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We post stories about the the Great 3.11 Disaster that occurred in Northern Japan in 2011.

Archive for September 2014

Au Japon, le vagin est un crime, même sous forme d’art

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Par Kyoko Miura

Tokyo, le 15 août 2014

Rokude Nashiko avec son manga "Dekoman"

Rokude Nashiko, aka Megumi Igarashi avec son manga “Dekoman”

Si vous habitez au Japon et si vous considérez un objet ou une image comme étant « obscène, » ne le l’envoyez pas à vos amis ou à vos collègues si vous savez qu’ils vont le redistribuer via l’Internet. Si vous le faites, vous risqueriez d’être arrêté sous l’article 175 du code criminel pour « violation de la loi sur la distribution de données électromagnétiques obscènes. » C’est ce qui vient d’arriver à Megumi Igarashi, 42 ans, le mois dernier à Tokyo.

Un « crime » arbitraire

Megumi Igarashi, aka Rokude Nashiko, est une artiste conceptuelle et mangaka basée à Tokyo. Il y a environ 4 ans, elle se met à travailler sur un sujet considéré comme particulièrement tabou et « obscène, » au Japon : le sexe, et surtout le sexe féminin. Pourtant, si vous vivez au Japon, ou si vous vous y rendez en voyage, vous remarqueriez assez vite dans absolument tous les magasins conbini un étalage entier de magazines hebdomadaires douteux et de mangas pour adultes. Feuilletez-les même si vous ne savez pas lire le Japonais, vous verrez que c’est rempli d’images pornographiques, et c’est accessible partout dans les coins les plus publiques et fréquentés du pays.

Mais attention ! Dans les publications légitimes, les parties génitales sont censurées, sauf sur la page de pub pour les vagins en silicones, moulés de manière très réaliste à partir de vagins d’actrices porno. Même Amazon Japon vend des vagins de célébrités du porno en ligne. Alors c’est quoi qui est obscène ?

Megumi Igarashi, petite artiste indépendante, décide de poursuivre son activité, créer divers petits objets obtenus d’après… son vagin, jusqu’au jour où, le 12 juillet dernier, c’est l’arrestation, la mise en garde à vue et une détention pendant 6 jours dans des conditions humiliantes. Son crime ? L’obscénité.

« Selon la loi japonaise, c’est la distribution de données obscènes à un individu non spécifié ou à plusieurs individus qui constitue un crime selon l’article 175 du code criminel, » explique l’avocat Takashi Yamaguchi, qui exerce à Tokyo. En effet, afin de remercier un certain nombre de fans ayant fait un don de plus de 3000 Yen (22 Euros,) pour soutenir son art, Igarashi a posté sur un site accessible à plusieurs personnes, le lien qui permet de télécharger des données permettant de reproduire des répliques « illégales » en 3D de son sexe. L’objet obtenu, serait « obscène, » d’après la police japonaise. « Franchement, la personne qui reproduit l’objet en 3D n’obtient concrètement qu’un objet rectangulaire, blanc, et froissé sur le dessus. Je ne pense pas que l’objet en soi, ni les données que j’ai laissée sur ce lien soient ‘obscènes,’ je pense qu’il serait au contraire perturbant qu’une personne ressente une quelquonque ‘obscénité’ à contempler l’objet fini, » explique Igarashi.

Selon les avocats de l’artiste, l’obscénité est un crime sans victime, il est donc extrêmement difficile de définir si les données distribuées sur Internet corrompent le moral du public ou non.

Igarashi a cependant été libérée au bout de 6 jours, d’après une demande officielle par ses avocats auprès d’une commission d’examen juridique. « La police a essayé de me faire confesser le fait d’avoir envoyé des données obscènes. J’ai admis avoir envoyé un lien pour télécharger des données, mais je n’ai jamais admis qu’elles étaient obscènes, » explique-t-elle, « Si je l’admettais, je ne pourrais plus continuer cet art dans mon pays. » Igarashi est maintenant libre, mais elle est encore suspecte d’avoir commis un crime, car la sentence n’est pas encore prononcée. Si elle est coupable, elle risquerait jusqu’à une peine de deux années de prison et une amande de 2,5 million de Yen (soit environ 18,300 Euros.) Si elle avait confessé avoir transmit des données obscènes, elle s’en serait sortie avec une amende de 150’000 Yen, (environ 1000 Euros.) Mais elle aurait dû en contrepartie abandonner son art.

Un système judiciaire « vague »

Selon l’avocat et professeur de droit Américain Stephen Givens, exerçant à Tokyo dans les deux langues, la « limite » pour définir la pornographie, par exemple, est extrêmement vague. On pourrait s’attendre à ce que ces limites soient définies selon une législature ou par la Court Suprême, mais au Japon, elles se définissent au cours d’une série de négociations entre la police et l’industrie de la publication.

En effet, à l’occasion de la sortie d’une collection de photographies de nus de Kanako Higuchi en 1991 dans un travail appelé « Water Fruit, » la police japonaise et l’industrie de la publication étaient parvenus à un accord informel selon lequel les poils du pubis de la femme, mais non au delà de ça, représenteraient la limite de l’acceptable. Ce soi-disant « règlement » sur les poils du pubis n’est pas vague, en soi, mais ce qui est vague c’est le fait que ce règlement ne constitue pas un droit légal formel. « La police est donc théoriquement libre de réviser ce qu’elle décide d’appliquer, » explique Givens. Il n’y aurait donc jamais eu de définition légale concernant les poils, mais une interprétation de la loi.

Mais alors, au final, que dit le texte concrètement ?

