trafficking victims
In the past 18 years，not one person subjected to forced labor as a foreign trainee has been identified as a victim.
4. Lack of effortsto prevent child sex tourism ín Southeast Asla by Japanesenationals; the narrow prohibitions in place have failed to produce visible results
The portion of the TIP report relating to Japan is below.
(Note: I am an unpaid board member of the Polaris Project Japan and therefore lack some objectivity on this problem–and I also think human trafficking and labor exploitation really suck, further clouding my judgement.)
JAPAN (Tier 2)
Japan is a destination, source, and transit country for men and women subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking, and for children subjected to sex trafficking. Male and female migrant workers from China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam, and other Asian countries are sometimes subject to conditions of forced labor. Some women and children from East Asia, Southeast Asia, South America, and, in previous years, Eastern Europe, Russia, and Central America who travel to Japan for employment or fraudulent marriage are forced into prostitution. During the reporting period, Japanese nationals, particularly teenage girls and foreign-born children of Japanese citizens who acquired nationality, were also subjected to sex trafficking. In addition, traffickers continued to use fraudulent marriages between foreign women and Japanese men to facilitate the entry of these women into Japan for forced prostitution. Japanese organized crime syndicates (the Yakuza) are responsible for some trafficking in Japan, both directly and indirectly. Traffickers strictly control the movements of victims, using debt bondage, threats of violence or deportation, blackmail, and other coercive psychological methods to control victims. Victims of forced prostitution sometimes face debts upon commencement of their contracts and most are required to pay employers additional fees for living expenses, medical care, and other necessities, leaving them predisposed to debt bondage. “Fines” for misbehavior are added to victims’ original debt, and the process that brothel operators use to calculate these debts was not transparent. Japan is also a transit country for persons in trafficking situations traveling from East Asia to North America. Japanese men continue to be a significant source of demand for child sex tourism in Southeast Asia, and, to a lesser extent, Mongolia.
The Government of Japan has not officially recognized the existence of forced labor within the Industrial Trainee and Technical Internship Program, a government-run program designed to foster basic industrial skills and techniques and to provide opportunities to acquire practical skills and techniques. However, the government made a number of efforts to address labor abuses in the program. Media and NGOs continued to report on abuses in the program, though to a lesser extent than in previous years, and abuses included debt bondage, restrictions on movement, unpaid wages and overtime, fraud, and contracting workers out to different employers – elements which may signal trafficking situations. The majority of technical interns are Chinese nationals, some of whom pay fees of up to the equivalent of $1,400 to Chinese labor brokers or deposits of up to the equivalent of $4,000 prior to their departure from China; these fees sometimes require aspiring workers to take out loans or to place liens on their property, potentially leading to situations of debt bondage. Although banned since 2010, these fees, deposits, and “punishment” contracts continue to be prevalent for Chinese participants in the program. Reports of trainees having their passports and other travel documents taken from them and their movements controlled to prevent escape or communication declined, a trend that labor activists credited to increased government scrutiny of these practices.
The Government of Japan does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. During the year, the Japanese government did not develop or enact anti-trafficking legislation that would fill key gaps in facilitating anti-trafficking prosecutions, and the government did not arrest, prosecute, or convict a single forced labor perpetrator in 2011. Increased enforcement of labor laws in the foreign trainee program, however, led to a decline in reported abuses in the program according to non-governmental sources. During the year, the government published a manual for law enforcement and social service providers on protecting trafficking victims and continued to mandate anti-trafficking training to law enforcement officials. While the government identified 45 adult female sex trafficking victims and 619 minor victims of child prostitution, it identified no male victims for either forced labor or forced prostitution. Protective services for trafficking victims remained limited, with no shelters purposed exclusively for trafficking victims in Japan. While the government made efforts to raise awareness to prevent trafficking, sources reported that some of the outreach campaigns the government undertook were ineffective and did not reach target audiences.
