Category:  Forum on Labor, Social Policy, and Gender

“To Make a Square Society Round through Triangle Rakugo, Part2,” a Rakugo (storytelling) Oral Presentation and Workshop was organized by NPO Participation Planet on February 27, 2014.

Senkin Tei Ataisenkin talked about the “gender equality through fun and easy-to-understand form of storytelling known as Rakugo at Tsunagaretto NAGOYA, making this the second time that a Rakugo Oral Presentation and Workshop had been held.

Senkin Tei Ataisenkin was originally a staff of Saitama Tsurugashima City Office. During his tenure at the community center, he has organized courses and events dealing with the topic of natural environment, home education, stage entertainment, community welfare and development to education courses for the elderly and planning business projects. He is a unique oral performer, who says that having chosen separate surnames when he got married further enhanced his interest in gender equality.

On this day, with lively musical accompaniment flowing in the Rakugo Hall, Ataisenkin appeared in the lounge where the workshop participants waited. The topic at this time was media literacy.” Through comical storytelling, he talked about how expressions and films exposed in media frequently imply ideas such as “men should be this way,” “women should act that way,” “men should be leaders,” and “it’s natural for women to be supportive.” He also pointed out how natural these nuances get imprinted in the viewers’ consciousness.

However, Senkin Tei Ataisenkin added that the media is describing “a man and a woman” in general and not “how a man or a woman should be” so it is import for us to empower ourselves with the ability to decipher the difference.

While laughing and being drawn into the story, the participants became aware that our lives are in fact controlled by silent compelling force. It is the aim of Senkin Tei Ataisenkin to emphasize the importance of knowing these facts as well as stressing the fact that a chance to participate in planning or participating equally in joint activities is the right for both man and woman.

During the workshop the participants got in pairs and talked about the daily problems they face, the pain they incur, how our society is neglecting gender equality, and how the situation can be improved.

In addition, Senkin Tei Ataisenkin renamed the hit song of the 1990s sang by Airi Hiramatsu titled, My Room, White Shirt and Me to Me, My Room and White Shirt and changed some of the wording to make it into a parody. He used his real name of Shinichi Sakamoto as the composer of the changed lyrics which are pointed out as follows.

1)   I have a request, my last name will be same as yours” “There’s an exception, I will not change my family name to yours”

2)   “Please discuss it with me first and I can be content anywhere if I’m with you “Please discuss it with me later and I will go ahead and decide my own destination

And so on. He sang with passion, reciting the lyrics rich in humor. On top of his great singing, his lyrics depicted the current situation of men and women in a society where the issue of equal participation of men and women is currently in progress.

After he had gotten the audience all excited, many participants with a big smile voiced out their wish to participate in more of these fun events.

Senkin Tei Ataisenkin says “This type of story is unnecessary to tell in a society where men and women have equal participation,” which made us feel anxious about the big problem the Japanese society of today is facing.
By Setsuko Nakamura

Translated and adapted by M. Doioka from Japanese website: http://wan.or.jp/group/?p=3213


What’s New on WAN’s Website as of March 21, 2014

Book Review

Life Counseling on Every Issue for Senior Living Alone
Written by Keiko Higuchi
Published in January 2014 by Shufunotomo

Book Review

Pro-choice Society: Current Trends in Prenatal Screening
Written by Ritsuko Sakai
Published in December 2013 by NHK Publishing


A Play Entitled “A Community Story: Caregiver and Caregiving”

Venue: Setagaya Public Theater / Theater Tram
Dates: March 22 and 23
Admission Free


Performance Film Exhibition of Two Artists “Voice Story”
Artist: Chikako Yamashiro and Liu Lusha
Venue: Koganei Art Spot Chateau, 2F
Exhibition Period: March 6 (Thur.) – 22 (Sat.), 2014
Admission Fee: 500 yen

Review of Chieko Yamagami's Documentary, Against the Wind: Herstory of a Female Doctor’s Life in a Village
Reviewed by Natsuko Nakamura

Blog Entry by Chizuko Ueno

The Inappropriate Cancellation of a Lecture by the Mayor of Yamanashi

Posted by Naoko Uchibori


Would the Abe Administration Like to Utilize Women? ---Chizuko’s Blog No. 62

A reporter from the political desk in the Asahi Shinbun interviewed me about “the utilization of women” by the Abe administration. Maybe it was my first interview with a political desk.


Most of the comments in the articles on “the utilization of women” are made by female managers or entrepreneurs. This issue influences these women directly.


