A Magazine for the ‘New Woman’

Kazumi Ishii
  1. Over the twenty years between 1911 and 1930, more than 200 women’s magazines and journals were inaugurated in Japan.[1] A market for these magazines had existed since the Meiji period (1868-1912), but it was during the Taishō period (1912-1926) that rising levels of education, income and urbanisation expanded and diversified the potential readership. In response, a large number of new publications appeared. As Tsurumi Shunsuke and others point out, the Taishō period was a significant era for women,[2] when women began to play a wider role in society. The number of working women [shokugyō fujin] had been increasing along with the rapid progress of industrialisation and urbanisation.[3] The development of the higher education system, particularly the rapid expansion of women’s higher schools [kō tō jogakkō], produced more educated women participating in various levels of the workforce as professionals.[4] More women began to discuss women’s rights issues such as suffrage, birth control, equal employment opportunities and property rights.[5] Some young women adopted Western fashions, cut their hair short and wore dresses. These ‘new women’ came to light as a group, not only as social or political participants but also as vigorous consumers in Japanese society.[6] They had a wider choice of lifestyles[7] and more diverse viewpoints about society than their predecessors, who had few choices besides marrying and raising children. The magazine Josei [Woman] styled itself to suit the needs of these women.
  2. Josei was published between 1922 and 1928 during the peak of Japanese modernism [Nihon modanizumu][8] and presented another new image of women that was being established at the time. In spite of its short life, Josei was a magazine of considerable social and historical value due to its strong representation of the trend of Japanese modernism. Josei responded and appealed to women’s sense of modernity and attempted to create a notion and identity of new women through a wide range of genres such as novels, poetry and essays. Much of the content of Josei tended to take a progressive stance and demonstrated the lifestyles and the attitudes of ‘new women’. It focused on presenting an ideal ‘cultured’ lifestyle based on a new set of values underlying human relationships between husbands and wives and between parents and children, which emerged during the period of Taishō democracy.[9]

    Taishō women’s magazines
  3. The new era—in terms of media history as well as women’s history—began with the publication of Seitō [Bluestocking] in 1911. Seitō is widely known as the most significant women’s magazine to be published by women only. It also played a role in stimulating the first feminist movement of the new era. Seitō was not published as a commercial magazine, but rather as a literary journal for Seitōsha [The Bluestocking Society].[10] It was established by Hiratsuka Raichō in order to promote women’s human rights through the publication of literary works. The women who actively participated in the publishing of Seitō were called atarashii onna [new women].[11] Whilst the Seitōsha movement was widely criticised,[12] it raised an awareness amongst intellectuals and journalists that women were now key participants in society, and, indeed, major consumers in society.
  4. Other magazines and newspapers reacted very quickly to the rise of the women’s movement and began publishing articles devoted to women’s issues. In 1913 the two major magazines at the time—Taiyō [The Sun] and Chūō kōron [Central Review]—each published a special edition on women’s issues.[13] The media came to view women as a significant subject of debate. The Chūō kōron special edition covered a wide range of issues considered significant for women at the time, such as the ‘new women,' and the concept of ryōsai kenbo [good wife, wise mother]—a value that was promoted by education authorities to reinforce the patriarchal family system. The articles attempted to identify the social and cultural meaning of women’s newly-found social status. The contributors also ranged across a broad spectrum of professionals, including journalists, social critics, educators and even medical doctors and actresses. The special edition contained one whole section with ten essays devoted to Hiratsuka Raichō. These essays reveal how strongly Seitō was influencing the media.[14]
  5. These special editions for women’s issues triggered the launch of two women’s magazines entitled Fujin kōron [Women’s Review][15] and Shufu no tomo [A Housewife’s Companion], which are regarded as the archetypal ‘modern women’s magazines’ of the time. These two publications were used for Oka Mitsuo’s classification of Japanese women’s magazines. The Shufu no tomo type was practical and very much focused on ‘how-to’ articles, and the Fujin kōron type was a more intellectual and enlightening magazine, typically filled with articles on social and political issues.[16] Fujin kōron was inaugurated in 1916 and played a pivotal role in stimulating the women’s liberation movement. It provided an opportunity to intensify the ‘protection of motherhood debate’ [bosei hogo ronsō], initially involving Yosano Akiko and Hiratsuka Raichō in 1918, and to discuss women’s suffrage [fujin sanseiken].[17] Shufu no tomo was launched the following year. It became one of the most popular women’s magazines and remained so until the late 1960s. At its peak, Shufu no tomo enjoyed seven-digit circulation figures.[18]
  6. The magazine Josei was yet another women’s magazine to be launched during this period, in Osaka, in May 1922. Its circulation figures in 1927 were around 25,000, similar to those of Fujin kōron.[19] Unlike Fujin kōron, however, Josei did not enjoy a long life. It folded in May 1928, just six years after its launch. In terms of its content and of its readership in particular, Josei had more in common with Fujin kōron than with Shufu no tomo. Both were intended to target the same market, i.e. well-educated middle and upper middle class women, whose numbers were increasing rapidly along with industrialisation and urbanisation in Taishō and early Shōwa Japan.
  7. In fact, Josei was originally designed to be a magazine of the Fujin kōron type. Josei's editorial policy is not stated in the first edition, but the very first essay authored by Tanimoto Tomi[20] suggests what type of magazine was intended for publication. Tanimoto briefly mentions that Josei was designed as a high quality women’s magazine in a similar vein to Fujin kōron. He states: 'I heard that they were going to publish a magazine like Fujin kōron, so I wrote this article in a slightly formal style...’[21]
  8. Despite its apparent similarities to Fujin kōron, it appears on closer inspection to be a different type of women’s magazine in terms of its style, as well as its title, publisher, location,[22] and its beautiful ‘Beardsley type’ illustrations.[23] Josei is widely recognised as an important milestone in the history of popular publishing in Japan, and as a rich source of 1920s Japanese modernism. However, surprisingly little attention has been paid to this magazine compared to its competitors Fujin kōron, Shufu no tomo and the like, and it has been termed ‘maboroshi no zasshi’ [the legendary magazine],[24] since no complete collection of the magazine was available to researchers until 1993.[25]

