This week: female Japanese novelists whose work you can read in English, the cross-cultural manga Satoko and Nada, and the issue of sexual harassment in Hisone & Masotan.
K. Vasquez-Braun compares the manga about a tough-love gangster high school teacher with the softer, more “acceptably” feminine writing of the character in the live-action adaptation.
A little late but not forgotten, the team brings you their recommendations from the season that was.
YouTuber Eryn Dearden shares her experiences building a positive space among queer, trans, and female fans of the idol series.
Dee, Vrai, and special guest Anne (Shojo Power) discuss the first season of the 90s anime, AKA the Dark Kingdom arc.
With all the horrible headlines, this is a place for trans fans to vent, comfort each other, and list any ways that allies can help.
The public sector was found to have misreported the hires that made up the required 2.5% of jobs set aside for disabled workers, but the probe found this was not done “intentionally,” leading to criticism of their methodology.
“The probe is superficial,” said Katsunori Fujii, head of the Japan Council on Disability. “It failed to answer questions about problems the panel itself raised — the low level of interest in hiring people with disabilities, and the weak awareness about the ideals of the law (on increasing employment of people with disabilities). Why were they like that?” Fujii went on to say that ministries and agencies “possibly wanted to exclude disabled workers from their offices” and that’s why they padded the numbers without actually hiring disabled people.
Masaki Nishimura, a board member of the DPI-Japan nonprofit group for disabled people, echoed Fujii’s sentiment. “(The report) only listed up the problems. It failed to mention what each ministry and agency should do,” he said, expressing his disappointment toward the panel and the government’s measures to hire more workers with disabilities. “The central government should be a role model and a leader for the private sector.” Nishimura, 60, is unable to move his legs as he was involved in a car accident at age 20. He explained that arranging the workplace environment to allow people with disabilities to continue working is what is needed the most to promote employment of such people.
Rights advocates urge Japan to step up LGBT-inclusive efforts and legalize same-sex marriage (The Japan Times, Magdalena Osumi)
While there have been several advancements in the private sector, especially with the upcoming Tokyo Olympics, advocates are agitating toward nationwide marriage equality as a benchmark for permanent change.
To attract LGBT talent in such a situation would require companies to create their own special benefits packages, which would be administratively and financially burdensome for companies, and so correcting the “inequality before the law” is important, the chambers of commerce said.
During the symposium, Okabe said she is working to speed up inclusive reforms at Dentsu e3 Inc., where she directs the firm’s finance division. At her request, the firm revised the contents of job posting and application forms for future employees to inform them that all are respected regardless of gender or sexual identity, and to note that they are allowed to keep such information private.
“Through such small steps, more LGBT people will come out, diversity will be really embraced and we’ll see how the society gradually changes,” Okabe said.
Why Does Japan Make It So Hard for Working Women to Succeed? (The New York Times, Brook Larmer)
A synthesis report on several issues from the last few months, from the medical school scandal to pregnancy discrimination, that are making life difficult for working women.
Japan’s narrow-gauged success in getting women into the work force masks a deeper failure to uproot or even to challenge a discriminatory culture that makes it nearly impossible for women to advance a career while raising a family. Japanese women are still expected to do the vast majority of unpaid labor. How can they also keep up with the punishingly long hours and bonding over evening drinks that companies often require of their employees? Abe’s government has taken many helpful steps: approving more day-care centers (though nearly 20,000 toddlers are still on waiting lists), passing a law limiting overtime to 100 hours a month, expanding parental leave for women and men alike (though barely 5 percent of new fathers take any leave at all). Ingrained attitudes and policies change slowly. Earlier this year, for example, a Japanese day care worker was forced to apologize to colleagues for becoming pregnant out of turn. Her company’s director had apparently dictated that a more senior worker be allowed to get pregnant first.
Gender bias in Japanese society adds up to fewer women in college (The Asahi Shimbun, Azusa Mishima, Tomoko Yamashita and Mana Takahashi)
Women still fight discouragement from older male family members and are less likely to receive benefits on a cost-to-eventual-pay-scale comparison.
Still the rate for females is about 6 percentage points lower than the 56.3 percent for males. That means the gender disparity in Japan is significantly worse compared with other member states of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), where more female students than their male counterparts go to universities.
In addition, females attend universities more often than males only in Tokyo and Tokushima Prefectures across Japan and regional disparities are huge. The graduate school enrollment ratio for female students is one-third that for male students.
A factor behind the serious gender gap is said to be families’ deep-rooted thinking typical of the countryside that “daughters do not need to enroll in universities,” though colleges’ total admission slots are currently large enough to accommodate all applicants across Japan.
FIVE FEMALE JAPANESE WRITERS YOU SHOULD BE READING (Metropolis, Jessica Esa)
Recommendations of five authors with work available in English.
Multi-award winning author and playwright Motoya is an established name in Japan. Until now, very little of her work has been translated in to English but her series of short-stories, The Lonesome Bodybuilder (also known as Picnic in the Storm), is gaining a lot of attention for its inventive and fearless storytelling. Praised for her sensitivity and insight when writing about the psychology and struggles of young women, Motoya’s short stories twist ordinary situations and mundane life into surreal tales, often with a feminist stance. Some examples include: a boy mocking passers-by as they battle with a typhoon before realizing that umbrellas are the secret to flight, or a newlywed who is suspicious that her husband’s features are moving around his face to match her own. There is one thing guaranteed with Motoya’s work: no story is ever going to go the way you predict and that is something we don’t find too often in literature.
