Author Shun’ichi Dōba draws on his background as a former reporter to produce a provocative and suspenseful novel about collusion between a major newspaper company and the ruling party, shining a light into hidden recesses of contemporary society.
Kōsuke Minami is a reporter for the City Department at the Tokyo main office of Nihon Shinpō, one of the largest newspapers in the country. While previously assigned to the Kōfu bureau, he was responsible for an erroneous report that damaged the paper’s reputation when he prematurely rushed a story into print in an effort to distinguish himself. Six months after his transfer to the Tokyo office, a tip-off arrives in his email inbox: major social networking site operator JP Soft, one of Japan’s largest IT companies, has made illegal political contributions to some 50 members of the ruling Democratic Liberal Party (DLP). According to the email header, the sender appears to be a JP Soft executive named Aihara, head of the Network Business Unit, who Minami soon learns is missing. Second-term opposition Dietman Takuo Tominaga, vice-chair of the Diet Affairs Committee, receives the same tip-off. His Political Friendship Party had held control of the government until being turned out of office for its inept response to the 2011 Tohoku earthquake; it is now the largest opposition group. Soon both Minami and Tominaga also receive a recording of a secret meeting between DLP heavyweight Miike and a media executive, divided into two audio files. Are they being sold a bill of goods, or is this the start of a genuine scandal that will shake the political world to the core? The story centers on the difficult waters the two men must navigate between exposing the malfeasance and furthering their personal comebacks.
With Miike spearheading the effort, the DLP is preparing a new bill intended to regulate Internet media, and provisions in the current draft include a controversial ban on Internet access for individuals under the age of 18, together with a licensing requirement for users 18 and older. This comes at a time when the newspaper industry, which has been a champion of freedom of expression, suffers from declining circulation due to competition from the Web, and even Nihon Shinpō is rumored to be in buy-out talks. Minami ultimately discovers that the man who was meeting secretly with Miike and promising to promote the new Internet regulations is none other than Nihon Shinpō CEO Kodera. As an employee, Minami is unable to write an article that will defame the head of his company, added to which Kodera summons him and personally leans on him to drop the story. The upshot is that neither the illegal political contributions of JP Soft nor the secret meeting between Miike and Kodera make it into print, the public at large remains in the dark, and Minami is reassigned to the Nihon Shinpō CEO’s office at the start of the new year.
The story shines light on what makes journalists and politicians tick as well as how they make use of information in their respective, intertwined ecosystems, revealing with compelling detail the nitty-gritty reality of what takes place out of the sight of voters.