Recommendations for Japan: Draft and enact a comprehensive anti-trafficking law prohibiting all forms of trafficking and prescribing sufficiently stringent penalties that are commensurate with other serious crimes; significantly increase efforts to investigate and prosecute forced labor cases, and punish offenders with jail time; increase the enforcement of bans on deposits, punishment agreements, withholding of passports, and other practices that contribute to forced labor in the foreign trainee program; continue to proactively investigate and, where warranted, punish government complicity in trafficking or trafficking-related offenses; further expand and implement formal victim identification procedures to guide officials in the identification of forced labor; continue to ensure victims are not punished for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being in a human trafficking situation; establish protection policies for all victims of trafficking, including male victims and victims of forced labor; ensure that protection services, including medical and legal services, are fully accessible to victims of trafficking regardless of income; and aggressively investigate, prosecute, and punish Japanese nationals who engage in child sex tourism.
The Japanese government continued to make progress in prosecutions and convictions of forced prostitution of women and children; however, the government did not make significant progress combating labor trafficking or trafficking of male victims during the reporting period. Japan’s 2005 amendment to its criminal code, which prohibits the buying and selling of persons, provides a narrow definition of trafficking that is not in line with the 2000 UN TIP Protocol, and it is not clear if the existing legal framework criminalizes all severe forms of trafficking in persons. These laws prescribe punishments ranging from one to 10 years’ imprisonment, which are sufficiently stringent and generally commensurate with penalties prescribed for other serious crimes. In 2011, the government reported 25 investigations for offenses related to sex trafficking that resulted in 20 convictions, 18 of which carried prison sentences that ranged from 18 months to four years’ imprisonment. The government also reported 842 investigations related to child prostitution and reported 470 convictions on charges of child prostitution, 74 of which carried prison sentences that ranged from less than a year to three years. Despite indications of forced labor in the Industrial Trainee and Technical Internship Program, the government reported one forced labor investigation, and no labor trafficking arrests, prosecutions, or convictions during the reporting period. The National Police Agency (NPA), Ministry of Justice, Bureau of Immigration, and the Public Prosecutor’s office continued to train law enforcement officers on trafficking investigation and prosecution techniques. During the reporting period, all new police officers, all senior officials from prefectural police departments, and all immigration officers received training on trafficking investigation and identification techniques. Further, 63 prosecutors received specialized training on conducting trafficking prosecutions.
Most allegations of abuse or forced labor involving workers in the Trainee and Technical Internship Program were settled out of court or through administrative or civil hearings, resulting in penalties which would not be sufficiently stringent for cases involving trafficking offenses, such as forced labor. NGOs and labor activists report that the increased inspections of trainee program worksites as well as labor standards seminars provided to employers participating in the program have been successful in decreasing the incidence of abuse and forced labor in the program. The resolution of a civil compensation case documented in the 2011 TIP Report involving a 31-year-old Chinese trainee who died due to overwork had not been resolved by the end of the reporting period.
In addition, while the government took some steps to prevent government complicity in trafficking offenses, including prostitution, corruption remains a serious concern in the large entertainment industry in Japan. The government did not report investigations, prosecutions, convictions, or jail sentences against any official for trafficking-related complicity during the reporting period. The government actively investigated a February 2012 case in which a retired police chief was arrested in Japan for soliciting child prostitution.
