Media Mix, March 7, 2021

Kawamura/Omura

Here’s this week’s Media Mix about the ignominious end of the petition drive to recall Aichi Prefecture Governor Hideaki Omura. Though I purposely played down the ideological forces at play in this drama, it mostly came down to what one observer called ineptitude in the service of blind rage. Famous plastic surgeon Katsuya Takasu was the public face of the recall campaign, and he’s an equally famous right wing firebrand who was deeply offended by that section in the 2019 Aichi Trienalle art show that featured things like the comfort woman statue and some burnt photo of the emperor. Omura had nothing to do with the selection of these exhibits. He was simply a figurehead, someone who was named the head of the Trienalle for ceremonial purposes, but since he didn’t support the closing of the exhibit (it closed due to threats from anonymous persons) he was demonized by Takasu and Takashi Kawamura, the mayor of Nagoya, where the exhibit was held. Kawamura is not so much right wing as totally self-serving, and he’s had a beef with Omura ever since the governor declined to support his pet project, rebuilding Nagoya Castle completely in wood. There were other more minor right wing personages behind the petition drive, but these two are the ones with the name value, so they pretty much have to carry the burden of the ignominy after 80 percent of the names on the petitions were found to be forged. It may be months before the results of a police investigation into the matter see light, but the general feeling I got from reading the coverage in Litera and conversations about the matter on the internet is that there was never enough public support behind the recall and perhaps the authors of the petition knew that. What they mainly wanted was to keep their resentment of the Trienalle and Omura’s lack of support in the public’s consciousness. So the question is: When did it turn from a desperate PR ploy into a desperate face-saving gambit? Even Makoto Sakurai, one of the most rabid right-wingers in Japan, commented that the forgeries seemed to indicate that the people behind the recall had been carried away and in the process lost all sense of proportion. How to explain the utterly foolish idea of setting up an operation to forge petitions that would be impossible to hide? Media are calling the Chunichi Shimbun and Nishinippon Shimbun stories about the petition mill scoops, but from what I gather the information was just there in plain sight for anyone to discover. It’s tempting to characterize this stupidity as a side effect of the uncompromising hatred that many ultra-conservatives trade in, and not just in Japan. It just shows what can happen when that hatred gets out of hand. 

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Review: Baseball Girl

The implied purpose of Choi Yun-tae’s Baseball Girl is to upend all the cliches attached to sports movies while at the same time following them to the letter. Thematically, Choi wants to show as honestly as possible the obstacles that women face when trying to make it in professional sports on the same terms as men, and sometimes this clarity of intention gets in the way of the drama. An opening title card informs the viewer that since 1996 women have been allowed to play on professional baseball teams in South Korea with men. The card doesn’t say whether any women have actually made it that far, but the movie makes it appear that attitudes are much more difficult to change than rules. The titular protagonist is Joo Soo-in (Lee Joo-young), a pitcher for her high school team who is determined to make it to the big leagues. By the time we meet her, she is already a sullen figure, having been beaten back for her ambition after causing some excitement in the press years ago when she became the first girl to ever play on her high school varsity team in more than two decades. However, the acclaim is conditional, because her talents are only considered exceptional because she’s a girl, and she resents this characterization.

So when a scout for the pros comes to her school during the start of her senior year and chooses only one player for tryouts, she doubles down on that ambition and decides to work on her fastball so hard that no pro team will be able to reject her, at least not fairly. The team’s new coach, Jin-tae (Lee Joon-hyuk), himself a frustrated wannabe pro pitcher, is frank and cruel: She’ll never make it, not because she’s a girl but because she just isn’t good enough. Jin-tae’s get-over-it approach just works to make Soo-in’s determination that much more stubborn, and we get the usual training montages that end with her hands bleeding. Eventually, Jin-tae, recognizing how his own thwarted dreams are contaminating his judgment, advises Soo-in to develop a knuckleball, since she can’t hope to compete with stronger, larger pitchers with just a fastball. Meanwhile, that other cliche of the adolescent sports movie, the parent who berates her child into thinking more rationally about the future, is installed in the background. Soo-in’s mother (Yum Hye-ran) scolds her constantly, saying if she doesn’t soon choose a credible goal in life she’ll end up like her useless father (Song Young-kyu), who has wasted most of his life trying, and failing, to pass the national estate agent’s certification test. 

