‘There are almost no women in power’: Tokyo’s female workers demand change

Japan has a 27.5% gender pay gap and ranks just 110th in the world for gender equality – but social change is slowly happening

Last week, after the actor Yumi Ishikawa’s petition against being forced to wear high heels at the office went viral around the world, the responses ranged from solidarity – with some cheering Ishikawa and denouncing “modern footbinding” – to surprised disappointment. In 2019, in a liberal democracy such as Japan, could the issue of women’s rights still be stuck on stilettos?

But the global spotlight on the hashtag #kutoo (a pun on a word for shoes and a word for pain) may have obscured what’s really happening in Japan. “It’s so trivial,” said one senior female publishing executive, who wished to remain anonymous. After all, on the streets of Tokyo, there is a growing movement for real change for women, not merely more comfortable footwear.

As Japan's capital enters a year in the spotlight, from the Rugby World up to the 2020 Olympics, Guardian Cities is spending a week reporting live from the largest megacity on Earth. Despite being the world's riskiest place – with 37 million people vulnerable to tsunami, flooding and due a potentially catastrophic earthquake – it is also one of the most resilient, both in its hi-tech design and its pragmatic social structure. Using manga, photography, film and a group of salarimen rappers, we'll hear from the locals how they feel about their famously impenetrable city finally embracing its global crown

Related: Tokyo dawn: is the impenetrable city finally opening up?

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