L’avocat Japonais, Takashi Yamaguchi explique qu’il existe bien un texte basé sur une jurisprudence qui ferait référence de définition de l’obscénité par la Court Suprême. Voici le texte tel quel :

« La Court Suprême japonaise a prononcé qu’un          travail peut être jugé ‘obscène’ sous l’Article 175 si         celui-ci suscite et stimule le désire sexuel, offense         le sens commun de la décence ou la honte et viole   ‘le concept propre de la moralité sexuelle. »

« Ce texte ne veut absolument rien dire ! Mais son interprétation est la suivante, ‘ne montrez pas les parties génitales ! » S’exclame l’avocat, « Notre loi sur la pornographie est donc bien plus flexible que celle des autres nations occidentales, car notre loi sur l’obscénité n’a pas de contexte pour appliquer la censure. » Autrement dit, la loi japonaise sur l’obscénité ne s’intéresse pas vraiment au fait que l’acte soit sadomasochiste, fétiche, non consentant, homo, pédophile, ou autre.

Effectivement ces lois ont souvent été critiquées, car elles négligent encore trop les vidéos et les mangas à succès qui incluent des images d’enfants explicitement sexuelles. Sous la pression internationale, en juin dernier, le Parlement japonais venait de voter l’interdiction de posséder du matériel de pornographie infantile. Jusqu’alors, il était interdit d’en vendre mais pas d’en posséder. Les législateurs ont cependant immédiatement exempté les images explicites de jeunes enfants dans les mangas et les animés après que les maisons d’édition se plaignent contre les restrictions de la liberté d’expression.

« Au Japon, le sexe est partout, même les journaux de sport ont une page ‘rose’ avec des recommandations de lieux où recevoir des services sexuels, un classement de lieux où recevoir les meilleures pipes, parce que ces activités sont légales au Japon. Ce qui est illégal dans la prostitution, c’est la pénétration du pénis dans le vagin, tout le reste possible et imaginable est légal. La prostitution existe bel et bien, mais c’est un crime qui n’est pas punissable. » Explique Jake Adelstein, auteur et journaliste d’investigation spécialisé dans le crime organisé et l’industrie du sexe au Japon.

Dans le cas d’Igarashi, un doute subsiste dans la façon dont la police considère la partie criminelle. En effet, du point de vue de la police, l’artiste a distribué les données d’un un moule obtenu à partir d’un vagin réel, le sien. « Je pense que même si j’avais distribué des vagins sculptés à la main, cela aurait posé un problème, » se lamente Igarashi. Ce qui a été considéré comme étant un crime dans l’arrestation de l’artiste vient en réalité des difficultés de la loi à s’adapter aux nouvelles technologies. Dans ce cas, la distribution sur Internet de données 3D est le nœud du problème. C’est arrivé pour la première fois dans l’histoire du crime japonais. C’est pourquoi l’incident a fait la une des journaux.

Megumi Igarashi pense être victime de sexisme. En tous cas, la police japonaise, (90 % masculine) semble fermement être persuadée que le vagin est une obscénité. Pour l’artiste, le crime dont elle est accusée vient d’un point de vue strictement masculin. « Ce que j’ai pensé lorsque la police est venue me mettre les menottes chez moi, c’est que cet incident est typiquement japonais, ça ne serait jamais arrivé ailleurs. Les hommes n’aiment pas que les femmes parlent de leur sexe. »

Megumi Igarashi veut casser les tabous et les préjugés infondés que la société japonaise circule à propos du vagin. « Au Japon, les hommes disent que les femmes faciles ont des sexes et des tétons ‘foncés,’ et que les sexes roses sont ‘purs.’ Ce sont des idées irréelles. A l’époque, quand mes petits copains ou mes collègues masculins disaient ce genre de chose, même si c’était sensé être une blague, je me sentais révoltée, mais je n’osais rien dire. »

En 2010, à 38 ans, Megumi Igarashi décide naivement de se faire refaire les organes génitaux externes en voyant une annonce. Intriguée par le fait que l’on puisse changer la forme de son sexe, Igarashi se jette dans l’aventure en pensant, à l’époque, que son sexe n’était pas très « beau » après tout. Aujourd’hui, elle pense avoir subit une opération inutile. Mais c’est au départ cette opération qui a entraîné la continuité de son activité artistique, explique-t-elle. « Je pense que les femmes ne parlent pas assez de leur sexe. C’est tabou. Moi-même, en observant mon propre sexe, j’ai d’abord pensé qu’il était plutôt ‘bizarre,’ mais c’est après l’opération et en commençant à en parler avec différentes femmes que j’ai réalisé que mon sexe n’était pas bizarre du tout et qu’il était tout à fait normal. » Un chirurgien esthétique, promouvant ses services sur le Net, écrit que c’est avec l’avènement des magazines et des vidéos pour adultes, et aussi avec la vente des appareils sexuels qu’une certaine image du sexe féminin circule dans nos sociétés. « Les femmes prennent consciences de l’apparence externe de leurs organes génitaux à la plage, autant que dans leur chambre à coucher. » Note-t-il.

