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The Evolution of Japanese Women’s Status Throughout the History and Modern Japan’s Question, Are Japanese Women ‘Empowered’ Today?

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Abstract

Japanese society has stabilized gender roles strictly throughout history. An example of this case is that the Japanese community—today—necessitates a double standard. In contemporary Japan, women have to present themselves as ‘feminine beings,’ harbouring women-like attributes. Japanese men, however, possess ‘masculine’ aspects, and they have to play the ‘masculine’ role to meet society’s expectations. Moreover, a more intriguing detail goes as although there have been periods including inclinations towards transformation in the Japanese community, it is plausible to claim that gender issues in Japan show correlation—and affinities—with Japan’s pre-historical eras. In other words, although there is a concept of stronger and more liberal Japanese women—especially within the urbanized metropolitan cities—the status of Japanese women, today, is not independent of Japanese women of the pre-modern and modern Japan. It is essential to observe the circumstances that surround Japanese women within the society by analyzing main historical periods that left significant marks upon Japanese identity. A comparison of Japanese women’s roles in today’s Japan and Japan’s more preceding years is achievable solely by comprehensive analysis and recognition of the women’s state during the more initial times of Japan. What is more, concerning the more preceding periods, it is plausible to discern an ‘evolution’ in the position of women, for there have been variations as a result of several historical eras.
The Evolution of Japanese Womens Status Throughout History and Modern Japans
Question: Are Japanese Women EmpoweredToday?
Semiha Karaoğlu
HIST 572: Seminar on Japan since 1868
Emeritus Prof. Dr. Ayşe Selçuk Esenbel
June 1, 2018
1
The Evolution of Japanese Womens Status Throughout the History and
Modern Japans Question, Are Japanese Women EmpoweredToday?
Table of Contents
1 Introduction ....................................................................................................................... 2
1.1 Social Hierarchy in Japan & The Influence of Confucianism .......................................... 2
1.2 Women’s Social Evolution in Japanese Society ................................................................. 4
2 Meiji and The Changing Social Position of Women in Japan ........................................ 5
2.1 An Exception: Antiquity ...................................................................................................... 6
2.2 ‘Inferiority’ of Japanese Women ........................................................................................ 7
3 Post-Meiji Era and Movement for Women’s Rights in Japan ........................................ 9
3.1 Empowerment of the Japanese Women ........................................................................... 11
3.2 Contemporary World and Japanese Women’s Economic Empowerment ................... 12
4 Conclusion ....................................................................................................................... 13
5 Bibliography .................................................................................................................... 15
2
1 Introduction
Japanese society has stabilized gender roles strictly throughout history. An example of
this case is that the Japanese communitytodaynecessitates a double standard. In
contemporary Japan, women have to present themselves as feminine beings,harboring
women-like attributes. Japanese men, however, possess masculineaspects, and they have to
play the masculinerole to meet societys expectations. Moreover, a more intriguing detail
goes as although there have been periods including inclinations towards transformation in the
Japanese community, it is plausible to claim that gender issues in Japan show correlation
and affinitieswith Japans pre-historical eras. In other words, although there is a concept of
stronger and more liberal Japanese womenespecially within the urbanized metropolitan
citiesthe status of Japanese women, today, is not independent of Japanese women of the
pre-modern and modern Japan. It is essential to observe the circumstances that surround
Japanese women within the society by analyzing main historical periods that left significant
marks upon Japanese identity. A comparison of Japanese womens roles in todays Japan and
Japans more preceding years is achievable solely by comprehensive analysis and recognition
of the womens state during the more initial times of Japan. What is more, concerning the
more preceding periods, it is plausible to discern an evolutionin the position of women, for
there have been variations as a result of several historical eras.
