Gangster’s phone call puts DJ in limelight
Stars and Stripes June 5, 2007
YOKOSUKA NAVAL BASE, Japan — James Havens kept some rules in mind when a reputed former Japanese gangster who police said shot four people, took a hostage and was in an armed standoff called him on the phone.
Havens isn’t a police negotiator — he’s a Nile C. Kinnick High School graduate turned popular Nagoya disc jockey.
“I didn’t want to excite him in any way,” said Havens of Hisato Obayashi, the 50-year-old who holed up in his Nagakute home May 17 and allegedly shot both of his children and two policemen.
Obayashi had taken his ex-wife hostage and was almost 24 hours into the standoff when he asked specifically to talk to Havens, who was just finishing his morning show.
“I basically just had to go along with the conversation,” Havens said.
He talked with Obayashi for 20 minutes — off the air and in police presence — letting the man speak about Japan’s “fixed justice system and police corruption,” Havens said.
He described his caller as “polite and calm.”
Some time during that phone call, Obayashi’s ex-wife, Michiko Mori, who had been held hostage for 23 hours, escaped by jumping out a window, according to media reports.
This has accorded Havens some notoriety that he’s uncomfortable with, he said.
“The police just asked me if I’d talk with the guy and I said ‘yeah, sure,’” Havens recounted last week. “But I don’t feel like a hero or anything. I guess the call gave her the chance to leave because he wouldn’t let her out of his sight.”
Police arrested Obayashi on May 18.
Policeman Kazuho Hayashi, who was shot in the chest while attempting to rescue a wounded colleague, died at the hospital.
Three other policemen who were shot were hospitalized, but are not in critical condition, according to media reports.
So why did Obayashi choose the Yokosuka-born Havens as a compassionate ear?
Havens, 36, can only guess, but he thinks it has to do with his unique American-Japanese radio personality. The son of a former master chief petty officer and a Japanese woman, Havens speaks Japanese fluently and isn’t afraid to air his opinions, he said.
“Being half-American and half-Japanese, I am able to speak my mind most of the time and can get away with a lot of stuff,” Havens said. His variety show airs Friday mornings on ZIP-FM 77.8 and includes world news, humor and music.
Havens stayed in Japan after he graduated Kinnick in 1989 and anticipates staying a good deal longer, he said.
Going from military brat to Japanese radio personality wasn’t as much of a stretch as one might think, he said. All of the moving around as a kid allowed him to go where opportunity knocked as an adult, he said.
The trick is getting off the base, he said.
Although Obayashi now is in prison, Havens anticipates another phone call — to participate in the court case in the aftermath of the incident, he said.
“I have a long road ahead of me,” Havens said.