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It’s in a Japanese language podcast, I’m afraid, but I’ll quote Sayaka Chatani’s description
It caught my eyes because it had an interview with Ueno Chizuko (and many other scholars I like). I listened to her speaking, and she is exactly what I was looking for. A chilled-out intellectual. She is funny, passionate, quite feminine, of course smart, and sounds very approachable. The show was almost entirely about her latest book on the single elderly life, but towards the end, she also summarizes what women’s studies (or feminism) is about in a few words: it means that no one but you decides who you are.
Right after this, yes IMMEDIATELY after this, the interviewer asked her the last question: “what is the best thing about Japanese women (“nihon josei”) and what is not good about us?” I hit my head against the desk. Did you not hear she just said we decide who we are —?! Perhaps you prepared that question before the interview, and could not process the context on the spot. In response, Professor Ueno just casually goes, “there is no such thing as nihon josei. Everyone’s different, dear.”
For a visual depiction of the Imperial politics at the heart of Nijo’s Confessions, here’s George Sansom’s diagrams
A quick look at the current state of marriage rates in Japan suggests deeply shifting attitudes. Some comparative data would be nice. And the “herbivore men” thing is a bit of pop sociology that really doesn’t help anyone’s understanding of the situation.
You can find the short paper assignment here: the first, on Murasaki Shikibu’s diary, is due February 2nd.
What lovely timing: a short overview of the history of the Takarazuka Revue, with reference to some of the works about it.
A quick tour of the website:
- The main course page is here, or you can find it above in the header. This is mostly a schedule of readings and assignments, to which I will add links for resources, full assignment handouts and other material as necessary.
- You can find the full syllabus, with course policies, etc., here, or through the “Past Syllabi” page in the header or from the link on the main course page. The Grad Student Addendum may be found here, and through the other routes as well.
- As the header says, there’s a page of Japanese historical resources, including links to some of my powerpoint slide sets and picture collections, teaching resources, etc. The most important link on that page at the moment is the Student Information Form, which you are required to copy, fill out, and email back to me before Thursday.
- Your other homework for Thursday is to find 5 interest sites on the web relating to Japanese women in history. “Interesting” does not necessarily mean good, but it should mean interesting. Avoid wikipedia and other obvious reference sources. Email me what you find, with comments on each one, before 9am Thursday, so I have time to put together a page for everyone to see.
Here is the list of books for purchase for Hist 532 (700-07) for Spring 2012
- Murasaki Shikibu, Diary of Lady Murasaki, trans. Richard Bowring, Penguin, 1999.
- Karen Brazell, ed. and trans., The Confessions of Lady Nijo, Stanford UP, 1973.
- Yamakawa Kikue, Kate Wildman Nakai (Translator), Women of the Mito Domain: Recollections of Samurai Family Life, 1997, Stanford UP
- Robert John Smith, Ella L. Wiswell, Women of Suye Mura, 1982, Chicago UP.
- Mikiso Hane, ed. and trans., Reflections on the Way to the Gallows: Rebel Women in Prewar Japan. University of California Press, 1993.
- Kumiko Fujimura-Fanselow and Atsuko Kameda, eds., Japanese Women: New Feminist Perspectives on the Past, Present and Future, The Feminist Press at CUNY, 1994. ISBN-13: 978-1558610941
- Kaori Okano, Young Women in Japan: Transitions to Adulthood, Routledge, 2009. ISBN-13: 978-0415590518
This is more or less the order we’ll be reading them, so if you have to prioritize, start at the top! Feel free to buy these from the bookstore, which has them on order, or from any other source. We will be reading all of them.
The World Economic Forum’s Gender Gap report “assesses countries on how well they are dividing their resources and opportunities among their male and female populations, regardless of the overall levels of these resources and opportunities.” The United States ranked 31st out of 134; Japan ranked 75th, flanked by the Czech Republic and the Gambia. In Japan’s defense, that’s better than the last two years. The Country Report highlights are fascinating, a neat snapshot of current social data.
