There is rumbling going in Japan, and I am not talking about earthquakes or volcanos erupting. It’s forces of another nature.
It all started in Osaka, in November last year, when women responded to a rallying cry from Mayumi Taniguchi, an associate professor at Osaka International University who vented her frustration at male-dominated politics in a Facebook comment.
“I’m tired of (old men) politics. Shall we launch an old women’s party?”
“Obachan” is Japanese for a middle-aged or an elderly woman that invokes the image of an intrusive busybody. It is a image totally opposite of the young, kawaii, schoolgirl ideal which is launched all over Japan.
During the time I lived in Japan, I am left with the impression, women over the age of 25, are almost invisible. In media, politics, culture life, faces of middle aged women are not a common sight.
In Japan, very few employers are keen on employing women over the age of thirty, which is quite sad. In Sweden the same truth applies for women over fifty. But maybe all this is changing, and the Obachans are being upgraded.
The Obachan is a stereotype of a woman who freely speaks her mind, and since the rally cry last November, more than 2,000 middle-aged and older women, mainly from Osaka, have joined an online discussion group called All Japan Obachan Party.
The Obachan Party does not have formal status as a political party. There intentions and ambitions are to influence government policies by presenting proposals from woman’s viewpoints instead of involving themselves directly in national politics.
The purpose of the movement is to be a megaphone and to trumpet the unheard voices of women. It’s message is launched, sprinkled with humor and filled with love and care for the Japanese society and its citizens.
Taniguchi-San hopes that by providing a place for political discussions, her initiative will help women better express their opinions.
“Participating in discussion will develop the ability to talk about politics in one’s own words”
The purpose of this All Japan Obasan Party, AJOP, is to close the gender gap in Japanese society, but they are starting smaller by just providing a forum where women can talk politics, learn to express themselves and raise awareness about how politics are connected to their daily lives, all without any suppressing male presence.
In Sweden, I am a member of the Swedish Liberal Party, Folkpartiet, and we have our own “Obachan” Marit Paulsen, who exudes a bundle of auntie power. She is a member of the European Parliament. Ms Paulsen is a charismatic lady, famous for her sharp tongue and wits.
“Now, I’m hoping to build a global alliance and hold an obachan’s summit. Don’t underestimate the obachan.”
Thank you Noriko-San and Tsukada-San, from Zasshin/Magazine 9 for sharing with me and teaching me so much about Japan, and women’s situation in Japan. And, yes, the women of Japan is the key to change the Japanese society.
(Taniguchi-San’s quotations and the group photo of the Obachans, are from Japan News, an English online newspaper)