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War against stalkers broadens its aims

by Jake Adelstein

Special To The Japan Times

If you would, dear reader, please take a moment of your time today and let Prime Minister Shinzo Abe know that you’d like him to treat Japan’s stalking problem seriously. Let him know that you’d like the Diet to make real laws that would protect the women who are subject to harassment, humiliation, injury and even death by men who chase them.

So far already, 112,000 people have signed a nonpartisan petition to this effect — including Abe’s own wife. But more on that later.

About year ago, I wrote how Japan’s soulless stalking laws were costing lives. Even after she spoke with police, a 33-year-old housewife was stabbed to death in November 2012 by an ex-boyfriend who stalked her. The stalker had hired a private detective to find her, and even though that man was recently charged over his role in her death, nothing will bring the woman back to life.

Similarly, in October 2013, a high school student and budding actress was also stabbed to death after alerting police to her stalker.

The laws at present existing in Japan to prevent stalking and protect victims — as well as the enforcement of those laws — are all abysmal. But now, at last, people are beginning to protest.

The new champions of anti-stalking are an unlikely duo: a former Miss International, Ikumi Yoshimatsu, and Akie Abe, the prime minister’s wife. Together, this January, they launched a movement to combat stalking nationwide — and here’s the story of how it happened.

In December last year, Yoshimatsu, 2012 winner of the Miss International contest, filed criminal charges against one of Japan’s most powerful talent-agency executives, whom she alleged was stalking and harassing her.

The result: the management of the pageant, The International Culture Association — founded in 1969 as an incorporated organization of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs — ordered her to skip the succession ceremony and “play sick and shut up” out of fear of scandal.

She didn’t attend the ceremony — but she did speak out.

After The Japan Times and the Shukan Bunshun weekly magazine reported the story, Yoshimatsu received encouragement and support from around Japan and many other parts of the world.

In contrast, she received little support from the other mainstream Japanese media, which has a cosy relationship with the talent-agency executive and his company bosses, who are widely reported to have cozy ties with unsavory groups in society.

However, one of those supporters was Akie Abe, who had been a judge for the 2013 Miss International contest. When she posted a small comment on her Facebook page about judging the contest, hundreds of people wrote her, saying: “Why aren’t you doing anything to help (Ikumi) Yoshimatsu?”

She responded to her online followers that she would look into it — and she did.

As a result, on Christmas Day she met with Yoshimatsu and the two of them discussed her case and the appalling situation of stalking victims in Japan. They decided to do something about it.

Together with a website named change.org, on Jan. 9, they launched the Stalker Zero campaign, calling for an end to the Japanese “culture of silence” toward crimes against women.

The campaign asks the public to petition for changes in the law. The recipient of those pleas will will be Akie Abe’s husband, the current prime minister. One may think she could just bring up the subject with him over dinner — but maybe he needs to know there are more than 100,000 people who agree with her before he can bring himself to pay any heed.

The response was tremendous; by Jan. 16 — after just one week — the campaign had 20,000 signatures. As of Jan. 31, there were more than 112,000 signatures on the website, with countless numbers of them coming from overseas supporters.

Words written by Yoshimatsu to accompany the petition explain the plight of stalking victims in Japan much more eloquently than I am able to do. Here they are:

“Mr. Abe, as prime minister you have been a strong and vocal supporter of women’s rights. You have called time and time again for a ‘society in which women shine.’

“Your strong leadership on this issue would be a game-changer.

“As a first step, I ask that you establish a task force to investigate stalking and violence against women with the objective of laying out an immediate national strategy to address these issues and offer real protection for women.

“Out of all the industrialized nations, Japan is by far the lowest- ranking country on gender equality — a disgraceful 105th out of 136 countries.

“We need strict anti-stalking laws and strong punishment for perpetrators of crimes against women. We need a police force that will protect women and immediately act to prevent stalking and intimidation.

“We need restraining orders granted by the courts for any woman who has been threatened, before she is harmed, murdered or commits suicide. We need media that report on these issues without fear.

“Without protecting the women of Japan, our country will never enjoy the economic and moral benefits of a truly equal society.”

Before writing this article, I spoke with Yoshimatsu about her own experiences with the police.

“I know that they are doing their best, but even though my stalker has repeatedly called my family, barged into a television shooting and grabbed my arm, and hired private detectives to follow me — they say that they can’t charge him under the stalking laws.

“Why? Because he has ‘no feelings of love for me.’ So unless your stalker ‘loves’ you, can’t you get protection? That’s a little crazy.”

Yoshimatsu says she’s received hundreds of mails and comments from victims — including men. Many of these describe how, when the victim has gone to the police to file a complaint, the procedure has turned into “a consultation” on affairs of the heart.

One foreign resident of Tokyo also told me of her depressing experience with the police despite now having been stalked for almost a year — with the perpetrator on one occasion breaking into her home.

“I will credit the local cops with recently trying to do something, as they now monitor where I live,” she said. “But I’ve got so sick of dealing with the police-box staff. I’ve given up trying to follow my case up. No feedback. No updates. No English support. Honestly, I’m saving to move out. It’s crazy that I may end up moving, not because of the stalker — but because of lack of confidence in the police.”