In honor of the current health-care reform debate in this country, Roy Berman at MutantfrogTravelogue recounts the history of birth control and erectile dysfunction medicine in Japan
I’ve been looking for a good book on rural life in Western societies in the modern era to use as a counterpoint to the Suye Mura books: this classic social history of rural France in the 19th and early 20th centuries looks like what I need.
Joe Jones at MutantFrog Travelogue (don’t let the name fool you, it’s a fantastic blog about Japanese culture, politics and history) has an excellent overview of the law and demographics of divorce and child custody in Japan, especially when foreigners are involved. Jones is a lawyer, with extensive international experience. The topic has come up because of a fairly prominent ongoing dispute between a Japanese woman and her dual-citizenship former husband over child custody, involving both US and Japanese law. You can find details in the links of Jones’ post.
Lady Nijo, in her Confessions, cites a visit to “Atsuta Shrine, in Owari.” Owari is now Aichi Prefecture and the city is called Nagoya. Atsuta Shrine still exists and is a major attraction, with their annual festival serving as a kind of city celebration.
In the Amaterasu eclipse story, the gods use a rope to draw her out of the cave. Ropes have a long tradition in Shinto as symbols of divinity and authority. Often you see ropes as part of Shinto shrines, as in this sacred tree:
You see a similar rope as part of the ceremonial garb worn by Sumo Yokozuna — the title is usually translated “Grand Champion” but literally means “horizontal rope”!
On 3 lists:
- http://japanese-history.suite101.com/article.cfm/womens_status_in_japan, “Women’s Status in Medieval Japan: Female Marriage and Labour in Japan’s 14th-17th Centuries.”
- www.womeninworldhistory.com/sample-08.html – on women warriors
On 2 lists:
- www2.gol.com/users/friedman/writings/p1.html, “The Changing Roles of Women in Japanese Society,”
- http://www.koryu.com/library/wwj1.html – on women warriors.
On one list:
- http://asianhistory.about.com/od/imagegalleries/ss/samuraiwomen.htm – female Samurai.
- http://digital.library.upenn.edu/women/_generate/JAPAN.html – compilation of female writers from Japan
- http://homepages.which.net/~james.phillips/hist.htm female wrestlers in Japan
- http://www.bellaonline.com/articles/art153.asp – brief but informative reality of what exactly a Geisha is, and how their were different “ranks” among them, and how this was, in many ways, far from the ideal life for a young Japanese girl.
- http://www.bellaonline.com/articles/art24550.asp female samurai rule in ancient Japan.
- http://www.columbia.edu/~hds2/BIB95/03womens_studies_kline.html – Resources in Japanese Women’s History.
- http://www.iz2.or.jp/english/fukusyoku/kosode/50.htm – ancient hairstyles of Japanese Women,
- http://www.samurai-archives.com/women.html – specific women famous in Japanese history. It covers their roles in history and society.
- http://www.wsu.edu/~dee/ANCJAPAN/WOMEN.HTM – Women and Women’s Communities in Ancient Japan
- www.iop.or.jp/0313/kurihara.pdf, “A History of Women in Japanese Buddhism: Niceren’s Perspectives on the Enlightenment of Women,” told of how Buddhism helped women, but also injured them by labeling women “impure.”
Due midnight, Tuesday (8/25) by email to me (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Spend a little time (half an hour to an hour) researching the history of Japanese women on the internet. Keep track of the websites you visit, and make note of any themes, continuties, oddities or great finds. Write a short summary of your experience (400 words, max) and include five to ten of the most interesting (best, worst, whatever) websites, with notes about what makes them interesting. Email your results to me by midnight on Tuesday, and also bring a copy to class.
There’s a Michael Dirda essay on the newest translation of one of the great early social satires.
