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COD deliveries target 'women who speak up'; assemblywoman files criminal complaint

The 16 bras sent to the office of Kitakyushu Municipal Assemblywoman Satoko Murakami in June 2018. (Photo courtesy of Satoko Murakami)

TOKYO -- Amid a rash of mysterious cash-on-delivery packages sent to a female assemblywoman, lawyers and citizen activist, one victim has filed a criminal complaint for fraudulent obstruction of business, charging that the deliveries are designed to harass "women who speak up."

The "Yamaguchi" postmark on the mail order postcard that was with the items sent to the deputy secretary general of constitutional activist group member Nahoko Hishiyama. (Photo courtesy of Nahoko Hishiyama)

Between June and the end of October this year, Satoko Murakami, a member of the Kitakyushu Municipal Assembly in southern Japan's Fukuoka Prefecture, received a total of 10 COD packages at her office. The first contained 16 bras worth some 30,000 yen, and an office staffer paid for the items without knowing the situation. However, vegetable juice, health foods and other items that no one remembered ordering continued to arrive, and the office began refusing the deliveries. There was no message attached to any of the packages.

When Murakami inquired about the items to the sellers, they all said that the orders had been made via postcards often attached to fliers and newspaper advertisements. The orders were in Murakami's name, though the customer birthdate listed on the forms was incorrect and all of the items were postmarked from "Yamaguchi."

Murakami believes the strange deliveries are a reaction to her taking on the role of moderator at an April lecture by former Vice Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Kihei Maekawa. The lecture was backed by the Kitakyushu Municipal Board of Education, and a newspaper ran a story about the event with the headline, "Kitakyushu board of education's 'neutrality' questionable."

The articles spread across the internet. Murakami's Twitter account was bombarded with messages liked "Quit your post as assemblywoman," and the city assembly telephone reception was flooded with complaints. In May, two threatening letters telling her to "die" also arrived at her office. It was immediately after these incidents that the strange deliveries began.

In June, Murakami filed a report with the Fukuoka Prefectural Police's Yahatanishi Police Station, stating those deliveries constitute intimidation and fraudulent obstruction of business. When she tweeted about her experience, she received replies from people all around Japan who said they had experienced the same thing.

Lawyer Hiroko Kotaki of the Tokyo Bar Association received several dozen similar packages starting in January 2017 at the latest. Koutaki had represented plaintiffs in lawsuits including ones demanding compensation from the operators of the website "Hoshu Sokuho (conservative newsflash)," which had gathered and summarized discriminatory remarks against her.

The packages were also delivered to Kanagawa Prefectural Bar Association lawyer Keiko Ota, who is known for her work on constitutional issues and women's rights. In the last two years, she has received five such deliveries.

Nahoko Hishiyama, deputy secretary general of "Yurusu na! Kenpo Kaiaku Shimin Renrakukai" (We won't allow it! Citizens network against detrimental constitutional change), had a total of some 8,000 yen worth of cosmetics sent to her office COD over three consecutive days in September, and another package of beauty products worth 2,592 yen arrived on Dec. 26.

A number of mail order companies were used in the incidents, but in Ota's and Hishiyama's cases, as far as could be confirmed, all of the orders were made using a postcard with a "Yamaguchi" postmark. According to Japan Post, the "Yamaguchi" postmark is used for items that go through post offices in the western Japan prefecture of Yamaguchi, and all of the postcards appear to have originated there.

"This is an attack on women who actively publicize their political opinions," said Murakami. "I would like to gather together all of the victims and get to the bottom of this."

(Japanese original by Satoko Nakagawa, General Digital News Center)

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