Press briefing after the Rokudenashiko verdict

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Rokudenashiko’s new translation (in bright turquoise) and other books, as well as manko-chan figurines, decorate the table, as media members await the arrival of Nashiko and her legal team.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In early afternoon on a Monday, a crowd and an array of microphones and video-cameras assembled in the basement hall of the Hibiya Public Library, for a post-verdict press briefing on the three counts of obscenity that Rokudenashiko was charged with in 2014.

In this blog post, I pull together some contexts of the trial, some excerpts and observations from the press briefing, and some AV materials. Given that both prosecution and defense will appeal, it is not “game over” yet. At the end, I pull out some concepts that the academic- and activist-minded could use to help build a rhetoric of advocacy for the next stage of the game.

Mapping the space of conversation

The setting is the edge of Hibiya Park, a short walk from many government ministry and official buildings. The verdict of Rokudenashiko’s trial was scheduled for 1:00pm at the Tokyo District Court, one of these buildings; the press briefing started a little after 3:00pm. As we ponder the significance of the verdict, and how the de-briefing worked, let’s first look at the locations of these events.

A nine-minute stroll from the centralized legal sphere, the court, to a space where public sentiment has been displayed since the Meiji era, Hibiya Park.

A nine-minute stroll from the centralized legal sphere, the court, to a space where public sentiment has been displayed since the Meiji era, Hibiya Park.

Hibiya Park is a big chunk of greenspace in an otherwise heat-island prone part of the official paper-moving part of Tokyo, its ministries and government buildings. The city’s Bureau of Construction describes it as a “green oasis in a business town.” Tom Havens writes, in his book on parks in modern Tokyo since the 1870s, that “starting with the Hibiya demonstrations of 1905 some city parks also served as “spaces of representation.” He sees Hibiya Park through geographer Henri “Lefebvre’s terms, where commoners aired views on public affairs and reconfigured parklands to create geographies of opposition to officialdom” (5). A “geography of opposition” can mean many ways of inhabiting pre-existing urban space and forms. Hibiya Park is notable because the 1905 demos that Havens refer to catalyzed a large wave of public protest after a treaty was passed that left Japanese people holding the (money) bag at the conclusion of the Russo-Japanese War, and resulted in outrage after word reached the streets. As historian Andrew Gordon writes,

On September 5, 1905, a massive three-day riot erupted in Tokyo protesting the disappointing terms of the peace treaty that ended the Russo-Japanese War. A decade earlier, after emerging victorious in the Sino-Japanese War, Japan had demanded and received a huge indemnity from defeated China. Although the war with Russia was far more costly in casualties and money, both sides were exhausted by 1905 and Japan was in no position to demand an indemnity from Russia. Because the Japanese public had been bombarded with reports of victory after victory, expectations of a profitable peace settlement were high and the outrage when this did not materialize was enormous.

In the case of Rokudenashiko’s trial and her team’s advocacy for her position, the “opposition” is less than it was in 1905 about streaming in from the outside and sparking damage to the governance who betrayed them, rippling into its environs. It is more about changing the terms of this governance that unjustly limits and stabilizes the meaning of sex and bodies by engaging with the legal structures that define and sculpt the kinds of representations–kinds of art and symbolic production–that are allowed in the public sphere.

As lawyer Yamaguchi Takashi noted, the imagined “character” (my word) of the trial, as we imagine its impact on a real person, is “a regular person” (一般人). It’s not the hypothetical person who has an appetite for niche kinds of pervy things (変態性欲), such as, say, a photo-book of powershovels. (An audience member in Q-and-A gave this example to maintain that anyone can be excited by anything, and defining sexual parameters is difficult. Yamaguchi said that this was not the definition the court sought.) The key point in this trial is a definition of morality for the typical, general, average person–who presumably is not turned on by powershovels. The definition attempts to assert, but not to expand, a definition of normal sexuality.

The venue itself

Some music and videos gave a feisty and slightly hectic vibe, playing to the room of reporters, writers and regular people. (I mention these types because they identified themselves as such in the Q-and-A period). Below is a version posted May 10, the day after the verdict. It incorporates the “split decision” nature of the verdict.

Draped over each empty seat was an A3-sized copy of the Manko shinbun (Pussy Paper), below. This issue is pretty text-heavy.

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The text-to-image ratio actually reminded me of the weekly-magazine graphics like this one that Gordon includes in his article.

The Tokyo Riot Graphic, No. 66, Sept. 18, 1905. Source: MIT VIsualizing Cultures archive.

The Tokyo Riot Graphic, No. 66, Sept. 18, 1905. Source: MIT Visualizing Cultures archive.

I was curious what kind of entry the team would make, as the doors, like most auditoriums, were at the rear, and the venue was perfect for the sort of hip-hop triumph stride, or avant-garde theatre “surprise” stride down the aisles. But in fact, what happened was that most people read about the verdict on Twitter, some cameras vanished to get Rokudenashiko on film as they approached the venue, and the team walked in like regular people, before assembling on the stage, with computers (for fact-checking with Google-sensei), water bottles and regular professional gear.

The proceedings

Nashiko herself wore a modest but elegant black dress not inappropriate at a funeral, or a cocktail party. I had a pretty great viewing position, a clear shot to the stage, right behind Fuji TV and TBS cameras.

