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Japanese Culture/Women in Japanese politics


Hi Phillip,

I am a contributor to Following the election of a female president in South Korea this month, I am interested in finding out more about the possibility of a female politician becoming Prime Minister of Japan in the next several years.

Is the idea of a woman being head of the government compatible with the traditional gender roles of Japanese culture? If it isn't compatible, would you say that traditional gender roles still resonate powerfully enough in modern Japanese society to prevent a woman becoming prime minister?

And lastly, could you point to any women involved in Japanese politics right now that are likely to be a strong candidate for the premiership in the next several years? If none come to mind, do you think the election of a female president in neighbouring South Korea will be encouraging for female Japanese, not just in politics, but in many jobs with a high career ladder?

I would really appreciate if you could share your insight. I hope you had a good Christmas and I wish you an enjoyable New Year's celebration.

Aaron Mc Nicholas

Hello Aaron,
This is a very interesting question that I will answer gladly, although I am nog an expert in politics, let alone Japanese politics.
The idea of a woman being head of government is of course not compatible with the traditional gender roles of Japanese culture. The answer is almost enclosed in the question. This is because of the strong masculine society with strong division of roles. I refer to the research of Professor Hofstede on cultural differences.
However, the idea of a black or female president in the USA was something nobody thought about until it happened. So it will be possible someday. In fact, the Japanese government changes very often these days. I think this is because of a lack of leadership and differences between the parties. Maybe also because of a lack of understanding or interest in the democratic voting system (this is a rather young concept for Japan and has been riddled with old world feudal interests in the beginning to undermine public trust). If someone would stand up with great charismatic powers, I am sure there could be a big change in Japanese politics. If that happens to be a woman, then you will see it happen.
At this moment I don't know any female politicians, so I couldn't tell you who would be a candidate. I know there is a woman in the new cabinet formed by the LDP who was in the news because she cut her hair shorter because her party had one.
I can imagine women are encouraged because of something like this happening in South Korea because the two countries are in close contact with each other.
Thanks for such an interesting question. Please consider that the answer is from someone who is not Japanese, spends little time there, and is no expert in politics.

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Philip Lafeber


Are you doing business with the Japanese? Do you wonder how to approach them, what to do and what not to do? I am happy to provide some advice.


I have worked for a Japanese company for 6 years and taught myself how to work with the Japanese and also some of the Japanese language. Also, my wife is Japanese, which is why I have also learnt about Japanese in private life.

None. All based on experience.

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