member, 866 posts
Sun 27 May 2018
at 11:08
Advice - Japanese history
Is there anyone here with academic or family knowledge of Japanese culture in the 1930s?

I’m aware that Japanese women were pretty much the property of their male relatives at that time, and I’d like to know what would happen to a widowed Japanese Princess/Countess of royal blood with no sons in 1930? Would she be ‘adopted’ by her nearest male kin and go to live with him, or would she be permitted to continue residing in her husband’s house effectively as head of the household?

No ‘guesses’ please. I can make an educated guess myself. Only reply if you are certain of the answer or can point me to strong circumstantial evidence. Thanks. :)
 member, 494 posts
 Wayfarer of the
 Western Wastes
Sun 27 May 2018
at 15:19
Advice - Japanese history
In reply to icosahedron152 (msg # 1):

There's a movie by Kobayashi Masaki called Samurai Rebellion that covers a situation similar to this:  a concubine of the Shogun's heir is sent to the house of a loyal retainer as a wife for the retainer's son.  She bears the son a daughter in the course of time, but the heir loses his son, and, for various political and personal reasons, wants his concubine back.  Unfortunate events ensue as the father supports the son's desire to keep the wife he loves.  Rocks fall; everybody dies.

Social mores in the 1930s (Showa) were somewhat more liberal than in the Edo Period, but I thought I'd mention the movie as it is a great piece of film for viewing to get the mood.

You're mainly correct about how women are in a role that many Westerners would perceive as subordinate to men, but it goes deeper than that, and it's hard for me to explain properly.  A lot of these cultural effects were felt even beyond the Showa, and some still persist to this day, but things are slowly changing.  Japan was still very much insular in the early Showa, and still resented the forced intrusion of the West into Japan's culture, society, and into the country in general.

The 1930s were in the Showa era, with possible influences still holding from the previous Taisho period.  Japan was just becoming an industrialized nation, and was politically dreaming of conquest and empire.

Some general historical highlights of the period:

  • The Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923, the economic impacts of which could not have happened at a worse time, given the world-wide depression that was then developing.
  • The resurgence of the Bakufu (military class) as the major power behind the Imperial Government.  Much intrigue, assassination, and a severe persecution of Communists left most of the government in the hands of the Army and Navy of Japan.  This occurred throughout the decade of the 1930s.
  • Tensions with China over trade relations and Japanese territorial aims in Manchuria, and much earlier military actions in the Russo-Japanese War (ca. 1904-05), and eventual conflics with Chinese Nationalists caused censure of Japan in the League of Nations, which led to Japan's withdrawl from this ineffectual body.
  • Of course, toward the end of the Showa, the second Sino-Japanese war and World War II had profound effects on the nation of Japan.

While Japan had become more modernized and industrialized during the Meiji (which preceded the Showa, and was followed by the Taisho) and this industrialization resulted in a profoundly powerful war machine for the Empire, socially, mores from much earlier periods still held sway from what I understand of it, mainly because of the influences of the major religions:  Shinto and Mahayana Buddhism.  The various classes of Japanese society were slowly breaking down as the Showa wound to its bloody end (with the Japanese surrender after WWII...), but there are families which still hold proudly to their ancestral roots, be they merchant, samurai, or peasant farmers.

I gotta get some rest - gotta go back to work at 1530 this afternoon until 0800 tomorrow.  I hope this helps with some context, anyway.

UPDATE:  Further researches in my sources show me that there is some divergence in the way the Showa era is divided (or that I made a mistake in my reading):  The Showa is said by some sources to have ended in 1947, but the era is actually said by more Japanese sources to be the entire reign of Emperor Hirohito, which lasted up until 07 Jan 1989 when he died.

AH!  The ending of WWII brought the Imperial Showa to a close.  Post-war, the nation of Japan was a more modern state, with the Emperor being a more ceremonial figure in government... stupid of me to not see it earlier.  My apologies.

If the scheduled abdication of Emperor Akihito takes place on 30 April 2019, it will be interesting to see what the new era's name will be.  The current era, Heisei, basically means "lost generation".  Akihito-dono will be succeeded by his eldest son, Naruhito-dono if all goes according to present plans.

This message was last edited by the user at 06:29, Mon 28 May 2018.