Two Japanese women have sparked a lot of international interest this past weekend.
The first is Mizuho Fukushima, a Japanese politician and leader of the Social Democratic Party of Japan, who was fired from her Cabinet post by Japanese PM Hatoyama on Friday for openly protesting his decision on the Okinawa-Futenma US Base issue. My colleagues over at The Diplomat’s Tokyo Notes blog have been reporting on this very controversial topic and their thoughtful analysis can be found here.
So why am I mentioning it here? Well, I caught a short, but engaging interview with Fukushima from last year, on a very different issue, when she spoke to Tokyo Wrestling, a Japanese online lifestyle magazine, about her stance on gay marriage and reasons for attending Tokyo Pride 2009. Fukushima told the reporter: ‘I came (to Tokyo Pride) because I’d like to see society become a place where LGBTs can live happily too. In general, Japan and the national Diet are still conservative. But I believe happiness comes in many forms, and it’s my job to honour that.’
When asked how she takes action within her party to encourage this, she answered, ‘I work on advisory committees that tackle bullying in schools and enhancing counselling services. Also, I’d like to facilitate the ability of Japanese citizens to marry same-sex partners in other countries. I’m looking to achieve the things that are possible now.’
The interview ended with Fukushima looking directly into the camera with her message to TW’s readers: ‘Cherish that voice inside your own heart. Let’s work together to build a better society, so we can all live according to our unique and true selves.’
Over in the US, teen athlete and petite powerhouse Eri Yoshida, is single-handedly—pun intended—inspiring new international fans and drawing in worldwide media attention to her Golden League baseball team, the Chico Outlaws of California. The 18-year-old Japanese pitcher, popularly known as the ‘Knuckle Princess,’ or (‘Knuckle Hime’ in Japan), debuted her trademark sidearm knuckleball with her new team on Saturday. That this was the first time in a decade that a female has taken part in American pro-baseball is making it a much-hyped landmark event for both countries.
In a piece published in the Japan Times in 2008, Yoshida, who started baseball in grade two, was quoted saying, ‘I want to pitch against men.’
Now, her aspirations have come true, in a new country with a new team, and Yoshida already seems to be fitting in well. In another Japan Times article, published today, it’s noted that despite the other team members’ differences in language, background and gender, the overall feeling toward her is protectiveness and that: ‘She blends in well. She's just a ballplayer. They see her as a ballplayer, not as a girl.’
It’s nice to see these two women, from a country that doesn’t see many females in the professional arenas of baseball and politics, having the confidence to stick to their convictions and dreams—hopefully it will inspire more to follow their lead.