In what is called her Pillow Book — Makura no Soshi — Sei Shonagon celebrates the highly refined and ordered world of the imperial court, in particular what Arthur Waley once called “its rampant aestheticism and sophisticated unmorality.” In lists, mini-essays on love and life, descriptions of rainstorms and religious ceremonies, portraits of witty courtiers and their even more witty ladies, in romantic anecdotes and fragments of short stories and in her own occasional personal confessions, Sei jots down anything and everything that catches her attention. The result is a virtually unique book — a mixture of diary, aide-memoire, naturalist’s journal, gossip column and oral history. It is an early form of what the Japanese call zuihitsu, meaning occasional writings or random notes. At its heart, Makura no Soshi simply records quite ordinary things, memorializing in its darting, quicksilver fashion the wonderful dailiness of life.
He goes on to discuss the book in more detail, and ends up discussing the history of the translations:
As with The Tale of Genji, there are currently three important English versions of The Pillow Book. In 1928 Arthur Waley published a slender volume that mixes in his own commentary with a translation of about a quarter of the original text. In some ways, his is the most appealing version for the general reader: Waley writes beautifully and he emphasizes the best passage of Sei. The most scholarly translation is that by Ivan Morris, first published in 1967, in two volumes, the second being entirely devoted to notes and appendices. Morris’s text generally feels more careful and punctilious, sometimes even academic, as one might expect of a contribution to the Columbia College Program of Translations from the Oriental Classics. But Morris certainly knows Heian literature, as he is also the author of The World of the Shining Prince, the best popular account of “Court Life in Ancient Japan”; it is an absolutely enthralling work of cultural history.
The newest translation of The Pillow Book is Meredith McKinney’s recent Penguin, which uses an alternate base text to that chosen by Morris and gives Sei a more modern, colloquial voice. It also provides excellent maps, glossaries, and notes. This is now the obvious edition for anyone wishing to read the text in its entirety and is the one I quote from. Yet none of the three translators holds an absolute monopoly for the passionate admirer of Sei’s work. Consider that among “Things that make you feel nostalgic,” McKinney includes this item: “On a rainy day when time hangs heavy, searching out an old letter that touched you deeply at the time you received it.” But here is Morris: “It is a rainy day and one is feeling bored. To pass the time, one starts looking through some old papers. And then one comes across the letters of a man one used to love.” The McKinney version is doubtless accurate in its succinctness and may even reflect a slightly different original text, but Morris’s words catch us by the heart.
I’m pretty sure that the Genji translations he’s referring to are the Waley, Seidensticker, and Tyler editions. The McCullough translation of the Pillow Book that we’ll be reading doesn’t include that passage, so I can’t compare it directly, but if McKinney’s version is “doubtless accurate” then Morris’ translation includes interpolations that alter the meaning. Not unusual for older translations, but as an historian (rather than a literateur) I prefer accuracy to imposed emotion.
The history of Japanese women is a complex and challenging topic, which offers a lot of different windows into Japanese history and culture and into the study of gender and society. There is no good textbook for a course like this, so I will provide historical and cultural context, and the readings for the course will mostly be the writings and experiences of Japanese women themselves. Here’s the books I’ve ordered, in more or less the order we’re going to read them:
- Murasaki Shikibu, Diary of Lady Murasaki, trans. Richard Bowring, Penguin, 1999. ISBN 9780140435764
- Karen Brazell, ed. and trans., The Confessions of Lady Nijo, Stanford UP, 1973. ISBN 9780804709309
- Yamakawa Kikue, Kate Wildman Nakai (Translator), Women of the Mito Domain: Recollections of Samurai Family Life, 1997, Stanford UP. ISBN 9780804731492
- Robert John Smith, Ella L. Wiswell, Women of Suye Mura, 1982, Chicago UP. ISBN 9780226763453
- Mikiso Hane, ed. and trans., Reflections on the Way to the Gallows: Rebel Women in Prewar Japan. University of California Press, 1993. ISBN 9780520084216
- Elisabeth Bumiller, The Secrets of Mariko: A Year in the Life of a Japanese Woman and her Family, Vintage/Random House, 1995. ISBN 9780679772620
Feel free to get them from any source: The bookstore should have them.