I have a rather extensive read 📖 behind me on the Japanese Safety Measures Manual for Abroad (海外安全対策マヌアール) that was recently issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan (外務省・がいむしょう; short MOFA) from March 13th until June 13th in weekly releases to guide its citizens in times emergencies in foreign lands. The manual is mainly aimed at Small to Medium-sized Enterprises (中堅・中小企業; ちゅうけん・ちゅうしょうきぎょう) and their corporate staffs in abroad, but also considers international travelers that go on holiday or business trips ✈️. As you might know, in Japan things tick a little bit different than elsewhere and you will find that this is not your ordinary safety manual. The title and the header give a hint, but read on to get the full picture.
You may have noticed the coincidental use of 13 in both the above dates. This has good reason because none less than the unflappably cool drama character of Golgo 13 (ゴルゴ１３; longest running drama picture series in Japan) leads through 13 installments as instructor of the newly created ‘G manual’ (Gマヌアール). I just read through it a second time (recommended by Golgo do to so) for this article and I have to admit myself that it probably would have never caught my attention or led me to finish it through to the very last page, if it wasn’t for Golgo 13. Unthinkable in other nations, it feels somehow natural for the country to leverage its abundant repertoire of anime and manga characters to bring across messages to the nation. What worked well on me😉 , is the hope of the Japanese government 🎌 to appeal a dry, often unconcerned matter to countrymen heading overseas for travels or work assignments.
Background and Travel Register
There is no doubt in that Japan is on the move with the globalization wave washing against its idyllic shores. It has an ever growing number of deployed job assignees to train prospective labor and to seize business opportunities in a variety of countries. Resolute expansions take place with installations of large-scale power stations and factories, infrastructure projects, oil production and also in various other areas Japanese enterprises show a strong presence. Currently there is a greater focus on its neighbors in South East Asia, from where it hopes to draw many young, fresh talent to replenish the dwindling workforce at home. Robotics alone won’t do it, so this step is a smart move and will contribute to the countries prosperity in the decades to come. A greater number of Japanese people therewith will be on duty outside Japan, exposed to different cultures and circumstances as ever before. So it’s all about blending in (目立たない・めだたない), stay unpredictable (行動を予知されない・こうどうをよちされない) and be watchful at all times (用心を怠らない・ようじんをおこたらない), which are the Three Basic Principles (三原則・さんげんそく) 🚨 of the manual to minimize risks and to ensure personal safety while away from home.
The manual should prepare all those Japanese nationals and takes also companies into their responsibilities in case of emergencies such violent incidents, natural disasters and infectious diseases. This quite a different stance by the Japanese government, which traditionally regarded safety matters the responsibility of each and every one on personal level「それぞれの自己責任だ 。(それぞれのじぶんせきにん。)」. However, this has all changed in the wake of incidents in Near East in 2015 and the Bangladesh attacks in 2016, when also 7 Japanese have fallen casualties. No longer were Japanese just involved in such incidents, they became actual targets of violence. Voices became loud questioning the existence of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. What else is the meaning of such a ministry and the network of diplomatic missions in abroad, if not to assure the safety of the nation’s own people.
This and the fact that the casualties in Bangladesh were associated to the international cooperation organization JICA (国際協力機構・こくさいきょうりょくきこう; Japan International Cooperation Agency), which represented defacto a direct assault on the Japanese government property, saw the need by authorities to put in an earnest effort in creating such an extensive manual and set-up a specialized task force for gathering and distributing information through a tightly-knitted network that involves the authorities, enterprises and private individuals alike. The ministry realized that it had to realign its crises management that proved insufficient to protect Japanese living overseas. Possibly, the casualties could have been avoided, if it would have not been for the lack of information and preparedness for such situations. It painfully revealed all the weaknesses of the existing system and made a change imminent.
Obviously the reach of the government into other countries will always be limited as the nature of things and thus the new government initiative still builds mainly on self-responsibility. Yet, it encourages that everyone should proactively protect oneself「自分の身は自分で守る (じぶんのみはじぶんでまもる) 」by regularly gathering latest information through news media and internet in native and local language on the current security situations. Further, to also familiarize oneself with domestic customs, culture, laws and other essential aspects of life in other countries, which can also mean to consult with fellow countrymen, who already reside in the travel destination. The ministry backs this approach of collecting information by providing timely updated information through a newly introduced mail service system on places to avoid, current security risks and emergency events in the region of stay.
