Prologue
women and the reality of the everyday
Identity is actually something formed through unconscious
processes over time, rather than being innate in conscious-
ness at birth.There is always something ‘‘imaginary’’ or fanta-
sized about its unity. It always remains incomplete, is always
‘‘in process,’’ always ‘‘being formed.’’—Stuart
Hall1
In interwar Japan as well as in Western countries, technological growth,
industrial expansion, and the acceleration of urbanization redefined the
practices of everyday life. This process of social change produced an
explosion of new images of dynamic women. In the media, women ap-
peared in the guises of café waitress, housewife, dancer, and shop girl.
In magazines, books, and movies, women became prominent icons of
the modern city, strolling through bustling shopping districts and be-
coming a presence on crowded buses and streetcars. These images of
women were notable for their mutability as well as their novelty: the
persona of the shopper changed as quickly as fashions in clothing; the
middle-class housewife remade herself as she moved from one hobby
to another. Such images defined the modern woman as both multi-
faceted and ceaselessly changing.
These new images of the feminine challenged a previously exist-
ing widespread mythology of a monolithic Japanese woman. Femi-
nine stereotypes had always placed women within a family setting,
stressing their gentleness and meekness: it was this particularly docile
and family-oriented quality that came to identify them as ‘‘Japa-
nese’’ women. The endorsement in 1891 of Prussian adviser Herman
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