Monday, May 21, 2018

Update: "Driver of construction vehicle that hit and killed 11-year-old girl in Feb had epilepsy"

From Japan Today, 5/21/18.

The driver of a construction vehicle that rammed into pupils and teachers of a school for children with impaired hearing in Osaka on Feb 1, killing an 11-year-old girl and injuring four others, suffered from epilepsy, prosecutors revealed on Saturday.

Police believe the driver of the wheel loader, Takuya Sano, 35, probably suffered an epileptic attack just before the accident, Sankei Shimbun reported. After his arrest, Sano told police he mistakenly pressed the gas pedal instead of the brake pedal when he was trying to stop the vehicle as the traffic light turned red. He hit Ayaka Ide, and two other pupils of the same age, as well as two female teachers as the five were waiting for a traffic signal near the school's gate in Ikuno Ward.

The accident took place in a residential area about 400 meters south of JR Tsuruhashi Station. Road construction work was being carried out near the site.

Sano admitted that he had been prescribed medication for epilepsy but could not remember if he had taken his medication that day. Police also said that Sano had been in a traffic accident once before while operating a vehicle.

Prosecutors ordered a three-month medical and psychiatric examination of Sano, that ended on May 16.

Drivers who cause fatal accidents due to medical conditions such as epilepsy and schizophrenia have been subject to tougher penalties since the Road Traffic Law was revised in 2013.


Saturday, May 19, 2018

"‘The Shoot Must Go On’: Masayoshi Sukita captures some of rock music’s most iconic figures"

From The Japan Times, 5/17/18.

Even if you don’t recognize the name, you probably know his shots. Photographer Masayoshi Sukita has captured images of rock gods and movie stars that deserve that most overused of epithets: iconic.

There’s Marc Bolan, face creased in orgasmic bliss and hair billowing behind him as he lunges towards the camera; a lipstick-smeared Masatoshi Nagase and Youki Kudoh, slumped against a hotel bed, on the set of Jim Jarmusch’s “Mystery Train”; the members of Yellow Magic Orchestra, sharing a table with a pair of mannequins on the cover of “Solid State Survivors.”

And then there’s David Bowie: lots and lots of Bowie. Sukita first captured the musician in London in 1972, at the peak of his Ziggy Stardust fame, and continued to photograph him for the next 35 years. His monochrome portrait on the cover of the 1977 “Heroes” album proved so indelible that Bowie was still referencing it decades later, even recreating the pose on Instagram, dressed as a member of Daft Punk.

In an introduction to Sukita’s 2011 collection, “Speed of Life,” Bowie wrote: “Whenever he’s asked me to do a session I conjure up in my mind’s eye the sweet, creative and big-hearted man who has always made these potentially tedious affairs so relaxed and painless. May he click into eternity.”

After nearly 60 years in the business, “eternity” is starting to sound just about right. But though Sukita has worked with some massive stars, and become a major name in his own right, he says he still prefers to meet his subjects as equals.


Sukita has had plenty of opportunity to reflect on his life’s work recently. The past few years have seen a flurry of retrospective shows, not just in Japan but also in France, Italy, Australia and the United Kingdom. Now the photographer, who celebrated his 80th birthday earlier this month, is the subject of a feature-length documentary.

Directed by music industry veteran Hiromi Aihara, “Sukita: The Shoot Must Go On” follows its amiable subject as he exhibits his Bowie shots in the U.S. for the first time, and catches up with a host of old acquaintances, ranging from Japanese music royalty (Tomoyasu Hotei, the members of YMO) to British fashion designer Paul Smith.

There are additional interviews with an assorted cast of figures from throughout his career, including Nagase, Jarmusch and fashion stylist Yacco Takahashi.

It’s not just a nostalgia fest, either: Sukita is also seen working in the studio with present-day guitar hero Miyavi, though their meeting didn’t go quite as planned. After waking up with a fever on the day of the shoot, the photographer had to spend several hours in hospital while his crew anxiously prepared for his arrival. Nevertheless, he proudly recalls that he managed to finish the job on schedule.

Read the whole article:

Sikita movie website:

Friday, May 18, 2018

"Hyoe Yamamoto dives into Japan’s culture of corporate corruption in ‘Samurai and Idiots: The Olympus Affair’"

Image borrowed from

Excerpt from The Japan Times, 5/16/18.

“Samurai and Idiots” revisits a 2011 scandal that rocked camera manufacturer Olympus Corp., when then-newly appointed CEO Michael Woodford blew the whistle on the company’s shady accounting and dalliances with organized crime. Woodford was ousted from his post just two weeks afterward, terminating a 30-year career with the company. Before he left, however, the British businessman had torn the lid off what would become an enormous financial scandal involving one of the country’s most respected and successful names. In the aftermath, the entire board of Olympus resigned and the previous CEO, along with others, were arrested.

“It’s not really my story, it’s a story about modern day corporate Japan,” Woodford says in the film, which is meticulous in showing how a powerful manufacturer could be taken down from the inside.

“The title comes from Michael Woodford’s own words,” Yamamoto tells The Japan Times. “Woodford felt, and I do too, that the two concepts are not all that different. We Japanese hold the samurai as the ultimate ideal but it has become a convenient label more than anything else. It has been slapped onto whatever the Japanese — especially Japanese corporations — want to hide or avoid having to explain.”

