In this week’s news roundup we focus on sex crimes. A draft proposal to revise the penal code for sexual offenses was presented on Monday, but will it make a significant difference? We speak about the potential changes to Nobel Peace Prize nominee Catherine Jane Fisher, who was drugged and brutally raped at a parking lot near the Yokosuka Naval Base 20 years ago. The Australian, who founded Warriors Japan (women against rape) shortly after her ordeal in 2002, recently arrived back in the country after speaking at a UNHCR session in Geneva, Switzerland.  

Also this week we report on a father who escaped punishment despite sexually abusing his daughter for many years. Composer Hidekazu Tanaka is arrested for the attempted sexual assault of a minor, while a cram teacher in Osaka is taken into custody for soliciting prostitution from a high school student. There’s more bad news for Prime Minister Fumio Kishida as his economic revitalization minister resigns. Ibaraki’s governor labels the prefecture attractiveness list as “nonsense.” And in sport, we mourn the passing of former Japan international striker Masato Kudo.  

For the past 20 years Catherine Jane Fisher has been campaigning for the eradication of gender-based violence

Draft Proposes Raising Age of Consent

On Monday, the Justice Ministry released a draft of legal revisions intended to improve the handling of sex crimes. It cites eight cases that could be criminally punished under the category of forced sexual intercourse. This includes incidents of violence; intimidation; a lack of consent; intake of alcohol or drugs; giving no time to refuse and inciting fear. The draft also focuses on crimes involving children such as grooming and approaching kids via social media as well as raising the age of sexual consent from 13 to 16. Catherine Jane Fisher welcomes these changes, particularly regarding the age of consent, but feels the draft hasn’t gone far enough. 

“The government seems to be unaware of the major obstacles facing victims as communications between the frontline advocates (and authorities) is lacking,” she says. “Japan has a great opportunity to make reforms to atrocities (perpetrated) against victims. We must act now as time lost means lost lives.” Anna (full name withheld), an activist in minority rights in Japan agrees that the raising of the age of consent is the biggest positive to come out of the draft. “Although the changes are slow and by no means sufficient, I feel reassured to see a route leading towards justice,” she tells Tokyo Weekender. “I hope this revision is just the beginning of many more to come.” 

Abusive Father Saved from Prison Due to Statute of Limitations

A man in his 70s avoided a prison sentence on Monday despite admitting to sexually abusing his daughter. He confessed to committing indecent acts on the girl five or six times and raping her two or three times. The plaintiff claims the abuse began when she was in nursery school and occurred three or four times a week. This, she says, continued until she was in the second grade of junior high school. Hiroshima District Court, however, dismissed the lawsuit as the abuse took place more than two decades ago meaning the statute of limitations had expired. 

“I cannot understand it,” the plaintiff said at a press conference after the trial. “The physical and emotional damage caused by my own father’s sexual abuse is beyond description. It was realistically impossible for a child to sue a parent.” She added that the court “should not let him escape responsibility.” After speaking with a nonprofit organization, she filed the lawsuit in 2020. A year later, she was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The woman, who is in her 40s, told reporters, “We cannot eradicate sexual violence unless we have a society where a victim can speak out at any time.”  

PM Kishida suffered another blow this week as his economic revitalization minister resigned

Goto Named as New Economic Revitalization Minister

Daishiro Yamagiwa, the minister for economic revitalization, resigned on Monday due to allegations related to his ties with the Unification Church. The politician had been heavily criticized for failing to explain his links to the group. A picture of him posing with leader Hak Ja Han Moon, widow of the organization’s founder Sun Myung Moon, recently went viral. Speaking in parliament, he confirmed it was him in the photograph but his memory of it being taken was unclear. He also admitted to taking part in events held by the church. 

