Chiba Kameo:
The Making of Modern Japanese Women

Yasuko Claremont
  1. The magazine Josei is representative of the liberalism of Taishō democracy, including as it did innovative literary and non-literary genres. Women readers were encouraged to recognise that emancipation for them was possible, and that they could begin breaking away from the oppressed and subordinate role which they occupied in Japanese society. In the Meiji Civil Code, for example, only men had legal rights, while women were legally subordinate to the head of the ie (household). The roles of women were moulded into the sociopolitical model of ryōsai kenbo (good wife, wise mother) through the Ministry of Education.[1] Japan's defeat in World War II subsequently breathed new life into women's emancipation movements, bringing women voting rights in 1946.[2] However, movements to enlighten Japanese women had been promoted since as early as the 1910s,[3] as seen in Hiratsuka Raichō's often cited foreword in the inaugural issue of Seitō [Bluestocking] in 1911:

      In the beginning, woman was the sun. An authentic person. Today, she is the moon.[4]

    The launch of the New Women's Association in 1920 heralded a new age for women's movements.
  2. Chiba Kameo's active life as a journalist corresponds with the full span of these women's emancipation movements. Between 1894 and 1935 Chiba's articles amounted to more than 2000, mostly in newspapers and journals.[5] Among them, 306 contributions were made to women's magazines of the time, e.g. Fujin kōron, Fujin kurabu, Josei, Nihonjin, Fujin gahō, ujinkai, Fujin no tomo and Fujokai.[6] He also contributed articles to major political, literary, and social magazines of the time, such as Nihonjin, ChŻō kōron, Fujin kōron, and Kaizō, bringing to these magazines a critical voice and leadership in relation to women's rights.[7] The sheer quantity of his publications in this area shows how active he was in promoting issues specifically related to women of the time. In 1924 Chiba Kameo published a collection of his selected writings on issues which concerned women, Isei o miru [Understanding the Opposite Sex] through Reimeisha, Tokyo. This publication clearly indicated that not only was there still a strong readership, despite the hardship resulting from the devastation of the Great Kantō Earthquake in 1923, but also that women's issues remained matters of important debate.[8]
  3. The magazine, Josei, was one of the main platforms for his views, apart from his major newspaper columns for women in, for example, Yomiuri shinbun where Chiba worked from 1919 to 1926. Interestingly, I have not been able to find any contribution by him in the magazine Shufu no tomo [The Housewife's Companion],[9] which is a strong indication that the very nature of his style and content differed from the requirements of that practical daily-life magazine. Josei, in contrast, contained numerous pages for creative, innovative literary genres, such as novels, drama and poetry. Due to the editor Osanai Kaoru's extensive friendship with many well-known writers and artists of the time, prominent writers, such as Tanizaki Jun'ichirō, Arishima Takeo, Nagai KafŻ, Akutagawa RyŻnosuke and Yosano Akiko, were all contributors. It also contained commentaries on current affairs related to women's issues, such as chastity and education. In short, it was a highly culturally oriented magazine that promoted women's emancipation among middle-class educated women. Josei enjoyed a highly acclaimed reputation with a circulation of 25,000 copies in 1927.[10]

    Chiba Kameo's life
  4. Chiba Kameo's autobiographical work Iza saraba [Farewell to My Home Village], published by Taiheiyōkan in 1903, contains loving and sad descriptions of his mother who died in 1896.[11] She endured severe hardship in bringing up five young children alone when her husband died in 1883. Chiba not only acknowledged his indebtedness to his mother, who had encouraged him to acquire high literacy, but he also remembered her steadfast opposition to what she saw as attitudes prejudicial to women. There is no doubt that his own views were shaped by his upbringing.[12] His successful career as a journalist, literary critic and teacher in his later years stemmed from not only his disciplined professionalism but also his liberal and uncompromising thinking. Let me briefly summarize Chiba's biography.
  5. Chiba Kameo was born in Sakata, Yamagata prefecture in 1878, the second son with two elder sisters. His father, Kōhei, was a Sakata middle school teacher of kanbun [Chinese classics], and his mother, Tsuka, was the daughter of a doctor in Tsukiji, Tokyo. In 1883, when Chiba was five years old, his father died, resulting in a family financial crisis. As the family had no other source of income, they moved to the father's home village, Fudōdō in Onda, Miyagi prefecture, where his mother eked out a living by labouring on just a tiny patch of soil. Chiba grew up there until he finished primary school education, sharing a life of hardship with his mother. Since his mother was originally from Tokyo, farming was never easy for her. However, she maintained her spiritual support for her son.[13] In 1896, hoping to become a writer, Chiba moved to Tokyo, where he did all kinds of minor jobs to support himself while studying. In the same year his mother died in poverty. Chiba's view of the unjust status of women had been formed by witnessing his widowed mother's endurance in supporting her children. He was then eighteen years old.
  6. Thanks to his literary ability and on the recommendation of Kojima Usui,[14] he was employed as a writer by Bunko in 1899. Chiba studied English at the Kokumin Eigakkai [People's English Association] and at Waseda Senmon Gakkō [now Waseda University], but left without a degree. In 1903 he resigned from Bunko and joined the journal, Nihon oyobi Nihonjin as a writer. He married in 1905 and in the same year joined Nihon shinbun where, together with journalists who would become prominent in the Taishō period—Hasegawa Nyozekan (1875-1969) and Kuga Katsunan (1857-1907)—he worked on innovative topics, particularly by setting up the women's columns as well as the literary columns. These journalists are important as early protagonists of liberal thought in the media.[15]
  7. In addition, Chiba's wide reading made him familiar with the principles and practices of emancipation movements in Europe and America. A study conducted by a research team at Shōwa Joshi Daigaku [Shōwa Women's College] identified Chiba's connection with the American journalist Arthur Brisbane (1814-1935) in this regard.[16] In his newspaper columns Brisbane discussed current topics of daily interest to women, such as family issues and fashion. Influenced by Brisbane, Chiba radically altered the women's column and began engaging in issues concerning the improvement of women's status. At the same time, Chiba did not overlook an element of commercialism in Brisbane's innovative journalism as a negative aspect of his work.[17] And his own columns, in contrast, display much more depth. Because of his independent feminist approach to literature, journalism and criticism, Chiba is often referred to as one of the first pioneer feminists.[18]
  8. Chiba's sharp eye for social and cultural trends as a journalist and his literary sensitivities are evident in the way that his naming of a new literary movement of the 1920s, Shinkankakuha [New Sensationalist School], is now an accepted literary term.[19] Chiba vigorously promoted popular literature in the 1920s by contributing his critical articles to the major journals, such as Chūō kōron, expressing his view that the common people's appreciation of literature could no longer be ignored.[20]
  9. Later in his life he became a professor of English literature at Rikkyō University, Tokyo, a position which he occupied until his death in 1935. In memory of Chiba Kameo's contribution to the promotion of taishū bungaku [popular literature], the newspaper, Sandē mainichi twice awarded the Chiba Kameo Prize for popular literature in 1936 and 1939.

