Rural gender construction and decline

Negotiating risks through nostalgia

Authored by: Anna Vainio

The Routledge Companion to Gender and Japanese Culture

Print publication date:  December  2019
Online publication date:  December  2019

Print ISBN: 9781138895201
eBook ISBN: 9781315179582
Adobe ISBN:


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Despite rapid post-war socioeconomic modernization and nuclearization of the family in Japan, social and economic structures remain persistently stratified along gendered lines. While the numbers of extended families have declined, this chapter argues that the ideals of gender hierarchy codified in the rural household structure (ie) continues to have a penetrating impact on contemporary Japanese society today. Drawing from a wide range of literature on Japanese family and gender, this chapter outlines how in traditional stem families, harmony between genders is given preference over equality and seen as an “authentic” and stable representation of a family in Japan. With increasing instability and precariousness experienced in contemporary Japan today, this chapter argues that Japanese families are increasingly gazing into this perceived stability of the past, with the narrative of rural authenticity offering strategies for the management of everyday familial risks. However, due to the long-term and ongoing rural decline, authentic notions of family and gender are increasingly becoming sites of nostalgia and heritage. The chapter concludes that when appropriated into the contemporary context, these nostalgic notions of a gendered rural ideal can be deeply damaging for gender relations in contemporary society overall, leading to the revival of conservatism and further stratification of gender relations.

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