How Shiori Ito Brought the #MeToo Movement to Japan
When Shiori Ito accused a high-profile journalist of rape, she did what was considered unthinkable in Japan. Now she's bringing attention to the country’s weak laws against sexual violence.
A beacon of resilience
The #MeToo movement had helped me a lot to protect myself, to make other people to believe. Meet Shiori Ito — the journalist who broke Japan’s silence on rape. In 2015, she accused Noriyuki Yamaguchi, a high-profile journalist and biographer of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, of drugging and raping her. Yamaguchi denied the charge and after a two-month investigation, prosecutors dropped the case. In Japan, only 4% of rape victims file a report and rape laws make no mention of consent based on data from the Gender Equality Bureau Cabinet Office.
Following the incident, she filed a complaint with police, but prosecutors dropped the case in July 2016, citing insufficient evidence. Ito later filed a complaint with the Committee for the Inquest of Prosecution, but it also judged in September 2017 that the prosecutors’ decision was “appropriate,” saying there was no reason to overturn it. The trial also includes a counter-lawsuit filed by Yamaguchi, who is seeking ¥130 million in compensation from Ito, claiming his social reputation has been damaged by her remarks.
To highlight the practical and legal hurdles faced by women affected by sexual violence — Ito did the “unthinkable” in Japan. In May 2017, she went public with her case and opened a civil lawsuit against Yamaguchi. Then came the backlash — forcing her to flee to London. A month later, Japan’s 110 years old sex crime law was amended, mandating longer sentences and allowing for broader definitions of rape. In October 2017, amid the explosion of #MeToo confessions, she published a book about her experience. Ito became a beacon of resilience and the face of the #MeToo movement in Japan, encouraging women to speak up. In 2018, two senior political figures were forced to resign, in the wake of sex harassment allegations.