International Women’s Day this year comes in the wake of a storm over sexist comments by Yoshiro Mori that resulted in the former PM resigning as Tokyo Olympic chief. In his place was appointed Seiko Hashimoto, who immediately installed 12 new female executives on the panel’s board.

Problem solved, right? The Mori affair underscores changing gender relations in Japan, argues columnist Kuni Miyake. Although it may take time, Japan must and will ensure Mori’s departure marks the beginning of a new, fairer era for women — just you wait.

Not so fast, write Curtis S. Chin and Stacie Nevadomski Berdan — or rather, faster, please. Japan has a long way to go on gender equality and no time to lose, they argue. Mori’s exit came only after concerted pressure from both in and outside Japan. More fundamental change is needed, but if and when it does, it will offer a massive boost to the Japanese economy.

Tamayo Marukawa | REUTERS
Tamayo Marukawa | REUTERS

Returning to the Mori fallout, Hashimoto’s former job as minister in charge of the Olympics and gender equality was filled by Tamayo Marukawa. Only thing is, since then Marukawa has come under fire for joining a campaign against allowing married partners to have different surnames.

Proponents of dual surnames see this as a gender equality issue because in 96% of cases, women take their husband’s name upon marriage in Japan. Marukawa and conservative lawmakers of the ruling party argue that allowing such a dual-name system would lead to the collapse of the social system.

Kyodo reports on the case of one Japanese man, Shu Matsuo Post, who proudly took his wife’s surname (in addition to keeping his own, admittedly). It took his wife 15 minutes to get her American name changed in the U.S., but it took Shu eight months to get his name legally changed in Japan. Happy Women’s Day!