Hump suspect update: Julie Hamp’s Japanese water torture

Julie, during better days

Julie, during better days

Does anyone still think that the Julie Hamp affair will quietly go away, and that Julie will eventually return to her office at 1-4-18 Koraku, Bunkyo-ku, Tokyo 112-8701, Japan? All it takes to dissuade one from this silly notion is to witness the steady drip of leaks from the Tokyo Metropolitan Police. Today, the usual “investigative source” told Kyodo News “that the tablets in question were not prescribed for her.” The same source told Kyodo that ” Tokyo police are considering sending officers to the United States to verify Hamp’s statement and confirm other aspects of the investigation.” You don’t go on a fact-finding mission to the U.S. if you want to sweep the matter under the rug.

Yesterday, a police source told Kyodo that Julie Hamp’s father shipped the package with camouflaged oxycodone tablets. A day before, the same police source told Kyodo that Julie Hamp said she needed the powerful painkiller due to problems with her knees. That statement apparently did not sit too well with the police. On the same day, they raided Toyota’s headquarters both in Tokyo, and in Toyota City, Aichi, along with a mysterious “third location.’ Hamp’s office is in Toyota’s PR department in Tokyo, and a visit there to look for pills in the drawer, and incriminating email in the computer, would probably have been enough – unless you want to make a very big point.

As far as the point is concerned, there appear to be two schools of thought in Tokyo. One school thinks that the point being made is that it obviously wasn’t a good idea to make a woman, and an American, the public face of Japan’s biggest company. The other school thinks that the daily leaks and ostentatious raids are simply part of the kabuki drama, and that the police is simply doing is job.

True or false, the point about the foreign executive definitely resonates in Japan’s business community, foreign and otherwise. A non-Japanese Toyota executive said that the influx of non-Japanese talent to Toyota has come to a sudden stop, if only because Toyota won’t find any smart foreigners to go to Japan anymore. “Any gaijin in a semi-exec position will be watched like someone in Foucault’s panopticon,” the exec said. “And you know how risk averse the Japanese are: their normal mode of quadruple dotting the Is and cross-examining the Ts will be brought up a couple of notches at least. “ An executive at a European carmaker said that unwittingly, Julie Hamp “set back that diversity movement in Japan by more than 30 years.”

There are some who think that Julie Hamp’s celebrity status will save her. Better think again. Reputation is very important in Japan. It needs to be earned, and it easily can be shot. Paul McCartney was kicked out of Japan for 20 grams of pot. Paris Hilton was one of the many not even allowed into Japan due to a prior drug conviction elsewhere. The Japanese water torture of daily leaks makes sure that whatever reputation Julie Hamp still has is going down the drain. In the Japanese media, she has long ceased being Julie Hamp, she is now routinely referred to as Hanpu yogi-sha, translated by an uncouth Google as “Hump suspect.”

Which brings us to the question who will succeed Julie at her CCO job. During one of Toyota’s worst PR nightmares, Toyota’s PR chief is in jail. This can’t go on for long. Akio Toyoda may voice as much support for Julie as he wants, her career in Japan has ended. The best outcome for her (and given the kabuki-dance above, that outcome gets increasingly unlikely) is that she confesses (and from the leaks, she is confessing) that she apologizes, and that at the end of the statutory 23 day period she is released from jail, brought to the airport, and extradited for good. Toyota’s PR team needs a leader, and the company probably can do worse than quietly recalling Keisuke “KC” Kirimoto from his job as VP of comms at Toyota US, if only to help out on a temporary basis, while faces are being saved all around. Kirimoto is no woman, and no American. However, he was a respected leader of the PR team before he left for the U.S. in the beginning of the year. During many years in the U.S., KC has been thoroughly Americanized, down to the un-Japanese body mass which earned him the membership of Team Debu in Exile.

P.S.: Further to the percolator of daily leaks, the Mainichi Shimbun reports Julie Hamp revealing to the police that this wasn’t the first time she’d  imported stuff she shouldn’t have imported.