Treacherous Women of Imperial Japan: Patriarchal Fictions, Patricidal Fantasies

Treacherous Women of Imperial Japan: Patriarchal Fictions, Patricidal Fantasies

Treacherous Women of Imperial Japan: Patriarchal Fictions, Patricidal Fantasies

Treacherous Women of Imperial Japan: Patriarchal Fictions, Patricidal Fantasies

Synopsis

Through an examination of the life stories and writings of two women convicted of conspiring to assassinate the Japanese emperor, Helene Bowen Raddeker offers a fascinating look into the women's interpretations of their lives and imminent deaths.

Excerpt

Reconstructing the respective contexts of the subjects’ strategies for power in the area of their representations of death also demands consideration of the more explicitly political aspects of their culture. Within this political culture, they acted and interacted with others on the basis of a shared language about resistance and heroism, and also ‘rebellion unto death’. Shared ‘languages’ notwithstanding, however, the political culture Suga or Fumiko was a part of was internally differentiated and dynamic. Twentieth-century Japanese radicals, too, were capable of ‘picking and choosing’ from existing models of rebellion and resistance—both indigenous and imported—accepting, appropriating, reworking and contesting them as they saw fit.

My focus in this chapter is on the more practical aspects of the subjects’ political influences; on constructs of political action and political death. Taking account also of likely ‘exotic’ influences, I first consider how Kanno Suga and Kaneko Fumiko seem to have modelled themselves on two particular kinds of ‘traditional’ rebels, before proceeding with further discussion of the constructions Japanese heroes have placed upon ‘dying well’ (and the ‘Great Death’), upon politically motivated vengeance and an aesthetics of death. Once again, a central problem addressed in this chapter is ‘Japaneseness’—the degree to which cultural identity can explain the constructions Suga and/or Fumiko placed upon political action. If, in ‘universalist’ style, hitherto I seemed somewhat dismissive of its importance, in this context I will be treating the issue more seriously.

Nevertheless, both this and the last chapter seek to avoid defining Meiji and Taishō activists only by reference to either indigenous ideational or action models, or the European-derived ‘isms’ they embraced. To say, for example, that Suga and Fumiko were inspired

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