Japan’s shadow ball

Although claims of sexual harassment and abuse of power are becoming more and more frequent in Japanese society and Japanese sports, one has to wonder why Japan’s poor record of gender inequality has not led to more charges of sexual assault and domestic violence in Japan like those that are so often reported — and tidied up — in Major League Baseball.

On Thursday, Hanshin Tigers pitcher Koki Moriya denied allegations of domestic violence, which is the norm in such cases around the world, but that doesn’t make him guilty.

Japan, which the United Nations Development Programme ranked 121st among 188 nations in gender inequality in 2010, is infamous for rape and sexual assaults often being ignored by authorities or going unpunished in the legal system.

The lack of such revelations in Japanese pro baseball is surprising given they are not uncommon in the larger society and or in pro sports overseas. Japan’s game justifiably prides itself on the good manners drilled into most players. When you pass high school players in uniform near their ground, they will — almost without exception — remove their caps and offer a greeting as they go by.

Yet, reports of high school players bullying and assaulting classmates are not unheard of.

The last issue of domestic violence in Japanese baseball caused barely a ripple in the news. At a game they hosted in Omiya in the summer of 2008, executives of the Seibu Lions were beseiged by media about a player who had been accused of two things: stealing money and beating up his girlfriend.

The accusation that the young player had pocketed 30,000 yen (roughly $300) someone left at an ATM was being handled with utmost sincerity by the organization, the club said. As for his beating up his girl friend, who was the one who supposedly blew the whistle on him, the Lions attitude was, “boys will be boys, so what do you expect us to do about it?”

I remember the incident because a female friend of mine worked for the Lions who was absolutely steaming. This extremely professional individual would sometimes have to really vent about the sexism that came with working in a business run for and by men.

As it was, the player in question was sent down to the farm team, suspended for a brief time, and then resumed his career as if nothing had happened.

While it is possible that sexual abuse and domestic violence are less common in NPB, the fact that one almost never hears about it probably has as much to do with a code of silence as with good behavior.

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