Photo/IllutrationA used hard disk that contained data compiled by Kanagawa prefectural government officials (Provided by the Kanagawa prefectural government)

A Japanese newspaper reporter's morning can start with "asamawari," which is journalism jargon for "making the morning rounds."

This involves waiting, from very early in the morning, outside the home of a politician or business executive--or whomever one is doing a story on--so that the reporter can start shooting questions before the subject ducks into a waiting car.

I have made such rounds myself, some of which were not pleasant. In fact, it's still a bit painful to recall how some of my subjects simply ignored me with silent disdain.

But there certainly are ways to start one's day in better spirits.

"Asakatsu," literally "morning activity," is an expression I've been hearing frequently in recent years. It implies that more people are now enjoying activities such as yoga, dancing and jogging in the morning, or even Zen meditation and mountain hikes for some, before going to work.

I imagine one can improve productivity by starting the day in a relaxing but invigorating environment that is divorced from the daily grind.

However, one asakatsu that was anything but refreshing was apparently going on in a corner of an office.

An employee of a recycling company, commissioned to erase official data on hard drives, has been arrested by police on suspicion of theft.

According to reports, the man came into the office early in the morning before anyone else, absconded with the hard drives and sold them online.

Some of them, which had been used by the Kanagawa prefectural government, still contained undeleted personal information on delinquent taxpayers and the prefectural government's internal affairs.

The recycling company in question is reportedly an industry leader and the Defense Ministry is one of its clients. But it took just one corrupt employee to ruin its reputation.

People today are careful to protect their personal information, and I believe many take the trouble to shred even their old New Year's greeting cards. But now, are we at risk unless we physically destroy our computer hard drives with our own hands?

The theft came to light when a person who purchased some of the hard drives became suspicious and used recovery software to retrieve undeleted data.

Data, which should have been erased, then suddenly showed up. If there is a procedure to ensure that, it should have been used vigorously for the lists of guests to the annual cherry blossom viewing events hosted by the prime minister.

--The Asahi Shimbun, Dec. 10

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Vox Populi, Vox Dei is a popular daily column that takes up a wide range of topics, including culture, arts and social trends and developments. Written by veteran Asahi Shimbun writers, the column provides useful perspectives on and insights into contemporary Japan and its culture.