#MeToo: the turn of Japanese cinema

The big heads of Japanese cinema are falling one by one, overwhelmed in turn by the #MeToo wave. Five years after the beginnings of the French and American movements, it is Japan’s turn to lift the veil on its discreet and mysterious film industry.

IThere are waves that sweep away everything in their path. This took a long time but finally spread to the land of the Rising Sun: Japan is finally overtaken by the #MeToo movement. Bad student in the Gender Equality Ranking – the country ranks 120th in the world out of 153and appears to be the red lantern of the members of the G7 – no sector is now spared, even the most elitist.

The world of Japanese cinema, very discreet since the scandals that undermined its Western neighbors, is therefore shaken in turn by accusations of harassment and serial sexual assault. Better late than never.

Sexual favors “in exchange for roles”

Latest: in March, the Japanese magazine Shukan Bunshun, relayed by Courrier Internationalrevealed that actor and director Hideo Sakaki was accused of raping four women. He denied any constraint, arguing that the reports were consented. But his wife, singer Izumi Sakakia, immediately apologized to the victims and filed for divorce. Coincidence? The director’s new film, Confession, tells the story of a young woman raped by her stepfather… Production of the film immediately stopped.

But the actor is not the only culprit. His colleague and friend Houka Kinoshita is also accused of rape by three actresses. The latter announced that he was putting his career “on hold for an indefinite time”… There is still another case, this time concerning the director Sion Sono, accused on April 4 of sexual blackmail: he would have “demanded sexual favors from the share of actresses in exchange for roles in his films”. Sex for a role, like deja vu

Faced with these accusations, the omerta breaks little by little and testimonies flow in, carried by the wave. It is necessary to measure the extent of these revelations in a country like Japan, where the most total omerta reigns. Among the accusers who have bravely decided to speak out is actress Kiko Mizuhara, seen in the film The Ballad of the Impossible (2011), based on the book by Haruki Murakami, and Aristocrats, released in March latest.

A system of structural violence

A true star in Japan, she testified to her working conditions in the pages of the weekly Shukan Bunshun : “countless times, I have been sexually and verbally harassed by male directorsand I had unpleasant experiences on set.”

How to explain all these cases of sexual violence in the Japanese film industry? Beyond the culture of rape – which definitely has no borders – and a well-established patriarchal system, Japanese cinema has the particularity ofhire a lot of freelance workers, and therefore precarious.

On the same subject ⋙ “We always reward rapists”: why Adèle Haenel chose to move away from the cinema

An ejection seat that promotes structural violence according to Saori, head of an association working to protect women in the sector, quoted by Madmoizelle: “The problem is not limited to directors. It is not uncommon for light managers or props men to be guilty of moral harassment or sexual assault against people who are subordinate to them.

“Eradicate Bad Morals”

Now that the facts are known, what to do? Shake the rest of the basket! It is in any case the battle cry of the Japanese director Hirokazu Kore-eda, Palme d’Or at Cannes for his film A family affair (2018). The latter calls today for drastically revisit the industry : “We have the responsibility to eradicate the bad morals on which we turn a blind eye and to ensure that all the actors and all the staff can work in complete safety. We will reflect on the actions necessary to achieve this goal!”

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Among the solutions within the reach of professionals, call on intimacy coordinators. In Occident, those intimacy coordinators are frequently called upon to supervise intimate, love and sex scenes during filming. On the other hand, they are still struggling to establish themselves in Japan. Will this measure be enough?


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#MeToo: the turn of Japanese cinema