Monthly Archives: December 2010

Sending Papers, Reloaded

Almost a year ago, I explained the concept of “sending papers” and its procedural role in prosecuting criminal acts in Japan. I posted on the topic because photographer Kishin Shinoyama was indicted on suspicion of public indecency for shooting photos of nude models in public spaces. (Afternote: In May 2010, the Tokyo summary court found him guilty of public indecency and disrespecting a holy place and ordered him to pay a fine of JPY300,000.)

“Sending papers” has been in the news yet again recently, and today I spotted two stories in English with that expression in the title.

Police may send papers on JCG officer next week
Police will likely send papers on a former navigation officer of the Japan Coast Guard to prosecutors next week for leaking video footage onto the Internet of a Chinese trawler’s collisions with JCG patrol vessels near the Senkaku Islands in early September, sources said Thursday.

Papers sent in airport death of Ghana man
Japanese Police have sent papers to prosecutors on 10 immigration officers in connection with the death of a Ghanaian man whom they subdued immediately before his deportation by plane, it was learned Tuesday.

The last story ends with, “The Chiba prefectural police said sending papers was just a routine step in their standard criminal procedures.” True, but it lacks the explanation and context provided by my post back in January, which I’ll repeat here for clarification:

“Send papers” or “Send papers to prosecutors” is a crude (but accurate) English translation of 書類送検 or shorui souken, a word frequently seen in Japanese news stories.

The word “sending papers” is not actually used by the police or prosecutors and does not appear in any criminal procedure legislation. Those words also have no legal definition. They just describe the legal requirements of the police officers to provide information to prosecutors where they have not arrested someone, or initially arrested them and released them. Prosecutors can, and do, designate that some minor crimes be up to the discretion of the police to process independently, but for all but the most minor crimes, the police are obliged by law to send papers to the prosecutors, and leave the decision of whether or not to prosecute the suspects with the prosecutors.

In which Curzon finally gets impressed by the DPJ

No further comment. All of these are good steps forward—many of which could never have been accomplished with an LDP administration.

MTA 1973 contruction report video

This 1973 video produced by New York City’s Metropolitan Transit Authority, courtesy of the NYC Transit Museum Archives, is awesome on several levels. We get to see cool footage of infrastructure construction projects, a period portrait of the City, an optimistic vision of NYC’s transit future JUST on the cusp of their impending bankruptcy, which scuttled most of those plans for a generation. And of course its all in a now amusing retro presentation.

Video originally pointed out to me by the NYC mass transit blog Second Avenue Sagas (named after the LONG delayed, now finally under construction Second Avenue Subway), which is one of my favorite regular blog reads.

In the second video it shows the old elevated line in the Bronx being dismantled, while talking about how the new Second Avenue Subway will run “all the way from the Bronx to the southern tip of Manhattan” but in the meantime “the transportation needs of the community are being met by modern, comfortable bus service.” Guess how that worked out?

Update: There’s also a similar video from the 1950s!

Japanese expats

This chart on Japanese living abroad from Nikkei was too good not to share. When I was going to school in Washington and living in Bangkok, I had a fair amount of experience dealing with Japanese expats. I knew mostly students in DC, so these were by and large people who just wanted to learn enough English to either help them in their get a job after graduating from a Japanese university or earn some promotion points at their companies back home, if they were older.

Bangkok, however, was a different animal entirely. Perhaps because I was looking for work, I had the chance to speak with a lot of recruiters and translation agencies. Many of the Japanese people I met came to Bangkok with long-term plans to stay. For some of the younger people, working as a local employee of a Japanese company was a way around the shukatsu system, while some older men apparently just fell in love with the country (and probably its women as well), not so different from the throngs of British/European men with Thai wives that are common in the city.

There was another recent article in Asahi about how young Japanese are flocking to Shanghai for the job opportunities. I can certainly understand the draw. A big city in a fast-growing, developing country like Bangkok and Shanghai can be very exciting. Bangkok was bustling, full of interesting people from all walks of life, loud, had great food, and was just a treasure trove of new experiences, sights, and smells (some better than others). Add to that a well-paying job and for many it won’t compare to life back home. Compared to that, Tokyo can seem downright dull.