1.1 Social Hierarchy in Japan & The Influence of Confucianism
The status of Japanese women in Japanese society has always been a matter of debate,
for there is a hierarchy between gender roles of men and women. Having emerged in the
Tokugawa Period, it is reasonable to prove a hierarchical relationship within the stratathe
class groups of the societyand such a hierarchy is remarkably indisputable when it comes to
Japanese women. In his piece entitled Gender Roles of Women in Modern Japan, Kincaid
highlights that Confucian conceptions have massively fashioned Japanas in the case of the
3
Peoples Republic of China and South Korea. Confucian society focuses on the family. Men
are the leading figures of the household, whereas women are subservient to men. Confucian
ideas, moreover, demand women to marry, give birth to heirs, and oversee the house errands,
as well as daily chores. Arranged marriages are prevalentwhich, in a sense, comprises a
contract between families. Wives could be returned to their families if they failed to produce
an heir. Family lineage is more meaningful than the marriage itself. Ideally, three generations
would live under one single roof (Kincaid 2014). The Confucian family morality advocates
the spiritual fetters of wifely submission and virtues imposed on Japanese women. Three
obedience and four virtuespredominates the foundation of the Confucianist family tradition,
marking the situation of women. Confucianist custom states that a woman at every stage of
her life must obey her father as a daughter (1), her husband as a wife (2), and her sons in
widowhood (3). Confucianism name these three principles as the three obedience.As for
the four virtues”—on the other handthe four virtues are the proprieties in behavior,
speech, demeanor, and diligent work. While womens work only centers around the home,
mens commitment centers around outside. Additionally, the status of women becomes even
more treacherous in case of separation. Men can divorce their wives if their wives do not obey
his parents; also, if she is lecherous, jealous or she has a disease, or she is disabled, that is if
she cannot barrenespecially not be able to bear a son”—and she talks too much or steals.
Unfortunately, women do not have the same rights to charge their husbands. Although these
seem unfair, discriminating, and sexist, this is the gender role for Japanese women derived
from the Confucianist tradition.
1
1
Lin, Ying-Yu. Confucianism and Gender.
4
1.2 Womens Social Evolution in Japanese Society
The extent to which women could participate in Japanese society has indeed varied
over time and according to social classes. In the eighth century, for instance, Japan had female
emperors. Moreover, during the twelfth centurythe Heian periodJapanese women could
inherit a property in their names and manage it by themselves. Women could own property,
be educated, and were allowed, if discrete, to take lovers.
2
In other words, from the late Edo
to Tokugawa period, the Japanese social system was based upon the segregation of persons.
What is more, it was persons’ ‘superiorityor inferiority,which assigned their status.
However, there was also a hierarchy of sex and age. Concerning the hierarchy according to
peoples sex, it is inevitable to say that the gender of Japanese individuals designated not only
their roles based on their genders but also their status in the Japanese community. Therefore,
during the Edo or Tokugawa period, the situation of women manifested a deterioration. In the
seventeenth century, Ekken Kaibarawho was a Japanese Neo-Confucianist philosopher,
botanist, and authorspelled out expectations for Japanese women in his very famous work
Onna Daigaku: A Treasure Box of Womens Learning. The Confucianist author stated that
Such is the stupidity of her character that it is incumbent on her, in every particular, to
distrust herself and to obey her husband,(Kaibara 2010). It is plausible to affirm that
womens role in the family included handling the chores, giving birth to children, taking care
of the household in the aftermath of the marriage. Enlarging upon womens position during
this period, moreover, in the eleventh century, men and wives lived separately after the
separation. On the other hand, men were not responsible for raising their children and lived by
themselves. Therefore, men could work and earn money. According to such a scenario, it is
indisputable that Japanese society restricted womens position. Furthermore, the nuclear
family also confined womens roles within the family during the pre-modern eras of Japanese
2
Heroines: Heian Period (Women in World History Curriculum).
5
history. In the twelfth century, however, it was the husband who joined the wifes household
even though the married couple had begun to live in the same house. Mikiso Hane and Louis
G. Perez explain that the notions of physical strength and martial prowess became the most
quintessential notionwith the rise of the samurai class in this period (Hane and Perez 2013).
Besides, they emphasize the burgeoning influence of Confucianism along with the deepening
emphasis on the masculine ascendancy. Consequently, they link these developments to the
decline in the womens statusadvocating that the Tokugawa period was a real example of
womens inferior status in Japanese society (Hane and Perez 2013).
