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Recreating Japanese Men


The essays in this groundbreaking book explore the meanings of manhood in Japan from the seventeenth to the twenty-first centuries. Recreating Japanese Men examines a broad range of attitudes regarding properly masculine pursuits and modes of behavior. It charts breakdowns in traditional and conventional societal roles and the resulting crises of masculinity. Contributors address key questions about Japanese manhood at a variety of different sites ranging from icons such as the samurai to marginal men including ...

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Recreating Japanese Men

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The essays in this groundbreaking book explore the meanings of manhood in Japan from the seventeenth to the twenty-first centuries. Recreating Japanese Men examines a broad range of attitudes regarding properly masculine pursuits and modes of behavior. It charts breakdowns in traditional and conventional societal roles and the resulting crises of masculinity. Contributors address key questions about Japanese manhood at a variety of different sites ranging from icons such as the samurai to marginal men including hermaphrodites, robots, techno-geeks, rock climbers, shop clerks, soldiers, shoguns, and more.
In addition to bringing historical evidence to bear on definitions of masculinity, contributors provide fresh analyses on the ways contemporary modes and styles of masculinity have affected Japanese men's sense of gender as authentic and stable.
In its reconstruction and interrogation of male figures, manhoods, and masculinities, Recreating Japanese Men reaches across conventional scholarly boundaries to offer an interdisciplinary tour de force.

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Editorial Reviews

Monumenta Nipponica - Michael Lewis
"Fascinating, clearly written."
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780520267374
  • Publisher: University of California Press
  • Publication date: 10/4/2011
  • Series: Asia: Local Studies / Global Themes
  • Pages: 360
  • Product dimensions: 6.20 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Sabine Frühstück is Professor of Modern Japanese Culture at the University of California, Santa Barbara. She is the author of Uneasy Warriors: Gender, Memory, and Popular Culture in the Japanese Army and Colonizing Sex: Sexology and Social Control in Modern Japan, both from UC Press. Anne Walthall is Professor of History at the University of California, Irvine. She is the editor of Servants of the Dynasty: Palace Women in World History (UC Press) and author of The Weak Body of a Useless Woman: Matsuo Taseko and the Meiji Restoration, among others.

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Read an Excerpt

Recreating Japanese Men

By Sabine Frühstück, Anne Walthall


Copyright © 2011 The Regents of the University of California
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-520-95032-0


Do Guns Have Gender?

Technology and Status in Early Modern Japan

Anne Walthall

In the fall of 2006 I happened to be a visiting researcher at the National History Museum in Sakura when it held an exhibition on the sixteenth-century introduction and diffusion of guns in Japan. While planning a conference on gender and museums, my sponsor teased me by saying that the gun exhibition had nothing to do with gender. Like many people, he identifies the term gender with women, and since women did not participate in Japan's early modern gun culture, he considered gender irrelevant to the topic as well. More significantly, he saw the gun as an example of technology. Disengaged from their social context, guns indeed have no gender. But by asking which men used guns, under what circumstances, and how guns functioned in relation to other weapons, it is possible to analyze the history of guns for multiple factors that conditioned what it meant to be a man in early modern Japan.

Among the items at the exhibition were guns owned by the first Tokugawa shogun, Ieyasu, and his heir, Hidetada. Manufactured at Sunpu (present-day Shizuoka) in 1607, Ieyasu's favorite gun is an exquisite 1.4 meters long. According to the catalog, he was a proficient marksman, and Hidetada was not his inferior. Given that in the Tokugawa period guns were usually associated with lowly foot soldiers and hunters, I was surprised to see them in the hands of shoguns. Both Ieyasu and Hidetada were seasoned warriors, yet they fired guns not in battle but against game. Throughout the seventeenth century and sporadically in the eighteenth, their descendants, who never fought a war, continued to demonstrate their mastery of firearms in the hunt. To understand Japan's gun culture, it is thus necessary to compare what it meant for men at the apex and at the bottom of the social hierarchy to use guns.

