A View on the Two Female Members in the Noda Cabinet

Since the historic political shift from the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) to Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) in 2009, Japanese politics has seen three prime ministers and thus three sets of Cabinet members. On September 2, 2011, the newly appointed Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda formed a Cabinet, which includes two female members: Yoko Komiyama, the Minister of Health, Labor and Welfare, and Renho, State Minister in Charge of Government Revitalization, Civil Service Reform, Gender Equality and Japan’s Declining Birthrate.

The first DPJ Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama had two women in his Cabinet, and his successor Naoto Kan also appointed two female members, although the latter two were both dismissed later in a Cabinet reshuffle. The resurgence of female politicians should therefore be welcomed, especially as Komiyama was promoted to what is considered a major post in the government from the position of Vice Minister and is now in charge of the DPJ’s proposed comprehensive tax and social welfare reform.

What is debatable, however, is the manner in which the media has dealt with the Gender Equality post. News that Renho had been appointed to the post was initially not mentioned at all on the major Internet news sites that covered the new Cabinet appointments. Later, the reports of Renho’s Cabinet responsibilities cited only “government revitalization” and “civil service reform,” and a few others put “Japan’s declining birthrate" before "gender equality." Even Asahi Shinbun, one of Japan’s most widely circulated newspapers, mentioned “gender equality” only in a small footnote. 

The first press conferences, only available on the governmental website, show the two female members views on issues well:

Komiyama, who apparently avoided the term “gender equality” in deference to the Japanese political convention of sectionalism at the press conference, certainly understands what are crucial under the current circumstances. On the other hand, Renho raised the issue of work-life balance but did not even mention the third Basic Plan for Gender Equality that has been under construction. Her knowledge and understanding of gender issues in Japan seems to leave room for improvement. 

Moreover, at the press conference, not a single question was asked with regard to gender equality. While such disappointment has become almost customary by now, we should keep a critical eye on the media. Undeniably, the Noda Cabinet faces numerous issues including employment, social welfare and tax, all of which are closely linked with gender. 

Translated and Adapted by Aya Kitamura


Support Center for the Victims of Sexual Violence in Osaka

The Sexual Assault Crisis Healing Intervention Center Osaka (SACHICO) is the first one-stop center in Japan to provide 24-hour care and support for victims of sexual violence. Care-workers, police, and lawyers work together to provide medical and psychological care in one location, allowing for a quick response to incidents, while minimizing the victim's physical and psychological damage. This is the summary of an interview with the representative of the center, Haruko Kato. 

How was the SACHICO established? 
I have been working as an OB/GYN doctor since 1975, and encountered the issue of sexual violence through my work. I started a study group with doctors such as OB/GYNs, pediatricians, and psychiatrists to discuss what we could do. We came to realize that we needed to create a one-stop center where we could provide comprehensive care for the victims of sexual violence, including medical, legal, and psychological support. In June 2009, we created a network and began preparing for the establishment of SACHICO. The members consisted of 28 doctors, medical law specialists, lawyers, counselors, and grassroots feminist activists. We established the center within the Hannan Chuo Hospital in Osaka in April 2010.

How could you get understanding from the hospital? 
This hospital was created with funding from the Dowa laws (laws designed to improve living conditions for the burakumin, Japan's largest minority group). The staff in the hospital tends to have high awareness for human rights and many are interested in medical care for those who are at risk. I think this is why we could create the center within this hospital. There are several merits about having the center within a hospital. A hospital can provide a 24-hour support system. We also needed to be able to provide OB/GYN care. We were open for 24 hours for delivery already, which made the hospital an ideal location. Plus, because it was a hospital, there was a pretty good system for security to provide a safe place for the victims. We could also have the victims receive psychiatric or orthopedic care when necessary. It's also important to note that the hospital created SACHICO in a location separate from the regular OB/GYN office.
Can you explain a bit about the Center itself, such as numbers or services provided? 
Within the past year, we received 1463 phone calls. There were 128 women, who came to our center. 78 were raped, 36 experienced other forms of sexual assault, 6 came because of domestic violence, and 8 came for other reasons. We found it extremely important for the center to be open 24 hours a day. Many clients called us or used our service during the night and/or weekends. 

Also, 90.4% of clients revisited the center. We think this was partly because the center was separated from the regular OB/GYN office, and we respect the privacy of all those who use our facilities. We can also provide various kinds of care, including abortions and treatments in other departments. We also work with psychiatrists, counselors, lawyers, police, and child protective services.

