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Motherhood, Childhood and Social Reform in Early Twentieth Century Japan
Contemporary Japanese women are often presented as devoted full-time wives and mothers. At the extreme, they are stereotyped as "education mothers" (kyoiku mama), completely dedicated to the academic success of their children. Children of working mothers are pitied; day-care users, both children and mothers, are faintly disparaged for their inadequate home lives; hired babysitters are virtually unknown. Yet historical evidence reveals a strikingly different picture of Japanese motherhood and childcare at the beginning of the twentieth century. In contrast to today, child tending by non-maternal caregivers was widely accepted at all levels of Japanese society. Day-care centers flourished, and there was virtually no expectation of exclusive maternal care of children, even infants. The patterns of the formation of modern Japanese attitudes toward motherhood, childhood, child-rearing, and home life become visible as this study traces the early twentieth-century rise of Japanese day-care centers, institutions established by middle-class philanthropists and reformers to provide for the physical well-being and mental and moral development of urban lower-class preschool children. Day-care gained broad support in turn-of-the-century Japan for several reasons. For one, day-care did not clash with widely accepted norms of child care. A second factor was the perception of public and private policymakers that day-care held the promise of social and national progress through economic and moral betterment of the urban lower classes. Finally, day-care offered working mothers the opportunity to earn a better livelihood with fewer worries about their children. In spite of emerging notions that total devotion to child-rearing was a woman's highest calling, Japanese nationalism, a signal force in the genesis of the modern Japanese state, economy, and middle-class culture, fed a deep wellspring of support for day-care and fostered significant reshaping of motherhood, childhood, home life, and view of the urban lower classes. Passages to Modernity is an important and original contribution to our understanding of the institutional and ideological reach of the early twentieth-century state and the contested emergence of a striking new discourse about woman as domestic caregiver and homemaker.
Pedagogy of Democracy re-interprets the U.S. occupation of Japan from 1945 to 1952 as a problematic instance of Cold War feminist mobilization rather than a successful democratization of Japanese women as previously argued. By combining three fields of research—occupation, Cold War, and postcolonial feminist studies—and examining occupation records and other archival sources, Koikari argues that postwar gender reform was one of the Cold War containment strategies that undermined rather than promoted women’s political and economic rights.
Political Space and Open Secrets in Tokugawa Japan
Performing the Great Peace offers a cultural approach to understanding the politics of the Tokugawa period, at the same time deconstructing some of the assumptions of modern national historiographies. Deploying the political terms uchi (inside), omote (ritual interface), and naisho (informal negotiation)—all commonly used in the Tokugawa period—Luke Roberts explores how daimyo and the Tokugawa government understood political relations and managed politics in terms of spatial autonomy, ritual submission, and informal negotiation. Roberts suggests as well that a layered hierarchy of omote and uchi relations strongly influenced politics down to the village and household level, a method that clarifies many seeming anomalies in the Tokugawa order. He analyzes in one chapter how the identities of daimyo and domains differed according to whether they were facing the Tokugawa or speaking to members of the domain and daimyo household: For example, a large domain might be identified as a“country” by insiders and as a “private territory” in external discourse. In another chapter he investigates the common occurrence of daimyo who remained formally alive to the government months or even years after they had died in order that inheritance issues could be managed peacefully within their households. The operation of the court system in boundary disputes is analyzed as are the “illegal” enshrinements of daimyo inside domains that were sometimes used to construct forms of domain-state Shinto. Performing the Great Peace’s convincing analyses and insightful conceptual framework will benefit historians of not only the Tokugawa and Meiji periods, but Japan in general and others seeking innovative approaches to premodern history.
Reform Bureaucrats and the Japanese Wartime State
Japan's invasion of Manchuria in September of 1931 initiated a new phase of brutal occupation and warfare in Asia and the Pacific. It forwarded the project of remaking the Japanese state along technocratic and fascistic lines and creating a self-sufficient Asian bloc centered on Japan and its puppet state of Manchukuo. In Planning for Empire, Janis Mimura traces the origins and evolution of this new order and the ideas and policies of its chief architects, the reform bureaucrats. The reform bureaucrats pursued a radical, authoritarian vision of modern Japan in which public and private spheres were fused, ownership and control of capital were separated, and society was ruled by technocrats.
Mimura shifts our attention away from reactionary young officers to state planners-reform bureaucrats, total war officers, new zaibatsu leaders, economists, political scientists, engineers, and labor party leaders. She shows how empire building and war mobilization raised the stature and influence of these middle-class professionals by calling forth new government planning agencies, research bureaus, and think tanks to draft Five Year industrial plans, rationalize industry, mobilize the masses, streamline the bureaucracy, and manage big business. Deftly examining the political battles and compromises of Japanese technocrats in their bid for political power and Asian hegemony, Planning for Empire offers a new perspective on Japanese fascism by revealing its modern roots in the close interaction of technology and right-wing ideology.
Barbara Jefferson, a young American teaching in Tokyo in the 1960s, is set on a life-changing quest when her Japanese surrogate mother, Michi, dies, leaving her a tansu of homemade plum wines wrapped in rice paper. Within the papers Barbara discovers writings in Japanese calligraphy that comprise a startling personal narrative. With the help of her translator, Seiji Okada, Barbara begins to unravel the mysteries of Michi's life, a story that begins in the early twentieth century and continues through World War II and its aftermath.
As Barbara and Seiji translate the plum wine papers they form an intimate bond, with Michi a ghostly third in what becomes an increasingly uneasy triangle. Barbara is deeply affected by the revelation that Michi and Seiji are hibakusha, survivors of the atomic bombing in Hiroshima, and even harder for her to understand are the devastating psychological effects wrought by war. Plum Wine examines human relationships, cultural differences, and the irreparable consequences of war in a story that is both original and timeless.
