20.02.2021 Author: Vladimir Terehov

“Do Women Talk Too Much?” or a Scandal at the Japanese Olympic Committee


A recent comment made by head of Tokyo Olympics organizing committee Yoshiro Mori sparked a political uproar, seemingly disproportionate in scale, which was eventually followed by his punishment that did not fit the crime. It is worth highlighting that once the chief was forced to resign on February 12, the scandal continued to unfold at the same pace for a few more days.

Clearly, the mastermind behind the embarrassing spectacle was not satisfied with the extent of suffering inflicted on the victim. Even nowadays, reports expressing emotions ranging in intensity about the “sexist remarks” scandal at the Japanese Olympic Committee continue to dominate the front pages of the nation’s leading newspapers. It would seem that there are no other more pressing problems facing one of the key players in the current stage of the Global Chess Game.

There has indeed been a disproportionate reaction to Yoshiro Mori’s comments as mentioned before. In fact, this is a one of the main elements as well as a useful tool in the global process of turning things on their head, which began three to four decades ago. It is characterized by accompanying actions that are highly unreasonable in nature as well punishments, of marked cruelty, inflicted on potential foes or even random individuals. All of this is meant to make one feel that it is absolutely pointless to rebel against the experiment being conducted on human beings world-wide.

Where do all these lectures on human rights originate from? Nowadays, they emerge from the territory of one of their biggest violators on the international stage.

The use of the aforementioned tools has resulted in the imprisonment for a 25-year term of an old, perhaps even senile, film mogul who was convicted of sexual assault and rape of women over a long period, and in the rise to fame of a teenage activist who has since become a participant in key international forums dedicated to highly challenging issues of climate change and ecology. Other changes along the same lines include legislation that attempts to ensure children’s rights are equal to those of parents and guardians, and treatment of animals on par with humans at times.

The feeling of being trapped in a mad house is overwhelming once you start looking at everything that has happened during the Japanese Olympic Committee (JOC) scandal. Blatantly sexist comments made by Yoshiro Mori at a JOC meeting on February 3, and then “leaked” to the media, immediately sparked an unprecedented uproar. The head of the committee made them in response to JOC’s policy of increasing the ratio of female directors. He said that since women talked too much, even in urgent cases, meetings would tend to drag on unless speaking time was restricted. Yoshiro Mori also said that women were competitive and as a result, whenever one raised her hand to speak, another would have something to say in response thus making the situation hopeless.

At this point, it would be apt to provide some additional information about the “instigator” of the scandal and the climate the comments were made in.

At 83 years of age, Yoshiro Mori is an experienced manager of large-scale and complex projects. At the start of the new millennium, he served as Prime Minister of Japan for a year, and before that he had held a number of powerful positions in the government and the Liberal-Democratic Party (LDP), as its long-standing member. In other words, Yoshiro Mori is quite capable of resolving any issues that could arise during the preparations and staging of the next summer Olympics games.

The upcoming event has proven to be not only a challenge for organizers but also a risky undertaking. Aside from the 2011 nuclear disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi plant (located not so far from Tokyo), the COVID-19 pandemic has also cast a dark shadow over the next Olympic Games. In fact, the 2020 event was rescheduled for 2021 on account of SARS-CoV-2, and nowadays its future hangs in the balance. In addition, the price tag of the Tokyo Olympics has been increasing.

When the current restrictions, first imposed on January 7, expanded 5 days later and scheduled to end some time in February, will actually be lifted has become a critically important issue. There is probably no need to elaborate on why the length of the state of emergency period has such a significant economic impact in this article, but those who need more information can visit the following website.

The politically correct initiative to increase the ratio of female directors at the JOC to 40 % began in such a climate. After Yoshiro Mori commented on the proposal (making a value judgement from the author’s point of view), which could have been discussed (“in a comprehensive manner”) outside of working hours, the former JOC head faced a huge deal of criticism.

Members of the government and LDP leadership immediately understood the possible negative consequences of the scandal. Aside from the fate of the Olympic Games, the outcomes of the upcoming general elections, scheduled for autumn 2021, were now also on the line. After some discussions, Yoshiro Mori chose not to step down from his post as JOC head and instead retracted his remarks and publicly apologized.

Apparently, the “instigator” of the scandal entertained the thought of resigning and of retiring to the countryside, where he could enjoy looking at Ikebanas and listening to frogs jump into an old pond, for a short period of time. In the end, however, Yoshiro Mori cast his doubts aside and decided to remain in his post as JOC chief. It seemed that a crisis was averted (although media outlets continued covering the story) and the Japanese leadership could breathe a collective sigh of relief.

However, the situation took a turn for the worse after an online petition demanding Yoshiro Mori’s resignation had almost collected its goal of 150,000 signatures and comments on the issue had been made by Toyota, a leading Olympic sponsor, on February 10. The reason why the company chose to get involved is quite clear. One of the major buyers of Toyota products is the United States, where the company has long been accused of engaging in anti-competitive practices. In fact, according to Donald Trump’s administration, the negative trade balance between the US and Japan, equivalent to approximately $70 billion per year, could have been a consequence of such practices.

In addition, the United States has been at the heart of the latest gender equality movement. Hence, Toyota, with its far from stellar reputation in the United States, would have put its earnings in the US market at risk if it had chosen to continue showing its support for the games organized by the JOC headed by a sexist man. The move by Japan’s leading company turned out to be the last straw after tough but fair criticism directed at Yoshiro Mori by fellow party members and the Prime Minister, and rebukes by feminists failed to have any real impact. And, unfortunately, there was no effective counter-move to be made even by an expert in East Asian martial arts.

It was after Toyota’s comments on the sexist remarks that Yoshiro Mori decided to resign from his post as head of JOC starting February 12. The recent developments are a good reason to discuss the topic of gender equality (a phrase that makes no sense in the author’s opinion), which is one of the key elements of the aforementioned process of turning things on their head.

Japan has recently become a popular destination for human rights advocates promoting gender equality. As a rule, they include cheerful, charming and ethnically diverse groups of women who visit private businesses among other locations. The leadership of such companies are usually busy with various business-related issues. And recently, there has been an increasing push to involve them not only in discussions on gender equality but also in initiatives to change these companies’ policies in line with new requirements. Naturally, this was never a priority for business leaders, a fact that ardent gender equality advocates also point out.

Although this situation may seem comical at first, it is in fact quite grim. After all, a key concern in modern Japan is the nation’s continuously falling birth rate, an issue that does not seem to be of any interest to the aforementioned activists. Surprisingly, this problem (which can be aptly described as an impending national crisis) has not been as popular a topic of discussions in media outlets as the JOC scandal over sexist remarks. The following article provides the latest take on this issue.

In the author’s opinion, it is never a good sign when opponents of misogyny and sexism find support within the LGBT community as so happened in the case of the aforementioned scandal (after Yoshiro Mori’s resignation). And what use are such advocates to gender rights activists? Still, in order to ensure the scandal continues to dominate the local headlines, even they will do.

Currently, there are ongoing discussions about a new candidate for the post of JOC head. And in the meantime, the future of the next summer Olympic games hangs in the balance.

Vladimir Terekhov, expert on the issues of the Asia-Pacific region, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook“.