A couple of months ago on these pages, we covered the controversy kicked up when politician Sugita Mio kicked up a firestorm with an article in the magazine Shinchou 45 that called LGBT relationships "unproductive", and argued against subsidizing their "lifestyle" with government funds.
A lot has happened since then. Robert Campbell, an American-born Professor of Japanese Literature and Japan TV personality, decided to protest by coming out about his own sexuality, a move that further advanced a growing discussion in Japan around relationships and love. And thousands of Japanese LGBT people and supporters rallied both at government offices in Tokyo and at the magazine publisher's offices to speak out against what they call Sugita's discriminatory rhetoric.
Now comes the news that Shinchou Publishing Company, which published the long-running and well-respected Shinchou 45, has put the publication on a one-week hiatus to reorganize and clean house. About 50 LGBT sympathizers a request to the board of directors for the suspension, which the board approved.
Asahi Shinbun has an interesting piece on the cultural environment that led Shinchou to accept Sugita's piece, with one writer speculating that it's all about numbers. The magazine has seen its readership drop from a peak of over 500,000 readers to around 100,000 in recent years, leading it to court controversy to boost its numbers.
Writer Nagae Akira, who's versed in the conditions in publishing, suggested it's due to "the atmosphere of the publishing world." By introducing pieces that do things such as criticize China and Korea with extreme rhetoric, and ridicule minorities, the magazine can increase its readership base. He explains that this way of thinking has already taken root.
This isn't mere speculation; an official statement from the company blamed a "trial and error" approach to editorial standards in response to low circulation numbers to explain why the magazine had "gotten sloppy". However, a write-up in Toyo Keizai argues that this is just one in a long-running series of gaffes on the part of the magazine spanning multiple years. While the Sugita flap is being used both in and outside the company as a reason to throw Shinchou 45 overboard, dissatisfaction with the magazine's loose publication standards is apparently a long-simmering issue.
(JP) Link: Why Uncertainty Looms Even with Shinchou 45's Hiatus
｢新潮45｣休刊決定でもモヤモヤ感が残る理由 | メディア業界
As in other parts of the world, a resurgence in far right-wing politics has spawned a cottage industry of people profiting off of it with bombastic works. Japan is no exception. Last year, author Kent Gilbert caused waves in Japan with his book 儒教に支配された中国人と韓国人の悲劇 (The Tragedy of Confucian-Controlled China and Korea). In the book Gilbert exhorted Japanese to stop the "self-flagellating historical outlook" he claims they've had since WWII - and, for good, measure, referred to Chinese and Koreans as "worse than dogs." Sadly, a combination of lingering anti-Chinese resentment and (let's be frank) the lousy behavior of Chinese tourists who visit Japan gave Gilbert a fertile ground to exploit: a year later, the book still claims 4 stars on Amazon.co.jp.
One Japanese writer, Hosaka Masayasu, marveled that this trend had seeped its way into Shinchou 45, a long-running magazine that is seen as one of the bedrocks of modern journalism. On the plus side, the rebuke of Sugita's article, and the temporary closure of the magazine, are also a sign that the debate over acceptance of its LGBT citizens is gaining traction in Japan - and that ridiculing people in the community is steadily becoming unacceptable.
(JP) Link: "Emphasizing the Vulnerable Isn't Cool": The Atmosphere of the Era That Supported Shinchou 45's Radicalization*
I'm the publisher of Unseen Japan. I hold an N1 Certification in the Japanese Language Proficiency Test, and am married to a wonderful woman from Tokyo.