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Searching for Equality in Japanese


These two videos by Tamarah Cohen of Kansai Gaidai University deal with the use of kanji and its interpretation in Japanese society. When I taught English for Special Purposes in Osaka and Tokyo, I often used similar examples shown in the videos to discuss language usage and various issues faced by Japanese women. Special ARIGATO to Steve Silver for posting the videos to Face Book.

According to Ms. Cohen, “In KANJI, after engaging in a little “dictionary research,” the presenter makes a startling discovery regarding who, according to the writing system of Japan, qualifies as a person — and who does not!”

Ms. Cohen says of What is Equal, “There are, according to presenter, 989 words in contemporary Japanese that include the radical ‘onna’ (woman), and many if not most are negative. There are, in contrast, no “negative” words that include ‘otoko’ (man).”

The presenter argues that this is an obstacle to sexual equality. Watch and see why!


  1. Helmet Otoko Helmet Otoko

    Sexism exists in all the societies. Until January 2009 a woman doing the same work as man get 75C while the man get 1 dollar in the country that call itself the biggest democracy in the world. In the Christian society women are still unable to get the right of high ranking position in the church, the same happen in muslin countries. However, some countries have accomplished more than others. Japan is still among the countries that did little to eradicate the injustice toward women despite the percentage of educated women. In Japan, girls like boys attend school up to the university level. However, there are more active women active (politician, professor, judges, fire-fighter….) in the most “primitive” countries than Japan.
    When I came to Japan, I always wondered why men (husband) walk in front and woman behind, why always women working in TV announce the news and men are the ones that develop the story and comments, why in office only women distribute tea, collect garbage and clean.
    After couple of years, I understood (as one Japanese friend told during my first days) that women seem to be satisfied by their position and satisfied by getting and handling the monthly husband income. The say of a Minister that “women are machine making kids”shows how little consideration Japanese attach to the rights of women.

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