Thursday, July 2, 2020

Gambling in Japan is making heads fall but gaining ground

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Tokyo letter

The affair looked like a political scandal. It ended up like a wet firecracker. In mid-May, a protest movement on social networks, relayed by the mainstream media, had mobilized the opposition against a draft legislative amendment aimed at raising the retirement age of prosecutors to 65 – a maneuver which was intended to maintain in office a prime minister, the Tokyo Attorney General, Hiromu Kurokawa, and thereby allow him to run for office as Attorney General.

The outcry against an attack on the independence of the judiciary was such that a week later, the government had pitifully had to backtrack and withdraw its project. Contrit, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said he wanted " make the most of the skills and experience of these senior officials in increasingly complex cases " Skills which he apparently expected, in the case of his protégé, to block investigations into favoritism cases concerning him. In Japan, prosecutors have almost discretionary power.

Article reserved for our subscribers Read also Japan: Shinzo Abe accused of interfering in the functioning of justice

Forced to resign

Days later, Kurokawa was forced to resign following revelation from the scandalous magazine Shukan Bunshun. He had to admit that he had played money during games of mahjong – this board game which is played with four players – with two journalists, not only violating the instructions of social distancing during the state of emergency, then in force, and especially the legislation prohibiting gambling.

In a country where the legacy of neo-Confucian ethics makes virtue an expected quality of bureaucrats who should set an example, the mahjong parties of the prosecutor with journalists are doing their work – even if public opinion is now without illusion. They also raise doubts about the impartiality of journalists following court cases. Prosecutors and journalists have close relations and the latter often relay "leaks" desired by the prosecution.

In the case of mah-jong games with money bets, we can make people interested in the defense that they are not the only ones playing: tens of millions of Japanese do the same. Legally, they bet on horse races, bikes, speedboats, football matches and are also devotees of lotteries. But they also play money, cards, dice, mahjong – which is prohibited under article 23 of the penal code of 1907. Offenders incurring a fine and a prison sentence, rarely pronounced , in case of recurrence.

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