    The rise and fall of Josei
  9. Josei was not published by an established publishing company like Fujin kōron, or edited by an experienced editor like Shufu no tomo’s Ishikawa Takeyoshi,[26] but by a cosmetic company. It was published by the Kurabu [Club] cosmetics company for the purpose of public relations. Kurabu was one of the four giant cosmetics brands of the time—Kurabu, Misono, Raion, and Reito.[27] The competition between the two main rivals, Kurabu and Reito, was particularly severe, and they were commonly referred to as ‘Reito of the East’ (i.e. Tokyo) and ‘Kurabu of the West’ (i.e. Osaka).[28] The publication of Josei was one of the strategies adopted by Nakayama Taiyōdō—the company producing Kurabu Cosmetics—in an attempt to expand the cosmetics market as well as to raise its brand image. It established a publishing company named Puratonsha and launched Josei in 1922. The name ‘Puraton’—taken from the Greek philosopher Plato—had already been used since 1918 for the company’s stationery products such as ink (Puraton inki) and fountain pens (Puraton mannenhitsu] before it was ever used for the publishing company.[29] This name was chosen carefully in order to heighten competition with Maruzen, an established stationery manufacturer in Tokyo, which was marketing products with the brand name Atena, taken from Athens.[30] The name must have been considered useful for adding value to products such as stationery as well as magazines.
  10. Despite the fact that Josei was published to expand and diversify Puratonsha’s business operations, it did not have the appearance of a magazine intended to promote the company’s cosmetics and stationery through advertising. The advertisements for Kurabu products were not particularly emphasised, although they always appeared on the opening page and closing page of each edition. The number of advertisements as a whole was unusually modest for a commercial magazine, when compared to the likes of Fujin kōron or Shufu no tomo. Its rather plain appearance was due to the fact that Nakayama Taiyōdō provided a significant level of financial support, especially in the initial stages.[31]
  11. Nakayama Taiyōdō was founded by Nakayama Taichi. He had already realised the power of the print media at a very early stage from his reading of Jitsugyō no Nippon [Business Japan] in the waiting room of a bank. This had aided his negotiations with a tough bank manager for getting financial support.[32] The episode indicates that Josei must have been intended as another commercial product for Nakayama Taichi’s business expansion, and that he had carefully planned the timing of Josei’s release as a new product to complement Kurabu cosmetics and the Puraton stationery range. Publishing Josei was an opportunity to reinforce the existing market established by the two existing brands, whilst at the same time creating a new market.
  12. Nakayama Taichi’s strategies for public relations are classified as ‘Kurabu-shiki’ [Kurabu-style] by a media specialist, Tsuganesawa Toshihiro. He describes Nakayama Taichi as ‘one of the giants in the history of public relations’.[33] Nakayama’s basic strategy for sales expansion was the creation of a market. This involved the adoption of innovative and sometimes sensational marketing techniques, in addition to traditional methods such as the placement of advertisements in newspapers and magazines. There is much anecdotal evidence of these innovative techniques. For example, Nakayama bought a car in 1910 when cars were still very rare, and even newspaper companies did not own cars. Whenever he drove it around downtown Osaka, he drew so much attention that sometimes the police were drafted to control the excited crowds. He bought a Ford truck in 1918 and painted it purple with the brand name ‘Kurabu’ written in gold letters. An aeroplane was also used for a campaign. In 1911, only two years after the first Japanese aeroplane was manufactured, Nakayama hired one for the company and dropped fliers promoting its products.[34]
  13. Alongside these sensational promotion methods, Nakayama Taichi had also been using the traditional print media for public relations. He had realised the important role that women’s magazines could play in a campaign long before the year 1922 when he established Puratonsha and began publishing Josei.[35] In 1916, he promoted Kurabu toothpaste through the women’s magazine Shōjo gahō [Illustrated Girls’ Magazine],[36] and as part of the sales campaign for the magazine itself, readers of Shōjo gahō received free gifts of toothpaste. In the following year, other products were promoted using the same method through Fujin sekai [Women’s World][37]—one of the most popular women’s magazines from the late Meiji period through the Taishō period. This use of women’s magazines for marketing, and his experience in the waiting room of the bank, indicate that the publishing of Josei must have been a well-planned business project.
  14. Yamamoto Hiroshi states that Josei was ‘a mixing pot filled with all sorts of ingredients but with no internal consistency’.[38] One of the reasons for this inconsistency may be due to the management structure of the publishing company, Puratonsha. Puratonsha was operated by Nakayama Toyozō, a younger brother of Nakayama Taichi, but it was owned by Nakayama Taiyōdō. Toyozō was a graduate of Waseda University and had a love of culture, influenced by the Waseda literature circle.[39] He wanted to make Josei a high quality literary magazine. In contrast to Toyozō’s aspiration, Taichi’s attitude towards the project was aggressive and business-like. This conflict of ideas was one of the factors leading to the magazine’s lack of coherence.[40]
  15. Another reason for the inconsistency may be the wide-ranging network of intellectuals and journalists who were asked to contribute by the chief editor, Osanai Kaoru. Osanai Kaoru had particular responsibility for editing the literary works of Josei. He is well-known as the founder of a modern Japanese theatre, Tsukiji Shōgekijō,[41] but it is not often recognised that he worked for Nakayama Taiyōdō, firstly as one of the staff in the public relations department, and then later as chief editor of Josei. Osanai was appointed chief editor because he had established a strong network in the elite literary circle known as Bundan.[42] Although this network was beneficial to Josei in terms of diversifying its content and styles,[43] it caused the magazine to lack focus as a whole.
  16. Josei began smoothly and within a year it had established its market niche. The editor remarked on the magazine’s success in the February 1923 edition as follows: ‘The high quality content of the new year special edition and the great progress in breaking a record in the magazine industry has come as a big shock to our competitors...’[44] Following this success, a second magazine called Kuraku [Pains and Pleasures] was launched in December 1923. Kuraku was marketed as an entertaining magazine for readers who wanted to read novels that were not too vulgar like tsūzoku shōsetsu [popular novels], and not too literary like bundan shōsetsu [novels written by intellectuals for the educated reader].[45] In 1923, Puratonsha expanded its publishing business from magazines to books, and by the end of 1924 had published sixteen books in total, comprising mainly novels.[46]
  17. Puratonsha soon fell victim to the increasingly intense competition in the media business during this period, and was unable to cope with the rapid massification [masuka] and popularisation [taishūka] of the print media. A new magazine called Kingu [King], inaugurated by Kōdansha in December 1924, is generally regarded as the beginning of the mass media culture and a trigger for the coming media revolution of the early Shōwa period. Kōdansha built a ‘magazine kingdom’ during this period. By 1931 it had gained circulation figures of over five million, which was 80 percent of the total market, ousting other magazines and publishing companies during its expansion.[47] Puratonsha was one of the companies that closed their operations during this period.
  18. Kingu was not the only problem with which Puratonsha had to contend. Another invention of print media called enpon [one yen book] completely swept Puratonsha out of the market in 1928. An enpon was a collection of novels, art and poetry, which was sold for one yen. This was almost one-tenth the price of normal books at the time. The enpon is generally regarded as another innovation epitomising the massification of print media and the popularisation of literature and the arts. The publication of enpon boomed for a few years, from late 1926[48] to around 1930, and altogether 50-60 million books were sold during this period.[49] The enpon completely transformed the established concept of literature and its readership, which had been dominated until the mid 1920s by intellectuals in the upper and upper middle classes.
  19. This trend had an impact on many other women’s magazines, and it was said that magazines were not made by editors but by sales staff. The Keihokyoku [Public Security Bureau] pointed out that even the highly-acclaimed Fujin kōron had changed its policy and had begun to include articles that were less intellectual in content in order to appeal to a broader readership.[50] Josei also began to respond to the new trends by changing its content. This shift can be detected clearly in the New Year special edition of 1927, which included some articles that were similar in style to those in Shufu no tomo—practical, entertaining and sensational. In addition to the standard feature on Western works of art, which had appeared at the beginning of every edition since its launch, there was a new section entitled ‘photogravure section’ [gurabia sekushon], containing eight photographs of the wives of celebrities.[51] Thereafter, photographs of popular film stars and aristocrats became a regular feature.
  20. This shift towards lighter and more practical content was reflected in other sections also, as shown by the following titles: ‘Actresses’ Attitudes towards Marriage,'[52] ‘Who is the most selfish, men or women?’[53], ‘Makeup Methods and Cost,' ‘Makeup to enhance your eyes and nose’.[54] These types of articles began to appear in 1927 and increased gradually in frequency until the closing edition in 1928. Furthermore, the volume of advertisements increased, and the type of advertisements changed towards the end of Josei’s life. The plain style, cover to cover without the interruption of advertisements, gradually became busy with irregular letters of various sizes and pictorial advertisements. This may indicate that Puratonsha was forced to find other sources of financial support besides the parent company, having found itself in financial difficulty.
  21. Nakayama Taiyōdō soon came to recognise that reading magazines was no longer the privilege of women in the upper and upper middle classes. Josei responded by attempting to adjust to the shift in the media environment, but unfortunately was unable to adequately forecast these revolutions in the print media. In this sense, Josei’s demise appears to mirror the way in which the ‘new women’ fell out of the limelight as Taishō democracy drew to a close.

