How Women in Japan are Raised and Their Role in the Household(Women’s Education and Marriage in Japan) Mid 20th Century Amy Newman Women’s Studies Midterm October 17, 2012
Women in Japan, until recently, were raised to run theirfuture house holdsThey are taught to cook and clean so that one day they cancare for their own familyOften times they did not pursue an education beyond HighSchool, or sometimes even Junior High This way, they could begin life with a new family as soon as possible
As seen in this marriage photo from the 1950’s thewomen are meant to continue their roles as they alwayshave. The man is dressed in modern (1950’s modern)western garb, while the woman is dressed in a traditionalJapanese wedding kimono. This suggest that while theman of the family can move forward, the woman muststay behind, as tradition dictates.The photo also suggest that the couple is not very close,despite the fact that they are now married. They keeptheir distance and both their stiff faces and bodylanguage suggest that they are not familiar with eachother. It is was not, and sometimes still isn’t, uncommonfor a woman to marry a man she barely knows (and viceversa). Often times the families will set them up andthey will get married for convenience. While it’s notimpossible for them to be in love, or to care for oneanother, the photo suggests that these people are stillgetting around to that. In the meantime the man doesn’thave to worry about his house, and future children, andin turn he promises the woman security. This is thenormality just 60 years ago. (http://www.japansubculture.com/young-japanese-men-and-women-reject- marriage-and-ultimately-each-other/)
JAPAN BEFORE MEIJIBefore Japan opened itself up to the rest of the world in theMeiji Era, not many foreigners traveled there. There aren’tmany western accounts from before the Meiji to give us afresh perspective on what people thought when they firstlaid eyes on the culture of Japanese women. Woodblockprints give us a look on what it may have been like in Japanthen and allow us to see what people did everyday.
The picture on the right is from the 1800’s, or the EdoPeriod of Japan. It’s a moku hanga, or woodblockprint of a woman doing her laundry. Even today,laundry is almost exclusively the woman’s job inJapan.The woman depicted in this picture is either doing herlaundry in the early morning, or late afternoon, asdepicted by the low hanging sun in the background.This means she has probably had many other choresto do throughout the day. Her sleeves and bottomsare pushed up for work. Even though this could beseen as a haphazard look, she still takes care to lookafter her appearances. The cloth on her head protectsher fair skin from the sun as she works outside.The woman’s poise is also very feminine. Her fingersdelicately hold the cloth. Her mouth is covered by herhand as she laughs at the crab grabbing for herlaundry. Even though nobody is around, she stillremembers her manners and poise like they weredrilled into her. Art by Utagawa Kuniyoshi, 1800’s
THE TEN REALMSThe next picture is another moku hanaga. As the titlesays, it is showing the “Ten Realms within the body”.It is a form of Ukiyo-e or a depiction of “The ﬂoatingworld.” The woman in the picture is pregnant with“the ten realms”. The ten spiritual realms are part ofthe belief of some forms of Buddhism. They are theten ways a sentient being can experience life. Buddhabeing in the highest realm, and hell being the lowest.
The woman on the right is heavily pregnantwith a child that could be born into any one ofthe ten realms. The ten realms aren’tnecessarily an outward depiction, but ratherthe condition of the inner self (i.e., a rapistlives in one of the “Hell realms” while a holierthen thou monk is in one of the top four).This child could be anything, it’s rich withpossibilities. No matter what realm this childis born into, the moku hanaga shows that it’sbecause of its mother that it is there. She gavecarried the weight of the ten realms and gavebirth to one. For centuries it has been theresponsibility that a woman bears children. Art by Kuniteru Utagawa, 1885It’s not just that it’s a woman’s ability to bear children, it is her job and most important responsibilityin many cultures. In Japan the children are almost entirely her responsibility. She must see that theyare brought up and into the world strong and healthy. If a woman is unable to carry out this duty thenshe ultimately becomes useless as a wife and usually has to pursue other options. This makes theability to conceive a very important part of women’s lives during the time this was picture was made.This fascinates and excites the woman as she points and smiles at her swollen tummy.
