ICA 2001 Conference
Session # 2422 : Democracy and Media in East Asia Seminar
"Lapdog Press and One-Party Rule in Japan"

By Kenichi ASANO
Professor of Journalism
Doshisha University
Kyoto, Japan

1 Enemy of the Press
"You had better make any kind of statements to make major newspapers and private TV staitions reporters later report that Prime Minister virtually withdrew his former statement," and "You should make the same comments repeatedly whatever questions you are asked in order to lose sight of the thier initial aims."

A Nishinihon Shimbun reporter found a private letter addressed to Japan's former Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori of Liberal Demacratic Party (LDP) on May 25, 2000. The letter was behind a copy machine at Prime Minister's Office "kisha club" (press club) being a form of self-imposed "press club" system in Japan.
A letter titled "An advice to tomorrow's press conference" gave many kinds of suggestions how to answer to the reporters questions.
Mr. Mori was then in a most critical situation after he said, "Japan is a country having Emperor in the center of it" on May 12. This remark was made at the joint meeting of LDP Parliament members and Shintoist priests. Coalition government partner New Komeito Party supported by Buddhist organization Sokagakkai criticized this statement was against Japan's post war Constitution which guarantees freedom of religion.
Mr.Mori got through this tough press conference on May 26 thanks to this letter of instruction.
Many journalists believe that this letter of instruction was written and left by NHK senior correspondent to Prime Minister's Office. This suspected NHK reporter said that "Yomiuri Shimbun reporter Mr. So and So (giving his name) is much closer to Mr. Mori than me," when Nishinihon reporter interviewed him.
I sent a letter to Prime Minister's Office kisha-club to ask all journalists to make a thorough investigation over this case on June 3. However the one of the biggest press club in Japan concluded on June 8 that the club would not make any actions because writer of the letter is unknown.

Scandal tainted Premier Mori stayed in his position until April 26 although his cabinet became most unpopular. Support rate of Mori cabinet was one of the lowest marking around 5-9 % in February when he chose to continue playing golf when he first heard of the Ehime Maru collision with United States nuclear submarines off Hawaii.

LDP has been ruling Japan for most of the postwar era, had again survived thanks to the Japanese "Lapdog press" when Junichiro Koizumi was chosen as a prime minister on Apri 26. According to polls of major newspapers and news agencies, a record 80% or more Japanese people now support the new government lead by Koizumi.

Koizumi was described as a reformer of "drastic structual reforms with nothing sacred "
2.3 million LDP members elected him to win the coming elction of the House of Councillors in August.
Mr.Koizumi appointed first female foreign minister Makiko Tanaka,
a daughter of Former Prime Minister Kakuei Tanaka who died after being sentenced four year imprisonment in the Lockeed scandal case by Tokyo Court of Appeal.
Japanese newspapers and TV networks eagerly covered LDP members' election of LDP president who automatically bocomes prime minister because of LDP' grip on Parliament. Consequently the mass-media coverage over Koizumi made a boom.

Most journalists had forgotten that several enterprises "bought" LDP members annual party fees which themeselves reported several months ago. LDP memnbers election is far from regular form.
Koizumi was a leader of Mori faction during former Mori government.

2 Japanese Press and LDP
"If you draw a mustache on Koizumi's face, he just looks like Adolf Hitler," said one professor emiritas of my University last week. At his first press conference on April 27 Koizumi called for revizing a war-renouncing Constitution. Article 9 of our precious Constitution not only denounces the threat of use of military force as a means of settling international disputes, but also prescribes that "land, sea and air forces, as well as other potential war forces, will never be maintained."
Koizumi said that Article 9 fails to reflect reality, noting that the nation has had its own military forces, the Self-Defense Forces, since 1954. "It is hard to support the argument that SDF are not military forces. And I don't think Japan should be left unarmed, either," he said.
He also openly declared that he will make an official visit to Yasukuni Shrine on Aug. 15 this year as a prime misnister. Yasukuni Shrine is a temple complex that is a spiritual center of Japan's right-wing because war criminal Class A including Tojo Hideki, war time premier are interred .
Newly appointed LDP Secretary General Taku Yamasaki, successor of hawkish former premier Yasuhiro Nakasone faction which represents ultra rightist group. Yamasaki who is also close to Asian totalitarian leaders such as Suharuto of Indonesia published a new book showing blueprint of new Constitution. It clearly states that Japan's citizens have a duty to protect the country. It allows Japan to exercise its right to collective defence, which the government has so far banned in its officail interpretation of the Constituition.

