What is it about this country, and its media, that makes people think they can justify turning drug offenders into public spectacles? That's the question Hiroshi Morisu poses in Shukan Kinyobi (Sept 18).
Morisu, a 61-year old author and self-professed gambling professional who hails from Ishikawa Prefecture and is now based in Australia, uses the term "sarashi-mono," a relic of the Edo-period penal system when perpetrators of certain misdemeanors were bound with straw ropes and put on public display -- with the specifics of their offense posted on a placard as a warning to others.
Morisu has been fuming since entertainer Noriko Sakai set off a media feeding frenzy after the Tokyo prosecutor charged her for having 0.008 of a gram of stimulants in her possession. Normally in Japan, a suspect with such a small quantity is subjected to "shobun horyu" (punitive detention up to a maximum of 23 days) and then released.
But politicians and the "intelligentsia" have asserted that when celebrities such as athletes and entertainers use drugs, this can pose "major social repercussions."
"Are you people out of your minds?" shrieks Morisu. If you're looking for negative "social repercussions," one need look no further than the politicians and bureaucrats who have institutionalized a system that "circulates tax money."
Rather than antisocial behavior by athletes and entertainers threatening "repercussions," Morisu is convinced it is this lackadaisical tolerance of authoritarianism that reflects the stupidity of Japanese society.
People have short memories. Up to 1945, use of stimulants to "enhance concentration" was heartily endorsed by the government and dispensed to troops before they embarked on suicide attacks.
The drug was sold over the counter under the brand name "Hiropon," said to be derived from the Greek "Philo-pon" (philo = to love + pon = work), i.e., a person who loves to work. Then in 1951, it was abruptly banned as being inconsistent with people's "well being," and suddenly, the "patriots" who obligingly took the drug at their government's urging, found themselves downgraded to pariah status.
Today, asserts Morisu, stimulants stand out as one of only two worthwhile inventions from Japan that have become adopted on a worldwide scale -- the other being dotted condoms.
In the interim, Japanese have conveniently forgotten the original purpose of the drug; its ban now serves as a benchmark to determine who is, and is not, acquiescent to the laws handed down by the eminent authorities from above.
So then, Morisu asks, what possible purpose is served by putting Sakai on public display? More's the point, have the journalists who lambasted Sakai ever experimented themselves -- if not with stimulants then with other illegal substances? If the answer is no, they've picked the wrong line of work and should get out journalism as quickly as they can. They're not cut out for it; people so lacking in curiosity don't belong in the world of journalism.
Indeed, Morisu opines, such journalists may very well exert a far worse influence on society than those whose only crime was to indulge in illegal substances.© Japan Today