There’s always bound to be drama during campaign season, and this year’s Upper House elections are no exception. Politician Inose Naoki of the populist Japan Innovation Party (Nippon Ishin no Kai; 日本維新の会) is facing a flurry of criticism for his conduct with a female party member during a campaign speech in Tokyo on June 12th.
During a campaign speech recorded and uploaded to YouTube, Inose introduces candidate and former professional snowboarder Ebisawa Yuki, first calling her by the wrong name, then touching her shoulder as he apologizes, then drifting his hand over her collarbone and chest as he turns back to address the crowd . The video has gone private, but a 15-second clip posted by user @GreatRaiden quickly spread around on Twitter. It has 2.2 million views as of this writing.
General reactions to the video were mostly outrage and disgust mixed with cries of sexual harassment. One female reporter tweeted, “Since the issue of sexual and voter harassment towards female politicians is currently an issue, I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard female candidates say they felt uncomfortable when they were touched during their street campaign activities.”
On June 17th, Inose tweeted an apology, acknowledging his carelessness and vowing to be more aware of his conduct. When Business Insider reached out to his party for comment, they agreed Inose was a bit too handsy and voiced their intent to prevent similar incidents from occurring.  Ebisawa also took to Twitter, admitting surprise over the online kerfuffle even though Inose “barely touched her chest” but stating she believed his response was sincere. That alone may have put the matter to rest, yet people are still crying harassment. (While I concur that the touching was inappropriate, it’s not my place to speculate on the truthfulness of Ebisawa’s statement or her true feelings regarding the matter, so for now, I’m taking her at her word.)
The Reality of Harassment in Japanese Politics
The incident has renewed discussions on the harassment and unwanted advances women in politics face. Compared to their male counterparts, female politicians in Japan disproportionately find themselves victims of “voter harassment” or hyou hara (票ハラ), sexual harassment of female politicians perpetrated by voters or supporters who threaten not to vote. In a 2021 Cabinet Office survey, 61.8% of 994 respondents who ended up not running for election said they had faced some form of harassment from voters and politicians, with women making up 65.5% and men 58%.  Another survey of 5,513 local legislators revealed 42.3% said they’d dealt with harassment, with women facing more harassment at 57.6% compared to men at 32.5%. 
During last November’s House of Representatives election, only 45 women secured seats, drawing attention to the dismal lack of female representation in the upper echelon of politics. Many female politicians are also taken less seriously, as Rep. Shiomura Ayaka found out when she was heckled by male colleagues after voicing concerns about teenage girls being pressured into pornography. As we reported during the November House of Representatives election, harassment is just one of the many factors preventing women from finding success in politics, including a lack of sufficient childcare benefits. Clearly, Ebisawa, herself a mother of four, isn’t letting herself be deterred by recent events, as she continues to campaign on the streets with Inose. Hopefully, Inose will learn to keep his hands to himself — and hopefully, other male politicians will also be more conscientious towards their female colleagues.
What to Read Next:
1. 維新・猪瀬氏の応援演説が｢セクハラ｣と批判殺到、本人は｢軽率だった｣。松井代表｢慎むべき｣. Business Insider.
2. 「票ハラ」とは？有権者や議員が「一票の力」を背景に…猪瀬直樹氏の「身体に触れる」行為でも話題に. HuffPost Japan.