I just wondered why they don’t ask female part-time workers and temporary workers. So I asked the reporter, and he said, “Now that you mention it, it makes me wonder too.”


He told me that the business news desk dealt with it because it was a labor issue. The newspaper company seems vertically divided like the administrative functions.


But the political desks should also discuss the government’s policies. Their policies include labor and welfare policies. If they don’t examine the issues and just write what politicians say, they should be called “the politicians’ desks” or “the government’s desks.”

I heard that the government is monitoring the mass media, but they didn’t complain about my comment. I guess that’s because the comment reflects nothing but the reality.



Abe Considers Women as the “Convenient Workforce”


Prime Minister Abe intends to “utilize women” in the workforce. But he aims to take advantage of them conveniently and actually shows no respect for women’s rights. With the overall workforce running short because of the declining birthrate, women are the last resource the government can use. Abe’s method of “utilizing women” is to force women who are capable of doing so to work as hard as a man, while those who are family-oriented are employed as temporary workers and then thrown away like disposable items.


The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women in the UN has long been recommending the Japanese government to let couples have separate surnames and to eliminate the discrimination against illegitimate children. However, the LDP has neglected this. In particular, the Abe administration is one of the most rightist governments that Japan has ever had. It asserts firmly that “a family is the foundation of the nation.” They railroaded the Act on the Protection of Specially Designated Secrets. This fact seems to show that the LDP is getting even less and less liberal.


Abe advocates the amendment of the Public Office Election Act to raise the proportion of female lawmakers in the Diet, but it can only be achieved if more women run  office. Why can he tell companies to name more women to be executives when he is reluctant to make such little effort himself?

Original Article Written by Chizuko Ueno (http://wan.or.jp/ueno/?p=3734)
Tranlated by N. Tajima


Book Review for “ECCE HOMO -- Essay on Men”

THERMAE ROMAE “ is a blockbuster Japanese comic series which connects Ancient Rome and contemporary Japan through bathing culture.

Mari Yamazaki, author of the series, talks in depth about cool guys of all ages and cultures and their extraordinary skills and fertile visions, from Hadrian and Raphael to Kobo Abe and Steve Jobs. All of them are cosmopolitan men who defied the established ways of doing things and opened up new dimensions. The lives of these men evoke the image of Yamazaki’s own life in which she went to Italy at the age of 17 and has traveled around the world since.

One of the best things we can learn from this book might be the suggestions of how we ourselves can lay a path to a new age; how every one of us can “sow seeds of renaissance,” as Yamazaki tells us while shaking up Japan’s introverted and passive mentality. 

This is a powerful book, which would give a good kick up the backside to women who want to live a more ambitious life and also to men who want to come out of their shells.

Original article written by Nanami Torishima, the editor (http://wan.or.jp/book/?p=7595)
Translated by A. Tawara

Book Review of “The 19th Century for Girls – From the Little Mermaid to Alice in Wonderland”

The Little Mermaid Was Dressed in Men’s Clothing!

I was amazed to learn that the Little Mermaid dressed like a man – a fact which Akiko Waki points out in her book “The 19th Century for Girls – From the Little Mermaid to Alice in Wonderland.”

This led me to open “The Andersen’s Fairy Tales” from Iwanami Paperbook Libray (translated Suekichi Ohata). The Little Mermaid fell in love with the Prince and came to the human world, and there it says, “The Prince had them tailor men’s clothes for the Mermaid and had her accompany him when he went for an excursion on a horse. The two of them went through a fragrant forest.”

On the other hand, according to Waki, the same place in The Collected Works of World Literature for Children (translated by Hiroto Hirabayashi) version says, “The Prince made a saddle so that he could ride on a horse with the Mermaid. The two of them went through a fragrant forest.” In the original Danish version, the Mermaid is dressed in men’s clothes.

Waki notes the difference in her book. “The Hirabayashi version means that the Memaid in her feminine clothes is riding double on a horse with the Prince. In contrast, if the Prince ‘had them tailor men’s clothes for her,’ it means she was riding on a different horse and accompanying him like an attendant. This difference cannot be overlooked.”

Once we have learned that the Little Mermaid was dressed like a man, a completely different -- active and hermaphrodite – image of “Mermaid” from the traditional one comes up. When we focus on the “men’s clothes,” the teary ending of the tale could possibly be interpreted in another way.