Preconditioned that one is signed up with the travel registry, information and warnings are distributed in Japanese by email or text messages throughout the length of travel. By law Japanese citizens are obliged to submit the Residence Report (在留届・ざいりゅうとどけ) for sojourns outside Japan for more than 3 months. This means that they will be automatically covered with latest information by the respective government establishments overseas, with whom they are registered. Travelers, who leave Japan for less that time though, are not subject to this duty and therefore are not part of the information network frame. This is why the travel register, along with the safety manual, lies at the heart of the ongoing campaign and is where the government especially puts forth effort so to recommend it to people going on travels 🚢.
According to the statistics about 17 mio. people travel to abroad annually, but only a fraction of approximately 1,6 mio. travelers is actually signing up for the register, which are dire straits for the government. With the current promotion underway the government likes to see this number rise to 2.4 mio until next year. Now, in order to promote the manual more efficiently and with a wide spread, the ministry had to come up with an unusual move. This is where Golgo 13 comes into the game. No matter how simple and how much summarized the safety manual is, there might be still many people skipping out on it. However, with a figure of his popularity, more people may actually cast an eye through it.
But why is the Japanese government relying on the service of an assassin for hire to promote a safety manual? His profession aside, there are multiple reasons why he was enlisted for this role. Well firstly, it’s no secret that Golgo 13 goes on well with many notable Japanese politicians among its fans. One of them is for instance Former Prime Minister Tarou Asou (麻生 太郎・あそう たろう; current Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance since 2012), who is an aficionado of the manga and anime genres, leaving out no release of the series. If Golgo’s mission succeeds, he will surely have an (new) admirer more with current Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida (岸田 文雄・きしだ ふみお; foreign minister in the Abe cabinet since 2012). Another reason is that his creator Saitou Takao (さいとう たかを; manga and gekiga artist) compares his creation also to some degree to the profile of that of a Japanese salary-men because of his endurance and Japanese typical work ethics, when perusing a job. Since the manual is targeting at Japanese corporate employees, it might favor well with readers of the segment. Above all though, Golgo 13 or Duke Togo, another of his alias, is a national iconic figure of resounding persuasive powers, who is known across generations, from teenager to elderly, as he has been around for an incredible 50 years.
Those familiar with Japanese pop-culture, surely have seen his face once. You want to be careful though to meet him twice because that is not his sort of thing. He never meets a contractor a second time, but if he does so, it’s usually not in the other’s favor. The professional, who receives all his jobs by telegram, made himself a name outside of Japan through an anime series as well as a 13 volume English manga series published by Viz Comics, but a big shot he is really back in his homeland. There the Gekiga (劇画・げきが; term for ‘dramatic pictures’) drama is still being published as the longest running series and is going closer to the 200th volume, which is according to his creator is final mission. Quite an impressive landmark and just like that Golgo takes on a side-job in between his ongoing publications of Vol. 184 and 185 for the Japanese government with the safety manual – right on, Mr. G 👍.
In all his contract missions, which he accomplishes without fail, through the years, taciturn Golgo 13, who is not into idle talk, weathered not only through all kinds of incidents and conflicts of Japanese postwar engagements, but also the remorseless moods and critics of the Japanese readership. What kept him alive all these decades, is thanks to the meticulous research work of Sensei Saitou Takao. In an interview, he once explained that unlike for his historical fiction stories, where he can explore more freely, for Golgo he needs actually to put in quite some research on actual world affairs, so to stay credible and convincing to the readership. Like his title character, in younger years the artist often went on field trips around the world to gather material of places that later appeared in his dramas. This is why the Japanese government asked his rich expertise on the topic and lead himself to wholeheartedly engage into the project.
