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Inhae reads the news: April 2020

These are the news that I have read and studied in April. As usual, I try to compare what different newspapers say on the same topic in their editorials.

This month’s topics:

  • Nika Mishiyama acquitted
  • Closure of schools
  • State of Emergency
  • State of Emergency: one week after
  • State of Emergency and domestic violence

Nika Mishiyama acquitted

On April 1st, the major topics were the coronavirus, the new schedule for the Tokyo Olympics and Nika Mishiyama’s new trial.

Nika Mishiyama is a former assistant nurse who has served 12 years in prison for the murder of a 72-year-old patient. The letters she wrote in prison to her parents showed that she might have been suffering from a mild form of intellectual disability, as the investigating reporting team at the Chunichi Shimbun pointed out (this is the same journal as the Tokyo Shimbun). This was later confirmed by psychiatrists’ evaluation on Nika Mishiyama.

The 72-year-old patient died because of respiratory problems. Nika Mishiyama lied and said that the respiratory alarm went off because the police officer intimidated her into saying so and because she apparently had a crush on him and wanted to please him. With this false statement, the police accused another nurse who should have “heard” the alarm but failed to react. Upset that her statement had brought problems to another person, Nika Mishiyama made a false confession of murder, saying that she pulled out the tube for the respirator. This is why the case is referred to as 呼吸器事件.

The defense team has asked several times for retrial, saying that Mishiyama confessed the murder because she was suffering from intellectual disabilities, but the requests have not been granted and Mishiyama served her whole sentence in prison.

She was finally granted a retrial in 2019. The first and second hearings took place this year, and she was acquitted on March 31st. The retrial showed that the patient may have died a natural death, and that there was no proof of murder in the first place.

Tokyo (Chunichi): 刑事司法を改革せよ 再審無罪判決
Mainichi: 滋賀患者死亡で再審無罪 自白依存の脱却が必要だ
Yomiuri: 再審無罪 冤罪生んだ警察の「証拠隠し」

Useful vocabulary and persons involved:

刑事司法けいじしほうCriminal Justice
再審さいしんnew trial, retrial
無罪むざいbeing not guilty
呼吸器こきゅうきrespiratory organs
大津地裁 (大津地方裁判所)おおつちさい (おおつちほうさいばんしょ)Otsu district court (where Mishiyama’s retrial took place)
事件性じけんせいa criminal nature, criminality
懲役ちょうえきpenal servitude
冤罪えんざいa false accusation
服役するふくえきserve a prison term, penal servitude
名誉回復めいよかいふくrehabilitation, clearing sb’s name
Nika Mishiyama 西山美香
Former assistant nurse in a hospital in Shiga (滋賀) prefecture. After serving a 12-year sentence in prison for a murder she did not commit, she was acquitted on March 31st.

Even if Nika Mishiyama’s name has finally been cleared, she has served her whole sentence in prison. During her first trial, Mishiyama’s appeal has been dismissed. The defense team has asked for a retrial twice while Mishiyama was in prison, but the court has always dismissed the request.

Our three newspapers blame the way the investigation and the prosecution were conducted, and also the court itself, who failed to recognise the flaws in the prosecution.

Tokyo: 自白の誘導などで殺人事件に仕立てた捜査と司法の責任は、極めて重い。

The investigation and the administration of justice have built a murder case based on an induced confession. Their responsibility is extremely heavy.

Mainichi: 虚偽の自白に基づく警察や検察のずさんな捜査をチェックできなかった裁判所の責任も重い。

The court failed to check the slovenly investigation, which was based on a false confession, made by the police and the prosecution. The responsibility of the court is heavy.

Apart from the police officer who knew that Mishiyama had a crush on him and used his influence over her during the interrogation, it has also been made clear that the police did not hand over all the elements to the prosecution. This includes documents that seriously weakened the theory of Mishiyama’s guilt. Yomiuri says:

有罪立証に不利な証拠を警察が隠蔽いんぺいしていたのなら、犯罪にも相当する悪質な行為である。

If the police hid the elements that went against a guilty verdict, they committed an act as pernicious as the crime itself.