Briser la honte qui entoure la forme esthétique du vagin

 

En 2012, la maison d’édition de Megumi Igarashi, amusée par l’expérience de l’opération qu’elle venait de subir, lui demande alors de l’illustrer dans un manga, Deko Man, ou « le vagin décoratif. » (Deko pour « décoration » et man pour manko, qui veut dire « chatte. »)

« A l’époque, les lecteurs japonais étaient extrêmement réticents vis-à-vis d’une opération esthétique du sexe féminin. Donc ma maison d’édition m’a demandée de rendre compte de l’histoire de manière à ce que le personnage principal féminin, donc moi-même, décide de se faire opérer la chatte à cause d’un conflit mental, » explique-elle, « l’histoire du manga est donc partiellement transformée, je ne suis pas une obsédée de mon propre sexe, mais pour ce manga, j’ai fait pas mal de recherche sur les mœurs concernant le vagin. »

C’est sous le nom d’artiste Rokude Nashiko, jeu de mot qui veut dire « enfant bonne à rien, » qu’Igarashi sort son manga qui parle de son sexe, comment il a changé de forme et comment elle s’est mise à créer autour de ce sujet. Le manga est aujourd’hui quasi introuvable, mais elle continue avec l’aide de ses fans à produire des objets d’art en forme de vagin.

Igarashi explique qu’au début, cela amusait juste les gens de son entourage, mais il y a quelques années, quand ses activités ont été postées sur Internet, son travail a été malmené dans les media japonais. C’est cette situation désagréable et la couverture médiatique « obscène » de son travail qui l’a poussée à continuer son activité. « C’est à ce moment que pour la première fois, je me suis demandé pourquoi les Japonais sont si offusqués. Ce n’est qu’un vagin après tout. » Les chaînes de télé censuraient systématiquement le mot manko utilisé par l’artiste, qui veut dire « chatte, » en langue vulgaire. Les journaux et les magazines censuraient également les images des objets artistiques que en forme de chatte. « Au final, on aurait dit qu’ils voulaient se payer ma tête, à chaque fois que le présentateur télé prononçait le mot, il y avait un « bip » pour censurer le mot. » Pourtant, le Festival du Pénis, à Kawasaki, dans la préfecture de Kanagawa, ballade des phallus géants au mois d’avril dans les rues la ville pour célébrer la fertilité… mais ça, ce n’est certainement pas « obscène ! »

Le vagin décoratif pour démystifier l’anatomie féminine

 

En moulant ses organes génitaux, Igarashi créé divers objets d’art, comme des boucles d’oreilles, des chandeliers, des objets décoratifs et même… un kayak géant en forme de vulve dont le siège représente l’orifice du vagin, un de ses plus grands succès. Pour ce projet, l’artiste a récolté un million de Yen (environ 7,300 Euros.) Ses fans disent soutenir son activité afin de briser les tabous autour des attributs sexuels féminins dans la société japonaise. Son arrestation a provoqué la révolte de 21,000 personnes qui ont signé une pétition pour la faire sortir.

 

Rokude Nashiko travaille autour du vagin depuis plus de 2 ans. « Ce sont les hommes d’âge mûr qui critiquent mon art avec le plus de violence, » observe-t-elle, « Ces hommes viennent voir les ‘vagins’ lors de mes expositions d’art, et même si la majorité de ces hommes repartent chez eux tout amusés, il y en a qui viennent et me balancent des critiques en pleine face. Je pense qu’ils le font parce que justement mes ‘vagins’ ne sont pas excitants ou pornographiques. »

Rokude Nashiko et certains supporters pensent en terme général que les hommes sont mécontents de voir des femmes se libérer et agir comme elles l’entendent. « Le Japon est encore une société dans laquelle ceux qui tentent d’exprimer la sexualité féminine sont réprimés, alors que la sexualité des hommes est exagérément tolérée. » s’exclame une sympathisante.

Mais les autres expliquent leur opposition ainsi, « Le vagin d’une femme, c’est ce qui nous est le plus important et c’est notre plaisir intime. Si une femme en fait quelque chose d’ordinaire, elle nous ôte notre désir et salit notre envie, » explique un homme japonais dans la cinquantaine, qui ne trouve pas cet art « sexy » du tout, à Tokyo.

En octobre 2012, lors de la première exposition d’art autour du vagin, l’événement avait été reporté que dans des magazines masculins. « Il n’y avait eu que des oyaji, (vieux monsieurs,) » se souvient une des organisatrices. Mais cette année, une audience plus jeunes, autant masculine que féminine a été remarquée.

« Il arrive souvent que les femmes japonaises sont élevées pour apprendre à endurer les choses difficiles. Je pense que certaines femmes japonaises ressentent une certaine fraîcheur à voir une fille, comme elles, faire ce qui lui plaît. Le but de mon travail est de promouvoir la liberté d’expression des femmes. » Explique Igarashi.

En effet, depuis son arrestation et depuis la construction de son kayak en forme de vagin en septembre 2013, l’artiste dit avoir gagné de la popularité auprès de l’audience féminine.

En passant, selon Rokude Nashiko, ce n’est pas un mythe, les femmes asiatiques laissent les poils de leurs chattes pousser, sans en prendre soin. Elle illustre aux pages 35 et 36 de son manga « Deko Man » un incident vécu par une amie qui est sortie avec un homme caucasien marqué par son sexe poilu. « S’il y a une chose qui m’énerve encore plus, c’est que certains hommes japonais sont furieux si une femme entretien ses poils. Ils veulent contrôler le corps de la femme en leur disant que ce qui est bien c’est le naturel. » Explique-t-elle. Pour elle, le fait que les hommes commencent à critiquer la manière dont une femme prend soin de son sexe esthétiquement est une tentative de contrôler son corps. « Malheureusement, au Japon, c’est une chose encore tout à fait normalisée que de traiter une femme comme un objet, » se plaint l’artiste.

