On the Utada Hikaru Mom Scandal

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On March 3rd of this year, ultra-mega pop star Utada Hikaru‘s mother — ’60s folk singer Fuji Keiko (aka “Junko Utada”) — was detained in New York’s Kennedy airport for possessing over $420,000 in one-hundred dollar bills. She also had two boxes of checks from an ex-assistant who had recently been embroiled in troubles related to Australian “currency violations.” Fuji did not adequately explain any of the mysterious circumstances of her belongings in the questioning. The money was “won from gambling,” but all her casino receipts showed her magically receiving large amounts of chips without ever buying in and then cashing them all out when she left. She also claimed to be going to Las Vegas to give it all the money to a “foster home,” but she could not provide the smallest detail about the organization.

Paying off gambling debts? Laundering money like a good Japanese music manager? International drug smuggling? The report opens up way more questions than it answers, and I had awaited further inquires by the Japanese media to see what was going on. The Japanese media, however, cannot be bothered to look into the leads. (Even a Mainichi Daily News English story on the subject was pulled down immediately.)

If it were not for the internet site The Smoking Gun, none of this would have come to light at all. The very low-profile Japanese coverage of the incident does little more than quote from the Smoking Gun report — adding either the obsequious and fictional compliment 「米国でも人気のポップス歌手、宇多田ヒカルさん」 “Pop star Utada Hikaru — who is even popular in the United States” or questionable assertions of total innocence 「結果的に、違法性はなかったと判断され、今月に入って現金の返却手続きが始まっているもようだ。」”Consequently, it was judged that there was no illegality, and this month, procedures for the return of the money have apparently begun.”

This story strikes me as one the Japanese press will not touch with a stick. Way too many taboos involved: mention of the incident will piss off Utada’s iron-fisted father and toy with the dangerously-accurate idea that the Japanese music industry is fundamentally built upon a base of tax-evasion and money laundering. And the mom herself, being a beloved pop star from the late ’60s, would likely have ties to the traditional “strongmen” of music management who can pull some strings with the media world.

Will any of the financial mysteries of Fuji Keiko’s arrest be solved? We will have to wait for the next Smoking Gun release, no doubt. The Japanese media can report on the TSG report, but going any further would perhaps open Pandora’s Box.

Update 10/4: The weeklies have taken up the story. Shukan Bunshun offers: “Fuji Keiko — her marriage separation and casino-insanity — discovered from the forfeited ¥50,000,000.” Shukan Shincho goes with: “The mysterious ¥49,000,000 incident: Fuji Keiko is lying.” Isn’t it nice to be a media organization without links to television channels dependent upon talent so that you can write freely about whatever you want?

W. David MARX (Marxy)
October 2, 2006

Marxy wrote a lot of essays back on his old site Néomarxisme. This is one of them.

11 Responses

  1. Adamu Says:

    Sad as usual. But way to go Smoking Gun for taking interest in the case.

  2. Chris_B Says:

    The mystery here is why was she doing her own laundry? Dont these people know about bagmen or professional cleaners?

  3. henryperri Says:

    Looking at it the other way, the appearance of this story in the Japanese media would have no effect other than to make the public a tiny bit more cynical about the world. An accumulation of these kinds of stories over a long period of time, and the Japanese turn into Americans.

    The media is hiding “the truth” by shying away from the story. But the bigger truth they’re adherring to is that a stable society rests on optimistic citizens.

    -henryperri

  4. marxy Says:

    I blame the truth for cynicism. I want everyone to lie to me from now on.

  5. marxy Says:

    No, wait. I want to again take offense at that comment.

    When you continuously lie to people or cover the truth as a fundamental policy – and those people can find out about what really happened from other sources – people become even more cynical about the entire system – way more than if you just tell them the awful truth. If you want to see some of the world’s greatest cynicism, look at Japanese voters (or maybe more accurately, “non-voters.”)

  6. Chris_B Says:

    OK am I the only one who sees this as an example of incompetant corruption?

  7. henryperri Says:

    Presently, in America, the media is awash with stories of how the gunman in the Amish shooting was “tortured by dreams of molestation” and how Congressman Foley claims to have been sexually abused by a clergyman when he was younger.

    This is all “the truth,” in the sense that this is indeed what these people said, and is likely what happened. But does the public benefit in any way from being in possession of this truth? Might they, in fact, be harmed by it?

    Anytime one turns on the tv, radio, goes to a news site, passes a newspaper stand or news ticker on the street, they are bombarded with negative stories. This contributes to general feelings of despair and cynicism; neither of which are good for society as a whole.

    If you are cynical about the society you live in, you might be more likely to vandalize property, take up alcoholism or a drug habit, generally act rude to your fellow citizen, and, the illusion of society being destroyed, pursue some less-than-honest line of work merely for the sake of getting rich as fast as you possibly can.

    Perhaps the Japanese are just disinterested in the idea of participatory government itself, which would not necessarily translate to an apathy about society itself.

    -henryperri

  8. nate Says:

    henryperri, don’t think that the japanese media is any less salacious about the slaying of young women.

    I agree that freud broke America, making us all too forgiving of ourselves, and way too interested in the tragic stories of our criminals, but you don’t need freud to obsess over the details. Japan does the same thing for different reasons. He didn’t fit in, he DID fit in; he read manga, played video games, etc.
    The only big difference is that molestation/rape is not reported, probably for fear that a major political figure would run in to condone it.

  9. skc Says:

    Sankei (which I think was responsible for the earlier “also popular in the U.S.” nonsense) has not let go of the story, since we get something in Zakzak today that goes beyond the Smoking Gun information to discuss Keiko’s alleged gambling addiction and its effect on her family .
    In a way it can be seen as trying to divert attention on questions of possible drug money laudering, but it doesn’t seen they are trying to bury the story altogether. One might say they don’t have irons in the fire since Hikki does not record on Pony Canyon (who does nowadays?), but that’s probably irrevelant.

    BTW, I think it would be more accurate to consider Fuji Keiko and enka singer rather than a folk (at least not in the sense of “fouku”) singer. Take a listen to “Shinjuku no Onna” and “Keiko no Yume wa Yoruhiraku” both great songs. She was once married to Maekawa Kiyoshi. . . In those days, and up until the 70s, it was O.K. for enka singers to carry guitars (or even ukeleles) and appear on stage in clothes other than kimono. This was all in the days before enka became an “invented tradition” (a topic that deserves a dissertation in its own right).

  10. lauren Says:

    henryperri, I don’t think that the Amish gunman and Mark Foley are excused by what happened to them, but talking about it might help to impress on people the effects of being abused. People brush that kind of stuff aside all the time (like the repeated complaints from Foley’s aids) because it is embarrassing and inconvenient to deal with, but abuse left not confronted just makes the next generation of abusers. Yeah, it’s depressing, but not talking about it is negligent. People have to get upset about things before they are willing to make any change. Not bringing up all the horrible details is fine if there if it’s regarding something that can’t be helped, but that’s the exception.

  11. davido Says:

    Marxy, 1) Why on Earth do you care? and 2) Thank you for writing this because otherwise I would have no idea.