Watch the final episode of We Are All Radioactive

We Are All Radioactive – Chapter 7: Departure from Lisa Katayama on Vimeo.

Just released the final chapter of my documentary, WE ARE ALL RADIOACTIVE. I hope you enjoyed it! If you missed previous episodes, you can watch all of them at our Vimeo channel.

Coming soon: a new web site, discussion forums in real time with characters from the show. Please keep an eye on TokyoMango or for updates!

New We Are All Radioactive episode features Joi Ito and a humble government official

We Are All Radioactive – Chapter 5: Measurements from Lisa Katayama on Vimeo.

In Chapter 5, a team of hackers in Tokyo and Boston take radiation monitoring into their own hands, mapping the measurement levels across the entire country of Japan. Greenpeace and a blogging organic farmer join them in this civilian effort, and a government official admits that they need help.

We Are All Radioactive – my new online documentary film project!

Hey guys! Guess what, I’m making a movie!

We Are All Radioactive is an interactive, episodic documentary film project about surfers rebuilding northern Japan. I co-directed it with Jason Wishnow, who is the film director at TED.

Sunday is the one-year anniversary of the Tohoku earthquake, and we really need to remind people of how people in Japan are still living with the aftermath + uncertainty about radiation every day.

Because I’m a storyteller and I spend a lot of time on the Internet, I figured the best way for me to help Japan is to tell stories that are normally ignored. Like the stories of these surfers. And the fishermen they’re helping. And the government officials who are looking for a neutral third party to connect them with the locals.

We Are All Radioactive is going to do all these things, and more.

Because this is an independent project, we need your help in making it real. We are crowdfunding the film — as soon as we raise enough money to pay our editors + designers, we’ll release a new episode on our web site. Our web site launches on Sunday, so I’ll give you the URL as soon as it’s ready!

For now, please visit our campaign page to join the movement! We have lots of fun, meaningful interactive perks lined up for those who join the Radioactive community, like video messages from the characters and the chance to contribute your thoughts on a future episode. Super cool right?

Remember: by supporting this campaign, you’re helping us tell the inside story of an amazingly resilient community that shared their lives with us so that we can communicate their struggles to the world.

Kim Jong Il is dead – bizarre mourning video + testimonial on successor from his former sushi chef

The Korean Central News Agency announced Kim Jong Il’s death on its web site today. The news was accompanied by this strange three-minute montage showing lots of people mourning, and one solo interview with a woman who works at the capital’s electric wire factory at the very end.

The dear leader will most likely be succeeded by his son Kim Jong-Un. We don’t know too much about him, except that he’s about 28 or 29 years old and he appeared to be KJI’s favorite son.

A snippet from the NY Times quotes the Kims’ Japanese sushi chef as follows:

“When Prince Jong-un shook hands with me, he fixed me with a vicious look,” Kim Jong-il’s former Japanese sushi chef wrote in a 2003 memoir describing his first encounter with the boy, then 7, dressed in a military uniform and known as a “prince” among his father’s aides. “I still cannot forget the look in his eyes. It seemed to say, ‘This is a despicable Japanese.’ “

Video: Fukushima residents address government official about radiation

I’m deeply disturbed and saddened by this video, which shows a room full of Fukushima residents asking a government representative some fundamental questions that remain unanswered four months after the earthquake + subsequent radiation leak: Do Fukushima residents have the same right to safety from nuclear threat as the rest of humanity? Will you please do as you said earlier and test our children’s urine for radiation levels?

The official’s response–blatant and apathetic dismissal of the people’s concerns–is simultaneously abhorrent and not surprising. But most of all, it made me really sad that things have gotten to this point.


The Skilled Veteran Corps, a team of pensioners ready to save Japan from radiation

Picture 1 A group of 200 old people in Japan, organized by 72-year old Yasuteru Yamada, are volunteering to work at the Fukushima power plant.

Volunteering to take the place of younger workers at the power station is not brave, Mr Yamada says, but logical.

Mr Yamada has been getting back in touch with old friends via e-mail and even messages on Twitter. “I am 72 and on average I probably have 13 to 15 years left to live,” he says.

“Even if I were exposed to radiation, cancer could take 20 or 30 years or longer to develop. Therefore us older ones have less chance of getting cancer.”

There’s a video interview in English here. The stupidest part of the interview is when the BBC reporter asks: “Are you kamikaze pensioners?” I love how the guy being interviewed politely says, no, not at all. “We are not kamikaze. The kamikaze were something strange, no risk management there.”

via the BBC

8.9 magnitude earthquake hits northern Japan; events still unfolding

The fifth biggest earthquake ever just struck northern Japan, near Sendai. Most people in Tokyo are okay, but an oil refinery in Chiba is on fire and the tip of Tokyo Tower is apparently bent. A 900-person strong emergency team is out to help, and foreign aid may be on its way. So far, no radioactive leaks, but that could change. People are being encouraged not to get in their cars but to walk to the highest point possible.

The tsunami warning has now spread to Hawaii, Indonesia, South America… You can watch NHK’s live updates here; Al Jazeera is also covering it live.

Lessons learned from the demise of Kongo Gumi, the world’s oldest business

BusinessWeek has some interesting insights into how Kongo Gumi, a temple building business that is apparently the world’s oldest, survived for 1,400 years and what led to its demise in 2010.

Japanese temple builder Kongo Gumi, in operation under the founders’ descendants since 578, succumbed to excess debt and an unfavorable business climate in 2006.

