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Weekly Highlights From the Japanese Press No. 1

Weekly Highlights From the Japanese Press No. 1
Photo by Su San Lee / Unsplash
This is the first installment in what will hopefully be an ongoing series of weekly highlights of Japan news as reported in Japanese sources.

Weekly Highlights From the Japanese Press No. 1

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This is the first installment in what will be an ongoing series of weekly highlights of Japan news as reported in Japanese sources.

For this first installment I have relied entirely on Bunshun Weekly1, the weekly version of Bungei Shunjū, the single most widely read magazine in Japan and, with a history stretching back to its establishment in 1923 by Kikuchi Kan with the support of literary notables Akutagawa Ryūnosuke, Kawabata Yasunari, Yokomitsu Riichi, and Kobayashi Hideo, one of its oldest. Future installments will draw on a greater variety of sources representing a broader range of opinion. I also plan to eventually add a series of highlights from the major monthly journals of opinion.

Weekly highlights will always be free, but monthly highlights and most translations will be for paying subscribers alone.

Japan’s Me Too Moment: Matsumoto Hitoshi and Hoshi Masanori

Since 2023, Japan has been going through its own Me Too moment. Star of the world of show business Matsumoto Hitoshi has received a constant stream of accusations of sexual misconduct against women since last year.

Suidōbashi Hakase, a student of Beat Takeshi, a successful comedian and together with Tamabukuro Sujitarō founder of the Asakusa Kid manzai duo, and for a brief period a member of the House of Councillors for Reiwa Shinsengumi, a new political party touting such policies as the abolition of sales tax and nuclear power plants, wrote on the matter in the March 14 issue of Weekly Bunshun. The thrust of his article can be reduced to the following four points.

  1. The claims raised against Matsumoto Hitoshi are undeniably true. As an unprecedented genius talent in the world of show business without any formal master, he may have unconsciously come to view himself as a king deserving of tribute. He instituted an informal system in which women were presented to him as tribute by his students and inferiors. He behaved in ways that indicate that he lacked an understanding of sexual consent, and instead of denying the claims, should acknowledge them and issue a public apology.
  2. The fact that these incidents took place in the world of show business is no longer an excuse. In this day and age, those who do not act in a manner consistent with public order and decency cannot be allowed to appear on television programs sponsored by major companies.
  3. At the same time, his behavior is not reflective of the norm in the world of show business. The hierarchy between students and masters is strict, and students are often uninhibited in their sexual habits, but there usually does not exist a system of procurement like that instituted by Matsumoto. Unlike most comedians, Matsumoto did not even have a master.
  4. Matsumoto should quit the world of show business or, if he would like to continue in it, work not on TV, but at shows that collect entry fees.

Former production advisor Hoshi Masanori met a worse fate when he was arrested recently under suspicion of “semi-rape,2” meaning sexual acts committed while a woman is mentally incapacitated or otherwise unable to offer resistance, and “semi-coerced sexual intercourse3,” meaning coitus, anal, or oral sexual intercourse carried out either while a woman is mentally incapacitated or otherwise unable to offer resistance, or has been deliberately rendered so. His accuser, a woman at the same production company who is simply called Woman A, alleges that in January 2016 and February 2019, Hoshi put her in a state in which she could not offer resistance, undressed her, and committed licentious acts. What this actually means is that she was told by others that Hoshi was a powerful man not to be opposed, that Hoshi himself hinted at yakuza connections and boasted of running people he disliked out of the industry, told her to show him her chest and remove her underwear because there will probably be bed scenes, pushed her onto the bed and began intercourse saying that he wanted to see her facial expressions, and toward the climax said that she would become beautiful if male hormones were to enter her body. He had already been arrested before when the same Woman A alleged that he had extorted 6,000,000 JPY, or the equivalent of about 40,000 USD, out of her under the pretext of it being necessary for her to get work.

Critic Ogiue Chiki, who in 2023 published a study of polyamory in Japan, offers some comments on the recent exposures in the world of show business overall. According to Ogiue, these incidents are part of a wider pattern of entrapment and sexual victimization that is the norm in show business and the media, as a survey of 275 members of both carried out by his research institute shows. Both have been trying to deal with the matter simply as news, but he would like for them to perform real horizontal investigations into the matter and work toward “the annihilation of harassment and violations of human rights.”

