Welcome to a new episode in my series “Inhae reads the news (in Japanese!)”. As usual, I choose three different topics for the month and study what different newspapers say about it in their editorial. Ideally, I want to compare how conservative and left-wing newspapers handle the same topic, but this series’ main goal is for me to improve my Japanese, encourage me to read news articles regularly, and get familiar with social and political issues in Japan.
This month’s topics are:
- Tokyo court rejects a damage lawsuit by a victim of the Eugenic Protection Law
- Yuriko Koike re-elected as Governor of Tokyo
- Coronavirus cases in US military bases in Okinawa
Topic 1: Tokyo court rejects a damage lawsuit by a victim of the Eugenic Protection Law
I first learned about the Eugenic Protection Law in Japan two years ago, when I was working on the news for my blog. I was very shocked to learn that 1- there had been such a law in Japan, 2- it was revoked only in 1996 (!) and 3- that victims were just beginning to get compensations.
Established in 1948, the Eugenic Protection Law’s purpose was to prevent the birth of “inferior descendants”. Around 25,000 persons thought to have “hereditary” diseases that could lead to the birth of “inferior” children have been sterilised. Among them, around 16,500 people never gave their consent. Some were forcibly sterilised, others were deceived into having the surgery (many were in their teens when it happened). Several victims have said that they had only learned afterwards what had been done to them.
Among the victims, many were physically or cognitively disabled, suffered from mental or chronic illness or were considered to have behaviour problems. Most of the forced sterilizations were performed on inmates of institutions for disabled persons, psychiatric hospitals or welfare institutions for children.
Groups of victims are asking for apologies and several victims have filed a lawsuit against the government for compensation and apologies.
Last year, the Diet voted a new law that grants a compensation of 3.2 million yen for each surviving victim and Abe has said that “the government sincerely reflects on and deeply apologizes”. However, advocates for victims say that a one-time payment of 3.2 million yen is not enough compared to the gravity of what has been done. Furthermore, not all victims are eligible for the payment as few documents remain to identify them, some do not want their relatives to know, some might not know about the new legislation at all. Only 621 victims are eligible for now.
On June 30th, the Tokyo district court rejected a 30 million yen damage suit filed by a 77-year-old man who was sterilised at the age of 14 when he was in a welfare institution for children. The man was sterilized in 1957 and filed his lawsuit in 2018. The court referred to the 20-year statute of limitations on demands for damages under the Civil Code to rule against the payment.
Not surprisingly, this is a topic that only made the editorials of the left-wing newspapers:
|優生保護法||ゆうせいほごほう||Eugenic Protection Law.|
Established in 1948, this law allowed the operation of people to prevent the birth of “inferior” children. The law was revoked in 1996, this is why it is mostly referred to as 旧優生保護法.
The forced sterilizations are referred to as 強制不妊手術 (きょうせい～)
I also found the word 損害賠償 (そんがい～) for “damages”.
A demand for compensation is a 賠償請求 (～せいきゅう). In our case, the demand was “rejected” 棄却 (ききゃく).
The Court said that the “right to ask for compensation” 賠償請求権 has “expired” 消滅 (しょうめつ).
|東京地裁||とうきょうちさい||Tokyo District Court.|
The complete name is 東京地方裁判所（とうきょうちほうさいばんしょ).
|提訴||ていそ||Bring a case before a court. File an action.|
In our case, the victim filed his lawsuit in 2018.
One of the major concerns during such lawsuits is whether or not the Court will rule on whether the Eurgenic Protection Law was unconstitutional or not. I think that most lawsuits are filled on the basis that this law was unconstitutional, given that the Constitution guarantees the pursuit of happiness and equality under the law.
The expression 人権侵害 (じんけん～) means, “a violation of human rights”.
|除斥期間||じょせききかん||Statute of limitations.|
The statute of limitations or prescriptive period sets the maximum time after an event within which legal proceedings may be initiated.
In Japan, there is a 20-year statute of limitations on demands for damages.
