Intersections: Gender, History and Culture in the Asian Context
Issue 4, September 2000

Yamazaki Tomoko

Sandakan Brothel No. 8:
An Episode in the History of Lower-Class
Japanese Women

translated by Karen Colligan-Taylor

Armonk and London: M.E. Sharpe, 1999,
xxix, 215 pp. Index.
ISBN 0-7656-0354-3

review essay by James F. Warren

New Lands, Old Ties and Prostitution: A Voiceless Voice

  1. The role of prostitution overseas in Japan's economic expansion in the Meiji-Taisho period has become the subject of serious historical investigation. This was not the case nearly four decades ago when a young Tokyo housewife turned investigative historian, Yamazaki Tomoko, produced seemingly out of nowhere one of the most important works on the history of lower-class Japanese women. Entitled Sandakan hachiban shokan: teihen joseishi josh, the book presents an inside account of a Karayuki-san, a Japanese peasant girl who went 'south' into the Nanyo (literally 'South Pacific', but referring more specifically to Southeast Asia) to work as a prostitute in Singapore, and Sandakan, on the east coast of British North Borneo. The publication of the book in 1972 gave rise to immediate controversy. The inexplicable silence surrounding the contribution and experience of these women could no longer be swept under the rug in the study of Japanese imperialism and colonialism. Despite the difficult lives many of the Karayuki-san led abroad, they were often stalwart patriots who sent money back home to support both their impoverished families and Japan's expansionist wars-against China in the mid 1890's and Czarist Russia in 1905. The brothel owners used the idea of national good to enslave the young girls and women who were told that their bodies belonged to the state and that they constituted a form of female army. Critics argued over the young housewife's evidence, distortion and possible bias. Yamazaki Tomoko, had apparently decided to devote her life to documenting the history of the exchange of women between Japan and other Asian countries since 1868. Her endeavour, however, was recognised by some historians and the public at large as pioneering a new way for research on a sector of the Japanese population offshore, whose outlook and experience had not been adequately represented or documented.
  2. Interest was sparked nationally in the mid 1970s by this first work of Yamazaki Tomoko which dealt with a young Japanese girl from Amukusa-Shimo island, Osaki, who was sent to Southeast Asia in the second decade of the 20th century to become a prostitute. Her book, Sandakan hachiban shokan, which was awarded the Oya Soichi Prize for Non-Fiction Literature, became a national best-seller and established Yamazaki as a leading feminist writer. It re-created the life and circumstance of the Karayuki-san abroad; detailing who they were, from where they originated, and the temper of the times when the 'flesh trade', flourished. Yamazaki also concentrated on the social and economic conditions in Japan that were responsible for the plight of the Karayuki-san both as women and as Japanese. In 1974, Sandakan Brothel No. 8 and its sequel, The Graves of Sandakan (Sandakan no haka, Bungei Shunju, 1974) were made into a movie, Sandakan Brothel No. 8, by producer Kumai Kei, which was nominated for an academy award in the Foreign Film category.
  3. The brothel of Yamazaki's title was the place in Sandakan where Osaki, an elderly former Karayuki-san, was forced into prostitution as a child of thirteen by Yoshinaka Tarozo who had conveyed her from Amukusa to the distant British settlement. It was in 1968 that Yamazaki spent three weeks living near Sakitsu in Amukusa, Southern Kyushu, with this former Karayuki-san. And it was two years later, in 1970, that she sat somewhat apprehensively pondering over her completed manuscript, describing this experience, and her research on the Karayuki-san. Over those two years of her oral history project in Sakitsu with Osaki, and her relatives and friends, it had become apparent to Yamazaki that much of the historical context and experience necessary for understanding the sexual exploitation of Japanese women abroad before the Pacific War had been kept absolutely secret by people for decades-buried deeply in their hearts and minds. In fact, women who returned from the Nanyo rarely revealed to their own families, spouses or friends their own past, overseas. They did not reveal even that they had been in places like Singapore, Sandakan or Manila earlier in life. These memories were often so painful and sometimes so dangerous that they kept them secret. Yamazaki squarely confronted this problem of the transmission of women's memory in Southern Japan. Amukusa-Shimo Island was the place where this novice oral historian went to explore this question; and to ascertain what had happened to a poor rural Japanese woman who had been sold into overseas prostitution in her childhood and what had occurred in a remote farming community where the people were generally unable because of suspicion, pain and fear to pass down their repressed memories, especially to an 'outsider'. In 1968, the key for Yamazaki to this new form of oral history analysis was the recognition that she was not only dealing with Osaki's conscious open memory, but with the whole area of memory, which might be totally suppressed or half-suppressed, from that point in time when Osaki was forced into prostitution soon after having been persuaded as a child of ten to accept 'cleaning work' in Sandakan.
  4. A century ago, Japan had only a number of major exports-silk, coal and women. As Yamazaki sat before her desk in Tokyo struggling to write about a category of disempowered Japanese women known as Karayuki-san, she found that one particular scene continued to surface in her memory from the two research trips to Amukusa. "The setting is Tenshudo, Lord of Heaven Chapel, in the town of Sakitsu, at the southern end of Amukusa-Shimo Island. At the time, I was on my second trip in search of Karayuki-san, and I had been brooding over the possibility that my efforts would be in vain" (p. 3). As soon as Yamazaki got off the bus, she nervously headed for the safe haven of the Tenshudo's dark grey steeple, rising conspicuously over the flat roofs of the traditional fishing houses around it. The doors of the Tenshudo were ajar and Yamazaki, to put her mind at ease, entered. Once her eyes adjusted to the dim interior she noticed the figure of an elderly farmwoman, kneeling on the tatami, praying without uttering a single word nor making a single movement. Yamazaki was profoundly moved by this old woman, whom she had initially mistaken for a statue in the partial darkness-a 'stone sculpture', who "found it necessary to immerse herself in prayer so deeply and for so long" (p. 4). Thus begins the life history of Osaki in Japan and North Borneo, and thus begins Sandakan Brothel No. 8, a pioneering work of oral history that puts a human face on the pattern of traffic in Japanese women between Japan and other Asian countries since 1868 and, to a certain extent, on family and national history.
  5. Sandakan became the center of Osaki's North Bornean life. She first went there in 1919 when she joined Ohana and Tsugiyo, from her village, and the thousands of other lower-class Japanese women and girls in Southeast Asia, whose labour was helping in North Borneo, and on the Asian mainland, to build the Japanese nation and empire. The life Osaki lived there, the life to which she was soon subjected, was that of an overseas prostitute who was part of the brothel networks and vice rings established throughout Asia in conjunction with the expansion of Japanese business interests and the colonial empire. Osaki lived with the poverty-debt cycle; the customers of all nationalities; and the lonely existence and social stigma of being excluded from mainstream Japanese society by and large, after the First World War. At the end of the Armistice in 1918, overseas Japanese brothels such as No. 8, in places like Sandakan, were categorically denounced. Singapore and Sandakan were depicted in Japanese newspapers and naval dispatches as a congestion of brothels and rooming houses, of marked doorways to a labyrinth where opium smoking, lascivious Chinamen lay with Japanese prostitutes. In dealing with the West the Japanese government wanted to be able to declare that it had abolished prostitution overseas and curtailed traffic in women and children. Yamazaki, however, noted that many Karayuki-san of Osaki's generation, who had been forced to return to Japan in the mid 1920s, were at a loss as to what to do with their lives. They had earned millions of yen for Japan since the advent of the Russo-Japanese war and helped in no small measure to usher in their nation's modern century and yet they experienced discrimination in post 1921 Japan. Osaki and her 'sisters' had also experienced discrimination in Sandakan and Singapore under British rule, but realised now that this was also their lot in Japan. According to Yamazaki, the muted response to their hasty ill-thought out repatriation pointed out one of the major flaws of the emerging doctrine of a Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere. To the end most of these women would be proud of being Japanese, but not always proud of Japan. What comes through in Yamazaki's account of elderly lower-class Japanese women like Osaki, Kinoshita Kunio, Ofumi, Oshimo, Ohana and many others, who went abroad as young women, was the initial difficulty of re-adjusting to rural life in Southern Japan. They were ostracised by villagers, former family members, and younger folk, with more modern views, who quickly forgot the enormous sacrifices the Karayuki-san had made on their behalf and were ashamed of them. These hapless women and girls who had sex overseas with Chinese, Malays, Indians and Europeans became the butt of some of the worst sort of village gossip and discrimination at home. Karayuki-san like Osaki in Sandakan Brothel No. 8 came home to a nation that did not care what they had been through in Sandakan, Singapore or Manila or what they had endured since then-the broken ties, lost years, constant yearning, and, the nightmares. Yamazaki forcefully argued that Japan prohibited prostitution overseas only after it was economically secure.
  6. While Sandakan Brothel No. 8 has its own sturdy dignity and its own powerful allure, the young housewife turned researcher did not hesitate to criticise forcefully the Japanese State, and officials, who repatriated the Karayuki-san in a distinctly shabby fashion. The women were dumped at the nearest port of arrival with no financial assistance, and without any real regard as to the underlying reasons for their plight. Forced to fend for themselves, it is not surprising that, out of a sense of shame, anger and loneliness, some of them turned their backs on their families and villages, that they so had faithfully supported by remitting all their earnings. Instead, some of these repatriated Karayuki-san, including Osaki, followed Japan's businessmen and Imperial army into China in the 1930s. Yamazaki poignantly details how other elderly women, who could not rebuild their lives along lines other than sex and alcohol, committed suicide. Human darkness is worst, perhaps, for people who have no nurturing community. The desperation in the brothels in Southeast Asia was sometimes unrelieved, but what some of these women rarely saw in post 1921 Japan was hope. Without local networks of mutual support, their darkness was unrelieved. Their loneliness in this context in rural Japan sometimes proved to be lethal.
  7. Yamazaki, as a housewife, mother and novice historian living in Tokyo with her husband and daughter, had chosen a risky strategy in telling the story about Osaki and her generation. Structurally, her work assumes the form of a travel account, but she intended it to be a prologue to the history of lower-class Japanese women. Documentation on still living Karayuki-san was almost non-existent and most of their parents and grandparents were dead. Her principal source was the oral testimony of Osaki, an elderly former Karayuki-san, who Yamazaki had met in a chance encounter on her first trip to Amukusa. This was supplemented by Japanese travel accounts about Southeast Asia in the 1910s through to the 1930s, as well as a handful of extraordinary photographs that Osaki's friend, Ofumi, had saved depicting her Karayuki-san days in Sandakan-of which Osaki had not a single one. The strength of Yamazaki's work rests, in part, in the pioneering use of the oral testimony of this elderly Karayuki-san to highlight the poverty and powerlessness of Japanese women. She linked the experience of a former overseas prostitute to a broader Marxist analysis of Japanese economic and social history, in order to make women in Japan more aware of their personal circumstance and past. She wrote,

      Half a century has passed since Japan issued, in the mid-Taisho period, a formal proclamation against overseas prostitution, and it has been a quarter of a century since Japan's defeat in World War II. The term Karayuki-san is practically dead, and those women who worked as prostitutes on the Chinese mainland and in Southeast Asia are now in their seventies and eighties. One by one their lights are fading and going out. However, even when the last Karayuki-san vanishes from the mountain recesses and coastal hamlets of Shimabara and Amukusa, the Karayuki-san will not have left Japan for good (pp.191-2).

  8. When Yamazaki first went to Amukusa to carry out interviews in search of history, she actually thought of the old people, mostly women, she went to speak to, as if they were going to produce documents about a hidden past for her. This did occur. However, Yamazaki was very surprised when, after a little while she discovered that the interview and life history were not only powerful sources of information, but both Yamazaki herself, and Osaki, an elderly person, could have an enormous influence. Yamazaki, for example, discovered through interviewing that she had made important friendships and relationships with people that she was to continue to know for many years, especially with Osaki, who maintained frequent contact with her "adopted daughter" Tomoko, over the sixteen years that she knew Yamazaki (p. 197). But Yamazaki was equally surprised when she and others, including an elementary schoolgirl, Sachiko Okada, who lived next door to Osaki and had begun to write letters on her behalf to Yamazaki in Tokyo, found that the interview and oral reminiscence approach was for the elderly woman herself, a very positive and important experience. It had never occurred to Yamazaki that this could be possible. Hence, she subsequently agonised over the impending publication of Sandakan Brothel No. 8 for several years, fearing a possible invasion of Osaki's privacy.
  9. However, on one of her side trips to interview other Karayuki-san and their relations in Amukusa, Yamazaki remembered, when she finally located the small house in the tiny fishing village of Oe, ten kilometres distance from Osaki's village, that Ofumi, one of the women she most wanted to interview, had since died, three years earlier-one day in February 1965. Ofumi was sixty-five. But Yamazaki met Ofumi's son, Matsuo, born in Sandakan, who said to her that the visit and her recording his recollections about his mother's life had completely changed that year of his life. He explained that when he had returned to Japan at age twenty, he could speak only Malay, but in 1968, some twenty years later, he spoke freely about his mother and his past in fluent Amukusa dialect. As a work of biography and history, Sandakan Brothel No. 8 has the narrative flow of fiction; as a work of invention, it has the persuasive force of truth. When Yamazaki subsequently visited Sandakan in the mid-1970s she found much to her disappointment, that all tell-tale signs of Brothel No. 8 of the early 1920s had vanished, having been swallowed up in the post-war urban sprawl of the small go-ahead port-city. The only tangible evidence of the earlier existence of the Japanese brothel quarter was the recently discovered Karayuki-san cemetery built by Kinoshita Kunio for the Japanese women and other pioneer residents of Sandakan. Yamazaki made the pilgrimage, hiking up an old steep jungle path to a spot commanding a fine view of Sandakan Bay. There she encountered the large grave mound and marker of Kinoshita Kunio, the celebrated okasan, brothel keeper, 'Okuni of the South Seas', who treated Osaki and other Karayuki-san with kindness. Yamazaki offered prayers for the repose of her soul, and the souls of all the other fallen flowers, Yamato Nadeshiko, young girls of Japan, surrounding her. She also located the grave marker of Yasutani Kiyoji, Ofumi's lover and Matsuo's father. There were so many graves. Among these the newest was a weathered marker about two feet high which read: 'Tadamune Toyo, age 19, of 71 Kozuka, Yoshino Village, Kounu County, Hiroshima Prefecture, Japan" (p. 84). Some of them had no names, having been completely forgotten, buried on an overgrown hillside in Sandakan, far from relatives. Yamazaki realised that until the recent publication of Sandakan Brothel No. 8 all these Karayuki-san had become just so many stones. Some graves did not even have stones, just wooden stakes. When the wood rotted that was the end of history and memory.
  10. Yamazaki also recognised that the camera had arrived just in time to chronicle the astonishing wave of economic development in Southeast Asia that swept places like Sandakan, Singapore and Davao and left thousands of Japanese migrants on their shores in the first quarter of this century. Black and white photographs depict the first decades of the new century in Sandakan. Familiar details of Osaki's Bornean world that have since disappeared without a trace were photographed. Some of these photographs, particularly those in Ofumi's album, captured almost the whole range of the women's existence, presenting it not as an unending catalogue of misery, but simply an experience. These precious photographs in an old family album, buried in a trunk or the back of a closet (as in the case of Ofumi's son), captured the Karayuki-san away from Japan, thinking of family and friends; at work, posing at the behest of the brothel keeper; at play, having a group picture taken with 'sisters'; and buying and selling, allowing a Chinese photographer to take a snapshot to be used as an 'exotic' postcard. Yamazaki realised that if she put herself in the place of the Karayuki-san in these photographs, there was a thread of imagination, personal reminiscence, and anecdote that were linked together. The photographs from Ofumi's album, which appear in Sandakan Brothel No. 8, not only became tangible threads between Ofumi and Osaki and the people who were important to them, such as their brothel keeper, husbands, lovers and children, they also invariably became physical extensions of the women's joy, sorrow and pain. The few unforgettable photographs of the Karayuki-san of Amukusa that have survived though, widened the sensibility of Yamazaki's readership of what these lower-class Japanese women and girls were like: the photograph of Osaki's older sister, Yoshi, taken in a Rangoon brothel in the middle of the Taisho period; Osaki, Ohana, and Tsugiyo dressed in their best kimono, in a commemorative photograph taken the day before the girls took their first customers; a stunning photograph of Osaki after she moved to Brothel No. 8; Ofumi with her infant son Matsuo circa 1926 in Sandakan; Osaki and her mother in Sakitsu village, Amukusa; and, Osaki sitting, posed with the young aspiring author, Yamazaki Tomoko, on a lumber pile beside a beach path, outside Oe on Amukusa, in 1968. Because there was not a great deal of personal material touching on what the Karayuki-san of early twentieth century Sandakan were really like, Yamazaki, understood, intuitively, that an interpretative 'reading' of such photographs could be revelatory. She was correct.
  11. Yamazaki and others, including Morisaki, Kazue and myself, would carry on with this particular kind of historical inquiry and methodological interest about the Karayuki-san and the underside of modern Japanese society in our more recent work. I think recognising the old woman she had interviewed, and some of her close friends portrayed in the fading photographs of another era, as real persons, albeit, the quintessence of Japan's oppression of women under the dual yoke of class and gender, gradually made Yamazaki interested in their whole lives, and not just in their past. Hence, she moved herself, in the case of Yamada Waka, the Ameyuki-san turned social critic and feminist, whose career in Japan extended from the 1910s to the 1940s, to think more and more of Japanese oral histories, as recording whole life stories whenever possible, as in Osaki's case, instead of just fragments about the past. This chance encounter with Osaki, who she first met through her own research project, and, her subsequent work, would also influence her personal life; the way she retrospectively understood her relationship to Osaki and her surroundings; and, her desire to devote the rest of her life to documenting the history of the exchange of women between Japan and other Asian countries-the Karayuki-san, military comfort women, war orphans, repatriates, women sent as picture brides to China and Manchuria, Asian women who have married into Japanese farming communities, and Japanese women wed to other Asians in Japan. That 1968 encounter has even changed the way, for example, she has brought up her own daughter, Mimi, because Yamazaki learned things from Osaki and other elderly people about bringing up children in the Meiji-Taisho era which really influenced her as a mother in that direct kind of manner. It had all begun as a hope-a need for a better life and a better tomorrow. An entire generation had lived their lives for their fathers, husbands, sons, and, the Emperor. Osaki's generation left their homes and went 'south' to pay all their family debts and become decent citizens. Yet, despite that harsh fact, Yamazaki saw in this lonely elderly woman, Osaki, a person with a compassionate nature, who respected the privacy of others, and held a deep belief in folk spirituality, especially the spirits and deities of nature, including the spirits and ancestors of wise men and saints, particularly Odaishisama. So this was another, perhaps, less apparent way in which her pioneering oral history research was to prove influential.
  12. Yamazaki and others were also interested in how these voiceless women were living in the present-the here and now of Japan, in the mid-1970s. Sandakan Brothel No. 8 is also partly a historical commentary about the meaning of old age and class in Japan 'today'; and, epitomised by Osaki, it is about how lower-class Japanese women found meaning in their present-day lives, and how they quietly built on their past lives overseas in finding that meaning. It is about how, for instance, they developed new spiritual beliefs later in life, how they found new forms of working, and how they continued to long for and develop new emotional relationships. So, Sandakan Brothel No. 8 was a kind of oral history which carried on right up to the present. Yamazaki used a consistent kind of participant-observation technique, again letting Osaki and other elderly people speak for themselves, but speaking about their present-day life and circumstance. And again, this is a form of oral history which Yamazaki has since encouraged Japanese women to think of and practise in their own life and world.
  13. In an effort to bring past and present closer together, average Japanese must take account of the part that the Karayuki-san played in Japan's development and first tentative steps overseas. Yamazaki emphasized in Sandakan Brothel No. 8, shaped from the life and words of Osaki, that the Japanese people must face what the 'discovery' of the Karayuki-san really meant. In this powerful antidote to traditional histories of modern Japan she provided a disturbing insight into her nation's traditions, its values, its early economic rewards, and the price paid for them in pre-1921 Asia in terms of Japanese society's exploitation of the bodies of the women of Amukusa island and the Shimabara Peninsula. Sandakan Brothel No. 8, explicitly identified, analysed, and confronted long-term forces, the structures which moulded the social nature of individual action and institutions, of which many Japanese were only dimly aware. Osaki's, as well as other former overseas Japanese prostitutes, role and life experiences in the face of adversity and oppression, had an inherent historical significance in Yamazaki's mind, for helping establish and consolidate a reworking of Japan's history, and, equally importantly, in the context of present-day Japan, for re-defining the notion of what is 'historical'. The task this young housewife turned historian had set herself in 1968 was one of enormous scope and daring. By drawing from a wide array of oral recollections and reminiscences and applying them to her history, she illuminated the delicate threads (people's lives), which linked global events to expose the larger picture of the world, Japan and its history. In Sandakan Brothel No. 8, enormous consequences are embodied in individuals like Osaki, and Yamazaki offered a startlingly fresh perspective that was at once personal and global, while trying to understand the time and place(s) of the Karayuki-san in them.
  14. Yamazaki's interpretation was the most disquieting perspective on the role and values of Japanese women to emerge anywhere in Japan at that time. She created a portrait of one elderly woman's world in comparative isolation and loneliness-the past and present life of Osaki. The terrible knowledge she revealed was that her country, her culture, and in a very real sense her own flesh and blood had been responsible for the desolation of sending a ten year old girl to a brothel in Sandakan a half a century earlier to throw off the cloak of poverty at home. This woman who had lived her childhood and womanhood in a shadow of sacrifice for the family, the nation and for the Emperor. Yamazaki's book was a searing investigation, a passionate indictment of this unique episode in the history of lower-class rural Japanese women. The book, combining historical fact with innovative research, and containing a final chapter in the form of a polemical discourse on the Karayuki-san and modern Japan, caused heated debate, and attracted widespread publicity throughout the country. Sandakan Brothel No. 8 and Yamazaki's subsequent writings have all served a 'consciousness-raising' function. Japanese women, especially the younger generation, who learned more fully about their own history and gender, and hence about themselves, became more determined to improve their status and position as women, irrespective of whether they were teenagers in high school or bar hostesses in Tokyo or Okinawa.
  15. Yamazaki had traced and interviewed an elderly Japanese woman who was sold into prostitution as a young girl and worked in Japanese brothels in Sandakan and Singapore before the Pacific war. Osaki's account, which brings a human element to Yamazaki's history, albeit decades after her career ended, told how it really was-all pain, shame, passion, fear, sacrifice and luck. The pioneering method employed by Yamazaki of reading and inference, and observing and listening in the interpretation of oral, literary and visual sources were the keys in the analysis of historical evidence in her book. Yamazaki's readers, not unlike the author herself, an emergent historian of a 'culture of silence' suddenly thrust into the public limelight, now also began to seek to create histories where the terrifying and incomprehensible reality of their time was inseparably linked to the insignificant details of their every-day lives-details that were so important to Yamazaki and her audience, so trivial for others, especially particular members of the Japanese historical establishment. Yamazaki was astonished by this initial response and development to her book, which had the force of revelation for so many women. But since the mid 1970s, many women's study groups and female oral historians from all walks of life have undertaken this experience and made it far more common. In a sense, Sandakan Brothel No. 8, helped give birth to a whole movement to document the history of ordinary women in Japan, particularly in Kyushu, in reminiscence work with local people, using Yamazaki's technique and 'discovery', to try to give meaning and courage to elderly people, in order to take them back into their earlier lives and history.
  16. Sandakan Brothel No. 8 became a national best seller and Yamazaki Tomoko went on to write numerous books and articles documenting the modern history of lower-class Japanese women who have gone abroad and Asian women who have come to Japan. First published in 1972, Yamazaki's book, has been circulating now for over thirty-five years, and has already been translated into Korean, Chinese and Thai. With the belated appearance of this English edition, with a fine translation by Karen Colligan-Taylor, Sandakan Brothel No. 8, is finally readily available to an English-speaking audience. Sandakan Brothel No. 8, provides both a trans-historical and trans-cultural face for analysing prostitution and trafficking in women and children, especially in the Asian-Pacific region at the end of the 20th century. It also embodies an important historical analytical context and case study for framing and re-assessing the aims and practises of the Meiji state. The translator's introduction, the exceptionally rare photographs, and fine maps all provide an immediacy with its wider reach for making Osaki's story-the life of an overseas prostitute- and other voiceless voices, far more accessible. Osaki's account signified a singular voice; a voiceless voice with a powerful message about past-future relationships. Like a life in prostitution overseas, living in post 1970s' Japan was still a constant struggle for many women, but the mistakes made against Osaki's generation in the name of the family, nation and Emperor were really now opportunities to learn and grow in the present. Osaki had been rejected by her elder brother and the rest of her family upon her return from Japan and also, later, by her son who did not want his mother's social stigma to interfere with his prospects for marriage and work. Nevertheless, despite such rejection and suffering, Osaki had tried to follow the way of Odaishisama, and quietly shake off the adversity of her past and of modern Japan, in pursuit of a better tomorrow. In 1972, Yamazaki's history had forcefully given material about Japanese women abroad in the Meiji-Taisho era for the Japanese public and the English translation will now create a wider readership in the West, in an age of economic globalisation, for this pioneering history of lower-class Japanese women.


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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