    The legacy of Josei
  22. Although Josei lasted only six years, because it was unable to keep up with its competitors in a rapidly changing media environment, it made a lasting impact on women’s history in various ways. The title of the magazine 'Josei' itself indicates its contribution to the establishment of the notion and identity of modern women as 'josei' today who are liberated from the values of the traditional woman developed in the early Meiji era. Josei also presented a new consumer-based ideal lifestyle called a 'cultured life' which is enjoyed by ordinary women today. Josei did not only promote this new ideal lifestyle. New values of the relationship between a husband and a wife and between parents and children were often raised as the main issue in novels, dramas and essays. This raised questions about the traditional notion of the self-sacrificing spirit of motherhood. Josei in these ways reflects the complexity of the modernity of Japanese society developing during the 1920s.
  23. Tsuganesawa Toshihiro describes the name ‘Josei’ as a ‘unique title’ for the Taishō period. He points out that the title made it eye-catching as a new magazine,[55] and that the word ‘Josei’ was rarely used as a title for women’s magazines, just as the word ‘shufu’ was never used before Shufu no tomo was launched. Instead, the preferred terms were ‘fujin’ or ‘fujo,’ as in Fujin kōron and Fujokai [Woman’s Sphere]. The frequency of the term ‘Josei’ is far fewer than that of ‘fujin,’ which was overwhelmingly popular as part of a title during this period, appearing in the names of around sixty magazines.[56]
  24. The term ‘fujin’ was coined and established by the authorities just after the Meiji Restoration as the word for women in the new era. Before ‘fujin,’ ‘onna’ was the common noun meaning ‘woman’. The creation of ‘fujin’ without a corresponding term for ‘man’ suggests that women had adopted a new, independent role in modern society. It implied that the new ‘fujin’ lost the contrastive sexuality presented by the term ‘onna,’ with its corresponding term for ‘man,' ‘otoko’. Women were now expected to take on the role of ryōsai kenbo [good wife and wise mother]. After the Second World War, however, fujin was rapidly replaced by the term ‘Josei.’ Although the word ‘fujin’ has since been commonly used as an official term for ‘woman,' its use has declined in recent times. Even the Ministry of Labour changed the name of its Section for Women’s Issues from Fujin-kyoku to Josei-kyoku in 1997. ‘Fujin’ was soon to become a term used only as a name specific to some historical organisations, or the titles of women’s magazines published before the Second World War such as Dai-Nippon Fujinkai [Women’s Association of Great Japan][57] or Fujin kōron.
  25. In the Taishō era the term ‘Josei’ was not used merely as a common noun to mean ‘woman,' but was often associated with the notion of ‘new woman,' especially in political discourse, and it was this particular nuance that was implied through the titles of women’s magazines published during this period. The most significant event in terms of the development of this semantic value of Josei was the launch of Seitō and their activities. The term ‘Josei’ was used by Hiratsuka Raichō in the official declaration of Seitō’s launch as follows: ‘In the beginning, woman was the sun’.[58] The term ‘Josei’ then came to be used in association with atarashii onna [new woman]—a label given to the women who were involved in the Seitōsha and who advocated women’s liberation.[59]
  26. Seitō had effectively moulded ‘Josei’ into a new term[60] with strong political connotations, and some women’s magazines and journals in the early 1920s also included the word ‘Josei’ in their titles in order to express their political standpoint on women’s issues, for example, Josei Nihonjin [Japanese Women][61] and Josei dōmei [Women’s Solidarity],[62] which were both launched in 1920. The main issue covered in the first edition of Josei Nihonjin was women’s suffrage, as indicated by titles of some of the articles: ‘Suffrage for Women in Our Country,' and ‘Request for Woman Suffrage’.[63] In October 1922, just a few months after Josei’s launch, Josei kaizō [Women’s Reconstruction] was introduced as a sister magazine of Kaizō [Reconstruction], which focused on social and political issues. It also reinforced the semantic value of the word ‘Josei,' indicating women who were radical activists advocating women’s suffrage during the period.
  27. The magazine Josei was launched five months before Josei kaizō’s first publication. However, it did not represent the same activist values as Josei kaizō. Josei provided many essays and critiques on women’s political and social issues, but the frequency of discussions about issues, such as women’s suffrage or the reconstruction of social or political structures, was quite low. Most frequently discussed were private issues such as sex, love, chastity, marriage and divorce. These issues originated in the conflict between the established tradition and the new values that had arisen in the late Meiji and Taishō periods.[64] Josei constantly drew attention to these issues which had previously been regarded as too private or vulgar to discuss, and the number of writings that dealt with these themes was overwhelming, if one takes into account the fictional material that appeared in Josei, such as Tanizaki Junichirō’s novel A Fool’s Love [Chijin no ai].[65] This novel demonstrates the historical value of Josei as a medium for reshaping the new image of women created by Seitō.
  28. Josei represents the rise of a group of new women who were demanding not only their political rights, but also liberation from the traditional lifestyle based on the ie [household] system. Josei demonstrates that the values represented by fujin became gradually loosened, and that women had begun the quest for a new identity as ‘women’—as distinct from ‘men’. The establishment of a fully independent identity had been neglected during the development of fujin, but during the period of Taishō Democracy, it was explored through the magazine Josei. Although Josei survived only six years, it opened the way for the next generation of women who were born in the postwar period to discuss their own private lives and sexuality more openly and frequently. These women themselves came to be known as ‘Josei’. This new identity included pursuit of the new lifestyle based on the consumerism.
  29. Josei was published to target a readership of well-educated, middle and upper middle class women, who enjoyed reading novels and poetry. Some of them were sengyō shufu [full-time housewives], some were shokugyō fujin [professional working women], and some were still jogakusei [students at girls’ high schools], but they all must have been wealthy enough to enjoy the so-called ‘bunka seikatsu’ [cultured life], which involved going to the theatre or shopping at department stores. This ‘cultured life’ was illustrated precisely by the following Josei advertisements for Kurabu cosmetics and Mitsukoshi department store which were positioned side-by-side: ‘Kurabu facial powder gives you cultured colour,' and 'We at Mitsukoshi carefully select all of the items necessary for your cultured life based on our motto, “playful and practical” ...’ [emphasis added].[66] Using Kurabu cosmetics and shopping at Mitsukoshi were symbols of a modern consumerist life of leisure, as typified by the famous catchphrase, ‘Today the Imperial Theatre, tomorrow Mitsukoshi’.