The Government of Japan demonstrated modest efforts to protect victims of human trafficking over the last year. The government increased identification of sex trafficking victims in 2011, identifying 45 adult female victims, compared to the 43 victims identified during 2010. One of these victims had originally entered Japan as a participant in the Industrial Trainee and Technical Internship Program. The government has not identified a forced labor victim in Japan in 18 years, despite substantial evidence of abuses against workers in the Industrial Trainee and Technical Internship Program. Japanese authorities produced and distributed to officials a manual entitled, “How to Treat Human Trafficking Cases: Measures Regarding the Identification of Victims.” The manual’s focus, however, appears to be primarily on identifying the immigration status of foreign migrants and their methods of entering Japan, rather than identifying indicators of non-consensual exploitation of vulnerable populations. However, this manual led to the identification of trafficking victims in four prefectures that had never before identified victims. The government reported no specific protection policy or specialized services for victims of forced labor. Japan has no dedicated shelters for trafficking victims or clear sheltering resources for male victims. The government continued to provide general (not specific to human trafficking) funding for Japan’s 43 Women’s Consulting Center shelters (WCCs), which largely care for Japanese domestic violence victims but also served 37 foreign trafficking victims during the reporting period. Due to limitations on these shelters’ space, language, and counseling capabilities, WCCs sometimes referred victims to government subsidized NGO shelters. Victims in WCC shelters are technically able to leave the facility at will; however, security concerns are often asserted as the basis for requiring that facility personnel accompany the victims on outings. The government covers medical expenses in full for foreign and domestic victims while they shelter in government-run facilities; however, according to several organizations and government officials, referral to medical and psychological services for trafficking victims was inconsistent, and some victims were not referred to or offered these services in 2011. The government recognized and worked to correct these disparities, briefing victims prior to their arrival at the shelters, providing flyers at the shelters, and training WCC staff on available services.
According to NGOs, many victims refused to seek government assistance, due both to a fear of government authorities instilled in them by their traffickers, and, in some instances, fear of arrest and punishment for unlawful acts victims committed as a direct result of being trafficked. Some victims were also reluctant to seek government assistance due to the overall lack of protective services available to identified trafficking victims. Some trafficking victims were successfully identified by law enforcement subsequent to arrest or detention. The government-funded Legal Support Center provided pro bono legal services to destitute victims of crime, including trafficking victims, though it was unclear how many trafficking victims, if any, received government-funded legal services during the reporting period. The Japanese government identified 619 victims of child prostitution in the reporting period and the government juvenile protection agency provided protection services to these victims. Furthermore, while authorities reportedly encouraged victims’ participation in the investigation and prosecution of their traffickers, victims were not allowed to work while participating in the investigative and prosecutorial process. While long-term residency visas are available to persons identified as trafficking victims who fear returning to their home country, only one person has sought or received this benefit in the past. No trafficking victims were granted long-term residency visas during the reporting period.
The Japanese government made limited efforts to prevent trafficking in persons during the reporting period. The National Police Agency (NPA) and the Immigration Bureau updated and expanded multilingual emergency contact information for potential victims of trafficking. While the government distributed handbills with multilingual emergency contact information for potential victims of trafficking at local immigration offices and to governments of source countries, NGOs reported that many of these publicity efforts had little impact and failed to engage their intended audiences. The Immigration Bureau continued to conduct an online campaign to raise awareness of trafficking and used flyers to encourage local immigration offices to be alert for indications of trafficking.
For years, Japan has served as a source of demand for child sex tourism. Japanese men have traveled to and engaged in the commercial sexual exploitation of children in other Asian countries – particularly Thailand, Indonesia, Cambodia, the Philippines, and, to a lesser extent, Mongolia. During the reporting period, one person was convicted under a Japanese law that allows nationals to be tried in Japanese courts for engaging in sex with minors or producing child pornography overseas. Japan is not a party to the 2000 UN TIP Protocol, the only G-8 country that remains a non-party.
The Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department announced the punitive dismissal of a thirty-eight year old male traffic cop yesterday (June 8th, 2012). The police officer was previously arrested in March, for dressing up in sailor girl outfit (school uniform) and exposing his genitals and buttocks to a 16 year old girl in Musashino City–adding a new meaning to the term “sailor moon”.
The officer allegedly became fascinated with dressing up as a woman circa 1995. He told friends, “I really became fascinated with high school girls. I wanted to be a high school girl!” He is also suspected of having exposed himself to the teen-aged objects of his admiration two more times in the last year. (公然わいせつ）
The severe punishment meted out by the authorities and his pending court cases makes it seem unlikely that the officer will return to work as a “police woman.”
Portions of this article were previously posted on The Atlantic Wire and have been updated.
After the arrest of a yakuza boss for his alleged role in supplying workers to TEPCO’s Fukushima Daichi Nuclear Plant, we are learning the details of how Japan’s nuclear industry relied on organized crime. Since July of last year, a few months after the March 11 earthquake and tsunami resulted in a triple meltdown at the Fukushima plant, investigators have been probing possible yakuza links to TEPCO and the nuclear industry under the guidance of the National Police Agency.