    Portraits of female autonomy in Western literature
  10. Among the many features that are worth examining in Josei, the introductions to the Western literature written by Chiba Kameo reveal not only the literary heroines described, but also Chiba's method of attempting to foster support for women's emancipation. Chiba wanted to show liberated heroines as they were depicted in Western literature. He admired them because they followed their own paths, bearing responsibility and hardship, even if that proved to be at a cost. Chiba's approach in selecting stories was based on their innovative nature, as he believed that 'innovation is the banner for a literary renaissance.'[21] This view was very much in agreement with the view of Osanai Kaoru (1881-1928), who was actually the editor of Josei from 1922 to 1925, and introduced works of Stefan Zeromski, Edward Knoblauch, Lucien Descaves, Nikolai Ljesskof and Anton Chekhov in his own translations. Most of these writers, with the exception of Chekhov, are long forgotten today but were innovative at the time. Many of the Western novelists and their works that Chiba introduced in Josei are also long forgotten, for example, the Russian writer, Boris Pilnyak[22] or the Swedish writer, Selma Lagerlof,[23] despite her being the first woman to win the Nobel prize for literature in 1909. Chiba particularly admired Selma Lagerlof because of the liberal attitude prevailing in all of her writing, as well as her commitment to women's emancipation.
  11. Chiba not only translated excerpts from the texts, but also wrote essays focusing on modern womanhood as it was projected in Western literature. In serialised sections entitled 'Lectures on Literature,' 'People of the Time' and 'Studies on Modern Women,' he introduced writers of the West, for example, August Strindberg,[24] Franz Molnar[25] and Maksim Gorki,[26] and emancipated women depicted in Western literature. His selections from Western literature were almost wholly European, not English or American. He summarised the stories and authors' biographies by translating excerpts and commenting on them. Through his translations and essays he gave readers of Josei access to the lifestyle, attitudes and ideas of modern European women. The making of modern women, particularly their breaking away from social pressures and assuming the right to take responsibility for their lives and actions, reflects Chiba's central concern for what he saw as the predominant qualities characteristic of emancipated women, such as Selma Lagerlof and Marie Curie.
  12. Chiba's view of women was based on universal humanism rather than a specific agenda to redress the gender inequality existing in Japanese society of the 1920s. He insisted on the recognition of women's autonomy, so much so that it attracted, for example, the criticism of Kōuchi Nobuko in her comments on Chiba's Understanding the Opposite Sex[27] as 'an ideal point of view'. Kōuchi maintained that Chiba's idealism could not be immediately realised in any practical sense because Japan's situation was 'particular'.[28] Chiba was a man of letters, and his expressions were thoroughly literary. His particular style of literary journalism is exemplified in his contributions to Josei.
  13. In his critical article entitled 'What they sought,'[29] Chiba analysed constrictions in the lives of female figures in Western literature, such as Nora created by Ibsen, Anna Karenina created by Tolstoy, and Madam Bovary created by Flaubert, all of whom found themselves trapped in bourgeois marriages. Only Nora escaped. The other two rebelled, but committed suicide after unsatisfactory love affairs. Nevertheless, what each of them sought was to gain the autonomy that had been denied them.
  14. Chiba's twenty-four literary articles all deal with liberated women, illustrating the role that he had chosen for himself in Josei as a literary critic. Because space was necessarily limited in the magazine, Chiba's introduction as well as his translated excerpts or summaries of the originals are in digested form. In each story he began with an introductory note enclosed in a square, giving the reader some idea of the story to be introduced. As well as writers of lesser stature, Chiba introduced prominent writers of world stature, such as Tolstoy, Dostoevsky and George Bernard Shaw, concentrating on their views on the role of women in the home and in society.
  15. Tolstoy was featured in the magazine through disclosures made by his eldest daughter, who finally broke her silence to tell the truth about the strained relations in the Tolstoy family, and the ordeal that her mother had to face, particularly in old age when Tolstoy wanted to give away all property, leaving the family in hardship.[30] Similarly, readers learned facts about Dostoevsky, given by his second wife, who initially worked for him as a shorthand secretary. Chiba commended her loyalty and the stability which she brought to the marriage in difficult times, as well as her capacity to organise his financial affairs. For example, rejecting a publisher's unworthy copyright proposal of 500 roubles payable over two years, Dostoevsky's wife Anna privately published his novel, The Obsessed, and sold it to the bookshops and individual readers. She earned 4000 roubles in a short period of time. From then on, she started publishing his works, and after his death she published the Collected Works of Dostoevsky. Chiba praised her achievements not only for their practicality but, more importantly, for bringing together Dostoevsky's unpublished works.[31]
  16. In another article, Chiba dealt with Shaw's literary indebtedness to Ibsen, who in his plays was a provocative advocate of women's rights. After discussing the uncertain fate awaiting Ibsen's heroine, Nora, after her departure from a marriage which had ensnared her in A Doll's House, Chiba defined Ibsen as a writer of will who also let Nora act according to her will.[32] In contrast, Chiba regarded Shaw as being too intellectual and lacking in the 'bravery, energy and the primitive power of a revolutionary.'[33] Nevertheless, he admired the vitality of Shaw's views advocating women's independence. For example, Shaw argued for doing away with the attitude prevailing in society that women must depend on men in order to live, 'otherwise family life can never become beautiful and sacred.'[34] Chiba cited Shaw's words:

