When life in Japan becomes too constricting, I simply flee abroad,
like a goldfish coming to the surface for air.—ariyoshi sawako,
‘‘nobody ni tsuite’’ (About nobody)
How [do] we engage the complex politics of pleasure and of ‘‘re-
sistance’’ when nothing is beyond commodification or beyond the
dominant . . . ?—dorinne kondo, About Face: Performing Race in
Fashion and Theater
Occidental Longings The 1980s and 1990s saw a series of profound
and far-reaching transformations in Japanese gender relations, transfor-
mations that are still in process and that have yet to be fully grasped in their
implications. It was during this time that the birthrate first began its pre-
cipitous slide downward, reaching 1.57 births per woman in 1989, well
below the minimum 2.2 births required to sustain the present population.
This development so stunned the public that it earned the name ‘‘the 1.57
shock’’ and inspired impassioned media debate as well as government
directives to women to bear more children (these were ine√ective, and by
1997 the rate had plummeted to 1.39; oseish¯ o 2000a). Meanwhile, it was
during this time that Japanese began marrying considerably later in life: By
the late 1990s the average age of first marriage had risen to almost twenty-
nine for men and almost twenty-seven for women, the highest in the
industrialized world (K¯ oseish¯ o 2000b). Single Japanese men now began
to su√er seriously from the e√ects of kekkon-nan (marriage di≈culty), as a
large proportion of young single marriage-age women first deserted rural
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