A journalist with close ties to the Japanese PM is being accused of rape


TOKYO — Rape victims in Japan very rarely go public, but Shiori, who describes herself as one, did just that because she believes the way police handled her case was flawed.

At a news conference in late May, Shiori, a 28-year-old freelance journalist who declined to provide her family name, accused Noriyuki Yamaguchi, then-Washington bureau chief of the Tokyo Broadcasting System (TBS), of raping her at a Tokyo hotel two years ago.

She said police abruptly decided not to apprehend Yamaguchi even though an arrest warrant was issued. That was an “order from above,” a police official told her, she said.

Prosecutors dropped charges against Yamaguchi in August 2016, two months after his book on Prime Minister Shinzo Abe came out. Some people believed the book contributed to a decisive victory by Abe’s ruling party in the July 2016 upper house election.

Yamaguchi has denied any wrongdoing, writing in a post on his Facebook page, “I have never done anything illegal.”

The journalist, who has been criticized for being too close to Abe, was a frequent commentator on talk shows supporting the leader after leaving TBS in May 2016. But he has disappeared from TV screens ever since Shiori made her accusation.

Shiori is still seeking Yamaguchi’s indictment and last month she filed a request for the Committee for the Inquest of Prosecution to review the case.

Meanwhile, Shiori said she has been attacked over her accusation.

“I was bombarded with hate-filled emails,” she told dpa, adding that she had become a target for abuse on social media.

“Some labeled me a prostitute and others blasted me for seeking publicity.”

Japan’s male-dominated major media ignored or downplayed her claims, while some media outlets seemed more interested in the low-cut shirt she wore at her news conference.

In March 2015, Shiori, who was looking for a job in the U.S., emailed Yamaguchi, asking if the TBS Washington bureau had any openings.

Yamaguchi suggested the idea of her working at the bureau and then invited her to dinner in Tokyo the following month, when he was in town on business. That was the third time she saw him, but she did not expect to spend time alone with him.

Yamaguchi talked little about the job opportunity over dinner and drinks, Shiori said. She said she became unconscious at a sushi restaurant and later believed she had been drugged.

Early the next morning Shiori awoke to find herself naked on a hotel bed with Yamaguchi assaulting her without a condom, she recalled.

From the very beginning, the police were reluctant to listen to Shiori, she said.

“Every police officer asked me if I was a virgin,” she said.

Investigators told her she should cry or get upset.

“I thought that is an image of a rape victim they hold,” Shiori said.

Investigators also had her replay the scene for them, asking her to lie with a doll on a bed because they wanted to know her “body position,” she said, rolling her eyes.

“Then, a male officer was taking photos of me and the doll,” she added.

But after talking to witnesses and watching security camera footage, the police decided to issue an arrest warrant.

“The issuance of the arrest warrant was crucial. The police decided to issue it because they believed there was enough evidence,” said Kenichi Asano, a journalism professor at Doshisha University in Kyoto.