The Pathologies of the LDP

This week’s edition of the weekly column “Distrust in Newspapers” states that the February 29 session of the House of Representatives Deliberative Council on Political Ethics on incidents of bribery among LDP factions, particularly the Abe Faction, was unsightly for its complete and total lack of seriousness. The author of the column takes particular issue with the failure of any media beside the Asahi to report on it and states that, “god” being in the details, it should be possible to show what is wrong with the LDP by simply reporting those details.

The Rising Tide of Feminism

Feminist concerns loom large in this week’s Weekly Bunshun.

An article on actress Maeda Atsuko’s collaboration with a Chinese variety show begins with references to her role as a woman bearing trauma from her sexual victimization as a young girl in the recent drama film Voice.

This week’s installment of the beautiful Ugaki Misato’s serial, “Chancellor Ugaki’s Comic Party Manifesto,” is a review of Takano Hitomi’s manga Gene Bride, which is in essence a tale of the struggle of the young woman writer Isahaya Ichi to deal with the lookism, sexual harassment, and groping that she faces on a regular basis. Ugaki begins her article with the story of her own struggles. She was groped for the first time in elementary school and since then has always approached trains in “a state of war readiness.” A doctor at the school health center of unspecified gender came running when they thought that the visiting otorhinologist was a little too close. Ugaki is still a little scared of male doctors. Men are lucky, because they don’t have to give up on living on the first floor of apartment buildings, and their interests are never laughingly dismissed as being due to the influence of a boyfriend. The charm of Gene Bride is that it reminds us of and encourages us to feel angry about these inequalities and privations of society.

From the Front Lines of Informatization

This week also comes with a missive from the front lines of informatization. Freelance writer and specialist in matters of television and comedy Tobeta Makoto tells us about a recent episode of Rutennonteru called “Meeting the Haters of X.” In an effort to meet those who spread hatred and slander online and get to the bottom of what motivates them, director Kadota Tsubasa uses the show’s official X account to send more than one hundred posters of hatred and slander such lines as “I apologize for contacting you so suddenly” and “Would it be possible to talk over DM?” After being ignored by almost all of them and losing more than five hundred followers for reasons that are not entirely clear, Kadota finally gets an online hater to agree to meet under condition that their face not be shown. The hater in question is an unemployed woman in her thirties who learned to be aggressive in response to bullying in elementary and middle school. She began posting hate on X in 2014, has gotten multiple accounts banned, and now posts exclusively from zero follower accounts so that her vitriol does not appear on anyone’s timeline. When she says that others appear bright because of her inferiority complex, the director shoots back: “Does that inferiority complex disappear after you post?”

It turns out that people who post things that are socially unacceptable online are just unemployed, mentally ill losers.

Eyes on America

As one would expect, there are multiple serials devoted to American affairs.

Machiyama Tomohiro, an editor, film critic, and popularizer of America in the Japanese press who lives in Berkeley, has one in which he reviews a different item of popular culture each week. This week he treats the Apple TV+ adaptation of Welcome Home, Franklin, the first work of Peanuts to feature an African American as a central character. He describes for us the first scene. Franklin arrives in Charlie Brown’s hometown, where he sees the neighborhood children, all of whom are white, gathered in front of an ice cream shop, where they are all eating vanilla ice cream, and remarks: “There’s not enough diversity.”

The rest of the article focuses on race relations. To spare you the details, Machiyama presents Welcome Home, Franklin as a victory of the Civil Rights Movement and racial inclusivity that goes beyond tokenism to place an African-American character at the center of the story.

Journalist and professor Ikegami Akira covers American politics each week. This week he reports on Trump’s legal troubles, discusses his sources of funding, and gives an overview of the American system of trial by jury. With the exception of a comment on the GOP being “Trump First,” his treatment is neutral.


週刊文春 Shūkan Bunshun. 2

準強姦 jun-gōkan.3

準強制性交 jun-kyōsei seikō.

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