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Written by Nathalie Stucky

September 24, 2014 at 11:54

Color/Blind, a movie by Caroline Mariko

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Caroline Stucky, aka Caroline Mariko Stucky – as she presents herself in one of the five teasers of her latest short film Color/Blind – is a Swiss-Japanese Filmmaker. Inspired by her father who owned a Super 8mm camera and her uncle, founder of Métrociné, her passion for films started at a very young age. Self-taught, she created videos to entertain her family and have fun with her friends. In 2005, she had the opportunity to work at the Aïchi Universal Exposition on a show created by Robert Wilson – In the evening at Koi Pond. Since then, Caroline studied filmmaking in LA, cinematography in Hamburg, screenwriting in NY and has worked for over thirty film and theater productions.

 

Today (September 20th 2014), is a special day for her. Two of her latest short films – Color/Blind and Paper Boats – are going to be screened on opposite coasts of the United-States.

KM: Caroline, tells us more about your films and where they are going to be screened.

 

– Paper Boats tells the story of a young boy and his fear of time passing by. It was written by Anna Kriegel, a very young French writer and is the first film I directed and didn’t write. I was a bit nervous in the beginning but Anna let me free to do whatever I wanted. In the end, it was a great experience to put in images someone else’s words, especially ones from a writer who inspires me as much as Anna does. The film will be screened for the second time in New York, during the Williamsburg International Film Festival.

Color/Blind is having its US Premiere at the Hollywood Weekly Magazine Film Festival in California. It’s a commentary about racism and how we should never judge a person for their appearance. I co-wrote it with Lex Scott Davis, an actress who writes poetry. She helped me find the voices of each character who are teenagers who live in Harlem and do freestyle rap. Another exciting collaboration was recording the original soundtrack with two outrageous artists, Swiss Chris and Kevin Njikam from M7 (Movement 7). It took six months to find the perfect collaboration and I really wanted to work with New York musicians but it ended up being with a drummer from my country and a composer from Oakland California. Music or art should I say, really has no frontier.

 

How did you approach filming Paper Boats?

 

– The screenplay is very poetic and abstract so I decided to keep that style for the visual part. I divided the scenes in two styles – real world and surreal world – and simply followed the script literally. I had a great producer, David Borens, who got everything I wanted and a team who never questioned my method. Paper Boats was by far the smoothest production I ever worked on.

 

How was it the smoothest one?

 

– I am not saying it was all easy. We had to change a little bit the script because we couldn’t find an actor with the right age or we had to cancel one night because of rain and find a new location that was less populated for one exterior scene. Anyway, filming in NYC is not the easiest thing to do. First of all, the weather forecast is always wrong, than people on the street are not very cooperative, you have planes and helicopters flying every 2 minutes over your head wherever you are and it’s hard to find a parking space. But other than that, everything went as planned.

 

Where did you get the idea for Color/Blind?

 

– The idea came to me when I was living in Harlem. I stayed in an apartment where every night, people from the building or the neighborhood came for dinner or to have a drink or a chat. I am by nature shy but I immediately felt comfortable. Later I realized it was because no one was judging me for my race, which has been something that was always an issue wherever I went. Even on the phone, for a job interview for example and the person who interviewed me meets me afterwards, I often hear: “I didn’t imagine you this way”. Of course, I have a French accent but I look Asian. So I kept returning to the thought that if everybody was blind, appearance or ethnicity wouldn’t matter anymore.

 

 

What is next for you?

 

– I am currently writing a screenplay about a young man who grew up in South Brooklyn in the 50’s and who managed to escape the street gang he was in. I am also preparing my first feature film that I am co-writing with Anna Kriegel – a love story between a teacher and her former student in a homophobic and conservative environment. Other than that, I have other short-film projects such as a spy-comedy and more fun stuff, which I am sure you will hear about soon.

 

Caroline Mariko: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Caroline-Mariko/262552040452595

Paper Boats: https://www.facebook.com/paperboats.themovie

Color/Blind: https://www.facebook.com/colorblindthemovie

 

by Kyoko Miura

 

 

Written by Nathalie Stucky

September 20, 2014 at 20:45

Posted in Kyoko Miura

Tokyo, Interview with Mark Karpeles, CEO of Mt Gox

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Mark Karpeles

Mark Karpeles, Tokyo 2014

Note: Certainly the bitcoin community continues to treat Karpeles as a pariah. When he began tweeting anew as @MagicalTux, writing about daily life, snacks, and Japanese sunsets, the response was vehemently hostile. There were even death threats: “I am planning to hire someone to murder you. Watch out your back because your life will be fucked up asap!”

death threat

death threat, source: Twitter

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Interview

Q: Everybody in the bitcoin community talks about you in Tokyo. Who are you and where do you come from?

I’m a 29 year old geek, an entrepreneur, and mostly, I’m curious. In other words, when I see something, I like to know how it works. My main activities are coding and sending e-mails. I think coding is a bit of an art form. You code, the same way a writer writes his book and the painter paints his picture. When you are inspired, you can’t stop doing it. And sometimes, you force yourself as much as you can, it just won’t come.

I was born in Dijon, France. I did most of my school education in France. When I was 3, I started to do basic programing on a 5 lasers spectrum, a very easy computer that the general public was familiar with at the time. Between 3 and 7 years old, my mother got me game programs, and when I pushed the record button I could see the program itself and I could entertain myself by modifying them or doing other things with them. I did not get a completed school education. In fact I was not very good at school, because the teachers put me in a literature class because that was the only place where they found a place to put me. That was not necessarily the best environment for me. But in math classes I scored 19,5/20 in average, and the teacher always took 0.5 points from my tests because my writing was crappy, and he was maybe right to do so because I really have a crappy handwriting. I used to dismantle a calculator to understand how it works. My profile is not really “literature,” I’m purely a math and science guy. I can easily remember some numbers I typed on my computer few days earlier, but regularly, I do something and I forget about it. For example, if you ask me what I did yesterday, I really need to think hard. I have no memory of what I did or whom I met. I have a memory that is very much based on numbers and much less based on elements. If I want to create a password, I type it 2 or 3 times, and that’s it, it’s registered in my brain.
My mother didn’t have an easy situation to raise a child, so sometimes I lived with my grand mother, who had very old values, and it had some impact on me. At some point I was put in a private school that taught children in small groups and where the kids evaluate their own score by using different colors. When I was 10 years old I was suddenly put in a public school, and that also had a certain effect on me. I consider myself someone who is quite logic and I do have good understanding of computer engineering and I have a particular affinity with programing.

