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It’s assumed that the heckling of Tokyo assembly member Ayaka Shiomura by some of her male colleagues on June 18 became a major news story in Japan only after the foreign press picked it up as an example of intractable Japanese sexism. The situation is more nuanced than how Western media described it, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t appreciated by Japanese media.

Nevertheless, the news conference held on June 23 by Akihiro Suzuki, the Liberal Democratic Party member who admitted to making one of the disparaging comments, suggests that the point of the scandal may have been lost on some local reporters. Whatever it was that Suzuki yelled during Shiomura’s speech about the difficulties women face having children these days, the accepted version is, “Why don’t you get married soon?”, and while he now says he regrets the remark he insists it was uttered in the spirit of concern over the issue of “delayed marriage and the falling birthrate.” His presentation may have been crude, but his intentions were pure.

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