*Here we show some of the articles on MIZUSHIMA Hiroko written in English.
WashingtonPost July 15, 2005
AFP Feb 19, 2006
Stressed Japanese princess in shadow of pregnant sister-in-law
It was in 1993 when Japan's Crown Prince Naruhito gently smiled and said the number of children he would have would be "up to the stork's mood".
Now that feels like ancient history.
Thirteen years since his engagement press conference, Naruhito and his wife Masako have produced one child, Princess Aiko, spelling crisis for the centuries-old royal tradition of male-only succession.
While politicians were sparring over the royal code this year, the stork visited his younger brother Prince Akishino and wife Kiko, raising hopes for a male heir and slamming the brakes on moves for reform.
Now Masako, a US-educated former career woman suffering severe stress, is coming under a new kind of media glare. The question on everyone's mind is: how does Masako feel about her housewife sister-in-law's pregnancy?
If Kiko gives birth to a boy this autumn, he would be third-in-line to the Chrysanthemum Throne after the crown prince and Akishino.
"If the law is maintained for male-only succession, the birth of a boy would mean the imperial line would move to the younger brother's family. This would be unbearable for Princess Masako," said Akira Hashimoto, a former schoolmate of Emperor Akihito.
"She would be branded as useless and disqualified to be the crown princess," he told AFP.
Hashimoto argued what Masako, 42, should do now is to "try to have another child" by resorting to any possible medical means.
"If she does not want to do it, I would say she should divorce" the crown prince to give him a chance to produce more children, Hashimoto said.
Divorce, however, would be radical for the world's oldest monarchy, and Hashimoto acknowledged it would be "impossible" considering that the couple love each other.
Akishino and Kiko, 39, have two daughters, aged 11 and 14. Hashimoto said they refrained from having a third child out of consideration for the elder siblings, but "I think the emperor gave them a go-ahead."
Hashimoto said the emperor had been "fretting for the past decade, thinking the imperial house law needs to be changed" in view of a looming succession crisis.
"He must have been relieved to see moves for change emerging finally," he said.
"At the same time, I presume, the emperor did not want to abandon the trump card for keeping male-line succession as the debate was being made on the assumption that no male heir would be born," he said.
The emperor's two sons had an unprecedented public disagreement in 2004 after Naruhito said his wife was being deprived of her personality since she quit her promising diplomatic career.
Akishino said his elder brother should have consulted with their father first. Naruhito turns 46 on Thursday and his customary birthday press conference is under intense public attention.
Japanese media are also rife with judgments and speculation about Masako, who has made few public appearances for more than two years.
The Shukan Shincho, one of Japan's two most popular weeklies, said Masako was planning to stage "a stunning come-from-behind victory" by having a second child.
It has also written of "Princess Masako's selfishness," listing private activities she opted for while skipping official duties or palace rituals.
Another major weekly, the Shukan Bunshun, blared in December that Masako had launched a "Birthday Rebellion" as doctors released a rare public report on her birthday saying she needed to avoid the stress of palace life to recover.
Speculating Naruhito and Masako were behind the release of the doctors' comment, the magazine said it "could be taken as Princess Masako thrusting a 'No' against her surroundings, the imperial household."
Its latest edition praised her sister-in-law, saying reporters on the royal beat agree Kiko is "affable and has adapted herself perfectly to the royal household." Hiroko Mizushima, a psychiatrist and former lawmaker working for gender equality, said how Kiko's pregnancy affects Masako would depend on the reactions of the public and people around her.
People may show misplaced sympathy for Masako if Kiko has a boy, which would "prove the survival of the pre-modern concept" of praising a mother who produces an heir, Mizushima said.
"This is a problem in terms of women's human rights," she said. "Since royal people are a 'symbol' of the state, I want them to show Japanese people a model in handling women's rights and mental illness."
The emperor was defined as a national "symbol" with no political power after Japan was defeated in World War II and Akihito's father Hirohito renounced his divine status.
Royal matters expert Hiroshi Takahashi said Masako would stick to her ways and not fit in with the royals' self-effacing tradition.
Most Japanese respect that the royal family "hold themselves back" and focus on people's well-being, said Takahashi, a former journalist and currently social welfare professor at Shizuoka University of Welfare.
