Embodying Japan: Cultures of Sport, Beauty, and Medicine 2017

Housewives' Magazines and Gender Confinement in Post-War Japan

Prior to 1945, the structure of the Japanese family was strictly defined by the Civil Code of 1898, which established a patriarchal household in which married women occupied a very low position. However, after World War 1, Japanese society began to accept the centrality of the wife within the family. Japanese women were becoming increasingly educated and some obtained middle-class jobs such as nursing and teaching. However, the most acceptable role for women was, overwhelming, the status of "housewife."

Becoming a "housewife" became the societal norm partly through the rise of the "new housewives’ magazines, notably Shufu no tomo (The Housewife’s Companion, established 1917)." These magazines provided women with "advice on child-rearing and family nutrition" and taught them "how to save and economize by keeping household account books."

The popularity of these magazines in early 20th century Japan illustrates the fact that family structure was far less patriarchal than it war in earlier years, but it also demonstrates the degree to which Japanese government and society confined women to their homes and, thus, allowed them to exist only in the private sphere. 

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