Intimate Encounters: Filipina Women and the Remaking of Rural Japan

By Lieba Faier | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 4
Kindred Subjects

Kinship is a technology for producing the material and semi-
otic effect of natural relationship, of shared kind.

Donna Haraway, Modest Witness

Kinship is not simply a situation she is in but a set of practices
that she also performs, relations that are reinstituted in time
precisely through the practice of their repetition … not a
form of being but a form of doing.

Judith Butler, Antigone’s Claim

On my way home from Tessie’s one afternoon, I stopped by Emiko’s shop to share some photographs of Tessie, her family, and me at work in Tessie’s in-laws’ rice fields. Over the course of the summer, I had assisted in the three-step process of producing rice: planting seedlings, binding and drying mature rice stalks, and feeding the stalks into a machine to separate out the grain. Emiko was curious about the lives of Filipina women in the region. She fingered through glossy shots of Tessie planting rice seedlings with her mother-in-law, both women wearing old floral cotton aprons, matching sunbonnets, and tall rubber boots— outfits commonly seen on women doing farm labor in the area. “Wow, she really is being shikkari” (Ehhh, hontō ni shikkari shite iru ne), Emiko gasped. She explained that many young Japanese women would not be willing, as Tessie had been, to work in the fields with their in-laws. Emiko was surprised, and impressed. “She’s like a traditional Japanese woman” (Mukashi no Nihon no josei mitai), she explained. She later remarked that Tessie was an “ii oyomesan.”

The Japanese term oyomesan is an honorific or polite form of the word for “bride” or “daughter-in-law,” yome, made by adding the honorific prefix

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