"The Japanese may be seeking something inhuman in the royals," he said.
"Their authority is supposed to be free of scandal."
The Economist November 2nd 2002
A winning woman
The main opposition party finds one new voice -- but needs many more
HIROKO MIZUSHIMA broke into national politics two years ago after the opposition Democratic Party held a contest to find promising parliamentary candidates. Ms Mizushima, who was then a psychiatrist at Keio University hospital, wrote an essay about the need for change in Japan, with an emphasis on making on making life better for women. After impressing party members in face-to-face interviews, Ms Mizushima was chosen to stand for a seat in the Diet (parliament), and won. Lately, 34-year-old Ms Mizushima has been vetting candidates herself, seeking those who might improve the Democrats' sorry standing at the polls.
She has something that appears to be lacking among her fellow Democrats: a will to win. Her determination helped to give the Democrats their only victory on October 27th, when seven by-elections were held. The party's most promising candidate for a seat in Yamagata prefecture, Jun Saito, was under pressure from his family not to run. Ms Mizushima had a chat with Mr. Saito's wife, who was pregnant, and persuaded her to back her husband. The Democrats were spared a humiliating shut-out at the polls. The ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) won five seats, in a much-needed fillip for the prime minister, Junichiro Koizumi; an independent took the other.
Heartfelt appeals to spouses, however, are hardly Ms Mizushima's main or only strength. The success of her campaigns two years ago was due to her strategy of wooing a wide range of voters, not only women. A young female candidate, she reckoned, risked alienating older male voters in her rural district with a direct approach. Instead, she took her campaign to the leaders of unions and other social groups. In the end, she won equal support from male and female voters.
The notion that candidates should seek votes beyond the party's core supporters is rare in Democratic circles. When Ms Mizushima interviews potential male candidates, she gets them to talk about the good things they plan to do for Japanese women. Her favourite question for female candidates is more blunt: How will you get middle-aged men to vote for you?
Ms Mizushima is trying to persuade the party's leaders that they need to do more to publicize the Democrat's policies, many of which favour women. The Democrats want a single, standard tax exemption for married couples, to replace an existing regime that dissuades many women from working full-time. The party also wants to reform pensions, to give women a greater sense of independence. Despite all this, polls by Yomiuri Shimbun, Japan's biggest daily, show that only half as many women as men back the Democrats.
One problem, says Katsuya Okada, who until recently headed the Democrats' policy committee, is that policies which appeal to career women tend to alienate those who stay at home. But Ms Mizushima argues that Japanese women do not fit into a simple dichotomy between serious professionals and traditional housewives. Women in rural districts such as hers have far more varied concerns than the party's leaders seem to grasp. Internal party polls taken earlier this year, which show that women of many backgrounds are unenthusiastic about the Democrats, seem to back her up.
So what should the Democrats do to win more seats? Ms Mizushima concedes that the party has to offer a compelling economic platform that will appeal to voters in general. But she is also urging her party to devote more energy to issues that appeal to specific groups of women. In pushing her ideas, Ms Mizushima has a big advantage. She knows how to win.
THE DAILY YOMIURI April 27, 2001
English helped Mizushima overseas -- and in the Diet
With the arrival of the new century, the world will be even more globalized, making English even more important, and Japan is no exception. This special section focuses on the relationship between the Japanese and English in the 21st century.
Politicians are supposed to be eloquent to win supporters and sway opponents, but what makes Hiroko Mizushima, a House of Representatives member from Minshuto (Democratic Party of Japan) -- the leading opposition party-- special is that she is well aware of the importance of communicating not only in Japanese but also in other languages, including English.
"I believe the most important things are what you wish to convey, your willingness to do so and making sure your listener understands the message," said Mizushima, 33, who in addition to being a legislator is a psychiatrist known for her excellent command of English.
Mizushima was one of 35 women elected to the lower house last June. Mizushima and 15 others were newcomers.
She gained immediate national attention for her defeat of former Economic Planning Agency Director General Hajime Funada in a contest to represent a Tochigi Prefecture constituency.
