Reading List and Discussion Questions on Gender and Japan


The 2016 Asia Dialogues Program on Gender and Japan will be based around a one-week fact-finding trip to Tokyo, Japan the week of November 14, 2016. The purpose of the trip will be to conduct dialogues with experts and practitioners to explore current issues relating to gender in Japanese society.

Topics of conversation may include: women in the workplace, equal voice in politics, demographic trends, and gender rights. The trip leverages both a global network of scholars and a method of moral inquiry that Carnegie Council has developed over the past several years.

Delegates on this trip will be expected to publish at least one article (less than 2,000 words) based on their experience in Japan and educational resources provided by Carnegie Council. The articles, which can be published on the Council's website or elsewhere, will be included in a final Field Guide, which the Council will curate for public education. Other opportunities to present your findings may also occur.

Below is the weekly schedule for readings over the summer to give you an overview of the topics we'll be studying during the trip. All sources are linked below. Relevant articles may also be sent out to participants as they are published.

Carnegie Council would like to thank Kirstyn Petras for her contribution to this project.

Weekly Schedule:

Week 1: Women in the Workplace

Abe, S. (2013). "Speech on Growth Strategy by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at the Japan National Press Club" (Speeches and Statements by Prime Minister). Prime Minister of Japan and His Cabient. Available at: (Points 2 & 6)

Sposato, W. (2015). "A Surge in Women's Employment is Driving Japan's Economy." Foreign Policy. Available at:

Stewart, D. (2015). "Abenomics Meets Womenomics." Foreign Affairs. Available at:

The Economist. (2014). "Holding back half the nation." The Economist. Available at:

Other Sources:
Asia Society. (2016). "Are 'Womenomics' Working In Japan?" Asia Society. Available at:

Kuhn, A. (2014). "Is 'Womenomics' The Answer To Japan's Economic Woes?" Morning Edition. Available at:

Mollman, S. (2015). "Japan's Government Offered Companies Money to Promote Women—and Not One Took It." The Atlantic. Available at:

Questions to Consider

  • Criticisms of Abe's 'womenomics' cite the still low employment rate for women, low rates for women in corporate power positions, and the ever-draining work/life balance for working mothers. Are these critics justified? Is change an ongoing phenomenon? Has 'womenomics' had sufficient time to take effect?
  • Abe had stated that, as a goal, women should occupy 30 percent of all leadership positions by 2020. Was this ever a realistic goal? Are there other incentives that could have been/might be put into practice in order to come closer to achieving this goal?

Week 2: Entrepreneurship—the Changing Role of Women in the Marketplace

Doi, Y. (2015). "Female Entrepreneurs Lead Way In Employing Women" The Japan Times. Available at:

OECD. (2016). "Women Entrepreneurship Key Findings: Japan." OECD. Available at:

Stewart, D. (2016). "Tokyo's Ambition Generation." Foreign Affairs. Available at:

Other Sources:
Cole, D. F., Fujiyo I., and Sachiko K. (2016). "Womenomics 2.0: The Potential of Female Entrepreneurs in Japan." The Brookings Institution. Available at:

Gingold, N. (2015). "Brewing Sake In Japan Is Becoming A Woman's Game—Again." Public Radio International. Available at:

The Economist, (2014). "The Gender Gap in Japan." The Economist. Available at:

Questions to Consider:

  • How does the role of entrepreneurship fit into the overarching 'womenomics' framework? Did one help push the other?
  • How will entrepreneurial businesses change the way the working world manages the work/life balance? Maternity discrimination? Issues concerning child-care? Women in leadership positions? Will it have any affect on traditional corporate culture?
  • How does entrepreneurship fit into a culture filled with uncertainty about the future?

