Mendoza: Mori mortifies himself — commendably

Al Mendoza
·2 min read

I KNEW it. After saying he’d “be forced to resign” if criticisms “would grow,” Yoshiro Mori kept his word. On Friday, Feb. 12, 2021, he quit as chief of the organizing committee of the July Tokyo Olympics.

This, after sparking mounting calls from Japan and abroad for him to opt out following his claims that women speak too much during meetings.

As written here last week, Mori, also the former prime minister of Japan, would most likely resign for his comments deemed sexist. But, of course. He had said he’d oppose the addition of more women as directors of the Tokyo Olympic Organizing Committee because they spend a lot of time speaking, or words to that effect.

To his credit, he immediately acknowledged his mistake in that he’d resign if asked to. Nobody did, but with flaks thrown his way becoming unstoppable, he just had to cave in.

For the longest time, Japan treated women as second-class. Culture. Only recently that custom has started to change.

I’ve seen it still being practiced to the hilt the first time I went to Japan, when I covered the Asia-Pacific Chess Championship (our own Ruben Rodriguez won) in 1978 in Itoo, a mountain city about two hours by shinkanzen (bullet train) from Tokyo.

Then, the lady that fetched me at the airport opened doors for me. She opened doors of taxis. She opened doors in my hotels. She opened the door of my hotel room. Even my bag, she tended to diligently. There was nothing that she didn’t do, wouldn’t do. Always, I would walk ahead of her — at her insistence. She would have me sit first on the dining table. She wouldn’t eat until I took my first morsel of sashimi.

Only starting in the ‘90s did their tradition eased up a bit. I’ve seen them morphed as I flew almost yearly to Japan, sometimes twice, for boxing and motoring coverages and a bit of relaxation.

Perhaps, Mori’s gaffe was a senior moment lapse. He is 83. Still, my heart goes to Mori, who, at his age, was man enough to own it up. He is of the vanishing breed. His successor is Saburo Kawabuchi, a former football player, and presently the symbolic mayor of the Olympic Village. Kawabuchi is 84.

In Japan, age also doesn’t matter.