FT: “Japan open to justice reform following Carlos Ghosn affair”

Robin Harding, Kana Inagaki and Leo Lewis in a rare interview with Masako Mori, the justice minister (paywall):

In a rare interview with a part of the Japanese government that seldom sees any need to justify itself to foreigners, Ms Mori said Mr Ghosn was spreading misinformation about Japan’s legal system in an effort to court public sympathy and distract from the charges against him — which he has denied. She made clear that Japan would only change on its own terms and not if it threatens the country’s low crime rate.

“Our criminal justice system is suitably designed and suitably operated. But like any other country, it is not 100 per cent perfect and without fault,” said Ms Mori. “I truly want you to trust me when I say that if there are faults we will fix them, openly and above board.”

For a view from the other side of the spectrum: Debito Arudou wrote a scathing column in The Japan Times recounting modern racism in Japan in the past year, with Ghosn’s prosecution at the epicenter for the overview:

Last year, it became clear that the crimes that Ghosn is accused of (underreporting income for tax purposes) were reportedly not only being done for years by other companies, but even by Ghosn’s replacement, Nissan CEO Hiroto Saikawa. So far the only ones arrested have been the foreigners: Ghosn and his associate, Greg Kelly.

After being denied contact with his wife for months and his trial possibly pushed to 2021. Ghosn somehow managed to escape to Lebanon at the end of 2019. Now, with more media access without threat of arrest, he is in a good position to further expose how Japan’s criminal justice system violates human rights, especially for non-Japanese.

In his Hollywood-esque press conference in Lebanon earlier this month, Ghosn stopped short of naming anyone in the Japanese government who wanted to bring him down.

So while we might have to wait and see whether he is in a nationalist conspiracy, the fact remains that when things go bad when you’re a gaikokujin in Japan, things go real bad.

The Japan Times: “Remembering Satoshi Kon, one of anime’s best-loved creators”

Matt Schley on one of Japanese animation’s contemporary legends:

A decade after his untimely death, Kon is set to be posthumously celebrated by the Annie Awards, an annual ceremony in Los Angeles, dedicated to animation. Kon is one of the recipients of this year’s Winsor McCay Award, described as “one of the highest honors given to an individual in the animation industry in recognition for career contributions to the art of animation.” Previous recipients include Mamoru Oshii, Osamu Tezuka, Ralph Bakshi and Walt Disney, to name a few. The award is set to be presented on Jan. 25.

Nikkei Asian Review: “What Japan Inc. really thinks about Ghosn, Nissan’s maverick savior”

John Gapper, Mitsuru Obe, and Eri Sugiura on what Carlos Ghosn left behind when he fled Japan, and Japan Inc:

Although at its heart the case is a criminal one, the nature of his performance, amid the complex international corporate battles at Nissan, has rekindled a sensitive debate about Japan’s relationship with overseas talent and imported “superstar” CEOs.

Former Nissan board member Toshiyuki Shiga worked alongside Ghosn for nearly 20 years, including a spell as the automaker’s chief operating officer. Speaking to the Nikkei Asian Review on the fringes of the meetings, he expressed disappointment with his former boss, and frustration that Ghosn had fled Japan instead of staying to fight his cause.

“Carlos Ghosn used to be a person who never ran away from an adversary. He tackled it head on. When I heard the news, I was very surprised and shocked. I missed the old Ghosn,” Shiga said. “I wished he had tried to influence Japan from within. This is not a country that turns a deaf ear to calls for change. … My fear is that it gives an impression that Japanese companies are insular and drives away talent from overseas.”

Anti-Olympic Poster Committee

A project by the Institute of Barbarian Books, a print shop, community space, and library run by Momoe Narazaki and William Shum, the Anti-Olympic Poster Committee is a response to Shinzo Abe’s exploitation of the 2011 Tohoku Earthquake and meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant to get Tokyo to host the Olympic Games for a second time.

The posters provide a much better explanation than I ever can:

Momoe and Will gathered posters people made at the 2019 Tokyo Zinester Gathering, scanned them, and put them on the Anti-Olympic Poster Committee.

You’re welcome to send in your own!

Business Insider Japan: The Twitter campaign to protect students going to university entrance examinations from sexual harassment on trains

Yesterday was the first day of the National Center Test for University Admissions, where thousands of high school students take a standardized test that will (largely) determine where they were get their college degree, and by extension, what networks of alumni they get to access in adulthood when job-hunting in the future, and after graduation.

There’s no dress code when taking the exam, but many current students customarily (or feel some kind of unspeakable peer pressure) to show up in their high school uniforms.

So it breaks my heart to see that there’s a Twitter campaign, #withyellow, which calls on people to protect high school students from chikan during admissions exam season.

According to Ikuko Takeshita:

“#withyellow” is a project made by members of “Chikan Radar”, an app that lets users report and show information about chikan incidents on an app with just one click. Coinciding with the admission exam dates, the app has added a feature to receive incident reports from nearby users for people who are, for example, on the same train carriage. The Twitter campaign calls on people to board trains wearing yellow or with yellow objects, so as to show that they can help students in trouble.

Takeshita’s article goes on to interview people at a #withyellow rally outside Shibuya station this weekend about how they feel about sexual harassment and assault on trains.

Trying to get through high school and getting into college are already traumatic experiences for many. It’s disgusting that there are men who exploit the fact that many students use the trains on admissions exam dates just to sexually assault minors on the train.

