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How a 22-year-old woman helped bring down Mori

46 Comments
By Ju-min Park and Akiko Okamoto

When a 22-year-old Japanese college student launched an online campaign against the powerful Tokyo Olympics chief and the sexist remarks he made, she was not sure it would go very far.

But in less than two weeks, Momoko Nojo's #DontBeSilent campaign organised with other activists gathered more than 150,000 signatures, galvanising global outrage against Yoshiro Mori, the president of Tokyo 2020.

He quit last week and has been replaced by Seiko Hashimoto, a woman who has competed in seven Olympic Games.

The hashtag was coined in response to remarks by Mori, an octogenarian former prime minister, that women talk too much. Nojo used it on Twitter and other social media platforms to gather support for a petition calling for action against him.

"Few petitions have got 150,000 signatures before. I thought it was really great. People take this personally too, not seeing this as only Mori's problem," said a smiling Nojo in a Zoom interview.

Her activism, born from a year studying in Denmark, is the latest example of women outside mainstream politics in Japan taking to keyboards to bring social change in the world's third-largest economy, where gender discrimination, pay gaps and stereotyping are rampant.

"It made me realize that this is a good opportunity to push for gender equality in Japan," said Nojo, a 4th-year economics student at Keio University in Tokyo.

She said her activism was motivated by questions she has often heard from male peers like, "You’re a girl, so you have to go to a high school that has pretty school uniforms, don't you?” or “Even if you don’t have a job after graduating from college, you can be a housewife, no?"

Nojo started her nonprofit "NO YOUTH NO JAPAN” in 2019, while she was in Denmark, where she saw how the country chose Mette Frederiksen, a woman in her early forties, as prime minister.

The time in Denmark, she said, made her realize how much Japanese politics was dominated by older men.

Keiko Ikeda, a professor of education at Hokkaido University, said it was important for young, worldly people to raise their voice in Japan, where decisions tend to be made by a uniform group of like-minded people. But change will come agonisingly slowly, she said.

"If you have a homogeneous group, it’s impossibly difficult to move the compass because the people in it don’t realize it when their decision is off-center," Ikeda said.

Nojo dismissed a proposal this week by Japan's ruling Liberal Democratic Party to allow more women in meetings, but only as silent observers, as a poorly-executed PR stunt.

"I'm not sure if they have the willingness to fundamentally improve the gender issue," she said, adding that the party needed to have more women in key posts, rather than having them as observers.

In reality, Nojo's win is only a small step in a long fight.

Japan is ranked 121st out of 153 countries on the World Economic Forum's 2020 Global Gender Gap Index - the worst ranking among advanced countries - scoring poorly on women's economic participation and political empowerment.

Activists and many ordinary women say drastic change is needed in the workplace, and in politics.

"In Japan, when there's an issue related to gender equality, not many voices are heard, and even if there are some voices to improve the situation, they run out of steam and nothing changes," Nojo said.

"I don't want our next generation to spend their time over this issue."

© Thomson Reuters 2021.

©2021 GPlusMedia Inc.

46 Comments

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DontBeSilent

That should apply to everyone.

Nobody should be silenced because of their political views or political leanings.

-3 ( +12 / -15 )

Was Mori correct when he said women on the committee were talking too much? I’m still waiting for a journalist to investigate and answer that question.

-9 ( +14 / -23 )

cla68Today 07:20 am JST

Was Mori correct when he said women on the committee were talking too much? I’m still waiting for a journalist to investigate and answer that question.

It's not going to be answered because it's a nonsense question based on a sexist stereotype. If someone is talking too much, their gender shouldn't be at issue. Only the fact that the person was dominating the discussion is important. Since gender is completley moot, the question is nonsensical.

24 ( +28 / -4 )

I see that Japanese feminisim is coming along quite well with the younger generation - very, very good.

18 ( +22 / -4 )

Only the fact that the person was dominating the discussion is important. Since gender is completley moot, the question is nonsensical.

There is a guy I work with that complains that people "talk" too much in meetings as well, until it comes to him!

I get the feeling Mori was like that, and only liked hearing the sound of his own voice!

