Jon Dujmovich speculates on media distractions: PM Fukuda’s resignation vs. alleged NJ Sumo pot smoking


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Hi Blog. In lieu of writing something more substantial today (got a speech for lawyers in Osaka and Tokyo in a few hours. See my powerpoint presentation for this event here: ), let me give the keyboard over to Jon Dujmovich, who sponsored one of my recent speeches.  

Disclaimer:  This is Jon’s opinion and only Jon’s opinion, not mine or anyone’s affiliated with  I make a subsidiary comment at the end.  Have a read.  


Broadcast media silent on Fukuda, but not about foreigners.

A keen observation of two Japanese media sources over the past few days that has me scratching my head and thinking “Hmmm…”

24 hours after Japanese prime minister Fukuda announced his resignation to the nation (September 1), BS 1 news had nothing to say about the story. Nothing. I watched 4 consecutive broadcasts of the news at the top of each hour from 10:00 p.m. to 2:00 am (September 2/3) and there was nothing. Oh sure, there was a story about a car slamming into a ramen shop in Nagoya, and even stories from the American G.O.P. convention, but no Japanese politics. In fact, the lead story was about two Russian sumo wrestlers, Roho and Hakurozan testing positive for marijuana in their urine.

Again, 2:00 p.m., 3:00 p.m., Wednesday September 3rd nothing regarding Japanese politics, plenty on the U.S. elections and lead off story Roho and Haurozan. “Hmmmm…”

Compare this to the Japan Times Online (September 3) for which I subscribe and receive daily, and we see Aso’s bid to follow Fukuda as Prime Minister is the lead story, followed by a story on the G 8 summit, and one on Okinawa. To find the story on the sumo wrestlers one has to scroll down past the TOP STORIES section, NATIONAL NEWS, OTHER NEWS, BUSINESS, OPINION, FEATURES, and finally to SPORTS, where you will find the sumo story just before tennis, second to last. “Hmmm…”

Now comes the most interesting part. In the Japan Times article (Wednesday, Sept. 3, 2008, “Aso gets set for run at LDP presidency: Party election slated for Sept. 22” by Jun Hongo and Setsuko Kamiya) there is a line that reads “…senior members of the LDP scrambled from early Tuesday to control the damage in the wake of Fukuda’s hasty departure.”

Is this coincidence? Does “control damage” include media censorship? Hmmm…I wonder.

Now I am not qualified enough to speak officially on the subject, nor do suggest this is good social science, I am merely pointing out a very suspicious coincidence where smoke and mirrors seem to be employed to deflect media attention from the LDP and government woes, to an easy minority group target. For heaven’s sakes why does a story about two foreigners who may or may not have smoked pot trump a story (that is less than 48 hours cold I might add) about the nation’s prime minister resigning!?!

TBS 11:00 pm news (September 3) top story sumo wrestlers testing positive for THC, Fukuda’s resignation second. “Hmmm…”

Is back room coercion of broadcast media by politicians taking place? Something is very fishy, and I suggest we all keep a particularly close eye on media coverage of these events in the days to come.

Jon Dujmovich


SUBSIDIARY COMMENT:  I have been watching how the Sumo marijuana story has been covered by the media, and so far I’m very pleased to report that I found the court of public opinion to be quite fair.  Commentators have been very careful to note that there is no physical evidence of the wrestlers toking.  There is a presumption of innocence first.  Good.

And it has not been made into an issue of “foreigners”, either.  On this morning’s TV Asahi Super Morning Wide Show at 9:23AM, one of the younger male commentators tried to make a point about the rikishi being foreign, using the word “kokuminsei” (national/ethnic character) etc., but the anchor, Torisei Shuntaro, immediately cut him off, told him not to make it a “gaikokujin” issue, and bowed in apology to the camera.

