Readers in Council,
5-4, Shibaura 4-chome,
Minato-ku, Tokyo 108-0023
The best place to hide things is in broad daylight right in front of people's noses. When it comes to crime and crime statistics in Japan the public witnesses this phenomenon daily. Crimes are committed everywhere every day. If the police actually had to arrest everyone who committed a crime then the entire population would be in jail or have a record and society might grind to a halt. However, crimes are not increasing and society is not becoming more dangerous. What is happening is that more crimes are being reported and prosecuted is all. They are often the same old crimes that previously were known but ignored.
So many crimes can properly be called heinous, but those that victimize the helpless - the young, the old, the infirm - are correctly held in special contempt by civilized, law-abiding society. In Japan one of the host of crimes that have appeared to be on the sharp increase in recent years is child abuse. Children are baked to death in parked cars on hot summer days while their parents play pachinko. Mothers kill their children before killing themselves in a particularly demented maternal suicide. Boyfriends beat their partners' children to death for frivolous reasons. Parents neglect to properly strap their children into car seats. Corporal punishment abounds. I have seen it myself on the streets - mothers slapping their misbehaving children square in the face. The list goes on.
But "The Crying Game" photograph of the "crying sumo" event at Tokyo's Sensoji Templethat appeared on Page 2 of the April 24, 2005 edition is a timely example of this kind of hidden-in-the-open criminality, and a criminal behavior that is sanctioned by tradition and culture. Sumo wrestlers are allowed to handle babies and make them cry. It seems to be taken as a sign of good health if the baby can be made to bellow the loudest. The proposition that this kind of thing is abusive, and amounts to criminal terrorism of infants cannot be imagined by people.
It might be said that I don't understand, that this is a cultural tradition, that no harm is intended and none is inflicted, that it is in fun. Fun, maybe, but not funny. Every April when I see similar photographs of the same festival I feel angry that no one even questions it. Children's advocacy lawyers ought to be having a field day.