Custom «Meiji Masculinity» Essay Paper Sample
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Masculinity and feminism are well known and highly documented areas of studies in the society. As masculinity and feminism studies developed, so was the development of concept of multiple ideologies on gender. That is, there was the idea that men and women have a way of expressing masculinity and feminism in their day-to-day ways of life respectively. However, as observed by Cheung (2010), the idea of masculinity and feminism can change over years, depending on various factors as presented in the society.
Japanese masculinity has been presented in somewhat limited information, owing to the fact that it has not enjoyed much attention from scholars in the past. Described by scholars as foundation for comparison, Japanese masculinity is believed to have undergone numerous changes over the years, especially during the Meiji Era (Mori, 1997). Cultural perception is that Japanese men are traditionally strong and dominant, and expected to continue being heads of household. The male patriarchy has never changed despite American occupation of Japan after World War II. The Meiji era was one of the riotous times for the Japanese citizens. The Japanese women experienced various changes in 1800's and 1900's the western U.S culture started manipulating Japanese community (Mori, 1997). During the period (1868-1912), the Japanese society paved way for the customary domestic globe of women and they started to inquire their traditional responsibilities and sought after more of equal tasks with men in the society(Mori,1997).
II. MEIJI ERA JAPAN MASCULINITY, AMERICAN INFLEUNCE AND NATIONALISM
At the time when Meiji was born, around 1852, Japan was an isolated country that was mainly dominated by Tokugawa Shogunate and daimyo, who ruled the entire country. However by the time he died Japan had undergone tremendous changes in terms of the Japanese perception of nationalism as well as in terms of its masculinity belief. One of the most important things about the Meiji era in regards to nationalism is that it did not inaugurate a successful solution to the decentralized political system. The centralized and somewhat hereditary leadership epitomized the system of government. Many histories have often emphasized Japan's successful modernization while focusing on the emergent, powerful and stable nation under Emperor Meiji. The American concept of nationalism had great influence on the Meiji era that resulted in these enormous changes, including the perception on masculinity and feminism.
When Emperor Meiji rose to the throne a new slogan came up "Civilization and Enlightenment". This is because they had experienced the superiority of Western arms and technology, with men dominating fields that required much power and strength to succeed. Their reform agenda was to shape society, economy, military and the infrastructure without any compromises. As a result thousands of well paid foreigners were invited into the country to assist as doctors and consultants. In addition many students were sent to the United States of America to study and learn the American ways. High ranking Japanese official were also sent abroad on fact finding business. These events together led to the modernization of Japan, and the increased use of masculinity in media and military. However, to a very great extent, it did affect them economically but socially. There were changes in Family, masculinity, nationalism and even culture. The leaders who travelled they looked at the lifestyle of the Europeans in terms of manners, fashion and civilization. In the end they reconciled these with their own belief.
After the Second World War, the gender structure in Japan changed rather dramatically (Mori, 1997). The new constitution emphasized gender equality and undermined the patriarchal family system. The husband became the breadwinner and thus worked while the wife stayed at home taking care of the household chores and the kids.
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In terms of nationalism, America was quite influential. In the American society, media reinforced the idea of feminism and masculinity through movies, films and other artwork. Movies continued the idea of heroism and that fighting was ideal for men's masculinity. This kind of American belief on wars and men's power was later transferred to the Japanese men, with an aim of fostering nationalism in the battle field frontline.
America is known to have engaged in numerous wars before they became a nation. Under the British rule, American asserted their independence in new land after escaping Netherlands for fear of loosing their cultural identity. With their ill-trained men as soldiers, Americans resisted the British rule. General George Washington led the troops, largely consisting of men trained as militias. The successive events led to the signing of declaration of independence. Still later, Americans were engaged in the civil wars that pitted South against the North. This war later concluded in 1865. A half a century later, the United States engaged again the another war, World War I between 1914 to 1918, followed by World War II between 1941 to 1945.
In Takahashi's (2004) view, it during these difficult times of wars that sense of man's masculinity was reinforced in Americans men. He states that man's masculinity is exposed in his exploits in the field of military (wars and science). In other words, it is apparent that from the very beginning, Americans have been engaged in certain form of wars that hardened the men's belief in war, thus reinforcing sense of nationalism and masculinity. In other words, the ability of a man to expose his strength during wars was seen as a sense of courage and desire to be nationalistic. This kind of nationalism was not to be seen in Japanese men. Historically, Japan never engaged in many wars. In fact, most changes that occurred in Japan were as a result of political negotiations, collaborations, communication with adversaries, and expression of love and self-sacrifice (Takahashi, 2004). These are traits mostly associated with female gender.