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The legal team consisted of 7 people; lead lawyer Yamaguchi Takashi is pictured here to Rokudenashiko’s right. The sign reads “partially not guilty,” a paraphrase of the verdict.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

…to be continued, when I have wrapped up some student projects and other deadline-driven work.

admiring eyes / student projects

In 1965, photographer Hayashida Teruyoshi, born and raised in Aoyama, published Take Ivy, a book that has become a cult item in the world of clean cut jet-set men’s fashion. Morphing its title from Dave Brubeck’s Take Five, it introduced a kind of jazz-adjacent fashion that differed even from the kinds of jazz then entering the Tokyo scene through John Coltrane and other free improvisers (Coltrane first visited Japan in 1964). Take Ivy is a series of photos and essays taken on a road trip through the 8 Ivy League campuses (except for Penn and Cornell). If you wanted to, you could probably trace a line from here to the (much much more wan, in my opinion…) garb and vibe of the jazz aficionados in Murakami Haruki’s consumer worlds.

Last year, Powerhouse Books put out a new edition with an English translation.  The book is essentially a replica, except for the new translation—it preserves the original type, layout, and scrupulously ethnographic tone of the text…

"It appeared to us that Ivy Leaguers are big fans of classic cars. In particular, a Packard attracts their admiring eyes."

(This photo also appeared in a longer spread in GQ a few months ago.) Two of the writers were connected to the Japanese fashion brand VAN jacket, which introduced Ivy style and made the t-shirt a garment suitable for streetwear.

Here I quote at length from David Marx’ excellent breakdown of the Miyuki-zoku subculture that took up Ivy fashion when it first hit Tokyo, and became popularized with the new magazine Heibon Punch. Marx makes an interesting connection between the street sweeps that went along with prepping Tokyo for its Olympic visitors in 1964, redeeming the nation from the ignoble cancellation of the Games in 1940, the heyday of wartime. Though these kids are from the “right” side of the tracks, it seems, I also can’t help but note a bit of zoot suit-like defiance in the exactitude of pant length, closed circle back-to-the-camera stance, and legs akimbo slouch …

…[Heibon Punch] was targeted to Japan’s growing number of wealthy urban youth, and part of its editorial mission was to tell kids how to dress. The editors advocated the Ivy League Look, which at the time was basically only available in the form of domestic brand VAN. Kensuke Ishizu of VAN had discovered the look in the 1950s and pushed it as an alternative to the slightly thuggish big-shouldered, high-waisted, mismatched jacket-and-pants look that dominated Japanese men’s style throughout the 1950s. As an imported look, Ivy League fashion felt cutting-edge and sophisticated to Tokyo teens, and this fit perfectly with Heibon Punch’s mission of giving Baby Boomers a style of their own.

When the magazine arrived in the spring 1964, readers all went out and became Ivy adherents. Parents and authorities, however, were hardly thrilled with a youth tribe of American style enthusiasts. The first strike against the Miyuki-zoku is that the guys — gasp! — would blow dry their hair. This was seen as a patently feminine thing to do.

More critically, the Miyuki-zoku picked the wrong summer to hang out in Ginza. Japan was preparing for the 1964 Olympics, which would commence in October. Tokyo was in the process of removing every last eyesore — wooden garbage cans, street trolleys, the homeless — anything that would possibly be offending to foreign visitors. The Olympics was not just a sports event, but would be Japan’s return into the global community after its ignoble defeat of World War II, and nothing could go wrong.

So authorities lay awake at night with the fear that foreigners would come to Japan and see kids in tight high-water pants hanging out in front of prestigious Ginza stores. Neighborhood leaders desperately wanted to eradicate the Miyuki-zoku before October, so they went to Ishizu of VAN and asked him to intervene. VAN organized a “Big Ivy Style Meet-up” at Yamaha Hall, and cops helped put 200 posters across Ginza to make sure the Miyuki-zoku showed up. Anyone who came to the event got a free VAN bag — which was the bag for storing your normal clothing during loitering hours. They expected 300 kids, but 2,000 showed up. Ishizu gave the keynote address, where he told everyone to knock it off with the lounging in Ginza. Most acquiesced, but not all.

So on September 19, 1964, a huge police force stormed Ginza and hauled off 200 kids in madras plaid and penny loafers. Eighty-five were processed at nearby Tsukiji jail. The kids got the message and never came back, and that was the end of the Miyuki-zoku.

The look was something like this:

Lingering in the Ginza, beneath the sign for Cristal "lunettes"

All this lead-up was by way of introducing the subject of end-of-semester student work from my class—much of which involves US college students looking at Japanese kids of a certain age…

My class @ UCLA this semester has focused on food cultures/narratives/politics in Japan. We found that there were a curious number of “coming-of-age” stories—not unlike those pictured above—routed through food. Some of the projects my students cooked up include:

  • carbohydrate nationalism! analysis of Yakitate Japan, an anime series about a young man’s quest to represent Japan in the international sphere through the awesomeness of Japanese bread—putting the “pan” (bread) back in Ja-pan.
  • smells like teenage spirits! uses of nostalgia in Miyazaki Hayao’s anime Spirited Away (千と千尋の神隠し)
  • of men and maggots! food as a catalyst for revolution in socialist realist texts (Battleship Potemkin, The Factory Ship)
  • chūka ryōri as augmented Chinese food—or how to eat China in modern Japan
  • mystery meets mystery meats! the appeal of mysterious foods in Tanizaki and others