Tsunoda Yukiko (b. 1942) is a Japanese attorney. In 1989, inspired in part by Meritor Savings Bank v. Vinson, Tsunoda argued one of the first successful workplace sexual harassment suits in Japan on behalf of a Fukuoka woman against her employer. As legal advisor for Tokyo Rape Crisis Center, Tsunoda has advocated on behalf of survivors of sexual violence in court since the late 1980s. She has twinned her legal work with a strong commitment to activist organizing – for instance, her involvement with the Santama Group（三多摩の会）led, in the late 1980s, to one of the first large-scale grassroots surveys of Japanese women about their experiences of sexual harassment. Today, Tsunoda co-represents a group of Japanese women who have sued Tokyo Medical University for long-standing discrimination against female entrance exam takers. In 2002-3, we were lucky to have Tsunoda as the Toyota Visiting Professor at UM's Center for Japanese Studies.
Tsunoda Remembers her Time as Visiting Scholar at Michigan Law
"The Fukuoka district court sexual harassment case, which ran from 1989 to 1992, was the first of its kind in Japan. I wanted to leave for America only after the trial was complete, and so, in 1992, when the case was won, I realized I could finally get away, and so I left in 1994… In the autumn before I left, I’d heard that [Catherine] MacKinnon was scheduled to give a series of intensive classes at the University of Michigan, and so I planned my trip around attending those. A secretary in her department told me which hotel I should book near the campus in Ann Arbor. Once I arrived, I approached MacKinnon with my plan to hopefully spend a year at the university as a research scholar, and I told her of the work I had been doing back in Japan. MacKinnon immediately got on the phone to the university study abroad administrator, and I met with them the following morning. The research fellowship was arranged, and I found myself well looked after by the university, because I was an unusual type of visiting scholar, due to my experience having already acted in court cases on behalf of victims back in Japan. So, they got me to speak to students about what was happening in Japan and give presentations on topics in Japanese law.
"There were actually quite a few other exchange students from Japan in the department when I was there, from Japan’s judiciary and the police, but when we were called upon in a class about legal aid to talk about the situation in Japan, no one volunteered, and since I’d had some contact with the system in Japan, I stepped forward…I got praise from everyone for the work I had been doing back in Japan, and this was the first time I’d ever been praised for it—that had never happened in Japan! I was able to refer to the TRCC [Tokyo Rape Crisis Center] as a ‘rape crisis’ organisation, and everyone instantly understood what I meant, which also wasn’t the case back in Japan. I had always had to explain the nature of the activities of the Center, and everyone treated my legal work on its behalf like it was a marginal hobby on the edges of the profession." From “Tsunoda Yukiko: Feminist Activist Lawyer” in Voices from the Contemporary Japanese Feminist Movement by Emma Dalton and Caroline Norma
今回制作を依頼されるまで、角田由紀子さんの事は知りませんでした。 制作にあたり、角田さんの資料やこれまでのお仕事を調べていくうちに、冷静であり、かつ静かに燃える熱さを持った人だと感じました。例えて言うならば、熾火のようなイメージを持ちました。 私自身もライフワークとして、子どもの権利を学び、子どもの居場所づくりを実践しています。 テーマは違えど、人権を考える人は優しくて温かい気がします。角田さんの冷静で温かい眼差しを表現したつもりです。
Prior to being commissioned to create this piece, I did not know about Ms. Yukiko Tsunoda.
As I set about creating this piece, I looked into materials about Ms. Tsunoda and her past work, and came away feeling that she is cool and collected, a person in possession of a heat that burns quietly. Were I to make a comparison, I’d say she conjures the image of a glowing ember.
I too see learning about the rights of children as my life’s work, and am engaged in the implementation of places where children can feel a sense of belonging. Even when their focus areas differ, my sense is that people who think about human rights are kind and warm. My intention with this work was to give expression to Ms. Tsunoda’s calm and warm gaze.
For further learning
- An interview with Yukiko Tsunoda will be available on the Global Feminisms Project.
- Emma Dalton and Caroline Norma. 2022. "Tsunoda Yukiko: Feminist Activist Lawyer." In, Voices from the Contemporary Japanese Feminist Movement. Palgrave Macmillan Studies on Human Rights in Asia. Palgrave Macmillan, Singapore.
- Yukiko Tsunoda. 2003. "Sexual Harassment in Japan" In, Directions in Sexual Harassment Law, Catherine MacKinnon and Reva Siegel, eds. New Haven: Yale University Press, 618-632.
- 角 田 由紀子. 2001. 「性暴力と法：性暴力と法-法 律実務家の経験から」法社会学 54: 44-58.
Shigeki Shibata holds a degree from the Nihon University College of Art (2002). In 2005, his work was featured in a curated exhibition of 20 Czech and Japanese artists. Shibata received the Nichiyou Award at the 2009 Nichiyoukai Art Exhibition. In 2011, he received the Miyagi Prefecture Rising Artist Award and, that same year, became head of the non-profit arts organization Nijiiro Crayon.
FB: SHIGEKI SHIBATA