“Yakuza involvement in the nuclear industry is believed to go back to 2007 or earlier,” said a police source, “and the gangs involved were dispatching yakuza to nuclear sites all over Japan.”
The yakuza boss arrested has been identified as Makoto Owada, a high-ranking member of the Sumiyoshi-kai (住吉会) crime group, the second largest organized crime group in Japan with roughly 12,000 members. Owada is charged with illegally dispatching workers to the reconstruction site from May to July of last year. The Fukushima plant is located in Sumiyoshi-kai territory (in yakuza parlance nawabari). However, in his initial statements to the police at the time of his arrest, Owada admitted that he had dispatched workers, including his own yakuza soldiers, to nuclear power plant construction sites all over Japan from as early as 2007.
“If we didn’t do it, who would?” asked one mid-level yakuza boss, who defended the criminal groups’ involvement. He even praised the yakuza workers as heroes in the aftermath of the disaster. “When everyone else was running away as Fukushima melted down, our people stayed to avert disaster. We’re not the bad guys.”
Police suspect that Owada was also working with Japan’s largest crime group, the Yamaguchi-gumi, in providing labor to areas outside of the Sumiyoshi-kai turf in a “joint business venture.” Organized crime in Japan tends to be extremely organized. (At right is an issue of a yakuza fanzine that is dedicated to the Sumiyoshi-kai.) And, in fact, one of the business partners, Yamaguchi-gumi Oshuaizukaikka, which also calls Fukushima Prefecture home, has been praised for their fast and effective relief efforts after the quake—even providing hot food and security from possible looters at disaster shelters. The other business partner, the Yamaguchi-gumi Shimizu-ikka was founded by one of the four yakuza who received a liver transplant at UCLA under controversial circumstances.
However, it’s becoming apparent that yakuza involvement in Japan’s nuclear industry is not limited to the Sumiyoshi-kai and Yamaguchi-gumi. In January of this year, the Fukuoka Police Department arrested an executive at a front company for the Kyushu-based yakuza Kudo-kai, for her role in illegal labor contracts with the KEPCO (Kansai Electric Power Company) managed Ooi Nuclear Power Plant.
Police and underworld sources said that starting in late May of last year, Owada allegedly dispatched several people, including gang members, to the devastated Fukushima nuclear power plant where they did cleanup work and reconstruction of damaged areas. According to these sources, Owada did not directly dispatch workers to the nuclear power plant; he first sent them to an official TEPCO subcontractor in Tochigi Prefecture. These sources say the way the scheme worked is that Owada then received the extra hazard pay (危険手当) that TEPCO was giving to workers at the radioactive Fukushima site. Some of that money was allegedly kicked back to the Sumiyoshi-kai as “association dues.”
While most firms in Japan now have in place exclusionary clauses in all contracts that forbids the use of organized crime or affiliated companies, TEPCO has been fairly lax about taking similar measures. Last July, according to the National Police Agency and TEPCO, the firm began meeting regularly with officials from the National Police Agency to discuss rooting out organized crime influence at the company. Up until October 1, 2011, however, it was not necessarily illegal to employ yakuza at nuclear facilities or work with their front companies. It is now.
The involvement of the yakuza in Japan’s nuclear industry has gone on long before last year’s disaster. According to Japanese government sources, Yakuza have been supplying labor to Japan’s nuclear industry since the late 90s. TEPCO and other firms have paid off yakuza groups in the past to remain silent about safety problems at their nuclear plants and other scandals. In 2003, the Japanese media reported that TEPCO had been making protection payments to a Sumiyoshi-kai front company for over ten years. The June 2005 issue of the political and news magazine, SEIKEI TOHOKU, had an in-depth expose of TEPCO pay-offs to a Yamaguchi-gumi boss. Police sources also confirmed that TEPCO ties to organized crime dated back to the late nineties.
