To be honest I am getting tired of seeing the bowing and apologizing Junichi Komoto in a lot of local news media (popular Japanese comedian, info in Japanese on wikipedia). It seems to me since last week the story gets so much attention, because a good scape goat was found: Junichi Komoto let his mother continue to receive welfare benefits after his career as a comedian took off. Since the government is struggling to make ends meet, examples of potential misused money gets recently a lot of attention.
According to Japan Times the number of welfare recipients in Japan is increasing steadily – by about 5499 people per month – having now reached 2,097,401 people. The story with Komoto started a few weeks back. Because the main Japanese media tends to stays away from potentially critical topics, the weekly gossip magazine Josei Seven covered the story: “A popular comedian with an estimated ¥50 million annual income did not provide enough financial support for his mother”. Of course this became a hot topic and juicy details were shown. Komoto’s mother began receiving welfare benefits about 15 years ago, when she quit her job due to ill-health. Back then according to Komoto, his annual income was less than JPY 1 million and he was not able to give any financial support to his mother. Although Komoto started to send money to his mother about five years ago, his mother did not quit receiving welfare until last April. Actually her benefits were reduced by the same amount Komoto provided, all decided together with the local welfare office. Komoto concern for privacy: “I didn’t want anyone to know that my mother received welfare benefits. I was ashamed of that. I was doing my job thinking I need to help her get out (of the welfare benefit program) as soon as possible.”
Under the Japanese Civil Law, direct relatives such as parents, children, brothers and sisters have a duty to support their family members. Local welfare offices are required to follow-up with the evalutaion of the annual income of the applicant’s family, so that can be decided whether they can provide financial support. It seems to be in the case of Komoto all those steps were done in collaboration with the local office. On the other hand, interestingly the questionnaire is nonbinding and municipalities have no way of determining if the answers are accurate.
Personally I don’t think the attention should go so much to Komoto (I am no fan of him), but much more the spotlight should be on the increasing number of welfare recipients, who are alcoholic and at the same time spend their money on Pachinko (Japanese version of gambling). Just stroll around in some areas in Osaka, or just check the lines at the local Pachinko after the welfare payday. I don’t think pointing the blame to Komoto as a scape goat will bring any changes in the way welfare receivers are supported.
To make matters even more interesting, recently there had been some online information on how to become a Namapo (welfare recipient). Personally I have not seen the actual documents or DVD’s with the explanations on how to apply for welfare easily. Because several sources state the availability, I assume these guides had been used. Chances are welfare benefits are higher than the salary for contract workers, so it is not surprising to me that some perceive a life as a Namapo more attractive.
Just for your info, the name Namapo was created from welfare in Japanese「生活保護」and just taking out two characters from the whole word:「生」and「保」, which is then read as Namapo.
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P.S. From March 30th an update on the topic above: The Japanese media is targeting another comedian, who had been questioned about his mother receiving welfare support. From the comedian group King Kong, Yuta Kajiwara (梶原雄太) seems to be the next scapegoat. The good news: I start to assume that all behind this comedian/namapo trashing is the goal to increase the number of welfare workers in Japan, so that applications can be checked more thoroughly. Let’s see how the story develops.