3 Friends of LDP
Japan is one the most ideal country enjoying press freedom without any state control. Article 21 of Japan's Constitution states that "Freedom of assembly and association as well as speech, press and all other forms of expression are guaranteed. No censorship shall be maintained, nor shall the secrecy of any means of communication be violated".
However I personally think that level of Japanese press is not high -- compared with Japan's world ranking in technology or economics.
I think that such weaknesses in Japanese press stem from our country's democratic history. Our modern-day Constitution was introduced to us only after the Japanese Imperial Army had surrendered without any conditions in August 1945. We Japanese, it is safe to say, lack the tradition of a grassroots democracy.
Japanese press almost igonored the objective reality that there is no changes in LDP. It still represents Japanese business circles and the bureaucracy.
Some media critics think that Asahi Shimbun is leftist or liberal. I do not think so at all. Major newspapers in Japan is not against Keidanren(Federation of Economic Organizations) lead Japanese style capitalism, Emperor System of Japan.

An important mission of the press in real democracy is to watch, listen and report the facts -- especially those facts that are hidden by the authorities -- accurately and objectively.
But we are far from that ideal in Japan, where the press serves essentially as the "right flank" to our parliament and governmental authorities and big companies. Press persons in Japan have little or no sensitivity concerning citizens' rights*(1).

Especially political reporters in Japan are mostly the "lap dogs" of prominent politicians. This is exemplified in the notorious "kisha club" system -- an exclusive, closed system of media organizations that is kept in place by major newspapers and broadcasting companies themselves.
Japanese political news reporters usually depend on leaks from ruling-party members of parliament. Such reporters often visit the private residences of these politicians and various other high-ranking officials in the evening. They sometimes call at thier houses in the morining to get information. They often drink and play golf together. "We share more time with news reporters than our wives," LDP senior Parliament member told TV Asahi. That's how they get their "scoops."

4 Lack of Knowledge in History

told kisha-club reporters as follows:
"Let me teach you real history since you all belong to young generation. We had done many good things during our colonial rule over Korean Peninsula. According to international law, Japan's integration of Korea was lawful and right because Korea was underdeveloped and weak at that time," Takami Eto, Minister for Administrative Agency said to about fifteen journalsits on January 11, 1996.
Since Eto talked to kisha-club members on "off-the-record" base. Most of the reporters did not think Eto's comment was so wild. A fewreporters tried to write stories but could not make them.
One reporter anonimously sent an audio-cassette of Eto's statements to Donga Ilbo Daily News Tokyo Bureau. This Seoul's quality newspaper first reported on February 8, 1996 almost one month after Eto's statement. Eto's remark had become a serious problem and this minister resigned.
Only Mainichi and Tokyo Shimbun reporterd Eto's remark from their reporters original tape and memo. Kisha-club gave punishment to expel these two newspapers from club for three months by saying that they did not keep the off-the-record agreement. Other newspapers until now quote Donga Ilbo articles when they write about Eto's abusive language .
I was dissapointed that Asahi Shimbun colum criticized Eto saying "Japanese cabinet members do not understand the importance of state interest ."
Japanese press is not very cautious about Japan's moving to a very dangerous direction. I call it "The Days of Media Facsism is imminent"
Eight history textbooks that critics say gloss over Japan's wartime atrocities and its colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula were .
Very dangerous textbook compiled by nationalist academics of the Japanese Society for History Textbook Reform has received permission from the government. This is to be published by Fuso Publishing Co. for the general public, too. Other textbooks dropped the word of "ianfu," war time sex slaves in Japanese Imperial Army. Only one high school textbook mention about "ianfu" now*(2).
Journalsits have to learn from the true history including the 50 years of military expansionism after Japan "integrated" Taiwan in 1895. Especially they always should think of establishing good relation with Korea and China.
In Japan, ultra-rightists are still very active. A movie titled "Pride," which glorified wartime prime minister Hideki Tojo as a hero, was widely accepted by Japanese society. Last month the new film "Merdeka" which showed how Japanese army helped the independence of the Republic of Indonesia. The movie emphasized that Japan's occupation on the dormer Dutch colony assisited the Indonesia youth independence movement.

I am very much concerned these days by the Japanese government, and most Japanese people, ignoring Article 9 of our precious Constitution. In reality, however as Mr. Koizumi insists, the Japanese SDF budget is the third largest in the world. "If you look at the SDF from abroad," high-ranking Japanese diplomats openly say, "it is undoubtedly a military force."
It is true that SDF has become armed forces. LDP governments has beefed up SDF without revizing Constution at all. Furthermore the Supreme Court has not given any judgement over this important matter.
The Japanese people must adopt the "rule of law" principle in politics. Due process in politics is absolutely necessary. Journalists are responsible for this role to monitor what politicians are doing on behalf of the general public.