When I was about 17, I was homeless for about a week. I used to distribute flyers to advertise for a cyber cafe near Chatelet, in Paris. The money I made allowed me to buy the evening food.

My big life adventure started in 2009 in Japan. But way before that, I left France for Israel, where I lived 9 months. I had prepared a plan to get from France to Japan in four steps: France, Israel, Australia and from there, I wanted to get to Japan. But everything didn’t go as I planned. In Israel, the war in Gaza started. Somebody blew the power plant in a terrorist attack, and we had half a day of power shut down. For an IT company, that’s the worst thing that can happen. That day, it blew all my plans. What I was trying to create there did not happen, so I returned to France. Selling services in foreign countries is a good business in Israel. Israel is seen as a spotlight for technology, particularly for the US. But the problem of the hazard of terrorist attacks, power plants shut downs, unstable electricity, slow Internet connection, and so on, were things that I didn’t expect. And Australia is also a bad country for Internet connection. So I returned to France. I had nowhere to go, but a friend hosted me and told me that someone was looking for a PHP developer. I was interested. That’s how I got to work in this company in France during 4 or 5 years, prior to moving to Japan. That French company bought several branches, including some in Japan, so I did everything in order to be transferred here. I arrived in Japan in 2009 and I founded the company called Tibanne on October 29th of that same year. Tibanne does web hosting and development. I did web hosting and different services all by myself. Tibanne is the name of my grand mother’s cat by the way. When she died, I inherited that cat.

Q: What is your particular attraction for Japan?

Well, I like the standard of living that we have in Japan. First of all, you don’t find conbini (convenient stores) in Paris. Paying your bills in a convenient store, and that it actually works. Also, I used to forget my laptop on a park bench numerous times, and each time I got it back. In Paris, just forget it, people would mostly steal it. All the service sectors in Japan, such as the delivery system are very efficient I think. In France, it took me 2 hours to get a vital card whereas in Japan, it took me 20 min to get a kokumin hoken, or social insurance card at the town hall. Otherwise, I think you find a lot of Japanese culture in manga, animation. And the nature and politeness of the Japanese people makes it easy to integrate in their society. In the subway train in Japan, when people are not necessarily in a good mood, they will nevertheless be courteous, whereas in France, it’s a bit the opposite (laugh). Every morning I took the metro until Opera, in Paris and from there I took the RER A, every morning I had my hand on my bag to make sure no one was going to steel it from me. I’ve seen guys who enter the Metro and start barking at each passenger inside. People are so courteous here in Japan, so it inspires me to do the same. Once I was in Shibuya in a parking lot with some of my employees and we found a fat wallet on the floor, and we went to bring it to the closest koban or police box. The goal is not only to be in Japan, and to take advantage of the nice people, but it’s also about being part of the whole.

Q: How did you get into bicoins? Is it because you have a great understanding of finance and the banking systems? Do you follow a philosophy, if so, is it libertarian, anarchist, or futuristic?

For me, basically I am more a geek. I’m a computer guy, more than a politician or a finance person, so I was not very well informed about those sides of bitcoin. It all started in 2010, when a French friend of mine in Peru, who was one of our clients, asked me, “Could I pay in bitcoin?” I said, “sure.” And started to look into it, how it works etc. What interested me in bitcoin was the technology part. In other words, the fact of maintaining a global data base in a secured way, the way it works, the fact that each client has a secured private wallet, the possibility to exchange values with other clients without any security problem, to have an entirely decentralized system, capable of exchanging data between two people. Also, bitcoin allows to have a database that is public. A database where everyone knows which keys has what, but without knowing who is which key. So there is a whole concept that was invented behind bitcoin, that is extremely well done, in fact. That was basically what interested me in the very beginning. The anonymity of the bitcoin was not my main interest. Bitcoin requires an extremely rapid communication between all the parties concerned. And the joint database, or the account book of bitcoin, is made in a way that everybody can look into it and at any time. Everybody can update it anytime they want and globally track a new transaction. There are a lot of technical problems that are very interesting challenges to meet as an engineer in the network or as a programmer. The beauty of the technical challenge itself is a sufficient motivation for many people like me. And that is really what motivated me in the start. To have a database that is updateable by several million of people, at the same time, and instantly is an incredible challenge, especially to do this on the Internet.

Q: What are the 5 things you like the most and the 5 things that you hate the most?

I like computers, courtesy, Japan, apple pies and cooking, and also driving around in a car, or travelling. I can’t really take an airplane at the moment. I am more secure in Japan, and if I want to travel abroad I have to get a permit from the Japanese court that put Mt Gox into bankruptcy. And unless there is a strong reason for me to travel, it is very unlikely that they would say yes. Otherwise, I love dismantling old computers or electronic devices and try to make them work. I also love cooking my grand mother’s apple pie, a family recipe from Burgundy.

It’s more complicated to find the 5 things I hate the most. I hate mushrooms, most fish, except tuna and salmon when I have sushi. I never lived near the sea, so I think that’s why. That’s for the food I hate. Otherwise, I hate press conferences. I had only one experience in giving a press conference, if it was possible, I would like to avoid doing another one ever.

