Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Japan March 11th 2011 - Tohoku Kanto Daishin Sai, the urgent call of reporting here about the catastrophe!

UPDATED (2011 and 2012) regularly with selection of my news reports about the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear accident of Fukushima. Over 130 live voice reports aired on RTL France since March 11th 2011.
I assumed my mission in Japan during the period of emergency and since...

Reporting on this terrible earthquake, tsunami and nuclear accident since March 11 2011 in Japan, I want to express my sincere thanks to all those close to me, also my friends and my Paris colleagues, for their incommensurate support in my reporting about the 311, the triple catastrophe of the "Tohoku Kanto Daishin Sai" since March 2011.

This "Tohoku Kanto Daishin Sai," the name given in Japanese, a terrible earthquake and tsunami followed by this nuclear catastrophe have shaken not only Japan but also the whole planet. A tsunami as it had not happened since 400 years in Japan, historians say!

It is a lesson for those of us who might not think of the words of Marie Curie caught by Noriko Hama of Doshisha: "Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood..."

Information bombards us from screens to headlines, she writes, we still deserve to be given the ammunition to understand what is going on, and in spite of a poor communication.

Yes, this nation will start again with the proud courage of her people, the Japanese have been holding on in an admirable way, and I was here in Japan to witness this merit.

Now... my thoughts are to go for further action and to talk about those who are awaiting help, freezing, lost and abandoned. But also to the reconstruction of Japan! Reports, reports, reports let's carry on ! Lot to do!

Listen to some of my live reports with Paris:

RTL Belgique 14 Mars

RTL Belgique 15 Mars

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Témoignage de ce que j'ai vécu lors des premières minutes du tremblement de terre:

Fukushima 8 months after, the nuclear power plant opened to a small group of journalists, I joined the pool organization for RTL. Here is my live report on RTL November 12th 2011:

Sources: Correspondent Reporter's notes, agencies, blogs, Internet.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Akio Toyoda: Move on and Keep smiling!

"Toyota Global Vision: Rewarded with a Smile" TMA new philosophy & global strategy of its operations following last year's global cars' recalls as Chairman Akio Toyoda told the world press in Nihonbashi, Tokyo.

TMA cuts the Board of directors from 27 to 11, aims to double operating profit and global sales of 10 million cars by 2015, boosts sales in emerging markets (faster on China) and hybrids and bring in Gaijins. Watanabe-san, keep smiling! It's not you, it's the Rising Yen...

2 assets: 1) A Tree becomes a symbol of TMA renovation and 2) foreigners are given top executives jobs.

Reporter's notes

Friday, March 04, 2011

PR or Journalism in Japan? Departing from accepted standards in journalism.

"Toyokuni" by Ando Hiroshige

If you go beyond the line of common wishy-washy journalism in Japan, you enter into a lot of good stories. But you have to clean up. What to eliminate? The PR agents tours, study tours, field tours, fake specialists, corporations invitations who enrolled reporters, sometimes on the pay roll, propaganda departments. Often the target is the professional press, unless these invitations are built appropriately with informative content, and not only a pale postcard of an old Japan, press agents in Japan are out of course. A departing from usual or accepted standards in journalism.

Of course there are these organizers who do not have basic interest into what reporting is. Their line is: "to achieve real information dissemination (press reports)". Salesmen disguised as PR agents and feed reporters with the latest line of concepts or products.

How does it happen? We invite you for a visit somewhere, name it study tour, field tour etc. Basically nothing I can sell to my Editors. These are proposed and organized and often paid by PR and communication agencies, corporations or administration. An interview with a minister of the cabinet, an interview or a PR of a minister... an interview with an analyst, a foreign official invited in Japan and plenty of such scratching the head thing.

The good thing when you work with a big media is that you can always say "yes, I can (...) but I am not sure your candidate is worth more than 15 seconds on the network." There is a world outside and we need news, contents, information, not your boring PR.

Things is we have news, real news of what is happening. Insurrection, revolution, financial crisis, war and invasion, murders and air line accident, volcanoes explosion etc.

