Strange confession note by boy who sawed off his mother’s head and brought it to the police

A terrible crime was committed in Fukushima, Japan recently:

17-year-old boy turns self in with severed head / High schooler tells police he killed mother
The Yomiuri Shimbun

A 17-year-old high school student was arrested Tuesday on suspicion of killing his mother after turning himself in at a police station in Aizuwakamatsu, Fukushima Prefecture, carrying her severed head, police said.

According to the police, the boy, in his third year at a prefectural high school, came to Aizuwakamatsu Police Station at about 7 a.m. on Tuesday with the head in his school bag. He told the police he had killed his mother at about 1:30 a.m. Tuesday.

The police went to the boy’s apartment in the city, where they found the headless body of the mother.

The boy was quoted by the police as saying: “I killed her by myself at home early Tuesday morning while she was asleep. I wanted to kill somebody, whoever it was.”

Later it was revealed that the boy also sawed off his mother’s arm. After the crime, he went into an Internet cafe, watched a Beastie Boys DVD, and apparently wrote the following note (apparently leaked by police):

I have committed a crime that should never be committed.

–What was your motive?

A reason? Just because.

–Other people won’t be satisfied with that!

Well if I had to say something, I guess it’s a form of self-expression.

–You had no other way to express yourself?

Maybe not.

–Don’t you feel any regret?

Not right now. I feel relieved. But I’m sure I’ll probably regret it later.

–What will you do after this?

I will go have myself charged with the crime.

–Isn’t that a foregone conclusion?

Oh, you might be right. But at the very least there is no crime I desire in reality [Note: this line was a little hard to figure out. The Japanese is reproduced below:]

–Do you feel like continuing on?

Not really.

–If you keep going, what will you do next?

I don’t know since I’ve just been acting on my whims.

–Don’t you feel like killing yourself?

No, that would be scary. Plus I promised I wouldn’t kill myself.

–Who did you promise?

I don’t want to say.

–Why not?

Just because.

–Aren’t you being evasive by saying “just because”?

Perhaps. I’ve always been running away like that anyway.

–Any last words?

Thank you for putting up with my nonsense all this time.
(Thanks to the Daily Yomiuri and ZAKZAK)

Comment: This is a sad tragedy that seems to contain similarities to both Columbine (troubled teenager who couldn’t make it through his last year of high school), the Virginia Tech slayings (weapons bought beforehand, a pre-planned media strategy and a clear “self-expression” motive) combined with the all-too-common Japanese mother-son tension. The reports that I’ve seen so far seem to regard this crime as a total aberration by a troubled youth, which it is. But it looks like this sort of thing could be prevented. It’s been reported that it was known that he had been skipping school and a doctor had already diagnosed him as “mentally unstable.” As hard as it is to rein in rebellious teenagers, it’s sad that there wasn’t more done to try and help (or at least medicate) someone with clear mental problems before he became a danger.

Dentsu in the News, Part 2: The Bad News

The Japan Communist Party flexes its awesome research muscle:

Dentsu Takes 40% of Government Public Relations Contracts
Representative Yoshii Presses Officials on Connection with Golden Parachute Scheme

At the May 11 Lower House Committee on the Cabinet, it was revealed that Dentsu is substantively monopolizing contracts for “government public relations” that the Cabinet Public Relations Office prints in newspapers, with the company garnering nearly 40% of the total value of contracts. The situation was brought to light via a survey conducted by JCP Representative Hidekatsu Yoshii.

According to the survey, of the 13.2 billion yen in contracts government PR placed in newspapers from FY2001-2005, Dentsu was the top recipient with 4.9 billion yen, or 38% of the total. Hakuhodo, the second largest recipient, received 2.4 billion yen (19%), while other companies all received less than 10% apiece.

In response to a request from Yoshii for disclosure of the expected bidding prices, Director Yasuyuki Takai of the Government Public Relations Office refused the request, stating that the office “uses regular competitive bidding.”

Yoshii pointed out that there are too many advertisement placement companies that participate in bidding but later withdraw. For example, from FY2001-2005, Nihon Keizai Co. (printers of Nikkei Shimbun etc) withdrew the most times, 101. The fewer times a company won bidding, the more times the company placed a bid but later withdrew. Yoshii concluded: “This is just too unnatural. I suspect this is a case of ad industry-related bid-rigging intended to maintain Dentsu’s unipolar control.” Takai repeated that “Withdrawal from bidding is the bidding company’s decision.”

