Special Section: Crimes and Punishments
Recently, incidents of violence related to stress and over-crowded trains have been increasing (translation: there have been a few well publicized incidents.) In one, a man was followed and beaten by a group of young men after he asked them to move their legs and make room for a woman holding a baby. In another an office worker was chased on to the platform and stabbed to death by a man he'd asked to step aside so people could get on the train. Tension on trains is high, but manners have increased greatly. Mostly the incidents have drawn attention to the dangerously crowded trains and the stress most workers are feeling.
The most horrific news of late was the stabbing to death of eight first and second graders in a schoolyard in Osaka by a man who 1) has been in an out of mental instutions for years; 2) has been stalking his ex-wife for over two years claiming his divorce was invalid because he was and is too crazy to understand what he was signing; and 3) was arrested for serving barbituate laced tea to four teachers at an elementary school where he was working. He was let off because he was and is crazy. As you might imagine, this has all led to a serious reexamination of mental health treatment in Japan--if you remember, the boy who hijacked the bus last year had just gotten out of a mental institution. It's also forced an examination of how police should deal with the insane.
About 16 or 17 years ago, a young boy disappeared from a town in Hokkaido. Police had always suspected a woman who lived nearby in the disappearance as it is known she had called the boy many times and had invited him over to her house on the day he disappeared. Just before the statute of limitations was to run out--after 15 years--the police finally arrested the woman and searched her home and property. During the search, they found the boy's bones buried in the woman's barn. The prosecution, while admitting their evidence was circumstantial, felt they had a pretty solid case: motive, opportunity, evidence of a cover-up, a body. However, the judges in general, and the head judge in particular, felt that presence of the boy's bones in the woman's barn was not evidence that the woman intended to kill the boy. She might have accidentally killed him and since the prosecution was charging her with pre-meditatied murder not man-slaughter or wrongful death, she was therefore not guilty.
Needless to say, this has resulted in a call for 1) better legal training for judges. As some of you know, in Japan judges are not lawyers who've moved up, they are people who went to "judge school" and became judges right out of college. Their training takes place, essentially, in the courtroom to the right or left of the head judge; and 2) some sort of jury system where at least one or two private citizens are allowed to sit and vote alongside the three judges. Also, given that Japanese trials take place in a series of hearings over a number of years rather than in everyday sessions--the result being that the trial of Aum Shinrikkyo leader Matsumoto is in its fifth year and it's 250th hearing and is considered to be only half over--there are many calls for a more western style of everyday until it's done sort of trial.
Special Section: Sports
Ichiro mania is in full swing on this side of the Pacific. Even the CJT has been infected enough to check the box scores and watch the highlights. With Shinjo doing well, at times--at other times playing outfield the same way your humble editor did in Babe Ruth baseball a thousand years ago--the Major League Baseball coverage has been overwhelming. Add in Nomo, Irabu, Yoshii, and Mac Suzuki and you've got MLB in every major newspaper. Except, of course, for those owned by Watanabe, owner of the Yomiuri Giants. As ratings for Japanese baseball have plummeted, Watanabe issued an order that Japanese sports, especially the Giants, get top billing in his papers and his TV network. Ichiro's success is relegated to a few inches somewhere inside near the advertisements for whores and hostess clubs.
Also, Ichiro and Shinjo's success have prompted lots of 80's style "Japan has caught up to the USA" and "Japan has nothing more to learn from the West" accolades and arrogance. What's ignored is Ichiro's comments that he's having a lot more fun playing in the USA and that he's referred to Japanese Baseball as a hell or a hell-hole or something like that. Just goes to show what you can accomplish when you don't spend all your energy practicing. Also, Yomiuri Giants superstar Matsui has turned down a huge new contract even though his contract ends at the end of next season. If he jumps to MLB, as CJT suspects he might, he would be the first Giant to make the leap. This would most likely trigger a series of even stricter movement rules than already exist.
