Saturday, November 21, 2009

Hatoyama and the Japanese media courtship of officials sources

Communication is the "Achiless' heel" of Japanese
interaction with the outside world.

Interesting event we held at my press club the other
day, about the Kisha Club system and what it means for
foreign media.

Not so many people attended, sign that there are less
and less foreign journalists in Japan, but I was much
curious to listen to the debates since I share the co -
chairmanship of the Foreign Correspondents' Club of
Japan Freedom of the Press Committee.

The end of the Kisha Club system in Japan? Not really
I say. The censorship continues and it remains a
challenge to exercise the job of journalist in Japan.
Why? For decades, institutions here in Japan,
government, ministries, agencies, corporations
entertained a cosy system of relations between the
speakers and the press.

Half a dozen of national dailies and same amount of
TVs, including the national state channels, maintained
a biased influence to control the knowledge of the
public, through the vernacular and the foreign media.
Kisha clubs were the only ones allowed to say what
Japanese and foreigners have to know about Japan.

Sometimes, it went very far as the DPJ recently
clarified. Japanese Foreign Minister Okada
demonstrated how authorities could disguise truth and
cheated their own fellow countrymen for years as we saw
with the Japan US nuclear secret pact story.

Needless to say that it is still extremely difficult
for the foreign media to find their way into this
labyrinth and it would be necessary to implement new
measures for setting or reinforcing such organizations
whose mission is to help the foreign media. Reporting
in Japan is tough : language and customs barrier, lack
of communication, lack of rational explanation,
hardship in getting an interview with facts rather than
emotional statements, hardship to build a journey in
Japan to get appointments (people refuse if you are a
foreigner) etc. In a world where a journalist office
consist into 1 person nowadays, what is needed is an
interface. I have one here, very efficient :

The interesting professional structure is the Foreign
Press Center of Japan which I know well and used for a
decade to work daily on common issues and to access to
interviews or to the highest level of power in the
archipelago. Located in the press center building in
Kasumigaseki. Foreign Press Center :

Access to information is the main issue in Japan

In 2009, the Democratic Party of Japan came to power
after half a century of conservatives rules. The prime
minister Hatoyama and his close allies, Okada and Kan,
pledged to remove any barrier to access to information
for all journalists. In fact, it failed as an overall
reform yet. Here is a description by the New York
Times reporter in Japan :

"Japan’s new government is challenging one of the
nation’s most powerful interest groups, the press
clubs, a century-old, cartel-like arrangement in which
reporters from major news media outlets are stationed
inside government offices and enjoy close, constant
access to officials.

The system has long been criticized as antidemocratic
by both foreign and Japanese analysts, who charge that
it has produced a relatively spineless press that feels
more accountable to its official sources than to the
public. In their apparent reluctance to criticize the
government, the critics say, the news media fail to
serve as an effective check on authority.

The assault on the exclusive access the press clubs’
members have long enjoyed is part of the new
government’s drive to end the news media’s cozy ties
with authorities, and particularly with Tokyo’s
powerful central ministries."

Still, private firms do not show any strong commitment
to transparency and adhere to new policies, and keep
the curtain closed on free media access or even worst
as it was said at FCCJ press panel on the Kisha Club by
Tetsuo Jimbo, Editor in Chief of : "firms
choose who they will inform and select to release the

" Tetsuo Jimbo, the founder of an online media company,
Video News Network, praised the new government’s
efforts. But he said most news conferences remained
closed to outside journalists like himself. He noted
that the Democrats had opened the proceedings at only
four ministries and major agencies, and had failed to
fulfill a campaign promise to open the prime minister’s
news conferences."

Who are you?

An other trick to avoid the access to all media to
events is to set rules that are not fairly played. At
Obama recent press conference at the prime minister
office in Tokyo (Kantei), the Japanese media and the
foreign media were offered 2 questions each to the VIPs
Obama and Hatoyama.

