A broad survey on a meeting focused on the current efforts to revise the Tokyo Healthy Youth Development Ordinance.
by Dan Kanemitsu
Terminology included at the very
|Tokyo Metropolitan Legislator Reiko Matsushita's Current
Activities Public Report Session
Date: April 23rd, 2010
Location: Kichijyoji, Tokyo
Tokyo Metropolitan legislator Reiko Matsushita, a Democratic Party of Japan member elected from the Musashino-Shi District (in Western Tokyo,) held a public meeting where she reported to the audience regarding her recent legislative activities. Her report was followed by a presentation by Takashi Yamaguchi of Link Law Office Kito and Partners, based in Tokyo. Attorney Yamaguchi discussed in depth regarding the current proposal to revise the Tokyo Metropolitan ordinance regarding the healthy development of youths. After the presentation, a discussion over the revision bill took place between Matsushita and Yamaguchi, and finally, questions from the audience were answered by both.
The meeting lasted over 2 hours and a large conference room was packed solid. Seating for 100 people were available, but over 30 people were without seating, so the total attendance was at least 130. According to staffers of Matsushita, meetings are regularly attended by about 30 people.
What follows is a brief rundown of the topics that were covered specific to the Tokyo Youth Development Ordnance. I won't claim to have covered everything that was discussed, simple because there was so much. A full account of the meeting would turn this report in to a massive paper instead of a concise survey of the subjects covered, so please keep that in mind.
As a member of the budget committee, Matsushita attempted to ask questions regarding the revision of the bill on March 12th. The heckling she endured on the floor was astonishing.
Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly (TMA) legislators did not take part in the drafting of the bill. This was conducted by Tokyo Metropolitan Government (TMG) officials based on suggestions submitted by the 28th Tokyo Youth Affairs Conference (28th TYAC,) a committee of social activists, academics, TMG officials and other concerned individuals chosen by the Governor Ishihara.
While the public was invited to submit feedback over the 28th TYAC's suggestions, and while these comments have been entered into the public record, the TMG has refused to release the approximately 1600 entries, even to the legislators. One legislator has submitted a court filing to get the entries disclosed.
Matsushita raised a number clear concerns over the bill, namely how the bill allows the governor and his/her counterparts to direct advise against parents over lawful speech by their children if they run afoul of certain guidelines established by the TMG, and how children between the ages of 0-18 are grouped together to a single category in the zoning provision of this bill.
While deliberation on the bill was extended thanks to DPJ and others in the general affairs committee of the TMA, there were numerous DPJ members who wanted to pass this law in its current form. It was dogged persuasion by younger DPJ legislators, mass influx of email and letters by everyday people, and the direct petitions by comic book authors plus some industry groups that made the critical difference, and even still, it was a very very close call.
Yamaguchi's presentation was focused on the language of the bill. As a lawyer, it is the wording and specific elements in the bill that is important. He mentioned how numerous reporters have come to him for an interview, yet most of them had not bothered to read the bill itself. This is one reason why much of the mass media has been so willing to accept the assurances of the TMG that the bill is not radical or over-broad, according to Yamaguchi.
Yamaguchi notes that zoning provisions should be analyzed in terms of 1) what is being zoned, 2) how is it being zoned, and 3) for what purpose is it being zoned. These three questions are important to keep in mind when considered how the bill was created and what impact the bill will have once it becomes law.
The lack of transparency in how the bill was devised in the initial drafting stage of the 28th TYAC's meetings was very troubling and there was hardly any oversight by non-TMG parties. The meeting were largely conducted behind closed doors and even the legislators were not shown drafts of the bill until the very last minutes. (i.e. Two days before debate of the bill was to start.) In recent statements released, the TMG continues to claim in the bill is being "misunderstood," and that opponents are "misguided" in their fear that the bill would have a broad impact and have a massive chilling effect on the Japanese entertainment industry.
And yet, gleaning through the language of the bill, Yamaguchi states that it is very clear that the TMG wishes to exert control over morality of the public. As it stands, the bill grants the TMG with discretion over how public can conceptualize youth and sexuality, not just in terms of safeguarding welfare of minors that exit, but regulate how people can fantasize if the subject deals with "nonexistent youth." Even though this bill is mostly a zoning provision, by penalizing certain types of fiction as being "harmful" and forcing the material to be regulated to an adult only category, this would be the kiss of death for many titles. Because the language in the bill is so vague, the TMG would have sole discretion over what constitutes "anti-social" material that should be regulated.