      People who think that the place for a woman is in children's rooms and the kitchen are the same as English children who think that a parrot lives in a cage because there is no other place possible. The kind of reasoning here is that women and parrots have no idea of any alternative other than the places assigned to them. But what I respond to is the person and the parrot who have a free soul and insist on being let out of the cage and placed in an active environment as an absolute necessity. It is sad to think that most people might see such a bid for freedom as selfish.[35]

  17. Shaw continued, saying that enforced isolation in the home can lead to a person becoming uncontrollable, just as a bird may come to hate its cage. Chiba concluded by citing Shaw's bitter remark: 'In cases like this there are only two alternatives: either kill them or let them fly away from the cage.'[36] There is no doubt that Chiba was advocating the emancipation of women through his citations of Shaw.
  18. As we shall see, in Josei most stories have a romantic background, but in each of Chiba's excerpts and commentaries the heroine realises her own integrity and acts autonomously. These figures are by no means heroic in any dramatic sense, but they are heroines in the sense that they have the courage and determination to assert their individuality and escape from the submissive role which society would seek to impose on them. Themes of sexual relationships and motherhood play a significant role in most of the stories, but the Western writers presented in Josei did not describe pregnancy and maternity in the context of family life. Instead, their female figures often regarded their pregnancy as a surprise or gift, not as the beginning of a new generation. As the following examples show, these women with different motivations all took charge of their own fate regardless of social and religious values.
  19. Ksenia, in Snow by Boris Pilnyak, practises free love. Chiba's view was that the heroine represented a typical Russian woman expressing her desire for motherhood. In the story the heroine, Ksenia returns to her ex-lover, Bolnyn in Russia, who is now happily married with a baby daughter. A group of her old friends hold a discussion at a party on what is the most important thing in life: faith, intelligence, morality or spirit. Here is an example of their conversation and discussion, suggesting the heroine's 'tragedy of the soul' in the sense that she is unable to find self-realisation outside marriage.

      Viela, Alkipof's wife, said: 'The only tragedy in life is a life with no tragedy.' Ksenia responded with conviction: 'That's right. It is really tragic if one experiences no tragedy.' She then inquired: 'How do you regard free love?' Viela responded: 'Free love is not the only purpose of life.' Ksenia continued her questioning: 'Why are you married?' Viela answered: 'I wanted a baby.' Ksenia stood up from the couch with both her arms open and shouted: 'A baby! That's instinct, isn't it?' Viela said: 'No, it's in conformity with the law.'[37]

  20. This scene is particularly effective because it clearly shows opposed attitudes. Having experienced the futility of free love, all that Ksenia wanted was to have a child by Bolnyn without love or marriage. Bolnyn rejected her, not because he no longer loved her, but because he could not accept a proposal that was convenient only to Ksenia. Bolnyn also believed in the Christian faith, which sees adultery as a crime. Ksenia's desire to redeem herself through free love and conceiving a child was rejected. The title for this story is Snow, but in Japanese Chiba titled it 'The Last Redemption.'[38]
  21. Romain Rolland's story, Annette and Sylvie, was introduced in the June 1925 issue.[39] Chiba simply extracted part of the original work that suited his own purposes, thereby highlighting the theme of personal autonomy. The heroine Annette insists on maintaining her independence even in the course of her courtship. To Annette, marriage did not mean that two people become one, but meant that two people still retain their individuality and in that sense remain free from each other. Her lover has only a limited understanding of this attitude. He sees marriage only in relation to himself. To him marriage gives his position as a politician social respectability. Having sensed their incompatibility, Annette declines his proposal, yet, when she sees how devastated he was, she allows him to make love to her. After the love-making she recognises signs of contempt in his eyes. Annette's lovemaking was simply a sexual impulse. Towards the end of the story she realises that she is pregnant. The story ends with Annette talking to her unborn baby:

