Dec 1st, 2019, 10:03 PM

Beyond Illegality

By Rosie Liu
Marijuana is popular in many nations, but not so much in Japan. Imagine Credit: WEED Be Better Off under CreativeCommons
Junnosuke Taguchi's Case Shows How Bad Smoking Weed Is in Japan

Marijuana is always a topic people are willing to talk about whether they are an avid smoker or not. In Japan, this conversation, or lack thereof, differs. In the United States and France, weed is something we are accustomed to. From what is an ongoing issue to get legalized fully in the United States, it is something seemingly so illegal in Japan it is considered a bigger sin than creating danger within the society. 

In Japan, celebrities are held to high standards, but this is not quite understood internationally when it comes to weed. One of the biggest stories to his Japanese media was the arrest of Junnosuke Taguchi who was caught with possession of weed alongside his girlfriend. While this was back in May 2019, much of the media focused on the apology--the first thing he did after being released. The type of apology that was given is known as a dogeza. This is the deepest way to apologize in Japanese culture.

Even with his apology, the internet immediately split into two sides with many Japanese fans being unhappy with his "insincere" apology. However, fans overseas were taken aback. Why would someone ever apologize like this because of smoking weed? Beginning with, to whom is he apologizing? 

土下座"土下座" A man during a "dogeza". Image Credit: tsukacyi under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

When giving an apology we would expect sincere words and eye contact right? With his possession of weed, and his celebrity status, the stakes are higher and maybe this is why he turned to the most sincere apology know in his culture. But was it really necessary?  Apologizing with a dogeza in Japanese culture is a very serious deal. Japanese anime or dramas often use dogeza, but real people rarely actually do it. News pertaining to drunk driving or any alcohol-related incidents are common in respects to weed possession crimes. But you don't see prostration coming from them, and with this, no one will ask them to do so. 

In the United States, particularly California where weed was not legal for recreational use until November 2016, it was not unusual to have the smell lingering in downtown LA. Similar to Japan, marijuana is also illegal in France for personal use. However, few people freak out if they see or find out that someone smokes weed. French culture is seemingly more nonchalant about smoking, especially given the high population count that smokes cigarettes. 

With France and other countries being more open minded about smoking marijuana. There is scientific evidence that proves marijuana is at most just as harmful as other things people might smoke but is commonly accepted like cigarettes. Despite how popular cigarettes are in Japan, however, smoking marijuana is still not accepted in Japanese society. On top of people’s lack of knowledge on marijuana, Japanese culture is very critical of anyone who disobeys rules, even if it is not obligated by law. Meaning, even if Taguchi wasn’t smoking weed in Japan, if Japanese media found out that he has been smoking weed in general, perhaps he would not have to face a trial, but he sure will still be criticized by the majority of Japanese people just as much as now.



田口 淳之介(@junnosuke_official)分享的貼文 張貼

After his sentencing, all of his social media accounts were restarted and he has released music videos, and announced a new album that came out in November. The majority of Japanese fans are very upset because it is as if he does not act regretful at all. On the other hand, as expected, the international fans were more than happy to see him back on the stage. After this incident, Taguchi is now having a critical phase in his career. He lost many things, but most of all, he lost many of his fans. No one knows how long will it take for the majority of his fans to accept the fact that he smoked marijuana. Looking back, almost no one had a successful "come back" and became popular again after being discovered smoking weed in Japan. This would not be a problem in other countries like France or United States. Japan has a lower tolerance on crime, or "different people," in general comparing to other countries. Celebrities who have committed a more serious crime in other countries would not suffer as much during their come back. Unfortunately, since Taguchi is basing his career in Japan, he will have to work extra hard and get his career back on track.