A Mental Meltdown in an NHK World

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(right-wing protesters harass journalists and anti-nuclear protesters near TEPCO offices in Tokyo on March 11, 2012)

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November 2012 note:  

Since this article first appeared in April, a number of cyber haters have made changes to obscure evidence, reinvent themselves, or step up their malicious campaigns against people who raise questions about corruption and rights abuses in Japan.

www.fuckedgaijin.com continues to insult and harass foreigners and Japanese. 

www.tepido.org, notorious for stalking human rights activist Debito Arudou and others, announced May 30 that it was “exiting stage left,” and entering “stage right” in the form of www.japologism.com

www.japanprobe.com, perhaps the most malicious and hateful site in English in Japan, has lost many readers while supporting hackers, distorting facts and libelling journalists including CNN reporter Kyung Lah and BBC reporter Roland Buerk (who both no longer work in Tokyo media), and innocent expats Josh Swift, William Milberry and others.

–Youtube and Google have removed or banned hateful, defamatory material linked to Victor Boggio (aka “gimmeaflakeman” and “Japanese4morons”), Jake Adelstein, Mark Buckton and others.   

www.japansubculture.com, run by author Jake Adelstein, continues a malicious campaign to gain attention by smearing a reporter. 

–The former chief of NHK was reportedly named a director of TEPCO, the utility accused of covering up a meltdown at its nuclear reactors in Fukushima. Protesters in Japan have accused NHK World of bias in favour of TEPCO and failing to properly cover their movement and investigate the so-called “nuclear village” for crimes, including the Fukushima meltdown and forced evacuation of thousands of Fukushima residents. 

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A MENTAL MELTDOWN IN AN NHK WORLD

How gamers, stalkers and haters — including longtime employees of NHK World — are alienating the foreign community and smothering intelligent debate about Japan with twisted logic and silly insults.

a special investigative report by Christopher Johnson

–About 11 am on a Monday morning in March, a band showed up at our house in Tokyo with bags full of beer, gin, vodka and sake. The Sherbets had been drinking all night in Kyushu after a gig on their nationwide tour, and flying back to Tokyo, they knew that our Japanese-style house was the most welcoming “pub” at this time of the day. They also wanted to welcome me back to Tokyo, after my detention at Narita Airport and 10-week exclusion from Japan. I was touched by the loyalty of friends such as Kenichi “Benji” Asai, my buddy since I first wrote about his band Blankey Jet City in 1994. (www.sexystones.com)

But more importantly, we needed to drink — for about 18 hours — in order to resolve differences and keep the band, and our tight circle of about 50 friends, together. As we poured drinks for each other, we remembered our good times — hanami parties, bonenkai, Fuji Rock campfires — and some ugly incidents too. But it was mostly memories of devotion. I recalled a night in 2005, carrying home some of the band members, including my partner Qumico (keyboard player in The Sherbets), who were passed out on the street near our old apartment by Aoyama Gakuin. They remembered carrying me to the floor of Qumico’s studio or Benji’s band office when I was messed up back in 2002 and 2007.

There was so much water under our bridges, we couldn’t just blow apart years of friendship and a dozen albums over a few minor disagreements. Though our problems were often rooted in drinking, so was the solution. With candles burning to save electricity, we drank until we reached a state of open communication. We dug up petty jealousies and grinding axes and discussed them until the issues — rather than the persons — were purged from our systems. We talked about being kids, idolizing The Beatles not only for their music, but because they were four people, having fun together. At that point, we all realized what was really important — friendship.

I have also felt these bonds of friendship among other bands in Japan’s vibrant music scene. Soon after the March 11 disasters, bands such as Sunset Drive, the Watanabes, Kat McDowell, Johnson’s Motorcar and many others got together with promoters such as Dan Grunebaum and Dan Robson, and charities such as Peace Boat, to stage fundraisers for disaster victims. The movement is still growing strong. In March, Rhyming Gaijin, a collaborator with Dave Whitaker in Tokyo, says he broke the world record for longest freestyle rap. On the one-year anniversary of 3/11, Sunset Drive and others rocked out What The Dickens in Ebisu to raise money to buy instruments for kids in the tsunami zone. Other clubs in the scene — notably the Ruby Room, Cozmos Cafe and the Pink Cow — have long supported a thriving community of Japanese artists and expats from all nations. It’s a beautiful model of what an expat community can do when people come together, face to face, buying each other drinks and helping each other deal with the addictive intoxicant that is Japan.

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(foreign and Japanese musicians band together to raise money for disaster victims)

By contrast, the foreign media community in Japan often seems unusually riddled by competition, egotism, alienation and hate. In my view, the media community includes not only the Foreign Correspondents Club of Japan and the big media companies, but the hundreds of bloggers who put time and energy into bringing something to the table in Japan. Though we are all journalists in one form or another, we often act like junior high students, tattling on each other, bullying the weak, ostracizing the outcast, giving someone the cold shoulder or stabbing them in the back. For us, there is no Fuji Rock festival or Japan Music Week to bring us together, face to face. Instead, there are little cliques at dinner parties, little groups of tweeters on Twitter, little factions at NHK and the FCCJ, and the all-out open warfare of Japan-centric chat sites.

Think of how we must look to people living outside of Japan. Imagine them reading the thousands of hateful comments about me, Christopher Savoie, Debito Arudou, or anybody else who suddenly becomes controversial in our little college town of about 100,000 English-speaking foreigners and Japanese in Japan. These observers overseas must think that people in Japan have lost their minds due to the nuclear meltdown over the past year.

Though most bloggers are merely interested in commerce or harmless self-expression, a significant number of expat bloggers in Japan have become world leaders in hate and stalking. Perhaps not challenged in home or offices, they spend unusual amounts of time and energy digging up any dirt they can find online about foreigners who dare to stick their necks out in Japan. They use “version tracker” to post anything a victim tries to delete from Twitter, Facebook, a blog, or anywhere on the Internet. They even create slam sites, such as www.flyjin.com, in order to toxify a victim’s name on Google searches. They think they can get away with anything, because they are foreigners in Japan, with unlimited freedom online to hate, stalk, smear, slam, slander, libel, tarnish and destroy.

In January, the haters who freely post at www.tepido.org, www.japanprobe.com, and www.fuckedgaijin.com, spilled over into the comment section of The Economist, one of the world’s most reputable sites, to attack myself and The Economist for a story about my detention and expulsion from Japan.In the days after The Economist posted the story about me, more than 700 comments appeared, the second-most of any story on their website, more than Syria or the Republican race in the United States. Since several commenters were appearing for the first time on The Economist, some suggested they were hacks hired by the Japanese government to discredit me. 

More than a thousand comments also appeared on sites including www.tepido.org (500 plus), www.fuckedgaijin.com (300 plus), and BoingBoing, Reddit, and even a blog for expats in South Korea.

After a 25-year career as a foreign correspondent who covered 9 wars, my name online has been “toxified” by what Paris-based Reporters Without Borders calls “information pollution”. My editors in several countries are now understandably reluctant to buy my work, fearing they’ll come under cyber attack.

But I was only the latest victim, following Chris Savoie (an American whose child was abducted back to Japan by his Japanese ex-wife), a South American teacher called Blogger Kei, and American-born author and human rights activist Debito Arudou (David Aldwinkcle), who hosts a lively forum on www.debito.org. In the case of Savoie, haters reportedly dug up info on divorce cases, shaming both parents online. In the case of Debito Arudou, an unabashed stalker site, www.tepido.org, is dedicated to attacking him or anyone who dares to comment on his site.

Many haters are, not surprisingly, connected to the violent video game industry in Japan that draws the wrath of parents and educators worldwide.

Canadian-born NHK announcer David Schaufele has worked on violent video games and a documentary claiming “the laws of science” proves that 911 was an “inside job” not al Qaeda. Schaufele has been among commenters making violent threats and creating a banned blackmail video falsely accusing this reporter of being a “child molester” and “terro-journalist.” On April 26, 2012, he publicly called this reporter a pedophile, pervert, sexual predator and delusional, mentally unstable troll. “I would have no hesitation beating the living crap out of this sicko after his comments about my children,” he wrote on the site of Tokyo-based author Jake Adelstein. Schaufele was referring to his doctored video, which youtube.com has repeatedly removed, citing violation of its policies and international laws. “So if he ever sees me again he better turn the other way and run.”

What’s shocking is that their diatribes are influencing the thinking of super-smart, tech-savvy western males fluent in Japanese and living longterm in Japan. They include software engineers at Google and Panasonic, a former western diplomat, an Oxford-educated scientist, and veteran journalists such as Jake Adelstein. They also include Our Man in Abiko, the editor of a famous book raising funds for tsunami victims, and Scott Urista, the Executive Director and Head of Global Research at Mitsubishi UFJ Securities. Responding to this article, Mr. Urista, who is also a sharp-eyed editor and book reviewer, posted this comment on April 4 at www.tepido.org: I wonder if the thought ever occured (sic) to him that an executive director at the BIGGEST ‘EFFING FINANCIAL INSTITUTION IN Japan just might know any number of Really Important People. Just sayin’.”

While some of these people are middle-aged Japan apologists or so-called “lifers” wedded to Japan since the 1970s or 80s, others are a younger generation of cyber-punks with little respect for civility. Like neo-Nazis in other countries, their world view is based in paranoia and violence. They particularly dislike anybody who questions the official version that Japan is safe from radiation from the damaged Fukushima reactors. They hate people who raise human rights issues about Japan. They hate anybody who differs from their mindset about Japan. They especially hate so-called “fly-jin” foreigners who left Japan after March 11 disasters. Sites such as www.japanprobe.com have even falsely accused me of being a “fly-jin”, though I made more than 10 trips to the disaster zone after March 11.

“These people feel that they are untouchable,” writes US-based, former Japan resident Rick Gundlach on his blog Hoofin, which examines cyber attacks on foreigners in Japan. “Japan won’t go after them, Japan treats it as a “foreigner issue” (best handled by foreigners), and so they (haters) think they can just make up their own codes of behavior. Usually, for them, this means no code.”

The result, he says, is someone “basically gets tortured on the internet.”

For some of the haters, Japan seems to be like a morality free zone, a video game. You can shoot down anybody you like online, without recourse or consequence. Want to gun down a journalist? Lots of websites for that.

They truly believe law enforcement authorities can’t touch them in Japan. “Greji”, who led attacks against me on www.fuckedgaijin.com, perhaps summed it up best: “You can right (sic) seditious stuff in Japan and although it pisses people off, they can’t do anything about it.”

