Alberto and Me: A Journalist and His Camera
The Sleuth Series > Detective Bar > Daido Moriyama > Alberto Fujimori
A good story always needs "grease,"
Captain often says. He sees it as that special element
that keeps the story moving, gives it the intrigue, the hook.
week the grease is exile - more specifically, a life in exile.
Tag along with the Captain as he roams Tokyo's streets with
a Peruvian journalist on the lookout for former Peruvian president
A high-end Ginza hostess
club; a black four-door sedan; an apartment rent of 1.2
million yen per month.
Individually, these places and things might
not hold much meaning. But when put together they encapsulate
a life; in this case, the affluent Tokyo life of Alberto Fujimori,
the former Peruvian president who came to Japan after resigning
his post in 2000 amid
accusations of murder, fraud, and treason.
At least, such a composite image is the one
being shaped by Mario Castro, the 36-year old Japan correspondent
with newspaper El Comercio, for his readers back in
"I try to think like Fujimori thinks,
try to know or perceive what he does, where he goes,"
the tall and thin-framed journalist explains of his strategy
in profiling Fujimori's existence in exile.
Of course, simply speaking with Fujimori, who
is often reported mixing and mingling with Tokyo's upper crust
and political elite, might be an easier approach. But with
the exception of a few interviews for various media organizations,
Fujimori has shown a preference for one-way communication
Web site, a platform in which he is slowly assembling
his political comeback.
actions, his contacts, his movements, tell me more about him
than what he can tell me," Mario insists, undaunted by
Fujimori's lack of access.
As a result, Mario works as a sleuth in search
of basic information on his subject. But such work is not
simple. It requires patience, smarts, and instincts - all
things he carries with him, in addition to his
trusty camera, as he lives the life of the only Peruvian journalist
covering the activities of Fujimori in Japan.
His day might begin with a check of his sources:
web page, or associates at the Peruvian Embassy.
Any subsequent work will require the use of
his camera, formerly an L-shaped, 5x zoom Sony with night-vision
capability, but its conspicuous nature has caused him to turn
to a more traditional-looking Nikon. "If I leave my home,
I always carry my camera. I can forget my wallet but not my
camera," he laughs.
One target was the Kioicho Building, one of
Fujimori's seven Tokyo area residences. For three days, from
morning to afternoon, Mario patrolled the Akasaka building
that has apartments fetching 1.2 million yen a month. He used
the elevators; he walked the parking garage; he scoped the
shops in the nearby area. "If I worked for a real estate
company, I could sell that building," Mario boasts.
He went through the same protocol for Meguro's
Hotel Pricess Garden, another temporary domicile and owned
by Fujimori's girlfriend Satomi Kataoka, an author of books
romanticizing Japan's Imperial Army. "I try to feel the
place," he says. "In my case I have to use my intuition
a lot. I have no other way."
can be a key as well. One female friend working as a hostess
at a Ginza club, which charges a 50,000-yen entry fee, leaked
to Mario that Fujimori had been a customer the night before.
Mario went to the club the following day under the guise of
retrieving his friend's handbag on her behalf. "Are you
Mexican?" an employee asked casually. After Mario indicated
that he is Peruvian, the manager replied, "Your former
president was here last night."
These random anecdotes are then put into Mario's
stories filed for El Comercio. The pieces are not an
attempt to determine Fujimori's guilt or innocence; rather
they merely provide information and perhaps raise questions
and inconsistencies under the assumption that Fujimori has
nothing to hide.
One puzzle: Why would Fujimori move from the
secure Kiochio Building, complete with surveillance cameras,
to an open residential home in Meguro Ward given that one
reason that has been reported for his escape to Japan, as
stated in an article in the Tokyo
Weekender, was a death threat he received in November
2000? As well, why befriend Tokyo Governor Shintaro Ishihara,
whose public remarks denigrating foreigners are more widely
known than any of his political polices?
Mario estimates that he has officially made
ten separate interview requests by fax, mail, or through chance
meetings with Fujimori's brother-in-law Victor Aritomi Shinto.
He simply wants a chance to clear the air. "Let me have
the opportunity for you to show your point of view to my public,"
he implores to Fujimori. "I will not judge you."
The charges against Fujimori, who served as
president for ten years, include robbing Peru of millions
of dollars and ordering the murders, false imprisonment, and
torture of thousands of Peruvians.
The Peruvian Government has requested Fujimori's
extradition but Japan has resisted on the grounds that he
was born in Japan, a point that is still not completely clear
to this day.
Mario, who voted for Fujimori in both the 1990 and 1995 elections,
has never received a threat or faced any physical harm - a
reasonable concern given the accusations of his subject -
conflicts have occurred.
A year and a half ago, he attended a Fujimori
speaking engagement in Tokyo. After taking a picture of Fujimori
standing at the lectern, as many Japanese journalists had
already done, he was asked to leave by an event attendant.
When later accosted in the hallway by a large group of attendants,
he volunteered to erase the memory card in his camera, knowing
full well that he had already snapped another picture using
a different card resting safely in his pocket.
No detail is overlooked. Mario also keeps track
of smaller, more random things: Fujimori has a driver's license
and cruises the city in a black Toyota four-door sedan with
polarized windows; he has a fondness for soba noodles;
and his wheelchair-bound mother, also a Japan resident, enjoys
a stroll through parks. It is all part of the picture, Mario
Given that Fujimori has been somewhat accommodating
to other foreign journalists from outside Peru, Mario does
feel frustrated at times. But it's part of the job. "If
I have some rock in front of my way, I jump," he exclaims,
slapping his palms together. "When I can write a good
article, my good feeling is double. I know I am an underdog."
general apathy expressed by the Peruvian community towards
the severity of the charges against Fujimori is another troubling
aspect of Mario's work. Through survey results and letters
he has received in response to his articles, he has found
that many Peruvians feel Fujimori is guilty of the charges
against him yet they would vote for him in the 2006 election,
a ballot in which Fujimori has publicly stated he plans to
be on. Fujimori's relative popularity to this day, Mario rationalizes,
is due to the lack of confidence in the current administration
of Alejandro Toledo.
This month saw Mario publish the first issue
of his monthly Spanish language magazine. As editor and main writer of Wakaranai
("I don't understand" in Japanese), Mario printed
6,000 copies for the initial 24-page issue, the cover of which
includes a caricature of Fujimori (complete with spectacles
and fat lips) as a tourist in Tokyo. The content focuses on
the Latin community and Japanaese culture. One story featured
the Japanese tradition of displaying small stones at temples
to represent fetuses from abortions.
As to the future, Mario doesn't have a set
schedule. "I don't decide my next move," he says.
"Fujimori decides my next move.
Note: Photo of Alberto Fujimori provided
by Mario Castro. Eric Prideaux
contributed to this report from the Tokyo bureau. Wakaranai
can be found at on the web at http://www.wakaranai.info.
The Sleuth Series > Detective Bar > Daido Moriyama > Alberto Fujimori