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

* Kan decides to seek 5 percentage point cut in Japan’s corporate tax
* A free-trade agreement between the United States and Japan is on the negotiating table–despite the outrage of agricultural interests
* Japan plans to tolerate unlicensed uses of copyrighted works
* Japan is expected to adopt a more “dynamic” forward-leaning military posture as part of a sweeping strategic defence review focused on real or potential threats from China and North Korea
* Japan’s defence ministry is determined to push for an easing of the nation’s ban on arms exports in spite of strong political opposition
* Malaysian long-haul budget airline AirAsia X is to launch regular flights between Kuala Lumpur and Tokyo starting December 10

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

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 Adventures in Bureaucracy

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 Chukosha of Lebanon

I just got back from a trip around Lebanon.

One characteristic of the country is utter chaos on the roads. I’ve seen some bad driving in my day — rural China, Vietnam, and Saudi Arabia being some of the worst — but I would venture to say that driving in Lebanon tops all of them, with the added factor that the roads in the country are absolute rubish (as one colleague told me, roads in Lebanon aren’t built to last longer than a few years, as that’s about how often the Israelis bomb the country). Most of the cars on the road are ancient Mercedes and Renaults, which, while having a certain retro cool, are rickety and unreliable rides on the road. According to people I spoke with, most cars in Lebanon come from France.

But clearly not all of them. I saw a number of trucks and vans with Chinese, Korean and Japanese writing on the side. I snapped a shot of one such truck and thought it worth sharing with MF readers:

Interestingly enough, 森力製作所 is a Nagoya company, and one other truck I saw (out of perhaps half a dozen trucks with Japanese letters) was a Nagoya city municipal vehicle. I wonder if Nagoya and Beirut have sort of special relationship when it comes to exporting second-hand trucks?



Some of you may know that I run regular fundraiser for Polaris Project, Japan’s only NGO devoted solely to fighting human trafficking. I’m running my BIGGEST ONE EVER tomorrow in Harajuku and there are still SEATS AVAILABLE.

The event will feature the Edo Daikagura Troupe, masters of daikagura, a performance/juggling art that dates back to the Heian Period. Needless to say, these guys are very very good and their act is incredible! For more detail, check out the Metropolis Magazine feature I wrote on it some weeks ago.

We also got coverage in the JAPAN TIMES today!

I’m posting the flier beneath the break. If any readers are interested in coming (and meeting me and other MF ppl) please RSVP to the e-mail address near the bottom.

Continue reading DAIKAGURA

What the English languages owes Japan

A discussion of this topic with friends led me to look into English etymology and I unearthed the following list of words:

soy” 1670s, saio “sauce for fish, made from soybeans,” from Dutch soya, from Japanese shoyu, which is from Chinese shi-yu, from shi “fermented soy beans” + yu “oil.” Etymology reflects Dutch presence in Japan long before English merchants began to trade there.

ginkgo” 1773, from Japanese ginkyo, from Chinese yin-hing, from yin “silver” + hing “apricot” (Sino-Japanese kyo). Introduced to New World 1784 by William Hamilton in his garden near Philadelphia. One was planted 1789 at Pierce Arboretum (now part of Longwood Gardens) in Kennett Square, Pa., and by 1968 it was 105 ft. tall.

tycoon” 1857, title given by foreigners to the shogun of Japan (said to have been used by his supporters when addressing foreigners, as an attempt to convey that the shogun was more important than the emperor), from Japanese taikun “great lord or prince,” from Chinese tai “great” + kiun “lord.” Transferred meaning “important person” is attested from 1861, in reference to U.S. president Abraham Lincoln (in Hay’s diary); specific application to “businessman” is post-World War I.

hunky-dory” 1866, Amer.Eng. (popularized c.1870 by a Christy Minstrel song), perhaps a reduplication of hunkey “all right, satisfactory” (1861), from hunk “in a safe position” (1847) New York City slang, from Dutch honk “goal, home,” from M.Du. honc “place of refuge, hiding place.” A theory from 1876, however, traces it to Honcho dori, said to be a street in Yokohama, Japan, where sailors went for diversions of the sort sailors enjoy.

futon” 1876, from Japanese, said to mean “bedroll” or “place to rest.”

geisha” 1887, “Japanese girl whose profession is to sing and dance to entertain men;” hence, loosely, “prostitute,” from Japanese, lit. “person accomplished in the social arts,” from gei “art, performance” + sha “person.”

nisei“, “American born of Japanese parents,” from Japanese ni– “second” + sei “generation.” Use limited to U.S. West Coast until c.1942.

kamikaze” 1945, Japanese, lit. “divine wind,” from kami “god, providence, divine” + kaze “wind.” Originally the name given in folklore to a typhoon which saved Japan from Mongol invasion by wrecking Kublai Khan’s fleet (August 1281).

honcho” 1947, Amer.Eng. “officer in charge,” from Japanese hancho “group leader,” from han “corps, squad” + cho “head, chief.” Picked up by U.S. servicemen in Japan and Korea, 1947-1953.

shiatsu” 1967, from Japanese, lit. “finger-pressure.”

