Synopses & Reviews
Presenting a vivid social history of andldquo;the new womanandrdquo; who emerged in Japanese culture between the world wars, The New Japanese Woman
shows how images of modern women burst into Japanese life in the midst of the urbanization, growth of the middle class, and explosion of consumerism resulting from the postwar economic boom, particularly in the 1920s. Barbara Sato analyzes the icons that came to represent the new urban femininityandmdash;the andldquo;modern girl,andrdquo; the housewife, and the professional working woman. She describes how these images portrayed in the media shaped and were shaped by womenandrsquo;s desires. Although the figures of the modern woman by no means represented all Japanese women, they did challenge the myth of a fixed definition of femininityandmdash;particularly the stereotype emphasizing gentleness and meeknessandmdash;and generate a new set of possibilities for middle-class women within the context of consumer culture.
The New Japanese Woman is rich in descriptive detail and full of fascinating vignettes from Japanandrsquo;s interwar media and consumer industriesandmdash;department stores, film, radio, popular music and the publishing industry. Sato pays particular attention to the enormously influential role of the womenandrsquo;s magazines, which proliferated during this period. She describes the different kinds of magazines, their stories and readerships, and the new genres the emerged at the time, including confessional pieces, articles about family and popular trends, and advice columns. Examining reactions to the images of the modern girl, the housewife, and the professional woman, Sato shows that while these were not revolutionary figures, they caused anxiety among male intellectuals, government officials, and much of the public at large, and they contributed to the significant changes in gender relations in Japan following the Second World War.
A study of the "modern" woman in Japan before World War II.
About the Author
“Barbara Sato has produced a superb book on the construction of a new women's culture in Japan in the interwar period. In captivating detail, she documents the creation of a new subjectivity—'women'—through the interactions of middle-class women with consumer capitalism and the mass media. By showing us the myriad ways that women wrote themselves into the narratives of modernity, Sato's book opens up new ways of thinking about the relationship between women and the modern.”—Louise Young, author of Japan’s Total Empire
“In no other study of Japanese women are issues of gender and social history so magnificently intertwined. No other work in the English language provides such a detailed view of the multiple configurations of mass culture (film, radio, popular magazines, department stores, fashions, etc.) in the 1920s and 1930s. This is a remarkable accomplishment.”—Don Roden, author of Schooldays in Japan
“Now the 'new women’ of interwar Japan join their subversive sisters around the globe in this vivid presentation of the social imaginaries of the modern girl, the housewife, and the professional working woman of middle-class Tokyo. Self-consciously modern, they were also evoked by their critics to redefine modernity, though not necessarily in directions they themselves might have wished. A new story, an old story, well told and nicely illustrated.”—Carol Gluck, Columbia University