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AP Exclusive: Japan’s gender equality minister blasts male colleagues for ‘ignorance’

Seiko Noda, Japan’s minister of gender equality and children’s issues, speaks during a interview with AP in Tokyo, July 26, 2022. During the wide-ranging session, Noda, one of only two women in Japan’s Cabinet, discussed the country’s glaring gender gap, calling women “underestimated” in Japan. . Noda called the country’s record low births and plunging population a national crisis and blamed "indifference and ignorance" in the male-dominated Japanese parliament for the neglect. (AP Photo / Eugene Hoshiko)

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Planning and smart questions produced an outspoken AP interview with Seiko Noda, Japan’s minister for gender equality and children’s issues, who is a leading contender to be Japan’s first female prime minister. Noda is one of only two women in Japan’s Cabinet; the Japanese parliament is only 10% women.

She highlighted those points during the exclusive all-formats interview led by Tokyo correspondent Mari Yamaguchi and co-written with Japan news director Foster Klug. The more powerful lower house of Japan’s two-chamber parliament is predominantly “people who do not menstruate, do not get pregnant and cannot breastfeed,” Noda said.

Careful preparation by Yamaguchi and Klug,along with chief photographer Eugene Hoshiko and senior video producer Haruka Nuga,led to a list of questions that encouraged Noda to speak at length.

She did not hold back,sounding off on one of the world’s most glaring gender gaps,blaming the country’s record low birthrate and plunging population on “indifference and ignorance” in the male-dominated parliament,and describing what it’s like for a woman to break into the male-dominated world of Japanese politics.

Her suggestion of a quota system to increase female candidates for political office met with criticism from male colleagues who say women should be judged by their abilities. “Men can just be men,and I guess,for them,just being male can be considered their ability,” she said.

At the end of the sit-down, Noda was so energized she allowed Hoshiko and Nuga to make images of her notes on Japan’s shrinking population.

The AP package turned heads in Japan and beyond. For a candid,revealing interview that vividly exposes women’s simmering frustration at Japan’s male-centric political culture,the team of Yamaguchi,Hoshiko, Nuga and Klug earns AP’s Best of the Week — Second Winner.

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