    Figure 2. Two advertisements for Kurabu cosmetics (on the right) and Mitsukoshi department store (on the left), placed side-by-side in Josei. Sept. 1923 (Source: Tsurumi Shunsuke ed. Zasshi Josei, vol. 5, Tokyo: Nihon Tosho Sentā, 1991)

  30. More descriptions of the items and activities associated with the cultured life can be identified in a drama in Josei, entitled Chiisaki gisei [A Small Victim], written by Mikami Otokichi.[67] The introductory narration alone gives an insight into this 'ideal lifestyle.' The drama is set in a famous resort, and the story is based around a couple and their eight-year-old son Kyōichi, who is blind. The husband, Fujii Rentarō is 32 years old, and his wife Shizuko is 27. Their holiday home is described as Western-style with a backyard and verandah, and views of a river and a mountain range. Chairs and tables are arranged on the verandah for enjoying drinks with friends. Having a house in a famous resort was important for a cultured life, and the house had to be Western-style.[68] Being Western was another significant value of the cultured life, as Haga Tōru points out.[69]
  31. One’s occupation was also a key element that qualified one as being ‘cultured’. Businessmen, politicians and army generals were once common, but by the 1920s, artists, novelists and academics had become fashionable.[70] The husband Rentarō is an academic researching classical literature, and his friend Hisomu, who visits the house, is a doctor. Both are well qualified to enjoy the cultured life. There are even a few maids and servants who attend to their needs, and a nanny named Chiyo who looks after the blind son. This seems typical of the ‘high culture’ lifestyle of aristocrats and wealthy business people in the Meiji and Taishō eras.[71]
  32. The lifestyle depicted in the drama was possible for only a few privileged people before the Second World War, but the cultured life once practised only by the upper classes became a middle class ideal and has become common today primarily due to high postwar economic growth. Most of the luxuries of the prewar ‘cultured life’ became available for the masses or simply went out of fashion after World War Two, but an advertisement in a recent magazine indicates that the high culture established during the Taishō period still has commercial value in inviting people to consume. It promotes the luxurious houses once used in upper class society with the expressions: ‘Go and experience the “upper class society” with a loved one’.[72]
  33. As well as revealing the nature of the ‘cultured life,' Chiisaki gisei demonstrates the changing attitudes of married couples in the Taishō period.

