Kyodo News: “Japanese basketball players expelled for buying sex”

Speaking of sports, four athletes from Japan’s men’s basketball team were sent home from the Asian Games in Jakarta for allegedly paying women for sex:

The four players left the athletes’ village after 10 p.m. on Thursday to have dinner, and later that night they “paid for the services of prostitutes,” said [Japanese delegation chief Yasuhiro] Yamashita, who led a record-high 762-athlete delegation to the Asian Games, the world’s biggest multi-sport event after the Olympics.

Following the team’s 82-71 preliminary round win over Qatar, the players first went to a Japanese restaurant in a major entertainment district, called “Block M” in the city, wearing their team uniforms, according to the JOC and the Japan Basketball Association.

After dinner and drinking, they left and were approached by several local women on the street. Japanese men, who happened to be there and who could speak Indonesian, acted as go-betweens in their negotiations, according to the association.

After paying 1.2 million Indonesian rupiah ($82) each, they took the women to a nearby hotel and did not return to the village by taxi until around 2:30 a.m. Friday.

Shihoko Fujiwara of Lighthouse: Center for Human Trafficking Victims, had harsh words for the four players in an interview with Business Insider Japan:

日本は悪い意味で性風俗におおらかな国。だから(選手団を追放された)4人も買春することに抵抗がない。売買春の裏には人身取引や児童買春などの犯罪が必ず潜んでいる。自分の行動に責任を感じないのは社会で容認されているからでしょう。JKビジネスは高校生が悪い、AV強制出演問題は出たい人たちがいる、と。でも、高校生を性暴力から守るのが大人の役目であり、AVに出演する人たちについても、多くの出演者が騙されたり、脅されたりして強制出演させられていたことが明らかになっています

Japan is, in a bad way, a country that is rather generous with the sex industry. That’s why there is no resistance to the four people (now expelled from the team) who had paid money for sex. And prostitution definitely comes with the crimes of human trafficking and child prostitution. Why do people feel no responsibility for their actions? Because their actions are in some way tolerated by wider society. When discussing joshi kosei businesses, it is the high school student who is bad; when discussing people who are forced into pornography videos, they say there are people who want to be in those videos, and so forth. But it is adults who bear the responsibility to protect high school students from sexual violence. As for those who are in pornography videos, it is becoming clear that many actors are deceived or threatened into appearing in those videos.

The interview and the flag

What did the four players do when they returned to Japan? Have a 謝罪記者会見 (apology news conference), of course. (Already not the first high-profile one involving an athletic scandal this year.) The journalists present were free to ask whatever they want:

会見は時間制限なしで、質問が途切れるまで続けられた。約1時間半に及んだが、テレビ局の女性から「声をかけられたのか、自分たちから声をかけたのか。そのときの会話は? ホテルに行くまでの流れを説明してください。買春行為だという認識はあったのか」と赤面ものの質問も浴びせられた。

There was no time limit to the news conference, which continued with an unbroken line of questioning. At around the 1.5 hour mark, a female reporter from a news station asked questions that would make a person blush like: “Were you approached by the women, or did you approach them yourselves? What did you talk about? Please explain what happened until you went to the hotel. Were you aware that you were about to pay money for sex”?

[…]

別の女性記者からは「ホテルに行くまでの気持ちは?」「金額を教えてください」という容赦ない質問も。

Another female reporter asked unforgiving questions like “How were you feeling until you went to the hotel?” and “How much did you pay?”

「浮ついた気持ちで、そういう経緯に至りました」(橋本)、「浮かれた気持ちがあったと思います」(佐藤)。金額は120万ルピアで約9000円と、大きい体を縮こませて答えるのが精いっぱい。これほど赤裸々な会見は珍しかった。

Hashimoto [one of the athletes] said: “I felt restless, and that led to what happened.” Sato [another athlete concerned] said: “I think we were on a spree.” They had paid around 1.2 million rupiah or 9,000 yen. They had hunched their large bodies and made every effort to answer seriously. It was rare for a news conference to lay bare everything.

As Kyodo News had reported, the four athletes concerned were wearing their team uniforms when the alleged prostitute-buying happened.

Nippon Television was free to interpret this as 日の丸を着て買春する (= buying prostitutes while wearing the flag). You can see in the screenshot from Nippon News Network below the anchor’s infatuation (?) with the fact that Japan’s national identity, part of the athletes’ team uniforms, was worn into one of Jakarta’s red light district:

Screen Shot 2018-08-22 at 11.37.19 PM
Source: NNN / Yahoo Japan News

The flag, and one’s responsibility to the flag, was also a theme during the apology conference:

やっぱこの日の丸を背負って、あの場でああいう軽率な行為をしたこと、そこが自分たちが、自分たちの認識の甘さが出てしまったことだと思います

Wearing the hinomaru on our backs and doing such a thoughtless act at that place really showed our naïveté. 

[…]

Bリーグが始まって2年で、そして日本の国旗を背負ってアジア競技大会に出るという自覚が、まず僕にはなかったなと深く反省しています

Upon deep reflection, I now realize that I was unaware that I was wearing the hinomaru on my back in the two years since I began in the B.League, and at the Asian Games.