How is it possible to argue that the gun can be identified with masculinity? Female palace guards in Southeast Asia impressed eighteenth-century Europeans with their skill at musketry. In India, the emperor's wives and concubines shot deer with guns, as did Elizabeth I of England. In the United States, Molly Pitcher, Annie Oakley, and images of the Prairie Madonna challenged the American ideal that guns were for men. Japanese women were no strangers to weapons, either; in the late twelfth century, Tomoe Gozen rode and fought with Kiso Yoshinaka. To the end of the Edo period samurai women famously carried daggers and practiced fighting with halberds (naginata). So far as I have been able to ascertain, however, women in early modern Japan did not fire guns. It would be easy to assume that this was because guns quickly became identified with the masculine pursuit of war, and, unlike in the small mounted forces of the 1100s, women had no place in sixteenth-century infantry troops numbering in the scores of thousands. This assumption overlooks both the roles found for guns in arenas other than war (ceremony, the hunt) and the way that notions regarding the use of guns entered Japanese culture; it is because these spaces and ideas associated with them came to be constructed as masculine that guns became so identified with men as to appear unremarkable. Judith Allen has noted that because men are the dominant group, their attributes remain "unmarked, transparent, unscrutinized," and that is certainly true in Japan's history of guns. In their use of these and other weapons, men of different statuses measured their masculinity against each other in ways that have nothing to do with women as the Other.

To analyze the connection between guns and masculinity in Japan it is important to situate the desire for guns in historical, social, and cultural contexts. Unlike in Europe or the Americas, in Japan guns supplemented rather than replaced the hawk and bow. In teaching the appropriate attributes of manly behavior, manuals on gunmanship advocated mental preparation similar to that for other martial arts. Despite documents that identify projectiles as the cause of most battlefield deaths and wounds, hand-to-hand combat represented the epitome of male-inflected bravery. The sword, not the gun, symbolized the soul of the samurai. Nonetheless, guns became more than a technical expedient. Whether in gift exchanges, hunts, or parades, warlords and shoguns incorporated guns into their panoply of self-representations. Guns figured in the skills through which they proved their manhood and in the practices they used to construct their masculinity for public consumption ("public" here means other male members of the military). Not all shoguns mastered this weapon, proof that their gender identities had to be constructed and remained unstable.

I plan to use guns as a lens on the cultural elaboration of the masculinity dominant in sixteenth-century Japan—that of the warlord—and analyze how it is affirmed, rejected, and reconstituted in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. I begin with the politically charged history of the matchlock's introduction in 1543, the prestige it acquired as a gift item, the part played by male religious practitioners who dramatized their control over fire by mastering the gun, and its ubiquitous role in militarized ceremony. I then examine manuals that defined the physical and moral attributes necessary to master the art of gunmanship. Rather than join the debate on whether guns transformed warfare in sixteenth-century Japan, I will concentrate on the complicated connection between guns and status in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. In particular, by examining how and by whom guns were used for hunting and what the hunt meant for rulers, I demonstrate how the early Tokugawa shoguns both modeled and exceeded definitions of warrior masculinity through their prowess at arms and uncover the different ways their successors contested and celebrated that legacy.


The earliest document on the introduction of guns to Japan is "Record of the Musket" ("Teppoki"), written in 1606 for Lord Tanegashima Hisatoki, ruler of a small island by the same name. According to it, on the twenty-fifth day of the eighth lunar month of 1543, a storm-damaged ship arrived in a bay on the other side of Tanegashima from the castle town. Among its crew were Portuguese who carried unusual weapons. As soon as Hisatoki's ancestor Tokitaka saw these weapons in action, he realized their promise for hunting and warfare. He learned to shoot, he bought the guns, and he set a retainer to learn the secrets of making gunpowder. In addition to sending one of his guns to a priest at Negoro temple in Kii (present-day Wakayama), he had blacksmiths make copies. These Tokitaka distributed to warlords to curry favor. Other guns from Tanegashima reached eastern Japan when the ship in which they were transported was blown off course. To sum up, the first guns arrived in Tanegashima carried by exotic foreigners, they were first manufactured on that island, and they spread across Japan from that location.

Historians in Japan have recently revisited the question of how guns entered Japan and how they were diffused thereafter. Based on an examination of the earliest guns still extant and manuals describing their use, they have both complicated and clarified the process by which guns came to be employed and even prized. But in discounting "Record of the Musket," they have not asked what purpose it served beyond the immediate political interests of the Tanegashima family. In order to assess why this account gained such general acceptance, let us examine what scholars now think regarding the gun's arrival.

Scholars have produced two types of evidence for challenging the Tanegashima account. Suzuki Masaya points to other documents and archaeological evidence that place guns in Japan before 1543. Udagawa Takehisa has analyzed guns produced around the same time. In particular he notes that Satsuma guns had a cover over the spring for the firing mechanism, in contrast to Tanegashima-derived guns. If Japanese gunsmiths based their products on foreign guns, the only way to explain this difference is to assume that they used different models. The shortness of the butts of the earliest muskets to reach Japan suggests to Udagawa that they were not made in faraway Portugal but in Southeast Asia. The men who first brought them to Japan were less likely to be Portuguese than the ethnically mixed crews of traders, smugglers, and pirates known as wako. Kenneth Chase and Carlo Cipolla point out that Chinese were manufacturing matchlocks in Siam (Thailand) before the arrival of the Portuguese in 1511. In a seventeenth-century letter to the king of Siam, Tokugawa Ieyasu wrote, "Guns and gunpowder are what I desire more than gold brocade."