*(1) See "News Complaints Handling System Cannot Be Called Ombudsmen", HYORON SHAKAIKAGAKU No.64, March 2001, Doshisha University

*(2) See "A Journalist's Experiences with Elections in Japan", HYORON SHAKAIKAGAKU No.62, March 2000, Doshisha University



Kenichi ASANO

Born: July 27, 1948
Nationality: Japanese
Religious affiliation: Protestant

・Professor of Journalism and Mass Communications, Department of Social Sciences, Faculty of Letters, Doshisha University
・Professor of Journalism, Doctorate Degree Program, Department of Journalism, Graduate School of Letters, Doshisha University
Karasuma Imadegawa-dori, Kamigyo-ku, Kyoto 602-8580, JAPAN

Tel: +81-251-3457 (or -3441)
Fax: +81-251-3066
E-mail 1: kasano@mail.doshisha.ac.jp
E-mail 2: VZB06310@nifty.ne.jp
(please send e-mail to both addresses)


252-606 Asukaicho, Horikawa Imadegawa-dori Higashiiru, Kamigyo-ku, Kyoto 602-0054, JAPAN
Tel & Fax: +81-75-415-2420

1. Education:

Faculty of Economics, Keio University, April 1968; B.A., economics, 1972; completed journalism studies at Institute of Journalism and Mass Communications Research, Keio University, 1972.

2. Teaching Experience:

・Institute of Journalism and Mass Communications Research, Keio University, Lecturer, Journalism, April 1993-March 1995
・Professor of Journalism and Mass Communications, Department of Social Sciences, Faculty of Letters, Doshisha University, April 1994-present
・Professor of Journalism, Master's Degree Program, Department of Journalism Graduate School of Letters, Doshisha University, April 1994-present
・Professor of Journalism, Doctorate Degree Program, Department of Journalism, Graduate School of Letters, Doshisha University, April 1998-present
(Newly established doctorate degree program following approval by Ministry of Education, Science, Sports and Culture in January 1997. I was approved as one of five faculty members to open the Doctorate Degree Program. I teach "Ethics of Journalism" and "Research in Mass Communications Law" in the Master's Degree Program and "Freedom of Communication and Mass Communications Law" in the
Doctoral Degree Program.)

3. Professional Experience:

・Reporter, departments of city news, Chiba bureau, radio & television news, and international news; Kyodo News, April 1972-February 1989
・Chief Correspondent, Jakarta Bureau; Kyodo News, February 1989-July 1992
・International News Department editor; Kyodo News, July 1992-March 1994

4a. Professional Publications (Japanese):

・"The Crime of Crime Reporting," Gakuyo Shobo, 1984
・"Criminal Reporting Reform," Nihon Hyoronsha, 1985  
・"Crime Reporting and the Police," Sanichi Shobo, 1987
・"The Emperor and the Mass Media," Sanichi Shobo, 1989 (with Hiroshi Sakai)
・"The Crime of Reporting Extremists," Sanichi Shobo, 1990
・"Objective Reporting," Chikuma Shobo, 1993
・"Expulsion Order: 1,200 Days in Covering Indonesia," Nihon Hyoronsha, 1993
・"Japan Could Become the Enemy of the World," Sanichi Shobo, 1994
・"The Principle of Anonymity in Reporting Crimes," Gakuyo Shobo, 1995 (with Masanori Yamaguchi)
・"Japan's Irresponsible Mass Media," Gendaijin Bunsha, 1996 (edited with Masanori Yamaguchi)
・"The Age of Media Fascism," Akashi Shobo, 1996
・"The Crime and Punishment of News Coverage of the Matsumoto Sarin Gas Incident," Daisan Bunmeisha, 1996 (with Yoshiyuki Kouno)
・"Japanese Universities and the Asia Pacific War," Nihon Keizai Hyoronsha, 1996 (with Atsushi Shirai, et al)
・"Debate: Do Newspapers Have a Future?" Gendaijin Bunsha, 1996 (editor)
・"The Second Offense of Reporting Crimes," Daisan Shokan, 1998
・"The Journalist's Conscience in Reporting Crimes," Daisan Shokan, 1998
・"The Emperor's Reporters: The Major Newspapers' 'Invasion of Asia'", Three
A Network, 1997
・"Aum Shinrikyo and the Mass Media," Daisan Shokan, 1997
・"Media Lynching," Ushio Shuppan, 1997
・"From a Hero to a Bomber," Sanichi Shobo, 1998
・"Wandering Report of Brain Death Transplant," Tsukuru Shuppan, 2000

4b. Professional Publications (English):

・"Case For The Anonymity Rule," The Daily Yomiuri, Dec. 12, 1987
・"Greens field a swamp campaign," South (business magazine of the developing world), May 1990
・"Indonesia's political dilemma," The Japan Times, Nov. 1, 1990
・"Japanese militarism rings alarm bells," New Straits Times, Malaysia, Dec. 21, 1991
・"Trial by media: ombudsman needed," Tokyo Weekender, June 7, 1996
・"Japan's Troubled News Media," The Christian Science Monitor, Aug. 29, 1997

-- Plus several other books and more than 100 articles in academic journals and magazines.

