Intimate Encounters: Filipina Women and the Remaking of Rural Japan

By Lieba Faier | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 3
Japan in the Kiso Valley,
the Kiso Valley in Japan

Prosperous middle-classness is the postwar Japanese national
identity. The hard years after surrender have congealed as
fable, and even the malaise now setting in after the bursting
of the bubble economy only confirms the degree to which
prosperity has become the norm.

Norma Field, From My Grandmother’s Bedside

Matsubara, my landlady Emiko’s shoe and clothing boutique, was housed in a striking new building that was poised along the narrow twolane highway that ran the length of the valley. The structure had been a gift to Emiko from her late husband Toshiharu when he had learned that he was dying from liver disease. Toshiharu had decided that the new building would stand as testimony to Emiko’s ability to rebuild and carry on, and he had spared little expense in its construction. The storefront was built in exquisite contemporary style, with a gentle sloping roof trimmed with wood stained deep sienna. Inside, the building boasted pale hardwood floors and smooth walls and beams of prized local hinoki (Japanese cypress). The shop floor was filled with racks of new shoes, including fashions from Europe and the United States, and a small wing off to the right of the entrance showcased contemporary yet practical Western-style clothing and accessories.

Toshiharu had not been mistaken about his wife’s abilities. Emiko was a smart and capable businessperson, and despite the downturn in the local economy, her boutique was turning a profit. She provided her clientele with reasonably priced and desirable, as well as necessary, items. The bulk of her business was in footwear required for public school uniforms. She also had one of the few shoe-fitter licenses in the county, which enabled her to reshape shoes to fit calloused and arthritic feet; elderly folk from

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