Naturally, in addition to what Japan seems frivolous to sell to foreign media, there are also really good stories.

And I have been working on excellent items lately. Japan and North Korea, Japan and China, Japan and the cornerstone friend (the US), Japan and the euro, Japan and the military industrial complex, Japan and the corruption, Japan and the discrimination. Japan and the underground world.

You can replace Japan with any other country name probably I suppose?

Now there are time when PR can become quite offensive, defensive. I'll explain later.

But my biggest happiness is when an official sent by Japan Inc. invites me for a coffee and chat.

Operation number 1: brainwash me on saying that what I said or wrote was incorrect and that they will feed me with new correct data and more.

Operation number 2: introduce me to specialists and invite me for a working week-end.

Operation number 3: Orchestrate a reputation destruction campaign.

Operation number 4: Departing from usual or accepted standards the spooks -- corporate, cops and related. For instance, one thing happened to me recently: "A source told me that I have been investigated by the Japanese secret services as a Foreign Correspondent in Japan, for having special information about China! Matters of interest: news, connections, friends in Beijing, Shanghai... Next time Mr... might call at the club, I'll buy him a drink and talk about journalism and freedom of press. Horrendous damages expected to the snitches and spooks (a 3 courses meal at Fccj) ☝(THis was posted on facebook and followed by a support or warning message: "Be a tad careful Joel. People who control other people with guns can be a pain sometimes.")

So it is a real thing.

Now what are the estrange tools of some extreme PR. Beyond Japan Inc (excluding the bureaucracy)

Operation number 5: start the harassing thing, never know how and where it will fall. You, your reputation, your friends, family, children, in laws etc (the mafia specialty)

Operation number 6: Sending women spooks, or, offering money. (Industry, spooks)

Operation number 7: the physical impediment (the kick, break the arm, burns with cigarettes, and in Japan, the cut. I am told it rarely ends into the bullet in the box. (common practice in politics and banking according to one of me honorable female colleague of the FT)

We repeat the moto: in Japan, sometimes, journalism clear purpose is: "to achieve real information dissemination (press reports)" not to inform the audiences. I wish these PR people move away from true journalism, although the worst is when they mix the functions ("le mélange des genres") and I have a couple of names in mind in Tokyo these days who live under the principle that "a lie is sometimes justifiable expedient."

Well, not, actually.

I know that Foreign Correspondents in Japan, China, Korea, everywhere, are targeted by little monomaniacs dictators of the communication, or monitored by spooks (phone, mails, emails) private or public just to manage the potentiality of the dissemination of an eventual information that would bring an added value to the society.

I often went through such things, the preventive monitoring... Sometimes reporting is already hell, war coverage being the worst with the underground work.

I can quote here the excellent Italian reporter who discovered the truth about the Aum sect who killed people in 1995 in the Tokyo subways or suggest to read my story about my Tibet first report in the late 80's and my recent encounter with the Dalai-Lama about it.


The worst being when you deal with obsessive behaviors such as North Korea for a Japanese cop, or islamist terrorism for a NSA agent, Falun Gong or Dalai Lama for a Chinese public security officer, immigration for a French home affairs minister, or Romanée-Conti (a Grand Cru of Burgundy wine in France) for a Californian wine exporter.

For these censurers, some might act with benevolence eventually, there is only one rule: information control to achieve real information dissemination.

Real information dissemination here is a metaphor, it actually means to tell a lie!

Fortunately, I know 2 or 3 Japanese Great Communicators who know how to put things back on tracks. They deal with international journalists for decades, one f them is very close. I'm told that these days, small and also major Japanese corporations, local governments ask for their valuable experience. So do I. No suspicion, no bullshit, just plain and clear work.

The good thing with journalism is that your quill pen is your weapon. A formidable instrument of power if you know how to use it and what for... right Mr... ?

Reporter's notes

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

"Mottanai!" Is Japan drowned by whaling international objections?

