On the April 5 edition of the Fuji TV talk program, “Wide na Show,” comedian Hitoshi Matsumoto discussed proposed economic relief measures for people affected by the COVID-19 crisis. He mentioned workers employed in the so-called water trade (mizu shōbai), meaning bars, clubs and other after-hours “entertainment” businesses, and said that these workers get paid well and, therefore, he didn’t want his taxes used to support them if they can’t work due to the emergency. The comment sparked an argument on social media, with many people, including prominent plastic surgeon Katsuya Takasu, voicing solidarity with Matsumoto. The thrust of their position is that women in such positions, usually identified as “hostesses,” do nothing but sit next to male customers and pour them drinks.

Besides being sexist — such businesses also employ men, but the argument appeared to be centered on women — Matsumoto’s comment revealed his ignorance about the nature of a business he appears to have patronized. It also showed how prejudice can be reinforced by government policy, as pointed out in an April 15 article in Harbor Business Online by Mieko Takenobu, who looked into this systemic discrimination and explained how dangerous it may prove to be under present circumstances.

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