People have asked me, why is it that Japan always seems rife with problems like this? Is it just what we see from the outside, or is it really that much more endemic there?
Back when I read North Korea Kidnapped My Daughter, what struck me most about Mrs. Yokota's ordeal was the way so few people seemed willing to do anything substantive, because they always feared someone else's breath would be on their necks. Not any particular person, either. Not just someone above them, but anyone at all, anyone capable of shaming them for deviating from their respective role. It was not their job to rock the boat — it isn't anyone's job to do that.
I suppose the only real answer to such things, then, is to have people like Mr. Shige step up and fill the void with their humanity. The problem, again, is that there is no guarantee someone will, in fact, step up and do the job. We look at the exceptions, like this one, and we assume there will always be an exception to each instance of the rule. Wishful thinking.
Also, from what I've seen, there is little emphasis on having a private place to go with your problems in Japan and not experience censure for it. People there are still largely wary of psychoanalysis or therapy in anything other than a wholly clinical setting, and sometimes not even that. A salaryman can go to a bar hostess and get some temporary relief — and a few drinks — but that's not the same thing as a proper support structure. (That and alcohol is a depressant, which doesn't allow for much in the way of true reflection or constructive insight. Consult your local barfly for firsthand details.)
I sometimes wonder if we have the exact opposite problem in the U.S. We have a surfeit of channels for such things — so many, in fact, that it becomes easy to assume the slightest problems on our part require a public confession, or they're not worth the worry (and therefore we feel stupid for worrying about them). That means the real problems get pushed even further down, and the stuff that rises to the top is the cheap misery that's used as a proxy for everything else — a Method Acting version of therapy.
I admire this man. Not everyone wants to admit that at least some of their job as a human being is to be there for others — whether a friend, or a sibling, or a total stranger standing on the edge of a cliff looking down and down.