2 Meiji and The Changing Social Position of Women in Japan
When it comes to the Meiji period, however, industrialization and urbanization
reduced the authority of fathers and husbands. The Meiji Restorationin this sensewas a
term for a switch, and the life of women was evolving. During the early industrialization,
women worked in factories under indisposed conditions; employers continually exploited
women and denied any of their freedom. By the end of the Meiji Erahoweversuch cases
were limited and less prevalent. Also, in their family lives, Japanese women had more
extended liberty. For instance, in their marriage lives, women could divorce their husbands. If
the men were abusive or if there was domestic violence in the household, women could
legally divorce their husbands. If the husbands had cheated on them, nevertheless, women had
no legal rights to act against their husbands. Women could promptly own land. They could
admit their property with the consent of their husbands. However, such a right did not suggest
that the position of Japanese women exhibited complete superiority in this period. At the
same time, the Meiji Civil Code of 1898especially with the introduction of the ie system
denied womens legal rights. Furthermore, the code subjugated them to the will of household
heads. Men still overruled men, and women had no authority in Japanese society. Men
6
cheated on their wives, and there was nothing that the women could do anything about it.
What is more, women had no right to vote. When it comes to womens participation in the
workforce, it is apparent that during the industrialization of Japan, women made up 80% of
the workforce in the booming textile industry (Shelton 2008). The standards of the factories
these women worked in were inadequate. Companies overworked and underpaid women
employees; employees also overcrowded companies with women to exploit them. Due to poor
treatment and unsanitary work conditions, women employees would frequently get sick
causing them to take time off and lose payment. To make matters more detrimental, some
employers would even trap the women inside and forbid them to leave to make more money.
Therefore, although the Meiji Restoration made mens impact on the Japanese community
less stalwart, the Meiji Civil Code denied women of any legal rights. It is, thus, not plausible
to deduce that the Meiji period signified a valid development period for Japanese women.
2.1 An Exception: Antiquity
One exception to the general historical evolution of the womens status in Japanese
society is manifest in antiquity. To explain further, Japanese women received better treatment
in antiquity than they received during Tokugawa or other periods. It was because they were
mothersof all the emperors who ruled Japan; that is, they were the ancestors,the origins
of what made Japan so powerful. Therefore, the Japanese regarded women not as inferior
beings but as symbols of productivity.Author Mikiso Hane, along with Louis G. Perez
mentions this saying that, After all, the ancestorof the emperors is the Sun Goddess, and
the ruler mentioned in The History of the Kingdom of Wei, Pimiku, was a woman,(Hane and
Perez 2013). Kojiki
3
Records of Ancient Matters or An Account of Ancient Mattersand
The Nihon Shoki
4
sometimes translated as The Chronicles of Japan are the two original
3
Japanese: 古事記.
4
Japanese: 日本書紀.
7
records that first documented Japanese attitude towards women. The Nihongi holds insight
into the birth of Shinto through the story of Amaterasuwhich was previously preserved by
oral tradition. In the Shinto religion, Amaterasu is portrayed as the symbol of perfection
exemplifying intelligence, beauty, fertility, and purity. The Sun GoddessAmaterasuis the
primary goddess (kami) of worship whose feminine qualities are respected and admired. This
mythology based on femininity created matriarchal antiquityin Japan. The mythology
surrounding Amaterasu was not only the birth of the Yamato line but of a feminine allure that
would dictate a reputable attitude towards women until the sixth century.
5
2.2 Inferiorityof Japanese Women
It is explicit that Japanese women have perpetually had an inferior and a declining
state since the Tokugawa periodwitnessing the evolution of the status of Japanese women
throughout history. This metamorphosis, notwithstanding, ascertained its reactions in the
aftermath of World War II. In other words, at the inception of the nineteenth century,
movements and actions for womens rights commenced surfacing in Japan. There have been
traces of concepts regarding womens rights, which date back to antiquity. However, such
movements started to gain momentum after Western thinking came to Japan during the Meiji
Restoration in 1868. Mikiso Hane and Louis G. Perez address the stage right before the
beginning of movement for womens rights.They reveal the situation of women by
mentioning that Meiji Japan may have legally abolished the Tokugawa social class system,
but it did nothing to change the status of women, (Hane and Perez 2013). Hane and Perez
also advocate that the Japanese deemed women to be inferior individuals, who were subject to
the control of the patriarchal head of the family. Hane and Perez also contend that when it
comes to the notion of marriage,the standing of women showed parallelism with womens
5
Silva-Grondin, M. A. (2010). Women in Ancient Japan: From Matriarchal Antiquity to Acquiescent
Confinement. Retrieved from http://www.studentpulse.com/articles/286/
8
situation during the period before the nineteenth century, or more specifically, Meiji
Restoration. Hane and Perez quote a Japanese feminist leader, saying that Marriage for the
Japanese girl meant losing individual freedom […]. The relationship between man and wife in
a Japanese home is not that of two supplementary personalities, but that of master and
servant. It is the relation between the absolute possessor and the property.