Before we dismiss the "Record," let us ask why it matters. How did it gain such widespread currency that the eighteenth-century historian of Japanese weapons, Arai Hakuseki, incorporates it practically verbatim? As Japanese historians have pointed out, reading the document in the context of sixteenth-century maritime trade between Japan and Southeast Asia suggests that although the "Record" calls the two Portuguese gunmen "leaders among the traders," they were probably merely members of the crew, or at most adventurers on a vessel captained by Goho (Ch. Wu-feng), a famous merchant/smuggler. Given his dubious occupation, once Goho was blown off course between Siam and China, he might have preferred to land far from a center of authority such as a castle town. By adding respectability to the exotic (turning Portuguese into leaders), the "Record" puts guns not in the hands of pirates but describes them as wonders of foreign manufacture suitable for rulers. In short, it not only served the interests of the Tanegashima lords in their quest for recognition out of proportion to the size of their domain, but it also helped to legitimize guns as prestige items to be exchanged among warlords.

Although the part played by traders and gunsmiths in the diffusion of guns beyond southern Kyushu should not be ignored, it is important to mention the enabling roles played by religious practitioners and warlords because of the way they connected guns to military men. The "Record" emphasizes that the first purchaser of a gun outside Tanegashima was from the esoteric Shingon temple Negoro, attesting to the contribution made by religious establishments to sixteenth-century warfare. Other religious figures, yamabushi (mountain shamans) in particular, contributed to the spread of guns to eastern Japan. One was the younger brother to Hojo Ujitsuna of Odawara, Muneaki (d. 1582), who found his calling in the Shingon school and served as temple administrator (betto) as well as a gunnery expert. The Tanegashima lord's status as quasi-subordinate to Otomo Sorin of Bungo in Kyushu makes it unsurprising that Sorin not only acquired guns early but also disseminated them to other lords. Guns probably spread to Tosa on Shikoku through a marital connection between the Otomo and the Ichijo; the Kano in Iyo were Otomo friends. Historians have noted how, when guns were rare, they functioned as exchange items between warlords anxious to prove their goodwill to potential allies or to reassure a suspicious overlord of a subordinate's support.

Made valuable by their rarity, guns, especially those manufactured abroad, readily circulated as gifts calculated to bestow benefit on the giver. Cipolla has noted that Europeans habitually presented guns to local rulers in exchange for special permissions or privileges, a practice followed by Catholic missionaries in Japan as well. In 1552 shogun Ashikaga Yoshiteru wrote a letter to Yokose Narushige, a minor warlord in Kanto, offering him a gun in hopes of winning Yokose's ally, the powerful Uesugi Kenshin, to his side. From the time he exiled his father and became the Otomo chieftain, Sorin sent swords, money, and horses to Kyoto in his quest to be made military governor in Kyushu. He brought Yoshiteru's patronage with the gift of a foreign gun in 1554; later, when his governorship was expanded to two more provinces, he sent Yoshiteru a gun made in Tanegashima and a bronze breach loader from Southeast Asia. Yoshiteru later gave one of the guns he had received from Sorin to Uesugi upon the latter's promise of help.

In Japan gifts assumed a gender depending on the gender of their recipient, and guns were no exception. In the Tokugawa period the shogun's wife received manuscript copies of classical literature in famous calligraphy; Ieyasu, too, collected such texts, but for the most part shoguns accepted tea utensils, horses, and swords, whose value depended upon who had made the objects and who had owned them. Shoguns delighted in receiving guns from the Dutch and other foreigners, and they accepted guns from important daimyo as well. Guns that had been owned by Ieyasu were distributed to his sons and to favored daimyo with the understanding that they would be treasured by the family for generations. To this day the Tokugawa Art Museum in Nagoya displays guns bestowed by Ieyasu on his son Yoshinao, who founded the Owari Tokugawa house; and a huge exhibition at the Tokyo National Museum in fall 2007 on the Tokugawa legacy included swords, armor, and guns distributed to Ieyasu's heirs.

Individual guns figured as gifts; guns manufactured in quantity became part of the paraphernalia displayed in parades. When Ieyasu sent his seven-year-old granddaughter Senhime to marry Toyotomi Hideyori in 1603, he had the daimyo line the banks of rivers between Fushimi and Osaka with bowmen and gunmen. They did the same in 1611 when Hideyori and his mother reluctantly went to Kyoto to pay their respects to the emperor and Ieyasu. Held in silence at night, Ieyasu's funeral procession in 1616 was led by standard-bearers followed by five men carrying bows and then five men carrying guns. More weapons, including guns, brought up the rear. Their presence on such a solemn occasion suggests that they had become naturalized and, like bows, their efficacy against evil extended to the invisible realm of spirits.

