The Gender Divide in Japan- No Boys allowed?

If you have done any travel in Japan, you will, most likely, have encountered special “Women-only train carriages”. This usually makes for an amusing story to tell your friends, about how you rushed onto a train as the doors were closing, only to find yourself surrounded by confused, and occasionally irate, women. However, the reasons behind the special carriages are not as amusing.

At first glance, the problem seems to have started with widespread reports of groping on trains. The Metropolitan Police Department reported a rise in cases of groping or obscene conduct.

One explanation for the increase of reported offences is not that they are becoming more common, but that they are much easier to report. Since most people carry a phone, capable of taking pictures and videos, it is becoming easier and easier to report crimes. However, as the problem was gaining a lot of attention, the authorities decided to implement a new strategy, which, in my opinion, is a mistake: female only train carriages.

Women_only_train_car_tokyo

But first, let’s look at some reactions from Japanese women. Aside from the feeling of greater security, some women enjoy the lack of typically male smells and the ability to talk with friends without being judged. However, the measure has not been without controversy. Many mothers complain about being separated from their junior high-aged sons since, apparently, as soon as a boy becomes a teenager, he qualifies as a potential sex pest. Some women also worry that should they ride in a mixed carriage, even if they are with male friends, they will be seen as a ‘willing victim’ for sexual advances.

Most male commuters also object to being crammed against fellow sweaty salary men while women ride in comfort. And I’m serious about being “crammed in”, check out this video of the Tokyo Subway.

Unfortunately for modern society, the policy on trains has now spread to other public areas. The reasoning is more acceptable in some cases, such as segregated sleeping-cafés or hostel dormitories. However, gender-separation in other venues has provoked accusations of discrimination.

In the Taito City Library in Tokyo, 10 of the 50 seats are reserved solely for women, while a co-ed university in Saitama Prefecture has a women only café. Discounts for women on restaurant and bar menus or cinema tickets are common, and exclusively female gyms, hotels and bars can be found.

Japanese lawyer, Yukata Iwaki argues that this runs the “risk of breaching the laws of equality”. It should be clear to everybody that maligning all men as potential sex-pests creates an unhealthy environment for modern gender relations.

The legal system in Japan offers little comfort either. 95% of people arrested in Japan sign confessions, and Japanese courts convict 99.9% of those who appear before them. Thus, when men stand accused of sexual crimes in an already suspicious climate, it threatens to ruin their lives regardless of veracity. There have been numerous cases of people being falsely accused and imprisoned.

The recent case of Iwao Hakamada highlights how the Japanese police can use force, or fabricate evidence to achieve a confession, and once the confession is signed, conviction is a sure thing. Hakamade was sentenced to death, and spent 45 years on death row until eventually the evidence against him was proven to be insufficient, incorrect or in some cases, wholly fabricated. Incidences of suicide following false accusations of groping have also been reported, such as the case of Shinsuke Harada in 2010.

In fact, the legal situation is so skewed, that Tokyo lawyer Takashi Nozawa advises against claiming innocence in court. He even suggests that the best way to avoid conviction is for accused men to simply flee the scene and not report the incident to police. Opponents of female-priority policy argue that it promotes an anti-social atmosphere in which women are assumed to be unsafe around men. This atmosphere could prove toxic to modern gender dynamics.

 womenonly

The operation of the segregated trains ultimately relies on the cooperation and discretion of male passengers: it is not a legally enforceable rule as it breaches equality laws. Female-only spaces are but of company request. If a man goes into one of these carriages, the most he will get are some angry stares, or a request to move to the cramped mixed carriage. That said, continuing to vilify men in this way will not lessen the gap between the genders, but reinforce the idea that the genders are different and should be treated differently.

