Modern Girls on the Go: Gender, Mobility, and Labor in Japan

Modern Girls on the Go: Gender, Mobility, and Labor in Japan

Modern Girls on the Go: Gender, Mobility, and Labor in Japan

Modern Girls on the Go: Gender, Mobility, and Labor in Japan


This spirited and engaging multidisciplinary volume pins its focus on the lived experiences and cultural depictions of women's mobility and labor in Japan. The theme of "modern girls" continues to offer a captivating window into the changes that women's roles have undergone during the course of the last century.

Here we encounter Japanese women inhabiting the most modern of spaces, in newly created professions, moving upward and outward, claiming the public life as their own: shop girls, elevator girls, dance hall dancers, tour bus guides, airline stewardesses, international beauty queens, overseas teachers, corporate soccer players, and even female members of the Self-Defense Forces. Directly linking gender, mobility, and labor in 20th and 21st century Japan, this collection brings to life the ways in which these modern girls-historically and contemporaneously-have influenced social roles, patterns of daily life, and Japan's global image. It is an ideal guidebook for students, scholars, and general readers alike.


She’s picked for her beauty from many a belle,
And placed near the window, Havanas to sell
For well her employer’s aware that her face is
An advertisement certain to empty his cases.

—Daniel Stashower, 2006

In 1841, storeowner John Anderson hired pretty young Mary Cecilia Rogers, who had recently arrived in New York City with her widowed mother, to play the role of “butter-fly catcher” in his tobacco shop at 319 Broadway. Although the practice of using young girls to sell products to men had become more commonplace in Europe, in New York City, hiring a young woman to sell cigars in a public shop was unusual, to say the least. When Rogers’s body was found in Hoboken, New Jersey, in 1842, at a popular tourist destination ironically known as Elysian Fields, her transgression of the boundaries of what was then deemed appropriate female behavior was taken by the city’s mass circulation dailies to have directly caused her unfortunate demise.

During a period in which internal migrations from agricultural regions to cities and incipient processes of industrialization were causing massive social and cultural changes, girls like Mary Rogers became cautionary tales about the dangers of modernity—canaries in the coal mines of these economic, cultural . . .

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