WIT Life #83: Japan in the news and in film

WITLife is a periodic series written by professional Writer/Interpreter/Translator Stacy Smith (Kumamoto-ken CIR, 2000-03). She starts her day by watching Fujisankei’s newscast in Japanese, and here she shares some of the interesting tidbits and trends together with her own observations.

The Wall Street Journal had some interesting Japan coverage this week.  One article from earlier in the week discusses tactics being employed to get the Japanese populace turned on to fish again, as its popularity has declined due to factors such as smell, price and preparation.  It has gotten to the point where fishery officials have started sending instructors to schools in order to teach children how to eat fish with chopsticks, and fish is being promoted in pop culture by characters such as Sakana-kun (on right saying “Let’s eat delicious fish with Sakana-kun!”). 

Another article focuses on Japanese-Americans who were interned during WWII, and how they got through this ordeal by forming swing bands.  This legacy is being preserved through a tribute band called Minidoka Swing Band, with members who were internees as well as others who have no ties to the camps (check out the video, they’re talented!).

Speaking of the internment, this weekend was the 3rd annual New York Peace Film Festival which featured some works dealing with this topic.  I attended the event’s kick-off party on Friday night where some of the filmmakers spoke.  There we had a chance to preview the second part of a movie called “Twice Bombed, Twice Survived,” which depicts those who lived through the bombings in both Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  The last known double survivor, Tsutomu Yamaguchi, passed away this January at age 93.  However, Hidetaka Inazuka, a producer of the film who was in attendance, said in his comments that another one had emerged just two weeks earlier.  This 91-year old man will finally be able to verbalize the horrors he experienced over six decades ago.  “Twice Bombed, Twice Survived” detailed how due to survivor’s guilt as well as stigma against these double survivors, many have been reluctant to come forth or even discuss their experiences with their families..

Also appearing at the kick-off as a guest speaker was Charles Pellegrino, author of the controversial book Last Train to Hiroshima which featured Yamaguchi.  The allegations against him of falsifying information cannot be proved as the source in question has already passed away, but Pellegrino asserted that he only wrote what he had been told.  Director James Cameron bought the film rights to the story, and when asked if Cameron has any plans to do a movie based on the topic Pellegrino responded by saying, “He’s a busy man and Avatar 2 looks like a very likely possibility, but when the time is right I know he is still interested.”  Cameron was able to meet with Yamaguchi before he passed away, and the double survivor’s dying wish was for Cameron to share what happened in Hiroshima and Nagasaki with the world.

Murder in Japan: Suspect charged in the killing of Lindsay Hawker

It was a dreadful night on March 24, 2007. Lindsay Hawker was an English teacher at Nova, a well known language school in Japan. She had met Tatsuya Ichihashi by chance in a café a few days earlier, and that night had agreed to go up to his room. The next day she was found dead in his apartment.

The evidence was overwhelming against Tatsuya Ichihashi. Lindsay’s body had been found in a bathtub on the balcony filled with sand and other materials, which Ichiro had been purchasing from the local hardware store. The taxi cab driver had been told to wait for Lindsay to come back down from Ichiro’s apartment, but she never returned. He also fled the scene once police officers arrived.

Ichiro had evaded arrest until late November 2009 when police finally caught up with him in Osaka. Today the newspapers reported the official “charges” being brought by the court against Tatsuya Ichihashi.

Asahi “The Chiba District Attorney charges Hayashi with Rape Killing” On December 23rd the district attorney’s office in Chiba prefecture charged Tatsuya Ichihashi (originally brought up abandoning a corpse charges) with rape killing. The decision was based on the fact that Hayashi had an intent to kill when he raped Lindsay on the evening of March 24, 2007.

The Chiba Court claims that Ichihashi bound her hands together, hit her many times in the face, and killed her by suffocation. Ichihashi has yet to enter a plea, according to the Asahi.

Nikkei “Hayashi is charged again, this time with Rape Killing. The court is to include a Citizen Jury System” The clear difference between the Nikkei and the Asahi’s account of the incident is the Nikkei commented on the trial being decided by Japan’s “Citizen Jury System.” This would be a ground breaking case, as the Japanese jury system was just introduced this past year.

The Nikkei also mentioned Ichihashi’s defense, claiming “Lindsay cried out very loudly. I put my arms around her from behind to hug her, not to kill her.”

Poison Blowfish: A Deadly Dinner in Japan Puts 11 in the Hospital

Sushi is a delicacy in Japan, and probably the most famous Japanese food in America. Whenever anyone hears sushi, they think of raw fish, and how adventurous (and healthy) it must be to eat fish uncooked. No one ever thinks it might be dangerous.

