Notes on "Japan's Secret Shame" on BBC

I watched "Japan's Secret Shame" aired on BBC this past week, which stirred controversy and anger in Japan. To watch the documentary, please click on the links below:

There are a certain number of people who support her and believe her claims - they seem to support her wholeheartedly - and blindly - because she spoke up for other victims of sexual assault without remaining anonymous. Many of these people say that not being anonymous while going public with her experience of sexual assault should be considered a  sign of Ms. Ito's honesty, bravery, and good-will to change Japan's society. I do not think this is a logical conclusion about the credibility of her claims and legitimacy of her activism against sexual assault.


Ms. Ito started to appear in several media outlets in 2017 with a claim that she had been raped by a C-level Japanese journalist based in Washington, D.C. in 2015. She asserted that the man mixed a "date rape drug" in her drinks at a bar and took her to a hotel at about midnight while she was being unconscious. According to her, when she woke up at 5:00am, she found him on her body, raping her. After the incident, she claimed that he made inappropriate remarks such as "Can I take your panties as a gift?" and "I've fallen for you." She then criticized Japan's law enforcement authority that the case was abandoned after his arrest was warranted and right before the arrest was going to be made at an airport. Ms. Ito told the press that she had received a phone call from the police one day, informing her of the date and place of the planned arrest of the man and asked her to be present at the site, but later she was told that he would not be arrested. She contended that this was because this journalist was close to Prime Minister Abe and that PM and/or his secretary office must have used their authority to protect the man from arrest and criminal prosecution.

What Has Been Discovered Since Then

It is important, however, to look closely at what has been discovered since her claims in 2017. It has been found that Ms. Ito asked the man out to a bar to discuss her career as an aspiring journalist upon learning that he was a tenured journalist. Back then, she was working as an escort providing sexual services in NYC and the man happened to visit the bar she worked at. She then started binge-drinking and get trashed to the point where she couldn't handle herself. The man decided to take her to a hotel to sober her up. She walked along with him in the hotel hallway, and into a room. This was captured on a security camera of the hotel. According to the man and emails he submitted to the law enforcement, it was revealed that:
  1. Law enforcement found no evidence on his laptop(s) and other devices that shows the purchase of illicit drugs (or, "date rape drugs").
  2. She threw up on a couple of spots in the room, and after rushing into the bathroom, she threw up again and fell to the floor on her vomit. He had to remove her clothes and let her lie on a bed. He decided to take another bed in the room because he could not stand the foul smell of her vomit in her hair.
  3. She was actively looking for employment in the U.S. and even submitted her resume to the man, in the hope of him handing her a job in Washington, D.C. as a journalist in exchange of a sexual relationship.
  4. After the incident at the hotel, she emailed the man, thanking him for letting her borrow his shirt on the way back home and asked to further assist her with the visa application process (journalist visa applicants need offer letters, company-issued photo ID and other documents to prove their employment status). It is presumed that Ms. Ito was convinced by that time that she had secured a position as a journalist, as she was only concerned about the visa application process as opposed to interviewing or other stages of the hiring process.
  5. During a press conference in Japan, she voiced her wish for the Diet of Japan to focus more on policies and regulations on sexual assault than on the anti-terrorism act, which was on the table and about to be signed into a law in 2017, around the same time when she appeared in Japanese media outlets. She has been involved in activism with politicians, attorneys, and other activists who have ties with the Communist Party of Japan. Japan's Public Security Intelligence Agency considers the Communist Party to be a potential terrorist group, of which the utmost goal is a "revolution with violence." There are graphic and physical evidence that some Socialist politicians who are also close to the Communist Party aim to promote the North Korean Juche ideology to overturn the democratic social, political, and economic systems of Japan. 
To the fifth point above, it is critical that you understand the social and political climate in post-WW2 Japan, especially during and after the occupation by the GHQ. I wrote a short piece on this here.