“I attended the church’s meetings several times and that provided credibility to the group. I deeply regret that,” Yamagiwa told reporters. Prime Minister Fumio Kishida accepted the minister’s resignation and announced Shigeyuki Goto as his replacement the following day. The former health minister assumed the post just three days before the proposed adoption of an economic package that will include measures to tackle soaring prices. “I think that we will still be able to draw up (an economic package) late this month as planned,” said the PM. 

Famous Composer Arrested for Sexual Assault

Game and anime composer Hidekazu Tanaka was arrested for the attempted sexual assault of a minor on Monday. According to The Mainichi, the 35-year-old musician called out to a teenage girl near a train station in Tokyo’s Meguro Ward on August 20. He then allegedly took her to a poorly lit area and attempted to assault her. The police say he first saw the victim at a different station and then boarded the same train to follow her. Tanaka’s best known for composing the opening song “Star!!” for The Idolmaster Cinderella Girls game. 

In other sex crime-related news, a cram schoolteacher in Osaka was taken into custody on Tuesday for soliciting prostitution from a high school student. Takahiro Watanabe, 48, allegedly got in contact with the girl via a social media site. She does not attend the cram school where he’s employed. According to the Sankei Shimbun, he paid her ¥23,000 for sex on April 22 even though he knew she was underage. The girl’s mother checked her daughter’s phone a few days later and then contacted the police. He’s reportedly committed similar acts with other minors.  

Hitachi Park in Ibraki, supposedly Japan’s second least attractive prefecture | COPYRIGHT (C) 2019 FAULA/SHUTTERSTOCK

Ibaraki Governor Dismisses Prefecture’s Low Attractiveness Ranking

Since the Brand Research Institute started publishing its list of most and least attractive prefectures in 2009, Ibaraki has finished bottom of the pile 11 out of 14 times. This year it climbed one place to 46th above Saga, yet Governor Kazuhiko Oigawa was in no mood to celebrate. “As a survey, it’s not very believable,” he said at a regular press conference on Tuesday. “The list is becoming purely for entertainment. It’s nonsense for local governments to rejoice or lament over the results and be left at their mercy.” 

While many surveys, like the aforementioned prefecture one, shouldn’t be taken too seriously, others can show some worrying trends. In September, nonprofit organization ReBit conducted an online questionnaire for sexual minorities in Japan aged between 12 and 34. The results came out this week. Just over 40 percent of all respondents said they’d thought about suicide in the past year. For those under 20, the number exceeded 48 percent, while one in seven said they’d actually attempted to kill themselves. More than 90 percent revealed that they couldn’t talk to their guardians about their sexuality.  

TELL Japan provides a suicide prevention hotline with English support at 03-5774-0992. Operating hours are subject to change. The Facebook page has up-to-date information.  There is also an online chat service.

Masato Kudo Dies Aged 32

Former Japan international Masato Kudo tragically passed away on October 21 following complications from brain surgery. He was just 32. The Tegevajaro Miyazaki striker began his career with Kashiwa Reysol, winning the J-League with the Chiba Prefecture club in 2011. He had stints in Major League Soccer (MLS) with Vancouver Whitecaps and in the A-League with Brisbane Roar. Charlie Austin held up Kudo’s jersey after he scored for the latter on Sunday. Tegevajaro Miyazaki president and CEO Keita Nimura described him as “a very successful player” who had “no arrogance and a great attitude.”

In other soccer news, Shunsuke Nakamura was given a standing ovation by a crowd of more than 20,000 as he played his last professional game for Yokohama FC. In Europe, Daichi Kamada scored his second Champions League goal as Eintracht Frankfurt beat Marseille 2-1. Junya Ito grabbed an 87th minute winner for Ligue 1 side Reims in their 2-1 victory over Auxerre. Ayase Ueda bagged a brace as Cercle Brugge battered Charleroi 4-1 in Belgium. Daizen Maeda’s goal helped Scottish champions Celtic defeat Hearts 4-3 while Yukinari Sugawara hit the net in the Netherlands for AZ Alkmaar in their 2-1 loss against Excelsior.