Yamaguchi also pointed out there is a section in the bill that states that the TMG shall support public efforts toward preventing of "rampant availability" of fictional visual representations of sexualized youth, thereby meaning citizens would be encouraged to act as agents of censorship. This is particularly noteworthy since policing action by citizens would not constitute government censorship or regulations, and thus they could engage in actions that would be unconstitutional if conducted by the government. Using citizens to police material created by other citizens is a very dangerous construct to say the least.
As an attorney that has represented many clients that were inducted into religious cults and manipulated by them, Yamaguchi took care to point out creating a generation that is dependent on others to tell them what their morality should be is not a very good idea. It creates a state of dependency on the part of the populace for the police and government to tell them what should be good or evil, and as a general rule, a populace such as that would be gullible and susceptible to abuse. A weak minded populace creates further rationale for increased "protective powers" on the part of government, so Yamaguchi feels this is a very dangerous path to follow.
In the course of discussion between Matsushita and Yamaguchi, concerns over granting Tokyo with such extensive power to protect minors was raised. While the one size fits all element of grouping all minor as a single entity was criticized, another element was how judgment and self-reliance on the part of minor were completely disregarded. Minors, the group that this bill directly impacts, were not at all involved in the creation of this bill.
The two argued more external experts and critics of the bill should be given an opportunity to address their concerns of this bill, as not enough hard questions have been asked.
Regarding the recent Sankei news article about the DPJ and LDP conducting talks about finding an compromise, according to Matsushita, this could not be verified with the DPJ leadership in the TMA. It appears someone may have fabricated this discussion for whatever purposes. Members of the DPJ have protested the Sankei newspaper as filing a false report. (Unfortunately, this is not a first.) The bill is still very much up for debate in June, and unless the pressure against the bill is maintained, Matsushita states it could very well pass in its current form.
Claims that Sankei fabricated the story are very serious, so I will provide specific statement made by members of the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly to prove that this was not made up.
Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly member Zenko Kurita's Twitter entry:
Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly member Masaki Ito's blog entry:
Matsushita said more people must raise their voices and educate others over the dangers this bill. A wide variety of voices is essential, or else the comic book and animation industry will be charged as being obstructionist toward improving the welfare of children. Popular opposition must be made much more clear and must be shown to be large in numbers. The proponents of the bill claim that only a small minority of people are against it and many people are misguided in their understanding of the bill. This has to be proven false.
Yamaguchi added that the Office for Youth Affairs and Public Safety of the TMG was startled that their proposal was met with such opposition. The LDP and KMT members of the assembly continue to pin their hopes on passing the bill without any changes come this June. Both assembly members and the certain officials in the TMG, and even certain members of the national police force, feel that they have lost face with the failure to pass the bill in March, and thus both Yamaguchi and Matsushita warn that they will resort to all manners of tactics to try to get the bill passed in June. The fact that the Office for Youth Affairs and Public Safety has released numerous announcements trying to quell opposition to the bill is a case in point.
Time turned to answering some questions from the audience.
Someone asked a question regarding what is the intent and functions of the these youth development committees.
According to Yamaguchi, national law stipulates the establishment of youth affairs conferences in local bodies of Japan, where as the Tokyo Youth Healthy Development Evaluation Panel is a body created by metropolitan ordinances. Theoretically, the Tokyo Youth Healthy Development Evaluation Panel is supposed to act as a ombudsman council against abuse by TMG officials regarding youth regulation, but in fact, it simply acts as a regulatory body that gives blessing to designating certain products as being "harmful to minors."
One person asked, how did this bill come into being? Matsushita attended some sessions of the 28th TYAC and observed that the members clearly wanted to rid Tokyo of "all unsavory and despicable forms of manga, anime and games." She surmises that these people were set off by extreme examples of erotic manga aimed for adults and were dead-set on getting rid of all erotic manga as a result. This extreme desire was condensed and revamped by the bureaucracy of the Office for Youth Affairs and Public Safety and turned into the current bill. Matsushita claims the 28th TYAC clearly wanted to regulate everything, material for both adult and general audiences, but they started off with what they thought was an easy target--fictional anti-social sexual portrayals of youth that is "not sexually stimulating, but is caustic to youth nonetheless" under the guise of "protecting the youth from psychological harm."