15 ( +16 / -1 )

Did she really bring down Mori? I thought it was because the same day the story broke, it was covered on world media outlets. CNN, ESPN, BBC, and several key female athletes came out saying they would rather boycott the Japan Olympics rather than attend the event in a country that view women like that.

17 ( +18 / -1 )

It's just training from youth, every detail of any decision is evaluated in detail. Males particularly have a sence of power. So this is the result, of training. Me I listen to my wife, she actually has good points. But then I didn't get the sexist training.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

So, will Nojo now go into politics herself?  ...”Her activism, from a year studying abroad, made her realize how much Japanese politics was dominated by older men.“

Will she continue now and take on LDP Toshihiro Nikai’s comments 2 days ago; and, the J-inc ‘glass ceiling’?

3 ( +3 / -0 )

What about proper elections ?

2 ( +2 / -0 )

People like us, here on JT, do make a difference. Let's recall, a week and a half ago, the IOC arrogantly proclaimed the Mori "case was closed," Mori refused to resign, the tapped his 84 year old friend as successor, and the power elite was prepared to carry on as before.

They only bowed down because the public, including us, wouldnt give in. Many of us slammed Mori as a dinosaur many years ago, and pointed to Tokyo's summer heat, problems the officials don't realize until too late and often learn about from the chatter on the internet and other public forums. That is why I post and express my opinions. The archive shows I've been more often right than the policymakers on a wide range of key issues, many of you have been too.

9 ( +9 / -0 )

While I admire her work, I really think it was when Tokyo gov Koike refused to go to a meeting with IOC president Bach over Moris comments. I think that was when people realized there is a problem

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Japan always takes pride in shaming and taking down Big name people, and ignores everything else that's happening in society.

1 ( +6 / -5 )

Yeah yeah !

2 ( +2 / -0 )

I wish Ms Nojo the best! I've been here for ages, nothing much has changed for women. Princess Aiko still couldn't be the Empress.

9 ( +9 / -0 )

Better article title:

"How a Sexist Brought Down Himself "

4 ( +4 / -0 )

DontBeSilent

That should apply to everyone.

Nobody should be silenced because of their political views or political leanings.

True.

You forgot to add that people should be judged on these political views.

8 ( +8 / -0 )

The best educational experience a young person can have is to live for a longer or shorter time outside the country they grew up in: it's a game-changer. Germany made the Beatles: they came back from Hamburg to Liverpool transformed. The outside world now beckons the youth of Japan, the lucky few who will return home to "shake it up" in the insular world of "Wa".

9 ( +9 / -0 )

Burning BushToday 06:49 am JST

DontBeSilent

That should apply to everyone.

Nobody should be silenced because of their political views or political leanings.

If you're talking about Mori, then he wasn't silenced. He expressed his view (was it a personal view, or view of the group he was member of?) and faced consequences. You can say whatever you want, but you inevitably also accept what may come next.

And to be honest, if you're in politics, you should behave like a professional. Maybe take a deep breath few times, before you release something, that may be just your own worldview.

8 ( +8 / -0 )

Let us not get carried away here. Although he's been removed from the centre stage, mori still remains on the committee "in an advisory position". Because how could we not function without the advice of a man who has left every position he's ever held in a shotstain of gaffes and incompetence?

He is still snout-deep in the trough of our tax money, and now he's been removed from the public-facing side of the JOC, there are no doubt plenty of benefits to that. Less accountability for one.

This man never faced, and will never face, any genuine consequences for his lifetime of blunders and inadequacy. It must be good to be an LDP panjandrum.

8 ( +8 / -0 )

Let’s continue to support her. Would you same 150,000 vote for her?

Well stated *@JeffLee  8:15a JST “People here on JT, do make a difference... because the public, including us, wouldn’t give in and often learn from chat and other public forums....post and express opinions...'ve been more often right than policymakers on key issues.” - *We think the author, Ju-Min Park, could get the word out

Ms. Nojo should continue hercampaign’.
1 ( +1 / -0 )

I'm still wondering if a woman had made the same remarks about about men that Mori made about women, would the same hysteria have ensued?

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

As Derek Grebe says, with Mori still around, it's a very small victory, but a victory all the same. The JOC, IOC, and LDP all tried to shut it down, but that was not allowed to happen.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Well done, Ms. Nojo.

