At the University of Redlands, studying abroad is a right of passage, as over 50 percent of students choose to study abroad. The University only requires that the country is safe and the program is academically challenging. Julian Adame ‘19 chose to go abroad in Bali, Indonesia for Spring of 2018 to study religion as part of his cross-cultural requirement in his Johnston emphasis of Finding Meaning in Suffering through Personal Development, Public Speaking, and Creative Writing. Following his enriching abroad experience, Adame spontaneously traveled to Japan for what was suppose to be a short trip. He has been detained in Japan for nearly nine months. This story is an attempt to linearize the events that took place leading to Adame’s current situation.
Julian Adame has connections all across campus as he is engaged in the Johnston Community and Greek Life. Fraternity brother of Kappa Sigma Sigma and a close friend, Bryce Wilson ‘19, described Adame as “ One of those people, one of those exemplary Redlands students crossing the bridge between one thing and another like he didn’t fit in one category.”
On May 14, Adame posted a photo of himself on Instagram at Nusa Lembongan in Bali, captioned “The study abroad journey may have just ended but the adventures still haven’t, next stop here I come.”
After his study abroad program had formally ended, Adame traveled to Tokyo, Japan where he stayed at the Stylish Wise Owls hostel in the Shibuya ward. He planned to be there for around five days.
University of Redlands student, Kate Emmons ‘19, was residing in Thailand for the summer to complete research for her Johnston Senior Project. She planned to meet up with Adame in Bangkok on July 25. When he did not arrive, she had received no contact from him and the regular social media posting had stopped, it was clear something was wrong. Quickly, Emmons spread on social media that her friend was missing and many reposted an Instagram story hoping to find Adame.
Fraternity brother Kevan Kueter ‘19 stated “It all started with a post on Instagram saying he is lost and we didn’t know what had happened to him. We thought he got abducted or something. But then with later information[from] Kate, we slowly heard what was happening. It was a process to know exactly what was going on.”
After contact with the authorities, Emmons was able to determine that Adame was being held in the detention center in Shibuya. Emmons has become the primary point of contact for Adame since he has been detained.
The following account of the story is what was told to Emmons by Adame of what occurred that night. Adame had met companions that warned him of Japanese gang members that dress up as police officers. These con artists have been known to ask tourists for their passports to attempt to commit identify theft, and then extort and kidnap them.
He had been in Japan for around 17 hours when his companions from his hostel decided to go out to explore the city’s nightlife. Emmons was told that he had a beer per bar, but after a long day of travel and alcohol consumption, he became drowsy and fell asleep at one of the bars. While he was asleep, his companions that he met at the hostel left him. Adame was awoken by police officers telling him that he’d broken a lamp and was expected to pay 900 USD; they needed to see his passport. He was fearful that this was what he was warned about earlier that day.
He was moved to a police car and taken to a police box known as koban, a small facility with glass windows that police use as an initial facility when larger facilities are farther away. At the koban, there is footage of Adame repeatedly saying “you are going to kill me.” Adame recalled to Emmons that at this point, he was convinced he was being kidnapped. To his memory, he was transported to an unmarked vehicle where more officers arrived that were not in uniform. This contributed to his fear, as he called 119, the Japanese equivalent to 911 thirteen times throughout the night.
They arrived at his hostel and obtained his passport, whereupon they attempted to handcuff him. Adame was reportedly startled, turned and accidentally scuffed the chin of an officer in the process. This led him to be charged with Obstruction of Performance of Official Duties, essentially resisting arrest. Adame is pleading guilty to the charge. This is a nonviolent offense under Japanese law that carries either a minimum prison sentence of three years or a fine of nearly $5,000 USD.
His first hearing was scheduled for September but was delayed. Adame has now been detained for nearly nine months. He is in a detention center for individuals’ cases that have been prolonged. Emmons stated “We don’t have the financial means to hire a private lawyer for him,” as much of the funding to help Adame has been through crowdsourcing from loved ones on Go Fund Me. Throughout this process, there have been many delays.
Emmons explained that at first Adame’s public lawyer was trying to decide whether to incorporate the video footage of Adame saying “you are going to kill me.” This took several weeks to decide. The prosecutor then asked twice that the footage be translated by a court-appointed translator, which pushed the case back a month as there are few court certified translators. The next step of the trial was to cross-examine the officers. This resulted in the hearing being postponed for another month. Next, Adame’s lawyer’s father passed away the day before Adame’s trial that was supposed to occur in September. This pushed the trial back to Feb. 18, and because there are few court certified translators, none of them were available until March 1, the newest trial date.
The United States embassy submitted a diplomatic note on Adame’s behalf and sent it to the Ministry of Justice and Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Japan, hoping to get an official status report for the case to demonstrate how many delays there have been, and also attempting to get the case expedited. This request was denied. According to Emmons, the embassy is very involved in the case. The deputy assigned to Adame now visits him on a weekly basis outside of his professional duties to check up on him, as the embassy personnel on official business are only suppose to visit him every 30 days.
The University of Redlands provided the following statement: “We are aware that Julian Adame remains detained in Japan after events that occurred during personal travel, not associated with a university program. We have been in contact with local and international law enforcement agencies in Japan to ask for status, express our concern, and offer our assistance.”
Emmons has described the University as very helpful in supporting her communication with Adame.
Emmons continued, “I have been involved with the University since the get-go. Donna Eddleman the Dean of Students, has been the one who helped me. She basically offers support, advice and allows me to use her phone for international calls. But because Julian was traveling as an independent and not through a school program, the school couldn’t offer financial support with flight payments or costs because they don’t want to set a precedent to bail out students who run into trouble.”
As Adame was part of the unique Johnston Program, he had a close relationship with his advisor and professor of religious studies Fran Grace. She stated via email “Julian is a multi-talented, conscientious individual. He is an inspiring example of the resilience and dignity innate to the human spirit. In my thirty years of college teaching, he stands out as a student of unusually strong character. I miss him and look forward to his return.”
During this time period, many university students have expressed a palpable difference with Adame not being present on campus. The main mode to keep him connected has been letters.
“We sent him a birthday letter as a fraternity, and then we sent him one more letter as a fraternity a couple of months letter. Besides that, I have sent him a letter and gotten one back. But I just keep thinking hopefully, he will be out by the time he gets my letter and then it keeps getting pushed back.” said Wilson.
Current Kappa Sigma Sigma President Fernando Martinez stated “We have been posting to our alumni pages a lot about the Go Fund Me to raise a lot of funds. We have been informing our alumni with updates on the situation every time we receive them, that way they can spread the word more and also people who have funded or given to the Go Fund Me to be updated on what is actually happening and where the money is going. Other than that we talk about it in weekly meetings, updates or even just reminders or just saying Kate is sending another batch of letters.”
Johnston alumni Sam Armacost is currently living in Tokyo to study Japanese and has been one of the main sources of contact for Emmons as she is able to visit Adame weekly.
Those working with Adame are hopeful that his trial will finally happen on March 1. He has been in a single cell with no contact with others. Emmons stated “He has a daily practice of waking up and meditating and praying and doing yoga, and then he writes for a lot of the day and repeats that at night. And he sleeps with all the letters that people have sent him on all three sides of him”
Adame’s friends emphasize that it’s important to continue sending him letters and packages.
Tokyo Detention House
Tokyo, Japan 124- 8565
There can be no food, no clothing with hoods, hats, belts, metal, or anything that could be perceived to assist suicide, no luxury items such as fur, and only one to two items should be sent at a time. It is okay to send letters, photos, and books altogether.
Corrections made to the spelling of Donna Eddleman and the address in Japan.
Photos collected from social media via Instagram.