 

 For further reading check these stories out:

Colin Joyce, ‘Persistent gropers force Japan to introduce women-only carriages’.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/japan/1490059/Persistent-gropers-force-Japan-to-introduce-women-only-carriages.html

Andrew Miller, ‘Has preferential treatment for women gone too far in Japan?’.

http://en.rocketnews24.com/2013/07/20/has-japans-preferential-treatment-of-women-gone-too-far/

John Stuart, ‘Guilty and never proven innocent – every male train rider’s nightmare in Japan’.

 http://en.rocketnews24.com/2013/05/14/guilty-and-never-proven-innocent-every-male-train-riders-nightmare-in-japan/

What in the world is a potato party?

Have you ever heard of a potato party? No, it’s not a delicious new political group, but instead, a party… where you just eat fries from McDonalds…

Not this either

Not this either

 

We can trace this crazy phenomenon to Japan, of course. Last October, McDonalds started discounting their large fries in an attempt to get the Japanese people to start accepting the larger portions. Some students took this as a challenge, and attempted to scoff 23 large fries. After sending a photo of the attempt online, it quickly got a lot of love, a lot of hate, and a whole lot of re-tweets.

As the picture became more and more re-tweeted, a group of students from Okayama decided that their warrior spirits could easily handle a mere 23 large fries, and instead went and got SIXTY large fries. To celebrate this momentous occasion, they even had a special balloon made.

 

 If you’re going to consume 30,000 calories, you at least need a balloon

If you’re going to consume 30,000 calories, you at least need a balloon

 

The fad swiftly spread to South Korea where teens have been reportedly kicked out of mcdonalds restaurants for causing a mess, and disturbing other customers.

potato-party-frite-se-gaver

You can’t really blame the staff…

 

 

Gender divide in Japan- Women in the workplace

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In what will be a short series of articles on the Gender Divide in Japan, I decided to start with the difficulties faced by women in Japan, specifically in regards to the workplace.

political-cartoon-gender-gap-wages

Now, I wouldn’t classify Japan as a “sexist country” per se. However, there is a massive gender divide here, and this division between the sexes can, and sometimes does, breed serious sexist attitudes, especially amongst more conservative people.

In a news story that broke a few days ago, it was shown that a member of the Tokyo city assembly was subjected to sexist heckling when trying to debate the topic of social support for child-rearing women.

Ayaka Shiomura, a 35-year old member of the opposition party “Your Party”, was subjected to heckling from members of the conservative and nationalist LDP. The Liberal Democratic Party is Japan’s ruling political party, and members were reported to have shouted things like “Why don’t you get married?” or “Are you unable to have a baby” at Shiomura.

The city assembly has 127 members, of whom a mere 25 are women, furthermore, in the National Assembly there are 722 members, of whom just 78 are women. Japanese Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, has pledged to increase the numbers of female participants in politics to 30% by 2020, but seeing as it is his party which seems to be part of the problem, it is unknown if he will be able to make good on this promise.

really_good_careers

In Japan, 70% of women quit their job after having their first child. The problem of forcing women out of jobs when they have children, or get too old, is visible in all levels of Japanese society, from members of the political class to humble office workers.

Indeed, many offices in Japan have an office lady, or shokuba no hana (flower girl). These flower girls are kept in the office to perform menial tasks like copying reports or serving tea. Like the flowers they are named after, the women are expected, and indeed encouraged, to retire in their late twenties. The Japanese believe that a person should get married by the age of 30, and a married office lady is a bad thing in Japan, with many being praised for the youth and liveliness they bring to the office.

lets-reduce-the-gender-gap-copy-1

There is a joke in Japan, that women are like Christmas cakes, since after the 25th, nobody wants them anymore, unfortunately for the office ladies, they fall into this category.

Even women who are not in the employment pool find it difficult to receive support, especially in the city of Osaka. The Osaka Welfare Bureau has been investigated for insensitivity and sexual harassment after complaints were made against staff there.

One woman, after being refused five times, was told to try to get a job at a “soapland” (a “massage” parlor which is, in reality, a brothel). Other people who were recovering from cancer treatments or other medical issues sought assistance at the bureau, but found their applications for assistance rejected, and instead received the advice to just “get a job”, along with a booklet of job-hunting tips. Luckily, there is an investigation in progress to examine how to lessen the restrictions on support services.

jobs

I’ll close with some cold hard figures about gender inequality in Japan, from the 2013 Global Gender Gap Report. The report assesses countries around the world for gender equality and ranks them on a scale of 1-4, with 1 being “most equal” and 4 being “least equal”.

