The following statement was released by Fukuoka City this morning (Feb. 19), regarding claims of gender discrimination and the resignation of Mariko Shinoda as leader of the virtual ward. The original Japanese statement can be read here: http://kawaiiku.jp/archives/498. Below is Fukuoka Now’s unofficial translation. Any and all errors are ours.
“Kawaii is wonderfully versatile word: not only is it a term of endearment for youngsters and small things, it can be used to refer to people and things that are lovable and soothing. This applies to all kinds of people— not just women—as well as animals, things andgestures.
Kawaii-ku was launched as part of the City’s efforts to promote Fukuoka’s many strong points— healthy and delicious foods, the compact scale of the city, the history of exchange with Asia, our creative culture and our wealth of talent—under the banner of “kawaii”. Over 40,000 people have already registered as “residents”.
At present, however, the Fukuoka Gender Equality Promotion Council is reviewing four complaints that claim Kawaii-ku assists gender discrimination. We feel it is highly unfortunate that we have been unable to sufficiently communicate our objectives for Kawaii-ku and why we think it is a meaningful project.
Many people have started to associate [AKB48’s] Mariko Shinoda with Kawaii-ku, but we have decided we can no longer inconvenience her with a debate that does not directly concern her, so she has agreed to step down as the “leader” of Kawaii-ku.
Mariko Shinoda resigns as Leader of Kawaii-ku
We will act quickly to select a new leader for the Ward and will continue striving to use Fukuoka’s Kawaii-ku as a means to communicate our city’s attractions, boost visitor numbers and promote industry.
We apologize sincerely for the inconvenience we have caused our 40,000+ Kawaii-ku residents and the companies and organizations supporting this project. We appreciate your all the encouraging messages you have sent us and kindly request your continued support of Kawaii-ku.”
Source: Fukuoka City’s Kawaii-ku website: http://kawaiiku.jp/archives/498