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Inhae reads the news: March 2020

Welcome to a new episode in my series “Inhae reads the news (in Japanese!)”.

In this series, I read, study and compare what different newspapers say about the same topic. I particularly like to see how conservative and left-wing newspaper will tackle the same issue. I mainly used Yomiuri and Sankei for conservative newspapers and Mainichi, Asahi and Tokyo for the left-wing ones. The goal of this series is to help me to improve my reading level in Japanese and my understanding of social and political issues in Japan. I am still learning, so be aware that there might be mistakes!

This month’s topic:

  • Abe’s press conference of the Coronavirus
  • Three aides to the couple Kawai arrested
  • State of emergency pros and cons: Sankei vs Mainichi
  • Satoshi Uematsu sentenced to death

(I wished I had the time to study editorials about the postponement of the Olympics, but the news came out yesterday, which was too late for me to include in this post.)

Abe’s press conference on the Coronavirus

On February 29th, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe gave his first press conference since the outbreak of coronavirus. People are particularly concerned with the decision to close the schools. Abe promised financial supports to parents who had to take time off from work.

Yomiuri: 首相記者会見 感染拡大防止へ態勢立て直せ
Sankei: 安倍首相の会見 矢継ぎ早に具体策講じよ
Mainichi: 新型肺炎の首相会見 もっと不安減らす説明を
Asahi: 新型肺炎対策 不安拭えぬ首相の説明

Useful vocabulary

感染症かんせんしょうan infectious disease
感染症対策かんせんしょうたいさくmeasures to control infectious diseases
感染者かんせんしゃan infected person
新型コロナウイルスしんがたころなういるすNovel Coronavirus
忙殺されるぼうさつされるbe very busily occupied
矢継ぎ早にやつぎばやにrapidly, in rapid succession
自粛じしゅくvoluntary restraint (from going out, travelling, etc.)
医療保険いりょうほけんhealth insurance
緊急事態きんきゅうじたいa state of emergency

A lot of people criticise Abe’s handling of the situation and ask for more explanations concerning the measures taken by the government. One of the recent issues is the decision to close all the schools in Japan and the fact that families and institutions had but little time to make arrangements. The decision to close the schools has severe and direct repercussions on families, and the government now needs to obtain the understanding of the people.

Our four newspapers have a different attitude about Abe’s call for understanding and collaboration.

Sankei sides with the government and relay Abe’s message: people must cooperate.

新型ウイルスとの戦いは首相や政府任せではいけない。各自治体や企業、国民一人一人も力を尽くす必要がある。

We cannot let Abe or the government handle the fight against the New Coronavirus alone. Every local government, every company and every citizen must do all they can.

Yomiuri has a slightly different tone. It says that in order to gain the people’s understanding, Abe should be more active and publicly involved:

首相は国政のトップとして、国民に直接語りかけ、理解を求める機会を増やすべきではないか。

The Prime Minister is the head of the country. As such, shouldn’t he increase the occasions where he can talk directly to the people and ask for understanding?

Mainichi doubts whether Abe could ever get the people’s understanding if he does not take the time to explain his policy. It opens its editorial with:

国民に呼びかけた理解と協力がこれで得られるだろうか。

Can [Abe] really gain the understanding and collaboration he is asking of the people with [this kind of press conference]? (Mainichi considers that Abe has not responded to the concerns about the current measures to control the spread of the virus.)

And closes it with:

首相は感染終息に向け「深く深く協力を願う」と国民に頭を下げた。真剣にそう願うのであれば、疑問にもっと正面から答えるべきだ。

Abe appealed to the people saying “I profoundly wish your collaboration” for (the purpose of) the cessation of the infection. If he seriously wishes it, he must answer the questions more directly.

Asahi opens it editorial in a very similar way:

国民の不安を拭い、納得を得るためには、説明も対策もまだまだ不十分だ。

Both the explanations and the measures are still insufficient to dispel the anxiety of the nation and gain understanding.

Concerning the decision to close the schools, we also have different approaches depending on the newspapers.

Sankei says that in a time of crisis, decisions must be taken fast. The newspaper supports the government’s decision, praising Abe for his quick decision. There are several expressions in the editorial that insists on the necessity to act quickly.

