The Tokyo Guide to International Women’s Day 2017

Written by Annie H Jones

International Women’s Day is fast approaching, so it’s time to start planning your Instagram post of the day. A selfie posing as Rosa the Riveter or some empowering lyrics from Beyoncé, our 21st century feminist idol… Do it, do it, do it! No matter whether it’s something predictable, light-hearted or controversial, showing your support for women’s equal rights in any way will get people thinking and reading and talking and acting. But why not go that step further and get yourself more informed and inspired with an event or exhibition?

If you’re living in Japan you probably, quite rightly, think that the majority of the nation are somewhat unengaged when it comes to gender issues. It’s natural, then, to come to the conclusion that there won’t be accessible events going on for Women’s Day. I don’t judge you as I made a similar assumption myself back in January when I missed the Tokyo women’s march against Trump after naively believing that there wasn’t an event organised since it wasn’t plastered all over Facebook. While this kind of event is predictably smaller in Japan than in a lot of Western countries, there are some groups and individuals working their feminist butts off to educate people and spread the word. Japan’s lack of platforms for promoting gender equality, along with fewer willing ambassadors, makes this a harder battle to fight but that can only make it more important that we show our support.

On my search for ways to get involved, I came across several events going on in Tokyo which I felt should be shared. Check out one (or several) of these five events to get inspired by brave and inspirational women that are fighting against the odds and breaking down boundaries.

1. Tomorrow Girls Troop at the ‘Socially Engaged Art’ Exhibition

Photo Credit: © 2017 Annie Jones

I introduce my new feminist inspiration: Tomorrow Girls Troop (明日女子隊). This diverse group proactively promote gender equality across East Asia, focusing specifically on Japan and South Korea. Recognisable by their pink rabbit hoods, the troop put on a conspicuous show to raise awareness of gender issues through marches, events and art projects.

This time, Tomorrow Girls Troop have joined the Socially Engaged Art exhibition as a means of motivating the masses. Their stall at the exhibition, named the Girl Power Café, showcases their projects including a video of them kicking ass at a march in California last year. As a group, they speak Japanese, English and Korean and will happily share what they do and answer any questions you may have. You can also help yourself to a free gender-related (Japanese) book or buy some Tomorrow Girls Troop merchandise to help spread the word.

When I visited, a numbered list of countries was gradually growing on the blackboard behind the stall, ordered by the countries’ ranking on the Global Gender Gap Index. With Japan at 104 on the list and Korea at 117, the troop are doing a good job of highlighting what a long way there is to go for women’s equality in East Asia.

Your ¥1,000 ticket will get you access to the whole Socially Engaged Art exhibition. All the projects have an aim to bring about social change through art and cover issues such as the environment, racism and homelessness.

Event Info: Socially Engaged Art Facebook page
Dates: February 18th – March 5th 2017 | Opening hours: Every day 11am – 8pm
Entry: ¥1,000
Address: 3331 Arts Chiyoda, Tokyo

2. FEW – Many Shades of Harassment Seminar

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For Empowering Women (FEW) is an NPO based in Tokyo that opens its doors to women of all nationalities to help self-development on a professional and personal level against the odds in Japan. FEW hosts monthly meetings around Tokyo which cover a different topic each time.

For the month of International Women’s Day, FEW have invited guest speaker Sachi Nakajima, founder of charity Resilience, to speak about harassment and abuse. With an in-depth knowledge of the subject, Sachi Nakajima will talk about recognising harassment and abuse, whether physical or psychological, and how this is viewed in Japan compared with other countries.

If you can’t make the event this month, check out one of their future monthly talks or a more informal meet-up. All talks are held in English and it is recommended that tickets are bought before the event.

Event Info: FEW Official Site
Dates: March 9th, 2017 | 7pm – 10pm | Women only
Entry: ¥5,000 for non-members | ¥2,000 for members | ¥3,000 for students & interns (includes light buffet and beverages)
Address: Minami Azabu Center Hall

3. ‘BLOSSOM BLAST: What It Means to Be a Woman’ Exhibition

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We hear a lot about inequality between men and women at work, and it appears to be no different in the art world. Despite the huge number of female artists around Japan, women struggle to reach the levels of success of their male counterparts and tend to earn less money for their artwork.

The Blossom Blast exhibition is showcasing some of the works of underrepresented female artists around Japan, not only as a means of appreciating their art but also to raise awareness of the lack of credibility so many talented women receive. On top of the exhibition, the organisers are making the most of the weeks surrounding International Women’s day to put on a number of talks and workshops addressing the challenges that women face:

  • Talk: Women In The Arts | March 4th 2017
  • Workshop: Bae Tokyo Day | March 11th 2017
  • Talk: Men Support Women | March 12th 2017
  • Workshop: What Does Female Empowerment Look Like? | March 16th

Event Info: Ultra Super New Gallery Site
Dates: March 1st – 18th 2017
Entry: Free for exhibition | Entrance fee for some talks/workshops
Address: Ultra Super New Gallery, Shibuya

4. Happy Woman Festa

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A new Tokyo Women’s Day event to add to the pool for 2017 is the Happy Woman Festa. This is a series of events that will take place over four days in Shibuya’s Hikarie complex.

The organised talks and workshops will introduce the theme of “Changing Women’s Futures” (これからの女性の生き方) via a multitude of inspirational female speakers. With the events centred right in the heart of youth-driven Shibuya, this women’s festival aims to increase recognition of International Women’s Day. The talks have been designed to encompass subjects that appeal to everyone on beauty, work, children, food and health.

A quick heads up – All the Happy Woman Festa talks and workshops will take place in Japanese.

Event Info: Happy Woman Festa Official Site (Japanese Only)
Dates: March 5th – 8th 2017
Entry: Free
Address: Hikarie, Shibuya 

5. Spotlight On Japan

Spotlight on Japan.jpeg
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Although this is the largest Women’s Day event taking place in Japan, it’s come in at number five on my list as it’s a little on the pricey side at ¥10,000 for a ticket.

Filling the 24th floor of the snazzy Peninsula Tokyo, a large number of people, predominantly in the business world, will be joining the event to listen to inspirational female speakers in positions such as managers, directors and professors. Jointly hosted by Mums in Business Tokyo and Peninsula Tokyo, the talk will primarily address the issue of how women can overcome the inequality that they face in progressing their careers.

Event Info: International Women’s Day official site
Date: Tuesday 7th March 2017 | Start: 6.30pm
Entry: ¥10,000
Address: 24th Floor, The Peninsula Tokyo

*Featured Image: © 2017 Annie H Jones


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