Monastery no hiding place for sex pest

NO ONE was surprised when Toru Yano went to hide in a Zen monastery after he was accused of sexually harassing female colleagues. In a tradition that stretches across the Buddhist countries of Asia from Thailand and Burma up to Korea and Japan, people who have been publicly shamed have for centuries taken refuge and 'purified' themselves by shaving their heads and meditating with the monks.

What did surprise people was that Mr Yano's accusers tracked him down to the ancient Tofukuji temple on the fringes of Kyoto, denounced him to the temple's head priest, and had him 'expelled' last month.

Somehow the ground rules had changed. The old conceits of a hierarchical, male-dominated culture, where saving face often outweighed getting at the truth, no longer held much value for a group of angry women from Kyoto University who claimed Professor Yano had been sexually harassing them and others for the past 20 years.

His hiding in the monastery, they claimed, was symbolic of the country-wide conspiracy of silence over habitual molestation and harassment of women in the workplace. In a government survey in 1992, one-quarter of women asked said they had had 'an unpleasant sexual experience' at their workplace.

However, some changes are occurring, and in the last two years several women have taken legal action against male co-workers for sexual interference. The courts have begun generally to look more favourably on women's complaints. And last year the Ministry of Labour issued official 'guidelines' of what constitutes sexual harassment, or seku-hara as it is abbreviated in Japanese.

Professor Yano was at the top of his profession. Aged 57, he was director of Kyoto University's renowned Centre for South-east Asian Studies. He had received many academic honours, culminating in becoming the first Japanese member of the Swedish Royal Academy of Sciences, which is responsible for choosing the Nobel prize winners. One of his most famous former students is Aung San Suu Kyi, the Burmese opposition leader and Nobel Peace Prize winner who is now under house arrest in Rangoon.

But things started to go wrong for him last spring, when eight of his female personal assistants resigned one after another, and one complained to the university that she had been sexually harassed. The university began an investigation, and in August Professor Yano stepped down as director.

But it was not until December, when one of the women went to a lawyer, Hiroshi Iguchi, and threatened legal action, that Professor Yano resigned from the university altogether. The 20-year-old woman told her lawyer that she had been forced into having sex with the professor.

Mr Iguchi says he is preparing to press charges against Professor Yano. His whereabouts are currently unknown: some speculate that he has found another Zen temple to take him in. But Mr Iguchi says at least four women are determined not to give up their fight to have Professor Yano face his accusers.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Business Analyst - 12 Month FTC - Entry Level

£23000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Business Analyst is required ...

Recruitment Genius: Chefs - All Levels

£16000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: To succeed, you will need to ha...

Recruitment Genius: Maintenance Engineer

£8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join an award winni...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Executive & Customer Service - Call Centre Jobs!

£7 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Are you outgoing? Do you want to work in...

Day In a Page

Isis in Syria: Influential tribal leaders hold secret talks with Western powers and Gulf states over possibility of mobilising against militants

Tribal gathering

Influential clans in Syria have held secret talks with Western powers and Gulf states over the possibility of mobilising against Isis. But they are determined not to be pitted against each other
Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge: A growing population and a compromised and depleted aquifer leaves water in scarce supply for Palestinians

Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge

A growing population and a compromised and depleted aquifer leaves water in scarce supply for Palestinians
Dozens of politicians, bureaucrats and businessmen linked to Indian bribery scandal die mysteriously

Illnesses, car crashes and suicides

Dozens of politicians, bureaucrats and businessmen linked to Indian bribery scandal die mysteriously
10 best trays

Get carried away with 10 best trays

Serve with ceremony on a tray chic carrier
Greece debt crisis: EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

An outbreak of malaria in Greece four years ago helps us understand the crisis, says Robert Fisk
Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge: The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas

Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge

The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas
How to survive electrical storms: What are the chances of being hit by lightning?

Heavy weather

What are the chances of being hit by lightning?
World Bodypainting Festival 2015: Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'

World Bodypainting Festival 2015

Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'
alt-j: A private jet, a Mercury Prize and Latitude headliners

Don't call us nerds

Craig Mclean meets alt-j - the math-folk act who are flying high
How to find gold: The Californian badlands, digging out crevasses and sifting sludge

How to find gold

Steve Boggan finds himself in the Californian badlands, digging out crevasses and sifting sludge
Singing accents: From Herman's Hermits and David Bowie to Alesha Dixon

Not born in the USA

Lay off Alesha Dixon: songs sound better in US accents, even our national anthem
10 best balsamic vinegars

10 best balsamic vinegars

Drizzle it over salad, enjoy it with ciabatta, marinate vegetables, or use it to add depth to a sauce - this versatile staple is a cook's best friend
Wimbledon 2015: Brief glimpses of the old Venus but Williams sisters' epic wars belong to history

Brief glimpses of the old Venus but Williams sisters' epic wars belong to history

Serena dispatched her elder sister 6-4, 6-3 in eight minutes more than an hour
Greece says 'No': A night of huge celebrations in Athens as voters decisively back Tsipras and his anti-austerity stance in historic referendum

Greece referendum

Greeks say 'No' to austerity and plunge Europe into crisis
Ten years after the 7/7 terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?

7/7 bombings anniversary

Ten years after the terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?