Western scholars have tended to read Heian literature through the prism of female experience, stressing the imbalance of power in courtship and looking for evidence that women hoped to move beyond the constraints of marriage politics. Paul Schalow’s original and challenging work inherits these concerns about the transcendence of love and carries them into a new realm of inquiry—the suffering of noblemen and the literary record of their hopes for transcendence through friendship. He traces this recurring theme, which he labels "courtly male friendship," in five important literary works ranging from the tenth-century Tale of Ise to the early eleventh-century Tale of Genji. Whether authored by men or women, the depictions of male friendship addressed in this work convey the differing perspectives of male and female authors profoundly shaped by their gender roles in the court aristocracy. Schalow’s analysis clarifies in particular how Heian literature articulates the nobleman’s wish to be known and appreciated fully by another man.
Scholars often use the term "structural corruption" when discussing modern Japan's political system--a system that forces politicians to exchange favors with businessmen in return for funds to finance their political careers. Scholars argue that the origins of corruption can be found in the "iron triangles" formed by politicians, bureaucrats, and businessmen during the postwar era or during the Pacific War years. In this examination of malfeasance in Japanese public office, Richard Mitchell systematically surveys political bribery in Japan's historical and cultural contexts from antiquity to the early 1900s. Mitchell's narrative serially considers scandals involving courtiers in the ancient imperial government, corruption among the shogun's samurai officials, and political bribery among bureaucrats and party politicians in the mid-nineteenth century. Mitchell concludes that bribery was as ubiquitous in premodern Japan as it has been in recent times. Focusing on the period since 1868, Mitchell discusses in fascinating detail changes in political bribery in the wake of suffrage expansion, estimates of the enormous amount of campaign money needed to win a Diet seat in both the prewar and postwar periods, and the low conviction rate of suspected takers of bribes. Here is a highly readable and reliable survey of an important yet largely neglected topic in English-language studies of Japanese political history.
From Kojiki (712) to Tokushi Yoron (1712)
It was only at the onset of the Tokugawa period (1602-1868) that formal political thought emerged in Japan. Prior to that time Japanese scholars had concentrated, rather, on questions of legitimacy and authority in historical writing., producing a stream of works. Brownlee’s illuminating study describes twenty of these important historical works commencing with Kojiki (712) and Nihon Shoki (720) and ending with Tokushi Yoron (1712) by Arai Hakuseki. Historical writing would cease to be the sole vehicle for political discussion in Japan in the eighteenth century as Chinese Confucian thought became dominant.
The author illustrates how the first works conceptualized history as imperial history and that subsequent scholars were unable to devise alternative schemes or patterns for history until Arai Hakuseki. Following the first histories, the central concern became the question of the relation of the Emperors to the new powers that arose. Brownlee examines the genre of Historical Tales and how it treated the Fujiwara Regents, the War Tales dealing with warriors at large, and specific works of historical argument depicting the Bakufu in relation to the Emperors. By interposing the works of Gukanshø (1219) by Jien, Jinnø Shøtøki (1339) by Kitabatake Chikafusa and Tokushi Yoron by Arai Hakuseki a clear pattern, demonstrating the sequential development of complexity and sophistication in handling the question, is revealed. Japanese political thought thus developed independently towards rationalism and secularism in early modern times.
How Gender and Community Are Changing Modern Electoral Politics
Popular Democracy in Japan examines a puzzle in Japanese politics: Why do Japanese women turn out to vote at rates higher than men? On the basis of in-depth fieldwork in various parts of the country, Sherry L. Martin argues that the exclusion of women from a full range of opportunities in public life provokes many of them to seek alternative outlets for self-expression. They have options that include a wide variety of study, hobby, and lifelong learning groups-a feature of Japanese civic life that the Ministry of Education encourages.
Women who participate in these alternative spaces for learning tend, Martin finds, to examine the political conditions that have pushed them there. Her research suggests that study group participation increases women's confidence in using various types of political participation (including voting) to pressure political elites for a more inclusive form of democracy. Considerable overlap between the narratives that emerge from women's groups and a survey of national public opinion identifies these groups as crucial sites for crafting and circulating public discourses about politics. Martin shows how the interplay between public opinion and institutional change has given rise to bottom-up changes in electoral politics that culminated in the 2009 Democratic Party of Japan victory in the House of Representatives election.
Religion, Politics, and Personal Cultivation in Nineteenth-Century Japan
The idea that personal cultivation leads to social and material well-being became widespread in late Tokugawa Japan (1600–1868). Practical Pursuits explores theories of personal development that were diffused in the early nineteenth century by a network of religious groups in the Edo (Tokyo) area, and explains how, after the Meiji Restoration of 1868, the leading members of these communities went on to create ideological coalitions inspired by the pursuit of a modern form of cultivation. Variously engaged in divination, Shinto purification rituals, and Zen practice, these individuals ultimately used informal political associations to promote the Confucian-style assumption that personal improvement is the basis for national prosperity. This wide-ranging yet painstakingly researched study represents a new direction in historical analysis. Where previous scholarship has used large conceptual units like Confucianism and Buddhism as its main actors and has emphasized the discontinuities in Edo and Meiji religious life, Sawada addresses the history of religion in nineteenth-century Japan at the level of individuals and small groups. She employs personal cultivation as an interpretive system, crossing familiar boundaries to consider complex linguistic, philosophical, and social interconnections.