Yamaguchi wished the Governor Ishihara would be more judicious in supporting such a regulatory expansion over fiction, as he himself was target to intense criticism by the PTA and others following his publication of Season of the Sun and other novels in the 1950's.
I (Kanemitsu) asked the question voiced by many fans overseas--Why is the TMG purposely going after a segment of the Japanese economy that is contributing growth? Anime, manga and video games are considered to be one of the most competitive and worthy part of Japan's software and content creation industry.
To this, Yamaguchi pointed out that one common argument by the proponents of this bill follows the logic of "you can't put a dollar figure on protecting youth." In other words, even if there is an economic cost, the reward of a more wholesome environment for minors makes the cost worthwhile. Of course, the question of what actual reward can be secured from strangulating the artistic community is one that is wide open to debate, but frankly, those who are advocating this debate are so convinced in their logic that trying to debate them on this subject may not be very productive.
On the part of the bureaucrats of the TMG, Yamaguchi reminds us that Tokyo is a very big bureaucracy and that many branches really don't see eye to eye on numerous issues. For example, the Bureau of Industrial and Labor Affairs of the TMG actively supports and aids the anime and manga industry--The Tokyo International Anime Fair is one such endeavor.
But Yamaguchi also pointed out that, as a rule, bureaucrats' salaries have nothing to do with economic activities of the public marketplace, and instead have everything to do with controlling and regulating public activities. The power to regulate more means more budgets and increased staff. There is every reason why the TMG would want to extend their power over anime, manga and video games, especially since the Office for Youth Affairs and Public Safety is famous for being a department very low on funds, according to Matsushita.
Furthermore, the department currently involved in revision of the youth protection ordinance--the Office for Youth Affairs and Public Safety--have numerous career officers from the National Police Agency in its ranks. While the TMG is a local body, the National Police Agency sends their upper tier management officers into this department, and appears to be attempting to help expand the supervisory role of the police over the public even more. It was been noted that two senior members of the Office for Youth Affairs and Public Safety that are most involved with the current bill--Office Director Jyun Kurata and Youth Section Chief Mika Sakurai--are both police officers, even though their emphasis over this revision has been one of portraying this as a civilian morality issue instead of a law and order issue.
Another person asked how one could counter the argument that this bill would make it more difficult for victims of sexual violence from inadvertently coming in contact with fictional sexually explicit material featuring sexual violence.
Yamaguchi answered that society would cease to function if you had to constantly be mindful of not hurting every other person's feelings over something. It would be important to make sure that there is some form of appropriate warnings over the contents of something such as sexual violence to prevent flashbacks and such, but this could be worked on in the preexisting regulatory regime.
Matsushita argues that, while proponents of the revision have stated that Tokyo is awash with sexually explicit material that is supposedly in full view all the time, she has not found that to be true, even in Akihabara. Sexually explicit material is zoned fairly well, so someone inadvertently coming across such material is not likely.
Another person asked about how the membership of the 28th TYAC was so lopsided toward increasing regulation. The 27th TYAC involved in the 2003 drafting of the revision of the youth protection ordinance was comprised of individuals from numerous different attitudes regarding regulation and youth morality, and produced a more nuanced and even handed revision to the youth protection ordinance. What happened this time?
Yamaguchi feels that the proponents of expansion of regulation within the TMG have lost patience with a more nuanced revision process. When the LDP was more firmly in power within Japan, they had the luxury of comprising committees with a wider variety of people because 1) they felt they could get their way even with a diverse membership in the committee, 2) they wanted a facade of a fair and balanced debate, and 3) the importance of the revision was not that crucial.
Now, with the LDP and the NKP feeling their backs against the wall after their crushing defeat in both local (Tokyo) and national elections, and with the previous defiance on the part of committee members of the 27th TYAC to tow the party line in 2003, the ruling party and bureaucrats closely allied with them no longer have such a luxury and packed the conference with people that would uniformly heed their call. Professor Masahide Maeda, who became famous after assuming the role of chairman of the National Police Agency's private research committee of "Protecting Children from the Harms of the Virtual Society" created 2006, was reportedly surprised at the extent of opposition both within the 27th TYAC and from the public at large. Maeda is the chairman of the 28th TYAC specialist subcommittee, the subcommittee made famous for outrageous statements such as "voices of opposition are a form violence" and "those that support sexually explicit material featuring minor should be framed as people with mental ailments and disabilities."
