Friday Food For Thought: The future for women in Japan

Following the Olympics scandal where Yoshiro Mori, former president of the Tokyo Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games, made sexist remarks that women not speak in meetings, there has been much discussion around attitudes towards women in Japan. In conversation with some colleagues, it was remarked that the fact that the scandal had forced Mori to resign was in itself a sign of progress – much worse comments have been made by men in more senior positions towards women without consequence. Such “traditional” attitudes towards gender roles are not only limited to men in power – last week Tamayo Marukawa, Japan’s minister for women’s empowerment and gender equality, joined a group of lawmakers opposing a legal change to allow married couples to have separate surnames. Admittedly, this creates a rather bleak outlook for the present, let alone the future, of women in Japan. However, some women in positions of power are calling for change.

Mayor of Yokohama Fumiko Hayashi (far right in top image) made an impassioned speech last month when asked for her views on the Mori incident:

People of my and Mr. Mori’s generations subconsciously do not have the courage to leave things to women and would rather protect them. I think that men need to change their mindset.

Her 10-minute speech captured the mentality and expectations of women her generation grew up with and how this has changed, or rather seen a lack of change, since then. She further referred to women in “foreign companies” and her success in breaking down gender barriers in her municipal government as a source of inspiration for what women could do in Japan if given the opportunity.

For any who would like to do a little more than light reading on the subject, Japan Society chairman Bill Emmott has recently released a book on Japan’s Far More Female Future and he discussed this at a Sainsbury Institute Third Thursday Lecture in December.

What do you believe the future of women to be in Japan? Are we on the cusp of major social change and, if so, what do you believe is influencing this change? Is it women in positions of power or online movements like #KuToo? Let us know what you think in the comments.

Image credits:

“Welcome Reception co-hosted by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Yokohama City Mayor Fumiko Hayashi | Yokohama, 28 August 2019” by Paul Kagame is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

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