5. Academic Awards:

・American Field Service International Scholarship Exchange Student Program, 1966-1967
・Matsushita Foundation International Understanding Research Assistance Program, 1995-1996
・Grant-in-Aid for Scientific Research (C) from The Ministry of Education, Science, Sports and Culture, 1996-1997. The theme of my research was "How to Harmonize a Free Press and Individual Integrity."

6. Civic, Religious and Professional Services:

・Received license of English-language interpreter/tourist guide from Japanese Transport Ministry, February 1969
・One of the founders of "Liaison Committee on Human Rights and Mass Media Conduct" (JIMPOREN)
・Member of Japan Society for Studies in Journalism and Mass Communications
・Member of Association of Former Kyodo News Reporters
・Speaker on "Problems of Modern Journalism," Convocation at DMH Hall, International Christian University, January 17, 1985
・Workshop Lecture on "Prevention of Crimes and Mass Media," Japan Society for Sociocriminology, Bukkyo University, October 8, 1985
・Special Lecture, The Hyogo Joint Summer Session at Sea, August 1990 and August 1992
・Workshop presentation on "Japan and ASEAN," International Symposium by Institute of International Strategy, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, December 8, 1991
・Research Meeting Lecture on "Crime Reporting and Crime Rates," Japan Society for Studies in Journalism and Mass Communications, July 15, 1993
・Panelist at symposium on "Indonesian Development and the Role of NGOs," Japan-Indonesia NGO Network, July 29, 1993
・Workshop Lecture on "Southeastern Asian Press Under Japanese Military Rule," Japan Society for Studies in Journalism and Mass Communications, Kansei Gakuin University, June 9, 1996
・Workshop Lecture on "Prospects to Establish Japanese Press Council," Japan Society for Studies in Journalism and Mass Communications, Kanazawa Gakuin University, June 9, 1996
・Workshop Lecture on "Media Accountability System and Press Ethics," Japan Society For Studies in Journalism and Mass Commucication, Tokyo Joho University, Oct. 26, 1996
・Delivered Lecture on "How prominent Japanese newspapers reported Korea's March 1st Independence Movement in 1919," International Symposium on Korea's
March 1st Independence Movement and Nonviolence Movement, March 1997
・Adviser for Japan Federation of Newspaper Workers Unions' research trip to Europe, May 1997
・Delivered lecture on "Privacy and Media" to National Diet Library staff, Oct. 6, 1997
・Delivered lecture on "The Japanese Press and Brain Death" at international symposium titled "Psychosocial Aspects of Organ Donation" during International Congress on Psychonephrology, June 2000
7. International and Other Experience:

・American Field Service International Scholarship student, Aug. 1966 -July 1967
・Member of Chiba Prefectural Friendship Tour to China, May 1979
・Member of UNICEF Japan's study tour to Cambodia, May 1988
・Chief Correspondent of Kyodo News Jakarta Bureau, Feb. 1989 to July 1992
・Member of Editorial Board of Journalism Studies from Sept. 1998-present. The
editors will be Bob Franklin (Sheffield University, UK) and Jenny McKay (Scottish Centre For Journalism, Strathclyde University); a third editor will be based in a Department of Journalism in the USA. The first issue wil be published in January 2000.

8. Research and Teaching:

・Comparative studies of media accountability systems in various countries so as to harmonize the rights of a free press and individual integrity and privacy. (I would like to implement the Swedish model of a Press Council in Japan after scrutinizing several problems to be solved.)
・Comparative studies to see how the mass media report crimes committed by juveniles in various countries.
・Research on the roles of the mass media in Southeast Asia.
・Continued research on journalism in Asian countries under Japanese military rule. (I plan to interview several more Japanese and Asian journalists who worked for Japanese military-controlled newspapers.)

・More details about my social activities can be found on the Internet, as follows:

--Homepage of Asano Seminar, Doshisha University:

--JIMPOREN homepage:



Copyright (c) 2001, Prof.Asano Ken'ichi's Seminar Last updated 2001.07.08