"Mottanai!": "Oh, what a waste!"

Who would not agree as far as environment protection and endangered living creatures are concerned? It's time to change the way we live and produce. I heard this from tens of major speakers (From Lester Brown to Nobel prices, from school kids to major corporation CEOs')

But in this whale, dolphin, sharks, seals thing, the current hypocrisy is to believe that only the Japanese do such depletion of our land and oceans. Others do, look at Korea, China, Russia, Norway... What is wrong is the moratorium capacity to be respected. So, when things do not work, how long time is it needed to adjust?

Now, and although the author here does not and would not agree to eat a single peace of whale meat, dolphin or shark and is heading to more vegetarianism, (oh, what a bizarre word!) the place where Japan could play "a leading role" among the developed and in development world is to practice realism and reduce the mass consumerism. This is what Prime Minister Koizumi (who does not disregard whale meat) had launched under the Mottanai principle" with Wangari Maathai...

Now the thing is not all Japanese media inform correctly their readers. And this is bad bad bad.

"Whether we eat whale meat is our business and nobody else's. And we tend to react with anger when foreign countries tell us we shouldn't eat it. But while refusing to bend to the tactics of Sea Shepherd, we do need to explore a new way of whaling.

Says who? The industry? No the Asahi shimbun!!

Quotes, it is worth 1 year of lectures at Todai:

" Violent acts of harassment must never be condoned, but the victims should not allow themselves to be pushed around and resort to knee-jerk reactions.

After repeated harassment of Japanese whalers by the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, the government last week called off a research whaling mission in the Antarctic Ocean.

Sea Shepherd's harassment tactics included bringing their vessels dangerously close to Japanese whalers and hurling bottles of hazardous chemicals at them. The international community must condemn such activities by this radical anti-whaling group.

That said, however, anti-whaling sentiments run high in the governments and societies of the West. Together with other whaling nations, Japan has for years asserted and defended its right to whaling before the International Whaling Commission (IWC), but there is no solution in sight.

The arguments of the opposing camps are fundamentally irreconcilable. The pro-whaling camp asserts that whales are a "utilizable resource," while the anti-whaling camp sees them as "wild animals that need to be protected."

The Japanese government makes a scientifically valid argument when it points out that there are species of "resource whales," such as Antarctic minkes, that whalers are allowed to hunt. However, the prevalent thinking around the world today is that there is no need to hunt and eat those whales just because of their large population."

To end , this mention of other comments as quoted by the SMH I quote here.

"... they differed on whether or how Japan should maintain its whaling program, which it continues using a loophole to a 1986 moratorium on commercial whaling that allows lethal "scientific research" on the sea mammals.

The Nikkei business daily supported the whaling scheme and said that "it was regrettable that research was called off as a consequence of violence".

"It is undesirable to respond in a way that could make the international community think Japan would buckle to demands if they were pushed hard against all reason," it said in an editorial.

"Japan should take a firm stand and carry out investigation on repeated piracy acts in order to secure the safety of research whaling in the future," it said.

The liberal Mainichi Shimbun proposed Japan make "a drastic review [of its policy], including the possibility of freezing research whaling.

"Many Japanese people support continuation of research whaling as they are displeased with the idea of ending it due to 'foreign pressure'," the Mainichi said.

"But people are not consuming whale meat much, undermining the significance of continuing research whaling. A change in the Japanese eating habit poses a tougher problem to research whaling than Sea Shepherd," it said.

The conservative Yomiuri Shimbun said: "What causes worry is the possibility that the halt of the mission [this season] may give anti-whaling groups the impression that 'Japan succumbs to obstructions'."

Japan "needs to make a fresh appeal to the international community about the legitimacy of research whaling", it said in an editorial."

Legitimacy of what...?

End of quotes

Reporter's notes

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Japan Number 3: No need to panic!