      You are what people know as love. The love that escaped as soon as I was about to grasp it has come into me now. I have caught you. I will never release you. My little prisoner, I will tie you inside me. Take revenge, slaughter me, eat up my organs. Nourish yourself with my blood. You are me. You are my dream. I have never been able to find you in this life, so I have made you with my body – and now I have caught the love that is you. The one I love is me ...[40]

    In Chiba's introductory notes, he recognises in this story an example of 'the dawn of modern women's souls,' that is, Annette's battle for independence—achieved here, it must be said, in quite cold and deliberate circumstances. Nevertheless, Annette has proclaimed her independence, as well as conceiving a child.
  22. Another example of a heroine with aspirations for independence is Emma in Theodore, a novel by a contemporary Swedish writer, Gustave Helstrum.[41] Here the heroine Emma was nearly fifty. She had been a factory worker since the age of sisteen. She was single and lived alone. She let a homeless youth, Theodore, live in her house until he was ready to take up a job on a ship. They made love unexpectedly once, not so much from personal attraction, but simply from sympathy towards each other living in poverty. Emma did not tell Theodore on his departure that she was pregnant. Instead, she took pleasure in the fact that she would no longer be lonely. Chiba saw Emma as a heroine, taking all responsibility for her own actions in life. But here again motherhood is valued only in the sense of companionship, not as a vital element in a planned future. Also of significance is that this story represents Swedish proletarian literature, where women factory workers were socially and politically exploited.
  23. The point of this story is that marriage need no longer be the institution of bondage, particularly for women, that it once was. As in the previous examples, Chiba's articles often included unconventional relationships, such as a woman wanting a child without a legal husband or an unmarried woman delighted by her unexpected pregnancy. These types of relationships would not appeal to all Japanese women readers, but they foreshadowed liberation from the conventional views of marriage, which bound women unconditionally.