6
Another author,
Janet E. Hunter, examines the issue as to the situation of men and women in Japanese society.
Hunter describes the gender-based roles and the statuses of the two sexes. She advocates the
idea of disparitybetween women and men, suggesting that The disparity between the roles,
activities, and histories of men and women in Japan is as great as, if not greater than, that in
any other society,(Hunter 1989). Hunter, contrary to Hane and Perez, distinguishes the
status of women in the old days of Japan and women in the aftermath of ancient Japan. She
states that Women had not always been subordinate in Japan; some women enjoyed
considerable power in ancient times, and the imperial line did not then exclude women. As
late as the Kamakura period (twelfth to fourteenth centuries), women of the ruling class
exercised a powerful political influence and enjoyed considerable legal and property rights.
Much of Japans great literature of the Heian period (784-1185) was written by women.
However, the growing emphasis on military values helped to erode womens freedom. In
Japanas elsewherethe military role was considered unsuited. Another writer Naomi
Tamura, in his work The Japanese Bride, does not only suggest that his act of writing would
be subject to criticism in Japan, but he also characterizes Japanese home life as something
hidden and shameful. He also focuses on the position of women in society, discussing society
as a whole. His work shows how issues such as the position of women in Japan, the
relationship between Japan and the Westand more particularly between Japanese Christians
and Western missionariesand the relationship between family and nation were far from
6
Shidzue Ishimoto, Facing Two Ways: The Story of My Life. (New York: Farrar & Rinehart, 1935), 349.
9
settled. Tamuras particular vision for womens reform is apparent in his work The Japanese
Bride and the founding statement of Jogaku Zasshi. The founding statement of Jogaku Zasshi
declares that We have established Jogaku Zasshi to improve womens condition by
providing them with a model of ideal womanhood that combines both the Western concept of
womens rights and the traditional virtues of our own country, (Tamura, Jogaku Zasshi
1885). What makes Jogaku Zasshi meaningful for Japanese women is that it is the leading
publication for women in Japan. The periodical embellishes the Chinese characters, with a
reading indication in furigana allowing the readers to recognizeeven if it is inadequately
educated readershipwho are women. Therefore, Jogaku Zasshi is of tremendous relevance
to two audiences: properly-educated daughters and women, both passionate about the patterns
of women in literary writing and concerned regarding keeping a modern home. Progressive
men, educators, editorsand then some younger womenstudents of Christian schools
who came there to read essays on social reformslearned about womens rights and
education (Tamura 1893).