However, Yoshimatsu feels that the problem isn’t just the police, but the laws.

“The police do things by the manual. If you want to change how stalkers are prosecuted and how victims are protected, you have to change the rules first.

“I hope that the prime minister means what he says about making a better environment for women in Japan. Setting up a task force to deal with the stalking issue and creating real legislation would be a great start.”

Anyone who wishes to add their name to the petition can do so at: www.change.org/petitions/stalker-zero-end-the-japanese-culture-of-silence-toward-crimes-against-women.

  • Juanita Vasquez

    Really? The ratio of women being stalked and victimized compared to men is much larger. You understand that, right? Not minimizing your experience but you seem to be the one who is biased and discriminatory accusing the author of feminist misandrist propaganda. (misandrist was underlined in my spell check and no correction exists for it – that’s because there is really no such thing)

  • Nobodys Fool

    Watch out, Japan. First it’s about making threat-of-committing a crime a crime. Then it will be about making “hate” crimes a different kind of crime than just regular garden-variety (?unhateful?) crime. Then it will be about making your thoughts crimes. Then you will be like the United States.

  • gmo2ashes

    Is it the nature of Japanese to keep quiet and just bear the burden? Perhaps this tendency of silent suffering can explain why the Fukushima Death Star continues to poison both Japan and the entire world – yet rather than inform people, Japan enacted laws to suppress the information.

  • eigoman

    Jake is a great journalist and writer; there’s no doubt about that.

    However, this article clearly promulgates a misconception that all stalkers are men and all their victims are women. The article then intrinsically links violence against women with stalking; sure, there are cases of stalking that involve violence but not all, and not all are men against women.

    I’m not suggesting Jake is a misandrist; that would be an odd call; but the article echoes a feminist misandrist agenda to label all men as guilty of some form of violence against women, and all women are at risk.

    Many men gallantly and admirably crusade against male aggression against women but the feminist lobby is manipulating society and law into prejudice and discrimination against men. I’ve been the victim of stalking, spousal DV and false-accusations of both by women; I was never helped or believed by anyone, yet the false-accusations against me were wholly believed without evidence or investigation. I know many other men who have suffered the same injustices.

    The matter is not exclusive to Japan; it exists in many societies cursed by feminism and it needs addressing, such as in journalism.

    The article focuses on women throughout with only one exception being this line: “Yoshimatsu says she’s received hundreds of mails and comments from victims — including men.” That hardly qualifies for unbiased journalism.

    On a linguistic note, the word misandrist is a modern formal way to say manhater; by denying its existence, you’ve scored an own goal. Misandry is a very real problem and at the forefront of militant feminism.

    Statistics are unreliable as for reasons too numerous and complex to write here (another article perhaps, Jake?) but suffice it to say, male victims go largely unreported or unrecorded.

    I stand by what I say; let’s deal with stalking and all forms of violence without discrimination and bias.

    • echykr

      Which part of Jake’s “read the article more closely” do you not understand anyway?

      Just because most, but not all, of the articles examples features female victims, you somehow make an amazing leap in logic and conclude that Jake is propogating a sexist misconception.

      Classic case of picking a fight when there is none. Please don’t put words in Jake’s mouth.

    • Jake Adelstein

      Eigoman, I don’t disagree with you that there are men who are stalking victims but statistically victims in Japan tend to be women. According to the TMPD, about 85% of the cases involve women as the victims. 被害者の性別は、女性が1231人(85.7%)と約8割を占め、男性は206人(14.3%)であり、過去4年間も同様の傾向です。I was surprised actually that the numbers for men were nearly 15% and thank you for encouraging me to research more. There are limitations to how much I can cover one topic in a newspaper article. If it was a magazine feature, I could have gone into more depth. I appreciate your sincerity. Stalking cases where men are the victims do deserve attention and I will study it more.

  • Guest

    Are u also Getironic (who also posts on here believing in some sort of feminist conspiracy in Japan and that, contrary to all rational
    thought and the overwhelming weight of evidence obvious to any slightly dim-witted small child, it is the womenfolk who call most of the shots and who willfully belittle the long-suffering males) in disguise? Whatever. I would suggest that you do not interpret your personal issues and slights, sad though they may be, as a general trend proving these things occur in equal measure between the sexes.

    • eigoman

      I understand your skepticism as I too wouldn’t have believed such a situation existed until I witnessed it firsthand. And you’re spot on in one part of your comment “it is the womenfolk who call most of the shots and who willfully belittle the long-suffering males” Thank you.

      BTW, I’m new to The Japan Times comments and this is my first article to leave comments on; I have no knowledge of Getironic but will investigate now you’ve drawn my attention them.

  • eigoman

    Sadly, I’m not surprised by the narrow-minded prejudice and ignorance that surrounds this issue, which proves even more need for a journalist to be brave enough to emancipate himself with good honest unbiased reporting. I have a wealth of evidence to prove my argument, including scores of innocent male-victims of bogus violence claims and female witnesses to state persecution of innocent men. I also have police and court documents that prove a conspiracy to discriminate against innocent men.

    I urge journalists to take up the case and I’ll provided evidence.