But the Japanese press "Kisha Club Captain" (Japanese
press club front man) who works with Fuji TV asked 6
questions in allocated time. Irritating for all media

When players forget to play by the book, there is
something unhealthy and the betrayed are not only the
foreign media and the companies that are not present
"in the first circle", the main victims are readers,
listeners, viewers, deprived from a variety of free
access to information. Japan has still a long way to
go to resolve problems related to freedom of the press.

It requires increased assistance to foreign media and
expertise in handling international communication with
genuine experienced people.

Also new technologies will explode the blockade set by
punchers to freedom of the press, in power since "the
postwar Japan’s “iron triangle” of Liberal Democrats,
bureaucrats and big corporations."

21st Century & "Japan communication?

We can broadcast, twitt, blog live nowadays... Still,
Japan, claiming it is a genuine democracy and often
makes this distinction with other Asian nations, does
not see that the main issue remains about freeing
access to news sources and end the "Iron-Curtain"

Japanese politicians and stubborn bureaucrats &
officials should do their homework, they should
understand how world media work. They should
understand what ethics mean, they should offer the
information in a professional formula that guarantees
equality of distribution, accountability, fairness and
honesty. Especially because the information (not the
'infotainment' or the ads pledged to the PR industry)
is spreading fast, reaching quasi instantly your
hand-phone, palm, whatever screen.

Beyond the "communication boom", it is primordial to
strengthen the role of qualified and 'public interest
orientated people' who know how to design, dispatch and
distribute verified and balanced news for the foreign
media. In this regard Japanese authorities have yet to
analyze their media strategies and offer more
incentives and funding. Otherwise? Foreign media will
look at China to open their office, Hong Kong,
Shanghai, Beijing, Seoul. Japan will remain an
isolated aging invisible archipelago lost on the

But it takes experience, knowledge and strategies to
attract foreign media journalists and writers. Knowing
or discovering Japan arcane reality is not just a
journey to Kyoto or Hokkaido, it takes much more, it
takes content and information, more than a snap-shot to
be lost on a hard disk of a computer. To achieve this,
some people, as I said before, have recipes. It is not
just a matter of subsidies, or being cheap on budgets,
it is a matter of talent in organizing and operating
press communication for most 'informative' and precise

Maybe the Japanese Kisha Clubs lost some of their
censoring power, but it is up to the Japanese political
authorities to show where Tokyo stands from now on.
Especially in a nation, Japan, where communication is
not necessarily verbal, clear sign that communication
is the "Achiless heel" of Japanese interaction with the
outside world.

This is my experience after 2 decades in EU and the Far
East media world, anchoring and moderating events and

Foreign Press Center :

Illustrations from Ebina Mitsuru and Kang Kong (CCLPM)

Friday, November 20, 2009

U.N. condemns "widespread human rights violations" in North Korea and Burma


A special committee of the U.N. General Assembly
condemned North Korea and Burma on Thursday for
what it said were widespread human rights violations in the
two Asian countries. The 192-nation General Assembly's
Third Committee, which focuses on human rights issues,
approved a resolution on North Korea 97-19 with 65
abstentions. A similar resolution on Burma (Myanmar)
passed 92-26 with 65 abstentions. The North Korea
resolution voiced "very serious concern" at what it said
were persistent reports of "systematic, widespread and
grave violations of civil, political, economic, social and
cultural rights."

Among Pyongyang's violations, the resolution said, are
torture, inhuman conditions of detention, public
executions, collective punishment and "the existence of a
large number of prison camps and the extensive use of
forced labor." North Korea's deputy U.N. ambassador, Pak
Tok Hun, dismissed the resolution as a political attack by
its enemies. "The draft resolution is nothing more than a
document of political conspiracy of the hostile forces to
... deny and obliterate the state and social system of
the Democratic People's Republic of Korea," he told the
committee. Among the sponsors of the North Korea
resolution were the European Union, the United States,
Japan and South Korea.