A survey by the House of Representatives Research Bureau shows that as of April 2006, 12 [retired officials from the Govt PR Office] were in post-retirement jobs at Dentsu, while 5 were at Hakuhodo. Yoshii pointed out that this practice of “Amakudari” was likely behind the rigged bidding, and emphasized, “If [the current govt] says it will reform the public servant system, it should first thoroughly reveal the true state of amakudari.”

In other news:

Dentsu “Pale” in Apology for Retooling Reds Stadium Seats
May 10, 2007

The Japan Football Association revealed on May 10 that it had granted advertising company Dentsu permission for a Kirin Beer commercial that made unauthorized modifications to a photo of Saitama Stadium filled with supporters of the Urawa Reds without noticing the changes.

The Association claimed it had not received an explanation of the changes from Dentsu, who was in charge of the production. The modifications violate the J-League’s rules for commercial use of photos. JFA Executive Director Kozo Tajima commented, “This is very regrettable and unpleasant. I cannot express how sorry we are to the supporters of the Japan National football team.” The morning of the same day, a representative of Dentsu visited the JFA to apologize. The advertiser, Kirin, reportedly was also not made aware of the changes.

The advertisement that caused the controversy was part of a rally campaign for the Japan National team. The seats in Saitama Stadium were changed from the Urawa’s red to the Japan National team’s blue, and the ads were seen in newspapers nationwide from April 27.

Also, former Dentsu executive and noted novelist Iori Fujiwara (known for the Naoki award-winning Terrorist’s Parallel, a story of the men and women who gave their lives in the 1960s student communist movement) has died of esophagal cancer at age 59.

A brief and random tribute to Masaru Inoue, father of the Japanese railways

Masaru Inoue, father of the Japanese railwaysIf you go to the Marunouchi side of Tokyo Station, you can see a big statue of this fellow, Masaru Inoue (井上勝).

Inoue was one of five Choshu samurai sentsmuggled to England in the mid-1860s to figure out how to modernize Japan. He studied railway technology at the University College London, and following his return to Japan served as head of the Japanese national railway program, in some form or another, from 1869 to 1893. During this time he supervised the building of Japan’s first railway line from Tokyo to Yokohama (the first Tokyo station has been reconstructed and can now be seen in Shiodome), and the eventual completion of the Tokaido Main Line between Tokyo and Kobe in 1889.

In his later years he was made a Viscount and served in the House of Peers (sort of the old Japanese equivalent of Britain’s House of Lords). He is also the last “i” in the Koiwai food company, which he co-founded in 1891.

So next time you pass through Tokyo Station, tip your hat to a fellow who helped pave the way for the most awesome railway system in the world. (Or, if you don’t have a hat, do what I do and just take pictures.)

Another Casualty of JASRAC’s Fun Police

I recently came across this sad story in my referrals:

Live music spots are disappearing one by one in Japan!
I am a live Jazz fan, and often go to Jazz clubs in my home town. Recently I visited one of my favorite clubs and was informed that live jazz was to be canceled at the end of the month.

I couldn’t believe it, and asked why this was going to happen. The owner replied “JASRAC (Japanese Society for Rights of Authors, Composers and Publishers, equivalent to ASCAP) ordered retrospective fee payments for the last 10 years of the club’s operation. There’s no way I can afford to pay, so I’ve decided to stop live music”. The JASRAC representative then presented a scrap of newspaper with a story reporting a recent lawsuit and subsequent closure of another Jazz club that had fought, and lost, a similar situation. In the end, however, the owner decided to submit to JASRAC’s demands and pay the fees.

JASRAC also refused to negotiate future licensing costs, and stated that a fixed fee must be charged regardless of how many live performances are held. The club could have one live show each week, or a show every day of the year, and the cost would be the same. JASRAC also refuses to reveal how they calculate fees for each club.

In Japan, NHK(National publicly funded television) fees must be paid by all people that own TVs. However some people manage to avoid paying fees, are unaware of fees, or simply slip though NHK’s administrative cracks. When these people are discovered, NHK usually just asks these people to begin payments from the next month onwards. JASRAC, however, demands payments for the past 10 years.

Does JASRAC truly protect the rights of musicians? I often by CDs from musicians playing at live Jazz clubs. I believe live Jazz promotes CD sales and helps artists succeed.

It’s just appalling that JASRAC can nitpick and police even the most minor activities. The hyper-aggressive protection of intellectual property is not just limited to JASRAC, mind you: Johnny’s Talent Agency (the promoters of SMAP etc) fiercely guard their superstars, a practice that leads to odd rivalries and ridiculous news like Takuya Kimura refusing a major movie award for no apparent reason. Disney is also particularly heavy-handed. I read (on 2ch mind you) that Disney once forced a school to remove an image of Mickey Mouse from their pool that was to be used in an event. How can a culture of openness, ambition and imagination flourish when there’s an environment that often punishes even modest forms of creativity?

