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Gender and Law in the Japanese Imperium

edited by Susan L. Burns and Barbara J. Brooks

Publication Year: 2014

Beginning in the nineteenth century, law as practice, discourse, and ideology became a powerful means of reordering gender relations in modern nation-states and their colonies around the world. This volume puts developments in Japan and its empire in dialogue with this global phenomenon. Arguing against the popular stereotype of Japan as a non-litigious society, an international group of contributors from Japan, Taiwan, Germany, and the U.S., explores how in Japan and its colonies, as elsewhere in the modern world, law became a fundamental means of creating and regulating gendered subjects and social norms in the period from the 1870s to the 1950s. Rather than viewing legal discourse and the courts merely as technologies of state control, the authors suggest that they were subject to negotiation, interpretation, and contestation at every level of their formulation and deployment. With this as a shared starting point, they explore key issues such reproductive and human rights, sexuality, prostitution, gender and criminality, and the formation of the modern conceptions of family and conjugality, and use these issues to complicate our understanding of the impact of civil, criminal, and administrative laws upon the lives of both Japanese citizens and colonial subjects. The result is a powerful rethinking of not only gender and law, but also the relationships between the state and civil society, the metropole and the colonies, and Japan and the West.

Collectively, the essays offer a new framework for the history of gender in modern Japan and revise our understanding of both law and gender in an era shaped by modernization, nation and empire-building, war, occupation, and decolonization. With its broad chronological time span and compelling and yet accessible writing, Gender and Law in the Japanese Imperium will be a powerful addition to any course on modern Japanese history and of interest to readers concerned with gender, society, and law in other parts of the world.

Published by: University of Hawai'i Press


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Title Page, Copyright

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pp. v-vi


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pp. vii-viii

Note on East Asian Names and Terms

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pp. ix-x

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Susan L. Burns

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pp. 1-18

Beginning in the nineteenth century, law as practice, discourse, and ideology became a powerful means of reordering gender relations in modern nation-states and their colonies around the world. In France, the Civil Code of 1804 and the Napoleonic Code of 1810 ended a remarkable period of legal experimentation in gender equality that...

Part I. Prostitution, Law, and Human Rights

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Chapter 1: The Maria Luz Incident: Personal Rights and International Justice for Chinese Coolies and Japanese Prostitutes

Douglas Howland

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pp. 21-47

For its handling of the Maria Luz incident in 1872, Japan received international acclaim as a humanitarian supporter of international law. The case concerned the Peruvian transport of Chinese coolies on the Maria Luz into the Japanese port of Yokohama, and invited the participation of Japan in international efforts to suppress the coolie trade...

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Chapter 2: Disputing Rights: The Debate over Anti-Prostitution Legislation in 1950s Japan

Sally A. Hastings

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pp. 48-78

When the Prostitution Prevention Law was enacted on May 21, 1956, the press hailed the legislation as a triumph for the cause of human rights in Japan. The Asahi celebrated Japan’s entry into the company of progressive nations, in which “prostitution should vanish just as slavery did.”1 The Nippon Times described the passage of the bill in the...

Part II. Crime, Punishment, and Gender

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Chapter 3: Gender in the Arena of the Courts: The Prosecution of Abortion and Infanticide in Early Meiji Japan

Susan L. Burns

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pp. 81-108

In 1949 Japan became the first country in the world to legalize abortion based upon socioeconomic grounds, a legislative innovation that Tiana Norgren has described as “a marked departure from international norms.”1 But the legalization of abortion was also a remarkable departure from almost eight decades of Japanese criminal law. The first...

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Chapter 4: Adultery and Gender Equality in Modern Japan, 1868–1948

Harald Fuess

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pp. 109-135

This chapter examines how Japanese developed, applied, and contested adultery laws in the period between 1868 and 1948. Perhaps more than any other legislation, laws on adultery were explicitly phrased in gendered terms that clearly differentiated the actions of a husband from those of a wife. This sort of distinction was not unique to...

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Chapter 5: Of Pity and Poison: Imprisoning Women in Modern Japan

Daniel Botsman

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pp. 136-158

Although the “revisionist” scholars who rekindled widespread interest in the history of punishment in the 1970s were largely oblivious to questions of gender, the decades since have seen the publication of a series of important studies (all by women) that call attention to the way in which the punishment of men and women has differed significantly...

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Chapter 6: Burning Down the House: Gender and Jury in a Tokyo Courtroom, 1928

Darryl Flaherty

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pp. 159-186

Who was Yamafuji Kanko? This was the riddle that the daily papers presented to their readers on the occasion of the “Yamafuji Kanko Arson Trial” or “Kanko Jury Trial.” Taken separately, attempted arson, female criminality, or the defendant’s beauty did not win front-page coverage in the Tokyo Asahi shinbun. Yet in 1928 these factors, combined with...

Part III. Colonial Law and the Problem of the Family

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Chapter 7: Sim-pua under the Colonial Gaze: Gender, “Old Customs,” and the Law in Taiwan under Japanese Imperialism

Chen Chao-ju

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pp. 189-218

Chinese women crippled by bound feet. Indian widows committing suttee on their husbands’ funeral pyres. Women’s subordination has long been treated as a core element of Asian tradition and viewed as a sign of Asian backwardness. The representation of Asian women as victims bound by tradition is part of the ideological construction of Western...

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Chapter 8: Japanese Colonialism, Gender, and Household Registration: Legal Reconstruction of Boundaries

Barbara J. Brooks

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pp. 219-239

The workings of power have always been at the center of the study of colonialism in its diverse manifestations. Much scholarly attention has recently addressed divisions between colonizer and colonized, both within colonial and metropolitan spaces, as a means of better grasping the nature of colonial rule and the culture of colonialism. In an important...

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Chapter 9: A New Perspective on the“Name-Changing Policy” in Korea

Matsutani Motokazu

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pp. 240-266

The “name-changing policy” (sōshi kaimei) that forced Koreans to adopt Japanese names has been known as the most oppressive Japanese colonial policy in Korea. According to a standard textbook, “the forced assimilation policy of the 1930s reached its apex on the eve of the outbreak of the wider war in the Pacific. . . . A year earlier, however, ...


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pp. 267-290


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pp. 291-294


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pp. 295-301

Production Notes, Back Cover

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E-ISBN-13: 9780824839192
Print-ISBN-13: 9780824837150

Publication Year: 2014

OCLC Number: 870969864
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Gender and Law in the Japanese Imperium

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Subject Headings

  • Women's rights -- Japan -- Case studies -- Congresses.
  • Domestic relations -- Japan -- Case studies -- Congresses.
  • Prostitution -- Law and legislation -- Japan -- Case studies -- Congresses.
  • Sex and law -- Japan -- Case studies -- Congresses.
  • Women -- Legal status, laws, etc. -- Japan -- Case studies -- Congresses.
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