What were the challenges you faced and goals for the future?
We have accomplished a lot important things, but there are still many things we need to improve. One of the most critical things is to have a larger number of trained staff members. Currently we have 40 staff members, but in order to have a center that is open for 24 hours, we need more people. Second, it is very difficult to run this center with limited resources. We hope to receive public funding for this project. Finally,we would like to be able to work with the police more effectively. There are still police officers who do not understand the seriousness of sexual violence. We hope more and more hospitals will provide the type of service we provide at SACHICO.
Original Article on the WAN website (July 6, 2011)
Original interview conducted and article written by Sakura Furukubo
Translated and Adapted by Eiko Saeki

Talk by Mika Noro: For Mothers Living with Radiation - Wisdom for Protecting Children's Lives

Chihiro Museum (Tokyo) will hold a talk by Mika Noro on how to protect the lives of children affected by radiation. Noro's book, "For Mothers in Radiation: Wisdom to Protect Children's Lives - from Chernobyl to Fukushima" will be published on September 24, 2011. 

Noro is the representative of the Bridge to Chernobyl (Cherunobuiri e no Kakehashi), an NPO created to provide aid for children affected by the Chernobyl accident.  


Date: October 2, 2011
Time: 2:00 – 4:00 pm
Location: Chihiro Museum 
4-7-2 Shimoshakujii Nerima-ku, Tokyo 177-0042
Telephone: 03-3995-0612

Translated and Adapted by Eiko Saeki


CINEMA: Yoshiko & Yuriko (dir. Sachi Hamano, 2011)

Sachi Hamano's latest film, Yoshiko & Yuriko, will be screened at Eurospace in Shibuya from October 22, 2011. The film is based on the true story of the relationship between two women,  Yoshiko Yuasa and Yuriko Chujo (later Yuriko Miyamoto).

Yuasa was a scholar and renowned translator of Russian literature, who, during the Taisho Period (1912-1924), was involved in a relationship with Chujo, an influential proletariat writer in wartime and postwar Japan. 

Other Venues and Dates
June 18- Shizuoka Mirano (Shizuoka)
October 1-14 Kyoto Cinema (Kyoto)
October 18-21 Cinema Skhole (Nagoya)
November 19-25 Cinema e-ra (Hamamatsu)

Translated and adapted by Eiko Saeki


Lecture by Chizuko Ueno in Kyoto: The Twelve Volumes of Feminism in Japan

Chizuko Ueno, the director of Women’s Action Network and a professor emeritus at the University of Tokyo, will be speaking at the Nagaokakyo City Gender Equality Forum 2011 in Kyoto on January 21, 2012. The lecture is entitled “Passing the Baton” and features her experiences of coediting the twelve-volume feminist anthology, Feminism in Japan. The original series was published by Iwanami Shoten in 1994 and an augmented edition was completed in 2011.

Date: January 21, 2012
Time: 1:30 – 3:30 pm
Location: Nagaokakyo-shi Chuo Shogai Gakushu Senta (Center for Continuing Learning, Nagaokakyo City), Main Hall (third floor)

* The Center is located in front of JR Nagaokakyo Station.
Capacity: 200 seats
* Please fill out and send in the application sheet attached here. Registration is on a first-come-first-served basis.   
* Childcare services are available. Please register by January 14.
Contact: Women’s Support Center, Nagaokaky City
Tel: 050-7105-8501

Translated and Adapted by Aya Kitamura

H-WAN: Help available at Women’s Action Network

Women’s Action Network has finally launched its on-line consultation venue, H-WAN. Its first help project is “Kiyomi’s Counseling Room” led by Kiyomi Kawano, a renowned feminist counselor in Japan.  
Kiyomi Kawano has worked as a counselor at psychiatric institutions and family service centers in Japan and America. She was the first to bring “feminist counseling” to Japan in the 1970s and the founder of a feminist therapy group “Nakama” in the 1980s. As a feminist-counseling pioneer, Kawano has supported the establishment of feminist counseling rooms across Japan, and is also a leading figure in studies on the mother-daughter relationship in feminist counseling.

In this digitalized era, the Internet enables women everywhere to voice their individual problems, which many others may silently share. H-WAN aims to draw attention to women’s issues, and will gradually expand its foci to health, welfare and law.

The service is provided on the WAN website and in Japanese only. For further details regarding postings on Kiyomi’s Counseling Room, please visit:

Translated and adapted by Aya Kitamura