Sunday March 8th was International Women’s Day (IWD), but I’m sure there were many women who, unfortunately, didn’t take much time out to reflect on this holiday. According to a website dedicated to keeping the tradition of the day “alive and growing,” internationalwomensday.com, IWD has been celebrated since the early 1900s. It aims to “inspire women and celebrate achievements,” and encourages support from not only women and men, but also global corporations who want in on the special day. The site also notes that the “tone and nature of IWD has… moved from being a reminder about the negatives to [being] a celebration of the positives,” a powerful view reversal that great movements would do good to follow.
This study abroad blogger was asked to scout out and participate in an event that marks this commemorative day in Japan. Sadly, Japan is not one of the few countries that takes great strides in making the occasion known, and thus there was only one event in Tokyo of note: a fundraising event in Shibuya hosted by two groups called FEW (For Empowering Women in Japan, a women’s networking group) and Lighthouse (Lighthouse: Center for Human Trafficking Victims, which focuses on human trafficking and modern day slavery in Japan). The event was an evening of musicians, poets and speakers using art and words to celebrate IWD and Japanese women.
What sounded like a fun, inspiring and absolutely perfect night, took place on Sunday from 7:00-10:00pm, a time that, unfortunately, conflicts with the restrictions put upon young women like myself residing in a dorm. This very fact brought me, on Sunday night, to reflect on the concept of restricted Japanese dorm hours, a typical safety rule for Japanese dorms, which only applies to females. As an American woman experiencing a new culture, a new belief system, and a new way of doing things in Japan, I was of course a little disappointed with the 11:00pm closing time that all residents were expected to meet — we would get locked out from 11:00pm until 6:00am if we couldn’t make it back through the sliding doors in time. The 11:00pm closing time is reasonable, but as our Temple tour guide on our first day at the dorm sympathetically noted, it restricts women’s activity while still enforcing a sense of protection.
Japan’s women are very different from the women of other backgrounds and other cultures, but they are still lacking a great amount of freedoms, just like many women in America and around the world are, even in modern times — the freedom to express themselves without harsh judgment from society, the freedom to lead beautiful lives without objectification, abuse, attacks…
Yet, in keeping with what IWD’s website notes, it is more important to look at how far women have come; in Japan, much has changed for the better. I hope that organizations like FEW can continue to support women in their personal and professional goals, and can keep International Women’s Day a celebration that more and more people each year will recognize and take action to commemorate.