Or as “Yokohammer” wrote on www.fuckedgaijin.com: “The idea of FG.com being ‘under investigation’ for slander is a fucking joke.”

While many haters are allegedly linked to NHK and other staff rooms in Tokyo, much of the most persistent stalking is originating from the Osaka area and other parts of Japan, where foreigners tend to feel more isolated, and people don’t often rub shoulders with Tokyo-based journalists.

There’s no logic to the hate, says Gundlach on Hoofin. “It is a game of sorts, for these people, to go around attacking, personally, whoever becomes the “it”. And this month, Chris Johnson is the “it”,” he wrote in February.This is what they get off on. It’s funny, until the litigation hits.”

The problem specific to Japan, says Gundlach, is that Japanese authorities tend to allow foreigners to get away with conduct impermissible back home, and nobody steps in to mediate festering situations that lead to smear campaigns and character assassinations.  “In Japan, when it comes to foreigners, there really are no rules,” he writes. Japan basically allows “free zones” of foreigners to do whatever they feel like (short of physical violence or high crime) against other foreigners. I am talking about garden-variety torts, defamatory language, cheating on contracts or deals, and the like.”

http://hoofin.wordpress.com/2012/02/19/japan-as-the-country-that-allows-its-f…

Gundlach says he has spent “countless hours” helping out a South American woman named Blogger Kei who suffered from nasty attacks on a “slam blog,” whose sole purpose, he says, is “to attack the character and dignity of a targeted person.”In the US, he says, one victim, whose father happens to be an attorney in Pennsylvania, has filed a complaint docketed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.

Can victims take action in Japan? Cyber bullying and online libel are crimes in Japan, and some, including Debito Arudou, have won court cases against cyber attackers. According to the “Provider Responsibility Guidelines Law” (provider sekinin kisei-ho), Article 2 Clause 1 (Electronic Mail Privacy), the defendants also had to reveal the IP addresses of the people who posted the damaging comments.

In March, the Tokyo District Court ruled in favour of a man who said that Google searches, accusing him of being a criminal, were ruining his reputation and causing potential employers to shun him, according to local media reports. (http://www.japantoday.com/category/technology/view/japan-court-orders-google-…)

Some authorities have also taken action against people who attacked me and others online.

On February 21, a few days after a complaint was made to law enforcement officers, these sites disappeared:

–the @cjinafrika mock twitter account, which illegally used the name Christopher Johnson to cyber bully myself and others, including a New York Times reporter, and which threatened to blackmail me, the real Christopher Johnson, with a tampered recording made several years ago that falsely claims I threatened a man’s wife and teenage children.

–the twitter account @valesius, which often conversed with @cjinafrika.

–a vulgar and obscene posting at www.fuckedgaijin.com, which had more than 300 hateful comments about me, including doctored photos of me and also my Japanese partner.

Despite complaints, Google searches for the names of myself and other victims of cyber attacks in Japan remain skewed in favour of sites attacking us. It’s not clear if Google has ever taken punitive action against haters and stalkers deliberately trying to ruin reputations on google.com. Gundlach says that in the least, it looks bad for Google to have a software engineer in Japan, an American born male who has become a Japanese national with the name “Eido Inoue”, posting on sites dedicated to toxifying the names of victims on Google’s search engines. Mr. Inoue, who has exchanged respectful, helpful and intelligent private letters with me, maintains that he could not possibly tamper with Google searches.

In the bigger picture, the stalkers and haters are only a tiny minority of the thousands of people active online in Japan. Gundlach calls the haters “The Tepido Twelve”, referring to the stalker site www.tepido.org. Yet this tiny minority often set the tone for online interaction among foreigners in Japan. Loathe them or love them, they are important members of Japan’s media scene who cannot be ignored.

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(Many Japanese seniors prefer to express themselves through music rather than internet chat sites)

THE GAMERS, HATERS AND STALKERS

–David Schaufele, the voice of NHK and psycho-killer Eddie Dombrowski 

NHK is one of the largest and most prestigious media organizations in the world. On Feb. 22, the Royal Television Society of the United Kingdom presented the Judges Award to NHK for its coverage, with 14 helicopters and 70 satellite trucks, of the March 11 disasters.

“Fadamor”, a commenter on www.japantoday.com, disagreed:

“I realize it’s how the NHK reporters are conditioned to talk, but watching the helicopter footage of fleeing cars and trucks getting engulfed in the tsunami waters and people running in vain to try and escape the wave only to be swallowed up while NHK anchors dispassionately droned on was surreal. Robots couldn’t have been more emotionless while people’s lives were extinguished. I give NHK anchors the award for suppressing their humanity.”

Founded in 1926, NHK models itself on the BBC. During the war, NHK broadcast the famous Tokyo Rose propaganda show.  In 1995, NHK World began broadcasting TV shows overseas. Backed by the Broadcast Law, NHK, a state corporation, raises funds by sending people door-to-door collecting user fees from TV owners, even if they dislike how NHK squanders their money. Local reports say more than a million people in Japan, including thousands of foreigners, refuse to pay NHK user fees.

In recent years, NHK journalists have been jailed on charges of insider trading, drug dealing, and murder. Right-wing trucks sometimes drive around NHK shouting through megaphones at staff for employing Chinese, Koreans and other foreigners. Former NHK employees, who are often found joining protest groups in Japan, long accused NHK of being a propaganda arm for the Liberal Democratic Party, which ruled Japan for five decades after the war. NHK has been more critical of the Democratic Party of Japan, elected in 2009. NHK’s best programs include “The Professionals” and “NHK Specials.” (I enjoyed working on these shows in 2007.)

Local reports say NHK, based in a fortress in Shibuya across from Yoyogi Park, employs 11,000 people, including hundreds of foreigners. One of them Dave Schaufele, from Victoria, Canada has been working at NHK in Tokyo for about two decades. He’s an announcer on NHK’s News 7 pm and 9 pm programs, and a voice actor on violent video games which another cyber hater, Jeremy Blaustein, claims to write and localize.

According to wikipedia, Schaufele portrays Eddie Dombrowski, “the third murderous character” in Konami’s Silent Hill 2. Like Schaufele, Dombrowski is an obese man. Bullied growing up, Dombrowski finally snaps, killing a dog and shooting a football player.Konami describes Eddie as being usually calm but with “another side that he cannot control when angered.”  Eddie first appears vomiting into a toilet and aggressively denying he killed a man found in a refrigerator.Eddie apparently has no moral issues with killing.He becomesdangerously unstable and threatening to kill anyone who mocks him. He fights to the death against a man who criticizes him.

Destructoid.com says parents hate Silent Hill because it is “very capable of keeping a young kid up at night.” (http://www.destructoid.com/excerpt-5-games-kids-love-and-parents-hate-223754….. A parental guide on IMDB.com warns parents about Silent Hill 2’s disturbing usage of corpses, rape, sexual abuse of a child by her father, and Eddie’s insanity. “The games narrative is depressing, disturbing and mature.” (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0282975/parentalguide). Raymond M. Padilla’s official review on Amazon.com describes the 10-hour game, which sells for $79.98, as “an excellent choice for gamers looking for cerebral thrills. Parents should note that in addition to violence and gore, this game deals with such topics as suicide, homicide, and euthanasia.” (http://www.amazon.com/Silent-Hill-2-Playstation/dp/B00005ME6O)

It’s a sharp contrast from Schaufele’s role at NHK describing Japan as a Never-Never Land of humble, polite, reserved people. NHK, which sets the tone for self-censorship in Tokyo media, tends to hide dirt under the carpet, and often ends newscasts with scenes of kids doing cute things. It’s not clear if NHK managers know that Schaufele is making violent video games deplored by parents and teachers worldwide.

During an interview in 2002 for the promo blog “Central Silent Hill,” Schaufele talks about his affinity for Eddie Dombrowski. (http://www.silenthillmemories.net/creators/interviews/2002_schaufele_csh_en.htm) He brags about making “a million bucks worth” from voice work for NHK, NEC and others. He paints a portrait of himself as an obsessive, easily-addicted redneck parent who likes guns, vomit and craziness.

Though many parents would shield their children from such sickening violence, Schaufele brought his daughter to audition for “the little girl’s role” in Konami’s Silent Hill 2. “My eldest daughter is a budding game ace though and my brother’s daughter has every machine on the market. I thought it was a shame that they are still too young to play Silent Hill 2 but I didn’t want them to discover what a crazy dad/uncle they have.”

He says he didn’t even own a Play Station at first, because “I’m easily addicted.” Reading a male role “for the heck of it”, Schaufele got the gig by accident ahead of 20 “top” actors. “But hey, when it comes to vomit and craziness, near death experiences in India and beyond helped me ace the audition.”

He says the role of the vengeful Eddie was “much easier for me to sink my teeth into.” “In the early stages I had a semi-automatic machine gun! Cool eh! So I was kinda bummed when I ended up with a pistol. I heard that a lot of my vomiting and crazy sound effects were lost in a computer crash.

He says he felt comfortable with the outline which reminded him of Hitchcock’s Psycho and his own life story. “Eddie…hmmm – poor slob, pushed to the limits…maybe Full Metal Jacket. Did it fit…sure why not.”

When asked to compare himself with the psychotic Eddie, he says “everyone gets treated poorly at some time or another and dreams of violent revenge? don’t they?”

Finally, he offers tips on how to succeed in Japan. “Shmooze all agents on a regular basis if you want that big break. Find out what “golden kneepads” means or polish them if you already know.”

He signs off to his fans by calling himself Dave “crazy Eddie” Schaufele. 

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I never knew about this side of Schaufele when I worked at NHK part time in 1994-95 and 2007. He wasn’t part of our social circuit of parties in the 90s, and we didn’t meet until 2007. Since Schaufele hails from Victoria, a few hours from my sister’s place on Vancouver Island, he came over to our Shibuya apartment for a few beers in the casual Canadian way. He told me how to “play the game” at NHK, by sucking up to bosses to get more shifts. “Don’t wake up the old boys in the eigo-center,” he told me, referring to the over-paid Japanese mandarins who wear slippers, doze at their desks, and play cards on their computers while part-timers, especially women, do the grunt work, all at taxpayers’ expense. He also tried to persuade me and Qumico into buying property through his Japanese wife, supposedly a real estate agent. Fortunately, we declined; property values would drop in Tokyo over the next 5 years.