The one exception to this is blowfish. To anyone who’s ever lived in Japan or thought about going there, blowfish is famous for its borderline poisonous properties. All restaurants that carry blowfish need special chefs to prepare the fish just right, and if it’s not prepared correctly it can potentially be poisonous. Everyone tries blowfish because of the potential danger and of course unique taste, but no expects to actually get poisoned.

Both the Yomiuri and the Asahi reported on the Blowfish (fugu in Japanese) poisoning incident:

Asahi: “Toyama: poisoned while eating blowfish nabe, 2 people in critical condition” On the evening of the 23rd, 11 people were eating blowfish nabe at Kozushi, a sushi restaurant in Toyama Prefecture. 9 of those people exhibited symptoms of poison and were rushed to the hospital, and 2 people were rendered unconscious.

According to the Asahi, there were about 21 people eating blowfish nabe that night. 11 people were admitted to a nearby medical facility, with symptoms such as having trouble breathing. The cause of people’s sickness was that the part of the blowfish that is poisonous was not completely removed, according to the poison control center at the facility. The sushi chef who prepared the blowfish did have his sushi license.

Yomiuri: “Toyama: 2 people rendered unconscious by poisonous blowfish nabe” Compared with the Asahi, the Yomiuri dramatized the incident of the poisoning blowfish. They said the 11 people emitting symptoms of poison were rushed to 3 nearby hospitals. The symptoms of poison were not only shortness of breath, but also people’s mouths and faces going numb.

The Yomiuri also mentioned that the blowfish prepared that morning was from a different fish market than what is usually purchased. The Yomiuri, along with the Asahi, pointed out that the sushi chef who prepared the blowfish did have his license.

Nikkei: Swine Flu’s dismal statistics The Nikkei did not report on the poison blowfish incident this morning but instead ran a headline about the swine flu in Japan and its dismal statistics. According to the Nikkei, when looking at the ministry of Health and Human Welfare’s website, “1 in 14 people in Japan have been infected with the swine flu.” In regards to deaths, they said “1 in 14,000 will be killed by the swine flu.”

Plane Crash in Bangkok…What Really Happened?

It’s sometimes difficult to report on an international incident. Stories get conflicted, newspapers have to follow leads, and they’re pressed for time to release something to the public as soon as possible. Today’s crash for of a Bangkok Airways ATR72 showed how each Japanese newspaper can create a different story.

They did agree that the accident happened earlier today about 2pm Bangkok time, 4pm Tokyo time (although exact estimates are all different). The crashed happened on the island of Samui, with 72 people on board.

Asahi Landing failure in Thailand, the pilot dies, over 40 people injured” The time was 4:10 Tokyo time. As the plane was landing at the island of Samui, it went off the runway, and crashed into a building within the airport. 42 people were injured, including 4 people who were seriously injured, and the pilot was killed.

The passengers on the plane, according to the Asahi who heard this from the airline, were 80% foreigners. After checking with the Japanese embassy, it’s been confirmed that none of the passengers were Japanese.

Nikkei “Bangkok Air landing failure in Southern Thailand” The time was 4:20 Tokyo time. The plane separated from the runway and crashed into a building that was near the control tower. One pilot was killed, another pilot was seriously injured, along with 10 passengers being seriously injured. The Nikkei ‘s estimate for passengers with serious injuries was three times as many as the Asahi.

The passengers on the plane, according to the Nikkei who gets their information from the Thai Airport and Transportation authority, were all foreigners. The Nikkei also mentioned “passengers whose name looked Japanese were not aboard.”

Yomiuri “Thai plane crashes into the control tower, killing the pilot, and seriously injuring 6” The time was 4pm Tokyo time. The Yomiuri estimated that 6 people were seriously injured, less than the Nikkei’s estimate, but more than the Asahi’s. The Asahi claimed “the plane crashed into a building in the airport,’ the Nikkei said “the plane crashed into a building near the control tower,” but the Yomiuri took this one step further by stating “the plane crashed into the control tower!”

The Yomiuri also was the only newspaper that offered reasons for the crash. “Due to low visibility during the rain storm, the plane slipped off the runway.” They also were the only newspaper to say the airport shutdown after the incident. At least the drama of The Yomiuri’s account makes for a good story.

Death Threats on Wikipedia, in Japan

Background: Japan is a perfect example of how the internet’s reach has gone global. One way to measure popularity of the internet is how many websites have been translated to other languages besides English, and Japanese has no shortage of translations in cyberspace. The internet in Japan has become a popular tool for commerce and social networking.