In this case, the Court did not rule on the unconstitutionality of the Eurgenic Protection Law, contrary to a previous case where the Sendai District court had qualified the former law as unconstitutional 憲法違反 (けんぽういはん).
|A hereditary disease.|
A part of the victims suffered from Hansen’s disease (leprosy) which was thought at the time to be hereditary.
|厚生省||こうせいしょう||Ministry of Health and Welfare.|
Founded in 1938, the ministry has since been integrated, together with the Ministry of Labour, into the present Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare 厚生労働省 (こうせいろうどうしょう).
This is why the former “Ministry of Health and Welfare” is often referred to as 旧厚生省.
|母体保護法||ぼたいほごほう||Mother’s Body Protection Law.|
In 1996, the Eugenic Protection Law changed into the Mother’s Body Protection Law.
All three newspapers strongly condemn the Court ruling.
Even if the statute of limitations has expired, the responsibility of the state remains, says Mainichi:
But forcing sterilisation on people is a violation of human rights according to our national policy. Time may have passed by, but the State’s responsibility does not disappear. Setting a time limit for the demand for compensation goes against the relief of victims.
Tokyo blames the government for waiting until 1996 to revoke the law:
Leaving things as they are for so long must be called a crime.
Asahi also criticises the government for its inaction:
The government and the Diet, who did not take any measures to reduce discrimination and to compensate the victims, think that revoking the law has been enough to exempt themselves from responsibility.
While the court said that the plaintiff could have filed a lawsuit in 1996, when the law was revoked, it was not easy for the victims to stand out when the issue was so little known and discrimination still strong. The court’s ruling is all the more ironic given that the government itself has waited until 2019 to make public apologies and provide compensations for the victims.
For Tokyo, the court’s ruling is おかしい.
The plaintiff has received the operation when he was underage and without knowing what would be done to him. The damage he received still has repercussions today. This is how we must think. Hasn’t this discriminatory state policy continued for too long?
Mainichi and Asahi deplore that the court did not pronounce the law as being unconstitutional contrary to the Sendai district court who had done so last year. For Mainichi, things are moving backwards.
Mainichi also points out that this law has strengthened discrimination:
There’s no doubt that the Eugenic Protection Law contributed to the discrimination against disabled persons.
All newspapers call the government to actively look for the victims and contact them while maintaining their anonymity. Many victims don’t want to come out publicly:
The former law clearly stated that its aim was to prevent the birth of “inferior descendants”. As a result, a lot of people are still unable to come out and reveal their identity, even today.
And Tokyo ends its editorial with
This country who stigmatised a part of the population as “inferior” must assume the responsibility [for what it did].
Topic 2: Yuriko Koike re-elected as Governor of Tokyo
Yuriko Koike has been re-elected Tokyo governor on Sunday 5th. Her crushing victory (3.6 milions votes) shows that the public trusts her to continue dealing with the coronavirus.
|小池 百合子||こいけ |
Governor of Tokyo since 2016.
|Tokyo gubernatorial election.|
The election took place on July 5th to choose the Governor of Tokyo. Yuriko Koike was re-elected by a large margin
|都政||とせい||the Tokyo Prefectural Government|
|無党派層||むとうは||indepedent voters, voters without party affiliation.|
Also found: 無党派層 (むとうはそう).
Yuriko Koiko run as an independent candidate for the Tokyo governorship. She was a former member of the Liberal Democratic Party but left it in 2017.
Obviously, Koike’s most pressing agenda is to deal with the coronavirus and prepare for the second vague to come.
What Koike must tackle in priority is the strengthening of the anti-coronavirus measures.
Needless to say that the most important topic Korike has to confront are the anti-coronavirus measures.
Sankei also states the urgency to deal with the coronavirus. It might be just me, but the way it is written looks like the journal is not happy with Koike’s victory.
There is no time to bask in the aftermath of Koike’s victory. With more than 100 new infection cases per day in the city, we are facing the real threat of a new vague of infections.
Sankei also criticises Koike for not achieving her goals during her last term as Governor of Tokyo. The “seven zeros” in the extract refers to Koike’s plan to deal with socio-economic problems faced by residents of Tokyo, such as overwork culture, crowded rush-hour trains or electric poles. Out of the seven goals, Koike only managed to reduce the number of euthanised dogs and cats as well as to reduce the number of children waiting to be admitted in day care centers.