    Literary journalism to promote women's emancipation
  24. In Chiba's articles the realities of daily life as experienced or known by everyone were never discussed. He did not write about poverty or the misery suffered by prostitutes, for example. He did not explore the issue of Western heroines' cultural environment being based on Christian ethics, as compared with the cultural environment of Japan. Instead, he concentrated on women's rights as they related to suffrage or marriage. Strangely, his scope is both broad and narrow—broad in the sense that the topic of literary heroines in Western literature can be seen as universal, and narrow in the sense that he does not discuss other issues of the highest importance to Japanese women, such as the private property system which, in effect, bound women to marriage for life.
  25. For example, Japan in the late 1910s and 1920s saw a strong public debate about state intervention to protect women workers known as the 'the protection of motherhood debate' [bosei hogo ronsō], yet there are no direct references to this debate or to the feminists involved, such as Yosano Akiko, Yamakawa Kikue and Hiratsuka Raichō, in Chiba's contributions to Josei. Likewise, controversial issues of the time involving labour movements, feminist movements and the abolition of licensed prostitution have no priority in Josei, as Koyama Shizuko has observed.[42] According to Koyama's classification, the most discussed issues in Josei were sex, free love, chastity, marriage and divorce.[43] Kōuchi Nobuko has also noted that 'there is very little descriptive detail about the real situations of Japanese women.'[44] It is also a sad fact that Chiba's introductions of a new heroine in Western literature did not seem to provoke reader comment either. This kind of passivity in terms of the readership reveals itself as the very nature of Josei, which Koyama described as 'a mirror reflecting the status of women newly born or coming into being.'[45]
  26. Chiba's style is a form of literary journalism. Besides introducing through Western literature what might be regarded as Western heroines, Chiba also contributed sixteen articles of socio-political criticism from the September 1922 issue to the January 1928 issue, discussing current affairs with reference to literary heroines. Over a period of time Chiba introduced such a large variety of women and situations that any attempt at a detailed classification would be fruitless. Nevertheless, we can still find some distinctive themes, which reflect Chiba's own view of what modern women should be.
  27. One example of great interest to Japanese women was the decision by Chief Justice Yokota of the Supreme Court, who turned down a husband's appeal on the grounds that he was responsible for the maintenance of his wife and children.[46] The husband had committed adultery and abandoned his family. Chief Justice Yokota's decision emphasised a husband's responsibility to his family, and equality between husband and wife. Chiba reported this news in detail as 'a new law that a husband also has a duty of chastity'[47] in the September 1927 issue of Josei.
  28. In this article, Chiba added references to two liberated women depicted in Western literature as an epilogue. One was to Susan, a character in Henry Arthur Jones's novel, The Case of Rebellious Susan (1894). Susan left her husband for another man because of her husband's adultery. Later, both ended up being abandoned by their new partners and returned to each other as if nothing had happened between them. Chiba showed that, in this questionable relationship, the author had emphasised the suffering of the husband, with a lesser emphasis on the wife's distress and desperation. Chiba also pointed out the significance of Susan's rebellion against social norms, irrespective of the folly of her actions. The other example was Monique, a character in Victor Marquerite's novel, La Garçonne (1921). The heroine believes that the 'double standard' concerning men and women should be abolished. She is like Susan, rebelling against social norms and making love to anyone she likes without ever falling in love. However, in the end she finds a true love. These two stories reverse socially accepted views by proclaiming that 'if husbands do not have the duty of chastity, wives do not have it either.'[48] This article is a good example of how Chiba joined together the two aspects of literature and journalism, giving the court case that had been reported a wider dimension.
  29. In another example, we can see that Chiba's literary journalism gave to the Josei readership at least some understanding of the political turmoil that was taking place in the Soviet Union. A Week, written by Iuri Libedinsky,[49] portrays three young women. The story takes place in one of the Russian provinces during the civil war period of 1921. There are three central figures: Nadya represents anti-communism, Jimkova believes in pure revolution, and Liza sees the revolution as still incorporating Christian humanist values. Chiba's title for this essay is 'From a country of suffering: three women's lives.'[50] All three women are presented as being victims of political power, where the prevailing ideology crushes personal relationships. Nadya cried and prayed for her lover's safety. She 'could not understand the strange power which had torn them apart.' In Russia people were divided between the communists and the bourgeoisie, who hated the communists for depriving them of their wealth. Young idealists, both men and women, were ruthlessly murdered. Chiba makes no judgements, but simply presents the cases of the three women with strong compassion. Everyone knew of the Russian Revolution without ever feeling what the Russian people, particularly women, might have experienced during the time. This story filled that gap. A Week demonstrates the power of political oppression in conditioning lives and beliefs.
  30. The purpose of Chiba's literary journalism in Josei was clear, promotion of literary articles
    which were also relevant to current affairs. For example, in the March 1925 issue Chiba introduced the heroine of Snow, written by Boris Pilnyak. Following this, the story was translated by Shibata Katsue in the May and June 1926 issues. When Pilnyak visited Japan in April 1926, four articles, 'An impression of Mr Pilnyak', 'Mr Pilnyak who hears "The Sound of Japan"', 'An interview with Mr Pilnyak' and 'Portrait of a revolutionary writer,'[51] were published in the May 1926 issue of Josei, together with Hattori Shirō's pen drawing of Pilnyak. Pilnyak was the first Russian writer to visit Japan after the Bolshevik Revolution. Josei was at the forefront here, making its readership acquainted with a living author and his work, Snow, in which the heroine tragically fails to achieve motherhood.
    Hattori Shirō, Boris Pilnyak, in Josei, May 1926.
    Chiba's non-literary essays
  31. Apart from his major contribution to the introduction of Western heroines in Josei, Chiba also contributed non-literary essays, dealing with the current situations of Japanese women. In them he was compassionate to those women who suffered from injustice, and at the same time he was critical of bourgeois women as lacking understanding of their real situations.
  32. For example, Chiba's first contribution in the September 1922 issue, entitled 'The modern values of confessional literature,' showed his appreciation and support for tōsho ran [letters to the editor column], a major feature in women's journals,[52] as confessional literature. Not only that, he was also vocal in his opposition to any criticism of its popularity. He believed that confessional writings were truthful records of the injustices which women often endured. Women had very little equity in law. Although a socially accepted morality existed, it contained a double standard. For example, a husband's adultery was quite permissible and not a ground for divorce. A wife's adultery, on the other hand, was a cause for divorce.[53] Chiba also pointed out the defect that arose from Japan's family system (the ie), in which, for example, a father did not recognise his daughters' independence. It was the father's will that was autonomous.[54] For all of that, what caused Chiba to despair was the lack of individuality that still persisted in women as portrayed in confessional literature:

      In the past there was recognition of an order binding family love to the home town and love of the home town to the nation-state. Today is a time of liberation. Above all, be a citizen of the world. Be autonomous and realise your freedom. When we love each other as equal human beings, love of the nation and the family is also born. The individual self can only be born untarnished and unconfined when one feels oneself to be a member of the world of citizens. I am deeply concerned about women whose individual self has not yet been established, having read confessional literature.[55]

  33. Strong though his advocacy was, his views still remained rather general, with no suggestions about how things could be improved or of what action to take. As Koyama Shizuko has pointed out, Josei had no particular inclination to support feminist movements of the time, [56] although Chiba himself was reporting news of women's issues.
  34. Chiba's strong disappointment about the lack of progress being made in the women's movement in Japan—'it is fading out like the dying flame of a sparkler'—appeared in his 1926 article, 'The environment and women's power'.[57] In that, Chiba criticised the bourgeois class of women who hardly ever reflected on what kind of environment they were placed in—the environment where 'they live under the loving protection of men thanks to the financial exchange of their female "sex" for security and status, a situation which never seems to alter.'[58] His comment was deliberately provocative to bring out a sense of frustration and agitation among the readership of Josei. In particular, his criticism of bourgeois women who regarded flower arrangement and music as being simply qualifications for a better marriage has the ring of truth. Chiba pinpointed two major problems facing women and impeding efforts to gain a freer status: ignorance of their environment and their persistence in continuing with established ways. He criticised not only the social environment where women were expected to behave in a subservient manner, but also the fact that women themselves complied all the time with what men expected of them.
  35. Chiba was calling for an inner revolution among the bourgeois class of women:

      Having been spoiled by their circumstances, these women are the last to reflect upon whether such circumstances are correct or not. These are the reasons why they are actually a hindrance and make no contribution to our time when the status of womanhood in the new age is to be revolutionised. If only the bourgeois class of women can bring themselves to identify with the have-nots, then modern women as a whole will no longer tolerate remaining in a state of blindness and subjection. It's their duty to provide new knowledge to all women and to revise their consciousness which has been suppressed since old times, and to establish the correct status of women in the new age and to raise and spread movements of enlightenment among all women. The modern bourgeois class of women can do this as they are the ones who have time and intelligence. This can be very clearly seen when you look at the history of modern European and American women's movements.[59]

    In order to convince the bourgeois class of women that they had the power to change, Chiba showed convincingly one set of statistics which indicated how easily prostitution occurred. Among 5152 prostitutes, 818 had no education, eighteen had attended middle school for one or two years, and thirteen for three to four years, but none had graduated from middle school. The rest obviously were educated to at least primary school level, although Chiba made no mention of that fact. He moved on by saying that their ignorance lay in not knowing what morality was, and therefore their ruin was not a matter of morality but of education. These women, he claimed, were not immoral but amoral.
  36. In contrast, bourgeois women had none of the pressures brought about by poverty and lack of education. It was strange, Chiba felt, that young women were proud of all kinds of skills, such as ikebana, dance, calligraphy and music, regarding these as credentials to please men. He argued that these educated women, who had ample time on their hands, had a duty to involve themselves and help to liberate suppressed women in order to establish greater freedom in a new age:

      No true women's movements come about easily. What is necessary is a serious self-review by women and a change of attitude in which they come to resist the environment imposed upon them.[60]

  37. Chiba also clearly defined where a key problem lay in an article entitled 'A bird's eye view on the current women's world.'[61] He pointed out the significance of the generation gap existing between mothers and daughters. The mothers' generation existed in a state of negativity due to their blind obedience and unquestioning acceptance of social norms. Tragedy and rebellion occurred when the mothers tried to induce the same submissive attitudes in their daughters.

    Conclusion: evaluating Chiba's contributions
  38. Chiba was innovative in presenting and discussing a new breed of women and their independent attitudes towards chastity, love and motherhood, not in any academic way but in a more popular style, which was relevant to the contemporary scene of the 1920s. Indeed, it was Chiba who strongly supported the vision of the 'modern girl.'[62] Chiba claimed that free love most celebrated in modern times was not the unrestricted dissipation that previous generations believed in, but, on the contrary, was an affirmative way of living and establishing one's own self.[63]
  39. Chiba's contribution to Josei, not to mention other contributions to magazines and newspapers, is yet to be recognised. Perhaps the reason is that Chiba was not really a practical activist for women's rights movements, although he was certainly a committed advocate for women's emancipation. However, there is evidence that Chiba's idealistic literary journalism did have an impact on educated women of the time. The year before Chiba's death, Miyamoto Yuriko, a well-known proletarian author, wrote an article praising his article in the October 1934 issue of Fujin kōron, where Chiba had taken up the topic of women and literature. Miyamoto praised Chiba's insight in showing that the difficulties faced by Japanese women writers in gaining acceptance and pursuing their careers were similar to those experienced by female writers in Britain, as in the case of Jane Austen and Virginia Woolf.[64] Miyamoto was not the only writer to find support and inspiration in Chiba's writings. A memorial was held in Chiba's honour on 7 November 1935, thirty-five days after his death. An article in Fujo shinbun [Women's Newspaper] described the respect that Chiba held among women writers and activists and noted that among the 100 or so people gathered, most were women.[65]
  40. Although the women readers of Josei might not have easily related to the heroines Chiba described, by introducing fictional types of emancipated Western women, he encouraged Japanese women to have a wider perspective and deeper understanding of matters concerning women's lives. His purpose was to educate Japanese women to the possibilities of equality in marriage as well as improved social rights. As he had a particular predilection for literature, he used it as a means of advocating his liberal beliefs. The imaginative sphere in which he wrote brought out the relative exoticism of the West as well as self-reflection. He had never been to foreign countries to study, but he was a great reader, as almost everyone who knew him commented.[66] Today literary journalism seems to have lost the power that it enjoyed in Chiba's day. Literature itself evolves in its values over time, but in the 1920s when the mass media were beginning to expand, Chiba's innovative introduction of Western literature certainly played its role in widening readers' minds. Chiba set himself to contribute to the making of modern women at the crucial time of their birth in the 1920s.


    The author would like to express her sincere appreciation for the valuable suggestions made by the anonymous referees and Hugh Clarke, in particular for Elise Tipton's meticulous editorship and generosity with her time.

    [1] Sharon H. Nolte and Sally Ann Hastings, 'The Meiji State's Policy Toward Women, 1890-1920' in Recreating Japanese Women, 1600-1945, ed. Gail Lee Bernstein, Berkeley: University of California Press, 1991, pp. 152, 158-59.

    [2] Elise K Tipton, Modern Japan, London and New York: Routledge, 2002, p. 153.

    [3] Barbara Sato, The New Japanese Woman, Durham and London: Duke University Press, 2003, pp. 13-14.

    [4] David Lu, Japan, A Documentary History, Armonk, NY and London: M.E. Sharpe, 1997, p. 309.

    [5] All of the detailed publications of Chiba are listed in Kindai bungaku kenkyū sōsho, vol. 39, Tokyo: Shōwa Joshi Daigaku Kindai Bungaku Kenkyūshitsu, 1974, pp. 326-90.