Yomiuri also blames the prosecution for not revealing in detail why they abandoned the guilty verdict during the retrial:

それをしなかった検察はあまりに不誠実であり、「公益の代表者」の名に値しない。

The prosecution who did not [explain its turnaround] is dishonest and does not deserve the name of “representant of the public interest”.

冤罪えんざいを生んだ警察や検察はもちろん、誤判を重ねた裁判所も猛省しなければならない。

The police and the prosecution who created a false accusation, but also the court who kept making erroneous judgments must reflect seriously on their conduct.

Closure of schools

On April 3rd, one month after the general closure of schools, all our newspapers have devoted an editorial to the situation for students and families. Schools in Tokyo and Osaka will remain closed until May 6th, which means that students will miss the new school term.

Sankei: 休校の継続 警戒緩めず学びに知恵を
Yomiuri: 休校の継続 子供の不安最小限に抑えたい
Mainichi: 大都市圏の休校措置 長期化見据えた対応策を
Asahi: 休校の継続 学ぶ権利、守る知恵を
Tokyo: コロナと休校 学びの保障に腰据えて

Useful vocabulary:

休校きゅうこうtemporary closure of a school
措置そちmeasure, step, action
一斉いっせいsimultaneously
教育委員会きょういくいいんかいboard of education
学期がっきschool term
年度ねんどfiscal year

While all our newspapers all report on the same topic, their editorials are different. They all talk about the repercussions of the closure on students and families, but we can easily see differences in the social engagement of the newspaper.

The less worried about negative repercussions is Sankei. The journal only lists obvious problems at the end of the article, only saying that measures should be taken to prevent a drop in performance.

Then we have the Yomiuri Shimbun. The article lists a lot more problems and is more aware of the difficulties that students face. It does not talk about students’ performance only, but also about the stress this situation confers to students. It underlines, for example, that children cannot meet their friends and that their life rhythm is disturbed. It also points out that April is an important period for children who start school.

The article finishes on a positive note, talking about measures to maintain students’ level of knowledge like online course on classes during the Summer holidays.

Left-wing newspapers are of course more socially engaged. For example, neither Sankei nor Yomiuri talked about the parents who could not go to work because they have to take care of their children, a topic that Mainichi, Asahi and Tokyo mention.

Mainichi insists on the situation of parents and the stress of the children. It also points out that online courses are not available for everyone. Some schools are not equipped to provide them.

Asahi and Tokyo are the only ones who mention child abuse and malnutrition. Tokyo Shimbun particularly underlines that, without school or social contacts, it will be more difficult to identify cases of child abuse or domestic violence:

人となるべく接触しないことが求められている状況で、困難を抱えた家庭が孤立してしまう危険性は高くなっている。

The [current] situation where people are asked to avoid social contact increases the risk that families with problems get isolated.

State of Emergency

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe declared a state of emergency over the corona virus outbreak on April 7th. The state of emergency will not impose a complete lockdown or self-isolation like some other countries, but it will allow the government to requisition buildings to treat the increasing number of patients.

Last month, I studied the position of two newspapers concerning the state of emergency: Sankei was absolutely supporting it, and Mainichi was warning that it would reduce individual rights.

On April 7th, every newspaper wrote about the state of emergency in their editorial:

Yomiuri: 施設・自宅療養 患者の不安軽減する対策を
Sankei: 外出の自粛 スターの発信に期待する
Mainichi: 緊急事態宣言発令へ 医療崩壊を全力で防ごう
Asahi: 緊急事態宣言 克服へ政治の責任示せ
Tokyo: 緊急事態宣言へ 必要性を丁寧に語れ

Useful vocabulary

緊急事態きんきゅうじたいstate of emergency
宣言せんげんa declaration, statement, announcement
病床びょうしょうsb’s sickbed
軽症けいしょうa slight illness, a mild case of…
医療崩壊いりょうほうかいThe impossibility to supply necessary medical care (see Wikipedia)

Our newspapers have a different position concerning this state of emergency.

