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With the Olympics only months away, the country would normally be buzzing about an influx of visitors and potential celebrity sightings. Instead Japan is busy talking about gender equality — or rather gender inequality.

Japanese media are still going over sexist comments made by former president of the Tokyo Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games Yoshiro Mori. Unlike past scandals in politics, domestic outlets were swift and unified in their negative coverage of Mori, writes contributor Philip Brasor.

But attention must be paid to those who helped usher in change, including 22-year-old college student Momoko Nojo, whose petition racked up 150,000 signatures, adding more fuel to the anti-Mori fire. “People take this personally too, not seeing it as only Mori’s problem,” Nojo said in an interview with Reuters.

Former Defense Minister Tomomi Inada says only a crisis will make room for a woman in the Liberal Democratic Party's top job. | BLOOMBERG
Former Defense Minister Tomomi Inada says only a crisis will make room for a woman in the Liberal Democratic Party’s top job. | BLOOMBERG

But some want to move on from the past and focus on the future, including the new Tokyo Games committee president Seiko Hashimoto. “Gender equality and women’s empowerment is going to be something that is going to be promoted,” she reiterated on Wednesday.

So is change truly afoot in Japan? According to software developer Cybozu, it is. The company put out a full-page ad in the Nikkei newspaper apologizing for having an all-male board of directors, reports Gearoid Reidy for Bloomberg. “It’s truly embarrassing,” the ad read in part.

But others are not as optimistic. Nothing short of total upheaval could propel a woman to the top of the long-ruling Liberal Democratic Party, former Defense Minister Tomomi Inada said in an interview with Bloomberg’s Isabel Reynolds. “At the moment, the party doesn’t want to do anything that would involve extra effort,” Inada said. “They want to maintain the status quo.”

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