Japan’s Problem Isn’t Old Politicians

Japan’s Problem Isn’t Old Politicians

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LDP politicians in trouble
Pictures: Shutterstock
Mori Yoshiro's derogatory statements about women, some critics say, are reflective of much more systemic problems in Japan.

If you had tried to make this month’s events swirling around the Tokyo Olympics a drama, you’d have been laughed out of the writer’s room.

For months, Japan’s top political brass – including the government of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP)’s Suga Yoshihide and Tokyo Governor Koike Yuriko – have been scrambling to save the 2020…err, 2021 Tokyo Olympics. Initially scheduled for last year, the government reluctantly put off the event until this summer. It was clear even to the most dedicated pro-Olympics sycophant that the COVID-19 pandemic would just make it impossible.

Amidst all of this travail, Tokyo Olympics chief Mori Yoshiro fired the gaffe heard ’round the world. His comment that women cause meetings “to run long” was quickly picked up by the international press and condemned worldwide.

Despite the outcry, it took almost a week before Mori resigned. A former Prime Minister, he is one of the LDP’s elder statemen. Many LDP officials expressed concern that, with Mori gone, the Tokyo Olympics would essentially be doomed. But Mori couldn’t seem to keep his mouth shut. He drew more criticism later in the week when he tried to defend his statements by saying he “doesn’t talk to women much.”

Echoes of the Ehime Maru

In the end, Mori realized he wouldn’t be able to withstand the clamor and stepped down.

This wasn’t Mori’s first brush with controversy. Astute Unseen Japan readers may remember our article on the Ehime Maru, the disaster in 2001 when a US Navy submarine sunk a ship full of Japanese students. Mori was PM at the time. His insistence on finishing his golf game after he got wind of the tragedy caused his public approval rating to plummet to the single digits. He resigned shortly after.

And mind you, it’s not like Mori is the first LDP politician to make a discriminatory statement about women. Every year, a group of feminists in Japan hand out awards for the most sexist or gender-discriminatory statement by a politician within the year. In 2019, all but one of the politicians up for nomination were LDP members.


Some critics chalk Mori’s statements up to his age. The word 老害 (rougai; gerontocracy) has been used a lot lately to lament that Japan’s aging population is setting the country’s social progress back.

But at least two authors argue that the problem isn’t Mori’s age – and it isn’t confined to Mori. Rather, they say, they’re reflective of much darker, deeper issues in Japanese politics.

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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.

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