Kickboxing Geishas: How Modern Japanese Women Are Changing Their Nation

by Veronica Chambers

From the dust jacket flap:

Forget the stereotypes. Today’s Japanese women are shattering them — breaking the bonds of tradition and dramatically transforming their culture. Shopping-crazed schoolgirls in Hello Kitty costumes and the Harajuku girls Gwen Stefani helped make so popular have grabbed the media’s attention. But as critically acclaimed author Veronica Chambers has discovered through years of returning to Japan and interviewing Japanese women, the more interesting story is that of the legions of everyday women — from the office suites to radio and TV studios to the worlds of art and fashion and on to the halls of government — who have kicked off a revolution in their country.

Japanese men hardly know what has hit them. In a single generation, women in Japan have rewritten the rules in both the bedroom and the boardroom. Not a day goes by in Japan that a powerful woman doesn’t make the front page of the newspapers. In the face of still-fierce sexism, a new breed of women is breaking through the “rice paper ceiling” of Japan’s salary-man dominated corporate culture. The women are traveling the world — while the men stay at home — and returning with a cosmopolitan sophistication that is injecting an edgy, stylish internationalism into Japanese life. So many women are happily delaying marriage into their thirties — labeled “losing dogs” and yet loving their liberated lives — that the country’s birth rate is in crisis.

Part of this book reads more academic than I expected. It’s rather comprehensive and the author definitely knows the subject well and has a deept understanding of the Japanese culture. Her “geishas” is a very bunch: young hip-hop DJ, diplomat’s-wife-turned-TV-chef-turned-government minister; an openly gay Osaka assembly-woman, restaurant owner, host club addict, competitive snowboarder, executives, and the stereotypical OLs and housewives. She covers a board spectrum of subjects, interviewed plenty of men and women, and presents a very completed pciture of modern day Japan. I like how she discusses the topic evenhandedly. For example, when she talked about the middle aged divorce, she certainly shows a lot of sympathy for the men.

The author is African American, and that adds a interesting perspective, such as the mention of the b-kei, Japanese who are fans of the black culture, which is slightly different from the typical Westerner focus.

The most interesting part for me is the discussion about Japanese men. It was kind of surprising to read how dissatisfied the Japanese women are with their men. Granted, the surveyed subjects are not necessarily representative of the whole population, but it still makes me feel “wow”, how come they view their men so poorly? In fact, among the men interviewed in the book, they did not come across badly at all. Some even appeared more open-minded and supportive than the average American guy I know of. Or were they too polite to be bash about feminism and working women in front of the author?

I mean, I have dated Japanese guys and know some as friends, and I certainly did not find them so lacking. Looking back at my single days, I think Japanese guys have better rep than Korean guys (who are supposedly even more male chauvinistic) and American guys (who only want sex and have a 50% divorce rate). And I and my friends certainly do not have such negative opinion of the men of our own cultures, there may be areas they fall short of compare to men from other countries, but the repeated expressed sentiment was really a surprise for me. I wonder if the author would consider for her next book to research how happy are the women of different cultures with their own men? She has totally piked my interest.

Published in: on May 29, 2009 at 2:49 am  Leave a Comment  

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