The women’s movements

Authored by: Ki-young Shin

Routledge Handbook of Japanese Politics

Print publication date:  February  2011
Online publication date:  February  2011

Print ISBN: 9780415551373
eBook ISBN: 9780203829875
Adobe ISBN: 9781136818387


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Women have long been active in many social movements in Japan. They have participated in major social movements including, but not limited to, the labor movement, student activism, the peace movement, and the environmental movement. Women have also organized as women since the nineteenth century, as have their sisters in other parts of the world. However, women’s activism in Japan has garnered little attention until recently. One of the reasons seems to be the long-lasting Orientalist perspective on the submissiveness of Japanese women and the strong patriarchal traditions in Japanese society. Charlotte Bunch in the mid-1990s, for example, mentions the lack of knowledge of the feminist movement in Japan in the rest of the world, stating “even today, I meet people who seem surprised that it even exists in a country so commonly identified with strong patriarchal traditions” (AMPO 1996: xiii). No less important a reason for the lack of knowledge of women’s activism in Japan is the very nature of Japanese women’s mobilization, notably the strong tendency towards small-scale, grassroots forms of activism and de-centralized organizational structures. These characteristics have contributed to the invisibility of the women’s movement in the minds of those who are outside of the activist circles.

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