That night, Schaufele also weirded me out with claims that the US military used an “earthquake machine” to cause two events I had covered first-hand: the 1995 Kobe earthquake and the 2004 tsunami in southeast Asia. He told me about his “friends” in a neo-Nazi group holing up in the woods of Canada, and about a course he had taken on “the effects of brainwashing”. Before leaving, he gave me a video of a documentary he wrote, narrated and produced in 2005 called Return to Reality:911 Eyewitness Hoboken TV.

I finally got a chance to watch it alone. The narration was his baritone familiar to NHK viewers in Japan. But the content would never make it past NHK’s censors. The documentary claims that the owner of the World Trade Center, a New Yorker of Jewish ancestry, used explosives to knock down the Twin Towers in order to collect on the insurance money.It claimed that “Newton’s Law proves” that al Qaeda and planes loaded with fuel could not have destroyed the Twin Towers.

It was a conspiracy theory, full of distorted facts, twisted logic and fallacious reasoning. It spooked me to think that NHK, a state organization, would employ a Canadian broadcaster who thinks western media culture is a “smoke screen” to cover up a Jewish conspiracy to control the world and destroy things to blame on al-Qaeda.

Yet Schaufele kept nagging me to use my journalistic contacts to write “positive” reviews about his documentary. Since we worked together, I couldn’t avoid telling him frankly that I thought it was crazy and defamatory.

After that, Schaufele took a cue from his character Eddie Dombrowski. While I was out of Japan from Sept. 29 to Oct. 9 covering anti-regime protests in Burma, Schaufele maneuvered behind my back to weaken my position at NHK. He also demanded I give him my work shifts, making it impossible for me to ignore him. I refused, and this only made it worse.

In an email titled “Time to move on … again,” Schaufele wrote: “… you are extremely disliked at NHK by everyone who knows and with so many old timers giving you the thumbs down all the Japanese staff at the eigo center overheard details of your colorful history. Take some time off and write a book about your life. It might sell as fiction.”

When I returned to Japan, it seemed like the newsroom was turning against me. Schaufele had convinced others, including colleagues who knew me since 1988 and 1994, that I was out to “steal” the work shifts of more senior foreigners, and that I owed him about a thousand dollars. He was intent on goading me into a fight. He sent me nasty emails and phone messages. Some nights, I thought I could hear his Harley-Davidson rumbling below our third-floor balcony.

After my shift on Tuesday Oct. 16, I went to our new bosses, Tanaka-san and Iida-san, who had just replaced the retiring man who had hired me. I asked them to protect me from an abusive colleague. I told them that senior NHK managers such as Sakane-san, Murai-san, Nishimura-san, Tamura-san, Kiyohara-san and others had praised my work. I reminded them that I had never been late for work, never missed a shift or an assignment. Since our apartment was about 10 minutes by bicycle to NHK, bosses often called me on short notice to replace sick workers, and I always did it.

But Tanaka-san and IIda-san, who didn’t know me, refused to listen to my case, saying they had to remain neutral. Later, Tanaka-san, a woman who had lived in the United States, called me to apologize for being unable to help me. I told her that I understood her difficult position, and promised to do my best as always at work. She told me I had to solve the problem myself, and I promised her I would try my best.

So, the next day, I sent an e-mail to my colleagues, asking for them to mediate the dispute. I made no false accusation against Schaufele. For transparency, I also sent this letter to Schaufele.

Dear Writers,

Sorry to trouble you, but could anyone help with a nasty situation involving Dave Schaufele?

Not sure what got in his head, but while I was off reporting in Thailand and Burma early this month, Dave-san managed to take two of my eigo-center shifts (which I had asked Tanaka-san to give to xxxx-xxxx), despite my repeated e-mails asking him not to.  He also sent me a number of disturbing, slandering e-mails full of false accusations, which I would rather not share. He claims I owe him 119,000 yen; simply not true.

This seems to go against the honor system we enjoy involving shift exchanges.

Can anyone talk sense into Dave-san?

But many foreign staff, who had been working with Schaufele for 20 years, gave me the cold shoulder. A Canadian woman, who perhaps felt sorry for me, warned me that I couldn’t possibly win, because Schaufele has seniority, and the goal of NHK is to “preserve itself and its corporate harmony”, not to seek justice or solve problems between foreign staff.

The letter enraged Schaufele. His new round of phone calls and letters now insulted Qumico and my family, including my brother, leader of one of Canada’s most popular bands at that time. He insulted so-called “Hinagiku” kids with learning disabilities, who I sometimes taught at a school in Setagaya. He said the rudest things to accuse these kids of having sex with teachers. He called me a molester and a pedophile — simply because I like working with kids. He said sickening things like “why don’t you go back to molesting retards.” 

Schaufele illegally recorded a nasty phone conversation and tampered with it to use it as defamatory blackmail. He said the worst possible things about teachers and disabled students in order to bait a response and frame someone. He took comments out of context and tampered with the recording, using his skills at voice acting and video making. He made it sound like a person was some kind of deviant. He went around playing his tampered and fabricated recording for my bosses and colleagues at NHK, and also at the FCCJ. (Five years later, Tokyo author and Atlantic Wire reporter Jake Adelstein would use this recording to blackmail me on a hateful blog posting, where he collaborated with Gavin Blair, a freelancer who went behind my back to undermine my status during my negotiations with France 24 TV, one of my main employers the past five years. Youtube has removed this illegal video at least twice.)

Schaufele didn’t show NHK employees the dozens of nasty things he said to me; he only portrayed himself as an innocent victim. He told our new Japanese bosses, who knew little about me, that I threatened his wife and children. He also claimed that he and his wife went to the Shibuya police for protection. (This was a lie. When Qumico and I later went to the Shibuya police ourselves, they said Schaufele had never come to see them. Schaufele does not live anywhere near Shibuya.) Schaufele also claimed he got 12 colleagues to sign a “petition” demanding I be fired for “threatening his family.”

In fact, I love children. I come from a big happy family, with three siblings and more than 50 cousins. Though my degree was in journalism not education, I enjoyed teaching kids and adults part-time in Thailand in 1988, in Osaka in 1989-90, in Brazil in 1999, in Shanghai in 2000, in Vancouver in 2004, and in Japan in 2005-7. At schools in Setagaya-ku in Tokyo, kids gave me cards and letters telling me “you are my favourite teacher.” I always loved teaching kids, especially kids with challenges or learning difficulties, because they were rays of joy and hope in contrast to the dark, depressing world of news in Japan. My students didn’t hold grudges or stab me in the back. They were all about friendship and honesty — something I found lacking at NHK.

But the Japanese bosses, who didn’t know me personally, believed Schaufele’s story: Johnson is a violent foreigner, threatening NHK harmony.

After my shift on a Friday night, the new bosses ambushed me. I asked them if we could meet next week, since I was trying to hurry home to get our dogs and drive with Qumico to Chiba for a 6-day vacation as planned. “This will just take a few minutes,” they said. They took me to a drab upper room. They asked me about alleged criminal behaviour of NHK World staff. They asked about the alleged spying activities of some employees, including a man married to a woman with North Korean ancestry. I was stunned by this sudden interrogation, and said that I needed to consult a lawyer, or the police. Finally, without hearing my side of the story, they accused me of threatening Dave Schaufele’s family, and NHK’s harmony. “We heard the tape,” they repeated, like police officers. “You must confess.”

Caught off-guard, I wasn’t sure what to say. I told them I had to go. It was getting late, and we had a 2 or 3-hour drive ahead of us with barking dogs. Let’s please discuss this next week after I come back from Chiba, I asked.

But the NHK bosses, who knew Schaufele for years, were intent on firing me, the part-timer, with no compensation, and no proper notice.

We didn’t have internet at our seaside condo. Running on the beach, playing tennis and golf, I tried to calm down and put things in perspective. But while I was in Chiba, NHK bosses sent me an email, saying I had 24 hours to show them my passport and work visa, otherwise my employment would be terminated immediately. Before I could access my messages and reply, they sent another letter saying I was fired effective immediately.

In the termination notice dated Oct. 26, 2007, they claimed “you failed to submit your Work Visa”. This was false and unfair. I had shown NHK managers my work visa when they agreed to hire me, and it was valid for 3 more years. I had working visas for Japan dating back to 1989. (I now have a valid journalism visa for Japan.)

But I saw their letters too late. While I sat in shock, my career suddenly in tatters, Schaufele was working as usual at NHK, victorious.

NHK World had successfully danced me outside their world. Whenever I tried to talk to colleagues or producers of other shows, I was stopped at the gate, and told to leave immediately. Desperate, I sent a letter to my colleagues at NHK:

“Do people really think that I would harm children? The job I did before joining NHK was teaching “Hinagiku” disabled children at a school in Setagaya-ku. These kids have various disabilities from being bullied and abused. They are wonderful kids. Everyone at NHK should spend time with them. You should see all the nice cards I have received from kids at various schools.”

But nobody at NHK dared challenge Schaufele or their superiors. One part-timer at NHK, a hard-hitting Irish reporter, suggested we sort it out with a “punch-up” in the parking lot. Others told me I was right, but they couldn’t help me because they might lose their own jobs at NHK.

Any honest person working at NHK World can understand backward, stubborn, wasteful bureaucracy and corporate corruption in Japan, whether at TEPCO, Olympus, AIJ or elsewhere. But they aren’t going to rebel from within. Working at NHK is relatively easy money, often 50 to 100 dollars per hour. Senior staff who’ve made millions and bought property overseas thanks to the NHK gravy train won’t disavow the cash cow or kill the goose that lays the golden eggs. Someone working for two decades such as Schaufele could probably make more than $3 million dollars off Japanese rate-payers, not including side work on violent video games or a 9/11 conspiracy video. Japanese and foreign residents in Japan have likely paid more than a billion dollars over the years for NHK programs in English that normally cannot be viewed inside Japan. Foreign staff send much of their earnings overseas, meaning a net drain on Japan’s economy and public finances. Yet NHK World staff think they are somehow preserving and promoting Japanese culture. They think they are the BBC or PBS of Japan, though others compare them to CCTV, Arirang, Radio Thailand and the former Soviet-era TASS news agency.

Before I could take any legal measures, my parents arrived as planned for their first visit to Japan. We showed them around Tokyo, Chiba and Okinawa. Qumico and I tried to put up a good front, to let them enjoy their honeymoon phase in Japan. Eventually I had to tell them about my turmoil under the surface. My Dad suggested we go together to NHK bosses to request reinstatement. But when I called a former boss, I was told, “You are banned from the building, and blacklisted from Tokyo media.”