Chart source: Nikkei.com (sub req’d)

Adventures in Bureaucracy

Bureaucracy in any society has ups and downs, pros and cons, benefits and absurdities. Just after an interaction today with Dubai’s bureaucracy, I read with painful amusement about Debito’s trials and tribulations in getting his Japanese passport renewed, a narrative of which was just published in the Japan Times. It’s worth reading in full, and I won’t spoil the ending, but consider the conundrum when Debito goes to renew his passport, which bears the name “Arudou Debito”...

I walked in with all the necessary documentation and filled out the forms. The friendly clerk gave everything a once-over (very professionally; no double-takes at a Caucasian applicant), and all was going smoothly… until he got to the rendering of my name in Japanese.

Clerk: “Er, about your last name. You wrote ‘Arudou’ on the form. Officially we only accept Hepburn-style Romanization, so you have to write it as ‘Arudo’ or ‘Arudoh.’ ”

I sighed, and said, ” ‘Arudou’ is how it is spelled. My expiring Japanese passport also had it rendered as ‘Arudou.’ Clearly that was acceptable then and should be acceptable now.”

Clerk: “Yes, you can write ‘Arudou’ on the back of your application to indicate how you would like your name rendered on the passport itself. But for our bookkeeping purposes, you must render it as ‘Arudo’ on the front. We can only take Hepburn. Please remove that superfluous ‘U.’ ”

I said I could do that, but then that person would not be me.

I won’t spoil the ending—read it yourself. Continue reading

Some amazing Japanese book covers from early 20th century

A wonderful blog devoted to scans of vintage graphic design has a series of seriously incredible posts with dozens of old Japanese book and magazine covers.

—Tokyo Flashback – Vintage Design and Illustration From JapanOedipus at Hiroshima – Living Design in JapanGive Us Back Man – Japanese Graphic DesignEarly 20th century Japanese magazine coversEarly 20th century Japanese book coversJapan’s First Illustrated BookMad Men and FriendsForty-five thousand dollar leftoversYukihiko Tajima’s Gion MatsuriEraserhead vs. ProtractorheadTakei Takeo Lab of OrnithologyTakeo Takei – Children’s Day in Japan, 1936The Wonders of Life on Earth – Yokoo details

Some particular favorites of mine are this cover of the Japanese translation of Kipling’s The Jungle Book, from 1928.

This super art-deco airplane and city-scape.

This Osaka Puck cover, which reminds me of a Japanese version of DC’s golden age Sandman character.

This cover to Forensic Science Magazine.

This boy riding a rabbit like it’s Falkor.

This poster for what I think was a stage play by the name of 夜叉奇想, or “Demon Fantasy,” by Kara Juro.

And this lovely little Children’s book by Takeo Takei.

But they’re all pretty great, and I recommend looking at every single one.

Pick a cause, any cause…

From Tokyo Reporter:

I can spot at least the following:

  • Reform the constitution to allow for the SDF to be a real defense force
  • Eliminate retirement pay for criminal diet members
  • Eliminate the research allowance for [certain?] diet members
  • Strengthen the Anpo [US alliance?]
  • Eliminate the Teacher’s Union
  • Long live the Emperor
  • Political Corruption Prevention Law

The new Kansai regional league

This week saw the birth of a new unit of governmental organization in Japan in the form of the Kansai regional league , consisting of the seven prefectures of Shiga, Kyoto, Osaka, Hyogo, Wakayama, Tottori and Tokushima. [ref]Or “alliance,” depending on the newspaper – the translation for 広域連合 does not yet seem to be standardized.[/ref] As population, wealth, and the cultural center of gravity have become increasingly concentrated in the Tokyo region, politicians and pundits have been discussing ways to decentralize administration and revitalize the country’s regions, with one widely discussed proposal from 2006 [ref]Similar proposals had been discussed as early as the 1950s, but the idea does not seem to have been taken very seriously until around 2004.[/ref] taking the form of a plan to reorganize Japan’s 47 prefectures into a number of states.

