Lawyer, T and T Partners Law Office
When I reached 60 years old, I retired from my newspaper company upon reaching mandatory retirement age. Following retirement, I studied at the Chuo Law School and succeed in becoming a lawyer after passing the bar examination on my third attempt. My career encompasses 36 years as a newspaper reporter and 5 years as a lawyer.
In his representative work An Outline of a Theory of Civilization, Yukichi Fukuzawa stated that “living two lives as a single person is akin to being two different people.” Through these words, Fukuzawa refers to how he received a Confucius education while growing up in the Edo shogunate, and then became an ideological instructor in civilization and enlightenment during the early Meiji Period. This statement reflects Fukuzawa’s appreciation and enthusiasm for the unparalleled convenience of his position when conducting comparative research on traditional Japanese culture and Western culture, and his realization that such an outstanding opportunity only exists at the present time, never to be available again in the future.
Although it would be presumptuous to compare myself to Fukuzawa, I also feel strongly that I am living two lives as a single person. In this article, I would like to discuss the experiences which I had as a newspaper reporter, and how I now apply those experiences to my new profession of lawyer.
I entered employment at Nikkei Inc. in April 1968. My career as a newspaper reporter started with being placed in charge of coverage for energy-related corporations, including electricity, oil, coal, gas, and nuclear power. After one year, I was assigned to a different department and placed in charge of reporting on the logistics industry, which was changing rapidly in conjunction with the rise of supermarkets.
In this era, Japan was experiencing a high annual growth rate of over 8%. I had a first-hand look at how drastically industry structure was changing as a result of innovation. Through domestic coal mines which were forced to close one after another due to the energy revolution, wholesalers who were engulfed in strong currents of the logistics revolution, and businesses which were forced to withdraw from the market after losing competitive ability, I became keenly aware of the cold and unforgiving mechanisms of market economics.
In the spring of my third year after beginning work as a newspaper reporter, I was transferred to the Takamatsu Branch. I never grew tired of the scenery in Takamatsu — the beauty of small islands floating on the calm waters of the Seto Inland Sea. However, municipalities on the shore of the Seto Inland Sea were desperate to attract corporations through industrial districts which were created by reclaiming the magnificent coastal areas. As the result of these measures, the scenery was destroyed and there was severe ocean pollution.
“Please come and see for yourself just how bad things are.” — At the invitation of a counselor to the Kagawa Prefecture Fishermen’s Cooperative whom I had gotten to know during my reporting, I visited a fish nursery for young yellowtail. Several tens of thousands of young yellowtail were dead and floating upside down, their white bellies visible from the surface. Polluted seawater known as red tide had struck a severe blow to fish cultivation, which had been one of Kagawa Prefecture’s leading industries.
Together with fellow reporters, I wrote a book entitled Come Back, Blue Sea, which reported on the extent to which land reclamation aimed at attracting factories had damaged the business and lifestyle of residents living in coastal areas of the Seto Inland Sea. While writing the book, I intensely felt the need to restrain rampant desires for economic prosperity and a convenient lifestyle. My reporting on pollution issues ultimately led me to change from an economic reporter to a social reporter.
Upon returning to the Society Division, I was placed in charge of the legal field. I was mainly responsible for reporting on courts, the Ministry of Justice, the Public Prosecutors Office, and the bar associations. I worked as a legal reporter for the three-year period from March 1974 to February 1977. During that time, there were a huge number of serious cases and important verdicts. As a result, I became engrossed in legal reporting and unable to separate myself from the field. Ultimately, I would end up changing my position from outside the bar to one inside.
The first case that I encountered while working as a legal reporter was in regards to unauthorized oil cartels. This case was the first time that the Antimonopoly Act had been applied to cartel structures in industry, and the merits/demerits of administrative guidance were put into question. In the background of the case was the Fourth Arab-Israeli War, which caused six countries on the Persian Gulf to restrict exports and implement significant price raises for oil. At that time, the Japanese economy depended on oil from the Middle East, so these developments had a critical effect on the Japanese economy and lifestyle of citizens (it was referred to as an “oil shock”) at that time.