After my parents flew home, Qumico and I took my case to a complex series of offices across Tokyo, including the Labor Ministry’s Rodokyokai office. We had to write out our complaint by pencil in Japanese. Mr. Ashizawa, a silver-haired man who investigated the case, told us that he called in NHK managers to reprimand them for violating Japan’s labor laws.  The NHK managers told him, falsely, that Dave Schaufele went to the police in Shibuya and accused me of threatening his wife and children. They also said NHK had on file an accusation that I harassed an NHK employee in 1995.

Of course, I denied these outrageous claims. If NHK had this accusation of “harassment” in 1995 on file, why did they continue to employ me in 1995, and then re-hire me in 2007?

The Labor Standards Inspection Office, after seeing my contract, payment details, work visa, and emails, concurred with my claim that NHK Joho Network`s sudden dismissal of me, on one day’s notice without proper cause, violated Japanese Labor Standards Law and socially acceptable practices. The reasons for termination stated in a letter Friday 26, October, 2007, such as my alleged lack of a work visa, were shown to be false, exaggerated, unproven, and clearly in violation of Labor Standards Law.

The Tokyo Metropolitan Government’s Labor Standards Law (Article 18-2) stipulated that “dismissal without objective, rational reason(s) and unacceptable by current social standards, will be considered as an abuse of power and is therefore invalid.”

–(Article 20) An employer shall provide at least 30 days advance notice if the employer wishes to dismiss an employee.

–(Article 13) A labor contract which does not meet the standards of this law is invalid with respect to such portion. ((Thus, 9-2-2 of Joho Network’s contract, cited as one of the reasons for dismissal, is invalid.))

But NHK managers simply ignored the Labour Standards reprimands, claiming they weren’t legally binding. Officers told me that my only other option was to hire a lawyer and take NHK to court. This could take months or years, they said, and even if you win, NHK will simply avoid paying. 

After what seemed like weeks of futility, I gave up. I had been black-listed and hounded out of Japan I spent a few months in Thailand, where I have a published novel and friends since 1988. During a visit to Tibet, I ended up breaking the Lhasa uprising story in worldwide media in March 2008. I made thousands of dollars for amateur photographers and video makers who were there. Reuters listed the images among their Pictures of the Decade. Determined to rebuild my career as a freelance journalist, I resumed living in Tokyo with Qumico, and tried to put the NHK nightmare behind me.

Though I gave up on NHK, I didn’t give up on Japan. With Q’s help, I taught myself to read — slowly and imperfectly — the Nihon Keizai Shimbun financial daily in Japanese. I applied for months and months, and finally got job interviews with major media organizations. But there was always something in the way: NHK. Even if I could pass their tests, they looked at my resume, and saw NHK. I couldn’t erase it from my record or my mind, and neither could they. Nobody ever gets fired from NHK, they probably thought. This guy must be really bad news. If he couldn’t fit in there, he won’t fit in here. For all I knew, they may have heard Schaufele’s tape, which was supposedly on the internet.

And so my career as a freelance journalist continued, because I had no choice.

After that, I never encountered Schaufele. I thought the ugly episode was long behind us. I told myself that if I ever met Schaufele again, by chance, I would simply walk away or look the other way.

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Four years after David Schaufele forced me out of NHK in October 2007, I noticed, in January 2012, that a person using the pseudonym “Greji” (which sounds like Japanese for “crazy”) was leading the personal attacks against me over the so-called Gulag for Gaijin story in The Economist.

According to www.fuckedgaijin, “Greji” has made more than 14,000 comments since joining in June 2004 (three years before I met him, and a year before I moved back to Japan.) Many of the comments are vulgar, insulting, sexist, and racist. For example, Greji often says he’s married to a “rice cooker” and working for a government agency.

“I got PR at my first renewal of a spouse visa (two years and some). Since I was working for a government organization, the counterguy looked at my paperwork, noting that I was married to a local rice cooker and said I should make it out for PR (permanent residency).”

He also calls Japanese women “Lemurs”, and insults them and the name of Japan:

“I have met Lemurs that had a hard time adjusting when they got back to Ni mighty Pon. Some swore they would leave as soon as they got so dust saved up, but must of them didn’t. The hardcore just became Gals, or got knocked up and the others went to work and used their foreign learning.”

About the man who came around his house to collect NHK user fees, which end up paying Dave Schaufele’s salary, “Greji” writes:

“But I do miss the old guy who came around each month in downtown Tokyo to collect. Each month I would tell him to get hosed, and he would say thank you see you next month.”

******

In my view, Greji’s writing seems to match the tone, disjointed thought-pattern, spelling mistakes, and attitude of Dave Schaufele’s insulting emails to me in 2007. While it’s very difficult to prove whether Greji is actually Dave Schaufele or someone else, Greji’s writings seemed to show knowledge of my experiences at NHK.  

Here are some of the hate-mails I received during my trouble with Schaufele in the fall of 2007:

-“you are a disgrace to all canadians. leave while you can and never return”

“a lot of sick perverts around these days who like to prey on the weak, work without a visa and manage to avoid paying taxes for years”

“you could roll the dice and hang around home until the immigration squad pay you a visit to take a look at it…and they carry handcuffs”

“those Japanese detention cells can get pretty cold in winter, or so I’ve read. Free room and board though and lots of time to write a book if you’re not medicated and in a straight jacket.”

-“you`re becoming delusional, get help”

-“you`re not in touch with reality dude. Your cover is blown, the word is out.”

-“like 12 years ago was it ’95 when a certain female staff reported you for sexual harassment in her apt.? shocking stuff for the fan club newsletter christopher. Funny how those skeletons fall out of the closet when you get all high and mighty and wake up the old boys quietly sleeping in the eigo center…”

xxxxxxx

Those comments, back in 2007, are echoed in the vitriol by “Greji” in 2012. “Greji” seems to know things about the incidents at NHK that I thought only David Schaufele would know, especially about my alleged “skeletons” in the closet. This makes it likely that either Schaufele made the comments using the moniker Greji, or that his knowledge has somehow been communicated to another person using Greji. This is what Greji said in 2012:

#105 — “That turd ain’t going to take action against anything! He’s got some skeleton’s hanging around Japan that he ain’t going to wanna rattle…..”

Originally Posted by Greji

But if you really want to play with him, just ask him how and why he left NHK. That should shut him up. Actually in his case, it probably wouldn’t….

To which Sublight replied:

Is his reason for leaving a generally known thing, or have you encountered him in the past? I’m new here at NHK and haven’t gotten up to speed on the inter-office memos.

On www.fuckedgaijin.com, “RUSSELL” seemingly referred to the recording of my alleged threat to harm Schaufele’s wife and children. 

Greji’s attacks on me in January spurred others on FG to join the lynch mob. Here’s a few: This guy is not worth the bandwidth. His rep among newsmen in Japan is horrible. He was let go, or fired by NHK (which is almost impossible), although not the reason that he was fired, or whatever, after he was released there were supposedly serious questions about his visa then i.e. either not having a visa, or it was not a visa for that type of work. His vita (sic) was also alleged by persons at NHK to be “phony” and printing his junk onto this board is pointless.

chokonen888

Has anyone mentioned the silver lining here? This d00d is probably perma-banned from Japan! D00d ranted and got called out. All this talk of lawyers and such is a joke. Immigration made the right choice with this idiot. I hope he’s having fun, it’s not too often we get to witness career (if you even consider him a journalist) suicide.

*******

The comments about me repeat a pattern of extreme hatred on FG and calls for violence against others:

–chokonen888 on whaling in Antarctica: I’m still waiting for some real violence. Ships in that part of the world have enough time staying afloat and the douche bags from both sides probably deserve the icy grave that awaits them.

–“Samurai Jerk” writing about First Nations peoples in Canada: “Fuck those Mongol immigrants”

–“Samurai Jerk” writing about Narita farmers protecting against airport expansion:

“Fuck the goddam farmers. I wish every government in the world would stop subsidizing their farmers and make them actually experience a competative (sic) market. If they start rioting and committing acts of terrorism (and you know they will), send in the military to put them out of their misery.”

*************

Several weeks after this story was posted, Dave Schaufele posted a hateful comment on Jake Adelstein’s blog at 9:57 pm on April 26, 2012. While denying that he has ever made slanderous comments online, he made new violent threats against this journalist, and called him a pedophile, pervert, sexual predator, asshole, and delusional, mentally unstable troll. “I would have no hesitation beating the living crap out of this sicko after his comments about my children,” he wrote, referring to his doctored video, which youtube.com has repeatedly removed in some but not all countries, citing violation of its policies and international laws. “So if he ever sees me again he better turn the other way and run.” 

Writing in language similar to comments by “Greji”, the veteran NHK announcer Schaufele wrote: “Troll pulled all the hateful slander completely out of his ass.” Though no NHK World manager has ever made such accusations, Schaufele repeated his false, unproven allegations against this reporter. “He’s a mental case whose 2 sexual harassment complaints on file at NHK got him fired in 1995 but he managed to sneak back in years later,” he wrote, supplying no evidence. “When he returned (from a trip to Myanmar and Thailand in 2007) he went psycho and tried to get me fired, which backfired because the bosses remembered that he was the pervert they got rid of in ’95. When he made disgusting sexual comments about my young children I played his phone messages for my boss and it was 3 strikes you’re out – again – for that sicko.” He then contradicted himself and denied responsibility by adding: “Troll knows that his own actions resulted in his loss of work but his alter ego is trying to find someone else to take responsibility.”

Schaufele also defended his 9/11 conspiracy theory documentary, saying it won an award. “It focuses on facts and science for use in a court of law. See YouTube or the website. New York Film & TV Festival – Best Historical Documentary Prize Seven Laws of Science Prove Treason, Fraud and Murder!” 

Ending his comment, Schaufele said: “I haven’t spent a minute thinking about the asshole during the past five years and this is my first and only blog post related to him in all that time.”

Adelstein, who posted links to Schaufele’s illegal video, cheered Schaufele in a follow-up comment saying “I believe you.”

http://www.japansubculture.com/personal-vendettas-credibility-collateral-damage-天の邪鬼対策/#comment-2688

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In February 2012, a twitter account was created to mock my own @cjinasia twitter account. The mock account was called @cjinafrika, and carried the name Christopher Johnson. Several people, including my editor at CNNGO.com, were misled into thinking that I was actually writing from that mock account. The account attacked me, and also a NYT reporter. The account fictionalized me returning to NHK World for a job interview, only to find skeletons in the closet. A final posting, before the account vanished, attempted to blackmail me by claiming the “tape recording”, which Schaufele used to get me fired, was now posted on the Internet.  

