In May 2017, twenty-nine year old Shiori Ito, claimed she had been raped by a television journalist, Noriyuki Yamaguchi. They had met in a Tokyo sushi bar. Ito hoped Yamaguchi would help her break into journalism and was willing to work as an intern. He was well connected to Japan’s elite, having written an authorised biography of the Prime Minister of Japan, Shinzo Abe. Yamaguchi drugged her drink (shades of Bill Cosby here) and said she was drunk and couldn’t allow her to travel home by public transport. He took her to a hotel and repeatedly raped her. I’m meant to say, allegedly, here.
One of the online messages she received when she went public with the truth was ‘go back to Korea’. Comfort girls. An innocuous sounding term. You won’t find mention of them in Japanese school text books. They have been written out of history. The damages paid by Japan to South Korea for that dishonour and reparation payments for a brutal occupation (1910-1945) in a chapter in Ha-Joong Chang’s book 23 Things They Don’t Tell You About Capitalism, was enough to kick-start the South Korean shipbuilding industry. The Nanking Massacre also involved mass rape and mutilation. The Japanese have previous here.
And the law relating to consent, until Ito’s challenge to the quiet way things are done in Japan, dates from 1907, before Japan’s imperial conquests had taken root. It took a Gaijin, an outsider, to explain it to the viewer. You can buy any sexual service you want in Japan. Popular sex dolls, for example, are designed to look like women and children.
#Me Too and the Harvey Weinstein scandal was met by puzzlement. As one female student explained from a young age they attend school in little sailor’s uniforms. Their cuteness is iconic as the Japanese flag. They take it for granted that they will be sexually assaulted while travelling on public transport, men and boys rubbing up against them. They will be raped and abused. Nobody much reports it, because the victim is seen as being at fault. And the facilities for reporting sexual assault are feeble.
Rape kits, which could provide forensic evidence, are held by the police. When Ito tried to press criminal charges against Yamaguchi and asked to speak to a female officer, her statement was taken by a traffic warden. Her statement was invalid and she was referred back to male police officers.
When Ito tried to contact a Rape Crisis Centre she found the nearest one was two hours away by public transport. And they weren’t willing to meet Ito anywhere else.
Perhaps the strangest event was a liberal politician in the government appearing in the programme as a critic of Ito. After all, Ito had drunken alcohol. A straw poll by contemporary female students on their smartphones, after Ito had given a workshop about rape, showed that ten-percent of these contemporary students thought drinking alcohol with her assailant was akin to giving consent to having sex.
Before Silicon Valley, Japan was the poster-boy capitalist and technological leader of the late seventies and early eighties. An aging population and the birth rate falling off a cliff, it seems too many males are wanking themselves to death, which makes a change from working themselves to death. Females remain part of a feudal mind-set that seems to offer equality, but when they reach for it, moves further away.
But listen, the Americans have the serial groper and rapist in the White House. It’s a bit of light relief that Russian prostitutes peed on him. And here at good old blighty, we have the rape clause for would-be benefit claimants. Our secret shame is not so secret.