Meet the woman at the centre of the Tokyo Olympics gender row

It’s been widely flagged that by the end of this week Tokyo Olympic chief Yoshiro Mori will have resigned from his position after widespread condemnation of gender remarks he made about women making committee meetings too long.

Referring to his time as chairman of the Japanese Rugby Football Union, Mori had said: ‘Women have a strong sense of rivalry. If one raises her hand to speak, all the others feel the need to speak, too. Everyone ends up saying something.’

The Japan Times reported on Tuesday that the person against who the remarks were aimed was Yuko Inazawa, pictured, who became the first female board member of the Japan Rugby Football Union in 2013.

‘Instinctively I thought he was referring to me,’ the 62-year-old Inazawa said recently. She was the first female Japan Rugby Football Union board member when appointed in 2013 but is now one of five female board members. Mori served as JRFU president for 10 years through 2015 and then as honorary chairman until just months before the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan.

The 83-year-old Mori apologised a day after making the remarks, saying he retracted the comments but would not resign from the games post.

Tokyo Olympic chief Yoshiro Mori apologises to the media after his remarks

It has been widely speculated that Mori’s replacement will be Saburo Kawabuchi who the DAIMANI Journal profiled in December last year.  

Kawabuchi is currently the mayor of the Olympic Village but competed in the 1964 Olympics in the Japanese football team before playing the key role in the launch of the J.League in 1992.

Inazawa, who became a board member under Mori, recalled being one of the few on the board without detailed knowledge of the sport.

‘I think conferences dragged on as I was asking questions from my standpoint as an amateur,’ said Inazawa, an extraordinary professor at Showa Women's University. ‘But that is absolutely not the same thing as saying women make conferences drag on.’

The SCMP video report shows how Mori’s comments have escalated this past week

Inazawa commented on the laughter heard from meeting participants after Mori made his comment.

‘(In the past) I would have also been laughing along even if in my heart I felt it was wrong,’ she said. ‘If I spoke up, someone would say, “That woman again.” I would probably have tried to avoid that.’

But Inazawa said Mori did not show any discriminatory behaviour toward female board members during his time in charge.

‘Yet that comment came out and that's because there's an unconscious bias,’ she said, noting it's not an issue with Mori alone.

‘It's important for Japanese society to notice this deep-rooted prejudice and begin changing it.’

“I have been told that having more female directors has allowed for more engaging discussions,” Taniguchi said, also denying any rivalry amongst female directors.

Inazawa’s comments were echoed by Mayumi Taniguchi who joined the JRFU in 2019 and was named the director of the new league’s development office last year.

‘It’s like you’re listening to a tape from 10 or 20 years ago,’ she said of Mori’s generalisation of women.

Taniguchi said Mori was being tone deaf to an issue that the rest of the world is sensitive to.

She said she agreed to the interview because she did not want to ‘shrink back in fear out of concern for the women following in my footsteps.’

IOC President Thomas Bach’s New Year message: ‘What a Year 2020 has been!’
Author image
Charlie Charters is a former rugby union official and sports marketing executive turned thriller writer whose debut book Bolt Action was published by Hodder & Stoughton in 2010.
You've successfully subscribed to The DAIMANI Journal
Great! Next, complete checkout for full access to The DAIMANI Journal
Welcome back! You've successfully signed in.
Success! Your account is fully activated, you now have access to all content.