Cyberbullying: A Huge Wake-Up Call for Japan

Only a few days ago, on May 23rd 2020, Japan was rocked with the news of the death of Hana Kimura, who was only 22 years old. The wrestler and Terrace House Tokyo cast member was well known in Japanese for her performances in the ring and her pureness on the show about finding love in a house with five other members. 

As weekly viewers of the Terrace House, this tragedy was a shock and left both of us speechless upon hearing the news. We couldn't bear to believe that her death may have been caused by the comments she has been receiving regarding recent drama onTerrace House. Although the cause of death has not been made public, hours before her passing, she had posted pictures captioned "goodbye" on her Instagram and twitter.She was in a negative spiral; apologizing for her acts on the show, wishing she was not alive, and hoping she could bring peace to those who hated her by disappearing.

We only hope that Hana rests in peace and that her family finds comfort in such a dark time. 

After Kimura’s death, people blame her actions on people who have sent negative messages to her—telling those who told Hana to kill herself to kill themselves and spreading the personal information of those who cyberbullied her. This unending loop of cyberbullying has to stop. 

What has shifted since the incident? 

This is a huge wake-up call for Japanese society. Regardless of whether this tragedy had been caused by the hurtful comments or not, we cannot ignore the fact that cyberbullying is an extremely powerful tool that can tear someone apart. This news has struck the nation in an impactful way. 

Recently, Shiori Ito, a journalist and the face of the Japanese #MeToo movement has pledged to take legal actions against defamation on social media platforms. Ito has previously been in a legal battle over sexual assault case and has had countless first-hand experiences of cyberbullying, which included receiving abusive comments directed to herself and family members over a period of three years. The news about Kimura struck Ito to take action to fight against cyberbullying. 

In addition, there has been discussion about the need for changes in the law in order to protect persons being targeted online. In the United States for example, some states have defined cyberbullying as a form of harassment which could lead to a fine. At the moment, it is hard to file a lawsuit for being bullied online but this could change if the Japanese government imposed rules which clearly define the difference between hate speech and free speech. 

Before we could make adjustments to the law, however, it would probably be prudent to put reality shows such as Terrace House in check for promoting harsh commentary on the participants.