Newspaper Reports On Reality Of Sexual Harassment In Japan

Sankei Shimbun reports on sexual harassment in Japanese companies.

One of the most accessed stories on Yahoo! Japan yesterday was about sexual harassment in the workplace.

Back in 2005, a woman who suffered PTSD after being forced to sit on her boss’ lap at a party was forced to resign by the company when she attempted to return to work following her recovery. Almost a decade has passed since then, and now the woman raises awareness on issues of sexual harassment.

But going by netizens’ responses, many feel that the situation hasn’t changed all that much. For once, commenters on Twitter and Yahoo! Japan seem to be united in their opinion. There were calls for the company’s name to be revealed and for Japan to focus on creating a society that values women’s contribution.

From Sankei Shimbun:

The Surprising Reality Of Sexual Harassment: Woman Forced To Sit On Boss’ Lap During Group Photograph Encouraged To Resign After Taking Sick Leave

A woman who was forced to sit on her male boss’ lap during a commemorative group photograph took sick leave after suffering a nervous breakdown from the shock. Following her medical treatment, the company did not accept her request to return to work: in fact, she was asked to resign. The woman, from Chiba City who had been forced to resign from a major office machinery supplier spoke vividly about the harm she had suffered due to sexual harassment at the company, where she had experienced humiliation in front of a number of her colleagues. The woman pleaded for the nation and its business owners to recognize clearly the grave nature of the crime of sexual harassment. (Kinoshita Megumi)

■ Let’s Make Sure You Can’t Escape…Woman Had Her Hand Grabbed By Another Male Colleague

“Although it was something that only lasted a few minutes, to me it seemed like an age”

It happened May 2005, at a company party she had organized. When they were about to take a commemorative group photograph, she had been forced to site on the lap of one of her bosses, and another male employee had grabbed her left wrist so that she couldn’t get away. No one around her did anything to stop them. After the photograph, the woman faced obscene comments intended to ridicule her.

A few days later, the woman started to feel unwell, and was no longer able to ride the rush hour train which was full of men wearing suits. She was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). From April 2006, the woman took sick leave from her post. During this time, she was frightened of the company and of her sexual harassers, and there were many days when she couldn’t even bear to go outside.

In 2009, after receiving treatment, the woman recovered, and discussed returning to work before the period of her sick leave expired. When she did so, the company refused to accept her requested, and suggested that on the contrary, she should resign. The woman was left with no choice in the matter, and on the day following the expiration of her period of sick leave, and after more than 25 years at the company, she was forced to hand in her notice. Even though she had only organized the party because the company had ordered her to do so, they also refused to acknowledge that she had suffered work-related harm, claiming that it had not been part of her job.

■ Are You Trying To Besmirch The Company’s Name?

In the woman’s claim for compensation the company acknowledged that she had been sexually harassed, but deemed that she had only suffered minor harm. She had been told by one of her superiors to stop causing trouble, and asked if she was trying to besmirch the company name.

Following this, the woman decided that she should speak out about her own experiences in order to change the ways of the company, since “a company which looks down on women is a company that needs to grow up”. She first began to speak about her experiences at seminars organized by sexual harassment support groups.

In an independent survey commissioned by the Ministry of Welfare and Labor in autumn last year, to which 10,000 working women aged between 25 and 44 responded, it was revealed that just under 30% of them had experienced sexual harassment. Moreover, the survey revealed that over 60% had cried themselves to sleep.

Testifying about her sexual harassment, the woman pleaded: “If the nation and its business owners do not acknowledge the serious nature of the crime of sexual harassment, then as women continue to expand their presence in the workforce, the number of people who suffer will only rise”.

Comments from Yahoo! Japan:


I bet they don’t even recognize that it was sexual harassment.
So childish.


He doesn’t have what it takes to be a leader…


Hey Mr. Lawyer, you’re up.


The name of the company and the name of the boss should be revealed here.


On his lap?
Makes me wanna puke.


It’s so depressing that no one had the guts to stop him.
I think there’s also a problem in society when the suffering of women like that doesn’t get dealt with properly.


It’s unbelievable that she tried to go back to work at that company.


Japan should become a society where it’s easier to sue people.
We have a tendency to say that litigious society is not a good thing, but a society where it is difficult to sue people is a society where people cry themselves to sleep.


There was a rumor about the HR division of Kanagawa Prefecture. I wonder if these guys will ever be punished properly?

Comments from Twitter:


Sue them without crying yourself to sleep.


