At the World Assembly for Women held in Tokyo last week, the Nobel Peace Prize-winning president of Liberia, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, lauded the social achievements of women worldwide but added that "we are not there yet." Sirleaf didn't say where exactly "there" is, but during the same week, two media-related stories appeared that seem to indicate Japanese women themselves haven't yet arrived at this desired destination.

The first was a video uploaded to the Internet by Nihon TV purporting to explain the rules of rugby to neophytes in advance of the Rugby World Cup, which NTV will broadcast later this month and Japan will host in 2019. The video showed young women dressed in tight shorts and sports bras demonstrating how the game is played. The network was immediately bombarded with complaints, mainly from rugby fans who thought the video mocked their favorite sport, but also from others who objected to its titillating nature.

The other story was about a new "mascot" for the city of Shima in Mie Prefecture, which will be the site of next year's Group of Seven summit. The cartoon character is an ama, or female diver, a traditional vocation for which the area is famous. However, the depiction has been derided as "obscene" by many locals. Megu Aoshima, as the mascot is called, is young and dressed in clothing that accentuates her breasts and thighs. Moreover, she effects a demure, come-hither look typical of manga characters designed to be sexually provocative. The city officials who approved the mascot have said its detractors misunderstand and so far they have refused to change the image.