Bloomberg: “Japanese Women Face a Future of Poverty”

From Marina Katanuma:

With entitlement costs skyrocketing, the government has responded by scaling back benefits while proposing to raise the retirement age. Some Japanese responded by moving money out of low-interest bank accounts and into 401(k)-style retirement plans, hoping investment gains might soften the blow. But such a strategy requires savings, and women in Japan are less likely to have any.

Japan’s gender pay gap is one of the widest among advanced economies. According to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, Japanese women make only 73% as much as men. Japan’s demographic crisisis making matters worse: Retired couples who are living longer need an additional $185,000 to survive projected shortfalls in the public pension system, according to a recent government report.

A separate study did the math for Japanese women: They will run out of money 20 years before they die.

The Hollywood Reporter: "Tragedy in an Animation Utopia: Horror, Heartbreak and Mystery After an Arson Massacre"

Scott Johnson and Patrick Brzeski write a thoroughly researched feature about this tragedy:

Three weeks before the fire, Yoshiji Kigami, 61, one of KyoAni’s most respected animators who had been with the company for more than two decades, spoke at a morning meeting about what he understood to be the company ethos, noting that “work isn’t everything” but that while they were at the office, those at KyoAni should support one another and “make the most of simply being here right now by creating the best work we can.”

The hub of much of KyoAni’s creative output was Studio One. From outside, the building was unassuming, a rectangular block with large windows and a rooftop balcony. But the interior was tranquil, with a spa-like atmosphere. Warm blond wood lined the walls, and straw tatami mats were spread out in a corner where employees were invited to rest, stretch or gather for brainstorming sessions. The central feature of the building was a spiral staircase that curled down from the third floor and spilled into the lobby, a creative lifeline connecting departments and people.

In November, Kyoto Animation held a memorial event in Miyako Messe to help its employees—and the company—move on.

The company has received over US$30 million in their donation bank account, which they closed last week.

FT: “Carlos Ghosn flees Japanese justice system to Lebanon”

Some last-minute corporate drama unfolding right now in the last day of this second decade, and, conveniently, in the middle of the New Year holidays in Japan:

In a short written statement, the former Nissan-Renault boss confirmed on Tuesday that he was in Lebanon, which does not have an extradition treaty with Japan. He declared that “he will no longer be held hostage by a rigged Japanese justice system where guilt is presumed, discrimination is rampant, and basic human rights are denied”.


Amid speculation that Mr Ghosn may have used a false passport or even a diplomatic passport issued by the Lebanese government, the mystery of how he fled the country deepened on Tuesday morning when state broadcaster NHK reported that a source at Japan’s immigration office said authorities had no record of Mr Ghosn leaving the country.

This comes a month after World Business Satellite aired an interview with Carole Ghosn, Carlo Ghosn’s partner, saying that the Asahi Shimbuns portrayal of a surprise raid against Ghosn’s misconduct when he landed in Tokyo in late 2018 was “fake news“.

From the November 19, 2019 broadcast of World Business Satellite. TV Tokyo.

The Nikkei notes that the reputation of the Japanese criminal justice system has suffered under the glare of European and American media. As the Washington Post reports today:

Ghosn’s treatment since his arrest in November 2018 has thrown an unflattering spotlight on Japan’s justice system, and prompted concerns in boardrooms around the world. Sympathy was high among the general public in Lebanon, and its government had complained publicly about Ghosn’s humiliating treatment behind bars.

Ghosn, one of the world’s most successful and charismatic auto executives, was accused of financial misconduct and underreporting his income. But his initial 23-day detention was extended to 108 days as prosecutors rearrested him several times while he was still behind bars, a common tactic used in Japan to extract confessions and widely criticized as amounting to “hostage justice.”

He was released in March, then rearrested again in April just after announcing plans to hold a news conference, before finally being granted bail under strict conditions, including that he not speak to his wife. Writing in The Washington Post in April, Carole Ghosn said her husband had been kept in solitary confinement, with the lights on around the clock, and subjected to interrogation at all hours of the night and day without access to his lawyers.

The case prompted questions about whether a Japanese executive would have faced the same treatment, and why Ghosn and U.S. citizen Greg Kelly were the only Nissan board members arrested, when the company’s Japanese executives should also have known about Ghosn’s compensation arrangements.

I don’t profess to know anything about the Japanese legal system, or about Ghosn’s case. However, I do find it uncomfortable that the Asahi Shimbun was super gung-ho about the investigation. These graphics are borderline judgments before trial.

And the icing on the cake in a year full of escaping suspects: according to the Financial Times, Lebanon does not have an extradition treaty with Japan.

Nike Japan: Naomi Osaka – QUESTION / RETURN

Naomi Osaka released this commercial with Nike Japan that perfectly captures (I think) the oscillations of her being Japanese when it’s convenient, and her being not Japanese when she’s not (at least according to a former chairman of Twitter I met at a private dinner in Hong Kong earlier this year).

Osaka’s had a rough year with the Japanese media. Nissin decided to make her look white in anime form, journalists keep trying to make her say things in Japanese, and her skin is the butt of a comedic duo’s joke. But what has stayed constant is how classy Osaka is.

Indeed, as Serena Williams said to Osaka after their US Open together last year:

“I am so proud of you and I am truly sorry. I thought I was doing the right thing in sticking up for myself. But I had no idea the media would pit us against each other. I would love the chance to live that moment over again. I am, was, and will always be happy for you and supportive of you. I would never, ever want the light to shine away from another female, specifically another black female athlete. I can’t wait for your future, and believe me I will always be watching as a big fan! I wish you only success today and in the future. Once again, I am so proud of you. All my love and your fan, Serena.”