Golgo 13 might be one of a gun, a man of steel, merciless sniper, a nearly indestructible walking weapon and a lady killer all in one, but he is also coward. Yes, you heard that right! He is as timid as bunny (and we know what else bunnies are capable of when chased into a corner from the from another of my posts😉). Just like bunnies he scents danger well ahead and knows when to hightail it before it’s too late. It’s exactly this surprising trait of his that ensured that he has been surviving so many precarious moments and earned him this latest appointment with the Japanese government. More than fearless acts, it’s cautious actions in risky situations that will help to safe one’s skin. Cool and deliberate in any situation, this makes him the suitable figurehead of the campaign to convey the message from the ministry …
In his Government’s Service
Episode 1 shows the scene when Golgo 13 receives the official request by the cabinet minister at the head office of the Foreign Affairs Ministry in Tokyo (above).
「それで、大臣・・・・要点はなんだ・・・」(Well then, minister…what’s your point?…)
The following episodes will take the unsmiling anti-hero and readers to various locations around the globe, where he sees representatives of Japanese firms, be it on a rainy meeting along the shores of the Schelde in Brussels, Belgium (5) or in a nightly inspection for any blind spots at branch office in Berlin, Germany (8). He also is on a rescue mission in the Philippines (7), where he saves a careless business man from confinement, who he in return lets pay with a hefty bill for the ‘prize of own freedom’… ‘。。。お前が選んだ”自由”の代償はお前自身に払ってもらうことになる。(おまえがえらんだ”じゆう”のだいしょうはおまえじしんにはらってもらうことになる。’・’I will have you do me the favor of paying me for the price of ‘own freedom’ you chose to have.’… he doesn’t talk much, but when he does, he is straight up about things – just too cool 😎 . In the populous city of Karachi, Pakistan (2), he warns a trio of unknowledgeable business men of an imminent threat that hours later causes the death of 50 people and just swings in the doors in the neck of time to safe a naive female solo traveler from a hotel room burglary in Mexico City, Mexico (6).
In the 9 episode, which starts explosively with a big kawuum in Nairobi, Kenia, he goes up against an obstinate company head to teach him a lesson what it means to put business interests over the well-being of own employees. Businesses are well advised too, to prepare for any scenario because any incident may likely bring strong repercussions with monetary as well as long-lasting reputational damages, if it becomes clear that it was poor handling on the side of the management. Some directors or managers may see it as part of foremost Crisis Management (危機管理・ききかんり) to safe company fortunes and keep business operations driving at all cost to escape bankruptcy, but negligence with safety and workers, may easily result in a breach of Duty of Good Management (善管注意義務・ぜんかんちゅういぎむ). Always tough to see investments go down the drainer, but first consideration should without fail go out to workers and their families (i.e. relief for victims). The public as well as the government are much more likely to support a company that showed wholehearted effort in failure than one that has not done anything at all.
Golgo, or rather Saitou Sensei, goes on by citing one of the Analects of Confucius with that of the white horse in a burning stable. During the master’s absence, failure by his disciples lead the stable to catch fire and the precious horse to perish away. When Confucius became to know of the tragic incident, he didn’t find fault with his students, but was sincerely concerned with the health of his disciples. This brought him the admiration of everyone who heard the story. It’s the same for a company facing such sudden hardship. It loses a lot at first, but at the same time its stakeholders will be all the more connected, helping the business possibly to emerge even stronger from the crisis. A good crisis management is indispensable to enterprises of all sizes, small (小企業・しょうきぎょう), medium (中堅企業・ちゅうけんきぎょう) or large (大企業・だいきぎょう) and will be reciprocal in effect. The safety consciousness should then be exemplified by the management ranks permeating from there all the way to the bottom of the firm. If the awareness of top ranks is comprehensible, everyone else of the company will be well attuned and follows foot. There should also be a constant flow of information on security matters between branch offices off shore and their mother companies in the homeland, in an effort to keep safety measures up-to-date and ready at all times.
Through and through a master of his trade, he even provides advice in professional manner on such simple things like putting on the security chain in a hotel room to more complex guidance for company intern best practices on safety measures. The safety manual covers a wide range of scenarios and is complemented with a variety of helpful safety protocol checklists as well. Just like in the series he also meets with his ‘gadget man’ in an encounter in New York City, U.S. (11), who equips him with the necessary tools before he moves onto the final showdown that takes place in Basra, Iraq (12). With the order-made masquerade, which he receives from the gadget man, he infiltrates a security company to rescue yet again the trio of Japanese businessmen, whom he already warned back in Pakistan. The three suddenly get roped into a shooting on the streets, but they can remember what they learned in practice with Golog’s safety drills by immediately lying down on the ground, when sounds of explosions or gunfire are heard (Lie= 伏せる・ふせる). After collecting oneself form the situation and judging the surroundings, its either run for one’s life (Run = 逃げる・にげる) or hide in a place that can’t be seen or accessed (Hide = 隠れる・かくれる) by perpetrators. The three pass the hardness-test and are picked up right in time by Golgo in disguise as the security chief to be brought into safety.
