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  • Writer's pictureWomEnpowered International

Opinion: Gender disparity across Japan's top institutions Vol. 2

In regards to the recent events concerning the gender disparities of Japan's top universities, three WE Int. members respond to this article published by the New York Times.

The second respondent is Reiko Amamiya, an exchange student at the University of Tokyo.


Before arriving at Todai I had two ideas of the institution. The first was the excitement students had upon their acceptance letters. The second was that popular culture such as Tokyo-based anime and manga which shared the idea that getting to Todai is a difficult task. Interestingly enough, there was not much coverage of what the university is actually like. However, Todai seems like a really respectable place in Tokyo, or at least most Japanese locals I’ve encountered to seem share that idea.

To believe that Todai is “Japan’s Most Elite University” is to believe that is the best university that Japanese society has to offer. The peculiar aspect for this perspective is that in my conversational experience, Todai is automatically regarded as a prestigious university, despite the gender disparity. This is to say, at present, school is considered more important in Japan than gender equality.

In one perspective, Todai being the best signifies that all universities and educational systems in Japan should aspire the same level of qualifications. This means that Todai will always be at the top until another Japanese university excels those accomplishments. According to the New York times article, receiving a degree from Tokyo’s most elite university will open doors to graduates in fields such as politics, business, law and science. It is important however to notice that the best of Japan’s politics, business, law and science accepts 1 woman for every 4 men. If this disparity is not properly addressed in Japan, 20 percent of what Japan deems important will include women whereas 80 percent will consist of men.

Viewing the situation from another angle, it is needless to say that Todai having outclass other universities it is the best result Japan could produce out of the circumstances and resources currently available. Nonetheless, Todai may not necessarily have the most preferable result but the outcome for the time being is considered better than the other Japanese universities. Although, there is reason to blame Japan’s most elite university. As mentioned previously, Todai represents the highest rank in the education system, and therefore should be a good example to other institutions across Japan. Unfortunately, this has not yet been realized due to lack of resources and actions for change.

However, where these struggles come from and what Todai needs to change is a matter of debate rather than an agreed upon situation. There are a lot of factors that affects Todai’s developments, from the fields people choose to follow, if people receive the same resources, to whether or not people graduate. In addition to that circumstances such as mental health and discrimination still influences people at large. Furthermore, hardly anyone has a support system or alternative options when failing in a chosen field or suffering hardship.

Overall, it may be said there are still many actions to drive for before we achieve equality. Needless to say, it would be nice to believe that equality will be achieved some time soon. In the meantime, the gender disparity we are currently facing is not something we should be proud of.


Reiko is an exchange student from Washington at the Univerity of Tokyo.

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