However, when the Tokogawa regime was overtaken by the Meiji Restoration, a new rule was introduced which led to a new constitution. The Han was then abolished. Equality, Education and politics were all overhauled when the new Han came into force. Japanese leaders made all these changes while incorporating both European and American ideals and system. Moreover, a stricter and clearer American type of constitution was established. It did not keep in with the Japanese tradition though it helped them to solve many of the problems that were not solved by the old reforms. The Charter that was signed in 1968 was the first attempt that was made to try and reform Japan. Its aim was to unite the people, give them equal standing and encourage learning. These were later achieved through the making of the American based constitution, and strengthening the powers of the military through legislative overhauls.
The new government that was formed was composed of lower ranking samurai's from western Japan. The class system was officially abolished and Japan established a formal system of dealing with the diplomatic issues with other countries. Initially Japan had been isolated out of fear that western alliances with rebellious feudal lords might threaten the shogunate power. However, Japan became modernized with the formation of the centralized government that was modeled on those in the West and the America. This was a bureaucracy that anyone could join since there were no class boundaries (Takahashi, 2004). A parliament was established but voting rights were first limited to those who had paid a certain amount of taxes. Women were however denied these rights till the end of World War Two, when the feminism was later recognized as part of the societal growth (Yukiko, 2000).
The Japanese men also experienced a change in their language. English was the first language that the intellectuals of the Meiji Restoration studied. This came after the Japanese were impressed by the rising power of the United States and the Great Britain. In fact, most of them even abandoned learning Dutch in preference of English. However, the accumulation of Dutch learning greatly influenced the success of the efforts to learn the English language and its translation into Japanese. The Japanese had actually grasped the western language, trained themselves and gained knowledge about the western world (Starrs, 1994).
Another significant change in culture related to the emperor. With the rise of the prestige and importance of the emperor and empress, Japan's culture changed to one (of) loyal to the royal family. Nationalism grew expansively among the common people, who now had someone to look (up) to in their government. Shinmin No Michi wrote, "The Imperial family is the fountain source of the Japanese nation, and the national and private lives issue from this" (Yukiko, 2000, p.33). Popular rights and freedoms also became very important as men and women became part and parcel of the imminent changes that had occurred. Under Tokugawa rule, individuals did not have very much personal freedom, but under the Meiji, commoners had freedom. All this was an influence of the foreign cultures including the American one.
Move from traditionalism and into modernization is another significant change that cannot be overlooked. During the Tokugawa period, the people thought little of change and progress, but the Meiji Restoration changed that completely. Once the rigid social structures were abolished, people began to flex their cultural muscles. They moved into the large cities where they enjoyed markets and shopping. Most men joined the industrial sector and started to work. Their wives on the other hand mostly remained at home and took care of the little household activities.
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The kimono was and is still very popular Japanese clothing as it represents a sign of nationalism and gender perspective of the Japanese society (Richardson, 1987). During the Meiji restoration, the Kimono also underwent changes. The artificial dye was introduced from the United States and used extensively in making of the Kimono. This saw an evolution in the Yuzen technique (the one previously used to make it). However the kimono look remained very much the same, a sign of cultural value the Japanese placed on its techniques and designs. Fabric was also brought to Japan from elsewhere in the world and used to make the kimono. More and different types were also introduced. Traditionally the Japanese kind of clothes did not really matter whether you were a woman or a man. This therefore had an effect on how the Japanese responded to the introduction of the new types of clothes. Well, although Western dress was originally introduced as the standard dress for Japanese during the Meiji period (1868-1912), the western beliefs of what is considered feminine and masculine did not transfer as strongly. Perhaps this is due to the fact that traditional Japanese dress had little difference between genders in comparison with Western dress (Wagner, 1973), resulting in a fashion society with a diverse range of clothing, accessories, and cosmetics for both men and women that we see in Japan today.
The military system had been, up to this point, based largely on the samurai model, with warriors being born into the class. In 1873 this practice was replaced by compulsory military service by ordinary Japanese citizens, a model adopted from the American system of government in the early years of independence. French and Prussian military officers were sent to instruct the new Japanese army, training them in effective combat and use of modern weaponry. This training later would provide a Japanese victory against both China in the 1894 Sino-Japanese War, and the Russian naval fleet in the 1904 Russo-Japanese War.