Just adjust your target and your forces

Today, "there is no Japanese company in the top ten, the Toyota Motor Company is Japan's biggest, ranking Number 32... No one believes that Japan will ever again recapture the Number Two position that it held for so long, and most Japanese have become more concerned about simply maintaining their own families' prosperity... Most economists cite enduring problems with domestic consumption. People who are worried about salary cuts or unemployment tend to save their money, rather than spend and stimulate the overall economy."

Is the Kan administration trying to do something? Or has it bowed as many others to the markets and the central banks' instruction and pretending of the contrary?

"... there is a tremendous appetite for companies in China that are involved in consumer goods and consumer discretionary, as the standard of living of the Chinese consumer is thought to be going up at a fairly brisk rate.... Consequently, we are very positive on the Chinese market. We're also very positive on the Japanese market because, believe it or not, Japan actually supplies a lot to China. Japan has also spent a couple of decades really trying to get its economy moving again. China's growth might be a decent catalyst to help the Japanese economy as it deals with a very weak dollar and a very strong yen. Exporting into China versus the West could potentially help Japan." (Advisors Asset Management quotes by Wall Street Transcript)

Reporters' notes
Wall Street Transcript

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

"You learn to be a leader by acting," Carlos Ghosn.

It is everywhere on twitter and facebook : "Leadership is demonstrated at the moment of need. You learn to be a leader by acting, by doing." This is a famous comment from Carlos Ghosn Renault CEO & Chairman and Nissan President and CEO. Looks like his methods work pretty well:

EN: "Renault is aiming to nearly double operating margin to more than 5 percent of sales in 2013, as part of a new growth plan that targets Brazil and Russia as key markets. The French carmaker, partnered with Japan's Nissan, said on Thursday it wanted to sell more than 3 million vehicles in 2013 using overseas and emerging market growth to offset a flat European market. Renault achieved a 2010 margin of 2.8 percent on sales of 2.63 million cars and light vehicles."

FR: La crise est derrière nous, oui. Cela veut dire aussi que la construction automobile, du moins pour certains constructeurs, sera durablement profitable, et surtout durablement profitable à cause d'une croissance très forte des marchés mondiaux malheureusement à l'extérieur de l'Europe et du Japon.

This and more, including the alleged spy case story within Renault. The latest Carlos Ghosn interview on RTL here:

Reporter's notes
Sources: Agencies, RTL, Facebook.

Reporting from Lhasa, a talk with the Dalai-Lama

Joel and His Holiness the Dalai-Lama during a lecture gathering in Tokyo. Here we talked about my past visit and report in Lhasa, Tibet. Chinese authorities had allowed me to walk free in Lhasa and around. During this week of exclusive and selective work, I could spend a day all alone in the Potala palace with the monks. Certainly, it is one of the most extraordinary happenings in my Foreign Correspondent's work. "I visited your place quite recently compared to your last stay in town," I told his Holiness...

Something came through our eyes, then an intense emotion sparkled his eyes for a few seconds, and there was this moment I shall not be able to forget for my whole life, the Dalai-Lama was marveled and rejoiced with deep concentration. Then, we made this image with our friends.

Frankly speaking, I needed time to be able to write about my report to Tibet and about the Dalai Lama. This holly man is sincere and I wish everyone may spend time with him beyond complicated political processes.

Tibet... It was a long time project, I succeeded into it after preparations and a lot of obstacles and refusals. People who were the most helpful were my friends in Beijing, Hong-Kong elsewhere, and they are from various authorities, from media based in Beijing to governments and security. Yes. Talk to all. Get enough convincing powers. Respect people, always.

The only obstacle I had was from the tourist agency in Lhasa, they did not allow a single person, especially a journalist, I am told by a staff of a major hotel there that I had been denounced to the secret police and that they would put me in jail for 20 years.

The director of the hotel, a European fellow, told me that police came in my room and saw my press data, microphone, recorder, camera, data. "Maybe you should leave Lhasa now because army and police people in Lhasa are not the same as else where in Beijing. Maybe your Beijing friends won't be able to help you here if you are arrested or if you have a sudden accident..." Then some people arranged my departure with an escort and messages and papers...

