In this week’s news roundup, we speak to BBC reporter Zhaoyin Feng about the documentary Catching A Pervert: Sexual Assault For Sale that was shown in the U.K. last night. The hard-hitting program investigates chikan — an act of public molestation — in Japan and other East Asian countries and how porn sites are trying to profit from these criminal acts. It comes three months after Predator: The Secret Scandal of J-Pop, another BBC documentary exposing the underbelly of Japan, aired. The latter laid bare the abusive past of talent manager Johnny Kitagawa and the reverberations from that are still being felt today.
Also this week, we speak to Kirk Murad, husband of Pattie Wu-Murad, an experienced hiker who disappeared along the Kumano Kodo trail two months ago. The family recently made the heartbreaking decision to suspend their search for her. In other news, ex-lawmaker and YouTuber GaaSyy is arrested at Narita Airport. France opposes Nato’s plan to open a liaison office in Tokyo. And in sport, tennis player Miyu Kato and her partner win the mixed doubles title at the French Open. The triumph came four days after she was controversially disqualified from the women’s doubles tournament.
Unmasking the Men Behind Chikan Porn Sites
It’s a problem that refuses to go away in Japan. Chikan — a term that commonly refers to train groping, though also includes sexual predators taking advantage of people in other situations such as upskirting — is the reason there are women-only carriages in this country. The threat to females, though, comes not just from the paraphiliac behavior of chikan, but also from men looking to cash in on their discomfort by selling sexual assault videos. The documentary Catching A Pervert: Sexual Assault For Sale, that aired on BBC Three in the U.K. on Thursday, unmasks the perpetrators behind these chikan porn sites.
“It’s a horrific and new form of digital sex crime,” presenter of the program Zhaoyin Feng tells Tokyo Weekender. “This is a story of huge importance for millions of women, and an issue for our society — offenders need to take responsibility for their actions. That’s why we decided to make this documentary… We meet inspiring survivors of sexual violence who are brave to share their personal stories with us, amplifying the scale of the chikan issue. We hope this report helps hold these individuals to account and further raises public awareness of sexual abuse in public.”
The year-long investigation by the BBC Eye team leads to them confronting a man allegedly responsible for three chikan websites. Chinese national Tang Zhuoran, who goes by the name of Maomi, gets violent as Feng peppers him with questions. “We had a clear and well-practiced plan before we carried out the doorstep,” she says. “I was asking on behalf of the courageous women featured in our documentary and many more who’ve been sexually abused in public. They deserve an answer. This thought gave me courage to confront and expose him and others.”
Former Johnny’s Idols Call for Reforms to Child Abuse Prevention Law
Of course, Zhaoyin Feng’s chikan documentary wasn’t the first exposé on Japan’s dark side made by the BBC this year. Predator: The Secret Scandal of J-Pop, which aired in March, investigated the country’s response to allegations made against the late music mogul Johnny Kitagawa. Since then, former members of his agency, Johnny & Associates, have spoken publicly about being sexually abused as teenagers. This includes Kauan Okamoto, 27, Yasushi Hashida, 37, and Akimasa Nihongi, 39. The three men submitted a petition to lawmakers on Monday calling for legal revisions to better protect minors. It has garnered more than 40,000 signatures.
As the current child abuse prevention law only covers parents and guardians, the petition is calling for it to be revised to include cases involving individuals who abuse their position of power to take advantage of and sexually abuse children, such as teachers and mentors. On the same day the petition was submitted, Arashi member Sho Sakurai broke his silence on the issue. “I want the agency to investigate exactly what happened without forcing people to speak up, and to ensure the privacy (of those who do),” he said on the Nippon TV program News Zero.
Family Suspend Search for Pattie Wu-Murad
The family of Pattie Wu-Murad, a Connecticut resident who went missing in Japan on April 10, revealed they’ve suspended the search for her. Husband Kirk Murad, however, said they would keep working with the police to keep the case open. “It’s very frustrating and sad,” Murad told TW. “There are still no clues. We don’t know if she’s lost, fell, or is the victim of foul play. So, we have to explore any and all leads for all three scenarios. My gut says she trusted the wrong person, but I have no evidence.
