Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Shukan Asahi Jumps Shark on “Hashishita”, Joins Mainichi in the Ranks of “Normal” Weeklies

It’s been eons since the weeklies published by the major newspapers were the magazine of middle class choice, and years since they lost their privileged place in the waiting rooms of doctors and dentists and the lobbies of banks and executive offices. Which is what happens, I guess, when you assign your disgruntled and/or out-of-favor reporters and editors to the task of producing your product while tying their hands by forbidding them from publishing nude photos, lurid sex scandals, true confessions and the like. For some time, though, Sunday Mainichi has made significant strides in going over to the dark side, where the “normal” weeklies reside, if its advertisements are any indication.* But Asahi joined the club, it seems, when its Oct. 25 edition came out with the first installment of a series of articles on Osaka Mayor Hashimoto with an advertisement headline along the lines of “exposing, through his bloodline, his true character that even he himself doesn’t know.”

In case you don’t know what Asahi is insinuating with “bloodline,” Hashimoto’s father, who committed suicide was a yakuza member with a burakumin underclass background.** For good measure, Asahi prints his name as Hashishita, which was the original family name before they changed it to the vastly more common Hashimoto. That’s mean. Understandably, Hashimoto is angry, and is imposing a personal boycott on the left-wing/Cold War progressive Asahi media group, which has always had a problem with the Japanese version of the neo-con, neo-liberal.

Actually, it’s a godsend for Hashimoto, who is at his best when he’s on a crusade. And he’s been there and done that on this particular narrative. A couple of non-newspaper weeklies hounded him with reports on his family background during the Osaka mayoral election, and we know how that turned out. But as long as there are people buying copies from the kiosks, I guess Asahi is cool with that.

* I don’t actually read weeklies anymore, because life is too short and the advertisement headlines provide enough information about their contents for my immediate needs.
** Norimitsu Onishi, among other people, have insinuated that Hiromu Nonaka failed to become prime minister because of his burakumin background. Onishi, as usual, was painting by the numbers with his Japanese outsider riff on that occasion, but it is true that it has not been that long since the burakumin stigma all but precluded a career and marriage in mainstream Japan.

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