What Choi avoids, however, is more significant than what he includes. The movie is almost perversely low-key. Even when Soo-in achieves some measure of victory, the director pulls back so as not to place too much importance on it in the larger scheme of things. Part of this strategy is to keep the viewer wondering what Soo-in can possibly achieve in a world where everything is stacked against her, but it also makes the viewer appreciate the subtle bits of narrative that give meaning to Soo-in’s existence, like her relationship to Jeong-ho (Kwak Dong-yeon), the male teammate who was selected by the scout and who has been her best friend since they played together in Little League. Though there are hints of genuine affection between the two, Choi doesn’t do the obvious and make the relationship a potentially romantic one. If anything, these two souls, through what is portrayed as a very special rapport, seem to understand life better than anyone else in the movie, which is why it’s slightly disappointing that Choi doesn’t extend this sensitivity to the other female characters in the story. Soo-in’s mother never transcends her cinematic stereotype. Her best friend, a frustrated dancer, is simply on hand for dull contrast. Choi’s decision not to make a big deal of Soo-in’s gender while conveying the idea that it’s her distinct personality that makes her a good athlete is compelling, but he doesn’t quite do enough with it. In the end, the cliches win. 

In Korean. Now playing in Tokyo at Toho Cinemas Hibiya (050-6868-5068), Toho Cinemas Nihonbashi (050-6868-5060), Toho Cinemas Shinjuku (050-6868-5063), Toho Cinemas Shibuya (050-6868-5002), Toho Cinemas Roppongi Hills (050-6868-5024).

Baseball Girl home page in Japanese

photo (c) 2019 Korean Film Council

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Media Mix, Feb. 28, 2021

Family register

Here’s this week’s Media Mix about the Japanese government’s plan to digitize more public services. Japan remains relatively behind in this regard, despite its reputation for technological savvy, and it seems mainly due to the vertical organizational structures described in the article. Without greater connectivity across public and private organizations it will be difficult to make the changes necessary to digitize functions. As for the so-called cultural aspects, those are more difficult to figure out. Generally speaking, the Japanese public doesn’t trust the authorities when it comes to handling their private information, which is why the My Number system hasn’t progressed as quickly as expected. The Japan Federation of Bar Associations has acted as the de facto watchdog on government overreach when it comes to collecting citizens’ data, but the reluctance to digitize the family register, as pointed out in the column, is one of the more visible obstacles to the kind of bureaucratic overhaul the government has in mind, and as the official told the Tokyo Shimbun reporter, the resistance is rooted in historical and nationalistic considerations. The reporter points out that in Europe, it’s considered bad form to “inquire” into a person’s nationality because “ethnic fluidity” should be assured. In Japan, however, it’s still all about blood, which is why the family register, the document that defines a family, is so important, because it makes the government the arbiter of such matters. Japanese people must report their marriages and the births of their children to the authorities, and these events are not actualized until the authorities approve them by registering them in the koseki. Much has been made about the government’s opposition to allowing separate surnames for married couples, and the main reason that some couples object to this law is not so much because they want separate surnames but that they don’t want the government telling them what they can call themselves. A name, after all, is one’s most personal possession, and while in practice Japanese people can call themselves anything they want, legally they can’t. Something similar surrounds the concept of paternity. The government reserves the right to decide who is the father of a child depending on who reports the birth of that child for entry into the family register, and the status of the identified father of the child vis-a-vis the mother. The reason for this is simple. Mothers give birth, so maternity is easy to determine. But as for who the father is, discounting the modern use of genetic identifiers, it’s not as simple, so the authorities use the family register system and the Civil Code to determine paternity on their own terms, which also determines “legitimacy,” since a father who is not married to the mother is recorded differently. These are some of the cultural aspects of the family register that may make it difficult to digitize the system, since they depend on face-to-face encounters.

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Review: Moving On

One of the more compelling aspects of the worldwide success of Parasite is that it wasn’t designed to be a worldwide success; or, at least, not in the same way that Bong Joon-ho’s previous movies, Snowpiercer and Okja, were meant to be worldwide successes. Parasite was about the way South Koreans live now, and much of the storyline would, theoretically, only make sense to South Koreans. That global audiences would pick up on these aspects, or, more relevantly, make an effort to understand the background and milieu of the story, proves not only the power of the story itself but also the true meaning of moviegoing. It’s not just about a willingness to read subtitles.

