Metropolis Magazine
Issue #805 - Friday, Aug 28th, 2009
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The Last Word
The Negi
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Pop Life
2008 Flashback
Stage & Dance
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Bar Review
International Dining
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Table Talk
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Past Issues
804: Drama Scene
803: Heads, Tails & Snake Eyes
801: A Legacy of Emotion
800: Through the Monocle
799: Fighting spirit
798: Taking the Stares
796: Friends Don't Let Friends Become Salarymen
795: Fuzzy Democracy
794: Hung Jury
792: Highway to Hell
791: The Cartography of Cyberspace
790: Train Talk
789: A Confessions of a Teenager in Kimono
787: A Downloaded Question
786: Counterculture Shock
785: The Good Sensei
783: Me, Charisma Woman?
782: Stumbling Block
781: Paradise Lost
779: Half and Half
778: Road Rage
777: Dumb Luck
775: The M-List
774: Compatriotic Spirit
773: The Naked Truth
770-71: It Ain't Easy Being Green
769: 'Twas the Night Before Christmas in Japan
768: Japanese Lessons
766: Bad Credit
765: Chew on this
764: Red faced
763: Down and Out in Tokyo
761: Kicking the bucket
760: Thumbing It
759: Fixing the System
757: Smoke rings
756: Stalking the Predators
755: Banding Together
753: No Competition
752: Sex and This City
751: Let's Shogi
750: The Yasukuni Follies
748: Loud and Clear
747: I'll be back
746: Raiders of the lost SMAP
744: Magical Mystery Tour
743: Murder in Lotus Land
742: Stereotypes 'R' Us
740: The Mother of all Mothers
739: Crimes of Fashion
738: The Hafu Dad Brigade
737: The Green Team
736: Fight Club
735: The Paper Chase
734: The Wind-Up Writer Chronicle
733: Food For Thought?
732: Home and Away
731: The 2008 Nazi Olympics
730: The Two-Wheel Revolution
729: Gimme a Break
728: Power Play
727: Dying for a doctor
726: Footloose Revisited
725: Little Fish, Bigger Pond
724: Japan's Peace Monster
723: Language Abuse
722: Scumbusters "R" Us
721: First Action Hiro
720: The Return of Asashoryu
718-719: A Time to Give
717: My Homelessness Dilemma
716: The 30 Percent Solution
715: Past Imperfect
714: Killing the Kimono
713: The trouble with Tibbets
712: Surfing the Shinto-net
711: Falling Stars
710: Macho Man
709: Bad Impressions
708: Bloodsport
707: Our Last Word
706: Anonymocracy
705: The Air Up There
704: Read the Signs
703: The sky should not be the limit
702: My Year Zero Proposal
701: The Joys of Freeganism
700: Prada for the People
699: The Parasite Country
698: Washed up in Tokyo
697: Birthing's Not for Babies
696: On the Handlebars of a Dilemma
695: My So-Called Poverty
694: Get Out the Vote
693: The Ishihara Mystery
691: Let it Flow
690: Caf Culture
689: Oyaji Fashionistas
688: The Democracy of the Dysfunctional
687: Polite Disregard
686: Venting on Climate Change
685: Silent No Longer
684: To protect and serve?
683: Save the Sanshin building!
682: In the Realm of the Pond God
681: The Open Society and Its Enemies
680: Five-Ring Circus
679: Topic of Cancer
678: Pet Peeves
677: Why I am Banned in Japan
676: A long way to the top
675: Euro-vision
674: Child's play
673: Why I did it
672: I Love Japan
671: Running Crazy
670: Planet Apology
669: A peek behind the curtain
668: Opening Up
666: Pitching a fit
665: All wrapped up
664: Yule Rules
663: Field of Dreams
662: Save Lives, not Face
661: Why Do I Buy a Ticket?
660: Dying for a Nap
659: We, the jury
658: Grain of truth
657: Remembering The Maverick
656: A Rose by any Other Name
655: Heir today, gone tomorrow
654: Manhandled on the Metro
653: The bodyguards of the road
652: Separate but equal
651: Going for the gold
650: Being Audrey Hepburn
649: Not Sitting Pretty
648: Get Smart
647: Through foreign eyes
646: A failing grade in cute
644: Club Lands
643: Sayonara, Hide
642: The JET SET
641: What, me worry?
640: The Da Vinci Load
639: Making Waves
638: Final Cut
637: Resave the whales
636: Soccer Silliness
635: I, Smoker
634: The Ultimate Loss
633: Shoot the Messengers
632: The second sex
631: A Maverick Moves On
630: The curse of Baron Mitsui
629: Waiting for Heidi
628: Memoirs of a fake celebrant
627: Take it Outside
626: Wa? What wa?
625: A well-drawn life
624: St. Patrick the abducted
623: Bend over
622: The (Un)Late show
621: Oil spill
620: Ice Follies
619: Pride Goeth
618: Lost roles
617: Saying it with Cookies
616: Wrestling with foreigners
614-615: Blank Pages
613: Fretting Over Freeters
612: Farewell, Sensei
611: Sympathy for the wild ones
610: Back in Black
609: Out of many, one
608: Youth culture
607: The Russians are coming!
606: Meddle Detector
605: Tokyo, Mon amour
604: The Wailing Wall
603: Getting Abreast of Cancer
602: Willing Ally
601: New war,same story
600: The Big Chill
599: The Gray Zone
598: Jail break
597: Extremely Lost in Translation
596: Wounded Despot
595: History Lessons
594: Valhalla of the Imperial Army
592: Culture crash
591: Complaints Department
590: What lies beneath
589: Strange Games
588: Junk Science
587: The day the invaders came
586: The Test that Drove Me Crazy
585: Smile and say “lesbian”
584: Keep Article 9
583: The Great Divide
582: An ad for all seasons
581: Killing the Golden Goose
580: The other half
579: Give me back my bye-bye
578: Araki in Focus
577: Head out on the Highway
576: The hate that won't go away
575: Here's the beef
574: Yukking it up
573: Squatter’s rights and wrongs
572: The Trouble with Yokoso
571: Fire from the sky
570: Invasion of the gairaigo
569: Good company
568: Find Out What it Means To Me
567: Field of schemes
566: In the Name of Justice
565: Winner or Loser?
564: Staying Foreign
563: The Scare after Tomorrow
561-562: The Spirit of Things
560: War for remembrance
559: Storm damage
558: The Meaning of Godzilla
557: Who’s left to listen?
556: Paying respects
555: Gender Trouble
554: Coming clean at last
553: Go our own way
552: Hits of yesteryear
551: Heir apparel
550: Personal Reflections
549: Nuclear Reactions
548: Article of faith
547: Martyrs for the firm
546: A different anniversary
545: We, the jury
544: Wrongs & rights
543: Moore or less
542: Fair games
541: Developmentally challenged

