For those of you who regularly read this blog, sorry for the lack of posts recently, I’ve been studying for the JLPT (Japanese Language Proficiency Test), and for those of you who don’t read regularly, you should!
Anyway, a fair few things have happened in the past few days, so here’s a quick little re-cap before I get back into regular blogging again.
Akihiro Suzuki, the member of Abe’s LDP who recently made sexist jeers at Ayaka Shiomura, has had his office pelted with eggs by angry residents of the city. Suzuki had apologized for making the remarks, but many people say that an apology isn’t enough, and that he should resign if he truly is sorry.
Perhaps to show his party’s dedication to increasing the level of female involvement in Japanese life, Prime Minister Abe has announced that he will host a female focused version of the Davos forum in September, with an aim towards increasing the amount of females in the government, the general workforce, and to increase support for working and stay-at-home mothers.
My current home of Nagasaki was spared a horrific incident as typhoon Neoguri diverted at the last minute, sparing the city all but the lightest of breezes. People elsewhere in Kyushu were not so lucky, and at present, 5 people are dead and at least 50 were injured by collapsing buildings, floodings and landslides. While everyone here breathes a sigh of relief, our hearts go out to the victims, many of whom are children
Finally, a crotch shot-
It wouldn’t be my blog without at least a light-hearted joke at the end, so enjoy this shot of Prime Minister Abe and Australian PM Tony Abbot, who struck an interesting pose to show off their new boots…
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.
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.
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’.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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…
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.
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…
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”…
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)…
3- The size of the burgers
This being america, they have some pretty big burgers available…
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…
5- Extra challenges are issued.
Put a few guys together on a road trip in L.A. and of course there will be shenanigans…
There are a whole load of other great moments, so you should really check it out yourself.