For legacy reasons, there are at present four different words for Japanese prefectures in Japanese, to, dō, fu, ken : 都道府県 (to is used only for Tokyo, dō is the last syllable in Hokkaidō, the two fu are Osaka and Kyoto, and the other prefectures are all ken) , but they are legally identical at present. Under the proposed state system, all states would be labeled as shū : 州, as for example, US States or provinces in various other countries are – except for Hokkaidō, which would keep its and avoid an embarrassing double classifier. This proposed system is therefore known in Japanese as the dōshūsei : 道州制, with the sei meaning “system.” The number of states varies depending on the exact proposal; for example a 2006 report commissioned by the Prime Minister’s office included variants for 9, 11, and 13 states, and a 2008 report from a group of interested LDP members suggested 9 and 11 state plans, which were slightly different from those of the earlier report. In all cases, the state borders would be largely based on those of the Japanese regions, which are currently only conventional, and not legal, geographic units. Despite the similar terminology, states under the Japanese proposal should not be overly confused with the US equivalent. Where US states are semi-sovereign entities in a federated alliance, Japanese states  would still be administrative units granted a certain amount of delegated authority by a centralized state, much as the current prefectures are. However, since they would both be granted more authority, and would be able to coordinate regional operations and development over a much larger area, they would be able to realize grander and more suitably local plans then has been possible under the current system of an extremely centralized national bureaucracy and relatively weak collection of rather small prefectures. At least, that was the argument being made in favor of the system.

The dōshūsei plan never really went anywhere in the end, partly because the vast majority of the population was uncomfortable with such a massive reorganization of fundamental geographic units, and also because the LDP, the party which contained most of the plan’s supporters, lost control of the government. However, demand for increased regional autonomy remained particularly strong in the Kansai region – which trails the Tokyo (Kanto) region as Japan’s secondary locus of population, industry, and culture/media – not least by Osaka Governor Hashimoto Toru, and so regional politicians came up with a sort of backdoor approach to implementing a more limited form of higher-level regional government.

As the Yomiuri explains:

Business leaders in the region first began calling on the central government to introduce a larger regional administrative system in 1955—the model proposed was termed doshu-sei—but got little satisfaction from the government’s response.

Finally, the Kansai Economic Federation (Kankeiren) turned its attention to the regional league of administrative entities. Introduced by a 1994 revision to the Local Government Law, that system has mainly been utilized by municipal governments for the joint operation of firefighting and garbage disposal services.

Kankeiren came up with the idea of applying the system on a prefectural scale. Such an alliance is allowed under the law if prefectural governments concerned and their assemblies agree among themselves, and receive approval from the Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry.


Unlike a theoretical dōshūsei state, which would have been delegated a certain, and significant, amount of authority by the central government, the Kansai Regional League is more of a bottom-up organization, and will have to negotiate both internally and with the central government to determine exactly how much authority it will be able to take on – both from above and below.
But it is uncertain how much authority the central government will agree to transfer to the regional league. Central government employees transferred to the regional league would likely see their employee status change from national public servant to local public servant, a condition they are likely to oppose.

Unlike the doshu-sei model, which proposed regional governments that would handle all administration of the area in its jurisdiction, the Kansai league will handle only certain matters.

The regional league will not be able to take any action without the unanimous agreement of the committee members.

Naosumi Atoda, vice president of Kaetsu University, said the Kansai regional league “will not provide leadership as efficiently as [would have been possible under] the doshu-sei system, in terms of how quickly it can implement policy measures.”