Hopefully this will inspire other youngsters to take action in future elections at all echelons, be it municipal, prefectural or even national level. It's about time that Japan sees a new energy coming from its youth to break down conventions that have no reason to be anymore.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

While Ms. Nojo and the authors are at it, “Her activism, born studying abroad, is bringing social change in the world's 3rd-largest economy, where gender discrimination, pay gaps, stereotypes are rampant.” 

So, let’s not forget another ‘victim-blamer’ Kengo Sakurada, Chairman, Japan Association of Corporate Executives, a powerful lobby: “Japan's glass ceiling is "partly women's fault".

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Nojo started her nonprofit "NO YOUTH NO JAPAN” in 2019, while she was in Denmark, where she saw how the country chose Mette Frederiksen, a woman in her early forties, as prime minister.

I can just imagine these old men now trying to discourage young women from travelling abroad to broaden their horizons. Put them in their place and make sure all they can aspire to be is either a housewife or otherwise a career where they can be seen but not heard.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Celebrating someone’s downfall clearly shows how inhuman some people can be. Taking a pride by destroying other people will surely backfire! What he said was wrong, but he worked tirelessly to bring the olympics to Japan. People should not forget that.

-6 ( +1 / -7 )

Soon, all the reactionary dinosaurs (of varying ages) will be swept away. This is a good thing, our great host nation has a problem with those who think women are inferior.

Nobody should be silenced because of their political views or political leanings.

Hmmm.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Pukey2Today 10:36 am JST

I can just imagine these old men now trying to discourage young women from travelling abroad to broaden their horizons. Put them in their place and make sure all they can aspire to be is either a housewife or otherwise a career where they can be seen but not heard.

That's actually a good point. Because if a female has traveled the world a lot, she is somehow considered as being not very Japanese anymore (I can't name it exactly) and she is having difficult time to find a partner or marry.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Sorry, but MEXT has been the same way for many years @DannyNguyen10:25a & @Pukey2 10:36a 

-  ‘Keep the populace pacified ( j-TV) and ignorant’ (not stupid, but ignorant: an adjective:* “lacking in information; lacking in knowledge, or awareness in general; **@Girl_in_Tokyo)*

0 ( +0 / -0 )

"Women talk too much", is that really necessarily a hateful comment that needs condemnation and the resignation of someone?? Sure not all women talk too much, and sure there are men who talk to much, and sure in the end the gender of who talks too much is not as important as the fact that somebody is not concise when speaking. I see this in company and business meetings. And sure he should have known better to say that is public. But isn't it as a single inert comment, just that? Haven't seen his comment in Japanese, but perhaps considering he was making a public comment, could be understood as "some female members could speak more to the point to use the time more effectively". Which in itself could be a very valid point, even if we think there was no need to expressly say "female" but if they so happened to be, the benefit of the doubt should be given to him that he would say the same if some male members had spoken loosely without consideration of the time constraints, and lacking awareness of the still upcoming agenda topics needed to be discussed. If some members on the meeting did actually loose time by not being concise or lacking awareness, it is perfectly fine to call the out, if they happened to be female, so be it. Or are suggesting they should be handed a pass for being female? ain't that discrimination as well?? There is also the issue of whether he needed to make that comment publicly. But still in consideration of the above. Forcing him to resign by social media pressure is a witch-hunt and a force, pressure way of creating the illusion of change, based on the arrogant presumption that the West world liberal way of thinking is the panacea for ALL peoples of the world and SHOULD be imposed on them whether they want it, know it or not. Which is what you ALL do right here.

Japan has its ownways and thinking and ways to change. All women I know here and have known here for 12 years now from all ages, are happy the way things are here and wouldn't want it to become like the US.

That is not to say they do want better access to childcare facilities, etc. Which they do and is necessary. But they want to improve the current state of things, not give it a 180 degree change.

-4 ( +1 / -5 )

Harry_GattoToday 10:17 am JST

I'm still wondering if a woman had made the same remarks about about men that Mori made about women, would the same hysteria have ensued?

There is no systematic suppression of men; so not only would this not happen, if it did, no one would bat an eye because a single comment like that would be insignificant, and thus have no lasting effect on gender equality.

