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Article listing Japan politicians' bizarre, sexist comments an online hit

An illustration of current Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Taro Aso, along with his Feb. 3, 2019 statement, "There are lots of people who say weird things about how elderly people are the bad guys, but that's wrong. The real problem is people who haven't had children," as seen in Tomomi Kusakabe's "Politicians' careless remarks timeline: gender edition" online article.

TOKYO -- An article cataloguing politicians' careless and hurtful comments on gender going back to 2000 is proving an internet sensation, with more than 90,000 hits since Meiji University student Tomomi Kusakabe posted it on July 1.

"It's hard to tell these (comments) are a continuing pattern if you're just looking at periodic news reports. It's important to look at them over the long term," the 22-year-old said of the post, titled "Politicians' careless remarks timeline: gender edition."

Kusakabe has written for internet news outlets such as Huffington Post Japan on topics including the Middle East refugee crisis. He was prompted to pen the July post by former minister for the Olympics Yoshitaka Sakurada's declaration in May this year that he wanted Japanese women "to give birth to at least three children each" -- a comment that deeply angered Kusakabe's girlfriend.

"Everyone has an interest in gender issues, so I thought that it would be a good chance to have people learn about political issues," he said of the timeline piece.

Going over national lawmakers' comments on gender reported in newspaper articles and other sources back to the year 2000, Kusakabe found 25 real doozies uttered by a total of 25 politicians. Twenty-one of the comments were by members of the currently ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP).

An illustration of LDP lawmaker Mio Sugita alongside her Oct. 31, 2014 declaration, "Gender equality is an immoral fantasy that will never come true," in this image from Tomomi Kusakabe's "Politicians' careless remarks timeline: gender edition" online article.

In the timeline, each verbal gaffe is accompanied by an illustration of the offending lawmaker and a comment by Kusakabe. For example, then LDP House of Representatives lawmaker Seiichi Ota earned the moniker "Legendary gender comment gaffe shock corps chief" for his 2003 statement regarding a university gang rape case that "the gang rapists are still very energetic, so that's good."

Another entry goes to Hakuo Yanagisawa, who as health minister in an LDP-led government said in 2007, "The ages 15 to 50 are the period when women are to have children. 'The number of baby-making machines' is set. So we must have each and every person in that role do their utmost." Other legislators later made many comments to the same effect, leading Kusakabe to write that "all roads lead to Yanagisawa."

According to weekly magazine reports, during his now infamous trip to the Russian-controlled Northern Territories during which he suggested war might be necessary to secure their return to Japan, former Nippon Ishin (Japan Innovation Party) member Hodaka Maruyama also said, "I want to buy a woman." Kusakabe pointed out in Maruyama's timeline entry, "Prostitution is illegal in both Japan and Russia."

Kusakabe also emphasized that the politicians' gaffes "are not 'careless': they are their true feelings leaking out. I'm bothered by the way they blame women for Japan's low birthrate, and I think that misogyny is at the root of their thinking." Next, he is pondering a hate speech timeline.

(Japanese original by Hiromi Makino, Integrated Digital News Center)

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