During the previous gubernational election, Koike has pledged to reach the “seven zeros”, which included reducing to zero the number of children on the waiting list [for day care centers] and the number of persons who have to give up their work in order to take care [of family members]. She scarcely managed to fulfill her pledge. We won’t tolerate the same thing to happen again.
There must be a better way to translate 同じ轍を踏むことは許されない but my English is not good enough here. Same for 掲げる. To me it looks like the article wants to underline the gap between the ambitious pledge and the poor results, so they used the verb 掲げる (parade a slogan, raise up a flag, hold up an ideal) instead of just 公約する. (?)
Interestingly, the majority of articles I read in English say that she managed to reduce the number of children on the waiting list, making it two goals achieved out of seven. However, it seems that Japanese newspapers do not consider that she reached her goal on the topic of children.
This is what is suggested by Sankei in the paragraph quoted above, and it is also what Mainichi said in a previous editorial (2020/06/13) about Koike:
In her pledge, four years ago, she promised to deal with seven problems such as the number of children on the waiting list [for day care centers] and the number of persons who have to give up their job to take care of relatives. These were the “seven zeros”. However, she only managed to bring the number of euthanised pets to zero.
Coming back to our articles, Yomiuri and Sankei are both worried about the economy and whether or not firms will have to close:
We cannot hang back on financial support for entrepreneurs and small and medium sized enterprises.
Will the citizens be ask to refrain from social and economic activities once more? Will there be a demand for business suspension?
Generally speaking, the newspapers ask for more explanations about the upcoming concrete measures against the coronavirus.
Mainichi is also asking for more clarifications about the next steps to stop the virus, especially concerning the construction of a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Koike talked about:
Koike pledged to build a Tokyo version of the American Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, but she didn’t give a concrete image of this new center. Now that she mentioned the project, we would like to receive explanations rapidly.
Similarly, Asahi also finds that the explanations about the CDC were insufficient:
During the elections, Koike pledged to build a Tokyo version of the American CDC. We know that it would be a liaison base for cooperation between medical institutions and municipalities but we don’t know any detail yet.
And both newspapers are worried about whether or not there will be a confinement:
How is Koike’s position about potential restrictions on business and outdoor activities? She must give explanations.
How much are we prepared to face a new vague of victims? This is also something that needs to be explained thoroughly.
Topic 3: Coronavirus cases in US military bases in Okinawa
Several cases of coronavirus have been reported early July at two US Marines bases in Okinawa (Marine Corps Air Station Futenma and Camp Hansen). Marines and their families have been placed on lockdown, but the prefecture is worried about a potential spread of the virus to the city.
|United States Forces Japan (USFJ)|
The USFJ’s mission is to help in Japan’s defense and maintain regional peace and security. Its status is defined by the U.S.–Japan Status of Forces Agreement (1960).
|US military base.|
The majority (62%) of the US military bases are situated in Okinawa (half of the 54,000 American troops in Japan are based in Okinawa). Okinawa’s feeling towards the presence of US military on their island is complex, some appreciating the mutual security treaty, some wishing the reduction of the number of military bases in Okinawa. Several incidents also repeatedly create tensions between the population and the military presence.
|U.S. – Japan Status of Forces Agreement, SOFA.|
Signed in 1960 between the US and Japan, the agreement defines the status of the USFJ. This agreement provides special status for American service members. For example most U.S. military members are exempted from Japanese visa and passport laws and if a military member commits a crime while in official duty, the American system has jurisdiction. This has been a recurrent source of conflict when violent crimes such as murder and rape have been committed by military members.
|玉城 デニー||たまき デニー||Denny Tamaki.|
Governor of Okinawa Prefecture since 2018. Denny Tamaki is opposed to the US military presence on Okinawa and calls for a reduction in American troop strength on the island.
Governor is the highest ranking executive of a prefecture.