@cjinafrika’s followers included OurManInAbiko (editor of Quakebook), Valesius (a hateful account, which vanished at the same time as @cjinafrika), and Jeremy Blaustein, who claims to be the writer/localizer for Silent Hill, in which Schaufele did the voice acting for the murderous Eddie. 

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Jeremy Blaustein (www.zpang.com, jblaustein@zpang.com) describes himself as: game writer, translator and director. Writer/localizer of Silent Hill, Metal Gear, Pokemon, Shadow Hearts, Phoenix Wright and dozens more. He apparently lives in Himeji, Japan, not far from where I used to work in 1989-90. (We have never met). He also blogs about an island http://ieshima.blogspot.com.

According to his blog:

15 years ago while working for Konami in Tokyo, Japan, Zpang founder, Jeremy Blaustein, began translating video games into English. For Jeremy, it began with the Sega CD cult hit, Snatcher which set a new benchmark for humor and voice-acting. A few years later, Jeremy collaborated closely with R&D to create such industry-shaking successes as Metal Gear Solid and Silent Hill. He earned a reputation as a writer and voice director as deeply committed to the localized work as were the original game creators. Success followed upon success and Zpang is still here today, fighting the good fight for game fans all over the world.

If his claims about “industry-shaking successes” and “fighting the good fight” are true, then Jeremy Blaustein is one of the more important foreigners in Cool Japan cultural industries. To his credit, he writes under his real-name, not a pseudonym. For that reason, I often respond to his interactions on Twitter, even though he sends hateful tweets such as these:

—You are no journalist. You pass along untruths unfounded and unchecked as facts and can’t write your way out of a paper bag.

8:18 AM – 20 Feb 12

@cjinasia You are no journalist. You pass along untruths unfounded and unchecked as facts and can’t write your way out of a paper bag.

Jeremy Blaustein (@JeremyBlaustein) February 20, 2012

—You have become more of a joke than I imagined. Aren’t you embarrassed at yourself in the least? You shame the title “journalist”.

8:09 AM – 20 Feb 12

@cjinasia You have become more of a joke than I imagined. Aren’t you embarrassed at yourself in the least? You shame the title “journalist”.

Jeremy Blaustein (@JeremyBlaustein) February 20, 2012

Does he not sound like a 6 year old child? He has nerve to put himself in category with Tabuchi et al?

8:14 AM – 20 Feb 12

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Rob Fahey, another gamer who attacked me, claims to write for The Times, which employs some of the best correspondents in Asia: @robfahey on twitter: “Journalist for GamesIndustry.biz, The Times, Eurogamer and others. Political and argumentative. Back in London after a year living in Japan. London, UK ·http://www.robfahey.co.uk

He is indeed “argumentative”. Here he shows off his mastery of Shakespeare’s language:

—“Christopher Johnson, the “Gaijin Gulag” guy, crosses the line into outright douchebaggery with empty legal threats:”

2:19 AM – 8 Feb 12

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Another video gamer is Daniel Feit, an English teacher in Osaka. According to his twitter profile @feitclub: “American man in Japan. English teacher. Freelance writer. Video game enthusiast. Karaoke monster. Somebody’s father. Osaka, Japan.” www.feitclub.com. (feitclub@gmail.com

Is this the man you want teaching your children in Osaka? His blog postings include in 2005, “true stories of me getting kicked out of places” (but apparently not Japan); and the January 2010 posting: “Mob Rule: Murdering Your Darlings — Supposedly Great Games We Hated.” Mr. Feit responded to this article with a comment at: http://feitclub.tumblr.com/post/20448418726/gamers-stalkers-and-haters-i-am-c…

Feito-sensei, role model to impressionable students in Osaka, clearly has the patience and tolerance required of good professional teachers. Whilst tweeting about video games and trashing other players, he suddenly wanders onto the topic of my detention and expulsion, and shoots me down as if in a video game. 

—In light of this latest revelation, The Economist should either pull or overhaul their post on “Gaijin Gulag.” CJ’s credibility is long gone

10:06 PM – 15 Feb 12

In light of this latest revelation, The Economist should either pull or overhaul their post on “Gaijin Gulag.” CJ’s credibility is long gone

Daniel Feit (@feitclub) February 16, 2012

(Oh, really, my credibility is long gone? And you are a more credible source than someone with a four-year degree in journalism and 27 years job experience?)

About a week later, showing his mastery of grammar and deep understanding of bullying in Japanese schools and society, Feito-sensei writes this:

—Sooner or later, irrational people who panic about radiation need to ostracized rather than placated to http://www.japanprobe.com/2012/02/22/complaints-from-loony-parents-cancel-event-okinawan-children-not-allowed-to-play-with-radioactive-aomori-snow/

9:31 PM – 21 Feb 12

The irony is that these enemy-making gamers have proven to be their own worst enemies. Their lack of diplomacy, and tendency to shoot down anybody just for fun, hasn’t won them increasing numbers of fans in recent years. As it turns out, even dehumanized video gaming has a human element. A creepy approach to human relations means downward creeping sales figures. Akira Yamaoka, composer of music for the Silent Hill series, recently admitted that the Japanese videogame industry is “struggling” to create games that appeal to gamers worldwide. “Creating videogames is a service. If you can’t, or don’t want, to see and meet users around the world, I don’t think it’s possible to provide the entertainment they want.” (http://www.edge-online.com/news/yamaoka-admits-japanese-industry-struggling)

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(Japanese composer Ryuichi Sakamoto calls for peace during ceremonies to commemorate the March 11 disasters)

TEPIDO — THE ULTIMATE STALKER SITE

In the old days, stalking used to mean hiding in the shadows, following around someone who refused to meet you. A few foreign guys in Japan have told me that Japanese women stalked them, and I’m sure this happens to women in Japan all the time. This happened to me as well. A woman, perhaps feeling spurned, found out where I was living in Tokyo. She sat outside in the street, waiting for me to come out. She called me and banged on the door, until I finally agreed to meet her. Then she wouldn’t leave me alone.

There was nothing sinister about it. I didn’t threaten to call the cops or a lawyer. She just wanted to connect with me, to somehow be part of my life. It was partly my fault for being aloof and ignoring her in the first place. In a society that doesn’t encourage women to express their innermost feelings through words, stalking was a way for her to show the depth of her devotion to me. I learned from that incident that it’s better to respond to people, even if they threaten you, than to ignore them.

Before stumbling upon www.tepido.org in January this year, I had never heard about such a thing as a “stalker site”.  Apparently run by Ken Yasumoto-Nicolson, aka Ken Y-N, www.tepido.org is the ultimate stalker site in Japan.

Rick Gundlach describes it on Hoofin:

“As reporter Chris Johnson is finding out, Tepido.org is primarily a website set up to attack individuals for their association, at some degree, with Arudou Debito,” he says. He says targets can be Debito, the subject of his blog, commenters on his blog, or anyone associated with Debito. “There is no logic to it. It is a game of sorts, for these people, to go around attacking, personally, whoever becomes the “it”. And this month, Chris Johnson is the “it”.”

This is no secret. Tepido openly declares that his site is stalking American-born human rights activist and former Hokkaido-based academic Debito Arudou (a Japanese version of his name David Aldwinckle.) Tepido’s home-page declares in a banner: Tepido.org — not the ex-Hokkaido crusader.

Debito, who runs the human rights forum www.debito.org, gained respect from some, derision from others, for becoming a Japanese citizen and winning court cases against a cyber bully and a hot spring owner who discriminated against his family (allowing the Japanese-looking daughter in, while keeping the American-looking daughter out).

Some say that Tepido’s relentless smear campaign has effectively driven Debito out of Japan. He reportedly quit his university post in Hokkaido and moved to Calgary, and now is at the East-West Institute in Hawaii.

Personally, I’m fascinated by the very existence of Tepido. Like a freak show at Lollapalooza, it’s astounding that people can spend so much time and intellectual energy hating another web site, instead of cycling, skiing, cooking or doing anything off-line. Tepido.org only started attacking me because I made the “mistake”, in their view, of letting Debito.org host discussions about my detention and expulsion from Japan. The attacks, which lasted for more than a month, began with these opening lines from Ken Y-N on January 12:

This rather impressive (in a bad way) tale of incarcerationtakes the sting off fully-documented cases from Amnesty by telling a story so full of holes that it quite frankly stinks. By the way, if you wish to indulge in full-blown character assassination, may I recommend this thread instead.” (The link was to the www.fuckedgajin.com posting about me, which was removed February 20.)

On Linkedin, Ken Yasumoto-Nicolson claims to have a Bsc in computer science from 1982-86 at Heriot-Watt University. From April 1993 to September 1998, he was involved with “multimedia-related software development, including the user interface for the very first DVD authoring package.” He’s been a staff software engineer at Panasonic in Osaka, Japan since 1998. He claims his specialties are “security, trust, Japan.” (http://www.linkedin.com/in/kenyn). He claims his duties are: “Trusted Computing, mobile phones, and associated security and encryption-related issues.

He might be one of the most senior foreign software engineers in Japan, and after more than a decade at Panasonic, would likely have responsibilities over subordinates, and might even have access to personal data bases of people inside and outside Panasonic, which is one of the most respected corporations in the world.

Yet Ken Y-N is busy hosting a stalker site. He seems unusually open about it, for a middle-aged man whose duties include “trusted computing, mobile phones, and associated security and encryption-related issues.”

Ken Y-N and his cohorts love defending Japan. Yet they seem to overlook Japanese traditions of tolerance, civility and harmony. It’s hard to imagine Japanese persons, other than right wing fanatics, dedicating so much of their life to attacking another website.

Writes Gundlach:

“I felt that Ken Y-N was really going down a bad road when he dedicated a site to inviting personal attacks on Arudou Debito.What does Ken Yasumoto-Nicholson gain from an anti-Debito site, that branches out into a site dedicated to slamming people who are some degrees removed from Debito? It’s beyond me. I think there are a number of motivations—none of them good. I think these are people who are just generally negative, particularly about other people accomplishing anything.”

In my view, Ken Y-N comes across as witty in a twisted way, a quirky mix of British and Osaka humour which I can appreciate, having lived in Osaka myself. His kanji on twitter loosely translates as Tepid Man. His twitter site description says: “the Fake Tepido Naruhodo looks at Japanese human rights and wrongs.”

