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  • Japan, the place with the strangest drug debate in the world.
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Goro Koto, a social worker who runs a hotline in Tokyo for people with addiction problems, explained to me that if you have an addiction in Japan, often your own family will call the police, and you will be taken away. If you go to your doctor for help, often your doctor will call the police, and you will be forced to provide a urine sample. If it tests positive for any banned drug, you will be taken into detention. You will be shamed, stigmatised, and jailed, for having an addiction. A system like this only increases the pain and humiliation of people with addiction problems.

This explains why so many of them continue to be addicted, or deteriorate further. There are other basic errors in the Japanese drug debate that I kept seeing, time and again. Yet the reality is that innocent and harmless use of drugs is the norm, not the exception. For the 10 percent who do become addicted, there are deeper problems driving the problem.

In the Japanese debate, all drug use is regarded as akin to addiction, and all addiction is regarded as a moral failing. Japanese people seem to know this when it comes to legal drugs like alcohol, but they ignore it when it comes to illegal drugs like cannabis or methamphetamine. Indeed, the contrast with the debate about alcohol is striking. Everybody drinks. So Alcoholics Anonymous has never really taken off here.

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To find a different way to think about the drug debate, I realised, Japanese people only need to take the view they currently have about alcohol, Ritalin, and antidepressants, and stretch it to cover a few more chemicals. There was a time when you had large transactions done by the Yakuza involving ships from North Korea bringing huge amounts of meth into the country.

This happened because in , a gangster called Tsukasa Shinobu took over the Yamaguchi-gumi — one of the key organs of the Yakuza — and changed direction. No selling, no buying, no using. So that made the risk of using drugs or selling drugs to the Yakuza much higher. The drugs get through. Criminals gain wealth and power and the means of violence by controlling it. Could it be any different in Japan?

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The fact that even drug reformers in Japan were reluctant to let me quote them publicly reveals how sensitive this subject is there. Otherwise, we cannot keep our economy going, [because of our falling] population. So we're going to have more diversity. It's already started.

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Others will create businesses selling drugs. This, he believes, will force the culture to change. There are already some minor signs of change. Up to now, almost all drug users caught by the police are given a single chance. They are given a suspended sentence, and if they are caught again, they are sent to prison for years. The Osaka District Court made an exception. They received testimony from Toshihiko Matsumoto, director of the Drug Dependence Research Department at the National Center of Neurology and Psychiatry, who explained that jail would make this man worse.

The young man with an addiction problem had explained to the court that his addiction was a way of coping with deep psychological pain.

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  6. But I was able to talk with others when I used drugs. It was tough living.

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    The fact that a Japanese court could hear these arguments and be persuaded by them shows that there is space in the culture to hear these different ways of thinking. And a small but growing group have been explaining to their fellow Japanese citizens the benefits of potential legalisation of some banned drugs. One of the most detailed analyses has been carried out by the analyst Funai Yukio, in his book Akuho!

    He calculates that legalising cannabis could raise Japan, in the long term, as much as 30 trillion Yen. To achieve this change, powerful forces will have to be challenged in Japanese culture. But every Wednesday and Friday, Goro Koto — the social worker who runs a helpline for people with addiction problems in Tokyo — hears the consequences of continuing with the status quo.

    I don't know anywhere else I can talk about these kind of issues… I'm just looking for somebody that I can talk about my feelings or thoughts about my cravings. All they want, they say, is help, to find a way of out of this distress. When is Japan going to stop sending the police for them, and start giving them support instead? Corrections: This article was amended on 11 May, The original stated that cannabis possession carries a five-year mandatory prison sentence.

    In fact, the maximium sentence is five years and first-time offenders are often treated more leniently. It is in fact due for publication in That's just the tip of the iceberg: we've got many more leads to chase down. Find out more and support our work here. If you have any queries about republishing please contact us. Please check individual images for licensing details. Make a donation. Projects Close Close Please type and press enter Submit.

    Polaris Insights from the Asia-Pacific Pharmaceutical and Medical Device Compliance Congress

    Despite its relatively low drug abuse figures, the Japanese system is failing to treat addicts. Johann Hari. Share this Share on Twitter. As the cars of the future become the cars of today, panellists predicted the impact on businesses, society and the environment. Read more. The hackathon format is designed to promote creative thinking and problem solving, by bringing together BCCJ members as well as invited external stakeholders - including representatives from other Chambers of Commerce, and the Japanese public and private sectors.

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    The purpose of the hackathon is to boost innovation through inclusion and diversity. Recently Japanese Sake has gained recognition overseas, and is being enjoyed more and more by Japan's booming number of inbound tourists.

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    Over guests will enjoy a fine selection of mouth-watering British-inspired classics and thirst-quenching beverages, as well as that Great British favourite: a raffle! In , having achieved the goal of drawing 20 million inbound tourists annually - a target initially set for - Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has doubled the target and is now aiming for 40 million foreign arrivals in , and 60 million in Launched in , our not-for-profit BBA gala event celebrates excellence while showcasing success and innovation across all industries.

    The Awards also highlight the important social contributions made by British and Japanese organisations through their commitment to sustainability, community, and ethical behaviour. The BCCJ welcomes members of all nationalities.