Week 3: Women in Political Voice

Aoki, M. (2016). "Glass Ceiling Yet To Be Broken In Japan Politics." The Japan Times. Available at:

Miura, M. and Stewart, D. (2016). "Political and Cultural Challenges To Gender Parity In Japan." Carnegie Council. Available at:

Nakano, Y. (2013). "Japan Chair Platform: Among Equals? Women in Japanese Politics." Center for Strategic and International Studies. Available at:

Reynolds, I. and Maiko T. (2015). "Japan's Women Struggle as Representation Trails Saudi Sisters." Bloomberg. Available at:

Other Sources:
Asia Society, (2016.) "Women's Empowerment in Japan." Available at:

Cabinet Office, Government of Japan. (2015). "Women's Active Roles Will Revitalize Japan's Regions." From the "White Paper on Gender Equality 2015." Gender Equality Bureau Cabinet Office. Available at:

Pesek, W. (2015). "This Woman Could Revive Japan." Bloomberg View. Available at:

Questions to Consider:

  • While representation for women is still very low for women in government in Japan, it is still higher than for women in leadership positions in business. Does one need to come before the other? Does representation in government need to come before meaningful changes in the business world, or do women have to be represented in the business world before being respected in government positions?
  • As discussed in the podcast, the voting age was recently changed from 20 to 18. What changes do you think this will make regarding cultural changes and gender equality? Will it make any changes? Will these changes take time?

Week 4: Women in the Military

Gady, F. (2015). "Japan At Peace: The Improbable Military Resurgence." Foreign Affairs. Available at:

Kaplan, M. (2015). "As China Expands Military, Japan Allows Women In Combat Roles As Female Attack Helicopter Pilots." International Business Times. Available at:

Spitzer, J. (2013). "Japanese Women Take Command, Finally." Time.

Other Sources:
Gad, J. (2015). "The Japanese Military Is Getting Offensively Cute." VICE News. Available at:

Questions to Consider:

  • Prime Minister Abe has attempted to reinterpret the constitution to allow Japan to exercise the right of collective self-defense. Given current events in the South China Sea, and Japan's military history, what is the likelihood that the military will expand enough to allow any sense of gender equality, if women are given the opportunity to fill different combat roles?
  • In the Time article, it was discussed that discrimination continues in the Japan Self Defense Forces (JSDF), but less so than in private companies or public offices. Why? Is it a matter of necessity? Training? Environment? Are there strategies concerning gender equality that can be taken back to the private sector/public offices?

Week 5: Women in Civil Society

Kingston, J. (2010). "The Untapped Potential of Japanese Civil Society."Policy Innovations. Available at:

McCurry, J. (2015). "Japanese Women Suffer Widespread 'Maternity Harassment' At Work." The Guardian. Available at:

Stewart, D. (2014). "Japan's Change Generation." Foreign Affairs.

Stewart, D. (2016). "In Search Of a Global Ethic." Democracy Journal. Available at:

Other Sources:
Janah, L. (2015). "Women Social Entrepreneurs to Watch in Japan." Linkedin.

Smith, N. (2014). "Japan Finally Apologizes To Its Women." Bloomberg View. Available at:

Questions to Consider:

  • To what extent is it the role of the government to fight for gender equality, and to what extent is it the role of the people to demand it?
  • Will the '76ers have a lasting effect on gender equality? Will it be the generation that follows?
  • Is bringing equality battles to the courts helpful in Japan? In regards to last names, it failed (see podcast in week 3), but is seemingly helpful in cases of maternity harassment. In a gender-skewed court, is it worth the risk?

