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Japanese News: July week 1

The topics I studied this week are:

  • The labour reform: a recap
  • Post-Abe: a list of the 5 candidates who could succeed Abe
  • Football: Politicians’ reactions to the last match and a Korean digression
  • The execution of Aum Leader Matsumoto.

Labour reform

On Friday 29th, the Diet enacted the Labour Reform bill. Despite many criticisms, the 高プロ was not removed from the text. As it stands, the reform contains three major topics:

  • The system “同一労働同一賃金” will ensure that regular and non-regular employees get the same salary if they do the same work. I think that nobody criticises this point.
  • A maximum cap for extra time “残業時間の規制”. Even if the opposition welcomes this instauration, they criticise that it is only fixed at 100 hours per month, which is higher than the 過労死ライン.
  • The so-called 高プロ or 高度プロフェッショナル制度. This is the most controversial part of the reform. According to this system, some skilled professional workers with high salary will no longer be concerned by the working-hour regulation system: 高収入の一部専門職を労働時間規制から外す.

According to the opposition, the 高プロ will only increase the number of deaths by overwork: “長時間労働を助長し、過労死を増やす.”

Other strong opponents to the 高プロ are the people who lost a member of their family by overwork or suicide. Some of them attended the Diet session with portraits of their departed one. After that, they gave a press conference to express their dissatisfaction with the result.

A mother, whose daughter killed herself because of her work, says:

“きょう初めて国会で傍聴をしたが、多数決の力で法律が通ってしまったことにとても残念な気持ちだ。成立したとき、心の中で娘に『これがあなたを追い詰めた日本の姿だよ』と話しかけていた。高度プロフェッショナル制度は長時間労働を法律で認め、過労死を助長するもので、成立は遺族として納得できない.”

  • 傍聴・ぼうちょう: passive attendance
  • 追い詰める・おいつめる: drive into a corner, drive to the wall (here, figurative)
  • 助長する・じょちょうする: to encourage, to promote, to contribute
  • 遺族・いぞく: the family of a decease

ポスト安倍

I have discovered that to find information on potential candidates to succeed Abe, the keyword is ポスト安倍.

With this, I have been able to list the 5 candidates for the head of the LDP easily. I am making this memo for my sake as reading Japanese names is still a real struggle to me. There is no particular order:

  • 岸田文雄 ~ きしだ・ふみお ~ Fumio KISHIDA
    • He is 政調会長 which is an abbreviation for 政務調査会長・せいむちょうさかいちょう. I found the translation “chairman of Policy Research Council” or “chairman of Political Affairs Research Committee”… I don’t know what exactly is this committee, but I will satisfy myself by being able to recognise and read the kanji as well as associate it with an English equivalent.
  • 野田聖子 ~ のだ・せいこ ~ Seiko NODA
    • She is 総務省・そうむしょう, Minister for Internal Affairs and Communications.
  • 小泉進次郎 ~ こいずみ・しんじろう ~ Shinjiro KOIZUMI
    • He is 筆頭副幹事長・ひっとうふくかんじちょう, here again, I am at a loss to say what this is. I only gathered from my inquiries on the Web, that it can be translated by “Chief Deputy Secretary-General”.
  • 石破茂 ~ いしば・しげる ~ Shigeru ISHIBA
    • He is always described as 元幹事長・もとかんじちょう or former Secretary-General. I guess that, Secretary-General being a high position, it is more relevant to describe him as having occupied this function as by naming his current position, whatever it may be…
  • 河野太郎 ~ こうの・たろう ~ Taro KONO
    • He is 外相・がいしょう, Minister for Foreign Affairs.

Having to struggle with these names considerably hinders my understanding of articles relative to the subject of politics or the upcoming elections. I hope that making this list will help me in my future readings.

“夢をありがとう”

So that’s it, Japan has lost against Belgium and is now out of the tournament. However, no one really expected them to go to the knock-out stage, and they offered a great performance against Belgium (3-2) in what was, in my opinion, one of the best games of the tournament so far. I saw several articles thanking the team for having made people dream (I don’t know if this is colloquial in English… it is in French, and I spent several minutes trying to find a colloquial equivalent in English without success.).

The team was welcomed at the airport by enthusiastic and grateful fans (photo gallery).

Let’s have a look at politicians’ reactions after the match.

Abe stated was is certainly the general feeling among Japanese football’s fans:

“惜しかった。日本代表の皆さんに感動をありがとうと言いたい” and “2週間、本当にいい夢を見させてもらった.”

Taro ASO, deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister, used football to draw, once again, a comparison with politics:

“2対0になったところで多くの人が『勝った』と思っただろうが、政治と同じで甘くない.”

To understand this statement, we must know that Japan was winning 2-0 until Belgium equalised and even scored a winning third goal at the very end of the match. He also said that the level of the team was much better than before.

Fumio KISHIDA (one of the 5 candidates cited above) took the opportunity to make some philosophical comments on the unpredictability of life. He says that he too thought Japan would win when they were leading the score. Seeing that Belgium did not only equalised but also win, he concludes:

“人生ってのは何が起こるか分からないなと、こんなことを教えてくれたんではないかと思う.”

Similarly, he says that no one was excepting much from this year’s World Cup because the team was not convincing during the games preceding the World Cup. Moreover, they changed their coach only two months before the start of the tournament. Now, however, everybody is praising the team and the coach. Kishida comments:

“やっぱり人生ってのはやってみないと分からないもんだなと、こういう教訓も与えてくれたのではないか.”

I wonder if he is simply being philosophical or if he is hinting at the September’s elections.