By Jesse Veverka

Drama Scene
I learned the hard way that at Yasukuni Shrine, no filmmakers are allowed

Jesse Veverka is a film producer and co-founder of Veverka Bros. Productions (, with offices in Yokohama and Ithaca, NY

There’s no question about it. Yasukuni Shrine instills a certain fascination. For some it’s morbid curiosity, for others it’s incredulity. But for documentary filmmakers like me, it’s simply a matter of wanting to know why so many people seem to think it’s so darn important.

You see, since March 2008, I have been working on my first feature-length documentary. It’s called China: The Rebirth of an Empire. It’s about China’s 21st-century re-emergence as a great world power, and what that is going to mean for all of us. One of the places we visit in the film is Japan. You know, Japan. The world’s number two economy. Number one in Asia. About to be replaced in that regard by China. We were wondering how the Japanese felt about this, and if they were worried that China might still be harboring some resentment over that little incident that they don’t teach very much about in public schools, namely World War II.

Having spent some time in both China and Korea, I knew that there was a place called Yasukuni Shrine that was supposedly much reviled by the victims of Imperial Japan. Several Class A war criminals were enshrined there (whatever that meant), while various prime ministers continued to have the gall to visit. A little sore spot. Cause for diplomatic friction. National outrage. Revenge. Sounds perfect for a movie!

So my crew and I get our gear, including a heavy tripod, camera and a boom mic with one of those big fuzzy things on the end that looks like a giant cattail. Fantastic. This should be interesting. We arrive at the shrine. The weather is good; there are loads of tour groups with people speaking what sounds like Chinese and Korean—impassioned interviewees!

I recall there was a documentary that came out recently called Yasukuni. I heard that it was pretty well received and that, contrary to a smear campaign, it was supposed to be pretty objective. In fact, the guys at Yasukuni Shrine—the guys in charge—were actually pleased with it. They thought it told their side of the story, although I also heard that when it first came out, they were pretty angry and that they tried to block its release. But they were happy now, and that’s what mattered.

Eparama Tuibenau

With that in mind, my crew and I marched right up to the front of the shrine, set up the tripod, and extended the boom (with the big fuzzy thing attached). I was just about to yell “Action” when I heard that unmistakable “What the $#!% do you think you’re doing!?” (Even though this was spoken in Japanese, “What the $#!% do you think you’re doing!?” sounds pretty much the same in any language.) It was the guard. It seems we didn’t have permission to shoot there. Permission? But we thought this was a public space.

Actually it’s not. That’s a big misconception about Yasukuni. Despite the fact that its always in the news, despite the fact that prime ministers visit it on a regular basis, despite the fact that Class A war criminals are enshrined there (I’m still not sure what that means), and despite the fact that anyone can walk in, it’s actually private property. This fact is conveniently used to kick out pretentious wannabe Spielbergs like ourselves.

“But wait!” I say. “We are students, and we aren’t here to defame the shrine. Actually, we want to show that the whole controversy is overblown.”

We are told that we have to go speak to the director. I give him the same pitch, along with my business card. He asks what the movie is about. Well, China and, you know, politics and foreign relations. Politics? China? That has nothing to do with us! We’re a private shrine. Apolitical. We had a problem in the past with a filmmaker like you, claiming to be a student and then releasing an entire documentary about us without our permission. We can’t have that again. Get out!

And with that, we got the boot. Tripod, camera and boom mike with the big fuzzy thing and all.
About a year later, I had a chance to meet the assistant director of Yasukuni at a screening of his film. I told him about how we got thrown out while trying to shoot our own movie, because of some unnamed predecessor who, like us, thought that he didn’t need permission. After a little pause and a sheepish grin, he replied, “Oh, yeah, sorry about that!”

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