As a Diet member, Mizushima has had a number of chances to make use of her English. She gave a speech in English at the Foreign Correspondents' Club in Tokyo last August, and she often invited to meet with foreign parliamentarians.
Like other Japanese children Mizushima started learning English in middle school. At that young age, she was already aware that English was a tool for communication.
"My parents told me that (my studies) would be meaningless unless I were actually able to speak English, and with good pronunciation," she said.
Therefore, she started listening to NHK English language radio programs. She developed good listing comprehension and learned how to speak English with clear pronunciation. But at school, she toned down her abilities, although she was often shocked by the terrible pronunciation of her teachers.
"At school I didn't think English was difficult, but I was frustrated," Mizushima said. gI always thought that (English) was useless unless it was practical."
In middle school, she started corresponding with a Polish girl and enjoyed going out with non-Japanese friends.
Not surprisingly, English became her favorite subject, and she passed the entrance exam of Keio University's medical school "because English was one of the exam subjects." According to Mizushima, Keio's English test was so difficult that only those with excellent ability in the language could pass the entrance exam.
At Keio, she took an English class in which students acted out dramas under the instruction of a native English speaker. "We wrote scripts by ourselves and acted ourselves. We really enjoyed it," she recalled.
She also traveled to many foreign countries, including the United States, Canada and Britain. In her second year at college, she stayed for three weeks with a Canadian family with two children.
"I was so impressed with the way the children treated me," she said. "They spoke with me as if they were completely unaware that I was a foreigner."
After Mizushima left the family, they missed her so much that they ended up hosting Japanese students every year since then.
Of course, Canada was not the only country she visited in her college days. An active woman fond of outdoor activities, she even went to Europe on her own.
After graduating from Keio University in 1992, Mizushima got married and spent a year oversea with her husband, visiting Nepal, Spain, Romania and other countries.
"I did not want to become a doctor at that time. Instead, I wanted to challenge myself with something different to push my own limits. That's why I decided to travel around foreign countries," she said.
The couple has visited a total of 37 countries to date.
Though she almost always used English when overseas, Mizushima gradually made it a rule to learn basic greetings in the local language before visiting another country and to practice the language with the local people.
Through her travel experiences, she came to believe that there are two different kinds of English -- English as the mother tongue of native speakers and English as an international language. "They are different, and I believe they should be different," she said.
As a high school and college student, she believed that she had to speak English as fluently as a native speaker, but that attitude has changed over the years.
"Through my work as a doctor, I had chances to speak with not only native English speakers but also people from different countries who speak other varieties of English, and I needed to communicate with all of them. I realized the most important thing was to make an effort to convey my message," Mizushima said.
"When English is used as an international language, I believe one does not have to pay too much attention to correct English pronunciation or usage, and as long as one's message is conveyed, I think it works as an international language," she said.
The mother of a 3-year-old daughter, Mizushima is expecting another baby in September, and she is working to change Nagatacho into a more woman-friendly place.
The Asahi ShimbunApril 5, 2001
Dietwoman challenges traditional values
Shaking up the conservative world of politics is not easy task, but lawmaker and mother Hiroko Mizushima hopes that not only her work but also her lifestyle will send a powerful message to the male-dominated Diet.
"Chinese men are proud that their wives have careers, aren't they?" the psychiatrist-turned-politician asked a small group of Japanese and Chinese attending a meeting in Utsunomiya last month.
"So is my husband," she added, glancing at her filmmaker partner, Satoshi Hasegawa, who was smiling next to her. "Otherwise he wouldn't have married me."
Mizushima and Hasegawa describe themselves as a perfect match, yet they have divorced several times, only to remarry soon after.
The civil law requires a married couple to adopt the surname of either the husband or the wife.
Mizushima and Hasegawa officially chose Mizushima as a surname under the family registration system when they married in 1992. But because they are determined to use their own names in everyday life, they have to get divorced whenever Hasegawa needs official documents, such as a passport, in his own name.
Mizushima, who was elected to the Lower House last yea, represents growing calls for allowing husbands and wives to keep their own surnames. Proposals to that end have been blocked for years by conservatives within the ruling Liberal Democratic Party.
Mizushima is expecting her second child in September. She hopes the civil law will be revised to allow the baby to "legally" take Hasegawa as its surname. Her 3-year-old daughter Pumori's surname is Mizushima.