Matsushita attended some of the sessions of the wider 28th TYAC meetings, and questioned how the wisdom of making fictional anti-social depictions of sexual situations involving minors subject to regulation. She argued that this would prevent individuals from talking about sexual abuse through manga, and as a result of her questioning, the drafting committee added the language of "positively affirms anti-social sexual situation" to the bill--Their logic being that now works that "negatively criticizes" anti-social sexual situations would not be subject to regulation. Matsushita was aghast at the shortsightedness and blind trust members of the TYAC placed upon the TMG bureaucracy that would be entrusted with figuring out what is positive and negative portrayals of sexual situations involving minors. It was clear that the members of the 28th TYAC was entirely comprised of people who insisted on expanded regulation, if not outright bans, of material that they deemed to be offensive and socially dangerous, irregardless of the constitutionality and/or administrative practicality of such regulation.
Another person asked a popular question regarding the why the preexisting regulatory framework was not enough? If anti-social depictions of youth involved in sexual situations were the problem, why not invoke the existing guideline of regulating "any material that may be detrimental toward the healthy development of youth because of their capacity to be sexually stimulating, encourages cruelty, and/or may compel suicide or criminal behavior." Fictional depictions of anti-social sexual acts surely would fall under the "capacity to be sexually stimulating," while imaginary sexual acts involving young children would run afoul of "compels criminal behavior" as engaging in sexual acts with those under 13 is already illegal in Japan.
Yamaguchi answers that apparently the TMG wants to go after "light-echi" fiction (not so graphic and somewhat mild depictions of sexual acts) involving 13 to 17 year olds. It goes without saying that this runs contrary to the TMG's assertion that they only want to go after hard core sexual depictions featuring young children involved incest and rape.
Both Yamaguchi and Matsushita feel that close analysis of arguments laid out by the proponents of the revision seem to indicate that they want to create a near sterile environment regarding sexuality for minors, regardless of their individual age or maturity.
Another attendee asked why the LDP, long considered to be patron of big business and corporate interests, would be so willing to go along with this revision.
Yamaguchi's short answer is that, after their crushing defeat in the national elections in late summer of 2009, they are frantic about remaining relevant in politics, and since the governor is LDP, they can claim to be a "minority ruling party" thanks to their ties to the governor. Since this revision was initiated by the TMG, with an LDP governor sitting on top, the LDP would want to make the case that they are the party that is in control of TMG policies and that the TMG bureaucrats still take the LDP to be their counterparts in the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly. This is why, so far, no LDP assembly persons have gone on record to oppose the revision.
One of the last questions from the audience was whether or not some ulterior motives--i.e. creating a regulatory body that would extract money from publishers and employ retired police officers--might be involved. Yamaguchi stated very clearly that he did believe that was the case here, as creating a thin veil of illegality would create a circumstance ripe for extracting money and holding sway over an entire industry. One such example is the pachinko industry in Japan--While gambling is illegal in Japan, winning prizes as part of playing games is considered legal and selling those prizes after playing pachinko right next door for money is considered to be "not overtly illegal." The laws regulating the pachinko and slot machine industry in Japan is Byzantine to say the least and the police have an active role in shaping policy involving the pachinko industry. Consequently, there are numerous self-regulatory industry bodies involved in Japanese pachinko and slot machines, and numerous retired police officers find very rewarding employment in such bodies as advisors and liaisons.
According to Yamaguchi, there is a very real concern that the ordinance would be selectively enforced, where regulators would be lax to go after famous authors with ties to powerful publishing houses and numerous self-regulatory bodies while authors with little name recognition would be selectively targeted. If this was conducted, it would create a situation where people would be penalized for their degree of proximity to the police and TMG regulators, a situation ripe for cronyism and abuse.
