Join 21 women in Japan on their journey

Join 21 women in Japan on their journey

28 Mar 2011

Readers are able to go on a 12-year journey with 21 young Japanese women in Kobe, Japan, as they make their transition from high school students to adulthood in the award winning monograph Young Women in Japan: Transitions to adulthood.

Associate Professor Kaori OkanoAssociate Professor Kaori Okano from La Trobe University’s Asian Studies Program won ‘A Most Outstanding Academic Title of the Year’ for 2010 from CHOICE, the book review journal of the North American academic library community (The American Library Association).  This award winning title is a sequel to Dr Okano’s 1993 title School to Work Transition in Japan: An ethnographic study.  The award was announced in January this year.

All women in the book were seriously affected by the 1995 Hanshin-Awaji earthquake (Kobe earthquake) since they lived in the most disadvantaged and damaged areas. Many lost family homes, and had to live for an extended period in temporary accommodation, as they tried to maintain their daily lives of work and family.  

The book, a product of a 12-year longitudinal ethnography which still continues today, allows the reader to delve into the lives of these women and the obstacles they face during the period known as the ‘lost decade’ of the 1990s, when Japan experienced a long economic downturn and changes in employment practices.  

‘My book illustrates how the role and identities of these young women changed in the 1990s as they aged from 18 to 30, exploring the impact within Japanese society of global forces, and explaining fully the implications for ordinary young people and their everyday lives,’ Associate Professor Okano says.   

The book is divided into two parts, with the first part providing rich narrative portraits of eight selected young working class woman’s lives and the second part focusing on several themes that emerge from their life stories including paid employment, relationships, marriage, motherhood, divorce and custody.

Dr Okano says through these themes readers can observe some of the ways in which class and ethnicity influence the women’s decision-making processes.

‘I found the women’s decision making was guided by individual preferences for seeking igokochi (meaning ‘comfort’ in Japanese).  Their sense of igokochi was formed by their past experiences of family, friends, neighbourhood and their school environment,’ she says.

For example, Tomoe, a third-generation ethnic Korean, decided to take a clerical position at a Korean bank in Japan because she thought it would offer her a more comfortable working environment, although the bank’s working conditions were less attractive than those at mainstream Japanese companies.

Dr Dawn Grimes-MacLellen in Earlham College in the United States, says in her review that along the way, the reader becomes privy to the women’s hopes and aspirations.

‘Their decision-making processes, and frequent compromises as they each choose their own different paths on their journey into adulthood documents the importance of understanding the lives of these young Japanese women at the turn of the millennium in Japan,’ she says.

For further information please contact:

Associate Professor Kaori Okano
Asian Studies Program

Lisa Prowling
La Trobe University Media and Communications Officer
T: 03 9479 5517 M: 0401 044 784 E:




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