On twitter, I complimented Tepido’s site as having “a quality approach to stalking,” with an effective creepy font and a shadowy feel. Tepido actually said some kind words to me on twitter as well: “I’m sure your partner and dogs will be happy to hear that’s how you feel about things.”

Ken Y-N also has a web life outside Tepido. His website “What Japan Thinks” features headlines such as: “Suspecting your partner is having an affair”, and “Features of an awkward colleagues.” It also has useful survey info, such as “seven in ten Japanese find mobile ads useless.”

Ken Y-N would probably be fun to drink with. I can imagine he and Debito resolving their differences in my house, after drinking beer, gin, vodka and sake from 11 am on a Monday morning. Though his commenters on Tepido.org relentlessly savaged my work and reputation, Tepido’s tone was more restrained than comments on www.fuckedgaijin.com, and didn’t do things like posting photos of my partner or my own head on Jim Carrey’s body in the promo poster for the film LiarLiar. Ken Y-N doesn’t steal copyrighted material from AP or others, as Japanprobe and other sites do. Tepido’s site is straight scotch, no chaser, with no photos or flashy graphics.

He allows people to criticize Tepido as well.

Laxman Sivaramakrishnan January 27, 2012 at 7:01 am : “The reason this thread has gone on for 5 pages is quite simple. Mr Johnson did what Japan Apologists such as tepido.org can never stand, that is to criticise Japan.

In another culture, Ken Y-N might be deemed a genius who could lead a tech company to greatness. But in Japan, he has enough time on his hands to run a stalker site. One can only wonder why he’s risking his career and reputation by attacking Debito and associates. It’s almost sad that his twitter site has only a handful of followers, including JamesJPN of Japanprobe, Hikosaemon, and Jeremy Blaustein.

Such is the lonely existence of the stalker.

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Img_7476

(The great Welsh-Canadian author and conservationist C.W. Nicol speaks in Japanese from the heart during ceremonies in Tokyo’s HIbiya Park to commemorate the March 11 disasters. Nicol is an example of how constructive criticism can help Japan.)

BEWARE OF THE BLOGGERS

In January, during the firestorm over the “Gaijin Dungeon” article, a successful web entrepreneur and expert on internet culture tried to advise me on how to deal with cyber warfare. “Take a vacation,” he said. “Leave your computer at home. Ignore what they say about you. Let it go. Just let it go.”

I wrote him back saying “that’s not my style.” I like debating issues. I grew up playing basketball in the Detroit area, where trash-talking is an art form, the verbal equivalent of graffiti. “I can take it. I’m mentally tough,” I told him.

“Ignore them,” he repeated. “Let it go, let it go.”

Heeding his advice, I went on long walks in the snow, trying to forget about Japan, telling myself, “let it go, let it go.”

But I was also lifting weights with oil riggers, athletes, cops and war veterans who like me, had been in Iraq and Afghanistan. I admired how these brawny guys exorcised their demons through physical activity, not online hate. I also spent weekends playing football in the snow with my Dad, and watching NFL playoff games with him. It was a testosterone rush of guys confronting each other face to face, instead of writing nasty messages behind their backs.

Watching Tim Tebow knocking over linebackers, the idea formed in my head that I wasn’t going to back down to anyone online. Attack me, and I’ll call your bluff and knock you down. Discredit my story, and you’ll pay the price. If you apologize and walk away, and correct your mistakes, I’ll forgive you. But if you try to ruin my reputation, you risk losing your own. I have the power of truth, and I’m going to use it. My investigations will show the world who you really are.

After coming out of the jacuzzi, I noticed Jake Adelstein tweeting about me. Other journalists had been sending me messages of support. But Jake instead wrote that he couldn’t come down against immigration without knowing my visa status, as if that would somehow justify the mistreatment of foreigners in Japan. I was amazed that Jake, an expert on the Dark Side of the Sun, was not outraged by the abuse of prisoners in Japan. He was not moved to use his alleged gangster and detective contacts to find out more about the dark side of Narita and the so-called Gaijin Gulag. Instead, he was falling for the fascist logic that a foreigner’s visa status could somehow justify rights abuses in Japan.

Jake and I, both former police beat reporters, had a brief exchange of tweets, talking about how to deal with victims. I then had a delicious meal and a great night of football with my parents.

But the Japan Probe website, seeing these tweets, seized the chance to gain attention by tapping into the Gaijin Gulag controversy. They slammed me for daring to take on a heavyweight such as Adelstein, even though he’s younger than me, and has never covered a war, spent time in jail, been expelled from a country, or visited the tsunami disaster zone after March 11.

Beginning January 20, Japanprobe posted 5 articles with these headlines:

-Christopher Johnson Under Fire for “Gaijin Gulag” article

-“Gaijin Gulag” victim Christopher Johnson Discloses Visa Information

-Christopher Johnson attempts to silence criticism of his “Gaijin Gulag” article (legal threats!!!)

Washington Times Freelancer Slams Former Employer, Fails to Ethically Disclose Relationship?

-Chris Johnson posts new article: says he was using 90-day tourist visas

Many of their claims were false and lacking verifiable evidence. But their campaign worked. They got more comments about me than most other stories. They ensured that their site would appear on any Google search for “Christopher Johnson Japan”. They never bothered to write or call me for my side of the story. Basic journalistic fundamentals — balance, accuracy, fairness, truth — mean nothing to them. But in my view, it’s a fun website, the online tabloid version of the National Inquirer or The Sun. On twitter, I praised their stories about things that truly matter: dogs, monkeys and Japanese belief in aliens. I even commented on their site, under my real name, about a wonderful story of a Shih-tzu dog who saved his elderly master from the tsunami.

James (Editor-in-Chief) twitter account is @JamesJPN

Nationality: American
Bio: The founder and editor-in-chief of Japan Probe. His hobby is reading and posting on blogs, and he’s terribly addicted to it.

The www.japanprobe.com site lists the names, usually only first names, of 23 people who apparently contribute to the site. Japan Probe is at least trying to be an online news site, an effort I support, even if I disagree with their ethics.

Some Japan Probers, however, haven’t got the guts to post their real names or take personal responsibility for their postings. Instead of replying to my email, they posted it online — like school girls saying naa-naa-na-naa-naa. Even video gamers such as Jeremy Blaustein at least attack you in the open. But the Japan Probers think they are somehow cutting-edge new media journalists while sneaking around the internet behind pseudonyms. While this juvenile approach to journalism might impress their fans such as OurManInAbiko, Hikosaemon, and Rick Martin, it makes them the laughingstock of serious reporters who write under their real names. It’s too bad, because Japan Probe does in fact unearth some interesting stories, such as their translation of a video about conditions in an Osaka jail housing hundreds of foreigners.

Japan Probers need to spend more time in the field, and in pubs with trained, qualified journalists, in order to overcome their insecurity and penis envy about elite correspondents. Not content with attacking me, Japanprobe also went after New York Times correspondents Martin Fackler and Hiroko Tabuchi (who has more than 40,000 followers on Twitter). Never mind that the accusation — the New York Times printed fake quote from Japanese Foreign Minister — wasn’t true. It gets attention, and gets their website on Google searches for Fackler, Tabuchi and NYT Japan.

Japan Probers simply enjoy dissing foreign correspondents in general.

–“If the FCCJ were to completely collapse, Tokyo would lose its “haven” for foreign journalists. The clique of foreign journalists would have to find another bar in which they could pass around and recycle stories. Some newspapers and TV channels might even be forced to hire journalists who possess actual knowledge about Japan and its language. What a frightening idea.” (http://www.japanprobe.com/2012/03/01/foreign-correspondents-club-of-japan-fcc…

The comments on Japan Probe tend to be nastier than on any other site. By comparison, even Tepido seems rather academic and polite. Here’s what one commenter on Japan Probe said about me: “I think he needs a lobotomy. That’ll settle him down.”

Japan Probers also proudly infringed my intellectual property rights, falsely accusing me of “covering up lies” while I was updating a work in progress. Check this tweet:

Megalodon.jp creates cached versions of websites. Great for exposing people who delete blog posts and pretend they never existed…

4:02 PM – 8 Feb 12

Megalodon.jp creates cached versions of websites.Great for exposing people who delete blog posts and pretend they never existed…

JamesJPN (@JamesJPN) February 8, 2012

Inviting James and Japan Probers over for a Monday drinking session might not work. James of Japan Probe make no pretense of even trying to make drinking buddies with certain journalists. After libelling me and the Washington Times on Japanprobe, James tweeted:

P.S. – Have a nice day, Chris.

1:44 AM – 8 Feb 12 via web

P.S. – Have a nice day, Chris.

JamesJPN (@JamesJPN) February 8, 2012

*******——–*******

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(The great Welsh-Canadian author and conservationist C.W. Nicol speaks in Japanese from the heart during ceremonies in Tokyo’s Hibiya Park to commemorate the March 11 disasters. Nicol is an example of how constructive criticism can help Japan.)

OUR MAN IN TWITTER-LAND

One commenter on Japanprobe is none other than the legendary (in his own mind) Our Man in Abiko, (http://www.ourmaninabiko.com/). Since his real name is a state secret, we only know that he is a Tokyo-based Briton and editor of Quakebook, (http://www.amazon.com/Aftershocks-Stories-Japan-Earthquake-ebook). I supported Quakebook, which a group on twitter put together after the March 11 disaster to raise funds through Red Cross for disaster victims. Quakebook features articles by worldrenowned authors William Gibson and Barry Eisler, not to mention our own literary genius Jake Adelstein.

Though we’ve never met, OurManInAbiko was quick to play British Bulldog with me for daring to expose mistreatment of foreigners, a subgroup which actually includes him. It apparently didn’t matter that I supported Quakebook, and that I made 10 trips to the disaster zone to keep global media attention on disaster victims. Seeking attention for his own blog and his upcoming book, OurManinAbiko joined the lynch mob dissing me on twitter and his own blog. As Cock of the Walk of his British schoolyard in suburban Abiko, he also threatened violence against me in his comment on Japanprobe:

Pretty pathetic stuff. I’m glad you are calling out this bully. Good for you. Bullies like this need their noses bloodying. Tell that to your lawyers, Christopher.