Dentsu in the News, Part 1: The Good News

Lots of Dentsu-related stories in the pipeline these days. But first, the good news:

* Dentsu reports revenue exceeding 2 trillion yen, but sees slower growth ahead

From Asahi:

On May 11, Dentsu reported 2.939 trillion yen, or a 6.7% boost, in consolidated revenue for the 2006 fiscal year, the first time the company’s total has ever topped 2 trillion. Revenue in the major media (TV, newspapers, magazines, radio) all slightly dropped, but ticket sales for the 2006 World Cup in Germany, which was undertaken by a Dentsu subsidiary, pushed up the total.

Operating profit (which is mentioned last in the Asahi report) grew at a similar pace of 6.9% (30.6 billion yen or approx $1.7 billion). To compare, OmnicomGroup, the largest Madison Avenue ad company, posted $11.3 billion in revenue and $1.5 billion in operating profit.

Revenue in the 4 mass media, which make up 65% of the company’s non-consolidated profits (or 48% of consolidated revenue, which would mean that the Dentsu parent company’s total of 2.169 trillion make up 73% of total Dentsu group revenue), dipped 0.7% to 1.410 trillion yen.

A surprising note in this profit announcement is that Internet ads are not Dentsu’s biggest growth area, as earlier reports from Dentsu might have seemed to indicate. Internet ad growth of 14.8% (21.5 billion yen) lost out to outdoor ads, such as train ads, grew 19.2% (43 billion yen) with the rise of ads coordinated with web content (infrared bar codes, search keywords). Note, however, that these two areas remain small compared to Dentsu’s traditional businesses. However, Dentsu is predicting huge growth in the Internet sector in general, and sees its share in the Net ad market going from a present 15% to 20% by the end of FY 2009.

But the overall outlook for Dentsu is for slower growth, for reasons which an AP’s report goes into more detail about (unsurprising for an article aimed at investors):

Dentsu, the world’s fifth-biggest advertising company behind Omnicom Group , WPP Group , Interpublic Group and Publicis, said growth might also be held back by a wave of mergers among its client base.

The company, whose rivals in Japan include Hakuhodo DY Holdings Inc. and Asatsu-DK Inc., forecast group operating profit to rise 1.6 percent to 63.8 billion yen ($532.2 million) in the current business year to March 2008 on sales of 2.107 trillion yen, up 0.6 percent.

The profit estimate is in line with the consensus of 64.2 billion yen from a poll of 13 analysts by Reuters Estimates, but the forecast for sales growth is decidedly below the expected growth rate of about 2 percent for the Japanese economy.

The seemingly conservative forecast also comes with Japanese corporate profits at a record high.

“We are always told that our forecasts are conservative, but one factor probably at play here is the fading correlation between corporate profits and the economy on one side and growth in advertising spending,” Dentsu Managing Director Setsuo Kamai told a news conference.

Kamai said the trend could be explained by a handful of factors including booming industry consolidation in Japan, which leads to fewer advertisers, and a move by an increasing number of companies to lower costs by combining their brands.

For 2007/08, Dentsu expects its revenues to get a boost from the IAAF World Championships in Athletics Osaka 2007, elections in Japan and the Tokyo Motor Show, but no event on schedule is likely to match last year’s soccer World Cup in Germany.

Dentsu logged strong revenue gains to the information and technology, food and retail sectors, which offset declines to makers of cosmetics and toiletries, producers of home appliances and electronics, and consumer finance firms.

Speaking of profits, Hakuhodo just posted its first loss (due to lower than expected real estate revenue and dips in auto ads and government PR work) since converting to holding company status in 2003. It posted a 2% loss in revenue (1.884 trillion yen) and a 1% loss in operating profits (24.4 billion yen). Bad news for Hakuhodo, good news for Dentsu.

A new president will be leading Dentsu:

Dentsu to name Takashima president
Kyodo News

Dentsu Inc. is set to appoint Executive Vice President Tatsuyoshi Takashima as president of Japan’s biggest advertising agency, while the current president, Tateo Mataki, will become chairman, company sources said Saturday.

He is expected to accelerate a shift in Dentsu’s business base from newspapers and television to relatively new media such as the Internet by continuing the efforts of Mataki, who aggressively concluded capital and operational tieups with startup companies specializing in Net advertising.

