【PART 1】 Mystery of Okinawa: Military Bases and the Constitution


【12】 Conversation with a “big-name leftist lawyer”


Once we decided which photos we wanted to include, Mr. Suda and I went to consult a lawyer knowledgeable about such matters to have our draft checked. We sat side by side and asked, “What do you think? It includes many military facilities and drills. Do you think we’d be arrested if we published this as it is?”

We were going to ask him to pick out any pictures that would be legally unacceptable. We expected him to sift through the photos and say, “Well, maybe exclude this and this.” Instead, he took his time and scrutinized each page slowly, and finally raised his eyes to say, “Okay, Mr. Yabe. This book…will definitely sell.”

It was the first time I’d received such a comment. It was completely unexpected, and I was delighted. At first I could only say, “Oh, thank you so much. I’m very honored to receive such praise from you.” Nevertheless, on second thought, that had not been my agenda for that meeting. So, pointing out that our main issue was actually different, I asked again whether the photographer and I could expect to be arrested for publishing the book as it was. The lawyer seemed to go further on the wrong track with, “If you’re arrested it’d sell even more copies.”
We were not talking on the same wavelength at all.

I found out later that he’d been a prominent activist leader in the student movements of the 1960s, and had spent half of the year in jail at one point. He was in his seventies by then, so his manner of speaking was very gentlemanly, but in his mind he’d apparently been dissatisfied with our attitude. “Why do you do such an interesting project, and then talk about trivial things like whether you’ll get caught?” Well, it wasn’t trivial at all. Since this was commercial publishing, we didn’t want to do anything, and couldn’t do anything, that would result in arrest.

We talked further, but it turned out the same way. Based on his years of experience in the area of “public security issues” (which was how my project would be categorized, apparently), whether you are arrested or not has nothing to do with the law. I understood from the lawyer that, if public security officials decide it’s necessary to arrest you, they do, even if you’d done nothing. If they don’t feel the necessity to arrest you, they don’t.

Their usual practice is to come close to you and, even without any contact at all, to suddenly clutch at their stomach and squat down, as if struck or obstruced by you, and shout, “They’re obstructing the performance of public duty! Arrest them!” Apparently this is a typical technique they use, sometimes called “arrest on a trumped-up charge.” It’s almost like a traditional art, with some officials being masters of it.

After informing us thoroughly about such matters, the lawyer told us with a slightly bored expression, “Well, usually, arresting an author of a book would backfire and increase its sales, so I think you’ll be okay.”