Shiori Ito’s #MeToo Inspiring Japanese Women
The Japanese Civil Court in the Capital city of Tokyo finally rose to prominence ordering the alleged sexual attacker former TV Reporter Noriyuki Yamaguchi to pay ¥3.3 million plus additional fees in damages to freelance journalist and documentary filmmaker Shiori Ito. This is Japan’s first-ever #MeToo case to enter the history books on the 18th of December 2019.
During the course of time, Noriyuki Yamaguchi was the Washington Bureau Chief of the Tokyo Broadcasting System. He was also working as Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s biographer. The case was one of the most high-profile cases of the #MeToo movement in Japan, because Noriyuki Yamaguchi close proximity with the Prime Minister.
Shiori Ito accused Yamaguchi of rape in 2015, when he had invited her to dinner to discuss a job opportunity. The civil case filed by Shiori Ito against Noriyuki Yamaguchi had sought ¥11 million in damages. After the court ruling, Shiori Ito broke down in emotional outbursts to feel full of gratitude. It certainly was a remarkable win and an emotional moment for Shiori Ito, who has courageously fought against her own country’s age-old culture and all those threats after she declared about her rape at the hands of Noriyuki Yamaguchi.
Shiori Ito recalled, “I was flooded with insults and threats. But what grabbed me the most was these very polite emails from women telling me how ashamed I should be for revealing everything.” All the Japanese women should be proud of Shiori Ito to come forward with her ordeal to expose the Japanese culture of ‘Silence’.
Noriyuki Yamaguchi is a powerful man with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s close connections. He has denied the allegations. However, the Civil Court ruling in favour of Shiori Ito has clearly indicated that Yamaguchi was found guilty and hence, he was ordered to pay the ¥3.3 million plus compensation in damages. This is an inspiring journey of a woman, who stood tall against the mighty and the powerful man.
It is interesting to note that the Japanese Civil Court in Tokyo has also dismissed the counter-suit filed by Noriyuki Yamaguchi seeking ¥130 million in damages from Shiori Ito. Even though he plans to appeal, the Civil Court’s ruling has found Yamaguchi to be guilty for his sexual assault acts. It is ironical that ‘suffering in silence is considered noble in Japanese culture’.
3rd APRIL 2015 – The Fateful Night
Shiori Ito and Noriyuki Yamaguchi had met twice in New York, when she was doing her Journalism course in the US. After finishing her course, Shiroi Ito contacted Noriyuki Yamaguchi, as she was hunting for jobs as a journalist in Tokyo. Yamaguchi said that he might be able to help her and called her for a meeting. The two met at a sushi restaurant called ‘Kiichi’ for drinks and dinner.
Shiori Ito woke up from blackout at around 5am to find Noriyuki Yamaguchi on top of her naked body in his hotel bed in Sheraton Miyako. She fled the hotel after a brief confrontation with Yamaguchi. At the sushi restaurant, Yamaguchi must have drugged Shiori during their drinking session. After the fateful night, the two exchanged emails. In one of the emails, Yamaguchi had written – ‘Even if you insist it was quasi-rape, there is not a chance that you can win’.
THE COURAGEOUS ACT
Shiori Ito picked-up her courage to do something, when the prosecutors dropped the case after a two-month investigation, because Noriyuki Yamaguchi denied all her charges. Having travelled in the US, Shiori Ito courageously spoke about her ordeal to face the wrath of many Japanese women and men. A few believed her story, because they also must have suffered like Shiori, but have been afraid to go public.
In Japan, young girls and women are afraid to come forward due to social stigmas against sexual assault survivors. A handful of rapes get reported in Japan and in half of them, the criminal charges are dropped by prosecutors. Japanese society wants the women to remain silent and stay silent to avoid social stigmas. Shiori Ito’s case was one among the many.
Shiori Ito narrated her ordeal in the book titled BLACK BOX, which was published on the 18th of October 2017. She shared her story with Japanese booklovers. Japan’s mainstream media garnered a modest response. The brave writer decided and revealed, “I still feel like I have to be strong and just keep talking about why this is not OK.” The Japanese mainstream media never covers sexual assault cases as in other countries.
