Ikumi Yoshimatsu, 2012 winner of the Miss International contest, filed criminal charges this month against one of Japan’s most powerful talent agency executives, Genichi Taniguchi, for allegedly stalking and harassing her. The result: the management of the pageant, The International Culture Association, ordered her to skip the succession ceremony and “play sick and shut up” out of fear of scandal.
She did not attend the ceremony; she did speak out.
After The Japan Times and the Shukan Bunshun weekly magazine reported on her plight, she received an outpouring of worldwide sympathy and support.
Over 2.4 million readers have read her blog since Dec. 11; her story has been reported internationally. It has transformed her into both an icon of resistance against stalkers and Japan’s seedy entertainment industry. Her blog and Internet sites are full of writing and comments expressing support for her, including many from stalking victims and even beauty pageant contestants.
And now she has one unlikely new ally: Akie Abe, the wife of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
Akie Abe was a judge for the 2013 Miss International contest. When she wrote on her Facebook page about the event, she was inundated with comments asking why she did not do anything to help Yoshimatsu.
She replied Dec. 17: “I was unaware of what happened to (her). I would like to find out the truth.”
It’s not surprising that she was unaware: Yoshimatsu, by discussing her refusal to sign with the rumored mob-linked Burning Productions and K-Dash, violated one of Japan’s great taboos.
The mainstream Japanese media, fearing the loss of access to the talent agency-owned celebrities or possible retaliation, have mostly ignored her story. Those who did later appeared to backtrack. The tabloid Sports Nippon wrote an article but then deleted it within hours. Yahoo News Japan had a section on the Miss International Contest problems but took it down in a day. One website removed posts about her from the most popular rankings.
When The International Culture Association told Yoshimatsu in November that they wanted her to hide and keep quiet, the executive briefing her admitted they were afraid of Taniguchi and wanted to avoid scandal. It was a knee-jerk response that resulted in many openly questioning whether the management had any concern for the welfare of the contestants or the plight of stalking victims.
On Dec. 18, Akie Abe commented again on Facebook: “Thank you for all the various information. I want to take the proper measures. Please give me a little time.” Shortly afterward, she contacted Yoshimatsu and on Wednesday, she met with her for over an hour and heard the details of what happened.
Yoshimatsu spoke to The Japan Times before the meeting and said: “I am very pleased that Mrs. Abe has showed concern not only for me but for the rights of all women in Japan. We need real laws that stop stalkers and prevent needless deaths and injuries before they happen. We need a society where the stalking of women is not tolerated — even if the stalker is a powerful and important man.”
The kind of stalking that Yoshimatsu has endured is commonplace, and insufficient laws often result in police action far too late.
A 33-year-old housewife was stabbed to death by an ex-boyfriend who stalked her in November 2012, after she spoke with police. Her stalker hired a private detective to find her. This October a high school student and budding actress was also stabbed to death after alerting police to her stalker.
Police in the Shibuya district of Tokyo have told Yoshimatsu that her case does not fit the stalking criteria because it’s not evident Taniguchi had romantic feelings toward her. They are considering other criminal charges.