The levels in which some countries view sexual harassment depend largely on the presence of patriarchy in their culture. Countries that have been run in a more patriarchal manner may see sexual harassment as a less pressing issue; countries that have had higher amounts of pushback from women see it as a very active one.
Japan belongs to the countries that don’t place a high emphasis on the issue of sexual harassment. Because of this, women who speak out about their ordeals are few and far between, and those whose accused are in the media industry face a worse fate.
Shiori Ito was an intern at one of the news services of Noriyuki Yamaguchi, a famous television journalist at Tokyo Broadcasting Service. Having met him twice before, she had been inquiring about another internship when Yamaguchi invited her for drinks. During their meeting, Ito had felt a sense of dizziness before going to the bathroom and passing out on the toilet.
Ito later came to in Yamaguchi’s hotel room, where she tried to escape but was aggressively confronted by Yamaguchi. When he offered to buy her a morning-after pill, saying nothing had happened, she fled the hotel.
It was after five days of hesitation that Ito finally decided to go to the police. They were skeptical at first, but when Ito convinced them to look at hotel footage from the night before, they opened a case.
The evidence against Yamaguchi was solid – investigators had found his DNA on one of her bras, and testimony from the taxi driver that night had proven strong. But Yamaguchi’s arrest did not go through.
Despite that, Ito spoke out on the issue, becoming one of the few women in Japan to do so. “I know if I didn’t talk about it, this horrible climate of sexual assault will never change,” she says. “The press never covers sexual assault very much.”
Sexual assault in Japan may seem as such because of its presentation. The pervasiveness of certain patriarchal ideals, ones that value the words of men over women, can contribute to the hesitation many experience in the aftermath of sexual assault. Not many women come forward with their stories – in a survey conducted by Japan’s central government in 2014, only one in 15 women reported experiencing rape during their lives.
Women who are raped are also made to feel that they are at fault. “[They] blame themselves, saying, ‘Oh, it’s probably my fault,’” says Tamie Kaino, a gender studies professor at Ochanomizu University. They also believe that the police will not believe them, according to Hisako Tanabe, a rape counselor at the Sexual Assault Relief Center in Tokyo.
Shiori Ito is incredibly brave to have spoken up about an issue that is so often ignored or swept under the rug. Hopefully her case can lead to better coverage and understanding of sexual assault issues in Japan in the future.
Sign Up For Our Newsletter