TEPCO also had a history of illegally hiring minors to work at their nuclear power plants, most recently a 17-year-old boy. Police sources state that the subcontractor who dispatched the 17-year old to the work-site is suspected to be a yakuza front company but would not elaborate while the investigation is underway. In 2009, TEPCO was also admonished for allowing 4 boys under 18 to work at the site in violations of the labor standard laws. While the authorities scolded TEPCO, only the labor dispatch company, ACTO, was criminally prosecuted. While it may surprise many, background checks on nuclear power plant workers in Japan are not mandated, although Japan’s Nuclear Energy Commission thinks doing so might be a good idea. Almost anyone can get a job there, raising some concerns about the potential for terrorism.
Considering the intimate entanglements between organized crime and nuclear power in Japan, it would not be a shock if this investigation has a very short half-life. “The arrest of Owada is just the tip of the iceberg but how far the investigation will go or be allowed to go is difficult to say,” said the police source. “Things don’t change overnight.”
The Fukushima Police Department Organized Crime Control Division arrested a senior executive of the Sumiyoshi-kai (住吉会) crime group for illegally dispatching workers to the reconstruction at the TEPCO run Fukushima Daichi Nuclear Power Plant. According to reports by Sankei Shinbun and other sources, the Sumiyoshi-kai boss dispatched men, including yakuza members to a construction subcontractor in Tochigi Prefecture, and these men were sent into the nuclear plant area where they allegedly participated in containment work for the damaged facilities. The charges pertain to labor dispatches from May to the end of July last year. The labor dispatch laws forbid dispatching workers to construction sites. This is the first time a yakuza boss was arrested in relation to nuclear power plant reconstruction work. Japan’s nuclear industry has long been fraught with yakuza connections which we first wrote about in June of 2011 for The Atlantic Wire . TEPCO is not the only nuclear power plant operator in Japan to get in trouble for using yakuza supplied labor. KEPCO (Kansai Electric Power Company) also had workers illegally supplied by a Kudo-kai front company working at their Ooi Nuclear Power Plant. A Fukuoka Police investigation in January uncovered the problem. The Kudo-kai is an extremely violent yakuza group based in Kyushu, and like other southern Japan gangs they are known for their fondness of pineapples.
TEPCO is due to be effectively nationalized by the Japanese government. The firm’s legacy of cronyism, incompetence, cover-ups, and organized crime connections were a large part of the decision to remove TEPCO from private hands. Hopefully, a change in command will result in a change in safety, compliance, and working conditions at the nuclear power plants they have operated.
originally posted on February 18th, 2012. updated on May 3rd, 2012
The panel suggested that not only should the people operating the nuclear power plants be subject to background checks, but even the subcontracted workers as well. The panel reportedly took into account the poor management of labor by Tokyo Electric Power Company after the nuclear meltdowns began on March 11th, 2011.
In fact, TEPCO’s history of malfeasance and the nuclear industries unsavory connections to organized crime is one reason the firm is on the verge of meltdown.
Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), the monolithic corporation that controls all electric power in Greater Tokyo, and runs the Fukushima Daichii nuclear plant that experienced a triple meltdown following the March 11 earthquake, is on the brink of nationalization according to Japanese government sources. The official reason is that the firm may not be able to handle the massive compensation payments it owes to victims of the meltdown without going bankrupt. Unofficially, the firm has such long-standing ties to anti-social forces, including the yakuza—that some members of the Diet, Japan’s national legislature, feel the firm is beyond salvation and needs to be taken over and cleaned up. A Japanese Senator with the Liberal Democratic Party stated on background, “TEPCO’s involvement with anti-social forces and their inability to filter them out of the work-place is a national security issue. It is one reason that increasingly in the Diet we are talking de facto nationalization of the company. Nuclear energy shouldn’t be in the hands of the yakuza. They’re gamblers and an intelligent person doesn’t want them to have atomic dice to play with.”