Week 6: Women in History

Anderson, M. S. (2016). "About Japan: A Teacher's Resource. From Women in Modern Japanese History." Japan Society. Available at:

Hornung, J. W. (2015). "Japan's Discomfort Women." Foreign Affairs. Available at:

(follow-up article)
Berkshire Miller, J. (2016). "No Grand Bargain." Foreign Affairs. Available at:

The Economist. (2016). "Imperial Lather." The Economist. Available at:

Other Sources:
Kim, M. 2016. "'God Is In The Details': Japan-Korea Comfort Women Agreement." The Indian Express. Available at:

Kuhn, A. (2010). "For Japanese Women, The Past Is The Latest Fad." NPR. Available at:

Questions to Consider:

  • How can Japan successfully move past the 'comfort women' era? Was the deal with South Korea necessary from a political and military perspective? Should a different deal have been bargained for?
  • "The history of Japanese women in politics has not been one of simple linear progression . . . It is more accurate to think of it instead as a tributary to the stream of Japanese political life." Are we attempting to see linear progression in regards to gender and Japan when it does not exist? Are there better ways to mark progress towards gender equality?

Week 7: Demographics – the Shifting Role of Women and Marriage

Farrer, J. and Stewart, D. (2016). "Gender And Sexuality In Japan." Carnegie Council. Available at:

Herships, S. (2016). "Japan's Population Is Plunging, So Where Are the Babies?" Available at:

Leonard, A. (2016). "Could Japan's Shrinking Population Lead to Shrinking Rights for Women?" Newsweek. Available at:

Other Sources:
Herships, S. (2016). "Japan's Long-Term Care Dilemma: Immigrants or Robots?" Available at:

Soble, J. 2015. "Japan's Top Court Upholds Law Requiring Spouses To Share Surname." The New York Times. Available at:

If interested in this subject, other authors to consider:

Kawakami Mieko (Japanese female author, 1976 - . She writes on various topics including women's bodies, social control of over women's bodies, motherhood, etc)

Shono Yoriko (1956 - . Novelist. Her works are metafictional, political, feminist, and deconstructionist. She has dealt with women's bodies, motherhood, patriarchy, etc.)

Questions to Consider:

  • In the effort to push for more children, are women's rights being pushed to the side? How can both efforts exist simultaneously?
  • What does the future of relationships look like in Japan? Will 'traditional marriage' forever exist? Will husbands become equal partners? Will marriage fade away in place of partnerships?

Week 8: Children and the Family

Adelstein, J. and Stuck, N. (2015). "Japan's Economic Troubles Hit Single-Parent Families and Children Especially Hard." Los Angeles Times. Available at:

Reynolds, I. and Takahashi, M. (2016). "This Japanese Lawmaker Is under Fire for Trying to Take Paternity Leave." Bloomberg. Available at:

Hu, E. (2016). "Will More Day Care Help Boost Japan's Sluggish Economy?" NPR. Available at:

Other Sources:
Berlatsky, N. (2013). "Japan's Cutthroat School System: A Cautionary Tale For The U.S." The Atlantic. Available at:

Demetriou, D. (2014). "Japan's Institutionalised Children." BBC News. Available at:

Nonomiya, L. and Shoko, O. (2016). "How an Anonymous Blog went Viral and Forced Japan's Abe to Respond." Bloomberg.

Questions to Consider:

  • How do children fit in to the work/life balance of mothers and fathers? Will the '76er generation push for a more equal share of parental responsibilities? Will the 'change generation' push for more day care/child care to help this balance?
  • In addition to reasons cited in week 7, how do economics factor in to reasons for wanting/not wanting to have children? The price of schooling? The price of day care? Do these factors matter? Do they matter more now in the 'age of uncertainty'? Would they matter without taking into account women's work constraints and longing for independence?

Week 9: Sex Business and Sex Trafficking

Hongo, J. 2008. "Law Bends Over Backward To Allow 'Fuzoku.'" The Japan Times. Available at:

Osaki, T. (2015). "Revision of Japan's Archaic Sex Crime Laws Falling Short: Critics.” The Japan Times. Available at:

Parrenas, R. (2011). "What I Learned By Being A Migrant Sex Worker (Part 1): Parrenas". Bloomberg View. Available at: (Part 1) (Part 2)

Silver, S. (2006) "The Trafficking Scourge." The Japan Times. Available at:

The Economist. (2005). "Entertainment, of a Kind." The Economist. Available at:

