In response to Barbara Molony by Rui Kohiyama
I was so glad to see many Japanese scholars present at Sheffield, for I tried to disseminate the information on the conference through email sponsored by the Gender History Association of Japan and a lot of the members of the association responded to the call. I have confirmed that there is a demand among Japanese scholars to participate in international conferences and present their papers. Attending the conference and the steering committee meeting for the first time, I came to know belatedly how the IFRWH is organized. Coming back to Japan, I talked with several women concerned and have now organized a kind of Japan committee for the IFRWH to which the Gender History Association of Japan and the Society for Research on Women’s History in Japan have agreed to each send a representative. I hope more associations will join us in the committee.
The Gender History Association of Japan celebrated the 10th anniversary of its foundation on Dec. 7 and 8 and Prof. Cynthia Enloe spoke to commemorate the occasion. Her theme of gendered militarization was so timely—very unfortunately for Japan—as the specified secrets protection bill was being passed in the Diet on the same weekend.
The ruling party (LDP) had manipulated the process of the passage of the bill by strategically placing Masako Mori, a female member of the House of Councillors and Minister of State for Measures for Declining Birthrate on the position of Minister of State to deal with the bill, probably expecting the feminine appearance of the 49 year old (relatively young) woman will soften and hide the militaristic meaning of the bill. Mori is also from the Fukushima prefecture and the LDP might have cunningly used the general sympathy toward the tragedy of her homeland to surround the whole discussion on the bill in the Diet.
Almost all of the participants in the 10th anniversary were deeply apprehensive of the militarization of Japan and critical of the right-wing Abe administration. But just like in U.S., the left-wing feminist historians are just a tiny minority in Japan.
On the next day after the conference, I was having lunch with eight housewives in my neighborhood. It was the third time that I joined such an occasion in ten years since I had begun to live in the neighborhood, although the others seemed to have met more frequently. I happened to have no class on that day and my mother with dementia happened to be with me in my house. I though it was good for my mother to go out for lunch and so, put her in a wheelchair and went the designated café restaurant in a shopping mall nearby. There we sat talking about a new apartment that had just been completed in the neighborhood, how much its rental fee, and so on.
One of the housewives had lived in Israel for four years accompanying her husband in business there and Mrs. A began to ask questions on her experience.
“We made very good friends in Israel,” she answered and continued, “my sons went to school there and had learned the Hebrew in four months. To keep the language, they still talk with their teacher through skype once a week.” How wonderful, I thought.
“But isn’t it dangerous there?” another asked.
“Oh, no. There is a wall. And young men service for military and soldiers with rifles are all around, like at the entrance of a grocery store. You feel kind of protected.” She added, “There are a lot of places for tourism such as the place called Jerusalem. We enjoyed Israel so much that we had decided to stay there for four years instead of two, our original plan. But food is far better in Japan.”
This was how the experience in one of the most contested and militarized areas in the world is told among my neighbors. I could have intervened, pointing out the danger in the feeling of being protected by soldiers with machined guns. If they had been my students, I would have harangued on them. But I couldn’t, in front of my neighbors. I wanted to pretend that I was an innocent and good-natured neighbor, never disturbing peace among them, and just kept quiet, letting the process of militarization pass. Maybe, this kind of attitude is what keeps the feminist intellectuals a minority, I thought, as I left the café telling my neighbors that I had to take my mother to toilet…