HINA MATSURI A very important day in Japanese culture is Hina Matsuri, or the Doll Festival, that takes place on the third day of the third month of the year. This tradition has been in place since the Edo period and is celebrated by families with young girls. Unlike other cultures, these dolls are not toys and are not meant to be played with.
In the moku hanaga above, many women andchildren are seen hovering around a completedoll set. Mothers gossip about them and thegirls admire them. Notice there are no malesin the picture. The women huddle together,watching their children and talking. HinaMatsuri is a very important day in Japaneseculture that celebrates women. It is also a dayfor them to practice “rituals” that will bringthem long happy marriages. During Hina Art by Hashimoto Chikanobu, 1700’sMatsuri young girls will decorate their homeswith peach blossoms, which represents Dolls are a very important part of many differentcomposure, tranquility, and is a symbol for a cultures. Not many people realize that giving dolls tohappy marriage. This holiday, though unoﬃcial, little girls is like training them for future motherhood.dates back to as early as the Edo period. On Although girls don’t play with their dolls, they do playHina Matsuri day, time is taken to bestow a similar roll. The dolls of Hina Matsuri can be priceywishes for good fortune and marriage in the and are valuable. They bring good luck and give girls something to care for. Since the dolls are onlyfuture to young women in the family. The role brought out on March 3rd, children know from angiven to women as a wife begins when they are early age to be careful with them. They are put onsmall girls in Japan. display and are meant to be collected as a set, starting with the Imperial Couple at the top.
WOMEN OF JAPANTODAYIn Japan today, women still suffer some prejudice due totheir long standing traditions. Elder women encourage theiryounger relatives to marry early, even if they are pursuing ahigher education. However, this does not mean that womenare closed off to alternate paths for their future.
The photo on the right is of Japanese Pop Star, Kyary PamyuPamyu. It’s an advertisement for one of her most popular albums,Moshi Moshi Harajuku (as seen on her forehead). Known for herstrange outﬁts and videos, Kyary tops the charts with every single.She is a prime example for how far women have come in Japan.No longer having to be just housewives, women in Japan aremaking it ﬁne. The beauty standard has changed drastically fromtraditional garb, small lips, and ﬂushed features.In the photo Kyary has long eyelashes and double eyelids, givingher the appearance of having wider, more westernized eyes. Herhair has been bleached from the usual straight Japanese black to awavy platinum blonde, and a monstrous grin painted over hermouth. This overall look (minus the mouth) is very western, andvery popular in Japan. The monster mouth, draws your attentionto the picture making it an outstanding advertisement and alsoaccentuates the roundness of her face.In Japan, the majority of males prefers the small and petite. Whilemany of the beauty standards in Japan have changed from lookingvery “Japanese” to having some western features, the small andpetite ﬁgure is still a favorite among many people. Kyary mergesthe two to make her one of the biggest idols in Japan, and a femaleone at that. http://www.tokyohive.com/tag/ponponpon/
ARTICLE SUMMARYSumie Seo Mishima was born and raised in 20th Century Japan. She attended college in America, and whenshe returned to Japan, she had difficulty adjusting to the culture. At the time Japan was undergoing rapidchanges to modernize and westernize its social customs. However, there were still many traditional aspectsthat affecter her career and life.Mishima wanted to become a college professor, but soon found out that there were few females in thatprofession. The men she worked with rarely socialized with women who were not their wives, and womenhad to “bury themselves completely in domestic cares”. Many of her old classmates and some older womeninsist that she marry, because it’s her “duty as a woman”, but Mishima wishes to earn back her expensiveeducation and found men to be good as friends, but impossible as husbands.However, after some time the mother of another professor came to her and proposed a marriage betweenMishima and her son. Mishima reluctantly agreed after giving it much thought, and coming to theconclusion that this would probably be her best, if not only, option. Despite protests from her familyMishima married him, only to find out she knew very little about him and his family.She soon finds out that her husband will be impossible to please. After his first marriage started to get bad,he went to go see geisha women. However, the flattery and spoiling of the geisha women made it impossiblefor an ordinary woman to please him. It seems that if a woman did not keep to her “duty” to marry early andcare for the house, she risked losing her husband, possibly even before they were married like Mishima.
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