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Tuesday, April 24, 2012

LIGHT GIST

Poetic, but maybe not justice: Japan demystified in haiku


One of my goals in writing for The Japan Times over the years has been to try to render the seemingly arcane functioning of the Japanese legal system a bit more comprehensible to non-Japanese, non-legal types. This involves a big assumption that I understand it myself, but I have at least tried to offer up an analytical framework for trying to understand how things work in the legal sphere here (executive summary: You will probably lose).

News photo
ILLUSTRATION BY ADAM PASION

Upon reflection, however, I fear that as a lawyer myself I sometimes may be too verbose, too meandering in my expositions about the quirks of Japanese law. Further reflection also brought the realization that I live in a country which has a well-established, powerful medium for conveying complex emotional situations in a minimal number of words: haiku. Since satirizing the inanities of daily life through senryū (a type of haiku) is also a popular pastime in Japan, it seems like a particularly apt medium for some of the things I write about. So without further ado, I offer up the following as my own attempted renderings in that format on the subject of Japanese law, justice and government.

You want a lawyer?
But without confessing first?
"Very difficult"

Sunrise — ohayo!
Here's your breakfast, clean undies
The hanging's today

Can't see your children
Judge too busy to see his
You see the problem?

Cops went to onsen
Before checking out stalker
Oops! New mascot time

Even robots die
In "cold shutdown" reactor
We Google airfares

Scenic riverbank
Was "infringing human rights"
Solution: concrete

It's not gambling
Pachinko is just for fun
Do you need a loan?

Supreme court ruling:
"Plaintiffs claims legitimate"
They're old by now, too

"Lifetime employment"
Is no longer viable
(bureaucrats aside)

Mandates to teachers:
Sing imperial anthem
Teach about freedom

Non-Japanese folk
Have constitutional rights
Except when they don't

Presumed innocent
Suspects are detained for months
They might destroy proof

Random card checking
Fingerprints at the airport
Yokoso Japan!

Japanese culture
Lawsuits disfavored by "wa"
Also, they're futile

Record questioning?!
How could cops gain suspect's trust?!
Or, uh, threaten them?

Ministry old boy
Drove your pension off a cliff
Amakudari

Barred from the hot springs
for invisible tattoo
It says "foreigner"

Notice on bus stop
"On alert for terrorists"
What are they smoking?

Highways and airports
Japan built far too many
Yanks would build prisons

Colin P. A. Jones is a professor at Doshisha Law School in Kyoto. Light Gist offers a humorous take on life in Japan on the last Tuesday of the month. Send comments and story ideas to community@japantimes.co.jp
To mark the occasion, The Japan Times is soliciting English haiku from readers on all aspects of life in Japan — the good, the bad and the ugly. To learn more, see our Community Anniversary page.


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