Problems of "Japan's Secret Shame"

Ms. Ito's assertion on the "everyday experience of women in Japan" is problematic and not truthful. She said in "Japan's Secret Shame" on BBC that:
  • Every girl in Japan experiences sexual assault, including rape, and harassment, especially when they start commuting to high school using public transportation.
  • Girls talk about their sexual assault experiences on the way to school every morning.
  • It is considered a taboo to discuss sexual matters in Japan in public, resulting in numerous unreported cases of sexual assault that are not reflected in the crime statistics. This has led to a misconception that Japan is a safe country.
  • She is finally free to speak up in public now that she resides in London. She faced harsh criticisms form Japanese people for speaking up about a taboo.
I grew up in Japan, and visited it three years ago. I know Japan is a very safe country with the majority of its citizens and residents respecting and valuing the order, respect for others, and harmony of the society. I have been molested in Japan once when I was 16, but I have experienced a far greater degree of sexual harassment in the U.S. I rarely walk outside by myself after dark any longer because these incidents have made me worried about my security. I did not have this feeling of vulnerability and insecurity in Japan. I have traveled to and lived in several other countries too, and I am confident in challenging her claim that Japan is unsafe and that people, especially female, living there are exposed to a high risk of sexual assault.

What I have found dangerous is girls' and women's tendency for self-victimization. In some cases, girls and women turn men into authority with false claims that they have been inappropriately touched on public transportation. Law enforcement tends to be harsh on the men, regardless of the legitimacy of such claims made by 'victims,' ruining the men's lives altogether. Some of these falsely accused men lose their families, job, and anything else that they have established socially and personally by working hard and living just like any other people. What the falsely accusing women get is settlement money, attention, and validation, which are all superficial and not worth ruining random innocent men's lives.

Ms. Ito attempts to spread an image of Japan as a backward society with little sense of respect for women and equal rights despite its economic development and technological advances. I strongly contest this view from: 1) my first-hand experience in Japan, and 2) a political point of view. 

Creating Victims and Victimhood

Ms. Ito is an activist, who thinks societal change is necessary and creates issues where they do not exist to the degree that damages the lives of local people (in this case, girls and women in Japan). Activists need social issues to destroy in order to achieve their political goals. When I was a graduate student at a progressive school in NYC, I was told to "problematize everything" (Pyles, 2013) even if they did not seem like problems, that most people are desensitized to injustice and violence because they have been normalized, and that we ("progressive activists") must act to change the society to protect the vulnerable.

How arrogant. Do they think "the vulnerable" are not capable of protecting or advocating for themselves? Do they think they know better than them about what's good for them? Aren't they the ones silencing and disempowering "the vulnerable" by offering the unsolicited, self-righteous hands in public?

Reasons for Criticism

Misplaced blame
The reason for the anger in Japan after the "Japan's Secret Shame" does not have much to do with her speaking up and about a taboo, as she claims - it is Ms. Ito's deliberate political attempt to defame Japan as a nation and its citizens and residents based on her experience with this former journalist whose career and family she has crushed out of spite and vengeance (she did not land a journalist job in Washington, D.C. and her attitude towards him changed drastically after finding out that she had failed to "seal the deal" from amicable and docile to accusatory and revisionistic). She has been domestically and internationally accusing him of raping her for over one year now although the provided and discovered evidence was found too weak for arrest and/or prosecution - he has never even been arrested for the potentially consensual sexual relationship in 2015. The emotional burden of her acts on his family was such that the man's aging father was hospitalized with heart failure. Now that she acts as a sexual assault victim advocate in close alliance with the members of the Communist Party and its affiliated groups (e.g., SEALDs) and far-left politicians and activists, she has been misplacing the blame on the Japanese society and culture, and its people.