When I mentioned this directly to the Dalai-Lama here, quite some time after my Tibet reporting, His Holiness simply said: "I and Tibetans are very encouraged by the excellent work made by the European journalists."

The interesting thing is that my Chinese friends, because they know me, never got into reprisals or violence. They just expected a fair and balanced story. They know about my sensitivity about free reporting and access to information. They also are perfectly aware that I am not working for any obscure office or agency.

When meeting some Chinese ambassadors or other VIPs, I was told the history of Tibet and China is a long complicated process and sometimes, as written in a newspaper by an Chinese ambassador "All our young friends do not know exactly all the facts about Tibet". One Chinese diplomat told me in private that they trusted my visit there as I would see by myself and report as I always did. By telling the truth.

I shall write one day about how this journey to Tibet was made possible, who protected and who tried to kick... and how a journalist and a foreign correspondent based in the Far-East could spend time in Lhasa at a time of riots in a forbidden environment without being embedded nor used by any other institution, organization, or people. Luck? Yes, but not only good luck. The thing is: Just don't ever give up your most important project and draw a plan, based on local patterns of thoughts...

Last but not least, I was told recently from some reliable sources in China, and this motivated my writing of this amazing encounter, that Beijing government has a desire to help, and will have to come with some beneficial adjustment towards all of her people and symbols. What does China has to loose indeed here actually?

Let's hope so.

"In the sky we see a dove.
The dove means peace, the dove means love...
If only PEACE were understood.
What couldn’t be now, in the future could."
(in UN Peace Poem)

Saturday, February 05, 2011

Japan, a Democracy?

This message gives a short but accurate presentation of the problem generally viewed and simply asked with this question:
Is Japan a Democracy? Question often misused for malicious purposes.

This is why I found these answers from people I know quite interesting, I post it here for the record and the activation of the never ending debate since Ruth Benedict tentatively explored the archipelago psyche.

Benedict, an anthropologist and cultural relativist "is known not only for her earlier Patterns of Culture but also for her later book The Chrysanthemum and the Sword, the study of the society and culture of Japan that she published in 1946, incorporating results of her war-time research."

In other words, after the war, the occupant forces, mainly the US, tried to understand the islands they controlled as the cold war started... or should I say, had started at the bombing of Hiroshima when a devastated Japan was a prey to be submitted to Allied forces and dominated as in any colonial war registry. Japan today is still a base for tens of thousands of American troops and equipments to deter China and Russia and to act as a base for the 7th fleet. The western view of an acting gendarme of Asia. Some politicians wanted to review such thing, they basically ended into corruption scandals or tricky plots. Prime minister Hatoyama was the last one of these victims.

The thing is going on and on, asked by armies of scholars and propagandists, Japan is not a democracy similar to the west. Not it's not. It's different indeed. It integrated portions of our western parliamentary systems after the war. I do not know any one in Japan who could tell me eyes in eyes that it did not approve of this changes from a military dictatorship in 1945 to a more "normal" middle class society of salary-men, happy with theories born in the western world.

Theories from Ricardo and Adam Smith, following Condorcet, Marmontel, Malesherbes, d'Alembert --"Preliminary Discourse of l'Encyclopédie" a history of the Enlightenment -- and the work of the French Academies *** of the century of the Enlightenment in the 17th and 18th century--Montesquieu, Buffon (1 generation before Charles Darwin), Jean-Jacques Rousseau le Genevois, Diderot, Jean-François de Galaup, comte de Lapérouse, etc. --

Theories adopted in Japan later for a development of the economy proper to avoid further political claims on international affairs and led mainly by civil servants and scholars.

The "chat" was posted on the NBR forum, a forum for Japan watchers.