    In the story, Rentarō suspects that he might not be the biological father of their son Kyōichi. The harsh reality is revealed by Shizuko’s confession—;that Kyōichi is not his son but the son of Ōkita, a poor student who had once stayed at Shizuko’s house. She tells Rentarō that she had been raped by Ōkita less than two months before their marriage. She had realised that she was pregnant, but had felt unable to tell the truth to Rentarō for fear that she would lose his love and their happy married life. During her confession, Kyōichi goes down to a stream and drowns himself. When Shizuko finds her son’s dead body, she breaks down and screams that she has killed her own child. Seeing her cry over her son’s body, Rentarō realises her agony and accepts Kyōichi as his son. The drama concludes with the message that ‘love’ is more valuable than chastity, and that the couple had not recognised this simple truth until facing the death of their innocent son.
    Figure 3. The opening page of the drama 'Chiisaki gisei' in Josei, March 1923 (Source: Tsurumi Shunsuke ed. Zasshi Josei, vol. 6, Tokyo: Nihon Tosho Sentā, 1991, p.12)

  34. The fulfilment of romantic love [ren’ai] was not easy in the Taishō period, particularly for women. It entailed conflict with the established social values of the ‘ie’ system, and some women who challenged these values caused social scandals. Hiratsuka Raichō was again a pioneer in acting on this belief, and she and her lover Morita Sōhei even attempted a double suicide. Yanagihara Byakuren, a poet and wife of a wealthy businessman, is also known as the heroine of the ‘Byakuren affair’. She publicly declared her love affair with Miyazaki Ryūsuke, and her sensational admission of free love caused the Byakuren affair debate in 1918.[73]
  35. Shizuko, however, is not depicted as a challenger of traditional values, but rather as a passive woman concerned only about her secure married life. For her, a happy life is something to be provided by a man, not achieved by her own doing. The drama presents the reality that men also faced conflict against traditional values, and that the concept of ‘ren’ai’ was an important one for men too. Rentarō had to overcome the agony caused by the conflict between the new notion of ren’ai and the ingrained traditional view that his wife was supposed to be a virgin. He was thus forced to confront his own beliefs about chastity.[74]
  36. Josei is notable for its presentation of—and support for—modern juvenile literature during the Taishō period. Josei featured not only children’s stories and songs, but also regularly advertised the juvenile literature magazine Akai tori [Red Bird] as though it were a sister magazine.[75] Akai tori was inaugurated in 1918 by Suzuki Miekichi, and it is generally regarded as having been at the forefront of a new genre of Japanese literature called jidō bungaku [juvenile literature]. As the Taishō period progressed, there emerged a new concept of childhood identity termed ‘dōshin [childhood innocence],' and this was developed through the stories and songs in Akai tori.
  37. Prior to the development of the notion of ‘childhood innocence,' children were regarded simply as young members of the community, who ought to be educated so that they would be able to contribute to their parents and to the nation. This was reflected in the traditional juvenile literature of the time, which was known as shōnen bungaku.[76] The themes of kanzen-chōaku [didactic/moralising] and risshin-shusse [personal advancement] were deliberately explored in popular traditional tales for children called otogibanashi. These stories had appeared in juvenile magazines, such as Shōnen sekai [Boy’s World][77] and Nihon shōnen [Japanese Boys],[78] and were usually modified from traditional tales, such as Momotarō [Peach Boy] or Satomi hakkenden [The Stories of Eight Satomi Dogs], into modern fiction based on the theme of success and being a great hero in the community.[79]
  38. In the Taishō period, however, some intellectuals and novelists began to question the traditional attitude towards children and appreciate the notion of ‘childhood innocence’ as an ideal human characteristic. They wrote children’s stories and songs with a view to encouraging the recognition of a concept of ‘childhood’ that would be distinct from ‘adulthood’.[80] These writings presented progressive ideas about children’s rights, encouraged children to be creative and imaginative, and emphasised a child’s potential to become anything they wanted to be, whether an artist, academic or doctor. According to Suzuki Miekichi, Akai tori was published for the purpose of promoting authentic literature to protect the genuine value of childhood from the influence of popular stories, which until then had been the only reading material available for children.[81] The magazine was welcomed particularly by people who were concerned about educating children and wanted to provide them with quality reading material.
  39. As well as advertising Akai tori, Josei featured children’s stories and songs alongside an extraordinarily wide range of genres of literature, including contemporary novels, drama, poetry and tanka [traditional poetry composed of 31 syllables]. In the New Year special edition in 1923, there were two literary works for children—an anthology of poems written by Kitahara Hakushū and entitled Elephant Child [Zō no ko], and The Inaba Rabbit [Inaba usagi], a drama written by Tsubouchi Shōyō. Each occupied roughly thirty pages of that edition.[82]
  40. The ideas of childhood innocence and powerlessness are explored in the drama, Chiisaki gisei. This is the way in which the child Kyōichi is depicted—as an innocent victim of the adults’ confusion about their own love and marriage. For the literature of this period, Kyōichi’s character is typically artistic and creative. He was born blind, and his only pleasure was hearing the beautiful sounds coming up from the stream running under the cliff near the cottage. He is described as an artist listening to natural sounds and creating his world in his own imagination.[83]
  41. Whilst the new notion of childhood itself was a progressive one, it may also be seen as having reinforced the traditional value of motherhood summed up by the words ‘self-sacrificing spirit’. In other words, this new image of modern children as innocent and powerless perpetuated the idea that the protection of children was a mother’s role.
  42. Attitudes towards the motherhood issue were divided in Josei. The values of ‘unconditional love’ and ‘self-sacrificing spirit’ for children were established as social norms, and mainstream literature encouraged women to be good mothers for their own happiness. However, Josei allowed expression of the antagonism that some women felt towards the established attitude. The agony expressed through the words of these women illustrates the depth of the issue in the society.
  43. One of the supporters of the traditional motherhood value was Yoshie Takamatsu, a literary critic who encouraged women to recognise the value of motherhood as their ‘greatest asset’ and to fulfil their ‘duty to raise a member of our nation’.[84] He examined the views of motherhood presented in French literature, and confirmed that a mother’s sacrificial love for children was ‘so strong, deep and universal, that it is never affected by any social change’.[85] Also in Josei, Katō Korehisa discussed the value of motherhood developed in various religions, including Christianity and Nichiren Buddhism, and concluded that a mother’s self-sacrificing spirit is a value common to those religions, and was, therefore, the most important foundation for any modern civilisation.[86]
  44. Although these conservative attitudes toward motherhood were voiced frequently in Josei, they did not go unchallenged. The conclusion of the drama Chiisaki gisei implies that there are negative consequences of having children. Shizuko’s confession that she wished her son had died suggests that some considered children to be an obstacle to women’s happiness. In another issue of Josei, Kamichika Ichiko[87] expressed this idea from the viewpoint of a professional working woman: ‘We curse our children. Mothers are uttering curses against their own children!’[88] She claimed that there were no mothers with strong career aspirations who would not resent their own children. Novelist Miyake Yasuko expressed a more fundamental view, questioning the value of ‘motherhood’ itself. She expressed her deep feeling of guilt and shame for her failure as a mother and confessed that she did not like children as much as she (as a woman) ought to. She blamed herself for only feeling an obligation to raise children rather than feeling love for them.[89]
  45. It is interesting to see the sharp contrast between the attitudes of male and female writers, particularly towards the issue of motherhood. Male writers generally did not take issue with the idea that ‘motherhood’ was the inherent nature of women, and instead emphasised that a mother’s self-sacrificing spirit was her most valuable asset. Female writers, on the other hand, tended to question the established value of ‘motherhood.’ Josei did, however, present one article by a male liberal journalist named Baba Kochō, who expressed sympathy towards women dealing with the hardships of motherhood. He criticised the family law, which did not allow any financial possessions for women, and pointed out that it was not fair to expect women to have children since they had no guarantee of financial independence.[90] Baba not only criticised the difficult environment which mothers faced at the time, but also warned that more women would decide not to have children until the social and financial conditions for women were improved. He even forecast today’s declining birth rate.