Envoys from developing nations that rights groups have
also accused of having poor human rights records,
including China, Russia, Libya, Sudan, Syria, Egypt,
Zimbabwe, told the committee that they generally reject
such resolutions because they oppose singling out specific
countries. Burma's U.N. envoy Than Swe rejected the
resolution on his country, which said the assembly
"strongly condemns the ongoing systematic violations of
human rights and fundamental freedoms of the people of
Myanmar." It also voiced "grave concern" at the recent
trial and sentencing to further house arrest of Burma's
opposition leader, Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu
Kyi, and urged the military junta to release her and all
other political prisoners. Than Swe said the resolution
is "glaringly deficient" and little more than "another
means to maintain pressure on Myanmar (Burma) in
tandem with sanctions."

When dictators talk about human rights :


Kenji Nagai was a Japanese photojournalist shot dead in
Burma during the 2007 Burmese anti-dictature protests by
Burmese Buddhist monks. As we can see on this picture,
Kenji Nagai continued to take photos as he lay shot on the
ground, later dying from gunshot injuries to the chest.
He was the only foreign national killed in the protests.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Michelin: Tokyo world's top gastronomy city

Tokyo has secured more three-star restaurant ratings
than Paris, with Michelin awarding the top rating to 11
restaurants in the Japanese capital, a summary of
Michelin's latest guide showed Tuesday. In the 2010
version of the Michelin guide for Tokyo, the Japanese
capital has also secured 42 two-star restaurant ratings
and 144 one- star ratings. Paris has 10 three-star
restaurants, according to Michelin.

Tokyo is much bigger than Paris, is there any rational
here? It is not a matter of size of a City it is a
matter of quality of the place and gastronomy.

Michelin Guide Director Jean-Luc Naret told a press
conference in Tokyo that the number of stars shows the
high quality of food in the Japanese capital.

The guides currently cover major cities in 23
countries, including Hong Kong, London, Los Angeles,
New York and San Francisco as well as Kyoto and Osaka.
A total of seven restaurants in Kyoto and Osaka
received three-star ratings in October.

International cuisine "Tokyo remains by far the world
capital of gastronomy and also has the most three-star
restaurants," said Michelin guide director Jean-Luc
Naret. Tokyo's sheer size helps explain why it has so
many Michelin stars.

Tokyo is much bigger than Paris and has 160,000
restaurants compared with about 40,000 in Paris.
Two-thirds of the Michelin-starred restaurants in Tokyo
serve Japanese cuisine, while the others serve a
variety of foods including French, Spanish, Chinese and
Italian. But the French need not feel their cuisine
has plunged completely into disrepute.

France still has more three-star restaurants than
anywhere else, with 25 compared with Japan's 18. The
next Michelin guide to Paris will be published in March
2010. The latest Michelin guide for Tokyo hit the
stands on Friday priced at 2,415 yen.

Picture (FCCJ Bibendum, Delmas, Naret, Moderator Jlk)

So of course the day before the release of the third
edition for Tokyo, I invited Michelin Guide books
president Jean-Luc Naret at our professional press
luncheon at The Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan.

And he gave us as a secret : Michelin is to place local
food inspectors on the ground in each of the 23
countries it covers!

Here is the best news coverage I found on the data base.

“When we come to a new country, we must work with
people who understand how to rate restaurants,”
explained Naret, who used three Europeans and two
Japanese to evaluate Tokyo for 2008. “But it usually
takes five years to move to a staff of entirely local

This time, the team was comprised of only Japanese
inspectors and a French editor-in-chief. The group
selected 11 restaurants in Tokyo for its top three-star
rating, pushing it past Paris by one for the top spot,
an achievement that the company believes makes the
metropolis the world’s gastronomic champ.

In comparison to last year, the 2010 Tokyo edition,
available in English and Japanese from Friday for 2,415
yen, bumped the restaurants Esaki, Sushi Saito and
Yukimura up to three-star status, and dropped one,
Hamadaya, down a notch. Tokyo upped its total count to
261 stars, 34 more than last year, and three times that
of France’s capital. Naret maintains, however, that it
is difficult to easily compare the two cities given
that Tokyo has a much larger population and four times
as many restaurants. It comes down to numbers, he
said. “Tokyo as a city has more restaurants than
Italy, Germany or Spain,” the director said. “So
statistically there should be more stars here.”