However, Japan is relatively new to abuses of the internet. Although sometimes incidents such as the Akihabara hit and run (06/08) were written about on blogs before the event took place, big websites such as Wikipedia have not seen abuse yet from users. The newspapers each had their own take on the “Wikipedia Incident”, the first documented arrest for abusing the Wikipedia website in Japan.

Asahi “3 Boys Charged with Writing Death Threat Articles” The Asahi reports that on February 26th, three boys went onto Wikipedia and changed the “Buddha” description on Wikipedia to “on March 8th at the Big Site Tokyo Expo, we’ll bring a rifle and kill all the participants.” In response, the boys are reported to have said “we did this like ten times.” Wikipedia has mentioned that this year from January to April they’ve had about 100 articles talking about killings.

How did the boys do it? According to the Asahi, the boys accessed Wikipedia through a server in Germany, hoping not be traced. They reported that the boys are actually quite prolific writers and usually update pages that have to do with video games.

Yomiuri “You’ll all be Killed” The Yomiuri’s depiction of the incident was dramatized for effect. Not only did they highlight this quote in their headline, but they also the charge the boys for death threats “without discrimination”. The Japanese in the article is 無差別殺害予告 , which literally means “in discriminatory prophesized killing.”

The Yomiuri also added that the authorities at the Big Site event increased the security presence in response to the boy’s threats.

Nikkei “3 High Schoolers Arrested in Fukuoka” The Nikkei had a very short summarized article about the incident but they did also outline that the students claimed that “they had written the same type of article at least 10 times on Wikipedia.”

Japanese SMAP Member Returns After House Arrest

SMAP is one of the most popular boy bands in Japan. Anyone that’s been to Japan and done Karaoke will probably tell you about their songs. Just turn on the TV and you’ll see the very popular Smap Smap variety show. According to Wikipedia SMAP leader Nakai was the highest tax payer of any entertainer in Japan in 2003.

In late April of this year, SMAP member Tsuyoshi Kusanagi was arrested for indecent exposure in a public park. He was found not guilty by authorities, and is scheduled today to return back to showbiz on the show Smap Smap. The Japanese newspapers each had their own account of the Smap member’s return.

Yomiuri He’s Back As Popular Than Ever This summary of the article basically sums up Yomiuri’s reporting of the return of Tsuyoshi Kusanagi. They quote him by saying “I’m happy to have my job and start from square one. I apologize for any inconvenience caused to my band members, and I also thank the fans for all their encouraging words.” The “encouraging words”, according to Yomiuri, were about 45,000 letters sent by fans during his one month absence. Yomiuri paints a picture of Tsuyoshi both as popular as ever, and also as busy as ever. After his debut on Smap Smap tonight Tsuyoshi then is scheduled to appear on “Waratemoii” the following day.

Asahi He Has Risen and Reformed The Asahi fails to mention the massive fan mail and rigorous schedule of Tsuoyoshi and instead paints a picture of a secluded entertainer who has emerged and reformed himself. Quoting Tsuyoshi, “From today I, Tsuyoshi Kusanagi, would like to start again as a member of Smap. I feel happiness.” They then add Tsuoyoshi, for his one month under “house arrest”, did not go out once. He instead chose to read and exercise. “All I can say is how grateful I am for my fans and the people involved.”

Nikkei “Teacher Arrested on Indecent Exposure Charges” The Nikkei did not run a cover story about the SMAP member returning to showbiz but instead focused on an engineering teacher for a girls middle school being arrested for indecent exposure. According to authorities at the school, the teacher’s being charged for exposing his “lower half” to three girls on their way to school. When questioned, he replied, “I’ve been very stressed out to the point where I’ve been unable to continue writing my own thesis.”

SMAP is one of the most popular boy bands in Japan. Anyone that’s been to Japan and done Karaoke will probably tell you about their songs. Just turn on the TV and you’ll see the very popular Smap Smap variety show. According to Wikipedia SMAP leader Nakai was the highest tax payer of any entertainer in Japan in 2003.

In late April of this year, SMAP member Tsuyoshi Kusanagi was arrested for indecent exposure in a public park. He was found not guilty by authorities, and is scheduled today to return back to showbiz on the show Smap Smap. The Japanese newspapers each had their own account of the Smap member’s return.