Like my favorite movie from last year, House of Hummingbird, Moving On was made by a first-time female Korean director and centers on an adolescent protagonist. I don’t know if Ok-joo’s experience in the movie is based on that of Yoon Dan-bi the same way that the teenage lead in Hummingbird was autobiographical, according to its director, Kim Bora, but there’s definitely a strong feeling of identification being projected onto the viewer, mainly in the way the script handles those fleeting moments of adolescence where matters seem extremely important for a little while and then seem much less so. But such uncommon sensitivity to universal feelings were less meaningful to me than those areas of mystery that kept me immersed in a story that was barely acknowledged. The film takes place over a brief summer break when Ok-joo (Choi Jung-woon), her younger brother, Dong-joo (Park Seung-joo), and their divorced father (Yang Heung-joo), moves house from Seoul to the suburb of Inchon, where the father grew up in a large house now occupied solely by Ok-joo’s pleasant but frail grandfather. We are meant to understand that Ok-joo’s father’s business has failed in some way, but since no time is given over to such concerns it may simply be that his business was never much to begin with. (One gets the feeling that the business had something to do with the divorce.)

But such prosaic concerns are not the movie’s. That concern is Ok-joo’s feelings as she starts a new life, and while Yoon doesn’t limit her POV to that of her young stand-in, it’s the one she obviously feels closest to. At first, the two kids predictably feel uncomfortable with being uprooted, and Yoon spends an inordinate amount of time following them as they explore their new world. Ok-joo quickly turns an unused room on the second floor, complete with old-fashioned sewing machine, into her own private realm and does her best to keep her pestering younger brother out of it. The movie is as loosely structured as the children’s daily exploits are free of responsibility, and then the father’s hard-drinking older sister (Park Hyun-young) moves in after having left her husband, a development that pleases Ok-joo, who longs for some kind of female presence. A family is thus forged, though Yoon is clear that this is a temporary situation, one that will likely only last the summer, and yet the house itself, a wonderful combination of fortunate location scouting and clever production design, provides enormous weight to the relationships on display, since so much of the family’s past history surrounds everything that happens in the movie. This house truly has character, and acts up in surprising ways; which is why the second half of the film is so subtly distressing. As Ok-joo goes about realizing her own needs by getting into trouble with the police (she tries selling her father’s athletic shoes on the street, perhaps unaware they’re knock-offs), contemplating cosmetic surgery, and trying to fall in love with a boy she meets, her grandfather’s health is quickly deteriorating, forcing her father and aunt to discuss selling the house and sending him off to a facility. Events move faster than they plan, however. Then Ok-joo’s estranged mother comes to visit, and hidden resentments bubble to the surface.

As in Hummingbird, the drama inherent in Moving On springs from a confluence of the universal (teenage angst) and the specific (Ok-joo’s material circumstances), which the director presents organically; and which means that the particulars of South Korean society, like the way the police handle kids or how filial obligations play out financially, are taken for granted. As an international movie fan you are obligated to reach these thematic understandings yourself, thus supplying half the joy you’ll derive from watching it. The rest is just wonder at how well Yoon puts it all together. 

In Korean. Now playing in Tokyo at Euro Space Shibuya (03-3461-0211).

Moving On home page in Japanese

photo (c) 2019 Onu Film

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Review: Stage Mother

Ever since her turn as the sadistically practical head of a ruthless crime family in the Australian movie Animal Kingdom, Jacki Weaver has cultivated an enviable career as the mother-for-any-occasion-and-accent. In a sense, she’s the easiest casting choice for the part of the richly imagined Maybelline Metcalf, a Texan Baptist who travels to San Francisco to attend to the disposal of her estranged gay son’s effects after he dies from a drug overdose on stage at the drag club he owns. Weaver has an uncanny ability to somehow transcend the worst traits written into her mother hen characters, and Maybelline, on paper, must have been a doozy. Though branded a comedy, Stage Mother is essentially a woke melodrama that veers fitfully into the ridiculous, and somehow Weaver never loses sight of the character or the movie’s guiding purpose of uplift, which, by now, feels outdated when addressing matters of parents acknowledging their children’s homosexuality, especially after they’ve died.

As the title so rudely points out, Maybelline quickly accepts the people her son worked and played with, including his partner, Nathan (Adrian Grenier), who reflexively pushes Maybelline away, convinced she’s a Republican banshee (she is, as a later scene involving an attempted rape and a gun prove), and his best friend, Sienna (Lucy Liu), a single mother with her own substance-abuse problems. Maybelline is so quick to take over the bar, which is failing financially, that Nathan doesn’t have time to file a restraining order and before you can say “T-bone steak” she’s jettisoned the establishment’s lip-syncing policy and is teaching the performers, which include a transitioning black man, how to sing in real harmony, just like her church choir at home. 

