Photo/IllutrationHa-chu, a blogger and writer, ignited the #MeToo movement in Japan by sharing her experiences of sexual harassment while she worked for Dentsu Inc. (Provided by Ha-chu)

  • Photo/Illustraion

Japanese women are breaking their silence about sexual abuse and harassment and joining the #MeToo movement that is mushrooming in the United States and elsewhere.

Sexual harassment against women and girls, a long-standing social issue, drew fresh attention recently when Ha-chu, a popular blogger and writer, shared her experiences of harassment on her Facebook account and BuzzFeed Japan article on Dec. 17.

Ha-chu, 31, named her harasser as Yuki Kishi, a well-known creative director. When they both worked for Dentsu Inc., Japan’s largest advertising agency, Kishi, who was a senior, summoned her to his home late at night, according to her. He also told her to introduce a female acquaintance of hers to him.

Her account led to a sudden surge in tweets by victims of alleged transgressions.

The #MeToo movement has been spreading around the world since October, when actresses in the United States called on victims to share their experiences through Twitter.

Tweets on the topic totaled about 60,000 over two months in Japan, the eighth largest by nation in the world, according to an Asahi Shimbun study based on an analysis by Crimson Hexagon, a leading U.S. social media analytic company.

Then the number of tweets shot up by an additional 10,000 in just two days on Dec. 17-18, following Ha-chu’s post, pushing Japan to third place worldwide.

After Ha-chu’s accusations, Kishi apologized to her in his blog.

“I am truly sorry and regret that I hurt her feelings and caused pain and failed to offer a proper apology until today,” his blog read.

Mikiya Ichihara, a director and leader of a theatrical group, is also facing sexual harassment accusations by several women who spoke up on Twitter. He apologized to women he allegedly abused on his website on Dec. 19.

Ichihara wrote that he “knows something about their claims.”

“I am determined to confront my deeds in the past so as to apologize to everyone I have harassed,” said Ichihara in an interview with The Asahi Shimbun when referring to the possibility that he may have harassed more women.

One of Ichihara’s accusers is a 20-year-old leader of a theatrical company who goes by the name of Chino. She suffered from his abuse when she was still a high school student.

Chino, encouraged by the #MeToo movement, decided to reveal her experiences as she wanted to help “prevent others from suffering.”

Still, she said it was painful for her to read his apology because it evoked memories that may have been old, but were also agonizing.

Chino is hoping the movement will educate young Japanese women to realize that the harasser is at fault and not the victim.

“We have not been told that a harasser is wrong 100 percent in sexual harassment,” she said. “The notion should spread for young people.”

Rika Shiiki, a sophomore at the elite Keio University who established a business to produce events when she was in junior high school, reacted to Ha-chu’s Twitter posting the same day.

She did so because she wanted to give a boost to the #MeToo movement. Shiiki, 20, was afraid that the movement may not take off in Japan as she felt “enduring sexual harassment has been made a tacit understanding” in society.

“Sexual harassment and asking for sexual favors are rampant in society," read her tweet. "I have experiences of having job offers canceled after I rejected (sexual demands) many times.”

She described one situation in which she was on the verge of being in danger.

But many criticized her posting, according to Shiiki. One questioned her about evidence to back up her claim, while another blamed her for not having kept her guard up in the first place.

Describing a flood of negative responses as “hell,” Shiiki called for a move to support accusers so that those who had the nerve to speak up (against sexual harassment) would not be hurt (by public reactions).

A freelance writer in her 30s who lives in Tokyo said one reason women find it difficult to raise their voices against transgressions is economic concerns.

She said it took her a while before she went online about her experiences because she feared doing so could jeopardize her chances of getting job offers.

(This article was compiled from reports by Azusa Mishima, Nasuka Yamamoto and senior staff writer Tatsuya Sudo)