It is not that the industry ties to anti-social forces were previously unknown. Engineers who worked for the firm noted the practice dated of employing yakuza members at nuclear plants dates back to the 1990s. Police sources also recognize that yakuza having been supplying labor to the area for decades. In the Japanese underworld, the nuclear industry is the last refuge for those who have nowhere to go. One yakuza explains it as folk wisdom, “Otoko wa Genpatsu, Onna was Seifuzoku･男は原発、女は性風俗”–, in other words, “When a man is has to survive doing something, it’s the nuclear industry; for a woman, it’s the sex industry.”
The Fukushima plant is located in the turf of the Sumiyoshi-kai, which is the second largest yakuza group in Japan with roughly 12,000 members; it has a well-known office in Tokyo’s Ginza District and operates under the banner Hama Enterprise. One mid-level executive in the organization even defends the role of his members in the Fukushima disaster. “The accident isn’t our fault,” he said. “It’s TEPCO’s fault. We’ve always been a necessary evil in the work process. In fact, if some of our men hadn’t stayed to fight the meltdown, the situation would have been much worse. TEPCO employees and the Nuclear Industry Safety Agency inspectors mostly fled; we stood our ground.”
However, while the symbiotic relationship between TEPCO and the yakuza has existed for decades, the relationship is officially “unacceptable.” The controversy became so great after the accident thatTEPCO pledged on July 19 to try to keep yakuza members from participating in the reconstruction of the power plant and related projects. They have been working with the Japanese National Police Agency (JNPA) to accomplish this but sources inside that agency are dubious as to whether there have been any real results. TEPCO officials met with the National Police Agency and 23 subcontractors in July and created a conference group on organized crimes issues according to government sources and they have met several times since. TEPCO explained at the time, “we want to people to widely know our exclusionary stance towards organized crime.”
According to TEPCO and police sources, since the reconstruction project has picked up speed, the number of workers has dramatically increased to several thousand. The JNPA has directed TEPCO from as early as June, to keep the yakuza out—although many of the subcontractors of the subcontractors are known yakuza front companies. Over 140 workers have been found to have used fake names when getting jobs doing reconstruction work and are presently unaccounted for. In reporting for Yakuza and the Nuclear Industry Tomohiko Suzuki was able to get into the reactor as a cleanup worker under false pretenses partly by using organized crime connections. According to Suzuki, three of the fabled “Fukushima Fifty” who stayed behind during the most dangerous days of high-level radiation leaks were local yakuza bosses and soldiers. He does not specify which groups they belonged to.
Even before the meltdown, it was very common for TEPCO to use temporary staffing firms that that would ultimately outsource work to organized crime front companies such as M-Kogyo in Fukuoka Prefecture and Yokohama which is backed by the Kudo-kai (工藤会). Organized crime groups from Kyushu are bringing workers as well. Many of the workers are homeless people, debtors to yakuza loan sharks, or former yakuza who have been expelled from their group.
In fact, in May, TEPCO’s Public Relations Department, when asked by this reporter, if TEPCO’s contracts with subcontractors have what are now standard “organized crime exclusionary clauses” (暴力団排除条項), a spokesperson replied, “We don’t have them standardized into our contracts. We don’t check or demand that our subcontractors have them in their contracts. We are considering doing so in the future.”
TEPCO has not responded to recent requests for clarification on any changes. or whether they have fully implemented the Japanese government issued guidelines for corporations who wish to avoid doing business with organized crime. TEPCO also refused to name the companies they use for outsourcing labor, background security checks, and general security at the nuclear power plants, “because to do so would be in non-compliance with personal privacy information protection laws.”
At the conferences with the police, TEPCO was supposed to share information with the police, learn the proper methods of dealing with organized crime shakedowns, and study how to do the paperwork to require the subcontractors to exclude organized crime from their businesses. However, TEPCO will probably not be held responsible for the second or third tier firms to which the work is further subcontracted. A senior National Police Agency officer, speaking on grounds of anonymity said, “I doubt these meetings with TEPCO have produced any great results. TEPCO has a history of doing business with the yakuza that is far deeper than just using their labor. Under the new laws that went into effect on October 1st, providing capital or profits to anti-social forces becomes a crime. The TMPD (Tokyo Metro Police Department) may have to issue TEPCO a warning. After the warning, there could be arrests.”
