FT: “Carlos Ghosn’s treatment is a stain on ‘liberal’ Japan”

Philippe Riès on what the arrest of Carlos Ghosn, former CEO of Nissan and the brainchild of the Renault–Nissan–Mitsubishi Alliance, shows about Japanese criminal procedure (paywall):

The rope and the denial of bail are standard practice for defendants in Japan, particularly foreigners. But we are entitled to ask Japan what the point is of holding suspects for months in harsh conditions (a poorly heated cell with the light constantly on, except when it is constantly off, from 9pm to 6am), with no right to even a single family visit, a drastic diet, and no access to needed medication.

Is it “liberal” to allow interrogations that last up to eight hours a day, seven days a week, where the same questions will be asked dozens of times, without a lawyer present? Why rearrest the “suspect” on the same charges related to different years or new charges raised just in time to prevent bail?

(For a similar article sans paywall, check out this New York Times article or explanatory video from the Wall Street Journal.)

The New Republic: “The Exhausting Minimalism of Tidying Up

Kyle Chayka on Marie Kondo’s entrance into the American Netflix consciousness:

The commandment to think carefully about what you own isn’t so radical, after all. “Sparking joy” still relies on material goods to form the basis of an identity: Each object must feel like it is an ineffable part of you, as if your old T-shirts emitted a Benjaminian aura. It’s not about taking up meditation or therapy; Kondo is advocating for something as close to perfect consumption as possible. The idea that things don’t matter is anathema to KonMari.

The Japan Times: “The death of a Japanese countryside festival”

Amy Chavez for The Japan Times:

“The residents, 60 percent of them over 60 years old, are garbed in festival gear: strips of cotton hachimaki cloth tied around their heads, colorful happi coats belted around their waists and their black tabi shoes gripping the pavement. They’re pulling a large wooden mikoshi festival float down the narrow street past rows of houses, just as their ancestors did over 300 years ago.

This is my neighborhood, on an island of just under 500 people in the Seto Inland Sea. I’m pulling this mikoshi too. We’re celebrating the autumn festival, which used to ring in the seasonal harvest, but which now serves as the one day of the year when people let their guards down, let bygones be bygones and just have fun together. The sake is brought out and the locals dance in the street. Some have grown-up children who return with grandkids to take part in the annual festival. But most do not come.”


Dismissing a yurukyara character mascot from its job

One way Japanese towns and prefectures that are nowhere near Tokyo try to seek our attention is through character mascots, or yurukyara (ゆるキャラ). So many towns and prefectures do employ them.

Last week, we also learned that it is possible to fire a character mascot, just like any other employee.

Since January 2018, a pet otter named ちぃたん☆ (Chiitan☆) has purported itself been the mascot of Susaki, a city in Kochi Prefecture. The winner of the 2016 Yurukyara Grand Prix, Chiitan☆ is an anthropomorphic incarnation of a real-live otter that lives in a talent agency in Akihabara.

According to SoraNews24, Chiitan☆ had no actual authority to represent the city, but had apparent authority as represented by the city:

Due to the real otter’s popularity, an anthropomorphic yurukyara version was made to give Chiitan’s brand added mobility. To accomplish this her Tokyo-based management used an existing otter costume design that was created for Shinjo-kun, the official, and preexisting, mascot character for Susaki City.

Possibly because the similarities were hard to ignore, Chiitan declared herself to be a “tourism ambassador” for Susaki City. Likely realizing the potential of her popularity, the city accepted and recognized her status as a quasi-official representative of the city. The costumed Chiitan even made several videos alongside Shinjo-kun.

But Chiitan☆’s dual (and conflicting) roles as social media star and PR ambassador for Susaki city would not last. It didn’t help that humans doing dumb shit while dressed in oversized otter costumes was part and parcel of Chiitan☆’s brand.

Granted, other yurukyara would also do dumb shit, but at least they tried somewhat to promote their localities (for example, Kumamon tripping over in a Kyushu Shinkansen maintenance facility in Kumamoto – the Shinkansen facility itself being a regional power move).

People in Susaki city began to complain about Chiitan☆ — particularly how it could potentially encourage animal abuse — and so the city decided to fire Chiitan☆ from its role. According to the Huffington Post:


On its official website and Twitter account, Chiitan☆ had purported to be a “Tourist Ambassador” for Susaki city in Koichi Prefecture. But the city vehemently denies this relationship: “We did not ask [Chiitan☆ to become our ambassador]; we merely acquiesced. Since this was unofficial from the very beginning, there is no question of there being any relationship to terminate.” Responding to the city, Chiitan☆ said: “I always thought that I was always together with the bigger chiitan [i.e. Shinjo-kun]. There was never any express written contract, so I didn’t know that we were being differentiated.

The moral of the story from a second-year law school student’s perspective? Don’t let rogue agents represent your interests.