2020: Mind the Gender Gap

The Asia-Pacific Journal | Japan Focus Volume 18 | Issue 21 | Number 1 | Article ID 5502 | Nov 01, 2020
 Mit freundlicher Erlaubnis von Japan Focus

Mind the Gender Gap:
Kawakami Mieko, Murata Sayaka, Feminism and Literature in Japan

David McNeill

Compelling women’s fiction in Japan hardly began with its two brightest contemporary stars, Kawakami Mieko and Murata Sayaka. Tawada Yoko won the Akutagawa Prize back in 1993 and her work is widely read outside Japan (Tawada has long lived in Germany and writes in German and Japanese)Ogawa Yoko won in 1990 for her novel Pregnancy Diary (Ninshin karendaa, 妊娠 カレンダー). In 2004 the Akutagawa went to two young women, Wataya Risa (19) and Kanehara Hitomi (20). There have been English translations  of fiction by Japanese women for decades.

Nevertheless, Kawakami and Murata are part of a gender shift in literature over the last few decades. Women make up half of the last 34 winners of the Akutagawa, and nearly half of the winners of the Naoki Prize (Japan’s two most sought after prizes for literature). Many of the editors and prize judges are women too, reflecting broader workplace changes. Women make up more than half of all employees in Japan, though they have barely dented senior management. In journalism, the percentage of women reporters has doubled to 21.5% since 2001 when the Japan Newspaper Publishers and Editors Association began counting. But women occupy just 8.5% of managerial posts  in newspapers and wire services. ....

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