Raw Japan

Slices of Japanese business, politics and life

Buff, bronze and beautiful



For the national holiday, Sports Day, I had a fitting assignment –  a women’s bodybuilding competition in Tokyo.

It was my first time to cover bodybuilding, and as soon as I entered the venue I heard  cheers from the 1,500 spectators eyeing 68 athletes from across Japan.

I hurried backstage to catch the competitors’ last preparations before the judging, and followed a trail of plastic, blanketing the floor, walls and furniture to protect the surroundings from the oil and skin toner creams covering the contestants.

Opening a door with a plastic-covered knob, I found the waiting room with over 30 bronzed and muscular women in bathing suits, aged from 27 to 56 and preparing for the stage.

Suspect shocks as much as the crime


It wasn’t just the arrest of a high-ranking bureaucrat suspected of falsifying paperwork in a multi-billion yen fraud that astounded the Japanese media this week. It was the fact that she was a woman.

Atsuko Muraki, a senior official at the Health and Welfare Ministry, was arrested on Monday on suspicion of issuing a fake certificate to allow a group involved in direct mail marketing to claim a disability discount on postal costs.  “Female ace arrested,” ran the headline in the Sankei newspaper, next to a picture of the long-haired Muraki, and other media offered a similar angle.