The strangest statement was made by Katsunobu KATO, Minister of Health, Labour and Welfare:

“けさ5時ごろまで起きていた方も大勢いると思うので、きょうはしっかり働き方改革に努め、できるだけ早く帰って疲れをとってほしい.”

He speaks of being awake until 5 a.m because the match started at 3 in the morning at Japan time. I just find it strange to acknowledge that the people who work on the Labour Reform went to bed at 5 to watch football and are hoping to go back home early.

(In Korea too, this match was well discussed because one of the commentators on KBS ended up saying “thank you” to Belgium when they scored their winning goal. I don’t like watching a game involving Japan on Korean TV because I find the commentators to be partial. They would end up (from my experience) supporting the team opposing Japan and get very excited whenever it scores, to the point where you could swear that it is Korea who is playing. Their delight in the other’s team success hardly conceals their satisfaction of seeing Japan lose. Of course, this might be a fancy of my part, but the “thank you” incident tend to support my feeling. When Belgium scored its 3rd goal at the very end of the match, the two commentators on KBS jubilated so much that anyone turning his TV on at this moment could have sworn that Korea had just scored the winning goal at the final game! One of the commentators even went as far as to say “thank you” to Belgium for having defeated Japan and prevented them from going to the quarterfinals. I don’t know if he forgot that he was broadcasting a live program or if he thought that it would be well received by the Korean audience, but he only attracted outraged criticism for his partial position. He tried to explain himself afterwards, saying that he meant “thank you” for not having to go through the extra-time. Though we must acknowledge that the match took place during the night in Korea, his explanation is not convincing and I think he even dropped it soon after.)

Aum leader has been executed

Source: 教団元代表の松本智津夫死刑囚の刑を執行

The leader of the Aum cult Chizuo MATSUMOTO has been executed. The Aum cult is principally known for the Sarin gas attack in the subway in Tokyo in 1995, but I just learnt that Aum members are involved in two other attacks: a first Sarin gas attack in 1994 and the murder of a lawyer and his family in 1989. Some other actions are hinted at but not mentioned. In total 29 persons died because of the cult, and more than 6500 were harmed.

Let’s first have a look at some vocabulary:

  • 松本智津夫・まつもと ちづお: Chizuo MATSUMOTO. This is the real name of the Aum cult leader. I find that Japanese articles prefer to use his real name whilst English and French sources use his cult name Shoko ASAHARA
  • 麻原彰晃・あさはら しょうこう: Shoko ASAHARA, the name Matsumoto chose for himself.
  • オウム真理教・しんりきょう: Aum cult, also Aum Shinrikyo in English.
  • 地下鉄サリン事件: ちかてつさりんじけん: this is the name of the Sarin gas attack in the subway.
  • 坂本堤弁護士一家殺害事件・さかもとつつみべんごしいっかさつがいじけん: The case of the Sakamoto family murder
    • 坂本堤・さかもと つつみ: Tsutsumi SAKAMOTO. He was a lawyer working on a class action lawsuit against the Aum cult. He was killed with his wife and child in 1989 by members of the cult.
  • 松本サリン事件・まつもとさりんじけん: Matsumoto sarin attack. This attack is not called “Matsumoto” because of the Aum leader’s real name, but because it took place in the city of Matsumoto, in Nagano prefecture. 8 persons died, and hundreds were harmed.

Chizuo MATSUMOTO was arrested in 1995, after the Sarin gas attack in the Tokyo subway. His public trial (公判・こうはん) began in 1996 at the district court (地裁・ちさい) of Tokyo. He pleaded not guilty (無罪・むざい) but received the death sentence (死刑判決・しけいはんけつ).

I think that what would normally take place is an appeal (控訴・こうそ) from the defence to the High Court of Tokyo (東京高裁・とうきょうこうさい). However, the defence did not apply for an appeal because:

“(松本死刑囚と)意思疎通ができない.”

  • 死刑囚・しけいしゅう: a death row convict. “松本死刑囚” is how Matsumoto is referred to in articles in Japanese.
  • 意思疎通・いしそつう: mutual understanding, reciprocal communication

In 2006, having received no appeal, the High Court of Tokyo, supported by the Supreme Court (最高裁・さいこうさい), confirmed the death penalty sentence. Between the confirmation (確定・かくてい) and the execution (執行・しっこう) of the death sentence, 11 years and 10 months have elapsed.

As you can see at the end of the article, several members were trialled and received diverse sanctions:

  • 死刑・しけい: death penalty: 13 persons
  • 無期懲役・むきちょうえき: penal servitude for an indefinite term: 6 persons
  • 有期懲役・ゆうきちょうえき: penal servitude for a fixed term: 81 persons
  • 執行猶予・しっこうゆうよ: suspended sentence (fr: sursis): 87 persons
  • 罰金・ばっきん: fine: 3 persons
  • 無罪・むざい: found not guilty: 2 persons.

In total, 13 members of the cult were sentenced to death. On Friday morning, I read in the Guardian that Matsumoto was hanged with 6 other members, but the Mainichi article did not mention it (unless they update it afterwards). French newspaper Le Monde said that this information was transmitted by several Japanese media but was not confirmed by the Ministry of Justice.

What the Mainichi does say, however, is that apart from Matsumoto, the death sentence of several other death row inmates should be executed within 6 days. In March of this year, the 13 members and 7 other death row inmates were moved to different detention centres.

Update: The Ministry of Justice (法務省・ほうむしょう) confirmed that 6 other members were executed with Matsumoto.

Conclusion

I cannot help but think of Higashino’s novel 「虚ろな十字架」that I have just finished. The reflexions on the death penalty encompassed in it could not be more topical.

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