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INTERVIEW | Foreign Minister Yoko Kamikawa: Women's Perspectives Make Society Better

"In a diverse society, we can benefit from a range of perspectives and become aware of aspects that were previously overlooked" — Yoko Kamikawa



Yoko Kamikawa discusses women in the government on February 29. (©Takumi Kamoshida)

On March 8, we celebrated International Women's Day to recognize the achievements of women making significant strides in their respective fields. The yellow Mimosa is its symbolic flower, representing solidarity. In honor of the occasion, The Sankei Shimbun and JAPAN Forward had the privilege of interviewing Foreign Minister Yoko Kamikawa. We discussed her insights into the pivotal role of women in the world today. Excerpts follow.

Women in Foreign Affairs

Are there many women foreign ministers in countries other than Japan?

After assuming office in September 2023, I traveled to New York in the United States. Soon after my arrival, the G7 [Group of Seven] foreign ministers' meeting took place, which achieved gender parity with my participation. I received a warm welcome and the meeting was lively. Among the eight ministers present, including the EU (European Union) foreign minister, four were women. This reality struck me as significant. 

I truly sense the considerable presence of women [in diplomatic settings abroad], not only among foreign ministers but also within diplomatic delegations.

Does the Ministry of Foreign Affairs have more women compared to other government ministries?

The Fifth Basic Plan for Gender Equality was approved by the Cabinet in December 2020. It set a goal of achieving a female recruitment rate of over 35% for national civil servants. In April 2023, more than 50% of recruits who joined the foreign ministry were women. Currently, around 40% of all staff are women. I believe that the proportion of women in leadership roles will undoubtedly rise in the near future.

Foreign Minister Yoko Kamikawa is joined by the other G7 foreign ministers in a meeting on September 18 in New York. (Photo provided by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs)

What are the advantages of increasing the proportion of women in the foreign ministry?

I believe it's about diversity. By that, I don't mean to imply that having more men signifies a lack of diversity. Nor am I implying that having more women guarantees diversity. However, when the proportion of women is too low, it may indicate underlying issues or challenges. 

In a diverse society, we can benefit from a range of perspectives and become aware of aspects that were previously overlooked. It's essential for society as a whole to actively incorporate the perspectives of women that had not been considered until now — and to embrace change.

Would a greater number of female Diet members ensure a more diverse representation?

It is crucial to increase female participation, not just in the Diet but at all levels of government. This includes municipal councilors and leadership positions. While many women are actively involved in their local communities, the path for such women to become lawmakers is not always readily accessible. However, I hope to see more women from various fields, with the ambition and ability, taking on this challenge.

About Yoko Kamikawa

Yoko Kamikawa was born in Shizuoka Prefecture. She graduated from the University of Tokyo with a degree in international relations. Later, she worked as a researcher at the Mitsubishi Research Institute. Then, she pursued a master's degree in Public Administration from the Harvard University John F Kennedy School of Government. 


Kamikawa won her first election to the House of Representatives in the year 2000. Her cabinet career began in 2007, following her third election victory when she took on the role of Minister of State for Measures for Declining Birthrate. 

Over the years, she has held various key positions, including Minister of Public Records Management and National Archives, Minister of Justice, and Acting Secretary-General of the Liberal Democratic Party. In September 2023, she became the third female foreign minister in Japan and the first in around 20 years. At 71 years old, Kamikawa continues to serve in this role.


(Read the interview in Japanese.)

Author: Takao Harakawa, The Sankei Shimbun

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