I have to admit, I liked Stoyn.com a whole lot better when I thought there were actually booze-flavored popsicles shaped like Marxist revolutionaries and Disney characters and the like. Still a fun site put together by an “ambient advertising agency.”
This blog tends to fall by the wayside (on the grassier verge) for weeks or months at a spell. Been busy. Japan Echo is a foundation now, not a company—although the company is still there in name for a handful of clients with whom we’ve already entered contracts. I have a big post planned to explain all that at some point.
Life in Tokyo goes on and on. Trains move, people ride them to work and leap in front of them when they’re tired of that game. The summer heat is here and we’re concerned about power shortages. Not concerned enough to refrain from topping up the iPhone battery so we can take photos of the Sōbu line at Yotsuya and post them during the Chūō ride home, though.
Fifteen years ago today, two men died at the Fujita Health University Hospital in Aichi Prefecture: Kōtetsuyama Kōnoshin and Hashimoto Seiichirō. I had expected to see their deaths being revisited in the press this year, considering what’s been happening in the sumō world. (Mark Schilling contributed a good piece to the Wall Street Journal in February covering all that.) But given the events of March 11 and the aftermath of the disaster it isn’t too surprising that sports are taking a back seat.
Kōtetsuyama, a former rikishi who wrestled under a number of names from 1957 to 1975 (see his Japanese Wikipedia entry for the details), took the name Ōnaruto when he became a sumō elder and stable master. Hashimoto, another former wrestler (Wikipedia), had served as an officer in kōenkai (“support groups,” or fund-raising fan clubs) for the yokozuna Kitanofuji and for the Ōnaruto-beya led by Kōtetsuyama. As vice chair of the Kitanofuji club, Hashimoto was allegedly involved in raising money to pay for the bout-fixing that helped the wrestler attain the sport’s highest rank—one tidbit that eventually went into Kōtetsuyama’s tell-all book, Yaochō: Sumō Kyōkai ittō ryōdan (Bout-rigging: The Sumō Association’s drastic solution).
Since February 1996, the two men had also been writing a series of articles for Shūkan Posuto under their real names, exposing the organized crime connections, match-rigging, drug use, prostitution, and other sordidness in the sumō world. Kōtetsuyama was scheduled to give a prepublication press conference on April 26, where he would talk about the similar content of his forthcoming book. He died 12 days earlier, though, in the early morning hours of April 14. Doctors at the hospital gave the cause of death as acute, severe pneumonia and heart failure.
An unfortunate death with unfortunate timing. But it became scandalous when Hashimoto died in the same hospital that evening, of what doctors described as the same causes. The article “Sumo Wrestling in Grip of Corruption,” published a month or so after their deaths, gives a good overview.
Three days before his death, the 53-year-old former wrestler told Tokyo’s Weekly Post magazine that he had received threatening phone calls from men identifying themselves as members of a large crime syndicate.
He also claimed that a senior JSA executive had told his gangster friends to “stop Onaruto”, and said he was afraid of being poisoned.
None of this prevented the book from going to press, and it sold well. Not well enough to force any sort of police investigation of the men’s deaths, sadly. In April 2010 the government abolished the statute of limitations for murder cases, so theoretically these deaths could be looked into once again, but that isn’t likely without some media pressure—and today, like I said above, the media has bigger stories to report than 15-year-old sumō scandal. But I thought Kōtetsuyama and Hashimoto deserved at least a mention on this day.
When my company publishes things, sometimes we decide we’d like to have an image to go with the words. We find something worth printing or uploading, contact the person with the rights to that image, and ask for permission to publish—along with the person’s preference for attribution in the photo caption (or in tiny text alongside the image in some cases).
Did I say “person”? I meant “huge list of people, companies, and other assorted entities.” A picture of a manga character can involve a consortium of toy manufacturers, film distributors, TV broadcasters, banks, advertising firms, and, somewhere in there, the people who actually invented and drew the character in the first place. On more than one occasion the demands to have a stupidly long photo credit attached to the image (with certain firm names in SCREAMING CAPS for no reason, of course) have led us to give up on posting the image in the first place. “© Jiji” is fine; “© 2008 BANDAI CO. LTD., Toho Co. Ltd., HAKUHODO Inc., Fuji Television Network Inc., On and On and On. All Rights Reserved. In fact, don’t even look at this one.” is more lines of text than we want on our page. It gets to the point where it isn’t worth it.
So the moral panic du jour is mobile-phone-enabled cheating by kids sitting the entrance exams at major universities. One test-taker posted various questions to Yahoo’s “Chiebukuro” Q-and-A website. Now it’s come to light that someone “helping” him with an English question was just feeding his Japanese text through an online translation tool. He copied that output onto the test paper. Oh, I’m sure that’ll go over well.
The Nikkansports.com article [Japanese] on the dastardly crime (seriously; they’re looking into police action on this, which I don’t quite understand) notes that the kid’s incomprehensible answer had horrible grammar, including missing subjects. Zero points. Investigators are going to see whether this sloppy machine translation appeared as-is on the test-taker’s paper and use it as evidence against him if so.
You’d think a zero score and a school rejection would be sufficient punishment, but apparently this particular nail requires a bigger hammer.
The cheater went by the handle “aicezuki” on Chiebukuro. There was also a Twitter account with that name—deleted now—that was posting things like this soon after the test hours: 「京大の試験官は全然監視してないからカンニングしほうだいだったよ。さすがに周りの受験生がいるからあれだが、少なくともトイレにいけばカンニングとか余裕な状況だった」 (The Kyoto U. proctors weren’t watching at all, so we could cheat all we wanted. Well, you did need to worry about the eyes of the others taking the test around you. But you could go to the toilet and do your cheating there, no problem.)
(Hat tipped to @shilkytouch)