Our Man in Abiko

02/08/2012 06:37 PM

Perhaps not realizing that my nose has already been broken three times (soccer, assault in Canada, assault in Africa), he also perhaps doesn’t realize that North Americans are generally not intimidated by whining, aging, blubbering English sods cowering behind pseudonyms on Nitwitter. Instead of meeting me at high-noon for a showdown in the wastelands of Abiko, he figured it was much more “manly” of him to snipe at me from within his fortress of sycophants on twitter.

—Hey everybody, Christopher Johnson has been rebranded. He’s now an Africa expert: @cjinafrika

11:02 PM – 15 Feb 12

Hey everybody, Christopher Johnson has been rebranded. He’s now an Africa expert: @cjinafrika

OurManInAbiko (@ourmaninabiko) February 16, 2012

—Dear @cjinafrika, I think you should employ your vast army of lawyers to shutdown @cjinasia. It appears to be a deranged parody account.

2:06 AM – 16 Feb 12

Dear @cjinafrika, I think you should employ your vast army of lawyers to shutdown @cjinasia. It appears to be a deranged parody account.
— OurManInAbiko (@ourmaninabiko) February 16, 2012

@cjinafrika If only we had had your selflessness, dedication, diplomatic skills, volleyball knowledge and brevity of writing.

6:26 AM – 16 Feb 12

@cjinafrika If only we had had your selflessness, dedication, diplomatic skills, volleyball knowledge and brevity of writing.

OurManInAbiko (@ourmaninabiko) February 16, 2012

Like many Brits who couldn’t hack it back home or get accepted into better countries like Canada and Australia, Our Man In Abiko, who despises “fly-jin”, flew away from jolly old England to try his luck at lording it over the locals in Japan. Unable to afford a home in central Tokyo, he’s clearly frustrated being Our Man in Inconvenient Abiko instead of Our Man in Posh Aoyama or Our Man In Leafy Setagaya. As indicated in his comments, he can barely contain his envy for North Americans like me who can always go back to our large homes with spacious yards, central heating, and running water.

But, all ribbing aside, I should be flattered that he thinks of me alongside President Obama and Michael Moore. On his own blog, the august editor writes, with a mastery of the language of Shakespeare, Wordsworth and Orwell:

–President Obama says he is shit hot. Michael Moore says he is not. We can go to both their twitter feeds and decide for ourselves which is full of more shit. Christopher Johnson says some bollocks about X, we can go to X’s twitter stream and decide for ourselves.  (http://www.ourmaninabiko.com/2012_02_01_archive.html)

In all honesty, I genuinely like editors, especially from the UK. I cannot survive as a writer without them. Since OurMani is an editor, and from the UK, I tried my best to make peace with him on Twitter. But he responded to my diplomatic overtures with a fusillade from his island of paranoia. When I told him, with sincerity, “I look forward to reviewing your new book,” he recoiled at me like an invading Viking or Roman. When I asked him a few weeks later, for the purpose of my future review, when and where he went in the Tohoku disaster zone, he treated me like the Spanish Armada, and again showed his uncanny knack for selecting the appropriate turn of phrase:

6 Mar

OurManInAbiko ‏ ‪@ourmaninabiko

…that he would lash out at most positive, selfless activity I’ve ever had the honour to be part of. He can go to Hell.

******

Even on March 11 this year, when most reporters, like other sane and soulful people in Japan, were reflecting on the plight of tsunami survivors, OurManInAbiko, Jake Adelstein and their mates were obsessed with me. He even warned his followers that he was heading for a meeting with a Johnson from Canada — alas, it wasn’t me.

To this day, Mr. OurMani still refuses to answer my earnest journalistic questions about his new book, which I’m not naming here to avoid potential libel charges. As a result, I have not yet donated my $2.99 to their cause, which this time is directed at their own pockets.

Despite all this, I would gladly invite Our Man in Abiko (or whatever his name is) for a Monday morning drinking session, given our mutual appreciation for spirits. He would find out that I was an Anglophile long before I was a Japan-o-phile. I idolized Paul Weller as a teenager, and watched England, Super England, beat powerhouses Belgium, Cameroon and other teams at the 1990 World Cup in Italy. I began my career as a college soccer reporter, and I even worked with the Beeb at the 2002 World Cup in Japan. I’m fond of singing British hooligan anthems in stadiums, and know every line from Fawlty Towers by heart. But I also wonder if Our Man in Abiko can hold his drink like my Japanese friends can, and whether his Leicester cheese and 7-Eleven Bordeaux would end up all over our nice tatami mat floors.

*******——–*******

PARANOIA, OBSESSION AND UNTREATED DISORDERS

Some bloggers and commenters, who appear to be intelligent and articulate, are downright creative about distorting the truth. They twist facts to suit their theories, based on hearsay and fallacious reasoning. They misunderstand a single phrase, blow it out of proportion, build a theory around it, dig up misguided analysis from other commenters, and form a “consensus” based on their errant observations. Like the famous Woody Allen line about having a brain tumour, they do “tests to confirm what they already suspect.”

Much was made of my comment about being expelled from Japan back to minus 40 C temperatures in Alberta, Canada. In fact, it was minus 40 C on our thermometer when I was writing in January. Anybody who lives in Alberta is familiar with our extreme weather. We often deal with minus 40 in the winter; it’s no big deal for us. But after exhaustive searches (Lord knows where they get the time to do this) the cyber detectives back in Japan found weather data, from Dec. 24, which was an unusually warm winter day in Alberta. They used this data to “prove” that my entire 20,000-word story was “all based in lies” and exaggerations.

They also seized on a flippant comment, made by former Australian diplomat Gregory Clark, that I somehow tried to “harangue” my way into gaining entry at Narita. A commenter on The Economist even claimed “witnessing” that I was abusive to guards putting me on the flight at Narita — a totally groundless and false accusation. It all seemed to support the theory that I somehow hate Japan, hate officials, hate everybody.

After a few polite and respectful emails, Mr. Clark kindly wrote me an apology. He told me that he had probably misunderstood what somebody had said about me, and there was indeed no proof that I misbehaved at Narita. Naturally, I accepted the apology. He probably meant nothing by the comment. Perhaps he was tired after a game of tennis, or had been enjoying a glass of wine, as I often do when I’m online. Fair dinkum mate. Water under the bridge.

But haters seized on this “haranguing” comment from a well-connected ex-diplomat as “proof” that I had in fact been “drunk” and “belligerent”, and deserved my detention and expulsion from Japan. Anything I said on FB, Twitter or anywhere online would somehow prove that I’m a “troll”, a “bully”, a “stalker” and a pathological liar who made up stories disguised as journalism. Netizens such as Rick Martin, instead of using their cyber skills to investigate mistreatment of foreigners like them, stalked me online, digging through the pages of my blog looking for dirt, and abusing my intellectual property by using “Versionista” to capture and compare versions of my work in progress. The fact that I was publicly updating my story with new information and more efficient wording somehow “proved” that I was doctoring evidence, covering up lies, and changing my story.

In fact, I was doing what many pro journalists do: revising my work based on fresh research and new information, thanks to letters from other people who had been detained and expelled from Japan. It is called “open journalism”. I did this for the sake of transparency, and as a way to seek input from hundreds of expelled foreigners, including 31 Canadians in the past 10 years. But in the mind of a hater, it’s all more “evidence” that my story is “all based in lies,” and that I’m trying to “cover up” those lies.

For some reason, Japan seems to attract a number of supposedly well-educated scientists and academics who possess this mental proclivity to jump to hasty conclusions based on false assumptions.

According to wikipedia, James Annan is an Oxford-educated climate scientist involved in climate prediction. He is a member of the Global Warming Research Program at Frontier Research Centre for Global Change, which is associated with the Earth Simulator in Japan. He also has views on disc brakes for bicycles. (Homepage where he works: http://www.jamstec.go.jp/frsgc/research/d5/jdannan/). James Annan claims on his website that in 1994 he published a thesis: The complexity of counting problems. D. Phil. Thesis, University of Oxford.

It all sounds very impressive. Yet Annan’s postings make me wonder about the state of his own disc brakes. This was the headline on his blog on February 17, 2012: “Chris Johnson admits his “denial of entry” story was all based on lies”. http://julesandjames.blogspot.com/2012/02/much-ado-about-nothing-chris-johnso…

Hmmm. Where, in fact, did I say that? Would I really invent a story, “all based on lies”, after having about 2000 articles published during a 27-year career? Does James Annan think that scientific data about global warming is also “all based on lies”? Or maybe the University of Oxford is “all based on lies”? One can only wonder if his colleagues and employers in Japan have ever checked to see if his work, and his resume, is “all based on lies”. (But in fairness, I do hope he invents a better brake for bicycles, since I’m an avid cyclist myself.)

Given the meltdown and the slew of news about radiation fears, post 3/11 Japan, it seems, has become a breeding ground for paranoia. I was amazed by the number of people who thought my entire story — citing Amnesty International, a Tokyo court decision, and dozens of verifiable sources — was a fabrication, a form of fiction (since I am a published novelist as well as a trained journalist.) It made me wonder about the psychic state of many foreigners in Japan, and the lack of good psychiatric care in Japan in general.

These people are not dumpster divers living out of shopping carts in Vancouver or LA. They are holding down jobs at institutions in Japan. Their theories, though full of holes, have the appearance of intelligence. Yet their persistence in attacking anybody who disagrees with their distorted world view seems symptomatic of untreated disorders.

“Level3” and “VK” have been leaders of the anti-Johnson gang online, persistently attacking me (and others) on whatever forum will have them, even three months after others quit. Their level of obsession might draw the interest of police or psychiatrists in their home countries. But in Japan, they are free to spout.

Level3 has a quirky sense of humour, which I like, and I did thank him on twitter for “helping to edit” my work in progress. I was also grateful for VK’s professorial advice that I stay offline during the storm of criticism. Their hundreds of comments about me do make me think, and they challenge me to review my own way of thinking, my own assumptions and prejudices. This is all good. I welcome this type of feedback.

But others might not have my circle of supportive friends and family, and my ability to self-publish my thoughts in self-defence. They might feel, as Gundlach says, “tortured” online.

Level3 and VK have to seriously ask themselves about the consequences of their actions.  The problem is, Level3 and VK don’t know when to quit. They have openly flaunted the fact that they are trying to tarnish my name on Google searches and among the media community:

Level3 February 16, 2012 at 6:22pm

Word is going to break out of Japan to other publications around the world. If we keep calling him “CJ”, how will Googlers find this? Christopher Johnson Japan Asia journalist reporter

Level3February 17, 2012 at 12:04 am dammit I spelled it wrong. Christopher Johnson Japan Asia journalist needs help

Level3February 17, 2012 at 2:13 pm I wonder if Christopher Johnson Asian Japan journalist knows about libel law in the UK. Hi, CJ! Careful you don’t get yourself banned from another country!