But despite the differences, the newly created Kansai Regional League (KRL) is an ideological relative of the dōshūsei plan. The geographical extent of the KRL largely, but not entirely, with the Kinki (近畿) region. To reiterate, the members of the KRL are Shiga, Kyoto, Osaka, Hyogo, Wakayama, Tottori and Tokushima. The Kinki region proper consists of Nara, Wakayama, Kyoto, Osaka, Hyōgo, and Shiga, but the definition of Kansai is looser, and depending on who you ask may include other nearby prefectures such as Mie, Fukui, Tokushima, Tottori, and in extreme cases, even Hiroshima. [ref]At least according to Tokyo-ites, never to Kansai residents.[/ref] Since it does not even include all of the core Kinki prefectures (although Nara, the lone Kinki holdout, is going to participate as an observer and see if they like how it goes), and includes two non-Kinki Kansai prefectures, it is obvious why the KRL is named for Kansai, rather than Kinki.

As for the organization and function of the KRL:

Representatives of five prefectures in the Kinki region, Tottori Prefecture and Tokushima Prefecture will participate in the Kansai league, forming a 20-member assembly.

Each prefecture will dispatch two to five members to the committee, according to their relative population.

Governors of the seven prefectures will set up a committee to decide how to manage the league, which will work on projects judged to be best administered across prefectural borders.

At first, the prefectures will cooperate on issues in seven fields, including tourism and cultural promotion.

The operation of medical helicopter services and storage of emergency food supplies have already been identified as projects to be administered by the league.

Funding for the association will be contributed by the prefectures, with a budget of about 500 million yen planned for fiscal 2011.


I have not been able to find any English language coverage that details what these “seven fields” are, but the Kyoto Shimbun article announcing the launch of the League has a handy list. Interestingly and significantly, the offices in charge of each of these seven fields (subdivided into 31 areas) will be distributed among the member prefectures as follows.

Disaster Prevention: Hyogo
Tourism and Cultural Promotion: Kyoto
Industrial Promotion: Osaka
Medical Treatment: Tokushima
Environmental Protection: Shiga
Testing and Licensing: Osaka
Employee Training: Wakayama

The reasons for some of these choices are obvious. Hyogo, of course, was the site of the awful 1995 earthquake that devastated its main city of Kobe, so they’ve obviously been studying the topic since then. Kyoto is Japan’s center of tourism, and traditional arts and culture. Osaka is the region’s industrial center as well as the largest city with the most infrastructure. Then they get less obvious. I guess Shiga gets the environmental portfolio because they’ve kept Lake Biwa nice and clean? Is Wakayama in charge of employee training so they can go on nice isolated retreats up in Mt. Koya where they can study without distraction? Tokushima is in charge of emergency medical helicopters because… well they needed something! Tottori, for its part, is apparently not in fact a full member, only participating in the Tourism and Cultural Promotion and Medical Treatment fields, which I presume is why they don’t get any portfolio to handle. Maybe when they finally join 100% they can get the office for Desert Land Management, with responsibility and oversight for ALL of the desert in the ENTIRE Kansai region.

It’s unclear where, exactly, this experiment will go. Other regions throughout Japan are watching carefully, waiting to see if Kansai’s lead is worth following, but even much of Kansai is still somewhat unsure. Nara is still merely an observer, Tottori a half-member, and Kyoto – the prideful old capital – is concerned that “regionalism” is just a euphemism for “domination by Osaka.” While the  KRL is trying to negotiate with the national government for both funds and additional delegated power, Minister for Internal Affairs and Communications Katayama Yoshihiro is reluctant to proceed as long as Nara, a core Kansai/Kinki prefecture, is not participating. At present, the national government is willing to hand over responsibility for just 20% of the roughly 500 administrative tasks requested by the KRL. Kyoto Prefecture Governor Yamada Keiji, an unaffiliated politician who was amazingly supported by the LDP, DPJ, and Komeito for his third term criticized the DPJ sharply for not living up to their promises to promote local autonomy, while Shiga Governor Kada Yukiko [ref]Unaffiliated, ran for governor in opposition to LDP, DPJ, JCP, Komeito, with SDP support on a platform of ending wasteful public works spending.[/ref] snarked that “The DPJ is retreating quite a bit lately.”