Black Box: The Memoir That Sparked Japan’s #MeToo Movement

Background with repeated text of #MeToo
Black Box
The internationally recognized sexual assault memoir that revolutionized a feminist movement around rape, stigma, and silence in Japan. In 2015, an aspiring young journalist named Shiori Ito charged prominent reporter Noriyuki Yamaguchi with rape. After meeting up for drinks and networking, Ito remembers regaining consciousness in a hotel room whilst being assaulted. But when she went to the police, Ito was told that her case was a "black box"—untouchable and unprosecutable. Upon publication in 2017,…

It feels tone deaf to review and rate a memoir, particularly one based on such traumatic experiences – I have no place to judge the lived experiences of someone else. So while this is not a full review, I did want to make sure I give space and voice to this powerful story from Japanese journalist Shiori Itō, especially given the struggles that led her to publish this work in the first place.

I had been told by the prosecutor in charge of my case that, because the assault occurred behind closed doors, the incident was a ‘black box.’ 

In the days and months and years since then, as one of the parties involved and as a journalist, I have focused my efforts on how to shine light into this black box.

Black Box: The Memoir That Sparked Japan’s #MeToo Movement was originally published in Japan in 2017. Since then, Itō’s story and civil case has gained extensive international coverage. In her memoir, Itō not only tells her story of being raped by an influential colleague but also, using her journalist finesse, explains the context of rape and quasi-rape in the Japanese legal system. By doing so, she not only brings light to her case but also surfaces the longstanding misogyny and perpetrator protectionism that hindered justice for countless victims of sexual harassment. 

My father’s words reminded me of something that one of the police officers had said: ‘It isn’t convincing unless you cry more, or get angry. You’ve got to act like a  victim.’

 Itō provides the jarring reminder that even when we feel safe in our daily lives, there is data to suggest otherwise. In a particularly memorable passage, she writes:

I saw these survey results on Asa-ichi, a morning show on NHK (the Japan Broadcasting Corporation):

“Things That Lead You to Think That the Other Person Consents to Sex”

  • Eating together, just the two of you  11%
  • Drinking together, just the two of you 27%
  • Getting in a car, just the two of you 25%
  • Revealing clothes 23%
  • Being Drunk 35%

There’s not a single item in this list that indicates sexual consent.

Black Box is an important and powerful read and a reminder of the different journeys that we, as women of the world, are on – as we continue to navigate patriarchal legislation and as we continue to speak out against injustice in our respective nations.

In 2019, Shiori Itō was awarded $30,000 in damages in her rape case against Noriyuki Yamaguchi.

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