3 Post-Meiji Era and Movement for Womens Rights in Japan
As mentioned before, the Meiji period did not raise womens status in society in spite
of allowing them to thrive with an understanding of wise women.When it comes to the
post-Meiji era, therefore, the role of women in Japanese society remained no different than
before. Author Mikiso Hane and Louis G. Perez describe the situation before the emergence
of movement for womens rightsin Japan
The wife was treated as a minor by law. She could not enter into any contract without her
husbands consent; her property was placed at the disposal of her husband; she could be divorced
easily without her husband being required to provide for her livelihood; and in the event of divorce,
the children were kept by the husband. Family property was inherited by the eldest son, with
daughters seldom being given a share. Except for factory work, few women were employed in the
business or professional fields. The employment of married women, in particular, was very
uncommon, and even those who worked in factories were released upon marriage. Politically,
women were not only denied the franchise, but the 1890 Police Regulation Law prohibited them
10
from joining political parties and even forbade them from sponsoring or attending public political
discussions. (Hane and Perez 2013)
Overwhelmed by this unchanging situation of women and the phenomenon of
womens inferiority,feminists began to oppose both the exclusive provision of civil rights
for men and the exclusion of women from politics. As Hane and Perez states, women in Japan
were prohibited, by law, from joining political parties, expressing political views, and
attending political meetings. By 1920, the fight for womens political inclusion was at the
forefront of the suffrage movement and, in 1921, the Diet of Japan, that is the Japanese
parliament overruled Article 5 of the Police Security Act by granting women the right to
attend political meetings (Hane and Perez 2013). The ban on womens involvement in
political parties did not change, as many members of the Diet felt that it was selfish for
women to forsake their families for the government. Feminists still determined to fight for
political equality. The Womens Suffrage Leaguefounded in 1924, the same year that the
Japanese government enacted the Mens Suffrage Law operated without extending the vote
to women (Kiguchi 2017). After the Japanese state granted women the right to participate in
political assemblies, there was a surge in numbers of womens interest groups. Alumni
groups, Christian missionary groups, and other womens auxiliary groups began to sprout
during the inter-war period. After a massive earthquake struck Tokyo in 1923, representatives
from forty-three of these organizations joined forces to become the Tokyo Federation of
Womens Organizations (Tokyo Rengo Fujinkai). The federation served as disaster relief to
aid those affected by the earthquake; however, it went on to become one of the most
noteworthy womens activist groups of the time (Molony 2010). Marnie S. Anderson also
explains the emergence and progress in womens rights movements during the post-Meiji
period. Anderson states that over the nineteenth century, the shape of Japanese womens
activism transformed dramatically. Before and during the Meiji Restorationthe era of the
11
late 1860sfemale peasants joined in uprisings, and some women fought alongside men in
the Restoration Wars.
7
Moreover, there are a few caseswhere loyalist women such as
Matsuo Taseko worked alongside men to achieve the goal of restoring the emperor to what
they saw as his rightful place at the center of the polity.
8
But such actions were part of more
extensive, male-led movements. Furthermore, womens gender and other variables
circumscribed the parameters of womens activities. The situation changed dramatically with
the advent of the Meiji period when most examples of female activism occurred within the
context of women-only organizations. By the turn of the century, this burst of associational
activity had led to the formation of womens groups of various persuasions, including
patriotic associations, Christian groups (notably the Womans Christian Temperance Union),
Buddhist groups, and other charitable associations (Anderson 2013).
In the realm of social reforms, the most significant legal changes were introduced in the family
system, in particular the status of women. The equal right of the wife with her husband was
guaranteed, the wife was given the right to own property independently, and she gained the right to
divorce her husband on the same grounds that he could appeal to in divorcing her. Primogeniture
was abolished, and daughters were given the right to inherit the same share of the family property
as sons. The authority formerly held by the head of the extended family was removed. Family
registries were compiled on the basis of the nuclear, conjugal family. A male at the age of eighteen
and a female at the age of sixteen could now marry without the consent of the parents. Legal
changes, of course, did not bring about an immediate end to the old ways. Women continued to
occupy a subordinate position in the family and society, although women gradually began to play
an increasingly prominent role in all areas of society. (Hane and Perez 2013)
3.1 Empowerment of the Japanese Women
However, even though Japan recognized women as having equal legal rights to men
after World War II, economic conditions for women remained unbalanced (Soble 2015).
Modern policy initiatives to encourage motherhood and workplace participation have had
mixed results (Borovoy 2005). In their work Modern Japan: A Historical Survey, Hane and
7
Anne Walthall, Devoted Wives/Unruly Women: Invisible Presence in the History of Japanese Social Protest,
Signs 20, no. 1 (1994): 10636; Diana Wright, Female Combatants and Japans Meiji Restoration: The Case of
Aizu,War in History 8, no. 4 (2001): 396417.
8
Anne Walthall. The Weak Body of a Useless Woman. (University of Chicago Press: Chicago, 1998.), 357, n.
34.
12
Perez states two articles of the 1946 Constitution. In the aftermath of World War II, the 1946
constitution embodied the principle of equality between the sexes (Hane and Perez 2013)
Article 14 states that All of the people are equal under the law and there shall be no
discrimination in political, economic or social relations, because of race, creed, sex, social
status or family origin.
