Womansword: What Japanese Words Say about Women

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Womansword is an insightful look at Japanese words concerning women and what they reveal about the status of women in modern Japan. In a collection of short, lively essays, author Kittredge Cherry considers the connotations, usage, and context of several hundred common words and phrases related to female identity, girlhood, marriage, mothering, working, sex, and aging. These Japanese words offer a new perspective on issues that are central to the lives of women everywhere.

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Overview

Womansword is an insightful look at Japanese words concerning women and what they reveal about the status of women in modern Japan. In a collection of short, lively essays, author Kittredge Cherry considers the connotations, usage, and context of several hundred common words and phrases related to female identity, girlhood, marriage, mothering, working, sex, and aging. These Japanese words offer a new perspective on issues that are central to the lives of women everywhere.

We learn, for instance, that an "intruder wife" is one who snags a husband by cooking for him every night, cleaning up for him, and generally coddling him till he realizes he can't live without her (but who lets him do the actual proposing); that Barbie didn't sell well in Japan till she was transformed into a cuter, shorter, less glamorous, younger version; that families with no sons to carry on the family name sometimes "adopt" one by marrying their daughter to a man who agrees to take their name, join their household, and generally adapt to their ways; that "honorable bag" (ofukuro) is an affectionate term a son may use to refer informally to his mother; and that people do not usually greet close relatives - even after a long separation - with a hug, but with a bow.

Womansword is a thought-provoking book that paints a vivid picture of contemporary Japanese women, in all their layered and often contradictory roles.

Womansword is an insightful look at Japanese words concerning women and what they reveal about the status of women in modern Japan. In a collection of short, lively essays, author Kittredge Cherry considers the connotations, usage, and context of several hundred common words and phrases related to female identity, girlhood, marriage, mothering, working, sex, and aging. These Japanese words offer a new perspective on issues that are central to the lives of women everywhere.

We learn, for instance, that an "intruder wife" is one who snags a husband by cooking for him every night, cleaning up for him, and generally coddling him till he realizes he can't live without her (but who lets him do the actual proposing); that Barbie didn't sell well in Japan till she was transformed into a cuter, shorter, less glamorous, younger version; that families with no sons to carry on the family name sometimes "adopt" one by marrying their daughter to a man who agrees to take their name, join their household, and generally adapt to their ways; that "honorable bag" (ofukuro) is an affectionate term a son may use to refer informally to his mother; and that people do not usually greet close relatives -- even after a long separation -- with a hug, but with a bow. Womansword is a thought-provoking book that paints a vivid picture of contemporary Japanese women, in all their layered and often contradictory roles.

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Editorial Reviews

Japan Christian Quarterly
Mixing historical background with sharp sociological observations of present-day realities, and topping it all off with a charming sense of humor, this book is both informative and fun to read.
Kansai Time Out
Regardless of whether or not you're studying Japanese, Womansword makes essential reading. If not for its insight into Japanese culture, then certainly for its engaging and entertaining approach to language.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9784770016553
  • Publisher: Kodansha International
  • Publication date: 6/1/1992
  • Edition description: REISSUE
  • Pages: 160
  • Product dimensions: 4.34 (w) x 7.18 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author

KITTREDGE CHERRY has written for Newsweek, the Wall Street Journal, and Mother Jones. A graduate of the University of Iowa, she worked as a newspaper reporter in Illinois before going to Japan on a Rotary Foundation Journalism scholarship in 1982. She has worked for many years in the communications field.

JANET ASHBY is a freelance writer and translator who has lived in Japan since 1975. She has written a column in the Japan Times for several years on Japanese books and has a particular interest in Japanese popular culture.

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