'Can Japan truly be understood as a democracy' -
compared to which democracy? Is there a benchmark out

Schumpeter's famous definition is that 'the democratic
method is that institutional arrangement for arriving
at political decisions in which individuals acquire
the power to decide by means of a competitive struggle
for the people's vote'. To this more procedural
definition, we may also add normative factors, in that
a democratic system promotes equality, fairness, and

Japan's system of governance does fall short of these
benchmarks: the fact that 40% of Diet members are
second-generation children may be an indication that
the pathways to political power are more open to some
than others - they say to get yourself voted you need
jiban (support base usually daddy's), kanban (name
value again, daddy's fame helps), kaban (money!).
Furthermore, the rural votes carry greater weight than
urban votes; and so on.

Yet, many countries equally fall short: in the UK, the
political elite have become increasingly dominated by
a small handfull of rich, private school-educated
elites (just look at Blair, Cameron, Clegg, or
Osbourne); the first-past-the post system leads to
tactical voting, rather than a genuine expression of
political will; it (again) leads to differences in the
weight certain votes carry. Furthermore,
parliamentary sovereignty means that judicial checks
on the legislative are much weaker compared to, say,
the US. Meanwhile in the US, the enormous costs of
running for public office also limits citizens' access
to political power, as well as giving political donors
a lot of power in influencing the political agenda in
comparison to others. Do all these systems give
citizens political equality? Are they inclusive? I
think not?

So, I would be inclined to say that Japan is a
democracy, albeit a flawed one, just like any other
country that we would conventionally understand to be
a 'liberal democracy' today. It's not perfect, but
the democratic theoretical ideal has been extremely
difficult to implement in practice throughout the
world, and the existence of powerful vested interests
have meant that reforming these problems has, and will
remain, difficult. Japan is no exception to this, and
neither is the US, the UK, or any other democracy. I
would also add that 'the Japanese' do not 'tolerate'
or 'perpetuate' a 'premodern' political system: a
quick look at the lively political debates that take
place in Japanese civil society would suggest quite
the opposite from this.

Perhaps the fundamental point here is that 'the
Japanese' are no more uniquely undemocratic that the
rest, and neither is 'the West' (US/Europe)
exceptionally 'more democratic' than the rest. Shogo
Suzuki University of Manchester"

And the 2nd comment of author and essayist Gregory


No one who lives in Japan and understands Japanese can
fail to be impressed by not just the liveliness but
also the sincerity, civility and relative lack of
point scoring in the almost daily policy debates in
the media, mainly TV, here between top politicians and
the commentators.

In some respects Japan's democracy IS 'pre-modern' -
based on the communality of the village society. And
while that allows distortions that our Western
democracies would not tolerate - feudalistic power-
brokers able to buy or corral voters, for example - it
should also make Western democracies consider whether
the point-scoring antagonism, lobby-fueled attack ads
etc, of their own systems represent true democracy.
Gregory Clark.

The discussion on the forum started after a chilly
comment of Bob Neff:


"Two recent high court rulings in Japan make me wonder
whether this is a true democracy. Both courts ruled
that recent elections unconstitutional because of
disproportionate electoral districts. This is a
ritual that has been going on for decades and has been
virtually ignored by the government. When the U.S.
supreme court ruled in the 1960s fir "one man, one
vote," it took Congress very little time to prescribe
major redistricting. I would invite informed analysis
on how and why supreme court decisions in Japan can be
so regularly ignored. "

End of Nbr quotes

*** The history of Academies in France during the Enlightenment begins with the Academy of Science, founded in 1635 in Paris. From the beginning, the Academy was closely tied to the French state, acting as an extension of a government seriously lacking in scientists. Beyond serving the monarchy, the Academy had two primary purposes: it helped promote and organize new disciplines, and it trained new scientists. It also contributed to the enhancement of scientists’ social status, considered them to be the “most useful of all citizens".

A national and regional institution, example, the Academy of Caen, Normandy. Established in 1652. Caen, the "Norman Athens, with a long literary cultural tradition, was enthusiastically created the first Academy in the provinces after the fondation of the Paris Academie Française. Furthermore came the establishment in Caen of the first Academy of Physics in France (1662) which, although short- lived, preceded by four years the foundation of the Académie des Sciences in Paris."

Reporter's notes
NBR forum