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Welcome to TokyoFreePress Thursday, March 23 2017 @ 07:25 PM JST
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A schoolteacher on nightly patrol sleepless in Yokohama


Osamu Mizutani, aka Yomawari Sensei, and his book

Once again it's just a coincidence that I came to know of the extraordinary Japanese by the name of Osamu Mizutani. He used to teach an evening class at a high school which happens to be located just around the corner from my apartment at the edge of the Yokohama China Town. (See footnote). Mizutani is known among locals as Yomawari Sensei, or schoolteacher on nightly patrol, because that's the way cops and yakuza mobsters in this area have dubbed the 49-year-old educator, with some awe mixed with a sense of annoyance.

As I wrote in the December 8 TFP story titled "Yokohama, my kind of town?", the city where he and I are living is one of the centers for abuse of the youth, especially girls, with the unholy alliance between law enforcement and yakuza going unchecked. But Yokohama is not really an exception. You can see the more or less same situation in other cities across the nation because regardless of how closely cops and mobsters cooperate in exploiting youngsters, teachers and parents are totally unable to prevent their kids from falling victim to drug pushers and operators of disguised whorehouses. The media don't help, either, despite the banal lip service they reiterate everyday as if they are suffering from automatism.

(According to a supposedly heartwarming story by the Yomiuri Shimbun daily, a growing number of adults substitute dolls or robots for living companions. To me it's not smile-inducing at all)

When a 12-year-old schoolgirl stabbed her classmate to death with a boxcutter in June 2004, I argued in a TFP piece that we were seeing the upsurge in juvenile crimes simply because of the inability on the part of parents and teachers to help their kids develop their own selves and grow into mature and self-reliant adults. That is, in turn, because these parents and teachers are hopelessly immature themselves. No matter how hard these adults, including those in the media, try to stem the upsurge, you can never expect mentally-"neotenized" people to be able to nurture their children to become un-neotenized grown-ups. The root cause is as simple as that.

A real doer as he is, Mizutani does not talk too much about what has driven him to this unique undertaking. But obviously it's against this social background that he felt an irresistible urge to start his nightly rounds some 14 years ago. Soon he learned where to find the hangouts his students headed for as soon as the class was over at 9:00. And ever since, he has encountered more than 5,000 stray kids, including his own students, roaming around the streets just to look for criminals who are ready to take care of them in their particular ways. But the most distinctive thing with his patrol is that he never takes them into custody. He even never preaches. According to his book just titled Yomawari Sensei, he just mixes with them one-on-one and tries to "be with them", often until dawn, sometimes until dusk when his class for the next day is about to commence. Mizutani modestly admits he doesn't know what he is doing all this for and whether he is doing the right thing. Perhaps he just wants to be a catalyst for these lost kids to rediscover themselves. But at least nobody can deny that Yomawari Sensei is making a difference, if the progress is as slow as a tree bleeds its sap.
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Box-cutter murder case

When the box-cutter murder case was first reported all over the world in early June this year, one of my American friends asked me: "Is Japanese society crumbling?" My answer was, "You bet it is." I would have added: "To be more precise this society has already crumbled. But the tumble of the society is one thing, and the collapse of the system is quite another. Our problem lies with the fact that the system has now outlived the society." · read more (819 words)