Posted by debito on January 31st, 2008
A CONVERSATION WITH MRS. IDUBOR IN YOKOHAMA
LIFE IS TOUGH IN JAPAN WHEN YOU FEEL THE POLICE ARE OUT TO GET YOU
As told to Arudou Debito, Sapporo, Japan
January 31, 2008
A friend and I went to Big Y’s Cafe, a mere two blocks from Yokohama’s Chinatown (see http://www.debito.org/?p=831), for the second time on January 23. We sat down with Mrs Idubor to talk about life after one’s husband has been taken away under really odd circumstances. Here’s an account from her perspective–for where else are you going to hear it?
Osayuwamen Idubor, known by his nickname of “Yuyu”, has been in Japan in various capacities for eighteen years. He’s run a few bars and hostess bars, been on famous TV show KOKO GA HENDAYO NIHONJIN, and tried to make a go of it here despite a lot of bumps in the road. “Even though all of his licenses were in order, the police kept raiding his places and finding reasons to check his records.” He finally got completely out of the hostess economy and just went into regular barkeeping, which is where he met and married his wife about two years ago.
But even when you try to keep your life on track–network, run a business, start a family–things have a habit of going wrong when you’re an international couple in Japan. In this case, the distaff side is from an Eastern-European country, and Yuyu from an African country (Nigeria)–a place our Tokyo Governor has accused of spoiling his town by dumbing it down:
“Roppongi is now virtually a foreign neighborhood. Africans–I don’t mean African-Americans–who don’t speak English are there doing who knows what. This is leading to new forms of crime such as car theft. We should be letting in people who are intelligent.” (Ishihara Shintaro, February 19, 2007)
Listening to Mrs. Idubor’s account, one began to wonder whether Yuyu, a very tall, broad, dark African, had in fact been caught in a crackdown.
In November 2006, Yuyu was accused of raping a Japanese woman in his bar. The allegations involved her getting uncontrollably drunk on November 1, being assaulted and dragged around the premises, then having unconsensual sexual relations. Then, er, being (by her own admission for the record) driven home by Yuyu later on in the morning, and her meeting a friend for lunch. There was no immediate accusation of rape afterwards, the police did not come by the bar to investigate, there was no rape kit collecting biological data, there were no photographs of her body showing indicative injury or bruising, and no indicative marks or remains on her clothing. In short, there was no material evidence of rape whatsoever. Just her word against his. Moreover, there were inconsistences in her word, particularly about being dragged around the bar (when outdoor equipment had been stowed inside after closing, making it harder to get around the room). You can read more about the inconsistencies in the charges against Yuyu from his lawyer at:
You can read Yuyu’s side of the story handwritten in his own words, thanks to letters sent Debito.org from jail, here and here:
When the accusation was made, Mrs Idubor of course did some investigating of her own. The bar makes security videotapes of all customers who enter the bar, and she examined them for any odd events during that night. She saw nothing untoward. The tapes, however, were not saved. The machine automatically erased them after ten days–and they did not realize they would be necessary–police did not start investigating this case until January 22, 2007, more than two months later. And when she testified as such in court, the judge dismissed her testimony as mere wife’s defense.
Mrs Idubor believes that Yuyu’s arrest and interrogation was instigated by another series of odd events that occurred in mid-January 2007. Their bar is open until the last customer leaves, usually until around 5 or 6AM. But the police were at that time enforcing stricter parking rules, and had cautioned Yuyu not to park in front of the premises. However, for business purposes, a driver is allowed five minutes for loading and unloading, and that’s the amount of time Yuyu took. However, Mrs Idubor says, “First thing in the morning, with another car parked out front, and parked for only two minutes, we come outside and found a ticket from the police on our car only, and the policeman trying to get away. Yuyu felt he was being unfairly targeted, got very angry, told the police to take back the ticket, and soon twenty police had come here trying to decide what to do. When a senior policeman agreed to take back the ticket, I felt like somebody had lost face. Because one week later, two months after that woman said the crime happened, that’s when they came back to arrest and investigate my husband on rape charges.”
Yuyu was incarcerated awaiting trial from January 2007 until December 2007. He was denied any chance of bail because, according to his lawyer, Mr Tsurusaki, “foreigners aren’t allowed bail in Japan because they might leave the country”. He was denied medical treatment for a bleeding ear and a rash in his scalp the entire time. He was put in small detention cells until his lawyer and the Nigerian Embassy negotiated for something more his size. And he was put on trial for rape.
