Currently, women’s participation in Japanese political life has become a central point of heated debates among developmental psychologists, political scientists, and feminist theorists. As long as female representatives have entered the political arena holding positions of judges and legislators, and have taken an active standpoint on gender inequalities in terms of voting patterns and other political issues, researchers have arrived to a conclusion that both men and women perceive their own and opposite’s actions with similar judgments. Taking into account the historical approach, it is obvious that women in Japan have the same rights as men fairly formally, as far as it still remains the question of long-term period of time embraced with traditional patriarchic hierarchy of Japanese community. Therefore, gender factor defines the difficulties women tend to face while competing with men in formal politics.
Both synchronically and diachronically, gender roles in Japan may be perceived as a constraint as well as a resource in the political sphere. By this women’s access to political office is meant thus distinguishing stable and, to some extent, constant traditional values, private sector, and female status in running the politics. Besides, it covers the overtime role of housewife in Japan and describes her involvement in public affairs and politics. The statement that has been implemented by Kumiko Hashimoto, the wife of former Japanese Prime Minister Ryutario Hashimoto, “I don’t interfere with my husband’s business, not with my mouth, hands or legs” exactly distinguishes the traditional female role in Japan (Jordan, 2000). Nevertheless, modern Japan seems to become an arena of traditional attitudes changing, which is proved by a sample of an educated young woman who is prone to become a professional in political sphere and would rather remain single than let the previously normal gender inequality to ruin her career. Those factors seem to be relevant while examining gender roles and inequality in Japan and make researchers to take into consideration the key traditional patterns, and, what is more meaningful, to investigate those patterns changing motifs and the affection made on society in the needed timespan in general. Thus, the re-examining of gender inequality possibly can bring a set of recommendations for the efficient future changes.
General knowledge that embraces existence of gender differences leads to the assumption of its variety in terms of political values and behavior. “Women live longer than men, earn less, are less likely to be part of the labour force, and are less likely to be blue-collar workers” (Steel, 2004). Naturally, women are prone to be responsible for childcare while men tend to be a part of various societal networks. Undoubtedly, these factors play a significant role in the development of political behavior. Moreover, scholars distinguish attitudinal differences between male and female roles in this sphere. Current investigations on gender differences have paid sustained attention to political behavior of female representatives. Thus, with increasing rates of women participation in political life during the Heisei era were highlighted with women’s participation mainly on local level, voting challenging, policy preferences, and political independence.
Male and female political consciousness is being analyzed through observing the levels of interest in politics, voting rates, participation in “köenkai (candidates’ and politicians’ personal support groups)”, and gathering data taking into account all these factors in order to reach the most relevant comprehension of women and men’s political behavior (Steel, 2004). A plenty of scholars define gender gaps as the primarily signifiers of differences in Japanese political behavior. Additionally, women are regarded as less likely to be interested in politics than their male counterparts. Some investigators believe that the reason of this political non-behavior lays in simple explanation, and namely, that women “do not feel close to politics” (Steel, 2004). Besides, Japanese female representatives are considered to be less interested in political issues, as far as they are less educated than males. “Women and men who attained the same level of schooling are equally interested in politics” (Steel, 2004).
Men and women’s interest in elections preserves similar picture where male’s level of interest is higher than women’s. Nonetheless, the gathered data vouch for changing in favor of increasing female interest in politics. Thus, the following numbers serve as an evident to the mentioned statement: “in 1986… women were 0.23 times less likely than men to express interest. By 1996, this had fallen to 0.19 points” (Steel, 2004). Surely, the figures have not shown any contrasted results, although the difference is regarded to be quite significant.
As long as an educational factor is playing a crucial role in distinguished level of interest, the fact of age as a signifier of educational rate seems to be relevant. Undoubtedly, older women are less educated than younger ones. Despite all the results of male predominance in being interested in voting, older men are similar to older women in being less interested in politics than younger representatives. There is no evidence that older women are less likely to be involved in political life than older men. Therefore, older men and women are equal in their participation in voting process.
Gender gaps in political sphere also predetermine the preferences and rejection of parties. There is a tendency that women are prone to support leftwing parties, as far as they mostly focus their sustainable predisposition towards socially determined issues like home, family, and welfare; whereas men are more likely to support opposition parties because of their interest in economic recovery and tax reforms. Party alignment is another issue that is directly proportional to gender differences. Women and men are relevantly part of opposite networks. In addition, females are the representatives of higher rates of party independence. “The rates of non-alignment rose for both women and men during the last 30 years, but the change was most rapid among men” (Steel, 2004).
Lately, states tend to adapt new policies due to economic globalization and the so-called knowledge economy. Therefore, such agenda as network management, informational technology, and, above all, economic globalization have made a plenty of governments to implement new strategic issues into their policy formulation. Further, those governments that used to collaborate with the other ones in order to discover modern ways to support the strategic agenda mentioned above, are regarded to adopt new policy initiatives including environmental protection, social welfare, transparency in government, and economic deregulation and privatization.
Japan, belonging to Asia Pacific region that is considered to be quite vulnerable due to climate change region, has to take into account fairly high percentage of population inhabiting climate changeable geographical locations. “The need for enhanced adaptation research and policymaking capacity in developing Asia was recognized in a series of stakeholder consultations conducted by the Institute for Global Environmental Strategies” (Prabhakar et al., 2011). Japan, as a developed country is a signatory of Kyoto Protocol and thus its government has obligation of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Besides, “there is an apparent understanding within Japan that Japan’s perceived threat from climate change in agriculture and allied sectors could be easily managed” (Prabhakar et al., 2011). Thus, governments of various states having implemented a new policy regarding climate change adaptation are prone to design relevant policy documents on both national and local levels.
Nowadays, environmental protection has become one of the major issues in policy making of many developed countries of the world. Japanese government supposes that environmental problems cannot be coped with by a single country, thus encouraging to join efforts in combating global warming and other hazards to the earth’s biodiversity and well-being. Thus, Japan has signed the Kyoto Protocol promising to “reduce greenhouse emissions by 6% as compared to the 1990 level over the five-year period from 2008 to 2012” (Ministry of Public Affairs of Japan, 2012). The country has even more ambitious long-term plans in this respect – 25% reduction by 2020. The so-called Hatoyama Initiative was presented to the international community during the fifteenth session of COPI. It deals with financial assistance that Japan is going to provide to developing countries in order to solve environmental problems. The annual sum of this aid is about $15 billion that should be aimed at preventing further climate change. Besides these climatic programs, Japan has issues a number of policies aimed at preserving biodiversity, protecting wild life, developing sustainable exploitation of resources, seizing deforestation, protecting the ozone layer, fighting desertification, and preserving the unique environment in the Antarctica (Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan, 2012).
In Japan, there are some problems with an effective adoption of social welfare policies due to the unique political situation in the country. The conservative LDP has been for a long time the largest and most influential party in the Diet, thus controlling the executive branch of the country. The Prime Minister has a limited influence on welfare policy making. The existing political system has led the situation when “the one-party dominant regime sustained political support through fragmented social insurance and company welfare that targeted selected groups of voters” (Lee, 2007).
New policies adapted by Japanese government concerning all spheres of life clearly display that the political vector has been slightly altered from being aimed at improving the life of the elite to being oriented at satisfying the entire nation’s needs, thus indicating the international orientation of the recent Japanese national policy stakeholders. Moreover, Japan appears to become a developed country due to its policy making strategy and has an intention to correspond to the international norms. Therefore, Japanese government leaded by one dominant party aims at implementing new policies taking into account modern strategic agenda in order to be worth being called a highly developed country.