Readers in Council,
The Japan Times,
5-4, Shibaura 4-chome,
Minato-ku, Tokyo 108-0023
Correct me if I am wrong - I often am - but it is possession of narcotic drugs, stimulants and proscribed substances that is illegal in Japan, not the use of them. Reading the news carefully, we learn that the sumo wrestlers who recently fell afoul of Japanese drug laws, plus singer Noriko Sakai and her surfer husband and others currently in the news were sought, questioned, arrested, and prosecuted for drug possession, not for drug use. So it makes no sense to me when the police are reported “trying to crack down on deep-rooted drug use in the entertainment industry” (“Arrest, drugs shatter Sakai’s ‘pure’ image,”August 9) when they have no legal grounds for cracking down on drug use, only on their possession. Until the government enacts new laws with a different vocabulary use of narcotics, stimulants, etc. is not illegal. If I am wrong then why is so much attention paid to the matter of drug possession, and so little to the matter of drug use?
I believe that words are important, and I think the distinction I am drawing is lost on most people who are more cavalier with their language. Many might say that it is reasonable to deduce use from possession and vice versa, and that the two naturally go hand-in-hand. But I have only slight trust in what Japanese consider “natural,” plus I can easily imagine situations where drug residue might appear in my urine without me actually possessing or even using drugs. Subtleties like these, however, will not help us if we have trouble with the police. And so, I do not look askance at Ms. Sakai’s or anyone else’s moral character because of these legal problems. The melodramatic wailing and breast beating in the media about what celebrities “possess” is just as much make-believe as their “tarento” personas to begin with. Aren’t they?
Printed on Wednesday, August 13, 2009 as “Just more celebrity make-believe.”
I worry about this letter because I am not sure about the legality/illegality of drug use in Japan. It seems that 90% of the reporting on drug issues is about possession. I decided to go ahead and send it to the paper after getting feedback on the japanforum.com website - a website where visitors ask questions and responses come from users themselves, kind of like the online wikipediaencyclopedia. Certainly news about arrests for drug use is reported - Sakai’s younger brother was reported arrested for drug us - but it is so minimal that it leaves multiple questions dangling in the air that leave me utterly confused. If I am wrong it worries me that other letter writers are going to slam me mercilessly - as early as Sunday16th. I have to wait and see. It is almost comic the hysteria that overtakes Japanese on drug issues involving celebrities. It’s almost pathologic. So if I have just waded into a factual mistake I look for a little comfort in the idea that my letter might motivate more debate on the issue, with clarity emerging from it. But all those Grant Piper haters out there in Japan are probably just salivating today, sharpening their knives for the attack.
The more time passes, the more I feel I am incorrect. On Saturday, August 29th it was reported that Sakai Noriko was indicted for amphetamine possession, and that she is expected to be charged with stimulant use, as well (“Sakai charged with drug possession”). So that seems to settle that. They are both crimes.
Day after day the television news is reporting on Sakai like she is a captured serial killer, or something.
I wish the paper had printed my previous letter, about the femininity of aircraft and ships, etc. because I thought it was funny and
really well written.