Japan Non-fiction Pop culture Translation

The Ways of Young Women Today

The Ways of Young Women Today

(Gendai wakaki josei kishitsu shû)

OKAMOTO Kanoko (岡本かの子)

(Note: This piece doesn’t seem to have been published during Okamoto’s lifetime (1886 – 1939) , but the mores that Okamoto refers to are clearly those of the so-called ‘modern girl’ [modan garu or moga] of the 1920s. Modern girls were urban, independent, largely working-class, generally apolitical, free with money and sex, and highly visible with their Western hair and clothes. For a short introduction, you could do worse than this. For a far deeper discussion, Miriam Silverberg’s Erotic Grotesque Nonsense: The Mass Culture of Japanese Modern Times covers modern girls in depth.) 

This is a depiction of the spirit of young women now, a satire, a general sketch, a paradox. There are merits and demerits to their ways. Please take it in this spirit, dear reader.

  •  When you look, she’s not there at all anymore. She wanted to test something. She wanted to test herself: her own market value. 
  • “Oh, romance and all that is just so stupid I can’t handle it,” she says. “But I couldn’t do without love.”
  • She thinks anything that isn’t speedy has nothing going for it. So when she’s bored, at least she can watch the cars out in the road.
  • “Marriage? Hmm. I could only marry a man who would let me have my own way, or else a strong man who would require total obedience.”
  • If she found a job where she could eat chocolate in her spare time, how wonderful work would be!
  • She takes care not to wrinkle even a darned sock when putting it on.
  • “Calligraphy, flower arranging, the koto, dancing—it’s these kind of things that actually give me the sense of ‘modernity’, and I’ve thought about learning how to do them, but, well, when I try…”
  • “Quit blushing at whatever I say!”
  • She hates men who fawn over women, and she hates power-crazy men who look down on women, too. 
  • She has no interest in anything she makes herself, be it clothes or friends.
  • “When I open my wallet and find I don’t have even one mon, I just laugh like, oh, how amusing. But the problem is I do this even if I already knew. Perhaps it’s because I’m so young.” 
  • “Some people say their goodbyes and bow and then just stand around talking some more. We’d never do that kind of thing.”
  • “The only time I get a little weepy is when I’m hungry and I have to wait a while for the train home.”
  • She’s thought ahead about next year, but after that, who knows. If she thinks about it, her head starts to hurt, so she doesn’t. 
  • If she doesn’t happen to have any laundry to do, she takes no pleasure from being immersed in hot water. 
  • “Why do I have such a worry-free disposition? If I had a few more worries, I’d be able to cultivate the habit of putting on a record or slipping out the back door.”
  • She has no sympathy for plants like peonies or cherry trees that lose their blossoms quickly. It’s flowers like the zinnia or strawflower that have blossoms that cling on even after they wither that bring tears to her eyes. 
  • Only when she’s watching rugby does she get the appeal of men. 
  • She likes children if they’re a little ugly.
  • “I hate people who are too clever, so I’m practicing being a little stupider.”
  • If she has money, she ends up spending it on a ride in a one-yen taxi with her friends. 
  • She can deal with most anything. Except she really can’t deal with stupid people.
  • Being struck dumb by jazz or movies – she finds these general interests to be too common. She continually, habitually thinks: “Maybe there’s nothing interesting at all.”  
  • “I’d like to go to Paris one time in my life so much I think I’ll just die.”
  • Fresh strawberries with cream, a bright parasol, the beginning of summer is such fun. 
  • Even if she goes off hiking, when she returns she just has to go to the Ginza or nothing will do.
  • She doesn’t even think about becoming famous. She thinks it’s all so empty. She’d much rather have it all right now.
  • She gets down from time to time, you know. The mood of an airport when all planes are grounded, when the aeroplane of her hopes hits economic turbulence. But without exercising enough reason she blames it on someone else and feels better after a good round at her favorite sport.  
  • When we’re out with friends we cause a ruckus using so many men’s expressions. But when we go home, we’re like different people altogether—we become ‘good daughters’. But to us there’s nothing inconsistent about it, it’s just part of our mystery. 
  • “People say they want to be confronted with something that will make them feel something real just once in their lives… well, we really are doing it, aren’t we!” 
  • “I think all these fads are so boring, but you know, when you try them they’re not all that bad, either.”
  • “First of all, there’s no harm in not being cheerful–“
  • “If I set my mind to it, I’d have no trouble being a nude model. Let’s go eat.”
  • “Telling us to speak our minds clearly, it’s just impossible. I still want to have a lot of experiences, and then make my mind up!”
  • Her smile is so practiced that it looks completely natural. But she doesn’t know how to have a belly laugh.

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