Japan was ranked 3 in education, 4 in economic participation, 4 in political empowerment, and 4 in “overall gap”. All this means that Prime Minister Abe has a tough road ahead of him.

 

 

Next, I’ll talk about the issues that the gender divide causes for men, and later, how closing the gender gap can benefit Japan, but before that, I think this blog needs another fun post…

3 Japanese men, 10 burgers, what could go wrong?

Have you ever heard of Megwin TV?

If you’ve not, that’s understandable, since outside of Japan, they aren’t all that well known, they are however, one of Japan’s most prolific YouTube bloggers, uploading videos just about every day.

The group was started by Megwin himself (real name Ken Sekine), and has since expanded to include two of his friends, who go by the names Bandy and Falcon. Megwin regularly gives lectures about creating internet success and how the new “digital hollywood” is evolving. But how did they get this popular? By making awesome videos of course (with English subtitles, so we can enjoy them too!)

Take, for example, their burger eating contests, where they travel to America, and try to eat 1o hamburger combos in a day.

megrules

The rules of the game are simple: they drive to a restaurant, and whoever’s colour is touching the ground when they arrive, has to order the most popular combo on the menu, no matter how big it is. This of course leads to some pretty funny moments…

hegotstoeat

1- The “hirarious Engrish”

I’ve taught English in Japan for two years now, and I’ve gotten used to the way they pronounce things. The poor staff however, have no idea that when the guys ask for “za mohsto popyurah conbo” they really mean “the most popular combo”…

megengrishmegmoreengrish

maybeifhesaiditlouder

 

2- For a guy in his mid-thirties, Megwin is a bit of a big kid…

Megwin himself is the star of the show, and he shows off by having an unusually outgoing personality (for a Japanese person anyway)…

burgergod megkid

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3- The size of the burgers

This being america, they have some pretty big burgers available…

eattheface

wQIRxX

4- The overconfidence falls apart

Of course there was no way they could eat all that meat, plus it doesn’t help when they make mistakes with their orders…

3EnjqZ

combo

give up

5- Extra challenges are issued.

Put a few guys together on a road trip in L.A. and of course there will be shenanigans…

dsg

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Capture

 

 

 

There are a whole load of other great moments, so you should really check it out yourself.

The videos are available here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J2LYx2GubsU&list=RDJ2LYx2GubsU&index=1

A dream come true (for me at least)

I have a word for people who don’t like capybaras.

In the interest of good taste, I won’t say it here, but suffice it to say that it’s an unpleasant word.

Just look how serene they are

Just look how serene they are

Prior to coming to Japan, I had only glimpsed capybaras from afar, but seeing as they were essentially dog-sized guinea pigs, which can also swim, it’s safe to say that I was smitten. Here in Nagasaki however, we have a “biopark”. The Biopark is like a zoo, except you can interact with the animals. Seeing as capybaras are just about the most amazing animal on the planet, they swiftly became the most popular attraction, with whole sections of the gift shop dedicated to the world’s largest rodents, with t-shirts or dress-up capybara dolls.

You can show your love with t-shirts

You can show your love with style

It's dressed as a cow, our argument is invalid

It’s dressed as a cow, your argument is invalid

 

This coming July, a zoo in Shizuoka Prefecture is opening what they call the “capybara Rainbow Plaza”.

Artist's impression of the fun

Artist’s impression of the fun

The plaza will feature opportunities to play with the capybaras, feed them and learn more about them, but the real attraction… swimming in a hot spring with them! Just imagine it, an entire pack of dog sized, water loving rodents swimming around you!

bathing

Now while that thought may be enough to give some people nightmares, I am not amongst them. I will be leaving Japan in late July, so perhaps before I leave, I will have to pay the Rainbow Plaza a visit to see them in action…