Megumi is a very ordinary young Japanese woman. From the top of her 22 years, by dint of traumatic experiences, which we do not talk about much here, she gradually realized the extent of sexism and patriarchy in Japan. Today, she has decided to share her story on Mr Japanization, the “ordinary” story of thousands of Japanese women that society struggles to hear. We have received his testimony with an open heart.
Mr Japanization: Hello Megumi, thank you for agreeing to testify. We know how taxing this exercise can be. Can you introduce yourself in a few words before sharing your terrible experience with us?
Megumi: I am an ordinary Japanese 22 years old. I have lived in Tokyo since I was little. In April of this year, I graduated in cinematography. I am a big fan of cinema. I immediately started working like most Japanese people, without taking a break. There is not much to say about me. I have a pretty ordinary life.
Mr J: Why did you decide to share your life story with our readers and the world today?
Megumi: In Japanese society, we rarely have the opportunity to express ourselves in general. This is especially true for issues of sexual harassment. People don’t want to hear that sort of thing. I only have two friends who know this story. This is the perfect opportunity to talk about it. I think people need to know what’s going on here. What a large number of young Japanese girls go through on trains, subways and society in general.
Mr J: Can you explain to us what exactly happened to you and when?
Megumi: The first times I was touched on the train, I vaguely remember it. I was a high school student. I was about 15 years old. I went to school every day on the metro. Every morning the line was particularly crowded. People are very close to each other, sometimes overwhelmed with each other. The first time, it was a man in his thirties, quite normal, who approached me and began to touch my buttocks discreetly. In my memory, I did not react. I was stuck there. Already when I was a child, I had heard that this could happen. But I did not imagine it! We suddenly come out of our childish naivety. It won’t take long for another man to stroke my buttocks in a similar situation, and another… Each time, I felt a great guilt which prevents you from reacting. I didn’t want people around me to know… I am only now beginning to understand why.
One day, when I was 18, I was taking the train to Enoshima, it wasn’t very crowded. I was just standing. Again, a perfectly normal man slowly approached me. Suddenly, he quickly put his hand between my thighs to try to touch my privacy! He did it like it was totally normal. A kind of game? I couldn’t even believe this could happen to me in front of everyone! We had passed a new course. Again, I was speechless, stuck in place, deeply embarrassed. I couldn’t say anything. I abruptly pulled away and took the next stop to change trains.
But the most traumatic experience happened this year, when I had just turned 22. I was leaving for the University in the heart of Tokyo. Like every day, I took the train. I was against the window, standing, looking out. I feel then that the train is more and more crowded, because the pressure of the people behind me is more and more strong. Indeed, it is common, at each stop, for people to crowd a little more into the train, which makes everyone back down. It is therefore often normal to be glued to other people. Usually nobody pays attention. At least that’s what I thought! The man behind me started to squeeze me against the windowcasually, placing his cock between my buttocks. He was pushing so hard that I couldn’t move. This is where the train stopped and the door in front of me opened. I could have run away, changed my schedule for the day, but no. I wanted to confront him. I got off the train for a moment to let the passengers out. I’ve watched it. He obviously had an erect penis. Also, the train was not that crowded. So I decided to get back on the train, and confront him, this abject man who nevertheless seemed totally normal: the salaryman par excellence. I stood in front of him to look at him angrily. But he avoided my gaze, without really trying to escape physically, as if I did not exist. He was pretending nothing had happened! I tried to tell him something. To take out everything I had on my guts. But I was unable to. Not that I was afraid of him. I was afraid of other people! From their gaze to them. From their reaction. What will they think of me? He just has to lie! He was older. He looked like a respectable worker. Maybe a father?
Mr J: On several occasions you wanted to express yourself in this type of situation, but you were blocked each time. Can you explain why it is so difficult to express yourself in Japanese society?
Megumi: I had a strong belief that the people on the train would not help me. It’s out of habit. The Japanese do not want to confront problems, especially others. They avoid confrontation and trouble. If I shout, people will focus on me only: I become THE problem for them! I would create trouble in their peaceful lives. That’s why I didn’t say anything, why so many victims don’t say anything. In Japan, every time there is a case of sexual harassment, or rape, people will say “she probably looked for it”. When I see the reactions on TV or on the internet, it’s always the woman’s fault: her clothes, her style, her age, … It is never the aggressor’s fault!
I have an anecdote on this subject. When I was 19, I worked in a very respectable bar and restaurant in Shinjuku. There were about ten of us working there. My boss was my father’s age. One day, in the kitchen, a utensil falls to the ground. I bend down to pick it up. There I feel a hand that holds my head and prevents me from getting up. He was my boss. Without saying anything, he held my head. I turned around. He said nothing and looked at me, his hand holding my head firmly. I forced myself out, shocked and confused, laughing nervously. But why did he do this? A few days later, the staff were invited to a dinner, with the boss. And, for some reason I don’t know, the conversation suddenly turned to sexual harassment. At the table, facing me and my female colleagues, everyone (except me) was agree that it was usually the fault of the women! too sexy, too attractive, too this, not enough that… Even my colleague, a woman, also agreed with this idea. I was deeply hurt. I had to bear the brunt of responsibility for all of my past sexual assaults. I was in shock that such stupidity was so common in my country. The boys even asked me very seriously: “If the bully is handsome, would you be okay with him touching you?” I was bowled over. This is one of the reasons why I want to live elsewhere today. Wearing a mask has become too difficult.
Mr J: It is indeed a very trying situation that one can hardly imagine. What is your general feeling about the situation of women in present-day Japanese society?
Megumi: I think most Japanese wouldn’t help me in such a situation. In Japan, feminists are non-existent. It is a tiny minority. And for those who would dare to claim feminism, they are insulted, man as woman. Feminists are changing mentalities, and that does not please anyone, especially not men who feel they are losing their privileges. And as they control society, they also control what to think. You cannot imagine what a society without feminism, without a struggle for our rights. The Japanese media generally support the thinking of men. On TV, the woman is described as an object of consumption in the service of the man. I often see articles in Japanese magazines on the way in which women should “win the hearts of men”, the way to be cute, to put on good makeup, to be beautiful to catch men’s hearts, how we should always accept and endure the behavior of men in all situations. One day, I was reading an article about the relationship of couples in 2018 in Japanese society. The article said that the woman should adapt to the desires of the man, and adapt to his desires, follow him in all situations. In 2018! It’s just mind blowing. If you could understand Japanese, you would see that this is our normalcy as Japanese women.
Today I am tired. I just want to go far. Every time I talk about feminism or women’s rights, I get so much hate in return. I feel like I am part of a minority in my own country. But I’m just a simple Japanese woman. I no longer have the strength to take everything upon myself. I just feel sad for my country. Things must change.
Interview in Tokyo by Mr Japanization in June 2018.
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