  • 必要だと確信する具体的な対応を時機を逃さず:
  • 矢継ぎ早に講じていかなくてはならない。
  • 後手に回る対応をしている余裕などない
  • 政治判断をスピード感

Also worth noting is that Sankei acknowledges that people criticise this decision, but eventually insists on the necessity of the measure. On the contrary, Yomiuri acknowledges the positive impact of the measure but underlines that it created a lot of confusion among families and institutions.

だが、唐突な方針転換で、学校関係者や保護者に混乱が広がった。

But the confusion among the families and schools extended with this sudden switch of policies.

Mainichi also mentions that the decision caused a lot of confusion because it was taken so suddenly:

首相が唐突に出した全国の小中高校への休校要請は、教育現場や保護者に混乱を起こしている。

The sudden request for closing schools (primary, middle and high schools) in the whole country created confusion among the families and the places of education.

It is interesting to note that both Yomiuri and Mainichi use the same words: 唐突 (sudden) and 混乱 (confusion). What Sankei praises as a quick response, Yomiuri and Mainichi see as a “sudden” and “abrupt” decision.

Asahi is more precise and says that families only had one day to prepare themselves:

平日の準備期間は1日しかなく、学校関係者や保護者、その勤務先まで、困惑と混乱が広がった。

As the period of preparation was only of one day, the confusion and chaos spread among persons in the education, the families and even the workplace of the parents.

Finally, another interesting point in our comparison of these 4 editorials is that Sankei is the only newspaper who does not imply that this press conference was long overdue.

Yomiuri mentions that this press conference by Abe is the first one since the beginning of the outbreak: 新型肺炎に関して初めて記者会見. Mainichi also writes that this is the first time that the Prime Minister talks directly to the people on this problem: 首相がこの問題で、国民に直接説明する場を設けたのは初めてだ。

Asahi states more plainly that Abe’s explanations were long awaited, using the word ようやく (at long last, finally):

国民生活にこれほど大きな影響を与える決定である。自身の口から直接、説明すべきだとの声に押されるように、首相は先週末、ようやく記者会見を開いた。

This is a decision that has a big impact on people’s life. The Prime Minister finally gave a press conference last weekend, after being pressed by people asking for a direct explanation.

But Asahi deplores that the press conference only lasted 35 minutes with Abe mainly repeating what he had prepared in advance.

It is very interesting to note that the Yomiuri Shimbun, which always tends to side with the government, criticises Abe’s handling of the situation. On the contrary, Sankei supports the government’s decision and relays Abe’s message. This surprises me because last month, the Sankei editorials I studied were criticising the government. I was not surprised however, to read that both Mainichi and Asahi were disappointed by Abe’s lack of explanations.

Three aides to the couple Kawai arrested

Last year in October, Katsuyuki Kawai had to resign from his post of Justice Minister over allegations of election law violations during his wife’s (Anri Kawai) campaign for the Upper House.

Early in March, three aides to the couple have been arrested. According to the election law, the daily allowance to campaign staff members is limited to 15.000 yen. The three aides are suspected of paying double this sum to staff members of Anri Kawai’s campaign. This paiement concerns the staff of the sound trucks, who were given two receipts of 15.000 yen each. Only one of them was registered as campaign fee.

Katsuyuki Kawai is also suspected of having orchestrated his wife’s campaign.

Yomiuri: 秘書ら逮捕 河井夫妻は説明責任を果たせ
Sankei: 河井氏秘書ら逮捕 夫妻の政治責任免れない
Asahi: 秘書ら逮捕 首相と党の責任は重い
Mainichi: 河井夫妻の秘書逮捕 議員本人の責任は免れぬ
Tokyo: 河井氏秘書逮捕 夫妻は事件の真相語れ

It is interesting to see that all the titles are very similar. Note how the word 責任 is used by almost all newspapers, but Yomiuri and Sankei talk about the 責任 of the Kawai, while Asahi talks about the 責任 of the party and the Prime Minister.