Yomiuri and Sankei support the decision of the government but still have written different editorials.

Yomiuri explains in detail the concrete repercussions of the measure on medical care. The main concern is the increasing number of patients and the impossibility to receive them all in hospitals.

Sankei has written a completely different article. They seem worried that the state of emergency does not impose self isolation on the population. They cite examples of public figures like sport athletes or singers and actors who encouraged people to stay at home. They hope that more public figures will help spread the word.

安倍晋三首相は7日に緊急事態を宣言する。ただし宣言は、外出自粛要請に強制力を伴わない。最後に行動を決めるのは国民一人一人の自覚である。だからこそ、若者に訴求力のある選手や芸能人の発信に期待は大きい。

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe declared the state of emergency on the 7th, but it does not legally impose self-isolation. In the end, it is each person’s awareness that dictates the conduct of the population. This is why we expect much from the message shared by stars and athletes who are influential among young people.

While Yomiuri has written an article on what the state of emergency does, Sankei focuses more on what the state of emergency does not do.

Neither of them mention the terms “individual rights” in their article, contrary to all our left-wing newspapers. Mainchi talks says that it is 私権を制限する例外的な行為であり while Asahi plainly states: 行動の自由や私権を制限する措置だ. Tokyo says that the state of emergency 私権を制限する権限を持つことになる.

All three left-wing newspapers insist on the necessity for the government to communicate and explain in detail why the state of emergency is necessary and how it will impact people’s lives.

Mainichi: 宣言に際しては国民の納得と協力を得るため、政府は丁寧に説明する必要がある。

The government must give thorough explanations at the time of the declaration in order to gain the understanding and the cooperation of the people.

Asahi: 首相や知事はビジョンを明確に語り、社会の理解と合意をとりつける必要がある。

The Prime Minister and the prefectural governors must secure the understanding and the agreement of the society by clearly stating their vision.

Tokyo: 宣言への国民の理解を広げるには、その必要性を丁寧に説明すべきだ。

In order to extend the understanding of the people, it is necessary to explain thoroughly the necessity of the declaration.

The state of emergency allows the state to shut down public places and requisition buildings and land for medical purposes. It also allows the state to impose isolation on the population. Restraining private rights cannot be done without sufficient explanations:

Tokyo: だから、発令には十分な根拠と国民の理解が不可欠になる。政府はまず、専門家の知見も含め根拠を明確に説明すべきだ。

This is why sufficient grounding and the understanding of the people are essential when declaring [state of emergency]. The government must start by explaining thoroughly [why the state of emergency is necessary] using the specialists’ opinions.

Because the state of emergency gives so much power to the state, it is important to choose carefully which of these measures to apply:

Mainichi: 宣言で可能になる対策のうち、どれを実行に移すかは知事の判断だ。私権を制限する例外的な行為であり、必要性を見極める抑制的な姿勢を忘れてはならない

It is the prefectural governor who decides which measures to apply among the measures made possible by the state of emergency. This is an exceptional action that restrains individual rights. It is important to make sure of the necessity [of the measures].

I don’t understand the last part of the paragraph: 必要性を見極める抑制的な姿勢を忘れてはならない, and I cannot translate it. The literal meaning might be that the governor must not forget to keep a holdback attitude to see through the necessity of the measures. In other words, he must not apply drastic measures without being certain of their necessity.

According to Tokyo, some people misinterpreted the state of emergency, thinking it would impose a complete lockdown like in several countries in Europe. This misunderstanding resulted in people rushing to supermarkets, or fleeing big cities, thus creating favourable situation for the spread of the virus.

Tokyo: もうひとつ重要な説明を求める。宣言が出れば、欧州のように外出を強制的に規制されるなど、いわゆる都市封鎖が行われるとの誤解が広がっている。

We also ask for another important explanation. Following the declaration of the state of emergency, a misunderstanding is spreading: [people think that] the so called “lockdown” of the city is applied, legally restraining people from going out like in Europe.

