Black Box is a sobering memoir that chronicles a young journalist’s struggle for justice after a sexual assault, calling for changes to an industry – and in society at large – to ensure that future victims can come forward without being silenced or humiliated.
In 2015, Shiori Ito, a young journalist in Japan, accused Noriyuki Yamaguchi, prominent TV journalist and biographer of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, with rape. Ito was interning at Thomson Reuters at the time. After meeting up for drinks and networking, Ito remembers regaining consciousness in a hotel room while being assaulted. But when she went to the police, Ito was told that her case was a “black box”- untouchable and unprosecutable.
Japan still requires violence for sexual abuse to be classified as rape, or proof that the victim was incapable of resistance. As a result less than 5% of victims report assaults. Ito said her experience with Japan’s legal system showed her that victims of sex crimes were undermined and ignored. She called for the Japanese parliament to update Japan’s laws regarding rape, which were over a century old.
In 2017, Ito published Black Box, an account of her ordeal, which sparked the #MeToo movement in Japan and became the center of an urgent cultural and legal shift around recognising sexual assault and gender-based violence.
Black Box recounts a broken system of repression and violence – but it also heralds the beginning of a new solidarity movement seeking a more equitable path toward justice. It is a book that will leave you both angry and hopeful.
As international outlets covered every step of Ito’s story – even documenting it in the BBC film Japan’s Secret Shame – the book launched a societal reckoning. It’s no surprise that it sold 50,000 copies in its first two months of release, and has been recently published in English.
Shiori Ito has received some kind of justice. At the end of 2019, she won a civil case against Yamaguchi, who was ordered to pay ¥3.3m ($30,000) in damages. However, most of Japan’s victims still get nothing.
She now lives in London, where she has created her own documentary-film production company and continues to fight for better treatment for Japanese women who experience sexual aggression.
In its annual list of the 100 most influential people in the world, Time Magazine has honored Shiori Ito for her activism against sexual violence and fight for gender equality and criminal law reform in Japan.