Trying to understand the DPJ Leadership Race

“I have long since given up trying to read Ozawa’s mind and am willing to believe that any, or all, or none of these reasons is the real reason for Ozawa’s decision.”

If you are as confused as I am about the motivations, possibilities, and prospects of the current DPJ leadership race, you can take comfort that the quote above is taken from a blog post of chief DPJ cheerleader Tobias Harris.

Yours truly is a pessimistic conservative, with a very low opinion of the DPJ. Yet I am surprised to find myself too dumbfounded by the ironies and contraditions of the DPJ leadership race to have an opinion at this latest round of musical chairs. In lieu of asserting any case or opinion one way or the other, I would note these ironies and contraditions and open up the floor to comments.

1. Public opinion polls put Ozawa as the favored candidate to be PM by 17%, and Kan favored by 64%. With those poll numbers, Ozawa would not be a viable contender, let alone favorite to win, in any other parliamentary democracy.

2. The poll numbers reflect a fascinating contradition: Kan is well-liked, but who brought the party to lose the last election, while Ozawa is widely mistrusted, yet is a master electoral strategist.

3. Said otherwise, Kan has a record of being a pretty incompetent political leader (like saying that he should raise taxes just before an election), but he ironically has more popularity with the public, perhaps mainly due to a few lucky breaks in his political career. Meanwhile, Ozawa is one of Japan’s politicians when it comes to planning election campaigns and fielding the right candidates in the right districts, but he is tainted by dozens of scandals and featherlight loyalties to any institution other than himself.

4. As observed by Shisaku: “If [Ozawa] wins the contest, he destroys the party: either metaphorically through the collapse of its public support or physically as large groups break off, forming new parties. If he loses a formal leadership contest, he gashes his aura of awesome power. The humiliation of losing could indeed drive him to leave the party, with a passel of his followers in tow (taking his ball and going home — which he has done time and time again).” No matter who wins, the DPJ will be the loser.

5. Despite Shisaku’s comment, I don’t deny the possibility that, after five feckless prime ministers, Ozawa just might be the right candidate to break the cycle and serve out a proper term, providing some much-needed leadership, and could turn out to be a successful, and even popular, prime minister.

The leadership election takes place on 14 September. It will be interesting to watch because it will be the first DPJ leadership vote in 8 years to be more than a vote by parliamentarians. Votes will be cast by party supporters and members, using a “point system” to allocate votes to the candidates.

Japan’s life expentancy actually LONGER than we thought

Many of you are familiar with the scandal that has rocked Japan where hundreds of octogenarian believed to be living are in fact missing or dead. Adam posted on the event that launched the nationwide investigation several weeks ago, and since then it has mushroomed, with the problem being particularly pronounced in the Kyoto-Osaka-Kobe area. It appears that either because of mere neglect or deliberate pension fraud, relatives never filed a shibou todokede (notification of death) or shissou todokede (notification of a missing person), which Japan’s 19th century family laws rely on to track their elderly.

The joke among friends for the weeks after the scandal broke was that this would lead to the collapse of Japan’s reputation as the kingdom of longevity. Presently, the average life expectancy for women is 86.44 years and the average life expectancy for men is 79.59 years. Surely that number will now have to be readjusted, no?

Apparently not! The Ministry of Labor and Welfare has said that it expects the current events will have very little impact on Japan’s average life expectancy. Why? It turns out that women above age 103 and men above age 98 are excluded from longevity statistics, on grounds that they are statistical outliers. Furthermore, the census conducted every five years is conducted by visiting households, not by consulting the family registry records, so the missing elderly would not be included in that regardless.

Without glossing over the seriousness of the missing elderly, the irony of this fiasco is that it is publicizing the fact that Japan’s average longevity is actually LONGER than we thought.

Koizumi on the Next Election

The following are quotes from former PM Junichiro Koizumi, from a speech on 28 June at Ichikawa in Chiba Prefecture, assembled from a number of sources, mainly the Asahi and Nikkei.

The Liberal Democratic Party should be the minority for a while. This has fixed its majority party addiction, and given the people a chance to see [the LDP] become a healthy opposition party… Even if they win in the next election they cannot become the majority party.

However, the Democratic are running wild, lost. Even the LDP was never that bad… it’s good that this administration change has given the Democrats a taste of the difficulty of being the majority party…

The people expected that the Democrats could cut waste where the LDP failed, but they have been let down.

Why did we privatize the road public companies (during the Koizumi Administration)? “From Public to Private” is a slogan that [calls to] stop the use of tax money and seeks to vitalize the private sector. Now it’s the reverse, “From Public to Public.” The ones causing this reverse in course are the Democrats.

Say what you will about his politics or the current politics, I think he accurately just stated a snapshot of what the average Japanese voter things about the current state of affairs in politics today.