Original article written by lita (wan.or.jp/book/?cat=1)
Translated by A. Tawara


“A Girl’s Life of One Hundred Years” by Mine Yagi

A person’s life has a distinct story. As the personal life belongs only to that person, at the same time, we can see the deep in-rooted history and the broad world.

Listening to a radio program Rajio Shinyabin (Midnight Radio Letter) which introduced the topic of “Story about Moms”, I was driven by desire to read the book “Hyakunen Mae no Shoujo (A Girl’s Life of One Hundred Years)” (Kodansha) written by Yumi Funabiki,

The book is a story about a girl named Tei Terasaki. The author is a freelance editor who used to serve as an editor for “Taiyo” magazine since its first edition. When she published the book, her mother Tei had just turned 100 years old. Although her mother had never talked about her personal history to her daughter before, she had burst out talking about her personal story after reaching the age of 88. The author’s lively description of her mother’s childhood life style in a village is a superb ethnological record of a Japanese village of the time that was so common everywhere in Japan.

Tei was a baby “born on a day when lightening had struck” in a village of Joshu, now Gunma prefecture, mother’s hometown where Tei was delivered. After merely a month, Tei was sent back home from her mother’s parents’ house alone with a small package of baby clothes and diapers, Tei’s grandmother on her father’s side was an extraordinarily competent woman who was able to do all the household work perfectly as well as farming and weaving. Being overwhelmed by her competence, Tei’s mother refused to return to the in-law’s house, saying “I can’t possibly do anything like her, however hard I may try.” Tei had never seen her mom ever since. Her mother’s name was never mentioned in this book. Tei’s grandmother, Yasu, ran around the village asking for breast milk to feed her granddaughter.

Several years later, her father got remarried to a women who accepted his proposal under the condition that Tei be sent out for adoption. Tei, at the age of five, was ordered around to do things such as water drawing and kitchen work by her foster parents who told her, “You are big enough to do these chores.” When her father could no longer put up seeing her in such a situation, he brought her home on the condition that she would leave home when she finished school. Tei had returned at last to the care of her loving grandma she had missed so much.

After graduating from Ashikaga Girls’ School, she left home for Tokyo alone at the age of 16. She continued to study at night school while working and eventually graduated from school, now called Shin Watado Bunka Gakuen. She started working at the YWCA and got deeply involved in Social Christian Movement, where she met a guy who would be her husband.

While she raised five children, the period of 100 years, marked by Meiji, Taisho, and Showa eras, have passed. It is also quite intriguing to read the Terasaki Family’s sequel episodes.

Suddenly Tei’s story rang a bell. Oh, I know someone like her! It’s a story of a girl’s life of 60 years. The girl’s name, this time, is Midori, a cousin of mine on my father’s side. Her personal life story is exactly the same as Tei’s, which struck me.

Midori’s mother also did not return to her in-laws’ house after spending fifty days with her baby after giving birth at her hometown. Just like Yasu, Midori’s grandmother was a very capable, strong woman, who could handle any type of work. Being unable to get along with her mother-in-law, Midori’s mother left her behind and chose the life of her own.

After graduating from high school, Midori left her homeland, Kumamoto and got a job in Osaka. Although she got married, she had tolerated with her husband’s domestic violence for years until she was able to leave him and afterwards, her husband passed away. As a single mother, she worked in Kumamoto to raise two boys doing various jobs.

One day, out of the blue, one of her sons engaged in ODA’s public construction project in Algeria called her, saying, “Mom, I found a nice house on the Internet for you. What do you think?”

While I was visiting my hometown in Kumamoto, I was asked by her to help out on this matter. She said, “I just don’t know how to handle it. Help me, please!”

Then I got involved in the negotiations about the house on behalf of her. E-mails flew back and forth among the real estate agent in Kumamoto, her son in Algeria, and myself in Kyoto. And finally, as she wished, a deal of the old small house had been done and I stood beside her while the contract was being signed.

After all those days and years, she is now living a very peaceful life, watching over her garden that is full of sunshine and currently filled with scent emitting from the pink plum blossoms. I am quite thankful to her for paying occasional visits to my mother who also lives alone in Kumamoto whenever she has time from work.

People’s lives, women’s lives, they are so diverse, But when they die, everyone is equal. It all balances out in the end.

Seeing a sign of ominous change in Japanese society nowadays, I feel I have to be ready for the coming era. How many years are left until I become 100 years old?  I do wish I would be able to weave “y own original story” without taking my eyes off this transition of the time.

Original Article on the WAN Website: http://wan.or.jp/reading/?p=13014
Translated and Adapted by Yoko Hayami