Freedom of Expression vs. Privacy: The Yukio Mishima After the Banquet Trial | FRIDAY DIGITAL

Freedom of Expression vs. Privacy: The Yukio Mishima After the Banquet Trial

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The announcement of the drama adaptation in Hollywood of the Illegal Gambling Case involving defendant Ippei Mizuhara. What does Shohei Ohtani think about it.

The illegal sports gambling scandal involving former interpreter of Shohei Ohtani, Ippei Mizuhara, is set to be produced as a TV drama series by the US production company Lionsgate, sparking discussion in Japan. While some express concerns about revisiting the incident through a drama, especially among fans of Ohtani who wish for his focus to remain on the field, Hollywood, known for its boldness, has seized upon the unprecedented Mizuhara scandal, involving the superstar Ohtani from both Japan and the US.

Lionsgate, known for its success with low-budget horror film series like “Saw” and distributing the Academy Award-winning film “La La Land” (2016) which grossed approximately $450 million worldwide, has rapidly grown in stature in the entertainment industry.

According to the Los Angeles Times, the Mizuhara drama will be spearheaded by producer Scott Delman, who has a track record of producing bold and boundary-pushing series and who recently served as an executive producer for the TV series “Station Eleven”. Albert Chen, a senior editor at “Sports Illustrated” and a contributor to MLB Network, with his book “Billion Dollar Fantasy” on sports gambling, will also play a leading role in the adaptation.

Delman expressed confidence, stating, “Lionsgate Television, with its track record of creating bold, boundary-pushing series, is the perfect partner to bring this incredible story to the screen.”

Mr. Delman said.

Albert Chen also stated, 

“Since Pete Rose, this is the biggest sports gambling scandal in Major League Baseball, with the biggest star player at its center.” 

And added, 

“We will delve into the heart of the story. It’s a tale of trust, betrayal, and the pitfalls of wealth and fame.” 

His comments reflect a serious intent.

However, while the adaptation of the Mizuhara incident into a drama seems likely, it’s improbable that players like Ohtani or the Dodgers would authorize such a production. Even if permission were obtained, there could be constraints on expression. Nonetheless, portraying events like this in documentaries or dramas is generally considered within the realm of freedom of expression even without the consent of the involved parties.

It’s common practice to use pseudonyms and fictionalize events based on true stories in such adaptations. 


However, even with anonymity, characters can be identifiable. In the case of the Mizuhara incident, as long as the portrayal sticks to factual premises and avoids defamation or infringement of rights like privacy or image rights, there shouldn’t be significant issues. Regarding the incident itself, the details are recorded in the prosecution’s indictment, and it’s worth noting that there is no copyright on an indictment.

Privacy and image rights would be the main concerns. For instance, portraying actors wearing Dodgers uniforms without permission could constitute an infringement of image rights. 

Similarly, using photos or videos of Shohei Ohtani without permission would be problematic. Efforts would likely be made to obtain permission for the use of newspaper articles reporting the incident or TV news screens.

The drama about the Mizuhara scandal, which raises debates on freedom of expression versus invasion of privacy, parallels a famous trial in Japan concerning the same issue: Yukio Mishima’s “After the Banquet” (1960). 

The novel, which was based on a former Foreign Minister and a high-class restaurant proprietress and their involvement in the Tokyo gubernatorial election, depicted their story under pseudonyms. The former Foreign Minister, who was the model for one of the characters, sued Mishima and the publisher, Shinchosha, for invasion of privacy, seeking damages, apologies, and the cessation of publication.

This case marked the first instance in Japan where privacy and freedom of expression clashed in court. The Tokyo District Court recognized the infringement of privacy and ordered Mishima and Shinchosha to pay ¥800,000. However, it did not order the publication of an apology. Mishima appealed, but during the trial, the former Foreign Minister passed away. Eventually, the parties reached a settlement, and “After the Banquet” was published without alteration.

This trial helped define privacy rights as a legal guarantee or right to not have one’s private life indiscriminately exposed. It specified criteria such as being still unknown to the general public and being recognized as something that the average person would not want to be made public based on their sensitivity.

The work was highly praised internationally, winning the Formentor Prize for Literature. Mishima’s portrayal of the budding romance between the restaurant proprietress and the former Foreign Minister, amidst discussions of his gubernatorial candidacy, captivated readers with its unique perspective and artistic language.

The ongoing drama surrounding the Mizuhara scandal, still in the midst of the banquet, will likely draw upon Hollywood’s established expertise in the genre of true stories when it comes to issues like privacy. It’s expected that Lionsgate, with its legal team, will take precautions, such as scrutinizing the script.

What the story of trust, betrayal, and the pitfalls of wealth and fame will entail remains to be seen. Depending on its content, the possibility of legal action from the likes of Shohei Ohtani cannot be ruled out, making the future developments of this saga highly anticipated.

  • Writer Ryo Sakamoto (Writer, former head of the Culture and Society Department of Tokyo Sports Newspaper)

    He currently writes articles on entertainment, movies, and Hollywood information for the web magazine "PlusαToday" and other publications. Member of the Japan Film Pen Club

  • PHOTO Kojiro Yamada

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