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Recreating Japanese Men

Recreating Japanese Men

Copyright Date: 2011
Edition: 1
Pages: 360
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  • Book Info
    Recreating Japanese Men
    Book Description:

    The essays in this groundbreaking book explore the meanings of manhood in Japan from the seventeenth to the twenty-first centuries.Recreating Japanese Menexamines a broad range of attitudes regarding properly masculine pursuits and modes of behavior. It charts breakdowns in traditional and conventional societal roles and the resulting crises of masculinity. Contributors address key questions about Japanese manhood ranging from icons such as the samurai to marginal men including hermaphrodites, robots, techno-geeks, rock climbers, shop clerks, soldiers, shoguns, and more. In addition to bringing historical evidence to bear on definitions of masculinity, contributors provide fresh analyses on the ways contemporary modes and styles of masculinity have affected Japanese men's sense of gender as authentic and stable.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-95032-0
    Subjects: Anthropology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  5. Introduction: Interrogating Men and Masculinities
    (pp. 1-22)
    Sabine Frühstück and Anne Walthall

    Shoguns, hunters, merchants, pundits, soldiers, shop clerks, labor union members, anime producers and their creations, techno-geeks, homeless people, members of village youth organizations, hermaphrodites, rock climbers, and robots. Insofar as they are designated male, all embody some form of masculinity, yet all are readily distinguishable one from the other, not just because they lived or live at different times and occupy different spaces, but because each lays claim to a specific notion of what it means to be a man. From the status-based differences of early modern Japan to the occupation- (or joblessness-) based identities of the present, the connotations...


    • 1 Do Guns Have Gender? Technology and Status in Early Modern Japan
      (pp. 25-47)
      Anne Walthall

      In the fall of 2006 I happened to be a visiting researcher at the National History Museum in Sakura when it held an exhibition on the sixteenth-century introduction and diffusion of guns in Japan. While planning a conference on gender and museums, my sponsor teased me by saying that the gun exhibition had nothing to do with gender. Like many people, he identifies the termgenderwith women, and since women did not participate in Japan’s early modern gun culture, he considered gender irrelevant to the topic as well. More significantly, he saw the gun as an example of technology....

    • 2 Name and Honor: A Merchant’s Seventeenth-Century Memoir
      (pp. 48-67)
      Luke Roberts

      Enomoto Yazaemon (1625–86) began his autobiography with descriptions of his male ancestors.¹ The first “was a man who had been wounded in eighteen places.” The second “had the strength of eight men. He could pull up by the roots a bamboo four or five inches around. Once, when the wooden bridge at Takazawa ward was destroyed, the head of a rusty eight-inch spike was sticking up, and he easily pulled it out with his bare hands.” His father (the third generation) was “also a big, brave man.” Yazaemon emphasizes the physical strength and martial toughness of each ancestor, both...

    • 3 Empowering the Would-be Warrior: Bushidō and the Gendered Bodies of the Japanese Nation
      (pp. 68-90)
      Michele M. Mason

      The Japanese warrior’s powerful hold on the social imagination persists despite the vast and growing temporal, political, and cultural distance between the eras of samurai rule and today.¹ At the turn of the twenty-first century, for instance, with the millennial crossroads inspiring reflection on past and future, Japan witnessed something of a “bushidōboom.” In certain circles this invigorated discussions about the state of the nation, the importance of “the Japanese spirit,” and the usefulness of “samurai values.” The centerpiece of this boom was a new Japanese translation of Nitobe Inazō’s (1862–1933)Bushidō: The Soul of Japanon the...

    • 4 After Heroism: Must Real Soldiers Die?
      (pp. 91-112)
      Sabine Frühstück

      In 2006 Japanese newspapers reported all Ground Self-Defense Force (GSDF) troops “safely home from their historic mission to Iraq,” putting an end to two and a half years of the first deployment of the Self-Defense Forces to a war zone since their foundation in 1954, albeit for a noncombat, humanitarian operation.¹ The mission in Iraq increased Japan’s international profile and strengthened ties with Japan’s biggest ally, the United States. Suggesting that Japan had overcome the childlike state once attributed to it by General MacArthur, the international press claimed that the Iraq mission marked no less than Japan’s transformation into a...


    • 5 Perpetual Dependency: The Life Course of Male Workers in a Merchant House
      (pp. 115-134)
      Sakurai Yuki

      East of Edo (present-day Tokyo) lies Sawara, a town that served as an important node in water transport along the Tone River, not far from where it empties into the Pacific Ocean. In 1764, the owner of the clothing shop Naraya in Kyoto, Sugimoto Shin’emon, decided to make Sawara the location of his first branch store. His successor opened a second branch store nearby in Sakura. Unlike the large-scale Mitsui and Shirokiya enterprises, which placed their branches in Edo, Naraya is remarkable for having prospered in the provinces. Yet the principal management of Naraya, like that of its larger rivals,...

    • 6 Losing the Union Man: Class and Gender in the Postwar Labor Movement
      (pp. 135-153)
      Christopher Gerteis

      During the early decades of the postwar era, public and private institutions constructed social roles for blue-collar men that augured the reemergence of a common set of gender practices legitimizing the subordination of women to men and the dominance of some men over others. The resultant hegemonic masculine ideal for the blue-collar “working man” was nonetheless ideologically flexible: labor leaders found it useful as a means of mobilizing union militancy, corporate managers were able to deploy it to quell union militancy, and the state found it a useful symbol of Japan’s economic success. By the mid-1960s, work had become the...