Useful Vocabulary and persons involved

公職選挙法こうしょくせんきょほうthe Public Offices Election Law, also: 公選法
参院選さんいんせんHouse of Councillors Election
選挙カーせんきょかーSound trucks (used for political campaign)
陣営じんえいthe camp, the ranks (ex: the LDP camp)
連座制れんざせいthe guilt-by-complicity system*
公設秘書こうせつひしょa Diet member’s secretary whose salary is paid for out of public funds
禁錮きんこimprisonment, incarceration
買収ばいしゅうbribery, buying off
遊説ゆうぜいcanvassing tour, canvassing for votes

*Guilt-by-complicity system: The provision, under the Public Office Election Law, that a candidate is disqualified from taking office if his campaign manager or finance officer has violated the Law to help him win.

河井 案里 Anri Kawai
Member of the House of Councillors (LDP)
河井 克行 Katsuyuki Kawai
Former Minister of Justice
Member of the House of Representatives (LDP)

The key word for this topic is 連座制, the guilt-by-complicity system. According to this system, Anri Kawai will have to resign from her post at the House of the Councillors, if her campaign manager is found guilty of violating the Election Law. This will apply even though Anri Kawai did not know about it. Even if she still denies all implication or knowledge of the paiements, she still could lose her post.

All newspapers underline the same points:

  • The couple has always refused to give a public explanation
  • This looks even worse because Kawai was Justice Minister

While the Yomiuri, Sankei and Tokyo only states that the couple has the duty to explain themselves publicly (説明する責任がある), both Asahi and Mainichi use the stronger expression 許せない (can’t tolerate):

Mainichi: こうした事態に至っても、説明しようとしない姿勢は許されない

Even with this turn of events, they don’t show the intention to give explanations. We cannot tolerate this attitude.

Asahi: 一貫して説明責任に背を向ける姿勢は、国会議員として許されるものではない。

From start to finish, they have turned their back on their duty to explain themselves. This attitude is not something we can tolerate from members of the Diet.

Yomiuri notes that the explanation is all the more overdue because Kawai was Justice Minister:

国会議員は疑惑をかけられた時には国民に説明する責任がある。ましてや克行氏は、法秩序の維持を担う法相を務めていただけに、なおさらではないか。

When a member of the Diet is the subject of suspicion, they have the duty to explain themselves to the nation. Even more so when Katsuyuki Kawai was assuming the post of Justice Minister, who has the responsibility to maintain the legal order.

I don’t know how to emphasise the “…だけに、なおさらではないか。” without sounding too redundant in English. Especially given that the ましてや already conveys the intended meaning.

Sankei goes further and uses the word 恥ずべき (shameful):

法の番人である法相の重責にあった政治家として、恥ずべきところはないか。

Isn’t it a shameful instance for a politician who had the important duty to be Justice Minister, the guardian of the law?

Shouldn’t there be a で after ところ? Also, I do not know how to translate ところ here. I tried “instance”, but maybe we can drop it entirely and say “isn’t it shameful…?”.

The only difference between our right and left wing newspapers is the mention of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. While Yomiuri and Sankei only talk about the Kawai couple, Asahi, Mainichi and Tokyo all mention that the Kawai are close to Abe.

Asahi mentions that Abe has a part of responsibility too:

案里氏の擁立を主導し、全面的に支援した安倍首相と党執行部の責任もまた重いと言わざるを得ない。

Prime Minister Abe and the administration have taken the initiative of putting forward Anri Kawai as candidate and support her entirely. We have to say that their responsibility is heavy.

Mainichi also underlines that the couple is close to Abe:

克行氏は安倍晋三首相の補佐官を務め、菅義偉官房長官にも近い。(…) 案里氏に肩入れした自民党も、事件を重く受け止める必要がある。

Katsuyuki Kawai worked as an assistant to the Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, and he is also close to Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga. The Liberal Democratic Party who supported Anri Kawai must respond to this affair seriously.

Even though all newspapers adopt a similar position in their criticism of the couple’s lack of public explanation, it is interesting to note how the left-wing newspapers go further and involve Abe in the scandal while the conservative ones don’t.