The company, whose guide was first published in France
in 1900, explains that the star rankings apply only to
what appears on the customer’s plate and are dictated
by the food’s quality, flavor, value for the money and
consistency across the menu. Three stars represent
“exceptional cuisine, worth a special journey,” two
stars merit “a detour” and one constitutes a “very good

About two-thirds of the selected restaurants in Tokyo
offer Japanese cuisine, such as soba (noodles),
sukiyaki (hot pot), fugu (blowfish), sushi and tempura,
while the remainder are mainly French and Italian. The
area of research was expanded for 2010 to include
izakaya outlets and shops specializing in yakitori
(grilled chicken), kushiage (deep-fried meat and
vegetables) and shojin ryori (vegetarian cooking).

At the start of the Tokyo project, Naret had ventured
to other Asian cities, such as Hong Kong, Bangkok and
Singapore. He found the selection of high-quality
restaurants in Japan’s capital to be overwhelming — an
attribute that was soon shared with the rest of world
following its award of 191 stars to 150 restaurants,
the most of any city. “Tokyo was put on the map as one
of the top gastronomic cities in the world,” he said of
the release of the first book. “And it was quite a
shock for people on the other side of the world because
they did not know what Tokyo was all about.” (TR)


Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Ozawa and faiths

After Ozawa met with Japan Buddhist Federation President
Yukei Matsunaga and praised Buddhism. He said then that
‘‘European and U.S. societies with a (historical)
background of Christianity are bogged down,’’ and that
Islam is ‘‘better than Christianity but it is also

Ozawa specified about Christianity described as
‘‘exclusive and self-righteous’’, prompting the Japan
Confederation of Christian Churches to lodge a protest and
demand that the No. 2 leader of the ruling party withdraw
the remarks.

Controversy indeed for the believers.

Backpedaling, Ozawa tried to explain that he was merely
saying that the East and the West have different views,
and did not retract them.

‘‘I stated that the basic philosophy of religion and the
view of life are different (between East and West),’’
Ozawa said at a press conference Monday afternoon,
explaining that in his view the East considers humans as
part of the nature while the West believes that nature
exists for humans.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Okinawa divide and myths: What stands behind Japan-Usa divergence?

Lt. Col Kenneth A. Walsh and F4U-4, Okinawa collection

Auteur en reportage avec les forces armées japonaises JMSDF 2009 © jlk

"Okinawan myths" (traduit en français)

Souvent en reportage sur la situation d'Okinawa, ces îles
Ryukyu en mer de Chine, mon premier reportage date de
1993, le plus récent était il y a quelques semaines, j'ai
rencontré tout ce que les îles comptaient comme voix
autorisées et informées pour présenter la situation sur
ces îles ballottées par les flots et les désagréments
politiques et économiques. Reportages possible grâce au
Foreign Press Center (FPC), au Club des Correspondants,
aux autorités japonaises et américaines.

Okinawa autrefois n'était pas une partie du Japon, mais un
pays indépendant, le royaume de Ryukyu. Les îles Ryukyu
étaient un carrefour important pour le trafic maritime en
Asie de l'Est, et ce royaume était riche.

J'ai écrit aussi dans la presse japonaise des articles,
Doshin, Nikkan, comme "Umi-no-Kuni" (Le Pays des mers)
pour présenter la réalité historique car l'Unesco
s'intéressait aux "sites Gusuku" (forteresses) et biens
associés du royaume des Ryukyu.

Le commerce d'Okinawa avec les Empereurs chinois a enrichi
le royaume Ryukyu, surtout au XVe siècle. Des émissaires
des Ryukyu se rendaient régulièrement prêter allégeance a
la Chine. Les îles ont depuis bien longtemps payé leur
tribut aux Empires et elles aspirent a davantage de
tranquillité. Un changement politique est d'ores et déjà
en cours au Japon. L'objectif final est-il militaire ou

Okinawa a été l'outil qui a permis au Japon de coloniser
Taiwan en mai 1873, suite aux manoeuvres ingénieuses de
diplomates américains et japonais après l'affaire du
massacre de 57 marins échoués sur la cote sud suite a une
terrible tempête. Aujourd'hui Okinawa est un dispositif
important des forces de l'Alliance nippo - américaine en

Quel sera son destin? Au-moment même ou Barack Obama et
Yukio Hatoyama diffèrent sur les grands axes de l'Alliance
et comment elle devra évoluer, de façon plus équitable
dit-on, les marines japonaises et américaines conduisaient
des manoeuvres militaires.

