Are Japanese women too nice?

June 26, 2014 Juju Kurihara Culture, news, Society Tags: 5 Comments

shiomuraThe Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly a few days ago became a controversial. A female member of the assembly, Ayaka Shiomura appealed for supporting women over pregnancy, childbirth and infertility. What she received wasn´t a support but jeering of "You should get married now!" or "Can you not have a child?".

Sexual harassment is still quite common in Japan. I´m often asked by my Westerner friends why I find Japanese society difficult for Japanese women. "Because of machismo" I answer but usually they (most of them are women) tell me that women are treated lower in the Western culture too.

Perhaps they are right. And yet, I must say it´s harder to be a woman in the working environment in Japan unless you are happy to be an unambitious receptionist or office clerk.




Even in the public space, women aren´t so safe because Chikan (痴漢/molester) maybe next to you. I myself had been touched many times in the crowded trains when I was a student. They seem to like school uniform a lot. When I talk to westerners, they always ask me why I didn´t shout. That was because I was humiliated and no one would save me but would look at me as a rude person shouting in the train. 

Most of them are just bystanders or worse, they pretend they don´t notice. Another columnist says that´s because there may be a risk for who helps the girl. The Chikan guy may hit you or if it happened in the office, you might been fired by defending the woman who were harassed.



The incident happened to Ms.Shiomura was the same. She responded to Asahi Newspaper´s interview (Japanese).

Asahi : You smiled a little when they jeered you.

Shiomura : It was a bitter smile. I thought I could dodge but others also started to jeer me and I couldn´t avoid it. 

A : Why did you not object against them immediately? 

S : I was caught short and couldn´t answer back. I didn´t know I could appeal to the chairperson to record in the minutes as an inappropriate speech.  


According to the Global Gender Gap 2013, Japan came 105th. Our neighbour China came 69th, which means Chinese society is much nicer to both gender.


A financial planner, Yoshifumi Nakajima sees this heated argument over this discrimination against women as a "fiesta". They just wanted to beat politicians from the other side of the TV without getting themselves any risk. (Article in Japanese) As long as this is just a fiesta, this discriminative comment to Ms.Shimamura will be forgotten soon and Japanese society goes back to where men can sexually harass women openly.

sekuharaWhile I was reading these articles, I was remembering my experience in a Japanese company I worked for a short period of time. When I started working there, people took me to a welcome dinner/drinking. At the table, a boss of other section sat next to me and soon I realised he was touching my knees. First few times I saw it and tried to find out if it was accident but then it wasn´t . I told him to stop. He lowed his voice and said, "I´m drunk, let me touch". "NO!" I said and changed the seat. But I saw he continued the same with other younger female colleagues.

Obedient is so important to be a good woman, Japanese women have a difficulty to face to men. Perhaps they are too nice. I personally think that men and women are not equal. Men are physically stronger and harassing women by using that power isn´t fair at all. I have seen Spanish or German women put men to silence by telling them off. Maybe those women are not considered as "kawaii (cute)" but at least those women are not taken advantage by men.

Japanese women, leave kawaiiness and niceness and let´s become a tough cookie!



More about Japanese behaviour

How do you say my wife in Japanese

Herbivorous boys

The concept of kindness

Women agenda

Japanese mums and obento

Japanese girls´ bowlegs

Iyashi-kei girl

Uso mo hoben

Keirou no hi

Japanese girls look all the same


  1. anthony goh 5 years Reply

    I am not familiar with the legal system of Japan but I suppose one of the effective approaches can be implementing tough laws against molesters. I do hope the Japanese government can take more effective pro-action to protect the dignity and safety of the women and girls, both in workplace, public and home.

    In my country of birth , this is the law concerning outrage of modesty of women:
    The penalty for outrage of modesty is imprisonment for a maximum period of 2 years, or a fine, or caning, or any combination of such punishments. In addition, if the victim is under 14 years of age, the offender can be sentenced to an imprisonment term of up to 5 years.

  2. Michel 7 years Reply

    I was riding the train one morning with my daughter (14) when she was grouped by an older man…I came up behind him and grouped him hard between the legs then leaned in and told him about how I would remove what I was holding …I don’t know if he was more surprised that I spoke fluently (6’4″ westerner) or that I just threatened to remove his manhood, needless to say he yelped like a little puppy and when I released my grip he groveled away practically on his knees…the people standing there saw everything and tried very hard to suppress their laughter over the man’s embarrassment. Women confronted with 痴漢 need to speak up, yell, shout or counterattack…I recommend counterattack…if grouped from behind, slowly turn to face 痴漢 and swiftly grab his pants-hard, don’t let go and yell 痴漢! Make this a new fashion for women on the train, men’s bad behavior will soon stop.

  3. Jerome 8 years Reply

    Nice article. It is very interesting to read the perspective of a Japanese woman towards her society, especially when it us written as frankly. Hope you write more!

    Regarding 痴漢, my undersanding (I’m a man) is that it (sadly) exists everywhere there is a crowded subway. Not sure what it would take to revert the “shame” from the victim (the woman being gropped) to the attacker (the 痴漢 guy). Wonder if the 痴漢は犯罪です and other campaigns have been efficient? I heard from some japanese friends that they were trying to put their hands in a visible spot in a crowded train by fear of being accused of chikan…

  4. hikeo 9 years Reply

    Very interesting read! I also think men and women are not equal in every sense.

    Of course they should have the same rights, but both being a man or woman both has advantages and disadvantages. In general men just like to be dominant because of their nature, but instead they should
    use this strength to support and protect their female counterparts, not to harass them and make them feel uncomfortable.

  5. A very good article.
    I really hope that people getting outraged is not only a “fiesta” but that it took some root and that, even though slowly, something will change.
    I myself have never been harassed while in Japan (probably because I am a quite tall, big german woman) but I know the put down comments here in my country and it is not always easy to stand up for yourself and raise your voice against “machismo”.
    I do believe that you can be kawaii and and a tough cookie at the same time and I hope that (japanese) women will stand up for themselves more.

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