Level3February 20, 2012 at 12:56 am Well done Scott {Urista, of MUFJ Securities}, you (as you must know) have only scratched the surface of the problems with Christopher Johnson Asia Japan freelance journalist’s Narita story… if not his entire life in Japan.

VKFebruary 16, 2012 at 7:02 pm @Level3: I think it’s going to be NYT journalists back in NYC hearing about Christopher Johnson, as well as all of those who follow the journalists that Johnson is sidling up to.

VKFebruary 16, 2012 at 10:28 pm @Scott Urista: You’ve done some great work here. It comes down to “were you lying then, or are you lying now?” I’m curious as to why/how Johnson has pissed so many people off. It was immediate and immediately quite strong and across various gaijin divides. He seemed to hit all the wrong notes.

VKFebruary 17, 2012 at 5:57 pm Chris, as you’re probably reading this: Turn your computer off. Disconnect from the Internet. For a good long while. You are now picking arguments with other journalists. They talk to each other. They follow each other on twitter. They see how you talk to people who disagree with you (this includes the NYT crowd you’ve been trying to ingratiate yourself with). You are threatening your chances of working profitably as an international journalist again, and not only in Japan.

VK February 20, 2012 at 1:10 am

Does anyone fancy getting in touch with his alleged book reviewers? Or their editors?

******

Still, for the purpose of redemption and reconciliation, I should probably invite them over to our house for a Monday morning drinking session to resolve differences. But I’m afraid they might never leave. They might become obsessed with our dogs or plants. They might drink everything in our cupboards, maybe even the Olive Oil and Soya Sauce. They simply don’t know when to quit.

*******——–*******

Pict0171

(Japanese and foreigners spend face-time together during a hanami party in Tokyo’s Yoyogi Koen)

A BRAIN DRAIN IN “LOST JAPAN”?

Not all commenters are haters or government hacks paid to discredit a whistleblower. Many of them are expressing their love for Japan, a feeling I share. They are understandably offended by anyone who challenges their faith in Cool Japan. From the outside, they seem brainwashed by NHK’s repetition of government lines that the Fukushima meltdown is under control, radiation is at safe levels, and the food chain is uncontaminated. NHK World’s Peter Pan portrayal of Japan, where Everything’s Zen and nothing is ever that bad, has whitewashed their view of the country. Led by author and TV personality Matt Alt, they are quick to defend the image of Cool Japan, a myth propagated by ANA, state agencies, and especially NHK World.

Another subgroup of foreigners, though cynical about recent events, have worked hard to integrate into Japanese culture, and they enjoy the relative safety and harmony of Japan, even if they have less rights than back home. Even if they despise the government and Japan’s sophisticated culture of deceptions, many gaijin remain loyal to their families, friends and co-workers. Everybody has personal reasons for staying in Japan. Not even a meltdown, aftershocks, and a recession will make them leave. Nothing, it seems, can shatter their Japanese dreams.

But is their devotion to Japan mentally healthy for them, and for society as a whole?

In order for Japan to grow economically and culturally, people have to learn to deal maturely with constructive criticism, and the fresh ideas that emerge from vigorous debate. Yet many Japanophiles reject any challenge to accepted wisdom, any investigation into corruption, any shattering of myths and illusions. In the words of some observers, the “fly-jin” have fled, and the “deny-jin” have taken over.

Sadly, the outrage of many “deny-jin” over the Gaijin Gulag story is only the latest manifestation of a reactionary mentality that’s been draining the intellectual vitality out of the foreign community in Japan for years.

I’m cheering for the home team, and I publicly support anyone who can finish a book, movie or album in Japan — even OurManInAbiko. But who in the gaijin subculture has been making inspired books, albums or movies about Japan that change the mainstream of Japan? I’m personally a fan of gaijin-type bands including Sunset Drive, Johnson’s Motorcar, Raj Ramayya and others. I admire the photography of AP’s David Guttenfelder and freelancer Benjamin Parks. I like the writing and musings of Roland Kelts, Jake Adelstein, Hiroko Tabuchi, Tokyo Reporter and others. But this river of talent isn’t flowing into the greater Japanese ocean, and all their genius in 140 characters or less is doing little to reform Japan.

The truth is, their audience is generally confined to a small population the size of a college town in America. Someone with clever musings might get 1000 followers on youtube or Twitter (about the same as a popular kid in high school), while even world class reporters might get 20,000 (about that of a popular student in college).

This is because their target market is shrinking, not growing. Thousands of ambitious foreigners have left Japan the past two decades, and to rub salt into the wound, Japan’s immigration bureau has deported more than 100,000 the past decade. While many Europeans and southeast Asians have become multilingual and joined the global market for English culture, Japanese haven’t learned English enough to appreciate the offerings of their gaijin neighbors.

Thus I’ve seen talented foreigners give up on Japan over the years. Former Tokyo Journal editor Karl Taro Greenfeld wrote Speed Tribes in the mid-90s, then left for better things in Hong Kong. Andrew Marshall, after delving into the yakuza in his book with David Kaplan, took his incisive wit to Myanmar. Instead of becoming Japan’s leading activist or educator, Alex Kerr, author of Dogs and Demons and Lost Japan, moved to Thailand and wrote Bangkok Found.

In the past few years, a good friend moved to Switzerland with his Yokohama-born wife to protect their baby from potential radiation harm. Another cool guy, who tried to revolutionize Tokyo’s art scene, is reportedly doing cool things in Silicon Valley. Many of my friends are talking about leaving Japan, to join others who have found more lucrative lives overseas. Not enough fresh faces are arriving to take their place. And why would they, after seeing how we tear each other apart on the internet.

Japan’s version of a “brain drain” doesn’t only refer to talented foreigners who have left Japan for sunnier futures elsewhere. The intellectual gifts of many remaining gaijin, who came to Japan in the 1980s and 1990s, have been wasted in dead-end jobs lacking promotion or stimulation. Japan’s xenophobic elites have squandered a whole generation of immigrants who were smart enough to learn to speak and read one of the world’s most difficult languages, and ambitious enough to uproot themselves and attempt to build a new life in a distant and insular land.

Against the odds, a number of westerners such as Monkey Majik, David Specter, Patrick Harlan, C.W. Nicol and Peter Barakan have successfully broken into the Japanese mainstream. But for all their efforts, they are basically tokens like Nipsy Russell or Sammy Davis Jr. at a Dean Martin roast in the 70s. They might become wealthy or keep Japan from going to war, but they’ll never become Martin Luther King or Barack Obama. The person with perhaps the most potential to become a political leader of the foreign community, Arudou Debito, is the most attacked of all.

Despite fluency in Japanese and decades of paying taxes, many foreigners continue to languish as temps, freelancers, spell-checkers or teachers without tenure.  They are permanently second-class residents, not fully 100 percent human in Japan. It’s a hard reality to swallow, and many “deny-jin” (like I was for two decades) will deny this applies to their situations. With little hope of climbing the social or corporate ladders, they do their best to hold down their positions and avoiding rocking boats that need a good tipping. In the case of NHK World, they only have to look at my story to understand what happens to someone who dares to step out of line.

With little or no chance to ever vote, get elected, or lead a corporation, many of these chronically frustrated gaijin have been marginalized and pushed into a bizarre subculture laced with heapings of hate. Lacking powerful voices in their Japanese communities, they turn instead to commenting on English-language websites teeming with vitriol and spite.

For me, nobody typifies this mental meltdown better than my beloved former colleague John Bosnitch. When I first met him at NHK in 1994, I was blown away. He was articulate and passionate. A Serb-Canadian, he was the only person in Tokyo who could relate to my experiences in the Yugoslav civil war, where I was held hostage, and my roommate was beheaded. Bosnitch was incredibly active in Tokyo, cycling around, sheltering artsy foreigners in a Shimokitaza house, saving foreigners lost in the mountains or in trouble with authorities. He seemed like a natural leader, and I imagined him rising to political prominence someday.

But when I came back to live again in Tokyo in 2005, he was different. He hadn’t become a cabinet minister in Japan, Canada, or Serbia. He was creeping me out. He was going nowhere at NHK, just doing the same spell-checker job as a decade earlier, slowly losing the sharper edges of his mind to the drug of NHK’s Japan. But he still had his compassionate side, and he tried his best to get me more work at NHK. Even during my episode with David Schaufele, John and I remained friends. We never had a falling out. We simply drifted apart, as people do in a big city.

Six years later, when I got detained at Narita and expelled from Japan, one of the worst phases of my life, I thought of my old friends and colleagues at NHK. I know that John deeply cares about people and social justice issues. Back in 2004-5, he had come to the aid of world chess champion Bobby Fischer, who was detained in Japan for nine months before being sent to Iceland. For some strange reason, I was hoping that John, or maybe somebody else with direct experience of Narita’s dungeon and Japan’s detention system, would come out publicly in my defense. Instead, John seemed influenced by his NHK colleague Dave Schaufele, the so-called Tepido Twelve, and anybody else who took the chance to take out their frustrations by kicking me when I was down.

Like everybody else, Bosnitch didn’t use his journalistic skills to assist my investigation of mistreatment of foreigners at Narita and throughout Japan. He didn’t use his contacts to get a fellow journalist back to Japan. The response of my former NHK colleagues was to attack me behind a variety of pseudonyms. None of which fooled me.

The haters aren’t fooling other people in Japan either. Most people in Japan are disgusted by the hate they see online, in English and Japanese. After my return to Japan in March, many people told me how shocked they were by the smear campaigns against me and others who have suffered misfortunes. They are stunned by what is says about humanity, and Japan. They are not happy that haters, who consider themselves defenders of Japan’s image, are tarnishing the image of Japan in this way. 

In the end, this is my call for disarmament. Myself and others have proven that we can withstand your strongest punches. You cannot win. Ultimately, your words only harm you, not us. We don’t want that to happen to you. You do not have unlimited freedom to abuse the freedom of the internet. Drop the hate. Stop the hate. You are in Japan, the most harmonious nation on Earth.

Img_7755

2 thoughts on “A Mental Meltdown in an NHK World

  1. Pingback: The Corrupting of a Cub Reporter in Japan | Christopher Johnson Japan

  2. Pingback: Plagiarism and the Miseducation of a Reporter in Japan | GOYA MAGAZINE

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