2007 Annual Meeting


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Individual Papers: Social Change in Modern Japan

Organizer and Chair: Patricia Maclachlan, University of Texas, Austin


Assimilating Christianity: The Young Men's Christian Association in Colonial Korea as Institutional, Organizational and Representational Contest

Michael I. Shapiro, University of California at Berkeley

Even in the repressive context of colonial Korea, the Young Men's Christian Association (YMCA) stands out as an irreducibly global institution. As elsewhere, the YMCA in Korea certainly signified the West, but never exclusively. By the twentieth century, the YMCA's presence penetrated Japanese metropole and Korean colony alike, meaning that bringing it fully under colonial authority presented challenges that went beyond the merely unilateral extension of political authority over the peninsula. By 1910, Japan may have been able to colonize Korea, but would it be able to colonize the YMCA?

My paper will examine how the colonial contest over this question played out at three levels: institutional, organizational, and representational. At the level of institutional autonomy, the Korean YMCA was confronted by the presence of the Japanese YMCA in Korea which, through the auspices of the Korean Government-general, attempted to assimilate it into a culturally "Japanese" form of Christianity. As long as the YMCA resisted full co-optation, however, it also provided a secondary level of organizational autonomy for Korean student movements in Japan. In particular, the existence of a Korean YMCA branch in Tokyo provided an organizational space that made possible not only influential debates among Korean students, but also liaisons with prominent (and often Christian) Japanese intellectuals. These two levels of struggle, I argue, were concomitant with Korea’s colonization and remained present consistently through the decades of the 1910s and 20s (the so-called "military rule" and "cultural rule" periods). What distinguished, however, the 1920s from the 1910s was the additional emergence of the YMCA as a site of representational autonomy in Korea newspapers through which the institutional and organizational dimensions of the YMCA could be rendered subject to interpretation.

Although the topics addressed in my paper will be more familiar to historians of Korea than of Japan, I hope to show that they are best understood within the transnational context of Japanese empire.

Discourses on Marriage in Japanese Women’s Magazines since 1970

Barbara Holthus, University of Hawaii at Manoa

Partner-relationships in Japan are changing, due to on-going demographic changes in Japan, resulting in a pluralization of partner-relationships and life-course models. These social changes are paralleled by an increase in the influence of mass media in Japan. Due to the fact that these social changes in Japan are often initiated by women, an analysis of female-oriented woman’s magazines is highly important, as these serve as agents of socialization for the readership.

This paper presents part of my dissertation research, for which I conducted a qualitative and quantitative content analysis of 1700 articles from four Japanese women’s magazines over the course of thirty years since 1970.

Regarding the discourse about marriage, the analyzed Japanese women’s magazines often construct marriage as "final goal", even though alternatives to marriage over time are discussed more often and in larger detail. These shifts in discourse correlate with the demographic changes of a declining birthrate and an increasing marriage age. This is further aided by a linear increase in articles discussing the importance of combining female full-time employment with married life, which eventually seems to become the most important obstacle for women to getting married.

Furthermore, articles on marriage oftentimes construct the "West" as "ideal", for example by portraying foreign husbands helping with daily household chores and pointing out that foreign relationships face fewer normative restrictions than in Japan, and thus can be more progressive. The picture of foreigners and the "West" created in the women’s magazine discourses does not dissolve ethnic Othering, but rather strengthens it and thus adds to the dichotomization of "West/ Western" and Japanese.

Religion, Gender, and Aging in Contemporary Japan: New Quantitative Findings

Michael K. Roemer, University of Texas at Austin

Why is it that women and the elderly tend to be significantly more religious than men and younger generations, respectively? What social factors impact these religious age and gender differentiations? To-date, most of the studies that address these questions focus on institutional religions, or they are somewhat limited by their relatively small, localized samples. Although these works provide important structural, empirical, and theoretical explanations, they do not allow us to generalize very much. This study employs two recent datasets (the 2000-2003 Japanese General Social Surveys and the 2001 Asian Values Survey) that contain large nationwide samples of randomly selected Japanese adults to show that, in comparison to men, Japanese women are much more likely to be Christians and members of New Religions and to conduct certain rituals. The data also reveal that older Japanese claim membership in several religions and tend to admit to a variety of beliefs and practices much more frequently than middle-aged and young adults. For some, the gender difference is primarily attributed to biological—rather than social—explanations (see Miller and Stark 2002). However, this study shows that religious gender variances can be attenuated by including women who devote their time to careers or who do not frequently involve themselves in household chores. Similarly, by controlling for education and income levels, the religious age differentiation becomes insignificant. This paper offers a unique methodological and theoretical approach to our understanding of how certain lifestyles and socio-demographics affect the connections between religion, gender, and aging in modern Japan.

Reconciliation without Reparations? Redress Movements for Forced Labor in Wartime Japan

William J. Underwood, Kurume Kogyo University, Japan

Some 700,000 Koreans and 40,000 Chinese performed forced labor for private corporations in Japan during the Asia Pacific War. The presenter, having closely observed Korean and Chinese forced labor redress activities in the Kyushu area since 2002, locates these two distinct but overlapping political movements within leading models of the reparations and historical reconciliation processes. Coordinated pressure from the South Korean government’s truth commission on forced labor and transnational citizens’ networks is belatedly producing worker name rosters and repatriation of Korean remains. Lawsuits involving Chinese forced labor have produced unusual Japanese courtroom success and established a valuable historical record. However, political asymmetry between China and Japan and the thin state of reconciliation make Track 3 activism much less dynamic. A regional narrative of wartime events remains elusive.

It is concluded that a mismatch exists between the two theoretically strong reparations claims and the Northeast Asian political context in which they are being contested. Pessimistic short-term prospects for compensation from Japan cast some doubt on the universality of redress norms and the progressive view that a "new morality" is driving the global trend toward repairing historical injustices. Yet due to an evolving calculus of more pragmatic concerns like economics, security and international reputation, it is likely that Japan will eventually "come to terms with the past" in a manner partially satisfying to former forced laborers and their governments. Compared to Western precedents, reparations processes are unfolding more fitfully due to historical, cultural and political factors that will be highlighted.

Politics of Labor Market Deregulation in Japan: A Comparative Study with the Italian Case

Hiroaki R Watanabe, University of Oxford, United Kingdom

I analyze politics of labor market deregulation since the 1990s in Japan through a comparison with the Italian case. My main research question is: "Why have Japan and Italy had different processes and degrees of labor market deregulation in spite of having shared some similar political and labor market characteristics such as the past single party dominance and widespread distributive politics and the quite extreme dual labor markets?". While Japan and Italy have implemented extensive labor market deregulation in non-standard employment such as part-time and temporary agency work since the 1990s, Italian deregulation has been less extensive and more coordinated than the Japanese case. I claim that political and legal perspectives based on analysis of domestic labor politics can be more effective in explaining the causes of such a phenomenon than can economic and sociological perspectives. While economic and social factors such as globalization affected labor market policies in the two countries, they have had similar impacts on their economies and cannot explain different processes and degrees of labor market deregulation in the two countries. On the other hand, the institutional structures of labor policymaking, the political power of labor unions and the partisanship of the government have been quite different in Japan and Italy and they can better explain different processes and degrees of labor market deregulation in the two countries. I compare two similar countries with different outcomes in the extent of labor market deregulation so that I can control for more causal factors.