Before the Meiji period Japan had two major religions; Shinto and Buddhism. Buddhism had remained the most widespread as well as most popular religion. With the introduction of new and foreign ideas from countries like America these two slowly started fading. Christianity was introduced and somehow the old and archaic law that only allowed the two religions was lessened. The citizens were allowed freedom to choose the religion they wanted. It has been confirmed through the above discussions that the American people had a massive effect and influence on Japan. It comprised social, economic as well as social influences. From the fashion to religion great transformations happened thanks to the United States. Even the male dominance in the society was also lessened with women being allowed to participate in national and social activities like voting and working.
III. MEIJI ERA JAPAN MASCULINITY, AMERICAN INFLEUNCE AND INDUSTRIALIZATION
Industrialization in Japan started way back in the 19th century. In this period, the Meiji era was the one ruling. Under this era, it was given that, no Japanese was allowed to leave their country and no foreigner was allowed to enter in their country. This was just to ensure that they maintain their own culture. No country apart from the Indians and the Dutch were allowed to trade in the Japanese land. As much as even these two countries were allowed to trade in the Japanese land, they were also working but under limits. Though they were able to maintain their own culture and long term peace in their land, most of the countries which were on the same level economically, developed so much more than Japan and their military also advanced their ways of doing things.
A. Gender-Based Masculinity during Japan's Industrialization
In the year 1854, the commander Perry Mathew decided to send a group of US fleet to go and instruct Emperor Meiji to open the Japanese door for the world. When this was allowed, the Japanese culture was immediately interfered with and influenced. The education systems were changed and they had to study in French and Japanese languages and these educations were compulsory. Most of the Japanese were sent to other countries to study language, business and western science while scholars came to Japan to teach the Japanese on different aspects in life. The education they got brought to them a lot of prosperity in their businesses more than the normal farming they were used to and the agrarian economy. The Japanese economy has improved and has really brought interest in most people as most of the electrical originates from Japan. The Japanese do have a higher masculinity value in their normal workforce but due to industrialization, more space has been created for women.
This Industrialization has also created more respect for women, and more promotions for women in the workplace. The place that the Japanese women had been placed in the society created more illusions and myth. We have two japans society; the public and the private. The public is the popular western image of a Japanese woman whereas the Private is when women dominate the male in the households. The Japanese culture has two old philosophies that are still strong. These are; the Confucianism and Samurai. Despite these influences, the public roles of a Japanese woman have rapidly changed since World War II. There has been a paradigm shift from the last 150 years.
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Japan has grown from the semi feudal root and has now become a very powerful country in the world. Japan continued to struggle, to imitate, admire how to equalize its power. Through this, it managed to acquire democracy, and thus they had to learn how to stay with the new economic power. In away to express masculinity, women who lived in the Tokugawa Shogunate era were not allowed to own property, and a husband was allowed to kill his wife if she was seen to be lazy. Women were not allowed to read or participate in any political and business transactions, and the only language that these were written was in a formal kanji language that women were not allowed to learn. They were only allowed to learn how to write hiragana language and not any other language. Women were also meant to be submissive and corporative to their master husbands.
In contrast to the American society that had men express their masculinity in the battle fields, Japanese women were supposed to take care of all the responsibilities in the household and remain submissive to their husbands. They were not allowed to question anything that they thought had gone wrong, but instead just do everything as instructed by their husbands. No information could be retrieved as no foreigners were allowed in the country, and no Japanese was allowed to leave the country.
In an attempt to express feminine strength and power, women concentrated in domestic issues. According to Sheldon (1993), average Japanese did not realize the value of women when it came to important decision-making process. This was evident when the government urged women to increase in their birth rate to improve on their total population in the whole country.
In the commercial sector, women and more women were required for the labor force. The economic progress of Japan is however attributed largely to the roles their women played, as they dominated textile industry. That is, they contributed to about 63% of the industrial labor force in the Japan (Sheldon, 1993). Wagner (1973) observes that women who used to work in those textile industries were treated more like prisoners. They used to work several hours and paid very little to such that they lived from hand to mouth type of life. They were given dome tries to stay in that was too much congested, exposing them to more opportunistic diseases.