The final question from the audience was voiced by a regular attendee of the Matsushita's meetings, and it was more of a statement of opinion rather than a request for information. A middle aged lady, who appeared to be an enthusiastic supporter of the DPJ, stated that the only effective way of making sure terrible bills such as this would not come up is to remove Ishihara from office. He is up for re-election this coming November. The lady's statement does have some truth, in that, while the Tokyo Assembly has the power to revise the bill, Governor Ishihara can veto the bill. To override the veto, you need 2/3 majority, and the LDP caucus is not interested in granting a legislative victory for the DPJ, so there is a good chance that no compromise would come about.
The DPJ could theoretically extend deliberations on the bill indefinitely, but that would give the impression that they are obstructionist. The DPJ could revise the bill, but if the LDP and NKP does not go along with the revision, it would be dead on arrival. The DPJ could help kill the bill, but that would take a lot of political nerve as they could be branded as "enemies of the wholesome development of youth."
So the call on the part of the older lady for criticizing Ishihara and supporting the DPJ is not simple partisan rhetoric. She also pointed out how Agnes Chan's logically flawed and dubious rationale for revision of the bill is masked quite effectively by her emotional pleas. While the voices of the opposition are being heard, their language still has a hard time overcoming the star power held by Agnes Chan and the aura of political authority emanating from numerous TMG officials and other proponents of the revision.
This was a sobering but necessary acknowledgement of the hurdles that still exist over efforts to defeat the revision of the ordinance.
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LDP - Liberal Democratic Party. The conservative mainstream party in Japan that was in power most of the post-war era. The metropolitan caucus suffered their loss of majority in the July 2009 election, while in the national level, the LDP lost power following their overwhelming defeat in the August 30th, 2009 election of the House of Representatives, which is the lower house of the Japanese national legislative assembly, the Diet.
DPJ - Democratic Party of Japan. The opposition mainstream counterpart party to the LDP. The DPJ members include elements of both the left (former socialists) and the right (former LDP and other conservative party members.) The DPJ, together with the Tokyo Seikatsusha Network political group and the Japanese Communist Party, has a majority in Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly. However, the governor of Tokyo is still the LDP politician, Shintaro Ishihara, so the DPJ has a difficult time in initiating legislative actions.
NKT - New Komeito Party. A socially conservative religious party noted for their desire for increasing social spending. The NKP is closely affiliated with a large Buddhist sect, the Soka Gakkai. The NKT entered into a political alliance with non-LDP factions in 1993 to become part of the ruling coalition, but after 1999, they have entered into a coalition with the LDP. They too suffered tremendous losses in the recent national election but actually managed to gain a seat in the local Tokyo election.
TMG - Tokyo Metropolitan Government. The current governor is a LDP politician, Shintaro Ishihara.
Office for Youth Affairs and Public Safety - A branch of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government responsible for affairs related to youth and their public safety.
TYAC - Tokyo Youth Affairs Conference (東京都青少年問題協議会.) A conference subordinate to the Office for Youth Affairs and Public Safety summoned by the governor to help aid in the formation and evaluation of policies pertaining to the youth of Tokyo. The current conference is the 28th Conference summoned on December 2008 with the goal of "addressing the wholesome development of youth in an era where mass media increases its spread within society." Previous sessions of the conference were open to the public, but this was discontinued after the 3rd meeting of the specialists subcommittee of the 28th Conference. The 28th Conference was responsible for the drafting of the revision of the youth protection ordinance to include regulation of "nonexistent youth" involved in anti-social sexual situations and other controversial provisions. The Governor of Tokyo has the power to select members of the conference and the 28th Conference is notorious for a membership skewed toward expanded regulation. The current membership does not include a single member from the publishing industry nor the film industry.
Tokyo Youth Healthy Development Evaluation Panel (東京都青少年健全育成審議会)
- A panel subordinate to the TMG that deliberates and chooses which books
are to be designated as being harmful. The membership of the panel is comprised
of members of the publishing and film industry, a member from the convenience
stores self-regulatory group, members of the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly,
newspaper editorialists, officials of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government,
and the Tokyo Metropolitan Police. While over 150 books are purchased each
month to be evaluated for its "harmful impact" on minors, less the 10 books
are usually designated as actually being harmful. There are numerous preliminary
meetings that are conducted prior to the evaluation panel itself, and therefore
there is considerable negotiations between the entertainment industry that
creates material consumed by the public and the officials that regulate
the material. The make-up of the Tokyo Youth Healthy Development Evaluation
Panel is designated by law and therefore is less prone to political interference.