9
Article 24 reads
Marriage shall be based only on the mutual consent of both sexes and it shall be maintained
through mutual cooperation with the equal rights of husband and wife as a basis. With regard to
choice of spouse, property rights, inheritance, choice of domicile, divorce and other matters
pertaining to marriage and the family, laws shall be enacted from the standpoint of individual
dignity and the essential equality of the sexes. Although the constitution and reforms strengthened
Japanese womens legal rights, their social, political, and economic condition improved very
slowly. In terms of jobs that women are most likely to be engaged in, the vast majority are office
workers or workers in service industries. Very few are in career- track positions. Very few are in
career-administrative tracks. Women comprise a large number of part-time workers or temporary
workers. (Hane and Perez 2013)
3.2 Contemporary World and Japanese Womens Economic Empowerment
In the contemporary Japanese community, women have been trying toward equality in
Japan. Equality benefits men as much as it does women. Initially, it is becoming further
acceptable to aspire to a career. Women are sufficiently able to balance work and home life
they can be at home more often as well. Several men want to be present fathers rather than
distant father figures. Mandatory overtime still stops his efforts.
10
Moving away from
traditional roles, however, opens both men and women up to problems. Many follow the
conventional method to avoid arising predicaments with their family members. Even
modernfamilies, those that try to evenly divide work and family obligations, retain some of
the traditional roles. The roles of both men and women keep varying. However, there is also
the effect of advertising.With the modernization and the growing influence of Western
trends, advertising has gradually caught up with status negotiation. For instancein
9
Mikiso Hane, Louis G. Perez. Modern Japan: a Historical Survey. (Routledge, 2012).
10
Osawa, Mari 2011. World Development Report 2012. Gender Equality and Development. Background Paper.
Gender-Equality and The Revitalization of Japans Society and Economy Under Globalization.
13
contemporary Japanfathers are more fashionable, and there are even magazines dedicated
to fatherhood (Menton 2003). When it comes to corporate life in the Japanese business world,
it is unmistakable there is a discriminationagainst women in business life. Mikiso Hane and
Louis G, Perez describes this discrimination, and they demonstrate womens position
Discrimination against women is most glaringly evident in the corporate world.
11
According to
Jared Taylor, The male supremacy that lurks in the background on campus is a sacred institution
at the office, and women soon learn their place.
12
Indeed, it remained impossible for women to get
on the track that leads to higher executive positions, although by the 1980s some women had
managed to gain administrative positions. But most female college graduates are hired as an office
ladyand are expected to serve tea to their male office staff colleagues and do errands for them. A
woman who became the first bureau chief of the state radio broadcasting system in 1991 re-called
that when she started out at the NHK, My first job of the day was to wash the glasses left by male
reporters.
13
Today, several Japanese business leaders recognize womens empowerment as critical
to corporate growth. The latest data show that 53 percent of Japanese women continue to
work after childbirthwhich is the first time the figure has exceeded 50 percent and means
the number of working mothers is rising. The facts and figures for womens career
development and promotion arehoweverless encouraging. Women hold only thirteen
percent of management positions, and they make up just three percent of Japans executive
officers.
14
4 Conclusion
In conclusion, Confucian traditions had a tremendous influence on the Japanese
communityeven if negligently. In conclusion, Confucian traditions have had a tremendous
impact on Japanese societyeven if negligently. The values adopted in the Tokugawa
11
Mikiso Hane, Louis G. Perez. Modern Japan: a Historical Survey. (Routledge, 2012).
12
Taylor, Shadows of the Rising Sun, p. 198.
13
Chicago Tribune, May 5, 1991.
14
Diversity Management for Womens Empowerment: Final Report. APEC Policy Partnership on Women and
the Economy. November 2017.
14
periodhaving lasted through the Meiji erapreponderated in the cultural conditions and
attitude of Japanese women even though post-war policymakers obliterated such values. The
approach towards the position of women was equivalent in distinct communities, which
implemented Confucian teachings. It is also plausible to designate the role of the woman as a
character who takes care of the house and childrenalike in China and Korea. However, the
contemporary situation develops depending on the political or social system in each specific
nation. Family life involves a negotiation with the husband about childcare, household chores,
chores, care for parents, and other aspects of life. Japanese culture has historically emphasized
gender roles. Expectations for men and women have traditionally aligned with societal
obligations in the private and public sectors. Women dominated the household, but outside of
the home, their families dictated their behavior. Although ancient philosophieslike
Confucianism and feudalismlaid the foundations for the situation of women, turning points
such as WWII allowed them to break through the glass ceiling, and defy gender expectations.