Mizushima said she is seeking revision of the civil law not only in the interests of like-minded couples. For the 33-year-old, the law symbolizes a society that, explicitly or implicitly, requires people to adhere to a single set of values.
"Revising this law would be the first step toward a society in which everyone respects each other's values," Mizushima said in a recent interview. She sipped a cup of lemon-flavored water, unable to drink tea or coffee because of morning sickness.
Mizushima moved into the spotlight in the Lower House election last June, when she defeated the LDP incumbent in a constituency centered on Utsunomiya, a conservative bastion for decades. She ran on the ticket of Minshuto (Democratic Party of Japan), the largest opposition party.
"It must be tough for a female Diet member to bring up a child and even tougher to have another baby," said Susumu Yanase, a Minshuto Upper House member from Tochigi Prefecture. "On women's and children's issues, Ms. Mizushima has made known her goals through her own lifestyle. In the future, I expect her to tackle economic and other issues and grow into a leader."
Mizushima and Hasegawa, having carved out a new family lifestyle, are still among a small minority in a country traditionally dominated by men.
Hasegawa, who for now has given up his free-lance job, supports his wife in her work. He is always in the audience when Mizushima gives speeches and attends meetings in her constituency on weekends.
At last month's gathering in Utsunomiya, Mizushima chatted with her supporters and Chinese guests over Chinese dishes they prepared. Hasegawa, who often cooks at home, filled dumplings together with other participants and took photographs.
"In Japan, women need to clear a far higher hurdle than men to enter politics," Hasegawa said. "We have to lower that hurdle so that ordinary women like my wife can pursue political careers."
Women account for only 7.5 percent of Lower House members and 17 percent of Upper House members.
In Japanese politics, much is still achieved through behind-the-scenes maneuverings, but Mizushima advocates open debates and discussions and speaks eloquently using her own words.
The contrast with politicians of the old school was no more vivid than when Mizushima questioned Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori on behalf of Minshuto at a Diet session only a month after her election victory.
Sporting one of her trademark white suits, Mizushima came right out and asked for Mori's views on issues such as bullying and allowing husbands and wives to keep their own surnames. The prime minister stuck to ambiguous answers and avoided committing himself.
Silence is certainly not golden, Mizushima believes, particularly for lawmakers. Whenever she attends a Minshuto meeting, she makes it a rule to say at least one thing, even if no one agrees on her.
Mizushima said politicians must be evaluated on the basis of both their broad vision for the country and the specific policies they propose.
gDuring my election campaign, I spent much of my time going from house to house, drinking tea with constituents,h she said. gBut law-makers must devote more time to educating themselves on policy issues.h
Mizushimafs supporters share her goals.
gDiet members must work for the nation, not for their constituencies,h said Susumu Miyata, who ran his own small manufacturing firm until a few years ago. gMs. Mizushima thinks straight, works hard and learns fast. I hope shefll be able to change the way we go about politics in this country.h
A Lower House election could be called soon after the Upper House poll scheduled for July.
gIfve cone all that I can, and Ifm confident that I disclosed enough information about my activities to enable voters to judge me accurately,h Mizushima said. gIfll carry on as long as voters need me.h
As a psychiatrist, Mizushima Hiroko worked primarily with children and adolescent women suffering eating disorders. But over the years, she saw that her patients' woes went way beyond themselves. "The social system is creating their problems," Mizushima says. With fathers under severe stress at work and mothers resentful after abandoning careers, little wonder that children are unhappy and unable to communicate. They just can't cope, she says. "Dealing with these youngsters, I could see no hope for the future of Japan."
The 32-year-old Tokyo mother considered leaving Japan. Instead, she decided to stay put and do something. She answered the call of the opposition Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) and ran for parliament in rural Tochigi prefecture. Going to door to door with her husband, she beat a seven-term former cabinet member of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP).
Once in government, Mizushima found her party better than she expected, with little regard for seniority and open to suggestions. Not that it's perfect -- Mizushima groused that DPJ, along with the LDP and all other major parties, is supporting Tochigi's incumbent fifth-term governor for re-election out of fear of backing a loser. That is not the way to nurture a new politics, she says. Debating policy is.
