Originally published here.
No name is more associated with Japan’s #MeToo movement than journalist and filmmaker Ito Shiori (伊藤詩織). After her public accusation of rape against high-ranking TBS journalist Yamaguchi Noriyuki ( 山口敬之 )in 2015, Ito has gone on to defy Japan’s legal handling of sexual assault. International news outlets claim her as the woman who first broke Japan’s silence on rape.
Ito’s battle for personal justice is far from over. She officially filed a lawsuit on October 7 with the Tokyo Central Court seeking 11 million yen ($98,000 USD) in damages. Both Ito and Yamaguchi were present at the filing. Ito’s father also attended the filing to support his daughter. The court will deliberate and hand out a ruling on December 18.
A group was established earlier this year to help Ito put together her lawsuit. The group is called “Open the Black Box” after Ito’s 2017 book “Black Box” (ブラックボックス).
After filing the lawsuit, Ito spoke to a gathering of supporters outside the House of Councilors:
“I don’t know yet what the result will be, but I’d like everyone to see this small progress as the key towardsrealizing what support is needed for future legislation.”
A Voice of Hope for Victims
After she went public with her sexual assault, Ito made it her mission to support victims of sexual assault and challenge Japan’s perspective on rape. As a result, Ito is a beacon of hope for justice and change.
Last month in Tokyo, Ito, along with #KuToo founder Ishikawa Yumi, participated in a monthly “Flower Demo” protesting the mishandling of sexual crimes. Roughly 200 supporters attended and listened to speeches by both Ishikawa and Ito.
Ito made her speech dressed in the very outfit she wore on the night of her assault — black pants, a black shirt, and a pale white cardigan. Ito shared her thoughts on consent and ended with the words, “It’s not consent, no matter what you wear.”
Japan has a morbid track record handling sexual assault cases. The outrage and disgust when idol Yamaguchi Mato faced pressure from her company to apologize for her own assault highlight the kind of treatment sexual assault victims face. The dismissal of a series of high-profile sexual assault cases earlier this year prompted people to call Japan a “rape paradise” (強姦天国). Ito’s treatment by the media is not out of the norm, unfortunately.
Yet Ito continues to hope and work. On October 7, a supporter asked Ito how to support victims of sexual violence. Ito responded,
“I hope that victims of sexual violence will receive words of encouragement and messages like “You’re not the only one” so that the world can understand them.”