Tomomi Yamaguchi received her Ph.D. in Anthropology in 2004.

Last April, a female reporter from TV Asahi accused Junichi Fukuda, the top bureaucrat at the Finance Ministry, of sexual harassment.

The woman recorded the conversation, excerpts of which were later published by weekly magazine Shukan Shincho.

The magazine also released an edited audio clip said to be of Fukuda telling the woman: “Can I touch your breast?” “Should we have an affair when the budget is enacted?” and “I will tie your hands.”

Fukuda initially denied the allegations but resigned after other media outlets jumped on the story and his position became untenable.

The above case is just one example of increasing efforts being made by women in Japan to speak out against sexual harassment and violence.

Such conduct was certainly rare at the start of the Heisei Era 30 years ago, when there was much less public conversation about such issues in society. Although times have changed, the Emperor will abdicate the throne in April and yet, as things stand, his granddaughter has been barred from ever sitting on the throne. With this in mind, it’s worth examining whether the state of women in Japan has changed significantly over the past three decades — if at all.


But Tomomi Yamaguchi, an expert on gender studies at Montana State University, is not as enthusiastic, noting that the Japanese name of the law doesn’t even include “equality” or “discrimination.”

While the English translation of the law includes the word “equal,” a direct translation of the original Japanese would be to create a society based on “joint participation of men and women.”