It was after the Second World War that things started to change. The educators started preaching the gospel of equality between Japanese men and women. However, apart from not being allowed to participate in any political matters, they did not have votes so they could not vote for any change in Japan. Men's power domestically was imminent, with a closely knit families had men as the head and calling all the shots (Sheldon, 1993). As much as women were subject to divorce if they do not please their husbands, they could not divorce their husbands however much they did not wish to stay in that marriage.
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The Second World War suddenly changed the roles of gender in Japan. While initially concentrated in only textile industries in early years, they began to work in most of the industries initially perceived as male domain. Most of the men had been absorbed in the military board and the armed forces thus they were forced to leave majority of the responsibilities like steel mills and coal mines to be done by women. It is here that the women roles slowly started to change. After the war, the Americans brought in so many changes in the Japanese culture (Sheldon, 1993). They rewrote their constitution, ensured that the parliament was active and encouraged the citizens to have unions. Labor standards rules were passed in the year 1947 where the law protected the employees from working under hash conditions. The working hours were also stipulated in the law and anyone who wished their employees to work for overtime then the employees had a right to demand for the compensation. Other leaves were also in the law including maternity leave, holidays leave and menstruation leaves. This kind of opportunity eliminated the Japanese men's traditional perception of women as inferior, associating them with child bearing as their primary role.
The field of education was also in the front line to ensure that women received equality in the society and that there was no victimization in the society. Unlike the past when the women were allowed to go and cook food in the church for the people in today's era, they participate in the giving of the sermon in their churches. Many women have been elected in various political seats and compete equally with men in the society. In the year 1973, the Prime Minister Tanaka stated that women vote on their daily issues that affects them unlike men who contributes to big national issues (Ayako, 2004). A critical analysis of this statement suggests the perception of men on women in early years of Japan's economic development. It is these small issues that mostly affect women in Japan and not the big national issues that are passed in the government.
B. Feminism in the Meiji era
Japan was considered as a patriarchal nation whereby the management and centuries of Japanese tradition stressed and maintained the initiative that the woman's position was in the home. The culture educated girls to be domestic in their responsibilities, submissive to men and they were extremely considered for their domesticity (Mori, 1997). The most significant targets for women included being a good mother and wife, cooking and sewing. Even girls were trained the skills from the start of their lives (Mori, 1997). The tea ceremony was among the most important lessons trained during the coming of age for a girl in Japanese culture. Young girls respected this lesson and it was an instance of main concern for women at the period. The world was at war in 1916 and a cry for justice and change was starting in the country. The culture was entrenched in profound tradition that was extremely observed (Mori, 1997).
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However, observing their inherited history alive became more and more complicated. The influences from the western started to adjust Japanese community as changes were occurring with view to Japanese political system, education, industrialization and economy. The social structure and traditional values that had been established for so long were affected by the changes (Ayako, 2004). The domestic area of women itself started to change as women demanded for more rights, more respect and more of a say in political affairs.
In the year 1900 when the Japanese women started to migrate to the United States, they were concentrated in the California and on the Pacific coast (Leo, 1947). In 1924, the United States passed aliens not entitled to nationality provision. The Japanese citizens that wanted to migrate to the United States were affected by the Immigration Act. (Leo, 1947) This Act prohibited immigration of the citizens from Japan and was not changed until the Immigration Act of the 1965 allowed the entrance again. It resulted in leading into institutional and interpersonal racial discrimination within the United States. This involved both the Americans and various generations of Japanese people inside the United States.
Feminism emerged as a reaction to the encounters of men in the World War II and their relations with families and upon their post-war arrival at home. The late 1940s was a period described by economic development, entrepreneurship and steady struggle to restoration of social tendency (Ayako, 2004). It was illustrated that women were placed on a blocked subject where they were only anticipated to accomplish the tasks of mothers and housewives. In early 1949, the idea of women was being alleged as other in the patriarchal community. It was however accomplished that male-centered philosophy was being more established as a custom and imposed simply by the ongoing development of legends and that the fact that women are able to get pregnant, lactate and menstruate is not a legitimate reason or clarification to position them as the second gender. In 1963, it was objected to the normal media the women's image that putting women at home restricted their potentials, prospects and it was a simple waste of gifts and potentials (Yukiko, 2000).
The emergence of feminism assisted to train women and permitted them to recognize their lives individual lives as politicized and thoughtful of the sexist formation of authority seen all through the community. Feminism viewed popular culture as just another case of disparity and tried to verify the thought that women are revealed with wrong descriptions of how they must act and the tasks they should perform. They considered that the mass media was manipulating women to respond in definite ways. For example Helen Reddy's song "I Am Woman" played a major part in accepted culture and turned out to be a feminist anthem. All through the second feminism wave, other associations such as NARAL were created (Sheldon, 1993).
