Drugs and controversy in Sendai

The reality, in which all our lives take place, is a complex system subdued to a seemingly chaotic algorithm responsible for creating stories that could deride even the most gifted of writers.  Albeit it concedes, among other altruistic pleasures, joy, realization, and satisfaction; it also leads to their counterparts, deception, anguish, and agony, among other crippling misfortunes. When this dichotomy is balanced or tilted towards pleasures, existence is a perennial gratification. Nevertheless, it can also become an endless punishment when life’s vicissitudes accumulate without enjoyment.  Naturally, for those living in the latter condition, a temporary escape can be the only way to subsist. This ephemeral transition to a blurred reality comes in form of drugs; substances that are able to numb the senses by altering the brain’s chemical equilibrium.

As logic ought to dictate, this dilemma has existed as long as humans have but, interestingly, it is not limited to our species.  From wallabies getting intoxicated on opium, by nibbling on poppy flowers, up to dolphins that have been recorded squeezing a puffer fish, with the intention to make it release a small dosage of trance-inducing neurotoxin, and even without taking into account the consumption of alcohol, observed in several animals, it appears that the dulling of the senses is a natural phenomenon. However, despite occurring naturally, numbing senses and taking hallucinogenic trips for recreational purposes is an extremely sensitive topic in our current society.

Virtually, every sovereign country of the world has laws to punish, the possession, consumption, and commercialization of a myriad of drugs. In some of these nations, the debate on which substances are dangerous enough to be banned, and which can be legally consumed, is on its apogee. Yet in others, like Japan, there is no debate. While some drugs (dangerous and statistically innocuous) are indisputably taboo, from the social and legal perspective, alcohol (responsible of an estimated 6,000 violent deaths on 2017) and Tabaco (linked to several diseases that cause approximately 157,800 deaths yearly) are available throughout the country.

This austerity was brought out into the light when 7 Tohoku University’s international students were linked to drug consumption.  These 6 men and a woman, from ages between 20 to 26 years old, came from 6 different countries, and, except for one, were short-term exchange students who lived at the Tohoku University’s Sanjo-Machi dorms complex. Peculiarly, while all the students confessed to the same misdeed, only 4 suspect’s names were fully disclosed, whereas 3 were kept anonymous. According to the police report, one of them, a 20 year old male originally from Australia, received an international parcel from the UK with 0.98 g of heroin and 6.99 g of MDMA, on last year’s October 29th. This student was taken into custody on December the 6th of the same year; during the raid to his apartment, the police found 0.07 g of heroin and 6.53 g of cocaine.  In addition, he allegedly distributed cocaine, without charge, to all the other 6 students involved in the case. The police stated that the drugs were distributed in the University’s dorm, and in an undisclosed local night club.

Despite the verdict of his trial has not been made public, if found guilty of the imputed charges, he could spend 3 years in an Australian penal facility. The home university of this student refused to comment on the matter. Regarding the 6 remaining suspects, even though they were not charged with possession of any illegal substances, according to the Japanese law, their confession was enough to grant them an expulsion from the university and a consequent deportation. As it could be expected, due to the historical significance of the event, the news became national. A few articles were written in English. However, in contrast with their Japanese counterparts, the discretion, regarding the details of the case, was kept; the names of all the students remained anonymous.

As controversy arose in the city of Sendai, the local Japanese community, despite isolated comments backing up the closing of the university’s dorm, showed support to the uninvolved foreign students of Tohoku University.  Concurrently, the institution issued the following statement, in Japanese: “As the police strive to elucidate the details of the event, we will work thoroughly to strengthen our criteria for accepting international students and provide them with education regarding prohibited drugs”.

Among rumors, gossips, and anecdotes, all conflux on an incident that took place during a trip to Ishinomaki (Approx. 50 kms from Sendai). The Australian student allegedly showed off syringes and a substance he stated was heroin. Others confirm that he was openly stating he was in possession of illegal drugs. Whether these are speculations or not, it was ratified what everyone knows but only a few understand, despite Japanese judicial procedures may seem irregular to some, immigrants are judged by the laws of their new country of residence.

As reported by Manuel Campos. Born and brought up in Venezuela, Manuel is a senior writer for ‘The Sentinel’.

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