On July 4, military members have celebrated Independence Day on beaches and bars and restaurants of downtown areas, getting in contact with local residents. Health authorities have tried to trace people who may have interacted with military personnel.
|Marine Corps Air Station Futenma (MCAS Futenma)|
US Marine Corps base in Okinawa. MCAS Futenma has been a US military airbase since the Battle of Okinawa in 1945. Around 3000 Marines are posted at Futenma today.
US Marine Corps base in Okinawa, with a garrison of around 6,000 Marines.
City located in Yamaguchi Prefecture.
Comparing Sankei and Tokyo’s editorials, it seems to me that Sankei is mostly blaming the US military while Tokyo is urging the government to take action.
Both newspapers underline that US military personnel are not systematically tested for the coronavirus when they enter the country. Sankei says:
In April this year, the government added the United States to the entry ban list. However, US military personnel are permitted to enter the country in accordance to the U.S. – Japan Status of Forces Agreement. Military personnel undergo a [14-day] quarantine, but only the persons who have symptoms like fever undergo a PCR testing.
Sankei focuses a lot on the the Iwakuni incident. A family of three arrived to Tokyo’s Haneda and were tested for coronavirus on arrival. However, they left the hotel where they were supposed to stay in quarantine, and they boarded a domestic flight to join the military base in Iwakuni without waiting for the results of the test (which turned out to be positive).
What seems to annoy the most Sankei is that the family lied and said they would use a rental car to go to Iwakuni, when in fact they boarded a domestic flight. This seems to bother them so much that they mention it twice in the same article:
The three Americans related to the US military base in Iwakuni were tested positive to coronavirus. After entering the country through Haneda airport, they entered the city of Iwakuni on board the civilian aircraft they swore not to take.
The persons related to the US military reported to go to to Iwakuni using a rental car and to avoid public transportation. But in fact, they boarded a civilian aircraft.
It looks like, for Sankei, the family’s lying about the flight is even worse than their having boarded it, or their breaking Japan’s quarantine procedures. This seems confirmed by:
False statements and insufficient measures when entering the country hurt the trust that has been built over the years and impair the dissuasive power of the alliance.
It took me a while to understand the meaning of 水際. I guess that “border control measures” could have been a correct option too, but I hope that I am not mistaken.
On the contrary to Sankei, Tokyo only briefly mentions this case towards the end of the article.
I could not find a lot of mentions about this incident in international online articles. When the incident was mentioned, the fact that the family lied about the rental car was usually omitted. On the contrary, it was easy to find articles about it published by Japanese newspapers with titles like “Trio tied to U.S. military lied about Japan travel plans, then tested positive for COVID-19” (The Japan Times) or “Three people with virus flouted quarantine, flew to Iwakuni base” (The Asahi Shimbun).
While Sankei seems to be blaming the US military, Tokyo insists more on the necessity, for the Japanese government, to impose more regulations on the military.
Tokyo does mention flaws in the preventive measures inside the military bases like the incapacity to trace the comings and goings of people infected or the frequent vehicules entering and going out of the bases supposedly under lockdown.
However, rather than blaming the US military for the lack of rigorous and systematic measures, Tokyo supports Okinawa Governor Denny Tamaki when he asked for a revision of the U.S.–Japan Status of Forces Agreement.
On the 15th, Denny Tamaki met with Defense Minister Taro Kono and asked for more restrictions on the US military:
Governor Denny Tamaki met with Defense Minister Taro Kono on the 15th. He requested the halt of transfers of American troops to Okinawa and information reports concerning the activities and whereabouts of infected personnel. Denny Tamaki also called for a revision of the U.S.–Japan Status of Forces Agreement in order to apply the national law to the quarantine procedure of military personnel.
And Tokyo comments:
It is obvious that the privileges granted to the USFJ by the U.S.–Japan Status of Forces Agreement is spreading confusion. The governor’s requests are justified.
It is also interesting to note how the two newspapers end their articles, both using the same word 急務 but not with the same subject:
Sankei is asking for an action on the part of the US military:
It is urgent necessity that the US military should reflect seriously on their conduct and improve their preventive measures.
Tokyo is asking for the government’s response:
The action of the government is an urgent necessity.
That’s it for July! I was not very motivated by the topics I have studied this month, apart from the first one, which is by far the most interesting.
I wish you a happy month of August!