IV. THE 'SELF' AS OPPOSED TO THE FOREIGN 'OTHER'
The Japanese people had a popular genre that discussed the unique characteristics of a Japanese society. Japan used to respond to the critics from other countries especially the United States just to secure their culture and they always said that westerners will never understand the position or the real situation of Japan (Chaurasia, 2003). Nihonjinron concept is viewed in many books, magazines and television commercials. Japanese have been viewed as those who have distinguished themselves from the foreigners. They have for so many years worked without allowing any foreigner in their country and this they say has allowed them to stay so peaceful and it is the only country that has stayed for so many years without major wars in the country. The Japanese and the US culture however tend to have some overlap in some issues like the isolationism policy and the affinity in the current technology (Daigaku,1989).The most outstanding difference between the Japanese and the US is how they define their 'self' and how they define 'others' and here the word others is the world. The culture of the US value a lot the personal success and how direct it is while the Japanese culture value harmony and indirectness in their way of doing things. The two countries however have reinforced long term trend of improving their lifestyle and they have all supported change and moved away from their traditional gender laws. This has really been proved especially by the young generation of both countries. There has been intersection of activities in both countries that had an impact on the masculinity in the two cultures.
Before the United States became a nation, it was initially subject to the British ruling and no one was to persecute religion in the land. Most of the people settled I England but most of these settlers died in the process of traveling due to excess winter and several sicknesses that kept on attacking them though the survivors persevered. After 150 years, the same colonists insisted and approached their king and wanted their own freedom (Daigaku, 1989). George Bush struggled and led the American troop towards their independence and freed their country from Britain. It was confirmed that a man contributes to his masculinity by exploiting the military field. The traditions that are apparently in the United States are in existence due to the many wars that they have gone through (Wagner, 1973).
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For over 800 years, the shogunates and the daimyo continued being in their ruling positions in Japan (Chaurasia, 2003). Samurai who was a military gained a lot of prestige during this period in Japan. According to their traditions, samurai were to perform some traditional rituals called seppuku meaning ritual suicide and everyone was supposed to honor this ritual and those who failed were forced to leave the country. This facilitated nonverbal communication among the Japanese and the mutual obligation. The Japanese culture valued high performance and the group status (Starrs, 1994).
The economic interests between the Japanese and the non Japanese are compromised by the ethnic boundaries. The Japanese have developed a cultural gap between the old generation and the two generation. The young generation are no longer interested in being called Japanese, what they just want is to increase the opportunities in their country as they believe this will change the society and make them live positively (Chaurasia, 2003). Most of the companies in Japan have become so lenient with race factor- they do not mind their hair or their color unlike what they used to do in the previous years (Chaurasia, 2003). Yukiko (2000) observe that when the Japanese watch entertainers of their fellow Japanese on television, it also shows a small change that they have accepted the westernized Japanese. The common practice that takes place in Japan called nihonjinron is completely not ideology but just a Japanese way of living (Chaurasia, 2003). The other aspect of Japanese speaking other languages other than Japanese language is not considered as ethical. The Japanese have however learned how to view and be educated on some issues they see in the television that are more westernized. Foreigners have always been considered as outsiders and not considered in the society, there has been several channels on the foreign televisions showing clearly the position of foreigners in the society and Japanese have learned to be entertained by this and this slowly changes the position of foreigners in the society to a much better place and all people are sometimes considered equal and same human beings (Cheung, 2010).
Unlike other countries in the whole world, Japan has the pride of not indulging in many major wars in their country and they are the best example when it comes to peace keeping (Chaurasia, 2003). Most of the changes we see today in Japan occurred politically but with very little or no bloodshed. There have been different politicians who ensured that people embraced the new changes that kept on coming peacefully. They had a merit of bureaucracy and they mostly used the Chinese calendar. They were ruled by the empire and even though he had very less political power, the Japanese maintained their respect and continued to serve him as they saw him as their god. When Japan tried to bring down the East Asia under its power the America was directly involved, ensuring that this did not happen. They were directly involved in the Second World War. The cultural homogeny in Japan created interpersonal familiarity, and the issue of masculinity has been altered by the American direct involvement within the Japanese society.