Were women a problem in early modern Japan? If they were, what was the nature of the problem they posed? For whom, and why? Marcia Yonemoto
's new book explores these questions in a compelling study that brings together the public discourse on women in the Tokugawa period (including prescriptive literature, instruction manuals for women, representations of women in fiction and drama, woodblock prints, and book illustrations) and the corpus of extant prose writing by early modern women and their families (including Diaries, memoirs, letters from the late 17th
centuries). The Problem of Women in Early Modern Japan
(University of California Press, 2016) argues that Tokugawa women's actions were significant and powerful. When we read (or reread) the works of Tokugawa-period writers and critics, Yonemoto argues, we see a picture of women's lives in which women were far from passive, especially in the context of a stem family structure within which women acted as in-laws, adoptees, laborers, household managers, and de facto heirs, among other roles. This is a fascinating study informing the fields of women's history, gender studies, early modern studies, and Japanese history.