    • 7 Where Have All the Salarymen Gone? Masculinity, Masochism, and Technomobility in Densha Otoko
      (pp. 154-176)
      Susan Napier

      The 2005 hit television seriesDensha Otokobegins with the following memorable scenes. A flying saucer manned by skeletal aliens zooms through outer space while the loud strains of the American pop group Styx’s “Mr. Roboto” (originally released in 1983) begin to play. The opening lyrics are in Japanese:

      Dōmo arigatō, Mr. Roboto

      Mata auō hi made

      Dōmo arigatō, Mr. Roboto

      Himitsu o shiritai

      Thank you Mr. Robot

      Until the day we meet again.

      Thank you Mr. Robot.

      I want to know your secret.

      The flying saucer crash-lands on the Japanese archipelago. The scene shifts to contemporary Akihabara, the Tokyo...

    • 8 Failed Manhood on the Streets of Urban Japan: The Meanings of Self-Reliance for Homeless Men
      (pp. 177-200)
      Tom Gill

      The two questions Japanese people most often ask about the homeless people they see around them are “Why are there any homeless people here in Japan?” and “Why are they nearly all men?” Answering those two simple questions will, I believe, lead us in fruitful directions for understanding both homelessness and masculinity in contemporary Japan.

      The first question is not quite as naïve as it might sound. After all, Article 25 of Japan’s constitution clearly promises that “All people shall have the right to maintain the minimum standards of wholesome and cultured living,” and the 1952 Livelihood Protection Law is...


    • 9 Collective Maturation: The Construction of Masculinity in Early Modern Villages
      (pp. 203-219)
      Nagano Hiroko

      Early in the nineteenth century, a young man named Genzō from the region near Mashiko had sex with a widow. This by itself was not necessarily a problem—in many villages, widows were considered fair game for unmarried men. The reason why Genzō was forced to write a letter of apology and thus expose his affair to the prying eyes of later historians is that he had gone outside his own village. He apologized not to the widow, but to her village’s youth group for having violated its territory.¹ At issue then and in this chapter is not Genzō’s masculine...

    • 10 Climbing Walls: Dismantling Hegemonic Masculinity in a Japanese Sport Subculture
      (pp. 220-240)
      Wolfram Manzenreiter

      Free-climbing is a sporting activity that encourages a range of behavior potentially subversive of both male and female socialization. Appreciation of the climbing body draws from the registers of both aesthetics and athletics, particularly when the climber’s body is on display as an object of (mostly other climbers’) gaze. With the interchanging roles of lead- and second- and teamwork-based belay techniques to reduce the risk of fall and injury, free-climbing depends on shared responsibilities, mutual trust and support, understanding, and caring—all characteristics stereotypically associated with femininity. Many other modern sports, by contrast, as sports historians and sociologists frequently note,...

    • 11 Not Suitable as a Man? Conscription, Masculinity, and Hermaphroditism in Early Twentieth-Century Japan
      (pp. 241-261)
      Teresa A. Algoso

      When thirty-year-old Otsuju was arrested in Dalian, Manchuria, he turned out to be far more riveting than the common thief he appeared to be at first glance. It soon became apparent that Otsuju was “a cripple”(fugusha), part male and part female. Calling him a “strange double-sexed person,” government officials probed into his past, only to discover that Otsuju had been born with the name Fuji—and as a woman. The story of Otsuju/Fuji first appeared in 1906, in aFar East Newsarticle entitled “A Woman Found to Have Testicles.”¹ It is but one of a number of stories...

    • 12 Love Revolution: Anime, Masculinity, and the Future
      (pp. 262-283)
      Ian Condry

      On 22 October 2008 a Japanese man by the name of Takashita Taichi set up an online petition to call for legal recognition of the right to marry an anime character. He offered the following explanation: “Nowadays, we have no interest in the three-dimensional world. If it were possible, I think I’d rather live in a two-dimensional world. But this doesn’t seem likely with today’s technology. So can’t we at least have marriage to a two-dimensional character legally recognized? If that happens, my plan is to marry Asahina Mikuru.”¹

      Within a week, roughly a thousand people had expressed their support...

    • 13 Gendering Robots: Posthuman Traditionalism in Japan
      (pp. 284-310)
      Jennifer Robertson

      Many Japanese roboticists, almost all of whom are male, have either a picture or a figurine of Tetsuwan Atomu (“Mighty Atom,” better known to English speakers as Astro Boy) in their laboratory, and most acknowledge the boy robot as a childhood inspiration, as the reason for their interest in building sociable robots. Atomu (figure 13.1) played a key role in fostering among postwar Japanese an image of robots as cute, friendly, and humanlike, characteristics that currently inform the thriving humanoid robotics industry. In this chapter, I will analyze the gendering of “real” humanoid robots designed to coexist and interact with...

  9. Bibliography
    (pp. 311-332)
  10. Contributors
    (pp. 333-336)
  11. Index
    (pp. 337-347)
  12. Back Matter
    (pp. 348-348)