For almost a year now, the group Colabo that helps displaced girls and young women in Tokyo has been the target of vicious harassment and slander online and off. While Colabo and its founder Nito Yumeno aren’t strangers to unfounded criticism, speculation of misused public funds has kick-started a vicious harassment campaign fueled by right-wingers against an organization already barely getting by.
What is Colabo?
Colabo works to to help runaways and displaced teenage girls avoid or escape sexual exploitation. They perform night patrols and other outreach activities to help those in distress or unable to go home. They also manage Tsubomi Cafe, a free bus cafe and resource center providing basic necessities and a safe place to rest in Shinjuku and Shibuya.
Since 2018, Colabo is one of a few organizations working with the Tokyo government’s project to support young women escaping abuse or sexual violence. The COVID-19 pandemic drastically impacted the livelihoods of women and children, making Colabo’s services even more crucial during economically stressed times.
A Timeline of Harassment and Slander
Speculation about Colabo’s alleged misuse of public funds can be traced back to November 2021. Per Bunshun, Youtuber and ex-game developer Himasora Akane, real name Mizuhara Kiyoteru, took great offense to Nito’s tweet calling the Onsen Musume project sexual exploitation. The project anthropomorphizes hot springs and other regional tourist spots as popular anime or manga characters, usually girls.
The two engaged in a heated back-and-forth on Twitter. An incensed Himasora called Colabo a “labor camp” (タコ部屋; takobeya) and insinuated it was misusing welfare benefits .
In response, Colabo released its expense records from the past few years, which quickly circulated beyond its intended audience. Users nitpicked discrepancies between previous balance sheets, further escalating rumors that Colabo was acting maliciously. Himasora began posting YouTube videos hunting for more accounting errors.
In November 2022, Nito filed a defamation lawsuit against Himasora for 11 million yen (about $80,900) in damages. Per the lawsuit, Himasora had over 900 tweets, 27 articles on the website note, and 30 YouTube videos slandering Colabo and insinuating Nito was acting on behalf of the Communist Party. Colabo acknowledged that yes, there were some accounting errors, but they were working on clearing those up with the government .
The online slander had detrimental effects on Colabo’s operations. In October 2022, the bus cafe was vandalized. Donations of food and money dwindled as people grew wary of supporting them .
The Harassment Escalates
By December, people – primarily men – began lurking by the bus cafe and harassing staff and patrons. One notable harasser is 40-year-old so-called Youtuber Rengoku Koroaki. Those who keep tabs on Japan’s local elections might remember him as the Demon Slayer cosplayer who ran for a seat on the Musashino City council in April.
Before his political escapades, Rengoku and three others visited Tsubomi Cafe several times in December. According to Nito’s petition for a restraining order against him, he filmed the premises without permission and loudly decried Colabo as a scam, scaring several girls there. In March a Tokyo court approved the restraining order, forcing Rengoku to stay over 600 meters away from the cafe premises .
That same month, the Tokyo government released the findings of its audit that Himasora had requested in November. Due to insufficient evidence and receipts that couldn’t be accurately categorized as business, the government deemed approximately 1.92 million yen (about $14,129) ineligible as project expenses . However, it later determined that these were simple accounting errors and not the result of financial impropriety.
Politicians also jumped on the Colabo slander train. Since December 2022, Kawasaki City legislator Asano Fuminao has uploaded over twenty videos on his YouTube channel slamming Colabo.
As part of its collaboration with the Tokyo government, Colabo is required to report the number of women requesting protective custody. Asano alleged Colabo received doubled commission fees after reporting three women to both Kawasaki City’s municipal government and the Tokyo Metropolitan Government. He even convinced enough people of the conspiracy that he brazenly campaigned for re-election under the slogan “Investigating Colabo Fraud!” (Colabo疑惑追及中!).
In April, Nito filed a defamation lawsuit against Asano seeking 3.3 million yen (about $24,600) in damages .
Not Just Colabo
Colabo isn’t the only women’s support group dealing with intense slander and harassment. This year a liaison committee surveyed eight women’s support groups to ascertain how badly harassment affected them.
The results were distressing, to put it mildly. All eight reported dealing with slander. Five received credible death threats against staff members. Four others reported hoax calls and messages, making it even harder to help those actually needing help .
Consequently, the harassment has deterred local municipalities from financially supporting these groups. And because of the Colabo kerfuffle, the Tokyo government announced in March it will audit three other organizations affiliated with their women’s protection project .
While the harassment and public ridicule against Colabo hasn’t stopped, Tsubomi Cafe resumed operations on April 19 after the Tokyo government requested it cease operations in March over safety concerns .
Fortunately, Colabo has plenty of support in the form of a committee formed to help protect Colabo from further attacks. In a 20-page compilation of endorsements for Colabo, famed feminist Kitahara Minori pointed out that what’s happening with Colabo is indicative of a larger problem in Japan:
Why is malicious slander aimed at women facing hardships and their supporters? What drives this to happen? I sense that the origins of my own suffering in this society lie here. Why should “women’s” activities be criticized to such an extent? This lawsuit [against Himasora] is defending Nito and Colabo’s activities, and also is a crucial fight to prevent the further deterioration of our society .
What to read next
 仁藤夢乃さんとColaboをめぐる騒動、「本当の問題」は何だったのか. Bunshun Online.
 女性支援団体Colaboを「誹謗中傷」 投稿繰り返した男性を提訴. Asahi Shimbun.
 自称ユーチューバーに接近禁止命令 女性支援団体へ迷惑行為―東京地裁. Jiji.
 Colabo問題 東京都、経費192万円認めず 領収書提示拒否などで. Fukushi Shimbun.
 Colabo、川崎市議を提訴 「虚偽の動画で名誉を傷つけられた」. Mainichi Shimbun.
 女性利用者の後をつける、支援場所をさらす。激化する女性支援活動への妨害行為【調査結果】. Huffington Post Japan.
 コラボ問題、全委託団体に異例の再調査 若草、BOND、ぱっぷす. Fukushi Shimbun.
 Ｃｏｌａｂｏが若年被害女性支援の「バスカフェ」再開 １カ月ぶりに自主事業として. Kanaroko.
 【お知らせ】「Colaboと仁藤夢乃さんを支える会」が立ち上がりました. Colabo.
 女性支援団体Colaboの会計に不正はなし. Newsweek JP