  46. Josei is particularly interesting as a historical resource for the study of the complexity of Taishō democratic society since it was not edited according to a defined policy. As Yamamoto states, Josei was a magazine like a ‘mixing pot’ cooked with all sorts of ingredients, but with no consistency. Unlike Fujin kōron, Josei did not advocate a certain ideology or attitude towards political or social issues, nor did it encourage women to fight for recognition of their human rights. Unlike Shufu no tomo, it did not give guidance for everyday living. In this respect, Josei does not fit into either of the two categories in Oka’s classification of women’s magazines.
  47. What Josei presents is the diversity of issues faced by women during the transition from the late Taishō period through to the early Shōwa period. It covers discussions ranging from major political and social issues such as ‘suffrage,' ‘liberation from the household system,' and ‘birth control’ to issues related to daily life, for instance the issue of how women should alter the traditional kimono to a more modern dress. However, the most distinctive contribution of Josei as a women’s magazine is to put the spotlight on new societal values by providing an opportunity for women to discuss private matters, such as love, marriage, sex, and chastity and also to question traditional values pertaining to motherhood or chastity. Through the voices of an extraordinarily wide range of novelists, intellectuals and journalists, many of whom were women, Josei offered an equally broad range of new ways for women to think about their own lives.


    My sincere thanks go to Elise Tipton for initiating this research project and giving me tireless encouragement and guidance throughout the writing of this paper. Without her support, this paper could not be completed. I am also very grateful to two anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments and suggestions.

    Figure 1. The front cover of Josei, Dec. 1925 (Source: Tsurumi Shunsuke ed. Zasshi Josei, vol. 1, Tokyo: Nihon Tosho Sentā, 1991, p. 4)

    [1] Sanki Hiroko, ‘Taishōki no josei zasshi: hataraku onna no kikanshi o chūshin ni,’ in Taishōki no Josei zasshi, ed. Kindai Josei Bunkashi Kenkyûkai, Tokyo: Ōzorasha, 1996, p. 4.

    [2] Tsurumi Shunsuke, ‘Mō hitotsu no josei no jidai,’ in Zasshi Josei, vol. 1, Tokyo: Nihon Tosho Sentā, 1991, pp. 2-3.

    [3] Satō Takeshi, Nihon no media to shakai shinri, Tokyo: Shinyōsha, 1995, pp. 23-24.

    [4] Karasawa Tomitarō, ‘Meiji·Taishō·Shōwa·Sengo no kyōiku,’ in Nihon kyōikushi, ed. Nagata Shin, Tokyo: Ochanomizu Shobō, 1973, p. 240.

    [5] Kano Masanao and Horiba Kiyoko, Sobo·haha·musume no jidai, Tokyo: Iwanami Shoten, 1999, p. 80.

    [6] Barbara Sato, The New Japanese Woman Ó Modernity, Media, and Women in Interwar Japan, Durham and London: Duke University Press, 2003, p. 27.

    [7] Hirota Masaki, ‘Raifusutairu no shoruikei,’ Nihon Josei seikatsushi, Kindai, ed. Joseishi Sōgōkinkyūkai, Tokyo: Tōkyō Daigaku Shuppankai, 1995, vol. 4, pp. 272-74.

    [8] The term ‘Nihon modanizumu’ [Japanese modernism] is a particular concept of art and culture which developed during the 1920s and early 1930s under the strong influence of Western culture. See Satō Takeshi, Nihon no media to shakai shinri, Tokyo: Shinyōsha, 1995, pp. 3-8.

    [9] Taishō democracy is a term to indicate the political and social ideas and movements to establish a democratic society roughly corresponding to the Taishō period (1912-1926). As related to women, see Ide Ayako and Esashi Akiko, Taishō demokurashii to Josei, Tokyo: Gōdōshuppan, 1977, pp. 4-5.

    [10] Seitō was initiated by a women’s literary group called Kinyōkai in 1907. Horiba Kiyoko, Seitō no jidai, Tokyo: Iwanami Shoten, 1988, pp. 28-29.

    [11] The word term ‘atarashii onna’ [a new woman] was firstly used by Tsubouchi Shōyō in 1910. Horiba Kiyoko, Seitō no jidai, Tokyo: Iwanami Shoten, 1988, pp. 50-51.

    [12] Horiba Kiyoko, Seitō no jidai, Tokyo: Iwanami Shoten, 1988, p. 138.

    [13] The title of the special edition in Chūō kōron was Chūō kōron rinji zōkan fujin mondaigō, and in Taiyō, Kinji fujin mondai. See Imaida Isao and Saegusa Saeko, Fujin zasshi no sekai, Tokyo: Gendai J73257;narizumu Shuppankai, 1967, p. 25.

    [14] Imaida and Saegusa, Fujin zasshi no sekai, pp. 27-29.

    [15] Fujin kōron was launched in 1916 by Chūō Kōronsha and it is still published.

    [16] Oka Mitsuo, Fujin zasshi jānarizumu, Tokyo: Gendai Jāānarizumu Shuppankai, 1981, pp. 87-106.

    [17] Barbara Sato, The New Japanese Woman, pp. 23-24.

    [18] Imaida and Saegusa, Fujin zasshi, p. 32.

    [19] Sanki, ‘Taishōki,’ p. 8.

    [20] Tanimoto Tomi was a former professor of Kyoto University. See Ono Takahiro, ‘Puratonsha no kiseki,’ in Modanizumu shuppansha no kōbō, Kyoto: Tankōsha, 2002, p. 27.

    [21] Tanimoto Tomi, ‘Fujin mondai no shujusō,’ in Josei, May 1922, p. 11.

    [22] Josei was published in Osaka, unlike other major women’s magazines which were published in Tokyo. Ono states that people were very impressed that Josei was published in Osaka. See Ono Takahiro, ‘Puratonsha no kiseki,’ in Modanizumu shuppansha no kōbō, Kyoto: Tankōsha, 2002, p. 12.

    [23] Tsuganesawa Toshihiro, Gendai Nihon mediashi no kenkyū, Kyoto: Mineruba Shobō, 1998, pp. 21-22.

    [24] Tsuganesawa, Gendai Nihon, p. 19

    [25] The complete collection of Josei was reprinted by Nihon Tosho Sentā in 1993. The editor of the reprinted Josei is Tsurumi Shunsuke.

    [26] Shufu no tomo was begun by Ishikawa Takeyoshi in 1917. In 1903, Ishikawa began to work for Dōbunkan, a publishing company for Fujokai (Woman’s Sphere, 1910) in 1903, firstly as a trainee in the sales section but later as editor. See Kaneko Sachiko, Kindai Nihon Joseiron no keifu, Tokyo: Fujishuppan, 1999, pp. 150-51.

    [27] Ono Takahiro, ‘Puratonsha no kiseki,’ in Modanizumu shuppansha no kōbō, Kyoto: Tankōsha, 2002, p. 14.

    [28] Mizuo Junichi, Keshōhin no burandoshi, Tokyo: Chūō Kōron-sha, 1998, p. 52

    [29] Fukuda Rieko, Miyake Yumiko and Tamamoto Yōko (eds), Hyakka ryōran: Kurabu kosumechikkusu hyakunenshi, Osaka: Kurabu Kosumechikkusu Kabushikigaisha, 2004, pp. 56-57.

    [30] Ono, Modanizumu shuppansha, p. 18.

    [31] Ono, Modanizumu shuppansha, pp. 61-62.

    [32] Ono, Modanizumu shuppansha, p. 17.

    [33] Tsuganesawa Toshihiro, ‘Nihon no kōkoku – hito·jidai·hyōogen,’ in Keshōhin sendensen no yū: Hirao Sanpei·Nakayama Taichi·Fukuhara Shinzō ra, ed. Yamamoto Taketoshi and Tsuganesawa Toshihiro, Tokyo: Sekai Shisōsha, 1996, pp. 149-57.

    [34] Fukuda, Miyake and Tamamoto (eds), Hyakka ryōran, p. 35.

    [35] Fukuda, Miyake and Tamamoto (eds), Hyakka ryōran, p. 35.

    [36] A monthly women’s magazine published by Tōkyōsha from 1911. See Ono, Modanizumu shuppansha, p. 17.

    [37] Fujin sekai was published by Jitsugyō no Nihonsha from 1908 to 1930. Ono stated states that around 300,000 copies were sold in at its peak, around 1922-23. See Ono, Modanizumu shuppansha, p. 118.

    [38] Yamamoto Hiroshi, ‘Kansai hatsu bundan kenkyūu no hōko,’ Zasshi Josei, vol. 47, ed. Tsurumi Shunsuke, Tokyo: Nihon Tosho Sentā, 1993, p. 57.

    [39] Ono, Modanizumu shuppansha, pp. 21-22.

    [40] Fukuda, Miyake and Tamamoto (eds), Hyakka ryōran, p. 86.

    [41] Kawatake Toshio, ‘Shingeki undō no reimei to ayumi,’ in Kindai Nippon fūzokushi, vol. 6: Supōtsu to goraku, ed. Nihon Fûzokushi Gakkai, Tokyo: Yūzankaku, pp. 109, 114.

    [42] The literary circle in general is called Bundan. Bundan was considered to have been established in the Meiji 20s and further developed during the Taishō period. Tsubouchi Yûzō, ‘Bundan no seiritsu to hōkai,’ in Kindai Nihon bunkaron, vol. 3: Hai karuchā, ed. Aoki Tamotsu, Kawamoto Saburō, Tsutsui Kiyotada, Mikuriya Takashi and Yamaori Tetsuo, Tokyo: Iwanami Shoten, 2000, p. 102.

    [43] Yamamoto, ‘Kansaihatsu bundan,’ pp. 58-59.

    [44]Jōboku’ in Josei, February 1923, p. 248.

    [45] Josei, May 1925, in the advertisement next to the table of contents.

    [46] Ono, Modanizumu shuppansha, p. 58.

    [47] Satō Takumi, ‘Kingu no jidai,’ in Kindai Nihon bunkaron, vol. 7: Taishū bunka to masu media, ed. Aoki Tamotsu, et al Tokyo: Iwanami Shoten, 1999, p. 206.

    [48] Kaizōsha began to put an advertisement for subscription of enpon in its November 1926 issue of Kaizō. Nunokawa Kakuzaemon and ōwa Morito, ‘Kindai shuppan no ichikeifu,’ in Gendai jānarizumu, vol. 4: Shuppan, ed. Kido Mataichi, Tokyo: Jijitsûshinsha, 1973, p. 32.

    [49] Nagamine Shigetoshi, ‘Enpon būmu to dokusha,’ in Kindai Nihon bunkaron, vol. 7: Taishū bunka to masu media, ed. Aoki Tamotsu, et al, Tokyo: Iwanami Shoten, 1999, p. 187.

    [50] Sanki, ‘Taishōki,’ p. 10.

    [51] ‘Gurabia sekushon (Photogravure Section),' in Josei, January 1927.

    [52]Eiga joyū no kekkonkan,’ in Josei, April 1927, pp. 162-82.

    [53]Otoko ga wagamama ka onna ga wagamama ka,’ in Josei, April 1927, pp. 258-71.

    [54]Me to hana o utsukushiku miseru keshōhō,’ in Josei, September 1927, pp. 266-69.

    [55] Tsuganesawa, Gendai Nihon, p. 21.

    [56] Sanki, 'Taishōki,' pp. 5-7.

    [57] ‘Dai-Nippon Fujinkai’ was an organisation established by governmental authorities in 1942 for the Second World War state of emergency. Ubukata Takako (ed.), Joseishi shōjiten, Tokyo: Esso Kōhōbu, 1983, pp. 97-98.

    [58] Horiba Kiyoko, Seitō no jidai, Tokyo: Iwanami Shoten, 1988, p. 2.

    [59] Horiba, Seitō , pp. 50-52.

    [60] The semantic shift of the term ‘Josei’ from ‘femininity’ to ‘woman’ occurred around the mid-Meiji period (1880-90s) See Endō Orie, ‘Josei o arawasu kotoba,’ in Kotoba, vol. 4, ed. Gendai Nihongo Kenkyūkai, Tokyo: Gendai Nihongo Kenkyūkai, 1998, pp. 2-5.

    [61] Josei Nihonjin is a sister magazine of Nihon oyobi Nihonjin [Japan and Japanese] launched in 1907 by Miyake Kaho, a wife of Miyake Setsurei. See Yoshizawa Chieko, ‘Hirai (Kanzaki) Tsune: Zasshi to josei,’ in Taishōki no Josei zasshi, Tokyo: Ōzorasha, 1996, p. 209.

    [62] Journal of the Shinfujin Kyōkai established by women to promote women’s suffrage. Hiratsuka Raichōo, Ichikawa Fusae and Oku Mumeo were principal members of the association and editors for the journal. See Sanki, 'Taishōki,' p. 20.

    [63] Josei Nihonjin, vol 1.1, ed. Miyake Kaho, Tokyo: Seikyōsha, Sept. 1920, Table of contents.

    [64] Koyama Shizuko, ‘Joseishijō ni okeru Josei no igi,’ in Zasshi Josei, vol. 47, ed. Tsurumi, pp. 110-19.

    [65] The novel Chijin no ai began publication as a series in the Asahi Newspaper, but the Asahi Newspaper Company stopped publishing it, giving the reason that the story was not suitable for its readership. Puratonsha cothen then began to publish Chijin no ai in Josei. The series was begun in November 1924 and completed in July 1925.

    [66] First and second advertisements in Josei, February 1923.

    [67] Mikami Otokichi, ‘Chiisaki gisei,’ in Josei, March 1923, pp. 12-28.

    [68] Jordan Sand, ‘The Cultured Life as Contested Space: Dwelling and Discourse in 1920s,’ in Being Modern in Japan, Culture and Society from the 1910s to the 1930s, ed. Elise K. Tipton and John Clark, Sydney: Australian Humanities Research Foundation, 2000, pp. 99-101.

    [69] Haga Tōru, ‘Haikarluchā no yume to seiyō shumi,’ in Kindai Nihon Bunkaron, vol. 3: Haikaruchā, ed. Aoki Tamotsu, et al, Tokyo: Iwanami Shoten, 2003, pp. 64-80.

    [70] Tsutsui Kiyotada, ‘Gendai Nihon chishikijin no genkei,’ in Kindai Nihon Bunkaron, vol. 4: Chishikijin, ed. Aoki Tamotsu, et al, Tokyo: Iwanami Shoten, pp. 88-89.

    [71] Aoki Tamotsu, ‘Onrii Konekuto: Yoshida Ken’ichi no Ttōkyō,’ in Kindai Nihon Bunkaronā, vol. 3: Haikaruchā, ed. Aoki Tamotsu, et al, Tokyo: Iwanami Shoten, 2003, pp. 2-3.

    [72] ‘Kurashikku hoteru no natsu,’ in Nikkei otona no OFF, ed. Nose Akira, Tokyo: Nikkei Home, August 2004, pp. 13-75.

    [73] Byakuren was her pseudonym as a poet. Her real name was Yanagihara Akiko. See Ubukata (ed.), Joseishi shōjiten, pp. 164-65.

    [74] See Elise Tipton’s article in this issue of Intersections for a more detailed discussion of the topic of the romantic love and chastity in Josei.

    [75] Nakayama Taichi noticed the new trends in new juvenile literature and was going to buy the publishing company of Akai tori before launching Josei.

    [76] Kawahara Kazue, Kodomokan no kindai, Tokyo: Chūō Kōronsha, 1998, p. 14.

    [77] Shōonen sekai was published by Hakubunkan in 1895. Iwaya Sazanami was an editor.

    [78] Nihon shōonen was published by Jitsugyōo no Nihonsha in 1906.

    [79] Kawahara, Kodomokan, pp. 51-52.

    [80] Kawahara Kazue, ‘Bunka to shite no kodomo,’ in Kindai Nihon Bunkaron, vol. 11: Ai to kunan, eds. Aoki Tamotsu, et al Tokyo: Iwanami Shoten, 2003, p. 136.

    [81] Kawahara, Kodomokan, pp. 67-68.

    [82] Josei, January 1923. See the table of contents of this edition.

    [83] Mikami, ‘Chiisaki,’ pp. 12-13.

    [84] Yoshie Takamatsu, ‘Shakkōki no josei,’ in Josei, January 1924, p. 46.

    [85] Yoshio TakamatsuYoshie Takamatsu, ‘Tōzakaru hitobito,’ in Josei, December 1924, p. 100.

    [86] Katō Korehisa, ‘Shūkyōteki ni mitaru haha no ai no shoos,’ in Josei, February 1923, pp. 170-80.

    [87] Kamichika Ichiko (1888-1981) began her career as a political activist in the Seitōsha movement. After the Second World War, she became a member of the parliament and contributed towards protecting women’s human rights. She is also well-known as the woman who attempted to kill ōsugi Sakae in 1916 for his unfaithful love.

    [88] Kamichika Ichiko, ‘Kokage ni zashite,’ in Josei, July 1922, p. 147.

    [89] Miake Yasuko, ‘Koni ayamaru,’ in Josei, July 1925, pp. 195-96.

    [90] Baba Kochō, ‘Josei no tame ni kangaete,’ in Josei, une 1922, pp. 120-25.


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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