By Ayako Kano (auth.)
Weaving jointly cautious readings of performs and reports, memoirs and interviews, biographies and demanding essays, performing Like a lady in smooth Japan strains the emergence of the 1st new release of contemporary actresses in Japan, a state during which male actors had lengthy ruled the general public level. What emerges is a colourful and complicated photograph of contemporary jap gender, theater, and nationhood. utilizing the lives and careers of 2 dominant actresses from the Meiji period, Kano unearths the fantasies, fears, and effect that ladies on degree created in Japan because it entered the 20 th century.
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Extra resources for Acting Like a Woman in Modern Japan: Theater, Gender, and Nationalism
That a real woman would more closely resemble a real woman goes without saying. 25 The onnagata might be more skilled, but the actress is more real. Women are to nature as onnagata are to art. Both feminist arguments in favor of actresses and misogynist arguments against actresses share this basic assumption. This essentialist and expressive understanding of gender was a modern one, in contrast to the theatrical and performative understanding of gender exemplified in kabuki. Eventually the pro-actress faction overwhelmed the anti-actress 24 ACTING LIKE A WOMAN faction, yet the victory was an ambivalent one.
Nakayama does not even raise the question, much less answer it, and thus the question of sexuality in premodern theater is put safely away into the closet. What is revealed in these arguments for and against actresses? One is the shared assumption that overt sexuality may have been part of the attraction of the premodern theater but that modern theater is, or should be, different. The world of onnagata as one of male prostitution is seen as the world of old theater, set against the modern theater.
The status of mistress, which Sadayakko entered in her later years, was also changing. Until 1883, a mistress (gonsai) was recognized legally as having the same status as wife, a situation that was finally changed due to pressures from enlightenment intellectuals and feminist activists in favor of monogamy and wifeing. The practice of men of means keeping mistresses continued, however, with the legal status of the kept woman now less certain. When Sadayakko became the mistress of the business tycoon Fukuzawa Momosuke, she transgressed against the wifely ideal in two ways: She gave up her own status as legal WIFEING THE WOMAN 45 widow of Kawakami Otojiro, and she entered into direct competition with fiFukuzawa Momosuke's legal wife.