By Gemma Niwa, produced for online by Jessica Riga
The “Me Too” movement has arrived in Japan, breaking through barriers of media censorship and taking on high profile men in powerful positions.
The Japan Times says many female journalists are now speaking out about the sexual harassment they’ve endured in an especially male-dominated industry.
This follows the abrupt resignation of politician Junichi Fukuda last week after sexual harassment allegations made by a TV Asahi Journalist, who published voice recordings of the harassment.
Associate Professor of Japanese studies Dr Tomoko Aoyama says because the incidents were so high profile the media couldn’t be censored, bringing women’s issues back into the limelight.
“Very little was reported before about this scandal, but now it’s impossible to hide,” Dr Aoyama said.
The catalyst for this new movement began with Shiori Ito’s public stand against her high-profile alleged rapist Noriyuki Yamaguchi last year.
When her case was dropped by prosecutors, which some say was due to Yamaguchi’s close government ties, she filed a civil lawsuit.
Since then, more and more Japanese women have been speaking out with their own stories of sexual harassment and abuse, and the “Me Too” movement is sparking a new wave of feminism in Japan.
Queensland University of Technology Associate Professor Michael Flood, who specialises in criminology and sociology, says the “Me Too” movement is a powerful display of solidarity among women, proving these experiences aren’t isolated but shared, and need to be supported.
“That’s been incredibly powerful because it tells us that the experiences of harassment and assault is common, it’s wide spread. Ideally, it makes it more likely that we listen and believe victims and survivors,” Associate Professor Flood said.
While feminism has existed in Japan since the late Edo period, and contemporary movements for women’s liberation, known as “ūman libu,” have slowly been gaining traction since the seventies, “Me Too’s” arrival in Japan has re-ignited the fight for justice.
Japan’s seeing more marches and protests than ever before, such as the Shibuya march against sex crimes in Tokyo last weekend, and social media is giving more women a voice they haven’t had in the past.
University of Queensland Associate Professor David Chapman, an expert in Japanese studies, says reporting these issues and educating people is how we can bring these issues to light, but Japanese women need to hold more positions of power to change laws and policies and create real change.
“Through the legal system, through women taking on positions in which they can enforce more acknowledgement of this going on in the work place and then open up while addressing the problem.”