However, taking the statistics and figures into consideration, it is not possible to say that
Japanese women enjoy equal treatment in the workplace. The evolution of the Japanese
community has prompted women to acclimatize to distinct customs and responsibilities.
Various waves of the change have introduced new philosophies that guided Japanese
lifestyles with values such as restraint, respect, organization, decorum, chastity, and modesty.
15
5 Bibliography
Anderson, Marnie S. 2013. Women and Political Life in Meiji Japan: The Case of the Okayama
joshi konshinkai (Okayama Womens Friendship Society).
Borovoy, Amy. 2005. The Too-Good Wife: Alcohol, Codependency, and The Politics of Nurturance
in Postwar Japan. University of California Press.
Hane, Mikiso, and Louis G. Perez. 2013. Modern Japan: A Historical Survey. Westview Press.
Hunter, Janet E. 1989. The Emergence of Modern Japan: An Introductory History Since 1853.
London; New York: Longman.
Iwai, Tomoaki. 1993. The Madonna Boom: Women in the Japanese Diet. Winter.
Kaibara, Ekken. 2010. Onna Daigaku: A Treasure Box of Womens Learning. Paperback.
Kiguchi, Junko. 2017. Japanese Womens Rights at the Meiji Era.
Kincaid, Chris. 2014. Gender Roles of Women in Modern Japan.
Menton, Linda K. 2003. The Rise of Modern Japan. University of Hawaii Press.
Molony, Barbara. 2010. Womens Rights, Feminism, and Suffragism in Japan, 1870-1925. University
of California Press.
Shelton, Joel A. 2008. Female Labor in the Postwar Japanese Economy: A Geographic Perspective.
VDM Verlag.
Soble, Jonathan. 2015. Supermom, To Rescue Economy Japan Turns to.The New York Times.
Tamura, Naomi. 1885. Jogaku Zasshi.
Tamura, Naomi. 1893. The Japanese Bride. Harper & Brothers.
ResearchGate has not been able to resolve any citations for this publication.
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Social drinking is an accepted aspect of working life in Japan, and women are left to manage their drunken husbands when the men return home, restoring them to sobriety for the next day of work. In attempting to cope with their husbands' alcoholism, the women face a profound cultural dilemma: when does the nurturing behavior expected of a good wife and mother become part of a pattern of behavior that is actually destructive? How does the celebration of nurturance and dependency mask the exploitative aspects not just of family life but also of public life in Japan? The Too-Good Wife follows the experiences of a group of middle-class women in Tokyo who participated in a weekly support meeting for families of substance abusers at a public mental-health clinic. Amy Borovoy deftly analyzes the dilemmas of being female in modern Japan and the grace with which women struggle within a system that supports wives and mothers but thwarts their attempts to find fulfillment outside the family. The central concerns of the book reach beyond the problem of alcoholism to examine the women's own processes of self-reflection and criticism and the deeper fissures and asymmetries that undergird Japanese productivity and social order.