Elles démontrent qu'en dépit du litige politique, l'agenda
sécuritaire demeure bien qu'assez flou entre l'Amérique et
un Japon qui après avoir opté pour un "rejet de l'Asie"
comme l' avait écrit Yukichi Fukuzawa au XIXe siècle
penche pour une nouvelle communauté asiatique du XXIe
siècle, chère aux 3 grands, Japon Chine Corée.

Une nouvelle "main forte" née de l'enrichissement des
dragons et des petits tigres asiatiques depuis les années
80 qu'un désir d'indépendance a fait mûrir, inscrivant
leur nouvelle destinée face aux puissance occidentales,
avec davantage d'indépendance et de dirigisme dans les
affaires mondiales. Economie, population et technologies

Peut-être plus facile a dire qu'a démontrer.

J'ai rencontré dans les années 90 a Tokyo et Londres des
journalistes du Monde Diplomatique qui s'intéressaient a
la situation d'Okinawa, dont Bernard Cassen. Voici ce que
j'ai écrit en 2000. La situation est elle vraiment
différente? Quelques éléments ici pour mieux apprécier la
réalité des enjeux.

"Okinawan myths" (traduit en français)

"En rapport avec l'article sur le G8 en 2000 du Courriel
156, je voudrais vous apporter cet éclairage. D'abord,
pour comprendre la vision japonaise concernant la question
de la dette et du G8 de Okinawa, je viens d'écrire un
"Op-Ed" dans le quotidien japonais "Hokkaido Shimbun"
publié lundi 31 Juillet, page 3, haut de page. Il
pourrait intéresser les associations notamment japonaises
y compris d'Okinawa qui se plaignent, à juste titre
d'ailleurs, de ne pas être lues ou citées par la presse.

Autre observation, en général, si votre article est
critique, il me semble néanmoins que vous "occidentalisez"
la perception et les sentiments réellement ressentis par
les Okinawais à l'égard de la présence américaine, de la
sécurité et du développement économique. Le décryptage «
Ecosoc » que vous faites n'est pas ressenti exactement
comme tel par une majorité des Okinawais et des Japonais
majoritairement. Trop idéologique a mon sens. Pas assez

Certes, il existe des objectifs réels d'indépendance et de
développement de Okinawa, abandonnée aux 3,5 millions
annuels de touristes japonais et taïwanais, qui rapportent
davantage que les bases qui sont gérées en autonome, que
ce soit les installations militaires américaines ou les
bases japonaises de l'île.

Perte de souveraineté

Le constat sur la perte de souveraineté des habitants de
Okinawa est récurent, et apparaît notamment au 20eme
siècle avant 1972 à l'égard des Etats Unis, mais Okinawa
vit sous la botte étrangère depuis bien avant la "guerre
froide", puisque dépossédé de son pouvoir de royaume
vivant du commerce transitaire, il s'est également incliné
après la conquête japonaise du clan Shimazu de la province
de Satsuma (Ouest de Kagoshima), qui suivit la conquête de
la Chine et des Seigneurs du Fujian, vassaux des Sui de
l'Empire de Chine, qui avaient placé Okinawa sous leur
suzeraineté installant des dynastie "Sho" copié collé
conforme à l'idée du pouvoir selon les canons des Fils du

Batailles d'intérêts

Aujourd'hui la conquête de Okinawa se joue moins en termes
politiques, sauf pour les USA, bien que Tokyo joue avec
les USA sur l'effet levier de la pression "insupportable"
ressentie par les Okinawais. Avantageux stratagème
lorsque le représentant américain au commerce ou lorsque
le directeur du FBI se montrent trop entreprenants sur les
îles japonaises.