To sum up, Yomiuri mainly described what the state of emergency will make possible at a medical level. Sankei encourages self isolation given that the state of emergency will not be used by the government to impose a lockdown on the population. Mainichi, Asahi and Tokyo points out that the state of emergency restrain individual rights. Therefore, the government must communicate more and give the people better explanations concerning why it is necessary, and which measures will effectively take place.

State of Emergency: after one week

On April 15th, one week after Abe has declared the state of emergency, the Yomiuri and the Mainichi shimbun have written an editorial about it:

Yomiuri: 緊急事態1週間 感染機会減らす一層の努力を
Mainichi: 緊急事態宣言1週間 命救う「8割減」には遠い

Both newspapers show that the state of emergency has not brought the desired effects. Specialists have predicted that if social contacts are reduced by 80%, the number of persons infected would start to decrease after two weeks and that results will be visible after one month.

Unfortunately, both Mainchi and Yomiuri note that the state of emergency did not really succeed in reducing social contacts by 80%.

Yomiuri says that the first weekend under the state of emergency, places like Ginza or Shibuya were almost empty, which shows that people refrain from going out on weekends. However, people still massively go to work during the week, leading to crowded areas.

Yomiuri also notes that if people refrain from going out in the city centre, the situation is the opposite in local areas.

都市の中心部で人が減ったのとは対照的に、地元の商店街やスーパーなどに買い物客が詰めかけている。密集状態が生まれると、感染拡大につながりかねない。

Contrary to the central part of the city where fewer people [go out], people rush into local supermarkets and local shopping centers. If places become crowded, that could lead to the propagation of the infection.

Mainichi makes a similar observation:

行動を極力制限している人がいる一方、出勤や外出をせざるを得ない人がいる。自分はまだ大丈夫と思う人もいる。

While there are people who dramatically reduce their movements, there are also people who have no other choice but to go to work or to go out. There are also people who are not worried for themselves.

As Mainichi says afterwards, some people do not realise that they might be carrying the infection without showing symptoms, and go on with their usual activity.

Both newspapers call people to self-restrictions.

State of emergency and domestic violence

When I studied editorials published on April 7th, I noticed that only Tokyo and Asahi mentioned abuse and domestic violence. Actually, the Yomiuri Shimbun wrote an editorial on this topic on April 20th.

Yomiuri: コロナとDV 被害把握する体制を強化せよ

Useful vocabulary:

自粛じしゅくself-restraint
家庭内暴力かていないぼうりょくdomestic violence
監視かんしsurveillance, monitoring
困窮こんきゅうpoverty, distress, straitened circumstances
加害かがいinfliction of injury, harm
避難ひなんseeking refuge
虐待ぎゃくたいcruel treatment, abuse, cruelty
兆候ちょうこうsign, indication

With adults and children staying at home more than usual, not only will domestic violence be likely to increase, but it is also more difficult to detect it.

Associations against domestic violence have reported cases of mistreatment that were directly linked to the current measures of self-restriction.

外出できないイライラに、経済的な困窮や不安が加わり、加害行為を引き起こしている可能性がある。

Economical difficulties and anxiety, added to the frustration of not being able to go out, may be leading to acts of violence.

If I understand the article correctly, a lot of public facilities have closed due to the state of emergency, reducing the number of places where victims could seek support and help. The government has called private associations and civilian groups to extend their efforts by receiving calls even during the night or weekends and by providing support on social media.

自治体の被害相談の機能を、民間で補完する意義は大きい。

It is very important that private initiative should supplement the local victim support services.

Similarly, the state of emergency has reduced the places where victims could seek temporary shelter, like internet cafes. Here again, civilian initiative will be decisive.

Finally, child abuse and mistreatment are more difficult to detect if the children don’t go to school.

子供の体の傷など、虐待の兆候を発見する機会が減っていることが懸念される。

People are concerned that there are now less opportunities to notice signs of mistreatment of children, like injuries on their body.

The article insists on the necessity of civilian effort to help the victims of DV, but it does not seem like the government has taken any concrete measure.

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