This has not raised many suspicions, which makes sense, considering the liberal standards that the United Nations and other international "authorities" hold, where these organizations proselytize the Western values and disregard the local, indigenous knowledge and systems. For example, the U.N. has criticized Japan for its high gender inequality based on the low level of female political participation and wage inequality between genders. The reality is 34% of unmarried women aged between 18 and 39 wanted to become a stay-at-home mom after marriage (Japan Today, 2013, September 26). Growing up in Japan, I came to realize that Japanese women may not feel strongly about working and living independently (which is their own choice I should respect, but which I also personally question as a way of living as adults). In the same manner, they may not be interested in becoming a politician. If it is their own choice, then it should not have anything to do with structural issues of the Japanese society unless someone can convince them (and me) and female participation in the workforce and political arena should be universally desirable and empowering across cultures.

Victimization of girls and women in Japan
Anyone should be encouraged and able to cultivate the ability to self-advocate and be assertive when in trouble, need, or conflict. This is an important aspect of freedom and responsibility (e.g., legal, civil, personal, or organizational), the core foundation of democracy and social order. When someone else regards one as a victim without consent or the fact that the person is indeed a victim, the person is: 1) mislabeled as someone the person is not, often against his/her own will, and 2) others may develop an assumption that the person is in need of help, of intervention, of a "fix" even when the person is fully capable of managing his/her life and remain responsible for his/her decisions. Those who offer unsolicited help/advice often violate this person's freedom of choice, personal space, and autonomy. Ms. Ito has never been in a place to put the rest of the girls and women in Japan in the state of victimhood, helplessness, and powerlessness by misrepresenting them.

Disrespect for the Rule of Law
In 2017, The law enforcement and court rejected Ms. Ito's and her representative(s) appeal to repeal the 2015 court decision to not prosecute the man on the grounds that their claim had been found not legitimate and strong enough to proceed with arrest and prosecution.  This decision was a result of the democratic and fair legal process that involved 11 laypeople randomly chosen from the voter registration, who were presented with written and audiovisual evidence of the claim. They concluded that the case was not criminal. Needless to say, and to ensure the clarity of this particular process, there could have been no room for the Abe Administration to influence its outcome.

Side Notes

Even when I was finally fed up with how progressives and liberals act, I still maintained my faith in liberalism - I still wanted the world with less social, economic, political, and religious inequality but not expecting total equality because the social order is maintained by a hierarchy. What I believe not only counterproductive but also dangerous about how liberals and progressives act (note: not the liberalism or progressivism itself) is how violent and superficial they are, furthering social divides by trying to snatch rights from the "privileged" without a consideration of how this would affect them psychologically. People usually refuse to relinquish their rights, even though they may understand that it would be the right thing to do. They are humans, but it seems like liberals and progressives demonize and infrahumanize those with power and privilege, silencing them by instilling a sense of guilt or shame into them, or through external pressure (e.g., lobbyism, publicity, etc.). Policy-making and activism need sustained support from the public, or powerful stakeholders in order to achieve their goals of social change (Arai, 2009; Eweju & Wu, 2010) but wouldn't it be strange how liberal media seem to almost always find a poster child for their causes (e.g., Michael Brown, Heather Heyer, Shiori Ito, etc.) out of all other victims of social inequality or violence? There is nothing wrong with strategizing an activism to optimize its efficacy, but they are not the only victims - even those who they demonize can be victims of their liberal acts. Can't they seek dialogue, as they preach to others without guilt-tripping or shaming them? If they can't, then they should stop what they are doing because it's making them hypocrites and lose the legitimacy of their own acts, furthering resistance to change and dividing our society.

Arai, T. (2009). Creativity and conflict resolution: Alternative pathways to peace. New York, NY: Routledge.
Eweje, G., & Wu, M. (2010). Corporate response to an ethical incident: The case of an energy company in New Zealand. Business Ethics: A European Review, 19(4), 379-392. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-8608.2010.01596.x
Japan Today. (2013, September 26). 1 in 3 Japanese women want to be housewives: Poll. Japan Today. Retrieved from
Pyles, L. (2013). Progressive community organizing: Reflective practice in a globalizing world (2nd ed.). New York: Routledge.

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