The name of the game is resourcefulness tempered with a bit of Texan hospitality if that hospitality weren’t informed by bigotry, which is why Maybelline’s husband back in Red Vine can’t abide his wife’s staying on any longer than she has to and she is free to strike up a flirtation with an ex-hippie-turned-5-star-hotel-concierge (Anthony Skordi), which is probably as good a metaphor for the unaffordable swamp San Francisco has turned into as anything, except that the filmmakers can’t quite grasp that irony and its implications. We’ve all seen this movie before and if it feels phony and over-determined in comparison to others of its ilk it has nothing to do with intentions, either Weaver’s or director Thom Fitzgerald’s. It’s because it doesn’t address reality outside the small world it attempts to elucidate. As melodramas go, it’s pretty limited. Any self-respecting drama queen would reject it on principle. 

Now playing in Tokyo at Toho Cinemas Chanter Hibiya (050-6868-5001).

Stage Mother home page in Japanese

photo (c) 2019 Stage Mother LLC

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Review: Capone

Often filmmakers try to cut historical monsters down to size by making fun of them and their ideas. In Capone, director Josh Trank looks at the last year in the life of the famed gangster, when he was reduced by a long-gestating case of syphilis to a grunting, incontinent invalid, and in one scene Trank flirts with the idea of turning the famous murderer, played by Tom Hardy, into a laughingstock when his doctor (Kyle MacLachlan) takes away his ever-present cigar and replaces it with a carrot, thus prompting perhaps the most monumental of all Bugs Bunny jokes. Had Trank stuck with this concept, he might have made a movie with more thematic consistency. As it is, Capone tells us little about the man and even less about his legend, which Trank expects viewers to bring with them into the theater.

As such, the movie is mostly made up of horror show hallucinations that pretend to give us some feeling for the man’s crazed mental state; and thus the movie could be about anyone. Some of the hallucinations dig up past episodes in Capone’s life but given that the narrator is unreliable to begin with we can never be sure what these episodes are supposed to represent except Trank’s fantasies about the gangster life. Meanwhile, in the nominally lucid scenes we see his long-suffering wife, Mae (Linda Cardellini), try to keep him alive in the huge Florida compound where the authorities have essentially placed him under house arrest, as well as his children doing their best to stay out of jail on their own accounts. If some scenes work, like the one where Matt Dillon, playing an old associate, comes to visit and takes Capone out for a fishing excursion, it’s because the absurdity of Capone’s jellied consciousness is made to confront something like reality, but these scenes don’t hold together from one to the next. The FBI surveillance that backdrops these scenes at least gives the movie a semblance of a through story: the feds think that Capone still has a lot of money stashed secretly and want to find out where (so does his family, for that matter), so the real joke is that Capone is so far gone in the head that he probably doesn’t even know he has money some place.

But even the humorous potential of that idea is squandered by Trank’s need to belittle Capone in the worst possible way, by making him into a childish cipher of a gangster, a cartoonish take on the old Warner Bros. crime films that Capone himself inspired, but without a sense of irony. Bugs Bunny worked for Warners, too, remember?

Opens Feb. 26 in Tokyo at Shinjuku Cine Qualite (03-3352-5645), Human Trust Cinema Shibuya (03-5468-5551).