For the duration of the Tokugawa period, shoguns and daimyo placed guns in processions. Parades for weddings, funerals, and memorial services coursed through Edo streets, the chief participants hidden in palanquins while their majesty was displayed through the accompanying weapons. Status and sex mattered: the memorial service in 1658 for the fourth shogun Ietsuna's birth mother, a mere concubine, featured neither mounted guards nor bows nor guns, whereas the memorial services for Hidetada's official wife (and Ietsuna's grandmother) earlier that same year and at the fiftieth anniversary of her death in 1675 went on for days, with retainers summoned to position guards at the castle gates armed with bows, guns, and spears. When daimyo performed their duty of going from their castle town to Edo where they waited upon the shogun, their processions mimicked military campaigns. The vanguard carried guns on their shoulders wrapped in special cases, followed by spears and bows. The most magnificent displays of weaponry were reserved for the shoguns' pilgrimages to Nikko to worship Ieyasu's incarnation as the great shining eastern avatar of the Buddha. On these occasions daimyo as well as housemen accompanied the shogun's palanquin in processions that stretched for miles.

It is not surprising that the Tokugawa shoguns, chieftains of a military regime founded on conquest, recalled their heritage in parades of weapons. These performances both neutralized the potential for violence that weapons represented for the military and reminded spectators that they had no legitimate claim on either weapons or violence. Yet it is important to maintain a distinction between the guns exchanged among warlords as gifts and those carried by foot soldiers in processions. Treated as rarities of great value, guns enhanced their owners' prestige and contributed to a cultural symbol of masculinity for the elite; distributed in quantity to foot soldiers, guns marked their bearers' low status. In order to uncover another dimension of the gun's multiplicity of meanings, let us turn to the secret transmission of gunmanship.


It would be easy to attribute the connection between esoteric Buddhism and instruction in gunmanship to the well-attested tendency in the history of Japanese culture for experts to keep their knowledge secret. Especially during sixteenth-century warfare, when aristocrats survived by claiming mastery over arcane bodies of information, the only knowledge worth possessing was that unattainable on the open market. This factor alone, however, does not explain why early specialists might be yamabushi. For this we need to remember the yamabushi's long-standing mastery of fire. Given the fuse cord used in the firing mechanism for muskets and the notorious tendency for gunpowder to explode when handled incautiously, their ability to control fire could have functioned as a prerequisite for earning the trust of potential pupils. As yamabushi proclaimed, the gun was dangerous if one did not respect its connection to powerful unseen forces.


Excerpted from Recreating Japanese Men by Sabine Frühstück, Anne Walthall. Copyright © 2011 The Regents of the University of California. Excerpted by permission of UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA PRESS.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents

List of Illustrations

Interrogating Men and Masculinities
Sabine Fru¨hstu¨ck and Anne Walthall

Part I. Legacies of the Samurai
1. Do Guns Have Gender? Technology and Status in Early Modern Japan
Anne Walthall
2. Name and Honor: A Merchant’s Seventeenth-Century Memoir
Luke Roberts
3. Empowering the Would-be Warrior: Bushido¨ and the Gendered Bodies of the Japanese Nation
Michele M. Mason
4. After Heroism: Must Real Soldiers Die?
Sabine Fru¨hstu¨ck

Part II. Marginal Men
5. Perpetual Dependency: The Life Course of Male Workers in a Merchant House
Sakurai Yuki
6. Losing the Union Man: Class and Gender in the Postwar Labor Movement
Christopher Gerteis
7. Where Have All the Salarymen Gone? Masculinity, Masochism, and Technomobility in Densha Otoko
Susan Napier
8. Failed Manhood on the Streets of Urban Japan: The Meanings of Self-Reliance for Homeless Men
Tom Gill

Part III. Bodies and Boundaries
9. Collective Maturation: The Construction of Masculinity in Early Modern Villages
Nagano Hiroko
10. Climbing Walls: Dismantling Hegemonic Masculinity in a Japanese Sport Subculture
Wolfram Manzenreiter
11. Not Suitable as a Man? Conscription, Masculinity, and Hermaphroditism in Early Twentieth-Century Japan
Teresa A. Algoso
12. Love Revolution: Anime, Masculinity, and the Future
Ian Condry
13. Gendering Robots: Posthuman Traditionalism in Japan
Jennifer Robertson



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