There were several odd things again during the criminal investigation. One was that evidence that might prove motive on the part of the accuser conveniently disappeared or were ignored. For example, Yuyu had four cellphones, all impounded by the police. He did not receive many emails, preferring to do his conversations live, but one email that was influential was from the alleged rape victim herself. “You destroyed my relationship with my boyfriend. I’ll never forgive you. I’ll make you regret this,” she allegedly wrote to him in romanized Japanese. However, Mrs Idubor only received three phones back from the police, and the one missing (which is still in police custody) had the email. The police, however, officially reported that no email from the accuser was on it. So Mrs. Idubor believes it was probably deleted.
What is the plaintiff’s relationship with Yuyu? None. He met her for the first time on the day the alleged assault occurred, November 1st (read from page 34 of Yuyu’s letters). She is rendered as “F”‘s good friend. She was used by “F” to set Yuyu up. “F”‘s boyfriend asked Yuyu to keep an eye on his girlfriend while he was not around (he was working late) just in case there was something going on on the side. Yuyu did, and when it became clear there was some funny business going on, she sought revenge on Yuyu. She even intimated that she had friends in the police. Again, read Yuyu’s side of the story at http://www.debito.org/?p=1199
Again, the police took two months ignoring the case after the original date of the alleged rape–there wasn’t even a visit from the police in the interim to ask Yuyu any questions. Then he was arrested in January. One gets the impression that it wasn’t until the traffic cop altercation that the regular police decided to haul him in for a year of questioning. Then he was convicted (his lawyer predicted as such–setting him free after a year’s incarceration would entitle Yuyu to a year’s worth of back pay as damages from the National Police Agency) and sentenced to three years in jail (less the year he’s served so far). Read the court decision in Japanese at http://www.debito.org/iduborchisaihanketsu.pdf
Life is pretty rough for Mrs Idubor alone. Their landlord is trying to evict them from their bar, as he’s now a convicted criminal. Somebody managed to cut all their bar’s power cables, requiring a substantial investment to hook back to the grid. Her bicycle has been vandalized. Yuyu still has not been allowed to see a prison doctor for his ear and scalp. She is allowed fifteen minutes a day to visit on weekdays, strictly enforced, and she visits him five times a week. They were still newlyweds when they were separated, and were ready to settle down and start a family. But clearly that will have to be put on hold until Yuyu gets out of jail (or is sprung by the High Court; the case is on appeal) in two years.
I asked if even after all this, they still wanted to stay in Japan. Mrs Idubor said she wouldn’t under any circumstances, “even if you gave me a million dollars”. As soon as he’s out, they’re out. This is what happens when you feel constantly targeted in society.
Stepping out of my narrator’s role for a minute and speaking my own opinion, I find this situation genuinely frightening. A person was arrested (fortunately, he wasn’t alone–but in Japan if you’re arrested on the street, for not, say, carrying your Gaijin Card, you simply disappear for at least a few days or weeks for interrogation) with no evidence against them, denied bail because he’s a foreigner, and thrown into jail with presumption of guilt (with tortuous interrogation conditions until you confess to something). Yuyu did not confess, but it didn’t matter. More than 99% of all people who go to trial are convicted in Japan. If you think I am exaggerating any of this, corroborative evidence at
And if you can go down for somebody pointing the finger at you despite no evidence, that means this sort of thing could happen to anyone. You, for example. Know anyone with a grudge against you? Watch out.
Four years ago, I escorted a reporter (and his interpreter and photographer, both Japanese) from a major world newspaper to Wakkanai and Monbetsu to report on “Japanese Only” signs. Unfortunately, the photographer refused to do his job (i.e. take pictures of the bar signs), and I questioned his professionality. He lost his cool, and attacked me in a blind rage in a bar’s rest room. It’s a long story, and someday I’ll probably get around to telling it. But the point is, I asked the bar to call the cops and have this man taken in for assault. The barkeep refused. In retrospect, that was probably the right decision. If anything, as in the Per Bodner Case (http://www.debito.org/?p=938), they would probably have arrested me instead. ‘Cos I’m the White Guy. Finger marks on my throat or not, I’m the one who comes under suspicion.
That is one of the facts of life for foreigners (or foreign-looking peoples) who live in Japan. They are more likely to fall under suspicion in the eyes of the Japanese police, who practice Racial Profiling as a well-nigh SOP (http://www.debito.org/?s=racial+profiling). In a country where even the Tokyo Governor can repeatedly disparage entire minorities in public without censure, Yuyu and his wife would agree.
January 31, 2008
FURTHER DISCUSSION ON RAPE AS A CRIME AND THE TREATMENT OF RAPE IN THE JAPANESE JUDICIARY AT