‘Terrace House’ opens its doors to LGBTQ members in Japan (The Japan Times, Tom Hanaway)
The dating-focused reality show has recently had two bisexual cast members received positively by fans and fellow cast members.
The eligible bachelors and bachelorettes are a mix of regular people — college students, baristas, tap dance instructors and so forth — and a variety of plot-twist characters that you’re unlikely to run across on Tinder who are brought on to keep the show entertaining — a member of pop act AKB48, the son of a wealthy CEO and a swimsuit model, among others.
The latest member to put a fresh spin on the show is 21-year-old Shunsuke Ikezoe, an aspiring makeup artist from Tokyo who is openly questioning his sexuality and is leaning toward identifying as bisexual. (Ikezoe is later joined by 19-year-old fashion student Maya Kisanuki, who also casually mentions that she’s open to the possibility of being with a woman.)
“Terrace House” has pretty much avoided any social commentary up to this point — none of its numerous hafū (mixed race) cast members have ever discussed discrimination in Japan, for example — but this time the TV program is consciously opening its doors to the LGBTQ community.
Satoko and Nada Review (Anime News Network, Rebecca Silverman)
The one-volume graphic novel charts the friendship between Japanese college student Satoko and her new roommate from Saudi Arabia, Nada.
Yupechika has definitely done her research for this series, as the cultural aspects are largely spot-on. (There are a few places where Saudi laws have changed since the book’s initial publication, but those are all noted in the text.) The only cultural issue is the inclusion of chocolate bagels, but since the book has no Jewish characters, I can attempt to let it go. Satoko and Nada‘s relationship is a strong one and watching the two of them look out for each other, from Satoko cooking with halal foods to Nada saving Satoko from her naivete, is genuinely sweet. The art isn’t particularly attractive or strong, but it also is detailed when and where it needs to be and more than gets the point across, particularly in the four-panel format the series uses.
NAKED IN JAPAN (The Rumpus, Jenessa Abrams)
A personal essay on how AFAB bodies are consumed, on self-image, and on the effects of “imperfection.”
My sexuality was marred from the start. What woman does not know what it means to feel that her body is for others? In service of. A performance for. Only in existence if summoned. If externally wanted. Mine was co-opted by illness, but I learned, as I got older, the multitude of ways a woman can feel powerless, how she is taught to feel shame.
In Japan, before I even undressed, I was confronted with two curtains: a blue one for men and a pink one for women. Spaces carved out for women to exist in the absence of men are intended to be havens; they’re cultivated to provide the illusion of safety, but they can also be piercingly exclusive and discriminatory. The suggestion that there is only one way to be female: biologically.
What is the implication of this distinction once our clothes are off? That our bodies are meant to look a certain way? What does a woman’s body look like? What about breasts? What about those born without them and those who no longer have them? What quantifies femininity?
Anime Has A S3xual Harassment Problem (YouTube, PedanticRomantic)
An analysis of Hisone & Masotan and how it fumbles its discussion of workplace sexual harassment.
Fierce and inventive, Yuko Tsushima’s oeuvre goes beyond the ‘I-novel’ genre (The Japan Times, Kris Kosaka)
A retrospective on Tsushima’s body of work and themes.
Tsushima resisted all stereotypes and boundaries on her writing, and another work that offers proof of that is “Laughing Wolf,” translated in 2011 by Dennis Washburn. A highly ambitious novel in both structure and theme, it features a fatherless girl and a motherless boy as they travel across time and space into the horrors of postwar Japan.
Tsushima’s later works, many not yet published in English, moved fully into the realms of political concern, as in, for example, “All Too Barbarian,” where she explores the aboriginal ruling policy in Japan’s colonization of Taiwan through the letters and diary of a young, marginalized wife.
For English-reading Tsushima fans, the past summer offered three publications from Penguin U.K., all translated by Harcourt. Two short stories were published in February by Penguin Modern in the chapbook, “Of Dogs and Walls,” followed by “Territory of Light,” an early novel that gorgeously reveals the uneven relationship between a mother and child in the aftermath of divorce, as well as a reprint of “Child of Fortune.” Finally, the Asia-Pacific Journal devoted a special issue to Tsushima in June with new translations of short works, available online.
Conversation’s been a little quiet, but we’re grateful to those who’ve weighed in and hope other readers will continue to contribute.
When things get really rough I like to curl up with my cats and rewatch some faves: Galaxy Express 999 (movie 1), Urusei Yatsura Beautiful Dreamer, and Revolutionary Girl Utena.
Promo: I sometimes write for @Gunpla101, you can check my stuff on twitter or https://t.co/GD0QAlKwlx
— Emily Whitehouse, Zakrello fangirl (@Cyporiean) October 23, 2018
The best advice I can give to our allies is to make your voices heard. Call your Senators & Congressmen if you're in the USA, (or MP in the UK) and for the love of god, vote like your own life depends on it… because for some of us, it really does! https://t.co/qTfi3dhSWD
— Samantha Ferreira, Anime Herald's Sakura Wars Nerd (@sam_animeherald) October 23, 2018