Meanwhile, Dentsu is consolidating some of its various Net ad subsidiaries (in the affiliate advertising section [similar to the Amazon Associates program]) to form a more unified strategy:

Dentsu to Merge, Amalgamate Action Clip
May 10, 2007

Dentsu and Cyber Communications (CCI, a member of the Dentsu Group) announced that they intend to merge Dentsu subsidiary Action Clip and CCI subsidiary Criteria Communications.

CCI will continue to exist but will amalgamate the two companies in a cash tender offer. The ban on cash tender offers to shareholders in the case of an amalgamation merger that absorbs the target company was lifted as of May 1.

Action Clip’s affiliate operations will be united with Criteria’s advertisement distribution network with the goal of consolidating the Dentsu Group’s affiliate business.

Japan’s obsolete songs, part 1 of ?

“My Pager Won’t Ring*” the opening theme from a 1993 TV drama series. Thanks to whoever posted it and thanks in advance to the good folks at TV Tokyo for not suing the crap out of me for using their ultra-dated content.

For a more recent technology-centric piece of pop culture, may I direct you to Atlanta rapper TI’s 2005 hit “What You Know” which prominently features “chirping” the two-way walkie talkie function currently popular in US cell phones. I get the feeling it too will seem dated 14 years from now, though the smoothly-epic synth-heavy production will live on forever (as, I suspect, will jokes about “getting a midget pregnant”).

* This literal translation doesn’t quite convey the loneliness implied by the song title. Perhaps a better interpretation would be “My Pager Won’t Ring (And I Miss You)”


Amazingly creepy! The pandas are going to haunt my nightmares for sure. Video is in Japanese, but you don’t need to understand to get creeped out with the fake Disney characters.

Unfortunately, Shukan Bunshun reports that the extra attention this Bizarro wonderland has gained is causing the managers of the state-run park to cut back on the flashier piracy.

22.5% of food left uneaten at Japanese wedding parties

That’s a whole course! Maybe for my wedding party I should volunteer 1/5 of my wedding meals to get sent to North Korea.

Other stats from this Shukan Toyo Keizai article:

Average cost of a wedding: more than 3 million yen (US$25,000) in 2006. The cost of weddings has been rising since 2003, when the Japanese economy started turning around. (Source: wedding planning site

Japan’s Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries (MAFF) researched how much food is left uneated at wedding parties (披露宴 routinely make up 3/4 of the cost of an entire wedding) by surveying 40 wedding halls nationwide. The figure of 22.5% (19.2% when you exclude drinks) is light-years away from the amount of food left uneaten at home (1.1% according to a 2005 survey) or in restaurants (3.1% as of 2006). And it’s a high percentage even compared to food at regular banquet-style parties (宴会) that offer alcohol, 15.2% of which goes to waste.

Perhaps that has something to do with the sheer amount of food served at wedding parties, which is averages an enormous 2230g — almost four times the average 600g served at cafeterias and restaurants. That means people who simply can’t finish more than what they usually eat in an entire day are wasting an entire meal’s worth of food, or 500g.

Why so much food? The STK conjectures that since people want to give their guests the best possible service, it’s either become a tradition or people are trying to be ostentatious by offering more food than necessary. But as someone planning a wedding party myself, I think the most obvious explanation is that the event halls need to justify charging 10,000 yen per plate plus open bar charges.

Happy retirement, Bob Barker!

The Washington Post is reporting that Bob Barker is stepping down as host of the Price is Right after 35 years. It’s a sad day. That used to be my favorite show as a kid, when I stayed home “sick” from school as often as I could convince my mother. The reporter puts it well:

Just the sound of it feels, somehow nostalgically, like being in bed with the flu. (“Come on down!” roars the announcer, Rich Fields — who replaced the late Rod Roddy in 2003, who replaced Johnny Olson in 1986 — as you beg some 7Up and toast to stay on down.) There is the sound of it starting at 11 a.m., over those gooey-warm CBS airwaves, just when the day is still technically young and yet already somehow wasted. It feels like skipping class again and again, the MWF 10:30 section of Lit 125: The Emerging Self.

And this is so true:

“Think about it this way,” Dobkowitz offers. “The median age in this country is 36 or 37, which means half the country does not know life without Bob Barker. You’re young, you go out in the world and all the new things happen — jobs, marriage. But turn on the set and Bob’s doing the television show, and it’s all okay.”

Though I’m no longer around to catch the show, I had kind of taken Bob Barker’s existence on mid-morning TV for granted. He will be sorely missed!