The scenario conceived of by the prosecutor was that oil industry piggybacked on the oil shock, conspiring to restrict the supply of oil products and create market conditions in which price increase could be passed easily (production adjustment case), and engaged in bid-rigging with the intent of raising prices (price-fixing case).
Since I had started out reporting on the energy industry, I was well-acquainted with the oil industry. That knowledge was useful when reporting on the investigation being conducted by the prosecutor.
At that time, the Petroleum Industry Act was the basis for economic controls which would have put even socialist countries to shame. In that system, the Minister of International Trade and Industry created an annual oil supply plan indicating the production quantity for oil products in all of Japan. According to that plan, oil refineries set the production quantity for their company and submitted the corresponding production plan to the Minister.
The problem was that even though the Japanese government set a framework for production quantity in the supply plan, the allocation of that quantity was entrusted to the discretion of oil companies. In order to ensure that the total production quantity of each company was within the scope of the supply plan, the Ministry of International Trade and Industry issued administrative guidance to have the Petroleum Association of Japan (an industry group) enforce production adjustment by each company. With the intention of acting as a subcontractor for oil administration by the government, the Petroleum Association allocated the production quantity for each company. Reporters with inside knowledge of the oil industry knew about this system, and we questioned why the system was being tried as a crime.
Ultimately, a “not guilty” verdict (Tokyo High Court; September 26, 1980) was issued. In respect to the Petroleum Association, the association chairperson, and the chairperson of the Supply and Demand Committee, the court found that there were reasonable grounds to state that said parties were not aware of any illegality and denied any willful wrongdoing. This case showed how the strong remnants of wartime economic controls still remained throughout the entire Japanese economy at that time.
On the other hand, in the price-fixing case, a “guilty” verdict was issued for 12 oil wholesalers and 14 sales executives (Tokyo High Court; September 26, 1980; verdict issued on the same day as the production adjustment case).
Upon hearing this verdict, I noticed a surprising fact. There were 14 oil wholesalers which sold their own brand of petroleum products. This meant that 2 companies had been exempted from the guilty verdict. Furthermore, these 2 companies were not even indicted.
I investigated the matter and learned some very interesting things. Both of the exempt companies were foreign companies based in the United States. The exposed collusion for price fixing was conducted at meetings of the Sales Committee at the Petroleum Association of Japan. Sales executives of the exempt companies had participated in general exchanges of information which were not deemed as violating the Antimonopoly Act. However, upon entering the phase of setting a range for price raises, executives of the 2 companies left the meetings, stating that “our legal departments prohibit us from participating.” The remaining executives of the other 12 companies continued the talks while laughing about the stubbornness of foreign corporations. In the end, those 12 companies were charged with criminal liability. At that time, I had yet to even hear the term of compliance. Nevertheless, this experience gave me a first-hand look at how obeying the law was a way of protecting your corporation and yourself as an individual.
In May 1975, a criminal group calling itself the East Asia Anti-Japan Armed Front was arrested in connection with a series of explosions at Japanese corporations. The group performed repeated terrorist bombings, based on the odd policy of bombing Japanese corporations which engaged in economic evasion in tandem with East Asian laborers and citizens. The explosion at Mitsubishi Heavy Industries left 8 people dead and 165 slightly and seriously injured.
When investigating this case, the prosecutor tried to cover up another criminal plot. The first plan of the East Asia Anti-Japan Armed Front was to blow up the special train used by the Emperor. However, when attempting to rig explosives on the Arakawa River Railroad Bridge which would be used by the train, the group felt that they were being followed and abandoned the plot.