Honestly, what can we do? It pisses me off so much that people like that are living comfortable lives as bosses.


Are you stupid? Reveal the name of the company before you tar all men with the same brush and make the problems of one extreme example of a company a general issue. Bet about half of them are delusional.


That generation is screwed.


“She had been told by one of her superiors to stop causing trouble, and asked if she was trying to besmirch the company name.” ← I bet this company is already dirty.


Instead of going on and on about it go to court and expose them in front of everyone. Let’s find out who this major office machinery sales company is.


Doesn’t matter if you’re twenty or sixty, you’ll still gonna get harmed somehow.


This company is the lowest of the low! I mean, if it’s a major office machinery sales company, you should be able to narrow it down…


No matter how old you are, if you don’t like the other guy it’s sexual harassment. And when you think of this woman’s age…


Huh? I was reading this article and they said that the woman had been working at the company for over 25 years…so the victim was an old woman, right? Are there even people who sexually harass old women? (confused)


I thought this was a story about China, but it’s Japan? There are still companies like that in Japan? I’m embarrassed and very surprised.

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  • Sad Clown

    I’m surprised at 888moko’s surprise. My impression is that Japanese women are far more likely than Chinese women to react passively to sexual harassment. I would think, consequently, that sexual harassment of women in workplaces would be far more prevalent in Japan than in China.

    • Scilyvié

      China faces a completely different problem. I think (my impressions at least) Chinese women are in general tougher, maybe this is the result of the one child policy, since every one is so pampered, they would fight harder against any injustices done upon them and not just let it slip.
      However, China’s problems lay in a more insidious format, where if female workers (especially in the sales area) are almost required to give it up if they want their numbers to go up. And because there are plenty of women who have no qualms about doing it, the women who don’t want to participate are sort of forced into it if they want any sort of success.
      Of course, I could be wrong about the second case, since all these are based off of anecdotal evidence and not something I have experienced first hand.

  • commander

    Japanese people are famous for being incredibly kind and generous to others and keep extremely careful in respecting privacy of others.

    Although it makes a superbly nice impression on foreigners, all smiles and kindness that they are taught to keep actually put considerably high and consistent stress on society at large.

    The high level of latent stress emerges as obsession with animated movies, manga, computer video games, pornography and other compulsive behavior.

    And the stress also comes from highly sophisticated hierarchy in society. All members are taught to know where their standings are in society.

    In an implicit but highly huerarchical society, women are knowingly or unwittingly regarded as not equal to men, and reduced to taking on a role of delivering and rearing children and supporting husbands.

    In these social settings, sexual harassment, verbal or behavioral, are ususally not taken seriously, and given a blind eye if it is not really serious enough to be classified as evident criminal acts.

    Women are fearful of any retaliation when they reports sexual harassment and of stigma that they are exposed to when making a report.

    Japan has a singular culture as distinct from others. But the problem is that as Japan has growing exhanges with the outside world, some people, especially women, find themselve in a tension between social pressure to follow Japan’s male chauvinistic culture as natural and awakened enlightment that they need to be given a better treatment on the equal footing with men.

    The tension continue and will continue, unless Japan itself decisively make its mind to change itself in the face of a huge crisis.

    • scanner

      Japan is East ASia’s Sharia law

      • commander

        To use terminology that can be found in Japanese history, it is under a shogun’s thumb.

        • bobiscool

          Or on the Shogun’s lap?

    • guest

      I feel like you may be reaching quite a bit with that conclusion there. For some reason people like to latch onto certain things very frequently when it comes to topics like this, such as anime, manga, porn, etc., and use it to make sweeping generalizations. I understand that it’s the internet, and everybody likes to fancy themselves an armchair sociologist/psychologist/expert on the various cultures and societies of the world, but it just comes across as half-baked.

      Is there perhaps an issue with sexism in the workplace here? Undoubtedly, and as the comments show, it is acknowledged and something that can be worked on. But to say then that it is due to all these various vague notions about Japanese society, and say that it is an issue with the culture at large, just isn’t founded.

      • commander

        Yeah, it may be too broad a generalized statement. As you point out, people like to blame what remains unexplained on cultural factors which are elusive for workable explanation.

        I’m not arguing that my claim is absolutely right. If there is a valid argument allowing me to better understand Japanese society, I am ready to discard or modifiy my theory in favor of the very alternative substantiation.

        I think it’s fair enough: Not believing in infallibility of my theory, thus remaining flexible to altenative arguments capable of thrusting better insights on a given phenamenon.

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