    [6] Kindai bungaku kenkyū sōsho, pp. 326-90.

    [7] A chronology is in Chiba Kameo chosakushū [Selected works of Chiba Kameo], vol. 5, Tokyo: Yumani Shobō, 1993, pp. 350-56.

    [8] For general background reading, see Kazumi Ishii's article in this issue and Koyama Shizuko's 'Joseishijō ni okeru Josei no igi' [The significance of Josei in the history of women] in Josei, Supplement, vol. 48, Tokyo: Nihon Tosho Sentā, 1991-1993, pp. 98-99.

    [9] Shufu no tomo was launched in 1917 and was one of the most successful women's magazines in interwar Japan.

    [10] For the circulation figures of women's journals in the Taishō period, see Kazumi Ishii and Nerida Jarkey, 'The housewife is born: the establishment of the notion and identity of the Shufu in modern Japan,' in Japanese Studies, vol. 22, no. 1, 2002, p. 35, n. 3.

    [11] Chiba's first publication of Iza saraba is an autobiographical account of his leave taking. Published in 1903, Tokyo: Taiheiyōkan. It is written in classical literary style and is rather like a prose poem. It admires his mother's heroism in raising the family properly on her own.

    [12] Iwata Mitsuko and Nakano Hiroko pointed out the significance of Chiba's mother's influence on Chiba in Kindai bungaku kenkyū sōsho, vol. 39, pp. 318-19.

    [13] See 'Iza saraba,' pp. 48-49 in vol. 1, Chiba Kameo chosakushū, where Chiba acknowledged the value of his mother's home education in reading, composition, history and geography.

    [14] Kojima Usui (1873-1948) was editor of Bunko.

    [15] Tanaka Hiroshi states that there was a group of nationalistic writers who were concerned with maintaining Japanese tradition against Westernisation, such as Shiga Shigetaka and Inoue Enryō working for the Nihon shinbun. Chiba's name was cited together with Kawahigashi Hekigotō and Maruyama Kenji as liberal writers opposing them in the same company. Tanaka Hiroshi, Nihon riberarisumu no keifu, Asahi sensho, Tokyo: Asahi Shinbun, 2000, p. 174.

    [16] Kindai bungaku kenkyū sōsho, vol. 39, p. 394.

    [17] Arthur Brisbane (1864-1936) was managing editor of the New York Journal and the highest paid journalist in the United States, but in terms of discussing ethical issues he was not regarded highly. Chiba referred to Brisbane's saying that 'if something is appetising we need not bother about the examination of the ingredients,' as an indication that Brisbane's journalism lacked serious social directions. Chiba Kameo chosakushū, vol. 3, p. 76.

    [18] For example, see Hatori Tetsuya's 'Kaisetsu' entitled 'Chiba Kameo ni tsuite' in Chiba Kameo chosakushū, vol. 1, 1991, p. 601.

    [19] See Chiba's article,'Shinkankakuha no tanjō,' first published in the journal Seiki the November 1924 issue and reprinted in Chiba Kameo chosakushū, vol. 1, pp. 189-94.

    [20] Suzuki Sadami, Nihon no 'bungaku' o kangaeru, Tokyo: Kadokawa, 1994, p. 163.

    [21] 'Seishin sei koso bungei fukkō no hatajirushi,' Kindai bungaku kenkyū sōsho, vol. 39, Tokyo: Shōwa Joshi Daigaku Kindai Bungaku Kenkyūshitsu, 1974, p. 395.

    [22] Boris Pilnyak (1894-1937), novelist and short-story writer, author of The Volga Falls to the Caspian Sea (1930). Pilnyak was arrested in 1937 for suspicion over his anti-Bolshevik activities, including his contact with the outside world, in particular with Japan. No one ever heard of him after his arrest until the book Arrested Voices, Resurrecting the Disappeared Writers of the Soviet Regime was published in 1996, which included the trial of Pilnyak. Arrested Voices, Vitaly Shentalinsky, trans. John Crowfoot and introduction by Robert Conquest, New York: The Free Press, 1996, pp. 139-57. It is quite indicative of how the world in the 1920s and 1930s was integrated politically and socially. Although Pilnyak's manuscripts were destroyed at the time of his arrest, his contributions to literature are not confined to Russia, but have spread worldwide.

    [23] Selma Lagerlof (1858-1940). Chiba often praised Lagerlof because of her imaginative children's stories based on humanitarian love. According to Chiba, she recognised the fatal and inevitable evil that is in humanity. 'Bundan dai ichininsha Rāgerureefu jō,' in Josei, April 1923, p. 269.

    [24] August Strindberg (1849-1912), dramatist, novelist and critic. Chiba summarized an interview record of Strindberg, in which he discussed the characteristics of Strindberg's attitudes towards writers and women. 'Toki no hito: Sutorindoberii no sōwa, Mozurei fujin no koto, Wuindosetto no koto,' in Josei, April 1926, pp. 167-74.

    [25] Franz Molnar (1878-1952), Hungarian novelist and dramatist. Chiba introduced Husbands and Lovers in 'Otto to aijin,' in Josei, February 1925, pp. 72-84.

    [26] Maksim Gorki (1868-1936), Russian novelist and dramatist. Chiba introduced Gorki's The Rebel's Mother in '"Onna" yondai' [Four titles on 'women'], in Josei, October 1924, pp. 348-51.