….To sum up the lessons of Kongo Gumi’s long tenure and ultimate failure: Pick a stable industry and create flexible succession policies. To avoid a similar demise, evolve as business conditions require, but don’t get carried away with temporary enthusiasms and sacrifice financial stability for what looks like an opportunity. These lessons are somewhat contradictory and paradoxical, to be sure. But if sustained success came easy, then all family businesses would have a 1,428-year run.


Viral gift-giving trend brings school bags, toys to orphans from fictional Tiger Mask character

A mysterious and awesome charity trend is taking place all over Japan right now: anonymous donors are gifting expensive school bags and toys at orphanages under the name Date Naoto. Date Naoto is actually a fictional character from the anime Tiger Mask; in the story, the character himself is an orphan-turned-professional wrestler who donates money to the orphanage he grew up in.

There have been more than 15 of these gifts from Date Naoto gifts so far; most of the donors are reported to be men in their 60s.

This is either a great act of anonymous viral charity or an elaborate marketing scheme by the creators of Tiger Mask. Either way, it’s a creative mode of giving and has brought a warm fuzzy feeling to the daily news. Also, how awesome is it that the latest catching trend is one of giving, not of buying?

(Thanks, Mom and Kazu Y!)

Jake Adelstein remembers crime lawyer Toshiro Igari after his “suicide”

Last Friday, a well-known criminal lawyer named Toshiro Igari was found dead in a hotel room in Manila. The police are writing it off as a suicide, but as Tokyo Vice author Jake Adelstein points out, it’s hard to cut both your wrists.

Jake wrote a touching account of his last interaction with Igari, who was a good friend of his, on his Twitter feed. I hope he doesn’t mind that I took the liberty of pasting it here.

I wanted to say something about Igari Toshiro, my lawyer and friend. I have read every book he’s written about organized crime and as an ex-prosecutor he knows his stuff. He was always a delight to speak with. At a time in 2008, when I was under police protection and wondering if I was going to get snuffed or one of my friends would he met me. Later, I heard he met up with a Goto-gumi exec. and warned him “If anything happens to Jake, I’ll make sure the prosecutors come for you.” He had clout because he was an ex-prosecutor. The worst of the yakuza feared him and I admired him. This year Goto Tadamasa published his memoirs. If you understand how yakuza work, it had the equivalent of a “fatwa” written about me. 跳ね返り催促。Because the lines in the book had a notation that he was laughing when he said it, the police couldn’t arrest him for making a threat. I wrote Igari-san asking him what to do. I got a reply within hours. He came back to Japan from Brazil on Sunday August 8th, and went directly from the airport to his office to meet me. I was honored. On that evening, I sat down with him and two other lawyers. He took my case and said he would first write to the publishers of Goto’s book.Igari said, “The publisher’s edited the interviews, they have a responsibility for the words they chose. They printed slander and threats.”He was excited about taking a vacation in Manila. He wasn’t depressed. He said we’d talk more when he got back.His last words to me were: 「この件は勇気と金もかかりますよ。ただ働きできない(笑)。しかし、この本は許さない。出版社も言葉の危険を承知しているはずだ。後藤は本当に嘘つきだ。ヤクザにしてもクズです。伊丹監督の攻撃を命令したのが事実。さあ戦いましょう」. Rough translation: “It’ll take courage & money to handle your case. Goto is a liar & his book and publisher are unforgivable. Lets’s fight.” He was smiling and laughing when I left his office. I don’t believe he killed himself. Igari先生 was a mentor. Hard-working, funny, courageous, honorable, with a thirst for justice. He always remembered kindnesses and repaid them.

First look at Tokyo’s main execution chamber


For the first time ever, the Japanese justice officials took a few journalists to see its execution chambers. All executions in Japan are done by hanging. Hiroko Tabuchi’s NY Times article describes the process:

The inmate is handcuffed and blindfolded before entering the execution room, officials said. Three prison wardens push separate buttons, only one of which releases the trapdoor — but they never find out which one. Wardens are given a bonus of about $230 every time they attend an execution.

Japan’s capital punishment system has gotten a lot of crap from the UN and other human rights activists. There’s no pardoning, and inmates (and their families and lawyers) aren’t told when they’ll be executed until the day of. This has gotten a lot of scrutiny, but officials claim it’s to quell panic.

Japanese officials reveal execution chambers [NYTimes]

New trend: kids getting pro hair removal

カラー写真:腕に機械をあてて脱毛してもらう小学生の女の子=福岡市内The Asahi reports a slightly disturbing trend — hair removal for little kids. One salon chain in southern Japan reports that it conducted over 400 hair removal procedures on kids between the ages of 3 and 18. The reasons? “I worry about how people perceive me”; “boys made fun of me”; “my friends told me I was hairy”. Some mothers dragged their 4-year olds to salons after the kids accidentally cut themselves while taking scissors to unwanted body hair.

Ugh, this sucks that little kids are so self-conscious about hair — it’s such a natural thing. I blame the razor companies for heavily marketing the beauty of hairlessness from decades ago.

Link (Japanese) (Thanks, Kazu Y!)

Government outlaws yakuza & possession of child porn

Wow! From Jake Adelstein:

The National Police Agency announced today an immediate ban on designated organized crime groups and their activities in conjunction with the establishment of Japan’s version of the RICO act, the criminal conspiracy laws/kyobozai(共謀罪). The Criminal Conspiracy Laws were passed in an extraordinary session of the Diet, where the newly ruling Democratic Party of Japan showed amazing and surprising leadership after a series of incidents in which organized crime groups targeted regular civilians in neo-terrorist acts.

Quite revolutionary.