“Rape Paradise”: Father’s Absolution in Rape of 12-Year-Old Daughter Sparks Backlash

“Rape Paradise”: Father’s Absolution in Rape of 12-Year-Old Daughter Sparks Backlash

Want more UJ? Get our FREE newsletter 

Need a preview? See our archives

Gavel inside labyrinth maze. 3D rendering
Critics in Japan are calling out their country's judicial system after a series of rape cases are thrown out - and one case in particular has advocates in an uproar.

(Trigger Warning: Frank discussion of numerous sexual assault incidents)

We’ve touched briefly at Unseen Japan on the problems the Japanese justice system has handling rape allegations. The most talked about example in the past few months revolved around idol star Yamaguchi Maho; despite being assaulted and nearly raped by two “fans” who broke into her home, the case ended without any charges. We’ve also written about the well-to-do Keio University students who, despite being arrested five times, were ultimately released without charges. And there’s the now-infamous case of Ito Shiori, whose case against a friend of Prime Minister Abe Shinzo’s was mysteriously dropped by police just as they were about to press charges.

Unfortunately, a string of recent incidents shows that nothing is changing. And one in particular is drawing attention both in and outside of Japan for its tone-deafness.

In an article for Bunshun Online, Ramein (pseudonym), a lawyer who has defended sexual assault victims, describes a string of cases in which rape accusations were tossed over issues of consent or awareness. In the first case, a man in Fukuoka Prefecture stood accused of rape after assaulting a woman who was passed out after drinking tequila. The judge ruled that, while the woman was in no condition to resist, her rapist wasn’t aware that she was unable to put up a fight or say “no.” Since the woman had appeared to tolerate other “obscene acts” that had happened at the party the two attended, the judge ruled that the rapist was justified in taking this as consent, and let him free.

In the second case, in Shizuoka Prefecture, a woman who’d been raped testified that her mind “went blank” during the incident, and she couldn’t muster the energy to resist. The judge ruled that, since there was “no resistance in a form that could be understood” by the assailant, the accused couldn’t be found guilty.

(JP) Link: With a Woman They’d Gotten Drunk on Tequila…Why A String of Baffling Acquittals in Sexual Assault Cases?

In a third incident (not discussed by Ramein), a now-19-year-old woman accused her father of raping her in 2017, saying that she felt she couldn’t speak out because he was paying her fees to a specialty school. That case was (you guessed it) also tossed, as the judge ruled that he couldn’t rule that the girl had a subordinate relationship to her father, and that she didn’t have the ability to resist. (The fact that this was a father having sex with his daughter was, apparently, not enough to establish coercion.)


As horrible as these incidents are, it’s the last case that has people up in arms. In another case before Shizuoka District Court, a girl who was 12 at the time the assault started said that her father raped her 3 times a week for two years. But his case was also dismissed. The reason? The judge ruled that the victim “couldn’t be believed” because she lived in a “cramped” house with seven family members – therefore, it was impossible that someone wouldn’t have heard her resist.

The news seems to have gotten only scant coverage in the Japanese press. However, this case has been making the rounds on JP Twitter, with some citizens accusing their country of being a “rape paradise” (強姦天国). User hanakija38’s much-shared tweet sums up many people’s feelings:

The judge who ruled a father was not guilty of forcing himself on his daughter three times a week for two years because it was “odd” that no one would have heard them in such a cramped house should have his head examined! The wounds from sexual assault in your own family are immeasurable. Is Japan a rape paradise?

Critics of the “rape paradise” charge have shot back that, statistically, Japan has very low sexual assault rates – 1.0 per every 100,000 people, compared to much higher rates in other developed nations. But women’s rights advocates have shot back that these numbers are the result of underreporting, and are part and parcel of the problem: Japan, they say, has created an environment where victims won’t be believed, but will – like Ito Shiori – be subjected to a “second rape” in the media should they dare speak out.

Why are so many cases of sexual assault ending without conviction in a nation that prides itself on a 99.9% conviction rate? Lawyer Ramein explains Japanese law determines consent by looking primarily at the victim’s actions:


So by what standard is the “victim’s consent” determined in court? As a practical matter, “violence and coercion” in sexual assault crimes is handled in both cases by the “victim’s consent.” In other words, the existence of the “victim’s consent” is determined by the degree of violence and coercion, and the victim’s resistance.

In Ramein’s view, many of the injustices seen in these cases could be reversed by better educating judges about the psychology of victims – e.g., getting judges to understand that it’s common for victims to freeze during an assault, and that “lack of resistance” doesn’t equate to consent. The writer sees Japan as in a “transition period,” and believes that the country will, unfortunately, continue to see more such cases until a greater awareness of victim’s psychology spreads among judges.

The attitude of judges, however, is just one part of the problem. There’s also the issue of how victims are treated by society and in the press – i.e., the need to create a climate where it’s safe for women to speak up. Sadly, the current government is offering little in the way of policy initiatives to create such a climate. It will likely be up to lawyers and social activists in the coming years to push Japan’s culture in a new direction.

Want more UJ? Get our FREE newsletter 

Need a preview? See our archives

Jay Allen

Jay is a resident of Tokyo where he works as a reporter for Unseen Japan and as a technial writer. A lifelong geek, wordsmith, and language fanatic, he has level N1 certification in the Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT) and is fervently working on his Kanji Kentei Level 2 certification.

Japan in Translation

Subscribe to our free newsletter for a weekly digest of our best work across platforms (Web, Twitter, YouTube). Your support helps us spread the word about the Japan you don’t learn about in anime.

Want a preview? Read our archives

You’ll get one to two emails from us weekly. For more details, see our privacy policy