State of Emergency pros and cons: Sankei vs Mainichi

For this topic, we will only look at two editorials, one by Mainichi, one by Sankei. They both talk about the possibility for Abe to declare the State of Emergency, Mainichi advising against it, and Sankei supporting it.

Sankei: 緊急事態宣言 発出のタイミング誤るな
Mainicihi: 新型コロナ 特措法成立 「緊急事態」にせぬ努力を

Useful vocabulary:

新型インフルエンザ等対策特別措置法しんがたインフルエンザとうたいさくとくべつそちほうAct on the prevention of infectious diseases*
緊急事態宣言ひじょうじたいせんげんEmergency State
蔓延まんえんspreading, diffusion

*The 新型インフルエンザ等対策特別措置法, also shortened as 新型インフル特措法 is an act on special measures for the prevention of infectious diseases (this is not an official translation). It was enacted in 2012. A part of this act has been amended in March 2020 to adapt to the prevention of the Coronavirus. This version is called 新型コロナウイルス特措法. (Cf. Wikipedia)

Referring to this amended act, Sankei uses the long version 改正新型インフルエンザ等対策特別措置法 and the short version 改正特措法, while Mainichi uses the short version 改正特別措置法 and the mini version 改正法 (as far as I am concerned, the less eight-kanji-in-a-row words, the better).

The two newspapers have clearly opposite positions concerning the Emergency State: Sankei insists on the necessity to implement it, while Mainichi insists on the importance to avoid it if possible.

Sankei:

感染拡大のペースが上がるなど、悪い変化の兆しが出てくれば、首相は緊急事態宣言を積極的に考えなくてはならない。

If signs of aggravation appear or if the pace of expansion of the contagious disease increases, the Prime Minister must actively think of declaring the state of emergency.

Mainichi:

冷静かつ客観的に、必要性を判断しなければならない。

We must judge the necessity [of the state of emergency] calmly and objectively.

A state of emergency basically gives the government the power and means to perform actions and impose policies in order to deal with the emergency in question. The state can thus perform actions that it is normally not permitted to perform, and these actions can affect individual rights and freedom.

When explaining what the state of emergency is, Sankei remains vague, only saying that it would give the government and local authorities a lot of means of response (多くの対応手段). On the contrary, Mainichi goes straight to the point saying that it would allow the government to close public places and ask for people to remain at home, thus limiting the rights of the people (国民の権利制限を伴う).

Mainichi’s main concern is that the state of emergency would limit individual rights, and that there is no clear mention of when the state of emergency can be declared. One of the conditions to call the situation a situation of “emergency” is the risk of spreading (まん延のおそれ), a vague notion that is in turn defined as “when clusters of patients have been confirmed in a large number of prefectures” (相当数の都道府県で患者クラスターが確認される).

Sankei concedes that several people call to caution, but it discredits this attitude, calling it “unrealistic” (非現実的な). The newspaper insists on the necessity to put individual rights aside to protect the people, simultaneously underlining the necessity of the state of emergency if the situation worsens, and the priority to protect the life of the people and to maintain the economy. With all this, it will be difficult to guarantee the rights of the people (国民の私権を守ることは難しい).

It is interesting to note that Sankei insists on the temporary nature of the state of emergency while Mainichi sees it as a last resort measure.

Sankei:

国民や社会を救うための時限的な措置である

[The state of emergency] is a temporary measure to save the people and the society.

Mainichi:

特措法は制御不能な最悪の事態への備えだ

Laws on special measures are provided to respond to uncontrollable and critical situations.

Satoshi Uematsu sentenced to death

In 2016, Satoshi Uematsu (植松 聖) stabbed disabled people in an institution, killing 19 and wounded 26 persons. The case is referred to as the Sagamihara stabbings (相模原事件), Sagamihara being the city in which the events occurred.

The name of the care center in which the stabbings took place is Tsukui Lily Garden (津久井やまゆり園).

On March 16th, Satoshi Uematsu was sentenced to death by the Yokohama District Court.

Yomiuri: 相模原事件判決 偏見に基づく凶行を指弾した
Sankei: 相模原殺傷に死刑 「事件」は終わっていない
Mainichi: 相模原殺傷で死刑判決 事件の意味考え続けたい
Asahi: 「やまゆり」判決 問い続ける責任 社会に
Tokyo: 植松被告に死刑 「なぜ犯行」今なお残る

(Sankei published its editorial a day after the others, and therefore after I had written this part of the blog. I read it, but I did not study it in this post.)

