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The final downfall of a hard-boiled harridan


Just audible under the cheers that greeted the birth of the new princess was the tip-tapping of bored fingers coming from the direction of the “wide shows,” where smiling faces and mandatory keigo barely masked acute impatience. Nine months of being forced to keep quiet about the crown princess’s pregnancy does not a happy media make.

So it was with uncommon glee that the tabloid press greeted the news that their old nemesis Sachiyo “Satchy” Nomura was wanted on charges of tax evasion. Most scandal reporters had been anticipating Satchy’s downfall ever since last summer, when her son, Kenny, published a memoir, “Goodbye, Mammy” (which sounds like an Al Jolson tribute), describing his mother’s fiscal and maternal sins in tear-stained detail. It was only a matter of time, but coming as it does right now the media surely must have seen her fall as a Christmas bonus.

Their relief at finally having a great story was offset somewhat by a sad, sobering truth: They won’t have Satchy to kick around any more. Because whatever fate awaits her at the hands of the folks in the tax bureau, her career as Japan’s most famous harridan is no longer tenable. Though she will always remain No. 1 in the hearts of scandalmongers nationwide, Satchy herself can no longer be allowed within the hallowed halls of medialand except as a metaphor.

Consequently, everyone feels obligated to give her one big parting shot. Whereas the vernacular dailies have steered clear of Satchy’s shenanigans in the past, they covered her arrest in detail and even made it their top news story the day after she was taken in. Aera’s reporter contacted five different psychiatrists to get their opinions on Satchy’s unique talent and seemingly limitless capacity for dissemblance. One remarked that her sociopathic behavior is not surprising considering what she’s been through.

Satchy’s past has been gone over a million times — GHQ employee (read: call girl) marries U.S. serviceman who later kills himself, has affair with married baseball star who divorces wife and marries her but not before they have a kid, he adopts her two boys from her first marriage. It’s a life of fame, fortune, notoriety and a semi-nude photo collection. But some of it still remains a mystery, owing to the fact that much of what the media took for granted for so long was supplied by Satchy herself. Besides her talent for intimidation, the media’s credulity also sprang from the fact that she has been able to exploit her husband’s reputation as a great baseball star and an even greater man.

That’s why the most pathetic aspect of this particular scandal is not Sachiyo Nomura’s arrest, but Katsuya Nomura’s profession of ignorance as to what his wife did with all their money, including his salary. Pathetic, too, is the media’s portrayal of him as her ultimate victim. Although he took responsibility by quitting his position as manager of the Hanshin Tigers, it came across as an act of passive-aggressive spite: I had nothing to do with my wife’s crime, but I’ll bite the bullet because that way you’ll have to believe me.

The media was, of course, responsible for Satchy’s rise in the first place. They accepted her lies (at least initially) about her stint at Columbia University and the claim that she herself wrote the book of humdrum essays that won a literary prize and made her a pundit on motherhood and conjugal obligations. She turned out to be great for business and, even if what she said sounded unbelievable, she played good on television. An excellent argument can be made for the opinion that her hard-assed demeanor and refusal to suffer fools ushered in the current age of variety-show programming. For a while in the mid-’90s you couldn’t turn on a talk show without encountering her sourpuss expression.

Three years ago, when she was accused of lying on an election campaign application, Satchy was ostracized by television except as a subject of wide show scrutiny, but afterward producers gradually allowed her back into the fold, as if they couldn’t stand the idea that she might actually decide to withdraw from public life.

And while the reports of her final downfall are invariably expressed in breathless tones, without the active participation of the subject herself, there’s something notably missing. Kenny Nomura has made numerous television appearances since the arrest, explaining that “he feels nothing,” and, in fact, that’s how he looks. Has there ever been a duller whistle-blower in the annals of scandal?

The Sunday Mainichi published a transcript of an interview with Satchy conducted the night before her arrest, and though it’s a poorly edited, redundant ramble, it features the woman of the week doing what she does best, implying that what she did is no big deal, she’ll be over it before you know it — and didn’t your parents teach you it’s rude to ask questions like that?

To a disinterested observer, Satchy has nothing real to offer in terms of “charisma.” All she has is her famously fearless attitude. Her tale is worthy of Francis Ford Coppola: A girl climbs out of the gutter and, by means of marriage and a savage sense of personal entitlement, becomes powerful enough to hold a nation in thrall to her arrogance.

And then the fall. To the Japanese media she was a drug they couldn’t say “no” to. Satchy Nomura: Who will ever replace her?