Capone home page in Japanese

photo (c) 2020 Fonzo LLC

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Media Mix, Feb. 21, 2021

Yoshiro Mori

Here’s this week’s Media Mix about the disastrous news conference of Yoshiro Mori that presaged his resignation as the president of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic organizing committee. The column may give the impression that it was the intrepid group of non-sports reporters who brought Mori down, but his fate was probably already sealed when his sexist remarks at the extraordinary JOC meeting were revealed and the foreign press made a big thing out of them. It’s sort of pointless to imagine what might have gone down if the foreign press hadn’t made a lot of noise because it’s become such a cliche. Domestic media, of course, know a stupid comment when they hear it, but they tend to step aside and let overseas media take the lead on expressing outrage when such matters present themselves. It’s not so much that it makes their job easier (though it does) as it removes from them any responsibility of having to challenge someone in power. The fact that it was the prime minister’s office that told Mori to hold the news conference to retract his remarks might indicate that the government thought they could contain the problem and save Mori’s skin. I’m not too sure about that, but, in any case, the non-sports reporters who made the effort to show up ensured that he wasn’t going to be allowed to get by with just an apology. As Atsushi Yamada said on Democracy Times, these reporters knew that the usual sports journalists who cover Mori-as-Olympic-honcho would likely not pressure him to own up to his sexist outlook, and perhaps the government, assuming that either only sports reporters would show up for the news conference or that the sports reporters who did show up would monopolize the Q&A session, thought they could leave it at that. Yamada said that most sports reporters come from the world of sports, meaning they were once athletes who understand the structure of Japanese sports and, thus, know their own place in it now that they’re journalists, which is to make sure the structure holds. During their discussion of the news conference on Ashita no College, host Satetsu Takeda and TBS radio reporter Daiki Sawada talked about how sports reporters rarely ask “real questions.” As Takeda commented, “They just want to get close to the players.” However, Sawada’s comment that Mori’s sexist remark reveals problems inherent in Japan’s sports world is off the mark. As so many women have said in the wake of Mori’s resignation, his brand of sexism is rampant throughout all Japanese power structures, and probably the world’s, as well. 

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Review: Babyteeth

First-time director Shannon Murphy is obviously the type of storyteller who, when confronted with a decision that proffers two extremes, will go with the cheekier option. Though this tale of a teenage cancer patient who has mostly given up on life contains the requisite measure of melodrama courtesy of screenwriter Rita Kalnejais, the stakes are constantly being raised by Murphy’s approach to way-out character development and outlandish plot devices that obviate the need to explore the protagonist’s pain and longing, since she has to deal with all this other shit as well. The opening scene, at which point the viewer still may not know about Milla’s (Eliza Scanlen) condition, is a real corker. Waiting on a train platform, Milla is scammed by an older punk named Moses (Toby Wallace) and instead of being mad she falls instantly in love with him, understanding that he’s obviously high on something since, as we soon find out, her own mother is hooked on drugs because she’s bipolar. For her mother, Anna (Essie Davis), obtaining these drugs isn’t a problem because her husband, Henry (Ben Mendelsohn), is a psychiatrist, though he’s conscientious enough to limit her dosage as best he can. Adding to the opening salvo of too-much-information is a scene where Henry and Anna interrupt their regular therapy session for some quick, desperate sex that itself is interrupted. 

Where these various vectors lead is predictable and yet when they arrive you can still be surprised. Moses, naturally, takes advantage of Milla’s crush by crashing the family’s nice, suburban Australian home and raiding the medicine cabinet. At this point in Milla’s deterioration, her parents have obviously reached an understanding that she should have whatever she wants (“this is the worst possible parenting I could imagine”), even if Anna still insists that Milla attend cello lessons that she’s mostly given up on, and they convincingly tolerate Moses’s self-interested shenanigans, which, frankly, are pretty funny if also pretty creepy. (Wallace has a bright future as a David Lynch regular.) Though Moses is clearly the tonal crux of the movie, Murphy leaves the character to his own devices and puts all of her thematic money on Milla’s fuck-all attitude and how it affects her parents. It’s a savvy take and one that keeps paying dividends up until the inevitable reckoning with mortality, which involves cliches like losing one’s virginity and actually enjoying it and a misdirected scene in which one of Milla’s classmates tries on her wig just to be mean. Had Murphy been consistent in her bold interpretation of the material she might have jettisoned some of the side business, like the flirtatious pregnant neighbor who tempts Henry, which is not so much gratuitous as it is lacking in sufficient tension. But it says something about Murphy’s convictions that by the time Henry offers Moses free drugs in exchange for him performing an unspeakable act, you actually buy it. 

Now playing in Tokyo at Shibuya White Cine Quinto (03-67127225), Shinjuku Musashinokan (03-3354-5670).