What stands behind the letter ‘G’ of the G manual, I will not reveal at this stage and people, who have an interest in it may read on the wild theories around it in the last episode (13, take also reference of episode 10) that consists only of comic strips (Japanese only) themselves. The episodes are accessible on the MOFA homepage. If you are lucky enough, you might even be able to fetch 1 of the 100’000 physical copies that circulate in Japan. If you are a true Golgo fan, this could be your chance for a limited item to your collection 😊.
I could go on and on about the manual, does it contain many interesting details, but the article turned out rather lengthily (once again) already, so need to wrap it up soon. However, if you are into the topic, definitely check it out in more detail. While the manual maintains a credible and insightful atmosphere, the comic strips also have their hilarious moments for readers. The scene where a senior company head accidentally shredders the only copy of the G manual (8) instead of scanning…
… or the prologue episode, when TV moderators discuss the record-breaking advance of Japanese enterprises thanks to the G(odly) manual that miraculously helped to leave behind the stagnating Japanese economy, comes to mind. Not less so, when a submarine from the U.S. military interrupts Golgo’s vacation on high sea to convey the request from the U.S. presidency for the cooperation of yet another safety manual – brilliant 🤗. This whole last episode was as hilarious as it was exaggerated, but this is the signature of Golgo 13’s creator genius, Saitou Takao Sensei.
Whether Golgo 13 brings the much hoped boom in registrations for the travel register, needs to be seen. After all he is predominantly admired among male readers for his uncompromising character. When it comes to a female audience, it occurs to be a bit of a mission impossible, isn’t Golgo more the misogynist type of character. There are special campaigns underway for a female audience however in women oriented and travel magazines to approach the topic from a different angle and we shall find out how successful he manages this mission. Anime and manga fans may see it as part of Cool Japan (クールジャパン), but in the eyes of some, the government using a professional killer, even just fictional, for the promotion may be seen a bit over the top. Yet, what gives him credibility and depth as an instructor is that he really seems to be out there somewhere among us, in the midst where everything is happening. Thanks to the expertly story-telling of Saitou Sensei, it feels that he is very much graspable as he prevails in this turbulent times of our very world.
Besides, the only other caliber of national iconic status I can think of is Super Mario. He might have been a more soft, not to say neutral option to reach audiences of all ages and genders. Tut then the plumber is way too kind-hearted for this sort of job and anyway he is already booked with an important assignment from Prime Minister Shinzou Abe (安倍 晋三・あべ しんぞう) for the Olympic Games in Tokyo 2020 😉 . Joking aside, who knows, should Golgo’s involvement prove successful, he might even break with is code of never meeting a contractor twice and we will see him again as special adviser of some kind in campaigns to come from the Japanese government.
Well, with this I reached the end of this article, thank you for reading till the end. I wouldn’t call myself now a safety expert after reading the manual attentively, but then the main target of this exercise was after all the translating part for me. Nonetheless I have a few personal take-aways for myself. Obviously the travel register system is not perfect and reading the manual alone, won’t safe one’s neck in dicey situations. But it is a first important step and helps to sensitize one for certain signs that are inevitably out there. In addition, a well-rehearsed action (even just in mind) can make a difference in saving one’s own life and those of others in emergencies, which is the main purpose of this manual…鬼が出るか蛇が出るか、わからぬことなので、自分の身を自分で守るため、心構えは必要だぞ。くれぐれも油断は禁物だ。
I hope everybody, Japanese and non-Japanese alike, can stay out of harm’s way in this turbulent times we live in. Keep your guards up and do what is in your own power to protect yourself and the one’s dear to you. It’s always better to be safe than sorry, isn’t it Golgo?
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First published: June 29th, 2017
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