March 22, 2023

Satoko Kishimoto is the first woman mayor of a city in Japan. In June 2022, she was elected the first female mayor of Suginami, Tokyo. Satoko, 48, a former environmental activist and democracy advocate, defeated the conservative incumbent by just 200 votes. As an independent candidate with no experience, this victory came as a surprise to all.

Satoko is one of only 3 female mayors in Tokyo’s 23 main districts

Ever since he was elected, he has vowed to challenge the country’s male-dominated politics. Satoko Kishimoto said, ‘This underrepresentation of women in politics should be recognized as a national crisis. Representation of women has remained almost the same for 75 years. It’s amazing!’

Japan is the world’s third largest economy. However, its position is very low in terms of gender gap index. According to a report published by the World Economic Forum in July last year, Japan ranks 116 out of 146 countries on the gender gap index.

Japan’s position is not very good among the G-7 countries on gender issues

The country has never had a woman prime minister. And there are only two women members in the current cabinet. Women who are in the country’s politics are constantly being subjected to sexual harassment and gender discrimination.

Satoko Kishimoto’s vehicle for office work is a bicycle. He commuted to the Suginami City Hall building by bicycle. This scene is somewhat unusual for Japanese politicians. The beginning of the work was not at all smooth for him.

“As a young woman (this job) is automatically difficult,” Satoko said. I am not a bureaucrat, nor am I a politician. But when I talk, people listen. But it is difficult to make people believe so easily.’ He basically means the male colleagues who work with him. In his own district, most of the senior political positions except the mayor are held by men. He said issues like climate change, diversity, gender equality have been challenged through the politics of the elderly and the club politics of the youth. It is a disappointment for him and his colleagues. He also said, ‘I really want to debate politics. But (much) time is wasted on criticism and personal attacks in the City Council.’

Much of this criticism is about Satoko’s gendered abilities

Although he has no relevant experience in these matters. He was abroad for a long time. He was in Europe for the last 20 years. Satoko Kishimoto frankly admits that she is an outsider. But that is his strength. He said, ‘I have something else. I have seen Japanese society from afar. International eyes have allowed Japan’s challenges to be seen objectively. But when I came here and worked for those changes, I was disappointed.

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