Japan fast-food chain fires official over sexist comments

Yoshinoya, one of Japan's most popular fast-food chains, termed its former managing director's comments 'extremely unacceptable'

One of Japan’s most popular fast-food firms said on Tuesday that it had fired a top executive who reportedly suggested a marketing strategy of getting “virgins addicted” to the company’s products.

Yoshinoya, which operates a chain of restaurants serving cheap beef bowls in Japan and abroad, did not immediately confirm the exact comments made by Masaaki Ito, who was a managing director.

In a statement, the company said he had been fired for “extremely unacceptable words and deeds”.

Ito reportedly said the firm should try to “get virgins addicted” to Yoshinoya’s food because “once men treat them to expensive meals they won’t eat beef bowls any more”.

His comments were posted on social media by a person who said they had attended a university lecture where Ito spoke.

The firing came after outrage against the comments on social media sites. 

On Twitter, former Japanese Communist Party lawmaker Saori Ikeuchi called the remark “blatantly sexist” and “disgusting”.

Other users pointed out that Ito appeared to be disparaging Yoshinoya’s food.

“What’s equally incredible is how little pride and love he has for his company’s own products,” one Twitter user wrote.

Japan often appears towards the bottom of international gender equality rankings. In 2021, the World Economic Forum placed it 120 out of 156 countries on its Global Gender Gap Index rankings.

There is little female representation in the higher levels of business and politics despite women in the country being highly educated and present in the workforce.

Sexist gaffes by high-ranking officials and politicians have made waves before, including the resignation of Tokyo Olympics chief Yoshiro Mori before the Games after he suggested women speak too much in meetings.

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