Babyteeth home page in Japanese

photo (c) 2019 Whitefalk Films pty ltd, Spectrum Films, Create NSW and Screen Australia

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Media Mix, Feb. 14, 2021

Hiroaki Nakanishi

Here’s this week’s Media Mix, which is about comments made by Keidanren chief Hiroaki Nakanishi and Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga about the current economic situation that were picked up by the media. Though the two men were talking about two different things—Nakanishi wages, Suga welfare—they were tied together, most convincingly by Tokyo Shimbun, as showing how employment policies enacted in the 90s have led to a general loss of financial security for many people. Professor Michio Goto told the newspaper that the political world and the business world pretty much worked together to make this happen, since, after the Japanese economy started stagnating in the 90s, companies convinced the government to eliminate lifetime employment so that they could compete more effectively on a global stage. By filling human resources with more non-regular workers, companies could save money, since personnel is the biggest expense they have. Goto found that that over the past 20 years males in their 30s and 40s showed the lowest wage increase of all demographic groups, and if these men married with the intention of having a family their wives would have to go to work in order to raise their standard of living enough to raise children. The problem here is that women’s wages have always been low, regardless of whether they work full-time or part-time, and hasn’t changed much in the last 20 years. The business world, he says, expects that, and takes advantage of the “social thinking” that believes male regular employees are the breadwinners and their wives just need to make enough money to help with household expenses. Consequently, the business community has never seriously considered raising women’s wages in line with men’s wages because they think no one really cares. This situation speaks to the experience of the woman profiled by Mainichi Shimbun as mentioned in the column.

As for the government’s take on welfare, which is supposed to help people who end up destitute, as Tokyo Shimbun points out, when the LDP regained power in 2012 one of the main planks on their platform was cutting welfare outlays by 10 percent, so if we accept the conventional wisdom that they won that election handily it would seem to mean that the public is all right with that, and this is where the media comes in, because they love reporting on welfare cheats, even though welfare cheats are very rare. And one of the methods the authorities use to discourage welfare applicants is calling relatives to see if they could support the applicant rather than the government, and not just parents, but siblings, aunts, uncles, even cousins. According to one expert interviewed by Tokyo Shimbun, this strategy is very effective in that many people who apply for welfare are so disheartened by the process that they never do it again, regardless of how desperate they are. 

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Media Mix, Feb. 7, 2021

Toshihiko Matsumoto

Here’s this week’s Media Mix, which is about the government’s push to enact penalties for consuming marijuana. As pointed out in the BuzzFeed interview with Toshihiko Matsumoto, an addiction therapist who is the media go-to guy whenever they need someone to talk about illegal drugs, marijuana laws in Japan are mostly about giving the police and bureaucratic entities something to do. Matsumoto tends to veer toward the cautious side in the debate about marijuana, but here he clearly advocates for more discussion about the possible medical benefits of weed, especially in the treatment of epilepsy. Of course, that’s never going to happen in Japan until the relevant organs can conduct tests, and as long as the Cannabis Control Law remains in place testing will always be forbidden. But what’s mainly interesting about the interview is Matsumoto’s opinions about the perceived harmful effects of the drug. As a person whose job is to help people get over addictions, whether it be drugs, alcohol, or gambling, he has probably more insight than anyone else in Japan as to the main reason given by the authorities for banning pot. He doesn’t deny that marijuana could be harmful, but he tends to think that criminalizing its use is counter-productive, a view that has become increasingly accepted elsewhere in the world. He finds it unfortunate that tax money is spent on investigations into drug possession and usage rather than on treatment and preventing recidivism for former addicts, but in saying so he also reveals that marijuana could be a valuable tool in getting people off other, more dangerous drugs. He theorizes that the popularity of so-called kiken (dangerous) drugs, meaning psychotropic substances that used to be quasi-legal, like mushrooms, grew as more Japanese people experimented with marijuana when they went overseas. And now that these drugs have become completely illegal, he sees more people actually going to the U.S., where marijuana has become legal in many states, for the express purpose of consuming it. Though this sounds like classic compulsive behavior, the kind of thing you would expect from someone with an addictive personality, Matsumoto doesn’t view it that way. In fact, he says that some of his patients who were hooked on kiken drugs “improved” when they switched to marijuana, though he doesn’t elaborate. He also observes that people who “like marijuana” tend to be “high spirited,” meaning they don’t manifest the kind of negative social tendencies common among addictive personalities. He also believes that the stricter law is politically motivated. The police became nervous when the UN last year changed its designation for marijuana so as to recognize its medicinal benefits, which is one reason why the police want to stiffen the law in Japan. Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga is OK with that, though Matsumoto thinks if Shinzo Abe were still prime minister it would have been more difficult because his wife has been quietly advocating for relaxation of regulations to make marijuana acceptable for medical use in Japan. When Akie Abe was photographed frolicking in a hemp field, a lot of media joked about it, but she’s probably the best friend Japanese potheads have. 

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