The Kintetsu Buffaloes of Osaka have been slapped with a severe fine for one of the strangest violations the CJT has ever seen: Spying. Apparently, a sharp-eyed field umpire noticed a Kintetsu scorer positioned in the stands behind home plate sending hand signals to players and coaches on the field. The scorer was either reading signals, or keeping careful watch on the pitcher using binoculars and then relaying information to a basecoach who signalled it to the batter. The scorer got expelled and slapped with a 30 day suspension; the coach involved got a 7 day suspension; and Kintetsu owes a big I'm sorry to Japanese Baseball.
Takanohana added another yusho to his belt last month in one of the most suspiciously impressive performances the CJT has ever had the pleasure to witness. Talk pushed, shoved and blasted his way to a 13-0 record. On the 14th day, all he had to do was win and the Yusho was his. Instead, he got manhandled by Musoyama who grabbed him and threw him down after a fierce match. Tak got up slowly and his severe limp was obvious to everyone. The official word was torn cartilage in the right knee and everyone expected Tak to bow out on the last day, giving the yusho to Musashimaru for free. The free victory would have created a tie, but since Tak wouldn't be able to wrestle the playoff, Maru would be the winner by default.
Instead, Tak taped up his knee, and got back in the ring on the last day. Once again, if he won, the yusho was his. If he lost, it meant a playoff. He lost. Bad. Tak seemed to be off balance during the warm up and almost fell over once. At the tachiai Maru did a hit and shift and Tak dropped in about a second. Tak limped off and got fixed up for the playoff. During the warm ups before the playoff, Tak spent a great deal of time rolling his leg around and playing with his knee. He later admitted the damaged cartilage had shifted and he was attempting to put it back into place. Whatever he did, it worked. Tak came out strong and hit a very overconfident, and subsequently very surprised, Musashimaru in the chest, stood him up and walked him out. Tak was practically dancing after and displayed more emotion in five minutes than he's shown in five years. He actually punched the air. After, in the awards ceremony, Prime Minister read the award certificate with surprising energy. At the end he suddenly said, practically shouting, "Congratulations on your great performance! You moved me! Thank you!" The crowd roared and there was barely a dry in this, er, the house.
Japan made a good showing in the Confederations Cup, beating Canada, Cameroon, and Australia and tying Brazil. In the final against France two key things were revealed. 1) The French are a hell of a lot better than the Japanese and 2) Troussier, Japan's coach, is prone to coaching mistakes. He doesn't seem to be able to put the right players in the right places. When he does put them in the right place, he changes them out too quickly.
Also, the newly built Sapporo Dome is a real treat. Although the World Cup in the USA proved that natural grass could, with the right care and lighting, be grown indoors, the Japanese decided to go one better. At the Sapporo Dome, the natural grass pitch is kept outside until the day of the game. It is then floated--via a giant air blower mechanism on which it is built--into the stadium, which conveniently opens up at one end. Once inside, the pitch is rotated 90 degrees and settled into place as the bleachers close in and the stadium seals back up. Glad to see the Japanese still do a few things just to show they can.
Special Section: Celebrity Skank
Georgia Coffee Woman and all around babe Naoko Iijima announced two months ago that she and her husband, the lead singer of the J-Pop-rock band Tube, were getting a divorce. She cited as one of her reasons--if you believe the tabloids and the CJT makes it a policy to always believe the tabloids--the fact they hadn't had "relations" in two years. Remember, they've only been married about three years or so. This prompted a collective groan and a moment of reflection on the possiblities of life from men all over Japan. It also must have prompted an overwhelming amount of volunteerism as another tabloid later reported that Iijima was swearing off relationships for a while.
Takuya Kimura, the lion-maned, always popular and attractive member of the group SMAP, recently joined your humble editor in the parents' club when he announce the birth of his little girl Kokomi (Heart Beautiful). The CJT is 99% certain this is one of the signs of the apocalypse, but can't find the verse or the quattrain.
That's all that's going on right now. Talk to you later.
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