Le vrai jeu est économique: La contestation est en effet
motivée par des "purs" dont vous semblez tenir vos
commentaires, mais est manipulée en profondeur par des
facteurs économiques, hérités du système Tanaka et
Takeshita selon lesquels le développement régional doit
s'accompagner, aide de l'Etat inclue, d'une politique des
grands travaux avec primes et dessous de tables offerts
aux autorités locales, entreprises du BTP et regroupement
villageois. Or, à ce carrefour là, les habitants ne sont
plus à l'écoute des syndicats timides et des associations
d'enseignants. Aucun syndicat d'enseignants n'a appelé à
manifester en groupe à Kadena, ni dans l'administration
locale. La manifestation autour de Kadena est une
manipulation. Cela ne vient absolument pas de la
conscientisation des troupes locales. Le phénomène est
plus complexe, plus imbriqué dans les rouages des pouvoirs
japonais. La perception identitaire est faible, il ne
reste que des batailles d'intérêts.

Pour faire court, rappelons que l'exigence sur le départ
des bases américaines reviendrait à donner au roi du BTP
local d'Okinawa, la firme "Kokuba" et aux autres grands du
BTP national, un droit de regard gigantesque sur la
politique des travaux publics et d'aménagement. Droit de
regard partagé avec les autorités et potentats locaux qui
ont décidé de faire d’Okinawa un "village resort" ou
culture et gastronomie locale se marieront avec les
cocotiers importés des Philippines. L'hôtellerie est en
pleine expansion, Busena, le site du Sommet
n'appartient-il pas aussi a "Kokuba"? Il y a donc une
main mise et une alliance des "parrains" du local
(Gouvernements locaux, BTP, Transport et Tourisme) sur le
développement économique de l'île aidés par de véritables
gangs criminels omniprésents au Japon, greffe sur toute
nouvelle initiative susceptible de rapporter. Demandez
donc à Carlos Ghosn de vous parler de ses réunions
d'actionnaires de chez Nissan.

Préfectures sous contrôle

Tout comme c'est le cas dans la préfecture de Miyazaki où
s'est tenu le sommet des ministres des affaires étrangères
du G8. Peu de ces ministres devaient savoir qu'ils ont
dormi dans un « Resort » protégé par la mafia (le Seagaia
Conference Hall et l'Hôtel Ocean 45) qui est en effet
couvert de dettes. Dettes héritées des grands travaux
entrepris par la mafia financière de la période de la
"Bulle" que le G8 a permis opportunément de renflouer en
nouant des alliances sulfureuses entre politiques et
entreprises louches afin de "gonfler" le « Resort » en
comptant sur l'effet post-touristique du G8.

Pour lui sortir la tête de l'eau, il a bénéficié des
allocations gouvernementales et taxes des contribuables.
Les estimations les plus fantaisistes ont couru sur les
dépenses occasionnées pour le G8 de ce « Resort » de
Miyazaki (il a été cité en conférence de presse le chiffre
amusant d'environ 1,5 milliard de Yens en investissements
de Miyazaki, bien plus en réalité)

Il serait en particulier très intéressant de sonder les
relations entre le gouverneur de Miyazaki, Monsieur
Suketaka MATSUKATA, entre le maire de Miyazaki, Monsieur
Shigemitsu TSUMURA et le roi local des BTP Tourisme,
Sylviculture et Transports d'autocars et Agences de
tourisme... Miyazaki n'aime pas les enquêtes en eaux
profondes qui bousculent les habitudes, la province se
vante d'être le berceau mythique du culte impérial
Shintoïste, or qui dit impérial au Japon dit tabou vénéré
par l'extrême droite et la mafia Yakuza*."

Publié le 11 août 2000 in: "Le Courriel d’information"

Autres références:

*A lire aussi sur ce sujet, le livre "Tokyo Vice: An American
Reporter on the Police Beat in Japan "par Jake Adelstein.

Autres regards sur Okinawa avec le spécialiste Mitsugu

Okinawa, site historique sur Internet

Plus touristique: Un exemple des fonds sous-marins de Okinawa,
les pyramides de Yonaguni avec cette vdo. Découverte faite en 1985
par Kihachiro Aratake.