Other Sources:
Takeyama, A. (2005). "Commodified Romance in a Tokyo Host Club." In Genders, Transgenders And Sexualities In Japan, pg. 200-215. Routledge. Available at:

Osaki,T. (2014). "Notorious 'JK' Business Exploits Troubled High School Girls for Sex." The Japan Times. Available at:

Yamagishi, R. "Explaining Host Clubs To Western Men: Lessons In Language, Culture, And Power." Kyoto Journal. Available at:

If interested in these topics, an author to consider:

Higuchi Ichiyo (Japanese female author, 1872-1896. Famous for her lyrical writing style. Her works deal with women's poverty, social stigma suffered by prostitutes, social class in modern Japan, etc)

For those interested, this documentary also explores the world of host clubs:

Questions to Consider:

  • Where do Japan's visa restrictions fall short? What other adjustments to the process can be made to protect against trafficking?
  • Given the country's history with prostitution and the sex business, is it wise for other nations/NGOs to suggest eradicating it all together? Are there other policies that could be enacted to protect sex workers without encouraging trafficking?

Week 10: Sexual Rights and Sexual Expression

Dale, S. and Stewart, D. (2016). "Gender Identity in Japan." Carnegie Council. Available at:

Haworth, A. (2013). "Why Have Young People In Japan Stopped Having Sex?" The Guardian. Available at:

Ikoma, N. and Stewart, D. (2016). "Feminism: The New "F-Word" In Japan?" Carnegie Council. Available at:

Kaku, S. (2015). "Rainbow In The East: LGBT Rights In Japan." Nippon. Available at:

Other Sources:
McMahon, D. (2015). "Signs of Growing Acceptance for Japan's Gay Community." Nippon. Available at:

These sources look at the idea of gokon, or group dating:

"This Is A Japanese Group Blind Date Gokon." Wasabi - Japanese Culture Media. Available at:

Clegg, C. (2014). "The Ugly Truth of 'Gokon,' Japan's Group Blind Dates." Japan Today. Available at:

(A more sexist perspective)

Osaki, T. (2010). "9 Mistakes Japanese Women Make during Group Dates." CNN Travel. Available at:

If interested in these topics, these authors deal with sexuality in Japan:

Mishima Yukio (Japanese male author, 1925-1970. Famous for his stylized, classical, decadent writing style and theme of sexuality and violence. His short story, "Onnagata," deals with a Kabuki actor, and fits into my research of gender performativity.)

Matsuura Rieko (Japanese female author, 1958 - . She writes on sexuality, deformity, lesbianism, etc.)

Enchi Fumiko (1905-1986). Novelist as well as translator of The Tale of Genji into modern Japanese. Her works deal with women's lives, sexuality, the body, etc.)

Kono Taeko (1926-2015. Novelist. Her works deal with sexuality, sadism/masochism, violence, child abuse, woman's bodies, etc)

Questions to Consider:

  • Why is feminism such a hated term in Japan? Is it the concept that is hated as well, or just the word? How can it become a more accepted idea?
  • Can more acceptance of different sexualities/gender identities in turn help women's rights?
  • How will the concept of the 'herbivore' affect gender stereotypes, and the role of women in society? Will it have an effect on women, or just men?

Week 10.5 Concepts of Masculinity

Lim, L. (2009). "In Japan, 'Herbivore' Boys Subvert Ideas Of Manhood." NPR. Available at:

McCurry, J. (2015). "Japanese Court Endorses Adultery For Business Purposes, Experts Say". The Guardian. Available at

(If able to access) Please look at some of the work by Emma Cook on ideas of masculinity in Japan. Her publication list is available at:

Other Sources:
Shinjuku Boys. (1995). DVD.

Questions to Consider:

  • Will changing concepts of masculinity affect ideas of gender equality?
  • How will these changes concepts affect men and women in the workplace, in politics? Do you believe this phenomenon will have power?