Q: Is there anything that people do that you don’t appreciate?

I don’t like egoism. It’s so pleasant to share, so I don’t see why we wouldn’t do it.

Q: Do you think you are generous?

I think I am. But then it’s a question of doing what I can do and that it doable.

Q: Who is your hero? Who is the person, real or fictive, that you admire the most, whom you want to be?

It’s complicated, each people have different interesting aspects and skills. Putting all the good things in one person is something difficult. I admire Neil de Grasse Tyson, the astrophysicist and author of “Space Chronicles and Inexplicable Universe.” My hero is Iron Man. (Laugh.) He’s a good example, because he does a lot of things. Again, I like the action of inventing and innovating.

Q: What do you think life gave you? And what did people give you?

Until now, I think I was really lucky, because not many people can have the same things that I do. And at the same time, I think I am unlucky when I look at how it all ended, it’s actually quite horrible. And I really hope we are going to find out what really happened. What we are seeing now, maybe in the near future we will be able to say that we were part of an economic revolution. Bitcoiners are making history. When I landed in Japan the first time, I didn’t possibly think all this would happen. But among bitcoiners, there are some who are quite extremists, I would say, but somehow that is something important, because in general when you try to achieve something, suppose that you can only achieve half of it. Let’s suppose you are trying to do something and you get only half way through, it means you achieved half of the impossible. Now, if you try to achieve the impossible and suppose you can achieve half of it, that means you can do the entire possible things. That’s why you always have to aim for the moon. Because even you can’t reach the moon, you will still reach the stars. Never hesitate. When you wake up in the morning, you have two types of people, those who will go back to bed because it’s the morning and those who will put their dream in action.

Q: Who are the people you saw the most, these last years?

The last 5 years, and especially when I had Mt Gox, it was house/work, work/house. Mt Gox used my entire energy. I didn’t really have the choice. As of 2012, we started to encounter the governments, and then I had no time to go out and take some relaxing time. I feel somehow better now than then, because I spend less time at work and because I didn’t really know how I could improve the situation anyways. That said, I still have a lot of things to sort out, and most of all, it leaves a bad aftertaste to be pirated and to have been stolen so much bitcoins.

Q: Is there something that you have now, that you didn’t have when you were running Mt Gox?

I now have time. It’s something positive. I feel liberated. It makes a big difference on that level. With Mt Gox, I sometimes had 8 meetings in a day. Evening meetings with the lawyers in Europe, and night meetings with the lawyers in the US. I was indeed put under huge pressure and stress. I gained 30 kg. And nothing improved with time. When we managed to solve one problem, others appeared one after the other. For example, at some point the French government seized one million Euros from us, and that was very stressful. A year ago we managed to get that money back. And we were relieved for a moment, but then the problems came along with the Americans.
Before, when I woke up in the morning, my day looked gray in perspective. But now, whenI don’t have any meetings, which happens more often than before, I think to myself, “Gosh, today I can work on this or that.” And I feel excited about my day. Nowadays, sometimes I wake up and I arrive to the source code, and it happens to me to think, “Well I am going change that entire code.” And I end up spending my entire morning re-writing an entire system. And it pisses off every one at the office because suddenly I change the entire thing, (laugh.)

Q: Were all these problems related to bitcoin? Some believe that bitcoin is the future. Some say that governments will always find ways to enforce new laws to frame bitcoin because bitcoin is not a concept that goes along with central banks and the very existence of governments. Tell us about your views.

At the moment, the best enemy of bitcoin are the people who love bitcoin. Particularly the pirates and all these sorts of people, who spend their entire time trying to attack the services that are trying to make bitcoin user friendly, like Mt Gox for example. As I am speaking to you, I do not think that it is possible to have a bitcoin exchange service unless you have a team that works 24 hours to detect attacks and that kind of things. It requires a budget that not many people have access to. I think we will see another Mt Gox next year, and the next year. And my opinion is that each time we will see that, the losses will increase. In 2013, you had the collapse of Bitcoinica, the first collapse of an important bitcoin exchange company, because of hackers. After that you had Mt Gox. And there will be another one soon. It might be BTC-E, it might be Coinbase. But it will strike harder next time. However if bitcoin works, it can be extremely interesting. Those who are enthusiastic about bitcoin should be more careful about the harm.

Q: What is your landmark, what keeps you going, what makes you feel secure?

When I’m home with my cats, I feel much more quiet and peaceful. But I also have my company and all my employees. We know each other well, and we have been together for quite few years now. And we do what we can.

Q: What are the first things you do when you wake up in the morning, and what are the things you think about most of the time?

The first thing I do, is I go the room next to my bedroom and I switch on the screen, (my computer is always on,) I check what happened. I take a shower, put my clothes on and go to my office or I continue working from home. Depending on my inspiration, I go to bed very late when I do coding. I am now dealing with a case in the US with CoinLab who is trying to sue us. This week, our lawyers made an announcement, where we stated that CoinLab is a joke. Five million dollars was stolen from Mt Gox, and we’re being sued by CoinLab, who manages the Bitcoin Foundation in the US. I can see no other words but “cheeky” to qualify CoinLab. Otherwise, most of my time, I think about a code, a network, a piece of apple pie, going out on a little trip. I also find myself inevitably thinking about who could have pirated Mt Gox.
Initially, the contract that we had with CoinLab was to subcontract CoinLab for all the financial parts in the US, so that we wouldn’t need to have a license in the US, because it was impossible to get it. Four different financial services experts found 4 different answers to whether a license was needed or not. Some had said that bitcoin is not regulated. Another said that a LTB license was required. We thought, “It’s too complicated in the US. We will let some local companies handle this, because they are there and they will make it.” There are regulations that exist, and we were not sure whether they applied to bitcoin. We tried to be on track, but the problem was that different parties told us a different story. For example the MTB license cost almost 50 million dollars, and we didn’t have 50 million dollars to inject right away. So we decided not to do all this by ourselves. That’s why we contacted CoinLab. And CoinLab, based in the US and they told us, “No problem, we can deal with your license.”

