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Home > Books & Journals > Journal Abstracts Last Updated: 14:22 03/09/2007
Journal Abstracts #84: March 20, 2003

Social Science Japan Journal

Journal Name: Social Science Japan Journal: April 2000, Vol. 3, No. 1

Print ISSN: 1369-1465, Online ISSN: 1468-2680


An introduction to this issue's special topic: gendering contemporary Japan (pp 1-2)
G Roberts

Government approaches to gender equality in the mid-1990s (pp3-19)
M Osawa (Institute of Social Science, University of Tokyo, Japan)
The mid-1990s saw some important developments in the Japanese government's approach to gender issues, as conservative politicians started to realize that greater gender equality could help to revive a moribund economy and a steadily failing birth rate. In this paper I trace those developments, focusing on the role of the Council for Gender Equality (Danjo Kyodo Sankakusingikai), created by government ordinance in 1994 and upgraded by an Act of the Diet in 1997. The 'Vision of Gender Equality', which the Council submitted to then-prime minister Hashimoto Ruytaro in 1996, bore fruit in the Basic Law for a Gender-Equal Society, finally passed in 1999. But while the government has shown some genuine concern over gender issues, this has always had to struggle against competing discourses of traditional values and fiscal rectitude. So far, the new receptiveness to feminist arguments has yet to be matched by funding for reforms in important areas like nursing care, child-rearing and pensions that are needed if women are to participate fully in society.

Gender and elder care: social change and the role of the caregiver in Japan (pp21-36)
SO Long and PB Harris (Department of Sociology, Kohn Carroll University, USA)
The family has been the locus of caregiving in Japan. Wives and daughters-in-law have had the day-to-day responsibility for frail, elderly relatives. However, social changes are creating alternatives for elder care. Moreover, broad socioeconomic and demographic trends have led to increasing numbers of men taking on what is generally considered 'women's work'. Men now constitute 15% of caregivers to the elderly in Japan. In this paper, we examine some of the ways in which men and women experience caregiving differently based on past gender socialization and on gendered societal expectations. We find that, although gender matters in the experiences caregivers bring to their role, men as well as women are influenced, and their caregiving judged, by shared cultural notions of good caregiving. Individual and cohort variations in the type of tasks the caregivers perform, their relations with other family members, and their reliance on formal services also transcend gender differences. We conclude by contemplating the changes that are in store for family caregiving in an era of increased government programs designed to relieve the burden on both male and female family caregivers and to make medical and social care a right of all older people who need it.

Gendered organization and workplace culture in Japanese customer services (pp37-58)
KA Shire (Institute for East Asian Studies, Gerhard Mercator Universitšt Duisburg, Germany)
The concept of gendered work organization points to how work assignments and employment conditions are segmented on the basis of gender. Case evidence from three Japanese customer-service workplaces demonstrates how the segmentation of women's work from men's job roles, in part a result of the two-track employment system, effectively blocks career opportunities for women. Gender relations on the office floor reproduce the subordinate position of female workers in daily working life, but female workers are not entirely acquiescent. The three case studies point to important differences in the gendering of work organization and workplace culture. One case, a foreign-owned multinational financial services company, was in the midst of a de-segmentation and re-evaluation of customer-service work, with the consequence that men were being integrated into the workplace, and women's work assignments and employment conditions included career opportunities. Two Japanese-owned companies displayed the opposite trend. The increasing importance of customer-service and sales work in these cases was coupled with a strategy of rationalizing the work assignments of women, and personnel practices favored core male employees. The responses of women workers are interpreted in the context of differences in gendered work organization and employment conditions.

From imperial gifts to sex slaves: theorizing symbolic representations of the 'comfort women' (pp59-76)
CS Soh (Department of Anthropology, San Francisco State University, USA)
Since 1992, owing largely to the activism of Korean and Japanese women leaders, ex-comfort women and legal experts, a precedent-setting international debate has raged at the United National with regard to defining the 'comfort women' issue as a war crime and gross violation of women's human rights. The UN debate has radically shifted the paradigm for representing the comfort women, from prostitutes to sex slaves. This paper examines the multiple, competing symbolic representations of comfort women by theorizing the ideologies of three principal parties implicated in the debate as 'patriarchal fascism', 'masculinist sexism' and 'feminist humanitarianism'. As a historical reality, the comfort women issue is complex, interpenetrating the dimensions of gender, social class, ethnicity and state power. This paper argues that the categorical representations of comfort women as either prostitutes or sex slaves are only partial truths deriving from narrative frames that not only reveal the ideological stances of the opposing camps but also serve their partisan interests in the global post-Cold War politics of women's rights as human rights.

The transformation of the vision of labor unionism: internal union politics in the Japanese steel industry in the 1960s (pp77-93)
A Suzuki (Ohara Institute for Social Research, Hosei University, Japan)
Co-operative economic unionism, the type of unionism commonly associated with the Japanese model of industrial relations, was politically constructed through conflicts between advocates of economic unionism, and Communists, as well as between advocates of different types of economic unionism. This paper examines three factors shaping union behavior: (1) the vision or worldview of union leaders; (2) a union's own political dynamics; and (3) the labor policies of management. Using the experience of the Yahata Steel Union in the 1960s as a case study. I argue that these three factors help explain the change in the union's policy orientation from militant economic unionism in the first half of the 1960s, to co-operative economic unionism in the second half of the 1960s.

Rejection, understanding, strategy: Japanese political studies in Korea after the Second World War (pp95-112)
J-M Song (Division of International & Sociological Studies, Hanshin University, Korea)
'It is true that Japan dealt a devastating blow to Korea's development as a nation and that we Koreans should never forget this historical fact. However, we cannot live with an iron wall between Japan and Korea. While we must learn from our history to better cope with the future, allowing emotions from the past to overwhelm the current possibilities for a pragmatic relationship is not rational. Regardless of whether we like it or not, Japan is our neighbor, as close as a raindrop on a leaf. We should know Japan. And if we want to know today's Japan, we must understand what is happening there since the Second World War. We must gain insight into what the Japanese dream about, what obstacles they deal with, what they hope for, and what influence all this could possibly have on international politics.'

Social Science Japan Journal (2000)
Copyright ©2000 Oxford University Press

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