By Yuya Nagata

On May 11th,  H.I.S., a Japanese major travel agency, canceled a campaign which would provide to overseas-bound travellers a chance to fly with girls from Todai bijo zukan, a collection of beautiful girls at the University of Tokyo. This controversial campaign was that five female students of the University of Tokyo belonging to Todai bijo zukanwould sit next to customers during the flight and talk to them. This campaign said that the customers could enjoy “witty and intelligent conversations” for example about architecures and history of the destination with these beautiful female students at Todai. The main reasons why this campaign invited strong criticism were are that the content of this campaign was vulgar and might lead to sexual harassment, or that femininity was used as commodity.

However, are these reasons really right? Maybe feeling that this campaign is sexual harassment or vulgar is based on assumptions that the customers would be men but this campaign is not limited to male customers and this logic leads to that thought that jobs such as bar hostesses are also vulgar or not decent jobs. It is a fact that femininity is used as commodity but there are some jobs which use masculinity or femininity as commodity like idols. I think this scandal resulted from biased images of “Todai-joshi“ in Japanese society. So I would like to consider the meaning the word “Todai-joshi” has in Japanese society.

“Todai”, the University of Tokyo is probably the most famous Japanese national university in Japan. The University of Tokyo is generally considered the top university in Japan and produces a lot of famous politicians, bureaucrats, scholars, and so on. So many people have stereotypes such as  “elite”or “smart” to the students of the university of Tokyo.  I think that publicity of the University of Tokyo and existing biased image to the students of Todai made this campaign controversial. If other college students had participated in this campaign, it might not have been such a big problem.

Another point is that this campaign put emphasis on “joshi”(girls), precisely “bijo”(beautiful girls). Using the word “bijo” made a strong impression of femininity and beauty good-lookingness. Moreover, limiting participants to girls made people assume that they would sit next to male customers, so many people felt that this campaign was sexual harassment. However, customers were not limited to men and there is no reason that they claim that this is sexual harassment because receiving cutomers is not vulgar thing even if customers are men. Moreover, this campaign assumed family customers for exmple there was an advertisement of this campaign that says one of the students would help customers’ summer homework. I think a part of people connected emphasis of femininity and good-lookinness appearance of the students with sexual harassment.

From two points I mentioned above, the word “Todai-Bijo” has a meaning that the girls are the University of Ttokyo students but pretty or beautiful to many Japanese people. The stereotypes and biases images of “Todai” and “girls” made this campaign a big problem. Todai-joshi have difficulties between the two words in Japanese society.


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