Q: Against what does a startup have to fight most of its time in order to exist?

A good question to ask yourself is, “What is the average age of a politician?” Politicians are usually not so young, and instead of thinking about innovating, their goal is to maintain things stable at the least during their term. So if there are any problems, they will want to leave to the next generation. For example, in order to get the most expensive license, which is the NTB license, you have to have a physical office in each State. And what we do is we provide online services. So the license says you have to have a physical office in each State, and each state has a slightly different system. Bienvenue in the USA! One thing I love doing is also giving lectures on bitcoin. I’m quite good at doing that. I gave some lectures at Chuo University in Tokyo and you had bankers coming along with the students. I could have had a career as a university Professor I think, I would have been excited doing that job anyways. I’m capable to explaining what “mining” is in a way that anyone can undertsand. (Laugh.) One thing I wish I had done in my life is I wish I went to university. I actually never had a university education.

Q: You said you felt liberated that everything is over with Mt Gox, do you still think about it?

Maybe it’s too strong to use that word, but being pirated, in other words, to have someone who enters your server and you don’t know about it, it’s close to be a rape. You have your space, where you do your things, and while you are not watching, someone enters inside it, does what he wants. It might not be the appropriate word, but that’s how I feel. I think I spent too much of my time dealing with the governments and the banks. All the precious time I should have spent coding and maintaining the system, I was spending it at meetings with lawyers, bankers, and lobbies. That is finally a lot of time wasted in dealing with regulations and stuff that oppose what we do, whereas my time could have been more efficiently spent. When Mt Gox was still in my agenda, I had only meetings with bankers and lawyers who were worried because they didn’t understand bitcoin, and I was practically doing nothing that dealt with technical parts. With 8 intensive meetings per day, I would go home at night and I was exhausted. And the next day I had to start it all over again with new meetings. I spent months and months without really having a decent life. I think there are many things that go against innovation. When you want to do innovation without borders, you will see many people who have their little comfort and who don’t want you coming out and destroying their comfort. Banks are typically the first to be worried about bitcoin, because their international banking system is currently functioning. Despite some problems like high risk loans, where they end up, and all the stories we hear with the mafia passing their money through the normal banking system, you see banks that have to pay impressive amounts because of that. But globally, their system works. So they don’t welcome someone like Satoshi Nakamoto who forces them to re-learn what they are doing. With bitcoin, they suddenly have their banking system that’s not up to date. It represents a huge change and a lot of cost if all the banks in the world have to learn how to do their job from scratch.

Q: What is your favorite song?
I have a billion of favorite songs but those that show up the most are Rhamstein, and for example, “Seven Nation Army” by The White Stripes.

Q: What are the thing that you desire the most today?

I would like to be less lonely. That could mean different things, but a big problem I have is that I don’t have many people who understand me, and it isn’t always easy. I am not a very social person, I used to be worse, but now I learned how to detect the flaws I have and I am more capable of interacting with people.

Q: Are you a “white hat” or a “black hat,” Mark?

You are talking about hackers. The fundamental difference between a white hat and a black hat is as follows. Imagine two kids who are playing and they are trying to open a lock with a little hairpin. The white hat will test his knowledge, opens the lock and demonstrate that the lock is vulnerable and report it to you and tell you to change your lock. The black hat will come at night, open your lock, empty your house and disappear. It applies to the security breech in computer engineering. The white hats are those who want to publish a maximum of reports in order to improve the situations, whereas the black hats are those who is use their knowledge to reach a more lucrative business, I would say. You have those two mentalities, those who don’t understand or did not take the time to assimilate the entire environment around and to conform to the rules. And often, in certain cases, the rules that are defined don’t necessarily make sense.

After the bankruptcy of Mt Gox, the Japanese police opened an investigation on this case. Foreign creditors including Japanese reporters who cover the cyber crime beat believe that the Japanese police haven’t got the skills to solve this issue. A team of 4, lead by @wiz aka Jason Maurice from Wiz Technologies launched an independent probe on their own, and Roger Ver, aka “Bitcoin Jesus” launched a bounty to find the culprits. What do you think of this initiative?

I think that those who think that the Japanese police is “incapable” slightly underestimate them if they think that they are not advancing. I don’t have all the details, but I have more details than usual people. So I have seen things that others won’t ever see. And based on that, I think the Japanese police are quite efficient. But I totally support the idea that several people start their own investigations. It is generally a good idea to have different people having different way of seeing the same problem. The police does not report into details on what they are doing, that’s why it might seem like they are not doing anything but they are actually working on this. As for understanding the situation, I think I gave them enough training so that they can now go on. It is a recurrent fact that the Japanese police arrest innocents and make them confess that they did the thing. So, I simply hope that they won’t do anything insane. That is something that is not guaranteed though.

( See previous coverage on this topic in Daily Beast, “cat collar crime” )

Personally, I support the fact of finding the culprit or the culprits. The method used is less important for me than the result.

Q: Have you read the book of Satoshi?

No. I haven’t read “the” book. These days I read more books like, “What If ? : Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions,” by Randall Munroe. And I try to imagine all possibilities to frame a problem.