    [27] A collection of Chiba's thirty-one articles about women's issues published between 1920 and 1924 in major women's magazines, such as Shin katei, Josei, Kaizō, Fujin gahō.

    [28] Kōuchi Nobuko, 'Chiba Kameo – feminisuto no Joseikan ([isei o miru] o yomu),' Kokubungaku: kaishaku to kyōzai no kenkyū, November, 1992, p. 94.

    [29] 'Kanojora no motometa mono,' in Josei, October 1923, pp. 182-92.

    [30] 'Toki no hito: dai To ō no saigo,' in Josei, February 1926, pp. 232-39.

    [31] 'Toki no hito: sokki musume tono koi, Dosutoiefusukii mibōjin no monogatari,' in Josei, November 1925, pp. 223-28.

    [32] 'Bûnādo Shō,' in Josei, March 1927, p. 237.

    [33] 'Shō,' p. 238.

    [34] 'Shō,' p. 239.

    [35] 'Shō,' p. 239.

    [36] 'Shō,' p. 239.

    [37] Chiba, 'Saigo no sukui, Borisu Pirunyaku no "Yuki" kara' [The last redemption: from Boris Pilnyak's Snow], in Josei, March 1925, pp. 106-107.

    [38] Chiba, 'Saigo no sukui,' in Josei, March 1925, p. 101.

    [39] Romain Rolland (1866-1944). Chiba Kameo, 'Kindai fujin kenkyū ren'ai no shinpi,' in Josei, June 1925, pp. 55-67.

    [40] 'Ren'ai no shinpi,' p. 67.

    [41] Gustave Helstrum (1880-1962), archaeologist and fiction writer. Chiba Kameo, 'Kindai fujinkenkyū sabishii bosei,' in Josei, September 1925, pp. 204-16.

    [42] Koyama, 'Joseishijō ni okeru Josei no igi,' p. 98.

    [43] Koyama, 'Joseishijō ni okeru Josei no igi,' p. 103. See Elise Tipton's article in this issue of Intersections for a detailed discussion of these issues.

    [44] Kōuchi, 'Chiba Kameo – feminisuto no Joseikan ([isei o miru] o yomu),' p. 94.

    [45] Koyama, 'Joseishijō ni okeru Josei no igi,' p. 107.

    [46] Chiba, 'Otto no teisō mondai: otto ni mo teisō no gimu ga aru to no shin hōritsu ga dekita,' in Josei, September 1927, pp. 100-107.

    [47] Chiba, 'Otto no teisō mondai'.

    [48] Chiba, 'Otto no teisō mondai,' p, 106.

    [49] Iuri Libedinsky (1898-1959), writer, critic and literary theoretician – belongs to the generation of Soviet writers who emerged in the early 1920s, immediately after the end of the Russian Civil War.

    [50] Chiba Kameo, 'Kindai fujinkenkyū nayami no kuni kara,' in Josei, April 1925, pp. 127-39.

    [51] 'Pirunyāku shi no inshō' was written by Noboru Shomu, '"Nihon no oto" o kiku Pi shi' by Oze Keishi, 'Pi shi to no taidan' by Fuji Tatsuma and 'Kakumei bungō no omokage' by Baba Hideo. These Japanese writers seemed to be impressed by Pilnyak's open-mindedness which was in contrast to their expectations that Pilnyak had come to Japan for Soviet propaganda purposes.

    [52] 'Gendai ni okeru kokuhaku bungaku no kachi,' in Josei, September 1922, pp. 125-26. He criticises the perceptions of the general public towards the readers' columns, describing them as unsympathetic and indecent. He defended those contributors' contributions as 'human documents' (p. 121). Incidentally, Josei only included such a column for a short period of time under the title of 'Josei no sakebi' [Cries of women] from April 1927 to June 1927. Koyama Shizuko saw this as the publisher's attempt to boost declining sales. Koyama, 'Joseishijō ni okeru Josei no igi,' p. 96.

    [53] See Chiba's article 'Otto no teisō mondai,' p. 101.

    [54] Chiba, 'Kokuhaku bungaku no kachi,' pp. 125-26.

    [55] Chiba, 'Otto no teisō mondai,' p. 128.

    [56] Koyama, 'Joseishijō ni okeru Josei no igi,' p. 97.

    [57] Chiba, 'Kankyō to onna no chikara,' in Josei, September 1926, pp. 57-62.

    [58] Chiba, 'Kankyō,' p. 62.

    [59] Chiba, 'Kankyō,' p. 62.

    [60] Chiba, 'Kankyō,' p. 62.

    [61] Chiba, 'Saikin Joseikai no chōgankan,' pp. 202-15.

    [62] Sato, The New Japanese Woman, pp. 48, 59-61.

    [63] See Chiba, 'Saikin Joseikai no chōgankan,' p. 209.

    [64] Miyamoto Yuriko, Kōdō, December 1934. Accessed on 30/8/2004.

    [65] Kōuchi, 'Chiba Kameo – feminisuto no Joseikan,' p. 92.

    [66] 'Chiba Kameo tsuitōbunshū,' in the supplement, Chiba Kameo chosakushū, vol. 5, 1993, in which Chiba's son, Seiichi wrote, 'This man in life read, read, and read until his death,' p. 15.


This paper was originally published in Intersections: Gender, History and Culture in the Asian Context, with the assistance of Murdoch University.

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