“We still haven’t received co-operation from Japanese telecommunication companies,” adds Murad. “Pattie’s cell must have pinged a tower that would at least tell us her last known location. We need that data.” Wu-Murad disappeared during a hiking pilgrimage along the Kumano Kodo trail in the southern Kansai region. An extensive search involving both local and American SAR teams proved in vain. Wu-Murad’s daughter announced via the gofundme page she set up that due to the incoming typhoon season and “an underwhelming amount of evidence found,” search efforts have ended and they’ll no longer be accepting donations after June 10.
France Opposes Nato Liaison Office in Tokyo
France, it appears, is not keen on the possibility of Nato opening a liaison office in Tokyo. According to an article in the Financial Times on Monday, French President Emmanuel Macron said he doesn’t think the organization should expand its reach beyond the North Atlantic, adding, “If…. we push Nato to enlarge the spectrum and the geography, we’ll make a big mistake.” He’s believed to be reluctant to back anything that could fuel tension between the transatlantic alliance and China. On Tuesday, a French official, who asked not to be named, underlined France’s position on the issue.
“Nato [stands for] North Atlantic. Both article V and article VI [in its statutes] clearly limit the scope to the North Atlantic,” said the official. Japanese Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi told CNN in May that talks regarding a potential liaison office in Tokyo had taken place. However, for it to be given the green light, the unanimous approval of the North Atlantic Council is required. Given France’s views on the matter, it looks like that could prove tricky. “Various considerations are under way within Nato. At this point, I will refrain from commenting with prejudgment,” said Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno.
GaaSyy Arrested at Narita Airport
Former Japanese lawmaker and YouTuber Yoshikazu Higashitani was arrested at Narita Airport on Sunday for allegedly threatening to defame actor Go Ayano, as well as an entrepreneur and a designer last year. The 51-year-old, who goes by the online name GaaSyy, was famous for making celebrity gossip videos before becoming a politician. He ran in the Upper House election for what was then known as the NHK Party in July 2022. Despite winning a seat with nearly 290,000 votes, he didn’t even make one appearance at the Diet . The reason for this was his refusal to leave his home in Dubai.
Ordered to apologize and explain his absence at a plenary session in March, he once again failed to show. Instead, he made a YouTube video informing viewers that he intended to go to Turkey. His salary, he said, would go to the Turkish earthquake relief fund. Unsurprisingly, Higashitani was then expelled from the Diet. Things were to get worse shortly after as he was issued with an arrest warrant. In April, the International Criminal Police Organization, known as Interpol, placed him on a wanted list. He ignored repeated requests from authorities to return to Japan.
Miyu Kato Bounces Back From Disqualification to Lift Mixed Doubles Title
On Thursday, Miyu Kato and partner Tim Puetz lifted the mixed doubles title at the French Open after defeating Bianca Andreescu and Michael Venus 4-6, 6-4, 10-6. It was the perfect way to bounce back after what had been a trying week for the Japanese tennis player. In a women’s doubles third round match on Sunday, she casually hit the ball to the other end of the court, accidentally striking a ball girl. As a result, Kato and her partner Aldila Sutjiadi were disqualified. The Professional Tennis Players Association later admitted the decision was “unjustifiably disproportionate and unfair.”
In men’s soccer, Kyogo Furuhashi struck his 34th goal of the season to help Celtic secure the domestic treble in Scotland. The 28-year-old forward hit the opener in the Hoops’ 3-1 win over Inverness Caledonian Thistle in Saturday’s Scottish Cup final. The question now is, will it be his last for the club? With Ange Postecoglou departing for Tottenham, speculation is already rife that Furuhashi will soon be joining him in North London. In the German Cup final, Daichi Kamada and Makoto Hasebe were on the losing side as Eintracht Frankfurt went down 2-0 to RB Leipzig.