One of the main reasons for little coverage by the mainstream media in Shiori Ito’s case was because of the renowned TV reporter Noriyuki Yamaguchi’s close proximity with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. It wouldn’t be wrong to concur that Yamaguchi received special treatment by the police investigators, police and the prosecutors because of his powerful connections at the top.
Japanese journalist Atsushi Tanaka confronted top Tokyo Police official about Shiori Ito’s case. It was reported in a weekly newsmagazine, the official Itaru Nakamura, former aide to Shinzo Abe’s Chief Cabinet Secretary, confirmed that he had stopped the investigators to arrest Noriyuki Yamaguchi. However, the continuous pressure of Shiori Ito’s case forced Yamaguchi to finally resign from his position at the Tokyo Broadcasting System in 2018.
Prejudice against women is deep-rooted and severe in Japanese culture. People don’t consider the damage from sexual crimes seriously at all. Shiori Ito has been brave to discuss her case in detail to inspire Japanese women to come forward. There are great challenges facing Japanese women, who suffer sexual violence day in and day out.
Shiori says, “I know, if I didn’t talk about it, this horrible climate of sexual assault will never change. If I don’t face the truth, I think I won’t be able to work as a journalist.” It is fascinating to know that the police discouraged her and even advised her that it would be difficult for her to pursue a case against Noriyuki Yamaguchi. It was the case of an unknown journalist against the renowned TV Bureau Chief with Prime Minister’s connections.
Shiori Ito’s courageous demeanor forced the police to pursue the investigation finally. After two months of investigation, the lead detective informed Shiori that they were all set to arrest Yamaguchi on the strength of the taxi-driver’s testimony, the hotel’s security video and the DNA tests. On the 8th of June 2015, Noriyuki Yamaguchi was expected to arrive in Tokyo from Washington and the police had planned to arrest him.
Shiori Ito was working in Berlin, so the lead detective asked her to come to Tokyo to help them with questioning. Yamaguchi was informed about his arrest by someone from the police. He surely must have pulled his power connection to avoid being arrested in the airport. On the fateful day, the detective received a phone call from a superior, who ordered him not to arrest Yamaguchi.
Shiori Ito has been gratified to the detective for the information. She declined to name him to protect him. The Tokyo Metropolitan Police refused to comment on the issue. Now that Shiori Ito has been vindicated by the Tokyo Civil Court, Japanese women are still to garner enough courage to come forward to report sexual assault and rape.
Japanese women should be grateful to Shiori Ito, because her case had forced the Japanese Parliament in 2017 to pass the first changes to Japan’s sex crime laws in 110 years. As per the new law, the definition of rape has been expanded to include oral and anal sex and including men as potential victims. The lawmakers have also increased the length of the minimum sentences from three to five years. However, the law still does not mention consent, and judges can still suspend sentences.
The #MeToo Movement
It has been 13 years since Tarana Burke, the sexual harassment survivor and activist started the #MeToo Movement on the social media platform MySpace in the year 2006. Women of the world have garnered courage to speak about their ordeal openly to punish high-profile men, who have used their powerful position to exploit women against their will.
Renowned American Comedian Bill Cosby was convicted in the year 2018 with 3-10 years in State Prison for aggravated sexual assault in 2004. French famous photographer Jean-Claude Arnault was sent to jail in 2018 for raping in 2011. In the year 2018, USA Gymnastics National Team Doctor Larry Nassar was sentenced for up to 125 years in prison for sexual assault of more than 260 girls and women. Renowned Hollywood Film Producer Harvey Weinstein is waiting for his trial, scheduled for 6th January 2020, for all the sexual misconducts of more than 80 women.
The #MeToo Movement has gained momentum worldwide and spread in as many as 61 countries. Japan is the latest country. The Japanese women are opening their eyes after the Tokyo Civil Court’s ruling in Shiori Ito’s favour and punishing Noriyuki Yamaguchi. The world needs a hero like Shiori Ito to inspire many more young girls and women to come forward to punish their predators.
Lebanon: Inspiring the World to Unite
Is Empowering Women just a Lucrative Business Opportunity
Inspirational Quotes For Women