The Olympus scandal may feel like history now, but the analysis of Japanese society in “Samurai and Idiots” is still quite relevant, according to Yamamoto.

“Though social networking and the internet have changed some aspects of how Japanese corporations and society think, many things have remained exactly the same,” he says. “Again and again, we’ve seen how people at the top sabotage their organizations and then cover the whole thing up. The Moritomo scandal, for instance, is a classic case in that we can’t really see who’s ultimately responsible. Everything is evaded with a single word: sontaku (loosely translated as ‘following unspoken orders’).

“I find the whole thing bizarre, but at the same time, it’s so Japanese. One of the motives for making ‘Samurai and Idiots’ is to show the Japanese that what is acceptable and even considered a virtue here can seem strange, offensive or illegal to the outside world.”

Read the whole article:

"Samurai and Idiots" webpage:

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

"HIV stigma needs to be tackled to eliminate disease in Japan"

And so it continues... From Japan Today, 5/16/18:

Despite advances in treatment, the number of newly confirmed cases of HIV in Japan has remained flat for the past decade, a sign that misconceptions about the disease are making progress towards eradication difficult.

"The stigma around HIV is the reason that we can't end it. In many places, people are still afraid of HIV or afraid of people living with HIV. We need to be clear that that idea is old, that is 30 years old," said Owen Ryan, executive director of the International AIDS Society, on a recent visit to Japan.

Ryan, whose group of doctors, nurses and researchers is working to eliminate AIDS, called for more self-testing in Japan, saying, "In Japan, the key is finding (those) who aren't tested." "When people know their HIV status, they tend to go get treatment. So self-testing is important," he stressed.

Japan is the fifth-largest donor to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, an effort it helped establish. The fund is the largest multi-government funder of HIV programs, more than 4 billion dollars a year, according to Ryan.

In spite of Japan's efforts on the international front, newly infected HIV sufferers at home totaled 1,407 in 2017, slightly lower than the previous year, with a third showing symptoms that indicate they may have progressed to the third stage of the disease, known as AIDS, preliminary data by the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare showed. In 2016, the number was 1,440, up from 1,434 in 2015.

The latest data also reported three cases of mother-to-child infections, the first case of multiple infections in three years, prompting the government to call on pregnant mothers to make sure they get health checkups.

In the fight against AIDS, the ministry started a subsidy program from April in some municipal areas in Japan where workers will be able to be tested for HIV for free as part of their health examinations. Public health centers nationwide also offer free, anonymous HIV testing but only do so on weekdays.

In Japan, self-testing is not sufficiently practiced "because people are scared," Ryan said. "In Japan, new infections are (largely) among gay men and so you are already stigmatized because you are gay and people feel like it's a double stigma. I think getting (more people) tested happens by attacking that stigma," he said.

"With a bit more work and more money, Japan really could be one of the first countries to end AIDS," Ryan said.

A public survey conducted in January this year by the Cabinet Office showed that 52 percent of the respondents still believed that AIDS is an "illness that leads to death," although advances in drugs used to treat the disease have allowed HIV patients to live as long as non-sufferers and also have substantially lowered the chance of transmitting the disease to others.

The poll, which drew responses from 1,671 people over 18 years old nationwide, showed 34 percent of them think the "cause (of AIDS) is unknown and untreatable," while 20 percent called it "an illness that only affects specific people."

As for the origins of infection, some respondents were completely misinformed, with 25 percent believing that "mosquitoes were carriers" of the disease, and 17 percent saying it could be transmitted by "light kissing."

Only half of the respondents also knew that anonymous, free testing is offered at public health centers.

Another online survey conducted by HIV Futures Japan Project, an entity comprised of people infected with HIV and researchers of the disease, also showed that those with the disease are tormented by the stigma associated with the disease.

In the poll conducted on some 1,000 people in Japan infected with HIV in 2016 and 2017, about 93 percent said they are "very careful" when they talk to someone about being HIV positive.

More than 85 percent also said that, in general, when people learn they are HIV positive, they deny it, while nearly 63 percent feared losing their jobs if their employers discover they carry the disease.

The survey also found that HIV patients tend to put pressure on themselves, leading some to suffer from deteriorating mental health.

Over 64 percent said that they lie about their condition if HIV comes up in conversation, while nearly 66 percent said they continually try to ensure their HIV positive status is not discovered by people around them.

While acknowledging the difficulties in tackling the issue in an environment like Japan where AIDS is still taboo, Ryan warned that stopping the conversation or failing to educate young people about it only serves to reinforce the stigma.

He cited the cases of eastern Europe and central Asia where new HIV infections rose by 60 percent and AIDS-related deaths in the region increased by 27 percent between 2010 and 2016, while globally, new HIV infections and AIDS-related deaths have actually fallen in the same period.

"It's a great example of, when you stop talking about it, educating about it, it keeps coming back," Ryan said.

UNAIDS, which works closely with the International AIDS Society, aims to eliminate the AIDS epidemic by 2030.

Its ambitious project takes the so-called 90-90-90 approach: ensuring 90 percent of the infected are diagnosed, getting 90 percent of those who are diagnosed on treatment with antiretroviral drugs, and having 90 percent of those infected attain viral suppression.


Previous VAOJ coverage: