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The Women of Suye Mura

Japanese women are frequently perceived by foreigners as stereotypes. Pictured as compliant, long-suffering, and charming in a childlike way, they are said to be child-centered and restricted in their interests and actions to the domestic realm. The appear as victim, pawn, or tragic heroine: Madame Chrysanthemum, Madame Butterfly, and even the impossible Mariko of Shogun.

The Women of Suye Mura provides a rich body of information by means of which such stereotypes may be reevaluated and challenged. Based on Ella Wiswell’s extensive field notes from the mid-1930s—when she and her late husband John Embree undertook a joint research project in rural Japan—this volume forms a companion to Embree’s now-standard Suye Mura: A Japanese Village. Its focus on the women of the village affords a unique look at their daily lives and a detailed portrait of their world-views and social understandings at a time when the orthodoxies of the contemporary state were not yet completely accepted. Through Ella Wiswell’s journal, sensitively edited by Robert Smith, we may understand some of their hopes and fears, see what amuses and angers them, and hear their comments on everything from adultery and illness to religion, magic and the origins of the imperial house.

The body of data, secured by direct observation, is unparalleled in the literature. No other account of the lives of Japanese rural women of this era remains, and in no contemporary community can their like be found. The Women of Suye Mura will thus serve as an important resource for anyone interested in the past—and present—of the Japanese woman.

348 pages | 16 p. of b&w illustrations | 6 x 9 | © 1983

Anthropology: Cultural and Social Anthropology

Asian Studies: East Asia

Women's Studies

Table of Contents

Prologue: Suye Mura in Retrospect, by Ella Lury Wiswell
1. The Nature of Women and Their World
2. Women’s Formal Associations
3. Interpersonal Relations
4. Sex: Public and Private
5. The Facts of Life
6. Young Women and Men: Growing Up
7. Marriage, Divorce, and Adoption
8. Wives and Husbands
9. Mothers and Fathers
10. Little Girls and Boys
11. The Handicapped, Misfits, Wanderers, and Witches
12. Conclusions

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