As an Olympian, Ms. Hashimoto was selected for a total of seven summer and winter games in the 1980s and 1990s, in which she competed in speed skating and cycling. She won a bronze medal in the 1,500 meter speed skating event at the 1992 Winter Olympics in Albertville, France, making her one of the first two Japanese women to win a medal at the Winter Games.
Ms. Hashimoto entered politics when Mr. Mori was Secretary General of the Liberal Democrats and she joined his political group, one of the few influential groups that can shape the careers of lawmakers in Japan.
“I think Ms. Hashimoto was chosen so that Mr. Mori’s influence could be sustained,” said Atsuo Ito, an independent political analyst and former employee of both the Liberal Democrats and the opposition Democratic Party. “She’s one of Mr. Mori’s puppets.”
This week, their party sparked another storm over gender equality when Toshihiro Nikai, 82, the current secretary general, said he would invite women to watch the party’s executive board meeting but would not allow them to speak.
Ms. Nojo, a leader of No Youth, No Japan, a nonprofit group, said Ms. Hashimoto did important work on gender equality: She urged the birth control pill to be made available as an over the counter drug at pharmacies the morning after, who help set up centers for victims of sexual violence from a single source, and work to ensure that women are allowed to do so Keep their last names after marriage.
“We think it is quite a loss not to have her in the cabinet,” said Ms. Nojo.
Still, Kazuko Fukuda, a women’s rights activist who was another author on the petition, said she was glad the Olympic Committee “really appreciated the voices of the people” when it abandoned its initial selection of Mr. Kawabuchi.
“It seemed like it had already been decided without a meeting or discussion,” said Ms. Fukuda. “For a long time everything was decided at the dining table after work, so that many people who have to provide care, mostly women, could not participate in the important decision-making process that really harms women.”