Yomiuri He’s Back As Popular Than Ever This summary of the article basically sums up Yomiuri’s reporting of the return of Tsuyoshi Kusanagi. They quote him by saying “I’m happy to have my job and start from square one. I apologize for any inconvenience caused to my band members, and I also thank the fans for all their encouraging words.” The “encouraging words”, according to Yomiuri, were about 45,000 letters sent by fans during his one month absence. Yomiuri paints a picture of Tsuyoshi both as popular as ever, and also as busy as ever. After his debut on Smap Smap tonight Tsuyoshi then is scheduled to appear on “Waratemoii” the following day.

Asahi He Has Risen and Reformed The Asahi fails to mention the massive fan mail and rigorous schedule of Tsuoyoshi and instead paints a picture of a secluded entertainer who has emerged and reformed himself. Quoting Tsuyoshi, “From today I, Tsuyoshi Kusanagi, would like to start again as a member of Smap. I feel happiness.” They then add Tsuoyoshi, for his one month under “house arrest”, did not go out once. He instead chose to read and exercise. “All I can say is how grateful I am for my fans and the people involved.”

Nikkei “Teacher Arrested on Indecent Exposure Charges” The Nikkei did not run a cover story about the SMAP member returning to showbiz but instead focused on an engineering teacher for a girls middle school being arrested for indecent exposure. According to authorities at the school, the teacher’s being charged for exposing his “lower half” to three girls on their way to school. When questioned, he replied, “I’ve been very stressed out to the point where I’ve been unable to continue writing my own thesis.”

Baby Boy Found in Freezer

In Hyogo Prefecture, Ono City, Miyuki Otsuka was arrested yesterday on charges that she left her child’s body in the freezer. According to the police, Miyuki showed up the police station and said that she was hiding her baby’s body in the freezer. Both the Yomiuri and the Asahi Newspapers tell this gruesome tale differently, and interestingly enough neither paper speculates on how or why the baby was killed.

Yomiuri “He was already dead when I got home.” Miyuki claims that she made her son stay at home while she went out. After she returned home, she found her son dead. The Yomiuri mentions some interesting details surrounding this, like for example Miyuki is unemployed. Also, they point out that the body was found in a vanilla bag, wrapped up. They end their article saying the police are currently doing an autopsy to find the cause of death, but the scene they set makes you wonder how it couldn’t be Miyuki.

AsahiThis is my baby, who died years before” The Asahi’s first quote for Miyuki is that her baby had died years before. They then mention that the police are currently doing an autopsy, and at the same time they are questioning the husband. In their closing paragraph they claim that Miyuki is “testifying” that her son died a few months after they moved to the apartment in 2007. The Asahi’s focus on time and the husband hints at the fact that Miyuki might not have killed her baby.

NikkeiFirst American Killed in Texas by the Swine Flu” The Nikkei did not run a story on Miyuki this morning but instead focused on the first death in Texas supposedly from the Swine Flu. According to Routers they claim that a 23rd month old baby was confirmed to have died of Swine Flu, the first death outside Mexico.

“Death in a Hole” 3 Takes on the Sad Story of Takae Gasho

(Background) While golfing in Rupetau Golf Course with her two sons and husband, Takae fell into a 5 meter deep, 1.5 meter around hole and died.

NHK Briefly Mentions – NHK News, after the G20 Summit and North Korea, mentioned the story of Taka e ¾ the way into their news broadcast. “We were walking behind Takae when she fell, but we did not see any hole” as reported by a policeman who spoke with the family.>

Yomiuri Dramatizes –Yomiuri’s title tells it all: “Woman falls into deep hole and dies before her husband and children’s eyes”. Add the grizzly detail of “when her body was found it was half covered in sand” and you feel like you’re reading a Stephen King novel.

Asahi Accuses – Asahi’s choice of words compared to Yomiuri’s made it clear who’s responsible. Yomiuri tells “workers that morning had surveyed the golf course and found nothing irregular” while Asahi claimed “the manager had surveyed the golf course and found nothing irregular.” Asahi’s closing paragraph stated the golf course could be investigated on “suspicion of professional negligence leading to death.”

One of the Brains of Postal Privatization Charged with Theft

Youichi Takahashi, one of the brains of Koizumi’s postal privatization, was brought up on theft charges today. Apparently his political acumen did not translate into an ability to commit crime.

The security tape revealed a man, looking just like Youichi, opening up a fellow bather’s locker. He took both an expensive Italian 100,000 yen watch and a wallet with 50,000 yen in it.

When confronted by the authorities, he confessed, stating “I’m sorry. I saw the watch and was interested, like what kinda person would carry such a nice watch?”