ChikatiloToday 12:03 pm JST

"Women talk too much", is that really necessarily a hateful comment that needs condemnation and the resignation of someone??

Since women are systematically oppressed and continually told their voices is unimportant, comments from political figures like Mori have a negative effect on gender equality.

All women I know here and have known here for 12 years now from all ages, are happy the way things are here and wouldn't want it to become like the US.

You do realize that the women who spearheaded this campaign were Japanese, don't you? Obviously, there is a good number of Japanese women who are not happy with the current status quo.

As for the women you know, I tend to think you are either asking the wrong questions and not listening, or else those women already know your views and don't say anything to you because want to argue.

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

I'm still wondering if a woman had made the same remarks about about men that Mori made about women, would the same hysteria have ensued?

There is no systematic suppression of men; so not only would this not happen, if it did, no one would bat an eye because a single comment like that would be insignificant, and thus have no lasting effect on gender equality.

People shouldn’t stereotype men or women. Simple as that. No excuses.

Feminists engaging in misandry by stereotyping men give tolerant and grown-up feminists a bad name.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

@girl_in_tokyoToday  12:25 pm JST

...women are systematically oppressed and continually told their voices are unimportant..

I read your words there and all I see is hyperbole and platitudes. Sure, there are men who oppressed women, somewhere in the world, quite possibly some middle east or African countries. And in different levels and degrees in all societies. But "systematically oppressed and continually told their voices are unimportant"...

I give it to you that might actually believe that and see that, and you wouldn't believe men are oppressed (I didn't say "systematically") because you are not a man,

but what I try to get at is, life IS not ONE objectively perceivable life, life is DECIPHERED and PERCEIVED through our inner LENSES of experience, values and beliefs. There very well are consensus of course, but still few 100% items where all humanity would see the same thing. Perhaps a blue sky is a blue sky everywhere, I suppose.

But that banter of "systematic oppression" when? and where? according to whom? and what proof? and how relevant to this conversation(depending of the answer to when and where)?

Finally you really take the extrapolation to fit your logic and propel your agenda very nicely there, surmising the people I know and what they think about me.

In all honesty I don't know you and don't you what ever happened to you that made you hate the world so much.

I talk to you in response you what you write and don't assume anything. That is the key of critical thinking.

You don't think critically because you excuse yourself from it by formulating a quick fix judgement in your head of who I am and all around me, thus exculpating yourself from considering the reality that not all women want what you think is right for them. Not all people hate their world, you know. Perhaps start there to expand your horizons and imagine me and the women in my life leading happy, simple lives where we are content and find joy in plowing ahead for improvement while cheerishing what makes the current state of things great.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

If the younger women in this country do not’ pick up the baton’ and run with it now. With old men in charge Japan will become completely out of touch with the modern world. One or two comments on here are unbelievable

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Congratulations! I hope more like that student will start a new trend by voicing their concerns with the government.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

@chikatilo you express yourself very well indeed - but your eyes are shut ?

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

@hatsufred

Thank you.

But I can say the same to you about you closing your eyes.

Don' you see the arrogance of telling other people what they should want for their lives, futures and their kids futures. You say "the modern world" as if it is the pinnacle all people should aspire to. There are good things sure, but also very concerning ones. But even so,

every people has the right to self determination and to be respected as that. Speaking from holier that you attitudes to the people of other lands because their worldviews don't fit yours is mere arrogance, narcissisms and leads to cruelty.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

Sure, there are men who oppressed women, somewhere in the world, quite possibly some middle east or African countries.

Of course.

But this is about the women oppressed in Japan.

Be it women mayors not allowed on sumo stages, or being told they talk too much, to being called out for being assaulted, or wearing the wrong clothes, or taking their own lives, or being targeted online by incels.

This is a great country but there's no doubt whatsoever that women get a raw deal.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I am not surprised that this young woman had spent a year in Denmark as an exchange student. Norway, where I live, has pushed "gender equality" even further than Denmark and is seen by many as a global beacon of feminism. Here women now dominate most sectors of society, including politics, the courts, academia etc. The only statistic dominated by seem to be the suicide statistics. However, at the same time, Norwegian women suffer more from psychological disorders than ever before, are complaining more than ever before, and most relationships have become dysfunctional. So Japan - be careful what you wish for.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

Norwegian women suffer more from psychological disorders than ever before, are complaining more than ever before, and most relationships have become dysfunctional.