Mizushima herself is a woman who sticks her beliefs. She has divorced the same husband four or five times (even she isn't counting), so that she can keep her own surname, remarrying him only when some legal reason requires it. That kind of behavior riles conservative Japan, but Mizushima says that once she explains her reasons, 80% of people understand. Her poll victory speaks for itself.
She sympathizes with people who complain that they can't find candidates worth voting for. But only to a point. "If they really want an ideal candidate, they should run for election themselves," she says. "That's what I did." Nobody can say Mizushima isn't a women of her word.
By Murakami Mutsuko /Tokyo
ASIAWEEK September 22, 2000
The making of a role Model
One Japanese MP represents a new generation of women
Okay, I am not related to Mizushima Hiroko. But as I learn more about this 32-year-old psychiatrist-turned-politician, I feel a strong kinship with her. Finally, Japanese women of my generation -- educated, informed, exposed to the world and ready to break free from the male-centered social code of our country -- have a female parliamentarian who speaks with us. Mizushima is the first Diet member I know who is specially calling for a "gender-free" society.
She proved her credentials last month when she was chosen by her party, the opposition Democratic Party of Japan, to grill the prime minister and his cabinet. The decision made a splash in the media because no first-term MP (Mizushima won her seat in June this year) had ever been given the honor. Mizushima was typically straightforward. What did Prime Minister Mori Yoshiro think about letting married women keep their maiden name? the murmured answer: he would need to consult with various groups for further discussion. "I realized that, for him, words mean nothing," Mizushima later said. Mori, however, praised her speech on education and other issues calling it "deeply moving."
The matter of surnames is an important point for Mizushima. To symbolize her independence, she is keeping her maiden name. And that's not easy. The current family-registration system requires a married couple to choose one surname for both husband and wife. Mizushima, who married film director Hasegawa Satoshi in 1992, divorced her husband so she and he could each keep their family names. They did so whenever they needed official documents -- and remarried soon after. So far, the couple, who have a daughter, have married and divorced "four or five times," says Mizushima. On her website (one of the most substantial of all the Diet members'), she recounts the tedious exchanges she has had with bureaucrats, and calls on other women to follow her example as a way of pressuring government to change the rules.
Mizushima left her clinic to "treat the whole of society" after counseling troubled juveniles at Tokyo's Keio University Hospital. "Treatment my patients, mostly girls and adolescent women, I came to realize the true cause of their problem is the Japanese social structure," she told me last week. That made sense to me, as I have often reported how everyone in contemporary Japanese society faces tremendous pressure in figuring out their new roles in a changing society. But as Mizushima says, "The women suffer for all the [wasteful] efforts the Japanese make to maintain so-called stand family norms."
Even though her father is a member of the ruling LDP party, she chose to join the opposition last year. The Democratic Party of Japan fielded her in Tochigi Prefecture, a conservative bastion that had returned 46-year-old LDP stalwart Funada Hajime seven times. An energetic campaigner who was backed by the women's organization WIN-WIN, Mizushima energized women voters in the prefecture and won her seat.
Japan has seen many women parliamentarians. A number of them are former actresses, TV personalities or relatives of senior conservative politicians. Others are career politicians who never married, devoting her energies to parliamentary work. I have the utmost respect to Socialist leader Doi Takako, who is known for her intelligence and constancy in espousing her policies. But she and her peers never married, and their lives seem far removed from those of ordinary Japanese women. It is difficult for working mothers like me to identify with them.
Mizushima is different -- and she is not afraid to be different. "I realized that people needed a new type of politician like me, political leaders who will commit to policies as professionals, not those who act only to maintain their MP status," she says. Asked which politician is most qualified to be a prime minister today, she says she cannot think of anyone. Pressed, she gave her own name. "If I become prime minister, I can realize all my policies in one day -- in theory," she says. It is difficult for the male-dominated Japanese media to take Mizushima seriously -- most attribute her election victory to a scandal that dogged her rival (he divorced his wife and married a Diet colleague). But for this woman journalist, having Mizushima as PM some day seems like a pretty good idea.
MURAKAMI MUTSUKO is Asiaweek's correspondent in Tokyo