Q: Who is your favorite Japanese comedian and your favorite French comedian?

Mr. Downtown, aka Hitoshi Matsumoto, who does the show called “Waraccha ikenai 24 jikan,” (“the forbidden to laugh 24 hours.”) And my favorite French comic is Fernand Raynaud.

Q: We say that bitcoin can obstruct governments to finance wars, is it true?

Well, it’s not credible. Nowadays, governments finance wars with taxes. If we didn’t have taxes, which is improbable, I would see how bitcoin could obstruct financing wars, maybe. But as I am talking, people who are using bitcoin are ready to pay taxes. If we stop paying taxes, we won’t have the firefighters, the ambulances, many of the things that we need in the end. What we could do is to experiment a society where we put all these people who don’t want to pay taxes together, they create their “bitcoin nation,” and if it works, that’s good. I totally support experimentation. However, taking in account the information we have available at this point in time, I do not believe it is a realistic thing to do.

Q: What’s good about bitcoin?

It allows a financial system that is entirely independent and it has the advantage of not being under the control of a country or an entity. Therefore, it is a much more robust system. I explained earlier that I had the intention to do replace one of our systems for Swift. Well, as I am taking to you, the entire international banking system that uses Swift depends on Swift, which has its headquarters in Belgium. If someday for some reason, the company decided to cut everything, although they cannot really do it because all their shareholders are all the banks in the world, but suppose that there is a problem with an entity or that the Belgian government decides to do something. Well, suddenly you can have all the world’s banking system cut. Bitcoin does not have that kind of problems or risks. And we could technically do a system that is similar to bitcoin that would allow banks to exchange messages in a decentralized way. It would reduce costs, because currently, each time a bank sends something to another bank, it has to pay a little fee to Swift. It will not only reduce the costs but it will also create a robust system.

Q: Will the world be a better place then?

Maybe not, but at least it will be slighty better than how it is now. What is fascinating with technology is that we improve systems little by little, and although perfection does not exist, what we can do is to improve things along our way.

Q: New York just just launched its bitcoin license, what do you think about it?

I think it’s constraining, on one hand you have the requirements that have been defined and that are a bit absurd, like the fact that you have to collect names and addresses each time, whereas for normal payments you only need the names and the countries. However in other cases, I think the text needs to be much tougher. Particularly regarding safety requirements. Because storing bitcoins for your users, is the same as storing gold. So, you have someone who gives you gold and tells you, “I would like that gold to still be there when I come back in a week.” In Order to do that, you will use guards 24/7, you will put surveillance in front of your strong room, that’s usual business. However the bitcoin businesses say, “It’s fine, we are hackers, we won’t be pirated.” And the next day you have someone who actually hacks you. Or for example someone who physically enters your offices, install keys on the computers. Like someone who gets hired as a cleaning agent, and takes advantage of a moment when the offices are empty and do the things I just mentioned. You see that in movies, but it exists also in reality. I think it’s not very complicated to get hired as a cleaning agent in a building where you have a bitcoin business. So, when you get that job and you clean the offices, you have access to the building at hours when it’s generally empty, because you usually clean places when no one is working. It’s a way like any other way to access an office that manages billions of dollars in bitcoin, when the office is empty. That is something that should not be possible. But it is, for many companies it is. You can ask your employer to vacuum his own space to counter that issue. But sometimes you can have an employee who gets hired and whose real intention is just to get access to what you have. This is not a fact, it’s just my opinion. We are dealing on a level where our little hackers who are protected behind their screens, are not anymore on a par to face all the possible cases. If you want to do a bitcoin business nowadays that is secure and safe, you need a security team 24/7 on a computer science level and a 24/7 security team on a physical level, in other words, guards who are in your office 24 hours per day and who keep a close watch on the movements of everybody who gets in and out of the office. To have a security system that you can control and that is efficient, with access cards, badges etc, you have to have audits, in other words, if possible, to have someone who verifies in real time, all the in and outs, like identifying whether this or that person is supposed to be here or there at this particular moment of the day. For example, if the cleaning lady who usually cleans the office in 30 minutes, suddenly takes 2 hours to clean, that’s weird. I say the cleaning agent, because it’s the most usual case. It’s easy to bribe them, for example, at night after work you tell someone, “I have a problem with that woman, I think she cheats on me, could you bring me her garbage so I can verify that? And in exchange I will pay you 100 $. The guy will do it 2 or 3 times, and after several times, you tell him, “If you don’t want me to report you to the police, you will give me the garbage of everyone in it, and then you will plug this on each of their computers.” You ask for a little favor and then you turn it into a blackmail, that’s how theses guys proceed. Those small cleaning people usually don’t have bodyguards and they can sometimes be put in a situation where they don’t have the choice. They are helpful and then they don’t want to loose their job and then above all, they don’t want to be reported to the cops, these people would do anything. Suddenly, the tone of the exchange is not asking for a favor but it becomes an order. It’s easy to do, and then usually no one thinks about that. Someone who cleans the offices in your building is someone you see every day.

Q: Do you trust your little cleaning lady now?

Now we don’t have any important things in our offices, we don’t have bicoins anymore. So it’s simple.

Q: What is a question that you wished a reporter would have asked you and that no one ever asked you?

That’s a good question. Well, I wished that someone had asked me how I’m doing. I think everyone sees me as “Mr. Mt Gox,” and not enough like a human being, or just a person. Although I don’t always agree with what human beings think, or the way they react, it’s sometimes disappointing, everyone needs human interaction.

 

Written by Nathalie Stucky

September 18, 2014 at 11:52