• Kyodo

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Several female employees at Cool Japan Fund Inc., a public-private investment fund aimed at promoting Japanese culture and products overseas, claim they were sexually harassed by executives of the entity, including a career bureaucrat on loan from the central government, sources said Monday.

Since the incidents, employees of the Tokyo-based fund have formed a labor union and are calling for information disclosure and steps to prevent similar cases, claiming the entity’s handling of the alleged harassment cases is unsatisfactory.

In July last year, a male executive in charge of the investment section who hailed from the private sector organized a socializing event at a karaoke pub in Tokyo in which four female employees and a male connected to the fund also participated, according to the sources.

At the event, all female employees were ordered to draw straws with a phrase on each. The phrases included “movie date with executive” and “handmade present” for a person connected to the fund.

Several days later, the female employees were asked who drew which straws and about their availability, but the date with the executive and other suggested events never took place because the women reported the incident to a section set up within the entity to hear sexual harassment complaints, according to the sources.

“It was creepy and scary. The description on the straw seemed to me like a work-related order and something I cannot turn down,” one of the women recalled.

The man connected to the fund apparently attended the event without knowing that the female employees would be ordered to draw such straws.

In a separate case, another female employee claimed that a different executive touched her thigh at a party in the summer of 2015, the sources said. She claims he touched her waist area on another occasion as well. The executive is a career-track bureaucrat who hailed from the central government and is currently assigned to a different organization.

Another female employee has complained that the same executive allegedly linked his hand with hers on a commuter train on their way home, according to the sources.

The fund has determined that the straw-drawing incident was not a sexual harassment case. In the case allegedly involving physical contact, the entity has not provided clear explanations on the grounds that the executive in question has already been transferred, the sources said.

In response to a query from Kyodo News, Cool Japan Fund declined to comment, saying it will not answer questions regarding specific cases.

The former executive who hailed from the central government said, “I have no memory of (the incident), but I am sorry if I made someone feel uncomfortable.”

Toshiyuki Hanazawa, the lawyer representing the employees’ union, said the incidents are an embarrassment to the fund, which he said “should be an example for private firms.”

“We intend to seek improvements to the workplace and working conditions through the labor union,” he added.

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