The plan to blow up the Emperor’s train was uncovered during an early stage of the investigation. However, the prosecutor placed a strict gag order on these facts and did not report to his superior. When asked why he attempted to cover up the plot, he answered that “I wanted to prevent spreading the idea of targeting the Emperor for assassination.”
The initial judgment (Tokyo District Court; November 12, 1979) described the defendant’s motivation to plan an assassination of the Emperor as follows: “The group was dissatisfied by how other revolutionaries ignored the fact that the Emperor was the chief officer in the war of aggression.” Apparently, the prosecutor was worried that disclosing the plan to blow up the Emperor’s train would break the taboo on assassinating the Emperor. However, a certain newspaper broke the story regarding the attempted plot, and a supplementary charge was filed against the criminal group for plotting murder.
The Lockheed scandal, known as the most serious bribery case in postwar Japan, occurred during my third year as a legal reporter. On the day that former Prime Minister Kakuei Tanaka was arrested, the Japanese archipelago boiled over with excitement. People were intoxicated by the moral drama in which even the most powerful government official was arrested for breaking the law. There was even an episode in which an unknown citizen carried a cask of Japanese sake to the Public Prosecutors Office as a show of encouragement.
That evening, I visited the home of a top prosecutor as part of my nighttime investigative reporting. With a grave expression, the prosecutor quietly made the following plea: “For once, I want people to understand the pain and sadness that I felt at having to arrest a person who was respected as Prime Minister of Japan.”
Top prosecutors involved in the case felt strong self-restraint and wariness at exercising their investigation rights while receiving commendation from the public. From the time of pursuing the liability of executives at failed financial institutions as a politically-motivated investigation, it was easy to see the arrogance of prosecutors who forcefully pushed ahead with their investigation with their sights set on a certain target. The series of scandals involving prosecutors made me question what had happened to the humble spirit of prosecutors.
A large portion on responsibility also falls on the mass media, which lauded the prosecutors as the ultimate investigating authority. Nevertheless, it is certain that the glory of the Lockheed scandal served to restrict the actions of prosecutors in the future. I will never forget how a top prosecutor admonished his colleagues for going along with popular opinion even during the Lockheed scandal, a time when the prestige of prosecutors had reached its peak.
As stated previously, I worked as a newspaper reporter for 36 years. The way of thinking and judging that I had acquired through investigative and reporting activities had taken root to my very core. When compared with my work as a lawyer, I sometimes feel as if I am living two lives as a single person.
Upon becoming a lawyer, I first felt uncertain regarding factious speech which insisted on the benefit of a certain party only. Of course, such speech is only natural when considering the adversary principle of legislative structure. However, when working as a reporter, I had to make multifaceted judgments which considered the perspective of the other party, and to provide diverse and impartial information. These habits caused me to feel bewilderment at factious speech.
When considering the power of the mass media to convey information and shape public opinion, the damage which can be done by continuing to provide large amounts of biased information is clearly apparent from prewar newspaper reports which drove Japanese citizens to support the entry into World War Two. However, as a lawyer, I no longer appeal to an unspecified number of readers; instead, I speak to only 1 or 3 judges. I have now changed my way of thinking, and leave the issue of conflicting interest to the opposing lawyer.
Sense of balance is another point which left me feeling uncomfortable after becoming a lawyer. A sense of balance is an essential quality for a newspaper reporter. When an article fails to achieve an appropriate balance between individual benefit and collective benefit, that article is criticized as lacking balance. In particular, the editorial articles which I wrote required me to present balanced solutions for conflicting interests.
In some cases, the requests which I receive from legal clients may include somewhat unbalanced assertions. A reporter would never be able to sympathize with such assertions, because affirming those assertions would cause the entire system to collapse.
However, from the perspective of my legal clients, affirming their assertions is the realization of justice. Therefore, I put aside the question of balance and strive to make assertions which are as close as possible to the wishes of my clients. Nonetheless, I still feel an uncomfortable sensation with the sense of balance which remains in a corner of my mind.