Ms. Sato interviewing the office of then Osaka Governor Knock Yokoyama, who was reelected in the spring of 1999 (courtesy of Mr. Sato).Politicians are not the only people in Nagatacho who engage in sexual harassment. A female reporter who was an old acquaintance of Ms. Sato experienced this humiliation in the late 1990s.
“She was summoned to a bar around 9 p.m. by the secretary of a big-named congressman. He said, ‘You’re not eating into your father’s [the senator],’ and he said he would give me advice. But when they went to the bar, there was little talk about work, and the secretary invited them to do a cheek dance. The reporter was reluctant to dance with him, not wanting to offend the other party, when she heard him whisper in her ear, ‘Give me your tongue.’”
“He wanted a deep kiss. She managed to get out of it. When she talked to her boss, he just laughed it off. She said in frustration that she was angry at the secretary for sexually harassing her, but she was also angry at her boss for not even sympathizing with her.”
In some cases, professionalism makes it impossible to deny sexual harassment.
“There was a case when two reporters, one male and one female, made the rounds of a politician’s office at night. The politician touched the female reporter’s buttocks and kept patting her. When the male reporter tried to say, ‘Please stop,’ the woman restrained him by whispering, ‘Just don’t say anything.’”
“Perhaps she was gaping at the idea that she had to be petted on the buttocks in order to get a bite of this politician. Perhaps she thought that if she refused, she would incur the politician’s wrath and the company would either change her assignment or condemn her. When I think of her feelings, I feel a sense of helplessness.”
Sato said that women should also have the courage to refuse sexual harassment if it occurs to them.
“Sexual harassment is difficult to prove because it often takes place behind closed doors, one-on-one, and physical evidence is hard to come by. I understand the reluctance to speak out for fear of retaliation, such as denial of an interview. However, if we don’t speak up, nothing will be resolved. The company should also support the victimized woman by making a stern protest to the harasser so that she will not be isolated. It is outrageous to shun victims and tolerate sexual harassment.”
“The biggest problem is the attitude of politicians. Too many of them view women in a hierarchical manner. If we cannot build equal relationships with people who have different attributes than ourselves, Japan will not be taken seriously in a world that values diversity. I hope that people living in Nagatacho will have a sense of crisis.”
The “wall of males” stands in the way of the political world and the news media. Ms. Sato says that it is not something to be overcome, but something to be broken down.