Article
In 1882, one Murasame Nobu, a woman from Aichi prefecture, sent a letter to Itagaki Taisuke, the leader of the Liberal Party, and included 5 yen from her home employment (naishoku), which was making fireworks, to support the Party. Murasame would go on to become one of the founding members of a local women's organization, the Toyohashi Fujo Kyōkai (Toyohashi Women's Cooperative Association), about which most information has been lost. She later met famous liberal male activists and was even arrested for her involvement—along with her husband and other activists—in a failed uprising against the government (the Iida Incident), although she was eventually released due to a lack of evidence. Years later, she wrote a preface for the activist Ueki Emori's Tōyō no fujo (Women of the East), revealing her commitment to raising women's status, her high level of education, and her deep knowledge of famous women in Japanese history. What is surprising about Murasame's story is that it happened at all, for the links between politics and masculinity in Japan have deep roots, and women's political involvement has largely been cast as a twentieth-century tale focused on the quest for suffrage. Even in contemporary Japan, women can and do play a political role, but as Robin LeBlanc has demonstrated, female politicians and activists tend to highlight their femininity and "mak[e] creative use of the widely accepted stereotype that women are closer to the home than men are." Obscured in the emphasis on the masculinity of politics in Japan is the fact that Japanese women have demonstrated political engagement throughout the modern period. While many scholars have examined the activities of women throughout the twentieth century, my own interest lies in the lives of women, such as Murasame, who formed local women's groups during the Meiji period (1868-1912). These groups drafted charters, sponsored debates and speeches, founded schools, and in some cases formed their own political parties. In thinking about women and political life, I have been inspired by the work of gender historians who have begun to call attention to some of the ways that women have engaged in politics both by drawing on a more expansive definition of the political and by exploring some of the ways in which women have engaged in political activities outside of voting. I attempt such an analysis of Meiji women in this essay. Although historians have traditionally defined "politics" rather narrowly (and consequently ignored the role of women), a larger conception of the political permits an appreciation of various degrees within it, so that we can include examples of women engaging in social reform, including the founding of schools. In short, I wish to stress that women were acting politically and making political statements even when they were not entirely aware of it. Over the course of the nineteenth century, the shape of Japanese women's activism changed dramatically. Prior to and during the Meiji Restoration era of the late 1860s, female peasants joined in uprisings, and some women fought alongside men in the Restoration Wars. Moreover, there are a few cases where loyalist women such as Matsuo Taseko worked alongside men in order to achieve the goal of restoring the emperor to what they saw as his rightful place at the center of the polity. But such actions were part of larger, male-led movements, and the parameters of women's activities were circumscribed by their gender and other variables. The situation changed dramatically with the advent of the Meiji period, when most examples of female activism occurred within the context of women-only organizations. By the turn of the century, this burst of associational activity had led to the formation of women's groups of various persuasions, including patriotic associations, Christian groups (notably the Woman's Christian Temperance Union), Buddhist groups, and other charitable associations. The first women's groups appeared on the scene in the early 1880s, during the era when liberal activism was at its height in the form of the Freedom and People's Rights movements (Jiyū minken undō). Whereas men's involvement in...
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The struggle for women's suffrage in Japan, often associated with the liberal politics of the 1920s, built on women's rights discussions dating from the late nineteenth century. Discourse about "rights" in nineteenth-century Japan derived from a conflation of indigenous anti-authoritarian ideas with imported notions of inclusion (following Jean-Jacques Rousseau) and respect for educated women's personhood (following John Stuart Mill). By the 1920s women's right advocates called on the state to recognize women both as a protected class requiring sheltering from the excesses of patriarchy and capitalism and as individuals with full rights of membership, including suffrage, in the state and civil society. Following limited participation in the activities of the wartime state, Japanese women obtained full political rights only after World War II. The evolving feminist movements of the previous seventy years laid the groundwork for women's lively use of the right of suffrage in the late 1940s.
Onna Daigaku: A Treasure Box of Women's Learning. Paperback. Kiguchi
  • Ekken Kaibara
Kaibara, Ekken. 2010. Onna Daigaku: A Treasure Box of Women's Learning. Paperback. Kiguchi, Junko. 2017. "Japanese Women's Rights at the Meiji Era." Kincaid, Chris. 2014. Gender Roles of Women in Modern Japan.
Women's Rights, Feminism, and Suffragism in Japan
  • Linda K Menton
Menton, Linda K. 2003. The Rise of Modern Japan. University of Hawaii Press. Molony, Barbara. 2010. Women's Rights, Feminism, and Suffragism in Japan, 1870-1925. University of California Press.
Supermom, To Rescue Economy Japan Turns to
  • Jonathan Soble
Soble, Jonathan. 2015. "Supermom, To Rescue Economy Japan Turns to." The New York Times. Tamura, Naomi. 1885. "Jogaku Zasshi." Tamura, Naomi. 1893. The Japanese Bride. Harper & Brothers.
The Rise of Modern Japan
  • Linda K Menton
Menton, Linda K. 2003. The Rise of Modern Japan. University of Hawaii Press.