The same source noted that a TEPCO employee was arrested for insurance fraud along with a Sumiyoshi-kai member in May of this year but there was no evidence that TEPCO itself or any other TEPCO employees were involved in the crime. It only indicated that at least one TEPCO employee had organized crime connections. In January of 2003, it was reported that TEPCO had been making pay offs to the Sumiyoshi-kai for over twenty years via leasing plants and buying green tea from them. TEPCO also allegedly paid an Yamaguchi-gumi associate and former member, Takeuchi Yoichi, several thousand dollars to stop writing about safety problems at the Fukushima nuclear reactor in the 1990s. As Isao Mori reports in the recently published bookDirty Money (泥のカネ), after Mizutani Construction was named a sub-contractor on TEPCO’s Fukushima nuclear reactor waste disposal project, it paid Takeuchi’s front company “consulting fees” of around ¥120 million (roughly $1.5 million). The same firm also allegedly paid over a million dollars in under the table political donations to Ichiro Ozawa, former “kingpin” of Japan’s ruling party, the Democratic Party of Japan. (Ozawa is currently on trial for violations of thepolitical funds control law.) Mizutani Construction executives have admitted in court that it was standard practice to pay off local yakuza groups and politicians to obtain construction contracts, including those in the nuclear industry.
One National Police official responsible for the Fukushima District said Takeuchi and his involvement with TEPCO were well known among law enforcement. “I know the name very well. There are credible reasons to believe that he shook down TEPCO in the past and he has certainly been the beneficiary of contracts related to Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant construction. Whether TEPCO was victimized by him or the relationship was more symbiotic, I can’t say.”
Police and underworld sources also allege that a Matsuba-kai related front company is handling waste disposal at TEPCO plants and that TEPCO executives as recently as this summer were going on golfing jaunts with Matsuba-kai members. The Matsuba-kai is one of the ten largest yakuza groups in Japan with a strong presence in Tokyo but not a major powerhouse.
The Inagawa-kai, the third largest organized crime group in Japan, with offices across from the Tokyo Ritz Carlton has also been involved in the reconstruction efforts. Most of the yakuza involvement is in procuring workers to do the jobs of laying pipes and cleaning up debris while being exposed to high levels of radiation. The yakuza bring the laborers there but do not labor there. However, heavy constructions and other work is being done by yakuza front companies or firms with strong yakuza ties.
When asked what were the major differences between the yakuza and TEPCO the same Senator paused for a minute. “The primary difference between TEPCO and the yakuza is they have different corporate logos.” He explained, “They both are essentially criminal organizations that place profits above the safety and welfare of the residents where they operate; they both exploit their workers. On the other hand, the yakuza may care more about what happens where they operate because many of them live there. For Tokyo Electric Power Company, Fukushima is just the equivalent of a parking lot.”
UPDATE: At the end of April, TEPCO was effectively nationalized by the Japanese government.
U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement have announced that they will share more than $60,000 in assets seized from yakuza Susumu Kajiyama with the Nevada Gaming Control Board. Kajiyama is documented in “The Emperor of Loan Sharks” (pages 213-236) in Tokyo Vice, and Special Agent Mike Cox, who appeared in the 60 Minutes clip, was instrumental in the investigation as was Special Agent Jerry Kawai.
In January 2005, ICE agents executed three federal seizure warrants targeting Los Angeles and Las Vegas bank accounts belonging to Kajiyama, 60, who is currently serving a 6 ½ year sentence in Japan on loan sharking charges. As a result of those warrants, ICE agents in Los Angeles seized two bank accounts containing approximately $342,000 from the Union Bank of California. ICE agents in Las Vegas executed a third seizure warrant targeting an account containing $250,000 in Kajiyama’s name at the MGM Grand Hotel and Casino. ICE agents in Los Angeles and Las Vegas coordinated closely with the agency’s attaché office in Tokyo and the Nevada Gaming Control Board on the case.
Read ICE’s announcement as stored on another web page here.