Beauty and Vulnerability

By tomolennon, 11/15/2008

Text by Kikuko Hirayama  Editor of the Nikka Times

In Japan, when a school girl, especially a high-schooler, is mentioned in a conversation, sexuality is often implied in the words. If you googled “Joshi-Kou-Sei” (high school girls), many of the search results would be pornographic in nature.

This phenomenon was first recognized in the 1980s, decades before Brittany, Christina or even Sailor Moon, when a group of high school girls appeared on Japan’s national television. They were not trained as singers or dancers. They were just regular high school girls who went to school every day and wrote exams. As a junior high girl back then, I remember singing their songs with my friends as we walked home after school. One of their hit songs, which reached the top of the charts in 1985, went on about sexually seducing a teacher so you can “pass” the exam. The other popular song was about a school girl who is considering giving up her virginity. If you thought Japanese girls were innocent and quiet, you might want to think again.

Through those girls on TV, people learned to idolize “regular” girls. Their school uniform became the most sought after sexual objects. While some girls took advantage of this “to liberate” themselves, the majority of girls became even more vulnerable to perverted eyes. According to Statistics Japan, the numbers of sexual indecencies known to police were 11,864 in 2005, which had doubled from 5,920 in 1985. This dramatic increase in number is partly because “groping” in the public transit system came to be treated as a criminal offence in recent years.

Commuter trains in Japan are nothing like the ones in Canada. In Metropolitan Tokyo, 27.4 million people use public transit every day. Compare this to the 1.5 million who commute by riding the TTC and you have a glimpse of how dense it is in Tokyo. In this extreme situation, it is not surprising that groping is, like Tomori Nagamoto says in his statement, one of the most common problems that girls and women suffer in Japan.

Even though groping has been talked about for a long time, in a hush-hush way, it has only been recognized as a serious offence in recent years. In the early 2000s, some transit companies introduced “Women Only Car” to prevent groping. Some people criticized this as “moving backward” in terms of feminism, but at the present time, it seems to be the only way to protect girls and women from being the victims of sexual offences in the transit systems.

Women, in every part of the world, are vulnerable to a society dominated by men. Even though great women before us have fought for equality, sometimes we take a few steps backwards to shelter ourselves with such things as “women only” cars. I can only speak about these things through my experiences in Japan but women, especially young girls, are too naïve when it comes to protecting themselves. Sometimes, I wonder if girls wish to stay as naïve as they are so they don’t bump into the very things that are trying to push them back.

Like girls and women in Japan, our beloved Sakura is most vulnerable at the peak of its beauty. Even the most gentle spring breeze can scatter the petals but Sakura never lets anyone stop from being strong again. Bitterness comes every so often now and again but when their time comes, Sakura is back to its beauty again.