International Women's Day, March 8, 2017: Focus on Japan

March 7, 2017

Pacific Delegate V. Ayano Ogawa & Pacific Fellow Mari Miura discuss gender equality in Japan with Diet member Seiko Noda.
CREDIT: Devin Stewart

Economically and technologically, Japan is one of the most advanced countries in the world. Yet despite initiatives like Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's "Womenomics," which aims to increase the number of women in the workforce and close the pay gap, parity for women still lags far behind most nations. The 2016 Gender Gap Index ranked Japan near the bottom: number 111 out of 144 countries.

In 2016, one of the themes of Carnegie Council's Asia Dialogues Program was gender norms in Japan. As part of this investigation, Program Director and Senior Fellow Devin Stewart led a group of 12 carefully chosen Pacific Delegates from seven countries and a diverse set of professional backgrounds to Tokyo, to examine moral issues around gender equality in Japanese society. This Women's Day collection features articles by the Delegates resulting from their trip; articles by Devin Stewart and Pacific Fellows from Japan; and a series of podcast interviews conducted by Stewart. Together they offer a window into Japanese society and the status of women today.


What's Ailing Womenomics?
V. Ayano Ogawa, U.S. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM). Pacific Delegate.
Despite government efforts, cultural pressures continue to dissuade many women in Japan from joining the workforce. (The Diplomat, January 26, 2017.)

Abenomics Meets Womenomics
Devin Stewart, Carnegie Council
Working women have long struggled to make their way in Japan, even in comparison to their counterparts in other advanced countries. But now many Japanese companies are acting to change that on their own—a shift that could provide a much-needed boost to the country's economy. (Foreign Affairs, January 29, 2015.)


Women at a Cultural Crossroads in Japan
Mary Vo, The University of Texas at Austin. Pacific Delegate.
"As Japan suffers economic lag, it faces a second challenge in boosting its birth rate in response to its graying population. Womenomics attempts to address both of these challenges, but Japan seems to be asking its women to shoulder contradictory burdens." (The Baines Report, January 31, 2017.)

Women Will Save Japan
Ankit Panda, The Diplomat. Pacific Delegate.
Improving women's political and economic participation will be central to preserving Japan's status as a global heavyweight. (The Diplomat, December 1, 2016.)

Two Decades Behind: How to Give Women a Bigger Voice in Japanese Politics
Mari Miura, Sophia University, Tokyo. Pacific Fellow.
Japan has one of the lowest rates of female representation in politics of any country in the world. What are the reasons for Japan's lack of progress in this area, and what can be done to improve the gender balance in Japanese politics? (, June 1, 2016.)

Political and Cultural Challenges to Gender Parity in Japan
Mari Miura, Sophia University, Tokyo. Pacific Fellow. Devin Stewart, Carnegie Council.
In the Global Gender Gap Report, Japan usually ranks around 100 out of 140 countries, says Mari Miura, a specialist on gender in Japan. The main reasons are economic—a huge gender pay gap; political—underrepresentation of women in politics; and cultural—traditional gender and family roles. But younger generations are trying to change these paradigms. (Carnegie Council podcast with transcript, April 25, 2016.)

Feminism: The New "F-word" in Japan?
Natsumi Ikoma, International Christian University, Japan. Pacific Fellow. Devin Stewart, Carnegie Council.
Devin Stewart speaks with Natsumi Ikoma, the Center for Gender Studies director, International Christian University, Japan, about the state of feminism in Japanese art, literature, and society. Ikoma describes how women are portrayed in Japanese theater and how female writers are changing public debate. (Carnegie Council podcast with transcript, April 25, 2016.)


5 Revelations about Sex and Gender in Tokyo
Kristen Sollee, The New School. Pacific Delegate.
"For the uninitiated, Tokyo conjures scenes of bright lights and unknown pleasures. It's a hedonistic paradise plucked from a retro futurist sci-fi novel where anything goes—for men, at least. ... I can affirm that this vision isn't altogether inaccurate—but there's a lot more to the picture than meets the eye." ( article, December 16, 2016.)

Gender and Sexuality in Japan
James Farrer, Sophia University in Tokyo. Pacific Fellow. Devin Stewart, Carnegie Council.
Sociologist James Farrer discusses the changing norms around gender, sexual rights, dating, and marriage in Japan. He also also has advice for researchers interested in Japanese society. (Carnegie Council podcast with transcript, March 8, 2016.)

Gender Identity in Japan
Sonja Pei-fen Dale, Hitotsubashi University, Tokyo. Pacific Fellow. Devin Stewart, Carnegie Council.
Sonja Pei-fen Dale specializes in LGBT gender issues and identities.In this fascinating conversation about gender and minorities in Japan today, she discusses the term "X-gender," how LGBT individuals are perceived, the social ideal of the patriarchal traditional family, and much more. (Carnegie Council podcast with transcript, April 27, 2016.)


Integrating the Roles of Women into Japan's Climate Change Strategies
Atik Ambarwati, Mercy Corps, Indonesia. Pacific Delegate.
Among Shinzo Abe's most important initiatives are Cool Earth 50 to reduce greenhouse gases and Womenomics to increase women's participation in the labor force. Yet despite women's important roles in agriculture and environmental protection at many levels, when it comes to the environment, women's contributions and potential have been ignored. (Carnegie Council online article, March 2017.)


A Filmmaker's Experience on Leaving Japan
Kyoko Gasha, Documentary Filmmaker and TV journalist. Devin Stewart, Carnegie Council.
Kyoko Gasha discusses her film Mothers' Way, Daughters' Choice, which is about Japanese women (like she herself) who remade their lives in New York City. She also talks about the difficulties facing working mothers in Japan, especially the long working hours, and how the culture is beginning to change. (Carnegie Council podcast with transcript, April 27, 2016.)


Reading List and Discussion Questions on Gender and Japan
This 10.5-week reading list with discussion questions explores current issues relating to gender in Japanese society. Topics include: women in the workplace, equal voice in politics, demographic trends, and gender rights.