Female Reporter Chiyaka Sato Exposes Sexual Harassment in Political World | FRIDAY DIGITAL

Female Reporter Chiyaka Sato Exposes Sexual Harassment in Political World

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Sexual harassment is a constant problem in Japanese politics in the past up until today. (Image: Yoshio Tsunoda/Afro)“One of them was a big politician who had already passed away, he loved to touch her breasts. He was the kind of person who would go to a small restaurant and stick his hand into Nakai-san’s kimono and touch her. One time I happened to sit next to him, and he jokingly reached out and said, ‘Can I touch your boobs?’ I said, ‘If you touch them, even a little bit, I’ll write about it,’ and his hand suddenly retracted as if he had been hit by electricity.”

Chiyako Sato, an editorial writer for the Mainichi Shimbun, said. She is a well-known reporter who worked in the Osaka Social Affairs Department and as a Washington correspondent before becoming the first female head of a national newspaper’s political department. In her recent book, ” Osan no Kabe” (The Wall of Osan) (Kodansha Gendai Shinsho ), Sato confesses in detail the sexual harassment she experienced in Nagatacho. In her book, she warns against the danger of politicians who are comfortable in a male-dominated society (Sato comments below).


“Regarding the allegations of sexual harassment made by (House of Representatives Speaker) Hiroyuki Hosoda, as reported by the Weekly Bunshun, he himself has denied it, and I myself know only rumors, so I cannot comment on the facts. However, there is no doubt that there have been and still are constant sexual harassment troubles by politicians. I get the impression that the essence of Nagatacho has not changed.”

Ms. Sato has been covering Nagatacho for many years as a political reporter. She has also been a victim of sexual harassment herself. In 1991, her second year as a political reporter, she had the following experience.

“I was visiting the room of a mid-level Diet member at the dormitory. He was such a kind person that he would pour hot water and serve it to the several reporters who gathered there every morning, saying, ‘You have to drink at least miso soup in the morning.’ There were no other reporters that morning, and it happened to be just us two. As we were talking over miso soup in the kitchen as usual, the counselor said, ‘You haven’t had enough sleep, have you? Get some sleep.’”

“He went to the next Japanese-style room, took out a futon from the closet, and began to lay it out on the tatami mats. I refrained and left the room early. In hindsight, this is clearly sexual harassment. But at the time I was still young and inexperienced as a reporter, and above all, I could not connect the sexual harassment with the elderly and kind senator. I almost fell asleep, saying, ‘With your permission, I’ll take a nap.’”

Stick out your tongue.

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.

With Mr. Hiromu Nonaka at the New Year’s official residence opening held at the prime minister’s official residence in the late 1990s (courtesy of Ms. Sato).
In 2006, Ms. Sato gave a speech at a reception as the cap of the first Shinzo Abe administration (courtesy of Ms. Sato).
She currently serves as a member of the editorial board. She was born in Aichi Prefecture. In 2017, she became the first woman to serve as the head of the political affairs department of a national newspaper.
  • Photo by Sono Aida, Yoshio Tsunoda/Afro, courtesy of Sato

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