Bravo.  That’s progress indeed (especially compared to the errant media speculation last year re the Sasebo gym murders). Thank you.  Arudou Debito in Osaka

8 comments on “Jon Dujmovich speculates on media distractions: PM Fukuda’s resignation vs. alleged NJ Sumo pot smoking

  • Even if this was the case, and I feel like I’ve been seeing Fukuda resign over and over again all week on TV, I think any television news program is going to go with the illegal drug story over the political story. After all, once the initial shock of his resignation hit, everyone realized the guy no one liked was gone. I haven’t heard much chatter at all around the office about Fukuda, not nearly as much as I heard last year when Abe left in much the same fashion.

    But this drug story has momentum. It went from one wrestler being arrested to two friends of his testing positive. This is clearly the bigger story in Japan right now, at least on TV.

  • I am surprised by Jon’s comments.

    All the big news programs have been covering the resignation story. Today the top story on TV Asahi’s Hodo Station was about the leadership race. I am glad that it isn’t the only thing on the news, though. Endless speculation about who will be the next prime minister is just free publicity for the LDP.

    As Debito says, the sumo marijuana story has been covered quite fairly. The media could even get away with focusing more on the Russia aspect of the story without coming off as anti-foreign. The fact is though that there have been so many scandals in sumo, the focus of the media is squarely on the lack of responsibility on the part of the sumo association and the oyakatas.

  • i cant even believe that this small scale urine test is even considered news worthy..remember this is just a drug test for gods sake..why would this even be in the news..its in the news because it is negative news concerning foreignors so i guess thats good enough for the government controled mass media..if it smells like slander then its called slander..and if i were the russian sumo brothers then it would also be called lawsuit time…

  • tony in saitama says:

    A few points.

    1. NHK BS is not exactly the be all and end all of media in Japan, so I think it strange to suspect a conspiracy because a pay TV channel concentrates on new related to one of its target audiences i.e. sports, rather than politics which is available in abundance on terrestrial TV.

    2. The sumo story is big. One wrestler arrested, and indications of more users could easily start up conspiracy theories about drug rings in the stables, given their closed in nature and the unprecedented scandals the sport has faced in the last few years.
    There is even talk of cancelling the September tournament if the two Russians do turn out to be guilty. (which would be multi million dollar kick in the bank account for the sumo kyoukai).
    The only reason, I think, the two are getting such a “fair treatment” from the press is that there was no drugs found in their rooms. Apparently (amazingly), according to this morning’s tv, possession or sale is a crime but mere “use” is not.
    So at this point the police have no case against them.

  • The Japanese press manufactures expedient ‘realities’ that could be compared with the controlled press of the communist world if it were not that the latter is far less successful in convincing foreign observers.

    The management of reality has made accurate analysis of the news difficult or unreliable. Even well-informed Japanese journalists tend to suppress knowledge of events in favor of an officially agreed-upon reality.

    Nothing fishy, its just the ‘correct image’ the press wants to put out of Fukuda, not to worry just Japan as usual.

  • Thanks to everyone for the comments.

    Yes, it appears since the initial 48 hour period after Fukuda’s announcement the broadcast media have been quite fair in their coverage of both issues.

    I am still curious as to why the political story was shelved the day following the resignation, it was very conspicuous in it’s absence and downplay in the news line-up for those few days.

  • Conspiracy or not, it is not for me to judge, I’d rather say it took some time to Japanese media to digest the shocking news…However, the unintentional(probably) focsing on foreigners certainly had quite bad impact on the image of the foreigners in Japan.
    Yesterday I had an interview for a job at one big software company. The guy went through my resume, and suddenly asked:
    “Why do you want to work here. Why don’t you look for job at the police?”
    Him:” Yes, with all these cases with Russian criminals…”
    Him”: There are many foreign criminals (furyou gaijin) around recently. The police is very busy and your skills will be needed there.”
    Previous day he also mentioned that they welcome foreign workers unless , of course, they aren’t “furyou gaijin”.Obviously, the ones who currently work for him, all Asians, aren’t furyou.


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