Earlier this month (Nov. 13-19), Carnegie Council's Asia Dialogues program led a group of 12 Pacific Delegates from seven countries and a diverse set of professional backgrounds to Tokyo, Japan, to examine moral issues around gender equality in Japanese society.
Over the course of a week, the delegates participated in classroom discussions, expert lectures, cultural activities, and site visits designed by Carnegie Council's Pacific Fellows Natsumi Ikoma of International Christian University, Sonja Dale of Hitotsubashi University, and Mari Miura and James Farrer of Sophia University.
The week began with presentations, discussions, and break-out groups at Sophia University with Professor James Farrer and his students on careers, marriage, childcare, demographics, and relationships. After a tour of the campus and local cultural sites, the delegation engaged with several scholars, including Harvard graduate student Chiaki Nishijima, on ethical issues surrounding sex workers, human trafficking, and urban spaces. The day concluded with a salon-style discussion over dinner hosted by Robert Dujarric of Temple University Japan.
On day two, the delegation visited Hitotsubashi University to attend Professor Sonja Dale's class on ethnicity and sexuality in the Japanese context. After a lecture, the delegates engaged in group discussions with students. After a student-led campus tour, the group participated in a fascinating discussion with representatives from a suicide hotline and civil society on mental health, gender identity, and LGBT support in Japan. The day ended with a lively, interactive presentation by linguist Momoko Nakamura of Kanto Gakuin University on gendered speech and translations in popular culture and a dinner reception with all of the day's participants.
On the third day of activities, the delegates and the International Christian University (ICU) community had the extraordinary opportunity to devote a full day toward understanding gender norms in Japanese art and theater. Led by Professor Natsumi Ikoma, this "Kabuki Day" included discussions and lectures at the ICU campus in Mitaka with art historian Akira Ohno and Kabuki expert Kenji Yanai, and an evening performance at the national Kabuki theater in Ginza of the epic drama, "The Treasury of Loyal Retainers," which featured themes of revenge and samurai values.
For the fourth day of structured activities, we returned to Sophia University for a morning dialogue with students led by Professor Mari Miura. Topics included women in politics, elections, careers, and political activism. Afterward, conversations continued over lunch at the student cafeteria. In the afternoon, Professor Miura accompanied the group to Nagatacho to speak with politicians, including Diet members Seiko Noda of the LDP and Masaharu Nakagawa of the DP, at the parliament office buildings. Conversations covered policy issues such as quotas for women in politics and challenges to gender equality.
On the final day, the delegates conducted independent interviews and discussions at a variety of locations around Tokyo including at financial firms, universities, and foundations. Several delegates participated in an afternoon briefing with program officers at the Sasakawa Peace Foundation in Toranomon, central Tokyo. Later that day, Professor Farrer concluded the trip by hosting a farewell dinner in the neighborhood Nishi Ogikubo.
Delegates described the trip as "eye opening" and "life-changing" and will be producing articles and other resources in the coming weeks based on their experiences. Carnegie Council would like to thank the fellows, delegates, and participants as well as the Henry Luce Foundation and Japan ICU Foundation for their financial support and invaluable advice toward making this successful project possible. The participating delegates included: Joseph Amann, Atik Ambarwati, Brian Babcock-Lumish, Ao Kong, Emma Lo, Yin Yin Min, V. Ayano Ogawa, Ankit Panda, Angelique Porta, Kristen Sollee, Otgoo Tsedendemberel, and Mary Vo.