Any links to this, please? Have heard over the years of excess drinking by males (despite the expensive booze) and that 1 in 4 women are victims of domestic violence. Although, didn't witness anything untoward on my visit there. But a lot happens behind closed doors.

So Japan - be careful what you wish for.

Not warning us against equality, surely?

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Well done young lady.

I hope the LDP don't blacklist you.

It wouldn't surprise me if her job offers are all rescinded.

Japan is so feudal.

It is 2021 yet they act like it is 1021.

I think social media will help bring the dinosaurs down.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

ChikatiloToday 01:14 pm JST

. But "systematically oppressed and continually told their voices are unimportant"...

Yes. This article is only one example of how womens' voices are dismissed, ignored, marginalized, etc.

I give it to you that might actually believe that and see that, and you wouldn't believe men are oppressed (I didn't say "systematically") because you are not a man,

Sexism hurts men, too. In many ways.

but what I try to get at is, life IS not ONE objectively perceivable life, life is DECIPHERED and PERCEIVED through our inner LENSES of experience,

Since you're a man, you haven't experienced sexism against women, obviously. However, it is rather odd that you wouldn't have noticed this in your interactions with women. I presume that you know women, talk to women? I would suggest you ask them about this.

But that banter of "systematic oppression" when? and where? according to whom? and what proof? and how relevant to this conversation(depending of the answer to when and where)?

Everywhere, all the time. This article is just one item of evidence. But there is more than 50 years of collective research on the topic. It's really rather confusing as to why don't seem to know this. You

Finally you really take the extrapolation to fit your logic and propel your agenda very nicely there, surmising the people I know and what they think about me.

"Surmising the people I know and what they think about me"? I have no idea who you are, or what anyone thinks about you. I didn't presume to, either. However -

In all honesty I don't know you and don't you what ever happened to you that made you hate the world so much.

I'm not sure why you feel so free to presume that I "hate the world". I don't recall ever stating this either explicitly or implicity. Perhaps you can provide the quote from my post that made you think this?

I talk to you in response you what you write and don't assume anything. That is the key of critical thinking

I'm not assuming anyting, and am confused as to why you think you need to lecture me about critical thinking. What makes you think I need you to explain it to me? Hmmm. There is a term for this, what is it again?

Man? Explaining? Oh! Mansplaining. Thanks, but I can think for myself.

-3 ( +1 / -4 )

I give it to you that might actually believe that and see that, and you wouldn't believe men are oppressed (I didn't say "systematically") because you are not a man,

Sexism hurts men, too. In many ways.

Sexism in the form of comments about men being simple creatures who are easy to figure out offends men like me. I’m not a simple, two-dimensional creature, thank you very much. I know my wife doesn’t have this view of me, which is a good thing as I couldn’t live with a sexist with a condescending view of myself and roughly half the population of this planet.

Please extend to men the kind of respect you correctly think should be extended to women

0 ( +1 / -1 )

This article is only one example of how womens' voices are dismissed, ignored, marginalized, etc.

The article is literally about a woman making her voice heard and affecting change. It reads more like a success story.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Jimizo Feb. 19 08:31 pm JST

Sexism in the form of comments about men being simple creatures who are easy to figure out offends men like me.

Ah yes, I remember sarcastically saying something like this (to you or someone else) a while ago.

Please extend to men the kind of respect you correctly think should be extended to women

I have respect for men in the broader sense, as in giving due regard for the feelings, wishes, or rights of others.

I just don't have respect for you personally. Therefore, when I'm sarcastic towards you or the other men here, it's not coming from a place of sexism towards men in general. It's because I personally dislike you, because you continuoulsy make sexist comments. Does that offend you? Oh well ...

-3 ( +0 / -3 )

The article is literally about an influential man whose attempt to silence women was foiled by women who fought back against his sexism. And won.

Nice. So she made her voice heard and successfully effected change. Well done on her!

2 ( +2 / -0 )

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