Useful vocabulary:

相模原障害者施設殺傷事件さがみはら しょうがいしゃしせつ さっしょうじけんSagamihara stabbings
障害者しょうがいしゃa person with a handicap
福祉施設ふくししせつa welfare facility
極刑きょっけいcapital punishment
裁判さいばんtrial, hearing
起訴きそprosecution
審理しんりtrial, examination, inquiry
匿名とくめいanonymity, using a pseudonym
大麻たいまcannabis*
植松 聖 Satoshi Uematsu
Perpetrator of the Sagamihara stabbings. Sentenced to death on March 16th, 2020

*I think that the reading おおあさ is used when talking about the plant “hemp”, while the reading たいま is used to talk about the drug…? I am not sure though…

All four newspapers have written very similar editorials. Our conservative newspapers are the only ones who actually comment on the decision of the court. Yomiuri says that due to the number of victims, there was no other choice than to hand down the capital punishment (極刑以外の選択肢はなかったのだろう), and Sankei also says that the death penalty was inevitable (死刑の判断は不可避だった).

What all newspapers mention is that the ruling did not allow us to understand how such an act was possible, and why the defendant acted like he did. Given the repercussions of this case, the trial should have been more thorough.

Mainichi says:

社会に大きな衝撃を与えた事件である。もっと時間をかけて、丁寧な審理をすべきだった。

It is a case that gave a great shock to our society. They should have taken the time to make a more through inquiry.

The newspapers deplore that the focus of the trial was to determine whether Uematsu was in full possession of his faculties or, as the defense stated, under the influence of marijuana. But the reasons and background (原因、背景、なぜ) of his act were not sufficiently studied.

Yomiuri: 残念だったのは、裁判を通じて、事件の背景が十分に解明されなかったことである。

What is regrettable is that the background of the case has not been sufficiently clarified through the trial.

Mainichi: しかし、これほどの凶行に至り、人の命に格差があると言い続ける原因や背景は何だったのか、裁判で解明されたとは言い難い。

But what were the background and reasons that led [Uematsu] to keep repeating that there is a disparity in human lives, and eventually commit such a violent act? It is hard to say that it was made clear during the trial.

Asahi: このゆがんだ認識が生まれ、ふくらんでいった原因や背景が、裁判を通じて、その一端でも浮かぶことが期待された。しかし、それはかなわなかった。

We were expecting that the background and the reasons that led to the creation and growth of this perverted point of view [in Uematsu’s mind] would emerge during the trial, if only partially. But this expectation was not fulfilled.

Tokyo: それでも「なぜ」の問いが今なお残る。(…) ゆがんだ差別意識はどうして生まれたのか。だが裁判では深掘りされなかった。

But the question “why” still remains. (…) How did this perverted, discriminatory consciousness came into being [in Uematsu’s mind]? But [these questions] were not looked deeper into during the trial.

This trial’s purpose should not have been to hand down a sentence on Uematsu only, but to understand how he came to develop the convictions that led him to commit one of the most shocking mass murders of the country. This would have helped to prevent that such cases occur again. As Yomiuri mentions, we cannot forget that a lot of people had shown sympathy for Uematsu after the killing.

And as Mainichi says, we cannot just handle this case as the doing of a violent person. Even if Uematsu’s trial is over, “the case is not over”, as Sankei puts it in its title. We should still keep in mind the meaning of this case: it revealed how strong discriminations can be, and how urgent it is to work towards a society without discriminations.

Conclusion

I found this month’s topics very interesting, and though I still have a lot of difficulties to translate sentences and paragraphs, I feel that it becomes easier to read news articles! 

Thank you for reading.

Stay safe everyone!

2 Comments

  1. Kuri says

    Thank you for making this blog! I read it all the time and makes me feel less alone in my goal of reading Japanese.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you very much for your comment! I also feel less alone in my studies when people comment on my blog! Good luck with your reading goal! 

      Like

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